Disclaimer: I'm not J.K. Rowling; I'm only visiting her universe for nonprofit fun and edification. (No profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended).
By the time they came for Astoria, Draco realized that it was much too late.
There was an irregularity in her family tree, a Muggle ancestor—but one was enough, in those latter days, and he should have realized it.
They came for Astoria at four o'clock in the morning. She looked at him, and he knew not to say anything about the baby, not that the Ministry likely didn't already know, but the child had not been registered yet.
She looked at him, bleak eyes at four o'clock in the morning, and he kissed her, and she him.
The last time.
At four o'clock in the morning the facts themselves reared up, grey and implacable as the island fortress looming out of the mists of the North Sea.
It was the last time he would see her alive.
"I told you so," said the portrait of Severus Snape. Draco hated that portrait; it was always right, and all the more smug for its Original being dead.
"The Genealogy Office is doing another review," portrait-Snape said. This one was rather saner than the one in the Headmaster's Office, or the ruin of same, at Hogwarts, and that one saner still than the ghost that haunted the Shrieking Shack.
Draco didn't ask who had told Snape such a thing; he'd learned that no answer was forthcoming. Snape had his sources.
Portrait-Snape. Snape was dead.
One leaves a ghost, ergo one is dead. Portraits didn't count, for all they outlived their Originals. Draco was a wizard, and hence not an aficionado of logic, but the simple syllogistic reasoning (all ghosts are remnants of dead people; Snape has a ghost, therefore Snape is dead) had long since imprinted itself on him.
The logic of events, as well, had played its part.
"The Genealogy Office," Draco repeated.
"They're reviewing the Old Families," Snape said, with the exaggerated patience he once had reserved for That Dunderhead Longbottom. "The Old Families, the Real Purebloods …"
Draco did not bridle at sarcasm, as once he would have. The Malfoys had been lucky to survive the victory of their Dark Lord.
The old elf Kreacher came shambling in, the baby swaddled in its grey arms.
"Master Draco is being troubled," it — he — said.
That didn't require confirmation, as portrait-Snape continued, "Master Draco had best convert his trouble to a more useful form. He might inquire of the Special Assistant."
"The Special Assistant," Draco repeated.
"At the Genealogy Office," Snape said, and the mockery showed in his face. "And I would recommend you do so forthwith."
The baby cooed and wriggled in the arms of the elf, who dandled it. His mother's elf, now, bound to her now that … well, whatever had transpired at Hogwarts five years ago, that had sealed the doors of Grimmauld Place against them, like an ancient tomb.
Upstairs, his father paced the drawing room: back and forth, back and forth. His parents did not leave the Manor much these days.
The Special Assistant to the Genealogy Office of the Ministry for Magic — "ah, yes, that way," the witch at the reception desk said, as she gave him the badge gleaming with his purpose, To see the Special Assistant.
"Follow the memos," she said. and he looked up to see a flotilla of colored paper airplanes. He followed them down the corridor to the lift, thence three levels down, or was it four; he wasn't minding the numbers, no, but trying the floors by trial and error to see on which they'd disembark. And when he finally hit the right combination, they zipped away down the corridor, and he had to chase them, running as fast as he dared — for he did not wish to draw attention — then dodged round a blind corner, where the paper missiles dove through a low arch (he stooped just in time to avoid concussing himself) and led him a merry chase through a labyrinth of corridors. Of course the Ministry respected neither space nor time, being wholly composed of magic and folding itself in the dimensions between, but usually it wasn't quite so blatant.
The door bore the single legend, "Special Assistant to the Genealogy Office," and below that, painstakingly lettered in scarlet ink, "Beware of the Leopard." Draco reached inside his robe to be sure of his wand, but hesitated to unholster it. Snape's manner had made clear that he must needs be discreet, and nothing would be less discreet than to let off a volley of hexes in the very heart of the Ministry, leopard or no leopard.
The door swung to, and a desk, lit by a single candle, resolved out of the gloom. Its inhabitant looked up, candlelight flashing off the lenses of his spectacles. An old-young man with a lined face and a fez…
… And red hair streaked with silver.
"May I help you?" he said.
It was a Weasley — curse Snape's sense of humor, if that's what it was.
"Where's the leopard?" Draco asked.
"Joke," Percy Weasley replied, with a momento-mori smile.
The last of the Weasleys, at least as far as anyone knew. There had been the twins, both done for in the battle, and the one who'd been Potter's companion; the one married to the French Veela-girl, well, that was another question. Affiliated with the Goblins, so who knew … he might well have disappeared into their fastnesses at Gringotts or elsewhere, for even now the Goblins looked after their own and did not brook interference.
Now the half-Goblins, or less, that was another question, like Flitwick, at Hogwarts, who had vanished either into the Forbidden Forest or Azkaban.
Even five years later, stories grew confused.
Arthur Weasley was a confirmed kill at the battle of Hogwarts, and perhaps the conflagration had taken his spouse as well …
… And all of that was down to the account of Draco's family's patron, well, that was not a good thing now, to be at the mercy of a Weasley.
Perhaps the leopard wasn't a joke at all.
"Snape sent me," Draco said.
An eyebrow raised. "Which one?"
Draco opened his mouth, then closed it again.
"The portraits, or the ghost," Percy Weasley explained, as if laying out the principles for a firstie.
"The portrait," Draco said.
"Not at Hogwarts, I'd reckon, because that takes some getting to. Even now… it's like mountaineering." He said, "So Snape sent you."
"About … the review. The Old Families." It was hard to wrap his mouth around words, to make complete sentences of them, because some things should not be said aloud and the dim walls vibrated with the will of the Ministry.
Weasley translated his nervous sidelong glances with perfect accuracy. "It's safe. Perfectly safe. As far as anything… well, never mind. Yes. Genealogy of the Old Families." His eyes were hazel, behind the spectacles. Bright and hard, an old man's eyes. "Such as yours. Such as mine. The ones who came out of the mists as wizards, and have been magical as long as we've been at all." He sharpened his quill, oddly enough with a bit of blade pulled from a desk drawer, whittled the nib into a more agreeable shape. A nervous habit, no doubt.
"Snape told me," Draco repeated, and the words sounded dull and stupid and hollow to him as soon as he spoke.
"Yes. Well. Rather." Weasley held the nib up for inspection, pushing the spectacles up his nose and peering through them at his handiwork. Dipped the quill in the ink-pot, wrote a line or two. "Yes. The Old Families, who call themselves Pureblood, well, are really no such thing, if one takes the modern definition. Elements higher up in the Ministry have interested themselves in this question. The Black Family Tapestry was of particular note to them …"
Draco swallowed hard against a dry throat. Raw. He had learned more than a few things in the last years. Underestimating an enemy could be deadly — as his aunt Bellatrix had learned, crowing over Molly Weasley's losses.
