Thank you all for your well wishes! Yes, we are expecting a baby in September. My goal is to get all WIPs wrapped up by then. That means finish Levitate, and The Eagle and the Lion (only on AO3 at this time). If I can finish them up I might work on the next big project, but that's a big if at this point. At any rate, I should be getting back on track with Levitate soon - just not a lot of free time to myself lately.
Also, just in case it isn't completely obvious, I am not a Norweigian history buff. I make things up and try to make them make sense in context of this story, and used a lot of wikipedia. Hopefully, you can offer a little grace for any mistakes I make ;) Thanks for joining me on this ride!
Disregarding the somewhat bumpy landing in Oslo, the flight to Norway was otherwise unremarkable. After disembarking, clearing through customs, managing to find their way back through the airport and gathering their luggage, the three found themselves looking for transportation to their next stop. Hermione seemed to know where to go as she guided them to a kiosk on the lower level, speaking with one of the men at the counter about renting a vehicle.
Rabastan glanced at the brochures, picking one up that touted the different classes of vehicles offered. He frowned as he read the descriptions, unsure what most of it meant. Antonin chuckled next to him, "Planning on learning to drive?"
Rabastan scowled back, "I'm just interested in what muggles do without brooms and the ability to transport themselves instantly"
The two men stiffened at the sound of the newcomer next to them, and Hermione swiveled sharply to face the gentleman. He was staggeringly tall and blonde, with a full but neatly trimmed beard, and sharp blue eyes. His brow crinkled as he took them in, but the expression was replaced with a smile as she reached out a hand, "And you are?"
"Erik Nilsen. Draco sent me to gather you," he introduced himself before turning to shake the hands of the other two men.
"Ah. I see. He failed to mention that we were to meet you," she replied stiffly, right hand resting on her hip, fingers loosely above the pocket.
The giant of a man laughed, nodding, "He mentioned that. He also told me I should tell you he's a giant prat, and he's very sorry, and he hopes my presence will make up for a little of his indiscretion"
Hermione's stance relaxed minutely, and she nodded, "That sounds like Draco. Did he give you something for me?"
The blonde man's eyes narrowed, and his lips turned into a shrewd smirk before he passed a trinket to her, "He did"
She turned the piece of silver over in her hand before passing off to Antonin. The older man glanced at it and nodded as well, slipping it into his own pocket. Hermione gave a genuine smile then, "Well, Mr. Nilsen, lead on"
As he guided them out of the building, Rabstan lingered next to Antonin giving him a questioning look. The darker man reached into his pocket and pulled out the piece of silver, passing it over. It was a round button, with the picture of a dragon stamped onto it. He frowned before passing it back over.
"It's a measure of truth," answered Antonin, "They all have them. If there's a question about loyalty or authenticity, they just have to pass one over. The trinkets are only made when needed, and are designed to destroy themselves within 24 hours of creation"
Rabastan raised an eyebrow, "But can't the stamps just be copied?"
Antonin shrugged, "In theory. So far as I can gather, each person rotates through a series of stamps, so it never looks the same twice"
"That seems complicated," admitted Rabastan and Antonin nodded.
Outside was mid-sized silver van, the side door propped open. Erik grabbed Hermione's bag to her protest, and pointed towards the vehicle. She frowned, but ducked inside, sitting in the passenger side front seat. Rabastan rolled his own bag to the back of the vehicle before following Antonin inside as well. Once the luggage was loaded, Erik clambered in the driver's seat and took off.
"Where are you taking us?" asked Rabastan. Blue eyes regarded him from the little mirror up front.
"Well, first I have to take you to Parliament. But then, we'll get settled into your hotel here and I'll show you around our lovely Oslo," he answered. Hermione groaned.
"We were trying NOT to get noticed here," she grumbled and Erik grinned at her.
"It's just a brief check in. Need to know basis only," he assured her, and Antonin made a disbelieving grunt.
"Somehow, need to know always ends up as everyone knows," muttered Hermione and Rabastan nodded in response. Erik shrugged from his seat.
"Maybe in Britain, but here secrecy is absolute. The only people who will know about your visit are myself and the Princess," he replied seriously.
"The princess?" asked Hermione, twisting to face him in her seat as he navigated the roads.
