Well, it was quite a shindig. There were hundreds of Harrys there, a gaggle of Hermiones, a couple of Weasleys, a few dogs, a couple of cats, dozens of affectless teenagers slumped into doorways talking into cell phones and, inexplicably, a guy about 6’6″ dressed from head to foot as some kind of rodent made completely of gray pile carpeting. They said about 3,000 people were assembled in The Grove, but of course I was looking around for only one person. I found him standing by a fire hydrant, smoking a Cohiba under a sign that expressly forbade it.
“Lord Voldemort,” I said by way of greeting. He turned to me with those flat, expressionless eyes of his and I could see him going through his huge cranial database to remember where, when, who I was. That’s how executives are. They just wait, and then it comes to them. As he sorted me into his memory, I noticed with some pleasure that he had regrown a completely effective and attractive nose. It’s amazing what they can do with a face out here in LA.
“Mr. Bing,” he growled at last. “How long has it been.” I could tell he was glad to see me because he did not turn me into a grease spot immediately. “Can you believe this?” he snarled. “What a zoo.”
“People love Harry, you know.” It seemed like a pretty mild thing to say.
“Please shut up,” he said. I did. I could see he was wearing a black wristband. Everyone else was in orange and blue. I wondered what a black wristband would get you when the doors opened at midnight and the books began to be sold to the eager throng. I didn’t want to think about it. “On the bright side,” he continued, “after this and a couple of cruddy movies, it’ll all be over and my reign on earth will be eternal and supreme, just like it was in the 1980s when I was putting together the first boom in tech stocks.”
“You did that?” I hadn’t known. That was before we worked together.
“Sure,” he said. “And the bust, too.”
“Wow,” I said. I had lost a lot of money in that.
“The ’90s were the greatest,” he sighed, leaning into a metal lamp post, which instantly melted into the shape of his back. “I loved that whole democratization of capital thing as a guise for the destruction of innumerable organizations, the consolidation of entire industries, and the enrichment of a small group of investment bankers, lawyers and senior executives. Of course, that was BH.”
“BH?” I inquired.
“Before Harry,” he said, and lapsed into a malevolent silence. An oily steam poured from both his ears, which had large lobes and were quite hairy.
“Yes,” I said, and then, as politely as possible, “so what have you been doing for the last few years, since, you know, you, er, left to, um, pursue other interests?” That was the phrase that had been used. “Mr. Voldemort has left the company to pursue other interests in this and related fields,” the press release had said. But we all knew what had really happened. Harry was in charge. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was out.
“I worked for McKinsey for a few years,” he said. “Then I got a job teaching mergers and acquisitions at Wharton. After that, I consulted on a few start-up situations in biotech for a while, mostly commercialization of genome research. I helped Microsoft on their legal strategy. Other than that, just doing the things we do. Lunching at Michael’s, Morton’s, Spago. Dropping in at Gstaad and Sun Valley. Golfing. Looking for the next big thing.”
“What’s that going to be?” I inquired. I always like to know where I should be putting my money.
“Don’t know yet,” he said. He stamped out his cigar dead center of the lightning bolt on the forehead of a young man sporting a maroon and gold scarf. The kid sunk to his knees, gibbering meaningless incantations. I felt bad for the fellow. I’d seen that happen to dozens of middle managers in innumerable budget meetings with this particular executive.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, though,” said Lord Voldemort, with a weird and scary grin. “I’m ageless, you know.”
Then he disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving behind nothing but a dark crimson glow and the very faint smell of money.