"Qui n’avance pas, recule” Hermione thumbed the clasps on her formal robes behind the podium, her voice steady and clear under a sonorus charm as she addressed the graduating class of the Côte-d'Ivoire L'Academie De L'unité Magique, “…Who does not move forward, recedes…”
Two years, she mused to herself, glancing occasionally at her cue cards as she delivered her 'well-rehearsed, written and re-written, cried a little bit over and drowned in an ocean of red ink' valedictory address to the graduating class. Looking out at the students and their families- bright and happy faces that she'd walked hallways with, shared classes with, made memories with, crammed for finals with; delving deeper into the study of magic than she'd ever imagined doing at Hogwarts.
She felt a pang go through her at the thought of her old school... her old life, but it was faint and no longer brought with it the cutting hurt that had lanced at her very core. Two years since she'd inadvertently killed the Dark Lord Voldermort otherwise known as Tom Riddle and sent all of his marked servants to hell with him.
Two years since a panicking Wizarding Britain, hungry for blood, tried to throw her and Malfoy's Slythrin bookends, Crabbe and Goyle into Azkaban for an urgent appointment with the Dementor's Kiss. Two years since Draco Malfoy smuggled them out of the country in a muggle private jet while the WB collapsed upon itself like a tree with rotted roots.
Two years since Harry…
She searched for him in the crowd, smiling warmly as she spotted him sitting next to her parents, a wide and proud grin splitting his face. All three were wearing special satchels specially made for non-magical folk to attend events at the magical academy, the intricate and colour weave work of the satchels blending well with the wizarding robes all three had been outfitted just for the occasion.
The Doctors Granger had both chosen the colourful patterned styles of African Magical Garb, bright swathes of cloth draping their robes, intricate head ties and exquisite carved wooden jewelry. Their eyes shone with pride as they grinned alongside Harry who was sharply dressed in a chic set of European robes the colour of dragon's blood. The local wizard tailor had been almost beside himself with joy at the prospect of making something at the height of French fashion.
The cut and the fit of the robes suited Harry almost sinfully and Hermione had found herself licking her lips and fanning flushed cheeks during the final fittings. Harry had taken to Africa like a fish to water and Africa had taken to Harry's sentinel like a long lost son. Tanned nut brown by the sun, the tips of his hair bleached almost blonde; Harry delved into life in the jungle with a zeal that she'd only seen him show about Quidditch.
He'd caught up on French in a flash, soaking up the other languages and dialects of the Mande Peoples like a sponge. Her mother would take him on her trips to the Market in the nearest township of Katiola, returning with hilarious stories of harry bartering with a stunned vendor in their own language as native children gaped and giggled.
She'd been worried for a while after Percy Weasley of all people had delivered Harry Potter to her doorstep like a candy gram, explaining in soft solemn terms just how Harry's damaged magical core had ended up manifesting itself in the end. How Harry had become something more than just a squib, something more than human. He'd given them a notebook filled to bursting with hand written notes and observations he'd gathered from the good doctors at Santa Brigita's as well as those pilfered from highly classified records from the ministry's department of mysteries.
After swearing them to utmost secrecy and training Hermione in the simple exercises he'd used to help Harry in their journey to find her, Percy had hopped into the old Jeep he'd borrowed off a friend and had disappeared down the old and dusty road.
Harry had been restless for a long while after that. Walking the borders of the compound, straying up late nights listening to the night creatures cry and shriek in the dark of the jungle. Harry had become something different than what he was… something more, but at his core he was still the same Harry she trusted and loved above all else. But he was always searching, always seeking something he just couldn't put a name too. Something had awoken in him… something primal and yearning.
It was the same yearning that Hermione felt rise up in her, pressing against her rib cage in the days and weeks after Percy had left. Both Harry and Percy had broached the subject of her being a Guide, the other half of Harry's searching spirit. They hadn't pressured her at all… stating that there was potential but that in the end, it was her choice whether she chose to manifest her magic in that way.
Of course she'd immediately done what she'd always done. Researched the fuck out of it. While Harry took to the wilds like Tarzan, she'd packed the notebook into her bag and descended into the deeper depths of the school library like she was going spelunking. After four hours a day for three weeks, seven rats, two ghosts, a poltergeist and a cursed painting that had been forgotten at the back of an ancient broom closet; she finally had some solid answers to the million and one questions that her mind cultivated at each turn of parchment.
She'd slogged home that last day and had stalked right past the family dentistry straight into the jungle, dust from the old tomes still clinging to her hair and clothes before coming to an abrupt halt under a tree half a mile into the tree line. She stared up into the canopy, the sunlight dancing beautifully through the broad green leaves.
"Sentinel." she'd said softly and all of the jungle seemed to go silent.
Luminous green eyes blinked at her, the only seeming movement amidst the swaying branches. From one breath to the next Harry leapt from the tree, landing softly in a crouch at her feet. He stared up at her, his gaze intense as he slowly rose to stand before her. He tilted his head, his gaze searching. She met his eyes squarely, her mind made up and calmer than she'd ever felt before in her life.
Something clicked in her, snapped into place as her magic surged; sparking against her skin, golden and warm. The jungle plunged into riotous sound as Harry clasped her hand in his, bringing her hand up to press a kiss to her knuckles. He chuckled as the golden sparks jumping off her hand tickled his nose, deepening to a belly laugh that echoed through the jungle like a lion's roar.
The bond between then, once thin and fleeting, swelled like a river after heavy rains, anchoring them both… one to the other. They'd ended up walking back to the compound hand in hand, sitting down to a quiet dinner with her parents to discuss what had happened and also what was going to happen. Her parents had taken the news in stride, satisfied that neither Hermione nor Harry would be sacrificing their education for the sake of this new bond.
After much back and forth, they'd come up with some good options between the four of them. Harry and Hermione would maintain a platonic bond until they were of age. They would also receive sex education classes because no daughter or future son in law of two doctors would ever be left un-informed about intercourse. The nature of their bond gave them leeway to spend time away from each other, Hermione's magic helping to bolster the strain of separation therefore Hermione would complete her magical education while Harry brought himself up to speed on his muggle academics.
After that the last couple of years had flown by in a whirlwind of love, laughter and the shining gold of their ever growing bond. Or as Harry would put it, usually as he relaxed against the porch, gazing off at the brilliant light show that was Africa at sunset. The last couple of years had been cake.
And yes… they were technically fugitives from the law and there were probably multiple warrants out for their arrest… but that was far away back in wizarding Britain. And she couldn't very well keep looking back over her shoulder now could she? She'd end up missing everything that was perfect in the now.
"Progress… " She concluded, shuffling the cue cards of her speech as she gazed once more over the students getting ready to go out into the great big world." … lies not in enhancing what is… but advancing toward what will be. And I know that this generation will take what are fathers and fore fathers built and grasp it, change it… make it better because that is the responsibility of each generation in turn.
