Stage 06.5 - The Peaceful Years
The cultural differences between Britain and Britannia were often plain to see. For instance, one typically didn’t even need to leave the house to feel the massive Roman influence on the former’s architecture. Once in a while, however, Lelouch found himself blindsided with the unexpected.
Case in point, Lelouch felt Molly Weasley’s silently disapproving gaze on his back, watching and waiting for him to set water on fire as he moved about the kitchen. Even in the magical world where he’d expected such things not to matter given the relative fluidity of appearance and gender, it seemed the domestic sphere primarily remained the domain of witches in the absence of a house elf. Or at least of this one witch in particular.
And it wasn’t as though Molly refused to share her kitchen. She often pulled an overtly unenthusiastic Ginny in to assist despite Lelouch offering his far and away more capable services in her place. Indeed, at this point, it was an open secret amongst the children that Lelouch had made a deal with her under the table for her, when possible, to vanish and leave him to assume her kitchen duties while she did his chores in exchange.
With the rather extensive recipe book in Lelouch’s head, including several dishes that simply did not exist in this world prior to his arrival, the agreement worked well for the entire family. Molly was a brilliant chef – a shock of its own as no other woman in his life sans Sayoko possessed any such skill – but she did tend to stick to English creations. He, on the other hand, took inspiration from around the world.
As Lelouch carefully measured each ingredient to three significant digits – accept no less; cooking was a science, not an art – the sound of footsteps in the snow approached through the kitchen’s open corner window. Soon enough, the dual thumps of small feet hitting the little wooden box below it against the exterior wall brought them to an end. A notably still brunette Kallen stuck her head into the room. The magical warmth of the kitchen stood in stark contrast to the heavy, enchanted robes she wore to fend off the February chill. “Hello, Harry. Mrs Weasley.”
“Good morning, dear,” the latter replied. “Would you care to come inside?”
“Thank you, but no. I’m just running messages for the birthday girl. How long until her pudding is done?”
“A little longer each time she sends you to ask,” Lelouch stated dryly. Honestly, C.C.’s addiction to pudding in this world with her new body was as bad as her obsession with pizza had been in the last. Not that the latter had abated any, unfortunately. At least she’d not yet demanded that he attempt to combine the two for her. “Unless she doesn’t want me to magic it done faster anymore, tell her I’ll bring it over in an hour.”
Kallen offered a mock salute far removed from those she once gave as a Black Knight. “Roger that. I’ll let her know. If I don’t come back before she sends me out for another update, assume her answer is the sooner the better.”
“Obviously,” Lelouch muttered with a roll of his eyes as Kallen departed.
“Such a nice girl,” Molly commented, knowing Kallen only distantly as C.C.’s friend who’d moved into the neighbourhood not too long ago. “What was her name again?”
Although all part of the plan, Lelouch had to admit he found amusement in playing up Kallen’s own fame. He watched Molly’s bemused expression from the corner of his eye as he, the Boy-Who-Lived, replied, “Hermione Jean Granger, author of a modern classic and my most favourite book ever! I still can’t believe she moved here. And she’s a muggleborn witch, too! I hope we can be friends…” Perhaps he’d laid it on a bit thick, but it’d achieved the desired effect nonetheless.
“I’m sure she’ll love you. Just tell her you’d like to be her friend and don’t badger her with too many questions about that book of hers.”
“You mean like everyone does for me?” Lelouch snarked back.
“Yes,” Molly said. “Don’t do that.”
Not horrible advice for a child, Lelouch considered, but perhaps not nuanced enough in this case. She’s not much for strutting or bragging, but Kallen absorbs any acknowledgement she feels she’s earned like a sponge. A fond smile grew on his face as he worked and became lost in memories.
Both elder Grangers had been somewhat wary when their daughter had stated her intention to build a house from scratch, especially with the understanding that the entire family would be living in it for the foreseeable future. But happily, their concern had not been necessary. Hermione, while no expert in architecture, had managed to convey her vision well enough for a professional to bring it to life.
The main structure possessed – in Hermione’s own words – a late nineteenth century Britannian style blended remarkably well with more traditional Japanese elements. Dan didn’t know much about the subject himself, but he easily recognised the hardwood floors, sliding doors, and exposed corridors as distinctly belonging to the latter category. She’d gotten some pushback over those from the architect given England’s climate, but she’d waved the concerns away to shrugs and acknowledgements that ‘it was her money’. Magic, after all, would keep the winter frost and summer heat at bay while waterproofing everything.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the structure, however, was that more than half of it extended over a four acre pond. Most of the bedrooms had their own separate islands out on the water connected by a series of winding corridors with roofs but without railing or walls and a few short ladders leading down into the water. Dan had noted a nostalgic glint in Hermione’s eyes when she’d first seen the finished product, but he’d refrained from enquiring. If she wished to share, she would. Besides, he had a fair idea of what it meant to her.
Dan sat just outside his own bedroom with his feet dipped into the pond, idly swinging them back and forth. Despite the mid-spring weather, the water possessed a relaxing warmth. He hadn’t known how to feel about the heavily artificial climate at first, but it’d quickly grown on him along with all the other little magical touches on the house.
It really was a lovely place to live. Dan thought he would miss the proximity to London at first, but then Hermione had introduced him to the Floo Network. It wasn’t the most comfortable way to travel, but if he could teleport into the middle of London on a whim, he wouldn’t complain.
Emma’s distant call brought Dan out of his thoughts. Their guest for the night had arrived. Further out on the pond, he noticed Hermione exit the isolated potions lab. He chuckled as he watched her casually dash diagonally across the surface of the water, saving a scant few seconds travel time, to her own room to change out of her stained work robes. He’d been expecting it for years, but he wondered when she’d learnt that trick.
