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The Granger Principle (Harry Potter AU)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Starfox5, Jun 15, 2019.

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  1. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    The Granger Principle

    Disclaimer:
    I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters in the Harry Potter books or movies. I do not own The Professionals or any of the characters of the show.

    Summary:
    It seemed like a routine assignment for CI5 officers Ron Weasley and Harry Potter: Investigate a physicist who had caught the attention of some unsavoury elements. Little did they know that Dr Hermione Granger would turn out to have more secrets than Ron would have thought possible.

    Author’s Note:
    This story is set in an Alternate Universe. Therefore, a number of canon events in Wizarding Britain didn't happen.

    I’d like to thank fredfred and InquisitorCOC for beta-reading.

    Cover:

    [​IMG]

    Chapter 1: The Routine Assignment

    South Kensington campus, Imperial College London, London, July 5th, 2005

    “And here I thought we’d escaped school for good!” Ron Weasley exclaimed as he looked at the entrance to the South Kensington campus. “But, like in a bad movie, our dark past has finally caught up with us after a scant few years of freedom.”

    “Very funny,” his partner and best mate, Harry Potter, replied. Ron didn’t have to look at him to know he would be rolling his eyes. “You know why we received this assignment.”

    “Bones thinks that it’s a safe assignment so you won’t end up in the hospital again, forcing her to reassign half a dozen people to cover your absence?” Ron smirked. “She should know better; you’ve gotten hospitalised on a trip to the supermarket, after all.”

    Harry snorted. “I recognised and arrested a wanted suspect.” And killed two of the man’s accomplices, Ron knew, while wounded.

    “Well, keep your gun holstered here; Bones takes a dim view of killing students.”

    “She’s obviously too old to remember what they’re like,” Harry shot back, “or she’d order us to cull the campus of the worst idiots.”

    “Malfoy graduated in our year,” Ron remarked.

    His friend snorted in response. “He wouldn’t be caught dead in a physics department, anyway. Unless it’s to ‘pick up birds’.”

    “Well, not this bird,” Ron said, pulling out her picture from his pocket. “She’s far too plain for his taste.” And probably far too smart, too - Dr Hermione Granger was his age, and already leading a research team at the facility.

    “Dash my hopes that whoever took an interest in Ms Granger would turn out to be Malfoy, and we could shoot him in the line of duty, will you?” Harry sighed.

    “That would have made this boring job worthwhile.” Ron shook his head. “For someone with her past, she certainly leads a very boring life.”

    “I can understand that,” his friend said in a flat voice.

    A glance told Ron that Harry had narrowed his eyes at him, and he resisted the urge to wince - he had put his foot in it there. “Sorry.” His friend didn’t like to be reminded, however inadvertently, of the reason he was famous, at least among certain people in their line of work. “You’re not living a boring life, though,” he pointed out.

    “I wasn’t kidnapped at the age of eleven, disappearing for seven years before being found,” Harry retorted. “And however unpleasant our school was at times, we weren’t tortured and abused.”

    “She doesn’t remember any of it,” Ron observed. That had been in the news back then, too, he recalled.

    “She claims that she doesn’t,” Harry said. “Her answers during interrogation weren’t that convincing, though.”

    His friend would have read those files, of course, Ron thought. He had stuck with the CI5 file they had received.

    “Do you think she’s a plant?” The older officers had told them tales from the Cold War, and what the Soviets had been up to… And it would explain how someone could miss years of formal education during her teenage years and still become a top researcher in record time.

    “No. DNA tests confirmed her identity, and her reunion with her parents went off without a hitch. That means she is Hermione Granger. Kidnapping an eleven-year-old girl, then sending her back as a spy and having her become one of the best physicists in Britain? That wouldn’t make any sense.” Harry shook his head. “But Stockholm Syndrome is a thing.”

    Ron glanced at his friend again. “You think the kidnapper is back.”

    Harry slowly shrugged. “They never found out who kidnapped her. So, it’s that, or someone’s really interested in her work. But experimental quantum physics isn’t exactly highly classified work. They could get her findings by buying a subscription to a journal.”

    “Our orders also specify that we should investigate her,” Ron pointed out. One of the most famous kidnapping cases, still unsolved despite the victim having been found? No branch of the police service liked that sort of black mark.

    “And we’ll do so. If she’s involved in anything shady, we’ll find out.” Harry’s tone told Ron that his friend didn’t think that was the case, though.

    “Well, let’s get started, then,” Ron said, getting out of their car. “But let’s just hope Ginny doesn’t catch you flirting with a suspect again.”

    Harry’s comment on that would have made Ron’s mum gasp.

    *****​

    Dr Granger really was a plain woman, Ron thought half an hour later, watching her step out of the faculty building in which she worked. And that hair… Though she didn’t make any effort to dress up, either - her clothes were boring, straight out of a catalogue for business drones. Even Percy was a sharper dresser. The only item that stood out was an old, beaded bag. The same type of bag, he realised, that she had been found with, back in 1998. Peculiar.

    He exchanged a glance with Harry. Granger would be in a meeting with the faculty for at least an hour. Plenty of time to bug her lab and poke around a bit. The two of them stood up from the bench on which they had been sitting and started towards the entrance.

    They hadn’t taken more than a few steps, though, when Granger looked in their direction - and went deathly pale. He was about to whirl round and look for whatever had spooked her when he heard her stammer:

    “Ron? Harry?”

    Ron refrained from cursing. How had she made them? Why did she know their names? He was certain they had never met before - something was amiss here.

    “I’m sorry? Have we met before, Ms…?” Harry - as usual, smoother than Ron - asked, his head slightly tilted to one side.

    Granger shook her head. “No, sorry, I… I was mistaken.” Granger smiled, but Ron noticed how tightly she was gripping her bag - her knuckles were turning white. She nodded, then ducked her head and quickly walked away.

    Ron watched her go, then looked at Harry. “She recognised us, mate.”

    “Yes. There must be a leak,” his friend replied.

    Ron nodded. There was no way Granger would have recognised them unless someone had shown her their pictures. And they wouldn’t have done that unless they knew about their assignment. “They moved very quickly,” he commented - they had only received their orders the day before.

    “Yes,” Harry replied. “We need to find the leak yesterday.”

    Ron knew what he meant. They should alert Bones at once, but that would mean they would be taken off the case. But if they managed to find out how Granger knew… “Bones will blow her lid,” he said.

    Harry grinned in response.

    Ron sighed and shook his head. But he agreed - he wanted to get to the bottom of this himself. He didn’t fancy getting ribbed by the other officers about being made by their target, even if it wasn’t their fault at all. Well, Creevey would probably be sympathetic - and try to get them to wear his stupid latex masks on their next investigation.

    Ron looked at the faculty building Granger had entered. “Think she’ll do a runner?”

    Harry frowned, then nodded. “I’ll take the front.”

    Ron nodded. “I’ll cover the side entrance.” They could search her lab later.

    *****​

    “Professor Smith just left the building,” Ron heard Harry through their radio. “Their faculty meeting must be over.”

    “Only an hour?” Ron snorted. “If that’s not suspicious…”

    He heard Harry chuckle at his joke. “I haven’t spotted her, though.”

    “Alright.” Ron was leaning against the wall next to the side entrance - almost impossible to spot from inside the building.

    The door opened, and he tensed, but it was only a couple of students. They stared at him, startled, and Ron flashed his cigarette. Smoking was a great cover to be hanging around outside a building. Not that he smoked, of course. Mum would have his hide and Ginny wouldn’t let him hear the end of it, either. But a lighter could come in very handy. Had done so on a very memorable occasion that Bones still brought up when she was mad at them.

    He flicked some ash off the tip and watched the couple leave. If Granger wasn’t climbing out of a window, she’d have to use this door or the front one.

    And there she was! He spotted her brown mane at once when the door opened again. A moment before she saw him - she hadn’t walked out, but stopped, he noticed.

    He nodded at her. “Ms Granger.” Harry would hear him as well, of course.

    Doctor Granger,” she corrected him, raising her chin. But he saw her glance around at the other people nearby before she left the building. Checking for witnesses and potential help? It wouldn’t be unusual, given her traumatic past.

    He pushed off the wall and joined her with a few quick steps. “Going back to your lab?” he asked, to let Harry know they were moving.

    “What’s it to you?” she shot back.

    “Your work sounds interesting,” he said.

    “Really?” She couldn’t have sounded more doubtful if she had tried.

    He knew that tone. Greengrass had sounded exactly like that when he had asked about her math class. Ron grinned widely at Granger. “Experimental quantum physics? That sounds like Star Trek!” he declared as enthusiastically as he could.

    Judging by the glare she sent him, she didn’t like getting mocked. Well, he didn’t like her attitude. He was no genius, but he wasn’t stupid either.

    She sniffed and looked straight ahead, then froze for a moment when she spotted Harry coming towards them from the other side. “The laboratory is off-limits to non-faculty members,” she said. “There’s a security guard.”

    They were still thirty yards away from the entrance, Ron noticed. She must feel threatened, he realised, despite her attitude. He made a decision and reached into his jacket. Then he saw her eyes widen as she tensed up, and cursed himself. “We’re the police, Dr Granger,” he quickly said before she could try to run. He slowly pulled his ID out. “Criminal Intelligence 5. We have a few questions for you.”

    He wasn’t entirely surprised that this didn’t seem to reassure the woman.

    Ron ignored Harry’s glare - their cover would have been blown anyway as soon as Granger yelled for help and they were mistaken for kidnappers. And Ron was certain that the woman would have done so; she had kept an eye on the nearby potential witnesses the whole time. “How about we visit your lab for a more private talk?”

    She pursed her lips, and, for a moment, Ron expected her to demand a warrant and refuse to cooperate, to make a scene. But she nodded, if rather curtly. “Don’t touch anything,” she told them, “some of the instruments cost more than your salaries for the next ten years - combined.”

    “We’re paid a little more than the average police officer,” Harry said.

    “I assume you are,” she retorted. “But these instruments are very expensive and quite delicate.”

    “Should we break something, I’ll buy you a new one,” Harry shot back with a scoff. Ron knew his friend didn’t think his money meant he was better than anyone else, but Granger’s snippy comments and attitude were a little too close to Malfoy’s snobbery, at least in Ron’s opinion.

    Granger didn’t seem to be impressed, though. “I’ll expect to be reimbursed for the time lost waiting for the replacement parts to arrive as well,” the woman said with a sniff as she opened the door to her lab.

    “No Tardis?” Ron joked as they entered a rather narrow hallway. She didn’t laugh, but the way she jerked… well, perhaps his first joke hadn’t been completely off the mark.

    And the laboratory proper… It didn’t quite look like it had been lifted straight out of Dr Who, but it certainly looked far more interesting than he had expected. And the faint smell of ozone hinted at rather large amounts of power being used.

    “My office is over there,” she said, walking at a brisk pace.

    She obviously didn’t want them to look around. Which, of course, made Ron want to look around. “What’s this?” he asked, pointing at a large frame made of metal.

    “A quantum mirror cage,” she replied. “Don’t touch it.”

    He was about to ask what it did when he noticed her faint smirk. “So you do have a sense of humour,” he said with a grin.

    She pursed her lips again, frowning, and held the door to her office open without a further word.

    Ron wanted to poke the ‘cage’, but Harry nodded and entered the office, so Ron followed him.

    The office was more cluttered than he’d expected of the prim and proper Dr Granger. Almost chaotic, and he would have sworn that she was the type to organise her pencils three times a day. But her desk almost broke under stacks of paper and… “Parchment?” he asked, reaching out towards a scroll.

    “Don’t touch that!” she barked. “And, yes, it’s parchment. One of the only copies of Flamel’s notes.”

    “Flamel?”

    “A famous alchemist,” she replied, and he thought he caught a hint of a smirk and something else before she schooled her features again. “But you aren’t here to talk about history, are you?” She leaned against her desk and crossed her arms.

    “We’re here for a few reasons,” Harry replied. “Someone’s interested in you or in your work. Someone with ties to the underworld.”

    Most would comment on that. Granger, though, tilted her head slightly, silently waiting for Harry to go on. Quite a cool reaction for a kidnapping victim.

    Of course, Harry upped the ante. “It could be the same person who kidnapped you before.”

    That made her flinch. “And you’re here to protect me?”

    Harry inclined his head.

    “Well, I guess additional security won’t hurt.”

    Ron really didn’t like her dismissive attitude. “We’re also wondering why you knew our names.”

    “I read a news article about you two when I was looking for the best school to finish my education,” she replied. “Two boys helping to catch a wanted criminal? That kind of feat tends to be remembered.”

    She met his eyes without flushing. Her reason was sound - catching Pettigrew certainly had made the news for a few weeks, and their school had milked it for all it had been worth, so it wasn’t too far-fetched that Granger would have read an article about them while looking into schools.

    But Ron didn’t believe her for a second. She had been shocked when she had spotted Harry and him. She had recognised them, even though they had been kids at the time. And she had used their first names.

    He glanced at Harry, whose expression told Ron he had come to the same conclusion. “I see,” Harry told her. “That explains it.”

    A hint of a smile appeared on her face for a moment. “Thank you.”

    “There’s still the issue that someone dangerous could be interested in you or your work,” Harry went on.

    “I don’t think theoretical quantum physics attracts the kind of attention you suggest,” she replied.

    “I wouldn’t go that far,” Ron cut in. “Quantum computers are supposed to render all our electronics obsolete. If your work can help with their development, a number of corporations would be willing to spend a great deal to gain access to your research.”

    Her eyes widened for a moment, and Ron felt irked again. Who did she think he was, an idiot like McLaggen?

    But she was already cool and collected again. “In any case, that’s your problem now, isn’t it? Sorry, your assignment.”

    “Our assignments don’t come with the option to refuse them,” Ron told her. He hid his grin at the flash of anger his veiled barb caused.

    She raised her chin again. “Well, I’ve got work to do. Feel free to guard me.”

    And with that dismissive comment, she sat down and started shuffling papers.

    Ron exchanged another glance with Harry. He really didn’t like this assignment.

    *****​

    Apparently, Granger didn’t believe in finishing her working day at a decent time. It was now ten pm, and she didn’t seem like she was going to stop any time soon. Ron was tempted to ask her if she planned to spend the night in her lab, but refrained from doing so. She probably would do it just to spite him.

    After all, the woman had heated up an MRE when Ron had offered to get her a takeaway while getting some grub for Harry and himself. Granted, he had been a little sarcastic, but it had been an honest offer.

    MREs… who in their right state of mind would voluntarily eat those? Just to save some time? Granger wasn’t a workaholic; she was a workaddict.

    “That’s not a word,” he heard her mutter, half-hidden behind several stacks of paper.

    “It’ll be one, once the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary hear about you,” Ron shot back.

    “My hours aren’t exceptional at all,” she retorted. “Many of my colleagues have similar work days.”

    “They probably don’t want you showing them up,” Ron said.

    Instead of a biting comment, she snorted. Dear Lord, he had been joking!

    “Besides, you’re one to talk,” she said. “Your friend is sleeping so he can take over for you later.”

    There had been a minuscule pause before the ‘your friend’. What had Ganger wanted to say instead? ‘Harry’? Ron shrugged. “We’re just doing our job.”

    “And you think I’m not?”

    He almost said that he thought she had no life - but that would have been cruel, given her traumatic past. “I think you’re overdoing it a little.”

    That earned him another snort, and he didn’t know why.

    "What exactly are you doing?” She hadn’t used any of her oh-so-expensive and fragile instruments. She had just made notes. Lots and lots of notes. And with a pen, not even on her computer.

    “I’m doing calculations.”

    “For?”

    “Calibrating the quantum mirror cage.”

    He snorted. “Funny. What are you really doing?”

    “I just told you.”

    If she wanted to play games… “And what does your quantum mirror cage do? Break down the barriers between the dimensions and let the lizard people invade?”

    “What?” She seemed more than a little surprised.

    “You never watched ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai’, did you?”

    “My interests don’t extend to cheap science fiction movies,” she replied.

    “You’ve never seen Dr Who?” He took care to sound suitably shocked.

    “That’s a TV series.”

    “And that makes all the difference!” He laughed - of course she’d watched Dr Who. What swot like her wouldn’t? “So, do you prefer the classic series or the new one?”

    “I prefer to think of it as a single series that had a lengthy hiatus,” she replied.

    “Ah.” He couldn’t think of a funny comment. “You’ve got taste, Dr Granger,” he said after a moment.

    “Thank you,” she said, hesitating as well, or so he thought.

    She wasn’t scribbling down notes any more, either, he noticed. He couldn’t resist. “Are you finally done?” he asked. “Since we are here to keep you from harm, we were about ready to drag you out of the lab before you collapsed and got crushed under an avalanche of paper…”

    “It’s good to know you’re a police officer, Mr Weasley,” she replied. “Since you wouldn’t be a good comedian.”

    “Ouch!” He put a hand on his chest. “Your wit cuts to the bone. The funny bone.”

    “You’d have to have one for it to be cut.”

    Once more, he swallowed a comeback - ‘you must have been the life of the party in your teens’ - because of her past. “So, are you done for the day?”

    “Might as well go home. You’re too distracting.”

    From anyone else, he’d have taken that comment as an invitation to flirt.

    *****​

    Greenwich, London, July 5th, 2005

    “You live alone?” Harry asked as they got out of the car near Granger’s address.

    “Don’t you already know everything about me?” she replied.

    “Contrary to popular belief, the police do respect your privacy,” Harry snapped.

    She snorted. “Took you long enough. I felt like a prisoner for a long time after my escape - the police just didn’t want to let me go.”

    “You were a special case,” Harry retorted. “And your kidnapper is still at large. Of course we’d try everything to catch them.”

    She snorted.

    “So… do you live alone?” Ron asked.

    She looked at him. “Yes.” Her expression dared him to comment.

    He didn’t.

    They reached her door. It was an old, cosy-looking building. Three floors, one flat per floor. Granger turned to face them. “I’m leaving for work at half past seven. Just so you don’t have to waste your time waiting outside my flat.”

    “We were planning to wait inside your flat,” Ron said.

    “The kind of people whom we suspect to be ‘interested’ in your work could easily break into your flat,” Harry added.

    “They might have done so already,” Ron went on, “and be waiting inside for you to return.”

    “Really.” She gave them a flat stare. Then, after a moment, she sighed. “Whatever - I’m too tired to argue with the professionally paranoid. Let’s go. And don’t forget to check under the couch for assassins!”

    She mumbled something like ‘stupid overprotective louts’ under her breath, or so Ron thought, as they climbed the stairs to her flat on the second floor. He shook his head behind her back - academics were the worst people to protect. They always thought they knew better than the professionals. Until they were proven wrong, of course.

    Although, Ron couldn’t help thinking when he spotted the burly man, pistol in hand, moving to block their way, Granger didn’t have to be proven wrong quite so quickly. He grabbed her at once, pulling her back and behind him as he drew his own gun.

    At the same time, Harry, gun in hand already, yelled: “Police! Drop your weapon!”

    The man didn’t, so Harry dropped him with a quick double-tap to the head.

    Ron turned at once, checking their rear and covering Granger with his body.

    Not that she appreciated it. “Take your hands off me!” she snapped behind him.

    He ignored her. One man, moving so openly? That screamed ‘ambush’. But he couldn’t see anyone else.

    “Let me go!” Granger yelled.

    “We need to get her to safety!” Harry snapped.

    Ron nodded, letting his friend pass to check the next floor. “Stay close,” he told Granger before releasing her - thankfully, she didn’t seem to be panicking.

    She scoffed in return, but he was busy sending a message to headquarters to report the shooting. People would have called the police already after hearing the shots - it wasn’t the kind of street where that would be ignored - but it was best to avoid misunderstandings. Shooting a police officer in self-defence because you were mistaken for a criminal didn’t do wonders for your career prospects.

    “Clear!” Harry reported from below.

    “Let’s go!” Ron moved to guide Granger down the stairs, but she was already moving towards Harry.

    That wasn’t how civilians reacted to a shooting, he noted. But he had no time to ponder it - they had to get out of here.

    “I’m on the ground floor,” he heard Harry through the radio. A few seconds later, he and Granger joined him.

    “Let’s take the back door.” If anyone was waiting outside, they would be easy targets.

    For a change, Granger didn’t comment or protest as they moved through the hallway to the back of the house. The garden behind it was lined with hedges - they’d provide some concealment.

    “Left,” Harry whispered. That would lead them towards their car. But they had to cross a few fences and hedges.

    Ron’s phone vibrated. He checked - it was Scrimgeour, Bones’s right hand. “Help’s on the way,” he told Harry. “We can fort up in the hallway and wait.”

    “No.” Harry shook his head. “If there are more of them, we’ll be at a disadvantage.”

    “Crawling through hedges it is,” Ron said with fake cheer.

    “And breaking and entering afterwards, to pass through my neighbours’ houses, I assume,” Granger added.

    “Exactly!” Ron beamed at her. “You do this often?”

