The Bill of Life is a set of constitutional amendments that were passed in the United States to end the long and bloody Second Civil War, also known as The Heartland War, by satisfying both the Pro-life and the Pro-choice armies. It states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until the age of thirteen. However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen a parent may choose to retroactively ‘abort’ a child on the condition that the child’s life doesn’t ‘technically’ end. The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called ‘unwinding’.
The Dursleys passed Harry off as a storked baby, yet another unwanted newborn left on someone’s doorstep and making the child legally theirs unless the person leaving it was caught in the act. The differences between a storked baby and Harry were that the boy was a year old already, was accompanied by a letter, and was their nephew. Not that they would have taken him in if he hadn’t been left on the doorstep for all their neighbours to gawk at, and before Vernon came out to get the milk too so they couldn’t even pass him off on someone else.
By the time he was eleven Petunia was telling said neighbours, when asked, “We’re having him unwound the moment we can, and until then we’re sending him to St Brutus’ Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys.”
“They’re from bad stock, storked babies,” the neighbours agreed, with all the irritation of those living in a nice neighbourhood prone to storking. “At least if they’re unwound they can do some good in the world.”
It would have been fine if they’d been able to hide him from those freaks until he was thirteen, but it wasn’t to be.
“That school’s doing wonders,” Petunia says now as she hurries past, making any number of excuses to avoid having to stop and chat, searching for anything to say other than ‘we’re afraid of what he might do’ and ‘we’re terrified of what he might tell people’.
Ireland and other countries where abortion was an incendiary issue followed America’s example, then the United Kingdom, then it was written into European Union law, and so on, until unwinding became a common and accepted practise in societies with the means to facilitate it.
The Grangers would never even have considered unwinding their daughter. People would assume that because they were in a medical profession that they approved, but they’d say, “We’re dentists,” and make that be an end to any conversations concerning it.
Still, Hermione was brought up hearing that children who were troublemakers, children who lost their parents and didn’t have any particular talents, children who were average, those children were unwound. Adults praised her for her intelligence, test scores, and good manners, and never asked about her motivations.
Striving for adult approval becomes difficult to switch off. Until there are worse things to be afraid of than making mistakes.
The details of what happens inside harvesting clinics are kept within the profession, primarily to prevent unlicensed practitioners.
It takes twelve surgeons in teams of two, rotating in and out as their medical speciality is needed, nine surgical assistants, and four nurses. It takes three hours.
The Weasleys weren’t aware that unwinding existed, beyond knowing that Muggles did horrific things in the name of healing.
Then Death Eaters effectively take over the Ministry of Magic. Muggle-Born and Halfblood children are slowly rounded up and sent to be unwound. The children of Wizarding families who sympathise with Muggles are also subject to unwinding. The idea, the Ministry states, is to return that which belongs to the Muggle world to the Muggle world, and in such a way that there are no violations of Wizarding Law. Magical abilities aren’t passed on to people who receive the parts of an Unwind, Muggle authorities receive files on those sent to the harvesting clinics and give no credence to anything an Unwind says about magic, and unwinding isn’t murder.
Molly is both thankful and terrified that Ron, Harry, and Hermione are missing.
Arthur keeps touching his skin where he was once held together by stitches.
By law we’re required to keep Unwinds conscious throughout the entire procedure. They have a right to know everything that’s happening to them, every step of the way. Their blood, which goes straight to the blood bank, is replaced with a synthetic oxygen-rich solution containing an anaesthetic that deadens pain receptors, so whilst they’re fully conscious they don’t feel a thing.
The Patils choose this time to let their daughters finally visit family in India who’ve been suggesting such a visit for some time. The transport costs are expensive and the girls have been missed, so it seems only natural for it to be a lengthy trip.
The Malfoys aren’t sure which is worse: Draco threatened with the death of his parents if he fails, or Lucius and Narcissa threatened with the unwinding of their only son.