With a resigned sigh, Dan figured he should probably get up and face the inevitable. Enough time had passed – or so the children claimed – for this moment to come at last. It was time to properly meet his daughter’s future husband…lover…whatever they wanted to call each other. He’d met the boy before on several occasions, of course, but always in company or in passing. Now they would have time to speak without the burden of secrecy hanging over them.
Dan rose with a grunt and then made his way back to the main building at the shoreline. Inside, while Emma placed the finishing touches on tonight’s dinner, he found the boy in question in the sitting room looking at old family photos. He held one frame in his hand for a closer inspection.
“Good evening, Your Majesty,” Dan said in welcome, half in jest and half out of respect. “Is it Harry still or Lelouch now?”
The boy replaced the photo onto its shelf as he returned the greeting. “Lelouch please,” he said with hand extended. They shook. “You’ve given Kallen the happy, stable home she lost in our world, and I thank you for that, but I have little reason to identify with my life here myself.”
Dan nodded at the confirmation of his expectations. Even if he hadn’t had his own suspicions, Hermione spoke of the boy behind closed doors exclusively as Lelouch. Even when he’d gone into hiding from the imperial family, he’d still openly borne the name. If Dan were less aware of his unfortunate circumstances, it would have come as a surprise that he did not insist on it as a nickname even in public.
With that out of the way, Dan took in the full measure of the boy his daughter would – and indeed already had – kill for. The signs of abuse lingered on his frame, but he’d filled out significantly over the months since his liberation. For now, at least until his eyes finished developing, he favoured contacts over glasses. He dressed sharply and spoke with confidence. His hair was a study in controlled chaos roughly approximating Hermione’s description of it in her book. It sat longer than most boys wore it but not nearly enough so as to seem untrimmed.
Beyond mere appearances, Lelouch certainly managed to hold an aura of authority about him despite both his age and likely his intent as well. Something about how he held himself presented the image of someone well used to giving orders and expecting them to be followed.
And speaking of which, “You’ve hurt my daughter,” Dan put forth. It wasn’t an accusation, merely a statement of fact.
Lelouch, it seemed, saw no point in denial. “I have.”
“She’s become a criminal for you.”
A smirk emerged on Lelouch’s face as an amused snort escaped him. “While I can’t comment on her life as Hermione, Kallen was breaking rules long before I came along. Personally, I prefer to believe I focused her rule breaking to more productive ends.”
As much as he disliked thinking about it, Dan had to give Lelouch that one. “She loves you.”
“If things had been different, she would have made a splendid empress.”
Oh, bloody hell. They’re already talking about marriage, aren’t they? “What are your intentions with my daughter?” Especially with another woman involved. With both of you. Even half a year later, despite all the weirdness and oddities that’d entered his life, Dan had trouble adjusting to that one.
Lelouch shrugged. “We’re not sure yet. Were we in Britannia, we would simply marry.” Clearly knowing why Dan had really asked the question, he added, “Anything else would be independent of that.”
“I see…” It wasn’t as though he’d not expected it, not known it, but Dan still found it hard to process that he was speaking of marriage with any degree of genuineness with someone so young.
“If it’s of any consolation, C.C. volunteered to be the mistress if one or both of us needs to be married.”
It was. Far more so than it really should or seemed fair from an objective point of view, but Dan made no comment on the matter. “Just don’t break her heart again. I’m giving you a pass for everything you’ve put her through given the circumstances, but you can’t maintain a successful relationship on such drama.”
“I don’t believe I could even if I tried. She’s become adept at seeing through my lies.”
Dan read between the lines and took the declaration of love for what it was. Still, he felt a bit of chastisement was in order. “I hope you’re more direct with Hermione than you are with me.”
Lelouch chuckled. “I attempt to be, but she tends to listen more to what I do and puzzle out why than care about what I say these days regardless.”
“Ah, my condolences. That usually comes later in the relationship.”
The pair shared a conspiratorial smile.
“I expect children to be put off at least until her twenties. I don’t care what magic potion or charm you two pull out of some dusty old book.”
Lelouch snorted. “Please. Do you want to be the one to tell her to slow down for the full duration of a pregnancy?”
No, not at all. However much time Hermione spent with her books or in her lab, no one would describe her as an inactive child. Asking her to sit still and stay safe for months at a time would not go over well. “Well then, welcome to the family.”
“Thank you for accepting me.”
As Dan led Lelouch to the dining room, he asked, “So tell me, son, how do you feel about tabletop RPGs?” With any luck, the expanded family could finally pressure Hermione into sitting down at the table.
With the last dish placed on the table for the evening, Emma fell heavily onto her seat for a short rest. Let it not be said that she couldn’t cook to impress, but perhaps next time she would pass the responsibility off onto Dan. Especially so if it involved any of the Britannian recipes she’d gotten from Hermione. It might be a sampling bias – in fact, where the noble heiress, Lady Kallen, was concerned, it probably was – but the production of each was involved. Such were the perils of cooking for royalty.
Hermione was the first to arrive. She took one long look across the table, blinked, and then said, “Oh, wow. You really went all out.”
“Thank you, Milady,” Emma said from her seat with a mock curtsy. She laughed when her daughter’s face twisted into a sour expression. “I thought I heard your father come in before you. Have you seen him?”
“No. I could go find him and Lelouch?”
With a wave of her hand, Emma dismissed the notion and invited Hermione to sit down. Those two would be along shortly, she was sure. “I hope I got everything right.”
Hermione shrugged as she took a closer look at the evening’s meal. “It looks good to me.” She went so far as to steal a bite even under her mother’s disapproving glare. “Tastes good, too.”
“While reassuring, perhaps we can wait until everyone is present, hmm?” Emma knew without a doubt that Hermione knew proper table manners far better than she did. Now that she knew what to look for, she’d noticed little things her daughter did out of habit which could only come from years of – likely unwanted – education and expectation that she certainly hadn’t provided.