The last words she ever said, before the Killing Curse brought her down, and with her some part of the Hogwarts masonry. As far as he knew, the two adversaries still lay entombed in the ruins.
Hogwarts had never reopened.
They had come for the Muggle-borns first, of course, and he hadn't paid attention, no, at first he'd thought it a good idea, until it became clear that the victory wasn't his, or his family's, but the exclusive property of the Dark Lord and those whom he chose to favor, and that was the Carrows far more than Snape, and certainly not the Malfoys. The affair of Tom Riddle's Diary — well, he had overheard bits of that and the Dark Lord was not amused, no; for some reason the loss of a bit of Muggle trash aggrieved him far more than the bungled raid on the Department of Mysteries that had landed Lucius Malfoy in Azkaban.
"There aren't any Muggle-borns left to register," Weasley explained, "so they have moved operations to the Genealogy Office, you see. In high antiquity, the great wizards of these islands made their magic strong by marrying their own kind —" Draco didn't like the tone of this, and it must have shown on his face, for Weasley held up a restraining hand "— not what you think, and mind you hear me out. Where do you think the Metamorphmagi came from? Sons and daughters of Proteus, that's the legend in the Greek Isles, and there's something to it. Natural shapeshifters intermarried with wizards, a fine hybrid; and then there's the Veela. Many a Seeker has Veela blood; it's the lightness and the bird-bones, falcon's sight and a taste for soaring." Weasley was looking at him.
"Has long since left the country. But the Malfoys, and I'll add the Blacks as well, yes, it's there in the papers, Latin and Old French, just before they left off thinking that was a good thing and obscured it. But that's what makes for magic bloodlines at all — outcrossing to strengthen the trait. You get Muggleborns all the time, but you don't have witches and wizards unless you take in the Magical Kindred." He made a face. "Much as certain elements don't want to admit, those were honorable alliances and boasted on by both sides — before the wizards got greedy."
Certainly Draco had enjoyed the frisson of the rumor — Veela wasn't the worst thing to have a rumor of, and certainly had more cachet that Giant or Goblin — but nonetheless …
"Nonetheless," Weasley said, placing his pen exactly parallel to the parchment, and twitching the corners of the blotting-paper so that they too lined up, "Magic is Might, you know. Says so on the very fountain in the atrium."
Draco knew that fountain, and for all they'd called Muggles cattle, he hated it. Those crushed naked bodies might be wizards as well as Muggles (shuddering, because who knew who was a Legilimens, but certainly the Dark Lord was). The Malfoys had known that crushing weight, to their eternal humiliation.
"It might have been fashionable before," Weasley said, "but it's about to become deadly."
Draco thought of the baby in Kreacher's arms, and his parents, anxiously pacing the upstairs rooms of the Manor.
"You're marked on both sides. The Blacks and the Malfoys both have Veela blood. It shows in your mother, and your father—fine-boned blonds, where the family tree might predict black hair and grey eyes."
"But — what do I do?"
"Madam Hooch has long since left the country."
"But … we've nowhere to go." The French Ministry wasn't admitting the likes of them, no, because his father had tried, yes, immediately after the Victory, through Tante in Normandy, who was as well-connected as any witch on the Continent but still couldn't get that arranged.
And then Weasley looked around, and flicked his wand with a murmur, so that silence swathed them for a moment —
"There are grey wolves in the Forbidden Forest," he said. "Inquire at the Shrieking Shack."
And that, apparently, was that, for the silencing spell unwrapped them, and Weasley shook his head sharply to indicate that no other words should be spoken —
For the walls had ears, whose whorls were taking shape out of the dim plaster.
Draco nodded, bowed, and made a swift exit.
The Shrieking Shack, the most haunted building in wizarding Britain, was now even more haunted, if such a thing were possible. Howls, and ranting, and lamentation —
At all hours of the night and day, rants that ran by the hour, on the ineptitude of Potter.
Draco did not fancy a return engagement.
And what wolves might have to do with it, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.
The afternoon was grey when he turned up in Hogsmeade, walked the path to the shack like a mere tourist, wrapped in a fog of surpassing gentleness, damp but caressing, so that he could feel its condensation bead finely on his face and gather on his lashes like tears. The soothing grey atmosphere swallowed the distance and promised peace to the hung-over or the ones who'd greeted the dawn from the wrong end of the night.
He trudged up the path, and felt the stones turn under his feet, and the turf give way, as if those were the only sounds in the world. The fog had thickened, and was cutting him off from the world.
"Dunderhead!" said the ghost. "Open the door; I haven't hands, and you're a sorry mortal."
He obeyed, and stepped in with the door closed behind him. He'd take his chances with the ghost rather than the Death Eaters who might be roaming the streets, for who knew how long it would be that the decree on the blood-impurity of the Old Families would be issued.
"I, er, …"
"Don't mumble. You were quick enough to throw me out, weren't you? You ungrateful boy. I swore the Unbreakable Vow for you, and some gratitude you have. A thankless, viper breed, you Malfoys."
Draco waited. Snape wasn't yet in full cry, but there was no stopping this particular rant.
"Very clever, weren't you? A new-hatched Occlumens, thanks to your dear aunt Bella, may she roast in hell. If I'd known… well, the old chess-master had set me to it, I suppose, but you didn't make it a whit easier."
Draco stared at the floor, where the blood had long since darkened the dusty floorboards.
"Out damned spot, eh? Look at me, you ungrateful snip. A fat lot of good you were, and don't you look away!" He hated this part, because Snape's ghostly visage gave way to skull, oh gods, he hated that, hated it, why had he ever thought the snake and the skull was a clever bit of art? Yes, that ached still in his forearm though he'd long since been cast aside, hadn't been summoned since the Victory, no, though he remembered that blaze of pain…
"All you can think of is your own pitiful fate. And you used me, the lot of you — Malfoys, Potters, Dumbledores — no use for Snape except as your errand boy, yes, and Tom Riddle into the bargain."
"Who?" Draco had heard the name before, he of the diary.
"Vol-de-mort!" Snape said, as his jaw unhinged in a horrible howl … well, if the Taboo still applied to the Name, they'd learn so in swift order. "Another lad from the North with fancy notions. Little Hangleton rather than Spinner's End, but all the same to those spineless southern buggers."
