'I've been asked many times, especially by historians, why I have not yet written this book. Many even seemed to expect me to write the definitive history of the Second Blood War a week after it had officially been declared over.

Such expectations were based on several incorrect assumptions. First, the fact that I was directly involved in the war in a central role does not automatically make me an expert on that topic. On the contrary, it makes me a biased observer. In order to be able to at least attempt to objectively chronicle the events of that pivotal time of Wizarding Britain's history, I needed to hear other perspectives and to research the matter myself.

Second, I lost several close personal friends in the war. Back then, I lacked the emotional distance needed for this work - something, I must point out, that several of my colleagues lacked as well, but which did not keep them from writing their books anyway.

Third, I lacked the time to do such a book justice. My work in the Wizengamot, and later in the Ministry and in research, took up far too much of my time to allow a project of this nature.

And fourth, as this book will reveal, much of what happened during the war has been deliberately kept secret until now, since revealing what had really happened shortly after the war would have potentially had far-reaching consequences. Now, though, decades later, this book's time has finally come, and I hope my work will help to correct several of the glaring mistakes made and perpetuated by some historians in the years since the war.'

- Excerpt from 'The Second Blood War: A History' by Hermione Granger-Weasley

London, Greenwich, February 1st, 2002

"Ron! It's time! We need to go now!"

Hermione Granger-Weasley didn't tap her foot impatiently, but she really wanted to. They had to leave their house now if they wanted to be on time for the ceremony - and early enough to give the location a brief once-over, to ensure that it was safe.

"Calm down! They won't start without us!" she heard Ron yell from the first floor. A moment later, he appeared at the top of the stairs, grinning at her.

She huffed. "That might be so…"

"It is so - we're the guests of honour. They can't celebrate Voldemort's defeat without us." Ron interrupted her with a hug.

"Some of them certainly would like to." She scowled, remembering the latest debate in the Wizengamot.

"Bah. Their proposal was soundly defeated." Ron scoffed. "Putting Malfoy and his ilk on the memorial, next to those who died fighting Voldemort? The 'Unholy Alliance' is certainly trying everything to live up to their name."

"Their nickname," she corrected him - though privately, she felt that the Prophet had nailed it perfectly when they coined that term for the situation where both the Pureblood Party and the 'Muggleborn Alternative' supported the same proposal. It was not surprising that Liz Vance, one of the founders of the 'Muggleborn Alternative', had left the Muggleborn Popular Party after less than a year, taking her seat with her. According to rumours, only Randall Martens's intervention had saved her from being cursed by Bess Cox. The press had had a field day over that.

"If the boot fits…" Ron shrugged. "But let's go now, or we'll be late."

"Oh, you!" She glared at him, but he simply kept smiling until she chuckled.

London, Diagon Alley, February 1st, 2002

"There you are! We were about to leave without you!" Fred greeted them as soon as they stepped out of the fireplace in the twins' shop.

"Don't listen to him - we'd never even contemplate leaving without our most famous family members!" George cut in.

"Yeah, you two never think before you do anything," Ron retorted.

Hermione chuckled at the twins' fake outraged expressions, though Ron's comment contained more than a grain of truth. That they married two French witches they had met at Bill and Fleur's wedding - a day after that wedding - proved this, in her opinion. Molly had certainly agreed with her. Loudly. Especially after she heard about the duels.

Although, Hermione thought, not for the first time, when she greeted Laura and Noelle, she could understand why the twins had fallen so quickly for the two witches - they were not only very beautiful, but also witty and charming. If only Fred and George didn't keep claiming that they had met their wives before, with that infuriating grin that told everyone they were hiding something.

"Blimey, that's a big crowd," Hermione heard Ron mutter when they stepped out of the twins' shop.

He was correct - Diagon Alley was packed full of people. Even years after the war, and more than a year since the last incident related to it, Hermione didn't like crowds. Even when they appeared to be friendly, even cheering for her when the passers-by recognised her - it was just too easy for an assassin to hide in such a crowd.

She glanced up to check if the Magical Militia, as the Hit-Wizards were now called, after her proposal of naming them the 'British Armed Magical Forces' had been shot down, were at their posts, covering the Aurors responsible for crowd control, with wands and guns at the ready. Tania was in charge today, so the soldiers had better stay on their toes - Tania still treated every mission and exercise as if they were at war. It was probably her way of coping - not everyone in the Resistance had responded equally well to the therapy Hermione had pushed on them and her other friends.

"Hey! Hermione!"

Some of them, of course, Hermione thought with a smile as she saw Dennis standing on a roof next to the twins' shop, waving at her, were not intimidated by Tania at all. "Hi, Dennis!" She waved back. Looking at the smiling young wizard, one would not imagine that he had spent a year under the effects of the Draught of Living Death, until the Unspeakables had finally managed to create a counter-curse, she thought.

