"You both really should talk, you know?" Harry remarked cautiously. The last thing he wanted was to end up in a fight with Hermione again about the same thing. She looked at him, sighed, and thought not this again.
It was almost ten years after the final battle. The one that made the wizarding world safe. Life, at the least, was better. In fact, laws were changing enough so that half-blood, muggle-born, magical and part-creatures were in an unprejudiced place with their rights. Hermione had managed to change the magical world according to her own desires and values. Something she was ready to change now, had been ready to change for some time, was her friendship with Ronald Weasley. She wanted it over; to end it.
"Harry, he’s the reason we don’t talk. He is immature, selfish. And, after all, do I really need to say how easy-going and completely tension free it is when we are in the same room?" Hermione said sarcastically, while rolling her eyes. Harry just nodded his head. "He’s the one who starts the fights. Merlin, Harry, it was eight damn years ago, and he keeps giving me the same speech and asking me the same questions. He keeps asking about why I don't want him, about me being gay, about me playing with his heart. I do not have to love him in a romantic way. Moreover, I don't think I even love him in any way anymore. He makes my life so hard, and now Molly can't stand me. I lost my parents and my second family. I love you as my brother, but this will be your last warning about this subject," Hermione sighed, feeling rather exasperated, and took a little sip of her tea.
"I told you that Ginny and I will always have a place for you," He said, grabbing her hand and squeezing a little. "He is my best friend, but you are my sister. I have your back." She smiled softly at him. Harry was always a gentleman, sweet and caring.
"Ginny is so lucky to have you, brother." He felt his cheeks warm a little. "So, child number three? Do we know already if it’s a boy or a girl?" Harry beamed.
"Well, we are guessing a girl. But who knows? Weasleys like boys," he joked. Hermione knew he really wanted a girl.
"Are Albus and James dealing with the pregnancy well?"
"Albus is having a little trouble understanding, but time should help. It's not James' first rodeo, so he is being very helpful. Although Ginny said he is now following her around, and she wants to drown him, since he keeps asking if she and the baby are all right. Like every five minutes," He grinned. "They were, in fact, asking about you. How about you and Luna come by next week for dinner?"
"I'll need to ask her. She and Gabs started a new project, so it's up to her to say if she’ll be free or not. But I work from home, so count me in," She smiled and Harry conjured a quick Tempus, to check the time.
"Time to go back to work."
"Okay, I'll let you know about Luna, go kick some arse, mister Auror." Harry quirked a smile and nodded, thinking that a relaxed Hermione was certainly more fun. She quickly paid the bill and started walking home.
Hermione had shared a home with Luna for a couple of years now, and she just adored the blonde woman. She was so fresh and sweet, always caring about what Hermione thought, as well as her feelings. Of course, during the first year or two of friendship, Hermione had to learn to simply accept Luna's ramblings. Now, years later, the bookworm tended to ramble with Luna about her (and Gabby's) discoveries. Their home was sizable, with two suites, each with one regular bedroom and two bathrooms. There were two offices, a living room, a separate kitchen with a half-wall pantry, a really small garden, and a lot of magical protection. When Hermione arrived at the yellow house, she felt the blood-wards react to her, and suddenly she was swept up with the cozy feeling of home. The door opened itself and Hermione stepped forward to put her jacket on a very, very anxious coat rack, as it was already reaching to grab it. When Luna said to put some personality in it, Hermione wasn’t sure if she meant for it to be so damn excited to handle their outerwear.
"Easy there, we don't want you to break something again." she scolded. The coat rack suddenly stopped moving, and allowed her to hang the garment. "Here you go, now can you please keep it safe for me?" The object almost hugged the coat, and Hermione held in a little laugh, since she discovered the rack got particularly offended when its mistresses laughed at it. She looked down toward the little rug where they kept their shoes, and noticed there were two pairs on it, meaning Luna was home, and Gabby was visiting. She put her own shoes on the rug, and walked around in her socks. She went to the kitchen and studied the magical clock. Luna and Gabby's hands were on the "in the office" position, as was Harry's. Ginny's was "at home" like Albus’ and James' clock hands. Neville's was at the "sleeping" position, McGonagall and Hagrid were at "Hogwarts". She was always happy to see no one on "dead" nor in "danger".
She used magic to prepare a few sandwiches since she knew how much Luna and Gabby got lost in their research. After a few minutes, she walked to Luna's office,
"Hey you two." She greeted, and Gabby hearing her voice, raised her head.
"Ma belle, how are you?" She flirted a little and smiled.
"Pretty good, and you?"
"You know, missing you, my muse," She announced dramatically. Hermione approached and pulled Gaby into a hug, pulling the blonde's head to her breast. "Oh, a boobs hug! Hello, ladies." Hermione pushed her away and both of them started to laugh.
