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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. Simonbob

    Simonbob Really? You don't say.

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    Unless......

    She's in charge of the bad guys!
     
    RedX and Starfox5 like this.
  2. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    That would be quite a twist, indeed.
     
  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 6: The Friend
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 6: The Friend

    Richmond upon Thames, London, July 9th, 2005

    “Dr Granger?” Ron wondered if she was having a flashback.

    Granger recovered at once, though, and shook her head. “Sorry. Just a memory.” She looked a little rueful.

    “Ah.” Once more, he was tempted to pry, but Granger didn’t seem to be in the mood to share. Well, not if it concerned her past - he was sure that she was always ready to give a lecture.

    She gave him a look, her expression a mixture of annoyance and fondness. “Yes, it was about your counterparts,” she told him.

    “Ah,” he repeated himself. “I’m easy to read, hm?” he prompted her.

    Her eyes narrowed slightly. “You’re more subtle than him.”

    He nodded, acknowledging her rebuke. “Déformation professionnelle, I’m afraid.”

    She made a noise halfway between a scoff and a snort. “Well, I guess Ron could have grown more subtle with age as well.”

    This time he couldn’t resist. He had to ask: “Did he die?”

    “No,” she said quickly. Then she took a deep breath. “He was alive when I was transported here. But we were in the middle of a battle, and…”

    “And the odds weren’t great,” he finished for her.

    After another of her sad looks, she nodded. “The odds weren’t great from the very beginning, but it was a particularly tight spot.”

    That explained her fixation on returning at all costs. “And you feel guilty for leaving them.”

    The glare was back as she bared her teeth. “I didn’t leave by choice.”

    “But you still feel guilty about it.” It was plain to see. Obviously, she had never told her therapist about that event.

    She clenched her teeth so hard, he could see her jaw muscles twitch, then turned away and grabbed a sheet of paper - at random, he was certain.

    But he nodded and left the room.

    Now both Harry and Granger were sulking and annoyed with him. It wasn’t one of his better days, to be honest - even if you didn’t count him getting shot and nearly killed.

    *****​

    “It’s good,” Granger commented after the first bite.

    "Thank you,” Harry replied - after a noticeable pause.

    “Harry’s a good cook,” Ron said. Not as good as Mum, of course. But better than Ginny, which was - despite her claims of not caring about it and not wanting to be a housewife anyway - a sore point for Ron’s sister.

    “Not all of us want to live off takeaways,” Harry replied. It almost sounded like their usual ribbing.

    Ron shrugged. “Cooking for yourself is inefficient.” He could always visit home, anyway, if he wanted to eat well.

    “And you’d burn half your meals.” Harry snorted.

    “That happened once, and I was pissed,” Ron retorted. “And you didn’t exactly do anything to prevent it, either.”

    “I was drunk, and watching you was funny.”

    “So you claim,” Ron shot back.

    “My first attempt at cooking ended with a ruined pan,” Granger said after a moment. “The instructions were incorrect.”

    Ron chuckled - he could imagine that: Granger, glaring at a smoking pan as if it were the pan’s fault, cookbook in hand, wearing a little apron…

    “You were at fault for picking the wrong instructions, then.” Harry sounded a little too sharp for friendly ribbing.

    “Nothing a spell couldn’t fix,” Granger retorted, in an equally not so friendly tone.

    Ron cleared his throat. “We need to talk about what we’re going to do now,” he said. Before these two drove each other mad.

    “We have to stay under the radar,” Harry said at once. “If Yaxley is behind this, then we can’t trust anyone in CI5.”

    “Colin would never betray you,” Ron pointed out.

    “He can be fooled. Easily,” Harry replied. “And everyone knows that he likes me. I bet you a hundred pounds that Yaxley has him bugged already, in case we make contact.”

    “That’s probably how they got Bones. Must have bugged her or her car,” Ron agreed.

    “She would have checked,” Harry retorted.

    “After Scrimgeour? Yes. But she might have missed something. Or Yaxley had this planned for some time, and was aware of her contingencies.” Ron shrugged.

    “It doesn’t seem to have been a well-planned operation so far,” Harry pointed out. “The attack on the safe house had too few people to succeed. But two days later, they had over half a dozen shooters in the park.”

    Ron nodded. “Rush job on the house. He didn’t know how long we planned to stay and hit us on the first night with what he had available. Then he got reinforcements for the ambush at the park.”

    “It won’t help him, though.” Harry grinned. “Scrimgeour and Bones killed by a sniper? A shootout in a public park in the afternoon, in the middle of London? MI5 and Special Branch will be all over this. He can’t keep this in house. And he didn’t have enough time to cover all his tracks. He’s going down.”

    “But he has to have known that. Why would he take such a risk?” Ron pointed out. “Killing Scrimgeour triggered the whole thing. After that, Bones wouldn’t rest until she found the killer. But killing her made things worse.”

    “Yaxley’s not the smartest bloke,” Harry replied.

    “But he’s smart enough - more than smart enough - to realise that much. So, why start all this?” Ron shook his head. “And where did he get his reinforcements? You can’t just hire mercenaries.” This wasn’t a movie. He snorted. “He’s got a backer.”

    Harry slowly nodded. “Yes, that would fit. But it’s still a huge risk to take.”

    “Perhaps he had no choice,” Ron speculated. “If his backer has a hold over him and ordered him to procure Dr Granger, what are the odds Scrimgeour would have found out?” After the fact, most likely.

    “So he decided to go for broke?” Harry sounded doubtful. “He could have run.”

    “And be hunted by CI5 - and by his backer as a loose end?”

    “Good point,” Harry conceded.

    Ron noticed that Granger was staring at them both. She looked very impressed.

    And he liked that, he realised.

    “That is a convincing conclusion - but it depends on Yaxley being behind the murder of Scrimgeour and Bones,” Granger said. “And there’s no evidence to support that hypothesis.”

    “His counterpart was an enemy of yours, though, wasn’t he?” Harry said with a frown. He didn’t like to be wrong, Ron knew. Well, no one did.

    “That doesn’t mean, though, that your Yaxley is a criminal,” she replied with a frown. “He could be a perfectly upstanding, if abrasive and annoying, police officer.”

    “That’s true,” Ron admitted, ignoring Harry’s glance towards him, “but so far, the people you’ve met have been pretty similar to their counterparts in your world, haven’t they?”

    “Not identical. Not enough to condemn a man for it,” she replied with a glance towards Harry.

    Ron’s friend scoffed. “Really? You trusted us because of them, didn’t you? That’s why you revealed your secret.”

    “I revealed my secret because it was the only way to save Ron!” she retorted.

    “You called me Ron,” Ron pointed out. She also did it when she had that nightmare, he recalled.

    “A slip of the tongue,” she said, then took a deep breath. “Yes, the similarities are striking, but there are differences.”

    “We’re older than the people you knew,” Ron said. “And we’ve had different experiences.”

    “Exactly!” She nodded, a faint smile on her face. “And your Riddle died in 1985. The one in my world survived. That’s a huge difference.”

    Harry scoffed again. “Yaxley’s old enough to have been turned before that. People suspected that there was a mole in CI5 who fed Riddle information that allowed him to evade the police.”

    “But if it was Riddle who turned him, then who would be able to call on him now?” Granger asked.

    “Some of his supporters and fellow terrorists were never caught,” Ron said.

    “But would he have trusted anyone with such information?” she replied, shaking her head as she answered her own question.

    “That’s based on your knowledge of his counterpart, isn’t it?” Harry asked with a hint of a smirk.

    “Yes,” she spat.

    “And it fits our profiles of Riddle,” Harry told her.

    “Which means that it’s unlikely that Yaxley is working with or for someone who was with Riddle.” She sniffed.

    “Unlikely doesn’t mean impossible,” Harry said. “And it certainly isn’t Dawlish. The man’s too stupid for this. That doesn’t leave many others of the proper age and position.”

    “In any case, we have to assume there is a highly-placed traitor in CI5,” Ron cut in. “Which means, as we said before, we cannot trust anyone. We have to stay on our own until the mole’s found.”

    “Which will make you appear suspicious,” Granger pointed out.

    “And you as well,” Harry retorted. “You were present at both assassinations.”

    “And if it’s Yaxley,” Ron added, “he might try to use this to get you.”

    “Britain’s most wanted,” Granger muttered, “once again.”

    Ron tried to cheer her up. “It won’t be for long. Moody’s going to find the mole sooner rather than later.”

    “Unless he’s coming after you because he thinks you’ve turned traitor,” she retorted.

    “He wouldn’t!” Harry replied, glaring at her. “He trusts us.”

    “Does he trust anyone?” Granger glared back at him.

    “Didn’t you tell us that we can’t assume everyone’s like their counterpart?”

    “Please!” Ron raised his voice. “Arguing about that won’t help our situation. We have to decide what we do now.”

    “How safe is this house?” Granger asked. “Can we stay here while this whole mess is sorted out?”

    “No one but us and Sirius know about it,” Harry replied.

    “And can Sirius be trusted not to rush over here as soon as he hears about the whole thing?”

    While Harry clenched his teeth and didn’t answer, Ron made a note of another hint that people and their counterparts in Granger’s world were very similar - she certainly knew Sirius’s likely reaction well.

    “I guess that means we’ll have to leave,” Granger said with a sigh.

    “I’ll send him a mail - through a secure account,” Harry told them, standing up.

    “Let’s hope he’ll listen,” Ron heard Granger mutter as Harry left the room. He hoped Harry hadn’t heard her.

    “We really can’t assume everything’s the same,” Granger told him as soon as the door closed behind Ron’s friend.

    “We can’t trust people just because you trusted their counterparts,” he replied, “but there’s nothing wrong with being suspicious of people whose counterparts were your enemies.”

    She pressed her lips together but didn’t contradict him. He took that as acknowledgment of his point.

    *****​

    Ron found Harry in the kitchen, doing the dishes. “Sirius should have bought a dishwasher,” he commented.

    Harry snorted. “It wasn’t as if he actually cooked back in the seventies. Not that he’s cooking anything nowadays, either.”

    Because Harry’s godfather had hired a housekeeper as soon as he had inherited his family’s fortune and ancestral home. It must be nice to be rich, Ron thought, then pushed the thought away. He was better than that. Money had been tight growing up, as one of seven kids with only Dad’s salary, but now that every one of Ron’s siblings was earning their own money, Mum and Dad could afford a lot. And Mum was a far better cook than Sirius’s housekeeper, anyway.

    Ron leaned against the counter next to him. “Granger gave me a list of all her enemies in her world.” He should have asked about a list of her friends as well, but… you couldn’t trust someone because of their counterpart’s actions.

    “Must be a huge number, what with her charming personality,” Harry replied, not looking up from the pan he was scrubbing.

    Ron rolled his eyes. “You weren’t exactly acting like Prince Charming, either,” he pointed out. “Of course, Ginny would kill you if you had been.” His little sister had a stereotypical redhead’s temper. Fortunately, she had chosen tennis instead of, say, kickboxing.

    Harry snorted at that but still didn’t look up.

    “Is that why you’re so… cranky? Are you missing Ginny?”

    “I'm not ‘cranky’,” Harry replied, glaring at him. “I’m just not trying to get into Granger’s pants.”

    "Please try to be a little more original,” Ron told him. “And don’t tell me that it’s about her keeping secrets. You knew she wasn’t telling us the truth before, but now that she’s spilt her guts, you’re still mad at her.”

    Harry glared at him, but Ron didn’t flinch until his friend sighed. “Magic. Mind-controlling magic. Who knows what she can do? Or has done? It was different when we were guarding a boffin, but a witch? What if she thinks she knows best and makes us agree?”

    “If she could do such a thing, or would do it, wouldn’t she have done it already?”

    “She might have,” Harry retorted with a frown. “We can’t tell what can be done with magic, and what can’t. Most of our training is useless in the face of magic.”

    Ah. Ron nodded. That explained Harry’s attitude - they couldn’t trust their training as they had before. Not in the face of such a revelation.

    “But there’s more,” Harry went on. “She knows our counterparts. She probably knows stuff we haven’t even told each other. Don’t tell me that you’re alright with that!”

    He wasn’t. But she had saved his life. And Ron didn’t think she meant them any harm. “If she knows too much, it isn’t her fault. Blame our counterparts. Anyway, here’s the list.” He unfolded the list and held it up so Harry, whose hands were wet, could read it.

    “Malfoy… all three of them, actually. Travers. Yaxley. Dolohov. All three Lestranges.” Harry tensed, as Ron had known he would, but didn’t comment. “Crabbe. Goyle. Crouch. Avery. Jugson. Carrow. Carrow. Rookwood. Pettigrew.” He scoffed. “That’s no surprise. Umbridge?” Harry blinked. “Isn’t that the woman Arthur keeps complaining about?”

    “Yes."

    “Her counterpart is a magical terrorist?”

    “Was,” Ron told him. “The names with an asterisk are dead. And she wasn’t a terrorist but an eager genocidal bureaucrat, according to Granger.”

    Harry whistled. “That’s a lot of dead people.”

    Ron nodded. He glanced over his shoulder, then added: “And Granger was involved with a number of the deaths.” Which was both worrying and reassuring. And he couldn’t, yet, say which feeling was dominating. Or should.

    “Did she tell you that?”

    “No. But her reactions were telling,” Ron told him. She had been ‘lost in thought’ a few times as well. “Anyway - it’s a long list.”

    “And some of the names don’t ring any bells,” Harry pointed out. “Fenrir Greyback?”

    Ron shrugged. “A werewolf, or so I was told.”

    “Werewolves. What’s next, vampires?” Harry asked with a snort.

    “There’s a market for blood pops made with real blood in Granger’s world,” Ron replied with a wry grin.

    Harry sighed as he shook his head. “This is weirder than one of your stupid movies.”

    “They’re not stupid,” Ron replied out of habit. “They just don’t have the budget for their special effects. And it doesn’t matter. We’ve got a list of suspects now.”

    “And no proof.”

    “That’s what Granger kept saying,” Ron said, then smirked when he saw his friend clench his teeth. “What did Sirius tell you?”

    “He hasn’t answered my mail, yet,” Harry replied. “I told him not to do anything stupid, though.”

    Ron hoped that Sirius would listen - combat experience in the Guards didn’t make you a police officer. And he had been a tank commander, not exactly SAS material. Though he had had some experience in Ulster…

    “He’ll listen,” Harry said as if he had read Ron’s thoughts.

    Ron nodded. Sirius still blamed himself for the death of the Potters, after all. On the other hand, if he thought Harry was in danger, he’d rush in no matter what. “So…”

    Harry held up a hand, and Ron heard his cell phone vibrate. “Message from Sirius,” his friend said. He wiped his hands, then checked - and cursed. “They’re looking for us. As suspects.”

    Damn.

    Ron had expected that this would happen - the traitor would frame them to try to protect himself - but it was still a shock. What would Mum and Dad think? His brothers? Ginny, of course, would never believe it. But Percy? Bill? “Well, we didn’t plan to show our faces in public anyway,” he said. It wouldn’t do to appear actually worried.

    “Feh.” Harry frowned.

    “And we don’t need to buy food - Granger has enough to last two lifetimes,” Ron added.

    “That’s not food,” Harry complained. “That stuff makes spam taste good in comparison.”

    “I like Mum’s spam recipe,” Ron said. Times had been lean in his childhood, and they had eaten spam quite a lot.

    “Let’s tell Granger.”

    They found her in the living room, where she was watching TV. Ron saw pictures of Scrimgeour and Bones on the screen as well as Granger’s and swallowed his joke about mindless entertainment.

    “They’ve been talking about the murders non-stop since I switched the telly on,” Granger said. “And they speculate about whether I was kidnapped, killed or brainwashed into becoming a murderer.”

    “The BBC?” Ron couldn’t imagine the news going that far.

    “No, not the BBC,” Granger admitted. “But the rest of the channels.” She sniffed. “I expect them to mention your past at any moment,” she said with a glance at Harry.

    Harry muttered another curse in response.

    “Sorry,” she mumbled, “but we’ll have to expect it and prepare accordingly.”

    "Prepare for what?” Harry asked.

    “With so much attention from the media, everyone will recognise us,” she replied. “We won’t be able to set foot outside without a disguise.”

    “We don’t have to go out,” Ron pointed out. “We can stay here for months if need be.”

    “Are you suggesting that we should hide here until someone catches the traitor?” she asked with a frown.

    “No,” Ron said. Granger and Harry would drive each other crazy. “But we don’t have to go out right now. We can wait until the next celebrity scandal breaks.” Or until Yaxley was arrested.

    “I need a dependable base for my experiments. And an inconspicuous source of power,” she told them.

    “You’ll have to do without,” Harry replied. “Suddenly using far more power than normal would betray our presence.”

    “I can’t do research without power.”

    “You can’t do research if you’re dead, either.”

    Ron shook his head. “You can’t do research as long as someone is willing to hire mercenaries and criminals to hunt you down. Until the traitor’s backer is found, you’re stuck.”

    Her expression told him that she loathed their situation - but it couldn’t be helped.

    “We can go through your list,” Harry said. “It’s not as if we have any better leads.”

    “Just because their counterparts…” Granger started.

    Harry cut her off. “...yes, yes, we can’t condemn anyone for what their counterpart did. But,” he went on with a grin, “we can investigate them.”

    “While we’re Britain’s most wanted?” she retorted.

    “Yes.” Harry nodded. “I’m not going to hide and wait for someone to solve my problems for me.”

    Granger shook her head at that. “That’s familiar,” she commented with a rather sad smile as she stood. “I’m going to bed.”

    Ron wasn’t sure if he should be glad or concerned about Harry glowering at her as she passed.

    He sighed. “Let’s go over the list and make some plans.”

    Harry agreed after a moment. “Too bad we don’t know if we killed some of them already in the park.”

    Ron hadn’t actually done any killing, but it was nice of Harry to include him. Probably.

    “So… her Malfoy was best friends with Crabbe and Goyle?” Harry asked after looking at the list again.

    “They way she described it, they were his minions,” Ron corrected him.

    “Hm. Our Malfoy would have loved minions to do his bidding. What are the chances that he hired some thugs? He couldn’t rely on his dad all the time.” Harry rubbed his chin. “And we know he had some shady contacts.”

    “It’s quite a step to go from buying marijuana to hiring hitmen,” Ron pointed out.

    “Malfoy might have hired them as thugs, to beat up his ‘rivals’,” Harry replied. “Remember when he tried to send the rugby team after us?”

    “Oh, yes!” Ron chuckled. Malfoy’s dad must have spent a lot of money to smooth things over so his son wouldn’t be expelled.

    “Or perhaps he needed bodyguards to keep Parkinson away,” Harry joked, then blinked. “Damn.”

    “What?” Ron asked.

    “I just had a thought,” Harry replied. “This was Sirius’s bachelor pad in the seventies.”

    “Yes. And he bought it under a fake name.”

    “He did. But how many women did he invite over? And how many of them might remember the flat?”

    Ron frowned. “How many of them would make the connection to us? You weren’t even born when he started using it.”

    “No. But he was over the moon when he was made godfather,” Harry said. “He would have told his girlfriends. And all it takes is for one woman to remember.”

    Ron sighed. “Who gets to tell Granger that we have to move again?”

    “You. She’s less likely to turn you into a newt,” Harry replied with a grin.

    Ron frowned, but his friend was probably correct.

    *****​

    “I should have thought of that. It’s obvious in hindsight.”

    Granger took the news better than Ron had expected. And worse, in a way. “Don’t blame yourself. What would your therapist say?”

    “This is different. I should’ve known better,” Granger replied. “I’ve been hunted before.”

    “By wizards.”

    She snorted as she slid out of bed. “Wizards who could easily mind-control police officers and order them to hunt us as well. Hiding out in muggle hotels didn’t work out well for us. If the police hadn’t tried to arrest us before the Death Eaters found out...”

    He didn’t look at her legs as she grabbed the jeans from Frankie’s. Not overly long, at least. “How easy is magical mind control?” he asked, trying not to show how disturbing he found the subject.

    “It depends on what method you use, but it’s generally quite easy. Obliviation - erasing someone’s memories - is very common. It’s how the Statue of Secrecy is enforced. Then there’s the False Memory Charm, which allows you to implant artificial memories in someone’s mind. It’s far harder to use - you have to take great care to construct memories if you want them to influence the target. But done right, you can give someone an entirely new personality or set of goals.”

    Ron was aghast. That sounded… like Total Recall. “Is that what your enemies were doing?”

    She shook her head, then pulled her hair back and put it into a bushy ponytail. “No. They usually stuck to the Imperius Curse.” Looking at him, she added: “It’s basically an order you can’t refuse and want to execute. Casting the spell on a human earns you a life sentence in Azkaban. That’s a prison in the North Sea staffed by monsters. Most inmates lose their sanity within a few years.”

    He wanted to ask her why she was so determined to return to that. The way she’d worded it, that prison wasn’t new. On the other hand, her family and friends were there. And her magic wand. Although… she had spoken as if she had personal experience with those spells. “Did you use them yourself?”

    “What?” She turned to him, shirt in hand, teeth bared.

    “Not the Imperius, the others, I mean,” he was quick to explain.

    “Oh.” She sighed. “I considered it. Quite thoroughly. The False Memory Charm, that is. Obliviating enemies was pretty standard. And witnesses - wouldn’t want to endanger the Statute of Secrecy.” She scoffed.

    She had mentioned that before. “Keeping magic a secret is of such importance?”

    “It’s pretty much the only thing all wizarding countries agree upon. Breaking it is the worst crime you could commit. Far worse than massacring a few dozen muggles,” she added in a bitter tone.

    He had the distinct impression that wasn’t a hypothetical example. “Worse than using the Imperius Curse?”

