AN: This is planning to be an adventure story with Harry/Hermione/Ginny & Draco. Just to be clear. Post-Hogwarts dimensional travel AU. I thought it would be best if I just mentioned it at the start. WARNINGS: Recreational drug use, (semi) Ron bashing
It was around 4PM, so the whole department was abuzz with activity. Hastily sent owls, Aurors writing last minute reports before the shift change, and others still chatting with colleagues over a cup of coffee. He entered the second division Captain's office and closed the door behind him, dropping a leather satchel on the desk. With a sigh, he sat down, pouring a glass of sparkling water.
He emptied the bag and let out a dry chuckle as he saw three six-sided dice tumble out. They were left behind at the scene of the crime, decidedly nonmagical apparently. For the past eight months an ambitious thief had been whisking away various artefacts from their ancestral homes, and this was what he left behind this time. A message perhaps: 'Better luck next time.' They would find no traces of evidence, Harry knew. Their quarry was much too careful for that.
He considered it a positive thing that the Auror department was dealing with thieves these days. It had been a while since they had faced a real threat. He penned a reminder to propose additional training to Robards. It wouldn't do for the Aurors to rest on their laurels.
A knock came at his door and he called to come in. He relaxed at the sight of Ginny and stood up to greet her. "Nice surprise, did you finish training already?"
"Gwen and the coach went at it again," she said, rolling her eyes. "What are you up to?"
"Just finishing up. Getting started on a report."
Ginny noticed the dice and picked one up. "What's this?"
Harry shrugged. "The 'Leicester Shadow' struck again."
She threw the dice back and jumped off the desk. "Really?"
"What, are you a fan now?"
She stepped closer and tugged on the hem of his robes. "I like mysterious men."
"What makes you think it's a man?" he asked.
Their laughter was interrupted by another knock at the door. He wasn't expecting anyone, but wasn't surprised to see Hermione. She'd recently transferred into the department, leaving a trail of confusion like a hurricane. And she came to him for advice quite often. In any case it was nice that she valued his input.
"Hey," he said, turning the parchment he was working on towards him. "Did you hear already?"
"That a priceless heirloom reportedly belonging to Merlin himself was stolen in broad daylight from one of the most secure castles in Magical Britain? Yes, I heard."
Greeting Ginny, she moved to the desk to inspect the dice. "Is this it?"
Harry nodded, scrawling down the start of his report. "Not to be rude, but is that the only reason you came here?"
He saw her glance at Ginny. There was no reason for her not to overhear, but they usually had these chats by themselves. "It's making the department look bad," she said softly.
"He's a ghost, Hermione. Criminals usually make mistakes, that's how we catch them, but this one?" He shook his head. "Figure we should be glad stealing is all he's doing."
"Any idea where he might strike next?"
She sighed as she leaned on his desk. He really did want to work on that report but he didn't figure he would get a distracting audience.
A few minutes later, another knock came. Harry was getting to the point of frustration. He went to open the door himself and was irritated to see the person he least wanted to see standing in front of him.
"Malfoy? Are you lost or something? Notice how it says 'Captain Potter' on the door? Did you miss that?"
"I have an appointment," he said through gritted teeth.
He frowned and looked beyond to the shared assistant's desk. "Shelly, does Mr. Malfoy have an appointment?"
Shelly smiled back and nodded. "Malfoy, for Captain Potter, Friday at 4:15PM."
"I didn't allow this, did I?"
"Yes, sir, you did. Remember how I said Mr. Draco Malfoy owled and asked for an appointment, and then you answered 'Yes, just what I need. Why don't you put him in on Friday, I'd love to see him.'"
"I thought it was obvious that was sarcasm," he responded incredulously.
Shelly lost her smile.
"It's fine!" he reassured her. Really, he should've known better.
"Well, come in then, Mr. Malfoy."
Malfoy made his way inside and frowned at the two present witches. They frowned back, and looked at Harry.
"Just, one second – Malfoy, what do you want?"
"It's about my father's house arrest. I'd like to have a review hearing."
Harry felt bile make its way up his stomach. "Do I look like a judge to you?"
"You'd have to take it up with the Wizengamot Sentencing Board," Hermione added. "There's no need to come and bother Harry about this."
"Those people listen to you – both of you. If you could just put in a good word, I know they'd consider it."
"Your father's lucky he's not rotting in Azkaban after everything," Ginny added angrily. "As a matter of fact, so are you."
He seemed to be biting his tongue, in the end he turned to Harry. "We helped. The information we gave you saved a lot of lives, and put ours in danger."
"And yet, Ginny is still right. You got lucky, you got a good deal."
"I didn't come expecting forgiveness, just him being in that house… it's not good for him! He needs to get out once in a while, be among people."
"You must really be sincere," Harry said, seeing hope flicker in Malfoy's eyes. "Because that's the only way you'd be stupid enough to think I'd help you out with this."
"So this is it, then?"
Malfoy seemed more defeated than angry. There must really be a problem. But there was no way he would ever do a favour for Malfoy, especially not in present company. He waited for Malfoy to see himself out, but instead he moved towards the desk and picked up the dice.
"Gambling now, Potter?"
Malfoy snorted and threw the dice back on the desk. He looked like he was about to leave, but looked back with a frown.
He noticed the dice, turned up snake eyes, had taken on a bright red glow. Harry cursed as he pushed Malfoy out of the way and motioned towards the door. "Everyone out!"
"I can't –" Hermione called.
A purple maelstrom appeared to be emanating from the dice, holding them all frozen in place. "Damn it, try anything!" he bellowed, straining to try and get to his wand. Whatever was binding him had a strong hold, he had to fight for every inch of progress. Feeling the tip of his wand in its holster, he realized it was too late. The vortex collapsed in a flare of energy, and feeling a last burst of panic and regret, he slipped into unconsciousness.
He had the strangest dream. He was climbing a staircase towards a bright light, so bright he had to put his hand in front of his eyes not to be blinded. At the top something was calling him: a soothing, reassuring voice. As he got closer he saw the light didn't come from the exit, but from a person. A woman in gleaming white robes, wearing feathers in her hair and holding a silver sword.
Strangely he knew he could trust her, so he ascended the last few stairs. Even though Harry was a little over six feet tall, she towered above him, a gentle smile on her face. She nodded. He understood he was supposed to kneel, so he did. The sword lifted and cut twice through the air, rustling the fabric of the tunic on his shoulders.
As he rose, the silver sword was presented to him. He took it and thanked the woman before him. She nodded and they stood for a moment in complete, peaceful silence. With a rustling of her robes, her hand moved to rest on his head. He felt like he fell a thousand feet in a single second, moving through a landscape of blinding light.
