Divination for Skeptics
Summary: The latest in magical advancements is an enchantment that reveals the bearer's romantic compatibility with another person. Effectively eliminating uncertainty from dating, the charm can tell you whether or not you've found The One with a precise, Hermione Granger-approved calculation of traits and preferences. It's a foolproof method of predicting relationship happiness. It's also, for Hermione, positively dreadful news. Dramione, post-war, soulmate AU.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and claim no profit from this work. Credit where credit is due, Joanne Rowling.
a/n: I've been asked many times to write a soulmates/soul scars AU, and I have finally, sort of, managed to do it. This story takes place shortly after the events of Deathly Hallows and I expect it will update weekly. I can't wait to start another adventure with you, and I hope you enjoy the story!
Chapter 1: Never Wager With a Sicilian
Diagon Alley, London
14 March 2001
Hermione spotted Harry at the front of the room, slunk so low in his chair with his arms folded that he appeared, from a distance, to be napping. She rolled her eyes fondly, nudging aside one of the other press correspondents and falling into the empty seat beside him, poking him awake.
"Ouch, bloody Christ, I—oh, it's you." He sat up, yawning. "What are you doing here?"
"What are you doing here?" she retorted, fussily moving his arm aside and inspecting his badge, which read EVENT SECURITY. "Security?" she echoed, scoffing aloud. She raised a brow in reference to the exceedingly tame audience, which consisted of no more than twenty other journalists and reporters. "Seriously?"
"Seriously," Harry replied with a reluctant indication of agreement, settling the badge back against his shirt—which was, per usual, atrociously wrinkled. Hermione glanced around, confirming that no one from Witch Weekly was watching before casting a quick, silent charm, pressing the fabric smooth and then, after a moment's hesitation, tucking the tails neatly into his trousers.
Harry scarcely noticed, raking a hand through his unruly hair and turning to her with a frown, glancing narrow-eyed at her own press badge. "This is what the Prophet has you covering?" he asked, surprised. "I thought you were a Ministry correspondent."
An unpleasant reminder, but it had been bound to come up. "Recently, I've been… reprimanded," Hermione confessed, lowering her voice. "It appears Minister Shacklebolt didn't care for my last exposé, or so my editor informed me when he banished me to the meaningless swamp of—" She broke off, repulsed, before admitting, "Human interest pieces."
Harry chuckled. "Well, you did specifically say that anyone who agreed with the Wizengamot's plan for modulated creature reform had fewer convictions than a mimbulus mimbletonia and the frontal lobe of a decapitated spider."
"So, I assume Kingsley didn't care for it," Harry mused, "seeing as he authored the bill."
"If he wasn't prepared to handle criticism, he shouldn't have gone into politics," Hermione replied, pursing her lips. "And anyway, we were talking about you, not me. What's a war hero and star Auror doing supervising an unremarkable press conference?" she asked him, considerably doubtful. "I can't imagine there will be any assassination attempts. Or even mild havoc."
Harry shrugged. "Crowd control is part of the job," he replied, sounding as if he'd been recently reprimanded himself. "Apparently it's the best place for my particular… enthusiasm."
Hermione winced. The last time Harry and Ron had been on duty in Knockturn, Harry had caused something of a highly public scene, chasing and disarming a man he thought to be under the Imperius curse who, it turned out, was merely intoxicated, and on his return from what a less polite person might call a brothel.
That, and he had also been the son of a prominent and none-too-pleased Warlock.
"I think Harry just gets a bit worked up, that's all," had been Ron's subsequent commentary to Hermione, revealing their supervisory Auror had evaluated Harry in the incident report to be, quote, 'unproductively paranoid.' "A Dark Lord was after him for most of his life, wasn't he? And nobody ever suspected anything back then, so I guess it's not that surprising that he overdoes it sometimes, really. Either that, or he's just bored," Ron added conclusively around an overlarge bite of sandwich, at which point Hermione prompted him to chew, for heaven's sake, with his mouth shut.
Ron's final thoughts on the matter were that Harry would get used to it, eventually. "S'easy," Ron said, referring to the daily functions of a newly-minted Auror. "Which is probably what he hates."
Hermione wasn't surprised to hear Harry wasn't adjusting well to civilian life. Adherence to authority was a difficult thing to re-learn (or, in Harry's case, learn), particularly after everything they had been through.
