Hermione woke the following morning bright and early and ready to get started on another day with the search for Jormungandr. She hadn't had anymore dreams about her cousin's half-brother for the rest of the night which was a relief and the first thing she saw when she woke with the day light were the sun's rays reflecting off the birthday present that her father had given her.
All in all it was a decent way to wake up.
Luna seemed to be a good mood as well when she awakened for she muttered something about an absence of the Nargles affecting her dreams as she slept and that being a good omen for the day.
Hermione wasn't as certain in her cousin's belief but she chose to take what she said at face value.
Nargles or no Nargles I do hope we find Jormungandr today, I don't think that I want to return to school empty handed, she thought to herself.
She noticed that her Aunt Pandora had already left with a note saying that she had gone for a walk and would be back soon so there was no cause for worry.
Once she had informed her cousin of her mother's activities, Luna went and hopped into the shower so she might get ready for the day.
In the meantime, Hermione made her bed and picked out some clothes to wear for the day.
She had no sooner finished laying out a sweater and contemplated writing a letter to Harry and Dudley when her cell phone that was sitting on the desk beside her bed vibrated.
Hermione started and then muttered a curse in surprise before taking up the device and peering at the LED readout.
Hermione frowned. What on earth is it this time? I hope this isn't trouble.
She flipped the device open and cast a glance at the closed bathroom door where she could hear the water going before putting the phone to her ear.
"Mione," her mother sounded relieved and for a moment the eleven year old was put on high alert. "Good."
"Is something wrong?" the copper haired girl witch asked and there was a long pause on the other end.
Never a good sign.
"Not yet," Natasha replied finally which was also not a good sign. "But I need you and your cousin and aunt to be on alert for today and the rest of the time you spend in New York."
There was another long pause and then a deep sigh. "Is there anyone around right now?"
"No," Hermione replied in confusion. "Aunt Pandora went for a walk and Luna's in the shower. Mum…what is going on?"
In as plain a speech as she could, the red head informed her daughter of what she and Amelia Bones had discovered was missing in the SHIELD weapons warehouse and their suspicions about what it might be used for.
"Bugger," Hermione said under her breath.
"My sentiments exactly."
"I've never heard of a drug called Sarin," Hermione mused. "What are the symptoms if it used on someone?"
"Sarin is a chemical weapon that was developed in 1938 in Germany and is a toxic nerve agent. A single drop the size of a head of a pin is enough to kill an adult human rapidly. It is a colorless and odorless liquid at room temperature, but it can be broken down into pills and it evaporates rapidly when heated. After its released sarin will spread into the environment rapidly and presents an immediate threat.
"The symptoms include headaches, salivation and paralysis of the muscles rendering a person incapacitated. It kills less people when in liquid form and in order to maximize casualties, not only must sarin be a gas but the particles need to be small enough so they are easily absorbed through the lining of the lungs yet heavy enough that they cannot be exhaled. Thus it is not easy to weaponize."
Hermione sucked in a breath. "And you think someone intends to use it?"
"That's a hunch of mine. It is still possible that it was a drug someone intends to sell on the Black Market, but if that was the case than why go to all the trouble of stealing it from a highly protected warehouse facility if it was something they could perhaps use a chemist they had kidnapped to make? No, there had to have been a specific purpose in mind for the Sarin."
Hermione was silent for a moment. "Have you questioned the grunt yet?"
"Not yet. But that is something me and Amelia and Clint and your Uncle Regulus plan to do later today. However that was not the purpose of this call."
"No, it was to tell you that should we discover after the questioning process is complete that the plans of these…terrorists or whoever they are working for, are planning to use New York as a place to…experiment with this cache of Sarin…I will call you. And you and your cousin and your aunt will leave right away."
It wasn't a request or a suggestion, it was a command and Hermione knew it. The last time her mother's voice had been that cold it had been when she had arrived in the hospital wing a few months ago after the Infinity Stone fiasco beneath the school.
There would be no protests this time.
It wasn't as if Hermione didn't want to protest, she wanted all available time before school started in a few weeks to help her cousin find her brother. It was far better than staying at home for the entire time and going through her summer homework with Harry and Dudley.
And speaking of which, they were probably wondering where she was at right now.
She hadn't said anything to them when she was leaving, only that she would be spending the next two weeks with her grandfather while Natasha was on an important assignment and she didn't want her to spend it with them as Regulus was away as well and with a new baby in the house, Hermione would be underfoot.
Or something like that.
Keeping all of these secrets was exhausting at times.
Hermione still wasn't sure why her father wanted her and her mother to be so selective in who they told their secrets to.
As it stood, no one knew and after a year of going to through crazy stunts with her friends and facing down dark lords and Cerberus, Hermione felt as if she could trust them.
Harry and Dudley she had known for her entire life and if she couldn't tell them, well then who could she tell?
They already believed her father to be a mage which was pretty much halfway there…how hard would it to tell them the whole truth.
