Rabbit had always felt that nothing could ever really replace a good, old-fashioned, dependable map – especially when it came to storm chasing. However, even though he himself had not really changed much over the years…except for the fact that his hair was a little less floppy and a little more gray than it used to be…the world certainly had. Technological advances had become increasingly available to the common man – especially given that everyone now carried a cell phone with all that computing power right at their fingertips.
Rabbit agreed for the most part that technology was a wonderful and convenient thing, but he was also aware that it was prone to inconsistencies and glitches – especially when it came to something as precise as geography and map reading. He happily admitted that GPS generally did make life easier, and he used it whenever he could. However, he still also made it his mission to find all of the weaknesses and limitations of the current GPS systems…of which there were many.
In the off-season, Jo and Bill normally stayed in the lab with their data and research, while the rest of the team resumed their normal lives. For Rabbit, that meant working with Sanders at their land surveying company. It was not nearly as exciting as storm chasing, of course. Nevertheless, it kept the bills paid and he still got to work with his maps on a daily basis.
However, besides that, Rabbit was unattached and without a family of his own - except for his elderly mother whom he really only saw on major holidays because she had decided to trade in tornadoes for hurricanes when she relocated down to Florida to take advantage of the year-round warm temperatures and almost-constant sunshine there. Consequently, he was able to spend most of his free time out in the field exploring the rural countryside firsthand in order to find all of the obscure little side roads and farm lanes that the commercial GPS systems just did not pinpoint with any real accuracy. Knowledge of these out-of-the-way places sometimes came in handy during storm season, as well, when having a clear passage could literally mean the difference between life and death for the team while out on a chase.
It was on one such solitary excursion that Rabbit’s life was changed forever. Up to that point, he thought the day that the team had lived through the monstrous F5 tornado and finally got Dorothy to fly was the most exciting day of his life. He soon found out, though, just how wrong of an assumption that was.
It all started when he found himself on a small dirt road that dead-ended right into a fallow field. That was not the unusual part, though. In fact, such little disappointments often happened when mapping out unknown territory. No, the really strange part of the situation was the very small, but extremely fast, pure white funnel cloud that just appeared out of the clear blue sky suddenly and without any warning at all. Besides the fact that it was not tornado season, Rabbit had never seen anything like it. It did not seem to follow any of the meteorological rules that he had come to learn over his years as a chaser. Consequently, before he knew it, he was out of his truck and filming the unexpected phenomenon with his phone in order to share the amazing event with the rest of the team later.
In fact, he was so immersed in the occurrence that he was completely unaware that the mysterious circulation was headed straight for him…until it was too late. Its speed was so incredible that he did not have time to take cover…or even to move at all…before it slammed straight into him and knocked him to the ground. He only had a moment to marvel that he did not seem to be dead before the strange funnel cloud came to a complete standstill in front of him…until it disappeared completely. In its wake, however, it left behind a very pretty woman with lots of lively hair and a concerned look upon her face.
“Oh! I am so sorry about that,” she apologized emphatically in what Rabbit noted to be, despite his shock and awkwardly sprawled position on the ground, a lovely British accent. His bewilderment, however, only continued as she gave him a hand up out of the dirt.
“You must be Bob. It’s so nice to meet you.” The mysterious woman reached up to his shoulders to brush off some of the dust from his fall as she continued to chatter on in an amiable fashion despite his silence. “I’m afraid that I lost a little bit of control there at the end. Elemental magic is still pretty new to me, though, and it is a lot harder to master than I originally thought it would be – especially the landings! To be honest, though, I’m surprised that it has not been a lot worse. In fact, when I first decided to expand my magical repertoire, I was really shocked to discover that I have an affinity for air magic, of all things. It is really very ironic given how much I have always hated to fly. I don’t even own a broom. In reality, I always thought that I would be more connected to earth magic than anything else. I guess that just goes to show that even I don’t know everything. Please don’t tell Harry and Ron that, of course – especially since I’ve spent all of these years training them otherwise.”
She paused to laugh cheerfully at the thought until she finally realized that the man in front of her had still not said a word. She looked at him closer and noted his stock-still position and the glazed look in his eyes. Then she looked past him and her gaze fell upon his dusty old truck, as well. Her look grew even more serious at that point as her eyes swept across the rural Oklahoma landscape that surrounded them.
