Character Assassination
8. The Death Of Dolores Umbridge

The rest of us looked down at what was left of Umbridge. Moira and Trevor weren't far away when the streaks of light came, hit the ground, turned into people. The Minister waved his wand and Hermione's parents fell to the floor, and then I did too, along with everyone else. I couldn't move my arms or legs, and I was shit scared, and somehow I was holding Khalid's hand.

"Don't hurt my children!" Mum shouted, although for years and years she'd had only one kid. "Don't hurt us!"

The Minister stood over us, backed by twenty others, and he scared me more than Voldemort. "Muggles," he said. "Dolores Umbridge, killed by Muggles!"

"Let the children go!" shouted Hussain. The Minister barely acknowledged him. He turned away from us, gathered his people around, and they talked quietly. Deciding our fate while we lay in the mud. I wondered if Aaron was still alive...

"Mal," whispered Khalid.

"What?"

"I love you."

I couldn't move, and now I couldn't laugh.

"Oh God, you don't know what you're in for."

"I love you," Khalid said again, fiercely. "You're the most amazing person I've ever met, I've always loved you. Other girls wanted to be Katie Price or Paris Hilton. You wanted to be Batman..."

Something exploded in the background, another streak of light a burning red, and someone else walked out of the forest. A bloke with black hair and glasses, quite tall, pretty unremarkable, but I knew who it was. And he joined the others, and he looked right at us, and I was seeing him for the first time and all I could think of was that he looked like a whiter, scruffier, thicker, duller version of Khalid.

"I think I love you too," I said to Khalid. "Oh, fuck."

The Minister of Magic stepped forward. I held my breath. And I thought about dying, or about going home never having known about anything, never having had a bloke tell me he loved me...never knowing what was out there...losing everything.

"There was a Muggle uprising, quickly put down," the Minister said to us. "During this, Dolores Umbridge walked into the Forbidden Forest and was ambushed by centaurs. They killed her. They've been dealt with. No-one else was involved. All memories were wiped."

"Don't wipe ours!" I shrieked. "That bastard over there just told me he loved me!"

Harry Potter said, "He's not going to."

I stared up at him. Him, for some reason, I wasn't scared of. "He's not?"

"No."

"You can take this one victory," said the Minister. "No-one would ever believe you if you told." Our arms and legs were freed. We started staggering to our feet. "This will never, ever happen again."

"It shouldn't," said Moira darkly. Although she was a way away, her voice seemed to echo around.

The Minister looked at her and I waited for him to say something good. He didn't. "We'll send you back to where you came from," he said. And we were all so relieved and so glad to be alive that we barely questioned it. Mum hugged me, Fatima hugged Khalid, men and women in flowing robes reached for magic wands...

"This will happen again!" Khalid shouted suddenly. "There will be other Voldemorts! Your world invented him and it'll do it again! And you, you could kill us all right here and the world would never even know!"

"But we won't," said the Minister.

"That's not good enough!"

"It'll have to be, for now," said someone. It took me a few seconds to realise it was me. "We won the battle. We kind of got what we came for. And we can't have a war, not with all them dead bodies we saw in just one day, we couldn't. Let's go."

And we went.


We were sent back to the hotel, in our rooms in the dark as if we'd never left them. We all huddled together, on the bed, on the floor, not quite broken but totally out of it. Mum slept in Grandad's lap, and Hussain was the only one who moved that night, to the corridor clutching his mobile. He called his oldest son, I heard him talk quietly and start to cry. Fatima went outside and started to cry too. Khalid was asleep, on the bed, next to me.

I knew what was going on. Hakan had been by Leila's bed for days, waiting for a change. If Umbridge died, maybe Leila would return, maybe she'd wake up and open her eyes. But she hadn't. I suppose there had been no logical reason to think that she might, but we were dealing with magic, logic went out of the window a long time ago.

