Year Zero

Stage 06 - Reunions


When Emma opened the front door to see who had knocked, she found a girl of perhaps seven or eight years with hair dyed lime green. In her arms, the girl held a Cheese-kun plushie a size too big. It was a few weeks too late for Halloween, but then this was hardly the first time a starry-eyed young fan had shown up on the doorstep.

“Hello there,” Emma said. “I like your costume.”

The girl tilted her head to the side. “Costume?”

Ah… It was going to be one of those visits. “You’re C.C., right?”

“Yes, actually. I’m surprised you know about me.”

Emma adopted her best mysterious smile. “Oh, I have my ways. I assume you want to speak with my daughter.”

The girl nodded.

“I’ll see if she’s available for you. Feel free to wait on the sofa if you’d like.”

The girl accepted the offer and made herself comfortable. Meanwhile, Emma headed upstairs and tracked down Hermione in the potions lab. She knocked first, not knowing if there would be any noxious fumes to beware of, and received the all clear to enter a moment later.

“You have a fan here to see you,” Emma said as she poked her head inside. “An adorable little girl dressed up and roleplaying as C.C.. She even has a Cheese-kun.”

“Yeah, don’t guilt me into anything, Mum, thanks.” This elicited a few chuckles from the woman in question. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

“I’ll let her know.”

Back downstairs, Emma passed the word on with the warning that it would be about ten minutes before Hermione actually managed to disentangle herself from her current project. To tide the young girl over, Emma offered to make a cup of hot cocoa to take away the early winter chill. She made three in the end, one for each of them, and sat down on the chair opposite their guest.

“Have you been reading long?” Emma asked.

The girl quirked an eyebrow at the question. “For about six hundred years now,” she stated simply.

“Of course.” Emma smiled and nodded with the tacit assumption that the girl had picked up Hermione’s book on day one. The lower end of the target audience was a few years older than that would have made her, but no matter. “What was your favourite moment from the Black Rebellion?”

“Favourite…moment?” The girl gave Emma an odd look. Eventually, she replied, “When I kissed Lelouch, I suppose,” before taking a long, slow sip from her drink. “Hmm, I probably shouldn’t have said that without asking what you already know.”

“Oh, I know everything.” Beyond the extra information Hermione had told her that hadn’t gone into the book, Emma had been one of the editors. There were no spoilers for her.

Again, the girl favoured Emma with an odd look as she asked, “Everything?”

“Mhm.”

“Well, I’ll be. Brave girl.”

At this moment, Hermione finally descended the stairs to come and join them. She spied her cocoa far in advance of it being offered to her and snatched it up as though the chocolate were precious ambrosia delivered by the gods themselves. Emma rolled her eyes. Honestly, that girl and her sweet tooth.

“Kallen?”

Hermione, with a dark line on her upper lip, looked up from her drink and took in their guest. To Emma, she said, “You were right,” before turning back to the girl. “You’re not wrong, but my real name is Hermione Granger. I don’t believe I caught yours.”

The girl let out an amused snort with just a hint of irritation. “Those are your first words to me? I do believe we were in the middle of something when we were interrupted.”

“Oh. Uh…sorry?” Hermione, bemused, looked uncertainly between the girl and Emma.

On her own end, Emma shrugged. She didn’t feel as though her conversation with the girl had been all that important compared to meeting the author herself.

“You’ll make it up to me, I’m sure. Anyway, my official name here is Luna Lovegood. I go by L.L..”

“Huh? What do you mean by here?”

Emma herself wanted to know the answer to that as well. If they had a young visitor to the country lost and wandering around in their house, they would need to contact the police.

“This world. What else would I mean?”

A moment passed as Hermione and L.L. stared at each other in mutual confusion. And then the former’s eyes widened. The beginnings of what sounded like a name slipped past her lips.

The girl glared Hermione into immediate silence.

With an oddly apologetic look, Hermione descended into a rapid exchange with L.L. in another language that didn’t sound at all like Japanese or the smatterings of French she’d picked up on holiday. That could only mean one thing. Emma turned in surprise to the new girl, but that surprise turned into shock after their conversation abruptly ended a few minutes later.


As a test, just to be sure, Kallen switched to Britannian English. “Is that really you, C.C.?” To her delight, the girl did the same.

“Of course it is. Who else did you think I was?”

“I don’t know. Some random fan. You’re hardly the first you my parents or I have seen. Cosplay isn’t exclusive to Japan, you know.”

“Cosplay? What on Earth are you talking about?”

Kallen opened her mouth to respond when a thought struck her. “You haven’t read my book, have you?”

