My first trip to Antarctica had only taken a few hours, but by the time I returned to Hogwarts there were already more refugees roaming the crowded hallways of the castle. Their sad and bewildered faces only reinforced my decision to leave Britain before it was too late, but I thought convincing my family to leave would be difficult, if not impossible. In many ways it was a crazy idea.
But then Hermione found me. Her eyes were red with tears, and without a word she handed me the latest edition of the Daily Mail. On the front page of the muggle newspaper was a gruesome picture of an overweight woman lying dead in the street. She had been killed by an angry mob in London for the crime of buying too many groceries at a local store.
"There has been hundreds of minor confrontations, but this is the first known murder here in Britain. Soon the mass hysteria will start in earnest," she explained.
Before I could say anything Hermione cast a perfect Disillusionment Charm and led me to a nearby broom closet. I wasn't surprised, since emotional turmoil often triggered this reaction from her. We made love hundreds of times over the years, but I still responded like a teenager when she started unbuttoning my jeans. In a few seconds those jeans were down around my ankles, and less than a minute later it was over. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but that was a pretty average performance for us. Our ongoing affair was intense, but monotonous at the same time.
"What are we going to do?" Hermione whispered as we magically sterilized our clothes. We never left a trace of incriminating evidence for Ron or Ginny to find.
In broad strokes I told her about Antarctica and the settlement the Yeti had built in the Queen Maud Mountains over the decades. "I'm going to stay down there with the Scamanders until this mess is over, and my family is coming with me."
"Does that include Rose?"
"How can you even ask a question like that? Of course that includes Rose. You and Hugo are also coming with me. And if Ron thinks otherwise, I will tell him the truth about everything and damn the consequences."
"Spare me," Hermione huffed. I often made that same threat in the heat of the moment, but I never went through with it. "What about my muggle family?"
"What about them? Are you planning on leaving them behind?"
"No, you prat. But what will you tell the others when we start taking in hordes of muggles?"
"I will tell them the truth: that digging and maintaining the new crop tunnels beneath those icy mountains will require an enormous amount of labor. That means the more warm bodies we have on hand, the better. So far the only ones committed to this crazy plan are Luna, Rolf and me."
Hermione was silent for moment was we stood nose-to-nose in that tiny broom closet. "Retreating to Antarctica does make sense, since extreme isolation from any population centers is exactly what we need."
I was thrilled to hear her say that, since I trusted her judgement more than my own. "Do you really think so?"
"Yes, I do. But convincing the Wizengamot—"
"Stop right there. I don't care about the Wizengamot or the Ministry of Magic or the ICW. Not anymore. What I care about is the safety of my family. If anyone wants to join us, they will be welcome as long as they respect the laws of the Yeti."
"I thought you wanted to save the world, or at least you did a few days ago," Hermione said. "What has changed all of a sudden?"
"Down there in the cold Antarctic night I had what's called a moment of clarity."
"Oh really? And what was the nature of this moment of clarity?"
"That fighting against a Dark Lord like Tom Riddle is something I can do. I'm not very good at it, but I can do it. But fighting against the power of a supervolcano? That sort of thing is beyond me."
"Harry, it's beyond the power of any human being—magical or muggle. Not just you," Hermione whispered as she leaned in for a soft kiss. "I know this sounds callous given what's happening out there in the larger world, but I'm glad that you've accepted the reality of the situation."
"Why? Were you afraid that my "Saving-People-Thing" was going to get us all killed this time?"
She said nothing, which confirmed my fears. There's a fine line between bravery and stupidity, and I had dragged my friends across that line far too often in the past.
I leaned in for a soft kiss of my own. "You don't have to worry about me charging off on another futile crusade. I promise. Come on, let's go break the news to the others."
While Hermione rounded up the rest of the Weasleys, I went to collect Ginny from our new "home" on the second floor of the castle. When I entered the former classroom her back was to the door, but her ramrod posture told me all I needed to know. My wife was upset about trading her beautiful and spacious house in the Lake District for this ugly and claustrophobic flat. And it was claustrophobic. The classroom—which held all our worldly possessions and two makeshift bedrooms—was so small that it brought back unpleasant memories of my childhood at Number Four, Privet Drive.