The Creeveys refuse to let their sons return to Hogwarts. Denis is sent to the local High School, Colin to the nearest harvesting clinic, “To stop him giving Denis ideas,” they say.
I’ve been a Counselling Nurse in a harvesting clinic for over eight years now. My job is to read the files on each Unwind and become familiar with them, and then during the procedure I hold their hand, guide them through the process, and talk with them about anything they want.
Bill runs a safe house with Fleur, who, having seen the fear mothers like Molly and children like those passing through the safe house are living with, has decided she’s never having children of her own.
Charlie uses his position as a Dragon Keeper in Romania as a cover whilst he acts as a contact for Wizarding children being smuggled out of the UK. In some European countries the age for unwinding is between eleven and sixteen, and the former Soviet states have enough on their plates without trying to put in place a law that would require support from people who are celebrating independence, along with money, medical professionals, and equipment that they just don’t have.
Percy works in the Ministry and pretends to himself that he isn’t watching for familiar names to appear on the paperwork that accumulates on his desk.
The twins are captured and Molly would weep for joy when George walks back through the front door, except the only part of Fred that’s with him is a new ear where George had been missing one before.
Ron is caught by Snatchers and becomes a name on Percy’s paperwork. Percy comes home to offer his help, anything to get his brother out, but the Order has only managed to get one person on the inside of the clinic where Ron is sent and their resources are limited. They argue it back and forth, until Ron is the one to make the decision for them, passing on a note telling them to save their chance for if Hermione or Harry get taken, for when they really need it.
Ginny shows up in Romania with a bunch of other kids in dishevelled school uniforms and demands to be sent back. Charlie makes her promise to stay away until she’s eighteen, that he’ll personally take her home then so long as she keeps that promise. He hands out the Resistance’s guide to European countries and their laws, or lack thereof, on unwinding to the group as usual. He hands out maps. He explains about how they’re going to be divided between different Wizarding quarters to limit suspicion, and other measures in place for their safety. Charlie hugs his sister, tries to trust the teenage boy who swears to look out for her, and doesn’t tell her about Ron.
I’ve held the hand of a lot of Unwinds and heard a lot of stories. Some of them treat me like I’m a priest or as if I hold some other religious office, but it isn’t my place to take confessions. “Just let it go,” I tell them.
Others deny that it’s happening to them and protest even after their lungs are donated, blinking at me in confusion. “It’s okay,” I tell them, “even if you don’t believe it you really are doing something that’s going to help lots of people. You’re doing a wonderful thing.”
Most tell me at least once that they hate me, to go to hell, to die in agony. “That’s natural,” I tell them. “I understand.”
A Horcrux hunt brings Harry and Hermione to Hogwarts, triggering the start of a student rebellion that itself triggers a battle as the remains of the Order arrive to protect Harry, Death Eaters arrive for the opposite, and parents who could be on either side or neither arrive to protect their children.
Professor McGonagall wishes that she could send all of her students to safety, but settles for sending away those under thirteen years old, believing that for the rest there is no safety to be had.
Maeve Greengrass does not want to be safe.
Bill and Fleur can’t make those currently in their safe house stay behind when they come to join the fight either.
Luna and Dean are in that group.
Kids who went on the run and managed to stay free, who were taken out of school by concerned parents or who left, kids who were members of Dumbledore’s Army, heed the messages on their coins and swell the ranks.
Denis Creevey is one of them.
Voldemort calls for Harry Potter to surrender himself so that none of them will be harmed.
Recently though, in this past year, we’ve started having Unwinds with what I would call mental deficiencies if there was any hint of such in their files. They talk about magic and they try to persuade me that it’s real. They tell me that there’s a secret ministry that has made a mistake, that they’re giving me information I could sell for vast amounts of money, that if I just hand them a wand they can prove it to me.
The mind boggles at the stories children come up with.