When Khalid woke up he went to cry with his parents. I sat with Mum and Grandad and thought about Dad and Roseanna. Dad especially, for some reason. He'd have wanted to be around. He'd have wanted to avenge his daughter. Had we even avenged her? Someone bad was dead, but a lot of reasonably good people were probably dead as well. And I'd seen someone's face just explode...

I slept. In the morning it was just me and Khalid in the room, and light was streaming in. He was sitting on the windowsill, staring out.

"Leila's still dead," he said softly.

I didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry."

Khalid climbed down, slightly awkwardly, from the windowsill. "I still love you."

"I still love you, mate."

He smiled a little. "Cool."

We had breakfast in the hotel. Mum, Grandad and the others were packing our stuff. The sun was out, so we sat in the hotel garden, on a bench, all alone.

"She'll never kill anyone again," I said. "Dolores Umbridge won't."

"You think Hermione Granger might?"

I thought about it. "No."

"She probably won't." Khalid agreed. He stared off into the distance. "But there willbe other Voldemorts. They're waiting in the dark right now." And then, in a sudden rush of decisiveness, he stood up and rummaged in his pocket. For one second I thought he was going to ask me to marry him, but he just pulled out a pen and paper.

"Science," he said.

"What?"

"Maybe science is the answer. Maybe science can do what magic can't. They can't come up with an answer, all those wizards, so perhaps it's up to us. Maybe we can still save her, and everyone else."

I didn't know what to say, so I said "Yes."

"Things aren't just destroyed," Khalid said. "Things just get moved, or transformed. Why should souls be any different?" He drew a square within a circle. "Say that circle is Leila and the square is her soul. Where does the square go? A Dementor takes it, but where does it go?"

"I don't know," I said sadly.

"Will you marry me?"

I blinked.

"Just kidding," Khalid said, and sat down. "I saw your face a minute ago."

We sat in silence and waited to go home. I held his hand, though. As we sat with each other an owl flew past. And I thought, stupid fucking owl, who're you going to?

And then I held his hand some more.


FOURTEEN YEARS LATER


I did marry Khalid, actually. It turned out to be awesome. We have a little girl, Rosie. Rosie Abdel Young.

What happened? I got hold of Aaron again. It was obvious his memories had been wiped. He thought his daughters died in a car crash, and he worked for an insurance company, and he lived alone. I spied on him from behind a hedge and tried to see this man as the man who'd opened fire on Hermione and her parents. I couldn't.

Hermione didn't grow up to be the next Umbridge. In fact, I gather she turned out all right. I still kept in touch with her parents, same us the rest of us did. They came to our wedding, too. They'd got back together at this point. Which was nice.

During our last phone call Moira told me a story about Hermione's husband. "Went for a driving test, Ron did. He bragged to Harry about how he'd done a spell on the instructor, modified his memory, just so he could pass." I waited for her to slag him off, but she just said sadly, "And that's a good man." I knew what she was saying. Good men kept slaves, in the olden days.

Anyway.

I like to think we didn't stand back and do nothing. But when I sleep at night I don't see Dementors anymore, I see dead bodies on the field and a woman's face explode in blood. I don't mind. I was there, I was involved, I helped kill Dolores Umbridge, and I can put up with nightmares. I'm just glad that neither me or Khalid were the ones who actually killed her.

Grandad is still alive. He dotes on his great-granddaughter.

Mum runs a hotel now. She's had a string of boyfriends, but none of them went anywhere. I think she loved my dad too much. Somedays I hope she'll take up with someone else, and some days I hope she doesn't.

Khalid teaches political science at the local college. Boring as hell, but I love him. And we both love our daughter. Rosie. Roseanna would have loved her too. We take her to the graveyard sometimes, and we take her to the hospital. Rosie says she wants to make Auntie Leila better. Sometimes she says she will.

Who knows if she'll recieve an owl-letter herself one day, my only daughter? I couldn't stand it if she did, if she ran away to a world I couldn't enter. If she grew up to be a good person who still thought stealing memories was the morally right thing to do. Cos I'm looking at her now, my Rosie. She's drawing a square, a square within a circle.

Then she looks at me. And smiles. And keeps drawing.