It wasn’t long before Dan and their guest appeared. The former, it seemed, was in the midst of a recruitment pitch for a family campaign. Knowing Hermione as she did, Emma stepped in before her daughter could comment and ruin the attempt. The four of them were seated in good order, and the meal began shortly thereafter.
After Lelouch’s hesitant first bite, Emma thought she’d made some faux pas with tonight’s dinner. The moment passed, however, as a nostalgic look emerged upon his face. His eyes briefly met Hermione’s as some silent – possibly telepathic – message flashed between them. “This is very impressive, Emma. I know Kallen doesn’t know the recipes well enough to reproduce them with such accuracy. Or skill.”
Emma offered her thanks for the compliment.
Hermione, meanwhile, with all her precocious maturity, stuck her tongue out at Lelouch. “This is what I have you for. All that doting on Nunnally has to have had some use.”
“Oh?” Lelouch replied with a knowing smirk. “Now I’m worried about her. From what I’ve heard, a certain someone practically adopted my sister in my absence. This person even went to rather extreme lengths at times to look after her.”
“Well, what else was I going to do?” Hermione said, her tone more reprimanding than defensive or embarrassed. “You left the other half of your legacy to Suzaku of all people.”
There was something not being aired between the children, Emma knew, and Lelouch acknowledged whatever it was with a contrite nod to which he received a half-apologetic smile in return. The two spoke no more on the subject as they apparently either intended to resolve the matter later or already had. While she couldn’t say she was thrilled to know those two weren’t the perfect couple in absolute harmony with each other, the impossible dream every parent wished for their child, it was nice to see that they knew how to admit fault and resolve their differences. She’d honestly been a little worried on that front given how their past power dynamics still coloured their interactions.
“Speaking of legacies,” Dan said, “do you have any idea yet what you’re hoping to do with your life here?” With a nod toward the girl in question, he added, “Hermione has mentioned wanting to involve herself in magical politics.”
Lelouch took a few moments to consider the question, idly taking small bites of his meal as he turned it about in his head. “I’ve given some thought to becoming a healer.”
“Really?” In all honesty, Emma hadn’t expected that answer. She’d never gotten the impression that Lelouch particularly cared about anyone beyond his immediate circle of friends and family. People as a whole, perhaps, but not individuals as such. “Dan and I can recommend the profession, of course, but why healing?”
“At first it sounded both rewarding and relaxing.”
Together with her husband, Emma arched her eyebrows sceptically at the latter assertion.
“Relatively speaking,” Lelouch amended. “It is…tiresome to have the weight of the world on your shoulders. To have to shed more and more blood to ensure the sacrifices already made were not in vain.”
Emma’s worried eye turned briefly toward Hermione whose face betrayed her own deep understanding of Lelouch’s words.
“It’s a pleasant thought to save lives instead of taking them. But now that I’ve had more exposure to the magical world, I consider it a necessity.” Lelouch paused for a moment and then chuckled. “It’s something I believe you would understand. This country is in a tenuous peace. I’m yet uncertain how long it will last, but when it breaks, we will be obvious targets. Kallen’s talents lie more in the martial while C.C. excels at tradecraft. I want a dedicated healer in our inner circle, and no offence intended, but I don’t believe two dentists will be enough.”
While Emma was less than thrilled with the reasoning, it was a prudent course of action. Those same thoughts had been creeping about in the back of her own mind. She’d considered leaving the country for safer shores but had never given voice to the idea. Even if she got her way, it would undoubtedly alienate her from her daughter.
Meanwhile, Dan caught on to Lelouch’s meaning and made his own attempt at keeping the mood light. “A warrior, a rogue, and a cleric all multiclassed into wizard, eh? Not the worst party composition I’ve ever heard.”
Hermione shook her head, rolled her eyes, and muttered something in Britannian English she probably needed to be scolded for.
“If nothing else, we should be able to keep ourselves alive.”
“It’ll be good not to have to outsource our regular potion and enchantment checks and such, too,” Hermione added. “Some of the things I’ve been casually brewing are terrifying if misused.”
Lelouch nodded along with Dan in echo to Emma’s own agreement. She truly didn’t understand why, for example, truth serum was heavily regulated while any rapist could legally brew up a love potion and memory charm the victim with consent after the fact.
“Anyway, Aunt Andromeda has been giving me some reading material after I expressed interest. I have a pre-apprenticeship of sorts with her.” After a few moments, Lelouch seemed to remember something. “Of course, the aspiring Witch Queen will have my full supp – ow!”
Despite Hermione’s innocent look, Emma caught the telltale sign of her putting her wand away. That expression didn’t last long, however, before she began to fidget and squirm in place. She broke within seconds, openly removing her wand from storage. After several botched attempts which bursts of increasingly uncontrolled laughter interrupted, she successfully cast a counterspell on herself. Once done, she leaned forward heavily onto her elbows to catch her breath. “When did you get a wand?” she asked.
“This morning, actually. C.C. and I snuck off to Diagon Alley for a bit of shopping and scheming.”
Hermione clicked her tongue. “Figures. She’s corrupting you, you know.”
Lelouch merely shrugged.
“Well? What did you end up with?”
A snort met the question. “See for yourself.” Lelouch held his wand up in the palm of his hand. With a swish and a flick, it flew across the table to Hermione’s waiting grasp.
Emma cleared her throat to get the children’s attention. “Hermione already knows this” – she directed a reproving look at her daughter, who shrank under the reminder – “but please no magic at the table.” Emma still vividly remembered the last mess when Hermione had gotten careless. And the one before that when she’d abruptly hit the limit of her young magic and passed out. At least they hadn’t gotten carried away flinging cantrips at each other.
“Sorry, Mum,” Hermione said in time with Lelouch’s, “My apologies.”
“No harm done.” Emma would let Hermione off the hook this time. Besides, she was curious as well. “So?” She nodded toward the wand.
