A/N: Hi guys! Thanks for your support as always.
Quill's body ached like he'd been through a hundred rounds with Rocky, followed by a dozen cycles in a dryer. He groaned and just focused on trying to breathe – his body even protesting against such a simple action as that. He rolled onto his side, hoping that would somehow lessen his discomfort, and cracked open his eyelids to try and assess the situation. The impact of the Dark Aster had turned most of the area to rubble and he could see large parts of the ship ablaze. Strangely, he knew the wreckage of the Milano lay not far away because he could hear his cassette playing – or maybe he was just hearing things?
Small branches and twigs also littered the floor around him and Quill felt a different stab of pain for his fallen friend, Groot.
"I called him an idiot," Rocket whispered, cradling a handful of sticks.
Quill forced himself into a sitting position and saw Gamora struggling to her knees. Drax was twitching and showing signs of life a few yards away so that only left…
He swivelled his head to look for Granger. Just behind him, a number of Xandarians were looking around the crash site in shock but he couldn't see any sign of her amongst them. He turned back to the wreckage of the ship just in time to see Ronan emerge; his warhammer still glowing ominously with the power of the Infinity Stone.
Quill's heart raced in panic. They knew that the Stone reacted to anything organic and the bigger the target, the bigger the power surge. If Ronan wanted to destroy all life on Xandar, all he had to do now was touch the stone to the surface and everything would be wiped out.
"You killed Groot!" Rocket yelled furiously, rushing towards Ronan. In defence, Ronan simply pointed the hammer at Rocket and the raccoon was thrown aside.
Ronan looked around the gathered crowd malevolently. "Behold!" he called to them. "Your Guardians of the Galaxy." He gestured mockingly to the sprawled, battered figures on the ground.
It was a frail, breath of a voice but Quill jerked like he'd been electrocuted. That was Granger, he was sure of it, but he didn't understand how he'd heard her when he wasn't touching her. Was she dead? Was she haunting him?
Quill painfully pulled himself to his feet as Ronan preached to the crowd about finally getting vengeance. Quill wasn't paying too close attention to the actual words because from this greater height he'd finally spotted Granger's body a few feet behind Ronan and, most importantly, she was moving.
"People of Xandar," Ronan bellowed, "The time has come to rejoice and renounce your paltry Gods. Your salvation is as hand!"
Ronan raised the hammer above his head, the stone dazzlingly bright, and Quill knew he had to distract him to give Granger enough time to do something. She was looking at him now with groggy, confused eyes so he did the first thing that came into his head.
"Ooh, child, things are gonna get easier," he sang loud enough to halt Ronan in his tracks. "Ooh, child, things'll get brighter. Listen to these words." As he continued to sing, he saw Granger sit up with a faint look of panic on her face as she stared at Ronan and he wondered why she hadn't cast a spell at him. Then he realized that her killing spell must have been as ineffective as their use of the Hadron Enforcer; Ronan was just too powerful while he had possession of the Stone. He saw the solution in a flash; get the hammer away from Ronan, defeat Ronan. All he had to do was pass that message onto Granger without alerting the psycho that stood between them. "Ooh, child, things'll get brighter," he sang and raised his voice as the song moved into the climax. "Now bring the hammer down!" he said, but did so in a tone of voice that just supported the energetic dance moves he started to bust out. As he continued his performance, he daren't look in Granger's direction but he hoped she'd grasped his meaning.
"What are you doing?" Ronan muttered, thankfully still utterly confused by his actions.
"Dance off, bro," Quill replied simply, "Me and you." The lack of action on Granger's part seemed to suggest that she hadn't cottoned on to his plan but he daren't say anything else in case it tipped Ronan off. Quill paused his dancing and thrust his hand towards Gamora, inviting her to dance too. Ronan's gaze turned to her for a moment and Quill quickly looked at Granger and pointed at the hammer. He saw her eyes widen before he dropped his hand and looked back at Gamora who was shaking her head at proposal. "Subtle," Quill said, closing his fist, "take it back." He resumed his dancing, aware that Granger was psyching herself up to deliver a monster blow to the hammer.
"What are you doing?" Ronan boomed, losing patience with Quill's antics.
"I'm distracting you, you big turd blossom!" Quill answered, twisting his Single Ladies hand in front of his face.
Ronan turned, but far too late, as Hermione sent a huge outburst of magic at the warhammer. The weapon shattered, releasing the Stone, and Quill leapt forwards with his fingers outstretched, desperate to get to it before Ronan. It barely entered his mind that touching the Stone would kill him. Ronan's body was propelled backwards by Granger's magic at the same moment that Quill's fingers wrapped around the Stone.
He fell to the floor, writhing on the ground, a gale of energy circling around him as the Stone's power coursed through his body. He screamed, rolling onto his knees as the energy began to consume him. He could hear a woman screaming and he turned his head. His mom was before his eyes exactly the same way she had been the last time he'd seen her, laying in her hospital bed. She held out her hand to him. "Take my hand, Peter," she said, her voice cutting right through him. He reached forwards and his mom transformed into Gamora but the hand was still outstretched.
