12th of June 1985
"Dios santo," Jose exclaimed as he cleaned his forehead of sweat. The heat was sweltering, and that was nothing compared to the humidity. If someone had told him he would be leading two crazy gabachos through the Amazonian forest for two years, he'd laugh in their face. But here he was, showing them his latest find. A buried temple that had religious significance to the locals, information he'd poached right off the narcos. He thought they wouldn't last a day when they first asked him, and even the girl barely spoke any Spanish, never mind Portuguese.
Not only had they survived, but they were apparently some kind of special forces or CIA. At least that was the only explanation he could come up with why the local drug dealing verdugos two villages over were now feeding worms. They also had the dumbest way to send messages ever. In a world of satellite phones they exchanged letters through trained owls. Owls, in the tropics. Needless to say he was being paid extremely well for his trouble. And once you got to know them, the two were reasonable enough.
He bent his knees to peer into the tunnel dug underneath the temple. It was dark as a bear's hole down there and he couldn't understand how they could see anything in there. He never saw them pack as much as a flash light.
But he stopped thinking too much about things like that when he found a tunnel fifty meters deep the day after they set up their first dig. It was probably some secret CIA or Interpol tunnelling weapon. At first he feared he might be 'taken care of' when the job was done. But if he had to go back to Mexico and slum it like he did before, getting iced was a better option. He now had enough to retire in a nicer place in Chile, but for the same reasons he didn't want to give his resignation.
Drinking from his beer, he groaned as two owls came crashing through the canopy. "You spook birds here?" he said in what he knew to be a still very tinted accent. "Aqui! Aqui, cono de plumas!"
He took out the bowl of dried meat the things ate and set it down on the camp table, untying the heavy letters around their feet. "Where you come from eh, crazy bird?" he said, scratching them behind their ears. "Eat, uh? I go find them."
He took out his flash light and bent down the tunnel, doubting its integrity. Making the sign of the cross over his chest, he entered. Vines and roots came down from above, a few meters inside the passage widened, and branched three ways. "Senor! Senorita! Mail!" He waited for an answer but none came. "Que mierda..."
Seeing no better way, he moved forward, crying out to the two as he went. He rarely got into the digs, but they insisted on being told of any mail immediately. Entering into an open room, his flash light landed on the carving of a large serpent breathing fire on the Aztec, or whatever they were, wearing feathery hats below. "Claro, mui bien," he sighed.
Going further, the tunnels seemed to go on forever, and he started to ask himself what kind of place this really was. Ahead he spotted light in the tunnels. "Madre de Dios – Senor! Senorita! You have mail!"
To his unending surprise, the both of them came out holding glasses of what was probably champagne. Never mind that he had never spotted champagne in the camp supplies. Torches he never remembered ordering lined the walls.
"Jose? What brings you down here?" the woman asked. "We were celebrating, do you want a glass?"
"Gracias," he said, accepting the glass and handing them the letters. "The owls came."
"Wonderful," she said, sipping.
"Who's it from?" the man said.
"Ah! One from Sev. And one from, Dumbledore?" She laughed. "Wonder what that's about."
"It's about you eating your words, I bet."
"Eh..." Jose said. "Senor Harry, Senorita Lily, can I… tunnel makes me nervous."
"You can go up," Lily replied, before handing Harry the second letter.
Harry looked over the letter and smiled. "Hmmm."
"Hmmm? Hmm what?"
"You go first."
She sighed and tucked her copper hair behind her ear. "Stuff is going on at the Ministry. He's asking for us to pitch in. Looks like the leftovers are going to try something."
"Does he really need us?" he asked in surprise.
"No," she admonished. "Of course not. But it's a chance for us to make a bang, you know. It's not like we have a big footprint across the pond."
"But your articles..."
"Articles and studies only get you so far, love. If we clean up the mess we can settle back, we're done here anyway. I thought that's what you wanted."
"Yes, it is," he said, pulling her close. "Is it what you want?"
She nodded, and got that look in her eyes that told him he was in for a fun night. Grinning, he tapped her glass, making it vanish.
Shocked, she pulled away and put her hands on her hips.
"You said one sip," he sheepishly said.
"It's not fair."
With a sigh he vanished his glass as well and pulled her back into a hug, kissing her deeply.
"What did your letter say?" she asked huskily.
He chuckled. "Dear Harry, I have kept up with your studies and something something, let's meet up. The bugger wants to retire. See, I told you."
"And you're right, once we take care of whatever stupidity is going on at the Ministry we can do whatever we want."