But instead of saying all that, she bit her lip, swallowed hard and said what was expected of her.
"Good," Natasha said sounding pleased. "Keep your phone with you at all times and I expect you to answer it when I call. Do you understand?"
"Yes ma'am," Hermione ground out again.
"Good, take care little girl. I'll be in touch. I love you."
Hermione sighed, "I love you too."
A moment later the dial tone kicked in and she sighed again before putting the phone away. "Why is it that every time I begin some sort of adventure with my friends something always happens? Luna would probably say that it's the Nargles and after the snow drops we saw in the Forbidden Forest way back in January that they left behind, I am inclined to believe her."
Hermione set the phone down on the side of the sink and hopped in the shower soon after to get ready for the day. She hoped today they would finally get lucky. They had only been in New York a few days but right now she felt as if they needed all the luck they could get.
Especially if there were runaway terrorists in possession of a deadly drug in the same city they were.
Just when she thought her luck was beginning to change.
As she toweled off and pulled on shorts and a shirt as New York was far hotter than London and it was still the summer before drying off her copper colored hair, Hermione happened to glance down and see the ring on her finger.
Now Luna and I match. I wonder if I can get away with convincing Mum to let me stay in New York even if something does happen if I let her know what Dad gave me as a birthday present.
Then she remembered the look on the tall red head's face after the Incident underneath the school and grimaced to herself.
No…I don't think I want to pull a stunt like that again. If Mum almost pulled me out of Hogwarts for the stunt I pulled a few months ago than I don't want to think of what she would do if she learned I chose to willingly stay in the city with terrorists.
She pictured the look on Mum's face and what she would say and flinched again. No it wasn't worth it.
I just have to hope that nothing happens while we're still in New York, that whatever these terrorists do, that it doesn't happen.
Hermione squared her shoulders and left the bathroom still toweling off her hair. Luna who was also wearing a yellow tank top and blue jean shorts looked up from the book she was reading while sitting on the bed and smiled at her. "All ready to go."
Hermione nodded. "I'm ready. Where's your Mum?"
"She's downstairs at the hotel dining room. She called up while you were in the shower and told us to meet her down there so we could get something to eat before heading back to the magical congress."
Hermione frowned at the book on her cousin's lap. "What are you reading?"
"It's a book I borrowed from the library for a summer reading project," the small blonde explained in her dreamy voice. "Madam Pince let me borrow it as long as I promised I would be careful. It was about ancient magical creatures and the sightings of them as seen by Muggles. I was a little surprised to see something with an account of Muggles and magicals in it but I decided it would be a good read if I was going to find Jormungandr this summer."
Hermione nodded. "I can imagine. I just hope we get a breakthrough at some point. I don't want to go back to school with nothing to show for our efforts."
Luna's brow furrowed in frustration. "I know and the fact that Jor has managed to remain hidden for this long makes me wonder if he has somehow managed to get the Nargles and Wrackspurts to do his bidding. They can confuse humans you know? And they are especially drawn to witches and wizards which is why you don't see them around muggles as much, magic attracts them. Jor is a creature of magic and so they would have been drawn to him."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Jor?"
Luna smiled in her usual dreamy manner. "Jormungandr is too long to be saying all the time. I think Jor is better."
"I think so too."
"Good, then come on. We should head down to the hotel lobby to meet Mum. We have a big day ahead of us."
And with that the two eleven year olds set about getting ready.
It didn't take long for Luna to take a shower and wash her hair, brush her teeth and dress and before long the blonde and her cousin were walking down the hall to the elevator where they would take it down to the lobby.
Luna was chattering about something but for the life of her, Hermione couldn't bring herself to focus.
Her mind kept drifting back to the conversation she had had with her mother earlier about waiting for her call to get out of the city if a terrorist attack was launched.
Who on earth was stealing Sarin from a SHIELD warehouse? The strawberry blonde wondered to herself. It's not as if its cutting edge tech.
And then suddenly she had a horrible thought. What if whoever took it is only using it to add to something else? Suppose someone is making a new super drug to use as a specialized weapon and Sarin was only one component in its creation?
After a moment however, she brought herself back to reality.
The chances of something like that happening was highly unlikely and it wouldn't do to go running off into the blue on a tangent of paranoia when right now all they really knew was that someone was stealing classified drugs.
Which is in itself alarming enough, Hermione thought grimly to herself as she and Luna got off at the ground floor of the hotel. I just hope its found…and quickly.
Things had been a little too quiet lately.
Ever since he and Loki had returned from Midgard with the sorcerer's stone, there seemed to be a sort of…tension that was as thick as a curtain hanging upon Asgard.
The god of thunder and lightning didn't know where it was coming from, but it was making him uneasy and causing him to regard everyone in his life save his brother with an air of suspicion.
He also didn't want to believe that the source of tension had anything to do with him. But no one had said anything to him, not his father, nor his mother nor his friends nor any of the palace servants and so Thor was forced to conclude that the source of the tension was external…either external meaning out of the palace or outside of Asgard entirely.