Ginny hadn't started complaining yet, but I knew it was only a matter of time
"Daddy! Where is Sparky?" Lily Luna asked when she saw me standing at the door.
My adorable two year-old daughter flew into my waiting arms, and Al was soon wrapped around my leg. James had reached an age where he considered such things "uncool", but given the current chaos he reluctantly join us in a group hug. The three of them jabbered on about Sparky and the excitement of living here at Hogwarts with their cousins, but I wasn't really listening to them. Instead I locked eyes with my angry wife.
"Do you want to see a new spell I created?" I asked them after I put Lily Luna down and took out one of my wands.
"Yes!" they yelled in unison. To children magic is the best toy imaginable, and most adults feel the same way.
A stag made of pure magic emerged from the tip of my wand, and filled the room with its silvery light. "Escort the children to Arthur and Andromeda." Prongs (yes, my Patronus has a nickname) bowed its massive antlers, and then trotted out the door. James and Al each took Lily Luna by the hand, and raced after it.
"Using a Patronus as a babysitter?" Ginny asked.
"I thought it would be a useful trick during an emergency."
"True enough. How did your trip to the South Pole go? Did you talk to Rolf and Luna?"
Instead of answering I looked around at the many trunks, wooden crates, and Mokeskin pouches stacked up against the stone walls. "Don't bother unpacking any of this. We're leaving Hogwarts tomorrow."
"Where are we going now?" Ginny asked in a tight voice
I decided to spit it out quickly: "For the next few years we're going to live with the Yeti in Antarctica."
Even without the help of a pensieve I can still remember her tirade as if happened yesterday. It was filled with comments like: It's freezing down there. You actually trust Rolf and Luna? The Yeti will eat the children. Are we going to live underground all the time? What will happen to our house and to Hogwarts while we're gone? It's freezing down there. That point came up several times.
During that endless tirade I can also remember being shocked at my reaction. I didn't care—not in the least. For years I had indulged Ginny's every whim. However my recent "moment of clarity" made that behavior seem... I guess pathetic is the only word that fits. If there was a prize for the world's biggest doormat, I would have been the reigning champion. I swore my behavior would change, and surprisingly it did. (For the most part.)
"The lives of our children are at stake," I said when she finally paused to take a breath. "What is a few years of discomfort compared to that? We're going, and that's all there is to it."
"Harry James Potter, I am not an Auror sworn to obey your commands. I am your wife."
"Yes, and under normal circumstances we would continue to be equal partners in this marriage. But these aren't normal circumstances. This is the end of the world."
Ginny rolled her eyes. Yes, the little witch actually rolled her eyes at me. "Stop being so bloody melodramatic."
"Stop being such a spoiled brat, and I might think about it."
That's when drew her wand. She didn't cast a powerful curse—just a plain old Bat-Bogey Hex. Still, with everything that going on it made me furious. I batted her hex away like an annoying insect, and then disarmed her with more force than was necessary, an action I regretted for years to come. In my defense I was use to dealing with dark wizards, not Quidditch reporters. While Ginny's dueling skills had grown rusty since the end of the war, mine were still razor-sharp.
"Now listen carefully," I told my immobilized wife as she hung a meter off the floor. "From now until the end of this mess there will be one person making the decisions for our family, and that person will be me. Not you, not your father, not your brothers, not Minister Bones, and certainly not those fools in Wizengamot or at the ICW. Is that clear enough for you?"
"Fine. Now will you please put me down?"
"That depends... are you going to attack me again?"
"I didn't attack you. Not really. I was just trying to snap you out of your foul mood. We've gotten through rough patches like this before, and we can do again."
