But before they could even hear who the announcer was talking about, a female voice interrupted, “Sorry to interrupt you, Crius, but we have breaking news, and it’s crazy that this is happening now, but it’s happened. Niniane Cemout’s been traded to the Cannons! No word on who or what she’s been traded for yet…”
“Probably Valentin Kodov,” said Ron darkly.
“Still,” said Ginny, “now you have to decide whether or not you’re willing to cheer for her.”
“…be easily the best player on the Cannons’ roster,” Crius was commenting. “That’s the quick thing we can say about this. We’ll have a lot more to talk about regarding this news later, of course, but for now, I believe Leopold van Vergy has just landed, and he’ll be making his way into the auditorium and we’ll have the announcement. Hey, Pete, you’re on site; how would you judge the broom-handling skill of England’s national coach?”
“While I think we all agree he can work on his speed,” said a younger voice, presumably Pete’s, “that was a very smooth landing, and the best dismount you can imagine; he went right from sitting on the broom to a handsome brisk walk. Of course he likely wants to make up for time lost, and, looking at the skies here, doesn’t want to linger outside either. We’ll go inside the auditorium now, where team manager John Shimmer is with Laurel Brownstown, who right now is acting head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports-they really do need to appoint a permanent department head for that one, if some of the rumours we’re hearing are true, and they’re waiting for van Vergy to join them.” As they spoke the audio from the auditorium came in; they could hear applause.
“Rumours?” asked Fleur softly. And they saw her look quizzically at Mr. Weasley. But he ignored her gaze.
But Ginny didn’t, saying, “Have you heard something?”
“Well,” Fleur hesitated, before saying, “at ze funeral, Gabrielle said zo me zat everyone at Beauxbatons is-”
But at that point Charlie shushed them, as van Vergy had reached the stage, and they could hear him speaking, “…the end of this very difficult time period. I hope we can put behind us, and move forward with our lives. I also know that some hard days still are ahead, and all of our thoughts, of course, are with all those families in Britain, right now, who are mourning the loss of a loved one, or waiting anxiously to hear news of someone missing. If in these days, our Quidditch team can provide you with a bit of cheer, a reason to smile, than we shall not be playing in vain, whatever our result.” There was a small amount of applause.
“And now,” said another male voice, which Harry thought was probably John Shimmer, “without further ado, we announce the team for the Quidditch World Cup, starting with the main team. Our three main Chasers: Katherine Bell, currently playing for the Falmouth Falcons, Niniane Cemout, currently playing for the Tutshill Torna-huh?” a pause while the news was presumably whispered into his ear, “excuse me, apparently now playing for the Chudley Cannons,” another pause while the audience reacted to the news, more than loudly enough to be heard, “and Marcus Flint, also currently playing for the Falmouth Falcons.”
Several cries of outrage were heard in the Weasley family room at the last one. “Flint over Angelina?” sighed Ron. “Who’d he bribe?”
“Hopefully she’ll be on the reserve team,” said Ginny, as the announcement continued.
“Our two main Beaters: Dawn Withey, currently playing for the Moose Jaw Meteorites, and Indira Choudry, currently playing for the Quiberon Quafflepunchers. Our main Keeper: Merwyn Finwick, currently playing for the Tutshill Tornadoes. And our main Seeker: Blythe Parkin, currently playing for the Wigtown Wanderers.”
“Three members of the 1994 team back,” Crius observed in the pause, just in case anyone hadn’t known that, before Shimmer went on. “And now for our reserve team. Our reserve Chasers: Angelina Johnson, currently playing for the Holyhead Harpies,” there were sighs of relief all around the living room, “Edric Vosper, currently playing for Moutohora Macaws, and Fabius Wu, currently playing for Puddlemere United. Our reserve Beaters: Frank Howardson, currently playing for the Charente Carolhes, and Simon Bryne, currently playing for the Pride of Portree. Our reserve Keeper: Denison Frisby, currently playing for the Appleby Arrows. And our reserve Seekers: Julius Aslan, currently playing for the Tutshill Tornadoes, and Angela William-Jones, currently playing for the Falmouth Falcons.”
“Three players for the Falcons?” asked Ron, and Harry too wondered at it.
But Ginny said, “Actually, I’m surprised Angela wasn’t the main Seeker. Although Aslan wouldn’t have been that much a surprise either. And of course, that Angela’s had so little chance to play these past two years is a problem.”