But he wished someone would tell him what the bloody hell was going on.
Loki was just as baffled as he was which was even more alarming because if there was a secret to be learned in the entire realm, his brother would know about it.
The fact that he didn't was just another thing to make the blonde think that something sinister was going on.
As soon as he and Loki had returned from Midgard, they had gone about hiding the sorcerer's stone as best as they could where its power would not be detected and where no one would think to look for an object such as it.
As far as Thor knew, no one on Asgard had any idea where in the Nine Realms the Infinity Stones were and so no one would possibly come up with the notion to search for it on Asgard.
It didn't make him feel any better though.
His mother had been quiet lately as had nearly everyone around him save his father.
Odin was also someone that was worrying him.
His father had been talking a lot lately about successions and the passing of the torch to his son and the legacy that he would leave behind once he passed into the Odin Sleep.
Thor knew right away this was his father's way of prodding at his son to choose a wife from one of the many women of Asgard so that there would be a sense of security upon its people before he did step down.
Thor was wondering however why there was this sudden need for security.
It wasn't as if the realm was at war. The Nine Realms had been in an uneasy peace for the last few years and a war had not been waged since his daughter was four and she and her mother had been abducted in a horrible four days of terror and confusion and forced ignorance from him.
He didn't like to think about that time as it always brought a grimace to his face.
Finally however, his mother told him the truth.
The two were walking through the grounds of the palace of Asgard once sunny afternoon and were both in relative silence. Frigga had her arm through her son's and both of them had their minds in very different places.
Thor was thinking about Natasha and Hermione as he often did. His thoughts about his wife and daughter centered around how they were doing, when he was going to see them again and how he would sneak away this time.
Hermione was nearly twelve and her birthday would be a few weeks. He wanted to be there for the day this time rather than showing up a few days before or a few days after.
He had already given her the birthday present but there was nothing quite like spending the day one was born with the people one loved.
He didn't have a lot of memory about the day he had entered time and space so birthdays hadn't meant much to him before he had met Natasha and Hermione had been born.
His daughter's twelfth birthday also signalled that they were one step closer to her eighteenth year of life and that there would be only six more years until they learned the status of her mortality.
Either way, one of them was going to have to be made immortal within the next decade or so. He was already searching for ways to make it happen. Perhaps going to the
Fates would be an option or something else along those lines.
In the meantime he was beginning to become a little worried about his father. Odin had been isolating himself more and more recently and no one knew what the cause of it was…not even Frigga.
The king spoke little, ate less and was seen even less than that and matters of ruling had been passed to Frigga and Thor and Loki as the All Father indulged whatever ambiguous desire held him in thrall this time.
It was all a little worrying.
Because he had had to step up in his responsibilities he had not had enough time to sneak away to see Natasha and Hermione.
It was tiresome, worrying and somewhat confusing that his father was choosing to act in the manner at all.
He had always been rather stern and gruff and humorless for someone like Thor who dearly loved to laugh but now…now he as practically a recluse in his own castle, a king who seemed as distant from his throne and his people as earth was from Asgard.
And then she had arrived.
She was one of the strangest individuals he had ever met and also one of the most unsettling.
She had silvery blonde hair and eyes of purest grey. She only wore long dresses and spoke to no one. She had a crown of grey leaves and dark flowers in her hair that gave the appearance of being wilted.
One could tell right away that she was a seer. Her grey eyes were constantly cloudy as if she were blind on the verge of having a vision and her skin was of the purest marble, giving the appearance that her entire form was bloodless.
Her skin appeared as cold as snow, for how could it be warm when there seemed to be not a single drop of blood in her?
She was quiet…and seemed very dangerous.
Her name was Volla and she had arrived not but a few weeks earlier in Asgard apparently summoned by his father who claimed he had had a dream that a woman with great knowledge would be coming to them and that she was to be made welcome and received with all fanfare.
Frigga was bewildered by this knowledge as was Thor and Loki. They could not understand what game Odin was playing by welcoming a foreign woman who claimed to be a seer into Asgard and then her being deep in his counsels these last few weeks.
What the bloody hell did it all mean?
While Volla didn't say anything there were times when he would see her walking about the gardens of the palace, hands clasped in front of her or wrapped around the large grey stone hanging from her neck which fell almost to her waist as if it were some sort of talisman.
It probably was come to think of it.
No one spoke to her, the air she gave off would have made anyone turn tail and run so people settled for watching her from a distance. Her skin was incredibly cold and could be felt when she walked by someone. Her voice had a hollowing echoing tone that made Thor's skin crawl. All of the palace servants avoided her and his mother regarded her with extreme distrust.
She had approached Odin more than once about removing the woman from Asgard but the All Father would hear nothing of the sort, muttering that they would need Volla's talents should a war come.
But what war he was talking about Thor had no idea.
There were times when Volla would turn and look at him and he would feel the blood turn to ice in his veins.