    “Can the comedy act,” Harry snapped before Granger could reply. “Let’s go!”

    Ron swallowed his comment about his best trousers getting ruined and motioned for her to follow Harry. He’d be bringing up the rear. “Leave the bag,” he told her. “It’ll snag on branches.”

    “I’m not going to leave my bag!” she hissed.

    “Suit yourself,” he shot back before he remembered that she had had the same bag when she had been found. Another one of his gaffes.

    A few minutes later, they had passed through three almost identical gardens, and both Ron’s trousers, as well as Granger’s, had been completely ruined. Her hair looked even worse now, too, though she didn’t complain. And she had kept her bag from snagging on any branches. He was tempted to ask again if she did this often, but Harry motioned towards the back door.

    It didn’t take him long to pick the lock, and a minute later, they were at the front door, Harry, who somehow looked the most presentable despite having led the way, peering out.

    “Car’s right across the street,” he whispered.

    Ron sent Scrimgeour an update. The response came quickly.

    “We’re to stay put,” he told Harry. “Reinforcements are almost here.”

    “Lost too much time going under the hedges,” Harry said. “Moody’d have our hide.”

    “Moody?” Granger asked.

    “Our old instructor,” Ron replied. Harry, of course, was glaring at him for that minor breach of security.

    “Ah.”

    Ron was tempted to tell her that Moody was the best damned police officer in England and that his training had saved Harry and Ron’s lives several times, but that wouldn’t have been a minor breach of security any more. He still loathed her dismissive attitude.

    About a minute passed in silence until they heard the sirens, and Ron started to relax a little.

    “So much for a safe, simple assignment,” he said. “Must be your fault,” he added, nodding at Harry.

    Granger’s snort seemed to surprise her as much as it did Ron and Harry.

    *****​

    By the time Scrimgeour arrived and took charge, the Metropolitan Police were already busy keeping reporters away from the crime scene.

    “Look at the vultures,” Ron heard Harry, who was watching through the small window in the door, mutter.

    He snorted. “Vultures would have some decency.”

    “I take it that you’ve had bad experiences with the press,” Granger commented with a slight frown.

    “You might say that,” Ron replied. “There were a few journalists who took Harry’s refusal to give interviews as a personal insult.”

    “Bloody muckrakers,” Harry said.

    Ron expected Granger to pry - she seemed the type who couldn’t leave something alone until she knew everything about it - but, to his surprise, she merely nodded. Of course, she had had her own experiences with the press, and more recently. He frowned when a disturbing thought came to him. “Better not be seen together, or the Daily Mail will claim you’re having an affair.” Two semi-famous people with tragic pasts, put together? The tabloids wouldn’t be able to resist.

    “Damn!” Harry spat. Granger didn’t say anything, but judging by her expression, she clearly agreed with the sentiment.

    “Scrimgeour won’t throw you to the press,” Ron said. Partially because the man wanted all the publicity for himself so he could succeed Bones once she was promoted or retired.

    "I should certainly hope not!” Granger cut in. “I would rather not suffer further disruption to my work due to the press.”

    Harry snorted. “They’ll find your name soon enough. One of your neighbours will let something slip.”

    “I’m aware of that,” Granger replied with pursed lips. “But that’s no reason to make matters worse.”

    “You’re not seriously expecting to go back to work any time soon, are you?” Ron asked. “If we hadn’t been with you, you’d have been…” He trailed off. It wouldn’t do to trigger her. Even though he really wanted to rub in the fact that they had been correct about her being in danger.

    “I’m aware of that, thank you,” she snapped. “But I won’t hide in some hole and leave my work unfinished!”

    “You won’t be able to do any work if you’re dead or kidnapped,” Harry retorted. “Until this situation is resolved, you’ll be in protective custody.”

    “I most certainly won’t be locked up ‘for my own good’!” She bared her teeth. “That is out of the question!”

    “Do you really want to risk your life just so you can continue with your work?” Ron asked.

    Granger pressed her lips together and glared at him, and he couldn’t help thinking that her reply, if voiced, would have been ‘yes’.

    The woman was mental.

    *****​

    CI5 Headquarters, Westminster, London, July 5th, 2005

    Bones looked like she always did when working - deux-pièce, pressed sharp enough to serve as a weapon, not a hair out of place and her weird monocle seemingly glued to her face. So much for the rumour that she had been asleep when Scrimgeour called her.

    “So, Dr Granger recognised you at first sight.” Bones steepled her fingers and leaned forward a little, looking Harry and Ron over. “And you didn’t then see any reason to inform headquarters at once.”

    Ron didn’t flinch. But he couldn’t help growing tense in the face of Bones’s icy glare.

    Harry, though, shook his head. “We didn’t want to jump to conclusions. As it turned out, she had found an article about Pettigrew’s arrest when she was investigating schools to finish her education.”

    Bones’s expression didn’t change. “And do you think she was telling you the truth?”

    “We found no evidence to the contrary,” Harry replied. Ron didn’t look at him, but he hoped his friend wasn’t smiling. That never worked on their boss.

    “That’s a textbook evasive answer, Potter,” Bones said. “You’re not on trial,” she went on, “so don’t try and of your sophistry. Tell me what you think of her explanation.”

    “It wasn’t too convincing,” Harry admitted, “but not enough to bring her in.”

    “Not by a long chalk,” Ron added.

    “Arresting Granger would be ill-advised,” Scrimgeour cut in.

    Bones glared at him. “I’m not in the habit of allowing politics or the press to dictate how we enforce the law.”

    Scrimgeour nodded in response. Of course, everyone knew that politics mattered. And that the press mattered in politics. Which was why good money was on Scrimgeour succeeding Bones sooner rather than later.

    Bones scoffed. “I should take you off the case.” Which meant she wouldn’t. Ron refrained from smiling. Granger - the case - intrigued him. “But you’ve established some sort of rapport with Dr Granger,” their boss went on, “which is more than anyone else investigating her case has ever managed.”

    And didn’t that paint a lovely picture of the woman? Mental, indeed. Or, Ron added to himself, she had something to hide. Probably both.

    “Yes, ma’am.” Harry nodded, and Ron felt like sighing as Bones glared at them again. His friend should know better than that.

    “So, you keep protecting her and investigate her as much as you can without compromising your primary assignment. Now, put her up in the guest quarters for the night and get some sleep!”

    Ron struggled not to wince. That wouldn’t put Granger in a better mood. And once she realised that they were repurposed holding cells...

    Meanwhile, Bones turned to Scrimgeour. “Rufus, you’re in charge of the case.”

    “Yes, Amelia.” Ron saw the man’s eyes widen just a smidgen as he nodded - he had probably expected Bones to take over. But was that a sign of trust and favour, or was she using him as a possible scapegoat in case this blew up in CI5’s face?

    Probably both, Ron thought. Bones might scoff at politics, but you didn’t rise to her position without knowing how to navigate them.

    *****​

    CI5 Headquarters, Westminster, London, July 6th, 2005

    "Ron! I heard everything! Harry got into another shoot-out!”

    Ron barely managed to refrain from rolling his eyes. Four hours of sleep weren’t enough to face Colin Creevey first thing in the morning on entering CI5 headquarters.

    “So, what happened? Did he try to kidnap Dr Granger? Do you think he was working for the original kidnapper? Perhaps there’s a ring of paedophiles behind it, and they want to silence the only victim that got away before she recovers her memory!”

    “That sounds like something straight out of the Daily Mail,” Ron replied with a frown. “And watch the speculation - at least while Granger’s here.”

    “Oh!” Colin blinked. “She’s still asleep in the guest quarters, don’t worry.”

    Ron frowned. “You didn’t violate her privacy by spying on her through the security cameras, did you?”

    “Ah… I only checked if she was awake?”

    Ron sighed. “And why did you do that in the first place?” Colin was a lab technician and computer wizard, not a guard or psychologist.

    “Are you kidding? She’s the most famous kidnapping victim in Britain! And someone just attempted to kidnap her again! What if the trauma caused her lost memories to resurface?” Colin shook his head wildly. “We could finally solve her case!”

    Ron narrowed his eyes at the other man. “Delete all the recordings you took from her quarters.”

    “How did you… I mean… why?” Colin blinked at him.

    “Because you didn’t get a warrant.” Ron sighed. If Granger ever found out… “So, did you identify our kidnapper?”

    “Huh? Oh, yes, we did.” Colin nodded. “Harry didn’t damage the face too much and we ran his fingerprints through our database and got a hit: Vincent Crabbe. Former member of the Welsh Guards. Dishonourable discharge in 2003, after he and a friend were caught working as guards for local smugglers in Bosnia during SFOR.”

    “Looks like he decided to make a career of it afterwards,” Ron commented. “What’s the name of his friend?”

    “Gregory Goyle.”

    Ron made a note. They would have to look up the guy, in case he was involved.

    “So… where’s Harry?” Colin looked around. “You usually arrive together.”

    “Wimbledon’s over, so Ginny’s got some time off,” Ron told him.

    “Oh, I see.” Colin slowly nodded. “Of course…”

    “Yeah,” Ron said. He didn’t want to see Colin mope on a good day, and this wasn’t a good day. “Have you finished your report already?”

    “I’m waiting for the autopsy,” Colin said, perking up.

    “Send me what you have.” Ron doubted that the autopsy would add anything to the case - they already knew how the man had died, after all.

    “Alright, I’ll… Oh!” Colin pulled out a vibrating cell phone. “Dr Granger’s screaming.”

    *****​

    They were coming for her. From her cell, she could hear footsteps on the stone stairs. She tried to steel herself. She could take it. They wouldn’t break her. They wouldn’t. She could take it. She wouldn’t break. Not now. She would be saved. Someone would be coming for her.

    Then she heard the giggling and trembled. Her. The madwoman. No. No. No. She was panting. Before she realised what she was doing, she found her back pressed against the cold stone wall, as far from the door as she could manage.

    The sound of heels hitting the stone floor grew louder. And the way they… was the woman skipping?

    She swallowed, shaking now despite her efforts to control herself. She could take this. She had to. She couldn’t break. She wouldn’t break. She wouldn’t break. She would go insane before they broke her.

    Why was it taking so long? She knew how long it took them to reach the door of her cell from the stairs. Was the woman dragging it out deliberately? Increasing the psychological torment? That would fit, of course.

    She felt something run down her cheeks. Was she crying? She shook her head, biting her lower lip and wiped the tears off her face. She had to be brave. She wouldn’t break. Not now. Not ever.

    But then the door to her cell was pulled open, and she whimpered at the sight of the cackling madwoman smiling down at her.

    “Hello, my little mudblood!”

    *****​
     
  2. RedX

    RedX Know what you're doing yet?

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    I remember this snippet. And here we go...
     
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  3. Namdel

    Namdel Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    I don't get it why grab characters from a book and make up a new story why not make your one characters instead of shoehorning an existing character to fit a story just ignore me i just don't like this type of fan fiction
     
  4. RedX

    RedX Know what you're doing yet?

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    ...I recommend you keep reading. This is not a 'real world AU' in the way that is it commonly considered.
     
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  5. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Exactly.
     
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  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: The Parents
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 2: The Parents

    CI5 Headquarters, Westminster, London, July 6th, 2005

    By the time Ron reached the ‘guest quarters’, Granger wasn’t screaming any more. She was sitting on the bed, clad in what looked like an oversized shirt, her hair a mess that would have sent Parvati or Lavender running for the hills, and she was glaring at Dawlish, who must have been the officer on duty.

    “I am perfectly fine,” she spat. “I merely had a nightmare - quite a common occurrence after a traumatic experience, such as an assault on my person. Something, I think, with which you would be familiar if you had ever worked in the field.”

    Ron saw Dawlish tense at that, and he had to suppress a chuckle. Dawlish was a veteran officer - but he had been working at a desk job since before Harry and Ron had started their careers. And you just had to rib the desk jockeys. But for Granger to guess that...

    “Yes, you had a nightmare, Miss,” Dawlish started to reply.

    “Dr Granger,” she hissed.

    “Dr Granger,” the man pressed out through clenched teeth. “As you said yourself, you’ve had a traumatic experience. And in light of your past, that raises concerns about your mental health.”

    “My reaction is perfectly normal.” She scoffed. “If you were planning to use this as a pretext to lock me up, I’ll have you know that my parents have been informed about the attack and will ensure my release.”

    "Such decisions will be made by the proper authorities, but I would remind you that this is a criminal case," Dawlish retorted.

    “Your loyalty to your superiors is commendable. Few men in your position are willing to fall upon their swords like that.”

    “What?”

    Granger’s sneer left no doubt of her opinion of Dawlish. “Once the press gets wind of how you’re trying to imprison me without cause because you are too lazy or too inept to do your job and find whoever attacked me, who do you think will be the chosen scapegoat?” She turned to Ron. “Oh. Good morning, Officer Weasley. Here to check on your prisoner?”

    Ron was certain that she had noticed him before that, but he nodded and ignored her barb. He had expected that, after last night. “Good morning, Dr Granger.”

    “Hello, Dr Granger!” Colin piped up behind Ron. “Did you remember anything from your kidnapping?”

    “Colin!” Ron hissed, glaring at him, and even Dawlish winced.

    “What?” Colin blinked, then paled.

    “No, I do not remember anything about my kidnapping,” Granger spat as she stood up. She looked absolutely furious. Worse than Mum when she had caught the twins making explosives in the shed. Nice legs, though, Ron couldn’t help noticing. “Is this why you want to lock me up and keep me from my work? Are you planning to torture me into remembering my ordeal?”

    “What?” Colin repeated himself, cringing. “No, no! I was just… I mean…”

    “Get out, Creevey!” Dawlish snapped. “Weasley, why did you bring him along? For that matter, what are you doing here?”

    “I came to visit Dr Granger,” Ron replied as Colin fled. “I’m working on her case, after all, and I’m responsible for her safety.”

    To his mild surprise, she didn’t make a comment about how she could take care of herself. Perhaps the attack had made her see reason.

    “Which means your presence is superfluous,” she told Dawlish. “That means you should vacate the premises, in case you’re wondering,” she added.

    Dawlish was so tense and angry, Ron could see his jaw muscles twitch as he reined in his temper, but the other man left without another word. Ron sighed and shook his head. “You have such a way with people.”

    She scoffed again. “Says the man who came with Mr… Creevey?”

    “I didn’t bring him; he followed me,” Ron replied. It hadn’t been his fault - Colin should have known better. They weren’t in school any more.

    “Really.” Her doubt was obvious.

    Ron shrugged. “Anyway, I came to tell you that we’d like to ask you a few questions later. After you’ve had breakfast, of course.”

    “Do I get to dress first? And in private? Or is that too dangerous?”

    “You can even take a shower in the female locker rooms,” he told her.

    “Alone? Without cameras?”

    “Of course.” What kind of people did she think they were? Well, after Colin and Dawlish, she probably had a poor impression of the department.

    And, Ron thought, remembering a few of his co-workers, she might not be entirely wrong.

    *****​

    “Have you seen this man before?” Harry asked, showing a picture of Crabbe to Granger.

    Ron saw her tense up, and her eyes widened for a moment, before she schooled her features and shook her head. “No, I’m certain that I haven’t seen that man before.”

    She was lying. Ron was sure. She knew Crabbe. Had he been involved in her kidnapping? But he would have been her age - an eleven-year-old, taking part in a kidnapping? Not impossible, of course. But for seven years? No.

    And why would she be lying? Crabbe had been there to kidnap or kill her. Was she protecting whoever was behind this? But why?

    “Are you sure?” Ron asked.

    “Yes, I am. As I just told you,” she said.

    She was a very smart woman. And she didn’t scare easily. So… why wasn’t she cooperating? Why was she lying?

    “Who was it?” She tilted her head. “Or is that classified?”

    Ron was tempted to tell her ‘yes’, but Harry was quicker. “Vincent Crabbe. Career criminal.”

    “Ah.”

    Still no surprise. She had to know that Crabbe had just been a minion and that someone else was pulling the strings - someone far more dangerous than Crabbe had been. And yet she seemed unconcerned.

    Ron shook his head. The woman’s behaviour made no sense. There were too many mysteries surrounding her.

    But he would get to the bottom of them.

    “Has anyone approached you about your work?” Ron asked. “Anyone you wouldn’t have expected to be interested in quantum physics, I mean.”

    Granger’s frowning expression as she thought about that was almost cute. After about half a minute, she shook her head. “No, no one comes to mind. I’ve only spoken with fellow physicists and, of course, the faculty about my research.” She met his eyes. “And I can safely say that my work wouldn’t help anyone to build a quantum computer.”

    “Ah, but would others know that?” Ron asked.

    “Wouldn’t anyone willing to resort to kidnapping verify that it was worth the risk beforehand?” she retorted.

    Was she trying to avoid answering the question? Perhaps.

    “You’d be surprised just how careless some criminals are,” Harry said.

    “One wouldn’t expect to find someone with the means to profit from the development of quantum computers among that number,” she replied. “Not to mention that it would be foolish to underestimate whoever sent Mr Crabbe after me.”

    Harry leaned forward. “Why do you assume that someone sent him?”

    Granger didn’t quite scoff, but her expression came close. “You just told me that he was a career criminal. Since he was about as subtle as a charging bull, I don’t think he decided on his own to attack me.”

    That made sense, but not enough. Granger sounded too sure of her assessment. Another clue that she had recognised Crabbe. Did she know who was behind him as well? But why wouldn’t she tell them? “Aren’t you underestimating Crabbe by assuming he was too stupid to have acted on his own?”

    This time she did scoff. “He’s dead. If he had acted on his own, then there’d be no further danger. It’s only sensible to assume that he was merely a pawn.”

    “And you have no idea who could have hired him? None at all?” Harry didn’t quite manage to hide his doubts.

    She glared at Ron’s friend. “No, I do not,” she told him. “Do you have any other questions for me?”

    Ron had a few questions, but this wasn’t the time to ask them. They needed more information first. He glanced at Harry and shook his head.

    “No,” Harry said.

    “Am I free to go now?”

    “As long as we’re with you,” Ron told her with a smile. “For your protection.”

    He saw her press her lips together. She didn’t like that. Not at all. But, as her reluctant nod showed, she knew that she needed them. “Good. I need to return to my work.”

    Ron almost shook his head. She had been attacked last night, and she wanted to go straight back to work? Mental.

    *****​

    Greenwich, London, July 6th, 2005

    “I would have expected you to go straight to your lab,” Ron said as they stopped in front of Granger’s home.

    She glared at him. “Without changing my clothes?”

    Ron took refuge in a joke to avoid answering that question honestly. “Oh, I assumed that you had half your wardrobe stashed in your office. Together with a camping shower hidden in your locker, a sleeping bag in your desk and enough MREs to last you a year.”

    She blinked, once, before glaring at him and all but jumping out of the car before he could tell her to wait.

    “I would be surprised if she didn’t have a change of clothes at the lab,” Harry whispered as they hastily got out of the car - they had to check for threats, after all.

    Ron nodded. She was here for something else. Perhaps to check if something had been stolen from her apartment? There hadn’t been any trace of anyone having broken into it, but a skilled thief wouldn’t leave any signs of their presence.

    This might be more interesting than Ron had expected. He wondered what kind of thing Granger feared might have been stolen. And what her apartment looked like.

    *****​

    It looked messier than he had expected, he realised after stepping into her living room. Cheap shelves lined the walls, stuffed with books. Physics, he noticed, cocking his head to read their spines, but also esoteric books - new age and witchcraft. That didn’t seem to fit Granger at all.

    Stacks of paper covered several dressers and a table - though she had left one spot on the table free, probably so she could eat dinner there. The few pictures on the walls - in places where there was not enough space for another shelf - showed her parents and her graduations.

    The apartment actually looked like her office. Perhaps he should have expected that. The kitchen was old and cramped, though there was a microwave oven on the small table there, and an electric tea kettle.

    All in all, the flat didn’t look like it belonged to a person who had a life outside her work.

    “I don’t see anyone outside,” Harry told him from near one of the windows.

    Ron nodded at him and went to the bedroom, where Granger was, from the sounds he could hear, rummaging around in her armoire. Glancing through the gap left by the open door, he could see an unmade bed, small and cheap-looking, and Granger’s backside - she was kneeling in front of a trunk.

    Frowning, he stepped inside. All the rest of the furniture looked cheap and new. Soulless IKEA crap. The trunk, though, looked old and expensive - the kind of trunk Malfoy had owned. Traditional, but not very practical. The idiot had struggled with his trunk every time he’d had to move it himself and couldn’t order the servants to do it.

    Ron couldn’t really imagine Granger carrying that thing around.

    “Do you always sneak into a woman’s bedroom without her leave?” Granger wasn’t even looking over her shoulder at him as she spoke, he noticed.

    Snorting, he sat down on her bed, pushing aside some of the magazines and notebooks spread out on the sheets. “If I’m guarding her? Yes, actually,” he told her with a grin.

    She scoffed without turning to look at him. “Do you expect to find an assassin hiding under my bed?”