"No, you couldn't be more wrong. Compared to the eruption of Lake Taupo, Tom Riddle was nothing more than a tiny zit on your arse. It has only been a few days, but the violence and murders have already started. If things keep getting worse—and there is no reason to believe they won't—there is an excellent chance that everyone on this planet will be dead in five years!"
Thanks to her mother's bedtime stories Ginny always believed that the Boy-Who-Lived could solve any of her problems, and up until that point in our lives I had done just that. But now she could hear the real fear in my voice. At first she seemed to be in shock, but then my words sank in and she began to sob. Quietly at first, but then with more and more force until her whole body was shaking. Reluctantly I cancel the Levitation Spell, and gathered her in my arms.
"What are we going to do?"
It was the same question Hermione had asked me earlier, but Ginny wasn't interested in a practical answer. No, she wanted reassurances that I couldn't give her. So instead of being honest, I lied and told her that everything would be fine.
That's when her desperate hands started to roam. After my encounter with Hermione in the broom closet I wasn't in the mood. "The rest of the family is waiting for us up in the Gryffindor common room. We don't have time for this."
"Harry, we're going to live at the South Pole with a bunch of Yeti. Who knows what the living conditions will be like? This may be the last moment of privacy we get for weeks or months or even years. Please, I need you."
I may not have been in the mood, but turning her down would have started another bitter argument. As a compromise I dropped to my knees, which earned me a lusty growl of approval. Being a parseltongue is a useless gift for the most part, but there are times when it come in handy.
Ginny had been pacified for the moment, but the rest of the Weasleys weren't so obliging. After Andromeda escorted the children out of the common room, Ron started off with the questions. He didn't even bother waiting until I finished my explaining my proposal.
"But why move to Antarctica of all places? Why not just use the caves we have found here in Britain?"
It was hard to keep my temper in check, but somehow I managed it. "Percy, how many suitable caves have the Aurors and the other scouts found so far?"
"About forty, but according to Headmistress Sprout and Neville only six of them are worth using."
"And where are those six caves located?"
"Three are here in Scotland, another is in Wales, and the last two are in the north of England close to York," Percy replied after consulting one of this notebooks.
"Ron, think about that for a moment," I said. "Even if we find enough caves, they'll be scattered all over the world, which means the wizards and witches standing guard over them will be scattered all over the world. The greater our exposure, the greater the chance that the muggles will accidentally find us."
"And given how volatile things are, they will shoot first and ask questions later," Hermione added. "Especially if they think we're hoarding food or other critical supplies."
"Alright, so we dig tunnels right here under Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest," George said. "The defensive wards are already in place, plus the climate is better."
I shook my head in frustration. Even at that stage I could see the violent future stretching out ahead of us, so why couldn't they?
"We're already running out of living space, so people will want to expand the size of the castle. Plus they will want to build new houses in Hogsmeade and play Quidditch out on the pitch and have picnics down by the Black Lake. In a matter of months this place will start to look like a small city, and that will attract attention. The kind of attention that could start a war between us and the muggles."
"But down in Antarctica the freezing weather will force us to live underground and out of sight just like the Goblins," Bill reasoned. "You want to take our options away from us. For our own good, of course."
"Fleur, do us all a favor and cram your husband's self-righteous crap back up his arse," Pansy snapped.
That comment ignited the famous Weasley tempers. Arthur had to raise his voice—something he hadn't done in years—to calm his children down. "Why do you feel the need to insult William?" he asked his least favorite daughter-in-law.
"Because he was being an idiot," Pansy replied with her usual amount of tact. "Harry doesn't want to do any of this. He's just trying to keep us safe, and to do that we must abandon Hogwarts."
"What are you talking about?" George asked. "The muggles don't know anything about—"
Pansy cut him off. "Oh please. How many muggleborns know about the location of Hogwarts? And Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic and St Mungo's Hospital? Hundreds? Maybe thousands? Why do you think so many pureblood families supported the Dark Lord and his agenda? Do you think it was because we liked taking orders from a psychotic lunatic? No, it was because he understood the security risks that the muggleborn and their families posed to our world. It will take just one traitor working with the muggle government to get us all killed."
