Viktor offered to Side-along Apparate Hermione for their 'date', which she declined.

"I'm not fond of Apparition," she admitted. "Just… the idea of it disturbs me, and I don't like how it feels."

Viktor looked concerned but accepted this, and he agreed to meet her at the location just after lunch.

When Hermione arrived on Lundy, popping out of the line, she saw immediately that Viktor had beaten her there. He had arrived with his broom in tow as promised, and he was looking over the island in surprise.

"I was only here in dark," Viktor said, looking around. "This is not what I thought it was."

"It's very small," Hermione agreed, shrugging. "Come with me. Blackwell is this way."

A short traipse through the anti-muggle barrier saw groves of trees and people materialize out of nowhere, and several of the students hurried over to greet them with bright eyes and smiles. One of the older boys seemed to be leading them, and he took Hermione's hand, shaking it firmly.

"Thank you so much for this gift," he said, his voice strong. "I can't even tell you how much this means to us. We cannot wait to learn."

Hermione smiled.

"I've brought you a teacher," she said, gesturing to Viktor. "This is Viktor. He's good with brooms."

Viktor looked at Hermione sideways, but the boy only extended his hand to Viktor with a friendly grin.

"Pleased to meet you, Viktor," he said. "I'm Shale. You're going to teach us how to fly on a broom?"

Viktor looked surprised at Shale's utter unrecognition of him, before relaxing.

"I will try," Viktor promised. "I am not good teacher, maybe, but we will to figure it out together."

"Excellent!" Shale said. He turned to the smaller children assembled behind him. "Did you hear that? We're going to learn. Go!"

The children scattered, and Shale led them down to an empty plain, out of sight of the muggles but still on their claimed area of the island.

"The older ones of us have been reading your history books," Shale told Hermione. "It still seems made up, like a dream. This hidden society existing alongside everyone else for centuries…"

"It is a bit mad," Hermione admitted. "I've gotten used to it, but it's still a bit mad."

"The idea of a wand instead of a staff is interesting," Shale admitted. "Variol and Tillite, they wanted to try making wands, but we've got nothing here suitable for a wand core, I don't think."

"Maybe we help with that." Viktor looked at Hermione, his eyes dancing. "If I kill dragon soon, I will to bring you its heart."

Hermione shoved him, playful, and Viktor grinned, pushing her back.

"Is that usual?" Shale asked, eyes large. "Killing dragons?"

"Well, no," Hermione said. "Most are endangered or kept on preserves. But you're certainly allowed to do whatever necessary to protect yourself from one if need be."

Shale led Hermione and Viktor to the front of the group assembled on the field before hurrying to join the ranks. Draco had done an excellent job – every student assembled had a broom of some sort. Even the smallest child had some sort of half-size broom, looking just as excited as the rest. Viktor looked over the assembled crowd, took in their anticipation and utter ignorance to his identity, and he grinned.

"Hello!" he said strongly. "I am Viktor."

"Hello Viktor," the students all chorused back at him, and Viktor grinned wider, his eyes bright with his excited crooked grin.

"I teach you flying today," he declared. "First – everybody put broom on ground."

He dropped his broom to the ground, and the others followed his example after some hesitation, looking very much like they didn't want to throw their new brooms on the ground.

"Now," he said. "Put hand over broom, and say—"

He broke off for a moment, looking at Hermione with his brow furrowing in thought.

"English brooms, yes?" he said. "So 'up' is word?"

"You cry out 'up', yes," Hermione said with amusement, recalling her own broom lessons from first year. "You use a different word for yours?"

"нагоре," Viktor said. Hermione had never heard the word before – it sounded like nah-gore-ay, but there was some trick of the tongue on that 'r' sound that Hermione didn't think she could get. "Anyway. I try 'up'."

At Viktor's instruction, everyone held their hand over their broom and cried out, "Up!" Most people's brooms leapt into their hands, including Viktor's. He grinned at Hermione, who couldn't help but roll her eyes and grin back.