    “No. I expect the space underneath your bed to be filled with books and stacks of paper,” he said.

    That made her laugh, to his surprise, but it didn’t last. “I suppose I could, now,” she murmured, and he wasn’t certain that he had been meant to hear her.

    He frowned. What had he done now? He sniffed the air. The expected smell of old books, fresh clothes from the armoire but also… a cat. And he hadn’t seen a feeding bowl in the kitchen. But there had been a spotted cat in the picture of her with her parents. She must have lost her cat recently. And wasn’t planning to get another.

    He leaned over to straighten a stack of magazines about to collapse and blinked. He knew that issue. Mum had bought several of them after Pettigrew’s arrest. She had been so proud of him. And of Harry, of course. Angry, too, at the risks they had taken. But mostly proud. But that had been over ten years ago - Granger had still been a captive when it had come out. Why would she have that issue?

    She had mentioned having read the article, but how had she gotten the magazine? And why?

    Granger stood and turned around. “I’ve got my clothes sorted out now…” She trailed off as she noticed what he was holding.

    He looked at her, then placed the magazine down on top of the stack. She didn’t flinch or look away. “Ah, that has the article I mentioned.”

    “Yes.”

    He waited, but she merely nodded. “I’m going to change now.”

    He watched her enter the bathroom carrying a stack of clothes and her ratty bag and waited until the door closed behind her before he picked up the magazine again, quickly flipping to the familiar pages.

    He wasn’t a forensic scientist, but the magazine looked like it had been opened very often on the pages showing him, Harry and Sirius posing together.

    What the hell did that mean? Was she a stalker? Or a fan? She hadn’t acted like either, though - he was quite familiar with the type thanks to Colin going to the same school as Harry and Ron.

    He glanced at the armoire. No. She would have cleaned up anything suspicious in there. But… the trunk. It didn’t fit the rest of the flat. And that was a very good lock on it, he realised after a closer look. Better than the one on Malfoy’s trunk, in fact, and even at his best, it had taken Ron at least five minutes to pick that one.

    Perhaps another time.

    *****​

    South Kensington campus, Imperial College London, London, July 6th, 2005

    Once more, Ron was watching Granger go through notebooks and notepads like an alcoholic went through a case of beer. The woman had dived straight back into her work as soon as they had arrived at her lab, and it didn’t look like she’d be stopping any time soon. As if she hadn’t been in a firefight not even twelve hours ago...

    Mental.

    He leaned against the wall with his arms crossed, one hand close to his shoulder holster. Ron had a feeling that Crabbe wouldn’t remain the last criminal they’d have to deal with, and it didn’t pay to slack off.

    “Someone’s coming,” he heard Harry on the radio. “Looks like a faculty member.”

    “Are you expecting visitors?” Ron asked Granger.

    “What?” She looked up from her work with a by now familiar scowl.

    “Someone’s coming,” Ron explained. “Might be faculty.”

    She blinked, then pressed her lips together as if she had bitten into something rotten. “Blake.”

    “Blake?”

    “The Principal,” she said as if that explained everything.

    “He claims he’s the Principal of this faculty,” Harry reported as if on cue.

    Granger was already up and moving towards the door, and Ron had to hurry a little to cut her off. It could be a trap, after all.

    Harry gave the all-clear, but Ron still put himself in front of Granger before he opened the door.

    “Hermione! I heard you were here, but I couldn’t believe it!” the man blurted out.

    “Good morning, Miles,” Granger replied in a much more composed manner, nodding curtly at him. “Why wouldn’t I be in my lab?”

    “But… but you were attacked last night! There are police here!”

    She scoffed. “The assailant was killed by the police. And as you can see, I’m well-protected.”

    “It’s not another attack we’re worried about,” Blake said, shaking his head. “This must have been such a shock to you…”

    “I’m fine,” she spat.

    “But surely, some time off would do you good.”

    “It wouldn’t do my work any good, and that would actually stress me much more than an attack that has already been handled.”

    “But…”

    “I’m fine. All I need is to continue my work,” Granger cut him off. “And even if I were traumatised, the familiar environment and routine is what would help me the most.”

    Blake sighed, then looked at Ron and Harry, shaking his head. But he didn’t address them before he left.

    Granger sighed. “I’m surrounded by people who think they know better than I what’s best for me.”

    “And they are all wrong,” Ron said in his best sarcastic tone.

    She looked like she would bare her teeth at him at any moment as she glared at him. “Yes, they are,” she spat. “I’m fine.”

    Neither of them said anything else until lunch, when it was Ron’s turn to get some grub for Harry and himself.

    *****​

    Carrying two portions of fish and chips - Harry had insisted - Ron was approaching the entrance to Granger’s lab when he spotted a middle-aged couple walking towards the same destination. The woman’s hair… Yes. As soon as he passed them, he recognised Granger’s parents from the pictures in her flat.

    “Mr and Mrs Granger, I presume,” he said.

    They looked startled - and even more so when they saw him. “I’m afraid you have us at a disadvantage,” Mrs Granger replied.

    “Ron Weasley, CI5.”

    “Ah. The bodyguard.” Mr Granger nodded.

    Ron couldn’t put his finger on it, but Mr Granger’s response sounded somewhat off. He nodded in confirmation anyway. “One of them.”

    They didn’t seem surprised about that - but they remained tense. It was understandable, of course, after their only daughter had just been attacked. Yet… Ron would have expected them to be upset.

    He used his radio to inform Harry. If her parents ended up staring down the barrel of a gun, Granger would probably be even more insufferable. “Bringing two guests. The Grangers.”

    Harry, of course, was ready to step in anyway as Ron opened the door. Just in case.

    “Hermione!”

    “Dear!”

    “Mum, Dad.” Granger seemed to freeze up for a moment before she hugged her parents. “You didn’t have to come.”

    “After hearing someone tried to attack you? Of course we had to!” Mr Granger, at least, was sensible.

    “I’m fine,” Granger replied as she released her parents and took a step back to lean against her desk. “They shot the man before he could do anything.”

    Her parents exchanged a glance. “Dear,” her mother started, “was he…”

    “He had a gun,” Granger told them.

    Against all reason, her statement seemed to make her parents relax. Which made no sense at all. Normal people didn’t react like that when they heard about someone attacking their daughter with a firearm.

    This was another clue to whatever Granger was hiding.

    “Dr Granger,” Harry spoke up, looking at Granger, “if someone is after you for your research, they might attempt to use your parents as leverage.”

    As Ron had expected, that set Granger off. “You would dare to use my parents…”

    “Dear, we’ve already been contacted by the police about this,” Mrs Granger interrupted her. “They advised us to accept police protection.”

    “Who called you?” Ron asked, frowning. They hadn’t been informed about that. Cock-ups happened, of course, and some of their co-workers really didn’t like Harry and him for being the best team in the CI5, but there was, of course, another, more sinister, possibility.

    “A Mr Scrimgeour,” Mrs Granger replied. “Your boss, I believe.”

    Was Scrimgeour playing games?

    “We’ll check with him,” Harry said.

    “Do you expect someone to be impersonating your superior?” Granger asked.

    Harry shrugged. “I don’t think so, but since we don’t know who is after you, nor what resources they have at their disposal, we have to maintain constant vigilance,” he quoted Moody.

    She opened her mouth but closed it again without saying anything.

    “Dear, you will be able to focus on your work much better if you don’t have to worry about us,” Mr Granger added.

    And Granger flinched as if she had been struck. “It’s not like that,” she told them, but it sounded weak.

    “Hermione, we know how important your work is,” Mrs Granger said.

    “But don’t let them lock you up! You have your practice, and your patients depend on you!” Granger was shaking her head so much, her thick hair obscured her face.

    “We could organise substitutes,” Mr Granger replied.

    “You don’t have to! Don’t let them ruin your practice just to make it a little easier for themselves!”

    “Taking people into protective custody isn’t actually much easier for us than assigning them a protective detail,” Harry said.

    He wasn’t telling the entire truth, of course - with two people like the Grangers, taking them into protective custody would be easier than protecting them while they stayed at their own home and kept working. That took more officers to cover them. And Scrimgeour would like to have the Grangers safely locked away. Less potential trouble with the press that way.

    Granger snorted. “You were quite quick to take me in.”

    “Temporarily, while we sorted things out,” Ron said.

    She huffed.

    “Mr Scrimgeour mentioned that there were options to discuss,” Mrs Granger explained.

    “Take the option that’s most convenient for you!”

    Ron looked at Harry and mimed making a call. His friend nodded and stepped out. Granger was looking at them, so Ron told her: “He’s checking with Scrimgeour.”

    “Ah.” Granger didn’t look very mollified. What was with the chip on her shoulder? She’d called them ‘professional paranoids’, but she acted as if everyone was out to get her - while ignoring the actual danger, Ron realised.

    “Do you have any suspects yet?” Mr Granger asked into the sudden silence.

    “We’re still at the start of our investigation,” Ron replied, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall.

    The Grangers looked from him to their daughter, who was, Ron noticed, almost mirroring him. He quickly changed his posture while Mrs Granger seemed to be amused for some reason.

    Granger, of course, wasn’t amused in the slightest, but she didn’t glare at her mother - she glared at him before clearing her throat and addressing her parents: “Well, have you had lunch already?”

    “We planned to take you out for lunch,” Mrs Granger replied.

    “Or at least order delivery from a decent restaurant,” Mr Granger added. “Instead of instant meals.”

    “Or military surplus rations,” Ron cut in.

    “What?” Both Grangers stared at him, then turned to stare at their daughter. “You were actually eating those?” Mrs Granger looked aghast.

    “Of course!” Granger said, raising her chin. “It wouldn’t do to find out that they were unpalatable just as I needed them in an emergency, would it?”

    “Like getting stranded on a deserted island?” Ron asked before he could help himself. “Or getting lost in the Highlands for days without your phone, radio or any other means of communication?”

    All three looked at him with a frown for a moment before Granger huffed. “That’s actually far less unlikely than you make it sound,” she claimed.

    “I don’t think you’re the type to get lost in the Highlands, much less to go on a hike without proper equipment,” Ron retorted. She was the type to prepare for everything. The paranoid type. Mental.

    “Exactly. Which includes MREs.” She nodded at her own words.

    “But we’re not in the Highlands, dear,” her mother said. “So let’s eat something a little more refined, shall we?”

    “Pizza or curry?” Mr Granger asked, pulling out his phone.

    Granger was glaring at Ron as if it was his fault that she would have to eat a decent meal.

    *****​

    Half an hour later, Ron watched as the Grangers finished their meal. Granger had opted for curry because it would be delivered more quickly. At least that was what she’d claimed. Based on his own experiences, Ron had his doubts. But the takeaway had been delivered promptly and smelled good enough that Ron wouldn’t have minded a taste even though he’d finished his own lunch already.

    Not that he’d asked, of course. Even though watching her reaction would have been funny.

    “Well, we should go,” Mr Granger said, putting down his fork. “You’re itching to resume your work as soon as we’re out of your hair, aren’t you?”

    “No, no,” Granger lied, but her expression betrayed her.

    Mrs Granger shared a look and a rather wry smile with her husband before shaking her head. “We understand, dear. We do.”

    “Thank you.” Granger looked like she wanted to say something more, but then she pressed her lips together.

    “Are you going to meet Scrimgeour now?” Harry asked.

    “Yes,” Mr Granger confirmed. “We have an appointment at two o’clock.”

    “It might be best if one of us goes with you,” Harry said. “If anyone is observing us, they’ll have noticed you.”

    “Ah.” Mr Granger nodded. “If you think we’re in danger…”

    “I’ll go with you,” Ron cut in. He could also check for news with headquarters that way. And it beat going stir-crazy in Granger’s lab.

    So five minutes later, he was seated in the Granger’s BMW, stuck in London’s traffic. He’d never get caught in that situation if he had to guard someone against an assassination, but a kidnapping? Any attempt to kidnap them would run into the same traffic jam. And with all the witnesses around, few would dare to try anything anyway.

    “Please excuse Hermione’s manners,” Mr Granger said as they waited at a particularly slow crossing. “She has some issues with… authority.”

    Calling her mental to her parents’ faces wouldn’t go over well so Ron nodded. “Understandable.”

    “She’s not unstable,” Mrs Granger added. “She just doesn’t trust easily and tries to drive people away before she can grow close to them.”

    “Ah.” That made some sense. Her parents would know her best. They might even know what exactly had happened to her during her kidnapping. But, as curious as Ron was, he wouldn’t ask them. “Well, seeing her eat that MRE did nearly drive us from the premises,” he joked.

    Mr and Mrs Granger chuckled, though there was a rueful tone as Mrs Granger replied: “That was probably her intention. At least I hope so.”

    “I can see that,” Ron agreed. At least now he could.

    “She doesn't like it, but she needs protection,” Mrs Granger went on. “We can’t lose her. Not after...” She trailed off and Ron, sitting behind Mr Granger, saw that she was clenching her hands so tightly, her knuckles were turning white.

    Of course. They had thought their daughter lost - dead - for seven years before she had reappeared. Tortured, malnourished, but alive. “We’ll protect her,” he said.

    “Thank you.” Mrs Granger took a deep breath and wiped her eyes.

    After about a minute of silence, Mr Granger suddenly asked: “Whoever is guarding us won’t be hunting the kidnappers, will they?”

    Ron understood at once what the man was thinking. “It’s not that simple, but…” He clenched his teeth. “We have other cases and assignments as well.”

    “But the fewer people needed to guard us, the more are free to investigate Hermione’s case.”

    Ron shrugged. “That’s true. More or less.” Politics played a role, but the Granger case was high-profile. Scrimgeour would want it solved under his command.

    “Thank you.”

    *****​

    CI5 Headquarters, Westminster, London, July 6th, 2005

    The telly was running in the break room when Ron passed, showing a familiar sight: Granger’s home. It had been running since morning, of course - the attack had happened too late for the newspapers, but that hadn’t stopped the TV news. The BBC was covering it thoroughly, though at least they hadn’t done a special news broadcast.

    “...Dr Granger almost fell victim to another kidnapping attempt yesterday night,” a very serious announcer said. “Only the timely intervention of two police officers saved her. Since the criminal who kidnapped her in 1991 was never caught, speculation as to whether or not they might be behind this attempt as well is running rampant. The police have declined to comment on the case, but retired Chief Superintendent Cornelius Fudge, who worked on the case in the past, was willing to share his insights with us and…”

    “Turn the telly off before I shoot it!” someone growled.

    The clerk watching it jumped to obey as Ron turned. “Moody!”

    “Weasley.” The old officer nodded at him. “Heard you nailed another crook.”

    “Harry shot him,” Ron corrected his old instructor. “Are you working on the case as well?”

    “Aye,” Moody replied. “Rufus called everyone in. Well, everyone he trusts not to steal his thunder.” He nodded at the now dark screen. “Fudge. Bloody pillock. That he had to retire after his affair with his secretary was leaked to the press was the best thing to happen to the Metropolitan Police.”

    That had been before Harry and Ron had joined the force, but Ron had heard about that particular scandal from Dad and Percy and everything about Fudge’s incompetence from Moody, so he nodded in agreement.

    “Bones got you two guarding the girl, right?”

    “We’re supposed to investigate as well, as long as we can do it without ‘compromising our primary assignment’,” Ron quoted Bones.

    Moody chuckled. “You’ve been making too many waves. Too many arrests compared to the rest.”

    “I’d have expected Scrimgeour to want the case solved no matter what, as long as it happened on his watch,” Ron said.

    “He’d like that. But he owes a few of the older crowd some favours, and if he doesn’t let them get their shot, they’ll stab him in the back when he needs them the most.”

    “Ah.” Bloody politics.

    “You’ll get used to it in CI5. I told you that already, didn’t I?”

    “You did.”

    “Even Cowley had to deal with it, and the man was in a class of his own. Bones never managed to match his success. Rufus… well, he’s just crooked enough to have a chance.”

    That wasn’t exactly what Ron wanted to hear about his superior.

    Moody, though, laughed. “Oh, you should have met Bodie and Doyle.”

    Ron made a non-committal sound. Everyone had heard of those two. If even half the stories the older officers told about them were true, they’d put Moody to shame. Of course, if just a quarter of the stories about them were true, Bones would have arrested them herself. Or shot them. He shrugged. “Well, I have to get back to Harry. Can’t leave him alone with Granger for too long.”

    “Oh? Would your sister get jealous?”

    Ron chuckled. Ginny was better than that. “No, but Granger’s got a sharper tongue than Bones, and a worse temper.”

    Moody laughed out loud at that, and Ron waved as he left the break room.

    *****​

    South Kensington campus, Imperial College London, London, July 6th, 2005

    Harry didn’t look annoyed, Ron noticed when he returned to Granger’s lab. She probably had behaved herself after her parents’ visit. He chuckled at the stray thought.

    “What did headquarters say?” Harry asked.

    “Nothing new. They haven’t been able to find Goyle so far,” Ron told him. After a moment, he added: “The Grangers opted for protective custody after their meeting with Scrimgeour.”

    Harry opened his mouth, surprised, but Granger’s loud “What?” cut him off before he could say anything.

    The woman was out of her chair and stalking towards Ron. “Protective custody? I told them not to do that! What did you do?” she snarled into his face.

    Blame Scrimgeour? Deflect? This wasn’t his fault. Her parents had made their choice before they had even entered headquarters. Well, his parents hadn’t raised a coward. “They asked me which option would result in more officers working on your case.”

    He looked at her, meeting her eyes, as she glared at him with clenched teeth - he saw her jaw muscles twitch - as she worked through the ramifications of what he had said. And he felt a little bit guilty when she looked away, tears in her eyes, and muttered: “Bloody hell, of course they’d do that! I should have expected it.”

    “They love you. Of course they’d want to do what’s best for their daughter,” Ron said.

    Once more, she flinched as if she had been struck.

    *****​

    She wasn’t insane. She was safe. She wasn’t insane. She was safe. Lost, but safe. If she told herself that often enough, she might even believe it. It could be a ruse, of course. In theory. Magic could do so much to someone’s mind. With the right spell, you could make someone believe anything - erase their memories and replace them with fake ones.

    She should know; she had done it herself to others.

    But doing so made no sense. If this was just a delusion planted in her mind, what was its purpose? No one was asking her to spill her friends’ secrets. Or posing as her friend. And if this was merely the result of a spell, then where would their enemies have found someone with such detailed knowledge of muggle procedures and hospitals? The room looked exactly like a room in a modern muggle hospital should look. The nurses and doctors behaved like they should. The police officers as well. Perhaps they had taken the imagery from her mind?

    But then, who would have come up with the idea that she had been kidnapped seven years ago, disappeared without a trace, until she had been found stumbling around in a London without Diagon Alley? What would have been the point?

    To make her lose her sanity? There were other, quicker and more painful ways for that, which their enemies preferred.

    She shivered at the memory of the pain and torture, of the mad cackling that punctuated the agony, hugging herself.

    No, this was real. It had to be real. She was safe. Lost, but safe. She wasn’t insane. Nor was she traumatised, as the people treating her assumed. Or perhaps she was - she had certainly gone through enough, even though she hadn’t been kidnapped and kept captive for seven years, as the police assumed.

    She closed her eyes, brushing the few tears on her cheeks away, as she leaned back in the bed. She was safe. She wasn’t insane.

    And she was utterly lost.

    There were voices outside her door. She reached for a holster she didn’t have any more, then balled her hand into a fist and listened. That was one of the police officers standing guard, and… not the nurses or doctors. Someone else.

    She gasped as the door opened and she stared at her parents. No, not her parents. The other’s parents.

    “Hermione!”

    The woman sounded like her mother. So much, she replied almost against her will: “Mum?”

    They were hugging her. She was hugging them. And crying. Everyone was crying. They looked and felt like her parents.

    “They told us they found someone who…” The woman trailed off, sobbing.

    “They ran a DNA test before informing us! They ‘didn’t want to get our hopes up’!” the man spat. “They wanted to keep us from seeing you!” He was also crying.

    She sniffled as the door was closed from the outside. They weren’t her parents, no matter how much she wished they were. And they thought she was their Hermione.

    She could play along. Their Hermione was probably dead. They wouldn’t know. They wouldn’t lose her a second time.

    No. She wasn’t their Hermione. She wouldn’t stay. She’d return. Return home.

    She couldn’t do that to them. She had to do this now.

    She took a deep breath and lowered her voice.

    “I’m not your daughter.”

    *****​
     
    Kenloch, BadTiming, preier and 10 others like this.
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: The Killing
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 3: The Killing

    Greenwich, London, July 6th, 2005

    Standing in her kitchen as he searched for some grub, Ron wondered if Granger had ever used her stove for actual cooking. Not aloud, of course - Granger might have buried herself in her work for the afternoon after the revelation about her parents, but he had no doubt that now, without the handy distraction of her research, it wouldn’t take much to set her off again.

    “Your parents are already in protective custody.”

    Like Harry’s announcement in the living room.