We owe it to ourselves to make this world a better place. We owe it to our children and our children's children so that they may have a chance to grasp what we've done and change it… make it better. So I challenge you my fellow students of the Graduating Class… I challenge you to take what you see before you today and do better… do more… dream bigger. It is in all of us to change the world into something beyond what we think we know…"
She lifted her chin defiantly, her eyes glinting with an inner fire. Taking her wand, she shot golden sparks into the air, her magic swirling and blooming golden birds above the heads of those seated.
"Who is with me?" she cried out over the growing cheer of the audience.
"Nous rencontrons parmi les plus élevés nuages ... prenons vers le ciel "
The crowd was deafening as students and parents alike leapt up from their seats. Magic streaked across the ceiling, all manner of rainbows and shapes as they cheered and clapped noisily. She caught sight of her parents among the crowd, smiling and laughing as they too clapped heartily.
Harry was clapping just as boisterously, giving her a wry grin when she subtly tapped her ear. He gave her a quick signal, letting her know that he'd dialed his hearing down and was in no pain or discomfort. She nodded and grinned, happy that one part of her life was over and that another part was just beginning.
A future with Harry at her side. A future Sentinel to her Guide.
She wiped away a happy tear and sighed, taking off the sonorus charm. She saw Harry making his way to her, her parents close behind and in the midst of all the celebration and chaos, repeated her final challenge quietly to herself in English.
"Let us meet amongst the highest clouds... let us take to the skies!"
And they would. Of that much she was certain as she jumped into Harry's warm embrace.
Harry bit into a veggie samosa, frowning thoughtfully as he chewed. He nodded, pleased with the subtle taste and texture, and popped the rest of the hors d'oeuvre into his mouth. Wiping his fingertips on his napkin, he turned from where he'd been stalking the buffet table and zeroed in on where his guide stood with her parents, chatting animatedly with the Headmistress of the Academy.
Her graduation speech had been electrifying to witness, whipping up the students and parents alike into euphoric frenzy that still thrummed through the more subdued after party. Hermione was nodding her head excitedly, her brightly coloured robes and finely beaded necklace contrasting beautifully with her dark skin, her eyes shining like jewels as she no doubt explained something hideously complicated about one long forgotten aspect of magic or the other to those around her.
It wasn't that Harry wasn't interested in magical theory or whatnot… it's just that after having most of his magic core ripped from him by Voldemort in a final effort to escape death, he'd had to let go of that part of his life or go stark raving mad with the loss. And frankly, he'd never been much of an academic like Hermione was anyway. Too many long years at aiming for just below Dudley's efforts he supposed.
At Hogwarts he'd followed Ron's lead, partly to fit in with his first real friend but mostly because of the massive amount of attention that came with his newly discovered fame. So many eyes upon him, watching him, judging him, comparing him to his parents, to Dumbledore. To fucking Myrdinn. And true, he could have tried to be a better student… to learn more about the politics of his name, his fame but he'd just been so grateful that his life wasn't going to defined by the cupboard under the stairs that he hadn't wanted to rock the boat.
By the time he was ready for more, they'd already become the 'golden trio' and Hermione had been slotted firmly into the role of 'brains of the operation' whereas Ron was the ever-loyal, protective brother tactician - a link to a solid pure blood family of the light whereas Hermione had been the fresh new blood, bright and adept at magic despite her muggleborn status. They'd been the perfect foils to his image of the tragic hero.
Harry scoffed softly, biting savagely into the sweet dough of a sugar dusted chin chin. It had taken him almost a year of retrospection to parse through the machinations of the wizarding world and the path he'd been gently nudged down. If Hermione hadn't thrown a spanner in the works by shoving a knife into old Voldefuck's brain though his ear canal, then Harry was sure that his bones would be rotting out on some magical battlefield somewhere.
He adjusted the satchel slung across his chest as he adjusted his hearing enough to ground himself on the steady beat of her heart and the unique scent that he identified only with his guide. Ink on old paper, wild flowers and the potion she used in her hair to keep the frizz at bay. She called it 'hair crack' and would dutifully re-tell the story of how she's gotten the recipe from the nurses at Santa Brigita's every time they brewed it.
They would sit together in a small outbuilding on the Doctors without Borders compound, backs against stacked boxes, doing potions homework on a small fold-away table the dentistry had received as a gift from a grateful farmer after a root canal. Harry would chop or slice or dice or mince as Hermione checked the recipe and stirred. It was the one avenue of magical education still available to him and he loved the joy Hermione felt at sharing with him what she'd learned in school. They would then tackle his muggle homework, working their way through chemistry and advanced mathematics, Harry in turn sharing with his guide what he'd learned.
Having polished off the rest of his fare, he turned towards the food table once more; contemplating making a third pass when he pulled up short. There was a witch at the table, biting her lip as she contemplated between bowl of fruit or a small saucer of beignets in dipping sauce. She was dressed a mesh of muggle and magical fashion - purple short robe that could pass as a coat, thick purple leggings and tall black boots. Her dark hair hung down her back and was dyed purple at the ends but when Harry knew her, her hair had been strawberry blonde.
"Katie?... Katie Bell?" he blinked.
She spun around almost guiltily with a half-eaten beignet, sugar dusting her dark painted lips. She shrugged cheerfully as she chewed, wiping a quick napkin over her lips.
"Wotcher Potter." she nodded, "… and it's Finnegan now actually."
"Finnegan? As in Seamus Finnegan? Really?" Harry's eyes widened, "…. Congrats, I guess….i mean *cough* Congratulations Mrs. Finnegan… Katie."
Harry flushed, embarrassed. "So… How are things with you?"
The witch smirked. "How are things in the old WB after the great fall you're wondering? Especially since you and Granger were declared persona non grata when you scarpered out of there like rats deserting a sinking ship."
Harry balked at her bluntness, opening his mouth to speak when she continued.
"Don't worry about it Potter. You were right to get out when you did. Everything went to shite after that. The Ministry buggered it all up and eventually the Goblins had to declare martial law which shouldn't have worked legally but they had all the gold so what they said went apparently. Of course the IWC swept in and restructured the whole system of wizarding society much like what the Americans have. It's all about integration now. Blending in with the muggles… hiding in plain sight and all."
She gestured to the outfit she was wearing, "Fashion was one of the first things to take off. Then education… now muggle technology is all the rage son. Of course the old guard have been putting up a bit of a fight but with most of the old stalwarts taking the dirt nap after the great fall, it's the younger generation who've been pushing for change."
Harry folded his arms across his chest with a small frown. "I wonder what Dumbledore had to say about all of that?"
Katie chuckled dryly, "Him and his lot were that last of the hold outs up at Hogwarts…fought the new educational system tooth and nail until the parents started up with a howler campaign when they realized they'd been paying through the nose for what was revealed to be a very poor education compared to other international schools. Apparently the castle had been keeping out the howlers until one day the wards broke from the strain.
