Disclaimer: The characters of the Stephanie Plum series belong to Janet Evanovich. The world of Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling. They are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
Note: My muse is being weird again. I don't even like Harry Potter, so I have no clue from whence this came!
AU – merging of Harry Potter and Stephanie Plum worlds
Warnings: Babe, general weirdness
Rating: Suitable for all ages.
Ranger leaned back in his chair and sighed. Reaching up, he rubbed his hand across his forehead and wondered, once again, why he had ever become involved in this particular aspect of security.
As his eyes fell on the sender's name, he remembered.
Growing up in his family hadn't been easy, but it was all he knew, so he though it was normal.
He fully believed it was normal for mothers and grandmothers to supervise house elves while researching esoteric magical references. And didn't everyone's father head off each day to take a part in the Ministry Of Magic?
His older siblings all went through basic preparations before heading off to Ramsley, the magic school in Florida. Before that, they attended muggle schools to learn the basics of the muggle world – the world in which they would live and interact. After all, Manosos were known for accepting the diversity of all people – be they wizard, muggle or other.
By the time he started Kindergarten, he had yet to show any signs of magic. He didn't think twice about it, assuming his skills would come later.
Before he started first grade, Carlos had overheard his parents' whispered conversation, worry evident in their voices.
On his seventh birthday, Carlos had woken up shortly after being put to bed and headed downstairs to see if he could have a glass of water. It was while he was on the stairs he heard his parents talking.
"He's seven, now," his mother said. "There should have been some sign by now, some inkling of it."
"Calm down, Carina," Carlos' father soothed. "So what if he hasn't shown any magic yet. He's still young. Some don't show it until the age of ten. And even if he never shows magic, does it really matter? He's still our son."
"You're right," Carlos' mother agreed. "I don't know what I was thinking. We just need to make sure he knows he's loved whether he has magic or not."
Ranger could remember how he felt, like someone had hit him in the chest. It had never crossed his mind that he might not have magic that he might not go to Ramsley like the rest of his siblings, like his family had for generations.
As he grew, it became obvious that he was indeed a muggle in a family of wizards. His siblings, older and younger, had used that to their advantage and made his life miserable.
Not having any way to retaliate, he had acted out any way he could. Delinquent was soon added to his title of muggle.
Things kept getting worse. Eventually, his father, mother and grandparents interceded. Though he hadn't meant to, the withdrawal symptoms were so bad, he answered anything they asked and the truth of his sibling's actions spilled out.
His parents sent him to live with his grandparents after the drugs were out of his system. Life away from his siblings was bearable. It also helped that Grandma Rosa refused to hire house elves. She cooked, cleaned and maintained her house the same way muggles did.
It was mainly through his grandparents efforts that he stayed focused and managed to graduate high school in two years. As they pointed out on his graduation day, there had never been any question about his intelligence, just about some of his choices.
The two years at Rutgers had been interesting, but he was still restless. It felt as if there was something more waiting for him.
That was how he ended up in the army. And it had changed him and his life.
When he had gotten out of the army, he had moved back to Miami. While in the army, he had met many different people and developed a plan for his future. He knew what he wanted to do and knew security would be his future.
Rangeman had been up and running for just over year when his father called him and asked him to attend an important meeting the next day. Initially, Ranger resisted. His company was growing, but they were still new, still not quite as financially solvent as he would like. One of the local jewelry stores had called for a meeting and it was set for tomorrow afternoon.
Unfortunately, he knew he couldn't avoid a summons by his father.
Rising from his desk he walked down the hall to let Tank know about the change in plans. Tank wasn't always comfortable with clients, but he just didn't' have a choice.
The following day, his father had appeared with seven of his cohorts on the doorstep of Rangeman.
When they left eight hours later, Rangeman had a very lucrative contract to provide security for Ramsley, and a sudden need for wizards on its payroll.
Over the next few years, two more contracts from two other wizard schools were signed by Rangeman.
The solid financial foundation these contracts provided allowed Ranger to expand his business.
Faced with old memories and prejudices, he had left the Miami office in charge of all things magical and chose Trenton as his new base of operations. There were no wizard schools anywhere in New Jersey and it would put him within an hour of his grandparents.
Though getting started in a new city without the proper connections was difficult, Ranger worked through it. Tank eventually moved up to Trenton with him and the two of them began hiring, making sure there were no magical contracts in Trenton and ensuring they hired no wizards. In fact, no wizard had ever set foot in the Trenton Rangeman building.
Now, all these years later, his brother had requested Ranger's help with placing and protecting a wizard in the Trenton area. Supposedly, the new arrival would be there for identification and recruitment. The wizard he was replacing had recently passed away after mistaking his gas pedal for his break pedal while headed for the side of a hill.
What was worse, despite knowing that Rangeman Trenton was a magic-free building, Vargas, who he had left in charge of the Miami office, had already set up a meeting with the new arrival, Ranger's brother and a wizard representative from the Miami office in the third-floor meeting room of the Trenton office.
Ranger would have to be sure to speak to Vargas. Such behavior was unacceptable.
A knock on his door distracted him. "Enter," he commanded, his expression softening. There was only one person at Rangeman who knocked that softly.
As expected, Stephanie opened the door and poked her head into the office. "You ready to go grab dinner before our stake-out?" she asked, slowly entering the room.
Ranger glanced once more at the email and then shut the lid of his laptop. "Yeah, Babe," he agreed. "Let's go."
Later That Night
Stephanie stood on the sidewalk blinking as the flames spread from one car to the next.
Ranger worked to suppress his amusement, but knew it was a hopeless fight. Slipping an arm around Stephanie's waist, he leaned over and placed a kiss on her temple. "You never disappoint," he told her.