“I think I heard something about her,” said Ron. “She was the Muggle-born who turned down the big Japanese contract, wasn’t she?”
“Yeah,” said Ginny. “They say she stayed in Britain for nearly four months after the Ministry fell, before fleeing to Canada, and that she then started coming back to rescue other Muggle-borns, and saved over a hundred people from imprisonment in Azkaban.”
On the radio, a prim female voice that Harry thought was probably Laurel Brownstown had taken over, announcing that further questions would be taken at a press conference beginning in half an hour. “That’s it, then,” said Hermione, standing up. “We should get back to work.”
They all got up then, and most of them dispersed out of the room. But Harry, Ron, and George had already been working in the family room, trying to break various spells on the Weasley’s suitcases that might set off the airport scanners, and so they remained, with the radio still on, on which Crius and his female co-announcer, whom he helpfully identified as Panette, were discussing their initial impressions of the team manager’s choices. “Obviously the Beaters were no surprise; Withey and Choudry were England’s best players here at home four years ago, and Withey arguably had her best season yet last year with the Meteorites, and Finwick’s pretty obvious a choice as well. The real surprise was in the Chasers. There were a few people I know predicting Flint, and even a few predicting Bell, but did anyone predict them both?”
“Well, I admit, I didn’t predict either,” said Panette. “But I would say it makes sense to have them both if you’re going to have either. After all, the best thing the Falcons were able to show this year was the chemistry between this husband and wife pair, and I suspect that was a large part of what got them both named.”
“Still can’t believe they got married,” commented Ron.
“So that actually happened?” asked Harry. He’d heard about the engagement, of course, when Katie had returned from St. Mungo’s, which was when he also learned of the secret relationship that had been going on with him even when they’d been foes on Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, which was absolutely crazy. She’d even hinted she’d invite the entire old team to the wedding, but of course by then he, Ron, and Hermione had been off hunting Horcruxes and hadn’t been able to attend. And when they hadn’t gotten invitations, Harry had hoped it might have been called off. Marcus had proposed, after all, when Katie had been lying catatonic in a hospital bed, which was the exact kind of thing that Mrs. Weasley had lamented about happening during wartime, and maybe they’d later thought better of it.
“Yeah,” said George. “Although the big wedding had to be called off when the Ministry fell and they started going after Muggle-borns, since that included her mother and uncle. I think they just held a quick ceremony, and then the uncle and both her parents were smuggled to North America. Although you do realize she brought him with her when she came back to Hogwarts for the battle?”
“No,” said Harry, surprised. He hadn’t kept track of everyone who had showed up for that.
“Yeah, I saw him,” said Ron. “It was during the break, when you were off in the forest,” he explained to Harry. “He had a broom with him, and was transporting off some people who were hurt, so he wasn’t there when you came back.”
And he hadn’t known at all, Harry thought. He’d been so focused on his own task.
“But what really alarms me,” Crius was saying on the radio, “is that they named Cemout to the team, while poor Angela William-Jones is only an alternate. I know you say that was more because of how hot Blythe Parkin’s hands have been lately, but when you snub the Muggle-born like that, it makes a statement. I’m started to think she should’ve declared for Wales instead.”
“Not necessarily,” said Panette. “William-Jones is still a largely untested quantity. Yes, it is unfortunate and unfair to her that she hasn’t had the opportunity to be tested, but does England really want to take that risk, just for the sake of fairness?”
“Still,” said Crius. “After all she did this year, how can we punish her for choosing nobility over Quidditch? And meanwhile, Cemout is on the team, which is no doubt because she was able to play so much this year, even more so because she was touted as the pure-blooded prodigy.”
“Well,” said Panette. “She’s stuck with the Cannons now, so I’m not going to begrudge her this.” Next to him, Harry heard Ron mutter angrily.
“Pity,” Ron commented as they looking around the entrance, searching for the check-in counter. “He would have loved seeing all this.”
“He’s flown by plane before,” said Mrs. Weasley. “It was a number of years ago, during the first war. But even under those circumstances he wouldn’t stop talking about it for two days after he came home. Remember our offer to come join any of you at any time stands.”
The rest of them waited by the wall as the three of them got in line to check in. It was a lengthy wait, but Hermione had thoughtfully brought a book. It was one called The Marvelous Life of Albus Dumbledore, which Harry supposed could’ve gotten her in trouble if anyone wanted her to be in it, but it wasn’t like the name meant anything to Muggles, and she’d taken the book jacket off, underneath which the cover was normal and harmless. When she pulled it out, Ron asked, “Where’d you get that from?”