Grunting, he woke up with a headache. He realized he was looking at Ginny's up-side-down face. He was resting on her lap, his mouth dry and throat sore.
"He's awake!" she called out, and footsteps came running.
Hermione worriedly looked him over. "How are you feeling?"
"I have a headache but I'll be fine," he said, righting himself. As he looked over the grasslands they were standing in, he heard a voice from behind him.
"Told you he would wake up."
It was Malfoy.
"Why are you still here? – Hold on, where are we?"
"You don't remember? That purple thing?" Hermione asked.
"Right," he sighed. "I still don't get it. Did you send out a Patronus? Whatever happened, Robards will want a report right away."
The look he got from the three of them was abysmal, like someone had died.
"I can't," Hermione answered.
"Forget a Patronus, we couldn't even manage a simple water conjuring spell," Malfoy grumbled.
"Our wands don't work," Ginny said with arms crossed.
He instantly took his wand out. It felt strange in his hand. Usually he could read even the mood of his wand and how well it would respond to his commands. Now, he felt nothing. He tried a water conjuring charm first, a stunning, burning, cutting spell. He felt like a muggle child, randomly swinging a stick.
"We tried, I – I even tried yours," Hermione said. "Whatever it was that took us here must've disabled them."
But Harry, thinking ahead, realized there was another, much less palatable answer. He put away his wand and closed his eyes to concentrate. It had taken him a full year of practice, but he had managed to learn the basics of wandless magic.
Nothing again, no matter how he tried. He took a deep breath. Better that he told them now than stew on the realization. "I don't think it's our wands that don't work."
Hermione went pale, and Malfoy got a ghastly look on his face.
"Harry, don't be silly," she nervously said. "I'm sure you just didn't do it right… I mean, wandless magic… it's complicated – and – and –"
Ginny looked defeatedly at her wand.
"Harry does sometimes. Simple things, you know, like turning on the lights. Harry, what's happening?"
"I have no idea. But it seems for some reason we've lost the ability to do magic."
Hermione scoffed, but he could see she was worried, half in denial. He was thirsty.
"Do we have water?"
Ginny handed him a bottle from nearby. There was a pile of things laying in the grass. Books, a purse, clothes, even some canned food.
"Where did that come from?"
"My bottomless bag broke," Hermione said quietly.
He went to her and bent over the spilled contents. They told a story of who Hermione was if you knew where to look. The notebook she would write thoughts and passages in during a quiet moment, a little white box containing bandages, gauze and clippers. Dittany now probably just as useless as the rest of their magic. A leather case he knew contained a picture of her next to Harry and Ron in Auror robes. And a dozen other things you might find in a normal woman's purse.
He looked on towards the forest in the valley beyond. "It's good you have all this, we're going to need it. Looks like we're up for a hike."
Taking off his robes and tying them in an improvised pack, he started to gather the food and few water bottles. Hermione looked like she was on the verge of breaking down, but he didn't say anything. With any luck they'd be back home soon enough, then they could deal with whatever had happened.
"Malfoy, give me your robes."
"Your robes", he motioned.
"I'm not giving you my robes!"
"If you want to eat and drink from this, you'll give me your bloody robes, and you'll help carry it."
Malfoy was fuming, but his self-preservation prevailed. He tossed his robes to Harry and they packed most of it. Hermione chose the most pertinent personal belongings and put them into the now small bag. All around them was a sea of green, knee-high grass. Further ahead was a valley, a forest encroaching below. If they were lucky there would at least be water, and if they were really lucky there would be civilization.
He joined Ginny as they set off, taking her hand to reassure her.
"We'll be fine. First place we get to I'll use Kingsley's emergency muggle phone and they'll come get us."
She squeezed his hand, not quite having processed what had happened.
"Where do yo think we are?"
"Could be the Highlands," he sighed.
"I don't think so," she answered. "There's mountains over there."
He looked ahead, and squinted. Thinking his glasses were foggy, he removed them, cleaning them with his shirt. He blinked as he looked through them. The glasses were making his vision worse.
He trotted up to Hermione who was in the middle of the pack. "Hey, you have your copy of 'Hogwarts, a History' with you, right?"
She pulled it out, it taking up a large part of the remaining space in her bag. He opened it and removed his glasses.
"Shit… I can read it."
"I should hope so," she responded sardonically.
"No, I mean, I don't need my bloody glasses."
She slowed her pace, like she was considering something.
"Well good for you," she said.
His vision now flawless, he could see the ice capped peaks behind a foggy horizon. Truth was he had no idea where they were. There was something alien about he landscape, something untamed.
They walked for hours. He hated hiking, but he shut up. Malfoy didn't. He kept complaining about having to carry their food. Harry got worried as time went on. If they were remotely anywhere on the same continent they should've seen the daylight change to evening by now. But the sun was higher in the sky than when they started. He tried to do the math in his head, but nothing that made sense came to him.
They stopped for food and water halfway towards the forest. They had no wood for a fire, so cold beans and water would have to do. Hermione sat next to him when Ginny found a quiet place to relieve herself.
"We didn't pass out the same as you earlier. I took note of the time as we arrived, and I've been keeping my eye on the movement of the sun. I went over it for a long time in my head, but it can't be right, it – Harry, logic says we're in the middle of the Pacific Ocean."
"Maybe we lost time and your watch is wrong," he said unconvincingly.
"I hope you're right," she said with a grave look. "Because if you're not, I have no idea where we are."
It was disconcerting they were both thinking the same thing. But they would be fine, as long as the problem was possible to solve they'd rise to the task. They always had.
Malfoy had it worst during the second part of the trek. The sun was high in the sky and they were quickly going through their small reserve of water. By the time they arrived at the treeline, they were tired, and there was the start of sunburn on their face. They found a place in the shade a ways under the fir trees.
"I'm going to see if I can find water," Harry said, collecting his robes again.
"I'll go with you," said Hermione.
It surprised him she volunteered, she was in worse shape than Ginny. As they wandered further, she stopped him and sat down on a tree root. She'd been walking the whole time in her work shoes, low heels not made for long walks.
"I just had to get away for a moment," she said.
"Are you okay?"
"My feet are killing me," she answered with a pained smile. Harry winced with her as she removed her socks to reveal red blisters. He went to sit down beside her.
"You should've said something, we would've stopped more often."
"I'm fine," she snapped.
He knew better than to get in her hair when she was like this, so he looked around them. There wasn't much underbrush beneath the spread of needles from the conifers. This far there was little light making it through the canopy. It brought a certain stillness to the place, except for a faint rustling.
"You hear that?"
"That sound," he said, moving further. "It's coming from there. Could be a stream."
