Written for the 2018 Marvelously Magical Fanfiction Bingo
Square: O5 / Prompt: Vienna
A Bittersweet Memory
Since the speeches were about to start and she wanted to make sure that everyone was in place, Mugwump Hermione Granger glanced around the crowded hall of the Vienna International Centre looking for the other members of the group that she brought with her from the International Confederation of Wizards and Witches. She smiled as she remembered that the name change to include the female half of the magical population was one of the first things that she had lobbied for…and won…when she was first appointed by Minister Shacklebolt to take over the British seat of what was then just called the ICW.
As a muggleborn, she knew that the honor was the equivalent of being selected as a delegate for the UN - and she was very proud that Kingsley had entrusted her with such a huge responsibility. However, she also understood that he was making a political statement with his controversial appointment of the young muggleborn war heroine to replace the former seat holder. That man had just happened to be a member of the pureblood Old Guard with suspected ties to Voldemort and the Death Eaters. When Kingsley admitted to his youngest Head of Department that he wanted to shake up the old regime and asked her if she was up for the challenge, Hermione could only grin with anticipation at the question and promised to make him proud.
That was why she currently found herself at the ratification of the Sokovia Accords in Vienna, Austria with her first and best friend in the ICWW. Arild was an older halfblood Norwegian wizard who was also such a talented emotional Legilimens that he was able to get a reading on the surface feelings of an entire crowd in general without intruding on the privacy of any one individual mind. Hermione was quite jealous of his talent because even though she was a fair Occlumens herself, to her dismay she had never been able to master the various nuances of Legilimency. However, despite that disappointment, she welcomed his friendship and his assistance, as well as that of the few other muggleborn and halfblood members of the ICWW who could fit in easily with the crowds of the important nonmagical gathering.
With the world's willingness to recognize the importance of the Avengers and other enhanced individuals, Hermione thought that it was time to at least consider the possibility of ending the Statute of Secrecy. After all, with the increasingly widespread use of technology, magic was becoming harder and harder to hide from the non-magical populations of the world anyway. Therefore, she requested a private meeting with the Supreme Mugwump, a kindly-but-reserved German wizard with a long white beard that could rival even the one belonging to his predecessor, Albus Dumbledore. Once there, she brought up a tentative plan to attend the ceremony and get an overall reading of the worlds' leaders and how they really felt about enhanced people. Only then, if the magical contingency in attendance was convinced that the world was ready, could the wizarding populations take the first tentative steps to reveal themselves to the rest of the world.
Fortunately, her plan was approved, since Herr Zauber was more open-minded and forward thinking than many of his contemporaries and knew that the change would have to come sooner or later. The magical communities were still well hidden at the moment but that did not mean that they would always remain that way. In fact, there had been several close calls in the past – including the rise of Voldemort and the Wizarding War in Britain - and all of the collateral damage that had been done both to and within the eyesight of the nonmagical populations there, as the young witch in front of him knew very well. Therefore, he agreed with her enthusiastic proposal because he knew that it made a lot of sense to become more familiar with the current political environment as it applied to the world's other enhanced individuals before such an important decision could be made for their own people.
Since Kingsley had a very strong working relationship with the muggle Prime Minister, he arranged for Hermione and her small personally selected group of fellow ICWW members to attend the conference as part of the official British delegation. Upon arrival at the Centre, though, the magical group split from the rest to mingle among the various delegations and gain the information they sought. As Hermione strategically attended the various meet-and-greets that were scheduled before the main event, she both listened in on and joined pertinent conversations. During this time, she also briefly met one of the Avengers in attendance…the intimidating woman known as the Black Widow. However, she was quite disappointed that Steve Rogers did not seem to be present. Captain America was almost as popular in Europe as he was in the States because of all of the time he had spent there during WWII. Plus, Hermione had to admit that she had always thought that the bloke was very good-looking whenever he appeared on the telly or in the papers…and she had been looking forward to seeing him in person.
After a bit of intelligence-gathering, however, she was able to determine that Rogers' absence meant that he did not agree with the Accords or the idea that the Avengers, in particular, and all other enhanced people, in general, should be registered with and under the control of the politicians. She had to admit that she completely understood his rationale and worry that such information and power could be misused. After all, she was well aware of what had happened with the Muggleborn Registration laws during the wizarding war. It was one of the reasons she was afraid that, even though this entire excursion was her idea, the world was not quite ready for the complete revelation of magic, yet. Even though some of the attendees at the ratification of the Accords were very positive and enthusiastic about the subject of enhanced people, the majority still seemed to fall within the range of "somewhat" all the way to "very" uncomfortable with the situation. Arild's initial Legilimency scan of the crowd confirmed this hypothesis. However, Hermione knew that she had to continue to try and collect as much information as she could for her report. She was not very optimistic about her findings, but she hoped that the unlikely event would occur where she was actually proven wrong. After all, the conference was still early in its early stages and anything could happen!