    She pulled her shoes on. “Yes.”

    “Does that mean you’ll have to obliviate Harry and me?” he asked before he could stop himself.

    She looked startled for a moment. “No. Your world has no magic. There’s no Statute here.” Frowning, she went on: “Of course, some of the bigots would still claim this was breaking the Statute of Secrecy. They invented bogus charges of ‘stealing magic’ to justify their murders.”

    “And you want to return there?”

    “I have to. I left my friends.”

    Friends who might be - were, probably - dead by now. But he knew better than to point that out. Judging by her expression, she was already aware that she might be returning to avenge, rather than help, them.

    “So, where are we going?” she asked, grabbing her bag. “Do you have another safe house prepared?”

    He chuckled, ruefully. “I wish.” Moody would tell them that they weren’t vigilant enough after this mess was sorted out. “No, we’ll visit a friend of mine,” he said with a smile.

    “A friend?”

    He nodded. “A good friend. She won’t betray us.”

    She had an odd expression, he noticed. “Who is she?”

    “Luna. Luna Lovegood.” She looked rather incredulous, so he added, slightly annoyed: “It’s an old and perfectly fine name.”

    “No, no.” She shook her head. “It’s not that. Does her family live next to yours?”

    Ron blinked, then groaned. “You knew her counterpart as well?”

    “We went to the same school.”

    Ron shook his head. This was eerie. What else did she know? “Ah… were we involved?”

    “What? Us? I mean, your counterpart and I?”

    “No, I mean my counterpart and Luna’s,” he explained.

    “Oh. No, not to my knowledge. And I’ve known Ron since he was eleven.”

    Good. So not everything was the same.

    “Is she a cryptozoologist? Hunting Nessie?”

    He laughed. “No, no. She’s no cryptozoologist.”

    *****​

    Near Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, Britain, July 10th, 2005

    “Luna lives here?” Granger asked before Harry had even stopped the car. “It’s a barn! And a broken-down one, at that!”

    “It merely looks like a barn,” Ron replied as he got out of the car.

    “It smells like a barn, too,” Granger remarked.

    “Luna’s very thorough,” Ron said.

    “Thorough?”

    “Yes,” Harry replied, still behind the wheel. “Even Moody would be impressed.”

    “That’s not really reassuring…” Granger trailed off. “Wait…”

    But Ron had already reached the big gate, pulling it open for Harry to drive the car inside before closing it behind them.

    The inside looked as it should - full of the derelict remains of a failed farm, with barely enough space left free for a vehicle to park, the only light provided by their car.

    “It is a barn. And Luna doesn’t live here,” Granger stated as she climbed out of the car.

    “Right.” Ron nodded, slightly disappointed that she had seen through the small deception already. “Moody was the clue, huh?”

    “Unless you deliberately wanted to mislead me, it means that Luna’s paranoid. Which means she’d never let you drive up to her real home,” she replied, shaking her head as she looked around.

    Then the entire barn was plunged into darkness as Harry switched the lights off. Granger didn’t comment, though, not until Ron had pulled out his flashlight to show her the way to the side exit.

    “Couldn’t someone spot the light?” she asked as she made her way towards Ron.

    “The barn doesn’t let any light out,” Ron told her. He had helped Luna fix it that way over one summer.

    “Ah. And the side exit leads to a secret tunnel?”

    Harry scoffed. “Don’t be daft - that’d mean you’d have a direct lead to her home from here.”

    Ron couldn’t see Granger’s face, not without being obvious about it and shining his flashlight in her direction, but he was certain that she was pursing her lips at Harry’s comment. “And traipsing through the countryside won’t lead any pursuers to her?” she retorted in a cold tone.

    “No. Not with the route we’re taking,” Ron told her as Harry handed him his set of night vision goggles. “We’ll be moving through the underbrush for most of the distance.”

    “We’ve only got two sets, sorry,” Harry said. He almost sounded sincere.

    “Great. I missed stumbling through a dark forest so much,” he heard her mutter.

    “Just hold my hand, I’ll guide you,” Ron offered.

    “No need. I’ve got my own.”

    “You do? Of course you do.” Ron shook his head as she pulled out a set of night vision goggles - a Russian model, Ron recognised the type - from her bag.

    Luna would love her. Probably.

    *****​

    Granger definitely wasn’t at home in the woods. Even with night vision goggles, she had trouble navigating the forest. At least Ron assumed her repeated, whispered queries about whether or not they were lost indicated that she was lost. And she didn’t have an easy time marching, either.

    But they had made it to Luna’s hideout anyway, if later than planned. It was still the middle of the night, though, and so Luna wouldn’t be mad at them.

    “That’s her real fake barn?” Granger asked, staring past him at the back of a decrepit-looking wooden building. “Oh God, I’m more tired than I thought to be saying that.”

    “Yes,” Ron told her with a grin.

    She huffed. “So… do we go and knock?”

    “In a way.” Ron took a deep breath and stepped closer to the back of the barn, looking for the slightly loose plank. Luna tended to move it around… ah, there. He pulled it back a little and stuck his finger inside, moving it until he felt the cool metal of the fingerprint scanner.

    A moment later, part of the wall swung open, revealing a narrow space with a hatch in the floor, barely big enough for one person to step inside - and needing to duck their heads if they weren’t on the short side. He did so and opened the hatch, then pointed at the spiral staircase leading down. “Here we are.”

    He quickly descended the stairs until he reached the steel door at the bottom, where he smiled up at the camera. “Hi, Luna! It’s me, Ron!”

    The door didn’t open.

    After a few seconds, he heard her voice - digitally altered. “Password?”

    “Swordfish.”

    The steel door started to swing open.

    “Swordfish?” Granger asked behind him.

    “A movie starring John Travolta,” Ron explained.

    “Ah.”

    It was also one of the movies he had watched with Luna when they had been dating, but she wouldn’t know that. And he wouldn’t tell her. It was none of her business.

    He stepped through the airlock - at least Luna wasn’t running her NBC protocol - and into the hallway - or entrance hall, as Luna called it. And there she was - dressed in one of her ‘ironic’ T-shirts and baggy jeans with ballet flats. Not one of her weirder looks, this time.

    “Ron!” She hugged him. “I told you the shadow men behind the government would hunt you down one day! I told you!”

    “It’s not quite…” he tried to explain.

    “Fortunately, I’ve been preparing for this eventuality! This bunker is shielded against all the ways they could use to track you! They won’t get you!” He felt her nodding - her chin repeatedly dug into his shoulder. “And neither will they get Harry and…” She tensed in his arms. “Blessed Mother Goddess!”

    He turned his head, with some difficulty, and noticed she was staring at Granger. “Ah, Luna, this is…”

    “An alien! You brought an alien here!”

    “I’m not an alien!” Granger protested at once.

    “You’re Hermione Granger. Kidnapped at the age of eleven. Found seven years later, with amnesia. Identified through DNA testing and reunited with her parents. Proceeded to complete her missing secondary schooling in record time despite her history, then went on to study quantum physics, becoming a researcher after earning her doctorate,” Luna stated, without releasing Ron. “Claimed her research was purely theoretical, yet found herself the target of multiple kidnapping attempts by an unknown yet clearly powerful secret organisation.” She sniffed. “It’s obvious that you’ve assumed the identity of the real Hermione Granger who was conveniently killed years ago before your arrival on Earth in order to gain the resources needed to return to your home planet. But the secret global anti-alien forces have seen through your deceptions and are now trying to arrest you without revealing that aliens exist!”

    Ron managed to turn his head far enough to see Granger. She was staring at Luna, speechless.

    And then Harry laughed.

    “That’s ridiculous!” Granger snapped. “I’m not an alien!”

    “Of course you’d say that!” Luna retorted. “But how else can you explain the countless inconsistencies in your life? If you aren’t a member of an alien species whose technology is far in advance of our own, how would you have managed to research something for which people are willing to murder senior police officers? After missing seven years of your secondary education?” She finally released Ron and took a step towards Granger, pointing her right index finger at her. “You might have fooled the Grangers, and you might have fooled the government - although the government may have been on to you from the start, and just let you believe you succeeded in fooling them so they could reap the results of your research for their own secret weapon programs. But you haven’t fooled me!”

    “Wha…” Granger blinked. “That makes no sense!”

    “On the contrary! It makes perfect sense!” Luna shook her head wildly. “But you’ve made a fatal mistake! You dared to attack my friends!”

    Uh oh. Ron grimaced. Luna was what Mum called a gentle soul, and she was a lovely, if eccentric, girl, but if she thought someone was threatening her few, very few, friends… “Luna, she’s not an alien.”

    “I know you have to say that.”

    “No, I mean, we know the truth. And she’s not an alien. She’s human. Although you’re correct in that she isn’t the original Hermione Granger.” Ron stepped between Luna and Granger. Just in case his ex-girlfriend hadn’t been joking about the anti-authoritarian thug counter-measures she wanted to install in the ceiling.

    Luna blinked. “She’s human, but she managed to fool a DNA test? She’s a clone!” She clapped her hands together. “The government has been cloning promising people for their shadow research think tanks! I knew it!” She slid around Ron and peered at Granger. “How old are you? Historically, I mean. Biologically, you’ve obviously been subjected to an accelerated growth treatment.”

    “I’m twenty-six years old! I’m not a clone!” Granger insisted.

    “Are you sure?” Harry cut in, still chuckling.

    She glared at him, then at Ron, as if this was his fault. Well, he should have expected this, Ron guessed. “She’s not a clone.”

    “I’m Hermione Granger, a witch from a parallel Earth,” Granger spat. “I ended up here due to a magical accident, and I was misidentified as this world’s Hermione Granger.”

    “A witch?” Luna frowned. “A magical accident?”

    “Yes.” Granger held her hand out towards a small tobacco box on the shelf behind Luna and snapped: “Accio box!”

    A moment later, the box flew towards her outstretched hand, and, from hidden speakers, Luna’s voice yelled: “Alert! Alert! Smoker intruder! Alert!” - loudly enough to hurt Ron’s ears.

    *****​

    She heard the loud, very loud, sound of a gong being rung and knew she had made a fatal mistake. She hadn’t disabled all the alarms, and now the enemy knew that there were intruders on the premises.

    “We need to go!” Harry hissed, jumping to his feet.

    But they were so close. And Voldemort… he was supposed to be busy dealing with the diversionary attacks while they broke into the manor.

    “Come on!” Ron yelled, grabbing her shoulder. “We’ve failed! We need to leave!”

    No, she had failed. All those Order members risking their lives, and she had let them down. Their chance to get the Horcrux, lost. She shook her head, forcing back tears, as she ran towards the wardline, casting a Disillusionment Charm almost without thinking. Fifty yards until they could apparate to safety.

    They cleared the gardens. Forty yards.

    Halfway through the open ground. Thirty yards.

    Twenty yards. Almost.

    The hedgerow in front of them blew up. She barely saw the Blasting Curse before she was thrown to the ground. She rolled over the lawn - her Shield Charm had held - as a cloud of dust started to settle and chunks of earth and roots rained down on her. Harry! Ron!

    She looked around, pointing her wand in every direction, as she tried to find her friends. The cloud still concealed everyone and everything, but it would thin out on top first, and her Human-presence-revealing Charm would show.…

    Half a dozen markers became visible between her and the wardline - and she couldn’t yet tell who among them were Harry and Ron, and who would be Death Eaters.

    She - belatedly - dashed towards the wardline. At an angle, away from the Death Eaters. If she could get out and flank them...

    She saw a flash right in front of her, then she was flying through the air - another Blasting Curse, she realised, right before everything went dark.

    *****
     
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  4. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Oh boy, paranoid Luna and Hermione. I think regardless of the universe, Luna manages to annoy Hermione :D
     
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  5. Simonbob

    Simonbob Really? You don't say.

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    Interesting depiction of Luna.


    Possible future? With no trust, she goes deep. Then, deeper.
     
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  6. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Indeed.

    That depends on how she handles the current actual conspiracy.
     
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  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 7: The Old Flame
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 7: The Old Flame

    Near Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, Britain, July 10th, 2005

    Granger was blinking rapidly. Flashback, Ron realised - he was starting to recognise the signs. “Luna, turn it off!” he said - a little more sharply than he intended.

    “What?”

    “Turn it off!” he repeated himself, a little more loudly. Granger was pressing her hands on her ears, and Ron wished he had some ear protection.

    Luna left the hallway, and, a moment later, the shouting stopped. She returned and asked: “What did you say?”

    “I wanted you to turn off the alarm,” Ron said for the third time.

    “Ah.”

    Granger was still breathing heavily, but she seemed to recover as Ron watched. “Merlin’s beard! What was that?” she spat, glaring at Luna.

    “My intruder alarm, of course. That is, my back-up intruder alarm.”

    “You linked an alarm to a tobacco box on a shelf?” Granger sounded incredulous. Again.

    “Of course! Everyone knows that members and minions of the shadow government are often heavy smokers - not only are they stressed from trying to oppress the masses and keep their machinations secret, they can also camouflage themselves in clouds of smoke, you know! And members of the shadow government are corrupt and, therefore, greedy, so they wouldn’t be able to resist a genuine eighteenth-century vintage tobacco box! And, finally, minions of the shadow government are trained to search for your most private secrets, so they would look through the box for hidden documents such as your diary!” Luna beamed at Granger. “It’s effective on three levels! And, as you’ve proven, it works on dimension-travelling witches, too! If you’re actually a witch.”

    “I am a witch,” Granger said through clenched teeth. “You just saw me levitate a tobacco box with magic!”

    “That could’ve been a directed beam of gravity-reversing energy. Or a psionic burst. A Timelord certainly would be able to fake magic thanks to their hyper-advanced technology,” Luna retorted.

    “I’m not a Timelord. And Dr Who is a fictional TV series,” Granger replied.

    “Ah, that’s what they want you to think! It’s actually the perfect cover - any time the aliens make a mistake, the government can claim it’s just part of a new episode of Dr Who. That’s why they restarted the series, you know - they tried to save money in the 80s and 90s, but when the Cold War ended, the budget of the secret service was cut, and that also reduced the budget for covering up alien activities, so they had to restart the series.”

    This time, Ron was sure that Granger wasn’t experiencing a flashback - she was just left speechless and blinking by Luna’s theories. Not unlike Percy that time Luna had tried to interrogate him after he had started working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. That had been an amusing family dinner.

    “But…” Granger shook her head. “I told you that I’m not an alien!”

    “Even if you are telling the truth, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any aliens.” Luna sniffed. “As a scientist, you should be aware of that!”

    “What?”

    Uh oh. Granger was getting mad. Ron cleared his throat. “Anyway - as you know, we’re being hunted by the police. Can we hide here until the real murderer has been found?”

    “Of course!” Luna beamed at him. “This is a refuge for any innocent victim of the government!” She frowned and peered at Granger. “You are innocent, aren’t you?”

    “Of course I am!”

    “She was actually fighting a fascist wizard government in her home dimension when she was transported here in a magical accident,” Ron added.

    “What? Oh, Mother Goddess! Is that true?” Luna quickly closed with Granger and grabbed her hands. “You’re a refugee from an oppressive, fascist government?”

    Granger blinked, but, apparently, her desire to lecture won out over her indignation. “In a way. The politics in Wizarding Britain do not align perfectly with the politics of this world - or the muggle parts of my home. That means the magic-less parts. But the government was quite bigoted towards those who weren’t born to wizards and witches, favouring the so-called purebloods even before the Dark Lord took over. He didn’t take over openly, though. Instead, he mind-controlled the Minister and had his followers and sympathisers take control of the Ministry - the wizarding government - to persecute the muggleborns like me. As a minority and relative newcomers to Wizarding Britain, we were the perfect scapegoats. So, I don’t think it’s entirely incorrect to call his movement fascist, although it’s not entirely correct either.”

    “A government controlled from the shadows using mind control! Persecuting minorities to distract the mindless population from their own situation! Did you have a voice of freedom spreading the truth for those who would listen, too?”

    “Well… actually, yes. There was a pirate wireless station, and The Quibbler,” Granger replied. She looked wary now - or again.

    “Oh, I knew it!” And Luna lunged, hugging Granger. Hard. “A sister-in-arms! A transdimensional comrade! Be welcome in my abode!”

    Ron couldn’t tell if Granger’s open mouth was due to shock or lack of air - Luna was stronger than her waif-like appearance suggested, and she was as passionate when hugging as she was in everything else that she did.

    But what was important was that she had welcomed them. They’d be safe here.

    *****​

    “...and an entire world - the Wizarding World - is hidden from the general, non-magic population? Thanks to magical mind control?” Luna shook her head. “Could this world have such a hidden world as well? Full of witches, wizards and dragons?”

    “There isn’t. I checked thoroughly,” Granger said.

    “Too bad. But in your world, no one knows about this ‘Statute of Secrecy’?” Luna leaned forward, licking her lips, almost pushing the table back as she did so.

    “Ah… close family members of muggleborn wizards and witches are allowed to know about magic.” Granger looked taken aback by Luna’s enthusiasm. Ron could understand the feeling, of course - Luna could be scary when she got excited. Well, excited in the wrong way.

    “Oh. And how do the wizards keep them from spilling the secret?”

    “Well, it’s illegal, for one thing. And who would believe them if they claimed magic existed?”

    Luna would, of course, Ron thought.

    “No implanted magical compulsions to keep quiet? Constant surveillance of everyone in the know? No threats to their loved ones? No examples made of random passers-by?” Luna sounded almost disappointed.

    “Nothing like that happened before I left.” Granger’s face turned into a scowl. “But with Voldemort in charge, I could see them going after the family members of muggleborns if only to prevent the birth of more muggleborns.”

    “Oh!” Luna gasped. “Your parents are in danger?”

    Granger winced but shook her head. “They were already in danger for being my parents. I was one of Harry’s - my Harry’s - best friends. Harry, Ron and I were the country’s Undesirables Numbers One, Two and Three. So we took precautions when Voldemort regained a body.”

    Luna almost looked envious, Ron noticed. “You were public enemy number three?”

    “Two, actually. I was deemed the greater danger than Ron.”

    “Oh! Because you were a witch and challenged their oppressive patriarchy?”

    “What? No. It was because I’m a muggleborn witch while Ron’s a pureblood wizard. I didn’t deserve magic according to their ideology, so me being better at it than anyone else at school meant I challenged their stupid prejudices in ways Ron couldn’t.”

    And Ron bet that Granger didn’t exactly hide her talents, either. Quite the contrary.

    “That doesn’t make much sense,” Luna replied, pouting.

    “Of course it doesn’t! The Death Eaters and their supporters are small-minded, ignorant bigots,” Granger spat.

    “Like our government!” Luna nodded rapidly.

    “I wouldn’t go that far,” Granger replied.

    “Of course you wouldn’t. But you haven’t grown up here. As a visitor, and from an openly fascist dictatorship, you would have missed the secret cabal ruling the country.” Luna frowned at Ron and Harry, although Ron’s friend didn’t notice - or acted as if he didn’t - since he was reading Luna’s latest ‘Underground Newsletter’. “Even some people who grew up in Britain and, as trained police officers, should really see through such cover-ups, won’t accept the truth.”

    “Ah…” Granger looked - not for the first time - lost.

    Ron shrugged. “As police officers, we need evidence before we act.”

    “Hard evidence,” Harry added.

    Luna huffed. “And that’s why you’re now being hunted by the forces of the shadow government! If you had arrested them beforehand, they wouldn’t be able to do this now!”

    It was an old argument, but after Bones and Scrimgeour’s deaths, it stung a lot more. “We have a suspect, at least,” Ron said. “Corban Yaxley. He’s…”

    “...a high-ranking member of the CI5. Your own department!” Luna frowned at him. “How did he manage to fool you?”

    “He probably didn’t do anything criminal or even suspicious for a long time,” Granger cut in. “That’s what his counterpart in my world did.”

    “Oh!” Luna’s head instantly turned to stare at Granger. “The similarities are so significant, you can use knowledge of one person to judge their counterpart?”

    “Not exactly,” Granger was quick to reply. “Our worlds differ greatly. At best, it provides hints or suspicions for further investigation.”

    “Oh! And you encountered Yaxley?”

    Granger pressed her lips together before answering. “Yes.”

    To Ron’s relief, Luna didn’t ignore the hint and didn’t pry. Instead, she said: “Oh! Did you meet my counterpart as well?”

    “Yes.” After a moment, she added: “We went to school together. She’s a witch.”

    “Oh! Tell me about her! Is she fighting the fascists as well?”

    “Yes, although she does it by helping her father publish his underground newspaper, The Quibbler, to oppose the enemy propaganda,” Granger explained.

    Luna clapped her hands together and squeed. “Just like me! Were we - I mean, your Luna and you - friends?”

    “Yes,” Granger answered. She didn’t seem to be lying, Ron noticed. “Very good friends,” Granger added.

    “Oh! Were we involved? With each other, I mean?”

    “What? No. No.” Granger shook her head. “But we were part of the, well, the resistance movement. Part of the core - of the new generation, at least.” She had a smile on her face, but it looked rather sad. Ron almost reached out to pat her hand, but Luna was already moving to hug her.

    “I’ll replace my counterpart as your friend until you can return to your world!”

    Well, Ron hadn’t expected that. But, in hindsight, he should have.

    *****​

    “And here’re the guest quarters!” Luna announced half an hour later, after she had finally picked up on Ron and Harry’s hints that they hadn’t slept for nearly twenty-four hours. She was a lovely woman, but she sometimes lost sight of the fact that not everyone shared her sleep cycle.“They’re not the most luxurious, but they’re the safest rooms in Britain!” She proudly spread her arms as she turned around and waved at the bunk beds lining the walls.

    “Thank you,” Granger said, already eyeing the closest bed.