Hermione took up the task immediately and set to her examination. “Hmm… A little longer then my own. Eleven inches, I’d guess. Supple. Is this holly?” Once she received a nod, she asked, “I thought you settled your daddy issues.”
There was, without a doubt, some context Emma was missing to understand that remark. Glancing across the table, she saw Dan was just as confused.
Meanwhile, Lelouch blew out a puff of air. “Now who’s channelling the witch?” He shook his head. “It’s the phoenix feather core which is of principle interest. There are only two of its kind. That–” He nodded toward the wand. “–and Voldemort’s.”
“Oh,” came Hermione’s succinct response. “That cannot be coincidence.”
Something niggled at the back of Emma’s mind, but Dan got to it before she did. “Wasn’t there something about a prophecy?”
“Voldemort mentioned it when he came to kill me,” Lelouch replied with a casualness that would have worried Emma had she not known so much about his background. “I’ve yet to investigate further, but I imagine it remains unfulfilled. Even if he’s dead” – he made air quotes with his fingers – “I know the local magic system supports ghosts, ghouls, zombies, and vampires at the very least.”
“Twenty quid he’s a lich.”
“What?” the man in question said. “It would explain his disappearance if he needs time to respawn from his phylactery.”
Emma pinched the bridge of her nose.
Hermione, of course, was no help. “My money is on ‘injured but recovering’. No one ever found a body.”
“Personally,” Lelouch began now that it was his turn, “I suspect he’s fully dead but waiting for one of his fanatics to revive him.”
The entire table turned as one to Emma. She sighed. “Oh, very well.” After giving the matter some thought, she made her own wager. “Other.”
“What?” Hermione said. “You can’t do that!”
Dan just laughed.
“I have no objections.”
“Thank you, dear,” Emma said to Lelouch.
Hermione shot some playful accusation across the table in Britannian English. While Emma was starting to pick up some of the language from the frequent exposure, she had no idea what to make of the words beyond their tone. Lelouch, in turn, merely smirked back and returned his attention to his meal.
“You know,” Dan began thoughtfully, “I recall you mentioning something about scheming while in Diagon Alley. What was that about?”
“Ah, yes. It could come to nothing, but it cost me almost nothing to attempt.”
Draco collapsed onto his bed glad that the day was finally over. First, his tutors had kept him busy all morning. Then there’d been that dreadfully formal and entirely pointless lunch with the Greengrasses. Daphne hated him. He knew without a doubt she would murder him rather than abide by a betrothal. Besides, even he could see that they weren’t even interested in a more tenuous political alliance.
And then, oh, and then there had been the outing to Diagon Alley. He’d ended up trapped – trapped! – in a room with the Lovegood girl while his father conducted business. He didn’t even understand what she’d been doing there! She’d just come out of nowhere without any sign of parental supervision. She could have at least had the decency to ramble about stuff no one cared about like the rest of her family. But no! Instead she’d just stared at him as though she were a master legilimens waltzing unnoticed past his occlumency.
Draco shook himself of the memory. It didn’t do to dwell on such things.
Time passed as Draco drifted in and out of consciousness. His waking thoughts skipped from one subject to the next without rhyme or reason as he waited for his mother to arrive. If he played his cards right, he could get her to read him a story. Oh, she would know what he was doing, of course. His mother was as shrewd as they came. She literally wouldn’t be his mother if she weren’t. But it was a family thing.
Eventually, Draco figured something was holding up his mother. It wasn’t that uncommon, especially after they’d had guests in the manor. He reluctantly readied himself for bed on his own. It was only when he emptied the bottomless pockets of his robe when he noticed that someone had slipped something inside them.
It was a shrunken stack of books wrapped in twine with a bow on top. A tag was attached, one just large enough to be legible when held close. Draco squinted and read the inscription.
‘Having only recently discovered your existence, I believe this covers all of the birthdays I’ve missed. The one on top is my favourite.’
It was signed ‘Cousin Harry’. Draco’s eyes widened. He had to read that again, and even then he didn’t quite believe it. He’d been told Potter went to those filthy Weasleys. How by Merlin’s saggy left sock had his cousin gotten this package into his pocket? What did it even mean? Was this a cry for help? Not that living with the Weasleys wasn’t worth a cry for help, but he would have thought–
Wait… The Lovegoods live next to the Weasels, don’t they? It had to have been the Lovegood girl who’d passed along this…gift? It was a gift, right?
Now more curious, Draco called a house elf to unshrink the books for him. It verified that there weren’t any other magics on the stack and then left with the wrapping when dismissed. With that out of the way, he picked up the top book, apparently his cousin’s favourite, and studied the cover.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion? Never heard of it. Who wrote this? H Granger? The name sounded familiar, but Draco had no idea where he’d heard it before. It certainly wasn’t a prominent one in modern Britain, at any rate. He cracked the book open and flipped through the boring editorial stuff until his eyes landed on a defaced page. There beneath the rather odd dedication about emperors and witches, he found a handwritten note addressed to him.
‘Heir Malfoy, given what I know of your father’s politics, I suspect your education pertaining to the nonmagical world will be inadequate to fully understand the material presented. I encourage you to read on nonetheless. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them for you. If you wish to send any letters to Harry, please address them to either myself or L.L. (Luna Lovegood’s preferred name if you’re unaware). We’ll ensure they’re delivered discreetly.’
It was signed simply as, ‘Hermione Granger’ in an elegant, flowing script. A frown emerged upon Draco’s face. He wasn’t sure what to make of all this. At first glance, it seemed like a clumsy attempt to turn him into a blood traitor. The author certainly sounded like one, and Potter had spent his entire life amongst them and muggles.
But then Potter must have leveraged his fame to get the author on board with whatever this was. The required a minimum level of rhetorical competence. Surely he knew Draco would see through such a thinly veiled attempt. And a Lovegood was involved. That automatically added a certain level of unpredictability. There must be something more.