You wrote a book?”

While she felt she should be offended by the comment, Kallen let it go in the excitement of the witch’s return. “It’s more of a biography of Lelouch’s life than a novel, but yeah. Not to brag, but I’m about as famous here now as I was back in our world. I assumed that’s what led you here.”

C.C. hummed in mild interest before moving on. “No, Lelouch told me where you lived, so I came to pick you up.”

A dazzling smile that almost hurt grew on Kallen’s face.

“He would have come himself, but he says he’s being watched.”

As much as she wished to simply charge off with C.C. and be reunited with Lelouch, Kallen asked, “Is it safe for me to go? Wouldn’t it draw attention if I suddenly showed up out of nowhere?” That was the only reason she’d not yet knocked on the Weasleys’ front door. She knew where Lelouch was, of course – it was all over the news – but had been waiting for him to contact her or invent an excuse to bump into each other.

“Among the many benefits of being a Lovegood,” C.C. began, “is that no one questions you. I could introduce Lelouch to a pink llama from Africa named Henry the Fifth, and no one would bat an eye.”

“What–” Thinking better of asking, Kallen shook her head. I don’t even want to know. So long as Lelouch thought this was a good idea, that was good enough for her. “Anything I should know before we leave?”

C.C. hummed in thought for a moment. “Only that magic is supposed to be kept secret from the nonmagical and that we’re headed to a magical home. You’re invited to Pandora Lovegood’s birthday party as my guest.”

With a nod, Kallen asked, “Your mother?”

“Biologically speaking.”

Oh. Although willing to increase her body count, Kallen hoped she didn’t have another crisis on her hands. “Do you not get on well with your parents here?”

C.C. shrugged. “Pandora and Xeno are about the best I could have asked for in my situation, but do you honestly think I’m looking for parents in my life?”

The only honest answer Kallen could give was, “No.” She stole a glance at her own second mother. It seemed such a waste to throw away another chance at life, but that was C.C.’s decision to make. “Shall we head out, then?”

“One more thing. What are we telling Lelouch about us?”

A blush crept up Kallen’s cheeks despite her best efforts to push it down. “I think a better question is where do we stand with each other without grief and alcohol involved? We didn’t exactly have the most healthy relationship.”

“I’ve seen far worse ones,” C.C. commented.

“The magnitude doesn’t change its nature.”

Kallen breathed deeply and considered her feelings. With Lelouch back amongst the living, she’d somewhat let the matter of C.C. fall by the wayside. That hardly boded well for any relationship she might strike up again with the witch. Worse, a not inconsiderable part of her feared Lelouch would choose C.C. over her or even both of them.

Yet at the same time, friendship was the basis of any good relationship. Despite how utterly mad C.C. drove her at times, the witch had grown to become her closest friend after Nunnally. And it wasn’t like she could credibly deny that she’d enjoyed the physical aspect of that friendship.

Decided, Kallen said, “I’m amenable to a ménage à trois if you are. Or at least to making the attempt.”

“That’s fine with me.” C.C. quickly downed the last of her cocoa and then crossed the distance between them. “But on the subject, I believe we were in the middle of something when we last met.”

“We’re not old enou – mmph.” Despite how little it did for her physically, Kallen relaxed into the kiss and returned it in short order. When they broke apart, she put her foot down. “Not like this. My parents don’t need to deal with watching their nine-year-old snogging on top of everything else.”

“Hermione Jean Granger, what do you think you’re doing!”

Kallen switched back to this world’s English. “I’m sorry. I tried to tell her not to, that we’re too young, but C.C. is like a cat. She does whatever she wants. I will try my best to keep her under control in the future.”

A derisive snort emanated from said girl promising more headaches than she might be worth.

“That’s hardly the problem, young lady.”

Confused, Kallen exchanged a look with C.C. but only received a shrug in answer to her silent question. She turned back to her mother. “Then…what is?”

Emma now looked just as confused. She opened her mouth a few times to speak but no words came out. Finally, she asked, “What about Lelouch?”

Even more bewildered now, Kallen replied, “What about him?”

“Don’t you love him? How do you think he would feel if he knew about this?”

C.C. answered that with a snarky, “Annoyed that he isn’t four or five years older, I’m sure.”

“Sounds about right,” Kallen added. It certainly summed up her own feelings on the matter.

“But…” Emma found herself lost for words and slumped into her seat. “I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I. What precisely are you objecting to?” Kallen asked.

A quick explanation followed.

“Britain is monogamous?” Kallen exclaimed in disbelief. She’d not noticed any plural marriages, sure, but she also hadn’t been paying that much attention. There had been so many more important things to investigate. “And what is your deal with bisexuality?”

