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More Challenges

The usual rules - no Ron/Hermione, ever. There was some turd of a reader who said she was going to do each of my earlier challenges but make them RHr. She absolutely has my blessing. If she wants to make a fool of herself by sailing on a ship made of emotional abuse, that's fine - I'm sure she'll find her own verbally abusive spirit-crushing boyfriend one day.

Ooh, that was a completely gratuitous rant, wasn't it? :)

Anyway, the challenges...


In an AU where the Purebloods rule, Muggleborn children are stolen from their parents and raised to serve those more worthy - as servants, whores, labourers... and gladiators. Hermione is one such gladiator, and leads - or helps lead - a courageous rebellion. Your call as to the level of its success.

Magical Mayflower

Grangerverse/Stargate Crossover. The Statute of Secrecy has been broken (your choice as to when, could be during the 1970s) and wizards and witches all over the world are being hunted down by Muggle governments to use as soldiers and the like. The final result should be for Hermione and thousands of Magicals to pass through the Stargate to settle on a brand new planet to make a new life and civilization for themselves.  A couple of suggestions for how to bring this about:

(a) A new threat to Earth makes it clear to Stargate Command that they need the help of Earth's Magical people to save the planet. Unfortunately, they've been mostly exterminated or gone into hiding. SG-1 is given the job to find and recruit a few to help.

(b) The Magicals infiltrate the SGC or NID and take over a Stargate (either one) for long enough to escape with their refugees. 

Ships, if you care to have any ... the most logical seems to be Hermione/Daniel. For the record, when I read Stargate fics, I ship Dan/Sam and utterly avoid all mention of Sam/Jack as I feel that Sam would get utterly bored with Jack after a month of intense shagging...


The Veil wasn't a Portal to Netu. It was a miniature Stargate created by the Ancients - but the Ancient Runes on it had been mistranslated for centuries, causing it to send all who went through it to a world where they met a quick death. Through a series of unusual events, Hermione discovers the error and learns how to operate the Veil. But then she gets accused of a crime and is sentenced to death - by Veil. Now a convicted criminal, she ends up in a primitive world where she later bumps into SG-1 and returns with them to Earth. She joins the SGC, possibly SG-1 itself. Trouble is, she can never admit to being from earth in the first place because that would break the Statute of Secrecy (a really bad idea with folks like the NID around).

Quick on the Draw

Dean and Hermione are together. Her parents aren't thrilled about Dean's ethnicity, and his mother isn't thrilled about Hermione being a white girl. And her old friends aren't thrilled that she's not dating either Harry or Ron.  Dean has a magical ability that has to do with his drawing prowess. Oh, and in every chapter Dean must compare Hermione (or part thereof) to a piece of clothing or appliance. For bonus points, they start dating while in Hogwarts. 

Put Your Heads Together

Lily discovers during her seventh year that there is a charm on the Head Students' Lounge to ensure that the two occupants fall in love with each other. The story must end Lily/Severus. Your call as to whether you want to make the charm cast by Dumbledore, Sirius, James or someone else.

Marriage Law Assassin

The opening sentence reads, "Three months after the passing of the Marriage Law, half the members of the Wizengamot had died mysterious deaths..."

Pureblood? Bethrothed? So?

Hermione is discovered to be a Pureblood witch and betrothed to some Pureblood wizard. Contrary to cliche, she refuses to turn from her Muggle roots and refuses to obey. For bonus points, she kills off her alleged fiance or relieves him of his ability to reproduce, thus invalidating the marriage contract.

Revenge of the Non-Prefect

When Hermione is not made a prefect in fifth year, she is seriously pissed. But she soon realizes the opportunities this presents! She knows that if she's expelled, she can always take OWLs and NEWTs by herself... well then. Time to offer her services to Fred and George and  make the Marauders look like small-time kitten-rustlers. Hogwarts : A Prank History is about to receive a brand new chapter. Several, in fact. For bonus points, make it  Fred/Hermione/George - and that's a threesome, not a triangle. Double bonus points for Hermione joining the twins' Great Escape without having to touch a broomstick.

Primeval Magic

Hermione finds herself working for the Anomaly Research Centre ... need I say more? :)

The Raven Prince

During the Sorting Ceremony, when Lily is sorted into Gryffindor, Severus quickly realizes that his chances of remaining friends with Lily will be greatly reduced if he's sorted into Slytherin. He ends up in Ravenclaw instead. He should still pursue Dark Magic - in fact, he learns more of it in Ravenclaw than he ever would have in Slytherin. The Marauders still attack him, Lily still worries for his Dark leanings, but Dumbledore and other teachers are less likely to give him up as a lost cause. Must end up Lily/Severus.

Fox Hunting

Another Voldemort-Won fic, probably best written as a tragic oneshot. The British Muggle Elite loved fox hunting. Thing about fox hunting is, the fox never won. The British Magical Elite also love hunting where the prey never wins. And this prey has two legs.

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Fics I've been following lately

I just finished reading MaureenT's What You Already Know, a light-hearted seven-fic SG-1 Sam/Dan epic. It's rather fun, even if it's probably too goody-two-shoes for some readers. Harmonistas will probably like it, since its Daniel Jackson is the kind of character they would like their Harry to be - powerful, smart, and ethical. (I think that such a Harry is laughable, myself - there are no fics where Harry is both smart and ethical.) It's always nice to read a fic where a smart girl gets a guy worthy of her.

Back to the Grangerverse.

On GrangerEnchanted, there are a couple of interesting fics that don't succumb to the usual GE defects of Malfophilia and gratuitous smut.

One is the shipless SG crossover series by Carol Kubala a.k.a. Vedra42 that has Hermione - exiled and stripped of her magic by the British Ministry - as an Egyptologist who bumps into the Stargate program. It starts with One Door Closes, Another Opens.

Another is Dangerous by the rather competent author BlackLotus. You'll need to be logged in to read it. The story has Harry and Hermione as the primary characters, though it looks like it's either going to be shipless (hopefully) or HHr (if Harry stops being a goody two-shoes). After Voldemort lost and Harry fled Britain, the Ministry oppression of Muggleborns increases to the point where Hermione is forced to lead a vicious rebellion against them. When Harry finally returns, he doesn't know who to support. The fic is dark, and deals with ethical questions quite well - though Arsinoe de Blassenville's The Golden Age still remains the frontrunner fic when it comes to exploring ethics (PS: Hermione doesn't always come out on top, so my critics might enjoy it too.)

The Last Spy by Sylphides is a Hermione/Snape fic that has an Order of Phoenix that is actually worth respecting. You know a fic is worth following when Hermione returns from her entrance test to the Order with an unusual proof of loyalty to Harry - his head.

(Still, the best recent Hermione/Snape fic remains When A Lioness Fights by Kayly Silverstorm, which has now passed 5000 reviews on ffnet. If you have any Grangerista friends who need convincing about the possibilities of this ship, this is the fic I'd recommend. Features Hermione as a Death Eater, presumably a spy.)

Discerning readers who are willing to consider the possibility that the Marauders were bullies who forced their classmate Severus Snape to lose his childhood friend Lily and join the Marauders should read The Law of Unintended Consequences by Escoger. It's a Lily/Snape fic - well, I'm still lobbying for a Lily/Snape/Mary ending - that features a Lily being ordered to go back to the past and do things over. It features the most sophisticated Hogwarts politics I can remember among the thousands of fics I've read. Plus the Marauders get bashed, so if you're tired of cliche ...

The Problem With Purity by Phoenix.Writing . This is a remarkable fic. You know how I often rant about Harry not being a good enough friend to Hermione? Well - finally! - here's a fic where he is. The premise of the story is that being a 17 year old witch or wizard is a really bad idea that will get you hunted down by Voldemort, the Order, and the Ministry. To cover up the fact that they are in this category, Harry and Hermione pretend to date. This also offers a cover for the fact that they are both attracted to annoying Slytherin wizards ... did I mention that it was Hermione/Snape?

Luckei1 writes some of the best Dramione fics, and her 2009 effort Heavy Lies The Crown has a proper effort by Draco to show Hermione his beliefs have changed. It doesn't approach the heights of her over-2700-reviews epic We Learned the Sea but has a Draco that I can tolerate a lot more. (Hey, I just don't like the whole alpha bad boy thing.)

Robst continues to write Knowledge is Power, which is a superHarry fic that I read when I don't feel like thinking. It was pretty fun early on, but the heroes are winning too much now, and victories aren't fun when the enemy is too easy.

Angry Hermione a.k.a. Hotaru continues her HHr fic Message In A Bottle. As with all her fics, it is slow moving and detailed. To my dismay, it's Harry-centric. Still, it will end up being the most sophisticated example of a fic where Harry sends a message from the future to his child self. Besides, even I can shed a tear at the thought of an abused little boy under the cupboard being told that he will, one day, have friends.

The Fleurmione fic Hermione and the Dreams by jle1993 has been updated recently, to my surprise. It's the only one I know of - correction, that I can remember - where Hermione is the daughter of Bellatrix Lestrange.
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Curious, really

Wow - I've been getting a lot of flack recently for my rigid anti-Ron stance. I'm flattered, honest. To raise passion amongst readers - positive or negative - is something to be proud of.

Just a few words about the Alternative Yule Ball duel.

First of all, if I'm pissing off Heronistas and Harrophiles - particularly SuperHarry fans - I must be doing something right. If you are pissed off by the fic, then you should ask yourself whether you see things too often in black-and-white terms.

Second, it was definitely torture and morally wrong. The story does not deny that - indeed, it has Dumbledore expelling Hermione from Hogwarts and her dying by the sword years later. It was done within the context of a duel by old Pureblood rules. Those rules are from a different time, quite medieval, and barbaric. Given the number of fics where Hermione suffers due to such rules, particularly Marriage Law fics, I felt it appropriate for her to take advantage of them for once. Flitwick was completely within his rights to reward Hermione for that - she had done a terrible thing, but (by duelling standards) it was great. Remember that Magical society values power more than ethics.

Third, it's Ron. He is a vile character and utterely irredeemable. Anything done to him doesn't count. Besides, he's still alive. In The Writer, I had Harry kill him off by sticking a sharpened broomstick up his arse and pushing till it reached his heart. Nobody complained - was it because it was Harry doing it? Talk about double standards.

Fourth, it was my intention to show Hermione use a spell that was Witchcraft as opposed to Wizardry. The patriarchal societies of Western Europe were not fond of spells that only the womenfolk could do, and discouraged Witchcraft, leaving it primarily around as something to provide lip service to, as in Hogwarts' name. There's are some good fics out there about this - one is Once Might Have Been by Willow-Bee-The-Cat, and another one that I can't quite remember - that propose this meme. Maxime recognizes that what Hermione was doing was Witchcraft, so recruiting her to an all-girls school was an obvious choice for her.

Fifth, it's fanfiction.
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You Only Live Thrice (Chapter 4 of 4)

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

"Nice place you've got here, Alonzo." Hermione was at Alonzo's spacious two bedroom apartment in Milan. She could see the San Siro stadium in the distance from the window, home to two of the greatest football teams on the continent. Her father would have killed to be here.

It had been a strange week since her escape from Hospital. The mission to borrow (sans checking out) the carnivorous scroll from the library in Alexandria had gone well, though Terry had suffered a broken arm when his hummingbird animagus form had gotten hit by a closing door. He'd been moaning about the anxieties of being a very small animal ever since. Tatyana had stuffed a Piglet plush toy in his mouth when she visited him in hospital.

Then had come the news that Alonzo was resigning his position as a Dagger to look after his newly orphaned baby niece. Everyone had been shocked, and Daniel had been seen trying to convince Alonzo otherwise for two hours in his office. But Alonzo was determined. He loved his job, he enjoyed the adrenalin rushes that came with their missions, but he loved his niece more. He owed it to his dead sister to not leave her child without any living relative. He could not just throw himself into danger any more, not when he had someone to live for.

It was that phrase - someone to live for - that had been bouncing around in Hermione's mind ever since. Judging by the subdued and meditatory attitudes of the Tees recently, she was not the only one affected.

What most Daggers held in common was the fact that they were fundamentally alone in life. No-one to live for. Their teammates were the closest thing they had to family.

Alonzo was to be Obliviated of all his memories of his missions. He would remember his teammates, but not what they had done together.

He would not remember that time when Tatyana had taken a curse for him during a skirmish in Abuja while he was shoving potions down a semi-conscious Daniel's throat.

He would not remember that time when he had protected Hermione from falling debris in Saskatoon.

He would not remember that time when Daniel had dressed up in gypsy costume and used him as a dancing bear in the streets of Berlin.

He would not remember that time when he had had to kiss Terry to convince border guards in Bangkok that they were really a pair of poofs on honeymoon.

He would not remember that time when Hermione had cried into his chest thinking about two betrayed boys in Afghanistan.

It all led Hermione to think. Was she capable of leaving the Daggers? She had several magical thingamajigs in her, implanted in her during that series of post-Azkaban operations. They were now part of her body, and irremovable. She was sure one of them was a tracking device. And that another was an experimental anti-Obliviation charm, judging by that Abuja mission when a very competent Kano mage had erased the team's memory of a sensitive discovery. She had been the only one unaffected.

If Elsa Jones ever decided to leave the Daggers, would she be permitted to remain alive? She knew too much. If they couldn't Obliviate her, would they kill her? It would be on the sly, of course. They'd slip an undetectable poison in some Fanta she bought at a cinema or something. She would live a half-life, always looking over her shoulder, always on the run because she couldn't be trusted to keep her mouth shut.

A squawling sound broke her from her reverie. Alonzo was walking down the stairs holding an infant in his arms. A year old, Hermione judged. Or less.

"Elsa, this is my niece Steffi," he said as he placed her down on the carpeted floor.

Hermione got on her knees, encouraging the girl to crawl to her. "Come on, Steffi! Come here! Viens ici, ma cherie!"

Steffi was a fast crawler. She was full of energy, and it was not surprising to Alonzo when she suddenly fell asleep about an hour later.

"She does that," he explained to Hermione as he placed her in a crib in the living room. "She only has two speeds - zero and extra-fast. Maria - my house elf nanny - is amazing."

Hermione didn't bother asking if Maria was paid. This was Italy, where House Elves were treated with respect, not enslaved like they were in the backwaters of Britain.

"I make a good mocha," said Alonzo. "Want one? And yes, I'll put in extra dark chocolate."

"That would be nice," replied Hermione as she settled herself on a bar stool to watch the Healer.

"You don't have to look so down," he said as he measured out the beans. "You can still visit me. Just because I won't remember the details does not mean I won't forget that you lot are my friends. Assuming you want to visit me, of course."

"I'll be sure to visit Steffi. She's a cutie. If her uncle happens to be around at the same time, well..." She sighed theatrically. "Then I suppose I'll be forced to say a few words to him too."

He chuckled. "As Terry would say, babies are good chick magnets."

Hermione smiled. "And you, of course, are the living embodiment of Terry D'Acosta's myriad pronouncements."

"Of course," smirked Alonzo.

"Looking forward to settling down, then? Finding a hot young wife, playing rugby more often, working at the hospital, not having to worry about your head getting blown off every third day?"

Alonzo placed a cup of mocha in front of her and sat on a bar stool opposite her.

"I am looking forward to playing more rugby," he said immediately. "I don't know if I'm going to miss treating battle wounds."

"You could always join Medecins Sans Frontiers or the International Red Cross like that," suggested Hermione. "Though that might defeat the purpose." She glanced at Steffi. "How long will she sleep for?"

"Two hours," he replied. "Then she'll wake up and try to run around for a bit, then collapse, then I'll take her to bed, read her a bedtime story, and wait for her to fall asleep. Very boring, I'm sure."

Hermione looked at the sleeping child again. "I wanted kids once, you know. Potter's. I dreamt of little boys running around with their father's messy hair and my eyes. I dreamt of a little girl who I could encourage to be as smart as she could be, and still have friends. I would teach them spells. Their father would teach them how to fly. But he never looked at me that way. I was forever the sister, or the research whore." She sighed. "Don't worry, I'm not pining for Potter or anything. Just for the dreams that a naive teenager once had. What did you dream of when you were fifteen?"

"To protect my sister," said Alonzo slowly. "And I failed."

It was around that time, her arms around her friend, trying to comfort him, trying to tell him that he was not responsible for the death of his sister, hugging him harder, wondering why she was so affected by the way he smelt ... that she realized that things could not go on the way they were. It was time to get her backup plans in motion.

Fleur's cottage was surprising to most people who entered. For a start, it actually looked like people lived there. Magazines were scattered everywhere, on fashion, archeology, Curse Breaking, Quidditch. Muggle magazines too, the New Yorker and National Geographic being prime among them. The walls were covered with souveniers from all over the world - tapestries, tribal masks, batik, necklaces, staffs, shields...

"You've really done well with this place." Luna's comments were genuine, and Fleur beamed. "I bet Hermione would love to see it as well."

Fleur's eyes widened. Then they narrowed as she looked at Luna, who remained blissfully and calculatedly oblivious.

"Hermione?" bit out Fleur. "As in Hermione Granger?"

"Of course," said Luna, peering closely at a picture of a couple of snorkacks entitled 'Okapi Mother and Foal'. "She is a very curious woman, you know. Insatiable, really. Loyal, too."

To her credit, Fleur recovered quickly. She fingered her wand, ready to act if this woman was not really Luna. "What are you talking about?" asked Fleur. "She killed Bill's sister!"

"Did you know there are fifteen different kinds of Polyjuice?" countered Luna. "Did you know," she said, now peering at a necklace of painted sea shells, "that some of them can last for a week? You'd have to use Basilisk skin instead of boomslang skin, so it's not a very useful recipe. I wonder if Hermione knows about it at Baret. She looks very different now."

"Who are you?" demanded Fleur. This time, there was no attempt to be subtle. Her wand was a foot away from Luna's nose.

Luna reached up her hand so it was touching Fleur's wand. "I swear on my magic that I am Luna Marie Lovegood. Lumos!"

Fleur's wand glowed. The Frenchwoman looked at it, wondering if the oath Luna had just taken was valid.

"I could repeat it with my own wand if you like," offered Luna. "Where did you get this necklace from?"

"Just sit down, Luna," muttered Fleur. "It's from Sri Lanka, from the Koggala beach. You want it?"

"No thank you," replied Luna serenely. "Nargles will get in the sea shells if someone wears it. Not that that is a bad thing. If they are Asian Nargles, they can help you breathe underwater."

Fleur raised an eyebrow. "I would like to see that." She walked to the kitchen, grabbed a couple of apples, returned to the living room, threw one to Luna, and bit into her own. "Alright, you win. Hermione Granger is alive and works for Baret. You tell me what you know, I'll tell you what I know."

Luna considered her opponent, determining how to proceed. "Have you seen her?" she asked. When Fleur shook her head, Luna took out a photograph she had made from her Pensieve memories.

"This is when I saw her in Dublin," said Luna. "She was not wearing a glamour, but you can see that her nose and chin look different. Her hair is much shorter." As Fleur examined the photograph, the British witch continued. "I do not know what she does at Baret, but it is security related. Probably Curse Breaking, given her qualifications. She was at Gabrielle's wedding."

"Oui, this is what she looks like now. The hair suits her, she really could not manage it before." Fleur took another bite of her apple.

"I thought you said you had not seen her," Luna pointed out curiously.

"I saw a memory of her," replied Fleur. "In the memory, she swore on her magic that she had not murdered Ginevra."

Luna blinked, surprised. "Do you still have the memory?"

Fleur shook her head. "No, though perhaps we can get it through Gilles. I can give you a memory of the memory, but you know the problems with that."

Luna nodded. Such a meta-memory would be horribly fuzzy. She decided to offer the last bit of information she had, out of fairness to their agreement. "Hermione is a lioness animagus."

Fleur acknowledged the dribble-dribble of the information exchange. "Her name is Elsa Jones, and she does do Curse Breaking for Baret."

"Elsa?" Luna began to giggle. "You're joking! Good one, Hermione!" Her giggles had now graduated to full blown hysterical laughter.

Fleur looked puzzled, and - once she had recovered somewhat - Luna began to explain the story of Friederike Gessner.

Richard Cheni had had a very good day. He had finally got that promotion, and now he could stop going out with that naive bookworm. He had only gone out with her so that he could take credit for her work. It was her own fault for being too stupid a lovesick fool to believe him as he brought her flowers and chocolate and even - oh, the pain! - went out with her in public. How dare she believe that someone as handsome as him would go out with someone as homely as her! No, she was a fool, he was not, and he got promoted. End of.

Now he could concentrate on real women again. Such as that fine young redhead at the bar there. Yes, she was definitely giving him a look. Ouch, that was a sudden headache. He thought back to the events of the day again. Ah, the headache had ended. How unusual. Well, he could go talk to her now.

She seemed very pleased to see him. Within two minutes, they had left the club and were passing by an alleyway. Smiling seductively, she drew him there.

Then all he knew was pain. Then blackness.

Another early morning in the cafeteria. Daniel was going through his morning briefings when Hermione joined him. He motioned to her to sit down. She did so, without taking her robes off, which was unusual.

"You alright?" he asked.

Hermione shook her head. "I need help, boss." She looked oddly depressed, down, resigned.

"Sure. What's the problem?"

She took a letter out of her pocked and tossed it on the table. Daniel reached out to it before pausing. She nodded. He picked it up and read it in ten seconds.

"I see," he mused. "Gabrielle Baret wishes to meet you."

"I don't bloody want to meet her!"

"Then write a polite letter back, telling her you do not wish to do so. Make something up if you must. She'll take a hint."

"No, she won't," replied Hermione. "You've been dealing with reasonable Amazons like Tati and I for too long. The closest she'll ever get to Amazon is ordering lipstick online. She's a fucking spoilt brat, a gorram Barbie, and won't take no for an answer. She'll keep asking and asking, she'll get her pet husband to threaten me with my job if I don't comply to her demands on high."

Daniel was mildly surprised by her vehemence.

"I would like to think better of Gilles," said Daniel ambiguously before getting to the heard of the matter. "Elsa. What is your underlying fear?"

Elsa blinked. She sipped her coffee, she tried to think, she tried to admit, she failed.

"May I put words in your mouth?" asked Daniel. Hermione waved him to continue. "Do you not want to communicate in any way with anyone from your old life?"

Hermione considered this, then nodded.

"I see," said Daniel. "What if they want to apologize to you? Would this give you any sense of closure?"

"I don't want closure," stated Hermione decidedly. "I want the anger. I want the hate. I want the adrenalin. I want them to fucking stew in their fucking guilt for the rest of their fucking lives." She picked up Gabrielle's letter and spat on it. "I just want you to know that if Barbie Baret here pushes me one more gorram time, I'm quitting the company."

Daniel flinched. He was still recovering from the shock of Alonzo's resignation. "Would it come to that?" he asked softly, seriously.

