Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Before I begin, I must inform you that, with the consent of the Madam Chief Witch and the Chief Unspeakable, I have invoked the Secrecy Spells on this room. Nothing that you hear this morning may be discussed outside of this room until Lady Greengrass, Mister Croaker and I release the spell.
Hermione Granger rubbed her eyes wearily and then looked back at her laptop. The numbers didn't change. Much as she wanted, wished, begged and pleaded for them to do so, they simply would not change. Estimates of a fifty percent infection rate, ninety percent mortality rate. Perhaps up to seventy-five and ninety-five percent, respectively, in densely populated areas such as London. Just looking at those numbers made her want to curl up into a little ball and hide from the world - and her responsibilities.
Deft fingers began working at the knots in her shoulders and she closed her eyes to the uncooperative data and submitted to her husband's ministrations.
"Put that infernal machine away and come to bed," the voice at her back said softly.
"I can't," she replied even as her head lolled forward. "I still have to figure out what I'm going to say to the Wizengamot tomorrow."
"Nothing you say to those in-bred, arch-conservative dunderheads will make the slightest bit of difference. They are perfectly content to sit with their heads up their arses and pretend that their supposed superiority over Muggles will protect them. And even your formidable persuasive skills will not convince them otherwise."
Hermione sighed. It was nothing she hadn't already said to herself a dozen times. "I know. But I have to try."
Ladies and gentlemen, I have been your Minister for two years now. I think you know me well enough to know that I do not shy away from the difficult decisions. Once you hear what I have to say, I think you will agree with me that preventing wide-spread panic in our population must be our top priority.
Whatever Hermione might have replied was cut off by a ringing that echoed through the house. Automatically, she pulled her mobile phone out of her pocket, but it remained dark and silent.
"That's the Floo, Hermione," her husband chided, but there was a trace of amusement in his voice as well.
Grumbling, Hermione rushed out of the room. She had made great strides in modernizing some aspects of the Wizarding World, but the Floo was something that she hadn't been able to wean the population at-large off yet. 'Someday I'll just be able to answer the phone like any normal person. Someday...' she thought. Some of the younger members of the Ministry had embraced the ease of mobiles, as had many of the Wizarding world's business folk, but the average witch or wizard still reached for Floo powder or an owl before a phone.
She knelt before the fireplace and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the familiar face among the dancing green flames, but her smile quickly turned into a scowl.
"Dammit, Harry, why didn't you just call?"
"Because I'm at the Smiths' and you know how they feel about 'blasted Muggle contraptions'."
Hermione huffed in annoyance but couldn't really argue. As pompous and annoying as Zacharias-don't-call-me-Zack Smith had been in school, his father was an order of magnitude worse; one of those 'arch-conservatives' her husband had mentioned earlier. "Can you come through? I refuse to have an entire conversation on my knees."
Even through the flames, Hermione could see Harry's eyes go wide with mocking innocence. "But Hermione," he said, "I thought you did some of your best work on your knees..."
"Watch it, Potter," a voice from behind her growled. "That's my wife you're speaking to, not to mention the Minister of Magic."
"Sorry, Severus," Harry said, utterly unrepentantly.
Hermione sighed audibly and held up her hand to stave off another bickering session between her husband and best friend. "Don't start, you two. Harry, did you have a reason for this call or were you just trying to share the misery of your evening?"
Harry immediately sobered. "I have a very good reason, actually. And you're right, this isn't a conversation for the Floo. Let me go make my excuses and I'll come through."
"I'll write you an excuse note, if you need," Hermione said wryly.
Harry flashed her a brief grin. "I'll let you know if I need one," he said and his face disappeared from the flames.
There is a growing crisis in the world. There is a virus spreading throughout the world. It is similar to the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 or the DragonPox Crisis of 1754. Muggle scientists, who designate this virus H3N5, are estimating that as much as fifty percent of the world's population might die.
Hermione heard Severus sit down on the sofa behind her, and she leaned back against his knees.
"It's bad, isn't it?" she asked quietly.
"I'm afraid so. Potter would not insist on coming over if it were something routine."
His hand rested heavily on her shoulder and she reached up to grip it with her own. "One good thing that might come of this will be that, if we survive this, you and I are going to walk hand-in-hand down Diagon Alley, and damned what everyone else says. If we survive this, I'm not hiding any longer."
Severus Snape, a man few in the Wizarding world even knew was still alive, looked down at his wife of fifteen years fondly. "I suppose the sheer shock value would be worth it."
"Damn right it would. Go to bed, love. You have work tomorrow, you don't need to stay up with me. I'll find out what Harry needs to tell me and then I'll be along."
"No, I believe I will stay and hear what Potter has to say. Perhaps I will think of something that you do not."
Now, I know many of you are asking - what does this have to do with us? Well, aside from the fact that if that many Muggles die in this epidemic, even we here in the Wizarding world will feel the effects, there is a simple reason.
A short time later, Harry came stumbling out of the Floo, and Hermione couldn't help but smile. Most famous Wizard in the world, second in command of her Auror department, and he still couldn't come out of a Floo steadily.
Harry sank wearily into an arm chair and the married couple watched as his public face melted away, leaving only the tired and troubled visage of their friend.
"At dinner tonight, Katherine Smith - that's Zacharias's oldest sister, Hermione, she's a Medi-Witch at St. Mungo's - made an offhand remark about how the third floor of the north wing had been abruptly quarantined this afternoon," he began without preamble. "I pushed a little and she admitted that while they were told that it was due to a particularly virulent strain of DragonPox, she was skeptical. Rumours are flying fast and thick."