“Post order,” said Hermione, a little annoyed, as if he should’ve guessed that already. Harry hoped at a later date he would come to. “Arrived this morning. It was published in the States back in March, by this famous Muggle-born biographer, John Shelly. He describes it as a direct response to Skeeter’s biography, and he really is writing like he’s trying to restore the man’s reputation. You two should read it when I’m done.”
“All right,” said Harry, although he found himself thinking that even if it obviously wasn’t going to be half as terrible as Skeeter’s, it couldn’t really be that truthful either. Especially not when he was probably making a point of ignoring all the Aunt Muriels of the world, and Harry doubted he had could’ve consulted with any reliable truthful source about the darker side of Dumbledore’s life, not when he’d been effectively in exile in the United States.
Hermione was quick enough to realize that too, of course. They’d been in line about twenty minutes when she commented, “He does address Bathilda Bagshot’s comments, but he’s basically discrediting her here. That’s not nice; I’m certainly willing to believe Skeeter warped Bagshot’s words, but she’s too respectable a historian for me to believe she herself was lying even if I didn’t know better.”
“That’s not good,” Harry mused. “It’ll be harder for people to believe him if he goes doing things like that. Does he really think people can’t accept the truth? That Dumbledore was wrong about some things in his life, but he was still basically who he seemed to be, was still dedicated to the right side?”
“Maybe he does,” said Ron. “And think about it, Harry. Remember that he made you walk to that woods thinking you were going to sacrifice yourself, and how could he have really been sure you wouldn’t actually be killed?” He sounded like he was still at least somewhat upset over that whole matter.
“I was willing to do it,” said Harry.
“Yes,” said Hermione, “but think about people who don’t know anything about you besides that you’re the Boy Who Lived, and that you’ve been doing all this when you still aren’t even eighteen yet. They might hear about something like that, and think you were, well, kind of taken advantage of.”
“I was not,” Harry growled. He remembered Snape’s anger from the memory, though of course he’d believed Harry had to die, but even when Harry himself had believed that, he still hadn’t been angry, at least not at Dumbledore. It had been horrible, yes, and wrong, but Harry Potter had known that the world was wrong and unfair from a very early age, and when he knew what the world would be like if Voldemort wasn’t defeated…well, he couldn’t blame Dumbledore for doing what it took to bring him down, even if it meant putting Harry through all he had. He supposed it made the phrase “the greater good” spring out of his past and haunt his present again, but his main thought about that was how much it must have pained the old wizard, the past he maybe had never entirely escaped even before Tom Riddle had proved such a menace.
“Is there a way to tell people that?” Hermione was musing. “Or just to tell people the truth about Dumbledore, a truth that maybe they would be willing to believe? Or at least as much of it as we can retrieve, with him dead and so many other people dead too. Maybe someone needs to write another book about Dumbledore, but who?”
Harry thought about all that Dumbledore had told him, all the things where he might now be the only living person who knew them. At least if the person he had met with in his head had in fact been the entity that had been Albus Dumbledore, lingering at some supernatural King’s Cross before he’d “gone on,” as Nearly-Headless Nick had put it to Harry two years ago, but Harry was somehow absolutely convinced he was. Whoever wrote the book would have to be someone he could convince about that, though.
He was not the person to write it, he knew that. He could write an okay essay if he spent enough time working at it, but the idea of organizing so many facts and details, and figuring out what to put and what to leave out, just did not feel like something he was capable of. But as he watched Hermione continued to read Shelly’s biography, shaking her head slightly as she turned a page, he found himself thinking she might be able to do it. She knew her way around these kinds of books, and his trust in her doing it right was absolute.
He thought about it through the rest of the check-in process, and by the time they reached the gate, his mind was made up. “Hermione,” he said as they sat down to wait, “how would you feel about writing a biography of Dumbledore?”
“What?" Both she and Ron looked at him in shock.
“Well, someone should do it, and how can we know who to ask, who we could trust? It’s got to be someone I can repeat what Dumbledore talked to me about, and also all the things I saw in the Pensieve, and I don’t want to go telling his secrets to just anyone. And you could write it, could you?”
“Well…” said Hermione hesitantly, “reading and writing books aren’t necessarily the same thing.”