Hermione sighed. "Yeah, it would. I've already got a letter all written out, and am really frazzled right now."

A scrawny runt of a girl stood at the edge of the playground. Her hair was dirty and she smelled. That was why she was alone, why she was teased. 'Smelly Sarah', they called her - and that was one of the more polite names. A group of bigger girls approached, and she tried to hide the book she was reading. They pushed her to the ground. By the time she was left alone, her book was much the worse for wear, with several pages ripped out. She tearfully collected them, knowing that the librarian would never let her borrow one again.

The watcher sighed, and invaded the girl's mind.

Sarah didn't know who her father was.

Sarah's mother was an illegal immigrant who loved her, but had to work three cleaning jobs and couldn't look after her daughter herself. She left Sarah in the capable hands of her church-going boyfriend.

Sarah was touched. A lot. By those hands.

The watcher withdrew from her mind. The boyfriend, whose address she now knew, would not be touching much of anything after ... oh, an hour should do it.

The watcher pointed her hand at the book. 'Reparo.'

Sarah's eyes widened, backing away from the book as the pages leaped back into it. She looked around, terrified, but there was no-one there. After a couple of minutes, she had enough courage to touch the book. Another minute before she opened it.

The book's pages were fine. As good as new. They even had a crisp new hundred euro note in them.

And a postcard with a lioness.

Eighty years later, Sarah would be buried with that postcard, having lived a surprisingly good life. She had loved, she had been loved, she had had a career, she had helped others, she had been helped... she had lived.

"So she's innocent?" asked Harry for the fifth time.

Luna nodded. Her face was serious, no trace of Loony behaviour anywhere. She usually dropped that mask when she was alone with him.

"Damn," he said, putting his face in his hands. "Potter, you fucking bastard."

And, for the first time since he was seven years old, Harry Potter began to sob.

"No!" huffed Gabrielle. "This is unacceptable. Granger must come home, to her friends. Harry needs to be forgiven."

"Yes dear," said Gilles. Pleasing his wife was a higher priority than the blabberings of some Baret employee, even a Dagger. Besides, the Granger girl owed the Baret family her life. The psychological healing of closure helped everyone, no matter how much they didn't want it. "I'll tell Philippe."

Philippe Santos was not in a good mood. First, that new Baret wife was on a crusade to ruin the life of one of his favourite Daggers. He had seen his niece's memories of Hermione in Azkaban; he had some idea of what she'd been through. And Gilles Baret was following her beck and call, like any new and spineless husband. He had not been surprised when Hermione had turned in her resignation. And now a bunch of Baret executives and experts was busy discussing how to deal with it. The meeting was rapidly devolving into politics and egos, which was hardly surprising.

The standard procedure was to agree, organize some farewell event, Obliviate her of all mission knowledge, and release her to the wild so that she could enjoy the fruits of her labour for the past few years.

Unfortunately, owing to one of the devices they had implanted in her, Elsa could not be Obliviated.

Solution One: Remove said device.

Problem: Like many of the other devices, this was experimental, and Hermione was a test bed for it. (Ninety percent of the devices they had implanted in her had failed to work.) It had also been placed in some other 'volunteers'. The last two times they had tried to remove such a device, the host's brain had putzed out and died.

Solution Two: Have Elsa swear on her magic that she would not tell anyone of her missions.

Problem: As the whole Elsa/Hermione saga proved in the first place, oaths could be gotten around.

Solution Three: Tell Elsa that she could never stop working at Baret.

Problem: Hermione did not have a track history of following rules when she felt there were 'higher rules' in operation. And her Elsa persona was a lot more individualistic.

Solution Four: Kill Elsa.

Problem: As far as some members of this meeting were concerned, there was no problem with this solution.

Richard Cheni had not had a very good day. After a horrible night - had he really been screaming? - he had found himself telling everyone how he had stolen the work of that horrid homely workmate of his. It was as if he had been fast-penta-ed - struck with a truth serum all day.

Witch! The bookworm must be a witch! She'd put a spell on him. How dare she take the credit for her own work? (And how dare she shrink his penis to three inches?)

It was immoral, promoting people who weren't beautiful, who didn't have the drive to get ahead. Nice people were meant to finish last.

He'd been fired. His career was finished.

He was going to kill her.

Damnit! Kittens again! Why was he thinking of kittens! Every time he thought of any violent thoughts, he thought of kittens! Adorable little fluffy white and black kittens playing with fucking yarn!

Yarn. Needles. He was going to stick needles in that bitch.

He screamed as his mind was filled with ten thousands yowling kittens.

Richard Cheni did not for a moment think that his life had been targeted by a real witch, who had nothing to do with the former colleague he had swindled. Nor did he realize just how soon it would be before his life and soul was sucked from him.

The four-person dagger team was quiet as they entered the room with the book. Alonzo had retired, and the group dynamic had not yet recovered. There was a Healer with them - all teams had to have one on a mission. Her name was Akela, and she was a no-nonsense Lycan. She didn't speak much either, though she did smile more often than Alonzo did. Pleasant enough.

Though Hermione did wonder if it was traditional for Dagger Delta to always have a Healer who could rip you apart if they wanted. The Healer for Dagger Alpha was a four foot eight yoga-loving sprite who could fit in a large backpack.

The mission was simple - to investigate the Dark scroll they had brought back. She looked at the volunteers they had retrieved from Philippe's stores. They were a couple of transfigured plastic figurines. One was a male serial rapist, while the other was a female who had been a pivotal part of a child slavery network in Benin. Hermione had no ethical qualms about using them as human guinea pigs.

Daniel nodded at her, and she un-transfigured the rapist. Terry stunned him at once, and Tatyana joined him in placing a number of sensors and tracking devices on the man.

"Is he already castrated?" asked Akela.

Hermione looked at the notes she had received with the prisoners. "Yes," she replied, quickly running through her head whether that should make any difference to the experiments. "All three bits were surgically removed three years ago."

Akela looked at him in disgust. "Good." She looked like she would have been quite happy to do the job with her bare hands if the answer had been otherwise. "If those librarians are alive in that book, I don't want to be throwing additional dangers at them."

"Is he ready for his trip?" asked Daniel.

"Yeah," said Terry, Enervating the prisoner and giving him some water. "How long do we wait before we send Bob in?"

"Two minutes," said Akela reflexively. "Over to you, Elsa."

Elsa raised her right arm at the prisoner that Terry had dubbed 'Bob'. "Imperio Hypnosa," she intoned. "You will begin reading the book. If the book sucks you into another dimension, you will keep talking softly about what you see. You will explore. If you hear my voice in your head, you will obey. You will return to your entry point to that dimension in one hour."

"Should be good," said Akela, looking at her watch. "Send the prickless prick in."

Hermione let Bob off the curse, and he yelled and screamed inanities for about ten seconds before the orders kicked in. He walked over to the scroll and began reading the book.

Half an hour later, he was still reading it. Akela monitored him carefully, with several diagnostic charms and readings. Hermione was monitoring a set of readings as well. The others had their own sensors to monitor too.

"There's a change in the scroll," said Tatyana suddenly.

Hermione stood to look over her shoulder. "It's consistent with a portal opening," she replied. "Everyone, get comfy with your weapons in case something comes through. Not that it should." She stood down to watch her readings. "Bob's Zenfalt levels are fluctuating at three degrees half width."

It wasn't long before Akela and Hermione were exchanging a lot of jargon that even Daniel had trouble following. He was able, however, to convey to the Tees that the prisoner - who by now was halfway through the portal - was physically unaffected for the most part, but magically was in great flux.

"Why is it taking so long though?" muttered Terry. "I thought you could get through a Portal pretty quickly!"

"Beats me," whispered Tatyana. "Maybe they'll try pushing the next one through."

Ten minutes later, the first prisoner was entirely through the portal.

"Well?" asked Daniel as the two witches frantically monitored their equipment. "Is the sod alive? Where's the camera?"

"Physically, he's fine," said Akela. "Wait, let get the visual sensors on. There."

They all turned to look at the plasma screen where they could now see what 'Bob' could see. It wasn't what they had expected.

Bob was in the middle of a bustling city market. Vendors were hawking foodstuffs and trinkets, youngsters were running around... and the locals were looking at Bob with great curiosity and much bewilderment.

"They're fucking orcs!" exclaimed Terry.

"That's where I've seen them before!" exclaimed Hermione in agreement. "From the drawings Tolkien made!"

Tatyana was too surprised to say anything. Akela was busy observing the orc children.

"Just because they look like orcs doesn't mean they are," Daniel pointed out. "Orcs are just the nearest creatures in appearance to these ugly critters. Have Bob try talk to them. Perhaps that fishmonger."

"Before they eat him," added Tatyana, who had rediscovered her tongue. "They're starting to look at him like he's made of groceries."

Hermione gave the order to Bob to walk over to the fishmongers. He did so, but his attempts to communicate were unsuccessful. That was despite the translation charms he'd been outfitted with and the surprising interest of the 'orc' behind the counter in communication.

"I don't know this language," said Tatyana, who spoke six languages naturally. "Elsa?"

"I can't even work out the family of languages," replied Hermione.

"Have you seen how loving they are with their children?" asked Akela. Sure enough, the miniature Orcs, who looked like odd human children with bizarre ridges on their heads, seemed to be having a grand time running around the market. Their parents - both mothers and fathers - were quite proud and affectionate with them.

Then the camera went all funny and rolled a lot before coming to a halt. They could see Bob's body next to the fishmongers, blood gushing from its neck.

"What happened?" asked Terry, though he could guess.

"Bob lost his head," sighed Daniel, who sat down on the sofa with a huge ker-plomp.

"I guess the two librarians aren't alive now," said Tatyana. "This seems to be good place to lose one's head."

"Notice how nobody seems surprised?" asked Hermione, her eyes still glued to the plasma screen. "Look, those guys at the fishmongers are wearing uniforms. They've got swords - those look like scimitars - out. They're examining the blood - they seem surprised. Maybe their blood isn't red? What are the atmospheric readings on this place?"

Akela peered over her sensors. "I can't tell," she said. "These aren't ones I'm used to. Daniel?"

"Hmm," said Daniel as he walked over. "I've not seen these kinds of atmo analyzers for ten years. Supplies must really be running low if they gave you these critters. Anyway, it's an atmosphere similar to earth, but there's a lot less methane and carbon dioxide."

"What was the atmosphere like five thousand years ago?" asked Tatyana. "That's when the cartoons say Middle Earth was."

"This isn't Middle Earth," muttered Daniel, but he checked a few things on his console. "Although - this is interesting - the atmospheric breakdown is consistent with five to ten thousand years ago. Less methane, much less carbon dioxide."

There was silence as they contemplated this. In the magical world, it was well known that Tolkien was a half-goblin who wore glamours all the time - one for when he was among Muggles, one for wizards, one for goblins. He was a historian, not a fiction writer. What was in question was how he got so much information - that he had played around too often with a Time Turner was a popular theory.

"They're dragging the body away now," said Hermione. "And - fuck! - they've put the head in a fucking sack! How dare they? Do they know how bad reception is from the inside of a burlap bag?" She looked around to see the amused glances of the others. "Whatever."

"You alright, Elsa?" asked Tatyana quietly when Hermione came over.

"I'm good," muttered Hermione. "Just seen too many things today, that's all." That wasn't strictly true - too many things had happened to her in the past week. Her interactions with that Cheni bastard and the poor Sarah girl had affected her in different ways. Sarah's mother's boyfriend was now pushing daisies, and Cheni - now equipped with a fancy new watch - was on borrowed time. Dishing out justice was all very well, but playing god was never recommended for the psyche.

Batman must be bloody glad he doesn't exist, mused Hermione. She had a sudden image of Hera at a stall marked 'Psychiatric help - five drachma' on the slopes of Mount Olympus, and barely managed to avoid giggling. Oh, she was so off today. Well, she was only operating on twenty percent.

"How about we dress the next prisoner as an Orc and send her in?" suggested Terry.

"Good idea," said Daniel, who could see Hermione nodding. "But we need more time to look at all the other data the sensors sent back."

There was general agreement to this. Tatyana went to take care of the scroll, whispering sweet nothings to it in Russian and covering it with a hefty black cloth.

Hermione looked at the second letter. Oh, she had to meet the Weasels and Potter, did she?

Then she had a nasty little idea. She'd tell dear old Mrs Baret that sure, she would. As long as certain conditions were met.

And then she sent off her resignation, effective in two weeks. After all, her plans were all but complete.

Hermione sat on the edge of the pier, dangling her legs over the side. She wondered what the gulls she was feeding would react if she suddenly turned into a lioness and leaped out at them. Most birds were poor learners; how long would it take before they ever got this close to a human again?

The heavy, steady footsteps indicated that it was Alonzo. Finally.

"Sorry to keep you waiting. The babysitter was late. May I join you?"

"Sure," she replied, having been expecting him for the last ten minutes.

He lowered his body to mirror hers, and she handed him the bag of breadcrumbs. He blinked at them, in the manner of one contemplating the potential snackiness of a new and untried snack, before resignedly flinging a handful at the gulls. Neither spoke for several minutes.

"When I was a kid," said Hermione suddenly, "there was a film which had a bit with a poor old woman who sold bags of breadcrumbs. She sang a song 'Feed the birds, tuppence a bag'. My mother used to sing it to me to put me to sleep. I wasn't very good at being put to sleep, especially when I discovered how much you could read with a torch under your pillow."

Alonzo picked out a single breadcrumb and flicked it at the gulls.

"We miss you at work," said Hermione. Her last throw of breadcrumbs could almost be called violent.

"Sorry," he replied. "Thanks for the compliment. I don't suppose you can tell me what kind of work I did."

Hermione smirked. "You were a Healer, of course."

"Did I ever get to see you naked?" he smirked back.

"Course you did. Many times."

"Ah. Er - did we - er?"

"In a purely professional capacity."


"I'm a bit of a klutz at work. All of us are, really. Always getting knocked about and all that. We must suffer from some sort of collective vestibulary disorder."

"Why do I get the feeling you're not telling me everything?"

Hermione beamed at him. "Would this face lie to you?" She even batted her eyelashes theatrically.

Alonzo snorted. "Lucifer was the most beautiful of angels." Silence. "How was your day today?"

"Same old, same old. Saw a girl in the park. Her mother's boyfriend is abusive. I needed a sacrifice for a Satanic ritual. So I killed him. I'm happy. The girl is happy. Satan is happy. Gaia is happy."

Alonzo turned to look at her. His dimunitive friend, who didn't look capable of paddling a misbehaving puppy, had a poker face on. "Domestic violence is a tricky thing," he commented at long last. "Too many battered women allow their partners to abuse them. I confess to never having understood the syndrome. But I am a man."

Hermione shrugged. "I don't know if the mother is happy. I didn't ask her opinion."

Alonzo mentally crossed Elsa Jones off his list of people to play poker with. "Let us suppose that you, hypothetically -"

"Hypothetically?" queried Hermione, deciding to lie down with her head in his lap. "What, you can't believe lil' ol' me could do the whole human sacrifice thing?"

Alonzo considered how to backpedal. From what he remembered of his old friend, accusing her of incapability in something was a recipe for experimenting with new Hexes from the wrong side of the wand. Especially if there was a possible gender bias involved.

"I don't believe you believe in Satan," he finally said. "You're too sensible for that. Aren't you atheist?"

"Atheist? Moi? Hell, no. I believe in all the Egyptian deities."

"So you were talking about Set, not Satan?"

"He is referred to as Setan in some ancient Egyptian scrolls," pointed out Hermione. "Moses was Egyptian-raised, remember? When he was writing the Pentateuch, he stole his name when he needed an adversary to counteract that Yahweh god creature he invented."

Alonzo was intrigued, though he was still not sure if Elsa was speaking tongue-in-cheek. "So you don't believe in all the modern religions?"

"No patriarchal society could have a true religion," explained Hermione. "The mother goddess wouldn't have it. Abraham was a delusional Squib, a very weak wizard at best. He just happened to be a good con man with some lucky breaks. And Moses wrote about him very flatteringly."

"Weren't the Egyptians patriarchal?" asked Alonzo. He was having a pleasant time stroking Hermione's hair as it lay in his lap.

"Not until about 1500 B.C.," replied Hermione. "Before 3000 B.C., Egyptian society was matriarchal. Then invaders started coming in from the North, with their male dominated cultures. It's when Osiris turned up. Between those fifteen centuries, Egyptian society changed - for the worse, of course."

"So you believe in some Egyptian gods, but not Osiris?"

"I confess to not having a definite opinion on the bloke," she answered with a pout.

"If Osiris didn't have a penis, would you be more inclined to believe in him?"

"You're going to accuse me of loathing men next, aren't you?"

"Don't you?"

"See? You just accused me of it! I must have Seer blood. My Inner Eye is truly magnificent."

"You're avoiding the question."

"Men are alright, I suppose. As long as you know your place."

"Which is?" asked Alonzo, amused.

"Not on top," grinned Hermione.

Philippe Santos' face was stony as he signed an execution order for Elsa Jones. Gabrielle and Gilles Baret were not his favourite people at the moment.

The second prisoner was a lot more vocal in expressing her discontent with the status quo. She was shackled but not Petrified; Tatyana was busy making her look like an Orc (as they were calling the creatures), with frequent references to the visuals Bob had collected before he lost his head.

"You want me to go into a world full of monsters?" she demanded.

"From what I understand," said Daniel, not even bothering to look at the witch, "you sold thousands into slavery. Including selling your own daughters into prostitution when they were ten. You are a monster, so you should feel right at home."

She continued to swear colourfully in a mixture of French and Yoruba. Hermione had the sense that Terry was barely refraining from taking notes. But the woman was getting on her nerves, so Hermione silenced her.

"Hey!" yelled Terry. "She was about to tell me what I could do to a goat!"

"I'm sure you can get your mutton recipes from the internet, Terry," muttered Hermione. "Oooh, nice work, Tati."

Tatyana had just finished her final touches on the 'Orc'.

"Impressive," commented Terry, looking admiringly at the shackled slave trader. "Those sharpened teeth are an illusion, right?"

"You definitely brought out her inner monster," said Daniel. "Exquisite costuming, Tatyana."

"She doesn't smell," said Akela without looking up.


"Fuck!" said Tatyana in agreement.

"Excellent point, Akela. Do you know what she should smell like?" asked Daniel.

"Course I do, boss. I attached a nasal sensor to Bob yesterday," replied Akela, handing over some readings to Tatyana, who snatched them and began reading intently. "Dunno how you humans claim to have six senses when you only ever use five."

Nobody argued with that. The human sense of smell was a running joke amongst enhanced species.

The second prisoner had sent back lots of useful information before they retrieved her - in one piece and alive. The portal had opened up in a different place, with no marketplaces in sight. She had ended up in the middle of a forest, and the plant life had tallied well with Tolkien's descriptions. Daniel had grudgingly admitted that perhaps this was Middle Earth, but that they should kiss goodbye to any dreams of seeing Aragorn or Arwen.

"Why not the Elves then?" asked Terry. "They're immortal, right? Surely Elrond must be around here somewhere."

As Hermione watched Daniel chew Terry out, she continued to feel down in the dumps. This place, wherever it was, was fascinating. And now she was about to leave Baret. Was it worth it? How difficult would it be to see her former friends again? She could accept their worthless apologies, and then disappear from their lives again. Missions like this - wasn't this why she joined Baret?


She had not joined Baret to explore strange new worlds. (Baret was not Starfleet, she reminded herself.)

She had joined Baret to escape her past. (And to not be bored, but she could find interesting things to do by herself now. She wasn't the shy wallflower that Hermione Granger had been.)

And she was going to damn well escape it. And escape Baret when they tried to kill her.

"Suit up, Elsa. We're going in."

Ah. So Daniel would be her executioner. She sighed, and began plotting how to protect him. From the guilt he would feel when he killed her.


I am not very good at writing letters. This is the fortieth or fiftieth time I've tried to write this. I'm sorry. I'm just so sorry. If there's anything I can do, let me know.

I would like to say a lot more, but I don't know how to.

I didn't mean to cast Aduro. Really, I didn't. I didn't know what it did. I remembered seeing a list of curses once, in alphabetical order. Aduro was at the top. If I had known what it did... okay, maybe I would have cast it anyway. I'm just so sorry, I was so angry, so confused.

I was a fool. I am a fool. I have always been a fool.


The letter, like a dozen previous ones, met a fiery ending before Hermione read it. It was an astonishing coincidence really, the way letters from her old life met such ignominious deaths before they got to her. One might almost think that a single person - such as the intended reader - didn't want the intended reader to read them.

Hermione didn't like burning books, but individual bits of papyrus were another story entirely.

Hermione and Daniel sat around a campfire in the Other World a.k.a. That-Place-Daniel-Katic-Refuses-To-Admit-Is-Middle-Earth. They had been exploring all day, sending back reports every hour. They both wore Orcish glamours.

They had spoken of many things, except the one most pertinent to both of them. Finally, however, Daniel brought it up.

"Elsa, you do know I'm supposed to kill you."

Hermione shrugged, not denying it. Her full-tongue goodbye kisses to both Terry and Tati before she got into the portal said it all.

"Can you reconsider?" begged Daniel. "Talk to the damned Potter and his Weasley horde. I've told you I'll come with you. Hell, we'll all come with you, to give you support. We'll hex them all so badly they won't be able to find their eyeballs. Elsa! You love this job." He fell silent again, realizing that he'd said all he could. "Please," he added.

They watched the fire crackling for another twenty minutes. Hermione checked her portable monitoring equipment - she was running a half dozen of sensor-equipped crows in circles of increasing radius centered around the campsite - while Daniel made another report home.

"We better put the fire out," said Hermione. "I'm picking up a party of five human-sized individuals three miles from us to the East."

Daniel nodded, and began killing the flames manually. They wanted to limit the amount of fire to use.

"The whole Gabrielle-Potter thing is just part of it," explained Hermione finally. "I hadn't realized just how much of a slave to Baret I am. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for all the surgery, for the job. But I don't have the right to leave, just because they made a mistake with one of the devices? I fought against Voldemort for years, losing my parents in the process, so that I wouldn't be a slave in his new world order. And now what am I? A slave. A highly-paid slave, yes, but I want to be more than a gladiator."

Daniel nodded in understanding. "Have you considered the option of staying in this dimension?"

Hermione nodded. "Sure. I wouldn't, though. I like our world."

"Let me get this straight here," said Daniel, scratching his head. "You know I'm supposed to kill you. You want to remain alive, because you like our world. Why don't you kill me before I kill you?"

"Would you let me?" asked Hermione. "Let me kill you?" She appeared to be genuinely curious.

Daniel considered this. "I'm an assassin, Elsa. I'm not sure my reflexes would allow it." He kicked a half-burnt tree branch. "Dammit, girl, what have you got up your sleeve?"