"I heard that the castle foundations shook and shivered with the force of all the red letters. Broke half the windows out of the old gal, knocking paintings off the wall and rattling the suits of armor apart. Even combining their magic, the teachers couldn't cast a muffliato charm strong enough to block the noise. Talk about rocking the house. "
After that people started calling for the old man's retirement. It was kind of sad seeing him step down like that but last I'd heard of him, he'd started his own school somewhere in Ireland. A private one touting a remembrance of the old ways. People still send their kids there 'cause he's Dumbledore you know."
Harry nodded sagely, reeling mentally from the news. He'd never really paid any mind to the WB in the past couple of years, leaving that more up to Hermione but he'd never thought they'd see so much change so quickly. It had only been two years for Merlin's sake.
"So…uh …" he tilted his head, "… How's quidditch? Did you ever make it to starting position with the Magpies?"
The witch laughed loudly, several heads turning to them at the sound. She waved a hand his way. "Sorry sorry Potter. You just looked so uncomfortable that I couldn't help myself. Never made it to the Magpies. Fell off meh broom during the try outs, hurt my back. Doctors put me to rights but there's still pain if I'm on a broom too long. Psychosomatic .... the muggle doctors finally told me. All in my mind or something. I don't really know how my mind would want to keep me from flying but them's the breaks I guess."
"Got a job in the Ministry's new Muggle Relations Department, met Seamus there. They'd offered a lot of students from your year a fast track to graduation so as to get them out into all the new jobs being created by the restructuring. Had a bit of a whirlwind romance, met his family whom I absolutely adore. Took him to see my dad and he asked for my hand… right there on the spot if you believe. Been happily hitched ever since."
"Congratulations … really" Harry grinned as she showed him a small black ring that looked like lace. "What brings you to Africa?'
She tucked her hands into the pockets of her coat. "You keep asking the wrong questions Potter. What you really want to know is if I'll be telling anyone back home that I've seen you or Granger. Or more so… if I've been sent here by the Ministry to look for you specifically. Don't worry about that. One of my cousins is getting married this weekend, she's the Arithmancy professor here and I'm one of the bridesmaids."
She tugged on her coat with a frown. "You should be careful though. The new ministry has it's feelers out for you. Granger too as well as Crabbe and Goyle. They want to close the book on Riddle's death and want to debrief all of you. It's a passive search only but there are a lot of international guests here today. I may not rat you out but there are others who might."
Harry glanced over at Hermione who caught his eye and frowned, quickly excusing herself from her conversation and began to make her way towards him. He nodded to Bell… no … not Bell, Finnegan; he kept reminding himself mentally.
"Not a problem." Be… Finnegan… oh bugger it. … Katie returned his nod.
By that time Hermione had reached them and hid her surprise at seeing the other witch well, gushing "Oh my god I LOVE your hair colour." that got them both talking about hair care that left Harry mostly lost and a little scared. Hermione gave him a long look promising a long talk later and he nodded with a small smile.
She gave him a cheeky grin and pulled Katie away to a clutch of graduates who seemed to be in deep discussion about hair care and skin regiments and Harry chuckled to himself to how his beautiful and book obsessed guide seemed to who never cared less about newest fashion or the latest trend in make-up seemed to go gaga over hair care.
He rocked back on his heels, suddenly left to his own devises in the midst of the party. Turning his head slightly, he spied the wait staff refreshing the platters at the buffet table and bared his teeth in what could be described as a smile if one were a deer facing down a hungry lion.
Looks like a third pass at the buffet table was in his immediate future.
"You have got to be kidding me" Harry grumped and put his hands on his hips. "It's a jitney 'Mione…. A JIT-NEY!"
He flails a hand in the direction of the brightly painted bus that seemed held together with shoe strings, chewing gum and hope.
"How is that going to take us anywhere but to the clinic for a tetanus shot? Knowing our luck it will probably fall apart somewhere over the Nile and if we can happily drown to death if we didn't die from the fall. Why can't we just take the Goblin Underdeep Passage? At least we know that works like clockwork."
"Really Harry…" Hermione shook her head with a hurrumph. "We talked about this all week. We both know that long journeys underground wreak havoc on your levels. You barely made it here from Egypt with Percy without blacking out from the psionic isolation of being so far under the earth."
"Taking a muggle aeroplane is out of the question because the jet engines and recycled air affect your senses adversely. Going by sea would take way too long and it would draw too much unwanted attention right now to get an international portkey. The Mayday Bus is the only way that we can get from here to Egypt in two hours. TWO HOURS Harry James. From there we can use the floo that Fleur has connected to her family in France. It's the most logical option. We agreed on this."
Harry scowled childishly, shoving his hands into the pocket of his worn and dusty leather jacket as he scuffed the tip of his heavy boot in the dusty earth. He gazed across the runway but really was more of a long strip of fine red sandy dirt that seemed to get on clothes and shoes and in everything the moment you stepped away from the bush.
"Mayday Bus…" he grumbled to the lion lazing beside his feet, tail snapping lazily in the African heat. "… more like we'll need to send out a mayday eh Faraji?"
The spirit animal yawned revealing sharp teeth, unconcerned with his human's goings on. It was one thing to be stalking through their territory or laying together in the cool of the shade to escape the sun but his warrior didn't seem to be in any real physical or emotional distress so he paid it no real mind.
Harry pouted, giving his spirit companion a half lidded glare. "Some help you are you lazy bum. Let's just see you try to sprout wings and fly when that pack of cards finally gives up the ghost and we start to fall out the sky. You think that you can just kip back off to the spirit plane and leave me and my poor human body all broken and bloody, strewn across the country side do you?."
Faraji gave a half growl, making a soft chapping sound with his mouth as he rested his head on his crossed front paws and took a minute to study the colourful yet rickety bus with a gimlet eye. He made a noise of commiseration and had Harry snorting a laugh into his fist.
Hermione rolled her eyes at the pair of them, hitching her knapsack higher unto her back as workmen scrambled around, tying parcels and packages to the top of the ancient looking bus, others shoving bags and grips into the already overstuffed baggage hold while a line of hot and weary passengers looked on. Good thing she's spelled her father's old patched army green backpack to be bottomless and weightless.
She also has several stacks of different currency, survival gear, supplies of food and water, a top notch first aid kit, an expanded potion masters portable lab, clothes, books including the three giant ring binders of information and references she'd cobbled together about sentinel and guide phenomenon throughout magical history. Everything needed for an epic road trip. Sunrise this morning met them bidding her parents a tearful goodbye and setting out, trekking through the jungle on foot to the secluded airstrip where the Mayday Bus stopped on its way up from the horn of Africa.
The horn blared a quirky series of notes and they soon boarded, finding a seat near the back where they could squeezed together with another passenger, a young woman with a baby tucked in a sling. Hugging her knapsack in her lap, Hermione looked out of the scratched and streaked windows to where the porters were unfurling the large canvas and wood wings from the sides of the bus. Harry sucked at his teeth as he shifted closer to his guide as the clacking sounds they made against the wind.