"You both are like baby nargles competing for mum's attention," Luna commented.
"Here, eat you fools. I'll be in my office working a bit. Goodness knows how much work people are offering me lately.”
After almost ten years, she grew and shone. Not having to save people from death, being able to focus on her studies, not having to carry Ronald and Harry with their own studies...Hermione Granger was not just a child prodigy anymore, she became a voice of her generation. Perhaps she was the most successful of her year. After returning to school to finish her studies, she found in Minerva McGonagall not only a friend, but a mentor and a mother-figure. Minerva had taken the young woman under her wing, presented her to the right people, and assisted her in finding her path in the magical world.
When she finished school, she made a very important choice. With the options of: Healing, Magical Animal Studies, Transfiguration, Potions, Natural Subjects (Divination, Astronomy, Herbology, Ancient Runes, Arithmancy), Muggle Studies, Defense Against Dark Arts and Magical Architecture (Spells, Charms, Rituals, Enchantments, Creation and Developing Magical Objects), she chose the last one. And being stubborn like she is, she mastered this field, with a specialty in creation and development of magical objects. In fact, most of the magical objects in her home were from her own design; the coat rack, the magical clock, the bookshelf and even the bathtubs. She also made Harry his wristwatch, and a magical clock for his own home. She was great at her job, and even without a formal contract, many families, companies, even ministries, hired her freelance for various projects. Her status as a world savior gave her an inherent “trustworthy” air around magical people.
Presently, she was staring at a stone etched with runes in front of her. She had been attempting to activate it, but nothing she was doing had been effective. A few hours passed, the sunny day grew darker, and she’d just noticed how long she had been working on the problem when Gabby knocked at her door.
“Hey beautiful, you’ve been in there for a long time, we were wondering if you were still alive.”
“Hi, sorry. I’ve been stumped with this stupid rock.” She grimaced, gesturing towards the stone.
“What have you figured out so far?” Gabrielle Delacour had known Hermione well for almost seven years, since she started to work with Luna. She learned very quickly that this woman needed to ramble to put her ideas in order, and furthermore, Gabby always liked to hear and learn along with Hermione.
“Well… This rock does not have one magical nature only, the one who created it was very talented to be able to put light, shadow, willing and water together. Here, let me show you.” With a small movement of her wand, in a blink, Gabby was able to see a few strings of white, grey and blue around the stone, as well as a light golden line tying them all together. ”So, this means that this is for protection, because of its light nature. It also has a self-protection enchantment, which is triggered by its water nature. So this stone, with the Algix, in Elder Futhark, means protection. Which for by itself, doesn’t make much sense.” Hermione paused for a second, and Gabby knew she’d helped. “This! Because of course for itself it doesn’t make sense! It is one of a group!” Hermione moved around grabbing a quill and a piece of parchment, quickly writing a letter.
“How many, do you think?” Gabby asked, she loved to see how Hermione's brain worked.
“Must be seven, or a multiple.” Hermione replied thoughtfully.
“Well, you see, seven is a strong magical number, making everything stable. Makes magic work better, that’s why Voldemort had created seven horcruxes. Well, eight with Harry, but he hadn’t intended that, seven had more of a chance to bind together. Three is a good number too and nine, but it has more issues in stability. Eleven is not that good, and thirteen well, that is a recipe for disaster. That is why we have seven layers of magic around the house, seven ensures we’re safe and secure. In fact, all the elders, witchers and wizards used seven in their compositions. Magical Natures are seven; Air, Fire, Earth, Water, Light, Shadow, and Willing.” Hermione said animatedly.
“So, probably seven stones,” Gabby nodded in agreement.
“Yes, I’ll send this to my employer, he will likely need to dig around where he found this one to locate the others. Because right now with only one, I cannot break this puzzle.” She put away the stone, in a part of her workspace that she designated “To Do,” and turned her eyes to the “Future Projects” section trying to select a new one. Gabby, watching her, snapped Hermione out from her quiet deliberation.
“No, lady, no. You will spend a few hours of your precious time with Luna and I.” She didn’t leave Hermione a lot of space to argue, grabbing her hand and dragging her to the living room. In the center table were a few Chinese food boxes, and Hermione finally realized how hungry she was. They spent a long time talking, and even with Hermione's natural curiosity, she resisted the urge to ask them about their new project. They would tell her, eventually. She peered at Gabby for a few moments and saw the younger woman looking at her own hands nervously.
“So will you tell me why you are so nervous, or should I try to guess?” Hermione observed playfully, trying to capture Gabby's attention, but the younger woman just started to play with her fingers, seemingly becoming even more anxious. “Gabby, what is going on?” Hermione put her hand on top of her friend’s. A few more moments dragged on and Luna remained silent, watching their exchange.