It was not all bad, however. In fact, the highlight for her had actually turned out to be her meeting with the Wakandan contingency. Kingsley had given her very specific instructions to find and speak with King T'Chaka, if she possibly could. However, he did not tell her why. Therefore, after the general meet-and-greets, but before the conference officially began, she made her way to the rooms that were assigned to the group from that quiet little African country. Silence had descended immediately upon her arrival…and it was obvious that her threat level was being assessed. Despite this, she was actually quite impressed that their security force appeared to be comprised entirely of women - instead of the male bodyguards that most of the other politicians utilized. Before she had time to ponder this further, however, the tension cleared immediately when the King suddenly realized who…and what…she was before he smiled warmly at her.
"Ms. Hermione Granger, I believe? You are very welcome here. Please come join us," he greeted her as he gestured to the seat between him and his son, T'Challa…whom she immediately noticed was the very epitome of tall, dark, and handsome. The younger man eyed her appreciatively, as well…and his father smiled even more broadly when he saw the obvious mutual interest that flashed between his son and the young woman of whom he had only heard high praise.
However, her surprise that the Wakandan ruler actually knew who she was amused the King even further, and he explained. "Don't worry, my dear lady. Kingsley let me know that you would try to contact me here. The Shacklebolt family has roots that actually originate in and around Wakanda, you know...and many of the African countries, including ours, are closer to our magical ancestry than most of the rest of the civilized world. Therefore, the existence of witches and wizards is not a surprise to the majority of us, including everyone here today." He paused to make a sweeping gesture around the room where many friendly nods and smiles, and even a couple of cheers, seem to confirm his assertion. Hermione could not help but to smile broadly at the warm recognition of an important part of her life that she usually had to hide when she was among the nonmagicals.
King T'Chaka looked pleased, as well, as he continued to make her feel welcome. He offered her a cup of special Wakandan tea, which he poured out for her himself. He then beamed with pleasure when she deemed it to be delicious and praised it for its subtle blends of chocolate, caramel, and cinnamon. "I'm so glad that you like it – especially since it was named after my son,* you know," he said and his eyes twinkled with good-natured amusement at the embarrassed sound that emanated from T'Challa's direction. Hermione found it difficult to hold back the undignified giggle that threatened to escape at the lively teasing and at the subsequent evil-eye look that the Prince shot back at his father. Even though they were both grown men, it was obvious that they were a close-knit family, and it made Hermione nostalgic as she spared a thought for her own loving parents who were forever lost to her because of the war.
Prince T'Challa saw the shadow that crossed her face at the bittersweet memory. Even though he did not know what caused it, he felt the immediate need to comfort her anyway. "You are among friends here, Ms. Granger," he said, and he could not help but to return her lovely and grateful smile with one of his own.
The King was an observant man, so he gave the two young people their moment before he proclaimed that it was time to discuss business. After informing Hermione that he was aware of her mission, he paused and looked at her regretfully. "However, I must tell you that it is my earnest belief that the world is not ready for you, yet. The Sokovia Accords are a good first step towards the recognition of powered individuals. Nevertheless, since half of the Avengers refuse to sign it…including Captain America and that nice girl whom they call the Scarlet Witch…even though I understand that her powers originate from an outside source rather than from an actual magical core such as your own…distrust is still high. That is especially true now because of what they call the new "alien contagion" out there. In fact, people do not seem to realize that particular moniker was actually designed to promote fear and shift trust away from the Inhumans and those who support them. However, Wakanda, and many of our neighbors, reached out to our Inhumans as soon as we realized what the Terragenesis process was and what it could mean for the future of our people. In fact, we understand that differences can be a very good thing and that they often fuel progress…which is very important to our little insignificant country." Here he paused to give a cheerful wink that made her question the veracity of the last part of his statement that pertained to Wakanda's importance.
The King smiled at her skeptical look before he continued. "Therefore, I would recommend that the wizarding world focus on the African nations first for their official introductions into mainstream society. The Asian countries should probably come next, since as a majority, they too still carry a deep respect for the ancient ways. Then, once you have both of those continents on your side, the European nations, the United States, and the rest of North America will be easier to sway. South America will then follow in their footsteps, as well. However, all of this will take some time to achieve. You will have a long fight ahead of you…and I wish good fortune to you and your people. Remember, however, from one secret keeper to another, you can count on Wakanda and our allies to be in your corner. Isn't that right, T'Challa?" The king smiled indulgently at his son who had been watching the young woman as she listened intently to his father's sound advice.