C.C., meanwhile, howled in laughter inside her own head, Kallen was sure. That smug look on her face said everything for her. Then she had the audacity to comment, “For someone who considers herself Japanese, you have some strong Britannian traits and beliefs.”

In that very language, Kallen told C.C. to shut up, but the witch had made a point. This was approximately her world’s Europe in the eighties. Marriage in Japan was a bit of a nebulous concept as a result of competing European and Britannian influences on its own culture, but she’d grown up firmly on the Britannian side of divide with all the expectations therein. It hadn’t occurred to her that Britain would be so different.

Kallen turned back to her mother, gnawing on her lip as she searched for the right words. “I’ll keep C.C. and me out of your face for…well, years, because I’m nine and she’s–”

“Seven,” C.C. helpfully inserted.

“But please try to understand I’ll always have one foot in another culture,” Kallen continued. She bowed in Japanese style to emphasise the point. “I appreciate your understanding about my dual identities so far but beg your indulgence one step further.”

Despite the obvious disapproval in her eyes, Emma relented for the moment. “This is rather the culture shock for me.”

“Like me being a knight?” That had been a stumbling point in the family dynamic as well, but Kallen’s parents had ultimately come around to the idea after she’d compromised to try their way to save Lelouch first. And made a legitimate effort toward that end, of course. This time she’d put forward the compromise; the ball was in her mother’s court.

Emma nodded. “I’ll speak with your father, but…this is going to require some adjustment for the both of us.” She hesitated a moment. “You should know that homosexuality isn’t outright illegal anymore in Britain, but it’s still highly stigmatised. And polygamy is an entirely separate can of worms.”

That just made them both another cause to throw onto the fires of purpose within. Kallen knew this world’s Europe would probably resolve the former on its own, but she would get involved in the future if she had the time. Thus she dismissed the warning – and possibly the attempt to warn her off – with a wave of her hand. “I’m wealthy enough not to care what society thinks of me.” Disregarding the advantages magic gave her, she had more than enough money to live on for the rest of her life even if the world treated her like a leper until the very day she died.

“Anyway,” Kallen said, “I’ve been invited to a party where I can ‘meet’ Lelouch. I’m going to head out.” She paused, a little scared to ask, but forced herself to push on in the end. In a smaller voice than she’d like, she asked, “Do I get a goodbye hug?”

Emma’s expression softened as a hint of guilt found its way onto her face. “Of course, princess.” If the embrace were any less loving than before, Kallen didn’t notice.

What Kallen did notice was C.C.’s smirk. “What?”

“Nothing, princess.”

“There’s a Queen Hermione in Shakespeare in this world,” Kallen protested. “It has nothing to do with anything else.”

“I believe you, Q1.”

A fierce blush crept up Kallen’s face. Why did she put up with the witch again?

“Let’s just go.” Kallen grabbed C.C.’s hand and pulled her toward the door.

Once they were outside, C.C. asked, “A knight? Did Nunnally make it official when I wasn’t paying attention?”

“No.” Strong-arming Suzaku into appointing her as Her Imperial Majesty Empress Nunnally’s personal bodyguard instead of his own had been the best decision of her life post Zero Requiem, but she’d remained officially attached to the Black Knights. “You know very well Lelouch treated me as his knight of honour until he pushed me out of his life. I might not have recognised it until after the fact, but that doesn’t make it any less true.”

“Fair enough.”

“So how are we getting to your place? By portkey?”

“Nah.” C.C. walked them to the kerb and pulled out a wand. She held it up and summoned the Knight Bus.

“That works too.”


After departing the Knight Bus in Ottery St Catchpole, C.C. made a hard turn off the pavement and into the woods with Kallen following at her side. As they neared the Lovegood property, she took Kallen’s hand and led her across the muggle-repelling ward line.

They first paid a stop to the Rookery and the party. There they found Xeno, and C.C. handed him back his wand with her thanks for letting her borrow it.

“No problem, moonbeam.”

C.C. heard Kallen snigger in revenge, but she ignored it without a care. Unlike the queen, she was not so easily flustered.

“So this is your friend, then?”

Kallen stepped forward and introduced herself. “My name is Hermione Granger. Pleased to meet you, Mr Lovegood.”

“Just Xeno, please, or Xenophilius if you must.” The man hummed in thought. “I don’t recall the Granger family. Where did you two meet?”

“On one of our expeditions in Sussex,” C.C. lied.

“Oh dear. Why don’t you two go play for now, but I need to see you both before Hermione leaves.”