“You could try,” said Ron, catching onto the idea. “See if you could do it.”
“Of all the people I trust, Hermione,” said Harry, “you’d absolutely do the best job.”
“I could try, I suppose,” she said, after pause. “I’d have to do a lot of research, though. Talk to a lot of people too, and I don’t know if they’d all be willing to talk to me. It’s too bad so many of the best people to talk to are dead, but if we could just get Aberforth to agree to a longer interview…” She was starting to talk faster, really applying her brilliant mind to it, and Harry smiled, because he knew this was in good hands.
As she continued to ponder, lapsing into mostly silence with the occasional mutter to herself, Ron rose, and walked to the windows, slowly, taking in the view of the inside as well as the outside, the smart yellow signs and clustered seats and the screens. He’d done that during the walk to the gate too, not with his father’s insatiable curiousity, but with some interest nonetheless. Harry himself had done the same; it wasn’t as if the Dursleys had ever taken him into an airport either. He followed Ron, and together the two of them stared out at the field of concrete and its massive winged inhabitants.
“She’s really anxious,” said Ron. “She isn’t admitting very much of it, but she did a little this morning when we woke up.”
“Think it’s good for her to have the distraction, then?”
“Hope so, or it’s going to be a long flight.”
Harry understood. It was going to be difficult as it was, especially when Hermione had already warned them they were going to spend close to an entire day sitting on the plane. They would try to sleep for as much of that as possible, and in theory after months of sleeping in the tent that shouldn’t be too hard to do, but he just wasn’t sure how he’d react to the environment of the plane; he never was anymore. And even after they’d destroyed the necklace, they’d still dreaded any bad moods of any of the three of them, because it was inevitably infectious.
Next to him Ron was asleep, and looked like he was sleeping pretty deeply. But on his other side, he could see Hermione was awake. Not only that, but she had the Dumbledore biography open in her lap without looking at it, indicating she wasn’t even trying to sleep, or succeeding at what she was trying to do instead.
He was loath to wake Ron, though, so while their eyes met, and she nodded at him, thankfully not saying anything that would wake him either, for several minutes Harry wasn’t sure how else to communicate with her. Then she reached down below her seat, pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil, and started to write.
It proved trickier to get the piece of paper to him than he might have thought, they both really had to stretch before he could grab it and the pencil both. I don’t think we’re the only wizards and witch on this plane, he read. There’s a family sitting a few rows back where the parents are in Scottish dancing costumes, and they looked at me as if they recognized me.
If Harry walked past them, of course, and they were wizards, they would definitely recognize him. But getting to the aisle would probably again wake Ron. So he just wrote, how many? and got the paper and pencil back to her. Idly he noted it was getting to the point in his life where a pencil no longer felt familiar in his hand, and he was holding it more like he would hold the quill. He watched Hermione write her response, and saw that she did similar. He wondered how the wizarding family, if that was what they were, would cope when they had to fill out the cards Hermione had told him and Ron the passengers would all have to fill out before landing, or what they would even write.
If they were going to the Quidditch World Cup, had they even perhaps been given instructions on what to write? It would be a bit early for that, but some witches and wizards probably were directed to go early, so less of them would be on Muggle transports at once.
Six, Hermione had written. Parents, four boys, and two girls. Two of the boys are teenagers, I think one of the girls is, the other two boys are younger, and the second girl looks only about three or four. The children are all in normal Muggle clothes.
Normal Muggle clothes, she had written. Distantly Harry found himself thinking about the significance of that, that they were no longer just normal clothes to her. After seven years of living in the wizarding world, and being witness to both the best and worst parts of it, they were both of them now acting and thinking like they had lived there their entire lives. He wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about that, especially when it made him wonder how it would affect her upcoming reunion with her parents.
Either they had been too loud, or he had woken up on his own, but at that moment Ron stirred. He blinked his eyes open, looked back and forth between the two of them, and asked, “How much longer?”
“Lots,” said Harry. “Sorry.”
“Damn,” he sighed. “Was hoping that you were both awake meant…”
“No,” said Hermione. “Just our typical insomnia.”
“I don’t think Harry’s actually suffering from insomnia, exactly…” Ron started.
“Are you two?” asked Harry. They had talked about sleeping better with each other, so obviously they were having some trouble, but they hadn’t said how much, exactly.