    Granger didn’t blow her top, though. Well, if she really couldn’t control her temper, she wouldn’t have survived the academic infighting. The stories Percy had told…

    “Just keep them safe if you must lock them up.”

    “We’ll do our best,” Harry told her.

    “You better,” she snapped.

    Now that was more like it! Ron grinned as he entered the living room. “Or else?”

    “What?” She frowned at him.

    “It felt like you’d have to add a threat,” he explained. “You know, like ‘or I’ll feed you into my quantum reactor’.”

    “It’s a quantum mirror cage,” she corrected him.

    “That doesn’t sound as dangerous as a reactor,” he replied, shaking his head. “I’m afraid I’ll have to fail you on your threat test.”

    She snorted then blinked, and he could see her close up. “Leaving such silliness aside, there’s the matter of dinner.”

    “As long as it’s not heated MREs, I’m fine with anything,” Harry said, sitting down on one of the few chairs that wasn’t occupied by a stack of paper.

    Granger pursed her lips at the implicit assumption that she would be cooking for them, and Ron had to hide his grin - his friend could be quite aggravating when he wanted to be. Sometimes even when he didn’t want to be, of course. “I guess we’ll be getting takeaway again?” Ron said. She must live off takeaway and rations. And tea.

    “As long as the police pick up the tab,” Granger said. “I’m not supposed to feed you, am I?” she added rather archly.

    “Well, you’re supposed to be a good host to your guests, aren’t you?” Ron tilted his head with a grin. “At least that’s what Mum always told me.”

    “I see.” And her face was expressionless again. The woman really was mental. “Chicken curry.”

    “I suppose that’s shorthand for: ‘Please go buy some takeaway and get me a chicken curry’?” Ron said with a grin.

    She glared at him, which was at least a reaction he could understand.

    “Ron…” Harry shook his head as Ron glanced at him.

    “And that’s shorthand for ‘Ron, go and buy us dinner!’” Ron chuckled. “Curry for everyone?”

    “Yes.”

    “I said so, didn’t I?”

    *****​

    “That’s not from the restaurant I told you to visit.” Granger greeted him with a frown upon his return.

    “No, it’s from a different one.” Ron grinned. “It would have been too dangerous to go to your favourite restaurant. Someone might have tampered with the food there.” And he hadn’t felt like letting her dictate what they should eat.

    “That’s exactly why the restaurant I named wasn’t my favourite, but my third-favourite takeaway,” she retorted with a scowl. “I took the possible danger into account.”

    She had done that? Ron couldn’t really believe it. That was almost paranoid. No, scratch the ‘almost’ - Moody would consider it appropriate. He shrugged and put the food on the table. “Well, then I added another layer of security. Bon appetit!”

    She scoffed but grabbed the container with her meal anyway. Point Weasley.

    He grabbed his own and started eating. The curry was good. Not the best he had eaten - Mum made that, of course - nor the best he’d had in London, but good enough. Granger wasn’t complaining, so she probably shared his view. But then, anyone who voluntarily ate MREs had no right to complain about food.

    Ron was about to comment on that when he heard a car engine stop in front of the house. He was at the window a moment later, peering through the gap between the frame and the curtains. He knew the black Aston Martin down there. “Scrimgeour,” he said.

    “Scrimgeour? Your superior?” Granger spoke up, putting her own meal down. “He’s coming?”

    “He’s just arrived,” Ron said. He saw him get out of the car.

    And he saw him drop to the ground, half his head gone, before Ron heard the shot.

    “Sniper!” he yelled, tackling Granger to push her down and further away from the window. He felt her squirming under him, trying to push him off - she almost kneed him in the groin. “Stay put!” he snapped. “They shot Scrimgeour!”

    A moment later, the lights in the room went off. Harry’s work - it would make it harder for the sniper to aim at them. Unless they had thermographic scopes. Or night vision ones.

    “I’m calling it in!” Harry snapped, cell phone in hand. “Did you see where the shot came from?”

    “From the southern part of the street. Had to be across the street to get him there,” Ron replied. There were only about five houses from which they could have caught Scrimgeour and also have been too far away to be spotted by Harry and Ron upon arrival.

    “Get off!” Granger hissed.

    He rolled off her.

    “My bag!” The daft woman went in search of her bag! At least she was crawling on all fours and not exposing herself!

    “Leave it!”

    “It’s my emergency bag! I need it.”

    “Let her,” Harry cut in. “Can’t spot the sniper. But they’ll be waiting for us to get out.”

    “Stay put?” Ron asked.

    “Best chance to get them,” Harry said. “We should have requested assault rifles.”

    Moody wouldn’t be pleased by that oversight, Ron knew. And he knew something else. Whoever was behind this wasn’t an ordinary criminal. Ordinary criminals didn’t assassinate police officers, much less a high-ranking one like Scrimgeour. Certainly not by sniping him.

    Ron followed Granger on all fours into her bedroom, where she had switched off the lights as well. Good thinking under pressure. “Stay under the bed!” he told her. “Safest place in case they use grenades.”

    “Grenades?” She gasped.

    “Always assume the worst,” he quoted Moody.

    He didn’t catch her muttered response, but in the dim light of the streetlamps, reflected by the room’s ceiling, he saw her crawl under the bed, clutching her stupid bag - the thing wasn’t large enough to hold much more than one or two of her MREs.

    He took up a position at the door to the bedroom. That would allow him to catch anyone charging through the door in a crossfire with Harry, who was in the kitchen. And if someone threw a grenade inside, he’d be able to dive for cover inside the bedroom.

    But if the enemy came in through the windows…

    “Reinforcements are on the way,” Harry informed him. “ETA three minutes.”

    That would be more than long enough for a prepared force to storm the flat. On the other hand, if they were prepared, why hadn’t they started the attack already? And why hadn’t they shot at him or Harry earlier? They could have taken out Ron easily when he had gone to get food - he hadn’t expected a sniper. “This wasn’t an attack on us,” he said. “They wanted to get Scrimgeour.”

    He took Harry’s muttered curse as agreement.

    The next few minutes passed very, very slowly, but no one attacked them before they finally heard sirens. “What a terrible neighbourhood,” Harry commented. “Second night in a row there’s been a shooting.”

    “Bound to drive the house prices down,” Ron replied.

    “I doubt that,” Granger cut in. “This will be seen as a single incident, not a crime wave.”

    “It was a joke,” Ron explained.

    She huffed in response.

    *****​

    CI5 Headquarters, Westminster, London, July 7th, 2005

    This time, even Bones looked a little rumpled. Losing your second in command was bound to do that, of course. “Potter, Weasley. Sit down.”

    Ron nodded and took a seat next to Harry. They had spent the last hour settling Granger in her old quarters and answering questions. He hoped that now they would get some answers.

    “You saw Rufus’s murder,” Bones stated, staring at them. At Ron.

    Ron nodded. “Sniper shot.”

    “The preliminary report from forensics agree with that - the shot was fired from over four hundred yards away.” Bones shook her head. “They found the shooter’s position.”

    Harry leaned forward. “Was there any clue as to how long the sniper had been set up?”

    “Not for long, according to Alastor.”

    Ron nodded. If Moody said that, then it was true. “They killed Scrimgeour without attacking us. All it did was alert us. This wasn’t aimed at Granger.”

    “But if they wanted to kill him specifically, they would have had to know that he was visiting us.” He shook his head. “Not many would have known about that. Hell, we didn’t even know he was coming until I saw his car arrive.”

    Bones’s stare grew more intense. “Indeed. He wanted to surprise you.”

    Well, it had been a surprise.

    “That means we have a leak in the department,” Harry said.

    “Yes.” Bones looked like she had bit into a lemon. “This might not be related to your case at all - just an opportunistic attack on Rufus.”

    Ron nodded, though he wasn’t completely convinced. Scrimgeour had made a number of enemies - anyone in his position would have - but to order an assassination? Who would go that far?

    Bones shook her head. “Corban Yaxley will lead the investigation of Rufus’s murder. You will keep protecting Dr Granger.”

    “Do we answer to him?” Harry asked.

    Bones shook her head. “No, you’ll answer directly to me.”

    That isn’t standard procedure, Ron thought as he nodded. Interesting.

    *****​

    CI5 Headquarters, Westminster, London, July 7th, 2005

    The next morning, Harry and Ron were about to enter their office - well, the one they shared with four other officers - when they were stopped.

    “Potter. Weasley. A word.”

    Ron schooled his features before turning around. “Good morning, Yaxley.” He tried not to emphasise the greeting too much, just enough to make a point.

    “Yaxley,” Harry said curtly, making the same point.

    The man scoffed. “My office.” He turned around before either Harry or Ron could reply, and Ron scowled at the man’s back as they followed him. Yaxley was almost as old as Moody - a few more years from being put out to pasture, as their former instructor would call it - but he could boast of neither Moody’s skill nor reputation. His age and connections were the only reasons he had risen so high in the department.

    Which was why, once inside Yaxley’s office, Ron leaned against the wall with his arms crossed, flanking Harry, instead of taking a seat.

    Yaxley scoffed again. “I’ve read your reports. They’re a little scant on detail.”

    “There weren’t any details to report,” Harry retorted. “Scrimgeour arrived, got out of the car and was shot right away.”

    “That was all I saw,” Ron confirmed.

    “I’m not talking about the murder itself, but your assignment. Scrimgeour was shot on the way to you - practically on Granger’s doorstep. A blind man could see that the two cases are related. I need to know everything you know about her."

    “I think the site of the ambush was a coincidence,” Harry replied. “Someone wanted to kill Scrimgeour and found out he was on his way to us and managed to get a shooter in place in time to catch him.”

    The other man all but sneered at them. “Trying to solve my case? I’m not about to dismiss any possible clues. Certainly not at this point. Whoever killed Scrimgeour will pay. So, what do you know about Granger? Why is someone trying to kidnap or kill her?”

    “We don’t know - we just started our investigation two days ago,” Harry pointed out. “We’re good but not that good.”

    “Leave the conclusions to me. Just tell me, in your own words, what you saw since you met her.”

    “We arrived on site at…” Harry started to quote their report, but Ron stepped on his friend’s foot.

    “Dr Granger is doing research in quantum physics…”

    *****​

    “He’s an arse,” Harry said an hour later as they were walking towards the guest quarters to fetch Granger so Yaxley could pointlessly interrogate her as well.

    “Of course he is,” Ron agreed. “But finding Scrimgeour’s murderer is more important than trying to needle the bloke.”

    “I doubt that he’s competent enough to find the murderer - with or without our help.” Harry grinned.

    “But he’s competent enough to blame his failure on our supposed lack of co-operation,” Ron pointed out.

    His friend scoffed but didn’t contradict him.

    “He’ll get his just desserts, anyway,” Ron went on. “Bones will need a scapegoat as well.”

    Harry chuckled at that. “That’s true. But I’d like to be present when she reams him out.”

    Ron shrugged. “We have our own assignment.”

    “With which Yaxley’s currently meddling. Want to bet that Granger will blame us for this?”

    Ron shook his head. That was a mug’s bet.

    *****​

    “Didn’t you tell your colleagues that I wasn’t even near the window and didn’t see anything before you tried to squash me flat with your bulk?”

    As Ron had expected, Granger was in a mood. Her usual mood. Well, Yaxley would have to deal with her. “Apparently, our detailed reports weren’t enough. We had to retell everything, and now it’s your turn.”

    “Great. I could be doing actual productive work, but I have to talk to the police so they can cross off a box on their investigation checklist.” She shook her head, sending her messy ponytail this way and that.

    “Wait… you want to go to work today?” Harry blurted out what Ron was thinking.

    Granger looked at them as if this were the most stupid thing she had ever heard. “Of course. I’m already behind schedule.”

    “You have a schedule for research? Isn’t that a little… optimistic?” Ron asked.

    “I adjust it based upon past performance.”

    “You mean it’s more like a guideline. A loose guideline.” He didn’t snicker, but it was a close call. And her frown told Ron that he was right on the mark.

    “Alright, here we are,” Harry said, knocking on Yaxley’s door.

    “Come in!”

    Ron turned to Granger as the door opened. “Try not to hurt him too…” He trailed off.

    Granger was staring at Yaxley, paler than usual. And trembling. “Yaxley,” she whispered, too low for anyone but Ron to hear. But then she straightened and raised her chin. “Can we get this over with?” she asked, loudly, as she marched into his office. “I’ve got more important things to do today.”

    Harry closed the door after telling Yaxley to give them a call when he was finished, but Ron wasn’t paying attention. Granger had recognised Yaxley. And she was terrified of him. Yet Yaxley hadn’t said anything about having met her before.

    Had she just recovered some of her memories? Had Yaxley been among her kidnappers? He would’ve been old enough at the time. But if she had recognised him, why hadn’t she cried out and denounced him?

    What the hell was going on? Every time he found a clue, it just made the case more confusing.

    “She recognised Yaxley,” Ron said in a low voice, looking at the closed door of the man’s office.

    Harry narrowed his eyes. “He hasn’t said anything about having met her before."

    “And she looked terrified when she saw him,” Ron added.

    “Crabbe’s death didn’t faze her.”

    “Exactly,” Ron agreed, glancing at his friend.

    “You think she recovered some of her memories from the kidnapping?”

    “If she ever lost them in the first place,” Ron replied.

    “But… why is she still alive?” Harry shook his head. “Yaxley’s no Moody, but he’s not an idiot. If he had been involved in that kind of thing, he’d have silenced her at the first opportunity.”

    “He might not have been able to get to her at the start, and after it was revealed that she didn’t know anything, it wasn’t necessary any more,” Ron pointed out.

    Harry frowned, rubbing his chin. “But to brazen it out… trusting that she wouldn’t recover her memories. Why didn’t he bolt right after she was found, if he was involved? And why would he insist on talking to her now?”

    “Perhaps he knew that she wouldn’t talk,” Ron said.

    “How? Stockholm syndrome?” Harry shook his head again. “She doesn’t seem to be the type.”

    Ron agreed with that - Granger was no Patty Hearst. “Perhaps they had drugs that wiped her memory.”

    “And let her go after seven years?”

    Ron frowned at Harry’s raised eyebrows. “Just speculating,” he said. “But she knows and fears Yaxley - I’m sure of that.” He glanced around, then leaned against the wall next to the door and pulled out one of his brothers’ inventions.

    Harry muttered a curse under his breath and moved to block him from view. “If anyone catches us…”

    “They won’t,” Ron said, pressing the bug against Yaxley’s door and handing Harry an earbud. “If anyone asks, we’re listening to the latest pop song Ginny likes.”

    He ignored Harry’s snort while he activated his own earbud.

    “I already told you: My work isn’t related to the development of quantum computers at all!”

    “Potter and Weasley disagree.”

    “I told them the same thing! And I’m the one with a doctorate in quantum physics! Now do you have any other questions that would better suit an episode of Dr Who or can I stop wasting my time here and return to my work?”

    “Yeah, she’s utterly terrified,” Harry muttered.

    Ron glared at him. He knew what he had seen.

    “What foreign persons have you been in contact with to discuss your work?”

    “You have copies of my electronic correspondence. Everyone is listed there.”

    “No private conversations?”

    “No. quantum physics isn’t a topic that tends to come up in private conversations. At least not the actual physics.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Yes, I am certain.”

    “What about your friends at work?”

    “Of course I discussed my work with my colleagues at the faculty.”

    “Would they share the information with others?”

    “How would I know? You might not be aware of this, but normal people don’t tap their friends’ phones or hack their e-mail accounts.”

    Ron had to chuckle at that. Granger’s sharp tongue was entertaining when it wasn’t aimed at yourself. Sometimes even then, he admitted.

    “You’re not very co-operative.”

    “I’ve answered all your questions to the best of my ability. It’s not my fault if you don’t seem to be able to ask questions whose answers would actually benefit your investigation. If I were to be any more co-operative, I’d need to solve your case for you!”

    “You also seem remarkably unaffected by two killings on your doorstep.”

    “I had good therapists who taught me not to feel guilty about anything that wasn’t my fault.”

    “And yet you never recovered your missing memories.”

    “Considering what kind of memories I’m likely missing, I think I’m fortunate in that regard.”

    “It also means your kidnappers won’t get caught.”

    “My therapists also taught me that I am not to blame for the lack of success of the police.”

    Ron thought he could hear Yaxley grinding his teeth in frustration.

    “Is that all? I don’t have all day.”

    “For now. I might have more questions at a later date.”

    Ron hastily removed his brother’s special bug and took a step back. A moment later, Granger stepped out, glaring at him and Harry. “That was pointless.”

    Ron grimaced at Yaxley behind Granger’s back, getting a sympathetic nod in return. Let the man think they were bonding over having to deal with the testy scientist.

    But as he followed Granger and Harry through the hallway, he noticed that her shoulders sagged a little and she took a deep breath - as if she were relieved.

    A few moments later, though, she looked as usual - driven, frustrated and angry at everyone. “Can I go to work now, or do you have more questions to which you already know the answers?”

    Harry cleared his throat. “Actually, you should really reconsider entering protective custody.”

    Was that a flicker of fear running across her face? Ron couldn’t tell for certain before annoyance replaced it. “Why? You were fine with guarding me in my lab!” she said.

    “That was before our superior was shot with a sniper rifle in front of your home,” Harry replied. They hadn’t actually identified the rifle yet, but a sniper rifle was basically a better hunting rifle anyway, so Ron’s friend wasn’t exactly lying.

    Not that Granger seemed impressed by the term used, anyway. “That shouldn’t pose a problem with a decently armoured car, and I doubt a rifle would be of much use inside the faculty building. My lab doesn’t have windows, either, and we can use the staff parking area - it’s underground.”

    That made some sort of sense - if you were the sort of mental woman who was fixated on her work to the exclusion of common sense and any hint of a self-preservation instinct. They should shut Granger down. On the other hand, if Yaxley was involved in this whole mess... “I’ll get an armoured car, then,” Ron said, ignoring the annoyed glance from Harry and the triumphant, if possibly surprised, smile from Granger.

    *****​

    “You want an armoured car? After Scrimgeour’s murder, everyone wants an armoured car, Weasley!” Williamson glared at Ron. “And that means the cars we have go to those with seniority - not junior officers, no matter how hot they think they are!”

    Ron grinned. “Oh, but we’re on protection detail. That takes priority, doesn’t it?” He slapped down the copy of his orders that he had taken with him. “We need an armoured car for our assignment.”

    The other officer blinked as he skimmed the documents. “What? Isn’t that the bird in front of whose house Scrimgeour was shot?”

    “Exactly.”

    “And why haven’t you stuffed her into a safe house and told her not to show her face outside for the next few months, huh?”

    Ron sighed - a little theatrically. “You wouldn’t be asking that question if you had ever met her. She’s a nightmare, honestly. And we can’t exactly lock her up - she already threatened to raise a stink with the press.”

    “Really?”

    He shrugged. “Not my call. So… I guess you’ll have to disappoint some senior officer, hm?” Ron grinned.

    Williamson shrugged. “They can complain to Bones. Regulations are regulations.”

    “Exactly!” Ron agreed, for once.

    “Don’t break this one, though, or there’ll be hell to pay!” The other officer glared at him. “That means: Don’t let Potter drive! His crazy stunts put our entire budget in the red two years running!”

    “Of course,” Ron lied. As if he’d let a desk jockey tell him and Harry how to solve a case. If they had to wreck a car to catch a crook, they’d do it.

    If they caught Granger’s kidnapper or Scrimgeour’s murderer, not even Bones would criticise them, anyway.

    *****​

    “So that’s why you agreed with Granger,” Harry commented - in a low voice; Granger was searching for something in her ratty beaded bag a few yards away - as Ron got out of the Audi A6 in CI5’s garage.

    “That, and I didn’t think much of our chances to get her to agree anyway,” he said. “So we might as well profit from her stubbornness.”

    “Right,” his friend agreed.

    “New car?” Granger asked as she approached them. “Armoured?”

    “Actually, yes,” Ron replied. “How did you know?”

    “Why else would you get a new and expensive - and, therefore, more noticeable - car?” She shook her head.

    “You forgot to add ‘elementary, Dr Watson’,” Harry commented.

    She chuckled despite his sarcastic tone. Harry must be losing his touch, Ron thought. “Let’s go,” he said. Harry held out his hand, but Ron shook his head. “Williamson said not to let you drive.”

    “Since when do we listen to him?” Harry complained.

    “Since we’re in headquarters. We can switch later,” Ron said as he slid behind the wheel.

    Since it was rather late in the morning, they made good time to the campus, and Granger got them into the underground staff parking lot without any trouble. Of course, she wanted to get out as soon as they parked, but Ron stopped her. “Wait.”

    “What?” She froze, glancing around.

    “Let us check for trouble, first,” Ron explained.

    “But you’re more likely to get shot if someone’s waiting for us, aren’t you?”

    She looked serious. The woman was mental.

    “More likely doesn’t mean you won’t get shot,” Harry pointed out.

    “And we’re trained to spot an ambush,” Ron added. And to deal with trouble.