And unknown feeling of terror would settle over him and for the life of Thor he didn't know why. Her eyes seemed to speak to a thousand different futures and every single one of those possibilities seemed ominous and threatening.
Thor was beginning to wonder whether or not she could in fact speak at all and just communicated with her eyes.
He wondered where she had come from and why his father was suddenly alright in including her in every major decision he would make about the realm.
No, something was going on here.
Something was very, very wrong.
There were times when the magical community truly annoyed Natasha.
She had just finished the follow up paperwork regarding the break in of their warehouse off the coast of New York when there was an odd tapping at the window of her office.
Looking up she was surprised and irritated to see a rather large black owl hovering outside her window with what appeared to be an envelope in its talons.
She had almost forgotten about him.
Though much of the blame for the Infinity Stone incident that had happened at the end of Hermione's first year of school lay at the feet of her daughter, Natasha couldn't help but wish the man hadn't been so damn secretive about everything.
In theory she understood why he needed to be after Thor had explained the concept of Infinity Stone to her and how dangerous they could be.
She was also wondering what sort of people he would be reaching out to for assistance in disposing the stone and hoped that there wouldn't be any sort of ramifications on her for telling Dumbledore what it was that she did for a living.
The red head didn't think that there would be as Dumbledore didn't seem to be a blithering idiot like one Vernon Dursley that had occupied Number 4 Privet Drive years earlier. She got the feeling he might have bitten off more than he could chew but at least he had reached out to the right people and told enough information to cause the magical world to not descend into chaos.
She sighed upon seeing the owl and got up to open the window. The black owl hopped down onto the window ledge and cocked its head at her as it held out one leg where the letter was attached waiting for her to untie it.
Natasha snorted before doing so. "It must get tiring doing this all the time doesn't it?"
As she expected the owl said nothing but its intelligent eyes followed her as she took the letter from it and broke the official looking seal that she could tell right away was from Hogwarts.
"Let's see what the old man has to say," she muttered to herself and then unfolded the thick paper that was written on Hogwarts letter head.
Dear Miss Romanov
I apologize for the delay in contacting you but putting my feelers out into the magical world for people that could help destroy the Sorcerer's Stone while still remaining absolutely trustworthy to say nothing about it has been proving difficult. In order to accomplish our task of destroying the stone I would need to employ no less than a dozen people and you and I are only two of them.
The third is the potions professor here at Hogwarts that I believe you met on your last trip here, Professor Severus Snape. He is Hermione, Harry and Dudley's head of house and they speak very highly of him. He is quite gifted magically and someone I can count on in a time of crisis which this no doubt is.
The fourth candidate you may not know but is the aunt of one of your daughter's friends Amelia Bones. She is the head of the DMLE as you know and is quite skilled magically as well. Young Hermione and Susan got on splendidly this year despite the fact that they were in different houses and I expect a friendship of this calibre to continue.
The fifth would be her second in command Kingsley Shacklebolt. While he is a grave and serious man, he can be trusted to keep a secret and to do the right thing.
The sixth is also a member of the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic and is employed as an Unspeakable. His name is Saul Croaker. I have known him for many years and he has come into contact with a great many cursed objects and prophecies that he has been able to dispose of and interpret and I would trust him absolutely with this great endeavor.
As to the manner of other aids in this method I have yet to come upon them but it is a great help that we have so far and it may in fact prove that six will be enough to destroy this evil stone.
I wish you all the best Miss Romanov and if you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.
Albus Percival Wilfric Brian Dumbledore
Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot
Head of the International Wizarding Confederation
Natasha set the letter down on her desk and smirked. Good lord that man has far too many names and too many titles. How on earth does he remember it all?
She was glad he was being proactive in the destruction of this Infinity Stone even if she was the only one who knew that it wasn't warranted.
The real Sorcerer's Stone was safely hidden away in Asgard under the watchful eye of her husband and brother in law. She and Hermione were the only ones who knew where it was and that the Stone still in the school was no more powerful than a hunk of enchanted glass.
I just hope that the protections my brother in law placed on it were enough to fool the old wizard for if it isn't than Dumbledore will no doubt go into a frenzy trying to find the real stone which is not in fact on earth at all.
And speaking of not being on earth, there was still the matter of where her husband was.
He had sent word through the jeweled pendent that he would not be able to visit for some time because of the presence of a strange and somewhat sinister woman in the court of the palace where Thor was.
He hadn't had time to say more than that before he had whispered a quick goodbye and ended the connection before she had been able to get in a word edgewise.
Natasha was left feeling dismayed, confused, worried and a little irritated. Something strange was going on here and for a moment she wondered if it had something to do with the Sorcerer's Stone that her husband and brother in law had brought back to Asgard at the conclusion of Hermione's school year.
A moment later she brushed the thought off as her being simply paranoid and had gone back to work.
So far they had been able to uncover nothing of the whereabouts of the Sarin and this was becoming beyond annoying.