Draco turned to the proper start of the story and began reading the first chapter entitled ‘The Day the Demon Was Born’.
Life proceeded as it ever did.
Lelouch occupied himself these days mostly with his pseudo-apprenticeship under Andromeda Tonks and learning more about the world they’d been reborn into. He passed along anything he felt important and made what connections he could, but there was only so much he could do while tethered to the Weasleys without making waves.
Meanwhile, as expected, Kallen loathed being anything less than the most dangerous living being on the planet and so threw herself into her studies. She didn’t have the raw magical power to fight an adult on even footing or even the prerequisite breadth of knowledge, but she would, without question, tear through anyone her own age by this point. C.C. gave her about a decade before her surprising patience with the magical world’s discrimination snapped and she started her revolution.
As for C.C. herself, she had centuries of alternate history literary works to serve as a distraction whenever she couldn’t convince Kallen to cough up two or three ageing potions. She’d been a code bearer for six centuries and thus possessed more than enough experience with C’s World to get by. Magic came easily to her. She picked up what she needed when she needed it and laughed at the frustrated looks Kallen sent her in return.
Speaking of whom, C.C. spotted a large bird approaching through the Rookery’s open window. The massive eagle owl, as it turned out, landed next to Kallen on the table she was working at and offered the letter tied to its leg to her.
“Is that mail for me?” Lelouch asked.
After a brief glance at the address, Kallen opened the envelope. “Surprisingly, no. It is from the little dragon, though.”
C.C. quietly hummed in interest to herself and set her book down. This could be very boring, or it could be amazing. As she watched Kallen read, she became sure of the latter.
Within a few seconds, Kallen adopted a growing frown. Less than a minute in, she was pinching the bridge of her nose. By the time she finished, she’d facepalmed no less than three times. “Thanks for massacring the Geass Order and flinging imperios everywhere, Lelouch.”
“Your cousin loves my book. He thinks your biography is an excellent metaphor for the dangers muggleborn – not the word he used, mind – represent to both the magical community and themselves.”
And that was better than anything C.C. had expected. She burst out laughing and ignored the glares both of her lovers sent her.
“The worst part is,” Kallen continued, “that’s not exactly an incorrect reading.” She sent Lelouch a reprimanding look.
He, in turn, snorted and feigned returning to his own reading. “Write back and tell him that, then.”
“I’m bloody well not going to encourage his racism.”
“Take the opportunity to argue for educational reform. As I understand it, everyone raised in the nonmagical world is offered little to no instruction outside of a brief seven year stint on how to perform magic.”
Kallen considered that with a thoughtful expression. As she did, C.C. said, “And why should he not advocate for his father’s favoured position of kicking them out in return?”
“Increased population. Larger workforce. A bigger power base. Or rather a largely untapped power base. So on and so forth. Just keep your audience’s age in mind.”
“Hmm, it really would be better if you wrote that letter,” Kallen said.
“Perhaps,” Lelouch replied, “but you need the experience. We can’t have our future empress–”
Without warning, the Rookery shook. The wards flared in power, determined to keep the structure intact. Everything went plaid, shifting between colours and patterns several times before the experience ended with the odd sound of shattering space. It was, in C.C.’s opinion, much akin to the noise a blueberry made when it exploded.
Just another day in the Lovegoods’ home.
“Your family is weird,” Lelouch commented for not the first time.
C.C. shrugged and went back to reading.
“That seemed more…egregious than usual,” Kallen said. “Should we check on Pandora?”
“I’m sure she’s fine,” C.C. distractedly replied. She’d been through plenty of Pandora’s attempts to break reality, and they’d all turned out well in the end.
That didn’t satisfy Kallen. “I’m going to go see if she needs any help.”
Like most of the Rookery, the library was enchanted to be bigger than the space which contained it. C.C. had never felt the need to explore too far, as the books tended to repeat themselves before too long, but she’d heard that it went on forever downward in a spiral off to infinity. Kallen left her work behind and made the climb to the nearest exit a little under two rotations above them.
A page and a half of reading later, the library door slammed open. “Harry! I need you in Pandora’s lab!”
The boy in question dropped his book and ran out of the library with all of the urgency in that cry for help. Curious, C.C. followed after him at a more sedate pace. She left the library and then followed the spiral staircase down to the Rookery’s highest floor. Down the corridor, she peered into the lab through the wide open door.
The scene that met her was, in a word, messy. Pieces of Pandora were strewn over the entire lab. From the whimpers and the twitching of the muscles, C.C. deduced that the pieces were all still attached in some discontinuous sense, but several small pools of blood had also begun to collect. Some part of Pandora was bleeding, although she couldn’t say which with any certainty.
“Found it,” Kallen said. She pulled a vial from the pouch hanging from her jeans and handed it over to Lelouch. “What next?”
As Lelouch poured the vial’s contents, a dark red viscous fluid that C.C. assumed was a blood-replenishing potion, into Pandora’s mouth, he replied, “Dittany.”
Kallen had it out of her pouch in short order.
“Find the parts of her that are bleeding. I’ll keep her topped up on blood, but we need to heal the wounds before we can floo her to St Mungo’s.” Kallen immediately went to work, and Lelouch turned to C.C.. “Unless you know how to add someone to the wards to let healers Floo in?”
C.C. shook her head.
“The Rookery’s ward stone hurts to look at. It’d be a different story if this were my place, but that’s a long walk.”
Lelouch clicked his tongue. His gaze turned to Pandora. After a moment of thought, he asked, “I don’t suppose you can hear us?”
“Don’t bother,” came the strained voice of Pandora.
A few minutes later, Kallen declared all wounds to be sealed. Lelouch eased up on the potion. And now they had the unenviable task of actually transporting all of the pieces of Pandora to the hospital. Not wanting to go through the bother, C.C. emptied the contents of a nearby trunk onto the floor. She then put the container in the middle of the room and cast a useful spell she’d learnt from all of the trips around the world Xeno had taken her on.