He waited for her to get ready and they moved ahead. There was a dip, and beyond the hillock they found a clear brook, winding into the forest to the east. With the chirping of the birds it would have been a beautiful place, if not for their predicament.
"I guess we won't die, then," she said, running her hand through the cold water. "The sun will set soon, are we staying here for the night?"
Harry cleaned his face with some fresh water. "Not much of a choice, we can't exactly make torches out of sticks. I hope it doesn't get too cold."
"I have some lighters in my bag, we can make a bonfire."
"Really saved us, your emergency supplies."
"My grandfather always had a cupboard full of tinned food, because of the war," she said with a smile. "I used to think he was silly, but I guess some things you have to live through to understand."
He went to fill his water bottle with a grin. It was strange being in that position again, having to fight to survive. But even if it was a terrible time, he looked back fondly on their year of adventure. As he turned back, his blood ran cold.
Behind Hermione stood a three foot tall batlike creature with sharp teeth holding a pointy stick. Before he could shout out, the creature let out a shrill shout and ran straight at her. Harry dashed as fast as he could, and using a rock as a step, jumped in the air and swung his leg as hard as he could into the creature's face. It let out a whine as it was punted backwards.
To his horror he felt another one run behind him. She tried to dodge, but was a moment too late. It had embedded his spear in her abdomen, letting out a victory cry when she stumbled backwards. While it was distracted, Harry took the spear with two hands and directed another kick at the monster.
With no time to think, his combat training kicked in. The spear firmly in both hands, he lunged, and impaled the diminutive assailant on its crude weapon. It screamed something horrible. One disabled, he swung around to see the first one already on him. He barely deflected the point of the spear away from his body, but took the full force of the charge. It was above him, its hand going to a sharp stone at its side.
Harry's arm shot back and found something solid. A stone. He swung it around against his victim's head, hearing a wet thud. He brought the rock above his head, and down again at its target. He didn't stop until it lay limp beneath him. Adrenaline coursed through him, making him jittery.
Looking back, the other creature was breathing shallowly, and he felt true despair for the first time in years as he saw the blood pouring out of Hermione's side. He scrambled over to her. There was so much blood, running thick like syrup. Remembering what little he did from his first aid course at Auror Training, he pressed both hands against the wound below her ribs.
Hermione weakly shook her head, her eyes fluttering on the edge of consciousness. "I tried..."
Next to them was the empty bottle, lying uselessly in the grass. His hands were slick with blood, there was nothing he could do. He hadn't felt this helpless since he saw Sirius disappear through the veil.
"It's not your fault," she said through ragged breaths.
He couldn't quite see clearly with the tears in his eyes, but he begged. Anyone, anything not to have this happen so senselessly. He thought all was lost, that he would lose his dearest friend, when he felt a reassuring warmth spread through him. His eyes were firmly closed, scared of what he might see if he opened them again.
A hand wrapped over his and took it.
Hermione stared back at him hazily, her brow marked with cold sweat. There was no more blood running through his fingers. He slowly pulled back his hands to reveal nothing but crimson stained skin. The wound was gone. For a good few minutes, he stared incredulous at her being alive. When he regained his senses, he pulled her into a tight hug. The past few minutes felt like a bad dream.
She was still woozy from losing so much blood, but they hobbled over to the stream to get cleaned up. They freshened up, but his robes and her shirt were still stained red.
"I thought I was dead," she whispered. "You healed my wound."
"I'm not sure if I did."
"Your hands felt warm all of the sudden," she said, placing her right one on her abdomen. "It closed up and I felt like all my fear was gone. It had to be magic, right?"
"I don't know, I'm just glad it happened."
They walked back with her leaning on him for support. They must have looked quite a sight, because Ginny ran over to them shouting. Even Malfoy looked worried.
"We found water," he said, "and we were attacked by something. They were carrying these."
He held up both crude spears in his left hand.
"Are you all right?" Ginny asked Hermione.
"Thanks to Harry."
"We'll explain later. Take all the bottles, we'll fill them up and camp on the edge of the forest. I don't think it's too safe further in."
Ginny and Malfoy went to get the bottles and he guided them to the stream. They took in the carnage on the bank before hurrying to resupply. He set down Hermione on a rock, keeping an eye on their surroundings. There would certainly be more of these things around.
As he kept watch, he realized to his horror that the second creature was still weakly breathing. With a grimace on his face, he lowered the spear and leaned on it, driving it through the creature's throat.
They gathered enough dry wood to keep a fire for the night on the edge. He would keep watch for the first half of the night, Ginny would take the latter half. Draco sneered at the mistrust, but didn't protest. Hermione didn't last until twilight. By then she was already sound asleep.
He found it hard to keep awake, but the recent memory of near-death made the vigil easier. Seeing the moon high in the sky, he woke Ginny. She took him aside.
"What happened earlier?"
"It was a close run thing," he said, trying to choose his words carefully. "Hermione got hurt really badly… I don't know what happened. I had my hand over the cut in her stomach and the next moment it was healed."
"So you still have your magic?"
"It didn't feel like magic."
"Christ, Ginny, I don't know. I'm going to get some sleep."
He kissed her good night and took off his Auror robes to form a pillow. There were two holes in them, where the first creature's spear had caught.
Thankfully, nights weren't that cold wherever they were, but he still shivered at the morning dew that had accumulated all over. The fire was losing intensity as they went through the firewood. Ginny was still on watch. He told her to get a quick nap before they set off while he put together a breakfast of canned soup and biscuits.
Hermione seemed to have an appetite, which was encouraging. But none of them got a real restful night's sleep. He went to check on her.
"How are you feeling?"
"Okay, thanks to you." She lowered her voice. "Actually I didn't notice yesterday, but my blisters are gone too. Whatever you did… well, you should see if you can't figure out how you did it. It's not a pleasant thought but something might go wrong again."
He nodded, but was still unsure it was even him that healed Hermione. Healing charms of all things, a training course he never passed in the Auror program. He never healed more than a paper cut in his life.
They passed the bodies again on the way to the river, already smelling of decomposition. He had reasoned that it would be best to follow the brook downstream. Worst case they would still have water. The forest was surprisingly quiet. Either the creatures weren't around or they didn't want to take their chances facing him and Ginny holding the makeshift spears.
It turned out the forest wasn't as large as they thought. After a few hours of walking they broke out into another valley and saw the first real sign of hope. The stream merged into a larger river, and next to it ran a road of dirt and stone.
A while later, Ginny nudged him and pointed in the distance along the road. Something ahead of them was moving. It was a cart pulled by a donkey with people walking alongside it. Slightly perplexed, he moved ahead of the group up to them, shouting hello in English, and broken French and Spanish.
"Hail!" the man next to the cart replied a ways away.