    “Ah… you don’t need a special diet, and you aren’t allergic to our food, are you?”

    “I’ll be fine,” Granger told her, sitting down on the bed to remove her shoes. “Thank you,” she said again with a tired smile.

    “She eats MREs to save time,” Harry added with a smirk.

    “Really? Is that a parallel development or did wizards and witches copy them? And why are you doing that? Is magic unable to make food?”

    “I stocked up here,” Granger explained, “in case I had to hide for a length of time without being able to resupply.”

    Luna beamed at her. “Great minds think alike! I’ve got my own stock, so you’ll be able to enjoy familiar meals here!”

    Granger managed to keep smiling, but Ron spotted her fingers slip and freeze as she was undoing her shoelaces. He smirked and, for a moment, considered letting Luna feed Granger nothing but rations. He decided against it, though - Granger was prickly on a good day; he didn’t want to imagine how insufferable she might be if she were forced to eat rations for a week. Well, it certainly would be a sight to see. From afar. So he cleared his throat and spoke up: “I think we should save the rations for emergencies.”

    “But isn’t this an emergency?” Luna replied, looking puzzled. “The emergency, actually - the government is, finally, hunting you!” She shook her head. “And even though I took care not to be predictable, suddenly increasing the amount of food I need would raise a flag which the government’s minions could hardly miss. No, we should stick to rations for safety!”

    Ron winced. It was a good argument - at least Moody would think so. And since Moody might be assigned to tracking them, they could hardly argue against such a precaution. No matter how slim the chance that Luna was actually under government surveillance. So he nodded. “Good thinking, Luna.”

    She smiled widely at him, which almost made it worth eating MREs for a few days.

    Harry and Granger glared at him, though, as soon as Luna had left - as if this were Ron’s fault. “So, ah… goodnight.”

    Granger didn’t bother answering - she just slipped under her sheets and turned away from him. And whatever Harry grumbled wasn’t a wish for a restful night.

    *****​

    “You and Luna were involved with each other, weren’t you?”

    Granger’s question took Ron by surprise. He glanced at her bunk; she was still under the sheets, but she was looking at him. “Good morning,” he said, smiling - at the impressive bedhead she was sporting, with half her bushy mane plastered to one side of her head and the other half trying its best to point in all directions at once.

    She narrowed her eyes. “It’s almost noon.”

    He shrugged. “Almost means it’s technically still morning.” Harry was already taking a shower, and Luna was still asleep.

    She scoffed. “So, were you and her a couple? You asked if my Ron was involved with her counterpart.”

    He had, hadn’t he? Ron nodded. “We parted amicably.”

    “So I gathered,” she replied, in a rather wry tone.

    He sat up. “I take it her counterpart is different.” Granger had looked a little too shocked to have dealt with Luna before.

    She pursed her lips. “There are some parallels. But my… her counterpart wasn’t quite so fixated on conspiracies. That was mainly her father, although she believed his theories without question. No, she and her father focused on Magizoology - they were usually hunting for mythical, and perhaps fictional, magical creatures. Until the war started, at least.”

    “Ah.” He nodded and waited.

    “Your past won’t be a problem, will it?” she asked.

    “We parted amicably,” he repeated himself, wondering why she was asking. “You’ve seen her reaction, haven’t you?”

    That made her wince. “She’s a little more enthusiastic than I expected.”

    Ron laughed. “Well, you’re pretty much the perfect guest for her. You validate all her beliefs. If a witch from a parallel world can be hiding out in our own, nothing is impossible. It’s probably the happiest day of her life.”

    “Is that a good thing?” she asked with a glance at the door.

    “Whoever is hunting you has corrupted part of CI5 and sent about a dozen thugs to attack you in broad daylight. Whether Luna’s correct or not about a government conspiracy - I don’t think she is - it’s certainly better to be cautious,” Ron pointed out.

    She nodded, although it looked like she was doing it despite herself.

    “Was my counterpart in a relationship?” he asked before he could reconsider.

    “He dated Lavender Brown for a few months, in our fifth year.” She wasn’t looking at Ron, he noticed.

    “You were a couple, weren’t you?”

    Her wide-eyed expression as she gaped at him proved that he had guessed correctly.

    Swell.

    She must have realised that he knew since she sighed. “We were a couple, yes. We shouldn’t have become a couple, of course. Not in the middle of a war. Not with just the three of us in our cell. But…” She slowly shook her head.

    “You were teenagers and fighting a war,” Ron finished for her.

    That earned him a frown. “Yes,” she said, sounding as if she really didn’t like to admit he was correct. “It’s a completely understandable reaction to the circumstances, of course. Almost a textbook case.”

    “You’ve studied psychology?”

    “It’s a figure of speech,” she replied.

    He nodded. This was a delicate subject. Touchy, too. ‘So you’ve seen my body naked’ probably wouldn’t go over well.

    “Ask,” she snapped. “I know you want to.”

    “Ask what?” He tried to play dumb.

    She rolled her eyes. “You really think I’ll believe you don’t have a clue? After your Sherlock Holmes act before?”

    “Touché.” He shrugged. “Although in my defence, it usually works on people who don’t know me.”

    More eye-rolling followed. Well, you couldn’t win them all.

    “So… what’s my counterpart like?” He tried to sound casual, almost whimsical. Just idle curiosity, nothing more.

    “He was barely eighteen last time I saw him,” she said. “He’ll have changed in the meantime.” Or died, but Ron wouldn’t mention that. Even though both of them were aware of the possibility. “So I can only tell you what he was like as a teenager.”

    “Yes.” That was obvious.

    She closed her eyes for a moment. “He was brave. Above all, he was brave. Even as an eleven-year-old, he was braver than most adults. He was always willing to risk his life for his friends and family. Or acquaintances, in some cases,” she added with a sad smile.

    Ron was certain that Granger had been among the latter - he knew that expression. And brave? Well, no one had called him a coward. No one but Malfoy, and the git didn’t count.

    She took a deep breath. “He wasn’t perfect, of course. He often didn’t think before he said something - or did something. He felt overshadowed by Harry. Probably by me as well. Certainly by his older brothers.”

    Ron struggled not to wince. That sounded familiar. Well, until he had helped bring Pettigrew to justice. And who wouldn’t feel overshadowed by Harry?

    “Stubborn to a fault, and sometimes too proud to admit a mistake,” she continued to mention his - and the other Ron’s - flaws. “But he was kind, and funny, sometimes very insightful and perceptive. And you wouldn’t find a better friend in all of Britain.”

    “Ah.” That was quite the list. “Well, he sounds like a great guy,” he said, using a light tone.

    “Yes,” she agreed with a smile.

    So Granger was definitely in love with her Ron - Ron knew that kind of smile as well. Even though he might not have seen it as often as he wished. Or appreciated it. “No wonder you want to return at once,” he said, trying to sound optimistic and supportive.

    She frowned at him. “I’m well aware that the odds of Ron and Harry being alive aren’t good. And even if they are alive, the chance that Ron didn’t find someone else is very slim.”

    Now that sounded a little… He frowned. “They think you’re dead.”

    Another flinch. “The circumstances of my leaving would readily lend themselves to such an assumption.”

    Which meant Ron was right. But that was another subject he didn’t want to touch. Certainly not right now.

    Fortunately, Harry entered their room just then, having finished his shower. Ron wasn’t about to discuss his counterpart’s love life with Granger in Harry’s presence, and he would bet half his salary that Granger didn’t want to either.

    Even though Ron really wanted to talk about this.

    *****​

    Half the dining table in Luna’s living room was covered with newspapers when Ron entered her living room. “Hi, Luna.” She was wearing a kimono and fuzzy rabbit slippers today. He couldn’t tell if she was wearing anything underneath.

    “Hi, Ron,” she replied without looking up from The Times. “Your ration is the one in the middle.”

    Right, rations. He had almost forgotten about that. “Are those today’s newspapers?”

    “Certainly not! That would require either a subscription or regular purchases!”

    “Ah.” He should have remembered that.

    “But the news will soon start on the telly,” she went on, apparently munching on a ration’s main course herself.

    He looked at the three screens mounted on the walls in the room. The BBC, CNN and… something in Chinese. “Did you learn Chinese?” he asked.

    “No.”

    He waited a moment, but she didn’t elaborate. Well, time to tackle the MRE. He checked the label: Chicken w/ Thai Sauce.

    “Your favourite,” Luna said. “Well, among the MRE menus available.” She was smiling at him in that sweet way of hers.

    He smiled in return. “Thanks.” He didn’t think the meal would be even close to a good Thai takeaway, but it was the thought that counted.

    And he would rather eat a tin of bacon dating back to the Battle of Britain than complain and make Luna feel bad.

    Harry arrived a minute later, mumbling a greeting as he craned his neck to look at the newspapers spread out on the table.

    “Yours is the beef steak,” Luna declared before Harry could take a seat.

    “Ah, thanks,” Harry said after a glance at Ron. Fortunately, he didn’t try to make an issue out of it.

    “Where’s Hermione?”

    “Trying to fix her hair,” Harry said. “I think - she was the last in the bathroom.”

    “By choice,” Ron quickly said when he saw that Luna was starting to frown. “And she’s not trying to fix her hair,” he added with a frown at Harry. Even her hair wouldn’t be that difficult to pull into a ponytail.

    “I like her hair. It’s wild. Untamed,” Luna said.

    “What’s untamed?”

    Granger had arrived. And she had her hair in a ponytail.

    “We were discussing your hair,” Luna blithely told her.

    “What?” Granger was narrowing her eyes.

    “Harry was speculating that you were ‘trying to fix your hair’,” Ron said. “I told him you weren’t.”

    “Yes. And I said I liked your hair.” Luna nodded.

    Granger snorted but smiled at her. “Thanks, but I know it’s a mess.”

    “Like nature.”

    Ron didn’t think Granger liked that comparison. But the woman - the witch - sat down at the table and grabbed her ration. “Roast beef?”

    “I thought it would be the closest to a taste of home,” Luna explained. “The most English of the choices we’ve got available.”

    Granger’s smile slipped a little, but she didn’t show any other reaction and even sounded sincere when she thanked Luna. “Thank you.”

    “Enjoy your meal!”

    “Thank you.”

    It wasn’t that bad, actually - at least Ron’s meal wasn’t. Not good either, though. But Luna meant well - even Granger knew it. Of course, she had known Luna’s counterpart.

    And Granger ate her meal without any complaint. Ron couldn’t spot even a hint of distaste. Either she was even more stubborn than he had thought or her taste buds were not normal. Which, Ron realised, could be the case since she was a witch.

    Before he could ask - and potentially embarrass himself, or her - though, the telly finally switched to the news, and Ron winced as footage of Clissold Park appeared.

    *****​

    “...and there is still no news about the fate of Dr Hermione Granger, who was last seen in the company of the two suspects. Dr Granger was kidnapped in 1991 at the age of eleven in one of the most famous criminal cases of recent history. After her escape in 1998, she led a quiet life and studied quantum physics before pursuing a career in research. Speculation that the recent kidnapping attempts were related to her past hasn’t been confirmed by the authorities yet, although many critics of the police point out that at the time of her original kidnapping, rumours claimed that her kidnappers, who were never identified, enjoyed the protection of senior government officials.”

    Ron glanced at Granger. She didn’t show any reaction. Of course, she hadn’t actually been kidnapped for seven years, but still…

    “Harry Potter, one of the two missing police officers suspected of being involved with the shocking murder of two senior police officers, is himself famous as a result of an incident in which he shot a terrorist to death at the age of five. While his age - he is one year younger than Dr Granger - means it’s unlikely that he was involved in her first kidnapping...”

    Harry, though, had just snapped the plastic spoon that had been in his MRE. Ron reached over and clasped his friend’s shoulder.

    “They don’t mention that said terrorist killed your parents?” Granger blurted out. “Or that he was trying to kill you? Who wrote that, Skeeter? This isn’t a neutral, objective report!”

    Ron could feel Harry grow even tenser and winced.

    “The media are controlled by the government,” Luna added. “This is just further proof of that!”

    “It’s probably just Yaxley feeding them rumours and slander,” Ron said. “It’ll be corrected soon enough.”

    “Yes!” Luna nodded so quickly, her head bobbed up and down. “When we expose the entire conspiracy!”

    Ron nodded in agreement - it was clear that there was a conspiracy, even though he didn’t think it involved the government.

    The rest of the news report was more speculation - and insinuations about Harry and Ron’s character and suspected motives, dragging up a few incidents from their past and twisting them out of proportion. They hadn’t been that reckless, and, anyway, Smith had had it coming. At least the news stated that the shooting in Clissold Park wasn’t related to the recent arrests of several individuals believed to have been planning a number of bomb attacks on the London public transport system.

    “Now this feels like home,” Granger commented with a sneer when the news switched to foreign events. “Biased media and incompetent authorities.”

    “And a few brave souls willing to challenge the system!” Luna announced, raising her fist, before Harry or Ron could say anything. “But we could do with a few more allies, I think. Who else was your friend in the other world, Hermione? We could recruit them!”

    Granger froze. “You can’t trust someone just because their counterpart was a friend of mine,” she said after a moment.

    “Why not? So far, it’s proven to be correct, hasn’t it? Ron, Harry, me…” Luna replied, ticking off a finger with each name.

    “That’s not enough data to trust it will hold true. There are fundamental differences between the two worlds, even discounting magic,” Granger said. “For example, Tom Riddle was born almost twenty years earlier in my world than in yours.”

    Ron blinked. “A seventy-year-old wizard terrorised Britain?”

    “Yes.” Granger looked at him. “Of course, he had made himself a new body, a monstrous thing that looked as if it was part snake, but even if he hadn’t done that, he wouldn’t have been hampered by his age. Not at all.” She looked like she was about to tell them more, but stopped.

    Ron leaned forward a little. “Do wizards age more slowly?” Like elves, perhaps?

    She hesitated a moment. “They remain active for longer. And the average life expectancy is about twenty to thirty years longer. Provided you don’t get killed.” She looked grim. “Two wars significantly lowered Wizarding Britain’s life expectancy.”

    That was a chilling thought. Ron tried to imagine just how many deaths it’d take to do that to Britain.

    Luna spoke up again. “Well, a list of your friends back home will still be useful! We can investigate them to check whether they can be trusted!”

    Granger didn’t look like she shared Luna’s optimism. “That will be difficult while we’re hiding from whoever is after me.”

    “Ron and Harry will manage,” Luna told her, then smiled at Ron. “You will, won’t you?”

    He returned her smile. “We’ll do our best.”

    “Many of your friends were killed, weren’t they?” Harry spoke up, addressing Granger in a soft voice.

    Ron clenched his teeth - he should have realised that - and Luna gasped as Granger pressed her lips together. “A number of my friends and acquaintances were killed in the second war, yes.”

    And her two best friends had been fighting a desperate battle when she had been transported to this world, Ron reminded himself.

    “I’m so sorry! I didn’t think about how painful this might be for you!” Luna blurted out - and went to hug Granger.

    In different circumstances, watching Granger awkwardly trying to console an apologising Luna would have been amusing. But not now. Ron cleared his throat. “Shall we finish our meals before they grow cold?”

    It was a weak excuse, but it persuaded Luna to let go of Granger and return to her seat, and for the next few minutes, no one spoke as everyone finished their meals.

    “We still need to decide on a course of action and make plans,” Harry said once everyone but Luna, who had already finished her sweet, was nibbling on what passed for pudding in the rations.

    “Investigating Malfoy?” Ron asked.

    “Without any evidence?” Granger countered.

    “It’s better than doing nothing,” Harry, predictably, argued.

    “Yes!” Luna chimed in. “And even if the dark secrets of the Malfoys turn out to not be related to the government conspiracy, we’ll still have removed a corrupt and nasty man who would otherwise be a potential member of the shadow government!”

    “And it’s not as if the Malfoys haven’t got it coming,” Harry added.

    “Settling accounts?” Granger frowned.

    “We wouldn’t frame them,” Ron said. “But I’m certain that they have some skeletons in their closet.”

    “Why didn’t you investigate him before, then?” Granger crossed her arms.

    “Bones forbade it,” Ron told her.

    “And you obeyed her?” She sounded doubtful.

    “It’s one thing to solve a case by disobeying orders,” Ron said, “but another to go fishing, so to speak.” Bones had made it adamantly clear that she didn’t tolerate those kinds of shenanigans.

    “Ah.”

    “But if we can - correctly - claim you were suspicious of the Malfoys, possibly having some flashbacks…” Harry grinned. “Whatever we find, we can use.”

    “You’re asking me to lie to the police.” Granger didn’t seem amused.

    “Perish the thought!” Harry even clasped a hand to his chest. Sirius’s influence, Ron thought. “Just tell them that you dimly remember the names and seeing them briefly during your captivity.”

    Granger’s face looked frozen for a moment. Stiffly, very stiffly, she asked: “Did I talk in my sleep?”

    Fuck! Ron glanced at Harry, who looked aghast, then at Luna, whose slightly lost expression was quickly turning to horror as everyone realised that Granger had been captured and tortured by the Malfoys in her world. “Perhaps not the Malfoys,” Ron said hastily.

    After a moment, Granger slowly nodded. “You can’t just assume people and things are the same,” she repeated herself. “Apart from magic, my world has several sapient species - trolls, giants, goblins, house-elves, merpeople and centaurs, to name a few. That is bound to change people even if they might look like twins.”

    So far, though, things and people had lined up almost perfectly. Ron bit down on his retort. He had made a gaffe already; no need to compound it. Also… house-elves? Were those like high elves?

    Fortunately, a beeping noise served as a distraction. “Oh! A priority message!” Luna announced, jumping up.

    “Priority message?” Granger asked.

    “It’s Daddy!” Luna yelled over her shoulder as she left the room.

    Granger looked at Ron. “Is Xenophilius as… security-conscious as Luna?”

    “Paranoid, yes,” Harry replied. “And it’s Xenophon, not Xenophilius.”

    Ron glared at him. At least, Granger had tried to be diplomatic. Luna was a little quirky, but a great friend. And there was no...

    Luna returned. “Ron?” She looked a little concerned. “Your father’s at my daddy’s, asking for a meeting.”

    Uh oh.

    “Arthur wants to meet us?” Granger asked as they followed Luna to her computer. “Or just Ron?”

    Ron made a note that she knew his parents’ counterparts - well, he had already assumed that.

    “I don’t know,” Luna replied, “he hasn’t said yet.” She opened the door to her ‘operations room’, as she called it, and Ron saw Granger’s eyes widen at the sight of the hardware installed there. It might be cobbled together from a dozen different machines, but Luna's rig had serious computing power - which she needed, of course, to run her systems. “Look!” She pointed at the screen to the left, where her mail program was open.

    Ron read the message as he sat down. It was brief and to the point: Son, we need to meet. You and your friends.

    He started typing. We have been framed.

    I know.

    Meeting us is dangerous.

    I trust you to take precautions.

    “Why does Arthur want to meet us?” Harry asked. “He should know that we’re alright and don’t need help. Or food.”

    Ron rolled his eyes. How long would Harry hold that against Mum? “He knows. So this is about something else.”

    “Me. He wants to meet me,” Granger said.

    “We don’t know that,” Harry pointed out.

    Ron shook his head at the sudden role reversal and typed: Is everything alright?

    Your mother’s forcing me to contact you. She’s very concerned.

    Ron released his breath. “He’s not being forced to do this.” To think Dad’s silly ‘precaution’, straight out of a spy novel, would actually turn out to be useful… Ron had merely been humouring his father when he had proposed such code phrases a few years ago.

    “But your family will be under observation,” Harry said. “Not even Dawlish would be too dumb to consider the possibility that we might contact the Weasleys.”

    “That’s why he went to Daddy!” Luna said, beaming. “No one can spy on our home!”

    “That’s good for communication,” Ron replied. “But he won’t be able to shake off a tail.” Dad wasn’t a trained police officer or spy, after all. And with Bones and Scrimgeour assassinated and several shootouts in London, the police would pull out all the stops to solve the case. Manpower wouldn’t be an issue. Meeting us is dangerous. We’ll be fine.

    There’s good reason to suspect otherwise.

    What? Ron blinked. Dad was a government employee, not a spy or police officer. Why would he say such a thing? He looked at Harry, who seemed equally bewildered. Luna looked intrigued, and Granger was frowning. No help there. What do you mean?

    I’ll explain when we meet. Can you reach London by tomorrow evening?

    Dad was evading his question? Ron clenched his teeth. Yes. That wasn’t revealing anything sensitive - you could reach London from almost anywhere in the country in that time.

    The next reply was an address: Dumbledore Manor in ‘Mould-on-the-Wold’.

    Granger, who was reading over his shoulder, gasped straight into his ear.

    *****​

    The Headmaster looked terrible. Pale, thin, with his bad arm hanging uselessly at his side, he seemed barely able to stand, much less walk. He looked frail, she realised with a shock. Judging by the muttered curses she heard from Ron and Harry, they had realised it as well.

    Dumbledore smiled. “I am not quite dead, yet, but I do not expect to live much longer.”

    She swallowed and forced herself to nod as Harry spoke up: “Good evening, sir.”

    He gestured, and three chairs appeared in front of his desk. “Please, have a seat. It is more comfortable to discuss such things while you’re seated, is it not?”

    She pressed her lips together at the hint. They had known the Headmaster had been cursed months ago, but he hadn’t looked nearly that bad when they had seen him a few days ago.

    Everyone sat down.

    “Time. Ask me for anything but time.” Dumbledore shook his head. “But death comes for everyone, and I have lived a full life. I but wish the circumstances in which we find ourselves were less dire.”

    Was he rambling? She pressed her lips together so she wouldn’t blurt out her question. He was Dumbledore, after all.