That started another round in the endless debate about which is superior: the wizards with their magic, or the muggles with their science and technology? We couldn't come up with an answer, perhaps because there is no definitive answer to be found.
In the end the debate was irrelevant. I made it clear to the others that I was leaving Hogwarts no matter what, and Ginny and our children were coming with me. Hermione volunteered her support, and Ron reluctantly went along with his wife. However the real tie-breaker was Pansy.
"You honestly think Hogwarts is in danger?" Percy asked her.
"Ignatius, my father has dealt with the muggles in the past. He has even bribed their government officials on several occasions, and according to his sources the muggles know a great deal about our world. Oblivions can only hide so much."
Percy glanced over at Arthur, who slowly nodded his head. The rest of the boys weren't happy, but none of them were willing to go against their father's decision. It was agreed that the entire Potter/Weasley/Parkinson clan would move south together.
For several months I've debated with myself about telling you—my descendants—what happened after that particular family meeting. It's embarrassing, but also important if you want to understand the odd course of my life. According to the Hag's prophecy I'm suppose to preserve the Truth, so for the sake of historical accuracy here it is:
"Pansy, could I speak with you for a moment?" I asked as everyone went their separate ways for the night.
"Ignatius, please go collect Sebastian and Livia. I will join you in our room in a few minutes."
Ginny had already disappeared down the stairs, so I pulled Pansy back into the empty common room. I was exhausted, so I got right to the point. "Why did you really support me just now, and what do you expect in return for that support?"
Instead of giving me an answer, Pansy reached underneath her green silk blouse and pulled out the tiny hourglass at the end of the gold chain she wore around her neck. That was a familiar but terrible sign.
"No," I sputtered. "No, don't even think about it."
Pansy smirked. "Do you think I didn't notice how Hermione and Ginny looked? They were positively glowing."
Despite being a grown man, I blushed. "Yes, they were glowing. Both of them. That means I'm useless to you for the next several hours. We will have to do... this another time."
"Nonsense, I prefer a wizard who has already been put through his paces. It does wonders for your stamina. Now get that cute little arse over here so I can put this chain around your neck."
You can see where this is going. Yes, I know. According to the many Harry Potter biographies you've read, my relationship with Pansy didn't start until after our marriage. Well I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but that timeline is bogus.
The whole farce started after the birth of Livia Parkinson, which happened about two years before the eruption of Lake Taupo. Pansy had given Percy a legitimate son and daughter as promised, so now she wanted to take a lover. Or at least that's what she told Percy.
In reality I think she wanted her husband—with whom she had reluctantly fallen in love—to object to the idea of an open marriage. I also think Pansy had concocted an elaborate fantasy about how things were suppose to play out. Percy was going to bellow at her like caveman, drag her off to the bedroom, and then ravage her repeatedly while declaring his undying love.
Percy, it seems, had other plans. He calmly informed his wife that he was happy to accept an open marriage like a proper pureblood aristocrat. In fact he already had a lover of his own waiting in the wings: Audrey Phillips, a sweet muggleborn witch who worked at the Ministry of Magic in the accounting department.
Pansy was not amused by this unexpected turn of events. She wanted revenge, but that turned out to be a problem since finding a lover was harder than she originally thought it would be. It wasn't that wizards didn't find her attractive, because back then she was sexy as hell. No, there was another obstacle in her way.
"Potter, this is all your fault," Pansy snarled when we met at a posh muggle hotel in Edinburgh. I thought she wanted to discuss some new dark wizard on the rise, but instead I was subjected to the details of her unhappy marriage. "Every wizard I approach is terrified of offending You-Know-Who. That's what they are calling you nowadays in certain pureblood circles. I hope it makes you happy, because it's ruining my sex life."
(Being called the new You-Know-Who did make me happy. If the dark wizards and witches were afraid of me they wouldn't commit any crimes, so I wouldn't have to kill them. At least that's what I told myself. It was better than the alternative—that I was well on my way to becoming the next Tom Riddle.)