Harry slowed down when he saw they were armed. One of them was carrying a large shield on his back and a sword at his side. He stuck the spear he carried into the ground and moved a few paces in front of it.
"What word from the west?" the bearded man atop the cart said, climbing off and steadied the donkey. Harry motioned for the rest of them to stay back. Ginny was twenty feet behind him, letting the stick rest on her shoulder.
"Hello, we're a bit lost," he replied to the younger man who had come to greet him.
"Lost on the road?" the man laughed. The men behind him laughed with him. They were both armed with sturdy clubs at their hip.
"We'd appreciate directions," he continued, as genially as possible. It occurred to him the sleeves of his robe were stained red. "We got attacked in the forest."
The older man shook his head with a grunt. "Treacherous, these forests, full of dangers. Why don't we break bread? Good camping by the river, here."
"Father?" the young man protested.
"They look good folks, Neilis. Well, young lad, what do you say?"
Harry nodded, but the peculiarity of everything they had witnessed put him on edge. Where in the world would you encounter English speaking muggles with clubs camping on the side of the road? They didn't look like tourists.
"Thank you. Where are you from?" he asked.
"Why, the great city of Cadmeum, of course," the young man replied with a smile.
It was all much easier to pretend they were a group of madmen. But the casual ease with which they were all too willing to talk about themselves and their great city made that difficult. So did the foursome's method of arrival, the loss of magic and the horrific creatures in the forest.
Malfoy lost his patience, but thankfully kept a moderately calm tone. "We need to get to London."
The two young men setting up the tents shared a frown. "I've never heard of it," the old man said. "But, by Cadmus, where are my manners. I'm John. The bright fellow with the sword is my eldest, Neilis."
"And those two," he said waving to the men with clubs, "are Eustace and Ebert, my nephews."
"I'm Harry," Harry responded, and extended a hand. Thankfully, the man took it and vigorously shook it. "This is Draco, over there is Hermione, and lastly, my wife, Ginny."
The man grinned at his son, who shook his head in turn.
"We'll need wood for the night," said the man in the back with sandy brown hair – Ebert, Harry remembered.
Harry took the opportunity. "We'll do that, it's the least we can do."
"What the hell is going on?" Malfoy muttered as they walked over to a copse of trees nearby. "Cadmeum, what kind of city is that? And who doesn't know about London? Bloody muggles."
They gathered wood in a pile. Hermione looked at him worriedly.
"Do you think anyone we'll meet will know what London is? We're not home any more, are we?"
He hadn't quite realized yet what it would mean, maybe because Ginny was here.
"No, I don't think so."
"Let's just try to be civil with them," he said on the way back. "The more we learn, the better."
The four men were a practised hand at camping, setting up bedrolls and stones around the fire. They took out a large cast iron pot and lit the fire with a handheld piece of iron they struck on a rock. As the sun lowered on the horizon they started to prepare food. The canned goods had them chuckling with laughter saying: "Who in their right mind would use steel to pack food."
But after Eustace tasted it, they added it to the soupy stew they were preparing. The seemingly youngest, Ebert, took out a stringed instrument from the cart and started to pluck it. The old man noticed their lack of any camping tools and handed them wooden bowls.
"So why don't you tell us more about – London, was it? Is that where you hail from?"
Harry looked at Malfoy from the corner of his eye before answering. "Yes, but we're a long way from home."
"You got attacked in the forest, you said", Ebert asked over the gentle tune he was playing.
"They were small things," Ginny said with the spear beside her, "attacked us with these."
"Goblins?" Eustace said.
"Goblins?" Hermione echoed in a shocked tone.
"Probably was," Neilis said, "even with the Magistrate's men on the roads you can't get rid of them."
"He would know," John said. "My son trained with the Militant, learned ranging and handling the spear and sword. Were you hurt?"
Hermione's hand went to her side reflexively. "No, I'm fine. Harry was there when they attacked."
"Did they run when they saw you coming?" Neilis asked.
"No, I had to put them down."
Eustace nudged Ebert, who laughed. "Neilis here never even fought a goblin, did you?"
"I can fight just fine," Neilis remonstrated.
"All right, enough of that," John interrupted, and turned to Ginny. "How did you two get married? I keep telling my son he should, but he keeps rejecting the girls I find him."
"He saved me from a large snake," Ginny said with a smile.
"Goblins and snakes," Ebert said. "We have a real hero among us, Neilis."
Malfoy scoffed, but with less animosity than Harry was used to. They asked about the city. The Three River City, as they called it was apparently the largest for miles. The father and his son brought ale from Cadmeum to the town of High Coren and brought back wool. They were traders, and the two nephews had been brought in on the business.
They were all tense and tired, none of it made sense. Harry volunteered for first watch when Neilis brought it up and they stayed up in pairs, one from each group. Neilis seemed to have a girl he liked back in Cadmeum, which explained why his father was having trouble marrying him off.
The next morning they parted without much fuss. Ebert joked he should seek them out on the return, saying they could use a goblin-slayer to accompany them. They were barely out of reach when unexpectedly, Hermione stopped them in panic.
"We have to talk about what's going on."
Harry stood back. To his surprise, the news that they had ended up somewhere without portkeys or apparition to get them home – even if they could do magic – didn't rattle him as much as he thought. He remembered the shock of finding out he wasn't destined to live a life of suffering under the Dursleys and the news that he had a psychopath after him who killed his parents. There wasn't much to do except move forward.
Once again, he found himself moving forward, without magic he still believed, despite the healing of Hermione's wound.
Hermione was pointing out how there was no English city of Cadmeum when Malfoy seemed to have a dubious eureka moment.
"Of course! It's not real, think about it. What's more likely? That we've been brought to some entirely different world nobody has heard about, or that something tricked our minds with magic to believe we are."
"This sounds stupid, even for you," Ginny said.
"What's the proof then? How do we know any of this is real?"
"This is brilliant," Hermione said mockingly, "now you're a solipsist."
"It feels pretty real to me," Harry said. "Anyway, we should try to reach that city today. You can sit around and let yourself starve if you're so sure none of this is real."
Reality came into view after about half a day of walking. The city was large enough on its own, but it was surrounded by seemingly endless acres of farmland, water mills visible in the distance. There were smaller towns around it centred around the mills and other stone buildings. A large road carved a path between the river and a field of grain. As they got closer they could see the city's namesake, three rivers meeting in the distance, flowing further into the city and back out of it in a southern direction.
Ox carts and people carrying baskets and hand carts radiated from the city into its surroundings. They all tensed up when a duo of riders in mail and surcoats with a three pronged 'Y' like a blue chicken foot passed them. They looked imposing on their large steeds, swords at their side, but paid the four travellers no mind.