    “You didn’t just call us here to tell us you were dying, did you?” Ron said. “You kind of did that already.”

    “No, I did not merely want to reveal my condition in a dramatic manner.” Dumbledore chuckled, but it ended in a heavy cough. “I have called you here to discuss the Order and your mission.”

    She stiffened. Their mission. The hunt for the Horcruxes. The Headmaster had spent the last ten months - the last months of his life, it seemed - teaching and preparing them.

    “Did you find more clues to the Horcruxes’ locations?” Harry asked.

    “Alas, I was not so fortunate. You will have to rely on your special connection to Tom’s soul,” Dumbledore replied. “But a good friend of mine has provided me with a safer method to dispose of your targets.” He pulled out a small bottle. “A few drops from this will dissolve anything.”

    Flamel. The ‘good friend’ had to be Flamel. But…

    Dumbledore chuckled again, which once more ended in coughing. He conjured a glass of water for himself this time and took a swallow before he continued. “While the Elixir of Life, did not, alas, manage to counter the curse on me, I can assure you that this concoction will not disappoint you. I have tested it myself.”

    Oh. She felt chastised for doubting Dumbledore as Harry took the bottle - very carefully, of course.

    “A tap with your wand will shrink it, another will restore its true size,” Dumbledore explained. “I took the liberty of enchanting and reinforcing the bottle.”

    That made her breathe more easily. If they were to break a bottle full of a substance that could destroy a Horcrux while they were carrying it…

    “Thank you, sir,” Harry said.

    “Do not thank me. I leave you with a terrible burden.”

    She thought that he was right. “And who will replace you?”

    “Alastor will handle most of the Order.”

    Leaving them to deal with the Horcruxes.

    “Tom lost a significant number of his trusted followers in his attack on Hogwarts. Unfortunately, not enough to stop his rise to power. Not once I’m dead.” The Headmaster shook his head. “Soon, those who dared to oppose him will have to flee and hide. I can only hope that those he will target will heed my advice - or be scared into hiding by my death. But, at the very least, Severus killing me will cement his cover.”

    She wasn’t the only one who gasped. Snape was… a spy? “Should you be telling us that?” she asked. Dumbledore had impressed on them how vital secrecy was.

    “You already know the most important secret. If you should fail, if you should get captured and your secrets revealed, all is lost anyway. And if you succeed, your word will save Severus.” He coughed once more. “You know what you have to do.”

    *****​

     
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  8. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Hm... mysterious. Arthur wants to desperately meet them and apparently Luna's house isn't as safe as they'd thought. Can their pursuers somehow detect magic?
     
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  9. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Or they aren't as clever as they thought.
     
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  10. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Well that's possible too. Though seems odd for people as experienced as Harry and Ron.
     
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  11. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    They're still young compared to, say, people with decades of experience.
     
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  12. JamesEye

    JamesEye Making the rounds.

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    Such an interesting story, thanks.
     
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  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 8: The Retired Gentleman
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 8: The Retired Gentleman

    Near Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, Britain, July 10th, 2005

    “Hey.” Ron reached out, but Granger shook her head before he touched her. Another flashback. So much for the quality of her therapist. On the other hand, she couldn’t have told them what she had really experienced, of course.

    “Sorry… I know that name,” she said.

    “Oh?” Luna perked up. “Friend or foe?”

    Granger took a deep breath. “He was the Headmaster of my school. And the leader of the Order of the Phoenix.” And, obviously, dead in her world. “The only man, or so it was said, who Voldemort ever feared.”

    “Yet, he died, and Riddle lived,” Harry not-quite-asked in a bitter voice.

    Ron pressed his lips together - the failure, as Harry saw it, of the police to stop Riddle before he managed to murder the Potters was a very sore point for his friend.

    Granger narrowed her eyes at him. “He was cursed in a trap. He was never defeated in open combat.”

    “It’s not very useful to win every fight yet lose the war,” Harry pointed out.

    “We hadn’t lost the war when I was transported to this world,” Granger retorted, scowling now.

    “But you didn’t think much of your chances,” Harry shot back.

    Ron cleared his throat. “Let’s focus on the current problem. What do we do about this meeting?” He quickly typed: Please wait a minute.

    Ok, son.

    “I think we should meet Dumbledore,” Granger said, with another glare at Harry.

    “Based on his counterpart being your teacher?” Harry didn’t bother hiding his doubts, Ron noticed.

    “Based on the fact that Arth…” She looked at Ron. “That your father is asking for a meeting, and that Albus Dumbledore was very important in my world. While, as I said before, repeatedly, I might add, we cannot trust someone just because their counterpart was someone I trusted, so far there has been a correlation in both trustworthiness and influence. Bones, Scrimgeour, Yaxley.”

    “It could be a trap,” Harry retorted. “Arthur might trust whoever is behind this, but he could be mistaken.”

    Ron wanted to defend Dad, but he had to admit that that was possible. Not aloud, though. “We will have to scout out the area for ambushes.”

    “You want to go, then?” Luna asked. She sounded quite eager.

    “The area, the manor - that’s a lot to cover,” Harry replied. “And if it’s a trap by the police, they’ll have the SAS dropping down on us from a chopper.”

    That was a sobering thought. Ron knew he wasn’t a slouch in a fight, but to go up against those blokes... “But we have an advantage they can’t anticipate,” Ron retorted with a grin.

    “Yes! Magic!” Luna pumped her fist.

    Harry, though, frowned, and Granger didn’t look quite as enthusiastic as Luna. “My magical means are very limited,” she said. “I can’t just snap my fingers and reveal a trap.”

    “But you can read thoughts, can’t you?” Harry challenged her. “If you can rearrange thoughts, you can read them as well.”

    Granger blinked. “It doesn’t work like that. One is a charm, and the other is a skill you have to learn.”

    “What?” Ron blurted out. “You mean you manipulate memories without knowing what they are?”

    Granger winced. “Yes. It’s often very crude and blunt.”

    Oh my God. Ron couldn’t imagine that. Well, he could, actually - but it wasn’t a pleasant thought.

    “The Obliviators mostly just remove a few minutes of someone’s memory and confund them. Muggles usually make up explanations for whatever happened,” Granger said.

    That didn’t make it sound it any better. He focused on the problem at hand. “Can you turn us invisible?”

    “Not without a wand,” she replied. “I don’t have an invisibility cloak, and if I had one, it would have faded by now - they don’t last long. I cannot teleport, either - well, I could make an attempt, but it might leave parts of us behind. Such as an arm or leg. That’s called splinching.”

    Ron wasn’t the only one who winced at that.

    “So... what can you do with your magic?” Harry asked.

    Granger pressed her lips together, then sighed. “I have various potions. It depends on what you need. A way to infiltrate the manor, or a way to escape?”

    “Both,” Harry told her with a toothy smile.

    She pressed her lips together. “I have a limited supply of Shrinking Solution. I prefer the Shrinking Charm, but I acquired these from… someone who had no further use for any of his possessions.”

    “Waste not, want not,” Ron said. “So, how much does one shrink after drinking one?”

    “It depends on how much you drink, but you can reduce a cow to the size of a mouse.”

    “Wow!” Luna clapped her hands together. “Imagine how you could spy on someone with that!”

    “Just check whether they have a cat or dog, or another pet, first,” Granger said.

    “Oh.”

    “Well, we have our escape plan,” Ron announced.

    “We do?” Luna asked, cocking her head as she looked at him. Granger and Harry weren’t as obvious, but they were looking at him with similar expressions.

    “Yes,” Ron replied. “All we need is an RC helicopter - and someone at the controls.”

    “I don’t think the SAS or whoever might be ambushing us would let an RC helicopter get close,” Granger pointed out.

    “That’s why you’ll be carrying it in your bag. We can use some other of your surprises to gain enough time to drink the potions and get on the chopper,” Ron said.

    Harry, of course, didn’t like the plan. But after thrashing out the details and a few contingencies - they couldn’t count on radios working inside the manor, after all - Luna and, more importantly, Granger were on board. And so Ron messaged Dad that they’d be there tomorrow.

    *****​

    While Granger, prodded not-too-subtly by a hovering Luna, was noting down some of her old friends and allies, Ron went to find Harry, who had gone ‘to check the perimeter’. Which, given that Luna had placed more cameras in the area than you could find in the City, meant that Ron’s friend had gone to brood.

    Ron climbed the stairs, checked the screen at the top for witnesses, then stepped out and took a deep breath. Even close to the dusty barn, the air smelt fresher than below - Luna had gone to great lengths, but filters could only do so much.

    “Am I needed downstairs?”

    Good, Ron thought as he turned, He hasn’t left the barn for the woods. There Ron’s friend stood, leaning against a support pillar in the middle of the barn. “No, Granger’s still working on her list,” Ron told him as he walked over.

    Harry snorted. “Luna’s not helping, huh?”

    Ron pressed his lips together for a moment. Luna was a great friend, and she meant well. And, as far as he could tell, Granger was aware of that.

    “Sorry,” Harry said.

    Ron grunted. Harry didn’t mean it. “So, what are you brooding about?” As he’d known, Harry frowned at him and didn’t answer. “Missing Ginny?”

    “You already asked me that.”

    “And you didn’t answer,” Ron retorted.

    “Of course I miss her!” Harry snarled.

    “Sorry.” Ron held up his hands. But he had to ask. “Should I have asked Dad to pass on a message while we were talking?” Harry hadn’t said anything, but Ron could have asked - if he had thought of it.

    “No.” Harry shook his head, then brushed a dust mite off his sleeve. “I’ll ask myself next time. Provided that the meeting isn’t a trap.”

    “It shouldn’t be.” If Dad was compromised… Ron didn’t want to think about what that would mean. For them, and for his family.

    His friend snorted. “We were attacked at our last meeting. And Bones knew what she was doing.”

    “There was also a traitor in CI5, probably close to her,” Ron pointed out.

    Harry pushed off the pillar. “Let’s hope whoever is after us will keep making mistakes.”

    “We have our escape plan ready,” Ron replied.

    “Getting shrunk and then on to an RC helicopter.”

    “It was your idea to use magic,” he pointed out.

    “I was thinking of some way to detect enemies. Or take them out,” Harry said. “Not of… getting turned into a mouse.”

    “Transfigured,” Ron told him. “That’s the technical term, I believe.”

    “You’ve been talking to Granger a lot.”

    “Yes.” Ron let out his breath through briefly clenched teeth. “Knowing what magic can and can’t do is important if we plan to depend on it.”

    Harry grunted, looking at - or acting as if he were - a broken-down tractor.

    “You know, magic has laws and limits. And Granger can’t just snap her fingers and alter reality,” Ron said. If Harry would make the attempt, he could probably figure out a lot.

    “Does she have a nice handbook with all the rules in it, too?”

    Ron rolled his eyes at the remark. “Very funny.” He stepped closer to Harry. “Seriously, stop being so difficult about it. We need to be on top of our game if we want to make it through this.”

    “‘Our game’. Very funny,” Harry said, but he was grinning. Then he sighed. “I know. I just hate not knowing anything about magic.”

    “Well, learn?” Ron shrugged. “Granger can help you.”

    “She certainly likes to give lessons,” Harry said, grinning again.

    Ron frowned, then shrugged. It was true, after all - he had thought so himself. But he still didn’t like hearing it from Harry. “Let’s go downstairs before Luna convinces Granger to curse the government.”

    “I thought she couldn’t do that?”

    “She’s not supposed to be able to, no.”

    “But you don’t believe it?” Harry asked as the door swung open and revealed the staircase below.

    “I think she’s holding some things back ,” Ron said.

    “Ah.”

    Ron nodded. It was only natural - as Moody had taught them, you never showed your full hand until it was absolutely necessary.

    *****​

    “So, you can’t create food out of thin air, but you can enlarge and multiply existing food,” Harry said half an hour later, still taking notes.

    “Yes. One of the Five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law,” Granger replied.

    “But you can create water.”

    “Yes.”

    “So, it’s food that’s special. Not the matter itself.” Harry made another note.

    “Yes.”

    “And you could transfigure the water to oil.”

    “Yes.”

    “Which is food, provided it’s the right kind of oil.”

    “It wouldn’t be edible,” Granger said.

    “Does that mean it can’t be ingested, or that it shouldn’t be ingested? And what happens if you mix it with real oil?” Harry leaned forward, just like he usually did when he had caught something during an interrogation.

    “Your body will not derive any sustenance from it. But it will not suddenly turn to poison in someone’s body.”

    “So you couldn’t - if you had a wand - transfigure, say, mercury into water and add it to someone’s drink, then let it transform back and watch them die?” Ron’s friend sounded disappointed.

    “No, you couldn’t. But there are dozens of magical poisons if you need to kill someone.”

    “And how many do you have on you?”

    “A few.” Granger sounded a little cagey.

    “Enough to, say, contaminate an entire water supply?” Harry asked.

    “It would depend on the size.”

    “But could you enlarge the vial?”

    “With magical substances, that’s very difficult. Theoretically possible, but few would make the attempt.”

    Ron wanted to hit himself. He should have known this would happen.

    “It’s like the Final Fantasy Debacle,” Luna whispered next to him.

    He frowned at her, which didn’t impress her in the slightest. And she was correct. Ron had spent two months trying to get Harry to play Final Fantasy Legend 2, back in school, and once Harry had - finally! - tried the game out, he had quickly monopolised Ron’s Gameboy. Until Sirius had bought Harry a Gameboy of his own, at least.

    Well, Granger wasn’t a Gameboy, of course. Still… Ron felt the same urge to punch Harry that he had felt back then.

    And Granger still hadn’t finished her list.

    *****​

    Mould-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, Britain, July 11th, 2005

    “What do you see? Do you see anything? I didn’t see anything.”

    “I don’t see anything suspicious,” Ron told Luna. He refrained from adding: ‘As I told you five minutes ago’ - she was a little excited.

    "That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything suspicious,” Harry said, lowering his binoculars.

    A competent ambush wouldn’t be very easy to detect, Ron knew. But they had circled the village and then the manor for an hour, at a safe distance, and hadn’t spotted anything. “If there’s a trap, it’s probably inside the manor,” he said. “And we can’t do much about that. But this is a good spot for Luna to control our getaway chopper.”

    “Yes! It’s in range of the remote, and we can hide the getaway car nearby!” Luna agreed.

    Ron was quite relieved that she was enthusiastic about her role, instead of complaining about missing out on the first meeting with Dad’s mysterious contact. But he didn’t want Luna anywhere near a potential fight - she wasn’t trained for that, and she didn’t have Granger’s experience, either. But she was the best RC pilot they had, Harry’s opinion that just because he could fly a plane meant he could fly an RC chopper as well notwithstanding.

    “Testing, testing,” Luna said.

    Ron heard her through the bud in his ear, and, of course, normally as well. “It works,” he told her. At her pout, he lowered his voice, looked down, where he was wearing a wire under his shirt, and whispered: “It works.”

    “Great! All set here!”

    “Do you have the pouch with the Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder?” Granger asked - not for the first time, either. Ron still couldn’t tell if she didn’t trust anyone else to know what they were doing with the magic powder or because she needed to distract herself so she wouldn’t work herself into a nervous frenzy. Not that she wasn’t coming close right now anyway.

    “Yes!” Luna announced, holding up a small bag. “I’m ready to work magic!”

    “Good. Remember, you won’t be able to see anything either.”

    Distraction, Ron decided. Definitely distraction.

    “Alright,” Harry said. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

    Ron snorted. Cheesy movie quotes were usually his shtick. Perhaps Harry was a little nervous as well. “Literally,” he said - they had to go back to where they had hidden the other car, then drive up to the manor. “Keep an eye on the house, but don’t expose yourself, OK?” he told Luna.

    She laughed. “I’ve been spying on people for years! Only on corrupt government people, of course.”

    “That’s reassuring to know,” Harry said, deadpan.

    Luna smiled widely at him. “I know! That’s why I said it!”

    Ron chuckled at Harry’s face, and, after a moment, Luna joined him. To his surprise, even Granger laughed - briefly. Though she gave him a weird look, too, he noticed.

    *****​

    Twenty minutes later, they watched the gates of the manor open as soon as they drove up to it. Someone was watching them - probably watching all approaches to the manor. It’s what Ron would have done in their place.

    “I wonder if my Dumbledore had a manor as well,” Granger said. “He lived at Hogwarts, so it never came up. But this… it’s not up to Malfoy’s standard, but the owner must be quite quite well-off.”

    “It’s a lot classier than Malfoy’s,” Harry said as he parked the car next to a sports car. “His dad only married Narcissa so he would get someone with a sense of style in the family.”

    That was Sirius’s opinion, of course. Which wasn’t always reliable. “It wasn’t hereditary, then,” Ron replied. “Remember Malfoy’s green suit?”

    Both of them laughed at the memory as they got out of the car, followed by Granger. Sunglasses and caps hid their faces, wigs their hair - though Granger’s hair had put up quite the resistance.

    Before they could take more than a few steps towards the house, a door opened.

    “Side entrance,” Ron commented. It was more discreet - although anyone observing the manor would spot them entering anyway. And he couldn’t see anyone waiting there for them. Of course, they were covered by cameras. One in the open, and, as far as he could tell, two more hidden.

    “Will you come into my parlour?” Harry joked.

    “We’re not flies,” Granger said.

    “But I’d like to be a fly on the wall!” Luna commented in Ron’s ear. “Well, I am, actually. Unless the manor is radio-proof.”

    He suppressed a chuckle. “Let’s go, shall we?”

    They entered the manor. The door closed behind them, and they still didn’t see anyone.

    “Welcome to my humble abode,” Ron heard a voice say.

    Granger jerked. She whispered something under her breath that Ron didn’t catch.

    “Please join me in the living room,” the voice went on as another door opened, revealing a corridor. Someone had spent a lot of money on this house. And, seeing as Luna was quiet, they had probably lost radio contact. He signalled the others - they would have to adjust their plans accordingly.

    Ron walked closer to Granger as they entered the hallway, but she didn’t say anything else before they reached the end of the corridor, and another door swung open, revealing a large living room, with old-fashioned furniture and heavy drapes covering the windows.

    An old man sitting in a large armchair rose as they entered and nodded at them. “Dr Granger. Mr Potter. Mr Weasley.” He was wearing expensive, if understated, clothes and had a short, well-trimmed beard.

    “Dumbledore,” Granger said - Ron heard her draw a deep breath. “Albus Dumbledore.”

    The man smiled. “I’m impressed - few would recognise me. I did make an effort to disappear from the public eye.”

    Granger shook her head. “I didn’t know… I mean...”

    The man’s smile widened. “Now I’m intrigued.”

    Ron almost moved to interpose himself between the old man and Granger before he could control himself.

    “Intrigued?” Granger asked, suddenly sounding more wary - or worried.

    “If you didn’t know my past, then how did you recognise me?” Dumbledore’s smile didn’t change as he pushed up his half-moon reading glasses.

    Granger didn’t seem to have an answer, so Ron spoke up: “She didn’t say that.”

    The old man - he had to be at least seventy - inclined his head. “Yet she denied having researched me, didn’t she?”

    Ron didn’t glare at her. That was an old trick he wouldn’t fall for.

    “Why did you want to meet us?” Granger asked. It looked like she had recovered her composure. And her attitude. Good.

    Dumbledore gestured to the couch in the room. “Will you take a seat? I’ve found it’s more comfortable and more productive, usually, to talk while everyone’s sitting.”

    Ron hadn’t spotted any hidden shooters nor any traps - but that didn’t mean much. You could hide a lot in your flat if you had enough time.

    “I prefer to stand,” Harry said, leaning against the wall next to the door, arms crossed - with his hand next to his shoulder holster.

    “By all means,” Dumbledore said, still smiling - rather condescendingly, in Ron’s opinion.

    But Granger was sitting down, so Ron followed her example, taking a seat next to her on the couch.

    “I would offer you some refreshments, but I think you would refuse them, at least for now.”

    Ron pressed his lips together. He didn’t like the man’s attitude. But he liked the fact that Dumbledore seemed to know so much about them even less. “How do you know my father?” Dad had never mentioned Dumbledore. “And where is he?”

    “Arthur couldn’t shake the people keeping him under observation,” Dumbledore told him. “You can speak to him through the phone on the table, though. As to how I know him… I helped him out of a tight spot some time ago. A sticky situation, but I managed to solve it.”

    “So he owed you,” Harry said as Ron grabbed the phone and sent Dad a quick message using another of the signs from the signs and countersigns his father had taught Ron and his siblings. Within a second, he received the countersign and sighed in relief. He would hold off speaking to Dad until Dumbledore wasn’t listening in.

    “He thinks he does. I was just doing what was right.” Dumbledore said, apparently not paying attention to Ron.

    Granger made a choking noise in response to that.

    “Dr Granger?” Of course the old man wouldn’t miss that. “Are you alright?”

    “Yes,” she said - though Ron could almost feel her tension. “Who are you?”

    “A good question. I’d like to say that I’m a retired gentleman.” Dumbledore chuckled. “It’s true - from a certain point of view.”

    Now he was quoting Star Wars? Ron glared at him.

    Which Dumbledore seemed to find amusing. “I’m sorry - at my age, one is bound to become a little eccentric.” He sighed. “But I digress. So, I was the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service for a rather troubled time in the eighties.”

    The man had been the boss of MI6? The infamous ‘C’? Ron tensed. That meant the old man would be prepared for a fight. He glanced around, but he still couldn’t spot any sign of a trap or an ambush. But opening the windows and fleeing by air might be more difficult than they had anticipated.

    “And what do you want?” Granger asked.