Hermione grinned at him before checking her equipment again. "That party is two miles away now. We better get out of here." She shut her eyes. She had lied about how far the Orcs where. She'd managed to invade their minds finally, though linguistic difficulties prevented her from giving them exact orders. She had managed to get them far more angry at her than at Daniel... if everything went to plan, he would be the only one leaving alive.

"She's not coming back, is she?"

Terry ignored Tatyana's softly spoken words and busied himself with some new charms he was working on. He had known that Elsa had handed in her resignation, thanks to the interference of that Gabrielle barbie. The goodbye snog from his favourite female buddy had been better than anything he'd ever expected, but had scared the shit out of him.

Tatyana, seeing that he wasn't going to respond, returned to alternately doing katas and taking her aggression out on a well-pummelled punching bag hanging in a corner of their large working area. Every five minutes she returned to have a look at the readings sent back by the sensors worn by the two explorers of The-Place-That-Was-Middle-Earth-No-Matter-How-Long-Daniel-Katic-Denied-It.

Akela had gone to bed, though not home. Like any other Lycan who had accepted their dual self, her animagus form was a wolf. She was curled up underneath her desk in lupine form.

Half an hour passed. It was two in the morning now, and Terry was feeling sleepy. He'd been hoping to work himself to exhaustion and fall asleep on the carpet.


Later he would swear that he was at Tatyana's side before he actually woke up. By the time he had moved past mere grogginess, he could see Akela and Tatyana frantically checking instruments.

"What's the matter?" he yelled at the Russian. She didn't answer him, so he grabbed her shoulders to get some answers. A second later he was going over her shoulders and hitting the ground hard. Wincing in pain, he reminded himself that there was a reason, other than her sexual orientation, why he had never tried to date the judoka.

Tatyana didn't seem to have noticed her reflexive actions. "Elsa's hurt!" she cried.

Ignoring his back pains - despite all the carpeting, he had landed badly - he staggered to see what she was looking at. He didn't understand the details, but even he could see that Elsa's vital signs were near death.

"Daniel?" he asked.

"Katic is fine," pronounced Akela. "They are in close physical contact. I assume that means he's bringing her back."

"Can we go help?"

"You know we can't," replied the werewolf. "If you went through the portal now, there's no telling where you'd end up. It's all up to Katic now."

Ten minutes later, Akela reported that Elsa Jones' vital signs were zero. Hermione Granger was finally dead.

Twenty minutes later, Hermione's arrow-strewn corpse was pushed through the portal. There was also a javelin sticking through her chest. Daniel staggered through the portal soon afterwards, with several arrows in him. Unlike Hermione's, his were mostly in his non-fatal areas.

Richard Cheni had been feeling weak for a couple of days now. Finally, he collapsed, and his flesh seemed to melt off him. He would never awaken.

There was a watch on his bony wrist. A dark mist rose from it and coalesced into the shape of a young woman with long bushy brown hair. She looked at her new body with interest before glancing at the skeleton that she had used to power her Horcrux.

"Know-it-alls stand up for each other," she said to the bones, wondering how the woman who had been tricked by Cheni was now doing. Hopefully she was successful. She resisted the temptation to spit on him, since saliva was evidence.

"Accio cornflakes bowl," she said as she pointed to a cereal box with her right hand. Nothing happened. "Bugger. Looks like I'll have to get used to using an external wand again."

She walked over to the late Cheni's bathroom and stepped on the edge of the grimy bathtub. She reached out for the top of the medicine cabinet, to find the wand she had hidden above it when she had followed him home a week earlier.

Now armed and feeling euphoric with her resurrection, Hermione Granger returned to the living room to banish the skeleton and any other evidence.

The funeral of Elsa Jones was well attended. At least, it was until Gabrielle's insistence for the Weasleys and Potters to attend caused Hermione's Dagger team to boycott it. While Gilles Baret furiously yelled at Daniel to 'stop embarassing the family', the other Dagger teams asked his team mates what the deal was. At which point, the whole story of Elsa's Granger past was explained. After all, Hermione was dead - what did secrecy matter?

At which point, a very angry Themba Motwane called for a boycott of the event by all the Dagger teams. There was little resistance, and the Daggers promptly organized their own memorial service for Elsa in a pub in Glasgow. They were joined soon enough by various Arithmancers and librarians.

The official funeral went on as planned, though the fact that hardly any Baret employees attended was not met with good humour by Gabrielle and, by extension, Gilles. It wasn't a complete boycott, after all. Tatyana ensured that a handful of employees attended, to loudly explain to each other why the boycott had happened at all. It was quite humiliating for the Weasleys and Potters to arrive and then overhear how poorly they were viewed by Hermione's new friends. Harry in particular was viewed with contempt, with various Baretees openly pointing to him and whispering what a pathetic friend he was. Luna hadn't been happy - especially since she felt there was something off about the whole thing.

Fortunately, Gilles was kept in line by his older brother Pierre. Philippe had explained to him the Dagger side of the politics involved, and he had been furious that his new sister-in-law had caused the loss of three Daggers.

For only Terry remained in Baret employment after the funeral. Daniel had decided that Elsa was the last of his soldiers that he was going to have die in his arms (as had been the case), and had handed in his resignation. He was a spry sixty, very experienced, and a huge loss for Baret. Tatyana was completely pissed by the whole situation and decided to take up a long-standing offer from an old girlfriend to become a stuntwoman in Hollywood.

Luna Potter wasn't particularly surprised when she received an invitation to meet at that Irish pub in Dublin. She was six months pregnant now, so the bartender wasn't surprised when she just got some mineral water. She looked around the pub, and was surprised when she saw a woman who looked exactly like Hermione Granger but whose Aura did not match Hermione's in the least. The woman motioned her over.

"Sit down, Luna," said Hermione.

"Who are you?" asked Luna, suspicious. "You're not Hermione!"

Hermione cocked her head and looked at the blonde. There was a deep philosophical question here - was she Hermione? She had Hermione's memories, and eighty percent of her soul. Her body was a clone of the original Hermione's. Her Aura was different, thanks to being a resurrected Horcrux.

"It's not my problem what you believe, Potter," replied Hermione. "But let me offer you some ... proof, if you will. Hermione - Elsa - did write to you before she died, giving a clear condition for my forgiving him."

Luna looked wary.

"It was quite a simple condition, really," continued Hermione, idly examining her polished-but-unpainted fingernails. "The head of Ronald Weasley on a stick."

"I don't know who you are," said Luna, getting up in a huff. "Hermione never made any such demands, and I won't have you insulting her memory!" This was a lie on Luna's part, but she still wasn't sure who this witch was. For all she knew, it was some crazy plot by some Skeeter wannabe.

"Your mother died while making Canard's Seventh Potion," said Hermione calmly. This was something Luna had only ever told Harry and Hermione, with wand oaths from both of them to keep it a secret. The Potion was a very dark potion, and Luna didn't want anything to taint the official memory of her mother.

Luna's legs turned to jelly and she plopped down. "Hermione? What the fucking nargles happened to you?"

"I died," replied Hermione.

Luna's face turned ashen as she realized just what Hermione was.

"And I won't hurt you if you don't hurt me," added the brunette, glad for the Muffliato around them.

"You did a Tom?" asked Luna, avoiding the H-word. "How could you?"

"You and Gabrielle set of a sequence of events that led to my having to die," replied Hermione, playing the guilt card rather unfairly. Luna's deductions had not played any role in the events of the past six months. But Luna didn't know that. "I also realized that as long as there were people around who could recognize my Aura, I would never be safe. Creating a Horcrux took care of that little problem."

"I'm really sorry for all the trouble I caused," said Luna penitently. "I won't tell anyone about this meeting."

Hermione waved her apology aside magnanimously. "I sense there's a but coming along."

Luna wondered if she should say what she wanted to say. "I do have lots of questions," she admitted. "And I will get to them, if you permit me. But now this - why did you want to meet me? How could you trust me not to do what I did before?"

Hermione put down the Irish coffee she was nursing. "Simple. You're one of the few people I trust, and the only person from my old life. You were out of the country when Ginny was put down and I was thrown in jail, and I'm pretty confident you would have stood up for me or at least forced Harry to make sure I got a fair trial. You also happen to be the only person other than myself that I would trust with my first friend."

Luna said nothing for a minute, though she did wipe away a couple of tears. "Thank you, Hermione. That means a lot to me. The last bit especially." This was true. Luna often wondered if she was a poor second place to Hermione in Harry's psyche. "You still care about Harry, then?"

Hermione looked at her as if she was mad. "Care about Potter? Of course I do. I care about him so much, I want him to hurt and wallow in guilt until the day he dies." She shook out her hair and tied it into a tight ponytail while Luna winced. "So. Tell me. What did you do with the letter I sent to Gabrielle saying that I would be happy to meet you lot if I received Ron's head on a stick? I also sent the memory of Ron breaking my bones in Azkaban - did Potter see that?"

Luna shook her head. "In his current mental state, he would kill Ron. And that would put all the Weasleys against him. We don't need that."

"Hunh," replied Hermione, wondering if she should tell Luna that at that moment, Harry was receiving a second copy of the letter and the memory, as a 'posthumous' delivery from her bank. She decided not to. "I honestly don't see the problem. He's just a Weasley. It's not like there's any shortage of them."

"But Hermione, why so extreme? Why not just ask Harry to break every bone in Ron's body? Why kill him?"

Hermione looked at Luna pityingly. "You seem to be under the impression that I'm the same goody-two-shoes that I was at Pigwarts, Luna. I'm not a good person any more, thanks to you Brits." She motioned to the bartender to send over a Guiness. "I completely agree that my request punishes Weasley more than the crime normally deserves. But, you see, Weasley is a symbol, a reminder of the number of times your husband chose Weasley's side over mine. Do you know how many times Potter ever openly supported me against Weasley? Once. Out of, I don't know, I stopped counting after thirty. That's not friendship." She spread her arms in 'innocent' explanation. "If he is willing to kill his old friend - which he was willing to do to me - then I'll be more than happy to talk to him. Really talk."

Luna stared at her in disbelief. "Ron's got a kid!"

"Really?" drawled Hermione. "Who did he rape?"

"Hermione, that's excessive, even for this - " She waved her hands. "- new you. He is happily married to Lavender Brown."

"Really? My sources tell me he was busy screwing Nicole Hanstead in the Celtic Broomstic last week. Oh, here's my Guinness. Thanks, Chris!" Hermione gave the pub server a fifty euro tip, which was quite excessive and ensured that he wouldn't remember her presence there. "Don't worry about Lavender. I already sent her the photographs. She should be getting them... about two hours ago. The Daily Prophet got them as well, but I'm sure they won't be writing anything about it. After all, it's true and they've got solid evidence."

Luna pressed her hands to her head. All these surprises weren't good for the baby. But she didn't think she'd ever be seeing Hermione after this.

"Anything else I should know about?" asked the blonde-with-a-developing-migraine. "Is my husband screwing Sandy or something?"

"Who's Sandy?" asked Hermione, genuinely confused.

"My hippogriff."

Hermione giggled. "Nice one. No, Harry is completely loyal to you. You're pureblood, you see."

Luna's forehead narrowed. "Surely you're not suggesting that Harry didn't trust you because you were Muggleborn?"

Hermione shrugged. "It's as good an explanation as any. Seriously though, had I been Pureblood, I would have had family in the wizarding world, who would have been able to protect me. I would have had fewer enemies. Which brings up a different point. If I didn't kill Ginevra - which I probably should have done in retrospect, seeing as it saved Harry from the horrific fate of being married to the rabid c*nt - who did?"

Luna was glad to have a point of agreement again. "I've been trying to find that out too. All I can guess is that they weren't after Ginny. They were after you. They wanted you out of the picture."

"Yes, I figured that out, thank you very much. But why go to the trouble of framing me? Why not AK my fat arse?"

"Your arse was never fat."

"Thank you, but please desist from nitpicking my grand pronounce--- " Hermione halted in mid-sentence as she saw the latest entrant to the pub. "Prongs... " She regained her composure quickly. "I've often wondered how a stag could go running at night with a werewolf. Isn't it against all laws of self-preservation?"

Harry's Patronus cantered over to the two witches, somewhat dim after its light-speed trip across the Irish Sea. "Luna!" said Harry's voice. "You need to see this! I got a parcel from Hermione's will - and - and - I'm going to kill Ron!"

Luna looked up, horror-stricken. "You didn't! It's not like he can deliver Ron's head to you any more!"

"I do hope he enjoys the memories," rinned Hermione. "You didn't think I'd not have a second copy, did I? Tell you what. If he does kill Ron, I'll give you permission to tell him I'm alive. But you can only tell him afterwards."

Luna was already standing up and preparing to Apparate to the Dublin Portkey Station. "And if I tell him anyway?"

"Then I will kill you and your spawn," replied Hermione very seriously. "Harry will probably hunt me down and kill me, but imagine all the suffering he'll go through in the meantime. You don't want that. Even I don't want that. All I want is to disappear into the sunset, and never have to worry about you bastards again. Do you fucking understand me?"

Luna gulped, and nodded. "Hermione?" she said tentatively. "One more thing. Harry and I were talking about our girl - " She pointed to her belly. " - our girl's name. He wants to name her after you. Would you be okay with that?"

Hermione gave her an unreadable look. "You can name her after any Shakespearean character you choose. Except Katherina - unless you want your daughter to believe that the most useful thing she can do is have her spirit broken. I don't recommend Ophelia either, lovesick little anorexic twit."

Luna nodded and vanished with a sharp crack. Then she reappeared with another crack. "How will I find you?"

"Put a note on your webpage when you need me. Now scat."


"Ask any Mudblood," said Hermione with an airy wave of her hand.

Luna thought to protest, but decided against it. Hermione was, after all, lacking some soul, and was possibly on the road to madness. There was another sharp crack.

Hermione finished off her drink, and Apparated out.

It had been six months since Alonzo Chabal moved to Buenos Aires. He needed a change in this new life, especially given the way his previous life had fallen apart. Elsa Jones - Hermione Granger - a woman he still had feelings for - had been killed. Just when he thought she might have been having just a wee bit of feeling for him. Two of his other former team-mates had resigned and left the continent - Tatyana for Hollywood, Daniel to raise racing hippogriffs on his new sprawling estate in Morocco.

Besides, they played good rugby in Argentina.. even if football was the national religion.

There was a knock at the door. Must be the milkman, he thought. He was about to get up to answer it when Steffi, now eighteen months, squealed and raced to the door. She really was quick, he thought proudly.

"Hello!" greeted Steffi enthusiastically to the familiar-looking brunette visitor. (Steffi greeted every visitor enthusiastically.)

"Hello Steffi," said the woman, getting on her knees to greet Steffi eye-to-eye. "Remember me?" She looked up. "Hello Alonzo. Long time."

"Elsa?" spluttered Alonzo, almost dropping his cup of cocoa. He recognized Hermione from what she looked like before the surgery that turned her into Elsa Jones. "You're dead!"

Steffi pouted. The grown-ups were talking to each other now and ignoring her.

"You've really grown, Steffi darling," said Hermione, who had noticed the pout. "You're practically a lady now!"

Steffi decided to lead Hermione into the house. Alonzo continued to stare dumbly at her. Not very security-conscious, really.

"You're dead!" repeated Alonzo.

"Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated," said Hermione pleasantly. "Got a room to rent? Ouch! Watch it! Watch the hugs! I can't breathe, you lubbock!"

"You talk too much," he said, crushing his lips to hers. She didn't seem averse to it, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him closer.

Steffi decided that grown-up behaviour was very odd and went to the kitchen to find some chocolate.

All was well.

A/N: Finally, I'm done with this story. It's a relief to be done telling it. Thanks for reading, a review would be nice.

As planned from the start, Hermione used her intense study of Horcruxes while hunting down Voldemort to get away from her new masters. I did overuse Gabrielle as a villain, I admit, and I'm not entirely pleased about that.

To clarify, Hermione used Sarah's abuser (her mother's boyfriend) to make the Horcrux - a watch - and Richard Cheni (the anti-bookworm alpha male) to resurrect Hermione once she was dead.


Inter Milan and A.C. Milan share the San Siro stadium. By the time you read this, they may not be sharing the stadium any more.

Piglet is a character in A.A.Milne's Winnie The Pooh series. In case you have the brains of a heronista and are unable to guess, he is a small non-adult pig.
"Piglet", said Rabbit, taking out a pencil, and licking the end of it, "you haven't any pluck."
"It is hard to be brave," said Piglet, sniffling slightly, "when you're only a Very Small Animal."

Friederike Gessner is better known as naturalist Joy Adamson, who wrote the story 'Born Free' of how she and her husband returned her lioness Elsa to the wild. When Baret gave Hermione the identity Elsa Jones, they already knew that her Animagus form was a lioness.

Fast-penta is a truth serum used in the Vorkosigan world of Lois McMaster Bujold. Miles Vorkosigan is one of the few male protagonists I can stand.

The six senses for wizards and witches are Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, Touch, Magic. There are other senses like Aura Seeing that not all mages have. Some would add other senses like balance to this list, but I was being traditional.

There is still human slavery in Benin, though it is not as much as compared with other countries such as Niger, Mauritania, and the Sudan. Mentioning the need to end human slavery was one of the few things Dubya said that ever made sense. Pity he said it at such an inopportune moment.

Head on a stick - a reference to William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

Gladiators in ancient Rome were slaves. Some of the most successful ones were rich, and chose to remain slaves so as to not have to pay taxes. (Apparently, hiring overpaid accountants or moving your sestertii offshore was not the done thing those days.) Presumably the vast majority of gladiators were not thrilled about their enslaved status, however. Just ask Spartacus the next time you see him.

Katherina is the 'shrew' in Shakespeare's Taming Of The Shrew, one of the most appallingly misogynistic plays ever written.
Ophelia is the unimpressive girl who is in love with the idea that she loves Hamlet.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

hermione pink jumper

You Only Live Thrice (Chapter 3 of 4)

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 4

Hermione watched the wedding reception from the top of a tall oak. She wasn't the only security that far up - Aurors on broomsticks flew around. There was a spell to prevent them from being seen from the ground, to make the guests less aware of the security arrangements.

Hermione thought several uncharitable thoughts about weddings and couples. She was glad, she told herself, that she would never be getting either. She was done with such frivolities, such illusions. She would, however, adopt a couple of orphans once she retired. The faces of those two Afghani boys looking up at the departing helicopter still haunted her. Daniel had taken her aside one day, and told her that he had investigated their fate using a wizard detective agency. They had both been killed within the year, one by the Taliban, one by American shells. Hermione had slapped him and grunted acknowledgement.

She could see his hawk Animagus soaring over the other trees. Terry, unsurprisingly for a pilot, also had an airborne form. However, hummingbirds were far more useful for espionage, so he was sniffing bouquets of flowers around the reception area, eavesdropping on conversations to see if there were any enemy agents in the gathering.

Tatyana didn't have an Animagus form, much to her annoyance. However, Ms I-Stepped-Off-A-Prada-Catwalk-And-Did-I-Mention-I-Eat-Supermodels-For-Breakfast was perfectly at home amongst the fashionable guests and was probably having a pleasant time kneeing unwanted suitors in the groin.

Alonzo. She wondered why his name kept popping up more often than average nowadays. She shook her feline head, in a vain effort to get rid of such annoying thoughts buzzing around in her head. He was, as was often the case, one of the visible security personnel around. As such, he was the most in danger. She shook her head again. She couldn't be worried about him, not any more than she was worried about Daniel or the Tees.

There were Baret guards and lookouts up to ten miles away. There was cover from the air. There was even cover for an underground attack, she had been one of two analysts who had suggested that possibility. Every guest, even that Potter fellow, went through anti-Imperius and Polyjuice checks amongst others. All the cutlery, every single item in the house or worn by guests had been checked for curses. Wedding presents had been sent separately.

She had a gut feeling they had missed something.

One advantage of being in her Animagus form was that it masked her Aura somewhat. She didn't think it would get by Luna, but it would get by Gabrielle and Fleur. (Although Veelas could see Auras too, that ability diminished rapidly when they mixed with humans.) Which was why she was lying on a branch in the tree in her lioness form instead of her ape one.

With two hours left till the ceremony, Hermione wondered why everyone couldn't just get married in their local courthouse with everyone, happy couple included, wearing jeans. It would ruin the bridal magazine industry for a start, and that would increase the average IQ of humanity. It would be practically a service, really.

"Elsa? Come in, Elsa."

It was Daniel's voice in on the comm link. It was set so that no-one else could hear them. Damn, now she had to change - she really had to work out a way to speak like a human and remain in her feline form. Perhaps a partial transformation, so she'd be a sphinx?

She shoved such thoughts aside for the immediate moment.

"Daniel? This is Elsa."

"Luna Potter is looking at the tree you're in."


"Damn. Does she look like she is telling Potter?"

"No. She looks as if she's .. not all there."

"That means she's putting the puzzle together in her head."

"Should I take her aside and explain your presence?"

"You've already told Tatyana, haven't you?" asked Hermione with a sigh.

"She figured it out," replied Daniel. "I merely confirmed it. If you want to kick my arse, do it tomorrow."

Hermione paused long enough to signify that this offer might be taken up in the morning. "Get Tati to tell Luna then."

"Potter the jealous type?" asked Daniel.

"How would I know? I thought he was the friendly type. Never mind. Don't bother. Luna will figure it out anyway."

"Alright. Daniel out."

"And stay out," muttered Hermione, miffed. She was somewhere between relieved and not amused. Did Terry know? Did every gorram Baret employee know? What about the bloody oath then?

By the time gendarmes arrived at the scene of the crash, the driver was already dead. Her body was brutally mangled, and it was hoped that death had been instantaneous. No foul play was suspected, as this was a common place for accidents.

What was really odd, though, was that her ten month old baby was completely unhurt.

Ten minutes later, Hermione was summoned, this time over the open communication link.

"Curse Breakers Jones and Motwane report to Control now." It was Philippe Santos, and he sounded urgent.

Hermione cut her finger to activate a Portkey that would take her to Control. Her and other Dagger members were blood-keyed into the anti-Portkey wards.

She arrived in the large control room in one of the upper floors of the Estate. Philippe was barking out orders to others, and the whole place was clearly in Code Red.

Themba Motwane appeared next to her. The wiry South African carried, as he always did, his seven foot staff of baobab wood.

"Good afternoon, M'dala," she greeted him with a smile. Themba was the best Curse Breaker in Baret, and her professional mentor. She had worked with on a few joint missions and several training exercises.

"It most certainly was before they called us in," he responded with a rueful smile. "The boss sounded ominously upset."