He went up to a man barking orders to a bunch of youngsters loading a cart and asked if there was a place to stay. He was directed to a place on the outskirts of the city called 'The Wilting Crop'. They stopped in front of a wooden double storey building that had to be it, even though they had no way of knowing aside from the bundle of dried grain hanging atop the door.
"The script is different," Hermione said. "Great, now we're all illiterate."
"None of the people here seem literate," Malfoy noted.
They entered a bustling room with barrels as tables and pews all over. There were a few groups drinking, and pairs and singles either eating or having ale. It wasn't until he got to the bar and a busty blonde woman with a blue bandana asked him what he wanted that he realized he only had wizard money.
He turned back to the group. "What the hell are we going to pay with?"
Malfoy shook his head and slapped a handful of galleons, sickles and knuts on the wood. "How much for a room?"
She seemed to look at the coins for a while before snapping out of it.
"Two silver a night, includes breakfast."
Malfoy shot him a smug look.
With an eye roll, Harry left six sickles on the counter and the woman called a boy to show them to their rooms. There were no locks on any doors, and to their dismay the rooms were four bunks together. They could hear Malfoy shouting a few doors down, but that's all they heard. It wasn't the most comfortable situation, but it would do. They all needed a good night's rest. Settling downstairs, they got some ale, apparently what everyone was drinking. It had a strong taste, but wasn't entirely bad. Malfoy joined them later, looking flustered.
"I hope you're not making trouble," Harry told him.
"They didn't want to give me my own room."
"So what did you do?" Ginny asked.
"None of your concern."
Malfoy seemed less than enthusiastic about the drink.
"We need to find a library," Hermione said, "so we can figure out a way to get back."
"You can't read," Harry joked.
"I can learn – we all can. It shouldn't be too hard if their alphabet is phonetic. Anyway, that should be our first stop."
It sounded like a good idea, but if it was possible the question remained: where were all those travellers from another world back home? They had the fish stew, which was surprisingly tasty, and went upstairs.
"You don't mind if we get a quick shag in?" Ginny asked Hermione.
She grimaced and turned away.
"Not happening until you get a bath," Harry replied. "Should be our second priority after the library. Actually never mind, make it a first priority."
Hermione smelled her jacket, which was covered in dirt and blood and had a tear in it. She nodded.
Harry was awoken by a pair of hands roughly pulling him upright.
He stumbled to see a trio of people in surcoats with that same three pronged 'Y' in red. He tensed up when he saw Ginny and Hermione sitting by a bed with their hands bound, a tall dark haired woman with a sword out beside them. He got tossed a length of rope by the man who woke him.
"Hands out and don't move, or you'll taste steel!"
He looked towards Ginny, who nodded. Reluctantly he held out his hands. They were led out of the room to see Malfoy getting dragged out of a cupboard by two more men who were chuckling to themselves while he protested.
"What is the meaning of this?" he bumbled.
He got a kick in his face from a heavy boot for his trouble.
"Are those all of them?" the woman said to the barmaid, who was standing a safe distance away. The barmaid nodded.
"Let's get them to the barracks quickly. I've sent for father Zalamus, we better not make him wait."
"What hap – ow!" he was hit in the head by a gauntlet before he could speak.
"Not one word from any of you," the man behind him warned.
It was dark out, and two of the men held torches. The road into the city was deserted. They passed tall granite walls into the gate and entered a stone building near the entrance. A man in the same uniform sat on a bench. He laughed. "They look like real terrors."
The tall woman answered. "Looks can be deceiving. Besides that, it's the Magistrate's orders. You'd better keep that in mind."
Beyond the entrance hall of the building were a set of rooms, and beyond another guarded door, a row of cells. Hermione and Ginny were put in one, Malfoy and Harry in another next to it. They locked the bars and left without another word. After they were gone, he pressed himself to the bars and looked around. Aside from a single lantern hanging beside the door, it was empty.
"Did we just get arrested?" he asked.
"Yes," Hermione replied sadly from the cell next to them. "I don't know what for, they wouldn't tell us."
"Any of you hurt?"
"Yes!" Malfoy responded, rubbing his swollen face.
Harry ignored him.
"We're fine," Ginny answered, she waited a while before speaking again. "Should we try to escape?"
Harry sighed. "There's at least five of them armed. Besides, we're locked in."
"I think I could pick the lock," Ginny answered.
"How do you think I got into the broom shed when my dad wasn't looking?"
Harry was impressed by her revelation, but it still didn't seem like a good idea.
"They look like law enforcement. Maybe they can be reasoned with. The woman said they were waiting for someone… father something. A priest?"
Hermione's voice seemed worried. "Why would they need a priest?"
"To burn us at the stake?" Malfoy mumbled.
"For what?" Harry asked. "We can't do any bloody magic."
They waited. A short time later, the man who sat at the bench when they entered came in with two others. He seemed to be somewhat in charge, because he directed them to their cell.
"Men first. Use the gags and bring them in, same for the women later."
There wasn't much they could do. They were asked to turn around and stand apart and were gagged. He threw a look over his shoulder to Ginny and Hermione. They looked more worried than they let on earlier. If push came to shove he might have to do something stupid.
They took a left through a door into a room with a table. The woman was talking to a man dressed so regal he might have been a king. He wore immaculate purple robes with gold thread. A large gleaming symbol of something that looked like a wheel hung around his neck. He looked well groomed, somewhere in his thirties and had a gregarious smile, but cold dark brown eyes.
As they were brought in, he frowned towards them. "Take off those gags," he said to the guards condescendingly.
"But, father –"
He sneered back. "Do they look like spellcasters to you? Just get those vagrants in here so we can get this over with."
They were lined up at the end of a wall. Hermione and Ginny were brought in too and they were ungagged. The woman stepped in front of them. "You will answer father Zalamus' questions. Don't try to lie. He is a Cleric of Cadmus and doesn't take kindly to getting swindled."
She nodded towards Malfoy who was brought forward to the table. He resisted as they tried to get him on the bench. The two men were about to use force again when Zalamus raised a hand to stop them. He moved towards the table and Harry now realized how tall he was, nearly a full head larger than Malfoy.
"Sit." he said in a commanding voice.
Malfoy couldn't sit down more quickly if his life depended on it. A satisfied smile spread on Zalamus' face.
"Look at how Cadmus brings all together," he laughed.
From a pouch at his side he produced a red gleaming stone and set it to the side on the table. He then nodded to the woman, who emptied a bag containing a bunch of sickles as well as a few galleons and knuts. Probably whatever they had in their bags. Did they think they were stolen?
"Where did you get those coins?" she asked.
"They're mine," Malfoy answered. "Some of them."
"Where were they minted?"
Malfoy looked confused, which was understandable. The question took Harry by surprise as well.