"Take my hand!" Gamora yelled.
After a moment's hesitation, he did.
Gamora yelled as the energy rushed through to her too. There was another pulse of power, quickly followed by two more, and Quill realised that, although his body was absolutely brimming with the Stone's energy, it wasn't tearing him apart anymore. He opened his eyes and saw that his friends had made a chain. The power had spread between the five of them and they had it under control.
Ronan gazed at them in shock. "You're mortal," he spluttered, "How?"
"You said it yourself, bitch," Quill answered, "We're the Guardians of the Galaxy." He opened the fist containing the Stone and directed its power at Ronan. After a sustained surge of energy, Ronan disappeared in a dazzling burst of light.
The Stone continued to radiate power until Gamora slammed one of the pre-prepared containers on it. The purple energy disappeared in an instant and the five of them gasped in huge breaths of air, looking at each other in disbelief.
Granger suddenly threw her arms around them all but her embrace was short lived.
"Well, well, well. Quite the light show," Yondu called, a large crowd of Ravagers surrounding the group. He chuckled as he regarded their familial stance. "Ain't this sweet. But you got some business to attend to before all the lovey-dovey stuff."
"Peter, you can't," Gamora objected while Granger watched the exchanged tensely.
"You gotta reconsider this, Yondu," Quill said. "I don't know who you're selling this to, but the only way the universe can survive is if you give it to the Nova Corps."
"I may be as pretty as an angel," Yondu replied, brushing open the side of his coat to reveal his deadly, telepathic Yaka arrow, "but I sure as hell ain't one. Hand it over, son."
"Mr Udonta," Granger began politely, taking a step forwards and Quill grabbed her hand as a number of Ravagers cocked their guns.
"Don't even start with me, girl," Yondu warned, holding up his hand to tell his men to back down. "This deal was already made, fair and square."
Quill squeezed her hand and she turned back to him. Her eyes narrowed on him suspiciously and he looked down.
If you've got a reason why I shouldn't use my magic to see them off, sigh now, he heard her say.
Quill sighed noisily and looked guiltily between Gamora and Yondu before handing over the Orb.
Yondu grinned as Hermione and Gamora wore equally disapproving expressions. He signalled for his men to move out.
"Yondu," Quill called, "Do not open that Orb. You know that, right? You've seen what it does to people."
Yondu said nothing at these words of caution but he gave Quill a lingering look before walking off to join his men. Nobody moved a muscle until the Ravagers' ships had taken off.
"He's going to be so pissed when he realises I switched out the Orb on him," Quill said, pulling out the other Orb from his back pocket. Gamora laughed in relief and Granger smiled at him but he couldn't help but feel a little guilty at crossing Yondu.
"He was going to kill you, Peter," Gamora pointed out.
"Oh, I know," he agreed. "But he was about the only family that I had."
Not anymore, Granger told him fondly.
As the Milano shot through the galaxy towards Asgard, Hermione's nerves increased. She was obviously looking forwards to seeing Thor but she couldn't deny that she was apprehensive about what he would make of her. She had changed in many ways since they'd last seen each other though most of the changes were not physical in nature. Would he approve of the methods she'd used to keep herself alive? Would he blame her for Earth's destruction?
There was also the wealth of memories that were attached to Thor and the times they'd shared together. It was incredibly painful to think of those times but she knew she shouldn't shut them away as much as she did.
"So, when we meet Thor," Quill said, interrupting her thoughts, "What do we call him?"
"How about 'Thor', dumbass," Rocket shot at him from where he tinkered away at some sort of machine of his own design.
Quill rolled his eyes. "Yeah, but, he's a prince and, like, a god. I don't want to piss him off by saying the wrong thing."
"Don't worry," Hermione soothed, "If anyone's going to say the wrong thing, it's going to be Rocket."
Rocket narrowed his eyes at her and then shrugged his shoulders. "Fair comment."
"I've always called him, Thor," Hermione said to Quill. "But, if you want to make a good impression – "
"And make sure we get our units," Rocket interrupted.
Hermione smiled. "And ensure you get your units," she agreed, "then you can start with 'Your highness'. He's normally very friendly so you shouldn't have anything to worry about."
Quill nodded and then slumped into a seat next to her. "OK." He picked up a small container of water and poured a little in Groot's pot. The diminutive, regenerating Groot made a happy chittering noise and turned thankful eyes on Quill.
Hermione had been devastated when she'd learned of Groot's sacrifice on Xandar. She couldn't help but feel guilty because if she'd been conscious, she would've been able to keep them all alive without Groot having to pay the price. Sitting next to a distraught Rocket amongst the wreckage, Hermione had scooped up a handful of the many twigs strewn on the ground.