"Of course," the Prince agreed wholeheartedly since he could already tell, even though they had just met, that there was so much more to Hermione Granger than a pretty face and some magical powers. The fact that she had been entrusted with such an important mission, the one that brought her to Vienna, spoke volumes about her character and reputation. Besides that, she was obviously a modern woman who could transition easily between the magical and non-magical communities…and she was also one of Shacklebolt's trusted advisors. That meant that she had fought in the Wizarding War with him, as well, even though she must have been quite young at the time. When all of those qualities were put together, it was easy to see that she was a very impressive woman and a part of him could not help but to think that she would fit very well into the mixture of technology and tradition that was the basis of Wakandan culture.
His father interrupted this pleasant train of thought, however, as he continued to speak to their guest. "It has been very enjoyable to meet you, Ms. Granger. However, if you will excuse me, I have to prepare for my speech now. Nevertheless, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to join us for dinner after the ceremony…and you are welcome to bring the rest of your contingency, as well. Wakanda would very much like to know Hermione Granger and her friends better." King T'Chaka then stood and shook the witch's hand before he relinquished it to his son with a surreptitious wink and a subtly mouthed "Good luck!" to the younger man.
"Thank you…your Majesty," Hermione barely managed to say before the older man gave a friendly bow, and then exited the room, leaving her alone with the Prince – who held her hand for a moment longer. He only relinquished it then to pour them both another cup of tea from the fresh pot that someone had brought while they bid farewell to the King. Hermione could not help but to give a pointed smirk to the Prince when he handed her the cup of his namesake.
T'Challa registered the look and gave a dramatic, but good-natured, sigh to show that he understood the reference. "So…you're a witch?" the man then asked casually in an accent that was even more pronounced than his father's had been…and Hermione could not help but to realize just how sexy it sounded!
"And you're a prince," she stated with an arched eyebrow, as if asking, What's your point? T'Challa could only laugh at her liveliness. She was so different than the women, both back home and here in Europe, who tried to curry favor with him just because of his royal status. Plus, he found her accent to be absolutely irresistible, as well.
"You will return later for dinner, won't you?" he asked eagerly. "As Father said, we…I…would welcome the chance to get to know you better." At her nod of pleased acquiescence, he grinned broadly (showing a wide expanse of healthy white teeth of which she knew her parents would have greatly approved). "In that case, would you do me the honor of being my dinner companion?" he asked, eager to claim her company and conversation before one of the others in his group did. After all, as he looked around the room it was easy to see that he was not the only who would not mind spending the evening with the pretty British witch. She gladly accepted his invitation, however, and relieved that small bit of anxiety. Then they cheerfully spent the next half-hour monopolizing each other's company while they engaged in a spirited discussion about the role of powered and enhanced individuals in the future of both of their countries, in particular…and of the world, in general.
Both of them were pleased to note the intelligence and heart that the other brought to the conversation…and it only served to increase the admiration that both were being to feel. For her part, Hermione felt sure that the kind and brilliant man in front of her was going to be a great king someday - since his love for his people and his concern for their well-being was evident. Meanwhile, T'Challa was amazed by the passion that she obviously felt when it came to the rights of all sentient beings, whether they were magical, enhanced, and/or human…or not!
All too soon, however, it was time to head back to the main hall for the King's opening speech and Hermione was pleased to be the recipient of another of the Prince's gorgeous smiles before he gallantly kissed her hand in farewell. He then followed his father's path out of the room, lost in the thought that if things continued to go as well at dinner as they had during their tête-à-tête, then he would probably request for the intriguing woman to come to Wakanda for a visit. Due to the secret of their surprisingly progressive nature and of their natural vibranium resources, not many outsiders were invited there. However, T'Challa thought that if anyone would understand the importance of keeping secrets for the well-being of their people, then it would definitely be Ms. Granger! He looked forward to discussing the possibility with his father. He did not foresee any difficulties, however. It was obvious that the King already esteemed the young woman very much, as well...and that she reciprocated that respect. Therefore, T'Challa was only left to imagine what Shuri would say about the whole situation. In fact, he could practically hear her teasing laughter already.
Meanwhile, Hermione was left to realize with pleasure just how charming the man really was, how much she had enjoyed their conversation, and how impressed she had been with him - even before she found out about his PhD from Oxford! Despite her friendship with Harry and Ron, she had always had a hard time connecting with men her own age because their concerns and interests had always seemed quite frivolous and so different from her own. However, with him, it had been effortless! His future role as the monarch of his country had given him more responsibility, and at a much younger age, than most young men and it had helped to shape his personality without turning him into some kind of political puppet. In fact, as she left to find her own group in order to see how much progress they had made as they socialized and networked themselves, she could not help but to smile as she suddenly realized that she no longer mourned the absence of Steve Rogers, at all!