“I have something for you…” She said, still very nervous. “Here, read this and then I will answer all the questions that I can.”
“That you can?” She was so confused, but seeing the letter in Gabby’s hand, she quickly took and opened it.
Dear Mademoiselle Granger,
It’s with great pleasure that I write to you. I am Sybelle Delacour, Fleur and Gabriella’s Grandmother and Leader of the Veela European Clan Coalition. After long and careful consideration, we - me and the leaders from each clan - agreed that you, Miss Granger, are the best choice for a very special and unique opportunity.
I do not believe it will be safe for any of us, especially for Gabriella, to discuss such details in a letter. If you are interested to learn more about this work, I invite you for lunch this Saturday.
“What that hell, Gabby?” She exclaimed, reading the letter again. “What is going on?” She was wary because of the secretive tone of the letter, and also because it felt like Gabby and Luna were hiding things from her.
“Hermione…” Gabby started, but closed her mouth.
“You were talking about me and my work behind my back?” She was agitated.
“Calm down.” Luna said in a more controlled tone. “Sit.” She demanded, and Hermione snorted but obeyed. “We haven’t been lying to you, but we cannot talk about some things yet.”
Hermione was not appeased. “Okay, look. We are writing a book about veelas, so you can understand the confidentiality, yes?” With that, Hermione grew calmer, seeing that Gabby touched Luna’s hand and started to explain herself.
“Veela culture has a lot of secrets, things we cannot talk about. Not just because it is inside information, but also because all Veelas are attached to a group. The clan and family come first, it would be considered a betrayal to speak freely about Veela matters. And an ancient blood-ward prevents us from speaking anyway, almost as if our tongues stick in our mouths. What I can tell you, I will. But other things, things that you will likely question, I want to tell you but…”
“You can’t.” Gabby nodded. “Let's start with why your grandmother wants to talk to me?”
“We are having a problem with a Veela artifact.” Gabby suddenly stopped speaking and grimaced a little. “We just want to hire you. Please, go, as a big personal favor to me?” She begged.
“All right, I will meet your grandmother.” Hermione conceded. “So, your book? How do you both intend to write this if you can’t discuss it?”
“I’ll write a book about things that we can talk about. And Gabby will be composing one, with the leader's permission, from a Veela’s perspective.” Luna clarified.
“But, again, how can you help her with that, if almost everything is secret?” Her curiosity was high.
“We have an agreement, they allow me to be temporarily bound to Gabby, and in this way I can learn. I have also made an Unbreakable Vow.”
“Let me guess, you both cannot tell me about this temporary bond either?” They nodded in agreement. Hermione sighed, resigned. “Okay, so I’ll meet your grandmother and hopefully I will get some answers.” She knew better than most people to avoid meddling with unbreakable vows and blood-wards. After all, it was just a few days until the meeting.
The lunch meeting arrived too quickly in Hermione's opinion. Suddenly she was in front of Brasserie Zédel, a very popular muggle restaurant. She was anxious, but one waiter approached her near the entrance and smiled.
“Bonjour, mademoiselle, do you have a reservation? Or are you meeting someone?” He inquired politely.
“Uh, yes, I’m here to meet Mrs Delacour?” She replied self-consciously.
“Oh, certainly, you must be mademoiselle Granger. Follow me please.” He proceeded into the restaurant, and in the next second, Hermione knew that she had entered the magical part of it. She immediately felt the magic surround her when she stepped past the door frame. He walked up to a table in the back, where a woman was sitting alone. Sybelle Delacour had to be at least 70 years old, for everything Hermione knew about her, but the woman in front of her looked much younger. She appeared to be at the most, 55 years old, with long silver-blonde hair, unbelievably blue argent eyes, a strong jawline, beautiful nose and a smile on her lips. Her clothing was a dress in a mix of vintage and modern attire. Well, Hermione thought, if Fleur or Gabby aged like their Grandmother, oh damn. “Comme demandé Madame Delacour, voici Miss Granger.” [As Madame Delacour asked, this is Miss Granger.] He pulled a chair out for Hermione, who sat, worrying a little about her manners.
“Merci beaucoup pour vos services, Liam.” [Thank you for your service, Liam] Sybelle said politely, and in a few seconds the waiter was out of sight. She cleared her throat and faced Hermione. “Miss Granger, I’m glad to see that you accepted my invitation.” It was clear Sybelle was proficient in English, but Hermione thought she'd prefer to converse in her native tongue.
“Nous pouvons discuter en français si vous voulez, Madame Delacour.” [We can discuss in French if you want, Madame Delacour] She said in a low tone, and for a second she believed Sybelle was surprised.