"Bloody paper wings… God forbid it drizzles and we fall from the sky like Icarus." he muttered under his breath as the ancient engine rumbled to life. Hermione tugged at her colourful head scarf with a sigh.
"it was either this or hitching a ride with those crazy Ipundulu breeders flying north for mating season. Even though you found nirvana by slinging yourself into the atmosphere on a little bundle of sticks, I for one do not fancy flying for hours with a temperamental, barely domesticated beast made of lightning, mischief and dang orneriness tucked between my things. Thank you very much."
Harry deflated, all fight leaving him as he pressed his nose into her neck. "Sorry… I just worry for you. I know that It's unnecessary and it bit much at times but I can't stop my sentinel from feeling like this. I'll work harder on suppressing it, sorry."
Hermione reached over and grasped his hand in hers, letting his fingertips find her pulse point naturally. She leaned her head against his own. "I don't want you to suppress any part of yourself for me Harry. Your sentinel instinct helps to protect the tribe but there's a difference between being protective and being overbearing. I understand that you wish there was a safer way to travel but this was only choice based on time and anonymity. We discussed this."
She bit her lip and shifted a bit to face him. "I know you agreed that this was the most logical choice but I'm wondering if making decisions based on logic alone is something a sentinel can do when weighed against protecting the Tribe. Does it really bother you that we are travelling this way? So much so that it has you in distress? I… I don't want you stay silent if I do things that end up hurting you. We're in this together. I need my sentinel… not a sacrifice."
Harry smiled softly and pressed a soft kiss to her lips, touching his forehead to hers. "You haven't hurt me Guide. Not at all. It's just that in the old days of jumping head first into things, I always had magic to back me up…. To save me somehow. Now if anything were to happen either here on the bus or on our journey, I wouldn't be able to summon a broom or use my magic to save us. I guess I didn't miss having magic until I remembered how many times it saved my skin in the past. Despite my enhanced senses I'm practically a muggle now and it's taking some time to reconcile that with my role as protector."
He kisses her temple and chuckles ruefully. "My mind accepts but my heart defies I suppose."
He tucks his face back into her neck and grounds himself on her, lowering his hearing and smell as he closes his eyes. Hermione stares at the small white clouds as they whip by the endless blue sky. The ground far below is all green and brown the slashes of city grey. Soon enough Harry is asleep at her side, hand still clasped in hers.
She hardly believed that it had been just a month since her graduation and insightful conversation with Katie Finnegan nee Bell. Even though she'd never been a fan of gossip, she couldn't help being riveted by all the news Katie revealed about the goings on in Wizarding Britian. Evening had turned into night which had turned into Hermione getting invited to her Arithmancy teacher's bride night party and coming home the next morning with an antique pistol shoved into her waistband and a new charm for hair colour that didn't set off Harry's sense of smell something awful.
She had handed the pistol to her mother and stumbled into bed, waking up hours later feeling like death warmed over, regretting her life choices as she suffered through the hangover because her mother refused to let her brew a potion for that. Most it spent glaring hotly at Harry as he smirked behind Doctor Granger's back as she lectured her daughter about the dangers of drinking in excess. She kept the hair colour though, inspired by Katie's own purple tips.
More than an hour later she murmured Harry's name, projecting calm as he jerked awake. Egypt was just as he'd described it to her from when he'd been there with Percy. Beautiful, mysterious, heady with spices and ancient magic that thrummed through her body. The sights, the smells, the unique artifacts on sale at shady stalls tucked into alleys just out of the bright sunlight with fast talking, sun darkened old men and beautiful bejeweled and veiled women. Ron's vague and short answers from his family vacation had never done the place justice. Then with everything that had happened with Scabbers afterward, he'd clammed up about that period in his life for good.
They stretched their legs at the market, picking up trinkets and baubles, with Harry pulling Hermione out of a small shop by her back pack more often than not. Eventually they hired some camels and made their way out to the Gringott's Site Camp where Fleur was waiting with refreshments and a cooling charm.
"Bill is so sorry he missed you." She said in her native French while pouring pungent and refreshing tea into stout teacups. "He is supervising a new dig four days from here and couldn't make it back in time."
After a snack and several cups of the strong tea, she leads them to a small stone building near the outskirts of the camp, unlocking the heavy doors to reveal a sunken fire pit. A small old woman shuffled forth with a jar of floo powder and they both took a handful. They shared a look, joining hands as they threw the powder into the blazing fire, when it flared green they said the floo address and with twin smiles at a grinning Fleur, Jumped into the flames and were swept away.
They tumbled out the other side of the floo in a tangle of limbs. Harry never one to travel by floo with grace smacked into Hermione's back and sent them sprawling across the polished marble floor. A musical giggle chimed above them and they looked up to see Gabrielle DeLancour smiling down on them. When they were able to find their feet, she greeted them with kisses to both cheeks, welcoming them to her Family home in the north of France.
They spend some time getting rid of all the dust of their journey, taking long hot showers, having their clothes laundered by the family house elves and catching up with Gabrielle over a meal of rich French cuisine. Hermione kept a close eye on Harry as he ate at the same time quizzing their hostess about Current Wizarding Events. They elected to take a nap after the meal, sprawling across the giant bed in the guest bedroom like starfish.
The sun was setting by the time they stumbled out of bed, blinking heavy. Slipping into clean muggle clothes, they dragged on their packs once again and trekked down the grand staircase where Gabrielle was waiting with takeaway carafes of strong coffee. Climbing into her neat little cherry red Lotus Elise, she quickly took them through the curving streets of the French country side to the nearest train station. She bid them farewell and bon voyage as they boarded, waving at them until the train was out of sight.
Tucked away in their private compartment, Hermione and harry went through simple leveling exercises before breaking out a carefully folded map of the world. After going over their plans once more, Hermione plucked a book from her bag and settles into read while Harry dropped into a meditative state. Faraji once again made an appearance, sprawling out on the floor below Harry's tucked up feet. Her own Spirit animal, a Gelada called Dayo perched on the cushioned seat next to her, twisting his head this way and that as he looked around the cabin with undisguised curiosity.
Smiling to Herself, she tucked one hand into his thick mane, marveling once again at how warm his felt for something that was supposed to be intangible. But then again, she mused, there were a lot of things out there that couldn't be explained. Magic being one of the better examples. Why shouldn't the spirit plane and all who dwell there be different.
It was full night by the time the train pulled into their stop. Harry had sniffed the cold night air, tilting his head to one side before grinning and grabbing her hand; striding off into the terminal. He came to a stop in front of a small internet café where several people sat drinking coffee, attention fully absorbed in their various technological devices. Hermione blinked a bit, confused, before Harry nudges her gently and indicates to someone sitting in the far corner, tucked into a large overstuffed armchair with a cappuccino cup on the table next to him and a thick auto-biography in his hands.
