Charles de Gaulle Airport – France – 1000hrs
Considering the vast increase in airport security over the past few years, Harry and Hermione breezed through check in, the agent at the desk was helped with a whispered ‘confondre’ when they were asked for their passports, their tickets were scanned and the pair directed to security. This too was a simple exercise and the pair walked through without challenge. They took their seats as instructed by the air steward and settled for the short flight over the English Channel. The Captain made in announcements and Harry prepared himself, this being his first time on a commercial flight.
There was a sudden hush in the aircraft and Harry and Hermione were approached by a heavy-set man in a dark suit and tie. He discreetly flashed a badge and leaned toward them.
“Monsieur Smith, Madame Redfern?” he asked in heavily accented English.
Harry nodded. “What’s the problem?”
“I am Agent Bernard of the DGSI, I am instructed to place you under arrest and remove you from zis flight.”
“On what charges?”
“Zat information is privileged.”
Hermione had evidently heard enough and palmed her wand. “Confondre,” she whispered. The agent’s eyes appeared to lose focus for a moment and he scratched his head.
“We don’t need to leave the aircraft,” said Hermione. “You’ve got everything you need.”
The Agent tonelessly repeated her words and bumbled off the plane. The Captain apologised for the short delay and taxied the aircraft to the runway.
Once the craft was in the air, Hermione furiously turned to Harry. “It’s Gabrielle, it has to be! Even I know who the DGSI are!”
“Counter espionage and counter terrorism,” muttered Harry. “This is some serious shit.”
“Not to mention he used the names that were on the fake passports!”
“We are so fucked, Hermione. But it’s not Gabrielle doing the fucking.”
Hermione snorted angrily and turned back into her seat. Harry closed his eyes for a moment, before idly picking up the in-flight magazine and flicking through it. The Air Steward passed with the refreshments trolley.
“Sure beats the Hogwarts Express for liquor choice,” said Harry with a laugh. “Pernod, s’il vous plait, monsieur.” The Steward poured the drink into a plastic cup and set it down on his tray.
“I don’t know how you think it’s appropriate to make jokes,” said Hermione, stony faced. “Is it not early for drinking?”
“Madame, Qu'est-ce que vous voulez boire? Would you like a drink?” asked the Steward.
Hermione seemed struck by something, she declined the drink and the trolley was pushed on. Harry downed his drink and settled back into his seat.
“You said Gabrielle was Secret Service,” said Hermione urgently. “Muggle or Magical?”
“I don’t know, “said Harry slowly. “Magical, I assume. She got me the job in Sûreté Nationale, that’s an office within the French Ministry of Magic.”
Hermione frowned. “I wouldn’t be so sure. There’s something she’s not telling us here.”
Harry shook his head. “I said I trust her, will you please let it go?”
Heathrow Airport – England – 1300hrs.
The aircraft landed smoothly and made its way to Terminal 4. Harry disembarked, after taking a moment to rinse his mouth and dispose of the vomit bag.
“Never again, Hermione,” he cursed.
“Serves you right for drinking Pernod at eleven in the morning.”
They hurried across the grey, rain swept tarmac, into the cavernous building and stood in line for customs and security. After a short wait, the customs agent stamped a piece of blank paper that they each produced, aided using the confundus again and walked on through the exit unchallenged.
Harry had recovered from his bout of sickness, so they stopped for a cup of tea at a cafe on the way out of the terminal. They took a corner table, left in deep shadow by the design of the shop and lighting,
“Where to?” asked Hermione.
“I thought London, try and trace Ginny and Lily’s last movements. We need to go to Grimmauld place, but I can’t anymore,” replied Harry. As he spoke, there was a sharp pain in his right wrist. He rubbed it, almost unconsciously. Hermione raised an eyebrow as he lifted his sleeve to show her the thin red line around his wrist.
“We can go back to my house,” said Hermione. “I’ve got quite a lot of books, we might be able to find something out about this unbreakable vow.”