"There you are!" said one of Philippe's assistants, an old witch with a bright pink beret that might have been stylish in 1932. She dragged them over to a corner and shoved a pair of scrolls in Themba's hands. "We've just found that the wedding rings are cursed. Here are the Chen readings. I have no idea what they are, but Philippe said you lot would know."

There was a table nearby, and they moved over to it so Themba could spread out the scroll.

"Holy Madiba," he muttered after a couple of minutes' perusal.

"Crap," affirmed Hermione as she considered the patterns of the lines. "Viventi's Happiness?" she suggested, referring to a type of curse often used on small metallic items. Mario Viventi was a 14th century priest who derived a great deal of pleasure (and land and wealth and bastards) from enchanting the rings of the Muggle couples he married.

"Yes," he said, stroking one of his dreadlocks in thought. "The question is, which variant?"

"The Second?" she offered. "No, the fourth peak is too high for that. Relative to the third, I mean."

"I would say Dev's version," mused Themba, "but we need a Chen-Bell reading at the very least." He turned to Pink Beret. "Where are the rings now?"

"They're in the best man's dressing room. We didn't want to move them. Come with me."

As they followed the witch, they peppered her with questions.

"Has the couple been informed?" asked Themba.


"Have they been encouraged to consider alternate rings?" asked Themba.


"Have they agreed to use alternate rings?" asked Themba, this time with a tinge of irritation.


"Have they considered getting psychiatric help?" asked Hermione with a great deal of irritation.

"No comment," replied Pink Beret. "The rings are here," she said as she led them to a door that had the name of the best man on it. Hermione was relieved to see that it had been evacuated - she was desperately hoping not to run into Gabrielle or Fleur. Fleur was the bridesmaid.

It took ten minutes of alternately casting, getting readings, and analyzing results for the pair to work out that the rings were Cursed to cause a very large explosion. Hermione postulated that they would activate when both rings were on a warm finger, for maximum drama. Themba agreed, but they could not confirm the trigger.

As Hermione continued their investigation, Themba talked to Philippe on the comm link, requesting that the two Breakers be driven far away from the rest of the wedding party to a large open area where they could work. They didn't wish to use Portkeys or Floo or Apparation in case that triggered the rings.

Philippe, being the one to answer to Mr and Mrs Gilles Baret, was not pleased to be told of the low odds of the rings being fixed in time for the wedding.

Hermione Transfigured a couple of cuff links into faux rings and showed them to Themba. He gave her a thumbs-up and told his boss' boss that he could want all he wanted, but if the happy couple gave a shit about the safety of their guests, they would use fake rings.

"I'll send someone over with a Beamer," replied Philippe curtly and cut off the link.

"He sounds thrilled," said Themba.

"He can go bungee jumping with his intestines for a rope," replied Hermione as she put the rings into two padded lead containers that every Curse Breaker carried a dozen of.

"I'll lead you to the car," said Pink Beret, who had been waiting outside the door.

"Give these to Santos, please," said Hermione as she placed the faux rings in her hands.

Pink Beret nodded and led the Curse Breakers to the driveway at the front of the manor. Much to Hermione's relief, it was an uneventful trip. Unfortunately for her, the events were about to start.

They were waiting for the promised BMW when Hermione felt it. She threw herself to the ground as the stunner went over her, and rolled. Jumping up, she cast a homing stunner back... and knocked out one of the bride's bodyguards.

"Themba!" yelled Hermione as she realized what had happened. "Get Santos!" She cast her strongest shield, using all her four wands, not wanting to cast any more offensive spells. The shields were battered at once from half a dozen bodyguards.

It was getting hot, and she saw Themba frantically gesturing at her with a finger around his ring finger... the cursed rings were probably activated by heat.

The barrage of spells continued. They were becoming far more lethal now, though they were still of the stunner variety.

She stopped casting the shield with her right hand and used it to encase the ring containers in a huge block of ice. Then she dropped the shields.

Then all she knew was pain.

Gilles Baret, Gabrielle and Fleur Delacour sat on a long sofa in the living room. The best man, some school friend of Gilles, remained standing. Gilles had his arm around a very shaken Gabrielle, and was glaring at his head of security. As far as they knew, one of the top Baret security agents was a murderer who had thrown a stunner in Gabrielle's direction.

Philippe was doing his best to keep calm. Judging by the bride's hysteria, she thought it was a full-blown assassination attempt. Never mind the fact that she had cast the first Hex at a woman who was in the middle of a mission to destroy a bomb to save her wedding.

"You better have a damned good explanation for this, Santos," yelled Gilles. "Or it's your head!"

Philippe tried not to roll his eyes, and tried to empathize with the Baret scion's position. He wasn't too good at it.

There was a knock on the door.

"Come in, Daniel," said Philippe, relieved. "Everyone, this is Daniel Katic. He leads the security team of which Ms Elsa Jones is a member. Owing to oaths I have sworn, I will leave the rest of the explanation to him."

Daniel's face was even more impassive than normal, indicating to Philippe that he was controlling a great deal of anger at the situation.

"Elsa Jones is one of our Curse Breakers," said Daniel tonelessly. "She used to be Hermione Granger. I do not know how she was extracted from Azkaban - I was not privy to that operation, should such an operation have occurred. What I have here a memory that I wish you to see."

He took out a Projector Pensieve from his robes, enlarged it, and placed a memory in it.

A misty vision of Elsa Jones appeared. "I swear on my magic that Hermione Jane Granger did not murder Ginevra Molly Weasley. Lumos." Light came from the figure's wand, and the memory faded away.

"You will notice," continued Daniel, ignoring the shocked faces of the Delacour sisters, "that Elsa does not say that she is Hermione. She cannot, as she is forbidden by oath. But as you can see her Aura, you know it is."

"You mean," said Fleur, seeing as her sister was too ashen to speak, "after all this time, Hermione was innocent? So Harry..."

"Do you honestly think the witch who beat Voldemort would get caught killing an ordinary girl?" asked Daniel, showing some of his anger at last. "Of course she was innocent. She stood by Mr Potter all her young life when noone else did. When someone framed her, he and others not only threw her to the wolves, but became the wolves. She is one of her best people now, and would like to put the betrayal of her ..."

"Daniel, you may leave." Philippe's voice was stern.

"... friends behind her," whispered Daniel, picking up his Pensieve and leaving the room. He knew the part-Veelas would hear him.

"Is Hermione alright?" asked Fleur, still reeling. Unlike Gabrielle, she had actually known Hermione. She knew she was one of the others Daniel had mentioned.

"Ms Jones is recovering from magical exhaustion and being hit by five stunners at once. She will recover."

"Philippe," asked Gilles, reverting to first names, "can the wedding continue?"

"I don't see why not," replied Philippe, "though you may wish to throw in a delay if you wish further time to - to do whatever women do before a wedding. And you will have to get married with alternate rings."

"Why?" asked Gabrielle.

"Ms Jones and Mr Motwane are our two top Curse Breakers, who have worked in tandem several times. The curse on your rings is very complicated, and removing it is best done with two people. Mr Motwane has informed me that he does not trust himself to work with any other Curse Breaker except her. Not in the time allowed."

"But those rings belonged to my great grandparents!" cried Gabrielle. "We have to have them!"

Philippe paused for a second. He sighed, and sat down. "Let me tell you a story. I'm not good with all this emotional stuff, so it's a bit hard to say it." He massaged his forehead. "My wife died of cancer ten years ago. The first Christmas we spent together, we were too poor to afford anything. I could only give her a - damn, I'm too embarassed to say it. Suffice to say it was small and cheap. I apologized a million times to her for the present. She finally shut me up by telling me that if she had my love, she didn't need anything else in our marriage. And - well, never mind. I guess my point is, if you love each other, does having or not having a bit of fancy metal change your love in any way?"

Gabrielle began bawling. Gilles looked rather confused, but again began comforting his wife-to-be. The bottom line was, yes, the faux rings would be fine.

"I am sorry about the entire situation," said Philippe. "I am glad it is adequately resolved now. I will go now, to continue efforts on determining how the rings were cursed and who is responsible. I wish you both the best in your marriage."

Gilles gave him an inscrutable look as he left. He was perfectly aware that Philippe Santos had never been married.

The wedding was an hour late. To make up for the delay, the guests had been offered the chance to play an impromptu Quidditch match. Given the number of professionals and enthusiastic amateurs among them, this had been met with a great deal of excitement. Thanks to clothing and cleaning spells, they had enough time for a game.

Unlike some of the other spouses (both male and female), Luna didn't try to stop hers. Harry was not a fan of ceremony; he was only here because he owed Fleur a favour. And while he ended up being on the losing team, he was wearing a broad smile as he plopped down by her side five minutes before the ceremony started.

"Enjoyed yourself, love?" she asked as he reached over to kiss her nose.

"They ought to make every wedding have a Quidditch match," he replied.

The wedding itself went predictably, with tears and hankies all around. If any of the sniffling women expressed surprise that their male partners actually had the foresight to have handkerchiefs in the first place, it was up to said men to confess that they had been discreetly received them from the wedding organizers when they arrived. It was a tribute to the wedding organizers that all such handkerchiefs looked different.

Luna was glad that Harry didn't notice the stony look the bride gave him. She wondered if it had anything to do with Hermione's presence.

She was also rapidly putting clues together. She knew how much security was present at the wedding, as she could see past most of the illusions the organizers had set up to hide the security personnel. Clearly, Hermione was part of Baret security. Baret was the sort of company who would have given Hermione a job straight out of school if she had been willing to leave Britain. (Baret had closed its last office in Britain in 1995.) The job involved killing, given what she had seen in the Auras of Hermione and her friend in the Dublin pub.

Conclusion One: Baret had got Hermione out of Azkaban.

Conclusion Two: Baret had given Hermione a job in one of its security divisions.

Conclusion Three: Gabrielle Delacour - no, Gabrielle Baret now - knew something she didn't know before.

Tentative Conclusion One: Gabrielle Baret believed something new about Hermione that did not cast Harry in a positive light.

Tentative Conclusion Two: Gabrielle Baret believed Hermione was innocent.

"Have you determined the infant's relatives?"

"It was very difficult, but yes. The mother had an older brother. Both orphans with no known relatives."

"Very well. Make arrangements to contact the infant's uncle. If he refuses to take care of the child, make arrangements with the adoption agencies."

Four Days Later

"Our next mission," said Daniel as he handed files around, "is stealing a library book."

Alonzo and the Tees glanced at each other before opening the files. They were just part way through the mission summary when their missing colleague turned up.

"Sorry I'm late," said Hermione as she shrugged off her robes.

"Elsa?" asked Daniel, surprised. "We weren't expecting you back so early. Welcome back!"

"Wait a minute," interrupted Alonzo angrily. "What are you doing here? You should still be in hospital!"

"What, don't you want me here, big boy?" pouted Hermione, causing the Tees to exchange looks of disbelief.

"No, I don't want you here if you haven't damn well recovered!" exclaimed the Healer. "Now stand there," he said, taking out his wand. "I'm running a full diagnostic check on you."

"WHAT?" screamed Hermione. "You have no right!"

"I have every right," he said, already casting away. "I'm the Healer here. It's my job."

"Coffee break!" yelled Terry, scampering off.

"Really, Alonzo, I --"

"Quiet." He continued the standard five-minute series of diagnostic charms, ignoring the continued protestations of his patient.

"Well?" demanded a seriously miffed Hermione after he was done. "Do I have God's approval? Are you sending me to bed?"

"Yes," he replied, moving over to one of two futons in the room. (All-nighters were not uncommon at Baret.) He pulled it out into a bed and added linen and pillows in a minute with a few spells. "Get in."

"You're kidding."

The others had returned now, and were enjoying the show. Even Daniel had a slight upward turn on his lips.

"You're getting in a bed," said Alonzo. "Whether it's before or after I stupefy you is your choice."

"You wouldn't stupefy me," she hissed. "It would harm my current fragile constitution."

"Why do you assume that you know every spell a Healer does?" he countered.

She blinked. Suggestions that there were areas of knowledge she didn't know - worse, know of - were never well received. "You're bluffing," she stated.

Alonzo raised an eyebrow and motioned with his wand for her to get into bed.

Hermione theatrically kicked off her shoes and got in. She pulled the covers over herself before the Healer could.

Then she saw the others. Highly embarassed, she yelled, "What are you lot looking at? Get me a cuppa!"

"Green tea, Terry," clarified Alonzo for her. He was - yes, Hermione thought angrily - he was smirking now!

"One cuppa primordial pea soup coming up, twigs and all!"

"Elsa," said Daniel, "you did get officially released by the Hospital, did you not?"

Alonzo turned his head swiftly to look at her. Apparently the possibility of her skipping out of the hospital hadn't occurred to him.

"Of course I did!" she huffed. "How dare you insinuate that I ---"

"And they told you to come right back to work, did they?" continued her boss.

"Errr..." she mumbled, not wanting to admit that she had been told to stay home and rest for two more days ... and that she had had to be a really bad patient in order to get kicked out of the hospital ward.

"Healer Chabal," asked Daniel, "do you think Curse Breaker Jones is of a sufficient mental, magical, and physical capacity to remain here for our briefing if she stays in bed and acquiesces to your every order?"

"Yes, Team Leader Katic," replied Alonzo, equally professional.

"Alright then," concluded Daniel. "Elsa, you may stay. However, this mission will be carried out in the next two days and you will not be going to it for medical reasons. Understood?"

Hermione rolled her eyes, but she did understand. She nodded.

"It is a mission that could make use of your expertise, which is why your presence here will be beneficial. You will see when you read this." He handed over a mission file to Hermione, one that he had been planning to bring to her bedside at the hospital later that day. "Everyone, bring your files over by the bedside." As the others did so, he whispered, "You should see him when he's on a real Healer power rush."

Hermione blinked, wondering if Daniel was kidding about Alonzo.

"Good job on the last mission," he continued in a low voice. "We will meet about it after this meeting. And Curse Breaker Motwane offers his admiration for your encasing the rings in ice, and is waiting for you to recover so you two can remove the curse."

"He didn't do it himself?" she asked, shocked.

"Ask him," replied Daniel. "I'm no expert."

Hermione examined her fingernails. They were due a varnish, she figured. "He trusted me, you know. He didn't join the others in shooting me down."

"Again, ask him. Having said that, you Breakers trust each other with your lives whenever you work together. Perhaps trusting each other in other ways is not out of the question, hmmm? Besides, we all have pasts." Daniel looked up and discreetly nodded to the others. Hermione pretended not to notice.

The others approached, Alonzo making sure he was closest so he could monitor her. He placed the tea that Terry had brought into her unwilling hands. (Not that Hermione had any problems with green tea. She just had problems drinking on command.)

"Aw," said Tatyana as Hermione gazed at the tea warily. "Kitty's unhappy. Would Kitty like some milk?"

"Want to see my canines up close, Barbie?" countered Hermione.

"No turning into your Animagus form, Elsa," said Terry as he opened his file again. "Some of us have to sit on this futon afterwards. You shed."

"I'll shed your blood, you tonsilating pillock."

Alonzo looked at his team-mates bantering and sighed to himself. It appeared that he would be leaving this soon. True, he hadn't decided yet, but he didn't see how he could stay. He would miss the camaraderie. Actually, he wouldn't miss it - which was even worse. He wouldn't remember it. He would not remember any damned iota of it.

On the fourth day of the honeymoon, Gilles and Gabrielle Baret discovered that there was life outside their hotel suite.

They had decided to dine in the famed "Le Cheval Morte" restaurant on the fiftieth floor of their hotel. (And yes, they did own it - it had been a wedding present from Baret Senior.)

The restaurant's odd name - The Dead Horse - was due to its founding by a brilliant chef with a dubious sense of humour. He said that his cooking was so good that if he served the restaurant's namesake, nobody would notice. He even claimed to have done so. His daughters now ran it, and while they had thankfully inherited only his culinary skills, they saw no point in changing a successful brand name. On the other hand, they had changed the names of certain items on the menu to something more truthful, if less interesting. Some Parisian food critics had loudly bemoaned the loss of such favourites as Cafard à la Broche* and Guano Fumé **, but the sisters and the unwashed (Gringotts-Platinum-card-carrying) public ignored them.

Gilles had requested a copy of the old menu. One of the sisters suggested that he share it with his lovely new bride when they were not within the vicinity of anything upchuckable. He considered this good advice, and placed the menu she provided in his briefcase.

* Roach-on-a-stick

** Smoked bird droppings

On days that she wasn't getting married, Gabrielle was quite the headstrong, opinionated, and intelligent witch. For all her beauty, Gilles wouldn't have married her otherwise. So he was hardly surprised when she brought up the question of what had happened back at Baret with Hermione Granger a.k.a. Elsa Jones.

"She is doing well, and will be back to work next week," said Gilles, who had still been reading the daily reports from Baret whenever he woke up before his wife.

"I am probably not her favourite person right now," mused Gabrielle. "I really must apologize to her. I blew her secret right out of the water."

"You were acting on what you knew," he pointed out. "You barely knew her. I cannot say I would have done different in your position."

"It seems obvious in hindsight."

"Most things are."

"I wonder how Harry and Luna will react when I tell them," mused Gabrielle.

Gilles raised his eyebrows, alarmed. "You might want to ask her permission first." He was about to explain how Hermione had saved their lives under fire by encasing the rings in ice. Unfortunately, he realized, if he did that, Gabrielle would learn how she inadvertently almost blew up her own wedding. This was not the time for that.

"Her friends deserve to know," she countered. "Harry deserves to know how he betrayed his best friend. Your security guy was right. So many times she was the only one to stand by him, to support him when nobody else did. And then he burned her face off."

Gilles wasn't sure what to say - he would need to ask his new sister-in-law and his intelligence team a few questions first - and was quite relieved when a waiter arrived with some Tira Misu for them to share. The conversation moved to lighter things and sweet nothings as they demolished it. Despite both of their upper class upbringings, it only took a few minutes for them to stare at an empty plate.

"Care for a refill?" he asked with a smirk.

"I'll get fat," she countered.

"With your metabolism, you could eat me and not get fat."

"Is that an offer, Mr Baret?"

"Perhaps, Mrs Baret."

"Then why are we still here, Mr Baret?"

They were not in the restaurant much longer.

"You are all familiar with the Library of Alexandria," explained Daniel, "which has been hidden from Muggles from millenia. In the past seven months, three archivists have disappeared or died. Only the body of the last was found. That was eighteen hours ago. He was found slumped over an ancient scroll, his head gone. He was wearing a protective necklace, which we speculate is the only reason why the rest of him was still intact."

"What a way for a librarian to go," muttered Terry. "Losing his head in a book." He pretended not to see Hermione's glare.

"I cannot find the title of the scroll in my mission summary," said Alonzo, perusing the contents of his file.

"That's because we don't know it," replied Daniel. "No-one has entered the room since they dragged the librarian's corpse out. They - the Alexandrian librarians - feared that reading the title would trigger a compulsion charm that forced the reader to get fatally close to the scroll." He glanced at Hermione, the resident curses expert. She would be answering most of the questions in this meeting.

"Wise move," she commented as she rapidly absorbing the remaining contents of the file.

By unsaid agreement, the rest of the team began reading the entire file as well. Daniel, who had already read it, browsed it before going to fetch a cup of coffee.

By the time he returned, Alonzo was already asking questions about the silver Coptic cross necklace that the librarian had been wearing. "Do you think it was the silver or the religious symbol that did the protecting?"

"Might be neither," offered Hermione. "The scroll might just have run out of capacity to injest more flesh. Also, the first two librarians were witches - some curses react differently with gender. There are a couple of other possibilities as well, but I need to research a few things before I propose them. But this is bad."

"Actually, that's something I don't understand," said Terry, scratching his head. "I mean, it's terrible and all, but how is this different from your average Dark book? Or even some of those charmed lawn mowers that Muggle-baiters use? And how does that King guy write about them without breaking the secrecy rules, but never mind that."

"It's the energy involved," began Hermione. "According to Joshi's Law of Magicodynamics, a small body can only..."

"Elsa?" interrupted Tatyana. "Easy on the theory, eh? It's, well, us."

"Ah. Sorry. Let me try again. Suppose the scroll was just cursed. In that case, it has to put in energy to destroy an object. Ever heard of a snapping tea kettle that ate more than someone's finger or nose? A cursed object would have to be as large as a bicycle to eat a human."

"So this scroll is not cursed, because it's too small," said Tatyana.

"There's more to it, but yes," agreed Hermione. "Now, suppose it's a regular Dark Book. They do many things - burning your hands, snapping at you with lots of teeth, sending a huge charge into you that stops your heart, hypnotizing you so that you kill the next person you see, lots of stuff. They do not eat flesh. Sure, they may mangle your fingers into pulp, they may amputate your hand at your wrist, but you can always get the hand back - perhaps it won't have any blood left, but you'll get it back. Because, quite simply, there is nothing they can do with flesh, only blood."

"What does a Dark Book do with blood?" asked Alonzo.

"It siphons the magic in the blood - if it's fresh non-Muggle blood - first. It absorbs the liquid into its pages, before breaking it down into its constituents and releasing the molecules into the air. Basically, it Scourgifies the blood."

"So a Dark Book can't eat someone," said Daniel. "What's this thing doing then?"

"I'd need to test it to say for sure, but my guess is that it's sucking them into a different dimension or plane of existence," offered Hermione. She took a couple of the photographs of the dead librarian on the table. "Look at this guy's neck. Very clean, relatively. What does that remind you of?"

"Splinching," said the Healer promptly. "But not exactly." He cast an enlarging charm a photograph followed by a few image sharpening spells. "The lines along the neck are different. Different serrations. And not so much blood, I think, but it is difficult to say given the amount of time it took for the body to be found."

"Precisely," replied Hermione. "Inter-dimensional splinching differs from regular splinching. I'm eighty percent sure that this scroll is a Portal of some kind."

"There are other possibilities, though," stated Daniel.

"There are," admitted Hermione. "There's always the branches of magic that we've lost that can do things we haven't seen. Perhaps this is one of them. There are objects that used human flesh as a fuel of sorts - the most notable example is Horcruxes. However, there the flesh only disappears at the moment the Horcrux is resurrected, and only the bones remain. The first two witches left no bones, and neither did the wizard librarian. I keep it open as an option because it is very difficult to find information on Horcruxes and there is much I do not know."

She looked around, as if daring any of them to allude to whatever she might have learnt about them in her previous life. Perhaps it was the fact that she was bedridden, but her colleagues, even those unbound by oath, laid off.

There was silence for a minute as they pondered the new information.

"This doesn't change the mission," mused Daniel. "We want to steal the scroll before someone else does, because we think it is a repository of knowledge. If it is a portal, then the dimension to which it leads may still be a repository of knowledge. Elsa, how should we best physically handle the scroll? Can we Portkey and Apparate with it?"