    But there were no vans, nor any other cars that would easily hide someone. No tinted windows, and not many big SUVs. Ron still felt quite exposed even after they had checked the possible ambush spots.

    They reached Granger’s lab without incident, though. And the woman went straight to work. Leaning against the wall, his arms crossed, Ron watched her take notes and use two calculators and her computer simultaneously.

    She was far too calm and collected. Two murders on her doorstep in two days, her parents in hiding and she didn’t bat an eye? It made no sense. Certainly not for someone who had been kidnapped as a kid.

    She was hiding something, and he would find out what. Now.

    “You recognised Yaxley,” he said, staring at her.

    She froze for a fraction of a second, tensing up, before glancing first at him, then at Harry. “I’ve never seen that man before in my life,” she said in a far too calm voice.

    “Yeah, right,” Ron retorted, “I saw your reaction when he opened the door to his office. You recognised him. And you were frightened. Terrified.”

    She pressed her lips together, glaring at him, but he met her eyes. He’d stared down much more impressive people. And she had nothing on Mum’s glare, anyway.

    “I told you: I’ve never seen that man before.”

    “Did you recover part of your missing memory?” Harry cut in.

    “No.”

    Harry went on: “If you did, you need to tell us. Whoever kidnapped you might be planning to do it again.”

    “I don’t remember anything about my kidnapping,” she replied.

    “Even if Yaxley merely looks similar to your kidnapper, it would be very helpful - possibly crucial - to prevent another crime,” Ron said.

    “Aren’t you listening? I told you: I don’t remember anything about my kidnapping!” She stood, slamming her hands down on her desk, almost toppling over one of her stacks of paper.

    “Why were you frightened of him, then?” Ron asked. “And you were; I saw your face.”

    Once more, she looked from him to Hary and back, then she raised her chin slightly. “If I knew who was involved in the kidnapping, I would denounce them at once! But I don’t!” She wasn’t quite crying, but her eyes looked wet. For Granger, that was almost a nervous breakdown.

    Perhaps we should ease up, Ron thought. She was a traumatised kidnapping victim, after all. Not a criminal. Probably not.

    But Harry was pushing. “Why were you frightened of Yaxley, then, if you can’t remember anything and didn’t have a flashback?”

    “Panic attack. I’m doing much better than I used to, but sometimes they still happen.” She had composed herself again. “Anything could trigger one.”

    Her answer explained her reaction. But Ron didn’t believe her. She was lying. Ron could feel it in his gut. But he couldn’t prove it.

    “You didn’t have a panic attack when I shot Crabbe. Or when Scrimgeour was murdered and we expected a follow-up attack on your flat,” Harry pointed out.

    “They happen randomly. Like my nightmares.” She didn’t sound smug, but there was a hint of relief, in Ron’s opinion. She looked at them both, then sat down again and resumed working.

    Ron clenched his teeth, swallowing a curse. He knew she was hiding something. He just didn’t know what it was.

    *****​

    “You need to step away.”

    “What?” Ron stared at her. She hadn’t said anything but 'Curry’, 'please’ and ‘thank you’ since their confrontation, and now she wanted…

    “From the quantum mirror cage. I’m running a test.”

    Ah. He took a few steps to the side. “A test?”

    “Yes.” She bent down, connecting thick power cables to the base of the cage.

    “And what’s it supposed to do?”

    “I’m just confirming that the power demands are met and that the cables can handle the strain.”

    “Really?” He didn’t believe it. Granger wasn’t the type. She would have tested that as soon as she had built the thing.

    “Yes.”

    “We’re in no danger of getting disintegrated, then? Reduced to our component atoms?”

    “No.” She looked annoyed, even with half her face hidden by her bushy mane. “This isn’t Dr Who.”

    “Too bad. A Tardis would be great,” he joked.

    She tensed again and stepped back before walking to a console. “Don’t go near the cage! And don’t touch it!”

    “One kind of precludes the other,” Harry pointed out.

    She glared at them, then flipped a switch, and the cage started to hum as tiny sparks appeared on its metal bars.

    Ron half-expected her to yell ‘It’s alive!’, but she only took more notes while cranking up the power until Ron expected an arc to appear between the bars at any moment, welding the machine shut. Or at least for her hair to get all puffy.

    But neither happened before she finished her test and turned the thing off. “Just as predicted!” she announced, beaming at them for a moment, before her eyes widened and she turned away, returning to her desk without looking at them.

    Mental, Ron thought again.

    *****​

    Hours later, Granger finally seemed done with her work for the day, picking up a stack of notes and stuffing them into her bag. She even seemed a little tired, instead of looking like she were raring to pull an all-nighter with a few gallons of tea and a few pounds of chocolate keeping her awake and fueled. “Can we pick up dinner on the way home?”

    “We’re not going to your home,” Harry told her.

    “What?” She stared at Ron’s friend.

    “Your flat isn’t safe enough,” he told her.

    “I was told the police would be patrolling the area,” she replied.

    “They will. But it won’t be enough. Not against people willing to murder Scrimgeour,” Harry said. “A patrol could easily be taken out by a sniper.”

    “There’s also the fact that there’s no safe way to park the car in your area and transfer to your flat,” Ron pointed out. “There aren’t enough officers available to cover all possible sniping locations.” And that was not even taking the possible threat from long-range snipers into account.

    “I see.” Granger nodded, to Ron’s surprise - he had expected her to throw a tantrum. “So where are we going, then? A safe house?”

    “Yes,” Harry confirmed.

    “I expect to be able to leave for work tomorrow,” she said, frowning at them both.

    “That’s the plan,” Ron said. “Unless something happens, of course.” He didn’t trust their luck after two shootings in two days.

    “Let’s go then.” Granger nodded and started towards the door of her lab, prompting Ron and Harry to beat her there - a bodyguard didn’t let their charge go first through any door.

    Once more, they had to check the underground garage for an ambush. And the car for sabotage.

    “I thought the police were guarding the perimeter,” Granger said as Ron knelt down to check the bottom of the Audi.

    “They are,” Ron confirmed.

    “But you still check for yourself, if you plan to stay alive in this business,” Harry added.

    Granger snorted. “Constant vigilance?” Had she met Moody? No - the old man would have told Ron and Harry. She rolled her eyes at Ron’s expression. “You told me about your instructor.”

    Ah. But had they mentioned his catchphrase? Ron wasn’t certain.

    *****​

    Kingston Upon Thames, London, July 7th, 2005

    “This looks very ordinary,” Granger commented as Ron put the takeaway containers on the table in the small house. “But it doesn’t look like anyone lives here.”

    “No one does,” Harry said as he passed them on the way to check the basement - they had already checked both floors of the house.

    “That could tip off the neighbours that something’s not normal, couldn't it?”

    “The cover story takes that into account,” Ron replied. “Some expat kept the family home even though he moved to Australia.”

    “With the right algorithm, you could probably find such safe houses,” she mused. “Just look for similar setups.”

    “A search wouldn’t narrow it down enough to be practical,” Ron retorted. “And I doubt that there’s a mailing list for nosey neighbours.”

    “Aunt Petunia would be on it if there were one,” Harry cut in. “Cellar’s clear as well,” he added.

    Granger didn’t ask about Harry’s aunt, Ron noticed. She merely nodded in acknowledgement. And the way she looked at Harry… was that sympathy? There hadn’t been anything about Harry’s strained relations to his family in the news.

    "Let’s eat,” Harry said. “Before the food goes cold.”

    “There’s a microwave,” Granger had to point out, of course.

    “That’s not a reason to delay dinner any longer,” Ron said. “I'm starving!” He was, actually.

    Granger chuckled, shaking her head with a bemused expression, but a moment later, she closed up again, frowning as if she was angry at herself.

    Dinner ended up being a rather quiet affair, and Granger was up and headed towards the stairs before Ron had finished his own meal.

    “Which room’s mine?”

    “The small one with the single bed,” Harry said - he had also finished his meal already. “We’ll take the double.”

    Not that they needed it - one of them would be keeping guard while the other slept, and vice versa. But neither did Granger need a larger bed. Such things only happened in movies.

    Two hours later, Ron heard her scream.

    *****​

    She didn’t want to do it. The last time she had done it… She shivered at the memory. Fur. Fangs. Whiskers. Ears that seemed to move of their own accord. Claws sliding out of her fingers at the slightest provocation. And a twitching tail that had a will of its own. And the instincts...

    She shook her head. That wouldn’t happen again. This was safe. Mostly. As safe as she could make it - she had checked and taken the hairs herself.

    “Hey! Is something wrong?”

    He was looking at her. Smiling, despite their situation.

    She returned his smile. “It’s alright, Ron. I’m just a little…” She shrugged.

    He nodded. “I know. Harry’s keeping an eye on them.”

    She closed her eyes. Just for a moment. Taking a deep breath - facing away from the empty cauldron and its lingering smell - she stood. “The vials are ready.”

    “Ah.” He knew what that meant. Wetting his lips, he looked back, over his shoulder, through the tent’s entrance.

    “Let’s go.” She nodded and stepped past him, out of the tent.

    Harry was leaning against the closest tree, watching their captives. Mafalda Hopkirk. Albert Runcorn. Corban Yaxley. Laid out on the ground, bound with magical ropes and covered with jinxes that prevented all known methods of magical travel. And still drooling from the overdose of Veritaserum Hermione had force-fed them, and the mind spells she had used on them.

    Their bodies and knowledge would allow Hermione and her friends to reach Umbridge. She handed the boys a dozen vials each, and the hairs she had tested.

    “Remember: We go in, get the locket and leave,” Ron said. “We don’t get sidetracked.”

    “Of course,” Hermione agreed, feeling a little annoyed. She knew perfectly well that the locket took priority. “No attacking targets of opportunity. No matter how tempting.” She dropped one hair into a vial, then toasted her friends.

    A moment later, she felt her body change.

    *****​

    She was sick when they returned. Literally - she knelt down in the grass and retched, barely noticing how he held her hair back. Not that she cared. The things she had seen, in the Ministry… The crimes she’d had to watch, without being able to lift a finger, much less her wand, to help, lest she compromise their crucial mission...

    She spat the last of her bile on the ground, then rinsed her mouth with a glass of water Harry had conjured. “Thanks.”

    He nodded at her.

    “Those bastards…” Ron spat.

    She turned her head to look at their captives. They were awake, now, but still silenced and bound. They couldn’t move, but they could watch.

    Harry and Ron glanced at each other. “Better seal the locket up right now,” Harry said.

    She knew what he was thinking. And she was tempted to agree. Enter the tent. Ignore what was going to happen. It would be easy. And it would be wrong.

    As the Headmaster used to say: You had to decide whether you did what was right or what was easy. And she knew what was right. They hadn’t been able to save the poor prisoners in the Ministry. But they could ensure that their captives wouldn’t hurt anyone any more ever again.

    She shook her head. “No. Let’s get this over with.”

    “Are you sure?”

    She gave Ron a look, and he backed off.

    She picked Yaxley. He was staring at her, his face frozen, only his eyes moving, as she approached. She was tempted to yell at him. Confront him with his crimes. Make him confess. Make him sweat.

    But she just pointed her wand at his head.

    “Reducto.”

    *****

     
    Kenloch, BadTiming, preier and 11 others like this.
  8. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Ah, so it's not mass obliviation, but dimensional travel. And Hermione is trying to return, I suppose?
     
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  9. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Well, she'd certainly try to return.
     
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  10. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    The big question is what happened with the original Hermione that was abducted? Also what the fuck is going on with the assasinations? That'd make sense if someone had taken over the magic world and obliviated all opposition. But it doesn't really make all that much sense with universal travel.
     
    wichajster and Starfox5 like this.
  11. XanderSan

    XanderSan (The Guy in the Snow)

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    Personal theory: Muggle Hermione is either dead or was swapped with Witch Hermione. There's the possibility that M!Hermy was still alive after the kidnapping, although odds are not in a happy state. Whatever caused the 'swap' either exchanged the two or deliberately selected a world without a Hermione in it. My guess is probably some sort of escape attempt gone wrong, seeing as we can clearly tell the original (magical) world where the Voldermort- or at least the DE's - either won or went to ground and came back.

    Also, the short exchange with W!Hermy with her 'parents' implies she either told them about magic or someone with magic came knocking, because the parents were worried it was a wizard/witch.

    As always, a fascinating and well written story, Starfox5. I wish you got more of the recognition you deserve, because your stories are always so good.
     
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: The Inside Job
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 4: The Inside Job

    Kingston Upon Thames, London, July 8th, 2005

    Ron entered Granger’s room with his gun drawn, looking for a threat. There wasn’t any. But thanks to the light from the hallway, he could see Granger sitting up in the bed, hands furiously wiping her face. Though there was nothing on her face. And she was panting. He could see her chest heaving.

    A panic attack if he had ever seen one. Or a flashback, part of his mind whispered.

    She blinked, finally noticing him. “Ro…” She broke off, swallowing. “Officer Weasley,” she said, more calmly.

    “Dr Granger. Nightmare?”

    She nodded. “Yes.” Her hand rose, almost touching her left cheek before she dropped it again.

    Harry arrived a moment later, wearing his trousers and not much else. He looked at Granger, then at Ron and sighed. “False alarm?”

    “I had a nightmare,” Granger said. She was staring at Harry’s chest, Ron noticed. Most people did when they first saw his scar.

    “I wasn’t hit by a cannon,” Harry told her in the same slightly annoyed tone he always used when explaining his infamous mark. “It was a normal gun - the scar just grew with me.”

    “Ah.” Granger didn’t ask any questions and stopped staring at Harry. Only one person had reacted like that in this situation, as far as Ron knew: Luna, when she had met Harry swimming a few laps in the pond at Ron’s home. And Luna was pretty much the antithesis of Granger.

    He glanced at his friend and found Harry looking surprised. Perhaps even a little disappointed that Granger wasn’t pushing for more details - Harry didn’t like talking about the events that led to him getting the scar, but he liked telling off nosy people. Well, it seemed that Granger wasn’t going to give him the opportunity.

    “So…” She was looking at him. “You have ascertained that I merely had a nightmare and am not in lethal danger.”

    Ron nodded. “Yes.”

    “Then there’s no reason to stay in my room any longer, is there?” She pulled her sheets up as if Ron had been staring at her. He hadn’t, though - not that she was naked, in any case; she had taken a nightie from the safe house’s stock.

    “No, there isn’t,” Harry agreed, glancing at Ron.

    Ron merely nodded curtly and left the room. “I don’t know what’s wrong with her,” he said in a low voice once they were back in the hallway. “She goes from scared to considerate to abrasive inside of a minute.”

    “There’s nothing in her file about any mental health issues - apart from trauma related to her kidnapping,” Harry said, heading back to the bedroom.

    “Whoever examined her might have missed something. Or it could be a recent development,” Ron replied. “When I went in, she was about to call me ‘Ron’, and a moment later, she was all distant.”

    Harry stopped at the door and looked at him. “She was about to call you ‘Ron’?”

    “Yes.” Ron knew what he had heard.

    “Are you able to read minds now?”

    Ron rolled his eyes. “She said ‘Ro…’, then stopped.”

    “That’s not very conclusive,” Harry retorted. “Could have wanted to call you a rotten bastard.”

    Ron chuckled at that. “Perhaps she did,” he admitted. But he didn’t think so. “Anyway, we should…” He blinked. Had that been…?

    “That was the alarm we placed on the door,” Harry confirmed. “Someone’s breaking in.” And they hadn’t triggered the regular alarm.

    “Could be a burglar,” Ron said as he pulled his cell phone out. The cover story claimed that the house was unoccupied for long periods, and the special curtains kept the lights inside from showing outside. A burglar might think the house was unoccupied.

    No signal. That was… “Someone’s jamming the cell phones.” No burglar would do that. Moody had been right again - always expect the worst, Moody liked to say, and so far this assignment had been one mess after another.

    Harry cursed.

    “Get your shoes and get Granger, I’ll cover the stairs,” Ron whispered, already moving towards them.

    A moment later, he was crouched at the top of the stairs, pistol aimed at the door below. Any moment now… Behind him, he could hear Harry go into Granger’s bedroom.

    It took a little longer for the perps to pick the lock than he had expected. Harry would have gone through it in half the time - and he wouldn’t have triggered the alarm. Whoever this was, they hadn’t been trained by Moody.

    Then the door was pushed open - slowly - and the first thing Ron saw was the muzzle of an AK-47. Definitely not a burglar, then. And not - as had happened before to a CI5 team in a safe house - Met officers investigating a possible burglary that the neighbours had reported.

    No need to call out a warning, either, against that kind of firepower. When the head of the criminal, face covered by a ski mask, appeared, Ron squeezed the trigger and fired a 9 mm bullet into it. The man dropped dead in the doorway, his assault rifle clattering on the ground. Pushed by the falling body, the door swung open, and Ron spotted someone moving outside, but they took cover before he could snap off another shot.

    What would they do now? They had lost their point man and the element of surprise. Smart criminals would retreat in this situation. But smart criminals didn’t carry Russian assault rifles. Or murder police officers with sniper rifles.

    Footsteps behind him! He glanced over his shoulder. Harry was in the doorway of Granger’s room, with Granger herself behind him. She looked like he had dragged her out of her bed - still in her nightie, but clutching her bag. Nice legs.

    He focused on the door again. “Got one,” he said in a low voice, “but there’s at least one more outside.”

    Harry pulled Granger down at once. “We need to get to the car.”

    Which was in the garage. They could reach it without leaving the house, but going down the stairs would put them into the field of fire of a sniper covering the front of the house. And Ron would bet that the same man who had murdered Scrimgeour was out there.

    “Someone has to have heard the shot and called the police,” Granger said.

    “Cell phones are jammed,” Harry replied. “They wouldn’t have forgotten to sabotage the landlines either.”

    “Who would be able to do that?” she asked.

    “The same sort of people who could find out which safe house we picked,” Harry replied.

    Granger’s gasp told Ron that she realised who Harry meant.

    Traitors within CI5.

    Something flew through the door, trailing flames, and hit the floor in the entrance area, shattering. A moment later, flames sprang up.

    “They’re trying to smoke us out,” Ron yelled, squeezing off two shots in the general direction of the door - just in case the enemy was planning a charge.

    “Where’s the fire extinguisher?” Granger asked.

    “Don’t!” Ron heard Harry yell. “They’ll be waiting for us to go down so they can shoot.”

    “But they want me…”

    Ron cut her off. “Even if they want you alive, they won’t expect you to be first and will shoot anyway.”

    Below, the fire was spreading. He could already smell smoke. They needed to get out of here - but the enemy would be waiting for them.

    “We need to get to the car,” Harry repeated himself.

    Ron agreed. It was their best chance - as far as they could tell, since the alarm they had placed there hadn’t gone off, no one had broken into the garage yet. They just needed to get down to the ground floor and into the garage without getting shot.

    He heard glass shatter, and the flickering light below grew stronger. Someone had thrown another petrol bottle into the living room. Time was running out. “The fire extinguisher!” he yelled.

    “What?” Harry and Granger asked, but Ron was already running past them, towards the corner of the hallway. If it was… yes! It was a powder extinguisher!

    He grabbed it and sprinted back. “Harry, grab Granger and follow me! I’ll cover us.”

    “What? But you said they’ll…” Granger started.

    Ron ignored her and pulled the trigger on the extinguisher, quickly covering the stairs, then the entrance area, in a thick cloud of fine powder before holding his breath and sprinting downstairs. They wouldn’t be able to shoot if they wanted Granger alive, but if they wanted to kill her…

    He reached the ground floor without stumbling or getting shot and sent a powder cloud out the door, then covered the hallway and stairs again before moving towards the garage.

    A shriek behind him made him stop, but a moment later, Harry yelled: “I’ve got her, go on!”

    Ron reached the entrance to the garage, dropping the sputtering extinguisher and entering the garage with his pistol out again, quickly covering and checking the area while taking a deep breath. “Clear!” he announced as Harry arrived, Granger in tow. Both were covered in white powder - like Ron himself.

    Harry let go of her hand and rushed to the driver’s side of the Audi while Granger bent over, coughing and wheezing.

    “Come on!” Ron told her, grabbing her and all but stuffing her into the car. He spotted someone moving in the hallway through the thinning clouds of powder and fired off two more shots, pushing the car door closed with his hip.

    Another shot for good measure followed, then he jumped into the passenger seat as Harry gunned the engine.

    Ron managed to pull the armoured door closed a second before Harry crashed through the opening door, wrecking it and their paint job. “Get down!” he yelled.

    Granger shrieked as shots rang out, armoured windows getting covered in shallow craters where bullets failed to penetrate the glass - mostly on Harry’s side, Ron noticed.

    His friend put the car into a narrow turn, narrowly missing a parked SUV, and Ron felt the slight shock when one of their tyres got shot. That wouldn’t stop the car, though, certainly not with Harry behind the wheel. Ron’s partner accelerated and drove the Audi down the road. A far too tight turn round the closest street corner later, they were clear.