By then, the bones of Snape's original accent showed through the mask of that cultivated silky tone. That grated on Draco's ears just as Longbottom's voice had… well, and the accent was much the same, no doubt why Snape had so hated Longbottom.
Draco listened, and the rant went on. "I have kept my vow," the ghost said. "Of all of them, I am not forsworn." It drew itself up — and looked very much younger, and if Draco would be frank, better-looking — a sort of knightly version of the Severus Snape he had known.
"Lily would have been proud,"ghost-Snape said.
Oh, no, not that, Draco thought, because once Snape was onto the subject of Lily Potter nee Evans, there was no stopping him. That rant could go on for hours —
And hours might not be what Draco had.
How long before the decree was issued? From Astoria's case, he knew that they would act promptly, if somewhat unpredictably.
"Percy Weasley told me very specifically that there are grey wolves in the Forbidden Forest, and that I should inquire at the Shrieking Shack." He added, "They are looking into everyone's family trees. Nonhuman ancestry …" His voice faded out. "Veela. It's true about the Veela."
Snape sneered at him. "Far too attenuated to make you generally irresistible."
Except to Astoria, and she's dead or else Kissed, but he pushed that thought away.
"And if I weren't dead already, I'd be dead now," the ghost said, in a somewhat more reasonable tone. "If they're coming for the Half-bloods…"
"They came for Astoria at four o'clock this morning," he said. "And your portrait told me to talk to the Special Assistant, who turns out to be the Last Weasley, and he told me to talk to you."
"Oh, Weasley," Snape said, in a way that Draco had never heard that surname pronounced, almost as if there were some relation of respect. "Well, that puts a different complexion on things."
It scared Draco more than anything else that the ghost had calmed down."Very well then. Walk to Hogwarts."
"Walk? To Hogwarts?" Draco stared. Was the ghost mad?
Of course the ghost was mad, but that didn't change things.
"Downstairs. There's a staircase, and a tunnel …"
"But aren't they all sealed up? And in any case, the castle is in ruins."
"This one doesn't end at the castle. No. Where the Whomping Willow was …"
Draco frowned, and then sighed. No, the ghost was right; it was not forsworn. Though why anyone would keep an Unbreakable Vow after death; he'd never heard of such a thing —
"Some of us have a sense of honor," the ghost said. Damn Legilimency. "Listen carefully, Draco, and don't muck it up. Hogwarts is always willing to give help to those who ask."
"Hogwarts is dead."
"Oh no, your school is closed, but Hogwarts is by no means dead. You learned the lesson your first year and as soon forgot it. The castle has a mind of its own."
"Dumbledore is dead."
"True enough. But he is not the only headmaster."
"How will I find the Grey Wolves?"
"You needn't worry on that account. They'll find you."
Draco wasn't sure what impulse moved him to ask the question, but it seemed his last chance. "Why? Why did you stay?"
"I did not abandon my post. And Lily wouldn't have me, and she passed beyond the Veil. I won't spend eternity watching her and Potter … " and with that, Snape wrapped himself up in smoke, almost audibly snapping the ghostly cloak, and whirled about the place in the floor —
"Down you go, lad, and don't stop till you get to the Willow."
It was dark; he wondered if he dared cast Lumos, and then realized that he would make no headway if he did not. Why did he trust Snape? Well, why did anyone trust Snape? Double agent, that much he read. Probably Weasley too, if he were working in the Ministry. Agents of a dead and hopeless cause… But that was true, his mother had confirmed it, that Snape had sworn the Unbreakable Vow… and would not be forsworn, because whatever else Snape was, he was bloody-minded, and stubborn, and stuck to a point with a ferocity worthy of a Pureblood wizard.
Which Draco apparently was not, nor was any of his family. Not his parents — by virtue of Veela blood — nor his newborn son, by virtue of his wife's impure ancestry. No, they were all going to die…
And there was the question, as he picked his way around rubble through the stale reek of unburied corpses, just how he was going to get out past the Whomping Willow …
He could not remember what had befallen that accursed tree during the battle.
Finally the tunnel gave way to daylight, or a sort of daylight, anyway, for the fog was thicker on the Hogwarts grounds than it had been in Hogsmeade. Soothing, yes, but there was something about the obscurity that scared him rather. Grey wolves would blend right in …
Go to Hogwarts. Hogwarts gives help to those who ask. The castle was sentient, of course, but they all forgot that within a few weeks, really forgot it, in spite of dodging the moving staircases or tickling the pear to admit themselves to the kitchens, or summon the Room of Requirement…
… Oh no, that he did not want to contemplate, and he did not even know if that room still worked. And that frightened him if possible more than the fate hung over him…
No. Not more than that. There was a goal, and it was clear: get whatever help these grey wolves could offer … be they sentient or something else.
He stood on the lawn, stared out past the ruins to the Quidditch pitch. Except for the ruins, except for the unburied bones, it might have been an ordinary day — the hoops still towered over the pitch, the stands still remained…
… Except for that burnt, broken-off bit.
He stood and turned toward the castle. "It's a bit like mountaineering," Percy Weasley had said. Perhaps he could reach the Headmaster's portrait all on his own?
Grey shadows took shape out of the fog.
Not wolves, but humans, though he could not see the faces from where he stood, and they were cloaked.
He held his wand before him in the duelist's grip —
One of them stepped closer, and he began to make out the features, in the cool dense air. Cropped head in deep shadow under the cowl, and the features familiar, or should have been, if he could only place them —
It stepped closer, and the others took up positions around him. At least three of them, and he was surrounded.
"Malfoy," the apparition said.
"Granger," he said. "I thought you were dead."
"There are grey wolves in the forbidden forest," she said.
"And Hogwarts gives help to those who ask," said the one behind him. He turned, instinctively pointing his wand down — to earth, grounded — and faced Minerva McGonagall. "Mr. Malfoy, I think you can be assured of your safety." The posture was guerrilla chieftain but the voice all Headmistress, clipped and astringent Scots, and for a moment a wave of longing washed over him. If only things were simple, if only the war hadn't happened, if only —
If only whatever went wrong in the last minutes of the battle had not gone wrong.
When the third witch stepped forward, he screamed.
It was Bellatrix.
No, it could not be; she was dead. Of course it could be; they stood on the battlefield; who knew how many ghosts he might raise, walking across the grounds in broad daylight. And this was a sort of afternoon twilight —
Afternoon. Already the position of the sun told him that there was not enough time. And surely his aunt would have some regard for his peril.
"Your sister is in danger," he said.