It was also dangerous as well for a drug like that could be used to great effect and a breach in SHIELD technology was extremely rare.
Whether or not it was sold on the Black Market or used in some sort of terrorists attack, it mattered not. It needed to be found and it needed to be found soon.
Her thoughts wandered to the matter of Amelia Bones and her niece Susan who were currently meeting with Director Fury one more time before they were to Floor home.
On an administrative front the connection between the Muggle and magical intelligence agencies had had been a tremendous success and Amelia had expressed interest in relations between both communities continuing for the foreseeable future. Fury had agreed and even though he hadn't smiled, Natasha had been able to see that he was pleased with the development.
Something that was also amusing was the knowledge that little Susan, one of her daughter's best friends seemed inclined to want to join SHIELD when she was older.
Because of her magic, it was something that was rather plausible as the gifted were always welcomed at SHIELD.
For a moment Natasha imagined her daughter and Susan as partners, running about New York City and taking down crime rings before jetting off across the world to recover SHIELD weapons that had been stolen by terrorists.
The thought both amused and alarmed her.
Hermione though brilliant had expressed an uncertain air about whether or not she would want to take a job in the Ministry of Magic upon her graduation from Hogwarts.
Of course it didn't help that a muggle born witch or wizard had to choose whether or not they wanted to pursue studies in magical or non-magical areas when they received their Hogwarts letter.
It was an enormous amount of pressure to place upon a child who hadn't known until their eleventh year that they had a magical bone in their body.
From what she had heard from Amelia during the Bones' brief stay in Washington, most of the structure of government in the magical world was tailored to give purebloods the best positions and then halfbloods and muggleborns got the left overs.
It was an incredibly archaic society and even though Hermione as pureblood would have her pick of the jobs if she kept her grades up and studied hard would still receive some form of sexism because she was female.
Part of me is glad that I was never given the opportunity to completely join that world, Natasha thought to herself as she leaned back in her desk chair and looked out over Washington from the floor to ceiling windows of her office. It seems that magical England has its own share of problems when it comes to change and the evolution of society.
Some of those old bastards are too stuck in the medieval ages to notice that there are brilliant and talents muggleborn and half blood students who would help benefit society if they were ever given a chance.
She sighed and rubbed her temples before folding up Dumbledore's letter again and slipping it into her pocket to read again later.
The red head was just about to pick up her pen and get back to work when all of a sudden there was the sound of pounding footsteps just down the hall.
The footsteps paused just outside the door and then it was wrenched open, revealing a junior agent with mousy brown hair and dark eyes, panting as if he had just run a marathon. He was wearing the SHIELD uniform but it looked slightly dishevelled as if he had just rolled out of bed wearing it.
"What is it?" she barked.
"Apologies ma'am," the agent replied. "But director Fury asked me to come and find out right away. There has been a terrorist attack in New York City and the weapon used appears to bear resemblance to the Sarin gas that was stolen from one of our warehouses not long ago."
Instantly the red head was on her feet muttering several curses under her breath. She jerked open the drawer at the sisde of her desk and began to rummage through it, taking whatever weapons were stored there.
The twin guns were immediately shoved into their holsters on her upper thighs and the bullet casing bracelets went around her wrists. She picked up the long electric wands that were a new part of SHIELD technology and slid them into the belt at her waist before looking up at the junior agent who was currently bouncing around as if he had ants in his pants.
Is this result of hard earned government money? She thought to herself as she observed him with half lidded eyes. Agents who can't keep their composure much less stand still?
"Director Fury has always contacted the task forces in New York not to engage ma'am," the agent replied. "But he informed me that he was sending in yourself along with
Agent Barton and Agent Black. He said that you three would be able to get there the fastest."
"Well what are we waiting for?" she asked. "Where are Agent Barton and Agent Black?"
A tell tale crack signalled the arrival of her friends and colleagues and Natasha looked up to see both Clint and Regulus appear in the doorway.
She almost wanted to smirk at Regulus' cheek.
While now Clint knew about both her and Regulus' magic they needed to be careful enough in SHIELD so that others wouldn't find out. It was a good thing they had apparated just outside of the door so the junior agent hadn't seen them.
Clint looked slightly dizzy and was muttering something about wizards but the junior agent didn't appear to have heard them. He merely looked surprised at their fast arrival.
"Well?" Regulus barked. "Are you coming Tasha? The last thing we want is for these creeps to get away."
"I'm way ahead of you Black," the red head muttered. She glanced at the junior agent. "Well?"
He paled slightly before exiting her office and almost running down the hall. "I thought so."
"You need to stop scaring the recruits Tasha," Barton smirked. "No one will want to work here anymore."
"Once we churn out some decent agents who can actually look me in the eye instead of standing there jittering like their on a caffeine rush then we'll talk," Natasha muttered slamming her door shut and turning to her partners. "Shall we?"
Hermione threw herself down in the chair with what felt like her millionth book that day.