    That didn’t mean that they were safe, of course. Ron pressed his lips together as he started to come down from the adrenalin high of combat, reholstering his pistol - after a tactical reload, of course.

    "How did they find us?” Granger asked. “Who knew that we were there?”

    That was the crux of the issue. “No one outside CI5 knew of that safe house. Even fewer knew we were there,” Ron said.

    “There’s a leak, then. Probably the same leak that caused Scrimgeour’s death.” Granger went on.

    “It’s possible,” Harry agreed.

    Granger scoffed. “Do you honestly think that you have two leaks in your organisation?”

    If CI5 had been penetrated by two different organisations, they would be the laughing stock of the police service, Ron knew. Worse than they already were, of course - many would love to see CI5 taken down a notch or two. Especially the Met - Bones and Scrimgeour had a tendency to run roughshod over them when solving a case. And Ron would be lying if he claimed not to have enjoyed their special status at times.

    “In either case, I don’t trust CI5 any more,” Granger went on. “As an organisation. You two are above suspicion, of course.”

    “Why, thank you for the vote of confidence,” Harry drawled.

    Ron chuckled.

    “You saved me twice,” Granger replied. “But I worry about my parents.”

    “And you don’t trust Yaxley,” Ron said.

    “No, I don’t. But I don’t have any logical reason for my suspicion.”

    “Female intuition?” Ron joked.

    Granger snorted at that.

    “We’ll have to call Bones. We can trust her - if she were compromised, she would have simply replaced us with other agents,” Ron said. But would Bones know who to trust?

    “And we’ll need burner phones,” Harry added.

    “Pardon?”

    “Too many know our cell phone numbers. Any traitor would be able to track us through them,” Ron explained. “They’ll be tracking us already, but Harry’s driving too fast for them to find us.”

    “Ah.”

    Harry had to stop at a red light. “Yes. But that’s only a temporary solution. Call Bones and fill her in.”

    Ron pulled out his phone. He had a signal again.

    *****​

    Soho, London, July 8th, 2005

    Ron checked carefully for any tails or witnesses before he approached the rental lockers near the hostel and Tube station. He didn’t spot anyone suspicious, though, before he reached the locker they had rented - on Moody’s advice. Ten seconds later, he was walking away with a sports bag in hand. Just another young man coming home late from a trip.

    He snorted - it was a little too late at night for that.

    “Trouble?” Harry asked as he approached the side alley where his friend was hiding with Granger - they were slightly underdressed for clubbing.

    “No,” Ron replied, putting the bag down and opening it. “Let’s get you two dressed.” They’d have to get one of their weapon bags, later - whoever was behind this had too much firepower to rely on their pistols. Bones would loathe it, but they had no choice.

    “You’ve got female clothes in the bag?” Granger sounded sceptical.

    “Unisex,” Ron replied with a grin, handing Harry a phone and pocketing one himself. “You can wear some jeans and shirts of ours. Might be a little loose on you, though.”

    Granger nodded. “I’ll manage.”

    For a certain definition of ‘manage’, Ron thought a minute later. Ginny wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing rolled-up jeans - even Harry’s were far too long for Granger - and a loose shirt. Well, not so loose in the chest, he noticed. Though it wasn’t as if he were staring - but as a police officer, he was trained to notice details.

    “So, Bones said to ‘lay low and contact her in a day or two’,” Harry summed up as they were walking down the street five minutes later. “We’ve already ditched the car with our phones.” Well, they left it in a car park. Bones would recover it from the Met. “Which means we’re on our own for now.”

    “Seeing as you have a private getaway bag hidden in London - and I doubt that you only had one - I assume that you’re prepared for this,” Granger commented.

    Ron chuckled at Harry’s pout. “We’ve got a few options,” his friend said. “You might not like them.”

    “I’ll manage,” Granger replied, patting her bag. Did she expect them to go camping for a few days and rely on her MREs?

    “Good, since you’re the weak link here,” Harry told her with a grin. “We’ve got fake IDs for ourselves, but, obviously, not for you. Which means we’ll have to find a hotel where they won’t ask questions if a woman visits two men in their room. You’ll have to dress up.”

    Granger gaping, finally at a loss for words - if only for a few seconds - was a sight Ron would treasure.

    *****​

    Even after being told that she wouldn’t be posing as a prostitute, just a party girl, Granger was still fuming. The woman couldn’t take a joke.

    “And where will you get ‘appropriate clothes’?” she asked. “Unless you think jeans and a shirt are the height of fashion in the club scene. Which, I’ll have you know, they aren’t.”

    “Second-hand shop,” Ron replied, checking for tails while Harry took point.

    “I wasn’t aware that there were any open at this time of the night,” she commented.

    “There aren’t,” Ron told her. “And if there were, using them might draw attention.” Unlikely, but not impossible, as Moody liked to say.

    “Breaking into a shop will also draw attention,” she retorted.

    “Only if they notice.” He grinned at her. “Which they won’t, I’ll have you know.”

    She really didn’t like having her own words quoted back at her. Or she loathed his imitation of her. Either way, her glare was a sight to see.

    “Knock it off, you two, and get with the programme. People are staring,” Harry cut in. “We’re here, anyway.”

    “Here?” Granger had to ask.

    “At ‘Fabolous Frankie’s’,” Ron said. “The second-hand shop which will help us turn you hip. Or at least get you into clothes that were fashionable this millennium.”

    "You don’t exactly dress like a model either,” she shot back.

    “Not yet.” He grinned.

    “So that means you will commit fraud as well as petty theft?”

    He had to laugh at the implied insult. “Good one. You’d almost think you have a sense of humour!”

    “I do have a sense of humour,” she retorted, proving Ron right, “it’s just a little more sophisticated than yours.”

    “I see. You must have left it in your flat, then? Or did you feed it to your quantum mirror cage?”

    “Dial down the flirting, you two,” Harry interrupted. “We have a shop to break into.”

    "Funny,” Granger commented in a tone that meant the opposite.

    Ron chuckled, though, and went to help Harry with the lock on the back door of Frankie’s. This wouldn’t take long. Well, breaking in wouldn’t take long. Finding clothes that made Granger look trendy would be a challenge.

    It didn’t take long. Frankie hadn’t changed the lock since the last time they had checked for stolen goods without a warrant or his knowledge. Lazy - but then, most people able to easily pick his locks wouldn’t waste their time on his cheap clothes.

    “Come,” Ron whispered, holding out his hand to Granger as Harry opened the door.

    She scoffed and ignored it, walking past him. He frowned behind her back. If she stumbled and broke something...

    She didn’t, and they reached the back room of the shop without trouble. Unlike some of his competitors’, Frankie’s storage area had no windows. It was perfect for some after-hours shopping - Ron wasn’t keen on picking clothes in the dark, or in the dim light of a penlight, just so the passers-by outside wouldn’t notice them.

    “And here we are! Clubbing clothes, self-service!” Ron announced as he flicked the light switch on and revealed rows and stacks of clothes.

    Granger picked up a shredded ‘Sex Pistols’ T-shirt from the closest stack and frowned. “Punk has been dead for a quarter of a century,” she said.

    “It’s vintage now,” Ron told her, “but I don’t think torn fishnets would look right on you.” Although her hair certainly fit the punk look.

    “And what would suit me, then?”

    “Leather?” He grinned at her.

    “I don’t ride a bike,” she replied, a moment before her eyes narrowed. “I think a gimp suit would be fitting for you.”

    “I didn’t think you knew what a gimp suit was,” he said. Or that she had understood his veiled dig.

    “I know a great deal more than you imagine.”

    “I can imagine quite a bit.”

    She sniffed. “I doubt that if you have to quote movies as comebacks.”

    And Harry chuckled behind the row of older jackets.

    “If not for Ginny, you’d be stuck in the 90s,” Ron told him.

    “Like you?” Harry shot back.

    Ron scoffed. Then he saw the perfect outfit for Granger and grinned. “Hey! Take this!” He waited until she was about to turn around, then threw the torn jeans and bustier towards her. She managed to catch them, though, before they hit her in the face, but her expression when she held them up was still amusing.

    “Are you serious?” She shook her head.

    “No, that’s Harry’s godfather.”

    “That joke’s older than these clothes.”

    “It’s a second-hand shop. But this look’s only about three years old,” Ron replied.

    “Britney Spears wants her clothes back.”

    “She’s rich enough to buy new ones. Put them on - you’ll be able to run in them as well if you need to. And the style fits your bag.”

    To his surprise, she agreed.

    Some people had no fashion sense.

    Although, Ron had to admit ten minutes later, Granger looked hot in tight, ripped jeans and a bustier that might have been a size too small - not his fault; Granger hadn’t exactly flaunted her figure. Well, hot compared to her usual look, at least, he amended his thought.

    And she was blushing a little, he realised, even as she glared at him.

    “Perfect!” he stated.

    Harry agreed, although Ron couldn’t tell if his friend merely wanted to leave as soon as possible.

    *****​

    They found a youth hostel at the edge of Soho with a bored night clerk behind the reception desk. Bored and stoned, Ron corrected himself as he caught a whiff of the distinctive smell of marijuana. Must have had a spliff outside.

    The man didn’t even glance at their fake passports. However, the security camera in the corner didn’t look broken - but it was mounted so high, just keeping one’s head down would prevent it from recording their faces. Not that it was very likely that their enemies would get the recordings, but Ron wasn’t about to get sloppy now.

    “So… uh… you stay past noon, you pay for another night,” the clerk drawled as he handed them their keycard. “That’s noon, not half past noon. Got it?”

    Harry nodded. “Got it. We’ll probably be staying a few days anyway - depends on the ‘scene’, you know?”

    “Birds,” Ron added with a lecherous grin.

    “Ah!” The stoner nodded. “Sure thing.”

    The guy was already looking for his next spliff, Ron saw as they went upstairs.

    The room was passable. Solid door, though the lock wouldn’t take a professional more than ten seconds to pick, the bed and bathroom looked clean and it was on the first floor - they would be able to jump down to the street if they had to.

    After dropping their ‘travelling bags’ on the bed, they left again, asking the clerk - who didn’t even bother to leave his smoking blunt outside this time - about the best club for ‘chatting up birds’.

    Granger was where they had left her - waiting in the replacement car, hiding behind the passenger seat. With the car parked in the darkest corner of the car park, the only way anyone would have been able to spot her would have been by shining a flashlight into the car. Still, Ron felt quite relieved to see her glare at them when they opened the doors.

    “Am I allowed to leave the car now? Or have you decided to make me sleep in the trunk?”

    Ron rubbed his chin, pretending to think it over, but Harry kicked his shin. “We got a room, and it’ll be easy to sneak you inside without the night clerk noticing.”

    “You mean I didn’t have to dress up like this?” she asked.

    “You still needed to change your appearance,” Ron retorted. “No one will connect a party girl with Dr Granger.”

    “Should dye your hair, though,” Harry added. “Or cut it and get a wig. We should be able to get one tomorrow.”

    “My hair’s fine,” she replied in an icy tone, running a hand over her messy pony-tail.

    “Fine’s not the word I’d use.” Ron shook his head. More like ‘catastrophic’ or ‘in need of emergency hair care’.

    “Your haircut doesn’t exactly hint at any competence regarding hairstyling,” she replied.

    “That’s enough,” Harry cut in. “Let’s head inside.”

    “You’re starting to sound like Percy,” Ron whispered as they walked back to the hostel. “If you get any more respectable, Ginny’ll expect a proposal.”

    “Mind your own business,” Harry shot back.

    He must have touched a nerve. But then, Ginny had been hoping for a proposal since before she and Harry had gotten together.

    The night clerk was busy getting high as they entered and not at his desk, so all they had to do was make Granger keep her head down and act drunk as they passed the camera and then they were safely inside the room.

    With the single king-sized bed, Ron realised a moment before Granger did and loudly voiced her displeasure with the arrangement.

    *****​

    Ron woke up with a tangled mess of bushy hair in front of his face. What the… Someone was shaking him. Harry!

    “It’s eight am. Time to get up.”

    Ron rolled back to their side of the bed, away from Granger before she could wake up and take offence. “Why didn’t you pull me back before I tried to use her as a pillow?” he complained in a low voice. Harry had been on guard; he would have noticed.

    “It was funny to watch you move closer in your sleep,” Harry told him with a smirk.

    “Ha ha.” It was as funny as the twins’ spider pranks, in Ron’s opinion. And, given Granger’s temper, probably twice as dangerous.

    Speaking of the devil… he saw Granger twist, roll on her back, then turn her head to glare at them. “You woke me up.”

    “It’s time to get up,” Harry said - far too cheerfully, in Ron’s opinion.

    “And you apparently let him almost molest me in my sleep.” Her glare grew more furious. “That’s exactly why I didn’t want to share the bed.”

    “I would have pulled him back before he touched you,” Harry replied. “But as long as you weren’t actually touching, where’s the harm?”

    For once, Ron fully shared Granger’s opinion. He’d have to get back at Harry - once they were done with this case.

    She huffed. “So, what’s the plan for today? Dress up as mimes and hide in the city? Join the circus?”

    Harry ignored her sarcasm. “We’ll get breakfast, then rest until lunch. Like normal partying tourists.”

    “And no, we won’t go back to your lab,” Ron added. “They’ll be waiting there, and I don’t fancy getting shot by a sniper.”

    “Won’t you contact your superior?” Granger asked as she slid out of the bed.

    “She said to wait a day or two; it’s not even been half a day,” Ron replied.

    “Wouldn’t she have asked you to wait for twenty-four to forty-eight hours instead, if she didn’t mean the next day?”

    Scientists! Ron sidestepped the question. “She was probably up all night. I’d rather not call her when she’s going to sleep.”

    She scoffed in return and entered the bathroom.

    Ron closed his eyes and leaned back. It would be a while until he could go take a shower. For all her lack of makeup and hairstyling, Granger did take her time in the bathroom.

    *****​

    “Can I ask you a question?” Ron asked an hour later, after the waiter in the street café they had picked had finally brought their order.

    She looked up from her cup of tea. “Yes?”

    No sarcastic comment. A good sign. Hopefully. “Why are you so fixated on your work? It’s not curing cancer, or fusion power or anything that can’t wait a few days or weeks, is it? Just experimental physics.”

    He could see her jaw set and her lips turn into a thin line for a moment, before she sighed. “It’s personal.”

    “That’s obvious,” he replied, then winced. “Sorry. I don’t want to pry, but...”

    “Then don’t.”

    He pushed on, ignoring Harry’s glances. “But you’re willing to risk your life for it.” And Harry’s and his own, incidentally. “I don’t understand why you’re doing this.” She was acting as if lives depended on her success. As if people would die if she failed.

    “It’s personal,” she repeated herself. “You wouldn’t understand.”

    “Try me.”

    She closed up again and stared at her teacup.

    “It’s not related to your past, is it?” He couldn’t think of a reason it would be, but he didn’t know what had happened to her. No one did.

    “What?” For a moment, she stared at him with wide eyes. “No, of course not.”

    She was lying. He was certain of that.

    “We’re risking our lives for you,” he went on. “We need to know why your work is so important.”

    She shook her head, rather violently. “As you said, as I told you, my work isn’t really important to anyone other than myself.”

    “So the people sending killers after you are doing so because they made a mistake and think your work is important?” That was ridiculous.

    “It’s the only explanation that makes sense!” she retorted.

    Ron doubted that. Her work wasn’t a secret, and the kind of criminals - or spies - who had the resources to kill Scrimgeour and infiltrate CI5 weren’t the kind of people who made such mistakes.

    He bit into his slice of buttered toast, glancing at Granger. It was like a puzzle with missing pieces. But he’d solve it.

    *****​

    “She knows what this is about,” Harry said after Granger had gone to the bathroom.

    “I’m not sure,” Ron replied, keeping an eye on the door. “She’s lying, but I’m not sure what she’s lying about.”

    “The kidnapping.”

    “That makes no sense.” Ron shook his head. “What could have happened that she can’t talk about but would lead to her becoming a wanted woman - wanted for her work as a quantum physicist?”

    “Her work is the only reason anyone would be going to these lengths,” his friend said. “After all these years, at least.”

    Ron wasn’t convinced. “We’re missing something. Something crucial.”

    Harry made a non-committal noise. Ron tore his eyes off the door and looked at his friend. He looked… concerned. “What?” Ron asked.

    “You seem to be taking a personal interest in this case.”

    “What?” Ron blinked when he realised what Harry was hinting at. “I’m interested in the case, not in her.”

    Harry didn’t look like he believed Ron. But he was wrong. Granger wasn’t his type. Too snippy, too plain, too arrogant.

    *****​

    Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, London, July 9th, 2005

    Ron didn’t like this. They were too exposed. Too vulnerable. “Who arranges a meeting in a bloody park?” he muttered, eyes scanning the closest hedge. Especially with a sniper on the loose.

    “Your boss,” Granger, standing next to him in a floral-print summer dress even Luna would probably consider too tacky, replied. At least her ratty bag wasn’t visible, having been stuffed into a larger linen handbag.

    “I know that. I was asking a rhetorical question,” he snapped. At her surprised, then rapidly darkening glare, he added: “Sorry.”

    “You said Bones could be trusted,” she said.

    “Yes.” Ron forced himself not to look back at the tree in which Harry was hiding with the L1A1 they had taken from their private depot. His friend had his back. Their back. “She can be trusted. Bones would rather die than bend the law, much less break it.”

    “But you don’t trust her subordinates.”

    He glanced at Granger. Her lips, pretty much the only thing visible of her face under the wide-brimmed hat she was wearing, were forming a thin line. “We don’t know who the traitor inside CI5 is. We don’t have any clues,” he added.

    “I told you that I had never seen Yaxley before,” she snapped.

    “I didn’t mention his name,” he pointed out.

    “I know what you meant to say,” she retorted. “And I’m telling you: I don’t know anything about a traitor in CI5.”

    “But you think it’s Yaxley.”

    “I have no proof nor any rational reason to suspect him.”

    “That’s not a denial.” He bared his teeth. Gotcha!

    “Can you at least try to act like a couple out on an afternoon stroll?” Harry’s voice interrupted his next line before he could voice it.

    “We’re a couple going through a break-up,” Ron shot back. “We tried to talk it out in the park, and we failed.” It was an even better cover than Harry’s idea - who would expect a bodyguard to argue like this with his charge? Well, anyone who knew Granger, obviously.

    “We’re what? Ah.” Granger, who couldn’t hear Harry, nodded. “Good idea.”

    He smiled at her. “Thank you.”

    “Now they’re getting along!” he heard Harry sigh over the radio.

    “You’re just…” Ron started, but, once more, Harry cut him off.

    “Bones’s arriving. East entrance.”

    Ron whirled around. Yes, there was a woman walking towards them in a sharp suit. About the right height and weight - though the hair was blonde. A wig, he realised once the woman came closer.

    “Weasley.”

    Yes, that was Bones - Ron would recognise her annoyed voice in his sleep. “Boss,” he replied.

    “Are you alone?” Granger showed her usual tact.

    “Of course,” Bones replied. “No one knows I’m here. Not even Alastor - though he’ll suspect.”

    “You didn’t even bring a guard?” Granger blurted out.

    “My trusted officers have more important tasks than playing bodyguard.” Bones sneered. “Such as protecting your parents as they go into hiding and hunting down the mole in my department.”

    “I see,” Granger replied. "Things are worse in CI5 than I feared, then.”

    Ron cleared his throat before Granger could make Bones even angrier. “What’re our orders, ma’am?”

    "You’re reassigned. You and Potter will help Alastor hunt the mole. We need to find the traitor yesterday.”

    Ron gasped almost against his will. But that would… “Who’ll take over for us?”

    ”No one. I’ll take Granger to her parents - at a location only known by myself. That way, we only need one protective detail for the entire family.”

    That made sense. A lot of sense, actually. And Ron was happy to go on the offensive, instead of hiding and running. But… He glanced at Granger. She looked grim again.

    “Any questions?”

    “No, ma’am.” He turned to Granger. “I guess this is goodbye, then.”

    “Yes.” He saw her bite her lower lip as if she was unsure what else to say. “Thank you for all you’ve done,” she said after a moment.

    “Just doing my job,” he replied - and winced when she flinched before nodding without any expression.

    “Smooth,” Harry added his unneeded opinion.

    “Let’s go, then. If I don’t return in time, Alastor will assume the worst,” Bones said, already turning around.

    “Alright.” Granger glanced at him, then took a few steps to catch up with Bones.

    And he was watching her walk away. Cursing under his breath, he turned away.

    “Company!” Harry yelled into his ear. “A car just pulled up next to Bones’s with armed men!”

    Ron whirled, sprinting towards Granger and Bones, while Harry started shooting. He saw the attackers appear in the entrance, one falling as Harry’s shots found their mark. Bones pushed Granger down and opened fire as well. He was still too far away to hit anyone reliably, but just a few more seconds…

    Bones went down, part of her head missing.

    “Sniper!” Harry yelled.