“Oh, very kind of you, Miss Granger. But we can continue in English, I need to practice a little more, as Fleur and Gabby these days only speak English.” She smiled. “Now, you understand that our conversation is confidential, and what I present to you cannot go anywhere beyond here?”
“You granddaughter said that you want me for a job, and I put myself forward a little. This is a confidentiality contract, if you please.” She reached for the contract inside a hidden pocket of her blazer. “You will see that this contract is very light on details, but since it’s a magical contract, we can always amend it as we wish. For now, it states that I cannot talk about anything discussed in these meetings, and also guarantees my own privacy about my job. I don’t like people snooping around any of my contracted operations, so the ‘no talking about it’ goes both ways. I imagine you will have to report to the rest of the clan and family, so I put in this addendum. They can ask me about this assignment, if you wish, and also I will be able to speak to Luna and Gabby.” Hermione summarized quickly, and Sybelle just nodded, grabbing the contract and reading fast.
“I consider this acceptable for now. After we finish our conversation, and if we think something must be changed, we can do so.” With her rosewood wand, Sybelle signed the contract, and Hermione did the same. “Finally, I can explain what has happened. Veelas have a magic clock, one that tells us the location, health and safety status of each clan. This is, and I believe I don’t really need to tell you, extremely important for us in France to be capable of tracking any distant clan. Recently, this clock has suddenly stopped working. We have tried everything we know of to repair it, but nothing has worked. Right now, we are running blind in regards to every clan away from Europe. And furthermore, today I received a notice demanding to know how I propose to resolve this. It’s a priority matter for me, I am elected to my position, and I need a solution. Gabby said you are the best she knows, and that you are also genuine and honest. If you are interested in the job, we can discuss additional details. But I will need you to start today.” Hermione considered for a moment, it seemed like a huge undertaking, but perhaps if she handled this the right way, other doors would open for her.
“I’m interested in the job, Madame Delacour. But I need to say, I do not come cheap, and I charge after the work is done. I am stubborn, and even if a member of your clan can help me and work with me, my contract will be directly with you. After you elaborate on what I need to do, I’ll not accept any interference. Moreover, I cannot predict how quickly I’ll be able to settle your problem. Usually fixing a magical clock is already quite difficult, and more than once I may need to re-cast much of the magic encircling this artifact, fixing and forging new parts. I can indeed start today. However, I’ll need a few hours to gather my work supplies, and it’s possible I will need to build a magic forge, though I can easily manage this by myself. I know I can count on your help regarding Veela magic.” Hermione once again spoke rapidly.
“I agreed with your terms, Miss Granger. I will be the one who will apparate with you to the grounds of French clan; what time is ideal for you?” Sybelle responded simply, with a small smile on her pink lips.
“Now is….almost noon. Hmm.” She mentally organized the items in her office that would have to go in a suitcase or trunk. “I’ll need til 3 p.m, to do it.”
“Bon. As business appears to be concluded for now, let us eat something.”
After the formal conversation was done, Sybelle showed herself to be good company; polite, intelligent, refined and gentle. But even Hermione was aware that this woman was one of the strongest Veelas from Europe, and for everything Gabby told her, she was also an incredible witch. They didn’t talk about the Clan or Hermione’s past work, they spoke about the magic world, politics, cultural differences between the French and English, and exchanged a few laughs. After the lunch, Sybelle paid the bill, and Hermione returned home.
“HOW WAS IT?” Hermione had barely entered her home when Gabby had pounced on her, scaring the shit out of her. Reflexively, she had drawn her wand, ready to fire off a spell.
“Lughdaich do guth!” Gabby stopped moving and looked at her confused. “Uh, lower your voice?” Hermione flushed, reholstering her wand. “Gaelic?” She said, once again flushing.
“Damn girl, sorry. I was excited. Who knew you could speak Gaelic?” Gabby said rhetorically. “So, how was it?”
“Well, I have to pack.” Gabby grinned widely and gave Hermione a big hug.
“Yay! We can be together now!” Then as quickly as her happiness appeared, Gabby became serious. “Just promise, no flirting with the Veelas.” She was so earnest that Hermione stopped and looked at her, confused. “We mate for life. And flirting could start a bonding process...”
“Oh… I thought you had soulmates?”
“Yes, we do. But it’s becoming more and more common for some Veelas to mate without their soulmates. Just, be careful. You are beautiful and a great match. If you need to, say I’m wooing you or something. They will back off.”
“Okay… I appreciate the advice… But I don’t think I’ll have much free time for a ‘roll in the hay’ with a random veela….” Gabby laughed louder and hugged Hermione. “Now, beautiful, what about helping me to pack my stuff? I’ll have to stay away for a while fixing that clock.