Disclaimer: My house belongs to the bank, my work belongs to my boss and my money is always confiscated by my wife. And Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling. Damn...
Quidditch World Cup 2002 finals, near Marrakesh
"Excuse me, Sir, would you be so nice?" The grey-haired wizard spoke as he tried to get past Harry's seat in the VIP box at the Quidditch World Cup.
"Of course, Si.. Mister Weasley?" Harry gasped as he recognized the man.
Within a few moments, the man's face brightened immensely as he realized who he had run into. "Harry? HARRY! How are you doing, boy? And Hermione! Great to see you kids! How long has it been?"
"Two years and change?" Hermione replied, smiling as the man closed in for hugs.
"Ah, yes - the visit of the Bulgarian Minister! You two were in the honour guard – I almost didn't recognize you without the wings out. Is he here?"
"No, we're on holiday, watching Victor's last attempt on the Cup, he got us these tickets," Harry replied.
"Last attempt? Is he going to quit?"
"Not sure. He's still as good as ever, but he knows he might not be able to stay around for a fourth attempt. He's still the best seeker in the world, but he knows that some day, someone will take his place. Especially if he gets another crash like in the last cup," Harry replied. He didn't mention that Victor was toying with joining the Corps, and getting the change, as well. Actually, he was quite adamant about getting the change, anyway, ever since the partial animagus transformation trick was proved to work for everyone.
Arthur chuckled as he sat down next to them. "Oh right - when the Senegalese Seeker didn't evade Krum's Kamikaze properly? It's a wonder nobody got killed that day!"
"Indeed," Hermione grumbled, rolling her eyes to everybody's amusement. "Are you on vacation? Or official?"
"Official. Someone had to bite the lemon and represent Britain here at the finals, didn't he?" The man smiled, knowing that the two were fully aware that half the Ministry had fought over this assignment.
"Anyway - great to see you again – how are you doing? I heard you two have a daughter now - Charlotte Lily, right? Is she with you?" Arthur asked, hopefully.
Hermione waved him off, chuckling. "No, no. This would be too much for a toddler. She's with mum and Violetta."
"Violetta Black. Sirius' daughter," Harry helped him along.
Arthur was pretty surprised by these news. "Really? Sirius is a father? I didn't know."
"He doesn't, neither. He's more a big brother than a dad, Sophie usually calls herself a mother of two," Harry informed him. "Violetta was born during Umbridge's trial and the press missed it in all the chaos. Sirius was quite pleased to keep it that way."
"Yes, that was a really bad time for us," Arthur said, suddenly sullen when he thought back on it. "You know, I still think that maybe we went too fast with all that – after Voldemort's downfall, and Umbridge's trial, we maybe should have let the nation heal a bit before barging ahead," Arthur voiced his feelings. He he had been one of the prime movers of the Ministry reform during that chaotic period. Since most of the pureblood families were in disarray, and some even extinct, the voting blocks were completely slanted towards progressive families.
When Umbridge and the captured Death Eaters had their trials, only a few 'old boys' realized the implications and tried to prevent them getting interrogated under Veritaserum, and failed. The Death Eater trials weren't that bad. Even though Dumbledore tried to broker for leniency, all he could achieve was preventing the Death Eaters getting executed. They now served life sentences in Azkaban. Only Snape survived to see the Dementors leaving the island a year later, when they got shipped to a small island reserve on Hirta island, with Wizards and Muggle military watching over them in a joint operation.
Once the Umbridge interrogation started, all political dams broke. The sheer amount of corruption she attested to, under her and under Fudge's reign was the start of what some historians were now calling 'The Purge'. Only one in five Ministry workers remained in office as perpetrators and the people who sat by and watched, both, were given the boot in the wave of outrage rolling over the political landscape. Corruption trials and huge fines on the prior political 'old boys' buddy elite followed, with some more Wizengamot members losing their seats in the scandal.
With the following huge influx of young people into politics - lots of them half-bloods or muggleborn - to vacant seats and offices, the Ministry and Wizengamot, both, were getting vastly more progressive, but still held in check, somewhat, by the elder elements. Most of all, Dumbledore, who held enough respect to calm the newcomers' urge to reform. When he died, two years later, all the major conservative elements were gone, and left Britain in a revolution that Arthur had helped starting.