    Ron had almost reached Granger - Bones was beyond help - and started to weave while shooting at the attackers. He just had to make them seek cover until he had pulled Granger to safety. Harry could cover them - and spot the sniper. “Run!” he yelled. “Ru…”

    Something hit his chest with enough force to make him stumble and fall. He rolled across the ground, coming to rest on his belly.

    Then the pain in hit him. He had been hit. Sniper. Hit but not killed. He had to get up. Get Granger to safety. Get up. Shoot. Get up. Get up.

    Suddenly, everything went dark.

    *****​

    “They’ve gotten in! They’ve gotten in!”

    “What?” She gasped.

    “Death Eaters! They’ve gotten in!” Neville came to a stop next to her, panting. “Coming through the defence classroom.”

    That couldn’t be true. This was Hogwarts - the safest place in Britain. She shook her head. It was impossible!

    “We have to tell the others! Tell them to barricade the dorms!” Neville regained his breath.

    “Where are Harry and Ron?” She asked. They had been with him, headed towards the Room of Requirement to prepare for the next DA lesson.

    “They went to tell Dumbledore. Luna went to Ravenclaw Tower,” Neville replied.

    “I’ll tell the Hufflepuffs. Go to our dorm!” she snapped and broke into a run towards the kitchens. The Hufflepuff dorm was right next to them. The closest route was two stairs down, across the courtyard…

    She took the stairs three steps at a time, jumping the last five and whirling without losing speed - not after more than a year’s worth of training with the DA. She didn’t dash across the courtyard, though - she stuck to the hallways, keeping under cover.

    She was almost at the kitchens when she heard the screaming. Wand drawn, she stopped at the corner, then peered around.

    And gasped again. There were two dead house-elves on the ground. Reductor Curses, she realised. And a Death Eater was standing there, over a student. Hannah.

    The other witch was screaming, countless cuts sprouting all over her body. Hermione recognised the curse - Sectumsempra, from Snape’s book.

    Her Bludgeoning Curse smashed into the Death Eater’s shield. The man whirled round instead of diving for cover, and her second curse hit him in the chest, flinging him into the wall with bone-breaking force.

    She dashed forward, readying the counter-curse, but before she reached Hannah, her own shield was shattered by another curse - the Death Eater was still in the fight.

    She dropped to the ground and cast another volley of Bludgeoning Curses that took the man down for good, then scrambled forward, wand flashing as she cast.

    When she finished her counter-curse, Hannah had stopped screaming. And stopped breathing.

    *****​
     
  13. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    That'll be revealed in the story.

    M!Hermione's fate will be revealed in the story.

    Correct.

    Thanks!
     
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  14. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Well looks like someone put some tracker on bones. I just wonder if it's mundane or magical. Though considering the dependency on sniper rifles so far, I would assume it's mundane.
     
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  15. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Good guess there.
     
  16. XanderSan

    XanderSan (The Guy in the Snow)

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    Honestly, with the level of competence and resources put into attempts at capturing Herminone, I think we can safely assume that none of the people hunting her currently are wizards, or if they are, they're directing things from the back line.

    The perps just murdered the leader of CI5 in a public park, in front of witnessess. Theres no way they'd be willing to do that if they had access to someome capable of casting a notice-me-not or confundo or imperio. Hell, a single wizard could easily sneak in and grab Hermy on his own - Ron and Harry are certainly not capable of defending against a dissilusionment charm, so a wizard could sneak by, stun Herminone and leave. Their only warning that she was gone would be the pop as the kidnapper apperated away.

    No, im pretty sure this is an all-muggle event. More than likely someone either spotted Hermy using magic or figured out she was a dimension hopper and wants to capture her, either for study or sale.

    Odds are high that this group is either a black-ops section of the government or a criminal organization, and if there are any other wizards they're either too important to risk on field work, too self-important to deal with 'muggle afairs,' or kept in cages for study.

    I dont see a way that Hermione can get out of this without revealing magic to at least Harry and Ron. Maybe they can escape via mundane means, but Ron will die if he isnt healed, and if the perps are willimg to murder a government official in a public place theres no way a hospital is safe.
     
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  17. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    This is incredibly brazen for a criminal organisation. Assasinate two police leaders to grab a scientist? That's what you might expect from mexican mob in mexico, but not in England.
    Meanwhile this is super stupid if it's a government organisation. Why not just use their connections to have Hermione transfered into their safehouse?

    This looks more like something out of a well connected terrorist playbook.
     
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  18. XanderSan

    XanderSan (The Guy in the Snow)

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    Good point, I didn't think of the terrorist angle. maybe some sort of anti-magic group? Or a paramilitary group that wants to gain power via magic or something
     
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  19. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Good reasoning there. Indeed, wizards would have gone about this differently.

    As was pointed out below, if the government were behind this, they would have used other means.

    Indeed. Although they might be able to find a practitioner who treats people "on the side".

    It's very unusual for England. Terrorists are one possibility.

    Anti-magic groups likely would have shot Hermione, not Bones.
     
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  20. Simonbob

    Simonbob Really? You don't say.

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    So.

    My guess is that Local-Hermione ended up involoved in something horrificly dangerous, and now the cabal that took her, with their police members, are acting to protect themselves from the secrets Local-Hermione would know.

    Might be a pedo ring, or something like it. If they have enough pull, but didn't have Bones as a member, then whoever repaces her is likely a part.
     
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  21. Lord Alania

    Lord Alania Getting out there.

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    This is a really amazing story. I wondr if Hermione still has her magic...
     
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  22. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    But her "reappearance" in 1997 made national news. Why would such a cabal act only now, and not before?

    Well, if there's a time to use magic, then now would be it.
     
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  23. wichajster

    wichajster Know what you're doing yet?

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    It reminds me about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_of_Alexander_Litvinenko

    In general it sounds as something above level of mob/normal terrorism and closer to special forces operation, almost certainly one from a foreign country.
     
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  24. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Indeed. To quote my beta readers, MI5 and Scotland Yard will be all over this.
     
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  25. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Still that makes it incredibly amateurish. They managed to off two police chiefs, but the actual target escaped every time without even getting close to being captured. Someone is writing Nato a huge casus belli here. The only ones who could potentially tank it would be nuclear powers. But I figure if they'd pull something like that they'd captured Hermione already or bribed the british government to get whatever they want of her.
     
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  26. Threadmarks: Chapter 5: The Truth
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 5: The Truth

    Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, London, July 9th, 2005

    He wasn’t dead. Yet. Ron could still feel the pain in his chest. And the grass beneath him. And he could hear screaming. And shooting - from Harry. But he couldn’t see anything - it was suddenly completely dark. In the middle of the afternoon. Oh, God - he had gone blind! Had he been shot in the head as well? Not that it mattered, not with a sucking chest wound, and with his legs refusing to work.

    “Ron! What happened?” Harry.

    “Don’t know,” he managed to reply.

    Then he felt someone touching him, patting him down. Up. Holding his shoulder.

    “Hold on!”

    Granger. He recognised her voice. Easily. And lowered the pistol he had started to raise - his arms still worked, despite the pain.

    “Run!” he spat.

    “What?” Harry asked. Another shot followed.

    “Drink this!”

    “Wha...?” Ron managed to say before a hand on his face cut him off. She was feeling around for his mouth, he realised - she must be unable to see anything either. Then something cold touched his lips. The rim of a glass.

    “Drink!”

    And she tipped his head back while pushing the glass to his mouth. He screamed at the pain the movement caused to his wound, then gargled when cold liquid filled his mouth and ran down his throat. He coughed and sputtered. “Are you trying to drown me?”

    “Ron?” He heard Harry’s voice again.

    “Shhh.”

    Once more, she patted him down - reaching for his wound.

    “Don’t!” he hissed. The expected pain didn’t come.

    “What are you doing?” Harry sounded frantic. “Everything disappeared in a black cloud.”

    “Get up! We need to run!” Granger hissed. “They’ll come after us any moment now!”

    Ron chuckled. “You run! I’m done for.”

    “No, you’re not! Come on!”

    She pulled on his arm. Once more, there was no pain. What drug had she given him?

    He tried to get up, if only to stop her from dragging him. It worked. “Hell of a drug,” he muttered.

    “Drug?” Harry asked.

    “Come on!”

    He started to run, her hand in his. He’d bleed out any moment, but there was no pain. And his legs were working again.

    And then he could see again - they were running towards Harry’s position. He glanced back. A huge sphere of utter darkness - pitch black - covered most of the area, blocking the line of sight to the attackers.

    Another shot rang out from Harry’s M4 carbine, and Ron saw a man who had been trying to flank them collapse.

    “Run!” Harry yelled.

    They ran.

    Ron expected to be shot at any second. To collapse from blood loss - he was feeling light-headed, but that was probably the drug’s effect. But his whole front was covered in blood. His own blood. Instead of dying, he managed to keep running and reach the copse of trees where Harry was hiding.

    He followed Granger behind a thick tree and leaned against it, sliding to the ground. He swallowed, panting, and then, gingerly, pulled his blood-soaked shirt up to check his wound.

    So much blood. “I need a bandage,” he said.

    “I’m coming!” Harry all but yelled.

    “No, keep shooting them. Keep them away,” Ron retorted - but Harry was already on the ground, rushing towards them.

    “Fuck!” his friend cursed, crouching down next to him and pulling out an emergency bandage from his belt. “You’ll make it!”

    Where was the wound? Ron stared at his chest, brushing the drying blood away. Where was the wound? He had been shot. He had bled. He had felt it.

    Where the hell was his wound?

    He looked up. Harry was staring at him. Ron turned his head, looking at Granger. Harry did the same.

    “What the hell did you give me?”

    “A rare potion.”

    “A what?” Had she said potion? “A magic potion of healing?”

    “Exactly.”

    “We can discuss this later. We need to go now,” Harry snapped. “Before they recover their nerve. They’ll be trying to flank us already, and it looks like the darkness is fading.”

    “It should last a little longer,” Granger replied.

    Ron pushed himself up, feeling more than a little dizzy. He steadied himself with one hand against the tree. He had gone through worse. In a manner of speaking. Granger took a step towards him but stopped when he pushed off and started jogging.

    They made it out of the small patch of trees and bushes, on to the gravel path leading out of the park.

    The sight of Harry’s carbine was too much for the few passers-by who hadn’t yet fled despite all the shooting and screaming. Harry tried to hide the gun under his shirt, but that didn’t work very well.

    Not that Ron could help - he had enough trouble just going on and keeping up with the others. Even Granger noticed - she slowed down, but he shook his head, gritted his teeth and pushed on. Their car was close by, anyway. He just had to last until then.

    He barely made it. If anyone had tried to intercept them, he would have been useless. And dead. Not that he felt too alive right now, either. He grabbed the roof of the car to keep from toppling over.

    “Sit in the back.” Granger grabbed his arm. “I’ll treat you.”

    “With another magic potion?” Ron managed to say as she pushed him on to the backseat, then climbed in herself.

    Harry gunned the engine and sped away before she managed to close the door behind her.

    “We’ll have to ditch the car again,” he said. “And we need to get a doctor for him.”

    “I can treat him,” Granger replied. She was already patting down Ron again, or so it felt.

    “You’re a physicist, not a physician,” Harry retorted as he took a corner at high speed.

    Ron laughed at that.

    “He just needs his blood to be replenished. He’s physically fine otherwise,” she said.

    He didn’t feel fine. But he didn’t hurt any more. He wasn’t quite sure if that was a good or bad sign, though.

    “Drink this!”

    She was pushing something - a vial - into his face. He blinked. “A vial?”

    “It’s a Blood-Replenishing Potion,” she said. “Drink it!”

    “A magic potion?” That wasn’t how you did blood transfusions.

    “Drink it, or I’ll knock you out and pour it down your throat myself!” She glared at him.

    “Hey!” Harry yelled.

    Well, something had saved him so far. He shook his head but took the vial. Or tried to - she didn’t let it go.

    “This is irreplaceable. I won’t let you spill it by accident.”

    He was too tired to argue, even though he wanted to, and so he only moved his lips to the vial, then let her tip it and pour the liquid into his mouth.

    It tasted foul, but he couldn’t spit it out - she held his mouth shut until he swallowed, despite the tight turn Harry took that almost threw her into him.

    He felt nauseous. He wanted to retch. He pushed her off him and coughed, sticking his tongue out. “What the hell!”

    “Are you feeling better?”

    He blinked. He was, actually.

    “You’re looking better. Less pale. The potion worked, then.”

    “There was a chance it wouldn’t?” Harry asked.

    “It’s been a few years since it was brewed. Potions don’t keep forever,” she replied.

    That wasn’t very reassuring, in Ron’s opinion. “How long will it last?” he asked. If this was a stimulant, then he needed to know when he would crash.

    “It’s a permanent effect,” she told him. “It’ll last until you get shot in the chest again.”

    He had to chuckle at that, no matter how misplaced the joke was. “That’s a hell of a drug,” he said.

    “It’s not a drug,” she spat.

    “I’m coming up to the parking garage,” Harry announced. “We’ll change cars there.”

    “Won’t they see us on the cameras?” Granger asked.

    “No,” Harry replied, rather curtly.

    “We know where the blind spots are,” Ron explained.

    “Ah. Moody’s lessons?”

    “Yes.”

    A few minutes later, they left the garage in another car. Ron was up front, this time. Not just because he was feeling much better, but also because the back seats were very cramped.

    Granger, to his surprise, didn’t complain. She wasn’t even glaring at his back, he noticed with a quick check of the mirror in front.

    Weird. But not nearly as weird as her ‘potions’.

    “We need to get you to a doctor,” Harry said once they had left the neighbourhood.

    “I feel fine,” Ron told him.

    “You were shot and you’ve twice imbibed unknown substances,” Harry retorted. “We need to get you checked out at once.”

    Worded like that, Ron had to agree. “We can’t use CI5’s doctors, though,” he pointed out. “They’re compromised.” He caught Harry grinning and closed his eyes. “Not the vet.”

    “Moody trusts him,” his friend replied.

    “Moody doesn’t trust anyone,” Ron retorted.

    “But he’d let him treat his wounds,” Harry pointed out.

    Ron groaned and leaned back.

    *****​

    Southwark, London, July 9th, 2005

    “Perfectly healthy,” Ron announced as he left the office.

    Granger, back in Harry’s jeans and a shirt from Frankie’s, with a baseball cap hiding her hair, looked at him as she stood up from the chair in the vet’s kitchen. “I told you so.”

    “You’re not a medical doctor,” Harry replied, joining them.

    “Neither is Mr Jones,” she retorted. “He’s a veterinarian.”

    “He actually is, or was, a surgeon,” Ron explained. “He was in the Falklands War, though, and got so traumatised he couldn’t work on humans any more, so he became a vet.”

    She made a point of looking at him, Ron noticed, so he added: “He got better. And he only had to examine me.”

    “Ah.”

    “Let’s go!” Harry said. “I’ve paid him, and we have a few things to discuss.”

    Granger looked a little nervous at hearing that, Ron noticed.

    *****​

    Richmond upon Thames, London, July 9th, 2005

    “Is this another safe house no one knows about?” Granger asked when they pulled up in front of a very average looking house. “Like the last one?” she added, as if her sarcastic tone hadn’t made it clear what she was thinking.

    “It’s not a CI5 safe house,” Harry said, scanning the street. “Clear.”

    Ron couldn’t see any threats or anything out of the ordinary either. “Clear.”

    They got out of the car, and Ron pulled his seat forward so Granger could climb out from the back seat.

    “You’ve got your own safe house?” she asked, sounding both relieved and appalled at once. “How much money did you sink into this?”

    “It’s not exactly ours,” Ron told her as Harry unlocked the front door. They quickly ushered her inside.

    “Sirius’s old bachelor pad. I should have known.” Granger said before the door closed behind her.

    “How did you know that?” Harry asked. Ron saw that he was tense. “It was bought through a straw man decades ago.”

    She pointed at the huge painting of a scantily clad female biker - a comics character from an old magazine that Sirius had liked so much, he had commissioned the painting in his ‘rebellious youth’, Ron had been told - in the living room.

    “You’ve investigated us,” Harry said.

    ‘Stalked’ seemed more accurate, in Ron’s opinion.

    “In a manner of speaking,” Granger replied, sitting down on the couch - rather gingerly, and after brushing some dust away from the cushions. She must have managed to collect herself during the drive here - she didn’t seem nervous any more.

    No, she was still nervous. Ron noticed her fingers digging into her thighs, and she tapped her foot a few times before crossing her legs a little too casually. She was putting up a cool front, but it was a front. “What did you give me?”

    “I told you already: a magic potion.”

    “Magic isn't real,” Harry snapped.

    “Then explain why Ron’s not dead, but in perfect health.” She sniffed slightly.

    Ron was tempted to cough and retch, but Harry was too tense for even a little joke.

    “He was hit with a rubber bullet soaked with blood,” Harry replied. “It knocked him down and made it look as if he’d received a fatal wound.”

    She stared at him, then shook her head. “Don’t you think that Ron would have realised that there wasn’t an actual wound?”

    “Yeah, mate,” Ron said. “It didn’t feel even remotely like a rubber bullet.” And they should know - Moody was fond of running exercises using such ammunition.

    “Some agent in the blood that made you more susceptible to pain, probably some hallucinogenic component as well,” Harry told him. “You thought you were shot and bleeding.”

    “And why would they want Ron to think that, instead of shooting him like Bones?” Granger asked, not quite rolling her eyes.

    “It was meant for you, to make us think you had been killed and your body dragged off, but the shooter messed up when Ron charged in.”

    Granger scoffed at the idea. “Weren’t you taught that you should never assume that the enemy made a mistake but rather that it was a trap instead?”

    That was almost a direct quote from Moody, Ron realised.

    “It’s much less ridiculous than magic,” Harry retorted.

    “And Ron almost dying from blood loss was just my stimulants losing their effect, I suppose.”

    “Yes,” Harry spat.

    "And I fed Ron a stimulant that countered the agent, then another to take care of the side-effects? I somehow knew the truth? And was prepared for it? After launching a super-effective smoke grenade?”

    “Yes,” Harry said through clenched teeth. “We know you’ve been lying to us. You know why people are hunting you. If you have access to such technology, it would explain a lot.”

    “I told you: I don’t know why people are hunting me.”

    Harry’s theory was very far-fetched, Ron had to admit. Straight out of a cheap science fiction movie. He didn’t think his friend truly believed what he was saying, either. But what Granger was claiming was straight out of a cheap fantasy movie. On the other hand, he had been shot - he was sure of that. Mostly. “Prove it,” he said.

    “What?” Harry and Granger said in unison.

    “Prove that you can do magic.” He grinned at her. “You want to do it, or you’d have agreed with Harry’s theory.”

    She glared at him, then sighed. “Very well.” She got up. “Please examine this,” she said, holding out her ratty beaded bag.

    Ron took it and opened it, peering inside. It looked like a normal if old handbag. Purse, lipstick, handkerchief, key ring, notebook, another notebook, pens… Harry snorted and took it from him, then upended it and let its contents drop on the floor before making a production out of turning it inside out.

    Granger was annoyed - Ron could tell - but she nodded. “It’s a normal bag, right?”

    “Yes,” Harry replied, fingering the fabric.

    “Give it back!” She held out her hand. After a moment, Harry handed her the bag. “Thank you. You might want to take a few steps back. I’ll need some space."

    “For what?”

    “For everything inside it,” she said, flashing them a toothy smile as she restored her bag, then uppended it.

    And far more things than could have fit the bag started to pour out of it. Rations. Camping supplies. Backpacks. PET bottles. Ron had to take a few hasty steps back to avoid getting buried under enough food and drink to feed an army.

    “Bloody hell!”

    He picked up an MRE that had ended up next to his foot. It felt solid and heavy in his hand. No inflatable decoy. It was real. He prodded the rolled up sleeping bag. That felt real as well. Looking at the mound of camping - survival - gear - he shook his head. There was no bloody way that all this stuff would have fit into her bag. Nor would she have been able to hide them under her clothes.

    “How?” he heard Harry ask. “How did you do that?”

    “Magic,” Granger replied with a wide, smug grin. “I’m a witch.”

    Harry started to dig through the heap. “Magic doesn’t exist.”

    “Oh, Merlin’s beard!” He saw her roll her eyes. “Do you honestly believe that I managed to set this up in advance in your own secret bachelor pad?”

    “‘Merlin’s beard’?” Ron ignored Harry’s attempt to find a secret trapdoor in the floor and cocked his head, looking at Granger. Magic was real?

    “A wizarding expletive,” she explained.

    “That makes it sound as if there are more of you… witches.” How could that be possible? How could this have been kept secret?

    Her expression turned hard. “No. I’m the only one here.”

    Here. “You’re not from here, are you?” Ron asked. Other dimensions as well? That was… He didn’t know what it was. Such things weren’t real. But they were.

    Her eyes widened a fraction, then she nodded. “No.”