With the proper intent, every piece of Pandora flew into the trunk in an orderly fashion except the mouth. Lelouch still had ahold of that so she could breathe freely. Once he confirmed that it should be ‘safe enough’, Kallen added a feather-light charm to the trunk. After that, those two shuffled Pandora off to St Mungo’s Hospital and left C.C. behind in their rush.
Figuring that they had everything under control, C.C. made her way back into the library where she recovered her book. She debated following after them but ultimately decided against it. She didn’t do distraught very well and didn’t need anyone asking why she wasn’t a mess. Besides, she refused to have calming draughts or whatever the hospital’s healers would think she needed shoved down her throat.
It was a few hours later when Kallen returned to the Rookery. Reclined on a couch in the library, C.C. heard the heavy footfalls first as they spiralled downward. Then, surprisingly, Kallen ripped her book right from her hands. She protested, but Kallen ignored her.
“Where the fuck have you been?”
“Here,” C.C. replied flatly. Where else would she have been?
Kallen opened her mouth. By her visage, a familiar one from whenever C.C. really pissed her off, she was about to set in on one of her rants about something C.C. really couldn’t care less about. However, she appeared to realise this at the last moment and instead took a deep breath. She closed the book in her hands and set it aside on an end table.
“C.C., I know you don’t need or want parents in your life. I respect your feelings and decision on that matter. But that doesn’t change the fact that you have them. Even if your other options weren’t great until Lelouch found you, you’ve still chosen to remain part of their lives. A fairly active part, even, given all the explorations Xeno has mentioned you leading. They’ve cared for you. They’ve provided for you. The least you can do in return is show up after Pandora brushed with death.”
“Fine, fine.” As she sat upright, C.C. let out an exasperated sigh. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”
Kallen visibly ground her teeth together.
“What? I’m going.”
“Really? You can’t think of any reason why I have a problem with ungrateful children abandoning their mother in a hospital?”
“It’s not like I put her there.” C.C. realised as soon as she said the words that she may have stepped over a line – leapt, really – and swallowed the rest of her response.
Indeed, Kallen’s voice carried a cold fury so at odds with her usual hot temper as she said, “You have no idea how much I wish you were still immortal right now.”
“I never said you did.” It’d been centuries since C.C. had given a heartfelt apology without evading. The words had trouble forming.
C.C. grasped her lover’s arm and kept her from stomping off. “Kallen… That was out of line. I…apologise.” The word left her with an uneasy feeling in her chest. Being emotionally invested in others was so troublesome.
Kallen blew a long puff of air out through her nose. “Just go,” she said with far less bite in her tone. “I’ll follow after I blow off some steam.”
With a nod, C.C. released Kallen and left. Not before stealing a kiss, of course, which gave Kallen something far more benign to rage over, but she did as asked.
The Floo trip to St Mungo’s was uncomfortable but quick. C.C. came out the other end on her feet midstep, unlike Lelouch who – in practice, if not in fact – was cursed to have a comical landing on every attempt without assistance.
A few questions to the front desk produced directions to Pandora’s room. C.C. made the trek up the stairs to the fourth floor. Once there, she entered the Janus Thickey Ward for the Treatment of Spell Damage and easily found Pandora’s room therein.
C.C. knocked on the door.
That was Lelouch. Once she entered, C.C. saw that Xeno hadn’t arrived yet, which hardly surprised her. He would likely return home for the day before someone managed to track him down. Pandora, however, rested at ease on the room’s bed with Lelouch on one of the two chairs beside it. She was once again in one piece, but the faint straight lines of her division lingered. With magic, it was very likely she’d be as good as new by this time tomorrow without any scarring.
“Hello, Moonbeam,” Pandora said, which Lelouch, of course, smirked at outside her field of vision as he always did. “Are you alright after my little mishap?”
C.C. nodded as she climbed onto the seat beside Lelouch. “You?”
“A little embarrassed. I triggered a collapse cascade by spilling pumpkin juice over the runes stabilising the expanded space.”
That…would certainly be a very embarrassing way to die.
“Luckily for me,” Pandora continued, “you and your friends were there.” She offered a thankful nod to Lelouch. “I trust you know not to use your wands outside of the wards?”
While Lelouch wasted his time considering how to best respond to that, C.C. merely said, “They don’t have the Trace on them.” It was best to be forthright with Lovegoods. They cared little for anything beyond their passions, the law included, and easily became distracted.
Pandora nodded as she took the information in. “Wonderful. Just continue to be careful with them. As I’ve demonstrated, magic can be dangerous.”
And that was done and over with, no clever manipulations or arguments needed.
Despite this, Lelouch just had to comment. “I’m surprised you’re so accepting of our flouting the law. And grateful, naturally.”
Pandora tilted her head to the side. “Well, it’s true you don’t have your OWLs yet, but that formality is a joke. I’m sure you could all get an outstanding on the muggle studies OWL.”
“That’s…intriguing.” Through the gleam in his eyes, C.C. saw Lelouch tuck that piece of information away to pursue later. “But not what I meant. I was referring to our ages.”
Pandora still looked confused. “Your magical cores are still young,” she said, completely missing the point, “but they’re growing the more you use magic. Xeno and I haven’t noticed too much strain on them. Hermione would do well to pace herself more, perhaps…”
When Lelouch went to press further, C.C. elbowed him. “Let me.” She turned to Pandora. “He meant that we’re in violation of using underage wand-based magic outside of school.”
“Oh.” Pandora hummed in thought. “I’m not sure if you are. I’d have to check if the underage magic law specifies biological, chronological, or existential age.”
One could hear a pin drop in the pregnant silence that followed.
“We need to be more careful when we go to Hogwarts.” After the aside, Lelouch spoke to Pandora. “When did you figure us out? How?”