    “I could say I want to help deal with a quite embarrassing situation for the government - not that Downing Street or my successors would acknowledge, much less thank, me - but it’s mostly to satisfy my curiosity,” Dumbledore said. He leaned forward and steepled his hands. “Even after retirement, I kept an ear to the ground, so to speak. In my business, it pays to keep abreast of developments, lest you find yourself out in the cold and being hunted.”

    Ron clenched his teeth at the implied criticism. There wasn’t anything they could have done.

    “So when I heard that certain, shall we say, assets of former opponents of mine were being sent to England to hunt down a physicist, shortly followed by the murders of senior police officers, I began to wonder exactly why people were going to such great lengths in your case, Dr Granger.”

    “‘Former opponents’?” Harry asked.

    “The Cold War ended shortly after my official retirement, leaving a number of very capable - and dangerous - assets bereft of gainful employment by the state they had served. Many of them decided to enter the private sector. As did some of their superiors.” He shook his head. “Given my past, it was only logical to keep an eye on them.”

    “What… Are you telling me that the Russian Mafia is hunting me?” Granger sounded as if she couldn’t believe it.

    “That is exactly what I’m saying, my dear. Although parts of the Russian government have close ties to them as well, so they might just be a front. However, that doesn’t answer the most important question: why?” He looked at Granger, slightly tilting his head.

    “I don’t know!” Granger replied - a little too forcefully, Ron thought.

    “But I think you suspect.” Dumbledore leaned back. “The theory that this is related to your kidnapping, as the media are so fond of speculating, can be safely dismissed, in my opinion. Almost ten years passing before someone moved against you? That would have been far too late to silence a witness, and far too long for the kind of obsessed criminal who couldn’t let you get away. So this is either related to your private life or to your work. And, please excuse my bluntness, you don’t have a private life.”

    Granger drew a sharp breath at that, and Ron thought her eyes were blazing, but she didn’t contradict the old man.

    “Which leaves your work.” Dumbledore shook his head. “Research that, when it was first proposed, was criticised for its utter lack of practical application.”

    So he had investigated Granger thoroughly. Of course, for a man with his contacts, that probably didn’t take much of an effort. Unless Dumbledore had treated his co-workers and colleagues with as much condescension as he was treating them, and they ignored him as soon as he retired.

    “My work is well-documented as investigating a purely theoretical aspect of quantum physics,” Granger replied - but a moment too late to sound completely natural.

    Dumbledore chuckled. “Well-documented doesn’t mean that something is actually true, though, does it?”

    Harry frowned, Ron saw, but this was on their heads as well - they had known that Granger wasn’t the best liar. And facing a former head of the Secret Intelligence Service? Ron snorted, earning him a smile from Dumbledore and a glare from Granger and Harry.

    “So what exactly did you discover that has attracted such attention?”

    Granger hesitated. Ron saw her open her mouth, but she didn’t start speaking. Instead, she glanced at him and at Harry. Harry kept scowling - at Dumbledore, now. But the old man didn’t seem to be impressed at all.

    Ron sighed. “Dad trusts him, or he wouldn’t have arranged this meeting,” he told them.

    Dumbledore didn’t seem to mind the rudeness. A pity - Ron would have liked to get back at the man, a little at least.

    Granger looked at Harry. Ron’s friend scoffed.

    The witch frowned, then, after another glance at Ron, turned back to face Dumbledore and took a deep breath. “I’m working on opening a portal to a parallel world.”

    The old man’s eyebrows rose, and his smile faded - although not completely. Then he stared at Granger for a few seconds, before he slowly nodded. “That makes sense. Your home world, I presume?”

    Ron wasn’t the only one gaping at him. “How…” He cut himself off by pressing his lips together.

    Dumbledore smiled and answered anyway. “It was an educated guess, of course. But, once more, the key is in the wording. You, Dr Granger, spoke of ‘a parallel world’. Why did you pick that term? Why not ‘an alternate world’? Or ‘another dimension’? You might be speculating, but I don’t think you’d let your assumptions and theories be presented as facts, not even in this context. Which means you have some information on which you base your terms. If you had the ability to observe another world and revealed it, you would have earned yourself a Nobel prize for certain. Fame and fortune would have been yours.”

    “I’m not interested in either,” Granger snapped.

    “No, you aren’t. Which is another clue. You keep your real research secret. Why would you do that? Why, indeed, if not to travel to another world yourself, without anyone the wiser?” He nodded. “You might have been afraid of the effect your work will have on the world. A way to travel to other earths? Different worlds? How tempting - and how dangerous. Would you usher in a new age of colonialism, or open our world to an invasion?”

    Ron frowned. He should have been considering that - he had read enough sci-fi books, after all, with similar plots. And Granger was flinching.

    “You could have stopped working. Destroyed your notes. Perhaps sought the patronage of the UN, to relieve yourself of your responsibility. Yet you continued. Why would you do that? You might simply be driven by intellectual curiosity or the desire to overcome the challenges such work represents. But I guessed that the real reason is that you want to return home.” Dumbledore leaned back, folding his hands over his stomach. “And I guessed correctly, didn’t I?”

    Granger slumped and sighed. “Yes.”

    Dumbledore didn’t quite gloat, but he nodded with a certain air of satisfaction which came close.

    “But it’s impossible for anyone else to know what I’m doing,” Granger protested. “Not only have I not shared my notes with anyone, not even a computer, but without certain knowledge only I possess, the notes wouldn’t make any sense.”

    “I would not dismiss that possibility out of hand, my dear,” Dumbledore said. “You arrived in our world in 1998, didn’t you? You weren’t kidnapped for seven years, were you?”

    “Yes, I did. I was mistaken for my counterpart. But I told my… her parents the truth as soon as I could.”

    “Well, I think you overlooked a possibility, my dear: What would someone who was certain that you were not the original Hermione Granger assume after you resurfaced?”

    Ron shook his head. There was a problem with that assumption.

    “Why would they have waited seven years, though?” Harry asked. “Her ‘return’ was national, even world-wide, news.”

    “Perhaps they weren’t certain. Perhaps they - those who have the power to move against her - have only just recently come into possession of this information. Perhaps they previously thought you an impostor. But once someone is reasonably sure that you are another Hermione Granger they will come up with a very short list of possible explanations,” Dumbledore replied. “Coupled with your work…” He spread his hands. “I don’t think it would take a genius to work out that you are far more valuable than anyone else had realised.”

    ‘Valuable’? Ron narrowed his eyes. Dumbledore had just stressed how important the terms one used were, hadn’t he?

    Damn.

    “They could assume that I’m a clone,” Granger replied.

    “That is possible,” Dumbledore admitted, “but unlikely. Why would anyone have not only cloned a little girl who was kidnapped years ago, but keep it a secret, yet let the girl go?” He shook his head. “No, I think whoever is hunting you suspects what you are working on, even though they remain ignorant of the exact details behind it. Not unlike my own position,” he added with a smile.

    Fishing for more information. Two could play that game. “Not unlike our own position with regards to your intentions,” Ron said before Granger could spill even more information.

    “Touché,” Dumbledore said, not losing his smile. Ron was starting to suspect that the man would keep smiling even in the face of death - his own or his enemies’.

    “You’ve satisfied your curiosity,” Harry told him with the hint of a sneer. “Mission accomplished.”

    “You know how things work in our business,” Dumbledore replied. “The reward for a successful mission is another mission.”

    “And what mission would that be?” Ron asked, tensing up.

    “Why, helping Dr Granger to finish her work, I think.” Dumbledore tilted his head again. “Which includes clearing your names, of course.”

    How convenient! Ron almost scoffed openly. Helping the ‘valuable’ scientist...

    Granger frowned. “Clearing our names should allow me to return to my lab. Yet you seem to imply that there’s more to it.”

    “Indeed.” Dumbledore nodded, appearing pleased - like one of Ron’s old teachers when someone answered a question correctly. “You have, undoubtedly, realised just how important and dangerous your work is. As has your mysterious enemy. As long as they are not dealt with, you wouldn’t be safe at your former place of work.”

    “My ‘former place of work’?” Ah, there was Granger, finally showing some spine again!

    “Correct. Even if this Russian connection is cut, which I trust will happen, with some help, a number of people will make similar deductions. At the very least, they will assume that your work isn’t quite as boringly theoretical as you made it out to be. They will investigate. And while I don’t doubt that you were quite clever, a thorough investigation will eventually uncover even the smallest of irregularities - those which would ordinarily be overlooked.” The old man sighed. “I don’t think you will be able to continue your work at your laboratory, even if the government will keep your parents safe.”

    Granger’s face fell, and Ron saw her clench her fists. He understood her reaction - this was a huge setback. And something they should have realised themselves.

    “And you have a solution for that?” Granger spat more than she said.

    “I believe so. However, perhaps we should inform your backup that you haven’t fallen into a trap?” Dumbledore said, raising his eyebrows.

    “Our backup?” Harry asked, acting, quite convincingly, in Ron’s opinion, as if he didn’t know what Dumbledore was talking about.

    “Please, Mr Potter. I’m familiar with your and Mr Weasley’s efforts. I don’t believe both of you would have entered my manor without having someone else ready to come to your rescue.”

    Ron really, really hated the man’s smug smile and patronising manner. At least he hadn’t deduced Luna’s identity. Or, Ron thought, that’s what he wants us to think…

    On the other hand, they had already told him almost everything, and he hadn’t sprung a trap on them. But to reveal Luna? No. Certainly not to a former chief of MI6. That would be betraying her trust. “They’ll be fine,” he said.

    Dumbledore seemed to accept his answer with a nod. Although… Harry and Granger had deferred to Ron. Would that be enough for Dumbledore to deduce Luna’s identity? Had it been?

    Granger spoke up before Ron found an answer: “And how would a retired spymaster be able to help me with my work? Using your influence with your former co-workers?”

    Dumbledore laughed. “I don’t think they would heed my advice, no matter how sensible. And most of those who remain of my friends are now retired as well.” He shook his head. “Besides, my successors wouldn’t need my advice to realise what you represent. Although they might need more time. No, I wasn’t offering what influence in Britain I still command.” He smiled. “I can offer you a modern laboratory with everything you need.”

    That sounded too good to be true, in Ron’s opinion. And it was a common con strategy: First, lay out a supposedly huge problem, then propose a neat and simple solution and watch your mark fall for it.

    “My work requires a lot of power,” Granger said. Was she actually falling for this?

    “Power isn’t a problem, my dear.”

    “Really?” She frowned. “I had a lot of trouble to secure my lab. And I am to believe you could whip one out just like that?”

    Once more, Dumbledore inclined his head. “My finances greatly improved after my retirement. Arranging access to a laboratory on par with, if not better than, your last one is not much of a challenge.” He leaned forward. “However, I would have to know what else you’re hiding about your work.”

    Ron glanced at Granger, whose brief but clearly surprised expression had, unfortunately, once again betrayed her thoughts and confirmed Dumbledore’s claim. At least she didn’t bother denying it this time.

    “I don’t think revealing anything else is advisable before you’ve proved that you can actually provide me with a laboratory suitable to my needs,” she said, raising her chin. “And explained just how exactly you managed to amass such wealth as a retired government employee.”

    Ron nodded in support - he was more than familiar with the income of even a senior member of the civil service, and the Dumbledore family, while not as poor as the Weasleys, wasn’t wealthy enough to make up the difference - they had checked that.

    Dumbledore ran a hand over his short, well-groomed beard for a moment. “A fair demand, I think. And, although I didn’t exactly advertise my private life and kept it out of the press thanks to a few favours I was owed, it’s not a secret either - though some of my old co-workers certainly wish it were.” He leaned back. “I am the co-owner of the Phoenix Gruppe.”

    Ron whistled. Phoenix Gruppe was one of the bigger German corporations. They were mainly known for their armament branch, but they had interests in many other sectors.

    “Technically, even a single share would make you a co-owner,” Harry pointed out.

    The old man’s smile widened. “You are correct. However, such word games wouldn’t serve me here.” He looked at Granger. “I own fifty per cent of the shares of the main holding firm.”

    Ron blinked. Even taking the fact that a lot of the subdivisions were publicly traded into account, that meant the old man was a multi-billionaire. How could he have managed…? Of course! “You were one of the founders of the firm, weren’t you?”

    “Correct!” Dumbledore beamed at him.

    Ron suppressed a scowl. Would the old man ever stop acting as if they were precocious students answering questions in school?

    “It was shortly after the end of the Second World War. I had served in the Secret Service during the war - the details are still classified - and I wasn’t yet quite certain whether I should continue my career in the service or join the millions of other young men returning to civilian life. So when I had the opportunity to invest in a new company being founded, I took it. Despite my father’s wishes at the time - he was a very traditional man.” His smile turned a little sad for a moment, or so Ron thought.

    “A German firm?” Harry didn’t bother hiding his doubts.

    “I was in Germany at the time,” Dumbledore replied. With a smile, he added: “I was of the opinion that if both Britain and the United States were recruiting every talented German for various tasks, provided they weren’t too badly tainted by their service to the Nazis, then co-founding a company myself would also be acceptable.” He frowned briefly. “Do you disagree, Dr Granger?”

    She was staring at Dumbledore, not quite shocked, but close, Ron noticed. “Would… would the other founder of the Phoenix Gruppe be named Grindelwald?”

    “Why, yes. Gellert Grindelwald.”

    *****​

    ‘Dumbledore revealed as Grindelwald’s ally! Plans to subjugate Magical Europe and oppress pureblood culture discovered!’

    She fought the urge to throw the Daily Prophet to the ground of their tent. Dumbledore had fought and defeated Grindelwald! Everyone knew that - it was the most famous duel of the century! Perhaps of all time! “What are they thinking?” she spat, shaking her head.

    “It’s propaganda,” Ron replied. “Like their ‘reports’ about muggleborns stealing magic. They paint Dumbledore as the real Dark Lord because they hope such lies will erode our support in Britain.”

    “And in the other countries,” Harry added, scowling. “But it’ll make it harder for the Delacours to get us help from France.”

    She nodded - few, if any, French wizards and witches would ever help a friend of Grindelwald. Not after the atrocities committed by his followers in the forties.

    “If only the Death Eaters had attacked Bill and Fleur’s wedding instead of the Ministry,” Ron muttered.

    “Ron!” She glared at him.

    “What?” He grinned as he moved behind her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders - after planting a kiss on the nape of her neck. “They had half the French Gendarmes there, surrounding the chateau. If Tom had attacked the wedding, he’d have lost most of his followers, and France would have moved against him. And they wouldn’t even have come close to the guests, anyway.”

    He had a point, but she didn’t like admitting it. Nor that this might have been the Order’s plan. She huffed instead. “In any case, this is a transparent lie few, even in Britain, will believe.” Dumbledore, friends with one of the worst dark wizards in Europe? Who had dragged the entirety of Magical Europe into the bloodiest war of the Wizarding World of the century until stopped by Dumbledore? Preposterous! The Headmaster’s career spoke for itself. Voldemort had to be desperate to stoop to using such obvious lies.

    She dropped the newspaper. She couldn’t dwell on this - Luna and Lee would deal with the enemy propaganda anyway. She and her friends had a bank robbery to plan.

    *****
     
  14. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Heh, well I wonder if Gellert is Dumbledore's boyfriend here... Either way a pretty funny difference to develop.

    Though it looks like Dumbledore is a dark Lord here. Ex secret service chief, billionaire... secret base in a volcano?
     
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  15. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Perhaps a bit more subtle than that.
     
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  16. tothepointofview

    tothepointofview Know what you're doing yet?

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    I'm guessing hermione transported while being tortured by malfoy, bringing malfoy along with her to the new world. Either that or she teleported while he had grabbed her
    Malfoy possibly still has his wand, and definitely seems to have his trunk.
    Malfoy didn't really understand the muggle world, and by the time he had acclimated a little it would be after the news of hermiones escape quietened down.
    Eventually either 1. Hermione shows up in a major newspaper again 2. Malfoy stands looking for answers to getting home in muggle technology, when he hears of hermione which makes him want to investigate more 3. He is reminded of counterparts and searches what the counterparts of people in his old life are doing, he then notices that hermiones circumstances were suspicious (and that she showed up the same time as him).

    Unknown whether or not malfoy wants hermione dead or interrogated, if he feels scared enough of her he may want her dead, if hes desperate to get home he might want her captured.

    So now hes mind controlling (likely with imperius) various people in order to hunt them down. Or he is just using money $$ to hire people if he no longer has his wand (Since he likely can't use most mind control spells wandlessly).

    Considering malfoy seems to have his trunk its likely the malfoy from this world was killed so magic!malfoy could take his place, though he also could of decided to just mind control the alternative for an easy body double.


    also possible someone wants to kidnap her 'just in case' her research is important or because they might think someone did brain research on her as a kid (to make her smarter). But the above sounds more likely
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
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  17. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Why would Draco have been sent to the past? He didn't go missing in Hermione's world while she attended Hogwarts, so if he had arrived with her, he wouldn't have been the Malfoy who had a luxurious trunk at Harry and Ron's school. And there would have been a Damien and a Draco Malfoy.
     
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  18. tothepointofview

    tothepointofview Know what you're doing yet?

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    I don't think he was sent to the past.
    I don't think the trunk was mentioned as being around during school, it just mentions he has one, which means if they knew him for any amount of time after school (or perhaps in his last/latest school years), he could of had it after the transport. But if you meant to communicate that damien had it throughout highschool etc. then I'd change my theory to either be someone older than hermione, who entered the world with her, but they entered the world at the age as hermione was when she entered the world (17/18) because magic, possibly giving them 20 or more years till hermione showed up, would also kind of explain why young hermione was kidnapped (because they didn't like her counterpart and she had been a mudblood). Likely lucius malfoy or someone close considering he gave the trunk to damien (assuming it is magic). If it isn't then it could be any death eater.
    If non-magic hermione was captured by a death eater there is a non-zero chance that the death eater keeps her around because he knows how smart she is likely to become, but seems pretty low.

    Or I'd change the theory so that malfoys trunk wasn't actually magic, which would remove the main linkage to malfoy admittedly, so it could be anyone who traveled with hermione, but draco is still a fairly decent bet.

    I'm not saying it has to be either of those 2 scenarios, just that those are my theories. For example it could be an alternative world where squibs and wizards were switched and the methods they use to hide themselves are different than anything hermione has encountered. I just like theory crafting so I thought I'd put my theory out there. Though I'll likely be sticking to the end anyway considering I liked some of your other stories.
     
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  19. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Well, the truth will be revealed in the story :)
     
  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 9: The List
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 9: The List

    Mould-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, Britain, July 11th, 2005

    “From your reaction, I assume that you knew both my and Gellert’s counterparts in your world. And not under the best of circumstances.” Dumbledore’s smile had faded almost completely.

    Granger shook her head. “I never met Grindelwald.”

    “But you’d heard of him.” Dumbledore leaned forward.

    Ron matched him - and shifted his weight a little. Just in case. Whatever trap the man must have prepared might be avoided if Ron managed to tackle him. Dumbledore didn’t strike him as the suicidal type, and even so-called knockout gas wasn’t exactly safe to use, as the Moscow theatre hostage crisis had proved.

    “I had, yes. I dismissed what I heard, though.” Granger spoke very precisely, almost biting the words out.

    Ron reached over, touching her thigh with the back of his hand. She stiffened, then slowly breathed out.

    “What exactly did you hear? It seems obvious that there are significant differences between this world and your own.”

    Granger snorted at that. “You might say so, yes.”

    Dumbledore inclined his head, but she still hesitated to elaborate, Ron saw. He cleared his throat. “Explaining the differences would also reveal important secrets.”

    Granger frowned at him for a moment, then turned her attention back on Dumbledore. “Could you tell us more about Mr Grindelwald and how you met him?”

    Dumbledore hesitated a moment before that slightly condescending smile of his appeared again. “Of course.” He leaned back. “I met him on a mission in occupied Europe in 1943. Paris, to be exact - the City of Love had seen better days, but even under the Germans, there was a certain je ne sais quoi… but I digress. It was one of my first missions - I had completed my training a year previously and volunteered for the Special Operations Executive - I was a Baker Street Irregular. Since I spoke perfect French, I was sent on a mission to France.”

    They certainly wouldn’t have sent the man to Norway, Ron thought.

    Dumbledore sighed. “Gellert was a member of the Abwehr. A very junior member, of course. He had pulled a few strings to get posted to Paris - his mother knew Admiral Canaris, a relationship that got Gellert into trouble after the failed assassination of Hitler in July 1944. Fortunately, he managed to deflect the suspicion of the Gestapo, or he might have been executed as well.”

    Dumbledore hadn’t said if Grindelwald had actually been involved in that plot. Ron took that to mean that that hadn’t been the case. He glanced at Harry, who was frowning. So, he had noticed that as well. Granger, though, seemed to be listening with rapt attention.

    “Anyway, I met Gellert in Paris - we frequented the same bars. I quickly realised that he was a member of the Abwehr, and he claims he was suspicious of me as well, but since he never tried to take me in, I think that’s mostly his bruised ego speaking.” He chuckled. “In any case, I should have avoided him, faded away and focused on my mission, but I was young and foolish. The prospect of working on my mission while socialising with my direct opposite was irresistible.”

    “You fell in love,” Granger said.

    Dumbledore’s eyes widened for a fraction of a second. “Perhaps the differences between our worlds aren’t as great as I assumed. Yes, indeed, we had an amour fou, as the French would say. We were enemies, in the middle of the war, and even in peacetime, both our countries would have considered our relationship a crime - it was exactly the sort of foolishness young men were wont to engage in.”

    For the first time, Dumbledore’s smile seemed, in Ron’s opinion, to be completely devoid of condescension and deceit.