They finished their tea and left the café, heading for the Terminal 4 train station. Harry checked the departures board and purchased tickets for Hermione’s home town of Cobham, south-west of the city of London. They hurried to the platform, there was only a minute before the train was due to arrive. Suddenly, two men appeared from the shadow of an alcove, one dressed in a very formal, 1940s style suit, complete with grey fedora, the other in a shabby raincoat. Harry saw the suit slip his wand from his sleeve, but Hermione’s wand-work was swifter. As the train arrived noisily at the platform, Hermione stunned both men, gripped Harry and apparated the four of them out.
Norfolk – England – 1400hrs.
They landed instantaneously on the edge of a muddy, ploughed field. A soft rain fell, making everything look hazy and muffling what little noise there was, the landscape was entirely flat and seemed to consist of farmers’ fields and hedgerows. The men remained unconscious, slumped on the ground.
“Merlin’s beard, Hermione! Have you never heard of CCTV? Every muggle this side of London is going to see that!”
“It was them or us, Harry!”
Hermione brushed the hair out of her eyes, flicked her wand and the two men were suddenly propped up against a nearby tree.
“Where the hell are we anyway?”
“Way out in the country, near Norwich” replied Hermione. “There’s no one around, nice and quiet. Now, I intend on finding out what Laurel and Hardy here want.”
Harry retrieved the wands of the two men and searched their pockets, to no avail.
“No ID, no papers, no money, nothing,” he muttered.
Hermione pointed her wand at the man in the suit. “Rennervate,” she whispered. His eyes fluttered open and he looked upon the pair in shock and defiance.
“Talk,” instructed Harry. “Who do you work for?
“Fuck off,” replied the man hoarsely. He spat on the floor. “You’ll ‘ave to kill me.”
Hermione revived the man in the raincoat and Harry asked the same question. He said nothing and stared angrily.
“We don’t have time for this,” murmured Harry. “What do you want to do with them?”
Hermione thought for a moment, before turning to the men. “Gentlemen. Start talking, or my friend here will get all punchy. Who are you working for?”
“Ah said, fuck off,” grunted the man in the suit. He spat, hitting Hermione in the face.
Time seemed to slow down, Harry went white with fury and booted the man hard in the stomach. He rolled over onto his side, retching. Harry knelt and pointed his wand directly at the man’s forehead. “Tell me, who are you working for?” he said, in a low and dangerous voice.
The suit spat on Harry too.
“We really don’t have time for this.” Hermione took the two wands from Harry’s pocket and showed them to the two men. She snapped the wands both in two, throwing them on the muddy ground. She took Harry’s hand and they disapparated.
Cobham – England – 1430hrs.
Harry and Hermione arrived in the back garden of an elegant two story Arts and Crafts style house. The fine rain drizzled on, Hermione swished her wand at the back door, which opened with a sharp click. Harry followed her into the dark kitchen, she lit a range of candles with a wave of her hand. Almost every surface had books on it. Shelves tottered with books, books piled up, books being used as bookmarks in other books.
“Don’t mind all the books,” called Hermione, from somewhere deeper in the house.
Harry threaded his way through and joined Hermione in the sitting room, cosy green leather sofas, more bookcases and books. She lit more candles and invited Harry to sit.
“Welcome to my home. We’re safe here,” she said simply.
“Wait.” Harry paused and thought for a moment. “All these books. No sign of anything Quidditch. No wedding ring. Hermione, where’s Ron?”
“I was wondering how long you’d take to ask,” she replied, sighing wearily. “Divorced, three years ago, in no part thanks to you.”
“Yes, he did divorce me,” interrupted Hermione. “When you resigned from the Auror Office, you recommended Ron be your successor. Two years at that and the stress was beginning to affect him, then he found out about Rose.”
Harry swore under his breath and fidgeted on the sofa. “I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone.”
“And yet you did, Harry, and I let you. Anyway, the split was relatively amicable, we still talk and he still lives in the cottage in Devon, with Hugo.”