Lily was counting on her fingers, squinting her eyes.
He laughed. "This year, next year. Doesn't matter. Dumbledore can manage for just one more year."
"You think it'll work out? No – it's fine, it's all my parents have been asking for. To have a little rugrat running around."
"They're great," he said, running a finger on her cheek. "Isn't it great, having things work out?"
"I'm still nervous," she said, biting her lip.
"I know. It'll be fine."
With his hand around her waist, he led her back outside.
"Can't believe this will be our final publication," he said.
She shrugged. "The Quibbler will just have to find something else to publish. We should go visit sometime. It's been two years since we saw the Lovegoods."
"I'll owl Pandora, see if Helena and Sev are free too, make it a big reunion."
"And… we can break the big news," she said with a smile.
"That too," he said, smirking.
They stretched back in the light of day. Jose was smoking a cigarette. "All right?" he asked.
"Jose, you're getting your bonus," Harry said, tossing him a small bag. "You're fired."
Jose looked inside and gulped. "Senor… please, I won't –"
But they were already gone. He looked left, right, through the camp but there was no sign of them. "CIA… nunca más."
14th of August, 1990
"It's open," Harry called from his hammock. He still hadn't adjusted. The place ran itself well enough when he wasn't here, but the latest vacation had been too much of the good stuff. Sipping from his mojito, he wished to some day retire to a place that was always sunny. Scotland was much too dour, and the Ministry hadn't gotten back to him about making Hogwarts permanently tropical.
Looking up, he smiled at his long time friend. "Remus. Get yourself a drink."
He did, and settled into the chair beside the desk. "Aren't you pushing it a little, extending your vacation?"
"The way I see it, it's back payment."
"Not going to argue. Say, wasn't Sev visiting today?"
Harry frowned. "Blast, you're right." He stood up and spun a dial on a contraption next to his desk. "Oh, he went to visit Lily."
Turning on his foot, he found himself in the Advanced Runes teacher's quarters. "Sev."
"Does he always do that?" Severus asked.
"It's your fault," Lily said.
"How?" Severus asked, eyeing Harry's mojito.
"You bloody made him be the hero, now he acts like he owns the place."
"Don't I?" Harry said with a smile.
Severus snickered. "Good to see you."
Harry hugged him and looked him over. He looked good, and his black dragon leather glove still looked impressive. Definitely a good teaching tool. "Have you given any thought to what I said?"
"I have, but what? I'm not going to take a part time with Moody, Potter and –"
"I'm changing the curriculum. I want you to teach on Thursdays and Fridays, Wandless Magic."
Severus rubbed his chin. "So… I'd still have time to do my business."
"Exactly. Come on, Sev. It'll be fun."
"Brilliant." He conjured a binder from his hand and handed it to Severus.
"What's this?" Severus said, flipping through it.
"First assignment. Muggleborn introduction."
He sighed and looked through it. "Starts next year?"
"I've been doing them a year early since I took over, give them more time to process. Lily's idea. Really smart this one, I have high hopes."
"How do you – never mind. And you're sure you want me to do this?"
"Absolutely," he said, clapping him on the back. "There's a mojito in it for you if you do."
"Sure. Well, this has been great, but I have to get back. Lily."
Severus popped away with the binder and Harry dropped into Lily's couch. She joined him, lying down with her feet in his lap. "She's the one. Granger, isn't it?"
"And you didn't want to do it yourself?"
"It's not really fair for me to put my biases on people who don't even know me. Besides," he said leaning close to her, "what's the point of being Headmaster if I have to do everything myself?"
"Your giant head."
"You love my giant head," he said coyly.
"You're lucky I do."
1st of September 1991
Nervously, the new student went through the train trying to find a place to sit. Ideally she'd find first years. She was nervous, about making friends, about learning new things. Her world had been turned upside down ever since that strange man – professor Snape – had visited her home and casually turned their house cat into a canary. He changed it back, of course, but it was still a shock. Especially to her dad, who never believed her when she said she made the chair under John Carnie disappear.
But now she was going to be a witch, and she was going to study at Hogwarts under the watchful eye of the youngest, and probably strangest Headmaster the school had ever seen. The book she read said that he, and half a dozen his friends, some of them professors at Hogwarts, had held back nearly a hundred dark wizards and creatures who tried to attack the Ministry of Magic.
Of course all Headmasters of Hogwarts had their own history of bravery and strangeness, but the peculiar thing about Harry Peltier was that so little was known about him. Rumour was he controlled half the Ministry with an iron fist, but there was no proof.
