Alpha'd by Travelilah! Thank you so much for your help and words of encouragement!
This is the last chapter of Still Need Shielding, I hope you enjoy it!
Steve had wanted to see Bucky in person after the attempted alien invasion and he was curious about the woman Bucky had been protecting so he'd borrowed a Quinjet. Sam had joined him.
They met up with the Presidential convoy at the White House and after greeting the President he was instructed that Bucky was with Minister Granger in the last SUV in the line by the lean man who identified himself as the President's son and Chief of Staff. He stopped at the window of the last SUV because the agent in the driver's seat waved him close.
"Do you have a camera?" the agent asked in a whisper with a smile on his face.
Steve glanced past him to see three people leaning together asleep in the back. Steve nodded and pulled out his cell phone. He tapped the camera app and opened the back door of the SUV as slowly and quietly as he could. The click of his phone making that dumb shuttering sound woke Bucky up but he didn't immediately move. Steve couldn't help but smile at the picture the three of them made. Bucky on the right, his cheek rested on Minister Granger's head and his right hand held in her left. Granger was in the middle, tucked in between the two men on either side. Her green dress was sleep-wrinkled and she looked very petite between them. On her right, a young man who bore a striking resemblance to Bucky. He was thinner and his sleep-slackened face reminded Steve of Bucky before the war. He clicked the camera button on his phone again even with Bucky glaring at him from under his curtain of hair. Everything about them exhausted and sleeping was adorable.
"Wake up, Hermione," Bucky whispered, he gently squeezed her hand and she stirred. She looked around and yawned but couldn't get her hands free from either of the men to cover it. She squinted in Steve's direction. Behind him, the sky was soft pinks and oranges as the sun was starting to rise.
"Do we have to?" the man on the left mumbled even as he shifted and stretched his back and chest from where he'd slumped in sleep.
She smiled and said, "Yes, TJ."
"Good morning," Steve said to them.
TJ. Steve remembered reading about the President having twin sons. This was probably the second one. Once awake, he looked even more like Bucky. The young man made a grumpy face and flopped back into his seat. "I forgot to wish Dougie happy birthday," he pouted.
Hermione turned to him, "Yesterday was your birthday?"
"Yeah," he answered.
"Well, happy belated birthday," she said as Bucky started to climb out of the SUV. "Maybe between Mr Stark and I we can throw you a little party."
"Have you met Tony?" Steve asked in a tease, even as he offered his arm to her to allow her to step out of the vehicle. "I don't think the word 'little' is in his vocabulary."
"Well, I promised I'd explain something to him today. Is he here?"
"How are you?" she asked with concern, turning her gaze up to Steve. "Bucky said you'd been hit with something. Have you been checked out—" she coughed a little at her words and Bucky and TJ both snickered, "Checked over?" she reworded her question though her face had flushed pink.
Steve laughed too and glanced at Bucky who was looking at him before turning back to her. "Yes, both I think," tipping his head at Bucky and raising his eyebrows at her.
She laughed too.
"Let's go see Stark, then?" she asked once the chortling had died down among them all.
* . * . *
They all ended up in the penthouse suite of the hotel that Tony had booked for Hermione to use while she was in DC. They were sitting around a large but decimated spread of breakfast foods all relaxing after the long, tiring day before.
"So you're telling me that the disappearing thing that we captured on video isn't tech?" Tony said, directed to Sam.
Sam was just grinning widely, "Nope. No tech. Just magic."
"Nope, don't believe it. Magic doesn't exist. Science can explain it."
Hermione just shook her head even though she was laughing. "You can't explain magic with science. It just doesn't work that way."
"Prove it! Do something magical that I can't explain," Tony said. This would be the fourth time he'd cajoled her to do something magical. Steve wondered if she would tire from the things she showed them.