Hermione sighed, and said, very quietly, “When I’ve been in the girl’s dorm at Hogwarts, I haven’t slept for more than an hour or so at a time. I keep waking up and…” she drifted off. Harry understood; this wasn’t easy to talk about. “As I said already, Ron and I have both been sleeping better when we’ve been in the same bed, especially when…” Harry was grateful when she then drifted off again, especially considering how pink she and Ron promptly turned. “And of course, we all three did better when we all shared the bed. Do you want to do that in Australia, Harry? At least until Ginny joins us? I mean, I don’t know how you two…”
“I don’t know if she’d mind or not,” said Harry honestly. “But I really don’t want to do anything there’s any chance of her minding.”
“Well,” laughed Ron, “I think that one’s pretty much impossible, but okay, fair point.”
Shortly afterwards Harry and Ron ended up going to where the toilets were together, Ron closer to the side where Hermione had said the possible wizarding family was seated, in the hopes that might reduce the chance of their noticing Harry’s scar. But all hope of that flew out the plane’s windows when the little girl saw Ron, and cried, “Wheezy!”
“It is?” asked the other girl. The family was as Hermione had described them, with the parents’ outfits looking almost cartoonish. Their eyes fell on Harry very quickly, and then the game was truly up. The teenagers saw him too, and the girl said, “Yes, you are. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.”
“You know my name too?” asked Ron, and he sounded happy. Well, if they did, and it made Ron happy, Harry could live with being recognized.
“Are you going to the Quidditch World Cup too?” asked the little girl eagerly.
“Shush, Rose,” whispered her father urgently. “Remember we told you we’re not allowed to talk about that around the Muggles!”
But Ron leaned down and whispered, “Yes, we are; we’re going to watch all three of England’s games. But don’t tell anyone. It’s all a secret.”
“You’re only going to watch England?” asked the younger looking boy, barely keeping his voice down. “What about Scotland? You ought to watch Scotland. They’ve got a good chance of getting out of their group!”
“Well,” sighed Ron, “we would, but we didn’t get tickets. They gave us free tickets to England’s matches, you see, which means those are the matches we have to go to.”
“Maybe they’ll decide to give you free tickets to Scotland’s matches once they’re in the round of sixteen and England isn’t,” smirked the little girl.
“We hope so,” said Harry. “Maybe we’ll see you there?”
“Nay,” laughed the father. “We don’t have the money for that, and noone’s going to give us free tickets to any Quidditch.” His voice was warm when he said that, though, and then he said, “Still,” and held his hand out. Harry gestured at Ron to shake it first, and he was especially glad he’d done so when the man said, “You certainly deserve it. I read all about you and the Muggle-born witch in the Prophet, and I know you’re both heroes. Enjoy your holiday.”
The lavatory was occupied, giving them a couple of minutes to talk quietly while they waited, and Ron said, “It still feels weird, you know. Good, but weird.”
“You’ll get used to it,” smiled Harry. “Well, there are some parts you don’t really get used to, but…”
“That’s good to know,” said Ron, but then he sighed, and didn’t seem at all happy.
“Not what you thought it would be, is it?” he asked, although he did so much more gently than he once would have.
“Oh,” said Ron, “this doesn’t really feel like…I mean, I remember in our third and fourth years, when Sirius went at my bed with a knife and I went down in the lake, and this felt kind of like that. And I suppose, now, I should’ve been more scared after the first-I mean, we didn’t know Sirius was just after…but I wasn’t. I didn’t think about it that way, you know?”
“Yeah,” agreed Harry. “We didn’t then, did we?”
Then the lavatory was unoccupied and the conversation ended, but they both were still feeling its impact even as they silently returned to their seats, barely even noticing when they again walked past the wizarding family, even though Harry found himself thinking they ought to ask for their names.
Hermione noticed. “Are you two all right?” she asked. “Nobody said anything bad to you, did they?”
Ron just laughed a little, and said, “It’s a long flight. Too much time to think. I wish I felt more tired.”
Harry did nap again before it was over, although he spent most of the rest of the flight either trying to sleep or just staring out the window. Down below he thought he probably saw a lot of Asia, but didn’t even know that much about the main continent; he knew where China and India were and he might be able to figure out where Tibet was, but that was all. They didn’t teach geography at Hogwarts, or at least not Muggle geography. He wondered if maybe the Department of International Magical Cooperation had to run classes for new employees or something.