"Magic responds to intention, you realize?" she told him, amused. "I daresay that transcends language."

"Maybe," Viktor said, chuckling. "Is still fun to test."

Hermione watched as Viktor went through the group, helping those whose brooms had ignored their request or rolled over on the ground. Hermione drifted off to the side to sit on a large rock, figuring she might as well get out of the way, given she wasn't teaching the class. After some tutelage, everyone's brooms had leapt into their hand, and Viktor returned to the front.

"Next, we kick off," he instructed. "Watch—you put feet like this…"

While Viktor taught everyone the proper way to straddle a broom and kick off, Hermione sensed movement from the direction of the coast, and she turned to see Iron Man striding up the hill toward her, staff in hand.

In the daylight, he didn't look nearly as old as the students had made him sound. His short black hair was streaked with silver, but he had a smart goatee and mustache that hadn't grown grays yet. Hermione watched as he hopped up on the rock next to her, laying his staff across his lap.

"You don't want to learn to fly?" she asked him, and he snorted.

"It's not worth the risk," he said. "I've no idea the full bounds of my curse, and I don't really want to test them."

Hermione shrugged. "Fair enough."

They watched the students kick off and hover under Viktor's instruction for a while. Viktor looked exhilarated, fully involved in teaching excited children about something he loved, and Hermione's heart felt warm. She'd worried he'd see this as an obligation or a hassle, but freed from the shackles of his fame, Viktor's love for flying was fully on display, and his excitement was infectious as he helped each child hover, cheering them on.

"He's kind," Iron Man remarked. "Nicer than the blond one, at any rate."

"Draco?" Hermione glanced over at him. "Why? Was he rude?"

"Not quite." Iron Man paused, considering. "He… he seemed very awkward, amongst the children. Like he didn't quite know how to interact with them, even though many are around his own age. Like they were a different species, instead of people."

"Really?" Hermione was surprised. "He seemed fine with them all when he was here before."

"He had other wizards around him then," Iron Man pointed out. "When he came with the brooms, he just brought them and dropped them, awkwardly explained that someone would come teach us to use them soon, and then went to check on the House Elf."

"Oh! Kreacher!" Hermione said. "How is he working out?"

A look of consideration came over Iron Man's face, like he was carefully considering his words.

"Kreacher has taken to Blackwell with a dedication few would match," he said finally. "He takes his responsibility very seriously."

Hermione blinked. "Like how?"

"For one, he is very adamant about feeding everyone," Iron Man said. "We used to have one large meal a day and generally just snacked on fruit throughout the day when hunger hit, but that's not sufficient for Kreacher. He is insistent that 'growing witches and wizards need to eat'."

"Using magic does burn energy," Hermione said, shrugging. "It makes sense."

"He does the laundry," Iron Man went on. "And he has acquired more robes for everyone out of nowhere, all of which he has embroidered with our 'crest'. And if I'm not mistaken, he's been working on rebuilding the school."

"Rebuilding?" Hermione was startled. "Is it broken?"

Iron Man snorted. "It's a ruin. We made it look worse than it is for the island-goers, but it is still a ruin. Part of it is still livable, clearly, but there are crumbled wings and stairs to nowhere." He paused. "I have no idea how, or where he's getting the blocks, but I think Kreacher is slowly building the keep back up, brick by brick."

"That's kind of him," Hermione said, pleased.

Iron Man shrugged. "I guess."

Hermione looked at Iron Man steadily, puzzling him out.

"Everything you've listed that Kreacher has done sounds helpful," she pointed out. "And yet, you seem extremely reluctant about Kreacher being here at all."

Iron Man sighed.

"I suppose," he said. "That's on me to handle, I guess. But I just don't like seeing a brownie around here. It reminds me of… other times."

Hermione sat up straighter, suddenly alert.