She spotted a blonde boy and girl sitting with another boy who was talking. She gathered her courage and opened the glass door. "Hello, do you mind if I sit with you for the ride? I'm Hermione – Hermione Granger. I'm a muggleborn but I got a visit a year ago and I've been reading all kinds of things on spells, potions and magical history."
She sat down. "Did you know Hogwarts was built in the 10th century? They say it was started by the greatest wizards and witches who ever lived, but of course, that's just what they say – Merlin is usually said to be the greatest wizard who ever lived. He was a Slytherin – so is the current Headmaster and professor Snape – he's the one who came to visit me last year. But Dumbledore the previous Headmaster was a Gryffindor and so are professor Evans and Lupin – he teaches transfiguration – that's the magical discipline of turning one thing into another. Anyway, what house do you think you're going to choose?"
The others stared at her. Maybe she talked too much, she had a habit of talking too much when she was nervous.
"Hi," the blonde boy said. "I'm Neville Longbottom."
"Susan Bones," the girl said.
"I'm Seamus Finnigan. And blimey, you talk a lot."
She blushed. "Well, you haven't answered my question."
"My parents were in Gryffindor," Neville said. "I think that's okay, for me to be in Gryffindor."
"Me too," Hermione said. "I've decided, I'm going to be a Gryffindor, of course Ravenclaw wouldn't be too bad either."
"I want to go to Slytherin," Susan said. "I heard professor Talkalot is going to be a permanent professor, and she's supposed to be even better than professor Sprout."
The locomotive let out its steamy hoot and the wheels turned into motion. "This is so exciting don't you think?" Hermione said.
The train started to speed up, and it kept speeding up, until the gentle tac-tac of the tracks turned into a fast-fire rattle. The cabin started to shake and the noise was infernal. "Is it supposed to do that?" Neville asked, holding his chair tight.
"It doesn't say anything about the train shaking in 'Hogwarts a History'," Hermione said, closing her eyes and hoping it to be over. She turned her head when a pop came from the hallway and a ragged looking man with scars on his face trudged forward.
"It's all right! Everyone stay calm!" he shouted, and muttered 'bloody hell', making his way forward to the locomotive. A moment later the train slowed down, and so did Hermione's heart which had been doing its best to outpace the train.
"That was professor Lupin! Did you know he hunted down Greyback, the most evil werewolf to ever live?" she said once she recovered.
"I'm just glad it's over," Susan moaned.
"That was awesome," Seamus said with a smile on his face.
Two things caught her eyes at their arrival. First, the giant man who was calling the first years, second the few students who threw up on the platform when they stepped outside. She crinkled her nose and thanked her strong stomach. They were lead to unmanned boats on the lake, which took them to a different entrance than the older students, going to a back passage that lead to the Great Hall.
Hermione's eyes widened as she spotted professor Evans. She had published over fifty studies on ancient magic and had written a book co-authored by the Headmaster. Apparently they went to Hogwarts together. She was also famous for revolutionizing runes and protective enchantments. But by far the most obvious thing about her were the scars on her arms, set in the shape of two ancient protective runes, which were barely visible below her sleeves.
"Welcome to Hogwarts, students. I'll call your name in alphabetical order, and you will come up to the sorting chair. You'll say which House you want to be in, and if there is anyone who wants to protest your choice, they'll do so. Don't worry though, it rarely happens. And ending up in a certain House doesn't mean you can't see other students, it just means you'll have most of your classes together and will be competing for the House and Quidditch Cup."
Hermione gulped. What if she made the wrong choice? When professor Evans moved into the Great Hall, Hermione thought she winked in her direction. She felt better already. Of course if professor Evans was a Gryffindor, she was too. When her turn came, she sat on the chair and heard a voice speak in her head.
Gryffindor? And you wouldn't mind Ravenclaw. Think carefully about this one. Which one is more important to you: the bravery to acquire knowledge, or the knowledge to face your fears? I do see a hint of Slytherin in you. If your thirst for knowledge is insatiable, you might want to consider that too.
Who is that? she asked the voice.
An old friend, of course. Now, time to make your choice, Miss Granger.
Proudly she said "Gryffindor!", and the table with the red and gold tablecloth clapped loudly. Neville, three other girls and two more boys were sorted into Gryffindor. As they were all seated, the Headmaster stood.
He had a smile on his face and his piercing silver eyes seemed to look right through them. Her breath hitched when he seemed to look at her. But she must have imagined it, because he turned back to the hall.