    “Of course, it couldn’t last. We both knew it. The Invasion happened in June 1944, and in August, the battle for Paris began.” The old man shook his head. “The police rose against the Germans, and battles broke out all over the city while Leclerc advanced towards Versailles. Gellert rushed to the hotel in which I was staying, braving the general madness, to get me out of the city - he knew what would happen to collaborateurs. Unfortunately, he managed to catch me when I was meeting with members of the Resistance, and things took a rather violent turn. No one died, fortunately, and he managed to escape and evade pursuit, rejoining the German lines as they retreated. I didn’t see him again until the war had ended.”

    “And you rekindled your relationship,” Granger said rather than asked.

    “It wasn’t as easy as that makes it sound,” Dumbledore told her, “but, essentially, yes.” He shrugged. “The most devastating war in the history of the human race had just ended, and millions had to adjust to the sudden changes. Gellert proved to be as adaptable as he was intelligent, and we, well, came to an arrangement.”

    “You protected him,” Harry said.

    Dumbledore slowly nodded. “I did expedite him getting cleared, but as a very young member of the Abwehr with relatives implicated in the failed plot against Hitler, he wouldn’t have been treated as a true believer in the Nazi ideology anyway.”

    “But was he a Nazi?” Granger asked, staring at Dumbledore.

    “If he had ever been one, he wasn’t, not any more.”

    “Ah.”

    Granger’s smile was hard to read.

    After a moment, Ron spoke up: “Dad’s message claimed that we were in danger.”

    If Dumbledore was annoyed at the change of topic, he didn’t show it. “You aren’t as safe as you might think you are. The foiled terrorist attacks, the two high-profile assassinations and Britain’s most famous kidnapping victim possibly being kidnapped again - the public is demanding results and retribution, and the government will do its utmost to deliver, lest the minister in charge lose even more face and be replaced by one of their rivals in the party.”

    Ron snorted, but had to agree - justice wasn’t as effective at pushing the government into action as the threat of losing power.

    Dumbledore nodded at him and folded his hands again. “As a consequence, the authorities will not shy away from any means to find you - and Dr Granger. They already have your family under observation, Mr Weasley. And after Arthur’s visit to Mr Lovegood, they will place him and his daughter under surveillance as well. Then once the Grangers resurface, they will also be put under surveillance. Technically, they already are, of course.”

    Ron didn’t react. He was certain of that. But the old man was correct - if Dad had been spotted visiting Xenophon, then it wouldn’t take a genius to order Luna to be put under surveillance as well. And while Luna had gone to great lengths to hide her place, no cover was perfect. Put against the efforts of the government, and assuming that they would look the other way while certain police officers bent a few laws, they would be able to find Luna’s home - eventually.

    “That you were once in a relationship with Miss Lovegood is known. As is the fact that you broke up amicably,” Dumbledore went on.

    “Xeno’s a very careful man,” Ron replied. “Even if they break into his home, they won’t find anything on his computers.” And he knew how to delete data properly so it couldn’t be reconstructed. And how to encode messages so they couldn’t be deciphered any time this century.

    “I don’t doubt that. But I also know my former department. And trust me - people who cut their teeth foiling the KGB’s best plans will not be daunted by the efforts of an amateur, however gifted they might be.”

    Ron wanted to frown - both at the implied insult to the Lovegoods’ skill and at the threat being laid out so plainly. He didn’t, though. Dumbledore wanted him to show a reaction so he could confirm his guess. “We aren’t easy to find,” he replied instead.

    “You need help hiding,” Dumbledore retorted.

    “No, we don’t,” Harry stated. “We can hide as long as it takes the police to sort this out without any outside help.”

    Dumbledore slowly nodded, apparently acknowledging the point. “But do you want to? And that still doesn’t help Dr Granger in achieving her goals. As I’ve already explained, Dr Granger, you won’t be able to continue your subterfuge, I’m afraid. Her Majesty’s Government is not as quick to grasp the full ramifications of every situation as it should be, but in this case, they can hardly miss the implications.”

    “And you claim to be a more trustworthy source of help than our government?” Granger asked. “A former spymaster turned arms manufacturer who is collaborating with a former Nazi spy?”

    “Technically, Gellert wasn’t a spy - he was counter-intelligence,” Dumbledore replied. With a smile, he added: “But you are correct: I do claim that I’m more trustworthy than our government. Of course, I am slightly biased.” He chuckled. “However, I don’t think I’ve given you cause to distrust me any more than our government - none of my employees, after all, are currently hunting you or tried to frame your friends for murder.”

    “So you say.” Harry was still standing with his arms crossed, staring at the old man.

    “If I were behind the attacks on you, wouldn’t I have made my move long ago? I could have taken Mr Weasley’s family hostage, for example. And ambushed you as soon as you entered my home.” Dumbledore slowly shook his head. “If I meant you and yours harm, I would have handled this quite differently, I assure you.”

    Of course, the man could be merely trying to gain their trust - Granger’s trust - by playing nice. But such plans were convoluted and prone to failure. On the other hand, Dumbledore was the partner of a former Nazi - a real Nazi. “And what do you get out of this?” Ron asked, narrowing his eyes at the old man. “You wouldn’t be offering a fortune’s worth of resources - and risking a possible charge of treason - simply to satisfy your curiosity.”

    “Oh, at my age? Trust me, I would.” Dumbledore laughed. “Neither myself nor Gellert have any family we can stand, so our considerable fortunes will, after our eventual but inevitable deaths, be left to Germany and the United Kingdom, respectively. And while I would never consider myself a traitor, my loyalty to my country isn’t so strong as to keep me from spending a small fortune on indulging my whims.” He leaned forward. “Moreover, spending a small fortune to, let us say, prolong our lives a little longer? That would be an immensely shrewd investment at any age, wouldn’t it?”

    Ron frowned. What did the old man mean? He glanced at his friend; Harry was frowning as well. But Granger… the woman was nodding.

    Ah. “You’re counting on gaining access to the technology of Dr Granger’s world to prolong your life,” Ron said.

    “Precisely,” Dumbledore told him. “I don’t think I’m wrong in assuming that Dr Granger’s world is quite a bit more advanced than ours if, at her age, and with only access to our technology and knowledge, she can construct a means to travel between worlds. And humans being humans, I trust them to have invested considerable resources in warding off death.”

    Granger chuckled at that. “Some of them, at least. Others considered death but the next great adventure.”

    “I have to admit, Dr Granger, that I’m not particularly religious. And, according to your file, neither are you.”

    She sighed. “You are correct. Both in my view of religion and in your assumption that my world’s population tends to live considerably longer than yours. Your counterpart, for example, was a hundred and fifteen years old when he was killed.”

    Dumbledore positively beamed at her.

    Granger’s answering smile looked both tired and cynical. “However, as the circumstances of my arrival might have indicated, I don’t know how my home’s faring - when I, involuntarily, left, we were fighting a civil war against a mad tyrant.”

    Dumbledore looked, briefly, surprised - and was that a sliver of annoyance? At having missed or dismissed that information? So the old man wasn’t infallible, either. “That tyrant… he wouldn’t have been German, would he?” Dumbledore asked.

    “No. The Dark Lord, as he called himself, was born a British subject,” Granger replied.

    “He called himself ‘the Dark Lord’?” Dumbledore sounded both appalled and amused.

    “He earned the name.” Granger sneered, then shook her head. “His followers were so brutal during the first civil war, people were afraid to say his name ten years after the war had ended with his defeat.”

    “And he returned to start another war?”

    “Yes. More successfully, this time. He took control of the country in 1997 in a coup. We fought back, of course, but things were looking grim.”

    “I see. The situation must have been dire indeed if you were fighting. Unless you’re older than your counterpart was.”

    “I’m twenty-five years old.” Granger snorted, though she sounded bitter, not amused. “So, once I open the portal back, I might be returning to a war - or a country ruled by a monster.”

    Ron tensed again. If Dumbledore decided that this was too much of a danger instead of an opportunity...

    “But that would just be in Britain. Other countries wouldn’t be touched by the war, would they?”

    “That depends on whether the Dark Lord won the civil war and decided to imitate Grindelwald and invade the rest of Europe.” Granger showed her teeth.

    “I see.” Dumbledore chuckled softly. “Gellert will be interested in hearing about his counterpart’s exploits, I think. He was quite a bit more important in your world, then.”

    “Yes. As was your counterpart,” Granger said. “He personally defeated Grindelwald in a duel.”

    “Oh.” Dumbledore blinked. “I’m unsure whether I should be proud or sad about that.”

    “Proud,” Granger replied.

    “You mentioned that my counterpart was killed. At the hands of this tyrant?” Dumbledore sounded far too casual about the fate of his counterpart, in Ron’s opinion.

    “Indirectly. As a result of a trap, he was slowly dying and decided to use his own death to let his best spy gain the tyrant’s trust,” Granger told him.

    “Now that is a sound move,” Dumbledore said. “Noble, in a way, but certainly effective.” He rubbed his beard. “However, to let a young woman like yourself know about it seems a little careless.”

    He was fishing for more information. Ron shook his head and spoke up before Granger’s pride drove her to reveal more secrets. “You don’t know the situation.”

    “Unlike you.”

    Ron shrugged. “Not in detail.”

    “I was a member of your counterpart’s organisation,” Granger just had to explain. “He personally trained our cell for a special mission.”

    “Despite your age?” Dumbledore tilted his head. “While only a fool would doubt your intelligence, you didn’t strike me as an agent.”

    “Those are the best agents, aren’t they?” Ron interjected.

    “Touché,” Dumbledore admitted. “However, I have a good eye for field agents, if I do say so myself.”

    “And I don’t fit your mould, do I?” Granger retorted with a frown.

    “Not exactly, no. And I generally preferred to recruit agents who had been extensively trained - not agents who had barely reached adulthood, no matter their talents.”

    “We had proved our worth several times by the point we were recruited,” Granger shot back.

    “We shouldn’t go into too much detail,” Ron reminded her. Judging by how flushed she became, she understood.

    “I won’t pry,” Dumbledore remarked. “However, trust generates trust.”

    “And some decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly or in haste,” Granger declared.

    She meant well, and Ron agreed - but now Dumbledore knew that she was keeping an important secret. Well, perhaps he would think his counterpart had not been so sloppy in his training and suspect that it was disinformation.

    “Of course. I assume you will want to discuss things with your backup as well. Please, take your time.”

    Ron really hated the man’s smile.

    *****​

    “A former government spymaster turned arms conglomerate corporate tycoon?” Luna asked wide-eyed.

    Ron winced, bracing himself. He knew what was coming.

    “He must be evil! Twice over!” Luna blurted out. “A key member of the shadow government conspiracy!”

    Yes, Ron was quite glad they had taken the time to check themselves for listening devices.

    “His lover is Gellert Grindelwald, a former counter-intelligence operative of the Third Reich. Grindelwald’s counterpart was one of the worst dark wizards ever known and almost conquered Magical Europe before Dumbledore’s counterpart stopped him,” Granger said. “Although I think they were a couple before that war.”

    “Oh! That’s… That’s even worse!” Luna shook her head wildly. She started to pace in the small clearing in which they were gathered.

    “I don’t trust him. He’s far too smooth,” Harry said.

    “Far too condescending, too,” Ron added.

    “Your father trusts him, doesn’t he?” Granger asked.

    “Dad owes him,” Ron replied. “He’s not exactly unbiased.”

    “And he’s offering you his help because he plans to use dark magic to live forever!” Luna declared.

    “As a muggle, his options for gaining immortality are rather slim,” Granger said. “But magic could be used to keep him fit and healthy for a number of years - not forever, of course. But ten, twenty, more years would be possible, I think.”

    “What could a man with his power and influence do with two more decades?” Luna shuddered.

    “But he is correct in that even after our names are cleared, I won’t be able to continue my work in peace. The government wouldn’t allow it,” Granger pointed out. “And I’ll be the target of other countries as well. As will the Grangers.”

    “Do you trust him?” Harry asked. “He’s not the man you knew.”

    “I know,” Granger said, frowning. “But it’s not about trusting him - it’s about trusting his motivation to be aligned with ours, I mean, mine. Sorry.” She shook her head. “I don’t think he’ll risk losing this chance at living longer.”

    “Or at discovering more worlds ripe for the picking,” Ron added. “Once you finish your work, all bets will be off.”

    “I know,” Granger replied through clenched teeth. “But he’s my best chance of going home.”

    Ron pressed his lips together. She was probably correct. But he really didn’t like it.

    “And he’s our best opportunity to finally reveal all the crimes and conspiracies the government covered up!” Luna stood straight, hands on her hips. “This is our chance to infiltrate his organisation! And help Hermione at the same time!”

    Ron glanced at Harry. They couldn’t let the two women do this alone. And they couldn’t just knock them out and drag them away - they’d be back at the first opportunity.

    He sighed.

    *****​

    Dumbledore’s decades of experience as a spy and spymaster meant he wasn’t radiating satisfaction when they returned to his manor. Ron thought so, at least - the man’s polite manner had to be masking his glee. “Welcome back,” he said. “And welcome, Miss Lovegood.”

    Ron nodded together with Harry and Granger as Luna frowned at the old man. “That remains to be seen, Mr Dumbledore.”

    “I can assure you that I mean neither you nor your friends any harm,” Dumbledore replied. “Our interests align, after all.”

    “Really?” Luna narrowed her eyes and stared at him. “Then it’s true that MI6 was also active in Britain!”

    Dumbledore blinked at her. “Pardon?”

    “How else would you know what my interests are, if not by spying on me?” Luna explained.

    “My dear, I retired from MI6 long before you finished school,” Dumbledore replied.

    “But not from spying!” she retorted.

    “That depends on your definition of spying, I believe.” The old man smiled.

    “I think ‘violating people’s privacy’ covers spying perfectly,” Luna declared.

    Dumbledore nodded. “Such actions are often needed, though, lest people lose something even more important.”

    “That depends on your definition of ‘often’,” Luna shot back.

    Dumbledore laughed at that. “Touché, Miss Lovegood.”

    Luna smiled in return, but Ron could tell that it wasn’t an honest smile. He hoped that Dumbledore didn’t manage to read her as easily. Well, at least she hadn’t called him a merchant of death, oligarch or traitor to the country.

    “We’ve decided to accept your offer - provided the details fit our needs,” Granger said.

    The old man smiled. “Of course.”

    “Such as where you’d set up my new lab,” she went on. “And the Grangers’ safety.”

    “I can arrange permanent protection for your family. Privately or through the government. As to the location of your laboratory, that depends entirely on you,” Dumbledore told her. “Our facilities in Germany would be safest, but we have a subsidiary in Britain as well.”

    “Would that be in Scotland?”

    “Why, yes. An isolated research facility in the highlands.”

    “Of course it would be there.” Granger shook her head with a dry smile.

    “However, you wouldn’t be able to move as freely as you could in Germany - your notoriety is quite a bit higher in Britain, so you’d have to go to greater lengths to maintain operational security.” Dumbledore spread his hands. “The decision is, of course, yours.”

    But if they had to leave in a hurry, they would be closer to their own resources. And they would speak the language. Well, a form of it, Ron thought.

    “But we’d stick out more in Germany,” Luna pointed out.

    “You plan to keep Dr Granger company?” Dumbledore didn’t sound surprised.

    “We always see things through on an assignment,” Harry said. His smile was more a challenge than a friendly gesture, Ron noted.

    “That might not be well received by whoever ends up being the new leader of CI5,” Dumbledore pointed out.

    “It doesn’t matter,” Ron said. “We’ll stick this out.”

    Granger looked surprised for a moment, he noticed, before a brief smile appeared on her face. Truth be told - or not, in this case - Ron had surprised himself a little.

    “If Dawlish takes over we’ll be screwed anyway,” Harry added.

    “That man is such a bore.” Granger nodded.

    Luna was beaming at them. Ron just knew she saw this as them finally ‘throwing off the shackles of the government’, as she had urged him to do in the past.

    *****​

    Ron looked around, both out of habit and training, as he walked down the hallway connecting the guest rooms Dumbledore had offered them. He couldn’t spot any cameras, but he was certain there was at least one. Well, they had known there would be when they decided to accept the old man’s offer. That was also the reason he hadn’t gone into any details when he had called Dad - the ‘safe phone’ Dumbledore had provided would be bugged as well.

    Granger opened the door a few seconds after he knocked. “Ah.” She didn’t seem to be surprised to see him. And she was already wearing her sleepwear, he noticed.

    He nodded. “I trust everything’s alright with your room?” It was a pretext, and she knew it.

    She pulled the door fully open. “Yes.”

    He could see that her and Luna’s room was bigger than his and Harry’s. Two beds, two desks, a big armoire and a dresser. He could easily spot Luna’s bed - her clothes were spread out over it. Dumbledore had offered them all single rooms, but they had declined. Ron and Harry because even though Dumbledore was unlikely to move against them - there were easier ways to deal with the two of them - they felt safer rooming together. Granger and Luna because Luna had insisted, and Granger hadn’t objected.

    She stepped to the side. It was as good an invitation as any, and he entered.

    “Luna’s in the bathroom,” she told him.

    He nodded - he could hear the running water.

    “By the way: thank you,” she said after closing the door.

    He shrugged. “We see things through.”

    “At the cost of your career?”

    He shrugged again. “We can find other employment.”

    “The job market for police officers who went rogue might be a little…” She trailed off, wincing.

    He smiled. “Things will work out. If all else fails, we can become private investigators.” They had planned that, as kids, after all.

    “Would that offer a stable income?” She frowned as she sat down on her bed.

    “Things will work out,” he said. This was more important. He knew it.

    She smiled at him. “Thank you.”

    She looked younger when she smiled, he noticed. Not as… hard, perhaps? Or driven. Almost… He shrugged once more and looked at the window - or, rather, the curtains covering it. “I didn’t become a police officer so I could leave people in need to fend for themselves.”

    “Ah.”

    “I didn’t mean that you were helpless,” he explained, looking at her. She wasn’t smiling any more. “Just, well… I don’t trust Dumbledore.”

    Granger nodded slowly. “Understandable.” She wasn’t frowning, but her smile looked polite, not genuine, now - Ron could tell.

    “So, I figure it’s best we stick together until this is over,” he said.

    She nodded, then pursed her lips. “I don’t want you to feel obligated. Especially not if it means your life and career will be affected.” She was looking at the armoire, he noticed.

    “You’re not a bother,” he replied, a little more sharply than he had intended. “Also, we can’t exactly hunt down Scrimgeour and Bones’s killers. Regulations.” And too many other agencies were involved now to be able to get around those pesky rules. “But protecting you, and foiling their plans to get you? That’ll hit them where it hurts.”

    “Ah.” She inclined her head. “Does Harry think so as well? Ginny might disagree with his priorities.”

    He had to snort at that. “Well, he hates leaving things unfinished. And Ginny can’t complain - she’s away too often for her job.” His sister would complain, of course - Ginny wasn’t the spoiled little princess any more, but part of her still thought she was special. More than she was, of course. Granger’s expression told him she didn’t believe him. Well, she had probably known Ginny’s counterpart. And she didn’t seem to have been convinced of his sincerity. He grinned at her. “Anyway, you’re stuck with us.”

    “I’ll try to bear it,” she replied, with a grin of her own. And if her smile had made her look younger, her grin made her look… well, fun.

    “I’ll try not to be too much of a burden.”

    “Oh, hi, Ron!”

    He turned his head. Luna was standing in the door to the bathroom, one towel wrapped around her body, the other around her hair. How had he missed that? Moody would have his head if he knew!

    Luna walked in, tilting her head left and right with each step - to shake the water out of one ear without letting it flow deeper into the other, as she had once explained to him. “Are you plotting? Can I help?”

    “We’re not plotting,” Granger said quickly. She wasn’t smiling or grinning now. “We were just discussing Ron… Mr Weasley’s plans for the future.”

    “Oh! Are you still planning to become an astronaut?”

    Ron closed his eyes for a moment. “I abandoned that idea before secondary school, Luna.” As she should know.

    “You might have reconsidered - after all, you should never stop dreaming.” Luna sat down on Granger’s bed. “And Hermione here proves that even the most fantastical dreams can be real!”

    She was correct, of course. Though Ron had a feeling that he was missing something.

    *****​

    Mould-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, Britain, July 12th, 2005

    Granger was scribbling down notes, Ron saw, as Luna, who was, for some reason, glaring at him, let him into their room. “Working?” he asked.

    She looked up. “Not on my project.” She leaned back with a sigh. “I was finishing the list of my… allies.”

    “Oh.”

    “Have finished, I think. I don’t think I’ve missed anyone.” She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

    That explained Luna’s reaction - Granger must have recalled some very unpleasant memories doing that. She might’ve had a flashback or two as well. “Sorry,” he said.

    “What?” Granger looked at him. Then she shook her head. “I decided to do this. It’s not your fault.”

    “We asked you to,” he replied.

    “Asked. The decision was mine.” She pressed her lips together.

    He suppressed a sigh. Stubborn to a fault. She wouldn’t even accept his apology.

    “We shouldn’t have asked you to do this!” Luna exclaimed.

    Granger smiled at Luna, tilting her head slightly. “It’s OK.”

    “It’s not!”

    Ignoring the unfair difference in how Granger treated them, Ron walked up to her desk. “That’s the list?” he asked, ignoring Luna’s frowning pout.

    “Yes.” Granger reached out and picked it up, then held it up for him to take. “Here.”

    He skimmed the list. Harry and his counterparts’ were the first names, of course. He looked at her, and she smiled, shrugging.

    “Best start at the top.”

    He snorted, then read on. Luna. Ginny. Fred. George, Percy… everyone from his counterpart’s family was next, with the exception of Aunt Muriel. Granger had probably never met the old battleaxe. All of them were alive, or had been when Granger had left her world, he noted with relief. Which vanished when he remembered that Granger had left her world in the middle of a battle and wouldn’t know what had happened in the years since.