"Pansy, I'm sure there is someone out there for you. Have you considered dating a muggle. There are a few billion of them to choose from."
"Are you suggesting that I allow a filthy muggle to defile me? Are you insane? That will never happen."
"Maybe you can find a foreign wizard who hasn't heard of me before?"
"I had someone a bit closer to home in mind. Someone who already knows how to conduct a discreet affair."
So there you have the awful truth: the storybook romance between the Great Seeker and his Consort started because of a nasty case of blackmail. If I didn't coöperate, Pansy was threatening to tell Ginny about Rose's true paternity. That would have destroy several lives, so I gave in to her demands.
In hindsight I will say that I didn't put-up much of a fight. Why not?
To answer that question you must understand my other two relationships. I never stopped loving Hermione, but over time she had twisted our affair into some bizarre gothic romance. She did love me, but she loved the emotional drama of our "forbidden passion" even more. (Her words, not mine.) Ginny also had issues. In her mind sex was an athletic competition, and her orgasm was always the finish line. At first this selfish approach was fine by me, but after several years I needed a change.
And Pansy certainly was a change. Traveling an hour into the past using an illegal Time Turner, donning our Invisibility Cloaks, taking a broom ride to the edge of the castle's wards, apparating to our cozy love shack on the Isle of Wight, stripping naked... she made it all seem like a seductive and playful game. That was key selling point for me: she made sex fun again.
But what was the selling point for Pansy? I would like to think it was my charming personality or my roguish good looks that first captivated her.
But as a wise man named Jules once said: that shite ain't the truth.
The truth is Pansy wanted her lover to be a powerful and good-looking wizard under the age of thirty, so her choices were limited. I was conveniently close by, and thanks to my affair with Hermione she could blackmail me. Being in control like that was a big turn-on for her inner Slytherin.
Now that you have the necessary background material, let's skip forward to the crux of the conversation I had with Pansy during our last fling on the Isle of Wight:
"When do you want to schedule a vote in the Wizengamot?" Pansy asked as we gathered our discarded clothes from the floor.
I shrugged my shoulders. "The muggles have a very old saying: Inter arma enim silent leges."
"In times of war, the law falls silent," Pansy translated.
"Ten points to Slytherin. As far as I'm concerned the Wizengamot no longer matters."
"Potter, do you have a new brain tumor or something? Just because you don't need legal authorization from the Wizengamot to move to Antarctica doesn't mean it wouldn't be a useful asset to have in the future. Political legitimacy is a weapon you can use to smack your enemies around when they start to annoy you. Which they will, sooner or later."
"That may be true, but I'm not going to waste weeks and weeks of precious time begging for votes."
"You won't have to beg," Pansy said as she began removing the wrinkles from my robes. "My father and his friends will support you, as will Draco Malfoy and his conservative cronies."
"How can you be sure of that? Won't they want to make a last stand at Hogwarts like Ron and his brothers suggested?"
"You may be scared of the muggles, but most purebloods are terrified of them. You are offering those weaklings a solution to their problems, so why wouldn't they take it?"
That didn't sound right to me, so I looked through Pansy's blue eyes and into her mind, trying to find her hidden agenda. But there wasn't one. Instead I found something else. Despite the great sex we shared—and it was great—we didn't really like each other. However to my amazement I found that Pansy trusted me to protect the lives of her two children. She trusted me absolutely. That's when I realized she was no longer my enemy.
I didn't fall in love with her that day, but it was my first step down that path. Just like earlier when I had taken my first step down the path of falling out of love with Ginny. Please keep in mind that I'm not proud about this turn of events, but I'm not ashamed either. After a century of observation I found that when it comes to love most people are either happy fools or lonely cynics, and I would rather be a happy fool.
"If the Wizengamot is going to vote on whether to support my plan, they should do it tomorrow morning. If they wait any longer it will be too late."
An hour had passed since we left Hogwarts, and we returned just as our past selves were magically disappearing from sight. Percy and Ginny (and Hermione) never suspected a thing. No one ever suspected a thing, and that's how it stayed thanks to one very cunning witch.