So far their search for Jormungandr had been as fruitless as ever. Everything they had found so far had been merely sightings, speculations and grainy pictures that only showed a faint black line rearing its head out of the grey waters.
It seemed Jormungandr had not been seen in a very long time. Marek Goshawk had been the last ones but apparently Jormungandr had been the cause of the Muggle myth about the Loch Ness monster.
But who knew if it was true or not?
Luna looked similarly frustrated. They had been at this for hours will little results and so when Pandora left to go down to the front desk of the magical congress to see if there were any other rooms that they had neglected to mention, Luna threw herself down in the chair next to her cousin and uttered a big sigh.
"I think the Nargles are getting to me Hermione," she said sadly and the strawberry blonde muttered an affirmative sentiment under her breath.
"What if we don't find him?" Luna asked and Hermione could practically feel the discouragement in her cousin's voice.
She wanted to say something to cheer her up but she couldn't think of anything. They had been in New York for a week and yet they were no closer to solving the mystery of Jormungandr's whereabouts than they were when they had come.
So instead of thinking about the elusive giant serpent, Hermione decided it was time for a change of subject.
"What do you think our friends are doing right now?" she asked.
"Well I can imagine that Ron is doing everything he can to avoid his summer reading," Luna mused. "I can't imagine Mrs. Weasley was too pleased with the adventure he went on with at the end of the year."
Hermione chuckled. She hadn't even met Mrs. Weasley but she had a feeling she knew of her reputation. If the woman had seven children then she would need to be bossy and loud in order to be heard. She remembered her from that first day on the train and shouting about where the platform was. Maybe it's a good thing I haven't met her yet.
"Susan's probably having a good time in Washington with her aunt right now. I can imagine she loves SHIELD," Hermione said.
"Have you heard from Draco at all?" Luna asked. "Wasn't he going to spend the summer with his parents in France?"
Hermione nodded with a slight frown. "I got an owl from him not long before I left for America with you. Apparently he had been looking around the library of his summer home and happened to find a book on Infinity Stones. He said he was going to send it to me but it hadn't come before I left. I imagine its sitting on my bed at home waiting for me."
Luna's eyes had gone wide. "I didn't know there was so much information on Infinity Stones. It must have been very difficult for him to get."
Hermione nodded. "Apparently he could only break some of the curses on it with the help of one of his house elves."
"Do you think his father knows?"
Hermione shrugged. "I don't know. But I've wondered about something ever since the incident with Quirrel and the Stone."
"Quirrel said to Draco his father would be very displeased to see him here. How much of an influence does Draco's father have on him?"
Luna sighed. "I don't know Hermione. But from the way Quirrel talked it seemed as if he had more than a considerable amount. He is his father after all and considering the actions of Lucius Malfoy in the First War and Draco growing up with him well….Draco probably been more exposed to questionable magic than any of us."
"That's what I was afraid of," Hermione said quietly.
Luna looked at her cousin carefully for a moment and then displayed one of the reasons she had been placed into Ravenclaw in the first place.
"Hermione….do you fancy Draco?"
To her credit the copper haired eleven year old did not immediately start choking on her own saliva as Harry or Dudley no doubt would have done at the occurrence of such a question.
Instead she raised an eyebrow and looked her cousin carefully. "Not at all, why would you think that?"
Luna shrugged, appearing to believe her for the moment. "Because he clearly fancies you and I was wondering if you felt the same."
Now the second eyebrow joined the first. "What on earth are you talking about?"
Luna chuckled and absently thumbed through the book not really seeing any of the words on the page. "Well I first began to suspect that he might harbor something for you when I saw the look on his face after the Christmas holidays."
"And what look was that?" Hermione asked feeling somewhat amused.
"You were wearing a pretty green scarf that was obviously very well made and every so often you would reach up with your left hand to finger one of the tassels. Draco was watching you the whole time you were doing it. And that's when I began to wonder. He didn't comment on your scarf but I had a feeling that he didn't have to. Did he get you that scarf for Christmas?"
Hermione blinked at her cousin for a moment before chuckling. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that you know that. The hat certainly made a good decision putting you in Ravenclaw."
Luna smiled but the other girl could tell she was pleased. "It was mostly a lucky guess. Something Daddy taught me was to always watch people and see what their motives are and what it is that they want. He says you can learn a lot more about a person by watching than talking."
Hermione chuckled. "My dad says the same thing. Uncle Loki would have been quite the Slytherin if he ever came to Hogwarts."
"Or Ravenclaw," Luna put in.
Hermione smirked at her. "Have you heard from your dad since school ended?"
Luna shrugged. "Not really. Mummy says she's talked to him but apparently things are too tense on Asgard for him to come here. There seems to have been a strange visitor to the realm."
Hermione frowned. "Did Uncle Loki say who it was?"
"I think her name was Volla, but that's all I know," the blonde replied. "Mummy told me that Daddy seemed awfully tense but wouldn't say anything more about it."
"Come to think of it, my dad seemed tense too the last time he spoke to me," Hermione said tapping her chin thoughtfully. "But he wouldn't say what his worries were about either."