"First things first - do not, under any circumstances, read it," said Hermione. "I would talk to it. Start with explaining that you want to take it to a place where more people can read it. It's a book. Scroll. Same thing. All books want to be read. Then switch to a much firmer voice and tell it while you know and respect its Darkness, you have the power of fire and will have no qualms using it on the scroll. Use a fire coating charm on your hand and approach the book, letting it know you're capable of it. Books respect fire. Then put the fire out, pick the scroll up with dragonhide gloves and gently place it in a comfy leather scroll holder." She paused so that she could finish off her tea.

"We can do that," said Daniel.

"So basically treat it like any other Dark book, but a bit more extreme?" asked Terry. "I thought there'd be more than that."

"What if this book is nastier than anything you can imagine?" asked Tatyana.

"I am uncertain about what you mean by fire," mused Alonzo. "There are different kinds of fire. Also, what if this scroll has a fireproof charm or whatever the ancients used to protect paper? If it knew it was protected, our threats would fail."

"Kamen fire," said Hermione, looking sheepish. "Sorry, I'm so used to it that I forgot to clarify. You've got to threaten Dark books with Kamen fire."

There was silence for about thirty seconds. Kamen fire was only a step below fiendfyre in terms of destructive ability, darkness, and control.

"You're bloody kidding, right?" hypothesized Terry. He observed Hermione closely. If anything, she seemed surprised there was a problem. "Shit, you're serious, aren't you? Damn. Well, don't involve me in any literary negotiations. If I ever tried Kamen, I'd burn the whole room down."

"I don't feel comfortable with Kamen fire either," said Tatyana. She turned to look at Terry. "By the way, whose room was it?"

"My girlfriend's husband's study," muttered Terry. No-one commented, though Terry thought he heard the brunette witch say, "Poor sod."

"I'm good with Kamen," said Daniel to no-one's surprise. Like Hermione, he was known to be a dab hand with flames.

"I've never tried casting Kamen," said Alonzo. "I can control anything up to Shelby's Flame. But Shelby can't get through fireproof charms."

Hermione nodded in agreement. "You can't threaten a Dark book with Shelby. Kamen can get through such charms, so books respect it."

Daniel took control of the meeting again. "You are still not coming with us, Elsa. I can cast Kamen, and the others will cover me."

It did not take long for Luna to work out that Gabrielle wasn't the only one who knew of Hermione's innocence. Fleur knew it too. She could tell by the disgusted glances Fleur gave Harry when she thought no-one was looking.

She wasn't surprised when Fleur told Bill. At least Bill's glares were aimed at his youngest brother as well.

Bill told George. He was still down in the dumps, and it had been a few days now. Harry thought he might be having a Where-is-my-twin relapse.

The reaction of Bill and Fleur had caused her to realize something else. When the truth of Hermione's innocence got out, people would not only blame the Ministry for its atrocious trial, but Harry for allowing it to happen. They would say things like 'I wasn't sure myself, of course, but when I saw that even her friends didn't believe her, I knew Granger had to be guilty'. And Harry would be at the top of that list of friends, and would be blamed.

And yes, she could argue all she wanted to say that people should make up their own mind, but Harry wasn't blameless in this. If he had any fundamental trust in Hermione - in her character, not her ability to do research or to protect him - then he would have knuckled down and made sure she got a good lawyer. He would have hired one for her, one who would have exposed the farce of a trial.

Luna shook her head. Hermione was irrelevant now. What mattered was protecting Harry. The first step in doing so was determining Fleur had seen. Unfortunately, Luna's myriad talents did not include Mind Mining, nor its more common poor cousin Legilimancy.

She could drop some Veritaserum in Fleur's tea, but that would get her caught. Veelas and Obliviation did not mix.

No, she would have to do her usual thing - get the other person off balance, then hit them hard enough to say things they hadn't planned to say.

It was time to visit her favourite French almost-sister-in-law.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 4

hermione pink jumper

You Only Live Thrice (Chapter 2 of 4)

Chapter 1
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Four years after the murder of his first fiancée, Harry Potter married Luna Lovegood.

Hermione was in such a bad mood for the next two days that Daniel ordered her to take some of her long-accrued vacation. She was not amused, but he was adamant. She morphed into her lioness form, roared at him, and stormed out of the building. She didn't meet too many people along the way, since they made sure they weren't anywhere near her way.

Alonzo and Terry walked into his office. Tatyana was on a lunch date with some Danish supermodel.

"I thot I thaw a puddy tat," commented Terry.

Daniel glared at him.

Alonzo was silent, but raised an eyebrow. He was the only person in the team who could raise one eyebrow at a time, which was an ability far more envied than his superior muscle strength.

"I put her on administrative leave for two weeks."

Terry and Alonzo were silent for a minute before Terry spoke, serious for once. "That's probably a good idea. She's been a bitch." Seeing the stony faces of his two compatriots, he clarified quickly, "And she's the most non-bitchy witch I know. Which means something must really be wrong. Any idea what it is?"

Daniel glanced at Alonzo. They all knew that Alonzo knew more of Elsa's past than they did. It was just usually left unsaid.

"I may know something," he admitted.

"Terry," said Daniel, indicating the door.

"Sure," replied the prankster. He stopped at the door. "May I offer a suggestion, boss?"

Daniel nodded.

Terry stepped back in and wrote on one of Daniel's post-its. "That's the address for an orphanage that I volunteer at weekends. When I can. I ... I grew up there. It's very good for ... perspective." Embarassed, he continued hurriedly. "They always need more volunteers." He chucked the note on Daniel's desk and fled.

Daniel and Alonzo stared at the door, their image of the resident hedonist in transition.

"Gigolo, huh?" muttered Alonzo, shaking his head. He glanced at the note - the orphanage was in Barcelona, but translation charms would take care of that. He closed the door and sat down without waiting for Daniel's permission. He was a lot more relaxed with Daniel than with anyone else.

Daniel considered where to begin. "You know, I've often wondered about Elsa Jones, who she was before she was Elsa Jones. We've all wondered."

"You know I'm under a magical oath not to reveal that," said Alonzo, looking uneasy.

"How good is it?" asked Daniel, not wanting anything to happen to his friend and colleague.

"Let's find out," he said after a minute.

They both had extensive training in oaths, seeing as they were the primary interrogators of the team. Though Tatyana had the best Legilimancy skills, she was not form of using them unless it was a dire emergency or the interrogatee was a child molester, rapist, or - as was the case two cases ago - ran a pyramid scheme.

"There was a witch who was said to have died a few years ago," said Daniel slowly, wanting to see if Alonzo has any breathing problems. "And a recent announcement in the celebrities section."

As Alonzo considered answering this affirmatively, he began to choke, which confirmed Daniel's suspicions immediately.

"Don't answer that," commanded Daniel.

Alonzo was instantly relieved. He pointed his wand at his mouth and silently casts Aguamenti so that a torrent of water gushed down his throat. Some trickled down his chin. Such manners were common amongst wizards when not in the presence of witches.

Daniel did not ask any further questions of Alonzo. According to Oath Theory, he could ask other people bound by the same contractual oath, but not the person who provided the clues. Also, he could tell anyone that Elsa was Hermione, and the oath would not care. In other words, they had just managed to circumvent an agreement with a government, which was always a good thing.

"Think I can go visit Elsa now?" wondered Daniel.

"You're asking me?" asked Alonzo.

Daniel gives him a look, and Alonzo suddenly found the carpet very interesting. Daniel sighed, and stood up to put his robes on. Hopefully Elsa would let him into her apartment and, more importantly, resist the temptation to rip his throat out.

A fortnight later, Hermione returned from Catalunya a great deal more mellow. The tan wasn't too bad either.

The members of Delta mixed with the members of an Amazonian tribe at a raucous party around several fires. They had just forced two major logging companies from devastating that area of the rainforest ... by injuring or killing fifty employees of the multinationals. Nearly all of those killed were senior management or visiting executives - people whose deaths might matter to the decision makers. The companies had finally decided that whether the place was haunted or not, it was not worth exploring.

This was a good thing for the Baret Group, since this was one of only three places in the Amazon where a rare and highly profitable medicinal plant grew. It just also happened to be a good thing for the tribe.

"Where's Terry?" asked Elsa, sharing a pitcher of the local moonshine with Alonzo. They could see Tatyana dancing with the women, Daniel talking with the tribal leaders, but there was no sign of their pilot and prankster-in-chief.

"Errr..." said Alonzo, looking away carefully.

"Alonzo," said Elsa in a sing-song voice.

He shifted uneasily. "It's a custom among the folks here to - er - invite admired male visitors to - um - leave something behind."

She blinked. "So he's fucking their best virgins at the moment?"

He nodded, once.

"What about you and Daniel?" she asked after a minute.

He found the flames in front of them very interesting. "I don't know about Daniel. I - I couldn't."

She raised her eyebrows, surprised. "You're not gay," she stated, correctly. "You're single," she stated, also correctly. "So what's the problem then?"

He looked into the fire. "I'm in love, Elsa," he admitted finally. "I can't do it with anyone else at the moment."

She was a bit surprised, but soon began to laugh. "I see," she chuckled. "Love, eh? Take it from me, Alonzo - love only causes misery. Go get yourself some pussy, pal. I'll go see what Tati is up to. I'm messing up your game by sitting here." She patted him on the back and took off, leaving him miserable.

He continued to stare into the fire. One of the nubile locals came up to him and gave him a come-hither look. He did not follow. A minute later, he turned into his bear form and lumbered into the forest to find a good wallowing spot.

Luna Potter was having tea with the retired Minister. To her surprise, Kingsley Shacklebolt seemed to believe her claims about her former D.A. teammate's not-quite-demise.

"I can easily accept, Mrs Potter, that Hermione Granger did not die in Azkaban. Now, if she is innocent, then I doubt she wants to be involved with those of us - all of us - who betrayed her. If she is innocent, then telling your husband will throw him into a pit of depression and guilt that he may not recover from. Your unborn child will grow up effectively without him. If she is innocent, then I wish her the best of luck because she damn well deserves it."

"And if she's guilty?" asked Luna.

"Then she did Harry a favour by getting rid of that Weasley girl. You're a better fit for him than either Weasley or Granger. You seem to give a shit about him, and you are laid back. You calm him down. Granger was a good companion for him in war-time, not peace-time."

"I'm not sure I believe that, Mr Shacklebolt."

"I do not care if you believe it, Mrs Potter," he replied calmly. "If she is guilty, then her contributions to eliminating a Dark Lord far outweigh her misdemeanour of eliminating a very ordinary witch."

"My husband will disagree with that judgement."

"It was well known among the leaders of the Order of the Phoenix," replied Shacklebolt, "that your husband only used Hermione for her brain when it was convenient, and was never a real friend to her. I have very little respect for him."

"That's very unfair," replied Luna hotly, breaking her usual calm. She stood up quickly. "Thank you for your hospitality, Mr Shacklebolt. I will see myself out."

Kingsley waited for the front door to slam and for the crack of her Apparition before raising his glass in a toast. "To Hermione Granger, wherever you are. I hope you're alive. And happy."

He slept well that night. Unknown to anyone except his late wife, he had not been not pleased with the legal representation at Granger's trial, and had planned to visit her in person the week after her trial to ask her if she was guilty or not. By that time, she had died. He was very glad to hear that she hadn't.

"Our next mission," stated Daniel as he tossed files in front of the Delta members.

Hermione skimmed the contents of her file quickly. It was the wedding of Gabrielle Delacour and Gilles Baret, the second oldest son of the Baret patriarch. Feeling apprehensive, she began scanning the guest list. Yes, his name was there.

"Gos se!" she cried, slamming the list down on the table. She leaped out of her sofa, transformed to her feline self, and headed to the balcony.

Tatyana and Terry were surprised. Daniel looked resigned. Alonzo craned his head to see what their Curse Breaker had been looking at. The Guest List. He began reading his copy of it before hitting gold.

"We cannot take this mission, Daniel!" he hissed. "Potter will be there!" He then swore, realizing what he had said. Fortunately, it did not break his oath in any way.

Tatyana suddenly put the clues together. After all, she had spent hundreds of hours pondering the question. And the person in question was already among the list of suspects for Elsa's past. "Damn! Elsa is ... Hermione Granger?"

Daniel stunned Alonzo so that he was in no danger of breaking his oath by responding. Alonzo, expecting this, offered no resistance.

"Yes," replied Daniel.

"Harry Potter's sidekick? The chick who beat Voldemort?" asked Terry, ashen. "But she's dead! Well, she isn't, but..."

"She was framed, then?" asked Tatyana. "Never mind, of course she was. She would never have been caught if she'd really done it."

"How does Alonzo know who she was?" asked Terry.

Daniel had looked up the appropriate records to figure this out. "Alonzo was involved in the extraction of Hermione Granger from Azkaban. He - probably Elsa too - is under an oath not to reveal what you've just found out, so don't mention it. Don't behave differently to her in any way. Treat her like Elsa, not like whatever your image of this Hermione person is. Capisce?"

The Tees nodded.

"I'm going to talk to her," said Tatyana suddenly, getting up and following Elsa's footsteps.

"Enervate," muttered Daniel, pointing his wand at Alonzo.

"Cinque minutes, maman," mumbled the Healer as he made the transition to consciousness.

Daniel meandered over to the drinks cabinet to find a fresh bottle of Merlot. By the time he had refilled his glass - and Terry had refilled his bowl with wasabi peas that no one but Terry dared touch - Alonzo was awake.

"Can she be excused?" he asked hopefully.

"Team Alpha and Omega are in the middle of missions that are too important to stop. The Barets want every other damn Dagger Team on duty, no exceptions."

"Did you try to explain?" pressed Alonzo.

"Of course I did. All I could get was that she could stay away from the wedding and reception, but had to be on stand-by if there was an attack. Then she would have to respond."

Alonzo said nothing for a while, then nodded. "Go tell her that," he ordered his boss.

Daniel nodded and left the room.

Terry took his cellphone out of his pocket to check his email, glancing from time to time at his pensive colleague. He decided against saying anything and picked up his file about the details of the Baret-Delacour wedding.

Luna pressed the intercom at the front of the Muggle building where Roger and Penelope Davies resided. After a minute, she heard a pleasant female voice ask, "Hi, who is it?"

"Luna," she replied. "Potter."

Luna was well aware that the Potter name was reviled by a small but vocal minority of society - Grangeristas, they were called. They were mostly Muggleborns, but there were a few isolated Purebloods among them, such as Neville Longbottom and Padma Patil. They were adamant that Hermione had been framed - though as yet they had found no concrete evidence to show otherwise. But their argument, that she was too intelligent to get caught, did make a lot of sense... outside a court of law.

And when they found out that Harry Potter had burnt half of Hermione's body, the outcry was terrible, even if had been a perfectly legal action. Some even spit behind Harry's back in the street, or loudly told their children that he was what a bad friend looked like. It didn't matter to them that the Purebloods around them gave them evil looks or yelled at them - what mattered was that Harry was hurt. Especially that time when he had visited Hogwarts and two Muggleborn first years had run away, terrified, when they saw him in the corridor.

She knew Harry felt remorse over the Aduro curse, especially when he saw just how much damage it had done to his former friend. When he stood in front of her at the Ritual of Vengeance and she had started mouthing off about how Ginny was a worthless gold-digger who would had never dated him if he hadn't been the Boy Who Lived, he had snapped. And cast the first curse on a list of curses he'd seen somewhere. She herself thought that Hermione had been Imperiused to say something provocative. Perhaps Harry thought so too. He didn't talk about it.

Muggleborn emigration from Britain was at its peak. It wasn't that most of them cared about Hermione herself - indeed, she still had a reputation as a ruthless swotty smart snob - but the way her farce of a trial had brought to light several other ways in which Muggleborns were legally discriminated against.

"I'll be down in a few minutes," replied Penelope.

Half an hour later, Luna was still sitting on the steps of the building. She knew that the polite response from Penelope would have been to invite her upstairs, and that she wasn't getting it. She sighed, and continued to read her book. Or tried to. She was still thinking of how Harry had reacted when she told him that Hermione was probably alive. He seemed relieved, but then went silent. Maybe he would talk about it - the day they sent their youngest child to Hogwarts. Other reactions - Ronald was also very surprised, even apprehensive. Molly was furious, which surprised no-one.

When Penelope turned up after forty five minutes, she was surprised to still see Luna there, looking serene and unruffled. "Sorry I'm a bit late," she said, without looking the least bit apologetic. "I had to make dinner. Now, what do you want?"

The former Ravenclaw prefect, who had one of the few people to be nice to Luna in her first year at Hogwarts, showed little sign of it now. She was one of the more extremist Grangeristas.

"I think Hermione is alive."

Penelope was shocked, before moving closer to Luna and almost putting her hands on her to shake her. She barely stopped herself from doing so.

"After what your arsehole of her husband did to her? The burns, the bones?"

Oh yes. The rumours that someone had gone into Hermione's cell and broken several bones in her burned unhealed body the day before she died. The Grangeristas were confident that that someone was Harry. Luna didn't think they could be convinced otherwise. Certainly not Penelope.

"I was in Ireland three days ago," replied Luna, ignoring her fellow Claw. "I can see Auras. I saw two witches there. One of them was Hermione. She didn't look like Hermione visually, but her Aura was almost identical."

"Almost," said Penelope, zeroing in on the one weak spot in Luna's argument.

"The effects of Magical surgery." She didn't mention several spots of black she saw in Hermione's aura, each one signifying someone Hermione had killed. She had been surprised by that. The other woman had even more spots, which made Luna wonder if they were both mercenaries of some kind. Luna was still confident that none of the spots were for Ginny. Unknown to anyone, including her husband, Luna believed in Hermione's innocence. Though she suspected Harry suspected her belief.

"Did you talk to her?" demanded Penelope.

"No, she Disapparated when I tried to."

"Hurrah for her. Thank you for telling me. Now please get the bloody hell out of here." Penelope turned her back on Luna and walked back to her building.

As Luna walked away, her fists clenched, she wondered if the anger in her was what Muggleborns felt all the time. It wasn't a nice feeling.

One thing was for sure. She wouldn't be telling Neville. He hadn't spoken to Harry for years, except to yell at him that Hermione had been framed, and that if this was what Harry did to his friends, then Neville was going to be his enemy from then on.

The most annoying thing about all of this had nothing to do with Hermione at all. If she hadn't killed Ginny, who had? Somehow, Luna didn't think they would ever find out.

After years of convenient procrastination, Hermione had finally asked Marie Santos about how much she was oathsworn to keep her identity secret. After all, she had not been conscious when the initial contract between Baret and the British Ministry was signed.

"I'm sorry dear, you did sign it," sighed Marie. "We pricked your finger during one of the few moments that you were conscious. A drop of blood will always do in lieu of a signature. I hardly need tell you that blood was all that was used on documents before everyone started getting literate and some moron invented the concept of a signature."

Hermione nodded stiffly. It was an invasion of her privacy, but that was normal within the company. She would have done the same in Marie's position - well, Elsa would have. The old Hermione would have hemmed and hawed and spouted idealistic flug till the first spell was fired and the decision was made for her.

Justin Finch-Fletchley welcomed Dean Thomas into his spacious office. He was quickly rising in the ranks of one of his father's many companies, and his diligence had persuaded most of his critics that while there was nepotism in his hiring, he had his father's excellent business sense and corporate street smarts.

Dean Thomas had emigrated to Canada and was now finishing an apprenticeship as a portrait artist. He just happened to be visiting his mother in England.

"Justin, man, every time I see you it seems your office has gotten larger," grinned Dean. "You sure you're not using Enlargement Charms?"

"Qui, moi?" replied the business scion. "I just pop a tab of Viagra in the keyhole each morning. So, what's up in Vancouver?"

"The usual," answered Dean. "I get invited to speak at leftie groups as a shining example of a British Mudblood refugee, and get treated to dinner and nightcaps by some of their fine members. Then I get invited to rightie homes to paint pictures of bored trophy wives, followed by a nightcap. And I graduate in three months, and move to Montreal for my new job with Portia's Paints."

"Oh, you swung that then? Brilliant!" Justin raised his glass in a toast. Portia's Paints were the best Portrait makers in North America (bar a little known outfit in Acapulco). "By the way... nightcap?"

Dean just grinned. Ah, the rare life of the young, cute, artsy, and successful.

They were both well aware that he would never have got such opportunities with his artistic talent had he remained in Britain.

"What news in Merry Olde England then?" asked Dean.

Justin looked eager to share the gossip. "You're not going to believe this, but - Luna Potter is spreading rumours that Hermione is alive."

"Lovegood?" exclaimed Dean in surprise. He remembered the short blonde Ravenclaw D.A. member with the vacant expression and the strangest but incredibly effective Hexes. "Yeah, I know Potter married her after he killed Hermione, but - why would she do that? It's not in her interests!"

Justin shrugged. "She does have a reputation of saying things as she saw them."

"Key words there. As she saw them. What does Luna see? Bloody Snorkacks?"

"She claims to see Auras. And that she saw someone with Hermione's Aura in a pub in Ireland.

"Jesus," mused Dean. "That changes things. Wow. Hermione survived what Harry did to her. That's impressive. She always was, though."

"Wait a minute," said Justin, surprised. "You believe this Aura bullshit?"

It was Dean's turn to look surprised. "Justin. I paint Portraits. I've taken courses on Auras. They exist, everyone has them, and they can't be disguised. The aim of every painter is to capture a person's ...being on canvas. That's not just their physical appearance. It's their Aura too. The best Portait artists in the world can see Auras. They're usually very weird characters. The rest of us have to use a complex series of spells to get a glimpse of our subjects' magicality."

Justin, who had always thought of Dean as a rather lazy artist-type, was busy changing paradigms. It took a couple of minutes. "Whoa," he said simply.

"It's very possible Luna can see Auras," continued Dean, "It would explain her general Looniness - and her crazy ass ability to dodge spells. And as you say, she gains nothing by saying she saw Hermione. So yes, I believe her. Besides, she posed for me three times - great subject, she is, I love those paintings of her - and we talked a lot. I'm not sure she's capable of telling a lie."

"Can't tell what years of being with Potter would have done to her," pointed out Justin defiantly.

"This is true," conceded Dean. He smiled again. "But damn! I'd much rather believe Hermione's out there!"

"I know what you mean," agreed Justin, when he remembered the other thing he wanted to tell his friend. "Segue coming up." He raised a finger. He brought it down. "Passed. Have you heard of the Casper case?"

"Casper? Caroline Casper?" said Dean, his forehead furrowed. "Puff Chaser, right? Ahead of us a couple?"

"Actually, her younger brother Gordon," corrected Justin. "He was going out with a Pureblood classmate named Irma Yaxland. They were both Seventh Year Ravenclaws. She got pregnant. They both agreed to have an abortion as it was too early for them to have kids. All fine and closed, right? Not according to her dickhead of a father. He dragged Gordon into court, claimed some ancient law that says that any Muggleborn wizard who knocked up a Pureblood witch could be legally killed by her male relatives. Gordon was found to be guilty in minutes, and was Aduro-ed by Yaxland in the Ministry execution area."