Knowing exactly why Xeno had requested that, C.C. replied, “No need. She already knows about magic.” If that knowledge hadn’t exactly come legally, no mention needed to made of that little fact.

“Oh, okay then. Have fun.”

C.C. nodded and pulled Kallen off by the hand while the latter said, “Thank you for having me.”

With that, they disappeared before any of the Weasleys could corner them and ask where Lelouch had gone. C.C. led them down past the gargling brook and carefully through the snargaluff field back into the forest surrounding Ottery St Catchpole. Still on the property, she pushed aside some shrubbery to reveal the entrance to a cave system. Xeno had acquired a giant mole a couple years ago, but it’d escaped confinement not long after and dug its way to freedom. Or it had until the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures had gotten wind of its flight.

“Don’t mind the horklump. They’re harmless.”

Kallen quirked an eyebrow. “Horklump?” Nonetheless, she descended into the tunnel with C.C. following right behind her.

“Looks like a fungus, but they’re actually animals that prey on earthworms with their muscular mycelium. The gnome infestation keeps itself mostly to the Burrow next door, but you may run into one or two eating the horklump. Just kick them out of the way if they bother you.”

“Right…”

The short trip through the tunnels went without incident until they came to the giant mole’s nest. Pandora had jumped at the chance to break reality when C.C. had asked her to reinforce and expand the space inside. Instead of a little, spacious hole underground, they walked into a comfortable living space complete with both shag carpeting and a tasteful floral wallpaper. It was a bit bare in furnishings at the moment, but it would serve well as a secret meeting place in the future.

In the midst of it all sat Lelouch. His head snapped up from his book when he heard them enter, the eager anticipation for reunion so plainly written on his face. “Kallen?” The girl in question nodded with a voiceless reply as she rushed forward. He stood and waited for her to come to him, arms extended in invitation.

Kallen punched him in the face. Lelouch fell heavily onto his seat under the blow. C.C. just laughed.

“That’s for the Zero Requiem, you bastard. You of all people should know how fucking traumatic that front row seat was for me, let alone your sister.”

A groan emanated from the lump in the otherwise fluffy armchair. “I suppose I deserved that.”

“You’re getting off lightly.” Kallen straddled Lelouch on the chair. Once she had him pinned in one place, she cupped his uninjured cheek with a hand and leaned forward. When they separated mere seconds later, warm smiles decorated both of their faces. “Kallen Kōzuki reporting for duty, Your Majesty.”

“Welcome back, Q1. I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too.” Kallen cuddled into Lelouch as she sighed the words and he wrapped his arms around her.

C.C. moved to catch Kallen’s attention. She smirked and nodded at Lelouch. From the way Kallen’s eyes lit up in amusement, she assumed her meaning got across and so made a show of clearing her throat.

“Ah.” Lelouch started at the reminder of the third presence in the room. “Kallen, there’s something you should know.”

With well feigned worry underlying her voice, Kallen asked, “What is it?”

“Please don’t mistake me for my father, but I ran into C.C. first entirely by accident, and we had a…discussion.”

Kallen pulled back. “What kind of discussion?” she asked in a small voice. That girl was far too good at playing innocent.

In answer, C.C. approached Lelouch from behind and leaned her head against his. Her arm wrapped around his neck down onto his chest and pulled him closer. “I’ve already claimed your man. That kind of discussion.”

“No!” Kallen cried. “Lelouch, why? I – I thought–”

Lelouch growled in frustration and removed C.C.’s arm from him. “Must you antagonise Kallen at every opportunity?”

“Yes,” C.C. stated plainly. Then having had her fun, she dropped the bomb. “She gets off on it.”

“What?”

Simultaneously, Kallen sat bolt upright and said, “I do not!”

“Oh? I seem to remember our little games getting you all hot and bothered. I’d trick you into embarrassing yourself. You’d get upset. We’d banter back and forth a bit. You’d lose. Then we’d invariably end up in bed together. With me on top, of course.”

Kallen cracked her knuckles slowly, warningly, with a dangerous smile on her face. “Oh Lelouch, it’s terrible. C.C. has gone senile in her old age.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, you’re the oldest one here.”

“You wanna run that by me again, Obā-san?”

“Ladies, enough,” Lelouch said. Reluctantly, C.C. relented and Kallen backed down. “Explain.”

Kallen let out an exasperated sigh and spoke first. “C.C. and I met up on the first anniversary of your death to mourn together. We ended up four sheets to the wind and woke up in the same bed the next morning starkers and smelling of sex. I reached for the brain bleach, which might not have been the best response to the situation, but whatever. It happened again that night.