"Things have become a lot more complicated with our births Mione," the blonde witch said seriously. "Daddy and Uncle Thor have had to do more sneaking around in the last decade then I am certain they have ever done in their lives."
Hermione chuckled at the mention of her dark haired uncle sneaking around as she was certain it was something he was good at.
But then she contemplated her cousin's previous words and sobered. "I know. I don't like it this way. I wish they could be with us all the time but according to my Dad, demi god children are forbidden and both he and Uncle Loki broke one of the ancient laws fathering you and I. Grandfather can never know about us."
The two of them lapsed into silence as they contemplated the weight of the situation. They had been flying under the radar of Asgard for almost twelve years and both of them were wondering how much longer their luck would hold out.
Keeping secrets was a heavy burden and no more did the two girls feel the weight of it than now. With only their mothers and each other to lean on for support when their father's were away it was no small coincidence that they were glad to have gone to the same school and found each other.
"Did your dad ever talk about….your mortality with you?" Hermione asked absently and Luna shot her head up narrowing her eyes at her cousin.
"Not really, all he was able to say was that we would need to wait until I was eighteen before we would know if I had his blood or Mum's."
Hermione sighed. "Yeah, that's all my dad would say too. Have you ever thought about it?"
"All the time," Luna whispered. "But either way I look at it….I lose. If I'm mortal than I get to stay with my mother and not watch her grow old and die while I stay young and vital. But at some point I'll never see my dad again. I'll grow old and die and he's told me he doesn't want to go on without me. He's already lost my three brothers and sister, he doesn't want to lose me too."
Hermione shuddered at the implications. She was her father's only child and knew the blonde would do something drastic if something were to happen to her. He had proven than with the Sorcerer's Stone incident and then before that when she and her mother were kidnapped when she was four.
"But on the other hand," Luna said softly. "If I'm immortal like dad, it means I would need to leave Mum behind. She'll get old and die and I'll have to bury her just like I'll have to bury all my friends when they've gone their ways too. I don't know if I have the mental stability to do that."
It was a rare moment of clarity for Luna who so often spent so much time in her whimsical dreamlike state that Hermione wondered if her brain was on earth or somewhere in the nine realms.
"Yeah I don't know if I will either," the copper haired eleven year old replied. "I try not to think about it but there are times late at night when I'm lying in bed and I think to myself what am I going to do when I turn eighteen. Because one way or another, a choice is going to be made for me. I'll either be immortal like dad and lose Mum and my friends, or I'll be mortal and grow old and die like the rest of them and never see dad again. He always gets this determined look in his eyes whenever I mention anything close to my mortality, almost like he has a plan he's working on."
"It wouldn't surprise me if he did," Luna said. "I'm pretty sure my dad has one too if I turn out to be mortal. But if he can't do the same for Mum…then I might have to refuse."
Hermione blinked at her friend. "Do you think you can do that?"
Luna shrugged but the other girl could tell this was a sensitive subject for her. "I don't know. But I refuse to say goodbye to my mummy and I won't say goodbye to daddy. I'm caught between a god and Valhalla."
Hermione growled out several curses under her breath. Merlin, she didn't even like thinking about this, but they were deep into it now because she and Luna were in the same boat.
Why couldn't Mum be a goddess? Or Dad be mortal?
Because then your life wouldn't be nearly as interesting as it is now.
Hermione snorted to herself. Overrated is what it is.
She glanced down at the book in her lap again and sighed. They were no closer to finding Jormungandr since they had arrived and her time might rapidly be growing short.
All her Mum had to do was give her a call on the mobile that she had ensured Hermione keep on and she would be back in England before she could say Hogwarts.
It was just the unfairness of it all that annoyed her. They had been poised to find Luna's half brother and then it had all been hampered by time constraints and the little fact that the last sighting of him had been decades ago.
School's going to be starting soon, she thought to herself. I'm going to be a second year and I'm no closer to solving my own problems with an assassin for a mother and a god for a father than I was a year ago. And I won't have an answer until I'm eighteen. I don't know if I can hold out for another six years.
She sighed and glanced down at the page again, her eyes not even taking in the words. Something needed to give…and soon.
Just then there was the sound of pounding footsteps outside the door of the room and Pandora hurried in with a stack of very old looking books in her arms. She seemed to be bouncing with excitement as she slapped them down on the table and looked at the two girls with her grey blue eyes sparkling.
"What is it Mummy?" Luna asked. "You know if you get too excited, you're going to attract the Nargles. New York City is full of them."
"Never mind the Nargles Moonbeam," Pandora said as she spread the books out onto the table of the archive room they were in. "The both of you need to see this."
Hermione and Luna exchanged a look before getting up from their seats to crowd around the table.
Pandora was thumbing through a rather large book until she finally came across a grainy picture that covered an entire page and stabbed a finger at it.