Startling, slightly, Stephanie turned and sent an exasperated look at Ranger. She gently slapped him on the chest with the back of her hand. "It wasn't my fault!" she declared.
Suppressed laughter shook Ranger's frame. "It never is, Babe," he assured.
The Next Day
Ranger got the call that his next appointment had arrived. Taking a deep breath, he stood and walked out of his office, headed toward the stairs. He would meet them in the Lobby.
As he entered the Lobby, he immediately identified his brother and Martin Grace, a wizard from the Miami office. He scanned the third man, the new arrival, Maxwell Honeysuckle. Maxwell was shorter than Ranger and looked delicate, almost fragile. Experience told Ranger that his appearance was very deceiving. The man may not be physically powerful, but even Ranger could feel the aura of magic surrounding him.
Drawing closer, Ranger heard Honeysuckle say, "And I'm telling you, there is a wizard in this place."
Ranger's brother let out a sigh. "I'm just not feeling anything, Max," he countered. "And Martin can verify that there are no wizards on the payroll here in Trenton."
Max rolled his eyes. "You've spent too much time in Florida," he grumbled at Ranger's brother. "Out there, in the real worlds, there are all sorts of different magics. They blend and merge all the time. In Oklahoma, some of the strongest wizards don't read as wizards at all because they blend Native American and regular magic. There is someone here, in this building that is a wizard with that same sort of blended magic. I can feel it, but whatever it's blended with is keeping the presence of any magic hidden."
That information had Ranger's eyebrows both rising. He had an unidentified wizard in the office. That meant either one of his men was lying to him or the man didn't know he was a wizard at all. Neither was a good option. Clearing his throat, he interrupted, "Gentlemen." All three turned to look at him. He offered a friendly smile. "Welcome to Rangeman, Trenton. If you'll follow me, we can head up to the conference room to begin discussing your needs and how Rangeman can meet them."
The three men agreed and followed them up.
An hour later, Ranger was struggling to reign in his temper. The three wizards were arguing over a particular point, yet again. If he had his druthers, Ranger would throw them all out, but he was, unfortunately, too professional to do so.
A knock at the conference room door interrupted his thoughts. "Come," he called out.
The door opened and Stephanie stepped in holding a folder.
She had only taken two steps into the room when Maxwell stopped talking. He rose from his seat so quickly; the chair flew backward into the wall. With his jaw dropping open and his eyes opening wide, he stood still for several seconds.
Ranger saw Stephanie keep a wary eye on the man as she headed down the side of the room toward Ranger. She was only a few steps away when Maxwell seemed to recover himself.
"You're him, or, rather, her! You're the wizard!" he exclaimed.
Stephanie froze, looking much like a deer caught in headlights. Eventually, she turned to look at Ranger.
Ranger had frozen in place when Honeysuckle made his proclamation. He turned his eyes toward Stephanie and saw her look. Standing, he reached out toward his Babe. She came without protest and he wrapped an arm around her, keeping her close.
"Is he nuts?" Stephanie whispered. "Should I call for backup?"
Before Ranger could say anything, Max continued. "I have no idea what it's blended with, but you're definitely a wizard and a fairly powerful one. Have you ever been trained?" he demanded.
"Ranger?" Stephanie squeaked.
Ranger looked at Martin and indicated the door. He watched as his employee rose and closed the door before he turned toward Max. "Are you absolutely certain?"
Max looked almost insulted. "Of course I'm certain," he declared. "I've just never seen this particular blend of magic before. I'm not sure what it is." Then, addressing Stephanie directly once more, he asked, "What's your background, my dear? Your family history?"
Stephanie's eyes turned toward Ranger once more.
Ranger sighed and sat in his chair, drawing Stephanie into his lap. Glancing at the men he explained, "She doesn't know anything about your world. She doesn't even know it exists. We need to explain that first. And to answer your question, Mr. Honeysuckle, her background is Italian and Hungarian."
Max got a distant look in his eyes and began muttering to himself. "Hungary. Hungary." He snapped his fingers. "Gypsies!" he cried in triumph. Looking at Stephanie, he seemed fascinated. "I've never seen a gypsy blend with regular magic. Why, it's completely unheard of and, as far as I know, should be impossible! I can only imagine the combination would be, well, explosive to say the least."
Ranger's mind immediately conjured images of the destruction from the previous night. That image combined with several other incidents caused him to close his eyes and sigh in resignation. It all made sense suddenly. Stephanie was an untrained wizard. "Babe," he said, holding her eyes with his own. "Do you trust me?"
"Absolutely," Stephanie replied without hesitation.
Leaning forward, he placed a soft kiss on her temple. "Good. Because what I'm about to tell you is absolutely true and it's going to rock your view of the world." He saw a hint of apprehension creep into Stephanie's eyes. "It's OK, Babe," he soothed.
Seven hours later, after revealing the truth of the wizard world, bringing Grandma Mazur in to confirm their suspicions about the gypsy magic and finally convincing Stephanie of the truth of Maxwell's statement, a nearly overwhelmed Stephanie sat silently on Ranger's lap, her head resting on his shoulder.
They were alone in the conference room right now.
"So the explosions were my fault," she whispered.
Ranger tightened his arms around her. "Not all of them, Babe. Remember the funeral home was Grandma Mazur and you weren't responsible for the bombs."
A heavy sigh escaped Stephanie. "No," she countered, "I'm just responsible for making them bigger than they should be and attracting them in the first place."
Unable to disagree, Ranger simply nodded.
"I don't know if I want to do this training," she whispered. "I know I don't want to go to school again and I really don't want to move to Miami."
Ranger heard the rest of that statement in his heart. I don't want to move to Miami and be away from you. "We'll figure it out, Babe," he assured, tipping her face upward so he could see her eyes, "but not tonight."