"Yes. Princess Martha is head of the Norwegian Parliament of Magic. Queen Sonja is a witch," he replied, answering their questioning looks, "The Monarchy has a long history of marrying magical persons and non-magical persons into their folds to keep a foot in each world. The Queen was head of Parliament until Martha took over two years ago. Haakon, the Prince, is non-magical and next in line for the throne. He's expected to marry a witch to help the odds of producing magical offspring"
"That seems a bit overkill," answered Rabastan, frowning a little, "The royal family controls both magical and non-magical interests in the country?"
"It's a bit more complicated than that," confessed Erik, "And hard to explain. Norway has been a wild land for much of history. The monsters that our ancestors fought were not only figurative, but literal and magic is not so secretive here. When Norway unified in 872 it was solidified by the inclusion of the magical world, which allowed all inhabitants to develop a unified front against the Trolls. Unfortunately, the unification under one king didn't last long but the persons in the land continued to work together. The Trolls were finally brought to heel in 1050, with much help from the the magical inhabitants of Norway. The lady king, Margaret I, was actually a witch though her son Olav was non-magical. It gets a little ugly from there, but when the current lineage was re-established, it became standard that all non-magical rulers would marry someone of magical background to ensure that the treaty between both worlds remained in tact, and the Trolls remained in their controlled regions"
"Are there many trolls now?" asked Hermione, and Erik shrugged.
"We send treaty parties every year, and every year we are denied. We don't have an exact count, but rumor is numbers are dwindling," he answered. She hummed in response before leaning back against her seat.
"Where is the Magical Parliament of Norway housed?" asked Rabastan curiously. Erik grinned toothily at him.
"Well, the same as the British Ministry, I suspect. Hidden in plain sight," he answered, pointing out the front window of the vehicle. Narrowing his eyes, Rabastan took in the buildings before them.
"Akerhaus Fortress?" gasped Hermione, and the blond man chuckled as he nodded.
"When the royal family set up a home in Oslo, they decided it would be best to bring the seat of magical power close to home as well. As the city was already established, it was difficult to find a home that wouldn't draw much attention. So, they decided to go with a place that draws so much attention, anything odd would be overlooked. Afterall, tourists can be quite peculiar," he winked at them. Hermione laughed in delight.
"What a brilliantly simple idea," she responded, peering up at the medieval buildings before them. Erik brought the vehicle around to a side road, turning in as a gate appeared before them and allowed them into a tunnel under the main building of the castle. As the gates closed behind them, Erik turned off the vehicle and gestured to the sparsely lit room.
"We're here. When we exit, follow me. We'll head up to the Princess's office," he explained, before exiting the vehicle.
The quarters they had arrived in were dark, damp, and covered in stone, and the three visitors stuck close to one another as the followed the viking up the stairs. A simple, dark wood door was at the top, and Erik peeked his head through before opening it fully and encouraging them out into the main corridor. The hallway was long, lined with wooden panel flooring, with warm stone walls and lit by modern candlebras. He hurried them down the passageway until he turned sharply to his right, opening a door that hadn't been there a moment before. Gesturing once more, the four entered the small room before he closed the door firmly behind them.
Hermione gasped, and Rabastan's eyes raised in appreciation at the magic in the room. Clearly enlarged, it was an open room, with large, cheerful windows that allowed sun to stream across the floor, lighting up playful patterns in the brightly colored mossaic tiles underneath them. Paintings, magical in nature, lined the white washed walls with portraits peering at the three visitors curiously. In the center of the room was a simple desk, with a modernly dressed woman standing behind it, smiling at them.
"Welcome to Norway," she greeted them, stepping around the desk to come meet them face to face. Hermione folded both her hands around the other woman's, grasping it warmly.
"Thank you for allowing us to come," she answered, smiling genuinely back at the older woman.
Princess Martha was a lovely woman, tall, with honey brown hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones and fair skin. She bore a kind countenance, but her posture spoke of underlying strength. Rabastan returned her smile as he shook her hand as well, turning it over to place a kiss on the back before releasing it. She gave him an appraising look before she turned to Antonin, extending her hand to him as well.
"I understand you are here seeking a child," she probed, and Hermione nodded.