"I know," the other said, in a tone whose level calm terrified him; when Bellatrix got quiet —
And what was she doing in the company of two witches she'd held in contempt in life?
"Half right. I'm your aunt, but I'm not Bellatrix."
"Andromeda." The blood traitor, blasted off the tapestry.
That very tapestry had betrayed them all into the hand of the enemy —
— Well, the world had rather gone topsy-turvy but the ones who took his wife couldn't possibly be his friends …
"Snape's portrait told us that your wife was taken at four o'clock this morning," Andromeda said, quite conversationally as if they were chatting about Quidditch as they strode across the grass, not too overgrown. But then the castle grounds always had renewed themselves, and regulated themselves, the whole of it one vast creature…
Something darkened the sky.
Granger struck his wand out of his hand. "Run!" she said.
And they bolted for the Forbidden Forest, as darkness descended from the sky, homing in on Draco's discarded wand.
Into the woods, crashing through the underbrush, with a hissing noise behind, till Granger roughly shoved him to the ground, and the rest stood guard above, for the thing, whatever it was, didn't seem to have penetrated beyond a certain point.
He stared up at her, where she stood at the edge of a shallow declivity. They were in a slight bowl, a gently sloping smooth stretch of ground —
Completely without vegetation, with a surface to it like slippery cloth —
"Aragog's nest," she said, "where the giant spiders used to live." A fierce humorless smirk pulled on that worn face, pale by wandlight.
"You used your wand on the way in, didn't you?' she said.
He nodded. "In the tunnel — I couldn't see otherwise."
"Very bad idea," she said. "Didn't Snape think to warn you?"
He shook his head, nonetheless trying to remember. It was a blur now… and he had no wand. "How am I supposed to manage without a wand?" he asked.
He hadn't half done and there were his parents, back at the Manor, and the baby—
McGonagall now, "And you've been to the Ministry." He opened his mouth, indignant. Her quelling glance was enough to stop anything he might have said. "I am still Headmistress of Hogwarts. And as such — beneficiary of the wisdom of colleagues."
"Snape sent me to the Ministry. And — Weasley sent me here." The last Weasley, he wasn't going to say, remembering in time that this very dangerous grey-faced girl had been affianced to another Weasley and there was no point in needlessly antagonizing her.
Not a thought he'd have had even three days ago, but then he hadn't thought of Granger in years. In these latter days of the triumph of the Dark Lord, he'd had quite enough to occupy him, with his wife's childbed and disturbing rumors on the horizon.
"Mr. Weasley has kept us apprised of developments in the Ministry," McGonagall said, "so we know there's very little time."
"But without a wand…"
And no prospect of a new one: Ollivander was dead and there had been no new wands in wizarding Britain for years.
They hurried him on, to the upslope where the forest thickened once more, the fog obscuring the bowl, filling it like the steam of a cauldron.
Andromeda said, in the voice of long-dead Bellatrix, perhaps what she'd have sounded like had she been sane, "So there's your parents, and Snape tells us there's a baby."
"Unregistered as yet," he said. "They came for Astoria just this morning. We hadn't even settled on a name."
"And the house-elf." He swallowed and nodded.
"Well, that might be our saving grace."
Into the woods now, amid the distant rumble of hooves. He stopped and startled. Granger threw back her hood, and all but sniffed the air, her head tiled to one side and her eyes closed. "Centaurs, I think."
McGonagall said, "No matter. She'll have found some unicorn hair by now." He must have looked as gormless as he felt, for she said, "Your wand, Mr. Malfoy. Unicorn hair and hawthorn, wasn't it?" No need to nod, for on the heels of it, "It's a crude expedient, but we'll have a new one."
"But Ollivander is dead."
"Yes. But we have the services of his last apprentice."
The woods seemed to grow darker, or perhaps it was the fog, now wreathing through the trees, some of which were broken at rather startling heights — the spoor of giants. A long time since they'd been here, since they'd been given free reign to rampage across the British Isles in this new era of storms and disasters. The Dark Lord had not succeeded in wresting the secret of weather-working from the ancient Madam Marchbanks before she Apparated away — whether ahead or behind his Killing Curse was not clear, only that she had not been seen since.
Madam Hooch has long since left the country, echoed in his head like a refrain.
"So what was it?" Granger asked.
"The stain on your escutcheon. I'm assuming it's ancestral, since Snape sent you here on behalf of the whole clan, yes?"
He glared at her, narrowing his eyes. She stared him down.
"Well, we Mudbloods are supposed to be extinct in the British Isles, so they had to start on someone else. No one is pure enough, you know, in the final analysis. So what was it? Surely not Giant, and you've never been clever enough to suggest Goblin…"
"Veela," said Andromeda. Her expression was blander than Granger's, but he knew better than to read it as benevolent. "Aunt Walburga never mentioned that, though she had that tapestry by heart. Out in the open, the whole time. But everyone has them, you know. And it does rather explain the bloody-mindedness of the Black Family."
There was a hierarchy of magical admixture, of course: Veela was acceptably exotic, though the mystique tended to emphasize the fairer face rather than the ravening vengeance of birds of prey; Goblin was clever but ugly, Giant plebeian and thoroughly unacceptable; Merfolk and Centaurs—very rare, given the practicalities, and something of a ribald joke.
"So what happens now?" The afternoon was darkening already, and he could not help thinking of the baby, and of his parents, back at the Manor.
A ghostly figure drifted through the trees toward them, pale hair glowing in the gloom. "Ah, there you are," it said dreamily—still, in spite of all.
Another of the dead, apparently not dead at all. "Lovegood."
She smiled, and at least it was no weirder than it had been at Hogwarts. "Draco Malfoy. Unicorn hair and hawthorn, yes?" She held it out to him—crude, of course, as it had been woven in the forest, the twiny core knotted elaborately about each end of the wand.
Perhaps wands had looked so in Druid times.
He took it, and it thrummed in his hand, a remarkably good fit.
"So now…" Granger said. "Kreacher."
He stared. None of the lot of them seemed capable of a complete thought—
"Go to the Manor, and ask Kreacher to bring them out," Granger explained. "You can Apparate now; this wand isn't traceable. Not so for your parents. House-elves, on the other hand, never were traceable."
"There's the baby, and my mother, and my father …"
"Yes, the whole menage," she said, "you'll have to bring them out. Two trips, between you and Kreacher. Side-Along Apparition, mind you."
"But why —?" As if half-waking from dream, it finally occurred to him to ask. "Why are you helping me?"
Granger's smile was acidic. "We're the resistance," she said. "That's what we do. Point of principle, however useless."