"The M&Ms are out in force," Ron said next to her. Hermione glared at him - the Militia weren't fond of that particular nickname.

He shrugged. "Hey, I'm one of the few professional officers; I get to make fun of the rank and file."

Sometimes Hermione wondered if Ron wasn't a bit too much like his next eldest brothers. "Harry would disagree. And he's your superior officer."

"He won't."

"Well, he should." She shook her head, but she was grinning.

Although her grin diminished when she passed a gaggle of French muggleborns - easily recognisable by the mix of French and English they spoke. The numbers of French muggleborns moving to Britain had risen steadily over the last few years - since they couldn't vote in France, many of them were voting with their feet. And usually added their voices, and later votes, to those demanding 'a more robust policy towards the oppressive regime of the Duc', as some members of the Wizengamot called it. As if Britain wasn't already putting pressure on the French! Sooner or later the Duc would see reason - without Britain having to go to war. Or the French starting a civil war.

After all, Britain was widely recognised as the strongest country in Europe, not least thanks to her and her friends' efforts, but no one sane wanted to start another war.

Unless a country decided to murder muggleborns.

The place where Voldemort had been killed, and where the ceremony would be held, was cordoned off. The Aurors manning the entrances let Hermione and Ron pass, of course - but she noted with satisfaction that they were ready to act in case the Thief's Downfall installed at the gate should reveal anything. The area inside was limited to invited guests, and so the crowd here wasn't quite as large - nor as densely packed. A necessity, Hermione thought, so that the various Wizengamot members and high-ranking Ministry employees were not forced to literally rub elbows with their political rivals.

Which, unfortunately, didn't mean they couldn't accidentally meet someone they'd rather not. Like Alfons Runcorn and his family.

She'd as soon curse the man as greet him, but appearances had to be maintained - Hermione knew the member of the Pureblood Party would be only too glad to denounce her as an uncouth barbarian.

"Mr Runcorn, Mrs Runcorn." She even nodded at their baby. Ron grunted something that, if one were extremely charitable, could be called a greeting.

"Madam Granger. Messrs Weasley," Runcorn barely inclined his head, and seemed to ignore the twins' wives entirely. His wife nodded, but kept fussing over their baby - apparently named 'Albert'. "I must again protest the biased nature of this ceremony. The memorial should honour all victims of the war."

Hermione's urge to curse the idiot grew stronger. Five years in the Wizengamot had taught her to hide her emotions, though, and so she refrained from acting on her desires. Instead she smiled thinly at the man. "The Wizengamot's decision was quite clear, Mr Runcorn. Followers of the Dark Lord and their allies have no place on the memorial."

"Not everyone who died in Malfoy Manor was a follower of the Dark Lord!"

"You're correct - there were two muggleborns who had been captured and imprisoned in Malfoy's dungeon. Their names are on the memorial." Hermione's smile showed her teeth. "If you'll excuse us - we're expected to join the other guests of honour."

"Bloody tosser," Ron said as they walked away - just loud enough to carry to Runcorn, Hermione thought. "I wonder why he even attends the ceremony if he likes Death Eaters so much."

"So he can claim he doesn't, of course," Hermione said. The Pureblood Party was quite careful to loudly distance themselves from Voldemort, even though their actual proposals and speeches were almost identical to those given by the Dark Lord's allies in 1996.

It wouldn't avail them anything, though, she thought with some satisfaction - with the compensations and fines levied on the Death Eaters' estates, their fortunes had been substantially diminished, and there were simply too few purebloods left who supported the Old Families. Moreover, the muggleborn population was growing thanks to a sizeable number of immigrants, mostly from France and the rest of Europe.

The Old Families' time would not return.

The stands for the guests of honour - and the assorted hanger-ons, as Ron called the Wizengamot members and various worthies - had been under close observation for the entire time since they had been conjured. Even the ground below had been regularly patrolled. Hermione cast a few spells anyway, to check for traps and curses. The last attack by a disturbed wizard or witch who hadn't let go of their grudges from the war had been more than a year ago, and had been foiled by the Aurors, but Hermione wasn't about to become careless - she knew just how much many of the Old Families hated her.

"Snakes ahead," Ron whispered, nodding towards the first row of guests. She turned and narrowed her eyes. It seemed Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis had returned to Britain for this occasion, after spending years away on their 'Grand Tour'. Greengrass's sister had apparently stayed in France. "Cocky of them," Ron went on. "Is that Greengrass's husband behind them?"

"Yes. The dear Monsieur Marbot," Fred replied from behind her. She glanced over her shoulder and saw that he was baring his teeth.

