Author's Note: This story was written for GaeilgeRua for the 2018 Summer Fling Fic Exchange at Marvelously Magical Fanfiction.
Pairing: Hermione Granger/Stephen Strange
Prompt: Halfway through a year-long soul searching trip, Character A gains a companion in the form of Character B. Who knew that B was who A was searching for all along?
Additional requests: Humor, miscommunication, fluff with some angst, shy kisses and lingering touches
Word Count Limits: ~3000
A Different Kind of Magic
Sorceress Hermione Granger's journey to Kamar-Taj and beyond all started back at the Ministry of Magic in London where, even though she worked as an Unspeakable, she never really felt challenged professionally. She also felt that her personal life had become a stagnant routine - even though all of her friends seemed happy enough with their own. She knew that something was missing in her existence, but she just didn't know what it was. Therefore, she tried to fill the void by teaching herself wandless magic. It helped, but nothing of importance changed - not until the day she mistakenly opened a portal to the Kamar-Taj Library when she accidentally pulled on dimensional magic instead of her usual core magic while wandlessly making a cup of tea.
A curious Master Wong intercepted the portal. However, once they recovered from their mutual surprise at the unexpected occurrence, he stepped through into her office and they engaged in a spirited conversation over tea and biscuits. Wong immediately recognized the vast potential of someone who was not yet a student, but didn't require a sling ring to activate portals, and who already commanded core magic. For her part, Hermione realized that the opportunity he consequently offered might be the something for which her unsettled soul had been searching. Therefore, she packed her bags, said her goodbyes, and took a year-long leave of absence from the Ministry in order to train at Kamar-Taj.
With her magical background, Hermione didn't have to struggle to change her mindset and worldview in order to accept her new abilities as most initiates did upon arrival. Without those mental blocks to hold her back, Hermione sped through - and excelled at - her mystic training. In fact, she soon matched most of her teachers at Kamar-Taj in everything but experience…which only time could give to her.
Wong kept an eye on her from the beginning. In fact, her constant presence in the library whenever she wasn't training, her reverence for learning, and the way she devoured the heavy magical tombs - often simply for fun - reminded him of someone else who often drove him to distraction during his time as a student there. Hermione Granger was very much like Stephen Strange. The natural talent, the single-minded determination, and the courage and wisdom in the face of danger were characteristics that they both shared.
However, where Strange was often egotistical and borderline rude, Hermione was unassuming, polite, and modest…even though being able to draw from two magical sources made her the strongest magic user there. The combination of this modesty and her thirst for knowledge impressed Wong so much that he took her under his wing and assumed responsibility for most of her advanced training himself. Wong even trusted her enough to leave her in charge of the precious Library whenever he was needed elsewhere. It was on one such day, six months after her arrival, that the Library received a visit from the former student about whom Hermione had only heard stories.
A small portal opened near her and a demanding, but distant and preoccupied, voice called out. "Wong, I need the Relics catalogue for this Sanctum. A new one just appeared and it's wrecking the place. I need to figure out what the hell it is and how to appease the damn thing. Wong! Where are you? I am connected to the library, aren't I?" The voice sounded closer to the portal this time, so Hermione peered in and answered.
"Yes, this is the Library…but I'm not Wong."
"Indeed," replied the smooth voice that was unexpectedly beside her.
Hermione gasped in surprise as a face filled the portal. Even though they had never met, she knew instantly that she was looking at Doctor Stephen Strange, a former Muggle surgeon, now turned Sorcerer Supreme and Master of the New York Sanctum. Wong had often mentioned how similar she was to the man during her training...and she had taken it as a compliment at the time.
"Where's Wong?" he asked brusquely as the portal widened and he stepped closer. The situation in the Sanctum needed to be handled quickly. Therefore, he just didn't have time to be polite to an unknown girl.
Despite this, Hermione answered confidently once her surprise had passed. "He's helping with training right now. However, I can assist you." As she spoke, she couldn't help but to note how attractive the sorcerer was. His intense and intelligent eyes, the dark hair (with the distinguished graying at the temples), plus the look of authority and responsibility he carried, all appealed to her. Even the elaborate outfit, complete with cloak, suited the man. However, she soon found that his attitude was not always as pleasant as his looks.
"Wong doesn't trust mere students to be alone in his library," Strange answered…and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. Hermione took that personally. How dare he judge me?
"Well, he trusts me…and I'm no longer a student!" she retorted while her eyes blazed and her lively hair sparked with the force of her magic and ire. It was true, too. Wong had recently confessed that he had nothing left to teach her. Therefore, since she still had six months of Ministry leave left, she was currently focused on independent study while she tried to figure out what her soul still craved. However, none of that was any of the man's business…Sorcerer Supreme or not! "I believe you were looking for a Relics list for your Sanctum?" she asked in a tight tone as she struggled to contain her irritation.