"WELCOME –" His voice boomed too loudly in the hall. "Sorry – Welcome to new students, and welcome back to our old ones. To the sixth and seventh years, let me remind you that professor Snape started teaching Wandless Magic last year, and while the elective is a new one, it is quickly becoming more noticed by the Ministry, especially for those wishing to join the Department of Aurors. Additionally, it saddens me to say that this will be the final year for our dear Head of House and professor Sprout, as she has decided to take an early retirement. An advanced congratulations to professor Talkalot for her new appointment."
There was clapping at Slytherin and Hufflepuff tables, as well as from the professors.
"Casting spells in the corridors is –" He looked at a piece of parchment while adjusting his glasses. "– ah, forbidden. As is being outside your dorms after hours. Caretaker Filch has reminded me that the list of banned items has grown by 73 this term, you may find a full list in the caretaker's office. And should you be exploring the castle and finding potentially dangerous and secret rooms, be sure no one finds out, or you might get in trouble."
Hermione frowned at the wording. To some it might seem like the Headmaster was encouraging illegal activities.
"I also must apologize about the earlier trouble with Big Red. He gets especially riled up when a batch of promising students is to be admitted to our school," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "Now, it's time to eat!"
The table filled with roasted meats and all kinds of goodies, but as her head turned up she was entranced by the Hall's ceiling. It glistened like the night sky. She felt incredibly happy in that moment, that she had found such a magical place.
13th of October 1996
As she stood before the disappearing archway, she somehow felt sad. It was a strange feeling, seeing someone she didn't even know – yet thought she knew – leave as quickly as he came. Slowly, she walked in the direction of her dorm, her head full of unanswerable questions. She stilled as she heard hurried footsteps from a hallway behind her.
It was the Headmaster. He stopped in front of the garish mural of dancing trolls, ruffled his jet black hair, then continued in her direction. When he walked straight past her she almost relaxed, but he turned around, and pointed a finger at her. "You're Hermione Granger, right?"
She was overcome with a sick feeling of deja-vu. "Y–yes, professor."
"Just call me Harry when no one is around," he whispered. Her eyes went wide.
"Say, can I ask you something?" he said before she could say anything.
"Yes, sir – I mean Harry."
"Does no one around here know I have a son?" he asked confusedly.
"Yes, a son, me and Mrs. Evans do."
"No, I've never heard that..."
He shook himself. "That's so strange. Well, good day to you, Miss Granger."
"Prof – Harry!" she called after him.
"Yes?" he said, spinning on his heel.
"Did you… use to have a scar? Right here?" she said motioning to her forehead.
She looked on with bated breath as he seemed to ponder this deeply. He smiled. "I'm sure I didn't," he finally said. "But you know what I've been thinking lately? We don't actually teach occlumency in this school. Isn't that strange, such a basic skill? If I were you, Miss Granger, I would do some self study. In fact I would start right away."
The final words echoed in her mind, and she was strangely reminded of her sorting so long ago. She could only watch the bizarre Headmaster – who reminded her so much of that strange man who had taken her hostage – as he walked away. She had to know. And she had been given a clue.
Once the hallway was empty, she stood before the blank spot on the wall where the arch had materialized, and asked loudly in her mind: I want to learn occlumency!
She heard a sound like crackling parchment and before her appeared a modest wooden door with a not so modest golden handle. Taking a deep breath, she opened it and stepped inside. The room was barren, save for a pedestal on which shone a yellow light, moving, changing constantly. As she stepped closer, the crystal changed in hue, to a colour of gleaming gold. She heard an unfamiliar voice speak to her in her head, full of vim and excitement.
Aha! A visitor at last! And here I thought I would rot for another thousand years. How I wish you'd brought some friends. These things always work better with faithful allies… But tell me my little dragon egg, what is your name?
A/N: So it comes to an end. I could have stretched it much longer, but I didn't feel the need to. 100k words is a novel, it's enough, and I'm glad I finished it before the year ended. I do like my open-ended endings, and I left a lot of the epilogue vague. Because why not. I just had the epilogue in mind for a long time. It's a bit quirky, but I think our MC's have a way of looking at their elders as quirky.
I did like writing the last few chapters, they were really easy, picturing it for so long. I really didn't imagine it would end up with so many readers, but I'm pleasantly surprised.
And now I'm going to see what fic is next for me, but I have a few ideas. Be sure to give as much feedback as you like. Again, thank you so much for reading and commenting. I'd be glad for you to read whatever I have planned next.