"No, I think it was overdue. British wizards had to be dragged into the modern world, kicking and screaming, if need be. Britain was lagging terribly behind the rest of the world, already, and it would only have gotten worse the longer it took. The Goblins were already lining up behind us to leave the sinking ship, you know," Hermione cast his doubts aside.
"No, I didn't, but it makes sense. And how we had been treating them, they certainly would have, if Harry and Sirius had gone through with their plan," Arthur remarked when he heard that information. "Britain would have been ruined."
Harry didn't want to hear anything about that, though. "You and Minister Shacklebolt revoked the racist property laws, so we didn't have to leave in a hurry. It would have cost us a lot, as well, dropping all business we had. We'd been lucky if we had come out with a tenth of what we had. So don't praise us, we just did what was the best for us," he brushed the man off. "Especially since we could pick up after the Imexigrants," he chuckled.
Arthur couldn't help but smile when he thought back at what happened right after The Purge and Dumbledore's death. Britain's new, younger Wizengamot left no stone unturned, and enacted a series of laws that turned everything on its head. Suddenly, Muggle interests were the focus, and how to covertly integrate Magic into their world, instead of trying to separate the worlds. Racial segregation, blood rights, house elf slavery, diplomatic contact to other sentient species, cultural, financial, or magical restrictions for non-humans - you name it, they reformed it. The conservative and/or bigoted parts of the pureblood minority threw tantrum after tantrum, and when it didn't work, they threatened to move out of the country, taking everything with them. Sirius, Harry, and a lot of other people became rich after they used Muggle-based loans to buy up most of the property and shares at a bargain in the fire sale that ensued. Even the Weasleys did move up a bit, thanks to the twins and Bill using the situation to make a pretty Sickle.
The Goblins took the rest.
By the time these purebloods had arrived in whatever country they tried to emigrate to, they had to realize that the laws and regulations over there were usually even more progressive than what they had tried to escape from. So they were stranded with no friends in higher places, no income, no home, and a lot less wealthy. Most tucked their tail and immigrated back into Britain, where they at least spoke the language and liked the food. The term 'Re-Imigrating Emigrated ex-citizen' was coined, and then brutalized until it stuck as Imexmigrants.
"Maybe. The future generations will judge us. But enough of politics, I get too much of that day by day, already," Arthur chuckled. "I'm still trying to wrap my head around you guys being parents, already. It seems like yesterday when some scrawny, bushy-haired children spent some time at our house, chafing at adult supervision. Now, looking at it from the other side of the fence, how does parenthood suit you?"
"A blessing and a curse," Hermione replied, sighing even though she smiled at Arthur.
"Tell me about it," Arthur returned, smirking.
"Well, at least yours didn't fly and had to be kept clear of any source of fire, lest she burns the house down," Hermione argued lightly.
Arthur laughed heartily when she said that. "You do know that I raised Fred and George, do you?"
"You have a point there," she laughed with him. "At least she's sleeping through, now."
"So you two are actually having a little holiday from her, right?" Arthur asked, immediately raising his hands in a placating gesture when Hermione blustered defensive.
"You can't fool me – the first year is exhausting, and it won't get any better for a long time. Even Molly and I needed a break, occasionally. Kids are a blessing, but sometimes, you just need quality time for yourself. That's a big part of why Hogwarts is a boarding school, still."
"Speaking of Hogwarts - how's the school doing? Minerva still struggling with hiring teachers? Remus is still kind of grumpy that she stole Tonks from us, causing him all the pain," Harry tactically changed the topic.
"School's running fine, now. We finally found a way to incorporate the new classes, and a system of job rotation for the Defence against Dangers position. The teachers for Muggle studies and Care for Magical Creatures double as the Defense instructor, and switch jobs every semester, and teach their respective curriculum," Arthur explained while they watched the band marching onto the field, starting the opening show while the higher up boxes were still filling, slowly.
"Respective? What would that be?" Harry asked, Defence still his favourite magic branch, especially since it was now his job, as well.
Arthur had to think a moment before coming up with a reply. "Well, Care would be related to fighting magical beasts, and Muggle studies are about concealing the use of magic, and how to deal with mundane dangers, with general spellwork split between these two."