"Thank you, my kind, beautiful friend," she said softly, holding the wood against her chest.
Rocket sniffed loudly.
Hermione frowned and looked closely at the sticks. Something felt odd. She placed them in her lap before picking up each in turn and focusing on it with closed eyes.
"Wh-what are you doing?" Rocket mumbled.
"I felt him," she replied quietly. "So vividly. I felt life."
A mad few minutes followed where she and Rocket scrambled round to locate all the branches and twigs that they could. Hermione felt them all; the sensations of life were stronger in some than others. Finally, she found one that practically hummed with vitality. She conjured a pot, filled with soil and planted the offshoot inside. Rocket had taken the pot from her with trembling hands and had barely let it out of his sight ever since. The day Groot had regenerated enough to develop his arms and face was a time of great celebration for them all.
That was also the day when they had left Xandar. After a final meeting with the Nova Corps (during which Hermione had been briefly reunited with the friendly Rhomann Dey, who had personally thanked for her efforts to save Xandar), their criminal records had been expunged, Quill was informed he was only half-human, groundwork was laid to potentially work together in the future, the Infinity Stone was entrusted to Nova's protection and, finally, Quill was presented with a repaired and restored Milano.
It had always been their intention to fly to Asgard but, given that the realm was in one of the furthest reaches of the galaxy, they made a fair few stops along the way with only one or two hiccups (mostly caused when someone got intoxicated or Rocket opened his mouth).
However, nobody had asked the question of what would happen after they got there.
Hermione had never expected to feel a sense of belonging to anything after Earth's demise but she felt a strong bond with her fellow Guardians. Her ultimate aim to take down Thanos was still there and, when she had first learned that Thor was searching for her, she'd envisaged relocating to Asgard or working on her own. But perhaps she could rally allies whilst travelling aboard the Milano? Maybe Thor would even join them to lend his support?
Hermione shook her head. It was pointless to try and plot out the future until she actually got to Asgard.
"We're coming up on Asgardian Space," Gamora called down to them from the flight deck.
Hermione felt a rush of adrenaline and rose to her feet, pulling Quill up with one hand and reaching out for Groot's pot with another. She ascended the stairs carefully and looked through the windows at the small slab of colour in the distance. Hermione had learned that Asgard was not round like Earth but was a flat, asteroid-like mass instead. Even from a great distance, it was a beautiful sight. She had just made out the twinkling light of what had to be the rainbow bridge when their ship was hailed by Asgard's defensive forces.
Quill stepped up to the screen and transmitted his message. "This is Peter Quill, of the M-ship Milano, requesting an audience with Thor Odinson regarding the abduction of Hermione Granger," he announced clearly.
There was a notable pause in response and Hermione tried to remain calm while they waited.
"You have permission to land," a business-like voice replied. "Two vessels will escort you to the dock."
Gamora piloted the ship according to the instructions and Hermione grinned at the others' appreciative comments as they took in Asgard's stunning landscape and architecture.
They were met by a trio of Einherjar guards and a blond-haired man that Hermione had briefly been acquainted with on her previous visit to Asgard. He was named Fandral and was one of Thor's closest friends.
Fandral's gaze travelled over the group but when he saw Hermione, his eyes widened in amazement.
"My lady Hermione!" he gasped. "I never… when they said that… after all this time!" he spluttered. "Odin's beard! I can't believe you're here! I thought it was going to be another dead end. Thor's going to be overjoyed to see you!" Fandral shook his head and chuckled. "And to think that you've appeared while he's on another realm! He'll be most annoyed."
Hermione couldn't help but smile at Fandral's enthusiasm. "Is he on Vanaheim?" she asked conversationally.
"No, Midgard," he replied, "Where else?"
Hermione's breath stuck in her throat at his words but her brain told her that she must've been mistaken in what she'd heard. "I'm sorry, where did you say Thor was?"
Her heart beat furiously in her chest as she waited for his response.
"Midgard," he repeated, "Or 'Earth' as you would call it."
"Holy shit," Quill muttered behind her.
Hermione couldn't breathe. She daren't even move in case this moment was just a fantasy and a single movement shattered the illusion and she'd be forced to deal with the heartbreak all over again. She felt someone place their hand supportively underneath her elbow, which was good because she felt like her knees were about to give way at any moment.
Fandral's mouth formed a little 'o' in realisation. "But, of course, how stupid of me, you wouldn't know. Your planet is fine, my lady; Earth was never destroyed."
A/N Hooray! I know I had some of you a tiny bit worried but, come on, I wasn't going to blow up Earth!
That's the end of Hermione Granger: Guardian of the Galaxy. Look out for the next fic soon(ish). It will be published as a Harry Potter/Avengers crossover like the others in this series.
So, if you've enjoyed this fic (or are looking forward to the next one) please drop me a review.
Lots of love to you all,
Lil Drop of Magic