“It wasn’t exactly a healthy relationship we fell into. C.C. would wander off for a while and show back up unannounced after a few weeks. Sometimes alcohol got involved. Sometimes it didn’t. Then she’d wander off again and repeat the whole cycle. We’ve agreed to try a healthier approach this time with you.”

After a few moments spent processing the admission, Lelouch said, “I confess this is…unexpected.”

“I did write our witch in the dedication, you know.”

“You did,” Lelouch acknowledged. “But this isn’t the conclusion my mind leapt to. I’d much sooner expect you two at each other’s throat.”

“There was plenty of that as well,” C.C. commented saucily. “I can’t tell you how many times she’s shot me after I informed her exactly how immortal I was.”

“Zero! Zero times! Will you stop lying to our…” Kallen glanced down at Lelouch.

“Whatever you wish,” Lelouch said in answer to the silent question. “I’ve learnt the value of what I had within reach while in this world, so I’m well and truly committed.”

Oh-ho. How bold.

Kallen flushed and stammered for a bit before descending into incoherent mumbles.

“How about ‘lover’?” Lelouch suggested. “It’s gender neutral, and there’s nowhere in this world with the legal structure to suit our needs anyway.”

“The queen could have used that heads up about an hour ago,” C.C. commented.

Lelouch quirked an eyebrow at the girl still sitting astride his lap.

“My mother and I may have embarrassed ourselves with some contrasting assumptions about how marriage works. Not that our witch was of any help.”

C.C. halfheartedly raised her hands in protestation of her innocence. “I’m a stranger in a strange land just like you.”

With an intense frown, Kallen leaned in to whisper something to Lelouch. He, in turn, whispered something back, to which she said, “I knew it! That book didn’t exist in our world!”

Book? “What are you talking about? It’s a biblical reference, you uncultured, godless Brits.”

The two children who’d been raised long after Britannia’s split from Christianity exchanged looks, and then both burst into laughter. After a little while, even C.C. couldn’t resist a small smile. She might not quite understand the joke, but she had people to laugh with again. That alone was worth more than any treasure.


“It’s a biblical reference, you uncultured, godless Brits.”

Lelouch exchanged a look with Kallen. C.C. wasn’t wrong in any respect, he was sure, but coming from her of all people, well, he couldn’t help but laugh. Kallen joined him. She knew more than enough about C.C.’s past and ‘God’ for the absurdity of the situation to fully hit her.

As he calmed, Lelouch said, “It looks like each of us has embarked on a different cultural journey while here. We’re going to need to spend a considerable amount of time swapping notes.”

C.C. didn’t really care that much, Lelouch knew, but the weight of numbers would be against her. Kallen muttered something under her breath and gave him a firm nod that shook her hair – her long, wavy brown hair. That would take some getting used to, especially with him and C.C. both in their natural colours and preferred styles. He made a mental note to have a private word with her later to see if she held any interest in colour changing charms. Such should not attract any untoward attention in the nonmagical world.

But on the subject of the nonmagical, Lelouch had something to address. Kallen had helped him with his familial problems. Now it was time to return the favour. “Before I forget, are things going well for you at home?” He assumed she had a comfortable life here, but he had to be sure.

A brief frown turned into a wide smile as Kallen nodded. “Mum and Dad are wonderful. I’ve told them almost everything. We have some cultural issues to work out between us from time to time, but Grangers have better communication skills by far than either Stadtfelds or Kōzuki.” Her gaze fell. “All of us do.”

Lelouch took both of Kallen’s hands in his own. She looked up, and the self-recrimination fell from her face. “I’m happy for you.” He’d lost his own second chance to a maniac, and C.C. simply didn’t care, but at least one of them had a fresh start. Probably the one who actually deserved it, if he were being honest.

Kallen gave him a chaste kiss for the words.

“Well then, now that we’re all caught up, shall we get down to business?”

It was promptly agreed. They relocated to the circular table in the room. Once seated about it, they each took a stack of paper and a pen for any necessary note taking and list making. Lelouch then started them off.

“I’ve updated both of you individually on most of my life here already. Kallen dealt with the elder Dursleys for me. Thank you for that.”

“It was a pleasure.”

“I’m sure,” Lelouch said. He understood the feeling perfectly well. “Unfortunately, the Ministry for Magic has seen fit to place Dudley with me. I’m unsure as to why, but I assume it has something to do with some magical property of our close blood relation.” Between the culture and the magic system, he considered that a fair guess. “Regardless, the Weasleys don’t tolerate his behaviour, so I’m inclined to let that situation resolve itself on its own.