Dean was ashen. "Why haven't I heard about this?"

"It was three days ago. If it wasn't for fish and chips wrapping, you'd never see a newspaper, let alone read one."

Dean ignored the jibe. "What of the girl?" he asked.

"Dunno. Her parents have her imprisoned at their home. I presume they've ripped the foetus out of her, too. They'll probably marry her off to some octogenarian You Know Who lover."

"Man. Who was the kid's lawyer?"

"Penelope Davies. You know, Clearwater. She did her best. I'm going over to see her and her man tomorrow night. Roger emailed me saying that she is very depressed."

They were silent for a few minutes.

"It's going to be a war soon, innit?" stated Dean. "Some angry Muggleborn is going to kill some Mudbrain and that'll be our Kristallnacht."

"Get your mother out," sighed Justin. "I'll help in any way I can. She's got people in Jamaica, doesn't she? It's all going to be a mess."

Daniel was an early riser who had little to live for except work. This wasn't unique amongst Baret employees, and there were half a dozen of them in the cafeteria at seven in the morning. They exchanged some morning chit chat and some small groups formed to have breakfast together. Loners like Daniel headed over to the corners of the large cafeteria area to spread papers out, cast a few privacy charms, and work between sips of Colombian Roast.

The intelligence divisions of Baret prepared a daily briefing for various intelligence heads. All the global news that mattered to Baret, every day, in two to ten pages. They didn't capture everything, but it was still a massive time-saver.

Today's news from Britain - another atrocious trial against a Muggleborn, the fourth in five years, this time resulting in death. Great. He wondered what the political implications of killing every British Wizengamot member would be. Probably not as good as one would like, since the trouble with eliminating someone was that they could get replaced by someone worse. There was also the Hydra phenomenon, where a death resulted in the birth of others willing to take up the slack.

After ten minutes, he tapped his wand against his coffee cup to refill it from a large pot at the other end of the room. The coffee was free.

He picked up the next file, which detailed security arrangements for the Baret-Delacour wedding. It was being held at Les Bleus, the Baret estate in Lyon. It was the newest estate, built after World War One. It had hosted several Jewish, Roma, Sinti, and other refugees during the Nazi years. The choice by Gilles Baret to host it there was a statement to the public, but Daniel was glad for it. Security-wise, it was excellent, with the primary outdoor reception area being on top of a hill.

Baret security was large and diverse - the Dagger teams were one of many. It included Lycans, Vampires, House Elves, and humans. There was conflict and competition among the groups, but also respect. Though things between the wolves and bats did get more than iffy at times.

He felt someone approaching. He smiled when he saw who it was, removed some of his privacy charms, and put his papers aside.

"Morning, Daniel," she said, a tad nervous. "May I join you?"

"Ah, Elsa!" he smiled at her. "Please, sit down."

Hermione did so. She was dressed, in a loose black shirt and brown cargo pants under robes. Sometimes Daniel wondered if she intentionally chose her outfits to offend Tatyana's more ... traditionally sensual sense of female fashion. Tatyana had yet to convince her to grow her hair beyond the nape of her neck.

"I thought about what you said last night, Daniel. I'll come to the full wedding. I can handle it."

"You are sure?" her boss asked, truly concerned, both as a friend and a team leader.

"You... do know about who ... about who I was?"

"Yes," he said confidently. "And if you must know, one of my friend's daughters has a poster of Hermione Granger on her wall. Pity you won't be able to autograph it, owing to the oath."

Hermione's jaw dropped and he could see the faintest specks of red on her pale cheeks.

"She's thirteen. Also on her wall are Margaret Thatcher, Altara Ivorescu, Golda Meir, and Li-Hun Cai. You're in good company," commented Daniel, rather enjoying the speechless look on Elsa's face - Hermione's face.

"I didn't do it, you know."

"So I figured. Though we need to figure out some way of getting you able to share that information. You know there's a vocal minority in your old country who believe in your innocence?"

Hermione looked genuinely surprised, even shocked. She spilt her coffee, which she quickly cleaned up with apologies.

Daniel took his laptop out of his pocket, enlarged it, and then began tapping away to find a file with the names of Hermione's supporters.

"Found it. I'll read out some names. Penelope Davies nee Clearwater. Julia Harson. Nigel Lawrie. Neville Longbottom. Justin Finch-Fletchley." He paused, and typed a few more keys. "Here, let me just print out a copy of it."

Hermione's eyes widened as a paper appeared out of a slit in his upper right sleeves.

"You carry a printer in your robes?" she exclaimed, flabbergasted.

He shrugged and just handed her the paper. She looked at it as if it was the most precious thing in the world. She looked at it for ten minutes. Daniel spent that time checking his email, careful not to notice the tears trickling down her face.

When she had discreetly applied a few drying charms to her face, Daniel pushed his laptop aside and reached for his coffee as if nothing had happened.

"There's something else you need to know," said Hermione. "Potter's wife - Luna - she recognized me in Ireland a month ago." She went on to explain the circumstances.

"I see," said Daniel. "My best guess - she's either a Seer or she can see Auras. Or she's a Nartic, which would be incredibly unlikely."

"Auras, I would say. That's the only way you can see Snorkacks and Nargles, and she was always going on about them," replied Hermione. "I didn't believe her at the time," she admitted.

"Let us assume she has told Potter."

Hermione shrugged.

"We'll post you somewhere far from them. They won't be expecting you there."

"You never know with Luna. She sticks to her guns. You just don't know what they are or where she stores them. It was always easier for me to duel Potter than her. She even beat Mad-Eye Moody once."

Daniel made more notes. They would need to watch Luna Potter more closely.

Chapter 1
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

hermione pink jumper

You Only Live Thrice (Chapter 1 of 4)

This fic is about 30K words long. The ship is Hermione/OC, Harry/Luna. Luna fans will probably like it more than Harry fans. Dark Lord Potter fans can go suck their limp dicks. Hermione fans who like their Hermione infused with a bit of Bellatrix will probably like this.

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Three wizards and two witches sat around a round table in an elegant drawing room. Their ages ranged from fifty-five to a hundred and forty, and they were the chief decision makers in Magical Britain. Their influence came from the number of votes they held or controlled in the Wizengamot, their economic prowess, the oaths of secrecy and loyalty they took, and the fact that no-one else suspected they existed.

For instance, when voting in the Wizengamot on contreversial issues, they were very careful to arrange votes so that their respective voting blocs could not be identified with Arithmancy.

Their aim was conservative - preserving the Status Quo in Magical Britain so that the older families, particularly theirs, called the shots. Not all believed in Pureblood superiority, but the end results were often the same.

Of the five, four were from Light families while the fifth was traditionally neutral. There had been a couple of former members from Dark families, but they had met their end during the Voldemort war. And there had been Albus Dumbledore, of course. While he was a loose cannon at times, he had a knack of getting his pawns to agree to the most confagled plans imaginable because of the air of trust he projected.

The loss had meant that the clique had lost the majority of Wizengamot votes they usually had, but this would be rectified in about six months. The heirs to the two Dark families were incompetent or unambitious spoiled scions and their fathers' votes would soon be retrieved.

Today they were discussing the fate of the Boy Who Lived. In particular, his romantic future now that the Dark Lord had been dead for six months.

"I take it," said Amos Diggory between sips of his beverage, "that it is not a given that Mr Potter will end up with Miss Weasley?"

"It is by no means a given," replied Selene Longbottom, the oldest member of the group. She had always been a keen student of liaisons, and had several files on Potter and those close to him. The information from her great grand-nephew, who had been a classmate of some of the parties in question, had been very useful. "He is young, hormone-ridden, and craves a family. She's pretty and plays Quidditch. They actually have a thirty percent chance of partnership success, much of it due to his closeness to the Weasley family in general. However, Hermione Granger is a more suitable long-term match for him, when he has gained some maturity."

"Granger? The Mudblood?" asked Christopher Tompkins, owner (via several front companies) of the Daily Prophet and seventeen major newspapers on the Continent. "Unacceptable."

There were no objections to either of his assertions.

"Are you sure about your analysis of the Weasley girl?" asked Diggory. "I have known her since she was little, and she seems a nice young catch for any wizard."

"You have answered your own question, Amos," replied Longbottom. "She is a girl, not a woman. Granger, on the other hand, has been a woman for a couple of years now."

Raphael Snicksmith, who had been quiet so far, looked up from the file on Hermione Granger that Longbottom had handed out to the group. "Even without her attachment to Potter, this girl - sorry, woman - is a nasty piece of work. Imprisoning journalists, disfiguring a Pureblood classmate for breaking secrecy in a school club, organizing a rebellion against the Ministry, nearly killing a Ministry official - all by the time she was sixteen! Such actions might be admirable, but not in a Mudblood."

There were murmurs of agreement.

"If she and Potter ever got together, they would blow our world apart," mused Diggory. "And she clearly has no respect for established truths. Freeing Elves, for Merlin's sake!"

Longbottom looked around. "Anastasia," she called out to the only member of the group who had not expressed an opinion yet. "What say you?"

The alluring and much-married Anastasia Zabini looked up from her finely manicured nails. She looked bored, but they all knew her mind was moving faster than any of theirs.

"That seems obvious, Selene," she said in a soft voice that had destroyed many men. "She must be destroyed. Not killed - that would just make her a martyr. Her reputation must be destroyed. She must be eliminated from our society, preferably by Potter himself, before she is in a position to destroy us."

It was a good life, Philippe Santos mused, being part of a family that valued money, influence, hard work, secrecy, ethics, and flexible definitions of whom the ethics applied to. It made for interesting times. His former lives as a mercenary, theologian, nurse, and gendarme had prepared him well for being Head of Security for the Baret Group of companies.

It was an open secret that there was a murky dividing line between the Baret Group and the family that owned it. The Baret family was based in Switzerland, and was one of the most powerful clans in Europe. Their history could be traced back over three thousand years, but they had never had any problems with incorporating new blood - in fact, they encouraged it. All that mattered was magical prowess and mental intellect. And physical competence, Philippe supposed. The last seemed to happen by itself - good genes.

Santos' division - Security - meant many things. Mostly, it was about protecting family members, company assets, visitors, and so on. But it also encompassed a variety of less salubrious teams - Dagger teams - that performed espionage, intimidation, protection against intimidation, even assassinations.

What was a practising Catholic doing running a force of assassins? Admittedly, this wasn't a question that any 16th century Roman would have thought of asking, but that was another matter.

True, there were some missions that he reluctantly ordered, such as the elimination of certain human rights activists who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But most missions involved eliminating corrupt functionaries in Muggle governments or transfiguring a Dark Wizard into a goldfish in a cat's water bowl. With a cat nearby.

If his younger, very rigidly ethical, self could have seen Philippe Santos now, he would have been mighty ... displeased? Disappointed? Discombobulated? Driven to murderous thoughts ... before remembering the ethical rules that prevented him from acting on them?

Philippe decided he didn't want to think about that, and focused instead on the files on his desk of possible new recruits for the Dagger teams. Most members typically lasted five to eight years before they decided to retire with their substantial savings and have a life. Or they were divorcees or widow/ers who had already had a life and wanted a few years of mindless work before daring to face life again.

There was a knock on his office ten minutes later. He recognized the silhouette of his niece Marie immediately, and cast a spell to open the door and let her in. It opened, signifying that the other automatic checks for Polyjuice and Imperius curses had turned up negative.

"Bonjour, ma cherie," he said, walking over to kiss her on the cheek.

"Bonjour, Tonton Philippe," she replied, before turning serious and handing over a newspaper.

"What's this?" he asked, opening it. "The Daily Prophet? Why do I want to read this English Pravda?" Then he caught sight of a name, and halted. He sat down at his desk again and thumbed through the files he had been about to look at. Ah - there it was. Hermione Granger. British First Generation Witch, Credited, according to Goblin statisticians, with fifteen percent of the victory against their Dark Lord Riddle. Curse Breaker. Hobbies included reading, more reading, rock climbing, and - according to the newspaper in front of him - murdering romantic rivals.

Three days later, Marie Santos walked with two bodyguards, half a dozen prison guards, and a Ministry official through the dank corridors of Azkaban to a maximum security cell. She barely kept her face impassive as they passed by prisoners who alternately stared at them with glazed eyes right out of photographs of Bergen-Belsen or proposed that she come in and 'play' with them. The smell of urine was pervasive. She was glad for her physically intimidating Dagger bodyguards, Alonzo Chabal and Igor Kaninsky.

After what seemed like an eternity, they came to a cell at the end of a corridor. The smell of blood was fresh, even for a human nose. She glanced at Igor. Three Ministry guards entered it and stomped over to a small figure slumped in the corner. One nudged the figure with his boot, before kicking it. It groaned.

"Get up, you scarlet woman!" said another guard, reaching down and ruthlessly pulling the figure up by its arm. The figure screamed, and Marie decided that things had gone far enough.

"Stop that, you idiots!" yelled Marie, stepping forward and shoving the guards aside. Surprised, they made to stop her, before meeting a burly arm from Alonzo.

"Stand aside," said the Ministry official, quickly making his way to the front. He began casting a bunch of diagnostic spells at the prisoner, before realizing that the magic suppression wards prevented wands from working properly. Still, it was easy to see that the prisoner wasn't supposed to be alive. Some of the bumps under her skin looked decidedly bony, and most of her face and arms were blackened and charred.

"By the gods," he muttered. It was only the look of genuine shock on his face that kept Marie from verbally eviscerating him. He stood up quickly and turned to the guards. "Alright, you and you, go find me the Chief Guard and bring him so he can explain to me why a new prisoner is almost dead! You two, get a Healer. You two, get the fuck out of this cell and stand guard outside."

The first pair of guards had long gone, but the second remained, looking rather nervous.

"Well?" demanded the official. "Get the fucking Healer!"

"Er, Mr Davies, sir," said one of them, "This is Azkaban, sir. We have no medical facilities. Or a Healer."

"Have one Floo in from St Mungo's then! Oh, never mind," continued Davies, remembering that there was no Floo in Azkaban. "What about a room with medical supplies, then, for when you lot get sick or injured?"

"It's on the same corridor as the Chief's office, sir, at the other end."

"We can pick her up and take her there," said the other guard, moving forward. He was stopped by Igor, who was a foot taller than him and has twice as much muscle. "Or not."

"You think we're going to allow you neanderthals to touch her?" asked Marie. The guards stepped out of the cell hurriedly.

Davies stood up, looking lost now that he was alone with the team from Baret. "I don't suppose any of you have medical training," he asked hopefully, noticing that Ms Santos' other bodyguard was kneeling next to the prisoner, speaking softly while he opened a potions first aid kit that he had taken from somewhere in his robes.

"Believe it or not, Alonzo is a trained Healer," said Marie.

Davies was surprised - the alleged Healer looked more capable of putting people in St Mungo's than getting them out. Still, the man looked competent, if the way he was carefully administering vials to a groggy and whimpering Hermione was any indication.

"Thank Merlin for that," he said instead. "I don't know what happened here, but she needs help." He looked up from examining the floor. "How are you going to get her out of here now?"

"Don't worry about that," replied Marie, motioning to Igor. He was taking some items from his robes. Two small rods, which he then pulled apart into seven foot long poles. A folded cloth, which opened up into a large rectangle.

"You lot carry stretchers in your pocket?" gasped Davies.

"You know what a stretcher is, Mr Davies?" asked Marie, cocking her head.

"My wife is Muggleborn," he exclaimed, keeping his voice low to avoid the guards outside hearing anything. "Her mother introduced me to Muggle movies." He grinned for a bit. "The in-laws seem to enjoy explaining every damn thing in them to their stupid ignorant son-in-law. Even ... even that scene in When Harry Met Sally."

Marie chuckled.

Alonzo looked up to see if Igor had finished assembling the stretcher. Seeing that he had, he motioned to bring it over. They began discussing how to get her onto it without hurting her more than they had to.

"Do you know Granger personally?" whispered Marie after watching the two men for a while.

"Of course not," replied the Ministry official, while he gestured that this was not a conversation he wanted to have here. "Everyone knew of her, though. She has quite a reputation."

Two hours later, the group - sans prison guards - were two miles away from Azkaban island.

"We should be out of the reach of the wards any moment now," announced Davies, observing a crystal in his palm. It was flickering faintly, and then died out. "Right, we're good."

Marie nodded and pressed a few buttons on a controller. There was a huge feeling of being squeezed, and then their boat was in the middle of a large bright room with several people in labrobes and overalls waiting.

Hermione was screaming her head off, and Alonzo was barking out instructions to some of those waiting. Davies figured they were Healers too.

"Will she be alright?" asked Davies, worried. His question was addressed to Igor, who had been with the Healer as he cast unimpeded diagnostic spells on the broken witch.

Igor snorted, and glared at him. "Requesting dismissal, Ms Santos," he asked Marie, ignoring the British official.

Marie was surprised, but nodded. "Your lot must have really done a number on her," she said to Davies as her bodyguard left. "He's off to the gymnasium to break a few punching bags. Alonzo will probably be doing the same later."

"And yourself?" asked Davies with a sigh.

"First, Mr Davies, I would like you to tell me everything you know about her," replied Marie, motioning him to follow her. They left the arrival room and headed down a corridor.

"Call me Roger." He glanced at his watch, noting the time. "I'm off duty now."

"Alright, Mr Roger," she replied with a grin as they entered a large and comfortable office. "Welcome to my humble abode. Have a seat. Coffee or tea?"

"Thank you for your hospitality to a member of a corrupt and prejudiced government," replied Roger Davies, sitting down on a sinfully comfortable armchair. "And forgive me for my rudeness, but is there any chance you have anything ... a little stronger?"




"I'll drink from the bottle at this point."

She took out a couple of glasses and filled them up. She handed him one, and the bottle, before sitting on the ergonomic swivel chair behind her desk. They didn't bother to toast, but simply drank. Roger, she noted, downed half the glass at once, which was rather impressive. He didn't cough afterwards.

"Penny's going to kill me," he said after a minute.

Marie waited for him to go on. From the extensive briefing notes her secretary and her uncle's staff had given her, Roger Davies, Pureblood wizard, had married Penelope Clearwater, Muggleborn witch, a year before. He was a rising functionary in the Department of International Relations, which was one of the few places in the Ministry where marrying a Muggleborn could actually work in one's favour, as it allowed British representatives in other countries to be seen as more ... centrist than the British Ministry. It had definitely helped in this case in the negotiations between her father and the British Ministry for custody of Hermione Granger, especially since Clearwater was acquainted with the younger witch.

"Penelope, my wife," explained Roger, even though he suspected Marie knew that already. "She's a friend of Hermione's. Not a close friend, but they and some other Muggleborn witches meet every month for drinks and whatever witches discuss when they're together. Anyway, she's adamant that Hermione has been framed, and that she would never kill Ginevra Weasley. Hermione didn't think highly of Ginevra; Penny deduced that from what she didn't say. But it's a huge leap from there to murder."

Marie made notes, before looking up. "According to my notes, Ronald and George Weasley, brothers of the deceased, both witnessed Hermione Granger stab Ginevra Weasley with a poisoned dagger in their shop before Disapparating. The two witches had just had a loud argument about Harry Potter beforehand, where Ginevra had told Hermione to 'stay away from her man'. Furthermore, while there were several witnesses to Hermione Granger having lunch in Hogsmeade at the same time, the authorities did find a Time Turner in her apartment, invalidating the alibi. What is your opinion on that?"

Roger smirked at her and refilled his glass with 100 proof Swedish vodka.

"What does Penelope think?" asked Marie, accepting the fact that Roger Davies was a diplomat. Right now he would still be able to answer negatively if he was ever asked under Veritaserum about expressing his opinion when it was contrary to the Ministry's.

"What does she think? Two words - poppycock and Polyjuice. She says if Hermione had ever wanted to off Ginevra, she would not have got caught."

"And the Time Turner?"

"She says that if Hermione had one, she would have made far better use of it."

"I see," said Marie, making a few notes.

There was silence for a couple of minutes as Roger looked at the office. "I presume here is Zurich?"

"Close," she answered, without any elaboration.

Roger rolled his eyes. "On a terrestial scale? As supposed to, say, astronomical?"

"Close enough," offered Marie with a smirk. She looked at her notes again. "Tell me about how she ended up in Azkaban. At the trial, she was not offered Veritaserum or a wand to swear on her magic that she was innocent. Why?"

"Regulations," replied Roger with a grimace. "By the Marsden-Rottweil Act of 1748, a Muggleborn accused of murdering a Pureblood, in a situation not involving self-defence, is not automatically granted rights to such means unless requested by her legal representative.

"Who was her legal representative?"

"Joan Ashcroft," replied Roger. "One of the most qualified barristers in my Ministry. A rising star. She is from an ... old family." In other words, as he knew she would understand, a family that would not traditionally welcome the existence of someone like Hermione Granger.

"Was Ashcroft chosen by Granger?"

"By the Malfoy-Arsquith Subrule of 1905," recited Roger, "Muggleborn defendants in 'crimes of passion' are automatically assigned legal defence from the Ministry's top-ranked legal staff to better protect them."

"Why am I not surprised," muttered Marie. "Out of interest, your people are aware that they are in danger of sanctions from certain countries? You are familiar with Apartheid South Africa, I presume?"

"If you have any messages that you would like me to carry in an official capacity to my superiors, I would be glad to receive them," said Roger with a poker face.

"Continue with your story of the trial, please."

"Alright," said Roger. He took a sip of vodka. "It did not take long for Granger to be sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban. She only avoided the Kiss because the Newarry-Adelhaus Law of 1433 prohibited anyone with an Order of Merlin from immediate death or equivalent sentences."

"I am surprised Ashcroft brought that up."

"Their law has long been incorporated into the written Magical contract between the Ministry of Great Britain and those who accept an Order of Merlin."

"Ah. Please continue."

"After the trial, the Ritual of Vengeance was held, as per the Barry Rule of 1231."

"A law without two sponsors?"

"Perhaps things were different in the 13th century. A more innocent time," suggested Roger Davies with a straight face. "Now, the Barry Rule permits a wizard whose wife or fiance has been killed to Hex the convicted murderer with any spell other than the Unforgivables. Potter chose to cast Aduro at his former friend's face. The fire spread to most of the rest of her body before he lowered his wand."

"This was not done in public."

"It is a private ritual, though details of it are made known for the edification of the public."

"And she received no treatment for it before being sent to Azkaban."

"Apparently not."

"Do you think Potter is aware of the limitations of her trial?"

"He is not generally known as the first person to ask if you wish to see the subtleties of a situation," he offered diplomatically.