She recognizes the head of platinum hair almost immediately and shares a grin with Harry.
Then came an awkward pause.
Hermione rolled her eyes and shrugged off her back pack, pushing it into Harry's hands as she turned towards the pastry counter. Taking her time ogling the delicate French Petit Fours and Éclairs, she finally decided some cream puffs and a large hot chocolate for her and Harry to share.
Any kind of coffee, even the fru fru sugary ones tended to upset Harry's sense of taste so they'd both given up on the drink some time ago. Although Hermione had grieved the loss, especially at exam time, it had driven her to perfect an alternative using her potions and culinary skills that she'd eventually marketed to other students who, for one reason or another, could not tolerate the caffeinated drink.
Jump Juice, as the students had taken to calling it, was an alternative to both coffee and the pepper up potion without the steaming ears and addictive tendencies. It had become a lucrative business for back at l'Académie and upon graduating she'd sold the recipe to a local squib owned drink company for a hefty sum and future royalties should its popularity grow.
Handing the lion's share of puffs over to Harry's grabby hands, she sprawled in one of the comfy chairs and hummed as she took a bite of cream, staring unashamedly at Malfoy as he tucked the thick book he was reading into the side of the chair and took a sip from his still steaming cappuccino, chatting with Harry about their journey from Africa.
His once gelled head was cut stylishly short in a surprisingly muggle fashion. His clothes were muggle as well but of the high quality that one expected from the Malfoy name and he had black rimmed readers perched on the end of his nose. Sitting here in this muggle café, he seemed so far away from the ickle Slytherin firstie who whined almost continuously that his father would hear about this and touted pureblood supremacy from the top of every tower.
In fact, he looked comfortable in the muggle world… confident even … for someone who hadn't even known what a ballpoint pen was a couple of years ago, much less about smart TVs or the internet. But then again, both she and Harry were different people as well. She couldn't really expect others she'd known from Hogwarts to remain the same after all that had happened.
Hermione reached for another puff, scowling at Harry's sheepish smile when she discovered that he'd scarfed the rest while she'd been distracted. In retaliation, she took a large slurp from the hot chocolate, taking most of the melting whipped cream topping before handing a pouting Harry the rest of the drink.
"Granger's got claws" Malfoy chuckled.
Hermione licked whipping cream off her lips slowly, smirking as both males shifted slightly in their seats.
"I've always had claws Draco… " She leaned back in the chair with a grin. "… you just never saw anything beyond my being a Gryffindor. People often forget that the lioness is the hunter of the pride."
Malfoy raised an eyebrow at her use of his given name. "Well met… Hermione. I always figured you had hidden depths to you, even blinded as I was by my father's blood supremacy rhetoric back then. I'm sure you would have been absolutely deadly in Slytherin had you been given a chance there."
Hermione couldn't help but gape a little at the boy she'd once pegged as a Death Eater in training.
Harry chuckled. "The Hat offered her Ravenclaw actually… I'm the one it tried to sort into Slytherin."
Draco blinked at Harry, somewhat nonplussed. "Well… that would have certainly shook things up."
Harry gave a wicked grin. "Indeed."
The sound of a dragon's roar had Draco patting his pockets, eventually pulling out a muggle smart phone. He swiped a thumb across the screen and made a face. He bit his lip as he looked back at up at them.
"Grandmama wants to meet you."
Hermione's eyes went wide. "Dame Malfoy wants to meet the Boy who lived?"
Draco shrugged. "Actually, according to her text, she wants to meet the Girl Who Kicked Old Moldyarse back to Hell and gave the British Ministry of Magic the Finger."
Harry barked a laugh at Hermione's pole axed expression.
"This I have to see."
Soon enough they were all squished into Draco’s silver roadster and slug unprepared into the snarling beast that was French traffic. Perched half on top of Harry’s lap, Hermione held tight about his shoulders, swinging her head this way and that as Draco pointed out landmark after landmark, adding little titbits of gossip and scandal usually bandied about in the upper echelons of society.
Squeezing their way through another close call Harry growled deep in his chest, one arm around Hermione as the other one practically turned white as he clutched the ‘oh shit’ handle. Before he could lose it and shake Draco like a bobble head for his reckless driving, they escaped the road rage nightmare and slung into an underground garage.
To hear Draco call his place a ‘little flat in the city’ was like calling the palace of Versailles one’s “house in the country”. Even though the ancestral seat of the ancient and most noble house of Malfoy was an unplottable castle in the French countryside, a true marvel of magic that actually made Versailles look like a run down shack in comparison; the Malfoy Dowager liked to spend her time at the city residence, an exquisite penthouse where she could meddle in her family’s lives to her heart’s content.
Appolinaire Malfoy was a sight to behold, sitting on an exquisite chaise lounge that made Hermione feels grubby in her denim slacks and tshirt. The tallest house elf she’d ever seen popped into view, dressed in an immaculate flowered frock and frilled apron made from fine layered Georgette that floated around her as she took their bags and coats and popped way.
An elegant hand wave had Draco spring stepping across the room to lay a kiss upon a gossamer cheek before taking a seat at her side. Hermione and Harry were ushered into seats as sharp grey eyes studied them. Dame Malfoy wore her beauty like another woman wore pearls. Pretty to look at but treated like any other accessory, like any other weapon in that feminine arsenal that every woman possessed.
It just served as a satin sheath to the sharp and deadly mind that shone through those laser eyes.
“Thank you Florette” Dame Malfoy waved the house elf as the last of the tea trays had been set. The repast of sweets and savories reminding Hermione that Harry had eaten most of the cream puffs and that she was still hungry. Harry gave a brief look as her stomach grumbled softly, half contrite and half eager to dive into the treats mouth first, manners be damned.
She sent him a trill of humour over the bond and he smiled into his hand, covering it with a small cough. The next few minutes were surreal as Draco and the Dame carried light conversation while Sentinel and Guide stuffed their faces with all manner of delicacy… politely of course.
It turned out that Dame Malfoy was not Draco’s grand mother but actually his Great Aunt. Younger sister to Abraxas Malfoy who stayed in France and attended Beaubaxtons while ‘Braxy’ pitched a fit about going to Durmstag because boys were forced to shave their head upon entry. After much grief endured by their parents, they’d shipped him off to Hogwarts where he’d met a slytherin girl from some noble yet skin flint family and had popped out Lucius at the first opportunity.
“Always contrary that one…” Dame Malfoy mused in musical French, setting her own tea cup down, “… he would cut off his nose to spite his face. Why do you think he stayed in that horrid country and never came back home? He could not bear to bring that pig-faced girl to meet us. I met her once, you know, just after they eloped. Eloped mind you… at least five generations of Malfoy ancestors rolled over in their grave when he sent owl of it.”