"At Gringotts! They were minted at Gringotts!"
The woman seemed to be frustrated. Of course, she would have no idea what he was talking about.
"Who minted them?"
"Goblins," Malfoy responded in a hopeless voice.
The guards present laughed.
"At least he's inventive," Zalamus said. "Can you imagine goblins minting coins?"
"Perhaps then, it's time for you to take over, father."
"I live to serve the city, Captain," he said with a shallow bow. "Just line them back up. This circus is getting tedious."
Malfoy was brought back to the wall. Zalamus took the red stone in his hand and closed his gloved fist around it. With a gentle hand over the symbol on his neck, he whispered unintelligible words into the air. His voice almost seemed soothing, and his gloved hand briefly glowed the same colour as the gem.
"You," he said to Malfoy, "who gave you those coins?"
When Malfoy didn't answer right away, one of the men close to them unsheathed a dagger.
"My father, they're my father's money!"
"Where do you come from?"
The man frowned. "How far is London from Cadmeum?"
"I don't know," Malfoy answered desperately. "Far."
"How did you get here?"
Malfoy glanced to his side to Harry, but he didn't have any answers. "From the west. Through the forest."
The cleric lost his smile. "Who are you working for? Is it the Leminese? Fort Tide? Answer me."
"I don't work for anyone," Malfoy answered.
This was going in a dangerous direction. If they thought they had information, they wouldn't give up easily. They might even make them sacrificial lambs for whatever crisis they thought this was. Against his better judgement, he decided to butt in.
"We don't even know why we're being held," he said, resolutely meeting Zalamus' stare.
The cleric's stern look melted away and he turned back with a shrug to the captain. "Sorry, Lady Hestius, but it looks like your vagrants are just vagrants after all."
She nodded to him. "Thank you, father. My apologies for calling you over unnecessarily."
"My pleasure. Just remember, as Cadmus revealed to us: all comes at a cost."
With a final snort at the group of prisoners, he went out the door, regalia jingling as he walked.
The captain let out a long breath before turning to the guards. "Remove their bindings and leave me with them. Bring over the rest of their belongings. Bring them some food and water as well."
Harry looked bewildered at Ginny. He had not expected to be released so easily. They removed the ropes binding their wrists and she motioned for them to sit at the table. After they brought back their meagre possessions, she let out the guards.
"I am Lady Cara Hestius, Captain of the Cadmeum West Guard. You using your homeland's coin caused quite a lot of trouble. Seeing as you truly are from distant lands you are forgiven of the crime of using unsanctioned coinage within the City of Cadmeum."
"We got dragged out of our beds at night for using the wrong coins?" Hermione said angrily.
Lady Hestius looked at Hermione with a familiar disdain. "I'm not certain what lawless pit you crawled from, girl, but you better watch your tongue when you speak to your betters."
Harry instinctively kicked Hermione's foot under the table. He could see it was taking everything for her not to blow up. He didn't like the way she talked either, but clearly the situation was not in their favour.
The Captain seemed to take a breath to calm herself. "But you are lucky you fell into my hands. Dressed as you are, using the coins you did, you could have been one hand short by now, or worse. You will get your belongings, minus the coin back shortly."
She tossed a purse onto the table. "There's about two hundred silver in there to compensate you. Go to the Floral Pavilion Market in the morning and find yourselves something to wear that's not torn or bloodied. The common baths are in the same district."
Seemingly finished, she moved to the door and knocked. A guard brought in a wooden board with bread, cheese and a pitcher of water.
Still tired and in shock they had breakfast mostly in silence. The sun came up through the room's barred window. They had now spent three days in this unfamiliar place, and it seemed it was not the kind of place to pull its punches.
A guard came to get them a while later and they packed up their stuff. Harry awkwardly approached the Captain of the Guard.
"Lady Hestius," he painstakingly said, "where would we go if we wanted to learn to get to know the city? We really don't know anything about this place."
For the first time, he saw her expression turn to what might have been a smile. "Try the Galloping Mongoose. It's a short walk away from the Floral Market, their rooms are cheap enough and the owner is known to help out lost travellers such as yourselves. Oh..." Her expression turned serious again. "And try to stay away from the north docks, especially at night. The city is safe enough, but we can't put a guard on every corner."
Harry nodded and muttered a 'thank you'.
"Licht bless your path," she said in return.
They stopped a few blocks further. Ginny looked tired, Hermione frustrated and Malfoy with his swollen face seemed like he had never suffered such humiliation.
"The nerve of that woman," Malfoy sputtered. "And to take us from our beds in the middle of the night? We need to leave this hellhole as soon as we can."
Hermione seemed to be dealing with the fact she found herself agreeing with Malfoy.
"There's nothing we can do about it," Harry said. "I believe her when she said we were lucky to get caught by her. Let's not start a class war and get ourselves killed."
Ginny went to ask an older woman about the Floral Market, which was further in the southern part of the city. On the way there, they passed a marvellous plaza with the statue of a man standing on a rock, holding a spear, looking out to the south. In the distance to the east they could see a line of larger stone buildings, leading to a walled keep within the city.
The water ran through the city in a series of canals at its outer edges. Stone bridges connected the outer city from the inner one. By the time they got to where they wanted to be, the city was coming alive with all kinds of activity. Asking around, they found the Galloping Mongoose.
They were greeted by what was probably the ugliest person Harry had ever seen.
"G'day, g'day, g'day!"
The heavyset man – if you could call him that – had a grey complexion. His large ears were more like those of a dog and he had sharp teeth jutting out from his mouth. His nose was large and turned-up. He snorted through it as he talked, narrowing his deep-set eyes at the party's silence.
"What, ne'er seen a half-orc before?"
"Sorry," Ginny said, "we haven't."
The man – half-orc – let out a laugh like a pig's squeal. "I'm Grotnug, welcome to the Galloping Mongoose. Well, what'll it be? You looking for a room to stay?"
"Yes," Harry said, stepping forward. "We'll take rooms for the four of us."
"I want my own room," Malfoy said.
"As long as you pay for it," Grotnug shrugged. "Rooms of four 're six silver a night, two more silver per person for drinks and food if ya want it."
Harry took out the pouch Lady Hestius had given him, opening it to fish for silver. He didn't like having to pay double to accommodate Malfoy, but was looking forward to spending the night just with Ginny. It came to 12 silver for the rooms plus Grotnug suggested they could have supper for a silver each today.
"Percy!" A young boy came running from the kitchen. "Show these folks to their rooms will ya?"
As they got upstairs, he looked at Hermione standing behind him. "Uh, you're staying in this room?"
"I'm not shacking up with Malfoy!"
"As long as you don't mind an eyeful," Ginny answered with a smile.