Marie thought for a while. She offered Roger another drink. He looked tempted, but declined, saying that he had to take his wife out on the town in a couple of hours.

"What of the broken bones?" she asked, looking at her watch.

"How many were there?" asked Roger, leaning forward.

"Twenty two. Both her arms, legs, some ribs, a vertebra. Were she a Muggle, she would be twice dead by now."

"Damn. I honestly don't know where those came from."

"If it was possible, I would let you know how she recovers."

"Thanks," he said ruefully. "I hate getting Obliviated."

"I know what you mean," said Marie. "I would have liked to have asked your wife some questions as well. But you know the agreement, considering you helped write it."

Roger shrugged. "It's safer that way. Hermione's death in Azkaban will be announced in a couple of days. Nobody in my Ministry will know that she was extricated by you lot." He stood up and leaned forward to shake her hand. "Pity I won't remember any of it, but it's been an honour to meet you, Ms Santos. And if it is at all possible for me or, more importantly, my wife to meet Hermione later without breaking the rules of the contract, we would greatly appreciate it."

Marie nodded. "It is nice to know that your Ministry has employees with civilized views. Your Portkey is waiting in the Departure Lounge, Roger. I will walk you there."

"One last question," asked Roger as they prepared to leave her office. "Why did Baret go through so much effort to retrieve Granger? I'm not going to remember it, so ... feel free."

"Would you believe me if I said we are altruists who can't stand to see a travesty of justice?" she answered with a bright smile.

"Not particularly," he muttered wryly, showing her out the door. "After you."

Elsa Jones lay in the hospital bed, doing the Times crossword. It reminded her of what she had done with her father every holiday. It had been six months since her old life had ended, since Hermione Granger had 'died'. She was, she thought ruefully, now the reincarnation of Lindsay Wagner. Each of her arms and legs had wands embedded in them, her body was home to more magical sensors than she could count, and she had a nice new pleasant face that still shocked her whenever she looked in the mirror. At least she was still a brunette, though with a very different shade of brown.

What else did she have? Broken heart, check. No friends, check. Loss of faith in humanity, check. A sense of impending doom, check.

There was a knock on the door. She sighed, and remained silent. There was no way she was inviting said doom into her hospital ward. As expected, the door opened regardless.

"Good morning, Elsa," said Philippe Santos pleasantly. He had a large bouquet of flowers, which he placed on a vase on top of her television. So she would see them all the damned time, she figured. "How are you doing today?"

"Your weapon is doing fine," she replied sweetly. "You do know I can banish those flowers with a flick of my wrist. Thanks to my fancy new weapony hands."

"If you should choose do so," he replied, equally pleasantly, "Might I suggest that you send them two doors down to the left, where there is an old woman who hasn't been visited by her errant sons in three months and cries about that every day?"

"Go to hell, you guilt-tripping bastard," muttered Hermione. "Why don't you get me something a useful, like a dartboard with Harry Potter on it so I can practice my flame throwing?

Philippe smiled and sat down on the visitor's chair. "Ah, but Elsa, that is your old life. This is your new life. Let the old life, the old hurts, go."

Hermione looked elsewhere. She didn't want to acknowledge that he had a point.

"You're bored, aren't you?" he asked.

She said nothing.

"Have you considered the offer of the Baret Group?" he asked. "I have to say, it is a generous offer."

She remained silent for a while, before casting Muffliato. "Look, I just don't understand it, alright?" she huffed. "Why are you doing all this for me? Why get me out of Azkaban, fix me up, and then give me a choice? What happens if I refuse?"

"We give you a pension, start you on a new life," he answered easily. "You'll never hear from us again."

Hermione narrowed her eyes.

"Did you know that our Goblin analysts give you fifteen percent of the credit for eliminating Voldemort? Primarily for all the Hexes and battleplans you created and used, especially the last one."

"Bullshit," she replied.

"His elimination was very beneficial for us. By our calculations, you saved us several million galleons for that achievement. Consider this a small 'Thank You'."

She averted her eyes again, never having been good with accepting praise - primarily for lack of practice since she received little.

"Forty percent went to Lily Evans, twenty percent to Severus Snape, five percent to Albus Dumbledore, and ten percent to Harry Potter, and ten percent to all and sundry."

Hermione didn't comment, to Philippe's pleasant surprise.

"The Headmaster made a lot of mistakes," she mused, staring into the distance. "Sometimes I thought he wanted us to lose, that he wanted to set Harry up to die. They're right about Professor Snape - I wish I could meet him now. Just to say thanks."

Philippe averted his eyes.

"The figure for Harry's mum seems a bit high," she queried.

"I can explain that," he said. "The ancient protection she obtained for her infant son could only be accessed through an incredibly complex series of charms that she mastered. Our teams took five years to figure them out."

"You know what they are?" she exclaimed, turning to look at him excitedly before she could stop herself.

"We employ lots of smart people, Elsa. Many of the results are classified, but if you joined us, you'd get access to quite a bit of it."

"Subject to various oaths, of course?"

"Of course. But do you care?"

No, mused Hermione, she didn't care. She cared about knowing, not about others knowing she knew... not any more. Her old life was so warped by her Harry-saving complex that she didn't quite know what to make of it. At least Harry was saved from marrying a groupie, she figured. Pity about the cost.

She shook her head mentally. He was distracting her from the key issue here.

"But you'd be hiring me to be a fucking assassin," she hissed, "not a researcher!"

"First of all, I can arrange for you to have a part-time researcher position in the Arithmancy division. It would be good for you and them. Your old name has come up before in recruitment not only from the Dagger teams, but also from the Aritmancers. I can make that happen without having to tell them that you were Hermione, so I won't be breaking the contract."

The contract was a reference to what the members of the Baret extraction team had signed with British Ministry officials that hid the truth of Hermione's fate. It prevented any of the individuals involved tellling anyone else that Hermione Granger had become Elsa Jones. It wasn't a particularly strong contract, but was still Magically binding.

"I'm not sure I want to murder anyone," said Hermione after a minute.

"You've killed before."

"That's war. It's different. I cannot see how I could be part of a Dagger team without at some point having to murder someone in cold blood."

"What if that person was a serial rapist?"

"I would rather see him go through the justice system," replied Hermione.

"Because, you of all people, know how reliable justice systems can be."

Hermione turned away, biting her lip. "That was an exception," she mumbled. "I would still want him to go to jail - alive."

"You know how few rapists go to jail. You know how few victims go to the police, let alone go to court. Besides, people break out of prison."

"Fine!" she cried. "I would kill the damn fucker! There - happy?"

"Not yet," replied Philippe. "Look, you will have to kill, often in self-defence. You may not have to murder someone, but I cannot promise that. You will, however, have to be tolerant of other members of your group using any means necessary to complete a mission. Including harsh interrogations and murder."

She appreciated the lack of sugar coating. "What if they're innocent?" she asked.

"That could happen. Not usually with interrogations, because we use truth serums and Legilimancy for that. We're very, very good with our intelligence. In the past twenty years, there have been only five cases where we killed people we should not have killed. I would know, because the first of the five instances was my fault. I didn't sleep properly for months. We are human. We make mistakes. Overall though, we make the world a better place."

"Better for Baret."

"Baret makes the world a better place. Our humanitarian works are extensive."

"You realize how irrelevant that is to my decision?" questioned Hermione. "For all I know, you lot framed me so I'd lose my friends. So I'd lose Harry. My last connections to society. I know what kind of people are perfect for this kind of work. Smart. Angry. Numb. Alone."

Philippe raised his palm. "Wait." He raised his wand to his temple, and intoned, "I swear on my magic that to my knowledge, the Baret Group had no part in framing Hermione Jane Granger for the murder of Ginevra Molly Weasley." He lowered his wand.

Hermione was stunned for a moment. "Er. Thanks," she muttered. "To your knowledge, though."

"Would you ever swear an oath without that clause?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"Do you know who did it?" she asked.

"We have not tried to investigate that," he admitted. "You've been on our radar for a while as a recruit, ever since one of our agents pulled a memory from a bothersoem fiction writer that a fifteen year old chit of a girl had stuffed her in a jar for a few months. He included the observation in his report as a footnote, but it was intriguing enough to warrant further investigation."

Hermione looked aside. "Rita was a mistake," she admitted. "I should removed all the oxygen from that jar when I had the chance. And never told anyone I did it."She paused, remembering how Harry had mentioned that at her trial as an example of her ruthlessness. Bastard. She'd done it for him.

"I thought you had issues with murder?"

"Rita Skeeter isn't human," she muttered, knowing the dual standards she was maintaining. "It's not like I had the choice with the absence of anti-slander laws. Maybe I'm closer to being a Black Widow than I'd like. Which would give you a semi, I know. Look, I'm in the middle of a paradigm shift right now, alright? Grant me my inconsistencies."

"Alright," replied Philippe. "Back to my story then. Baret was pretty close to making you an offer actually, because we really need more Curse Breakers. When we heard about what your people had done to you, we hopped in immediately. We used the opportunity it provided. We did not make it."

She looked at the flowers on the television. She wondered why only one was red.

"You're bored," he stated. "Join us, and you'll never be bored."

Hermione sighed. "Hand me a quill."

Philippe Santos did so.

Tempus Fugit.

The brunette pants on the treadmill as she goes through her hundred and fourth day of physiotherapy.

"You've got to learn to use your two pairs of wands in coordination," says the trainer as he prepares the simulation room for the fourteenth time that day. "Let's try again."

"You try simultaneous casting with that wand up your arse," mutters Hermione as she focuses.

"Ready to jump out of this plane with a broomstick instead of a parachute, Kitty?"

"Tatyana, you gorram bitch --- aaargh!"

"Our mission, should we choose to accept it..."

Delta leader Daniel Katic ducks as his four team members shot streams of water at him.

"We're just going to leave them there?" yells Elsa at Daniel over the drone of the helicopter. "They're just kids for chrissake!"

"We can't save everyone!" he screams back. "It's a war!"

She almost slaps him, but her arm is held back by the team's Healer. She hits his large chest a few times, and them starts weeping into it. She hasn't slept for fifty hours, and is at the end of her tether.

"It's so wrong, Alonzo," she cries.

Her teammates look aside. They are no strangers to human suffering, but this mission is worse than most.

As Daniel looks out of the closing door of the rising helicopter, he sees the faces of the two children Elsa is crying about, and the betrayal written on them. They will feature in his future nightmares.

The raiders of the refugee camp in the Sudan scatter as a lioness dashes at them, mauling them, breaking their necks.

One of the survivors would say later that the beast was walking on air.

Two casually dressed women sit in an Irish pub, arguing about whether Céline Deville is a better goalie than Sarah Bouhaddi.

A blonde woman walks in, and heads towards the bar. She glances at them, makes eye contact with one of them, and gapes. She starts walking to them, but they Apparate out.

She stares at the empty cubicle, her world just having been turned on its head.

"So what do you lot do in your spare time?" asks Daniel Katic, the leader of Dagger Delta. It is the end of a long day of training, and the five Delta members are sitting in a comfortable lounge around a roaring fire.

"Spare time?" asks Terry D'Acosta incredulously. "What's that?"

Daniel raises an eyebrow. "For that, we'll start with you, Terry."

"Right, well, I play poker and fly paper planes," he replies. "And I - er - moonlight as a gigolo on weekends."

"Isn't moonlighting against company policy?" asks Tatyana.

Terry sticks his tongue out at her.

Daniel rubs his forehead. "Never mind. Tatyana, you're next. Feel free not to tell us everything."

Terry sniggers. Hermione sends a pillow flying across to the room to his face. He ducks it, and it shoots past before looping in the air and hitting him from behind. Everyone laughs.

Tatyana Rudenko shrugs. "Martial arts, surprise, surprise. And I follow the fashion scene."

"Isn't that all taking your work home, O Dear Femme Fatale?" asks Terry.

"Want me to do like Kitty, with a gorram anvil?" threatens Tatyana.

Terry shuts up.

"Elsa?" asks Daniel.

Tatyana throws her arm around the younger witch. "Ellie darling, we know you read, seeing how much time you spend with the maths geeks..."

"You calling me a geek?" huffs Hermione.

"You are our maths geek," replies Tatyana fondly. "You're our favourite geek, the light that shines upon us across all of geekland, the ..."

Hermione claps her hand over the blonde's mouth before she can spout anything more.

"What else do you read?" asks Alonzo. He too, does not speak much. Not that anyone has to, with Terry and Tatyana - the Tees - around.

"Er - comics," says Hermione quickly.

Much surprise is expressed by her colleagues.

"What kind of comics?" asks Daniel.

"The funnies, mostly," explains Hermione. "Far Side, like. It's nice to be able to - to laugh, sometimes."

The other members of Delta suspect (and Alonzo knows) that Elsa has had bad experiences in the past. They all have, really, and hide them in various ways. Perhaps it was because no-one who had had a normal upbringing would ever have the despondency to join a Dagger team. Or just the way they were recruited.

Alonzo quickly speaks up before Daniel asks him to, so that he can distract attention from Hermione. "I'm a hooker," he admits.

There is silence in the room before Daniel - Daniel, of all people! - starts laughing. Soon everyone is laughing, except Hermione. Her jaw is still somewhere on the floor. Then she grins.

"Rugby?" she asks Alonzo.

He grins back. "Yeah, I play for an amateur club in Milan." It's easy to floo between cities in Europe if money is not an issue.

"I am sorry," says Tatyana. "What does this rugby sport have to do with being a prostitute?"

"It's a position in a rugby team," explains Hermione. "Like a full-back or striker in football. It's called such because the hooker has to hook the ball with his feet in a certain way during a scrum. A scrum is ... an opportunity for the players to stick their heads between the bums of the other players." She giggles and has another sip of rum.

The others stare at Hermione for a bit, resolving to get her tipsy more often.

"The bums, Alonzo?" asks Terry.

The Healer considers how to explain this, and fails. "Is there a Pensieve in this house, Daniel?"

The Delta leader reaches into his robes - which are lying on the coffee table next to him - and retrieves a small bowl from a pocket. He tosses it to Alonzo, who fumbles but catches it.

"Just how many things do you have in your pockets, Leader One?" asks Terry.

Daniel grins. but does not answer. The others don't expect one. Each of them carries at least a hundred shrunk items in their robes, but they suspect he carries over a thousand. There's a betting pool on it among members of all the Dagger groups.

"While Alonzo gets his memory," says Daniel, "I'll say my bit. I'm a boring old man, really. I collect coins."

"That's it?" asks Tatyana. She pauses, knowing that he's a Charms Master. "What do you do with the coins once you collect them?"

"Put them in albums," he replies. "I can show you some."

"What kind of coins?" asks Hermione.

"Oh, Muggle, Magic, Goblin, Elf, all kinds."

"There are Elf coins?"

"Sure," replies Daniel. "From the time before we enslaved them."

Hermione looks very interested, and wants to ask more questions, but Daniel raises his hands. "Don't worry, I'll bring them in to work next week. Right now I want to see what a scrum is."

Satisfied, Hermione leans back, content. As she watches Alonzo's memory with the others, she muses that maybe this Elsa gig isn't so bad.

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

hermione pink jumper


Here are a few plot bunnies that have been bouncing around my empty head... the usual 'No RHr' stipulation applies. None of them require Harry and Hermione to end up together.

1. Lily only falls for James because Sirius gives her a love potion to do so. Sirius Black - the same person who used a friend to nearly kill a childhood enemy - is quite capable of this, as his sense of right and wrong can be dubious at times. Now send your time traveller of choice back to the MWPP era, have him/her discover the plot, and see what happens. You are free to change history. You are free to decide whether James knew of Sirius' plans or not. You are free, though discouraged because it's too easy, to have Lily and James still end up together.

2. When Severus Snape dies, he leaves all his worldly possessions to Neville Longbottom. Your detectives of choice have to discover why.

3. Write a fic consistent with the DH Crapalogue but where Hermione never dates Ron but ends up with George, Charlie, or Bill.

4. When Severus Snape dies, his will asks Hermione to look after his previously hidden daughter.

5. The person I am most surprised that Harry never dates isn't actually Hermione, but Katie Bell. Think about it - she is a second year when he joins the team, thus making them the 'babies of the team', they are Quidditch colleagues for six years... I've only ever seen one Harry/Katie fic. So, write one. Preferably with a Fred/Hermione/George sandwich subplot.

6. A fifty year old Ron goes back in time to murder his younger self so that he doesn't ruin the lives of his best friends.

7. The reason Albus leaves Harry at the Dursleys is because in previous timelines, he had removed Harry from the abuse, and Voldemort had killed Harry since he lacked his mother's protection.

8. An adult Hermione goes back in time to when Harry is six years old. She decides to rescue him from the abuse, but still has to deal with the problem of needing a blood relative to live with him. First, she kills Vernon. Then, it's your choice.
hermione pink jumper

A Very Alternate Yule Ball

This is an excerpt from "Sky Penguin: the Autobiography of Viktor Krum", by Viktor Krum published in 2032 by Sofia Mage Press, Inc. Translated from the original Bulgarian by Annette Burgdorf.

(A/N: Will readers used to Krum's not-so-great English please remember that this is a translation?)

This isn't terribly well written, but the Malinga curse that Hermione uses on Ron at the end is rather fun.

Of all the women who have ever accompanied me to formal occasions, the most interesting was Dark Lady Jane. Of course, she wasn't called that at the time. She was just Hermione Jane Granger then, a fifteen year old girl with a reputation for being a studious Muggleborn witch whose primary extracurricular activity was preventing Harry Potter (yes, that Harry Potter) from early death and expulsion from Hogwarts.

My first meeting with Hermione was during that infamous Triwizard Tournament in 1994, when students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons stayed at Hogwarts for a year for a competition that ended with the death of Cedric Diggory, one of the champions, and the resurrection of Voldemort.

It was a memorable meeting, for all the wrong reasons. For one thing, it was the first time I had actually been caught in flagrante delicto by a stranger. I was still in the closet then, so it was quite careless of me to be buggering a sexy wizard in a public place. However, the sexy wizard in question had assured me that no-one ever, ever visited that part of the Hogwarts library.

I am certain that he continued to believe that even when his pants were down and I was happily thrusting away into his fine Quidditch-hardened arse. Up until the moment that she stepped into our little alcove.

Cedric Diggory and I ceased all movement, completely and utterly horrified. He was in the closet as well, and even had someone who might be called a girlfriend. Our cowardly reputations could be ruined by this tiny bushy haired chit of a girl!

We waited for the shriek.

We waited some more.

She didn't even roll her eyes.

She did look at us, though. And then said something that I will never forget.

"Honestly! Don't you two dickheads know how to set up Proximity Charms? Now, move aside a bit, there's a book I need to get. "

And with that, she ever-so-gently shoved past us to get a thick tome from the stacks behind us. And then came back out, made a passing remark on how sitting on broomsticks for hours really did develop excellent glutes, and disappeared back to the main part of the library. Leaving Cedric and I with a pair of gaping mouths and limp members.

"No-one ever comes here, da?" I muttered while pulling my pants up. I'd been close to orgasm, so I was seriously miffed.

"Look at the books around here, Krum," replied Cedric as he cast spells to pacify his mussed up hair. "What normal student would be interested in the books they have here?"

I followed his advice, going to the place in the stacks from where she had retrieved her volume. It didn't take long to concede his point, seeing as there was a missing space between Volumes 4 and 6 of an 18th century encyclopedic set. A quick perusal through Volume 1 revealed that Volume 5 concentrated on the social status of Muggles in 15th century Maori society. Or maybe it was 14th century or Ainu society, I don't remember.

"Besides," mused Cedric, "I know for sure I set up a Notice-Me-Not charm here."

I grunted in disbelief. It was only several months later that she would tell us how she had noticed and gotten past it.

"You go first," continued Cedric. "I'll follow in a few minutes."

I nodded. As I was about to leave, I turned around and asked him, "Who is she?"

"Um? Oh. She's Hermione Granger. Everyone knows of her, though few talk to her. She's one of Harry Potter's friends."

I raised my eyebrows. It was well known that Potter only had two friends, who maintained a fragile cosmic balance. One male, one female. One smart, one stupid. Presumably the female one was not the stupid one.

"You know," said Cedric after a moment, "she has a reputation of being a rule addict. I'll go talk to her later. "

I nodded, and left. I made sure to take as circuitous a route as possible through the library on the way to the exit, but I didn't see the brunette anywhere.

I was nervous - if she told any journalist about my orientation, I would lose a lot of endorsements. This is a common problem for gay sportsmen - both Muggle and Wizard. Ever heard about a Czech squib named Martina Navratilova? She played on the Muggle tennis circuit from the 1970s to the 1990s. She was openly lesbian and earned only one or two percent of what she would have earned had she preferred cocks to cunts. That was a while ago, but things haven't changed much, at least not in the Magical world.

After all, it happened to me when I came out of the closet in my early thirties. Despite having won three Quidditch Champions League medals and a World Cup, three quarters of my sponsors dumped me. It hurt, dammit. Not the loss of money, but the loss of self-respect. But if I regret anything, it was not coming out earlier. Lady Jane always said I should have. She had a terribly annoying habit of being right more often than not.

But that's another story.

It took a few visits to the Hogwarts Library before I saw her again. My attempts to approach her were curtailed by the worthless gaggle of girls who insisted on following me everywhere. Like geese, they made noise, and apparently Hermione was not a fan of noise. She was, however, a fan of the Movement To Vanish Without A Trace. I had to Disillusion myself, avoid the groupies, and then approach Hermione from behind before I finally found ...

... myself at the end of a wand wielded by a very annoyed-looking brunette.

I realized, with hindsight, that approaching a competent witch from behind in the stacks - a relatively private area with no witnesses to protect her - was not a particularly smart thing to do.

"Er," I mumbled. "Hello."

She raised her eyebrows.

"My name is Viktor Krum."

She said nothing, though she did blink a couple of times.

I said something, or tried to. In the end, I also said nothing.

"I won't tell anyone about you and Diggory," she suddenly stated, as if tired of my flustered attempts to speak.

I was taken aback. "I can pay..." I said, not knowing what else to say.

"Don't bother. Just find a better location next time. I don't want to be reading a book one day and find a damp patch on the corner of a page."

She looked disgusted by the idea. Fortunately, I looked equally disgusted, which was my first plus mark in her book.

"I do hope this means you won't be coming to the library in future," she continued suddenly. "I'm getting close to Hexing your groupies."

Curious, I asked her what Hex she'd like to use.

"I'd make them think they were naked. They'd still have their clothes on, but they wouldn't know it."

I couldn't help it. I laughed. Loudly.

Five minutes later, we were both chucked out of the library by the resident manticore, Madam Pince I believe her name was, and Hermione was looking at me like I was made of potions ingredients that she planned to sell on the black market.

"You gorram heronista! You massive idiot!" she hissed.