The air shimmered in front of them, and a ghostly animal took shape, writhing like grey smoke — a wolf, winter-thin.
In Percy Weasley's voice it said, "If you aren't under way already, get moving. They are on their way."
"Two trips might take too long," Granger said. She took his arm. "Can we Apparate straight into the Manor?"
"I can," he said. She tightened her grip on his arm, and he turned, wand in hand.
Space and time imploded around them, twisting and whipping. The purple streaks were still glowing in front of his eyes as he landed, rather hard, on the Persian carpet in the drawing room.
"Fuck, not this place," she said, and then was all business again. "Kreacher takes the baby. Your parents come with us."
Kreacher materialized out of nowhere, with the baby in his arms. "Fetch mother and father," he said.
"Now," Granger said. "Not a moment to lose." Kreacher vanished and reappeared with Mother and Father. Granger turned to them, all business, clipped and fast and furious. "Do you have things packed for an escape? Because we're leaving now. They are on their way from the Ministry. They didn't even wait for nightfall."
Father froze, but Mother Apparated away and reappeared. Granger nodded in approval when she saw the tiny reticule.
Something banged at the gate.
A spray of magical fireworks and a shriek of metal as the gates gave way. In the courtyard, the peacocks screamed.
Granger took his mother's arm, somewhat roughly, and he followed her example with his father as Kreacher took up the baby. "Do not use your own wand," she said to Father. "We're not to be traced."
The air froze around them.
"To the grey wolves!" she said.
And they Apparated, rather forcefully.
He hadn't thrown up after an Apparition since he was seventeen, but here he was doubled over on his knees vomiting his guts out, or so it felt, in the magical recoil.
"Not used to that wand, are you?" Granger said, nothing sympathetic in her tone. "Luna's got the touch, for certain. Would have been something again, if Ollivander had lived…"
"What is the meaning of this?" Father was asking.
"Just what you think, Lucius," Andromeda answered him. His face went dead white, and she nodded. Oh yes, Draco would wager she'd used her resemblance to Bellatrix more than once to quell opposition. "We are rescuing your worthless hide from its well-deserved fate."
He blinked and stared. Granger stared him down, and produced a pair of silver shears. "Sit down."
Without a further word, she sheared his father's hair, till it was cropped to the skull, near enough… and he looked like —
"A Muggle," she said. "You're going to pass for a Muggle." She produced out of her own reticule — an incongruously glittering blue bag at her belt, more suitable for a ballroom than for a battlefield — a suit of clothes, which she threw at Lucius Malfoy.
And another for his son.
"Now," she said.
Draco nearly tripped, stripping off his robes and pulling on the unfamiliar tangle of garments. What Muggles wore, and he was going to have to look like a Muggle.
She said, "We are not going South. South is too dangerous… London and the Ministry. We are going to move North." She took a glance at the baby's swaddling — "that'll do, in a pinch," she said. "People don't pay much attention to babies, if the parents are dressed correctly."
Narcissa Malfoy, too, was shucking her dress robes and pulling on the ungainly garments handed her by Andromeda.
McGonagall handed a small portfolio to Granger. "Mr. Weasley sent these."
She glanced inside, smirked, and quirked an eyebrow. "Your passports."
Draco finished wrestling the anorak on over his head, as his mother bundled the discarded garments into her reticule. "And if we're to be Muggles, how do we explain a house-elf?"
"You don't." She waved her wand. "A proper Glamour covers a multitude of sins. Just keep your mouths shut, and don't say anything that a family of Canadian tourists wouldn't."
Draco's mouth dropped open. "Muggles. From Canada."
"Toronto is big enough to get lost in," she said with an abstracted air. "You fancy the outdoors, as city folk who spend all your time in front of computers in cubicles."
Lucius had recovered some of his hauteur. "The idea!"
"Yes, the idea," Granger said, "is that you're going to get out of this with a whole skin, so shut it and let me handle things." She smiled, a tight ferocious grimace that was scarier for its pretense of cordiality. "And I'll be your loving daughter-in-law, so take a fonder tone." She turned to Draco, "Even if ours was a star-crossed romance."
"But how will we evade them?" Narcissa. "They heard us leave."
"Never mind how," McGonagall said, "only that they'll be seeking in rather a different direction. There's record you've sought asylum in France, and that'll serve well for the nonce. Not to mention the traces already planted…"
Lovegood stepped forward once more, with Lucius's discarded Turkish slipper. She tapped it with her wand. Portus.
"We'll be catching our plane in Edinburgh," she said, "at the conclusion of our hiking trip." She peered in the portfolio. "Tourist class, regrettably. Not that the Canadian Ministry cares one way or the other, but it's less risky to forge cheap tickets."
Narcissa opened her mouth, and closed it again. "You never bore us any love, I would think."
"No," Andromeda answered, "she's no reason to love you, or any of your lot. Thank Severus Snape."
"But he's dead."
"And bloody-minded and stubborn to a fault," McGonagall. "Begone, now. Your plane leaves in two hours, and you'll have to get through customs."
They laid hands on the Portkey, and the darkness took them.
They strode through the airport, all bright lights and shiny surfaces and abstracted Muggles from every corner of the globe, thick-packed, surly, anonymous. Granger's face was fiercely blank, and she nudged him rather hard. "Look like you're thinking about the next thing," she said, "and stop them gawping." His parents were paralyzed with wonder, at the sheer numbers of people.
"Your luggage is already checked," she said, handing them the tickets, "and it says so right here. The queue's up there. Now listen…" and she explained to them in a low whisper the ritual that was to be enacted, and the things they must and must not do, to pass as Muggles who were not in the least suspicious. He shook his head; how was he going to remember all that?
"You're not stupid, so don't play the part. If we get through this bit …"
He watched her carefully as she walked up to the desk, and smiled, and made brief conversation, and even smiled back at him and the baby.
Went through the check first, and then held the baby while they attended to him and to his parents.
They endured the wait, in narrow seats, while a cacophany of announcements blared overhead. Lucius and Narcissa looked wretchedly out of place, and Granger shot them a cautionary look, then fished in that reticule of hers and extracted two glossy magazines.
"Cultural orientation," she said. "Read up on the latest doings of the Muggle aristos."
They took the assigned reading meekly, and unfolded the magazines gingerly to peruse the contents.
Draco looked at her, as she adjusted the baby's cowl and dandled it experimentally on her lap. She had held someone's baby, that was certain; and then she leaned over and whispered, "So, Draco, does your sprog have a name?"