Luna helps to find Ravenclaw’s Diadem. The search ends in the Room of Requirement where both the Diadem and Hufflepuff’s Cup are destroyed when Crabbe sets the room, and himself, alight with Fiendfyre.
Hannah Abbott and Terry Boot organise getting everyone armed.
Seamus Finnegan proves that he was a great choice of undercover agent for the DA when much to everyone else’s surprise he suddenly stops spouting Ministry appropriate opinions, shares his own, and explosively removes the head of a snake.
Tonks and Remus fight and die for their unborn child.
Molly kills Bellatrix Lestrange.
As order is reasserted it's discovered that Harry is missing and Voldemort has fled unopposed. There will be reports of him turning to mist and ash days later from the few Death Eaters that leave with him.
Hermione sinks to the floor in the Entrance Hall and cries.
For instance, there was an Unwind recently whose conversation with me started off fairly normal. “You can’t stop the process now, right?” he asked me before going on to tell me that he’d done a lot of things in his life that should have gotten him unwound that didn’t and yet here he was.
Then the conversation took a turn for the bizarre.
“Neither can live whilst the other survives,” he said. “I figured it out, you see, that I’m a Horcrux, and I don’t know what happens if we destroy them all but I think what happens is that he comes back. I think he’s always going to come back, but that he can’t really live if I survive. And this way, although I won’t be exactly living myself either, I’ll be divided up so much he’ll never be able to kill all of me. I’ll be like a Horcrux myself, only without losing my soul.”
“This isn’t dying,” I told him.
“Exactly. I really hope that I’m right though, and that this isn’t just me giving up. I should have checked with Hermione first. She’s the smart one. But there wasn’t enough time, and she wouldn’t have let me go anyway.”
“I understand,” I said, because people so often do have trouble letting go.
“Have you got any donated parts?” he asked. I shook my head and he smiled. “Sorry. It’s just you have really green eyes and I just thought it’d be, well, appropriate I guess, if part of my mother was here with me. She wasn’t unwound though. She was murdered. She gets to rest in peace.”
The Ministry is slow to react to calls to stop children from the Wizarding World being sent for unwinding. After all, they say, for the Muggle-Born and Halfbloods unwinding is part of their culture, and for those in the Wizarding World who say Wizards should treat Muggles like people surely they shouldn’t be advocating a complete dismissal of Muggle laws and practises.
Arthur quits his job, but Percy stays, determined to get rid of unwinding and make the Ministry better.
Neville turns eighteen, but he refuses to return to the UK until Ginny is eighteen as well. Ginny turns eighteen and she refuses to return until Natalie is eighteen, who refuses to return until Rose turns eighteen. So it goes. They look out for each other.
Lavender Brown becomes a spokesperson for the campaign against unwinding. As a werewolf her infected blood ‘pollutes’ her system and she cannot be unwound. She jokes that she’s the Wizarding equivalent of a clapper, with her blood and the danger she represents, but only in private to prevent the media ever hearing her compare herself to a terrorist.
I have friends and relatives who are alive today because of donations from Unwinds. I don’t mean to sound critical of the system. I just think that the mental health section of the Unwinds’ screening should be expanded. If these are mass hallucinations, or some other form of disease, it ought to be contained.
If they’re just stories, well, when children get ideas into their heads it can be dangerous. Just look what happened in the United States. That’s all I’m saying.
There’s a young woman sitting on a train. She refuses to travel by car anymore, ever since the accident that almost cost her life.
She’s been told that it’s okay that she can’t remember anything from before then, only she thinks that she can remember some things, but that they’re not her memories. Her parents don’t like her talking about the parts of her brain that come from a donation though, so she doesn’t.
She does daydream whilst she’s on the train though, the world passing by in a blur through the window. She thinks about another kid, another car accident, only the kid’s parents were in the accident, and only there wasn’t an accident. They were murdered. By magic.
There’s a story playing out in her head. When she gets the time she plans on writing it down. She doesn’t remember, but she’s been told she’s always said that she wanted to write books.