"He's not a brownie," she said carefully. "House Elves are descended from brownies a long time ago—"

"I understand that," Iron Man said, his voice long-suffering. "But please realize, he looks exactly like the ones at the Faerie Courts do."

Hermione felt her breath catch in her chest with excitement.

"And have you been to the Faerie Courts before?" she asked, keeping her voice even. Iron Man didn't fall for it one bit, shooting her a look of knowing and mild exasperation.

"I have," he said. "I would not recommend it to anyone."

"Did you not enjoy your time there?" Hermione asked innocently.

Iron Man snorted. "I enjoyed it too much, and that was rather the whole problem, wasn't it?" He sighed. "Time moves differently there. I danced and ate for what I thought was a few days, and when I returned, years had passed, and the island…" His expression became shaded. "It was not what it once was. There were evil people on the island, and I gladly fled back to the Faerie lands to dance away time."

He looked lost in memory for a long moment, before looking sideways at Hermione.

"You're a formally-trained sorceress—witch, wizard, whatever—so you might understand this," he said. He paused. "I was an alchemist, once. Do you know what that means?"

Hermione's eyes went wide. "I do."

Iron Man looked amused. "Of course you do."

"Alchemy is a very complicated and respected field of magic," Hermione said carefully. "Did—were you not trained classically?"

"I didn't go to wizard school, if that's the question," Iron Man said, raising his eyebrows. "I thought I was going crazy as a child, thinking angels were talking to me. I thought that for years. I found a teacher who believed me, and we worked together on writing down their words. The angels told me about alchemy, showing me a glimpse of a red tincture that would allow me to transmute base metals to gold, and I tried for years to replicate what I had seen." He sighed. "And when I was imprisoned after failing again, it was one of these 'angels' that offered to save my life and get me out, though I'd have to leave my past life behind."

"And it was the Fae?" Hermione asked, fascinated. "Not angels at all?"

"Not angels at all," Iron Man confirmed. "More rifts between the two realms existed back then, and what I thought were angels were lesser Fae. Just being mischievous, I suppose." He sighed. "The faerie who saved my life brought me here, taught me magic, and taught me how to travel in the ley lines. She taught me many things. She brought me a wand at one point even, which I still have."

"And she took you to the faerie court?" Hermione prodded.

Iron Man opened his mouth, before abruptly snapping it shut, a sudden hardness in his eyes.

"Nevermind that," he said. "It doesn't matter. What does matter, what I know you're actually asking about – I was too arrogant in front of a Higher Fae, professing my certainty that I'd get the hang of alchemy and transmutation eventually, and I bet my future on that fact." He grimaced. "And then they shackled my magical core to this island magnetically, turning it to iron. Not that I have any idea how they did that, but that's what they did. All the while reassuring me that it was only temporary, that all I need do was transmute the iron to gold, and I'd be free of the magnetism shackling me."

Hermione's eyes were wide. "That's… wow…"

"Wow indeed," Iron Man said dryly. "Anyway. That's why I'm still here, and why I never leave. It's also why I've been 42 for what must be over a century at this point."

"They froze your aging?" Hermione asked, incredulous, and Iron Man shrugged.

"I have no idea what the Fae can and cannot do," he said. "When I bet my future, I didn't think about what all that could mean. I thought it was just a turn of phrase." He sighed. "Ah, the folly of youth."

Hermione privately thought that if he had been forty-two years old when he went to the Faerie Court, he couldn't really claim 'youth' as an excuse.

"Are you still working on that?" she asked. "On your alchemy? To transmute your core?"

"Barely," Iron Man admitted. "I have books of theorems and ideas scattered about here and there, but…"

Iron Man trailed off as he looked out over the field, where Viktor was leading the children in a series of large loops, steadily going higher and faster, many of the Blackwell students whooping and laughing as they flew.

"It's not a bad life, to be honest," Iron Man said, a small smile on his lips. "I may be stuck, but I have a purpose, here. I'm still not entirely sure how all these students end up here, but I'm happy to help provide a safe haven if I can."