"He wasn't involved in your duels, was he?" Hermione asked sotto voce. The last thing Britain needed right now was a diplomatic incident with the French.

"No, no." George shook his head, wrapping his arm around his wife's waist. "But we've met. In France, last year."

"He didn't like it when we tried to give him some advice, husband to husband, about how to survive a Slytherin marriage." Fred chuckled.

Hermione drew a hissing breath. "Don't create an incident today."

"We won't," George said. "We have an understanding with them."

"You have one. I never claimed to understand witches, least of all Slytherins," his brother retorted. Laura and Noelle giggled at that - but then, the two French witches had agreed to marry the twins, so Hermione couldn't expect any help from them when it came to reining in the two troublemakers.

She resisted the urge to rub her forehead. "Just behave."

"Of course!" the two chorused. Marriage definitely hadn't made them any wiser, she thought. On the other hand, it was nice to see that they hadn't let the war affect them too much.

Unlike so many others.

Other important guests were already present as well, like Neville, one of the more prominent members of Sirius's faction in the Wizengamot. Justin and Sally-Anne, recently married - having become a fully-qualified Healer apparently had endeared the witch to his parents, though Hermione was certain that Justin would have married Sally-Anne anyway - waved at them. At least her own parents had accepted Ron without hesitation - much more easily than they had accepted her own actions in the war. But that was in the past.

Aberforth was not in attendance, as those who knew the old wizard had expected. But Antoine Delacour greeted them with a smile and a bow fit for the French Court. "Madame Granger-Weasley. Mesdames et Messieurs Weasley."

"Monsieur Delacour," Hermione nodded at him. The formal greeting let her know that he wasn't here as a friend - and in-law - of the family, nor simply to honour the fallen Delacours and d'Aigles, but as a representative of the Duc d'Orléans. Who, apparently, was hoping that gracing this event with an official envoy and reminding everyone that French purebloods had fought and died against Voldemort would placate some of the more vocal muggleborns in his and her countries.

It wouldn't, of course - or not for long. But Antoine's presence at this ceremony would also make other countries wonder if the ties between Wizarding Britain and Magical France were growing stronger - which would be a source of some concern for many. Wizarding Britain was acknowledged as one of the premier powers in the Magical World, after all - and rightfully so, these days at least. Together, France and Britain could easily dominate the ICW - if the Duc were willing to reform the country, of course. Hermione suppressed a sigh - Britain's relationship to France was aptly described by the term 'complicated'.

Ron and his brothers greeted the wizard, Laura and Noelle curtsying even before exchanging pleasantries in French. Nothing beyond that, of course - this was neither the time nor the place for more serious talk with the French envoy.

"Hermione! Ron! Fred! George! Laura! Noelle!" Luna hugged each and every person she named with great enthusiasm.

"Luna!" Hermione smiled widely. "Are you covering the event for The Quibbler?"

The blonde nodded rapidly, then pulled out a press badge… which seemed to have been made by carving letters into a slice of apple. "Yes!" She turned serious in an instant and narrowed her eyes at Hermione. The effect was rather cute. "Madam Granger-Weasley, would you be available for an interview later today?"

"Certainly," Hermione agreed at once. Luna was a rather eccentric journalist, but unlike others, she had no agenda.

"Fantastic! Your opinion on the platypus controversy will carry great weight!"

A very eccentric journalist, Hermione corrected herself while Ron chuckled - she had no idea what their friend was talking about.

However, before she could ask Luna for an explanation Hermione wasn't entirely sure she would understand anyway, they were interrupted by the arrival of the rest of the guests of honour, and the excitement that caused among the crowd - at least those who were wizards or witches; most of the parents of the fallen muggleborns who were attending the ceremony looked either confused or less enthusiastic.

"The Boy-Who-Lived!"

"Dumbledore's Heir!"

"The One-Who-Won!"

Hermione felt a small pang of jealousy. Whereas Harry was seen as one of the most powerful wizards - a reputation he couldn't live up to, not yet at least, especially since he still needed to keep the Elder Wand a secret - and Dumbledore's worthy heir, she was seen as the cunning and ruthless - or perfidious - 'Purebloods' Boggart'. She knew it wasn't entirely undeserved, but it still felt unfair to her. And Ron was mostly seen as Harry's best friend, not as the hero he was in his own right, which was even more unfair.

She forced those petty feelings away. Everyone had done their part in the war, after all, and they hadn't beaten Voldemort for fame, but to save the country.

Harry hadn't arrived alone, of course. He was walking arm in arm with Ginny, and right behind him walked Sirius and Vivienne, and she could spot Remus and Tonks standing with the Aurors. Remus looked rather tired - the full moon had been but four days ago - and they still hadn't found a counter-curse to cure his arm.