Strange could only nod mutely at her in astonishment as the anger transformed her from a mousy student into a beautiful, and obviously powerful, woman. He continued to stare in disbelief when she didn't even break eye contact with him as she stretched out her hand behind her to cast an Accio for the requested book. It landed in her hand with a thump and she offered it to him. Impressed with the extent of her power and control, Strange reached for it and didn't even notice that the collar of his cloak had stood to attention…not until it saluted her against his temple and then gave her a saucy little flapping wave. He pushed the annoying thing away and looked back at the woman standing there. Cloak's antics had driven the anger from her face and it had been replaced with a lovely amused smile instead – one that only increased in intensity when the wayward item slipped off of his shoulders and went to envelope her in a velvety hug.
Strange realized then that this wasn't just any ordinary student whom he had inadvertently insulted – not with her power, much less her command of the Cloak of Levitation's respect. Before he had time to consider that further or to apologize to her, though, he heard the ruckus that the new relic was creating in the Sanctum behind him. Once he turned around to see what it had done this time, Cloak wrapped itself completely around the woman, yanked her through the portal past him, and knocked him down in the process. The portal closed itself behind them as Strange found himself tangled up with the woman in a compromising position on the floor, while Cloak pinned them both down like a blanket.
"Dr. Strange, I would appreciate it if you…and your kidnapping apparel…would get off of me!" she requested, torn between both laughter and irritation at the situation. She then murmured a few words to Cloak before it reluctantly released them and just levitated nearby.
The sorcerer quickly disentangled himself as he did his best to ignore their intimate position. He then scolded Cloak. "We will be having a discussion later." However, the relic just shrugged its nonexistent shoulders and drifted back towards the woman, who smirked in amusement at their interaction. Strange graciously offered her a hand up as he tried to make amends.
"Please excuse my…and my cloak's…rudeness, Miss…" he trailed off when he realized that he didn't even know her name.
"Granger…Hermione Granger," she answered as she smiled warmly at his change in attitude. Wong had told her that the man could be temperamental…but so could she. Therefore, she tried not to judge him too harshly.
Strange started in surprise at her name. She was definitely no regular student, then! Wong had often mentioned the witch heroine-turned-Sorceress who had taken Kamar-Taj by storm. He had even planned to go and meet the prodigy at some point, but had been too busy maintaining the New York Sanctum. He was also trying to get the London Sanctum repaired and reconnected…and to locate a Master for it…as well. Unfortunately, their ranks had been drastically reduced due to the Dormammu incident and, thus, all of those tasks had proved difficult to complete. Consequently, he had been isolated for too long and that was why he had not recognized the new Sorceress.
However, the more he interacted with her, the more he realized that it definitely would have been worth the effort to meet her. Just as he went to tell her that, though, the new relic zipped by and knocked over another display case in the process. He watched as Hermione flung out her hand with an Immobilus and the destructive item stopped in it tracks and hovered.
"It's just a piece of cloth!" Strange exclaimed upon seeing it. "How could it have caused so much chaos?" He then noticed the heavily jeweled clasps on the ends. Well, that explains the broken glass, at least, he thought as he remembered how dangerous even Cloak could be when properly motivated. This new object was different, however. It was much smaller and lighter than Cloak. In fact, if you connected the two large jeweled pieces together…
"It's a sash," Hermione finished the thought for him. He then watched, impressed, as she approached the item cautiously.
"Finite Incantatem," she murmured and the relic quivered, but it let her gather it up gently. In fact, the heavily embroidered fabric rustled happily in her hand and one of the jeweled clasps reached up to stroke her cheek before it slid diagonally across her chest and abdomen (as the other one did the same down her back) to connect together at her hip. "Well, aren't you beautiful?" Hermione smiled as she patted the ornate sash that she now wore across her simple training robes. The material quivered in delight at her touch. When Hermione then turned her wide smile towards the sorcerer, he had an inkling of how being the object of her affection must have felt…and he found himself irrationally jealous of that sash. He suddenly realized that he had been staring and smiled sheepishly when she asked, "Do you know which relic it is?"
"Let's see," he said, and silently berated himself for acting like a teenager, as he opened the ancient catalogue records that he had been holding the entire time. He gently turned a few of the delicate pages before he saw a drawing of the relic which had obviously just chosen the Witch Sorceress as its own.
"The Sash of Intent," he read aloud, "chooses the one whom it deems worthy, not only by the strength and scope of his magic, but also by the noble intentions of his heart and character. Consequently, it has also been known to react violently against those who cannot be trusted." He paused in his reading and reached down to stroke the clasp experimentally. It reared up slightly, as if to bite, but then it gave him a gentle nudge of approval instead before rejoining its partner in nestling on the hip of its new mistress.