Suddenly his eyes burned with tears, and he whispered, "We'd been thinking we'd name him Scorpius, if he were a boy."
She glanced at Mother, and then at him. "Scorpius rising, then."
He had not had the opportunity to discover if his son were a good baby, the sort who could sleep through a transatlantic flight, though Granger explained that the baby's fussing was not unusual, as the weight of the ascent pressed them into their seats. She'd heard worse, and no, the Muggle authorities would not find it suspicious. No, he should calm himself; they'd have the better part of a day in each other's company.
The baby settled, and Draco relaxed, looking out the window. Below them lay clouds, and the late sun. Finally, they were above the fog, and the wreathed mist of the Forbidden Forest, and the weather generally …
… And that white gleam was Greenland, Granger whispered in his ear. Whispered, because his parents were asleep now, sitting up, his father's head resting against his mother's and their faces looking both elderly and innocent in sleep. He couldn't bear to look at them, because it made the tears start again.
Granger's geographical observations, on the other hand —
Greenland, she was telling him, and they were flying north, following the great circle, flying west through the night. Morning would arrive far earlier than at home.
He frowned, trying to make sense of it.
The baby stirred against his shoulder, and his little mouth worked.
Granger produced the bottle from her blue bag, and fed him.
For some reason, that too made him want to cry.
He dabbed ineffectually at his eyes, not having thought to bring a handkerchief—and there was no magic to be used in this place. He already knew that Muggle devices died fast at Hogwarts, and he didn't want to take chances with the one bearing him aloft over the clouds.
"It's shock," she said with surprising gentleness. "We're not out of danger yet, but you may as well…"
He took the soft paper napkin she offered him, and covered his eyes — and couldn't weep. No, she was right; it wasn't over yet.
"Sleep if you can," she said.
He leaned back — hardly any room in these cramped quarters — and closed his eyes, and thought of what a notion that was, imagine, to sleep at thirty-five thousand feet above the ground, to sleep among the dull background roar of the engines, to sleep with the baby nestling warmly against his shoulder, and then not, as Granger took that warm burden from him. He wondered how many she had seen to safety on this curious route above the sea.
He slept, finally, because he startled awake when the voice above him said that they had entered Canadian air space and would shortly be making their approach.
How did they know, anyway? Were there boundary lines drawn on the sky? He craned to see out the window, which was full of evening glow.
Local time, it was only a few hours later than it must have been in the forest.
Granger was not in an expository mode, well, at least on the subject of chronometry. There were more urgent matters. She took out a piece of paper, and wrote on it their names, the names on the passports, and whispered to him that he must answer to this name now, probably forever, should probably assume that anyway. Given the state of things, he shouldn't expect to answer to the name Draco Malfoy ever again. Even if the state of things were to change… well, he'd have a better chance of surviving to see that if he were to forget who he had been.
Fortunately, Black wasn't an uncommon name, so they'd taken the chance of keeping it, but the new given names were quite a bit more ordinary. David and his wife Harriet.
Yes, that's what her ticket and her passport said: Harriet Black.
And his parents were Lucien and Natalie.
A risk of course, but where they were going, it shouldn't matter.
On the descent, he felt a headache begin in his sinuses, and the baby must have felt something of the sort too, because he whimpered and fussed and then started to scream in earnest, and nothing that Draco could do would soothe him.
"It will be over soon," she whispered in his ear. Oh no, he didn't like that thought, because if she were to betray him, that too would be true.
The engines roared, and the pressure flared, and he resigned himself to his fate, as his stomach registered the falling sensation he'd only ever felt on broomstick, swooping and diving under his own will.
That belonged to a past life. He would be earthbound from now on.
The roar increased, and the floor under him juddered ("the landing gear," she whispered, "nothing to worry about, it's a normal landing") and then he looked out the window again, and it was early evening, a blue clear evening with yellow lights rolling by, as if they were riding in a coach of vast proportions, on promenade past the structures of an equally huge boulevard.
And then they had arrived, and there only remained the debarkation. The baby cried, thin and miserable, and he tried to soothe him, and hoped that they were not calling attention to themselves. The Muggles around them were standing up, and talking to each other, and bringing down items of baggage from the compartments overhead, and from underfoot. Draco had a brief moment of panic, packed in as they were, hemmed in on all sides by patiently waiting passengers.
Soon enough, it was their turn to file out of their seats and join the slow queue in the aisle, and then to walk through a stuffy hallway that opened onto a bright interior, all glass and pale colors. As in the airport in Scotland, Muggles rushed to and fro, chattering in a variety of languages, all bent on some errand.
They weren't done yet.
A voice overhead repeated the request, first in English and then in French, that Lucien Black and family were to meet their party at the baggage counter.
There were two people standing there, by the carousel that disgorged luggage of all kinds. One of them looked familiar, in spite of her dark glasses and ordinary Muggle dress (long tweed skirt and sensible shoes, and a bulky jacket suitable for winter weather). The other he most definitely didn't know.
Granger walked right up to them. "Harriet Black," she said, and offered a handshake. "And my family."
The one with the dark glasses smiled at him. "It's been a long time," she said. For the briefest of moments she lowered the glasses — no wonder, for they concealed yellow hawk's eyes — and said, "You did eventually learn good form, Mr. Black."
Madam Hooch had long since left the country.
The other, a dark-haired Quebecoise from the Canadian Ministry — he didn't catch the name — said, "Our vehicle is parked in the loading zone. A Glamour's only good so long."
They walked together, the little family and the elf that no one else could quite see, through the glass doors that parted at their approach, and into the blue and frosty evening.
In the car, they made inconsequential conversation over his head while he lay back against the upholstered seat, held in place by the belt and harness Granger had shown him how to fasten.
"And is Minerva keeping well?" Madam Hooch asked.
"Quite well," Granger replied. "Every bit her old self. She sends her love."
"And Miss Lovegood?"
"Ask Dra — David here about his new wand."
Madam Hooch laughed. "She doesn't know her own strength, that one." And then, with a lightness of tone that seemed forced, "So you tell Minerva to bring herself over here some time."
Granger laughed. "I'll tell her. Maybe it will be sooner than you think."
Draco shivered, in spite of the warm air. It was four o'clock in the morning at home. Twenty-four hours since he'd last seen Astoria … whom he would never see again. Twenty-four hours later, under the Canadian sky, which looked much like the English one.
If he closed his eyes, he could imagine that the warmth next to him was his wife … only it wasn't. He opened his eyes, and the lights of the city blurred and swam.