"Did you - "
" - check with St. Mungo's directly? Yes, and I was given the run-around until I asked Lisa Turpin directly. Here's her answer." He pulled out his mobile and tapped the screen a few times and handed it over to Hermione.
Some part of her, she realized, was expecting this, because the ominous words on the screen (2 confm'd cases of H3N5. 6 more poss. Reg anti-vir useless.) did not inspire the expected flash of fear and dread. Instead, a feeling of calm detachment came over her, and her normally quick mind began working at double speed.
As of this morning, there are confirmed cases of H3N5 in four Wizard hospitals, including our very own St. Mungo's. I have also received unconfirmed reports of cases in six other countries.
"I'm going to request the Secrecy Spells tomorrow when I address the Wizengamot," she said, returning Harry's phone. "I've got to tell them, but I can't risk general panic. This can't get out until we have something resembling an answer - and that answer will be dependent on how reasonable the Wizengamot is feeling tomorrow."
Severus snorted loudly, and Harry's scoff was audible. Hermione smiled tightly at the two men.
"I know -"
The loud ringing cut her off again, and Severus quickly moved out of sight of the Floo.
"Gabrielle!" Hermione exclaimed in surprise when she answered the call.
"Pardon, Madam Minister. Please forgive me for calling this late," the blonde witch said.
"It's Hermione, Gabrielle. Your sister and brother-in-law are practically family to me, which makes us family as well. What can I do for you?"
"I just spoke with Fleur, and she suggested I contact you rather than the head of St. Mungo's, which was my original intention."
"Is this about the H3N5 virus?"
Ladies and gentlemen, we are not immune. So far all of the spells and potions that our Healers have tried have failed. Just as all of the treatments that the Muggle doctors have tried have failed.
Hermione closed her eyes and willed that calm to remain. She heard Harry suck in a quick breath. "How many confirmed cases?"
"Four in Paris and three in Marseille. And Papa says he has an unofficial count of five."
"Merde," Hermione swore. Alain Delacour was the French Ambassador to the Chinese Confederacy of Wizards, and his "unofficial" information was generally more accurate than anything official that would come across her desk.
"It's definitely global now," Harry murmured, and the two witches nodded.
I have ordered Mister Croaker to assemble a team of the best medical researchers from his department to work with his sister department in the Muggle government. It is our hope that a combination of magic and science will succeed where each alone have failed.
Hermione took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Having confirmed cases in three Wizarding communities around the globe changed the situation drastically. She knew she could not afford to wait for the Wizengamot to dither and dicker about.
"Tell Robert to wake up President Lili and Monsieur Blanc," she instructed the French witch, who was the Special Assistant to the British Ambassador in Paris, "and inform them that as of 2200 hours tomorrow I will be invoking the Avalon clause. And I strongly encourage them to do the same."
However, that is only a hope, for sometime in the future, whether tomorrow, next week, or next month. In the meantime, I must be concerned with the survival of our world. I am only one woman, and I have limited resources with which to fight this microscopic killer.
Hermione could feel the disbelief and even terror radiating off both Harry and Severus, and she could see the shock of Gabrielle's face.
"I know it is extreme," she continued more gently, "but I don't think we have a choice. Scientists are estimating that over half the world's population could die. This will probably be the closest thing to a mass-extinction since the dinosaurs. I have to save what I can."
Therefore, after much careful consideration and deliberation, I shall be invoking the Avalon clause, as provided for in the Ministry's charter. I do not think anyone can deny that this virus poses a clear and imminent threat to the survival of the Wizarding World. Even as we speak, death totals are rising in cities such as London, Paris and New York. If Mister Croaker's team is unable to pull off yet another miracle, it is incumbent upon me to preserve our society.
"Mon dieu," Gabrielle whispered. Her pale face wavered but then seemed to harden in resolve. "Oui. What else can we do?" she asked with a steely look in her eyes.
"Tell your father as well. I don't know if the Chinese will listen to him or me, but we can at least try. Oh, and if you could ask Blanc to expect a call from Croaker? Neither science nor magic alone seem to be able to beat this virus. But maybe the combination will. And you can tell Fleur and Bill. They'll tell the rest of the family."
"Where will the meeting point be?"
Hermione gave a sad little half-smile. "Hogwarts. Where else?"
As members of the Wizengamot you - along with your families, of course - will be issued an invitation. I have spoken with Headmistress McGonagall, and she has graciously consented to allow us to use Hogwarts as our island-out-of-time. The first phase of the ritual will begin at ten o'clock this evening, to prepare for our departure. We will then have seventy-two hours to gather everyone and everything that will be coming with us.
The next morning, Hermione stood at the lectern in the Assembly Room of the Wizengamot and waited for the general shuffling and rustling to cease. The night before - or possibly in the early hours of the morning, she had lost track of a few hours there after her conversation with Gabrielle - she had sent out a Priority Gold notice summoning all members of the legislative body to an emergency session. As she gazed around the room, she was pleased to see that most of the seats were filled.
With a nod from the witch to her left, Hermione began speaking.
I know that this is a drastic measure but I hope that you will join me in preserving as much of our world as possible. Thank you, and I will now open the floor to questions.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Before I begin, I must inform you that with the consent of the Madam Chief Witch and the Chief Unspeakable, I have invoked the Secrecy Spells on this room..."