“Well…a year after L.L. was born? Somewhere around there. Xeno and I hadn’t accidentally let something possess you, Moonbeam, so we left well enough alone. It was obvious that you were not normal, so we figured you would talk to us if you wanted to. Then when you suddenly made friends with Harry and Hermione, we more assumed than verified there.”
C.C. suspected she had deeply misjudged both Xeno and Pandora. That didn’t happen very often, and she didn’t like the feeling. She didn’t like today at all, in retrospect. At least it wasn’t the usual disappointment of a contractor letting her down or betraying her.
“Have you told anyone?” Lelouch asked. A hint of dread crept into his tone, although C.C. doubted anyone else but Kallen would notice.
“No, no. But you may wish to keep Hermione’s book from circulating in the magical world.”
C.C. exchanged a look with Lelouch. They’d already given a copy to Draco Malfoy, and several of the Weasleys had read it as well. Moreover, most of the muggleborn they would attend Hogwarts with likely owned their own copy. The genie was well and truly out of the bottle.
“Dan and Emma know,” Lelouch put forth. He then spun the same lie that Kallen had told her parents in explanation. C.C. didn’t think it was really necessary anymore – and perhaps never had been – but she let him continue his weave without interruption. She hardly wanted to test the queen’s patience any further today.
As the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, it fell to Minerva McGonagall to arrange for every potential student’s acceptance letter to be delivered as near to their eleventh birthday as was practical. In the case of muggleborn, this additionally required a home visit to explain that the letter was not a joke and magic was, in fact, real.
Only three weeks into the new school year, Minerva was off on one such visit to one Hermione Granger. The poor girl had just barely missed the cutoff date and would have to wait until next September to begin her magical studies. Unless she declined her Hogwarts invitation and went to school which started later in the year, of course, but no one had done so in nearly half a century, not even when the child’s parents and the sitting headmaster had traded spells on opposite sides of a war. Attending Hogwarts opened doors. It was as simple as that.
In fact, now that Minerva thought on it a bit more, perhaps it would be to her advantage for Miss Granger to join Hogwarts next year. Next year’s batch of students would hold the heir or heiress to nearly every family of note with much of the remainder coming in the year after. One would be hard pressed to find better peers.
Minerva arrived in Hogsmeade at a relaxing amble. The break from the chaos of the castle and the hundreds of children already determined to give her migraines was refreshing, but she needed to get back to work. She raised her wand and summoned the Knight Bus. When asked her destination, she extended the letter and let the conductor read the address.
A few minutes later, Minerva stepped off the bus and took stock of where she’d ended up. The house was…not quite like anything she had ever seen before. It was a lake house. She could term it that definitively. Well, pond house, but that was splitting hairs. By its appearance, it was either new or very well maintained. Now that she had some time to take the sight in, it reminded her slightly of Mahoutokoro when she’d visited thirty…three years ago now, was it? Where had the time gone?
Regardless, Hermione Granger didn’t sound like a foreign name, but one never knew. The mother could be from abroad. The family could have only recently returned to their ancestral homeland. Or perhaps they just appreciated the style.
After the long walk from the kerb up the drive, Minerva knocked on the door. When that failed to elicit a response, she rang the doorbell.
“Be right there!” came the faint call of a young girl’s voice – Miss Granger’s, most likely.
And as promised, the door opened soon enough to reveal the voice’s owner. The girl had long brown hair flowing down in waves past her shoulders until bound together at the end. Her dress was casual and more boyish than Minerva thought typical for girls of her age in the muggle world. Minerva found herself oddly reminded of Filius in how the girl held herself, but the exact reason for the comparison proved elusive.
Minerva returned the greeting and introduced herself. “My name is Professor McGonagall. Is this the Granger residence?”
“It is. Are you a recruiter, then?”
“I suppose I am.” She’d never thought of her job as such, but Minerva couldn’t refute the description. “Could I speak to your parents, Miss Granger?”
With a nod, Miss Granger beckoned Minerva to enter. “Shoes off, please.”
Now that she was inside, Minerva noticed that she’d entered a genkan. Well, I wasn’t wrong about the Japanese influence in the building. How interesting, especially considering the girl’s distinctly European features. They’d not had a Japanese student at Hogwarts since Minerva herself had attended.
With a subtle twitch of her wand – and a slight but noticeable narrowing of Miss Granger’s eyes – Minerva slipped out of her boots without untying them. She set them aside without comment and then crossed the step into the house proper when invited.
As they wandered the corridors Minerva took in the atmosphere as she was accustomed to on these first contact visits. Muggleborn were, unfortunately, more prone to abuse and negligence than those raised in magical homes due to fear or misunderstanding of their magic.
However, that did not seem to be a concern here. There were family pictures tastefully littered about the home amongst the other works of art and the foliage. The ones that featured Miss Granger had wide, genuine smiles. The girl herself also appeared healthy and well cared for. Interestingly, they walked past a display case mostly dedicated to literary awards in Miss Granger’s name. Minerva mentally crossed her fingers in the hope that she would have one less student whose essays would make her want to bash her head against a wall.
Miss Granger nodded. “I’ve not had as much time for it as I used to, but I still dabble.”
“What have you written about?” Minerva asked as they stepped out of the main building and onto the pathways over the water.
“Hmm… In short, an alternate history of the world from the point of view of a young man with serious daddy issues. I’m working on a prequel of sorts right now featuring his…uh, great, great, great, great, great grandmother, Empress Annwn, who’d just inherited a state recovering from the Humiliation of Edinburgh and looking to reassert its preeminence in the world.”
That was far more…sophisticated, Minerva decided to put it, than she’d expected from a child. And if she remembered correctly, those writing awards had been from the mid-eighties when Miss Granger would have been perhaps six years old.
“You must be a very brave girl to let so many people see your work. When I was your age, my audience would have begun and ended with my parents and then only if I were feeling particularly bold that day.”