The flat was bare of all but the most minimal furniture. The kitchen was continuous with the dining area—or so he took it to be, given the spare table and six chairs that occupied its center—and the parlor wasn't distinct either, all one big room, with a narrow hall that turned off to hide the two bedrooms.
Kreacher bustled about the kitchen, setting things up and conjuring pots and pans, and looking about for the hearth.
Draco sat on the couch with its bare lines and watched his mother unpack clothing and knick-knacks from her reticule, while Father watched in incomprehension.
"Lucius, we will be on our own now," she said. Father nodded.
The official from the Canadian Ministry cleared her throat. "Ah, Mr. Malfoy. I should say it's my honor to welcome you to your expatriate community, except that there is a small awkwardness …"
"That your lot were on the other side," Madam Hooch said, emerging from the kitchen. "But the whole business has begun to implode, I think, if You-Know-Who has begun a purge of the Purebloods."
"You would be welcome, of course, to come to the usual orientation session," said the official, "and of course, we'll explain to you how to make use of your Muggle credentials to obtain the necessities."
Granger frowned. "They're hard-line Purebloods. I'm sure it will take more than the usual, ah, acculturation." She settled the baby in its nest of blankets next to Draco, and stood up to pace.
Which, Draco understood, was her way of thinking. Always in motion … if not on the run, then pacing in this small room, which her restless movement shrunk even further. "They're refugees from the Middle Ages," she said. "There's quite a bit that will need explaining."
Mother spread a lace tablecloth on the rather spare dining-room table, and another on the side-table, and unfolded the silver picture frame that held the portrait of Severus Snape.
"Well," Snape harrumphed, "I see you made it."
"Thank you," Draco said. "Thank you …"
"You're not a complete dunderhead," Snape said.
For some reason, that faint praise unhinged him, and he remembered that he was safe, here in this box of a room, thousands of miles from home — or what had been home. Astoria was gone, hopelessly…
He put his head in his hands to hide the tears, and then was shocked at the sobs that racked him. The conversation continued over his head, for which he was grateful.
"It's not a lost cause, completely," Granger said. "He's down seven Horcruxes out of eight."
"A mad dictator is never good news," said the Canadian official. "And of course, the Ministry doesn't approve…"
"… Of any sort of political action, outside the usual. And I don't think it a wise notion to trot them out for a press conference."
"Of course not," said the official. "Shall we send the liaison officer over, then…"
"Well, when the Minister in Exile comes off work, he can manage it himself," Madam Hooch said. She took a small device out of the pocket of her coat, and hung up the coat on the coatstand.
Draco looked up, as she tapped the keys, and put the thing to her ear, and said, "Ah, Kingsley. They're here." A pause. "Very well, then. We'll expect her directly, and see you in the morning."
Father was frowning. "Kingsley Shacklebolt?"
"Yes," Madam Hooch said, "the Minister in Exile. Though not recognized officially by the Canadian Ministry, for obvious reasons …."
A sharp crack of Apparition, and a whip-thin red-haired woman turned in a tight circle in the space between the dining-room table and the wall.
Granger leaped to her feet and greeted the newcomer with a silent but crushing embrace.
"Hermione, you made it."
"Another run, yes."
They parted, the newcomer stepping back to survey the room, wand in hand like an Auror. Red hair, carrot and bronze streaked with premature silver — it took him forever to recognize her, because of the steel-rimmed spectacles she wore, and the military manner, and the all-black ensemble —
"And Percy is in good health, before you ask," Snape said. "Unsinkable, you lot. If there's anything more unsinkable than a Malfoy, it's a Weasley…"
"So how long will you be here this time?" Ginevra Weasley asked.
"A few days, I think … till they're settled."
"How is Luna?"
Granger laughed. "Ask Malfoy how he likes his wand. Quite fine."
"Sole purveyor to the wizarding trade in Great Britain and Ireland."
"Oh, no, one mustn't forget Ireland." Draco recognized the edge in Granger's laughter, that keening note of hysteria. "Wandmaker by appointment to Her Majesty … well, unheard of since John Dee. She'd be a war millionaire, if only for the small detail that we lost."
"Persuaded the Shrieking Shack tunnel to open a bit… " She jerked her chin toward Draco. "But Malfoy used his wand coming in… oh well, hide and seek. The castle's on our side, which helps."
It was late, but the liaison officer of the British Ministry for Magic in Exile had been empowered to extend hospitality from the expatriate Minister, in the form of take-away —
Superb curry, as it happened. The Patil sisters, demoted from British Pureblood gentry, had escaped five years ago in the clothes they stood up in, but their little shop was now a going concern among wizards and Muggles alike.
Mother refused to dine from white take-away boxes, and accordingly insisted on taking out the monogrammed china. Granger made a face at that, and as quickly suppressed it. The tea service gleamed on the table, and the silver pot made the rounds of the table, refreshing everyone's cup.
What an ill-assorted crowd: his parents, his baby son in the arms of the house-elf; Granger, sitting next to him as if still keeping up the incognito that she was his wife; the former Hogwarts games-mistress, whose role was still obscure; Dubois, her name was, from the Canadian Ministry. Six adults sat in six chairs around the table with the candelabra magically aflame.
His mother's notions of the civilized necessities looked surpassingly odd in this bare and boxy domicile, like the debris of shipwreck washed up on a primitive beach amongst sea-wrack and sand.
Dubois explained that their Muggle papers would stand as the real thing, and the Liaison Officer would be working with their people to make sure that they settled in properly. It would be a bit of a challenge, as Lucien and Natalie Black both had been born in Canada, he in Montreal and she in a small town in Saskatchewan. They had met at university in Toronto, and their son had recently finished his studies at the same institution.
His wife, Harriet Black, frequently traveled on business, and all of her papers were in order. She was the principal bread-winner for the nonce; David Black was still looking for a job post-graduate, a bit of a challenge given his course-work in medieval studies, with an emphasis on alchemical and magical lore.
His parents were staring at Dubois, their forks poised in midair, their marital accord playing itself out in identical expressions of disbelief.
"How? Who were these people?"
"Bespoke identities," Granger replied, "hand-tailored to exacting specifications. Nothing less for our elite clientele." There was more than a hint of mockery in her deadpan exposition, but he wasn't going to touch that. "No more or less than I'd do for my own parents."
Snape's portrait harrumphed.
Granger turned and fixed it with a deadly glare, and for the first time in Draco's memory, Snape backed down without a word.
"As I was saying, or Harriet Black was saying, I'll be here for another day or so, and then I'll be off on another business trip." She relaxed a bit, and someone else smiled at him with her features, someone who loved him. "I'll miss you, David dear, but London's calling."