“On another note, I have a small fortune waiting for me when I come of age and an absurd amount of undue fame that we can turn to our advantage. Once we determine what we wish to do, that is.

“Lastly, the magical world appears to value bloodlines as much as or more than Britannia. We need to determine what marital pressures can be put on us and resolve them before they become a problem if we can. In particular, Ginny Weasley is very taken with me.”

Kallen made a show of writing down, ‘Stake Claim,’ and then underlining it three times with aplomb.

Perhaps not too surprisingly coming from a woman who’d lived in the shadows most of her life, C.C. said, “Kallen can be the official wife if necessary. I’m not in any danger. Xeno and Pandora are besotted with each other and want their happily ever after for me as well. They’re also not vulnerable to magical subterfuge the way the Grangers are.”

Through the blush spanning from her cheeks all the way down her neck, Kallen offered her thanks for the consideration.

Lelouch found nothing disagreeable with that, so he passed the baton on to C.C..

“My situation is ideal. Xeno and Pandora are both so eccentric that they don’t understand that there’s anything off about me. I merely don’t directly challenge that belief and get on well enough with them.”

“I can’t imagine why.” Kallen pointedly directed her gaze onto the Cheese-kun in C.C.’s lap. “It’s not like you have an eccentric indulgence of your own or something.”

“Hmph.” Hugging her plushie closer, C.C. continued, “I also have some good news, bad news. The good news is I’ve discovered the source of magic in this world.”

Lelouch’s eyes widened in equal measure with amusement and dread. Of course she would just announce something that, as far as he knew from his short exposure, had baffled scholars for centuries so casually. But if that was the good news…

“The bad news is magic isn’t real. Someone reversed all the Thought Elevators’ functionality, probably gene-locked their use somehow, and sealed them away. Our beliefs affect the world around us, which is why intent matters with magic. The closer you are to a Thought Elevator, the more pronounced the effects of C’s World on reality.”

Kallen slowly broke from her shock as she asked, “So you’re saying that if someone turned the Thought Elevators off–”

“–it would be a disaster resulting in millions of casualties and orders of magnitude more lifeforms poofing out of existence,” C.C. finished. “Yes.”

“On the other hand,” Lelouch mused, “if someone removed the gene-lock, anyone could use magic.” That might be an interesting cause to pursue. It’d have to be done carefully, however, to avoid plunging the world into chaos.

Having overheard him, C.C. said, “I will warn you in advance. I have absolutely no idea how one would go about manipulating the Thought Elevators like that. Your mother or father might have, but they spent decades tinkering with them.”

Lelouch nodded in acknowledgement. They certainly had the time if they chose to pursue that goal but would have to weigh it against other opportunities.

“I have nothing else. Kallen?”

The girl in question straightened in her chair and wore a pleased smile. “I’ve been busy since Lelouch first contacted me.” She untied a small leather bag from the waist of her jeans and placed it onto the table. She reached a hand inside of it and began pulling out book after book to both Lelouch’s and C.C.’s great surprise. “I found my way to Diagon Alley. I’ve been devouring knowledge ever since.” She at last stopped and set to straightening her piles.

“This isn’t a comprehensive collection of all mind magics, but it’s enough to hold us over for years. I also have here the full, current legal code of Magical Britain. This is a muggleborn encyclopedia. This one is an introductory book. This covers a number of useful potions and hundreds more of lesser interest. Basic combat. First aid. Uh… Oh! This is the history book. I’ve modified all the covers, you see, in case I had the opportunity to pass them off to Lelouch. These are his copies. It wouldn’t do for his gaoler to think he’s getting ideas above his station, after all, but we can just start a library here and use more temporary measures in the future.”

Finally, Kallen stopped to take a breath long after she should have suffered from asphyxiation and looked up. “What?”

“You are absolutely brilliant.”

Kallen blushed at the praise.

“You swot,” C.C. teased. “An author, and now this? How bookish you’ve become in this world.”

“Well what was I supposed to do with my time? There’s barely Internet. I can’t connect with children my age. I could ace my A-levels right now if I wanted. I’m too young for most things. And I can only play Super Mario Bros so many times.”

Lelouch felt his eyebrows rise as he turned from the treasure trove on the table before him back to Kallen. “You play videogames?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Just surprised. I used to play a lot at Aries Villa. Mostly with Milly.” Those were simpler times. Even with the revelation of what his mother had been up to, Lelouch still looked back on his childhood fondly. “Do the Zelda titles exist here?”

What defensiveness had been in Kallen’s voice faded away. “Only the first two are out yet.”