Let it not be said that Minerva had ever misused her influence as a muggleborn’s point of first contact. She would never go out of her way to rig the sorting. But where was the harm in a little subtle encouragement?
Miss Granger glanced back with a knowing smirk. “You have no idea.”
Stern frown forever set in place, Minerva bit back a groan. Nothing good ever happened when a student gave her that look.
They soon approached a room with voices emanating from within. Judging by the pitches, there were two adults – the elder Grangers, presumably – along with a pair of young girls and boys.
“Wait here a moment. Mum, Dad!” Miss Granger called out as she hurried into the room. “A recruiter managed to find us.”
“I suppose it was too much to ask to remain hidden forever,” Mr Granger said as, oddly, Mrs Granger said, “Emergency Freeze.”
There was a brief moment of quiet with only the dull roar of children to break it. Then came the sound of chairs moving. A brunette man emerged from the room a few moments later accompanied by a woman with long black hair tied up into a bun. Purely guessing on appearances, neither particularly remarkable for muggles, Minerva assumed the Japanese influences in the family came from the latter.
“Good evening, Mr Granger. Mrs Granger.”
“It’s Dr Granger for both of us, actually,” Mr Granger said as he offered his hand for a shake. “We usually prefer just Dan and Emma when together. Less confusing that way.”
“And less belittling,” Emma added with a little huff. She in turn extended a hand to shake. “I can’t tell you how many times people have defaulted to Dr Granger and Mrs Granger.”
Minerva’s frown cracked into a slight smile. Such attitudes, she understood, were far more prevalent in the muggle world than the magical one, but she’d had her own brush with them before during her tragically brief marriage. “It’s a pleasure to meet you both.”
“Hermione mentioned you’re a school recruiter?”
Minerva nodded. “But if you’re entertaining company, I could return tomorrow at a more appropriate time.”
“No, I don’t imagine this will take long,” Emma said. “Hermione also mentioned the wards–”
Wards? Minerva spread her senses out and discovered that she had, to her very great surprise while not expecting them, walked over a ward line uninvited without notice and without announcing her presence. That could have been disastrous.
“–were acting up around you.” Emma gestured toward the letter in Minerva’s hand. “Hogwarts, right?”
“Yes, actually.” Not sure how to proceed from here – even Lily Potter’s family hadn’t been so prepared or, shall she say, integrated upon first contact – Minerva delivered the letter. “If I may ask, how is it that you’re so informed?”
Dan nodded toward the room he’d emerged from. “Xeno and Pandora’s daughter and ours are friends. They met during one of Xeno’s expeditions years ago. Imagine our surprise when Hermione came home one day with a new friend and proclaimed, ‘I’m a witch!’”
Of all the people to introduce someone to the magical world, Minerva would not have chosen the Lovegoods. She’d heard that they’d only gotten more, well, more themselves after graduating and tying the knot. “That must have been…an experience.” At least things seemed to have worked out for all involved.
The couple chuckled, and Dan replied, “The Lovegoods did take a little getting used to, but Hermione and L.L. got on like a house on fire. Eventually, we decided to move next door.”
Now that it’d been brought up, didn’t the Lovegoods have a few other neighbours? “I vaguely recall that Arthur and Molly Weasley settled down nearby.” The Diggorys should be close as well, but their only child was already at Hogwarts.
“They’re a little further off but still neighbours. Their two youngest are here right now,” Emma said. “As is Harry, of course.”
Minerva couldn’t hide her wince. It was far from public knowledge that Harry had been abused during his time with Lily’s sister, but the information had gotten back to her through Albus. She couldn’t help but feel at fault for what had happened to him. She knew Lily wouldn’t have wanted him to go to her sister. She should have fought harder to keep the Wizengamot from sending him there. Even if she’d failed in that endeavour, perhaps she could have arranged something to help him in another way.
Voice lowered, Emma asked, “You know, don’t you?”
“I do,” Minerva admitted in an equally soft voice. “I taught both of his parents. I knew his mother well and had the unfortunate privilege of keeping his father in line. You have my deepest gratitude for making him feel welcome in your home.”
Dan, in turn, said, “It’s our pleasure. He, Hermione, and L.L. are inseparable these days.” His smile turned to a frown. “I can’t believe your ministry placed him with that cousin of his. It’s a good job Arthur and Molly have taken a firm hand with that boy.”
As Minerva understood it, there was some not strictly necessary but highly advisable protection against retaliation for Harry which could only exist in the presence of another close blood relative of Lily’s. Since Dudley Dursley was the only remaining option, there was no argument to be made. She explained what little she knew but didn’t bother to bore the Grangers with the details.
Neither Dan nor Emma was particularly impressed with the explanation, such as it was, but said nothing more on the subject.
“At any rate, I see that it’s unnecessary now, but, on record, do you need me to prove to you that magic exists?”
Emma smiled, and Dan openly laughed. The former invited Minerva to step inside.
The room had shelves lining each wall. Some were filled with books, but others contained a slew of miniature statues and models. In the centre sat a table around which had gathered two redheads – obviously Weasleys – a green haired girl Minerva immediately identified as the Lovegoods’ daughter, Miss Granger, and Harry. Harry and the Weasley boy were engaged in a game of chess to pass the time while the girls watched and chatted.
Atop the table at its centre were more of those miniature statues arranged around the model of a decrepit manor in a forest. Scattered about around this display were dozens of dice of all shapes and sizes, small piles of paper, and snacks both muggle and magical.
Emma said, “Resume play,” and the entire table came to life. The trees rustled in an imaginary breeze. The statues moved. The manor felt eerie. It was, in Minerva’s opinion, an impressive – if somewhat frivolous – application of charms and transfiguration.
“When something becomes recreational,” Emma began, “I think it’s fair to say you believe in it. Hermione will see you at Hogwarts.”