"Makes sense," Harry replied after pondering for a moment. "Kind of funny that the curse of Defence seems to be that easily avoided," he remarked.
"I don't think it's a curse. More like a prophecy or something. Not all were hurt, Tonks simply quit the job," Hermione added her two Knuts, while trying to follow the choreography of the marching band.
"Because Nev got her preggers," Harry interrupted her with a laugh, Arthur joining in.
It had been big headlines in Britain that the new Defence professor hooked up with the apprentice of Professor Sprout. Meeting again after more than three years, as equals and the youngest adults in Hogwarts, they immediately started hanging out and then things happened as they were destined to be. Remus took the news quite hard, and initially even flat out refused to attend their wedding, but Sirius made him see that if he really had been that deeply in love, he should have made a move on her while she had been in Bulgaria with them. Only pining for her the whole two years didn't really make things happen. That conversation took two days and half of their wine cellar to bear fruit, but in the end, Remus even became godfather of little Theodore 'Teddy' Frank Longbottom.
"How's the rest of your family doing?" Hermione asked Arthur, blatantly changing subject.
"Molly is doing fine, and the twins still do brilliant with their shop, but you already know about that, don't you," he said, shaking Harry's shoulder amiably.
"One of my better investments, they are business geniuses," Harry retorted.
"They are, my boy, they are. Molly couldn't be any prouder," was the happy reply. "Although she still tries to make them marry, even though Alicia and Angelina feel fine with being permanent girlfriends and the kids don't care. Ron is now working for them, too. Being an Auror didn't work out for him."
Harry was surprised, after all, it took Ron years to make it into the program, finally. "Didn't? Why?"
"He couldn't get used to the new muggle interaction regulations, and settled for staying in the Wizarding world, infinitely," Arthur spoke, a bit sad, running his hand through his hair.
"Kind of. He had a habit of obliviating too recklessly, and got probation, and then left in a fit over it. A lot of people still have problems with the rules about proper interaction with Muggles," Arthur replied.
Harry nodded, appreciative. There were the same rules in place in the pan-Slavic area, as well, but people were at least two generations ahead of Britain in that respect. They rarely had to do anything of that kind, anymore. Especially now, since the Draculea had dealt with most of the few remaining feral vampires and werewolves who didn't want to suppress their symptoms with the newest treatments that Sophie had come up with in the last years.
"Ginny is doing fine with the Harpies, though - next season, she'll be starting chaser in half the games, Morag is phasing out and building her up as her replacement," Arthur quickly continued, a smile forming on his face.
A huge cheer interrupted them as the Egyptian team entered the pitch, flanked by two Sphinxes, all flying in formation.
'Oh my gosh, did they really go there?" Hermione asked, staring at the scene that her posture screamed would beggar belief. It took Harry a moment to realize what she meant. His only reaction was a braying laugh when he saw some handlers herding some mummies through a cheerleading dance routine at the pitch line.
Arthur sighed as he noticed them, too. "The press will have a field day with that - inferi at a game. Let's hope that this doesn't give Haiti stupid ideas for when they'll be hosting the next cup."
"Seconded," Hermione replied, still staring at the bizarre spectacle of the mummies trying to form a pyramid, as the crowd was cheering them on.
"So, where... Oh yes, Ginny," Harry stammered, shaking his head, trying to disentangle his brain from the scene he just had witnessed.
"Yes, about Ginny," Hermione joined in. "Is she still getting stalked?"
"No. She hexed some of those who accosted her on the street, and then Aurors took over and prosecuted them for harassment. Same for the letter writers," Arthur replied.
"That was long overdue. I still remember how humiliating that was," Hermione agreed, hotly. She harboured a grudge against this behaviour ever since, with the passion of a thousand fiery hells.
"People still think it's alright to do that, old habits die hard. But it's better now, only once in a while she's getting inappropriate letter of men promising that one night with them would cure her. As if she were sick or something," Arthur spat.
"Agreed. She's just the first to openly live that lifestyle," Hermione spoke, nodding. It was an open secret that most of the Harpies batted for the other or both teams. Ginny just never was a discrete person, and still hadn't settled down for a long term relationship. Every two or three months, Witch Weekly would feature her breakup, and a week or two later, they'd bring a headline of her with a new boy or girl on her arm.
"How's Molly doing?"