"Want to go to the Ball with me?"

To this day, I don't know what made me ask her. Correction, I know why I asked her - she was fiery, interesting, discreet, ignored my fame, knew I was gay, and didn't give a shit that I was gay. What I don't know is why I asked her *so quickly*. I am normally quite deliberate about such matters. Perhaps it was the sheer surreality of the moment. Whatever the reason, the look on her face was worth it. I later took a photograph of it from a Pensieve and sent it to her on her 17th birthday. I still have it proudly displayed on my mantelpiece, along with the other pictures of people I am very fond of.

"Urgle?" she replied.

"The Yule Ball," I explained. "I need a date. A female date."

She looked genuinely confused. Then she pulled herself together and replied furiously, "I don't know what kind of woman you think I am, Mr Krum, but gullible I'm not. Good day." And with that, she slung her bookbag around her shoulder, only missing me because I rapidly jumped out of the way, and stomped off.

I have to confess that I was, at the point, stumped. I had never been turned down by a witch before.

Some 24 hours later, I was attending a Charms class with some of the Hogwarts seventh year students. We didn't have to attend the British classes, but Filius Flitwick had a good reputation even on the continent, and several of the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students found his teaching style excellent.

I wasn't sitting with Cedric Diggory, since he was too pretty for me to keep my hands off him under the desks. (Hey, I was seventeen and hormonal.) Instead, I met with him after class and explained Hermione's reaction to my invitation.

"Well, it's obvious, innit?" he considered. "She doesn't believe your invitation was genuine."

I snorted. I already knew that. So I waited for him to continue.

"You see," pontificated Cedric, "Hermione is one of those socially inept geniuses who happens to be quite attractive, but doesn't know it. She doesn't ever try to make herself up or anything. She is only close to two immature boys - Harry Potter and a dumb redhead called Moron Weasley - who have no idea how to treat a girl. I wouldn't be surprised if they even think of her as a girl. They wouldn't even be friends with her if she didn't do their homework for them. And Hermione knows this. She knows she hasn't ever had real friends her entire life. The concept that someone would actually be interested in her as a real friend is unbelievable to her."

By this stage, my jaw had dropped. "How do you know this?" I blurted out. Then I realized something. "And how much of this is, how do you say, spilkation?"

"Speculation?" corrected Cedric. "A lot, I admit. I have a friend - no, I won't tell you who - who's an empath and a budding psychologist. She finds Hermione a fascinating case study."

(Footnote: Cedric never did tell me who his friend was. A few years later, I found that it was Melanie Broom, formerly Endsworth, one of his housemates. She has her own private practice in Portsmouth that I heartily recommend if you are ever feeling overwhelmed in life.)

I pondered this for a while. "Hmmm. Da, I see, I think. Do you have any recommendations?"

"Yes," sighed Cedric. "Don't wait for her to trust you. That could take years. Write up a contract that details the responsibilities and expectations of both parties on the night of the Yule Ball. Make it magically binding on yourself. Then give it to the girl."

I was horrified by this idea.

"Surely no-one can be that paranoid!" I exclaimed.

Cedric turned to me with a sigh. "There's more. At least, my friend thinks there's more." He refused to provide further details, even when I promised to blow him three times a day for a week and to teach him some truly fantastic Bulgarian sex spells.

Now, the most logical thing for me to have done at this stage would be to have left Hermione alone. She was clearly more trouble than she was worth. Except that I couldn't. She was a challenge. And like any professional sportsman, I loved a challenge. I was going to be her friend, no matter how long it took.

And I succeeded. After about a decade. I even gave my mother hope that I wasn't completely gay - why else would a boy write a girl a letter a month for years if he didn't want to get in her pants?

Poor maman.

So, against all logic, I wrote up a contract, had my legal counsel at the Vrasta Vultures look at it, and then sent it by owl to Hermione. It took her five days to send it back with a few modifications, which I forwarded to my counsel before returning to her with further edits. All in all, it took two weeks for her to sign it.

Two weeks.

Two bloody weeks.

Two bloody long weeks during which I learnt how to silently cast the Nude Perception Jinx Hermione had suggested, practising on my beloved groupies. I would later teach it to my team-mates, and from there it spread until it became the jinx of choice among public figures (and their spouses) with groupie issues. All thanks to a fifteen year old Muggleborn witch.

(PS: If you, dear reader, have been a victim of it, do bear in mind that you have no legal right to squeeze any money out of the caster since your clothes remained on the whole time.)

One of the smarter moves I ever made off a broomstick was to include in the contract regular meetings between Hermione and myself in the few weeks before the Yule Ball. I was surprised she didn't remove the clause. She probably wanted to see what she was getting into.

Besides, the one thing that everyone agreed on about Hermione Granger was that she was curious. Insatiably so. She wanted to know what, where, when, why, who, and most importantly, how. We talked about Durmstrang, Hogwarts, Pureblood traditions and values, Dark vs Light spells, strange creatures. We never talked about the Triwizard Tournament, Harry Quisling Potter, Quidditch, or her home life.

Her home life.

You cannot imagine how much I want to say about the unfortunate home life of the greatest Dark witch in 21st century Western Europe. But as I said before, I can't. I mustn't.

I will say that everything you ever heard about it is wrong.

I suspect Hermione will kill me for saying even that... if she hadn't been killed by Harry Potter as she fought with her Lycan compatriots against government oppression.

But I will confirm that she was Muggleborn. She was too powerful to be Pureblood, even before the numerous rituals she went through to increase her magic so that she could better fight for the rights of all magical creatures.

Some readers will feel that my 'too powerful to be Pureblood' jab is a little unfair. This is true. There is a one in twenty chance that Hermione was a Pureblood. After all, only ninety five of the hundred most powerful witches and wizards in the last century have had at least one Muggle grandparent.


By the time the Yule Ball came around, Hermione and I had an understanding. I don't understand what the understanding was, and she didn't know either, but it was there. For my part, I was still treating her as a professional dragon tamer would treat an abused wyvern - cautiously, calmly, no sudden movements. She knew it, I knew it, we both pretended we didn't know it, we both knew the other was pretending, and so on.

Needless to say, this was all a source of great amusement to Cedric, who made sure to bring up my new friend at the most inopportune moments.

It is surprisingly difficult to verbally defend yourself when your mouth is filled with your accuser's cock.

"So has Hermione persuaded you to swing both ways yet?"

"Got any good gossip on Potter lately?"

"How's her hand after the letters she's been getting?"

"Want to swap dates for the Ball? I'll trade you three Chos for one Granger!" (Cho was Cedric's on-again off-again girlfriend.)

"Open your mouth wider, you Slavic man-whore!"

Ah, Cedric. He was a good squeeze. I was truly gutted when he was killed by Peter Pettigrew, Voldemort's most trusted Death Eater.

In any case, I had decidedly not switched dates on Hermione for the Ball. After all, the terms of our contract would have left me a testicle short if I had. (Her edits, not mine. I had originally offered a tooth.)

She was a vision that night, outshining anyone in the room without Veela blood. Many of her own classmates did not recognize her. Those who did expressed shock at how the bookworm could actually look sublime. I heard the phrase 'Ugly Duckling' mentioned a few times, and was surprised - I had honestly never thought of Hermione's regular looks as ugly. I can only conclude that the British have a very different sense of taste from us.

The next couple of hours were one of the more entertaining I've ever had at a formal occasion. Hermione enjoyed herself too - most girls do like to get to get 'all dolled up', and Hermione, for all her disgust with simpering bimbo witches, was no exception.

All this may be surprising to those who saw her in her later years, for Dark Lady Jane always had the reputation of being the best and most daringly dressed witch at any formal dinner or ball later on. Even her fighting clothes, the black tracksuits or army camouflage she would wear on the battlefield, often end ed up in the pages of witch's fashion magazines. Her infamy and strategic press leaks did more to make Muggle styles fashionable for the hip crowd than anyone in recent history, with the possible exceptions of John Castarioni and Lady Altair de Menezes. And Sasha Veranova, of course.

But all that was later in life. This was then. This was a fifteen year old girl who wasn't good enough to be asked by her best friend to a dance when he desperately needed a date. Her other friend, Moron, only asked her at the very last minute, taking it for granted that nobody would ever ask her to the dance. (And after all that, she still arranged dates for her two worthless 'friends'.)

She didn't say much to Potter during the Ball, other than a wave and a few words.

But she did exchange more than a few words with Moron that night. Indeed, most historians consider it a defining moment, the start of the transformation of Hermione Jane Granger to Dark Lady Jane. It was the moment Albus Dumbledore - and many others - put her on his Possible Future Dark Sorcerers list. Most French feminists say it was the start of the Third Eurasian Revival of Witchcraft.

Towards the end of the Ball, I left Hermione for a few minutes while I went to fetch us a pair of drinks. Even now, I feel bad about it, and have never left my dates out of my sight again.

At this time, Moron Weasley decided that if he couldn't dance with the most beautiful witch in Hogwarts, then nobody could. Certainly not some dark old foreign wizard. He accused Hermione, loudly and in public, of 'fraternizing with the enemy' and asking her how many times she had to shag me to get invited to the dance. He then stormed off, leaving many onlookers shocked and Hermione crying on the stairs. Even more shocking, Harry Potter refused to comfort her - despite everything she had done for the arsehole that year - and instead followed Moron away from Hermione.

For Hermione, that was the moment she truly admitted to herself that the Dim Duo were not her friends any more.

I had just filled up our drinks - there was a long queue - when Cedric and Cho rushed to me, both looking very perturbed. Before the Hufflepuff wizard could say anything, his date quickly filled me in on the details.

To say that I was furious was an understatement.

Shoving the drinks into their hands, I dashed back to where I had left Hermione, expecting to find a crying and broken witch.

But she wasn't crying any more.

And if she was broken, she was rapidly putting herself back together. Goodbye Hermione Jane, hello Lady Jane.

I tried to embrace her, but she pushed me away. Then she seemed to think better of it, gave me a quick hug, and whispered into my ear, "This is my fight. Don't interfere, alright?"

I put my hands on her shoulders to better look at her.

"You will duel Moron?" I asked.

"Moron?" she asked with a giggle. She'd never heard anyone call him that before - and I'd never heard her giggle before either. "It fits, better than Ronald." She giggled again.

Then she stepped away from me, gave me a stern look to remind me that I should not interfere, and then cast the Sonorous spell on herself.


This declaration was followed by, well, chaos.

After much discussion with other onlookers, I have put together a list of reactions, in the approximate order that they happened. It should be remembered that Moron and Potter were well on the way to their dormitory at the time, though they could not have failed to hear Hermione's challenge. After all, they were still in the castle.

1. Various teachers and chaperons arrived at the scene, including the Heads of Hogwarts (Albus Dumbledore), Beauxbatons (Melandra Maxime), Durmstrang (Igor Karkaroff), and Hermione's Head of House and then-favourite teacher, Minerva McGonagall.

2. The three other Weasleys at Hogwarts popped up. Fred, George are the twins who later went on to found the military defence contractor firm Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes), while Ginny was the only girl in a family of seven siblings and the closest thing Hermione had to a female acquaintance.

3. Dumbledore angrily demanded that Hermione rescind her challenge.

4. Hermione indignantly refused.

5. Ginny went to fetch Moron in case he refused to turn up. It was family honour, after all.

6. Minerva McGonagall tried to persuade Hermione that she would, as a Muggleborn, ruin her reputation by challenging a Pureblood.

7. Fred and George began taking bets on how long it would take Hermione to win the duel. They didn't offer the option that their own brother would win.

8. Draco Malfoy, a proud Pureblood scion with very little to be proud about, correcly pointed out that under British law, a Mudblood who lost to a Pureblood in a duel would have her magic stripped from her.

9. Ginny returned with a very pale looking Moron. Potter trailed them both.

10. Potter tried to persuade Hermione to forgive Moron.

11. Hermione slapped Potter, who staggered back a couple of steps.

12. Betting reached a thousand galleons. Some bookies were offering odds, admittedly low, on the Pureblood wizard winning.

13. Hermione asked Filius Flitwick, who was also chaperoning the event, to referee the duel. He agreed without hesitation.

14. Reluctantly, Albus Dumbledore cleared a space for the duel.

15. Hermione transfigured her elegant periwinkle blue dress to a comfortable loose-fitting periwinkle blue tracksuit. Many straight males became rather glad that they were wearing school robes, seeing as conservative Pureblood fashion didn't allow women to wear anything remotely interesting.

It was a hushed crowd at the Yule Ball that night, watching two former friends prepare to duke it out. Hermione and Moron stood at opposite ends of a wide duelling platform. Moron was already sweating as Flitwick read out the rules - no Unforgivables, no spells above Class IV, no lasting physical damage, the winner was the first person to lose their wand.

Hermione was silent and emotionless. Most witches, in a duel, tied their hair back. Instead, as if to show her utter contempt for her opponent, Hermione shook her hair out, casting a spell to return it from a delicate coiffure to its normal wild self. A few muttered spells later, it was flowing back as if in a wind, sparks crackling as they emitted excess magic. An imposing sight that she would perfect in future battles, leading to one of her many titles - the Mudblood Medusa.

Potter, in the corner with the other Weasleys, was quiet. He occasionally touched his cheek as if to verify that his homework whore had really slapped him.

Flitwick, having finished squeaking out the rules, levitated a bright blue handkerchief in the air between the duellists.

He cancelled the levitation spell.

The duel began as the cloth hit the floor.

The duel as a contest ended a second later, when Hermione's near-silent spell connected with Moron. It was a partial petrification spell that affected his arms. The comments began at once - what was she up to? It became clear three seconds later, when she cast a sticking spell to his right hand to ensure that it would keep on holding his wand, and a Silencio. Her intent was clear - not just victory, but humiliation.

Dumbledore wore a very worried look.

And as Moron was raised into the air and began rotating, there was silence in the hall. Even some looks of horror, though the story hadn't started yet. He began turning faster and faster as Hermione controlled him, mercilessly changing his speed of rotation randomly so he could never get used to it. The more intelligent onlookers began raising shields. Most of the audience raised them after the wizard began spewing out the contents of his stomach. As he had been gorging himself during the banquet earlier, there was much to spew.

"STOP THIS AT ONCE, Miss Granger! You have won the duel!" bellowed Albus Dumbledore.

She paid no attention to him.

Karkaroff, our Death Eater Headmaster, watched, fascinated. Severus Snape, another former Death Eater and unquestionably the bravest man in the war against Voldemort, watched with apparent indifference. But he did watch.

She added a couple more dimensions to Moron's rotation. The resulting parabolas of sick would be used as examples in at least one advanced Arithmancy textbook in the future.

After what felt like hours, the redhead was dry heaving painfully, and the duelling platform was covered with vomit.

Most bookies did not look pleased.

One of the Weasley twins was taking notes.

Jane stopped the torture of her former friend. Moron looked dazed, nauseous, covered in vomit, and terrified.

Potter looked furious.

Jane started chanting softly, swaying her body sinuously in time with the stanzas. Her irises vanished, leaving her eyes completely white and glazed over.

Dumbledore put his face in his hands. He said nothing, though. Perhaps he knew that she wouldn't be able to hear him.

McGonagall looked ashen.

Maxime looked extraordinarily interested, whispering hurriedly with Fleur Delacouer and Nicole des Jardins, the Beauxbatons Head Girl. The two girls, like other witches, had their eyes firmly on Jane, trying to commit the chants to memory.

A thin brown rope appeared from the bottom of Moron's trousers and kept growing.

Maxime started chuckling.

I suddenly had a flashback of something Hermione had said to me earlier.... "Boys always stick together. What does a girl have to do to be treated as an equal by them? Grow a penis?"

The humiliation of Moron Weasley had only just begun.

Lady Jane continued to chant. Her left hand straightened out and began spiralling slowly upwards. In response, the rope continued to grow, and twirled loosely around Moron's robes. Within a minute, it had gone around him two dozen times, from the legs up.

Gasps of horror and admiration bubbled up amongst the audience as they realized just what the rope was. I was already laughing my head off, loudly. I wasn't the only one laughing. Many witches, starting with Cho, were doing the same. Cedric looked a little green. He wasn't the only wizard to do so.

I was wondering if this was magic or witchcraft. If the former, then it could be an excellent sex spell, both for masturbation and intercourse. Why fuck anyone else if you could fuck yourself? Well, that wasn't entirely true. But it was a nice thought. Of course, if it was witchcraft, then wizards wouldn't be able to use it, which would be a tragedy.

Sadly, it was indeed witchcraft.

Potter looked furious. He even lifted his wand to cast a spell at Hermione, but one of Moron's brothers quickly pushed it down and whispered angrily into his ear. Presumably The Boy Who Lived To Betray His Best Friend had just been informed of what would happen to someone interfering in a duel.

Moron's elongated (and very thin) penis continued to wrap itself around the terrified wizard. If he suffered from low self-esteem before, that was nothing compared to what he would suffer for the rest of his life. The rules said nothing about inflicting lasting non-physical damage.

Hermione's irises returned, though they were now a savage white contrasting against the black of the rest of her eyes. She looked at her opponent, as if for the first time, and a terrifying smirk found its way to her face. I had seen such an expression before, on a medieval Muggle painting of the Christian Devil as he led a herd of screaming humans to their eternal damnation.

Her right hand jerked, then thrust forward.

Moron's dick thrust forward into its owner's unwilling mouth. He desperately tried to keep it closed, but a clothes peg appeared on his nose.

For the next few minutes, we were treated to a new meaning of the phrase 'Go Fuck Yourself'. It was very informative, and chockfull of possibilities for anyone who wasn't a heterosexual male idiot.

Then the motion stopped. Slowly, Moron, still wrapped in cock, toppled over. And every wizard watching, including myself, winced and unconsciously moved our hands to our groin. Moron screamed as his body crushed half his penis.

This was beyond humiliation.


She said it quietly, like an afterthought. Her ex-friend's wand spun into the air, and into her outstretched right hand.

"The duel is over," intoned Filius Flitwick, who seemed unaffected by the spells used in the duel. "The winner is Hermione Jane Granger. And as a member of the International Duelling Council, I nominate Hermione Jane Granger for a Class Three Green Belt, for innovation."

As the Weasleys and McGonagall rushed to the aid of Moron, Hermione's jaw dropped at Flitwick's surprisingly generous (and justified) pronouncement. Then her entire body dropped as a red spell passed over her head. Her arm whipped out in defence, and half a dozen knives flew to where the stunner came from. There were screams as one of them hit the caster in the shoulder and two others hit a couple of third year Ravenclaws.

"MISS GRANGER!" bellowed Albus Dumbledore.

She turned to look at him, though she seemed much more interested in seeing if the two collateral damage students were alright.


She didn't seem too surprised. Instead she cocked her head and asked, "On what charge?"

Dumbledore seemed quite flustered at her calm question. He quickly realized that he could not punish her for any of the spells she had cast during the duel, no matter how inhumane.

"For attacking two innocent Hogwarts students with knives," he replied.

"Oh?" she replied, glancing at the two students. Their housemates were bandaging them up; the damage wasn't too great. "What of Harry Potter? He cast an unprovoked spell at me after the duel."

Dumbledore looked even more flustered. "He will be suspended for two weeks," he finally said.

Hermione looked at him for a while. "There is a Hogwarts law, is there not, that makes it easier to expel Mudbloods than Half-bloods or Purebloods? Section Eight, Subsection Fifteen?"

Dumbledore looked furious and then walked away in the direction of the Hospital Wing. He paused for a moment to declare the Ball over.

He also paused a few seconds later, when Madame Maxime loudly offered Hermione a position at Beauxbatons with a full scholarship, on condition that she teach the penis enlarging spell to her new fellow-students.

The blue-clad French witches began to applaud as Hermione accepted with a blush. Dumbledore left, furious.

Harry Potter looked at Hermione darkly. She looked back with indifference.

I walked up to her and offered her my arm. She took it, dazed. Her adrenalin was running out, and she was coming to terms with what she had done. By some strange form of common consent, Cedric, Cho, and Fleur formed an honour guard as we led her outside Hogwarts. Three champions with the former friend of the fourth champion. An odd sight, indeed.

What happened afterwards is common knowledge. Hermione became a Beauxbatons student the next day, though she remained at Hogwarts for the rest of the year. She and Potter had several illegal duels in the corridors, which he won sixty percent of the time - though some of his victories were decidedly Pyrrhic. Her duelling was getting better though, and the percentage would have been reversed had she stayed the following year.

Ten years later, it was only with the help of Lady Jane that Potter defeated Voldemort. Had they remained friends, that Dark Lord would doubtless have been destroyed earlier.

Twenty years later, Harry Quisling Potter had his revenge, AK-ing the Dark Lady Jane in the back when she thought that their fifth lifetime truce was still in effect. It turned out that the problem with her paranoia of not trusting people was that she was not paranoid enough.

Fortunately, the well oiled organization of Lycans, Vampyres, Free Elves, Goblins, and Muggleborns that she had formed was strong enough to continue after her death, and the struggle against Pureblood oppression in Britain continues. All proceeds of this book, and associated merchandise, go to that struggle.

hermione pink jumper

More Challenges

Here are some plot bunnies. It is immoral to use any plot bunnies here to give birth to fics that have any RHr in them. Please don't be immoral! The fics here have varying degrees of seriousness.

  1. Hermione goes back in time to the MWPP era. She finds that the reason Lily fell for James in seventh year was because Sirius gave her (with or without James' knowledge) a love potion so that James would stop whining. She is forced to change history. Now what?
  2. Hermione is, by way of the Marriage Law, sold to the Malfoys. She kills the lot.
  3. The Weasleys and other Purebloods make her life a living hell. She creates a plague, a magical virus that kills in ebola-like time any mage whose who has mage ancestry for the past three generations. It gets rather out of control. But her mind is so warped and Dark and angry by now that she does not view this as a problem :)
  4. The M Files: rather like the X Files, but with Unspeakables Harry and Hermione playing the roles of Mulder and Scully respectively. (Surely this has been done?)
  5. A crapalogue-compliant George/Hermione fic
  6. Hermione tells Harry she loves him. He goes back to Ginny anyway. She goes off and becomes the next Indiana Jones. Ten years later, she's back. Ginny is a fat nagging housewife and Harry realizes what a mistake he made. Of course, it's too late for him, since Hermione is happily enjoying the company of other women :)
  7. Hermione discovers that her Animagus form is a sloth and isn't amused. (Humour oneshot.)
  8. Hermione discovers she is a Pureblood and is betrothed in marriage to Draco Malfoy, who is suddenly all interested in her now that she's a Pureblood and hot. Must include the following lines of dialogue:

    "But the contract is void now that he can't give me any children!"
    "Well, they couldn't have been very good ones then, right?"

    If you do want, you can make Draco capable of bearing children again, on provision that once a magical contract is void, it cannot be made unvoid.