On her twentieth birthday, Hermione Granger went to Hogwarts
to say goodbye.
She Apparated into the empty streets of Hogsmeade and
trudged up the path to the silent castle. The school’s defenses apparently
still recognized her as a student and let her in with no fuss.
Grass was growing tall in the courtyards; Argus Filch still
lived there, but his heart wasn’t in grounds maintenance these days. But the
place was still tidy; the House Elves continued to work. There were more
ghosts than before, but that was to be expected. Some of them were people she
recognized, but it wasn’t clear whether they recognized her.
She entered Gryffindor Tower; the portrait of the fat lady
didn’t bother asking her for a password. Inside it was silent.
The last witch in Britain sat down in the common room to
Hermione had identified the spell but it was Harry who
insisted that they use it, and that Hermione herself perform the anchor charm.
Hermione had pleaded, saying that DeCamp’s Reflective Curse always obliterated
not only the target but also the initiator. He’d be killed, she cried, and
probably Ron would too.
He’d said, “This is how we have to do it. The Horcruxes may
be gone, but there’s no other way of trapping and destroying a wizard as powerful
as Voldemort. The Reflective Curse is all we’ve got. You have to be the
anchor; you’re the only one with the skill to handle it.”
So she had given in, kissing Ron on the lips and hugging
Harry for dear life, begging them to take whatever precautions they could.
Then she’d stepped back, got control of herself and cast the anchor charm for
the Reflective Curse.
And it had worked. Voldemort had vanished in a flash of
pale blue light. And so had Harry; and so had Ron. Hermione had sat upon the ground
and wept, swearing that she would tell the whole wizarding world of her best
But there was no one to tell.
DeCamp’s Reflective Curse seeks out and obliterates humans
with magical abilities. It is a wizard-killer. The mandatory caster of the
anchor charm is safe because of the inertial vectors of the spell, but all
other witches and wizards within its range wink out of existence. Throughout
the history of its use, there had never been more than two or three victims.
But no one had ever tried to use this spell with two wizards as powerful as
Harry and Voldemort; no one had considered that the range of the charm might
increase with the magical potential of the initiator and the target. In
retrospect, she calculated that the radius must increase as an exponential function
of their combined power level.
There were no wizards left in Britain. Not a wizard, not a
witch, not a magical child. The Weasleys were gone. Hogwarts was empty.
Everyone she’d met since the age of eleven had vanished without a trace. The
Muggles had noticed the mass disappearances, but never connected them with
magic; Hermione had been in no state of mind to explain it.
They had destroyed Voldemort – and committed the genocide of
the wizarding world.
Her parents had taken her back into their house and cared
for her. For the first few months she found it cruel even to get out of bed in
the morning, and she’d spent her time thinking up ever more creative and
pointless ways of punishing herself. She knew that no amount of research would
have uncovered the disastrous exponential impact of the spell, but she found it
hard not to think of herself as a murderer. She alternated between bone-cold
grief and nauseating guilt.
Eventually she’d begun performing the occasional spell to
help around the house (there was no one to enforce the Statute of Secrecy now),
and tried to think of what to do with her life. Mum and Dad tried to talk her
into reading Dentistry at university, or reading History and becoming a professor.
It seemed as good a plan as any other. But first, she’d decided, she had to
say goodbye to her old life.
Well, there was no point spending the whole day in the
common room. Hermione visited all her old haunts: the Transfiguration
classroom, the Great Hall, the Astronomy Tower, and of course her beloved
Library. She thought about how she could spend years just drinking in the
contents of those books. But to what end?
With some hesitation, she went to the Headmaster’s office.
“There’s no Headmaster and no students,” she told the
guardian gargoyle. “You might as well let me in.” Apparently the statue
agreed, for the door opened and the revolving staircase was revealed.
The office was just as she remembered it, save for some
touches that Professor McGonagall had added during her tenure. The portraits
were all sound asleep; no one had spoken to them in over a year. The Sorting
Hat was on a shelf. When she entered, the familiar tear opened up and it
“Hello, Miss Granger,” it said. “It’s a pleasure to see you
“Hello,” said Hermione uncertainly. “How are you? You must
have been lonely for the last year or so.”
“Not really; there’s lots of company inside my ‘head,’ as it
were.” She didn’t know quite what to say to that.
“What will you do now?” She asked. In the silent office the
question bounced back at her off the walls.
“Oh, I’ll just wait for the next Sorting,” said the Hat
Something snapped inside of her; the floodgates opened.
“You stupid Hat!” Hermione found herself shouting. “There
won’t be a next Sorting! Never again! Never, never , never – ” She
collapsed into the Headmaster’s chair and wept into her arms on the desk, wept yet
again for all she had lost, all she had loved that had deserted her.
As usual, she felt a little better after she’d cried her
eyes out. She pulled a handkerchief out of her sleeve and blew her nose,
looking dully around the room. In the corner she saw a bookstand with a thick
book and a quill sitting on it. Her curiosity getting the better of her even
at a moment like this, she approached the corner, still sniffling a little, and
looked at the cover:
Students Accepted into Hogwarts School
This was the book, then: the book in which all their names
were written as they were born, the book that magically predicted their
attendance at the school. She wondered idly whether a name was erased when the
student finally began to attend the school, or when she left, or when she
died. If the latter, then Hermione’s would be the only name there. She opened
it with some misgivings.
There were names going back a thousand years – tens of
thousands of names written in tiny quill-scratches. A name, a birth date, a
date of matriculation, over and over for hundreds of pages. Hermione was
fascinated in spite of herself. She paged through the heavy volume, stopping
to look at famous names she recognized, then the names of her teachers, then
the names of her friends.
Then she turned to the last page.:
Born 17 July 1998
Enters 1 September 2009
Mary Chanter Song
Born 1 August 1998
Enters 1 September 2009
Linda Norfolk Howard
Born 15 August 1998
Enters 1 September 2009
Born 30 September 1998
Enters 1 September 2010
Melinda Leona Scribe
Born 19 October 1998
Enters 1 September 2010
Hermione’s eyes widened. There were fifteen more names that
apparently were to “enter” in 2010. The last entry said:
Born 18 September 1999
Enters 1 September 2011
“Born yesterday,” Hermione breathed.
She understood: magical abilities regularly appear as a
rare but reliable mutation among Muggle-born children. Children like her. New
magical children. The castle was registering them as students, although there
was no one there to teach them. Hermione put her hand over her mouth in
“I think you may need our help, Hermione,” came a sleepy voice
from behind her.
She turned around and saw the portrait of Minerva McGonagall,
looking bleary-eyed but smiling at her.
“What?” she asked.
“We are pledged, you know, to serve the current
Headmistress,” beamed McGonagall, stifling a yawn.
Hermione’s heart beat more loudly and she felt dizzy when
she realized the import of her former teacher’s words. She stumbled back to the
chair behind the desk and sat down with a thump.
Three students would be ready to enter in 2009. Seventeen
would be ready in 2010. More would be ready in 2011. There was no one left to
No one but she.
It seemed impossible – Potions, Transfiguration, Arithmancy,
all of it. When the school was founded, she thought franticly, it had four
teachers. She was only one.
But she had nine years and 347 days in which to prepare.