“Where did I land?” she asked quietly and all of the previous joviality from her visage and tone had disappeared completely. “I’m not at the MACUSA elemental practice fields, am I? I’m also guessing that you’re not Bob, the field supervisor, either.”
Rabbit had no idea what the tornado lady was talking about. In fact, he was not positive that he was even really awake and conscious at the moment. After all, she seemed to be performing magic, so it was a perfectly reasonable assumption that the whole situation could simply be a dream. He could have fallen asleep in his truck on one of those quiet back roads when he had taken a break from his exploring. It certainly would not have been the first time it had happened. However, despite that, something told him that it was all true. He really had just witnessed something incredible, and the woman in front of him was real. He was even able to calmly acknowledge that she must be a witch of some sort.
After all, didn’t they have all of those mystic stone circles over in England? Somebody had to use them, right? he thought with the part of his brain that was still able to rationalize. It was the same part that always told him to put his faith into maps. Therefore, he knew that it could be trusted. Nevertheless, despite his calm reasoning, he also knew that he could not depend on his voice to not crack or squeak if he spoke out loud, not yet…perhaps not ever again after this kind of surprise. Therefore, he simply shook his head in denial, instead.
“Oh, bugger!” the woman murmured as he confirmed her suspicions that she had just accosted a non-magical person, albeit by accident. She looked at him nervously for just a moment, but then relaxed. After all, MACUSA was now a lot more flexible when it came to the Statute of Secrecy than they used to be - definitely more so than the Ministry of Magic anyway – especially when there were extenuating circumstances. Therefore, it was quite probable that they would both make it out of this encounter without any negative consequences whatsoever - especially if the man remained in his current calm state. In fact, she was already able to see the humorous aspect of the situation. Consequently, when she looked up and caught his eye, she began to grin mischievously and was even able to make a joke about it.
“I guess that I must have gotten all turned around and blown off course, then!”
Despite the insanity of the current situation, Rabbit found that his shocked paralysis had finally been broken and he just could not stop the bark of laughter that escaped from him at such a ridiculous pun. Tornado Lady was actually quite funny. That revelation…and her light answering laugh in return…relaxed him enough that he was finally able to completely return to his senses and find his voice again. To his extreme gratitude, it even sounded relatively normal.
“I’m not sure what this ma-cu-sa place is that you are looking for,” he said slowly as he tried to pronounce the strange word correctly, “but my name does happen to be Bob. Well, Robert really…but my mom calls me Bob. All of my friends, however, call me Rabbit.”
“Rabbit?” the woman asked and her lips automatically twitched upwards of their own accord. “Well, it’s very nice to meet you. My name is Hermione…but my friends call me ‘Mione. I have always hated it, but I can see now that it could have been much worse. In fact, I concede that you win this round of the ‘strange nicknames’ game.” Her light teasing tone actually made the man relax even further…despite the fact that she was apparently a witch whom he had seen arrive by way of a freaking tornado of all damn things. He even found that he could focus on other things besides that…such as how friendly the woman seemed to be…and how attractive she was, too.
“I must say that you are taking all of this rather well,” she continued and Rabbit was pleased to hear how impressed she sounded. “Do you know any witches or wizards, by chance?”
There are more of them! Rabbit thought as he shook his head in the negative again. However, he did not find that knowledge as surprising as he could have. In fact, he suddenly thought about Jo’s sweet Aunt Meg - specifically how youthful she always looked, despite her advancing age, and how she always had enough food ready to feed an army whenever the team showed up – no matter how unexpected their visit was. There was also the issue of how she had been pulled from her destroyed house with only a few bumps and bruises to account for the ordeal. Then Rabbit thought about how quickly her house had been rebuilt after the entire town of Wakita had practically been destroyed. Meg had insisted that the damage had not been as bad as everyone had thought - even though he had seen the house collapse in on itself with his own two eyes. Jo had just shrugged off everyone’s questions, however, and told them that her aunt had a really great contractor.
Jo knows the truth! Rabbit realized with a start. He looked up at the woman in front of him and his eyes were wide from the force of the revelation.
“Well, it’s obvious that you must be used to taking unexpected developments in stride,” Hermione commented as she correctly guessed the subject of his thoughts. “However, might I suggest that you just come right on out and ask them directly. Our people do have rules about these kinds of things and they are not allowed to tell you the truth – unless it is obvious that you already know it.” When Rabbit looked confused at the irony of her statement, she threw her hands up in the air in an exasperated gesture and laughed. “I know, I know…I said there were rules, but I didn’t say that they made a lot of sense, did I?” She paused to smile at him and he found that he had automatically returned the expression despite the fact that he was still reeling from his newfound knowledge.