Draco winced “Grandmaman…”
“Anyway, she was just as barbaric as her saxon ancestry… crude little mouth on her… that was before Braxy got the best etiquette tutors for her. I’m still surprised that she was able to bear young with all the inbreeding happening in her family line. I’m surprised that Lucius came out as pretty and witty as he did… if it were not for the fidelity clause I’d say that Abraxas went outside of the marriage bed.”
Draco groaned, “Grandmaman…”
“… and then joining up with that Riddle boy and all that pure blood nonsense. As if centuries of injecting new blood into old family lines to keep them thriving was just some passing fancy our ancestors cooked up at whim one summer’s day. If you ask me all those pure blood fanatics are just looking for reasons to fuck their siblings….”
Draco choked, utterly scandalized, “Grandmaman!”
“Draconis” she rejoined in the same tone. “I may be old young man but I am by no means, deaf. I have also not suddenly taken leave of my senses. Have another biscuit darling and let Grandmaman speak. That’s a good boy.”
Draco slumped his shoulders, shoving a chocolate truffle whole into his mouth, chewing aggressively. He shared a glance with an equally scandalized Hermione and a pink faced Harry who seemed barely able to keep from laughing.
Fortunately for Draco, conversation switched over to Hermione and the level of education she’d received from the Ivory Coast School and what plans she had for the future in regards to her education. The entire conservation was a trial to navigate and seemed to be some kind of test as she came out the other side feeling like she’d been interrogated by Unspeakables. Only her quick thinking and guide empathy kept her from cracking apart like an egg under that laser focus.
That and the presence of her sentinel like a comfort at the back of her mind.
Finally the Dame called it quits and retired to bed, leaving the three of them slumped upon the lush furniture, completely wrung out. Promising a peaceful breakfast , Draco ushered the sleepy pair up to bed where they quickly changed and passed out.
Breakfast was indeed a quiet affair as Dame Malfoy was a late riser. Florette popped in and out with dainty efficiency, appearing with their bags and jackets as well as a letter and some shrunken parcels. Gift from the House of Malfoy to the Defeaters of the Dark Lord. Draco blushed and denied knowledge of the gifts but still hook both their hands and gave solemn thanks.
Tucking the parcels and letter into her hold-all, they both hugged Draco and promised not to be strangers, vowing one day to vacation in France and let Draco show them its true beauty. One day when they weren’t trying to keep a low profile, when they were truly free to do as they pleased.
Grabbing the international portkey Draco had procured through a pseudonym they turned to bid a final farewell to their old school mate.
“Take care of yourself Scarhe…. I mean Harry.” The blonde nodded.
Harry smiled in return. “You too Draco. Thanks”
Hermione huffed. “ And what am I … chopped liver?”
Draco chuckled. “I know you can take care of yourself Grang… Hermione. You’ve been keeping Potter and the Weasel alive since first year. You’re practically a veteran now.”
Hermione laughed at the look on Harry’s face. “That much it true.”
The next sensation was that of the portkey whisking them away.
A quick flick of the wrist and a cushioning charm, as the port key puts them down on tarmac, prevents any injuries as they go ass over tea kettle. Neither of them had ever been graceful with magical travel and while Harry's sentinel instincts made him for agile and graceful in most circumstances, it seemed that becoming a squib made him even more of a menace when it came to floo and portkey travel.
Hermione groaned, rolling over unto her back as Harry pushed himself into a seated position with a grimace. "Bloody Hell."
"Never again" Harry agreed, "I'll take Muggle transportation for 600 Alex."
Hermione chuckled, "We still have apparition to try. I've got a license for side along. "
Harry gave her a flat stare. "How about thanks but no thanks… or maybe Hell to the No."
They finally staggered to their feet and looked around the large hangar which was empty save for the slick looking Jet airplane parked in the centre of the large polished floor. Hermione dug into her bag for a bottle of water, cracking it open and taking a swig before handing it to Harry before hopping up on a nearby desk to rest. Harry had just completed a circuit around the aircraft when they heard a car engine growl in the distance.
She squinted against the bright sunlight of the large open doors as a matte black Audi R8 pulled into the shade of the hangar, the vanity plate reading STRK 9. The car pulled to a stop near the desk and a familiar redhead in a sharp suit popped out.
"Percy!" Harry grinned, coming around the nose of the plane to embrace the middle Weasley child.
Percy grinned in return, hold Harry at arm's length so that he could take it all in. "Let's look at you then. Africa was just what you needed."
Harry laughed and clasped Hermione's hand in his as she came close. "I think my Guide had a hand in it too Perce."
Percy turned to Hermione and chuckled as she pulled him into a bear hug. "It's good to see you Percy." she kissed his cheek.
"It's Westerly now actually… " the redhead shrugged, "… being a Weasley still garners way too much attention, even in the muggle world. I decided to leave all that behind though I still keep in touch with Charlie and Bill. Got myself an American magical citizenship and a posh muggle job working for Stark Industries. Also got myself certified in Business Management and Public Relations, most of what I was doing for the Ministry anyway. Good benefits, company car. Doing what I love. Can't complain really."
Harry slapped his shoulder with a cheeky grin, "Good on you Professor Iggy Sir"
Percy shoved his hand away with a mock scoff. "Brat."
He ushered them toward the jet, pipping the car alarm with a tap to his smart phone. The jet's interior was posh and they cooed in delight at the amenities as Percy pulled out a small but powerful white noise machine, flipping it on before settling himself in the pilot's seat. Harry and Hermione looked at each other for a moment then scrambled after him, tussling with each other for the co-pilot's seat. Hermione won in the end, pulling the seatbelt across her torso with a smug grin.
Harry huffed, hugging her seat from behind as Percy did his pre-flight check in. Hermione passed him a headset and they listened as Percy contacted Flight Control and started the engines. Hermione checked with Harry and found him in the first row of seats, the white noise generator hugged in his lap. He nodded and settled back into the plush leather seats so she turned back to watch in amazement as Percy deftly taxied the sleek jet down the runway and into the bright blue sky.
"Do all Stark employees get to fly the company jet?" Hermione snarked, turning from where she'd been staring out the window to give Percy sideways look. Percy smirked and flicked on the auto pilot.
"Only the redheads."
He ushered her back to the cabin where he produced paperwork from the American Magical Government, special visas stamped and signed that gave one Hermione Granger and one Harrison James leave to travel to and from, find work and perform magic in the United States of America and most of Canada. He also had arranged, through his Goblin Horde contacts and the Foreign Liaison Division of the International Confederation of Wizards, documents of sanctuary and safe passage from most of the member countries. There was even a standing invitation from the new British Minister of Magic.
"I figured that since you already had the Harrison James legal paperwork, it would be easier to build on that than to try push a famous name like Harry Potter through the system. It's on file as a legal alias though if you ever want to become Potter again."