Hermione hesitated for a good two minutes before entering and picking the bed the furthest from Ginny and Harry's.
Ginny for her part seemed to have bounced back completely from their ordeal. She gave Harry a kiss. "I'm going to chat with the innkeeper, he seemed friendly enough."
Harry stayed. He was probably the only one who could see how the threads of Hermione's composure had been frayed the past few days. She was aimlessly fumbling with her bag on her bed, probably hoping he would leave.
"You know you can talk to me, right?"
"I don't want to talk," she replied almost immediately.
He sat on his bed with a sigh of disappointment. "Sometimes it feels like people don't realize I've grown up. Even you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I know it wasn't easy. When Ron left?"
She wiped a tear from her eyes and turned away from him. "Why are you bringing that up now?"
"You just can't feel guilty about this."
"And how would you know how I feel?" she asked, the forced animosity in her voice disappearing.
"I'd be a poor friend if I didn't."
She shook her head, cracking a tentative smile. He stood up with a huff and walked over to her, extending a hand. "Come on, let's go see what trouble Ginny is getting into."
Ginny was sitting at the bar with a pint of ale, chatting with Grotnug.
"Isn't it a little early for beer?" Hermione remarked.
"I asked, but Grotnug told me water in the city's not safe. Better to stick to milk and ale."
Harry took a seat beside her and Hermione beside him.
"Yer from far away, Miss Ginny said," Grotnug said as he fetched two more ales.
"We are," Harry answered. "Did she tell you we got arrested on our first night?"
Grotnug laughed again. "Captain Hestius, good human, takes her job too seriously. Better than the Cadmus priests, I say."
"Cadmus," Hermione repeated.
"The God of Trade," Ginny explained. "That cleric we saw, apparently they have powers. You know, like he did with that stone?"
"Right," Harry replied, "what was that?"
"I'm not so religious," Grotnug grunted. "But I've seen those Cadmus Clerics do some amazing things. Grew back the Magistrate's son's leg. He lost it in a troll hunt."
"What, like magic?" Hermione asked.
'Hmmm." Grotnug rubbed his tusks deep in thought. "Is it magic too, the miracles they do? Don't think so, only wizards can do magic."
"You have wizards?" Harry asked excitedly. "Right! Didn't that cleric mention something about spellcasters?"
"We have a few in town. The Magistrate has one he puts up in the keep, to help with counsel and the like."
It seemed like the first bit of good news since they got here. Magic might mean a way to get back, even if they themselves couldn't do it.
"Do you have a library in the city?" Hermione asked.
"Was that?" Grotnug said, cocking his head.
Harry rolled his eyes when she gave him a desperate look.
"It's a place where you keep books!"
"Only know one person has any use for books," Grotnug said. "Ol' friend of mine. Probably shouldn't bother him."
"Who's this friend of yours?" Ginny asked.
"Good ol' Norbert, helped me out of a few scrapes back in the day."
"We'd love to meet him, if he's as friendly as you are," Ginny said with a wink to Harry.
Grotnug laughed good-naturedly with a hand on his belly. "Norbert lives a little south of 'ere. It's called Norbert's Workshop, big house wiv stars on it, can't miss it. Jes don't tell him I sent ya."
Malfoy came down just as they thanked Grotnug, who placed a flagon of ale next to him.
"This is awful," he complained.
Grotnug grunted. "Hm! Insult my ale again and I'll break yer legs."
Malfoy took a deep swig. "Tastes great, I mean. What are we doing?" he said, turning to the rest of them.
"Shopping," Ginny said.
"And a bath," Harry added.
The Floral Market was a real ant hill in the morning. Everything from fish, cloth, fruits, vegetables, grains and even weapons was arranged in stalls in the large square around the pavilion, which was decorated with flowers.
The inhabitants were mostly human, but there were others like Grotnug, small people with large ears and others even smaller at a stall with fluid vials, tittering with the customers about their wares. It was a lot to take in.
Picking out clothes wasn't easy either. There were trousers of cloth and leather, flax and wool shirts and many other things. Ginny persuaded one of the women tending a clothing stall to help them pick out replacements and help show them how to wear the clothes together.
There were dresses too, which Hermione seemed more interested in. She picked an orange looking one that wasn't too expensive. The baths were divided into a male and female section in a large stone building in the north part of the district. Too eager to care, he went into the men's section with Malfoy in tow. They paid a silver for the bath, and another silver to have the clothes on them cleaned. They had to argue with the clerk to prevent him from throwing them out.
Malfoy clearly disliked the communal baths. Harry thought it was quite clean and well done for a place seemingly stuck in the middle ages with sparse use of magic. The whole baths smelled of lavender, and indeed it was being burned in indentations in the walls like incense. About an hour later, he collected his old clothes dressed in his new ones and stepped outside feeling fresher than he had in days.
Hermione and Ginny weren't outside yet. They had agreed to meet up later at the Galloping Mongoose. Malfoy left, and he was hesitant to leave the others on their own, but too curious not to explore. His wool clothes felt more comfortable than he anticipated as he walked into the eastern part of the city.
From the Floral Market, he entered what seemed like a more specialized shopping district. He stopped at an old looking stone edifice with large open doors. His eyes settled on the feathers carved into the arch.
It looked empty as he walked in, stone benches centred around an eerily familiar statue. A woman with long flowing hair with feathers in it holding a sword in her hands. He was brought out of his thinking by a voice from the back.
"Marvelous, isn't it?"
A middle-aged man in brown robes approached him with a warm smile.
"Er, yes, it's very nice," he replied.
"A humble temple, but one with plenty of history. The statue of Licht was carved over three centuries ago. It and the walls of this temple stand to this day. I am blessed to be looking after them."
Harry was hesitant to show his ignorance. "Sorry… er, father?"
The man nodded. "Father Petri."
"I travelled from far away and I'm not familiar with..."
He seemed annoyed but not outright scandalized. "Hm… Well, of course Licht isn't the most popular God these days, but most at least know about her." He looked towards the door with a sad expression. "How about a more private sermon? I have tea in the garden."
Tea seemed too lovely to refuse, so he nodded and they went out back to a small garden behind the temple. The man served tea and they sat down at a pleasant bench in the rear garden, which was surrounded by houses on both sides and had a fence closing it off.
Harry listened intently to the man's sermon, not that he was religious or particularly interested in history, but the dream he had before awakening was prominent in his mind, and he was eager to find out more. Licht was the God of light and justice, God or Goddess, apparently the priest didn't discriminate despite the woman's statue.