In fact, her pleasant time with the Prince had overwhelmed any of the negativity that she may have continued to feel if she had been left on her own to dwell on the bittersweet truthfulness of his father's words, instead. Despite her personal wishes to be openly accepted in society as a witch, Hermione knew that King T'Chaka was right. As she conferred with her team, it became obvious that according to her own observations and the assessments from the rest of the group, that the majority of the world was just not ready…yet…to learn about the secret magical populations that had always resided among them. It was apparently just a case of bad timing and too much too soon. The overall consensus of the wizarding contingency was that too many people already felt overwhelmed and bombarded as the supers, mutants, aliens, interdimensional beings, and now the Inhumans, made their existences known. Trying to add witches and wizards to the mix at the current time might just be the straw that broke the camel's back…and nobody wanted to know what the consequences of that would be.
Even through her disappointment, however, it warmed her heart that Wakanda had already proclaimed themselves as an ally of the wizarding world. She knew that when her group returned to report their findings to the ICWW, she would take the King's advice about how to proceed from there. At any rate, it would be a massive undertaking and she was nervous about it. However, before she had to face that situation, she still had the King's opening address to look forward to, plus dinner with him…and the Prince. Her traitorous heart beat a little faster as she considered the possibilities of where that could lead!
Unfortunately, that dinner never happened. When the explosion ripped through the Centre during the King's speech, Hermione saw T'Challa dive towards his father…and then chaos reigned. Through the smoke, dust, screams, and blood, she could no longer tell what was happening up on the stage area. Therefore, she and the rest of the small ICWW group instead focused on doing whatever they could to discreetly help during the crisis. They rescued those who were trapped, treated the injured, moved debris, and helped to evacuate the building…along with anything else that needed to be done.
When the smoke finally cleared and the excitement settled down enough to actually gather some information, Hermione was devastated to learn that not only had Wakanda lost its leader in the disaster, but that her own small group had lost one of its members, as well. Her dear friend, Arild, the Legilimens whose talents had been so helpful during this venture, had been killed instantly by some of the shrapnel that was flung into the audience by the initial explosion. Hermione blamed herself for that tragedy because it was at her suggestion that he was sitting so close to the stage to begin with since she felt that he would be able to get a better read on both the crowd and the major players from such a strategic position. Unfortunately, besides King T'Chaka and Arild, ten other people in the crowd had lost their lives, as well.
After the immediate danger was over, Hermione forced herself to set aside her personal grief in order to take care of the rest of her group. She made the preparations for the magical contingency to return home so that they could grieve for Arild's loss with his wife and children. There was only one more thing that she felt compelled to do before she left, though, and that was to pay her respects to the Wakandan delegation. Even though she had not known him very long, she truly liked their kindhearted ruler and wished that she could have known him better. However, even though she was able to speak to a couple of the other officials whom she had met earlier, she noticed that Prince T'Challa was conspicuously absent. The thought that she would not get the opportunity to see him again, either, only saddened her further. However, she understood that he was in mourning for his father…and that was far more important than saying goodbye to someone he had only met once, no matter how pleasant that meeting might have been. Hermione could only hope that one day they would get the chance to see each other again under better circumstances. Until then, T'Challa's acquaintance would just have to be a bittersweet memory.
For his part, immediately after the disaster, T'Challa had assumed the mantle of the Black Panther and was in a state of single-minded pursuit of the man who murdered his father. However, soon it was all over, the right man had finally been caught and turned over to the authorities, and T'Challa found himself back in Wakanda. At that point, he finally had time to think about the intriguing British witch whom he had met before the nightmare. He regretted not being able to follow through on his offer of dinner and that he had been too…preoccupied…after the disaster to bid her farewell. He hoped that she understood and knew that he would have to make a point to find her the next time that he was in London on business. In the meantime, however, he had both a funeral and a coronation for which to prepare. Unfortunately, as much as he might regret it, any decisions about his personal life would just have to wait because Wakanda needed him first! For now, his time with Hermione Granger would just have to remain a bittersweet memory.
Author's Notes: *To my surprise, I actually found several specialty blends of tea online that were called Black Panther, T'Challa, or Wakanda Tea from companies such as Adiago and The Amazing Tea Company.
Also, I do understand that while the ending of this story was realistic, it was probably unsatisfactory for some. Never fear, I do plan to add a second story to the set sometime in the near future! ;)