“What a shame. We’ll have to play together sometime.”

“I’m game. C.C.?”

The witch had tuned them out. When called upon, she looked up from the book she’d pulled from one of the piles and said, “Not my thing.”

Lelouch turned his attention back to the mountain of books before him. His eyes fell onto the one Kallen had identified as filled with first aid magic. “Do you know if there’s a spell in there we could cast or a potion I could drink to heal my face?”

With a sigh and a few muttered words, Kallen pulled the book from the stack. She set it in front of her and paged through it until she found the right spell. “Seems easy enough. Broken bones and bruises aren’t that hard to set right, although I’d feel better if we started with a diagnostic to ensure we don’t do anything wrong or miss something.” She flipped to an entirely different section of the book and began reading.

A few minutes later, Kallen reached into her bag again and withdrew a nearly white wand with just a hint of red to give it a pink glow. It had no handle but was wreathed in ornamental flames with scales at the base. It fit her perfectly and looked positively draconic.

Lelouch allowed himself some light laughter. “Is there anything you don’t have in that bag of yours?”

“Plenty. My potions lab is at home. Now hold still for a moment.”

And then Kallen proceeded to cast a series of diagnostic spells.

Lelouch blinked. No, he’d not imagined it.

Across the table, C.C.’s book lay forgotten in her hands.

“It looks like you only have some bruising. And swelling, of course. Nothing fractured. I didn’t think I hit you that hard, but better to know than assume.” Kallen turned back to the actual healing spells. “It says here that if you feel like you have ants crawling out of your eyes, you should tell me immediately. And then I guess we’ll go from there.”

“What! I don’t–”

Kallen rolled her eyes and cast the spell. The affected area burned hot for a few alarming moments before settling down. Lelouch experimentally reached up and pressed a hand against his cheek. It felt, to his great relief, both uninjured and normal to the touch.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Kallen stowed her wand away and replaced the book upon its stack.

The other member of their trio wore an amused smirk. “Don’t tell me you actually believed that part about the ants.”

If perhaps he had, even for just a moment, Lelouch wasn’t about to admit it. “Nonsense.”

“So what is our plan for now?” Kallen asked. “As an addendum, I will mention that I’m very comfortably wealthy now, so we’re not short of pounds sterling.”

While there was the larger looming question of what goals they wished to pursue long term, the immediate future seemed clear. “Keep our heads down, find our footing, learn to protect ourselves, and figure out what we want to do.”

Kallen nodded. “Sounds reasonable. Personally, I’d like to install ourselves as the government.”

“Easy, girl,” C.C. said, amusement filling her tone. “Did you really want to be empress that badly?”

“What can I say? I’m a rebel.”

A snort escaped Lelouch. “I’m sure rebelling for the sake of rebellion will strike a deep chord with this war-weary society.”

“Well, I do have actual reasons, if you’re into that sort of thing. C.C. may have a better perspective, having grown up in a magical household, but I’ve wandered around Diagon Alley as an adult long enough to pick up on a few things. This society is deeply speciesist, racist, and classist. Not to mention all of its many other problems.”

“Did you just say ‘as an adult’?”

“Focus, Pizza Girl.”

While Lelouch agreed that now wasn’t the time, he silently made a note to revisit that temptation at a later date.

“So yes, I want to tear down this travesty of a government and build something better in its place. If that ultimately requires me to become Queen Hermione, so be it. I don’t have a problem with monarchy. The actual mechanics of government were never why I fought against Britannia either before or after His Majesty here sunk his claws into me.”

Lelouch personally had no objections. The minister herself, after all, had told him that Magical Britain’s little civil war had merely suspended itself. He’d assumed he would have to step in to sort out their mess at some point if he wanted any peace and quiet. His fame and Kallen being nonmagical – or muggleborn, as it’d turned out – would demand no less.

“Do you have anything to add?” Lelouch asked C.C..

“Not really. My little slice of the magical world is not what I’d term representative. No objections, however. It doesn’t matter to me what we do so long as we’re together.”

“Aw, that has to be the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth.”

C.C. snorted and turned her attention away from Kallen back to the book before her.

“I have little trust for the current government myself,” Lelouch said. “I’m willing to support your bid for empress.”

“What? But you – I thought – I mean, I don’t–”

Smirking, C.C. casually commented, “Your plan, your mess.”

“But Lelouch is the one with all the fame to work with!”

“So marry him and let it diffuse into you. Just imagine, they would call you the Girl-Who-Shagged.”

“That is not a title I want!”