The first time, she'd set the table with a wave of her wand. Tony had attempted to explain that away as magnets or tiny propulsors like on his Ironman suit. The second time, she'd multiplied the food when she realised how much Steve and Bucky were eating. Tony had frowned and just said he would have ordered more. The third time, when they'd brought up how she'd tried to join Bucky in the invasion fight she'd sent something stinging at Bucky and Tony. Bucky had looked a little confused and asked what he did to deserve it while Tony was pretending that it hadn't hurt.
Hermione sighed and closed her eyes, twisting her wrist and the wand in her hand. Out of the tip of her wand poured a silvery-blue mist and then an animal, an otter, expanded into the space. It swam through the air and glowed as it brushed by each of the men sitting around the table.
Sam smiled and tried to pet it, TJ stared in awe with an open mouth and looked more relaxed than he had all morning. Tony grinned as the otter headbutted his hand. It danced and swam through the air to brush against Steve's face and the feel of it was amazing. Like suddenly everything was okay; anything he might have worried about was gone and pure joy bubbled up his throat into a laugh. Lastly, the otter floated over to Bucky and curled around his shoulders and he relaxed back into his chair; the sweetest smile gracing his lips. In the glowing light of the little otter, it looked like he de-aged back to the almost-carefree young man he'd been before the war. After a few moments, the otter faded.
Tony looked almost deprived of happiness as it left. "What was that?" he asked, the competitive, argumentative tone of his voice gone completely.
"It's called a Patronus. It's a difficult spell. It's made up of my happiest memories."
"That's what happy feels like?" TJ murmured, still slack-jawed and staring at Hermione. None of the men around the table would point out that he had tears in his eyes.
"Yes," she answered though there was the slightest catch in her breath.
No one said anything for a little while until Tony broke the silence. "So are you going to stay around here for a bit?"
She shook her head. "I can't, I have a government to run."
"I still can't believe you're in charge of an entire country."
"The Wizarding World is immensely smaller than the Muggle one." She breathed heavily and added, "Plus I have a funeral to go to."
TJ nodded and changed the subject. "I don't want you to leave," he whined.
"You can always come visit, you know, and you've got my mobile number."
"Do you guys use owls over there?" Sam asked, randomly. She smiled and nodded, "Thought so, I about freaked out the first time my sister sent me a letter that arrived by owl."
"Wait? That's... that's how you knew about the disappearing woman? Your sister's a magician, er," Tony stopped and glanced back at Hermione, "Witch?" She nodded. "Okay, that's so not fair. Can she do that happy spell? Can we hire her?"
Sam shrugged. "I think she's content to be a kindergarten teacher in the magical enclave where she lives in New Orleans."
"Huh," Tony answered. He turned back to Hermione. "Can you bottle that happy spell? I'll pay!"
Hermione rolled her eyes good-naturedly, "At some point, research and spell development might have been the path I was on but it's not now. I don't think you can bottle Patronuses. I'll ask Luna when I get back. She's always been creative, I'm sure if anyone can bottle pure happiness, she can." She stood and flicked her wand and they all watched as the leftover food hovered and tucked itself into containers that appeared out of thin air. Then floated over to the fridge. The dishes followed, sudsing up and drying themselves in the short distance from the table to the cabinets they came from.
The others all stood up and started migrating around the room. Tony and Sam headed for the living room, starting up a conversation about magic versus tech, TJ went to Hermione, and Bucky stepped close to Steve. Bucky's arm went around Steve's back and he relaxed into the embrace. "He is a lot like you," Steve said. Bucky made a contemplative face and nodded.
From across the room they heard with their serum-enhanced hearing as TJ whispered to Hermione, "Offer still stands, you know."
She giggled a little. "You're ridiculous. Maybe in another life, TJ. I don't think we're quite compatible in that regard."
He shrugged. "I'm sure you could magic something into making it work." She blushed.
Bucky gave a quiet snort and shook his head in fond exasperation. He turned and tugged at Steve's waist to follow Sam and Tony, leaving the not-quite lovebirds alone in the kitchen.
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