Harry looked up from where he and Hermione were going through the papers. "I'd rather leave the Boy Who Lived behind for now. Maybe one day I'll go back but I'm really loving the life I have now." he glances at Hermione and presses a quick kiss to her cheek, making her blush as he presses another to her lips.
"Good, Good" Percy nods, "… you may have to check in with the magical authority in any of the major countries you travel to but it shouldn't be too much of a problem if you don't. Most of the world is very grateful to you both, even though the WB had a shite way of showing it. You'll be riding on a Golden Ticket for a good long while in most magical circles."
He sat back with a sigh. "Don't be surprised if you get written up in the history books as the Boy Who Lived and the Girl Who Vanquished."
Hermione gaped "The Girl who… what?"
"I love it. Really I do." Harry clutched his belly as he laughed. "The Girl who bloody Vanquished. So Good."
Hermione cuffed his arm as he fell over into the other seat, wheezing as he tried to escape her punch. Pushing himself upright, he brushed a tear drop from his eye.
"Have they started with the unauthorized Biographies yet? The merchandising?"
Percy nodded as Hermione dropped her mortified face into her hands.
"I've made sure that the goblins put something in place for all of that. They keep goblin lawyers on retainer for exactly that kind of thing. Vicious little things if I do say so myself. They'll make sure that you get the royalties you're due and that your image or likeness as well as your name don't just get slapped on everything willy nilly."
"I hope you don't mind that I took the initiative in regulating your brand like that Hermione. I did the same for Harry too, shunting the most of it over to the Potter account management team. You should have seen them once they finally had the go ahead to defend your brand. Seems that Dumbledore had their hands tied all these years as your magical guardian. I was able to get that transferred over to Longbottom's aunt with it transferring to Neville when he came of age, I hope you don't mind."
Harry blinked, stunned. "Yeah… thanks Percy. I hadn't even thought about it."
Percy hummed. "I'm just clearing the way just in case you ever want to go back to the magical world. You never know, maybe your future offspring will want to take up the mantle of heirs to the Most Noble House of Potter. I'm just thinking ahead."
Hermione reached over and grasped the redhead's hand, pulling him toward her so that she could kiss his cheek.
"Thanks Percy… really. For everything."
Percy blushed, ducking his head briefly before asking about their bond's development since he'd seen them last.
Taking the change in subject for what it was, Hermione and Harry were more than happy to share the research Hermione had collected, pouring over the notes together until both Sentinel and Guide managed to make their spirit guides visible to the redheaded wizard. Percy could only stare in awe as Faraji sprawled across three of the plush seats with a roar. Dayo shook his thick mane, hopping up onto the seat next to Percy's as he poked at one of the crystal tumblers in the fully stocked bar.
"Absolutely Brilliant" he gasped as the baboon puffed out it's red patterned chest, lips curling back to bear it's sharp teeth and massive gums.
They spend the rest of the flight in good spirits, oohing and aahing at the jet's luxuries. Percy depressed a small panel and a stripper pole descended from the ceiling much to their delight, Hermione laughed herself almost sick when Harry tried to take a spin on the thing and wound up in a groaning heap at the base of it, arse up in the air.
They also ended up drinking half the stock of Perrier sparkling water and then oohed and aahhed over the fancy toilet to the back of the plane. After nibbling on one of the gourmet chocolates in stock, she'd squealed at the taste and promptly upended the entire plate into her bag, giving Percy a looked that dared him to comment.
Percy just nodded and stepped back into the cockpit, strapping himself in and turning off the autopilot. Hermione gestured at Harry to take the Co-pilot's seat, smiling as he gave a whoop and scrambled up front. Landing was smooth and she commended Percy on his skills as they descended the steps into the California sun.
Percy bid them goodbye, giving them the receipt for a car rental as he was expected in Malibu. He handed them his business card.
"All of my numbers are there if you need me. If I'm not there, you can leave a message with Jarvis. He'll get it to me wherever I am."
"Who's Jarvis? Someone special?" Harry asked.
Percy shook his head. "Mr. Stark's Majordomo. He is quite special but not in the way you’re thinking though."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Do all Stark employees get messages left with Tony Stark's personal butler?"
Percy smirked, getting into a nearby blood red convertible Tesla Roadster, "Only the ones with cute British Accents."
Driving in LA traffic reminded Harry too much of France and they soon left the car at a nearby drop point and found the closest bus going in their direction. After a large lunch at a local taco restaurant, they walked the tourist beat together, enjoying the sights and sounds of the City of Angels. Evening found them visiting the Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits, beyond tickled as their spirit animals came out to play among the crowds of people none the wiser.
Dinner was spent bobbing between the food trucks near MacArthur Park and finally booking into the Ritz-Carlton for the night. The receptionist seemed unfazed with their casual attire, smiling at them widely when as soon as the ink was dry on the receipt. The room was decadent, the bathroom divine as they stripped to their underwear and slipped into the massive jacuzzi tub.
Snuggling into fluffy white robes, they ordered a late night snack and flipped through the muggle TV channels, eventually slipping off into the sleep of the happily exhausted.
They take the ten thirty am bus to Anaheim, stopping off at a small park. Hermione digs into her hold all for piece of folded paper with hand written directions on it. A brief walk among the small curios shops and community green gardens brings them to a corner store with a selection of meats hanging in the large glass windows. A hand painted sign saying ‘Beef Cakes with Beef Steaks’ hung above the windows and a bell chimed as the door opened.
“Still alive there Granger” a cheerful voice greeted them across the steel and glass counter.
“Not for lack of trying on your part, you bloody gits.” She shot back without pause.
Gregory Goyle laughed heartily, stripping off his apron as he rounded the counter to pull Hermione into a bear hug. Vincent Crabbe came out from a back room, wiping his hands on a towel and smiling.
“Wotcher Granger” he blinked at seeing Harry, “…Potter.”
Harry’s lips twisted in a wry grin. “Crabbe. Goyle”
Goyle quickly flips the door sign closed, inviting them up to their flat located above the store. Lunch consisted of sausages made in house and steamed expertly by Goyle who puttered about the kitchen while Crabbe grilled fat steaks on a small Habachi.
Fresh garden vegetables from the local city gardens and creamy mashed potatoes rounded out the meals and they sit around a rough hewn butcher block table and drink box wine and chilled root beer.
“Never thought I’d ever sit at a table to share a meal with the Boy who Lived to Drive Malfoy Insane.” Crabbe admitted, cutting into his steak. “…not to mention ever having the hashtag Boss Witch who straight shanked the bloody Dark Lord and saved me and me mate’s fecking lives, sitting in me kitchen eating me specialty sausage.”
He gave a saucy wink that had Hermione laughing into her root beer.
Harry shrugged, “Well I never thought I’d be sitting at a table with Draco’s bloody bookends in Muggle California eating the best damned steak I’ve ever eaten in like… ever.”
Goyle chuffed a laugh. “Draco eh? On a first named basis with Malfoy now are we?”