"We are. I am sure you have been given some of the details?" she asked. The princess turned her gaze to the shorter woman, eyes sharpening as she nodded tightly.
"I have. We have several orphanages here in Norway that fit the description of what you are looking for, however, only two are reported to have magical children," she answered. Hermione chewed her lip thoughtfully.
"I'd heard there was only one child," she answered finally, and the Princess tipped her head at her.
"We are fairly certain of one child's parentage. The other, however, reportedly was dropped off about four years ago in the night. He was left on the steps. No history besides that," she confirmed, and Hermione frowned.
"And you know he is magical?" she confirmed. Martha nodded.
"Bouts of accidental magic, and one our local witches did a test on him. Nothing harmful, just a small spell to test his magical core. He is a wizard," she replied. Hermione nodded.
"That sounds promising, though I suppose we should check both just to be sure," she answered and the Princess nodded approvingly.
"As I expected you would. Erik has the locations of both Orphanages. He will take you to them, starting tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the sights of Oslo for the evening. It's a lovely city," she responded. Hermione tipped her head respectfully to the older woman.
"Thank you, I look forward to it. It's been a real honor to meet you," she replied, and the Princess smiled genuinely once more.
"As it is mine. It's not every day you get to meet a war herione," she teased back gently, and Hermione chuckled as her cheeks turned pink. Martha turned to the two men, addressing Hermione once more as she said, "Now, please, go let Erik bore you with some more history while I speak with your traveling partners"
Hermione graced the two men with a wicked grin before she scurried back over to their tall escort, asking him a myriad of questions about the fortress. Martha watched her leave hearing range before she waved the two men over, "Now, I know of the two of you as well"
Antonin nodded at her, countenance serious as he answered, "I assure you, we will be on our best behavior"
Her lips pressed into a thin line as she looked him over, "And I can promise you, I have eyes and ears all over this city. Don't forget that we are not so secretive about magic here, and the fae of Norway won't hesitate to make you disappear"
Rabastan raised his eyebrows, "Duly noted"
Martha looked at him then, blue eyes piercing his own, "I also know that you have some interesting ideas about blood status. We had some spies in Britain during the war, and your face and name were quite well known. We do not share those same views here in Norway"
Rabastan cleared his throat, shifting on his feet uncomfortably, "Will all due respect, I'm just here to help find a child"
"Mister Lestrange, I am well aware of why you are here. I wish to make it clear that if I find you have done anything else, you will have me to answer to. I am half blood. My mother was half blood. For longer than your family can count it's lineage, my family has been half bloods and successfully held not only this seat but power over all of Norway. Do you believe the magical northerners you have encountered in the past have been less powerful than yourself?"
Rabastan shook his head, "No"
Her eyes narrowed further, "Regardless of what Bjorn Rowle claimed, we are all mixed blood here. We do not come from any one line that is more powerful than another. Thorfinn is a Berserker, is he not?"
Antonin nodded next to him, and Rabastan blanched, turning to the Russian for confirmation, "A Berserker?"
Antonin shrugged, "He wasn't identified and registered until after the war"
"Berserkers are powerful warriors, and wizards. They are only of mixed blood. A pureblood wizard cannot be a Berserker, and neither can a pure human," interjected Martha, and Rabastan nodded, swallowing once more, "Should I hear of your views on...purity spreading around my country, I will introduce you to one or two Berserkers I know personally"
"Understood," answered Rabastan, nodding his head respectfully at the woman. In an instant her face cleared and she smiled once more. Reaching forward she kissed each man on the cheek.
"Wonderful. Welcome to Norway, gentlemen. I hope it exceeds your expectations," she dismissed them. Antonin gave her a partial bow before grabbing Rabastan by the arm and steering him back towards the door.
"That woman scares me," muttered Rabastan, needing no further encouragement. Antonin nodded.
"Me too" he answered, "Though, I didn't know about Berserkers. Did you?"
Antonin shook his head, "No. I had always wondered why they came only from the North, but I hadn't gotten much further in intellectual pursuits on that matter before..."
Rabastan hummed in agreement as they drew up with Erik and Hermione. She jumped and turned as they arrived, clapping her hands together, "Are you hungry? Because next we get a cruise and lunch on the Fjord!"