It portrayed a rather large lake with mountains behind it and trees lining the side. Rearing up out of the water was the enormous grey head of a serpent. The detail was entirely awful and Hermione could make out nothing but a pair of eyes but she was able to tell right away that it was a serpent, and a large one at that.
She glanced down at the caption on the page and blinked when she saw that it was a place in northern Scotland and taken about twenty years earlier.
She glanced up at Luna whose continence had lit up like a lightbulb once she had understood what the picture was about.
"Bingo," Hermione muttered.
"Mummy where did you find this?" Luna demanded.
"It turns out we were looking in the wrong section Moonbeam. What we really should have been looking for were books on the strange sightings of potential magical and supernatural creatures around the world. Once I explained to the witch at the front desk downstairs we were on an educational trip looking for strange creatures that had been sighted in the last three decades around the world, she directed me to this book right away," Pandora said somewhat smugly.
"It was that easy?" Hermione demanded.
"Indeed," Pandora said. "I felt more than embarrassed. As a natural Ravenclaw, I should have figured this out earlier."
Hermione chuckled. "Lapses in judgement happen to the best of us Aunt Pandora. The good thing is we know now. America wasn't the last place that Jormungandr had been seen…it was somewhere in Scotland."
"It seems he was mistaken for the Loch Ness Monster by the Muggles," Pandora explained. "And there have been very few sightings of him over the years."
"Do you think he could still be there?" Luna asked in excitement. "This whole time he could have been so close to school and we didn't know about it?"
"I think its possible," Pandora said.
"Well then what are we waiting for?" Hermione asked. "We still have a week until we need to go back home and get ready for school. Maybe we can find him in that time."
"It's possible," Pandora mused. "Very well then. I need to go reset our international portkey which could take a few hours. In the meantime we should go back to the hotel and pack up our things so we can be ready to go when the portkey is ready."
Hermione nodded and was about to ask if she could take a picture of the page with the muggle camera she had taken with her when all of a sudden there was a loud boom and the entire building seemed to shudder.
Hermione was nearly knocked off her feet and had to grab hold of the table to steady herself.
Luna was not so lucky and had fallen over from the tremor. Pandora had managed to reach out a hand and latch hold of one of the bookshelves.
As they were beginning to right themselves the tremor came again, this time louder and harder than before and this time Hermione really did lose her balance.
It was embarrassing but she was tossed to the floor beside Luna and was attempting to rise when the tremor struck again, knocking her back down.
A moment later a loud blaring sound filled the halls of the magical Congress which sounded suspiciously like an alarm.
"What the bloody hell is that?" Hermione shouted over the noise.
"The emergency alarm," Pandora bellowed back. "We've gone into lockdown. Something's wrong!"
Ya think?! Hermione wanted to scream back but that wouldn't have been productive.
So instead she forced herself to her feet and made her way on shaky legs to the window of the room to look down.
What she saw must have been something outside of a futuristic movie about an alien invasion of the planet.
There was a grinding sound as if there was a plane over head and she reeled back in surprise to see a small streamlined plane sweep through the clouds and swoop down over the buildings. It looked like a small version of a quinjet, a picture of which her mother had shown her that SHIELD possessed to go on short range assignments.
Although this was much smaller than the quinjets she had seen before.
What on earth is this?
Just then the bay doors opened and a large canister was dropped from above. Her first thought was that it was a bomb and was about to scream for her aunt and cousin to get down when all of a sudden the canister reached the ground and broke neatly in half before spewing some sort of noxious gas everywhere.
People in the street immediately began running for cover and Hermione felt her blood run cold.
In the recesses of her mind she remembered what her mother had told her about the Sarin gas being stolen.
Is this the same gas?
The people on the street who were running didn't get very far before the smoke caught up with them and they were felled like flies, twitching in the street as if they were having a seizure.
It was the nerve gas alright.
Hermione felt her jaw slacken when she saw more planes similar to quinjets swoop down out of the clouds and continue across the city, dropping metal canister and allowing clouds of the same grey gas out into the streets.
They're going to take out the entire city if they keep this up, she thought in horror. Where on earth are Mum and SHIELD?
"Hermione come away from the window," Pandora called. "We don't know what's going on down there."
"Actually we do Aunt Pan," Hermione said in an almost hollow voice. "It's a terrorist attack."
"What?!" her aunt demanded.
Luna looked like she was about to demand answer as well when all of a sudden a wizard in dark blue robes rushed into the room.
"What are you still doing here?" he demanded roughly. "Didn't you hear the alarm? We've gone into full lockdown and all members in the Magical Congress but report to the main hall to be accounted for. Let's go!"
Hermione cast one more look outside at the clouds of smoke that were rising for the city and swallowed hard when she realized until the threat was lifted they were going to be trapped in the Congress in New York City.
Mum where are you?
Whew! I am so sorry for the almost four month wait guys, but I am back now and hopefully this makes up for the wait. Second year is going to begin in the next chapter with a few twists and turns coming. Don't forget to review and happy reading everyone!