“At any rate, I’m guessing that you still might be curious about…well…what happened here?” Hermione asked as she waved her hand behind her towards the place where her extremely unique form of transportation had dissipated right in front of his eyes.
“That would be an understatement,” he answered honestly…and, now that he knew, he found that he was really looking forward to learning all that he could about the situation before he talked to Jo and Meg.
Hermione just stood there and looked at him for a long moment until she suddenly seemed to come to a decision and smiled at him again. “Well, I guess I do owe you for hitting you with a runaway tornado. Do you know of anywhere that we can get a cuppa around here, though? Harnessing whirlwind energy can take a lot out of a witch.”
“A cup-pa?” Rabbit asked uncertainly as his confusion returned in full force even as he realized that she had just confirmed out loud, without any doublespeak at all, that she was indeed a magic user.
I guess that she could finally tell me plainly because we fulfilled the letter of the law…if not the spirit, he surmised.
“Cuppa: A cup of tea…or possibly coffee, if tea is unavailable,” Hermione clarified and grinned again at the fact that such a common British term had tripped up the man…while, ironically, the knowledge that she used magic and could travel by tornado had apparently taken very little effort on his part to process.
“Oh!” Rabbit, on the other hand, was a bit embarrassed because the answer to his question seemed so obvious in hindsight, so he rushed to answer her query. In his head, he pulled up a mental map of the area. “Yeah, there’s a diner in the next town, about ten minutes away…to the East...once we get back to the main road, that is.” He looked at the intriguing woman again and suddenly noticed how exhausted she appeared. “Would…would you like for me to give you a ride…or will you…?” he paused to make a swirling motion with his hand.
Hermione laughed tiredly. “No more tornadoes for me today, I’m afraid. It seems that I’ve drained all of my elemental energy for now. I am still learning, after all…and it is just a hobby at the moment so I don’t have a lot of stamina built up for it, yet. In fact, I don’t think that apparation is a good idea right now, either. That’s sort of like magical teleportation, by the way.” She answered his unspoken question before he even had a chance to ask it. When he quickly nodded in a bemused sort of understanding, she continued. “Therefore, I guess that I am grounded for the time being and will just have to do things the muggle way for now.”
“Muggle?” was Rabbit’s next obvious question, but Hermione just laughed.
“Non-magical,” she explained and he nodded again. That certainly made sense in context.
“Then I’ll be happy to give you a ride,” he answered. He was not even surprised to realize that it was the truth. He found that he wanted nothing more than to learn as much as he could about the fascinating woman in front of him. “In fact, it would be my pleasure…and my treat at the diner, as well.”
Hermione smiled at him warmly and the look just reinforced his decision – especially since it seemed to stir something inside of him that he had not felt in a long time. Consequently, he was a little surprised…and quite disappointed, as well…when her look suddenly turned quite chilly before she spoke in a no-nonsense tone of voice. “I’m not in the habit of accepting rides from perfect strangers, though, so I should warn you. I may be tired, but I am far from powerless. I am still perfectly able to defend myself…if needs must.”
Rabbit wondered what she meant for just a second. Why would she have to defend herself here? Then realization hit him like a ton of bricks! “Oh no! I would never even think about…” he sputtered, and his disappointment quickly turned to horror at the very thought that she would be worried about something like that – especially from him.
“Good!” Her warm smile was back. “I didn’t really think so. You honestly do seem like a nice bloke…but I just wanted to make sure. A girl just can’t be too careful, you know. Now, let me clean you up. You are still a bit dusty from your fall.” Then, as if they had not just had that disturbing discussion, she pulled out what Rabbit could only guess was her magic wand, and with one murmured word, had him and his clothes even cleaner than they had been when he left his house that morning.
That explains so much! he marveled as he again thought about how wonderfully efficient Aunt Meg was – especially when it came to cleaning up the tornado-like mess that the team was forced to leave behind practically every time they visited her. Invariably, the storm chasers always found that they had to leave the comfort of her hospitality...and her delicious food...to hit the road again with only a moment's notice. Somehow, though, the place would be spotless again within just a few minutes, as Rabbit had noted on one previous visit, when he had to return immediately after his apparent departure in order to reclaim a forgotten jacket.