    Dumbledore - deceased. Severus Snape - deceased. He’d apparently been… “A teacher?” he asked.

    “Ron!” Luna stepped up to him, hands on her hips, and huffed. “Stop!”

    Granger, though, chuckled. “Perhaps get Harry so we only have to go over it once?”

    Harry was currently resting - they had traded guard shifts - but he wouldn’t want to miss this, Ron knew. And Harry preferred directly hearing testimony instead of hearing about it. “I’ll get him.”

    He dropped the list and went to fetch Harry. As expected, Harry wanted to see the list.

    “So, Snape?” Ron asked.

    “Snape?” Harry blinked.

    “He was a childhood friend of my Harry’s mother and hated his father and Sirius. He had an acerbic temper and was very smart, but also incredibly petty and cruel - I only ever saw him smile when he was punishing someone.”

    “Ah. Sirius mentioned him,” Harry said - in a tone that closed that subject for further discussion.

    Which, of course, didn’t stop Granger from adding: “He was one of our teachers - and a double-agent working for Dumbledore. He got caught helping us, though, and was murdered.”

    “McGonagall?”

    “Another teacher. And our Head of House at school. Flitwick was a teacher as well,” she said, mentioning the next name on the list.

    “Sirius died?” Harry exclaimed. “You didn’t mention that!”

    “No, I didn’t,” she said. “It was rather brutal.”

    Ron saw her and Harry stare at each other and cleared his throat. “Remus Lupin was also your teacher?”

    “Yes. For a year. He was one of our best.”

    “He’s dead,” Harry told her.

    “Oh. Illness?” Granger asked.

    “Yes,” Harry said.

    Ron had never met the man, though Harry, and especially Sirius, had often talked about him. Magic had probably cured his counterpart. “So many teachers. Did they recruit your entire school?” he asked.

    “More or less. Dumbledore had a lot of friends among the teachers, and we students, well… many of us started training when we realised that there would be a war, and that we couldn’t count on the Ministry.”

    “Oh!” Luna held a hand in front of her mouth. “They recruited children as soldiers?”

    “We decided to fight,” Granger told her.

    “But they let you,” Harry retorted.

    “They had no choice. The Dark Lord’s followers were hunting us - many of us - anyway. And my Harry was… linked to the Dark Lord. As his best friends, we wouldn’t let him face that monster alone.” Granger once more met Harry’s eyes. “We’ve been fighting against him in one form or another since we started school together.”

    “Crazy,” Harry muttered.

    Well, Ron could understand not leaving a friend alone. “Fleur Delacour?”

    “Bill’s wife.”

    The other Bill was married? “Is she French?” Ron asked.

    “Yes. And the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” Granger added.

    Probably some sort of siren, then. Ron nodded. That would do it - his Bill wouldn’t marry any time soon, no matter how much Mum tried to prod him.

    “Justin Finch-Fletchley. Ernie MacMillan.” Both deceased.

    “They were in our year.”

    Neither had been at Ron and Harry’s school. He read on. “Colin and his brother died?”

    “Yes,” she replied in a flat voice.

    Ron skimmed the list and winced. No wonder Luna was so mad at him and Harry - there really were a lot of dead people on this list.

    *****​

    Dumbledore was already seated at the head of the table when they entered the dining room - or salon, as he called it - but there was also another man present, standing to the side with a trolley loaded with covered plates. The first member of Dumbledore’s staff they had seen so far - though Ron was certain that there were quite a few bodyguards - or assassins - in the manor. You couldn't keep such a building ready for visitors, much less safely guarded, without a lot of people. “This is Johann,” the old man told them. “He’s handling the cooking and serving.”

    A sort of butler, Ron guessed. He was certainly dressed to fit the part. And while he wasn’t young by any measure, he didn’t move like an old man either. Military or similar training would be Ron’s guess.

    “I hope you had a pleasant morning,” Dumbledore went on. “I apologise for not joining you for breakfast, but I was detained by a few minor yet pressing matters.”

    “No problem,” Harry said in a bland tone as he took his seat.

    “We managed,” Luna told him. “My compliments to you,” she added, smiling at Johann. “The scones were delicious. The bread was a little too dark, though.”

    “That would be my fault,” Dumbledore apologised as the other man nodded and started to serve lunch. “Gellert has pretty much banned white bread from our table - he has strong opinions on bread and the documentation to back them up. I stopped challenging him on this point long ago.”

    “Dark bread is healthier as well,” Granger added.

    “So people say. I’ve never quite acquired a taste for it, but please don’t tell him that,” Dumbledore said with a wink.

    Whatever his other skills, Johann was a great cook, Ron found out as the first course - Alsace tarte flambée - was served. Luna shared his opinion and made no secret out of it - at least Dumbledore found her moans amusing rather than rude. Unlike Aunt Muriel.

    “A speciality of his,” Dumbledore commented. “Alas, Johann’s recipe is one of the secrets I’ve never managed to acquire.”

    A hint that he was working on Granger’s secrets, of course. Well, while he had undoubtedly put them under surveillance, they weren’t about to discuss the truth openly anyway. Although… they might attempt a double-bluff: talk about magic and make Dumbledore think they were using ‘magic’ as code for something. No… Dumbledore knew Granger was from another world; he wouldn’t simply dismiss the supernatural. And Moody had always cautioned them against being too clever for their own good - not that Ron had needed much cautioning with Fred and George as negative examples.

    The main course - roast with a variant of hollandaise sauce - was served with a small card for Dumbledore. The old man read it, then frowned.

    “What’s happened?” Harry asked at once.

    “It seems Mr Yaxley has disappeared,” Dumbledore replied. “I didn’t expect this so soon.”

    “‘So soon’?” Ron asked. Had Dumbledore suspected Yaxley? And why hadn’t he told anyone?

    “It was obvious that this was, at the very least partially, an inside job. Mr Yaxley was among the most obvious suspects, and in light of the attention this has gathered, it was inevitable that the culprit would be discovered. However, I expected it to take a little longer - Mr Yaxley doesn’t seem to have covered his tracks well enough.”

    “He could have been murdered by the kidnappers,” Granger pointed out.

    “Theoretically possible - but the murderers didn’t bother to hide their first victims, did they? So, if he was killed by them, then it’s still more likely that he was their inside man and they dealt with a loose end. Ruthless, but efficient. If they are playing the long game, they might even use this to frame others - and sow some more discord amongst our various departments.” Dumbledore sounded almost impressed.

    “And if he wasn’t?” Luna asked.

    “Then he wasn’t cautious enough despite two dramatic examples of the danger. Although under the circumstances, I don’t think he could have been easily killed unless he was deliberately avoiding the police and MI5 operatives and, therefore, bereft of their protection,” Dumbledore told her.

    “He’s running,” Harry said.

    “That would be my assumption as well - though is he running from his accomplices or superiors, or from the authorities?” Dumbledore spread his hands.

    “Those could be one and the same!” Luna interjected.

    “They could be, yes - but if our government were behind the attacks on Dr Granger, I dare say they would have gone differently. More competently, for one thing.” Dumbledore sounded almost offended at the ‘tradecraft’ of whoever was hunting them, or so it seemed to Ron.

    “The government isn’t infallible - quite the contrary!” Luna insisted.

    Ron cleared his throat - he had heard that rant before. “If he’s running, the police should uncover his involvement soon.”

    “At which point you will have to decide whether or not you’ll return to CI5,” Dumbledore pointed out.

    “We’ve discussed that. We’ll stick with Dr Granger,” Ron told him.

    “Splendid! Such loyalty should be rewarded! Allow me to cover your expenses.” The old man beamed at them.

    Ron had seen more subtle attempts to bribe him. But they could use the money - provided it wasn’t dirty. Which, he had to admit, was a distinct possibility. But to refuse would probably cause more trouble - the police would be trying to track their and Sirius’s money. “Thank you, sir,” he said.

    “It’s my pleasure. With that settled… Dr Granger, do you have an idea where Mr Yaxley’s counterpart might seek refuge?”

    “No, I don’t. He didn’t manage to escape us.”

    “Ah.” Dumbledore sighed. “That would have facilitated matters.”

    “I don’t think you can rely on such details,” Granger told him. “For example, your counterpart was the headmaster of a boarding school as well as an internationally famous politician. At the same time,” she added.

    Once more, Dumbledore looked surprised for a moment. Then he chuckled. “How curious, yet fitting, in a way. But do you know what friends and allies the Yaxley of your world did have?”

    Granger drew a hissing breath.

    *****​

    “Justin and Ernie are dead.”

    “What?” She looked at Ron, blinking. Had he just told her…?

    He shook his head and held out the Daily Prophet. “They’ve got pictures on page two. Not front-page news, I guess,” he added with a hollow chuckle.

    She took the newspaper and turned the page, then hissed through clenched teeth. The Death Eaters had taken pictures of the two dying. And the Daily Prophet had printed them - claiming Justin had killed Ernie. Another ‘rabid mudblood’ killing a poor, trusting pureblood while ‘trying to steal his magic’. It had to have been the Imperius Curse! This was… this was… She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.

    “We can’t let them get away with this,” Harry snarled - when had he entered the tent?

    “We’ve got our mission,” she replied immediately. They couldn’t start attacking Death Eaters - other Order members would be doing that.

    “I know!” he spat. “But this… We can’t let them get away with it,” he repeated himself.

    “We won’t. But for now we have to focus on our mission.”

    “But once we’re done...” Ron bared his teeth. “According to the Prophet, Runcorn’s in charge of these ‘investigations of muggleborns’. He’s a friend of Yaxley’s.”

    So, Runcorn was responsible for this. She nodded. “Let’s make a list. So we won’t forget.”

    *****​
     
  21. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Oh boy. I wonder how much of wizarding Britain will be still alive when Hermione returns. I'm getting a desert called peace feelings here. Or alternatively one of the setup for the peggy-Sue AUs :D
     
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  22. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    It all depends on who won. And how many friends and family members they lost in the war.
     
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  23. Simonbob

    Simonbob Really? You don't say.

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    I like the "I've only been gone 30 seconds?" option.
     
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  24. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Alternatively Muggleworld Hermione got switched with magic Hermione.
     
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  25. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    That might not be a good thing, depending on when exactly she left the world.

    See above.
     
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  26. JamesEye

    JamesEye Making the rounds.

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    Ah this is has so much suspense! This actually reads like a nice spy novel kind of. I see that Hermoine’s home universe isn’t Canon like I had assumed with Snape being dead. Seems like a more realistic war with people dieing all over the place instead of just during final battles and such.

    Very intersting, thanks for writing.
     
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  27. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    I'm getting a very red Khmer feeling from the affair. The canon civil war was nasty, but this might have escalated far further. The war is usually reigned in before it can really get to that point in Starforx stories, but maybe this is the exception. With Diagon alley razed and the last remaining wizards hiding under fidelius charms fearful to step out.
     
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  28. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Thanks. Although in canon, people also died all over the place before the final battle - but the casualties were limited to the good guys for some fucked-up reason.

    So far, it hasn't been any nastier than canon - just less unbalanced. More muggleborns were saved, and more death eaters killed, than in canon at this point.
     
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  29. Threadmarks: Chapter 10: The Black Lake
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 10: The Black Lake

    Mould-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, Britain, July 12th, 2005

    Granger had another flashback. She didn’t cry out, or even tremble, but the way she tensed and blinked after staring at the wall was telling - Ron knew her well enough by now.

    “Dr Granger?” And, of course, Dumbledore hadn’t missed it, either.

    She sighed. “I was trying to recall with whom Yaxley associated in my world.” A blatant lie, Ron thought.

    “Ah. I apologise if that brought up unpleasant memories.”

    Granger nodded in response. “Don’t worry. Yaxley wasn’t a… particularly bad memory.”

    If that wasn’t a polite lie, then Ron wondered what Granger’s worst memories were. And whether he wanted to know. She hid it well, but she was like one of those soldiers who had been in Iraq. Or, given her age, like a recovering child soldier.

    “Ah.”

    “Not because he wasn’t an irredeemable mass-murderer, but because we got him,” she added with a smile that utterly lacked any humour.

    Luna was covering her mouth with both hands now, eyes wide - she really didn’t deal well with these kinds of things, despite her wish to know all sorts of dark government secrets - but Dumbledore merely nodded again. Probably reclassifying her, Ron thought.

    “In any case, I don’t know who he considered friends, but my version of Yaxley was working closely with Albert Runcorn and Dolores Umbridge when he was having civilians murdered. Presumably, he was friends with other Death Eaters and bigots.” She pulled out a copy of her list of enemies. “However, and I stress this, our worlds are different enough that you cannot assume that people are the same.” She smiled grimly. “You and your partner are the best examples we’ve seen of that so far.”

    Dumbledore’s smile didn’t waver at the implied criticism. “Quite so, my dear. However, it’s still useful information from which we might glean some insights. When I was still in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I was often forced to work with far less information.”

    Ron ignored the glance Granger sent to Harry and him. It was sound reasoning, after all, so it was to be expected that other people would use it as well. “That was our thought also.”

    Once more, Dumbledore smiled at him as if Ron were a student who had just answered a teacher’s question correctly.

    The old man skimmed the list. “There are some quite prominent people on this list and a few infamous ones, as well.”

    “A fish rots from the head down,” Luna said. “Such conspiracies as well.”

    “Not all of them were part of the conspiracy,” Granger pointed out. “Many merely switched allegiance to the new regime once the government had been toppled.” With a deep scowl, she added: “And they proved to be far more skilled at murdering the innocent than they had been at battling the traitors.”

    “Murdering civilians is usually far easier than fighting terrorists,” Dumbledore commented.

    To Ron’s relief, Luna didn’t ask if the former spymaster had practical experience with both.

    “In any case, I don’t think we can cover all those people,” the old man went on. “Although I trust that the police will be investigating all of Mr Yaxley’s friends and family as a matter of course. According to my sources, they certainly have the resources to do so.”

    “They better,” Harry mumbled, “or Moody will make them regret it.”

    “Officer Moody tends to leave an impression,” Dumbledore said, nodding at Harry.

    Did he know Moody, or just of Moody and was trying to appear more knowledgeable than he actually was? Ron couldn’t tell.

    “However, I think a few anonymous tips might point the police to possible allies of Mr Yaxley of whom they are as yet unaware.” Dumbledore grinned. “And I expect that in a few cases, a little police attention might uncover something unrelated to the current scandal but nevertheless incriminating.”

    “Oh, include the Malfoys,” Harry told him. “We’ve got two possible links to the family now.”

    “Which aren’t reliable,” Granger quickly pointed out again.

    Harry shrugged. “As long as Malfoy gets into trouble, who cares?”

    Ron nodded in agreement.

    “If nothing comes of it, it might result in the source of said accusation losing their credibility,” Granger retorted.

    “Oh, don’t fret about that, my dear,” Dumbledore said in a patronising tone that set Ron’s teeth on edge. “I’ll make sure that it is stressed that the original source is untried, and that the only reason such untested intelligence is being passed along is the severity of the current situation. No actual source will be compromised by this, I can assure you of that.”

    Granger pressed her lips together - she was probably annoyed at the man’s attitude as well - but she didn’t contest his words. Not directly. “That presumes that Yaxley hasn’t fled to his supposed backers.”

    “Indeed. Though they might be people whose counterparts are on your list,” Dumbledore replied. “It’s certainly a decent hypothesis and makes it well worth going through a few names on the list.”

    “As long as that’s limited to investigating,” Ron said, wondering how often the old man had given orders to eliminate someone, based purely on suspicion, with the same smile.

    “Of course,” Dumbledore replied, sounding so sincere, Ron almost believed him. But, after a moment, the old man continued: “More information about the people on the list might help us narrow down the number of likely suspects.”

    “It might also make you miss the real culprit based on preconceptions,” Harry replied, cutting off Granger, who scowled at him.

    “I can assure you that I know how to handle such information, Mr Potter. I’ve done so for decades.” Dumbledore inclined his head. “In any case, with Mr Yaxley on the run, it shouldn’t be too long before his plot is unravelled. However, you might be expected to give testimony as well.”

    “We are the key people in this case, I suppose,” Granger acknowledged. “But can we afford to do that?”

    “It would be more difficult for you to evade the various organisations who are already, and will become, interested in your work, should you talk to the police,” Dumbledore told her.

    “Dawlish would want to lock you up,” Ron admitted. “And we’d be under investigation for a while.”

    Harry scoffed at that.

    “And the press would hound you,” Luna added. “Unwittingly, or knowingly in some specifically despicable cases, working for the people pulling their strings!”

    “The press can be far more easily handled than professionals,” Dumbledore pointed out. “But without presenting yourself to your colleagues and fellow police officers investigating this affair, you might find it hard to be cleared, Mr Potter, Mr Weasley. Les absents ont toujours tort, n’est-ce pas?”

    “The absent party is always to blame,” Granger translated without being asked.

    “We learned French in school,” Harry told her, sounding a little peeved.

    “Sorry,” she replied, looking a little embarrassed.

    “In my experience, few English schools will teach you a foreign language to a competent level,” Dumbledore interjected. “It’s quite reasonable to assume that you might have forgotten what you learned since your A-levels. I certainly had to have private tutoring, and had to spend quite some time with a number of French refugees, before I mastered the language.”

    “Well, I don’t speak French very well,” Luna said. “So, thank you, Hermione.” She beamed at the woman while Harry scowled.

    “Anyway,” Ron spoke up before Dumbledore could continue trying to divide them, “what shall we do now? Stay here until the laboratory in Scotland is ready?”

    “I think Dr Granger’s presence while it’s being set up would be helpful. You know best what you need, after all, Dr Granger, and so you could have things arranged just how you like - within reason, of course. However, your entire group might be a little less than inconspicuous. It’s not a serious threat - I trust the employees assigned to that task - but a slight risk would remain. And the threat of boredom, of course.” Dumbledore spread his hands with a smile. “I understand, though, that you feel safer while staying together. I would as well, in your place.”

    Ron refrained from glaring at the old man. That was an obvious ploy. Make it sound logical to split up? Less trouble for everyone while Granger was alone with him and his men? On the other hand, Dumbledore would know that they would see through such an offer. So why would he make it? Just to appear more honest?

    “Why would we be bored? I, for one, have never been to an actual black site!” Luna piped up with a wide grin.

    Was Dumbledore’s smile growing strained? Or was that what he wanted them to think? Ron couldn’t tell. Not yet. “To Scotland, then?” he asked. “Or do you need a little more time to prepare lodgings for us?”

    “That depends on how much comfort you expect,” Dumbledore replied. “The current accommodations for staff are a little spartan, since the laboratory is not currently used for anything sensitive.”

    “We can rough it,” Harry said at once.

    Ron stopped himself from narrowing his eyes at Harry. His friend wasn’t wrong, but that didn’t mean they had to rough it. But Granger, who had been prepared to spend years in the wilderness, or so it seemed, would never disagree with that claim, and Luna was too eager to see the secret laboratory of a weapons research corporation. “We can go after we’ve spoken with Dad,” he announced.

    “Splendid!” Dumbledore beamed at them.

    *****​

    “You won’t return to CI5, then.”

    Dad didn’t sound thrilled - Ron could tell even through the phone. “No,” he replied. “We’ll be staying with Dr Granger. Too much has happened to leave her before the whole affair has been resolved.”

    “Isn’t the main suspect on the run?”

    “Yes. But we don’t know who’s backing him.” Ron started pacing in his and Harry’s room.

    “Are you planning to investigate the case by yourself?”

    “No. We’ll be protecting Dr Granger.” Although if they found a lead…

    “CI5 won’t like it. Your mother won’t like it.”

    “Mum’s always nagging me to stick with a girl,” Ron joked, “and now that I’m doing it, it’s not OK, either?”

    Dad laughed, but it sounded forced. Then he sighed. “I’ll tell her.”

    “Thanks, Dad.”

    “Be careful, Son.”

    “Always,” Ron lied.

    *****​

    Black Lake, Scotland, Britain, July 13th, 2005

    It was an idyllic location Dumbledore had chosen for his - and probably Grindelwald’s - secret lab in Britain. At least Ron thought so. A decent sized lake, surrounded by forests and hills, mountains rising a little further away. The closest village was an hour away by car - they had timed it when they had passed through on the way here, in Dumbledore’s car. Quite isolated, indeed.

    And well camouflaged - from here, the lab looked like an unassuming historic manor on the shores of the lake, probably built with stone taken from the nearby ruins. Spending time here might almost feel like a vacation. At least during summer - he wasn’t keen on all the snow and ice that would replace the lush vegetation come winter.

    “To think such a peaceful place hides a black lab!” Luna exclaimed next to him, shaking her head before she suddenly froze for a moment. “On the other hand, ‘Black Lake’ - it’s almost a sign! Perhaps this is merely disinformation… or a double-bluff! We might need to explore the lake.”

    Ron checked, discreetly, once more that there were no microphones hidden nearby - or aimed at them. Their ‘guide’ was far back, out of hearing range, and they were too far away from the building itself - that was the reason they had taken a walk around the lake, after all. But it was the bug you didn’t look for which would usually ruin your plans. So far he hadn’t found anything, though. That didn’t mean anything, of course.

    “I’m more interested in how they managed to construct a lab here,” Harry said, “without anyone noticing. There’s only so much you can mask as ‘renovations’.”

    “You can hide a lot,” Ron told him. “And hardly anyone would bother to track the exact amount of building materials when there isn’t a border crossing involved. Add a fake ‘unstable shore’ you need to stabilise with concrete, and you have a cover for a lot of excavation work as well. And an explanation for concrete walls under the soil.”

    “How cunning!” Luna nodded. “I should have known that English Heritage would be part of the conspiracy!”