He told him the city was renamed Cadmeum around one and a half centuries ago when the God of Trade's Order contributed greatly during the war. The Temple of Licht here was the only one in the city, sparsely frequented with the loss in popularity. Harry told him of their trek through the forest, the goblins, and the arrest, which he seemed aggravated about. By the time Harry drained his second cup of tea, he was getting hungry. He thanked the priest, who encouraged him to come by again, and left.
He smiled entering the Galloping Mongoose common room when he saw Ginny sitting with a plate of what seemed to be roasted potatoes waving him over. Her hair gleamed and had a few twigs of lavender weaved into it. He sat down next to her with a smile.
"You look nice… smell nice too."
"Why thank you, good sir," she said, dramatically bowing her head. "Have some of these, they're delicious."
He tasted the potatoes which were indeed delicious, covered in thyme, oil and garlic. "Hmm. Where's Hermione?"
"She went off somewhere after the bath. Where's Malfoy?"
"He walked off too. I don't think he likes it much here."
"His problem," Ginny said with a shrug. "What were you doing?"
"Looking around. Learned some about the city from some priest. You?"
"Looked around the market for a bit. It's a pretty nice city if you're not being dragged into some dungeon."
Malfoy walked in a bit later, looking unhappy as ever. He took the seat furthest from him and Ginny at the same table.
"What is that?" he said, eyeing the potatoes covetously.
"Get your own," Ginny said, shielding them.
"I would, but Potter has the money."
Harry fished ten silver out of the bag and slid it over to Malfoy. "Don't spend it all in one place."
"How generous of you."
Malfoy got his potatoes. Ginny ordered some more, luckily, since Hermione came in a while later with a bright look on her face and lavender in her hair. She sat down and picked a potato from the plate.
"Oh, these are good. I'm starving, actually."
"You seem in a good mood," said Ginny.
"I am," she said with a smile.
Grotnug came with another round of ale.
"So," Malfoy said, "what now?"
Harry raised an eyebrow at him. It was strange to have him be the fourth man in this but considering, he didn't protest. It was Hermione who spoke up.
"We'll go see Norbert, Grotnug's friend. I do hope he has some books we can look into – oh, aside from that the largest collection would be in possession of the Magistrate's Archmage, he's called Erwin the Diviner. Apparently they have different subjects of magic here too, just… well it's different, I don't know, I just talked with some people earlier."
"Sounds like a plan," Harry said.
Everyone's mood seemed improved by Hermione's renewed enthusiasm. They went south of the Floral Market and as Grotnug promised, they didn't have to look far. If Dumbledore ever opened a workshop in a medieval city, it might not have looked as gaudy as this. The facade was covered in stars and geometrical shapes in different colours and a rickety sign had swirling shapes of the script they saw on the 'Wilting Crop' before. Hermione translated it as 'Norbert's Workshop', and Harry wondered where the hell she had picked up the language this quickly.
Hermione knocked, but no one answered, so she went inside. The rest followed. The shop itself was just as ridiculously decorated, some strange bird-carvings hanging from the ceiling.
There was a counter in the middle of the room. After a moment, steps came from the back and a small, greying man with pointed ears appeared, wearing a crooked purple hat and same coloured robes.
"Peasants! Peasants in my shop!" he screeched.
Harry did not regret looking to his right. He burst into laughter as he saw Malfoy about to have an aneurysm. Ginny laughed with him and prevented him from falling to the floor.
"Funny, is it?" the man said.
Hermione, glaring at him, stepped forward. "Sorry, sir, are you Norbert?"
The man grabbed his hat and tossed it to the floor, turning a dark shade of red. "ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME!" he shouted.
"No – no sir, I swear we were just – we were told Norbert lives here and –"
"My. Name. Is. Norgariel the Wise! I don't have to take this! I'll just call the guards, see what they have to say about this!"
Hermione stepped in front of him, fear in her eyes, and to be fair, it really was a bad situation. Harry just couldn't seem to rationalize it because of the tears streaming through his eyes.
"I came because I heard you had a large collection of books! Please, sir – I mean Norgariel the Wise!"
The man seemed to switch his demeanour to superiority fairly quickly.
"Why yes, I do have an extensive collection of writings. And what does a peasant want with books?"
"We're not peasants!" Malfoy finally said.
Norgariel turned to Ginny. "Tell your friend that if he dresses like a peasant, I shall treat him like one!"
Ginny turned to Malfoy. "We're not friends!"
Harry, recovering from his bout of hysterics, decided to step in. "As entertaining as this has been, I believe my friend, Hermione, would like to take a look at your books."
Norgariel picked up his hat from the floor and dusted it off, looking over Hermione, he let out a long sigh. "I'm afraid that's a no. What? Let every person who walks in here consult my wealth of knowledge without restriction? I think not."
"But sir, please! –"
"No! That's final. Now go before I call the guards. Away, I have work to do."
Hermione looked crestfallen. It wasn't a new look for her, even in adulthood she could get told off by a person of authority. But she had gotten better about that. Maybe later.
There were a few yawns as they exited the shop. All in all it had been an eventful day, and while Hermione was pouting all the way back, Harry was reminded of how little of the city they'd explored, and how many possibilities were left. For now they were all right, as long as the money lasted, which gave them at least a week to sort things out or find an alternative to the Galloping Mongoose.
In the inn, Grotnug was serving chicken soup, a welcome warming meal after the emotional afternoon. Harry just couldn't feel bad with Ginny giving him flirty looks over dinner. When they were finished, she quietly asked if Hermione could stay down for a few hours. She grumbled an agreement and went back to sulking.
He followed her up and watched her hurriedly taking off her shirt as soon as they got in. The door closed, he saw her show the first sign of vulnerability since they arrived. It was easy to forget Ginny felt the pressure of everything too if you didn't know her. He welcomed her lunge into his arms and kissed her. In the moonlight of the window he could see her eyes mist up.
"I'm here," he said, trying to smile.
She nodded, and leaned into his chest, taking a deep breath. Ginny didn't cry.
"I'm here," he repeated, hugging her tight and rubbing her back.
"I know," she whispered.
Ginny didn't cry, but his shirt got wet and she breathed shallowly through her nose. Harry held her as she didn't cry for a while.
Among a dozen projects, I chose this one. My love letter to Harry Potter and 'Stranded in Fantasy' (a /tg/ bit of writing in the D&D world I would recommend everyone reads, it's available on 1d4chan).
I have outlined a very, very rough idea of what this story will be about. As such tagging is difficult, and I can't make promises. But if you've read anything from me before, you know my preferences. I won't use tags for spoilers, so if you notice something 'missing', that's most likely intentional.
I'm not a fan of holding the reader's hand, so if something is unclear in the story, that's also probably intentional.
Anyway, it feels great to be back! Enjoy.
PSA: AO3 has no DM function so I've opened an email address (check profile)
Feel free to contact me there for anything.