Hermione laughed heartily, but noted with interest that he had just been deemed trustworthy by the ancient relic. Strange realized that he found the musical sound of her laughter charming before he cleared his throat and continued to read. "The Sash is known for intense loyalty and often disappears out of the Sanctum archives for years at a time, only to return upon the arrival of its new Master." He met her eyes. "That explains it, then." He paused and the corners of his mouth turned up in amusement. "You're the one responsible for this mess!"
Hermione smiled, as well, before she spoke to Sash. "Why would you want me, you silly thing?" It just wriggled excitedly in reply. "Well, in thatcase…" she sighed goodnaturedly as she stroked it with one hand while she waved the other to cast a Reparo towards the broken glass. In just a moment, all of the display cases were upright and intact…and the Sanctum was spotless once again.
Sash trembled a little again…as if with laughter this time…before it detached from Hermione and draped itself around Cloak in a conspiring matter, instead.
"Oh, that's just what we need…for them to be friends!" Strange muttered sardonically before turning back to Hermione.
"What about us, Doctor Strange? Are we going to be friends?" she asked thoughtfully. Sure they had started off on shaky ground, but Wong and Sash had both vouched for him. Plus, she found him quite intriguing...and very attractive, as well!
His thoughts were on a similar track about her. "Please call me Stephen," he requested and felt his breath actually hitch at the brightness of her ensuing smile.
"Only if you call me Hermione," she replied before opening a portal back to the Library to explain her sudden disappearance to Wong.
After that first meeting, Wong noted with amusement how often Stephen popped into the Library to borrow a book and how he always waited around until the newest Sorceress appeared. He also quickly realized how often Hermione seemed to find a reason to travel to the New York Sanctum, even if she said it was just so that Sash could visit Cloak.
During these visits it was true that Sash and Cloak seemed to connect while their humans talked over tea or coffee. However, they often interacted with each other's human, as well. Sash would sometimes curl up around Stephen's shoulders or in his lap (just like a cat) while Cloak draped itself over Hermione's legs or bundled itself up and cuddled into her side (more like a dog). Although both Stephen and Hermione researched this phenomenon thoroughly, neither of them could find a reason for their relics' strange behavior. When they told Wong about it, he just shook his head at how dense two brilliant people could be when faced with the obvious…before he went back to listening to Beyonce.
After spending more time together, Stephen and Hermione soon became each other's preferred partner whenever threats reared up from the Multiverse. In the process, she softened his ego and taught him to laugh at himself while, in return, he boosted her confidence and challenged her intellectually. Also, it didn't take them long to realize that their magic was perfectly complementary. With her skill in transfiguration, Hermione had greater control of the Mirror Dimensions while Stephen was stronger in the Dark Dimensions due to his previous experiences there. They worked together well, and while they saved each other's lives several times and grew closer along the way, they also frequently contemplated their personal relationship.
Back in his old life, Stephen never had trouble finding female companionship. However, sorcerers tended to live isolated lives because outsiders couldn't possibly understand their lifestyle. That is why things hadn't worked out with Christine - and why there had been nobody since then. However, he realized that wouldn't be an obstacle with Hermione. Plus, she was attractive, interesting, brilliant, powerful, and brave - everything that he could possibly want or need in a companion for his new life.
For her part, Hermione found him fascinating. He was unlike anyone she had ever known before. When they were together, her work was more challenging, her life was less boring, and her heart was less lonely.
Yet, despite what they both wanted, neither of them spoke up…and her leave of absence was rapidly coming to an end.
The unresolved tension between them finally came to a head on the day that Stephen introduced Hermione to the newly reestablished London Sanctum. He had suspected since their first meeting that she would be the perfect Master for the place, but he was reluctant to ask…just in case she declined…or was rejected by the Sanctum itself. He shouldn't have worried, however. The moment she stepped out of the portal and into the London Sanctum, her magic felt the joyful welcome of both the building and all of its relics while she beamed with sheer delight at the feeling of being home.
"Well?" Stephen asked as he watched her reaction intensely. "What do you think?"
All of a sudden, Hermione made the decision to take a leap of faith and clear things up between them, once and for all. "Are you talking about the job…or us?" she asked as she met his eyes. "Either way, I hope you know that the answer will be YES!"
Before Stephen could react to her thrilling response, Cloak and Sash stealthily slipped up to the two humans and wrapped themselves around them. Before they could move, Cloak quickly bound their legs together and Sash cinched them together at the waist. Instead of getting angry, Stephen took advantage of their situation to hold Hermione close and finally show her how he felt. To his delight, she returned his affectionate embrace as she realized that her leave of absence from the Ministry was definitely going to be permanent – now that she knew for sure that she had found exactly what…and whom…she had been searching for all along!
Once the kissing started, both Cloak and Sash made a discreet getaway. Their job was done…and they left the two humans to enjoy a different kind of magic than usual.