Hermione turned from him, and rummaged in a drinks cabinet, in the corner of the room. Several bottles clinked before Hermione produced a dusty bottle of Pernod. She swiftly conjured a glass, and poured a measure for Harry.
“You’re actually the only person I know who likes this stuff,” she said. “Right, Potter, cards on the table. I came to find you because of Ginny and Lily. I know you made an unbreakable vow. Now I want the truth. Everything.”
Harry reflected on this, before swigging back the aniseed liquor. Hermione poured him another and he launched into his sorry tale.
“I left the country for you, Hermione,” said Harry, hoarsely. “Ginny blackmailed me. If I didn’t leave, and leave her almost everything, she’d make public that we’d had an affair. She saw us, on my wedding night, in the swimming pool. Luna saw us on your wedding night. Malfoy saw us at the Hogwarts reunion. I had to go.”
Hermione poured herself a shot of bourbon and knocked it back with a shudder while Harry continued.
“You’d never be elected Minister if that ever came out, so I reached out to Fleur, she put me in touch with Gabrielle who helped me leave the country.”
“And you couldn’t put this in a letter?”
“I needed to make a clean break, Hermione. I had to for you.”
Harry grabbed the bottle of Pernod and refilled his glass, feeling the warmth from the liquor reach his cheeks. Hermione slumped in the sofa opposite him and poured another bourbon.
“Did you and Gabrielle… You know?”
“You know what? She sorted everything out. Got me the job, somewhere to live, taught me to speak French.”
“That’s not what I asked,” said Hermione.
Harry sighed. “Yes, then. A couple of times,” he lied.
Hermione raised an eyebrow and looked at him sceptically.
A sudden sense of uneasiness descended over Harry, he swiftly made his way over to the front window and peeked through the gap in the curtains. He just caught the shimmer of something in the garden of the house opposite, a hydrangea bush shook for a second before abruptly stopping.
“We’re being watched.”
Harry wordlessly cast his wand in a wide arc, before muttering under his breath. He licked his lips, as if tasting something unfamiliar.
“Magic always leaves a trace,” he whispered. “Hermione, who used to own this house?”
Hermione joined him at the window and peered out herself. “It was my parents, and before that my Granny, my mums mum. Why?”
“I think she may have been a witch, Hermione. There’s old magic here, I can feel it. I sense your protective charms, but there’s something much older here.”
“I don’t know, Harry. She died before I was born. Charms break when the person dies.”
“Not the old, deep magic. We’re safe here, for now.”
Hermione had begun to rummage through the piles of books stacked up and Harry decided to explore the house. Upstairs, three bedrooms, master, with a large unmade bed and furniture in handsome dark oak, a smaller bedroom, with freshly made bedclothes, a small office and bathroom. The books did not encroach as much upstairs, though there were several piles on the stairs. Harry entered what must have been Hermione’s bedroom, with the faint smell of jasmine as he walked in. There were several photographs of the children on her dressing table, a drawing of what must have been Crookshanks and a scarlet and gold scarf, neatly folded up. There were further piles of books, this time neatly stacked.
He made his way back downstairs and picked up an envelope that was lying on the doormat. He returned to the sitting room and poured a couple more drinks as Hermione sat cross-legged on the floor, with several books already open.
“Not a common topic, unbreakable vows,” said Hermione. “There’s a few references here and there, but nothing with any real meat.”
Harry gently squeezed her shoulder. “This was on the doormat,” he said, and handed over the envelope.
She eyed the envelope with caution. “The postman hasn’t visited here for more than twenty years,” she said.
Harry gently flicked his wand, carefully opening the envelope, removing a single sheet of folded parchment.
I know you’ll read this. I know who has Ginny and Lily.
Meet me at the steps of Cockburn Street, Old Town, Edinburgh. Tonight. 10pm.
A/N: Huge thanks to my awesome Beta, MrsFWDarcy
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