Pansy's prediction was proven correct when the Wizengamot met in the Great Hall of Hogwarts the next morning. The purebloods were desperate for a place to hide, and Antarctica sounded fine to them. They didn't even complain about living with the Yeti. My own New Equality Party proved to be a bigger hassle. Many wanted to stay at Hogwarts, and the only thing that saved us from a lengthy debate was Minister Bones.
"Harry, do you intend to create a Floo connection to the Yeti settlement the Scamanders discovered?" Susan asked.
"Yes," I replied. "According to Hermione Weasley's calculations, that would be the most efficient method for moving large numbers of wizards and witches south."
"Alright, so we set up the connection here at Hogwarts. That means we won't have to permanently abandon the castle, but if things go pear-shaped with the muggles we'll have a secure escape route available."
I didn't like it, but Susan's sensible compromise won a unanimous vote from the Wizengamot.
The events that followed played-out pretty much as they do in the history books. A Floo was indeed "created" between Scotland and Antarctica. Or did we "connect" the two sites? Or did we "hook them up" to each other? I'm the greatest wizard in the world, but even I think magical verbs are confusing.
Anyway, over forty members of the extended Granger family were already camping out in the Forbidden Forest, and it turns out that one of Hermione's many cousins taught physics at a local grammar school. Poor John Granger nearly had a heart attack when he discovered that a wizard could conjure what he called an Einstein Rosen Bridge out of thin air. Of course as you know, that simple observation is considered by many to be the birth of modern Technomancy.
While the new long-range Floo Network was being "plugged in", Bill Weasley was in London conferring with his employers, the Goblins of Gringotts. The prospect of digging throughout the Transantarctic Mountains without being hunted down and eaten by the Yeti was appealing to the greedy little monsters, and a bargain was soon stuck. In exchange for certain mining concessions the Goblins would oversee the construction of the new tunnels. Whether or not we needed their help is still an open question. The did make some improvements to the Yeti's original designs, but they were mostly minor changes.
While others handled the high-level engineering, I and thousands of other wizards and witches were stuck doing the grunt work. The whole process was mind-numbingly boring even with the use of magic.
First we would drill a small hole two or three meters into the bedrock. Afterwards we filled the hole with explosives. (The Yeti used a homemade version of dynamite, which George enhanced with certain unstable potions.) Then we detonated the explosives, and disposed of the rubble that was blasted loose. The Yeti did this work with their huge muscles, but we simply turned the rubble into portkeys. (As a precaution we dumped it in the ocean under the Ross Ice Shelf where the muggle spy satellites wouldn't be able to see it.) Once we were done we would repeat the process again. And again. And again.
Still, anything was better than watching your loved ones starve to death.
The work Neville and his Herbologist were doing behind us was equally back-breaking, but at least it was intellectually stimulating. For a Herbologist anyway. Back during those early days Neville always had a goofy grin plastered on his face.
Even though we were working like slaves to improve our new home, news from the muggle world still trickled down to Antarctica thanks to the constant stream of new arrivals. That's how we heard about the end of the war on the Korean peninsula. The South Koreans had launched a massive counterattack and conquered North Korea in less than a week. This was made possible thanks to the joint military support of China, the United States, Russia, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, and the Philippines.
"Some of those countries have been mortal enemies for centuries, so why are they working together now?" Hermione asked latest group of arrivals.
"No one is sure, but according to the latest rumors the muggles have formed a new world-wide government they are calling the Davos Federation," one of the witches explained before she was taken away by the local Aurors to be processed.
It was the first time any of us hear that name—a name which would be universally condemned by future generations. As is usually the case, the truth is a bit more complicated. Don't get me wrong. The Davos Federation was indeed guilty of many crimes against humanity, but it also had several positive traits—speed of action being foremost among them. It was only sixteen days since the eruption of Lake Taupo, but my adversary had already made a brilliant début on the world stage.