"Took a while to get used to it. The fact that Dumbledore's biography revealed that he had been gay, too, did wonders for her acceptance. While I still think she hopes that she'll end up with a man, someday. For now, she says, she'll be fine with it - as long as there will be grandchildren in the future," Arthur chuckled.
"There's still hope for Britain, it seems," Harry chuckled.
"True. Was a hard hit to her that her miscreant children were turning out fine and happy, while the poster boy for doing what he was told is now working at a cash register because of it. Made her think a lot."
Hermione was quite surprised to hear that. "Percy? A cash register?"
"After his image on the front page for his role in the plot against you? And the other things he mindlessly did because he was ordered to do them? He was lucky to get away with a probation sentence. It took him a year to even find someone willing to employ him," Arthur replied with a profound frown, picking at his sleeve.
"On the other hand, the work suits him, he's earning good money, and Bill told me that Percy had approached him about his opinion, concerning proposing to Penelope, so there's light at the end of that tunnel, too."
Harry couldn't prevent to snort. "Henry resents that phrase, hotly. Drop it when talking to him, and you'll be enjoying a long-winded explanation of what that light could all be, and to get your ass out of there," he explained when he noticed Arthur's puzzled look.
"Well, alright," Arthur replied, the rest of his sentence drowned out as around them, the crowd erupted in cheers as the Irish team blasted into the arena, flanked by a swarm of leprechauns showering the ranks in gold.
Harry briefly wondered if the people here knew that it was fake, before he noticed a brawl braking out a few rows below and across the stadium.
The recipient of his question was already standing up, rolling her eyes. "Yes, I've seen it. Sorry, Arthur, we need to continue this a bit later, when that brawl is under control."
"Brawl? What brawl? And I thought you were on holiday, you said," Arthur inquired, slightly confused, trying to make out what was happening at the place Harry was pointing out to him.
"There is a standing request that all attending law officers help with situations like this if they are able to reach them in time," Harry explained, waiting for Hermione to shuffle past before standing up, himself.
"And we'll be the first to reach them, just by flying across. Also, I don't care about the idiots fighting, but we can't sit and watch if there are children caught in the middle of this and might get hurt," Hermione replied, waiting for Harry to extract himself from the seating rows.
"Should we call Victor to give us a hand?" She asked when he joined her.
"Do you want to be the one blamed for maybe injuring his hand and making him lose the snitch to the other Seeker?" Harry answered her question with another. Hermione pondered only for a split second before grimacing and shaking her head in reply. Forget hate-mail, people would send her mail-bombs after something like that.
"I'd rather not become a hermit on a forgotten island," she replied with a wink.
"We're easily high enough for a ledge start, your choice," Harry replied tentatively, knowing she knew his preference.
"Oh well, let's go and knock some sense into them, then," she huffed, playfully.
Walking along the narrow corridor to the balcony side by side they casually dropped their animagus transformation, letting their wings grow out, causing a minor shock with the other people seated here. Ignoring that, they briefly joined hands before Hermione sprinted ahead in a blur of motion, jumping over the balcony, her wings opening the moment she cleared the ledge. As Hermione dropped out of sight for a brief moment, before aligning herself on a trajectory flapping towards the brawl.
Smiling, Harry waited a few moments before he sprinted after her, whooping in joy as he jumped off, rolling with his wings wrapped around his body as he dove to gain speed, before opening his wings at the last moment, letting his finger run through the grass briefly before pumping his wings to gain altitude on his way up the other side of the stadium.
He'd never admit it, but he quietly enjoyed the screams of shock as he shot past people sitting at lower levels, even though he knew that Hermione knew, and was rolling her eyes at him, this very moment.
His trajectory was timed perfectly to take him just a bit above the balcony the brawl was on, where he was hovering briefly as forces cancelled each other out, prolonged by one idle flap.
Hermione arrived roughly at the same time, landing gracefully and half-folding her wings, while he chose to dramatically drop down on it with a thud, next to her, landing with one knee bent, his wings high.
Rising slowly, under the stares of all the people who ceased fighting to watch them in stunned surprise, he folded his wings into caping position.
"Is there a problem?" Hermione asked in a low voice, the aubergine glow around her throat telling Harry that she had applied a translation charm on her way there.
That's all, folks.