To his astonishment, she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
His parents' expressions were indescribable.
"Harriet's American, you see," Ginny Weasley said, "a bit brash, but affectionate." She was clearly enjoying his discomfiture. "Consider it a dress rehearsal. You'll be seeing her off at the airport day after tomorrow, with your old school-friend." The feral grin made it clear in whose company he'd be play-acting the affectionate husband.
The husband, who in all likelihood was a widower.
He stood up abruptly and left the table. There was nowhere to go in this place, nowhere —
Granger followed him, taking his arm and turning him away from the front door and down the narrow hallway to the bedrooms.
"Not outside," she said. "Not yet. You're not going anywhere except under armed guard. Surely you understand that's what Ginny is."
"This flat —"
"Is under the heaviest protection that we can supply. 'We' being ourselves, and our not-so-unofficial Canadian friends. You're as safe as you're going to be. No one's going to snatch you from the airport." He did not resist when she touched his shoulder to indicate that he should sit on the bed — a double bed — well, his knees were buckling anyway, and he seemed to have lost his voice; his throat hurt, anyway, from the tightening there.
She said, in a surprisingly gentle tone. "I'm sorry. I forget because I'm in the thick of it. It's been years …" She sat down, in the chair opposite, at the desk of David Black, who recently had been a student at a Canadian university. Those were his textbooks, Draco supposed, ranged on the shelf above the desk. Bespoke identities, indeed. He'd have occupation in the next days, reading up.
"Five years," Draco said.
"More than twice that," she said. "Ever since I learned why Arthur Weasley thought a Muggle Protection Act necessary."
When he was a schoolboy, she had been a warrior already.
And then the tears came, and the rage. "Why couldn't you have saved Astoria too?"
She looked down, and bit her lip, the first crack he'd yet seen in the persona of the warrior.
"It was a surprise raid, that last wave. We had no warning. It looked like research up to the very last minute. And she was beyond our reach, at the Manor." She added with a bitter grimace, "And we're regrettably short-staffed in the resistance."
"Is there any hope…?" he asked, even as he knew the answer.
"No. Percy was given the files to close, when he arrived at work yesterday morning."
It seemed far longer than a few days since he had been in this airport.
The first night, he had slept alone in that bed, after casting the silencing spell to wrap himself in solitude. He had heard his parents talking on the other side of the partition and assumed that they had done the same. They would be living in conditions of startling intimacy now, with only that paper-thin wall between …
He slept alone in that bed now, and woke alone, after crying himself to sleep like a small child.
Woke full of an icy, withered energy, and met Granger and Weasley-the-youngest for a carefully chaperoned tour of his new neighborhood, both alone and in company with his parents. They looked like strangers in their new garb, his father's hair clipped short—but yes, Granger was right, he did look like the Muggle men of his age, and, now that Draco's eyes had had a chance to adjust, rather distinguished. And his mother had had a look at the Muggle women in the magazines, and done something quite becoming with her own coiffure.
Becoming, but alien.
The next night, he read before retiring: David Black's university textbooks. David was a scholar of Latin and Arabic, and read Old French with acceptable facility; by way of his French-Canadian father he was bilingual in the modern tongue.
The morning of Granger's departure, he put on his Muggle clothes—jeans, walking shoes, rugby shirt, jumper, and over that the anorak he'd worn on the hiking trip—that David had worn, on his ramble through the Scottish highlands.
He combed his hair before the mirror, and debated as to whether its length was acceptable.
Granger showed up for breakfast at precisely eight o'clock, dressed already for her departure, with a traveling bag slung over her shoulder, no doubt wholly for show. Nothing essential would be in there.
"Harriet," he said, "do you think I should cut my hair?"
She cocked her head, and raised an eyebrow.
"To look more up-to-date."
"Well, I've always fancied long hair," she said with a smile, "but of course it's up to you."
He nodded, and she followed him into the kitchen.
She was a remarkably skilled hairdresser; in the mirror, he scarcely recognized himself, but David Black was a sharp-faced, intelligent, not unattractive young man.
It didn't occur to him until they were en route to the airport, sandwiched in the back seat of the taxicab between Granger—no, Harriet—and Weasley, that she had worked all that magic in the Muggle manner.
The cab driver's eyes met his in the rear-view mirror—and he did a double-take.
The Minister in Exile looked back at him, and solemnly winked.
Weasley stood aside — in the fashion of a good-humored friend, or a casually observant covert operative — as David Black embraced his wife Harriet, outside the final security checkpoint.
"Take care of yourself," he whispered, as her grip bruised his ribs, through both layers of autumn outer things, his and hers. "Come back safe."
"I'll do my best," she said, and kissed him on the cheek. She disengaged, and smiled at him. "Take care of yourself, and my in-laws." He smiled too, as if it had long been a private joke between them.
And then she shouldered the bag, and nodded to Weasley, and said, "London's calling."
Looked once at them over her shoulder as she stood in the queue for boarding, and then presented her ticket and was lost in the business of departure.
Weasley took him aside. "Come on, David," she said, "I'll buy you a drink while we wait for our ride back."
And for the first time it occurred to him that he had not seen her in three days but in black, and were it not for his incognito, he would be in mourning garb himself.
The Muggle whiskey — "Canadian, not bad stuff at all," Weasley said, refusing a drink for herself, on duty as she was — warmed him, and loosened his tongue far enough to say, with stiff formality, that he was sorry for her loss. Belated as the sentiment was …
She blinked, and inclined her head briefly. "Well, yes, we all regret that one, but thanks." She watched the crowds go by the airport bar, and said, "Matter of time now, really. Can't come too soon for any of us who are left."
He nodded, and took another sip of his drink.
Author's Note: Special thanks to TruantPony for thought-provoking conversations on Dramione tropes, racial classifications, the genetics of magic, and the refugee experience. Fanfic inspirations include Arpad Hrunta's story 'Saturn' which does 'Voldie Wins' as a riff on Stalin's purges. Last but not least, my partner's long-ago response to the 'happy ending' of the vicious race-war fantasy The Turner Diaries (my paraphrase): "Yes, the whitefolk won, but I bet we're going to see some purges after this. The brown-eyed should worry."
Echoes of other works: "who had come out of the northern mists as wizards, and had been magical as long as they had been at all" (Virginia Woolf, Orlando); "They had come for the Muggle-born first" (Martin Niemoller - thanks to Silverbirch for the correct attribution); "Beware of the Leopard" (Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)