To hear Dan Kois read this piece, click the arrow on the audio player:
Harry walked into the Three Broomsticks and took a seat in a booth near the back. Who were all the people in here tonight? They looked familiar, but Harry didn't know any of them. Was that Dolores Umbridge? No, just some woman in a hideous cardigan.
None of these diners knew yet that Voldemort was dead—not by Harry's hand, but killed instead by Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan, who'd happened upon He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named outside of London. They'd cursed him from behind and watched as the Knight Bus ran over his head with a horrible crunching sound.
Harry flipped through the channels on the wizarding wireless until he found a song that reminded him of the old days, "Do the Hippogriff" by the Weird Sisters. He remembered the crowds dancing to this song at the Yule Ball, years before; so many of those friends were long gone now, dead or in Azkaban. As the song began, Harry heard the tinkle of the bell above the front door as Ginny came in. She hurried to his booth and sat down.
"It's Percy," he told her, taking a swig of butterbeer. "He's testifying."
Each time the bell rang and another wizard walked into the pub, Harry looked up warily. Voldemort may have been dead, but there were still plenty of people who'd be thrilled if Harry was the victim of a Bat-Bogey Hex, or worse. Was that man in the corner booth, stirring sugar into his tea, from the Ministry of Magic? Or a Death Eater, burning for revenge? Or was he just some bystander who couldn't help noticing the famous scar on Harry's forehead?
Ron, his red hair cut short and a thin beard running along his jaw, came through the door and sat down. Harry took his hand for a second, a little overwhelmed. After the depression, and the suicide attempt in the fifth-floor prefects' bathroom, it was good to see Ron happy again; his new office job with the Chudley Cannons quidditch club—and the German-made sports broom Harry had bought him—seemed to be improving his spirits.
Someone approached the table. Harry looked up, hoping it might be Hermione, but instead it was a pale, sneering young man who for a moment reminded Harry of Draco Malfoy. The man walked past Harry's booth and entered the bathroom. Across the pub, a man with dark eyes laughed with a woman who reminded Harry of Bellatrix Lestrange.
Outside, a frustrated Hermione tried to tether Buckbeak the hippogriff to a street lamp, but Buckbeak was having none of it. He shook his eagle head angrily and pawed at the ground. Hermione sighed; she'd have to start with the bowing all over again.
An order of Pumpkin Pasties arrived at the table, and Harry popped one in his mouth. Where was Hermione? She'd told him earlier in the week that she was giving up her plans to be a Healer in favor of a career as an advocate, defending wizards in Ministry hearings. He'd flushed with pride. Maybe having the whole gang here would ease the sense of dread he couldn't shake.
He remembered what Hagrid had told him. "Aye, Harry," poor Hagrid had said. "You probably don't even hear it when it happens." Was that true? Had Hagrid heard the words, or seen the flash of green, when those two Death Eater thugs killed him in the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley?
Outside, Hermione finally managed to settle Buckbeak in one place along the curb. She ran across the lane, heading for the entrance to the Three Broomsticks.
Harry heard the jingle of the door. He looked up. He felt his scar