Hermione nodded, chewing carefully before speaking. “We just came from there actually. Had tea with Great Aunt Apollinaire.”
“Oh ho ho” Crabbe guffawed. “Met the old Dowager Queen have you? She’s a whip that one. Had me and Greg on our Ps and Qs the whole time we stayed there. Took one look at our long faces and sent us to apprentice at her cousin’s Boucherie. Said that if we were so desperate for knives and blood, then we may as well be benefit to society.”
Goyle nodded sagely. “After spending a year in muggle Paris, the apprentice ended. Dray helped us set up here. Got us new papers and everything. We like it a lot here. Nice warm weather, beach nearby, large LGBTA community that have welcomed us with open arms.”
“No one looking at us funny for being Slytherin…” Crabbe added, “… for being Death Eater’s kids. We could shake that off and start again.”
Harry smiled and lifted his glass, “Here’s to new beginnings all around then”
The others raised their glasses as well and clinked them together.
After a long and enjoyable lunch spent catching up on old times and trading gossip and the latest news of Wizarding Britain, they pile into Goyle’s vintage pick up and he takes them to a small rundown looking service station on the outskirts of the city.
"They are warded to look like that. Americans are big on glamours” Goyle explained as he guided them through the grimy streaked glass doors into the cool and clean looking interior where a perky receptionist sold them tickets to Cascade, Washington.
The West Coast Cavalade turned out to be a magical monorail that catered to the western United States all the way up through Canada to Alaska. A marvel of muggle and magical integration that the American magical government had pioneered for decades. A sleek silver and white train running on goblin forged elevated tracks warded up the wazoo with muggle repelling runes.
They bid their goodbyes at the platform and board the train, getting their tickets punched by a friendly and talkative conductor who was happy to spend a while talking about the Cavalade’s history and its origins as the magical wagon trains of old; traveling west during the gold rush.
After he’d moved along, they settled into their cabin, a comfortable silence between them. Harry meditated, Faraji lounging at his feet. Hermione added new notes to her research from her discussions with Percy, Dayo sitting next to her, staring out of the window at the wide open landscapes whizzing by.
As the day falls to night, she pulls the white noise generator out of her hold all, grateful that Percy had warded the machine against magical interference. She felt more than saw Harry slip from meditation to deeper sleep, secure in the knowledge that he was safe with his spirit guide and physical guide by his side.
A flush of love blossomed from beneath her ribcage at the feel of their bond strumming between them and she smiled down at Faraji who gave a soothing rumble from his chest in agreement. Dayo grunted his opinion, butting his head against her shoulder and she chuckled, sinking a hand into his thick mane.
She fell asleep some time later and woke to Harry carefully packing away her strewn notes and papers. She smiled ad stretched as he took a turn in the tiny rest room then took a turn herself while he sought breakfast for them both in her knapsack. They broke fast on wrapped steak sandwiches from Crabbe and Goyle’s warm and homey kitchen and a thermos of hot chocolate under a preservation charm by Florette’s expert hand.
The city of Cascade was cold and they donned extra layers, braving the brisk winds as they made their way from the station into the city proper. A local internet café gives Hermione a chance to look up Dr. Blaire Sandburg at the Rainier website. Despite the withdrawn thesis that had caused such a scandal and caught the attention of Harry’s doctors at the Santa Brigita’s, Blaire had eventually submitted and successfully defended another thesis because he was bad ass like that and the university knew enough of his genius to make sure he wouldn’t have to seek his doctorate elsewhere.
They made their way to the University campus, blending in with the college crowd as they follow helpful signs to the anthropology department. They are three doors away from Doctor Sandburg’s office when Harry stills, his hand coming up to stop Hermione as Faraji growls his way into view. Dayo grunts and shrieks from behind Hermione’s legs, restless and agitated.
“He’s in there…” Harry murmurs, “… there’s another in there with him, an Sentinel… Ellison. They’ve stopped talking now. He’s heard us. They know we’re here.”
Hermione took a deep breath and laced her fingers with Harry’s and gently tugs him along.
“I guess this is it then.”
Dr. Sandburg looks like his pictures, curly haired and bright eyed as he stares at them from behind his desk. The only difference is the golden aura that surrounds him, the sign of a shaman guide according to the ancient records. The large man next to him isn’t staring at them but rather at Faraji and Dayo who are standing guard over their humans.
“Doctor Sandburg?” Hermione ventured, “My name is Hermione Granger and this is Harrison James. We came to ask you a few questions about a paper you published some years ago about Sentinels?”
The large man standing at Blaire’s side growls and places a hand on his shoulder. “She’s lying. I can hear deceit in her words.”
“Jim…” Blaire frowned.
“Remember Alex” Jim grunted. He turned to the teens, “Who are you really and what do you want with Blaire?”
Harry scowled. “She’s not lying about why we came to see Doctor Sandburg. Her only deception is in her protection of me. My real name is Harry Potter and it belongs in a life and a past I’ve chosen to leave behind.”
He looks at Blaire, “We really came for your help because you’re the only person with any practical knowledge of the Sentinel Guide dynamic still alive today. All we have had are old records to guide us so far. For you see, i came online as a Sentinel two years ago and bonded with Hermione here as my Guide. We’ve been in Africa since then, unable to travel here until now. “
He nods a chin at Jim and folds his arms.
“If you don’t believe me being a Sentinel then just ask yours. He’s been staring at my spirit animal since he walked in.“
Blaire gasped, looking to the man at his side in confusion. “Jim?... Ellison? Is that true?”
Ellison exhaled sharply, finally giving a grudging nod.
Blaire gave him a withering look which then softened as he placed a hand on the man’s arm. They shared a look that felt much like the ones Harry often shared with Hermione, stuffing entire conversations into a few second’s stare.
Blaire nodded sharply and stood, thrusting his hand out with a smile. “Blaire Sandburg… please to meet you Harry, Hermione. This grump next to me is Jim Ellison, Police Detective and Sentinel. He’s just a bit overprotective because we’ve come up against others like us in the past who have only had malice in mind.”
Harry gave a mirthless chuckle. “I know a thing or two about that.”
Faraji growled, rubbing against Harry’s leg in comfort.
Blaire stilled, shooting them a laser sharp gaze. “Wait a minute… you mentioned old records?”
Hermione grinned, shrugging off her backpack and placing it on Blair’s desk. Reaching the bag up to her shoulder, she started pulling out the large binders and stacking them on the desk as both men looked on with dropped jaws. As she plopped the last folder on top the leaning stack, she shared a look with Harry and giggled, turning back to twin wide eyed stare. Leaning one hand on the stack and placing the other on her hip, she smirked:
“What do you know about magic?”
I got a plot bunny while I was writing this to do a story about Percy working for Tony Stark.
It’s in the random idea stage but I’m really excited about it. I’ll have to tackle it after RT though.