“Are you saying you don’t want to shag him?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“It’s okay, Kallen. I’m flattered. Truly. But without my code, I’m not sure if I’ll have the same stamina.”

Everyday is going to be like this for the rest of my life, isn’t it? Lelouch shook his head fondly and waited out those two’s tangent as Kallen dug herself deeper and deeper into a hole. The things he put up with for love.

Perhaps next time he would have popcorn at the ready.

Much later, a now thoroughly embarrassed Kallen forcibly put an end to their diversion. “The Boy-Who-Lived is a stupid epithet to begin with, so it doesn’t matter. Who wants to be constantly reminded that they were the sole survivor of a terrorist attack?”

It was rather uncouth when one thought about it. If Lelouch had been given more time to bond with the Potters, it would certainly grate on his nerves. He did respect their sacrifice and Lily’s apparent skill with magic, but that was the limit of his emotional attachment, which was probably for the best. He had enough parental issues already.

Kallen sighed as the steam she’d built up finally left her. “Anyway, Lelouch, you’re the best at speeches, administration, and such. Politics. If we’re going to put a crown on anyone’s head, it should be yours.”

“We’ll see.”

In all honesty, Lelouch wasn’t sure if he wanted to have that much power in his own hands again. Being master of the world had been such a pleasure while it’d lasted. It’d been so easy to push his own agenda. On several occasions, he’d been sorely tempted to pull Kallen from her cell before the Zero Requiem knowing she would talk him out of it and kill everyone who had a problem with him ruling as the benevolent Emperor of Earth.

Besides, Kallen had been his original pick to step into his role as the Black Knights’ leader once he eventually stepped down. He’d never intended to be Zero forever, and she, unlike him, had principles rather than pragmatism behind the rhetoric he’d sold to the world as the man of miracles. Indeed, she’d performed admirably in the disastrous circumstances he’d left her with while he’d been in the empire’s custody. With a pool of capable advisers at her side and a little more work on her temper, he’d not trust anyone more with the reins of power.

It was a shame things hadn’t worked out that way in the end. It’d been entirely unintentional on his end, but Lelouch had managed to mold the ideal successor out of an angry teenage terrorist lashing out at the world.

“It’s not something we need to decide now,” Lelouch continued. “Of more immediate importance, Kallen is hardly the girl next door. We could keep paying for the Knight Bus, but it’s inconvenient, draws extra attention, and those expenses will add up. What’s our solution?” He had little enough knowledge of magic, let alone magical transport, and felt the girls would better tackle the problem.

C.C. suggested that they could hook the Grangers’ house into the Floo Network. While Lelouch could make assumptions about whatever that was, he discounted it as a solution when Kallen scoffed at the mere idea.

“There are all sorts of regulations against adding nonmagical homes to the Floo Network,” Kallen explained. She’d already been studying law in preparation for her ascension, it seemed. “Magical society is designed to keep it apart from the nonmagical world. In the process, it does everything possible to erode the relationship between muggleborn and their families. I’ll not go into detail, but you can rest assured that ease of access to the magical community is not a consideration where they are concerned.”

It only truly struck Lelouch just then that Kallen was, once again, a second-class citizen. No wonder she’s already fired up to burn the government to the ground. “What if the house was in your name?”

After an initial false start to shoot the idea down, Kallen said, “It might work, but if I bought a house, I’d just buy one nearby anyway.”

“There’s apparition,” C.C. offered.

Kallen considered that solution wanting. “I’d prefer not to be dependent on the goodwill of others for transportation, and we’re too young to cover the distance between Crawley and Devon in any reasonable amount of time ourselves. Healing Lelouch left me with almost nothing, and that was barely more than a few cantrips.”

“Portkeys?”

“Regulated, recorded, and costly.” A thoughtful frown settled onto Kallen’s face. After a few moments to consider the matter, she said, “I’ll talk to Mum and Dad about moving here once they get over the initial shock and horror of two girls kissing. I know they’ll want to get to know you two well and have you over often, not to mention not having me repeatedly disappearing for entire days, so I should be able to leverage that against any objections. One place needs dentists as much as the next, I’m sure. Plus the delay should give us enough time to sufficiently establish myself as Luna’s friend rather than coming out of nowhere as the Harry Potter’s best friend.” She smirked. “Maybe there should be some mutual exchange of fan mail with your favourite author?”

“Heh. I’d considered the very same course of action myself before I discovered who happened to be my neighbour. We could make a game of it.”

“Sounds fun. I’m in.”

And so the plan was set. They had a little less than three years of relative peace to prepare themselves. Then they would be on a collision course with the rest of the magical world when the elder two of the trio officially began their magical education.