A single wizard didn't rate as much effort by the Department of Mysteries as the victims of the Withering Curse, so she didn't expect that to change any time soon. Especially not when the houngans claimed that whoever had cast the curse had taken its secret with them to their grave, and with the Unspeakables making an effort to find a way to destroy the Dementors. At least the enchanted metal sleeve Remus was wearing was working as well as an enchanted prosthetic, which was better than nothing. It certainly didn't stop him from hunting Pettigrew whenever there was a new clue to the traitor's whereabouts - although that didn't happen too often. Which was a good thing, since he was needed at Hogwarts, being the first Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in decades to hold the post for, so far, three consecutive years.

And, as Sirius was fond of describing, with a lot of imagination and speculation about metamorphmagi, Remus was also very happily married to Tonks. They had one son, with a second child on the way. And, Hermione thought as she greeted her friends, he was alive.

"... and we shall never forgot this fateful struggle, and the tragedies that filled those days…"

While Pius Thicknesse droned on, Hermione saw Ginny lean towards her. "That's what I love the most about playing Quidditch for a living: We don't have to listen to such speeches all day long," the other witch whispered.

"You have to listen to your coach, and to your fans," Ron retorted before Hermione could comment.

"They're not as bad as the Minister," his sister said. "How could you elect him of all people?"

Hermione narrowed her eyes at her friend - Ginny knew very well why Thicknesse had become Minister for Magic. Her own father and brother had been involved prominently in that deal as well, after all. "On the other hand, you have to deal with both the Prophet and Seeker Weekly speculating about your love life." She tried not to smile when the redhead's grin turned into a scowl. While the relationship between Harry and Ginny had its ups and downs, it was nowhere near as volatile as the press made it out to be.

Harry reached over and patted his fiancée's arm, and Ginny sighed and leaned into his side. Hermione smiled at that - her friend was happy, at last - it had taken a while for him to get over the war. For everyone, including her, of course.

And some were still not over it, she added to herself with a glance at Bones. The former Minister for Magic was a guest of honour as well - her role in the war demanded no less - but she was looking as bitter as she had when she had been forced out of office. Hermione doubted that that would change, not even if the witch succeeded in her bid to be elected to the Wizengamot this year. Bones was just unable to let go and accept that a war wasn't a criminal investigation.

Although Bones had at least given some praise to the changes to the judicial system Sirius and Hermione had forced through - even she could see that the new judges were working better than the Wizengamot, old or new.

Thicknesse had finally finished his speech, and now Scrimgeour was taking his place. The Head of the DMLE was the Minister's main rival these days, as Hermione knew only too well thanks to both trying to curry favour with her. Personally, she favoured replacing Thicknesse with Arthur, but her father-in-law wasn't quite ready yet - or so he claimed. As long as Hermione and Sirius controlled the Wizengamot, she didn't much mind who was Minister - the reforms hadn't touched the Wizengamot's primacy over the Ministry.

"... and I think that all of us who fought the Dark Lord agree that those of our comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice should never be forgotten, which is why this enchanted memorial here was built."

Hermione wasn't the only one who glanced at the veiled monument in response to those words. Although she was, to her knowledge, the only one who knew that the spells which made the names of all the fallen appear in random order on the golden plaque on the marble monolith had been modified slightly. By herself.

It might be a petty gesture, but Allan Baker didn't deserve to have his name appear on this memorial.

It was surprising just how quiet the large crowd was, Hermione thought as she watched the names appear and disappear on the golden plaque on the black marble monolith.

Albus Dumbledore. Dean Thomas. Maisie Maygold. Seamus Finnigan. Timothy Meyers. Balthasar Brinden. Alastor Moody. Mary Smith. Colin Creevey. Martin Cokes. Jeremiah Brinden. Severus Snape. Jeremy Chadwick. Cornelius Fudge. Eric Ballantine. Hortensia Brinden. Gary Coulton. Augusta Longbottom. Mary-Jane Milton. Anna Baker. Brad Watts. Sinclair Thompson. Kingsley Shacklebolt.

She kept a mental tally of her friends and comrades amidst the flood of names. Friends, comrades, strangers. All of them killed in the war, fighting against Voldemort and his followers. Now united on this memorial.

So many dead… She pressed her lips together and squeezed Ron's hand. They owed it to them to ensure that such a war would never be fought again. To keep Britain safe. And to continue turning her into a country of which they could be proud.

Hermione would do all she could to repay that debt. She would not let them have died in vain.

The End.

Author's Note: I wish to thank my betas for their help, especially fredfred. He has spent an incredible amount of work on correcting my mistakes and oversights, and provided invaluable feedback - even when my drafts were late. Without him, this story wouldn't be what it is.

I've started a new story, "Harry Potter and the Lady Thief", which can be found under my profile.