    Ron suppressed a chuckle - he knew she was serious. And, truth be told, he wasn’t entirely certain English Heritage - or, rather, Historic Scotland in this case - wasn’t involved. They visited a lot of old manors where the rich and powerful were often found. What better cover for a spy?

    Granger was uncharacteristically silent. They had expected that, of course - ever since she had discovered their destination. And recognised it. She was staring at the house across the lake. No, at the hill behind it.

    “So, that’s where your boarding school was?” he asked, in a low voice. He hadn’t found any microphones, and the odds of Dumbledore having bugged the entire area were slim, but it felt better to lower your voice.

    “Yes,” she replied, slowly nodding. “Over there. What a coincidence!”

    He shrugged. He didn’t think it was a coincidence. And he didn’t think Granger thought so, either. “It might be a location that’s important in every world,” he said.

    “Fixed points in geography?” She raised her eyebrows at him. “Adapted from Dr Who’s fixed points in time?”

    “Not quite, actually,” he replied. “But there were similar concepts in some books I read.”

    “Fantasy books.” She made it sound as if they were pornography.

    “Yes. About magic and dimensional travel.” He didn’t hide his smirk overly well when she pursed her lips.

    “If that’s true, then this might be an ideal location for my work.”

    He blinked. She wasn’t dismissing it out of hand?

    Before he could say anything, though, she rolled her eyes. “I’m not so stubborn as to reject a decent hypothesis without testing,” she said.

    “Only nearly as stubborn, then?” he asked, grinning.

    She snorted. “Not as nearly as you are annoying,” she shot back - her grin taking the sting out of her words. Most of it, at least.

    He laughed. “I try my best.” After a moment, he added: “My counterpart wasn’t fond of reading?”

    She frowned at him. “Why would you say that?”

    “You always seem a little surprised when I mention my hobby.”

    “Ah.” She nodded. “He wasn’t an avid reader - unless it involved Quidditch. But we all had to read a lot for school. I can’t judge him for choosing not to spend the rest of his free time on reading.”

    But perhaps she had done so anyway? Should he ask? It was a sensitive topic - almost everything about Granger’s home world was.

    “Did Ginny and Luna’s counterparts fight?” Harry asked before Ron could find the right words.

    “They weren’t in a front-line cell,” Granger replied.

    “But they fought,” Harry went on. Ron saw he was clenching his teeth. How long had his friend been wanting to ask?

    “Luna helped her father run an underground newspaper,” Granger said. “I told you that already.”

    “Yes, you did!” Luna piped up.

    “And Ginny?” Harry’s jaw was set - he wouldn’t leave this alone, Ron knew.

    “Helped Luna and others, mostly as a courier.”

    That sounded rather dangerous. “Courier?” Ron asked.

    “On her broom. She’s an excellent flyer. Everyone said she’d fly for a professional team after school - if not for the war.”

    Ah, yes. Flying brooms. Granger had mentioned them, but Ron still had trouble accepting that they were real. Brooms.

    “She wasn’t trying to smuggle weapons through roadblocks and past patrols, if you were imagining such things,” Granger went on.

    “No. She was just trying to outfly patrols in the sky,” Harry retorted. “As a sixteen-year-old.”

    “She fought Death Eaters at fifteen. As did Luna,” Granger replied matter-of-factly - which Ron thought was a front since he could see that she was tense. “Harry killed a possessed wizard when he was eleven. Ginny was possessed at eleven. She almost killed several students, myself included, and was nearly sacrificed in a dark ritual before Harry and Ron saved her.” She nodded towards the hill on the other side of the lake. “It happened right there. At school.”

    What the hell! “You didn’t mention that before,” Ron said, frowning at her.

    She shrugged. “I prefer to remember the good times,” she told them with a smile. “I was happy at Hogwarts.”

    “Even with all the fights and the war?” Harry asked, narrowing his eyes at her.

    “The war really started after we had left Hogwarts.”

    Which said a lot about how much worse it must have gotten, Ron realised.

    “It was a civil war,” she said with a sad-looking smile, “with all that entails. Death squads were hunting down anyone who might resist the new regime - and anyone who had been born to the wrong parents - while the government covered the country with its vile propaganda, riling up the majority of the population against the minorities. And we - the Order - fought back with everything we had, using every dirty trick we knew. We had to. Defeat meant death, or worse.”

    Ron wasn’t about to ask what she meant by ‘worse’. He had a pretty good idea.

    “Sounds like the partisans in World War Two, just with magic,” Harry remarked.

    “It’s an apt comparison. The Death Eaters classified people like the Nazis did - purebloods, half-bloods and ‘mudbloods’. And they planned to murder all those of ‘tainted blood’.” She scoffed with an expression of loathing on her face.

    “And we’re currently staying in a building co-owned by a supposedly former Nazi spy.” Harry was looking at Granger out of the corners of his eyes while facing the lake, Ron noticed.

    “You agreed that it was the best option,” Granger replied. She sounded rather defensive.

    “We all did,” Ron said before Harry could reply.

    “Yes.” Luna nodded emphatically. “We knew the risks! And we have a goal! Exposing the truth about their secret arms research! And getting Hermione home.”

    Harry frowned but nodded. “As long as you can handle it.”

    “I’ve handled worse,” she told him. “Besides, in this world, I’m not a member of a persecuted minority.”

    “That’s not true,” Luna pointed out. “You’re the only witch in our world, and witches were and are persecuted.”

    Granger seemed at a loss for words, Ron noticed. He chuckled at her expression. “So… let’s finish our walk?” They were about halfway around the lake, after all.

    “Yes,” Granger quickly agreed, then led them on.

    “Was all this part of the school?” Luna asked a few minutes later.

    “It belonged to Hogwarts, but it wasn’t part of the school proper,” Granger replied. “That means it wasn’t protected by the school’s defences, either, though we had an actual path to walk around the lake, not a trail.”

    “Ah.”

    “We didn’t really leave the castle that often, apart from visiting the village on special weekends, and, in summer, spending time at the lake. The Forbidden Forest was dangerous - hostile centaurs, a pack of magic wolves, an entire colony of Acromantulas…”

    “Acromantulas?”

    “Giant, intelligent, man-eating spiders.”

    Ron shuddered and eyed the forest she had indicated. There were no magic creatures, much less spiders, here. Giant spiders would collapse under their own weight without magic. Or suffocate. It was… Damn. He pressed his lips together: “Remember: No testing the Shrinking Solution out here.”

    “I’m not wasting an irreplaceable resource for your amusement,” Granger told him with a huff.

    “The thought of being a tiny human surrounded by dangerous animals that would be giant-sized in comparison isn’t particularly amusing,” he retorted.

    “Oh.” She blinked, then shrugged. “It’s a moot point, anyway - if we’re forced to use our escape plan, we won’t care about a possible threat by animals.”

    Ron disagreed on principle, but it wasn’t worth making an issue out of it.

    “Did you often go swimming?” Luna asked after a moment.

    “Occasionally. Not too often - most of the year, it was too cold for that. Also, the lake was the home of a village of merpeople,” Granger replied. “And they were territorial.”

    Her expression told Ron that this was another sore subject. He shook his head - despite all that, she wanted to go back. She was too stubborn for her own good.

    *****​

    By the time they returned to the laboratory, it had started to rain, though it was barely more than a drizzle - not enough to require an umbrella. It still felt nice to get out of it, of course.

    “Welcome back,” the head of the facility’s security greeted them with all the warmth of a robot.

    Another difference to Granger’s world, Ron thought. Argus Filch had been her school’s janitor. And a ‘squib’ - someone born to a wizard family, but lacking the talent for magic. He had been ‘understandably embittered by his treatment in Wizarding Britain’, as Granger had explained. This Filch, though, didn’t seem embittered at all. Just cold. And he was carrying at least two guns.

    And Ron was certain that the middle-aged man knew how to use them. He had the look of a veteran soldier. Or a career criminal.

    “Would you like a tour of the projected lab area?” Filch asked.

    “Yes, please,” Granger, predictably, replied at once.

    “Are you coming along?” Filch asked, tilting his head fractionally towards them.

    “Of course!” Luna piped up, pulling out her notebook.

    Harry and Ron nodded. They had to stick together here. Granger was correct in assuming that if Dumbledore wished them harm, he didn’t have to go to these lengths to get them to lower their guard, but Ron didn’t trust the old man not to pull something underhanded.

    After all, situations and plans changed all the time.

    “Follow me, please,” Filch said, then turned and led them towards the lifts in the back. The man didn’t seem concerned about being attacked from behind, so he was either very trusting, convinced Harry and Ron wouldn’t suddenly turn on Dumbledore or had someone covering him.

    Ron hadn’t spotted a hidden shooter or guard, yet, but he didn’t take Filch for the overly trusting type - someone like Dumbledore wouldn’t have hired the man as head of security if he were. Well, neither would Ron in Dumbledore’s place. That didn’t mean Ron would trust either of the two men.

    They entered the lift - which, Ron noted, had doors with a much better seal than regular lifts, and larger air ducts as well - and descended to the basement. About two and a half floors, Ron guessed.

    The doors opened with a slight hiss - overpressure in the shaft? That was a thing in a number of books Ron had read - and entered a room that seemed to cover the entire footprint of the building.

    “It’s pretty bare right now, but furniture’s on the way. And the generators are in working order,” Filch announced, pointing towards three huge generators in the corner.

    Granger looked impressed for a moment before she schooled her features. “That looks like it’ll cover my power needs - provided you can keep them fueled. And soundproofed.”

    “That won’t be a problem. We have ample storage capacity,” Filch replied.

    Which, of course, begged the question of what Dumbledore had been planning to do with this building before he had offered it to Granger. Ron studied the floor for a moment. It was freshly cleaned - no dust on it. But there were scratches on the floor, and the generators had been here for a while.

    “What did you use this room for before turning it into Hermione’s lab?” Luna asked. “Advanced weapons research?”

    “I’m not privy to that information,” Filch deflected her question with an utterly bland expression.

    Luna frowned at him, pouting. “Really? Wouldn’t it be part of your duties as security chief to know that? How could you protect the staff otherwise, if anything went wrong?”

    “We’ve got procedures for everything,” Filch replied.

    “Everything? Even spills of radioactive mutagens?” Luna asked.

    “Yes.” Filch’s grin was anything but friendly, and even Luna seemed taken aback - for a moment.

    She perked up at once. “So there are such compounds!”

    “I didn’t say that,” Filch back-pedalled. “Director Dumbledore has a sometimes eccentric sense of humour.”

    “I bet!” Luna replied, nodding several times. She was still taking notes, of course. And if Filch thought that that was the end of it… Well, he didn’t know her as well as Ron did.

    “Alright. With the generators there, and this much power…” Granger was walking through the room, pacing it. “The quantum mirror cage needs to be here.” She pointed at a spot on the ground. “Otherwise, it might be influenced by the magnetic fields of the generators. And I’ll need ample free space around it, with walls here and here. Office space, two standard desks, three filing cabinets, the best computer you can buy - here.”

    “And a cot or two, for quick naps,” Ron added with a grin.

    She blinked, then nodded. “Excellent idea!” Turning to Filch, she went on: “Yes, I need a bed here as well.”

    “You have quarters above.”

    “Yes. But sometimes, I’ll want to take a nap without leaving the lab and wasting time,” she retorted. “There’s enough space for a good bed.”

    “Alright.” Filch sounded bland as before, but Ron thought he caught a glimpse of annoyance in the man’s eyes.

    Ron grinned behind the man’s back. Granger had that effect if you didn’t know her well. But she grew on you. Well, probably not on Filch. Ron still didn’t have the man’s measure - could be a former spy, former soldier or former criminal - but he was pretty sure that the man would never like being ordered around by a girl half his age, no matter her brilliance.

    “So, how long will it take to get the lab up and running?” he asked, making a point of looking around the bare room.

    “Two weeks, as far as I know,” Filch replied. “I’m no expert, though.”

    “As soon as the computers arrive, I can start working. Most of the heavier equipment is required for practical experiments, but there’s still some theoretical work to be done. However, even that sort of research will involve experiments at some point,” Granger said. “You’ll have to be careful, though, or some of the specialised equipment will lead others to us.”

    “That’s being handled.” Filch didn’t quite snap, but it was obvious that he wanted to tell Granger off for telling him how to do his job.

    Granger, though, either missed that or ignored it. “Good. Now, we’ll also need to purchase some personal effects. Books, clothes, those sorts of things.”

    “Just give us a list,” Filch told her.

    “Oh, free stuff!” Luna exclaimed - as if she’d trust anything purchased by Dumbledore’s agents without checking it thoroughly first. “What about conjugal visits?”

    “What?”

    “Conjugal visits, you know, when your spouse…”

    “I know what they are!” Filch snapped. A possible hint that he had been in prison, perhaps?

    “Good!” Luna continued, seemingly unflappable. “It only concerns Harry right now, but any one of us might find a life partner in the future, so how’s that being handled?”

    “Not by a list, I hope,” Harry added with a grin.

    “This is a secure site. No visitors are allowed.”

    “So we’ll have to go out to meet our respective and prospective sexual partners? I guess it’s traditional - many people go clubbing for that purpose…” Luna pulled on her lower lip with the fingers of her left hand.

    Ron smirked - behind Filch’s back. Luna was a treat, even though he couldn’t tell how serious she was right now, either. But that was part of her charm.

    “Clubbing?” Filch blinked.

    “Yes. Young people - and we are still young by most sane definitions - often go clubbing. The nightclub and dance venue thing. Not the killing baby seals thing, you know.”

    “That’s a security risk.”

    “That’s why we’re asking you as the Head of Security,” Luna went on. Her tone added a clearly understood, if silent, ‘you dummy’ to her sentence.

    Ron glanced at Granger. She was not even bothering to hide her own smirk, he noticed.

    He approved.

    *****​

    Black Lake, Scotland, Britain, July 14th, 2005

    “Allons enfants de la Patrie-i-i-e! Le jour de gloire est arrivé!”

    Luna was in better shape than Ron had expected. Even after a light jog - or, for half the route, a more or less quick march - halfway around the lake, she still had enough breath to sing the French national anthem. Granger, however, could barely keep up, Ron noticed.

    He called a break. “Let’s rest a little.”

    Granger collapsed on the grass, chest heaving. “I need to get in better shape,” she wheezed.

    “Yes,” Harry told her in a flat voice, which earned him a glare. She didn’t say anything, though. Just pulled on the black top of her sweatsuit to let more air through and fiddled with the straps on the backpack containing her magic bag.

    Luna sat down next to her. Her own sweatsuit bore all the colours of the rainbow - she had, apparently, managed to find one that had been used in a paintball match with stains that hadn’t come out in the wash. At least Harry and Ron had sensible grey sweatsuits. “We need to tell Mr Miller to pick a menu in honour of the fourteenth of July,” she said. “Something French.”

    “Last I checked, most of his menus were based on French cuisine,” Granger remarked.

    “Well, something extra-French, then,” Luna replied, undaunted. “Dinner was excellent.”

    Ron nodded. He preferred his chips thick and with vinegar. But the pommes frites had been tasty. And the filets…

    “Don’t drool,” Harry said, in a dry voice.

    Ron frowned at his friend. “Mum’s a much better cook.”

    “Of course she is. But that doesn’t mean that the food here’s bad.”

    “The Mrs Weasley I knew cooked much better, too,” Granger cut in.

    “You’ll have to visit Mum and Dad,” Ron said without thinking, “so you can compare their meals.”

    “I’d love to,” Granger replied before blinking. “Well, if it’s possible one day,” she added, “without endangering your family, of course.”

    “Of course,” Ron said, nodding.

    “You’ll have to visit when Molly’s making her roast,” Luna told her.

    “She’ll do requests when Ron’s bringing a girl.” Harry chuckled.

    Ron frowned at him, then started to stretch. Although Harry wasn’t entirely wrong - Mum went all-out if any of her boys brought home a girl. Which was part of the reason none of Ron’s brothers had yet married.

    Granger was stretching too, now. Though she wasn’t doing it right, he noticed. He stopped and went over to her. “You need to lean in more,” he told her.

    “What?”

    “You need to lean in more.” He demonstrated. ”Like this.”

    “I’m trying,” she snapped.

    “Let me help.” He reached out and adjusted her foot. “You won’t twist it like this.”

    “Ah.”

    He ran her through a few more stretching exercises. She wasn’t really in bad shape - Harry and Ron were simply in top shape. And Luna… well, Ron knew that she had kept up the running she had started when they were dating.

    “Thank you,” she said with a smile as they got ready for the second leg of their run. “You’re good at that.”

    He nodded at the compliment. “You just lack endurance. That’ll change soon enough.”

    She looked at him for a moment, lips pressed together, then started to run.

    A little too fast to talk.

    Although, as Luna demonstrated, not too fast to sing.

    *****​

    It was a good thing that the group needed to go on runs to talk freely, or Granger would probably never leave her room. Ron certainly hadn’t even caught a glimpse of her since she had gone to her temporary office after lunch. Which made keeping guard in the ‘lounge’ down the hall leading to their rooms more than a little boring. Especially since the one seat with a good view down the hallway, and, therefore, of Granger’s door, was a little too exposed for Ron’s taste.

    Dumbledore probably had several ways to deal with them without having them jumped by armed assailants, but Ron couldn’t help wishing he had some cover. At least he had his back to a wall - which he had checked for concealed firing ports or other surprises, of course.

    “You look bored!”

    Luna had returned from her foray to the kitchen, carrying a big basket full of snacks. And sweets, knowing her.

    “Guarding someone is almost never exciting,” he told her.

    “Unless things go really wrong, right?”

    He nodded - these had been his words, after all. Years ago.

    “Sandwich?” She pulled out what looked like a roast beef sandwich. White bread, fortunately - Ron wasn’t a fan of the dark, sour bread the kitchen seemed to offer by default.

    “Thanks.”

    “Even boring work is hungry work,” she commented, letting herself fall into the seat next to him. “Harry’s asleep?”

    “Yes.” Resting, at least.

    “And Hermione’s lost in her work.” Luna shook her head. “Did you check that she’s taking enough breaks?”

    “I don’t want to disturb her.”

    “You’re not a good bodyguard, then.” She was smiling at him as she quoted another line of his and grabbed a sandwich of her own. Tuna. Probably her own recipe - she had managed to get Mum to use that recipe, so hired cooks wouldn’t stand a chance, in Ron’s opinion.

    “Circumstances were different back then,” he replied. Luna had been working herself to the bone with her bunker project.

    “Mhhh.” She didn’t look convinced.

    “I’ll step in once she starts falling asleep at the table.” He grinned at her, remembering that incident. In hindsight, it was pretty funny.

    “Does that mean you’ll take her out on a date?” Luna leaned forward, finishing her sandwich in a few quick bites.

    “What?” He blinked, then shook his head. “She’s dating her Ron.”

    “Ah.”

    Or she had been - seven years was a long time. His counterpart might even be dead. Ron took another bite and forced the thought away. No sense dwelling on that sort of nonsense.

    *****​

    Black Lake, Scotland, Britain, July 15th, 2005

    The weather was cloudy, but it wasn’t raining. Perfect for a morning run in summer. A cross-country run, of course - the best they had were trails in the forest parts of the route. Ron liked the challenge - running on a track was usually mind-numbing, unless you were competing.

    Granger, though, wasn’t enjoying the experience any more than their first run. “Do we need to run through the forest?” she complained at their first break. “I’m not fond of roots and other stumbling hazards.”

    “We need to vary our routes,” Harry replied. “Otherwise, Dumbledore’s men will bug them so they can listen to our conversations.”

    “Given enough time and resources, they could cover the entire area, eventually,” Ron added, “but it’s not yet an urgent problem.”

    Granger sighed. She looked tense, Ron noticed - tenser than yesterday. He stepped closer to her, ducking under a branch. “Bad memories?”

    She pressed her lips together, which was answer enough.

    *****​

    Hogwarts. From her spot at the edge of the forest, she could see the school on the hill across the lake. At night, the lake matched its name perfectly - it was pitch black, with the dim reflection of a few lights from the castle only emphasising its darkness.

    For years, it had been her home. Hers and her friends’. But that had changed. It wasn’t her home. Not any more. Muggleborns were banned from Hogwarts. McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout, Vector… all the good teachers, everyone who opposed Voldemort’s ideology, were gone. They had quit or disappeared. By all accounts, the school had been turned into a Death Eater training camp, with the half-bloods serving as the training dummies for the Dark Arts.

    She shuddered, remembering her time as a prisoner in Malfoy Manor. Her torture at the hands of… She shook her head, clenching her jaw. It was over. She was free. And Lestrange would never hurt anyone ever again.

    A sudden touch on her back made her gasp. But it was warm - a hand.

    “You don’t have to come.”

    Ron. She slowly turned to face him. “I have to.”

    “Snape’s sneaking us in. We just have to search the Room of Requirement. Harry and I can do that.”

    “We’ll be faster with one more set of eyes. And one more wand.” Even if it wasn’t her original wand. Even if it had been used to torture her. But they needed her. They didn’t have very much time to find the Horcrux.

    “Dobby could get elves to help. Hell, Snape could order some to help us.”

    She shook her head. “They can’t help with the search.” House-elves couldn’t deal with Horcruxes. Couldn’t even be near them without being corrupted. A second Kreacher would doom them all. “They can act as lookouts, nothing more. You need me.”

    He stared at her. Then he slowly nodded and hugged her.

    And for a moment, she was at peace.

    *****​
     
  30. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Joined:
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    So the laboratory has been determined and it's Hogwarts. I guess Hermione will open an interdimensional portal right into the dungeons. I guess that'll only take two more chapters?
     
    Starfox5 likes this.
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