    “And you want to return.” Things were starting to make sense. As much sense as something like magic could. “You’ve been scamming the faculty to get money and supplies for magical experiments!”

    “What?” She glared at him. “I’m not scamming anyone! I’m doing research in quantum physics! The research council is getting what it’s paying for - I’m merely doing more than anyone knows.”

    “And you scammed the Grangers into thinking you’re their lost daughter,” Harry said, standing up.

    Her eyes seemed to blaze as she rounded on Harry. “How dare you! I told them everything upon first meeting them! It’s not my fault that I’m the wizarding counterpart of their daughter!”

    Ron briefly wondered if she’d turn Harry into a newt. Then he wondered if she actually could do such a thing. If magic was real, what were its limits?

    “And they believed you?” Harry sounded doubtful.

    “They weren’t as stubborn as you once they were faced with actual magic,” Granger retorted.

    Which meant, Ron realised, that they had been humouring her until that point. “Alright, magic exists,” he said. “Or at least technology so advanced that it might as well be called magic,” he added, mangling Arthur C. Clarke.

    “Folding space or extra-dimensional storage wouldn’t explain healing you from the brink of death,” Granger replied.

    Obviously, she had read the same books that he had. Ron grinned, despite the gruesome reminder of his near-death experience. “Nanites programmed to repair my body on a cellular level.”

    “And they instantly passed through your digestive system to reach your gunshot wound?” She scoffed. “I would have poured such a concoction directly on the wound. Provided constructing and directing such machines was feasible in the first place!”

    He nodded, acknowledging the point. “Well, at least now we know why people want to kidnap you. They want to use you to do magic.”

    “That’s impossible. No one knows I’m a witch. No one apart from the Grangers, and now you two.” She shook her head rather emphatically.

    This time, Harry scoffed. “You want us to believe that you never used magic where someone might have observed you?”

    Ron could see her pressing her lips together. “What exactly can you do? You mentioned that the potions were irreplaceable.”

    “I lack the resources to brew more potions. Almost all of them require reagents that do not exist in this world,” she replied.

    Ah. Ron nodded. “So, you make magic items and potions which you then use, but you need exotic components which you can’t get here.”

    “It’s not quite like that,” she said, holding out her hand. “Accio sewing kit!”

    A small plastic case rose from where it was perched on top of another MRE and flew towards her hand. She had to make two attempts to catch it, though, Ron noticed. And she glared at Harry. “Don’t you dare suggest searching me for wires or magnets!”

    Harry rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t going to.”

    “Have you accepted that magic exists, then?” Granger couldn’t win gracefully, it seemed.

    Harry grunted something unintelligible, and Granger sniffed. “That was wandless magic. It’s hard and not very effective.”

    “‘Wandless’?”

    “Normally, a witch - or a wizard - uses a wand to cast spells,” Granger explained. “It allows for far quicker and far more powerful spells. Wands revolutionised spell-casting when the Romans invented them. All other methods of working magic were rendered obsolete, with the exception of a few fringe cases. A wand is a witch’s most important possession. There are entire customs centred on wands and how to treat them.”

    “And you don’t have a wand,” Harry said, interrupting her lecture. “Or you’d have shown off with it.”

    The comment made her purse her lips - Harry must be right, Ron thought. Granger was the type to show off.

    “I lost my wand before I ended up in this dimension,” she admitted.

    “Couldn’t you make a new wand?” Ron asked.

    “Theoretically, I could. I would just have to find a substitute for a dragon’s heartstring, a fitting wood and then rediscover how to make wands - which would be like you making a Swiss Army knife after washing up on a deserted island.”

    “Your sarcasm needs some work,” Ron replied. “But if wands are so important, how do you expect to return to your home without one?”

    “Ritual magic and physics,” she replied. “Casting a spell using a ritual takes hours, which makes it impractical for most purposes, but it has its uses.”

    Harry frowned. “And you know ritual magic, but not how to make a wand?”

    Once more, she pursed her lips. “I studied rituals before I was… dimensionally misplaced.”

    Interesting. Ron didn’t think Granger was the type to study useless things. Although getting stranded in a different world might change her priorities. And it seemed to have been an accident that brought her here. If she was telling the truth - they had seen no proof of her story. Other than the magic, of course.

    “Leaving the intricacies of magic wands aside,” Harry said, staring at her, “you’re suddenly very open with your secrets. And you know a little too much about us for someone who just read an article about us in passing.”

    Granger sighed again and sat down on the couch. “I keep forgetting that you’re police officers,” she said in a low voice as she stuck her arm up to her shoulder into her bag and pulled out a small, plain box. She opened it carefully and took out a framed picture. “Don’t break it.”

    Ron took it and gasped. It was him, Harry and Granger as teenagers, waving at the camera - the picture was animated - and hugging each other. But the Harry in the picture had a scar on his forehead. “You knew our counterparts,” he said, looking into her eyes.

    She nodded. “We were best friends.” Her smile rather rapidly turned sad, though.

    Ron wanted to ask for more information but turned the picture around in his hands instead. No sign of a screen - no pixels. Magic. He handed it to Harry.

    “What’s with the scar on his face?” Harry asked - Ron caught the slight hesitation before the pronoun, but Granger probably missed it. Unless their counterparts acted like them.

    “It’s from surviving the Killing Curse,” she said. “Harry was the only one, ever, to survive that curse.”

    “Someone tried to kill him?” Harry asked.

    “The Dark Lord Voldemort. He killed Harry’s parents, then tried to kill him. It backfired.”

    Ron pressed his lips together, swallowing his first comment. This was no joking matter. “Backfired?”

    “Voldemort was hit by the reflected curse and turned to dust - although he wasn’t killed; he survived thanks to the Dark Arts.” Granger frowned. “He couldn’t be killed.”

    Harry scoffed. He was clenching his teeth, Ron noticed - his friend was remembering the day his parents had been murdered by Riddle.

    Granger’s lips formed a thin line as she met Harry’s glare. “You weren’t there. You’re not my Harry,” she replied to his unspoken comment.

    Ron cleared his throat. “So… that’s why you researched us.”

    She turned to him. “Yes. I wanted to know…” She shrugged. “I shouldn’t have. You’re not them.”

    “No, we aren’t,” Harry said. “I killed the murderer of my parents.” He touched his chest. His scar.

    “The terrorist Tom Riddle. I’ve read the books.” Granger scoffed. “Not Skeeter’s, of course.”

    Harry scoffed as well - he loathed ‘The Boy Hero’. “Smart of you.”

    “Did you have a Skeeter in your dimension as well?” Ron asked. Her reaction seemed to indicate that.

    “Yes. She didn’t write sensational books, though, but libellous articles.” She sighed. “As one of Harry’s friends, I was a target of hers. Harry had it worse, of course.”

    Ron was tempted to ask about his own counterpart but didn’t. That would have been vain. “Why?”

    She looked at him as if he had asked a stupid question. “He was one of the most famous wizards in Britain. The Boy-Who-Lived.” Harry scoffed again, and she frowned. “You have to understand that Voldemort - whose birth name was Tom Riddle, actually - wasn’t a mere terrorist working for various groups. He came close to toppling the government of Wizarding Britain with his followers. He was so feared that even a decade after his defeat at Harry’s hands, people were afraid to speak his name.”

    Ron blinked, and even Harry, who had looked ready to blow his top at the idea that the murderer of his parents was a ‘mere terrorist’, seemed taken aback.

    Granger sighed. “I’ll have to start at the beginning, then. In Little Hangleton, in the 1920s. A witch named Merope Gaunt, who had fallen in love with Thomas Riddle, the son of the local squire…”

    *****​

    “...and that was how the First Wizarding War - that’s a British term, actually; the rest of the world calls it the First British Civil War - ended in 1981.”

    For all her posturing, Granger must have loved telling the tale. Or rather, giving a lecture on the subject. Well, she was an academic, after all. Ron glanced at Harry. His friend had calmed down. Mostly. Hearing about how another Potter family had been murdered by a madman - although quite a bit older than the one Harry had shot - must have hurt. And that Sirius had been sent to prison without a trial… But there was something else. “First Wizarding War implies there was a second,” Ron said.

    And Granger’s face seemed to turn to stone. “Yes.” After a moment, she added: “It was still going on when I… ended up in this world.”

    “And you fought in it;” he went on, then frowned at the surprised glances from Granger and Harry. Granger had an excuse, but Harry should know better. He almost rolled his eyes. “You were best friends with the other Harry, who was prophesied to defeat this ‘Voldemort’. That must have made you a priority target for those ‘Death Eaters’. And since you are so… determined to return, even though, as you just said, there is a war going on, you didn’t just flee and hide.”

    She nodded slowly. “That’s correct. We - Harry, Ron and myself - were fighting. We were Britain’s most wanted wizards and witch, actually.” She must have noticed his expression since she added: “Voldemort was successful with his second attempt at a coup d’état. He took over the country and…” She trailed off. “We had to go underground.”

    And now she wasn’t looking at him or Harry any more, but staring at the wall.

    Ron didn’t think this would be a good time to ask what happened in the Second Wizarding War. Even though he was really curious about his own counterpart. “Why did you decide on a ‘quantum mirror cage’?” he asked instead. “A cage is designed to contain something, not open pathways, isn’t it?”

    “Misdirection,” she replied. “I can’t exactly advertise that I’m working on a dimensional portal. Even if I were to receive any funding for that, I would have been the laughing stock of the entire field.”

    “The popular magazines would have loved it, though,” he said.

    “They would have depicted me as crazy. They would have started rumours about alien abductions - and then claimed that I believed in such nonsense.” She pursed her lips. “And I would have been pestered by fools who believe in such things.”

    Ron blinked. “You are a witch. You can do magic. Isn’t it a little hypocritical to scorn those who believe in aliens?”

    “Not at all. There is no evidence at all that aliens exist.” She sniffed in apparent disdain.

    “What about people who believe in magic without any evidence? Are they fools as well?”

    “Yes.”

    “And if they manage to discover such evidence?”

    She pressed her lips together and glared at him. She really didn’t like having her own words turned back on her.

    Harry chuckled, which earned him a glare as well. He didn’t seem to be amused, though, Ron noticed.

    “In any case, you now know why I need to continue my work, even if it puts me at some risk.”

    “‘Some risk’? The people after you have already killed two of the most senior police officers in the country. If you go back to your laboratory, you might as well call them in advance and arrange a suitable time and place for a kidnapping,” Harry snapped.

    “Besides, you’ve got your notes and crucial work with you, don’t you?” Ron said. When her eyes widened again - why was she so surprised that he had deduced that? - he pointed at the pile of camping supplies. “There aren’t any notes in that mess. And I know you stuffed sheets of paper into your bag. Which means it holds more than just those.”

    “Probably enough to equip another lab,” Harry added. “With enough food and other supplies to finish your work.”

    She clenched her teeth before answering: “Relying on my bag’s contents will delay my progress. It’s a measure of last resort. It is possible, in theory, but not very practical. I need my lab.”

    “That’s a ‘yes’,” Ron replied with a grin. Then he grew serious. “You cannot continue your work at the faculty. Even if the kidnappers weren’t already covering it, the police would take you into custody - for your own good.”

    “Or as a suspect,” Harry pointed out. “Your story has a few inconsistencies, and unless you’re willing to admit that you’re being hunted because you’re a witch, they won’t accept your statements.”

    “No one knows that I’m a witch!” she insisted. “I never worked any magic where it could have been witnessed!”

    “Well, either you messed up and were observed, or someone figured out that you’re working on interdimensional travel,” Ron said.

    “That’s impossible.”

    “Shouldn’t that be ‘inconceivable?” Ron grinned at her expression - she got the reference, and she didn’t like the insinuation that she wasn’t as smart as she thought she was.

    “Help me put the supplies back into my bag,” she said, still glaring.

    Ron chuckled again and bent down to pick up an armful of MREs, but Harry left the room.

    *****​

    Ron found Harry in the kitchen, whipping up dinner. As expected.

    “Finished watching the witch at work?” Harry asked. He sounded a little bitter. Ron hadn’t expected that.

    “We finished putting the camping supplies back into her bag,” he told Harry. “She’s now checking her notes.” He leaned back against the counter, close to his friend. “She offered to let us eat her MREs, but I declined.”

    Harry didn’t laugh. That wasn’t a good sign. “I guess this is a dream come true for you,” he said, shaking his head. “A witch fleeing a war in another dimension, trying to get home - like in your movies.”

    “I told you that my hobby would come in handy one day,” Ron replied. That made Harry snort, at least. Although he hadn’t really thought about what magic being real meant. And parallel worlds being real.

    “She knows things she shouldn’t know. She knows us,” Harry said. “Some weird wizard versions of us.” He turned to glare at Ron. “She might have slept with one of them. Or both.”

    That was entirely possible, of course. Best friends, fighting a guerilla war, as teenagers? All alone against the world? Yeah, that was a recipe for some tension-relieving shagging, if Ron had ever heard one. But he didn’t think so. “She didn’t look at us like she wanted to see us naked.”

    “She stalked us.”

    Ron didn’t think you could call these exact circumstances stalking. But that wasn’t the point. “That doesn’t mean she wanted to shag one of us.”

    “Do you want to shag her?”

    “What? No,” Ron said. Granger wasn’t his type. “Why are you so…” He trailed off. “...so moody?”

    Harry scoffed at Ron. “Why do you think she was afraid of Yaxley? Because he was her enemy in her world. She recognised Crabbe as well. And she knows us. I bet she also knows all of Yaxley’s friends. But she didn’t tell us or warn us. If she had, perhaps Scrimgeour and Bones wouldn’t have been killed.”

    Ron froze for a moment. He hadn’t thought of that. Although… “She said she had no proof, but she all but accused Yaxley. Would we have believed her without proof?”

    “She had proof of magic, though,” Harry retorted. “She was carrying it around with her.”

    That was true. “I don’t think she expected the murders,” he said. And she had saved his life.

    “She should have,” Harry snapped, turning back to the pots and pans.

    Ron shook his head. That wasn’t fair. “Well, after Scrimgeour, so should have Bones.” And they should’ve expected it as well.

    *****​

    “What’s with Harry?” Granger asked as soon as Ron rejoined her in the living room. She was sitting on the floor, surrounded by stacks of paper - obviously, her bag held even more than he had expected. And had a way to keep its contents sorted.

    He played dumb. “What do you mean?”

    Granger narrowed her eyes. “Earlier, Harry all but stormed out of the room. It’s obvious that he isn’t taking this whole thing as well as you seem to be.”

    “It seems our counterparts are more similar to us than I thought, hm?” Ron replied.

    “I don’t know what you were thinking,” she told him. “But I do know that you’re being evasive now.”

    “Because my counterpart acted the same?” He cocked his head slightly.

    “No, because it’s obvious.” She stood and crossed her arms. “We’re isolated, being hunted and can’t trust anyone. In this situation, we cannot afford for Harry to throw a tantrum.”

    “It seems that you don’t know us as well as you think you do.” Ron met her eyes. “Harry’s not happy with you keeping secrets. He thinks that if you had told us the truth, Scrimgeour and Bones wouldn’t have been killed.”

    She gasped but recovered her composure a moment later. “Did he expect me to just tell strangers about magic?”

    “If you’re getting attacked by counterparts of your enemies, yes,” Ron said. “You knew Crabbe.”

    “What?” She shook her head. “That’s not how it works. I knew his counterpart, yes. But my Crabbe was a bigoted pureblood willing to murder muggleborns with Malfoy and Voldemort.”

    “Malfoy?” Could it be…?

    “Draco Malfoy. A despicable, cowardly bigot who thought people like me - muggleborns, wizards and witches born to non-magical parents - had no right to live. They called us ‘mudbloods’ and had death squads hunt us down. Magical Nazis in all but name!”

    “Blond, arrogant, always mentioning his family’s money and his father?” Ron asked.

    “Yes. You’ve met his counterpart?”

    “We went to school with Damien Malfoy. Bloody ponce.” He shook his head. So Malfoy could have been even worse.

    “But not with Crabbe or Goyle?”

    “I never saw either until Crabbe tried to shoot us,” Ron said.

    “Oh. They were Malfoy’s muscle. Almost inseparable.”

    “We’ll have to look into a possible tie to Malfoy, then.” At least that should cheer Harry up.

    “I don’t think that is the case,” she told him.

    “Why? Did you investigate him?”

    “No,” she said with a frown. “But this country is very different from Wizarding Britain.”

    “But Malfoy is still an arse and a racist.” He snorted. “Some things are constant, it seems.”

    “That doesn’t mean I could have anticipated Scrimgeour’s murder. Or Bones’s.”

    “We could have taken more precautions,” he retorted.

    “Really?” She raised her eyebrows. “I have some difficulty in believing that. You were trained by Alastor Moody’s counterpart, weren’t you? Constant vigilance? You probably did everything you could think of already.”

    “You know him?” That explained some of her comments.

    “His counterpart was our Defence teacher for a year.”

    “Moody taught you self-defence?” That must have been a hell of a school.

    “Defence against the Dark Arts,” she corrected him. “Although it covered self-defence as well, though with a wand. And Duelling.”

    “Ah. Magic duels?”

    “It's a sport. Not quite as removed from actual fighting as modern fencing, but a good duellist isn’t necessarily a good fighter. Especially when facing multiple opponents.” She grimaced and rubbed her shoulder. “They are generally very dangerous when facing a single opponent, though.”

    As she had probably found out the hard way. “And you were never into sports, hm?”

    She pressed her lips together. “I focused on academics. And if you’d seen the wizarding idea of sports, you’d have done the same.”

    “Oh, I don’t know. Duelling sounds fun.” He grinned

    She sniffed in response. “You sound like Ron.”

    Well, they had already established that.

    “It’s still not my fault that Scrimgeour and Bones were murdered. No one but you and my parents knows about magic. Telling you about magic wouldn’t have changed anything.”

    Ron didn’t think that it was as easy as that, but it was clear she had not considered that her being a witch might endanger others. So, at worst, she had been mistaken, not callous. He inclined his head and made a non-committal noise.

    She frowned again - she was doing that a lot - and shook her head. “I’ll set him straight.”

    “No.” He reached out to grab her arm but settled on simply holding his hand out, stopping her without touching her. “He needs to calm down and think about all of this. Give him some space.”

    She didn’t answer - and she was staring at something he couldn’t see.

    *****​

    “This is pointless! We should be ambushing Death Eaters!” Harry yelled, throwing the book he had been reading on the ground and leaving the tent.

    “Harry!” She jumped to her feet.

    Ron grabbed her arm. “Give him some space, Hermione!”

    “But…”

    “He just lost his godfather. He won’t listen to your lecture about rituals to find Horcruxes. Let him calm down outside.”

    “But that’s not safe!”

    “We’re in the middle of nowhere,” he retorted. “He’ll be fine.”

    He was right. No mind-controlled or duped police officer would find them here. But that didn’t mean they were safe from every danger. “What if he…” She trailed off, not willing to say it out loud.

    She didn’t have to. Ron understood. “He won’t. You know him.”

    She did. But Harry was changing. They were all changing. Had changed. You couldn’t fight a war and stay unaffected. You couldn’t kill and remain the same person you were. She knew that very well.

    Sighing, she sat down again. “I just want to help him.” Harry was trying to bottle his grief up. Or, worse, channel it into hatred.

    “I know.” He stepped behind her, rubbing her shoulders. “We all do.”

    “But we’re the only ones with him,” she whispered. The rest of the Order cells had their own tasks and bases. Sirius had used the enchanted mirror to talk with Harry, but now… perhaps Remus would replace him. Not that you could replace him. “We’ll avenge him.”

    He didn’t answer, but she felt his hands tighten a little.

    “By finding and destroying all of the Horcruxes,” she added.

    “Yes.”

    “I’ll fix dinner,” she said. Harry usually did it, but… their pantry was overflowing. She would find some tins or frozen dinners she could use.

    “Ravioli?” His voice was light, teasing, and she blushed. That hadn’t been her finest hour. Or meal.

    His fingers found a knot in her shoulder, and she closed her eyes. Ron… She buried the thought before it could form. As she had done before.

    She couldn’t. They couldn’t. Harry needed them. More than ever. And none of them could afford such a… distraction.

    But once the war was over...

    *****​
     
  27. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Indeed - the old KGB certainly wouldn't have done this. Although that's not a casus belli - not by far. On the other hand, as the next chapter will mention, it's not as if the ambushes were well-planned so far anyway.
     
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  28. preier

    preier Know what you're doing yet?

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    ah, i was eagerly anticipating the reveal. the reactions are not too bad, harry's is unfair but foreseeable. the parallels and divergences are interesting.

    I still wonder if local!hermione would have met them...

    thanks for sharing your stories
     
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  29. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Actually makes me curious what happened with local Hermione... probably dead, I guess. But maybe...
     
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  30. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Indeed. And disturbing, in a way.

    Low odds for that - they would have had to go to the same boarding school, and without magic uniting them in one school...

    Thanks for reading them!

    It certainly doesn't look good for her.
     
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