"Well, still. It's quite a good experience, isn't it?" she asked him in reference to his event security post, pitching her voice to its most optimistic. "Maybe they just think you're well-suited to spotting trouble before it starts, hm?"
Harry gave her a doubtful look. "Thanks, Hermione," he said, "but I don't think—"
Above them, the lights dimmed.
"Oh, hush, it's starting," Hermione said hastily, nudging him with relief and conjuring her quick-notes quill. She hated to emulate Rita Skeeter in any way, but it was an extremely efficient way to organize her thoughts. "You know," Hermione added, leaning over to speak in Harry's ear as the rest of the press cavalcade took their seats, "I'm actually quite excited about this one."
Harry turned with surprise. "You've seen it?"
"Yes. Helped him prepare for this presentation, actually, though I'm just as surprised as you that he bothered preparing at all. The mathematics behind the enchantment are actually quite sound," she remarked, which was as close to extravagant praise as she'd ever accomplished for him, "though naturally, I'm not surprised he came to me for confirm-"
"Ladies and gentlemen," announced a disembodied voice as Hermione gestured to Harry that she'd finish her thought later, "please welcome to the stage the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, George Weasley."
George took the stage wearing a ruffled purple shirt, a violently lilac overcoat, and a camel-colored tophat. After Hermione had informed him he looked precisely like a ginger Willy Wonka—which was then followed by his enthusiastic interrogation as to how the omnipotent overlord of a sweets empire had gotten away with the colonization and subsequent enslavement of the indigenous peoples of Loompaland—George had stuck to the outfit, treating it like something of a blinding, desperately unappealing uniform.
"Yes, yes, hello, I'll be brief," George said, reaching the podium and pausing for the snap of a dozen camera flashes. "As many of you know by now, my brother Fred and I always aspired to own more than just a joke shop for children. We always dreamed of supplying the wizarding world with whatever methods of amusement we could possibly conjure between our not-inconsiderable imaginations, and now the time has come for Weasley Industries to venture into a new arena of entertainment."
He paused, smiling his heinously amoral smile at the crowd before revealing, with intensive deliberation:
Hermione fought a groan as beside her, Harry stifled a laugh, and at least three correspondents behind her choked on their coffees.
"You had a hand in this?" Harry murmured to her, amused, and she scowled.
"Oh, he's just having a laugh, as usual. You'll see." Her quill, charmed to leave out references to lewdness or obscenity, paused in sentient trepidation, and Hermione gave it a brisk nod, impatiently advising it to continue.
"It's difficult to have, isn't it?" George asked the crowd. "Long-term, I mean. There's so much stress in dating, always wondering whether you're compatible, whether you're meant to be—why, it's positively exhausting. What if there's someone else out there?" he asked the crowd, and Hermione glanced around from her seat, noting with relief that despite George's characteristically unorthodox presentation, there were the occasional interested nods in agreement. "How will you possibly know if you've met the one?" George mused, taking on a very solemn expression and then gripping the podium, leaning forward to add into the mic, "Well, spoiler alert, I've fixed it."
He waved a hand as two silken banners dropped behind him, featuring the scripted letters MEANT 4 ME: THE WORLD'S FIRST FOOLPROOF SPELL FOR ROMANTIC COMPATIBILITY.
"Interesting," murmured Harry, his brow furrowing in contemplation, and Hermione nodded, pleased by the sound of fascinated chatter from the audience behind her.
"How does it work, you ask?" George posed, adopting a patrician stance from the podium. "Well, I'll tell you. The Meant 4 Me spell analyzes a target individual for a variety of traits and then produces, in one simple number, a percentage of compatibility with the charm bearer. Simple, straightforward, and discreet, the charm allows the bearer to see a single number on any prospective paramour's wrist, which is visible only to the charm's user."
He waved his hand a second time, the banners changing to feature an animated illustration of two people. "Here you can see Person A," George said, referencing the first of the animated characters. "We'll call her Ginevra. And the other—" He paused, scanning the crowd, and then grinned. "Let's call Person B… Harry."
Harry rolled his eyes but gave a gruff motion of his chin, suggesting George get on with it.
"Now, Ginevra already has the charm, which means she can see her percent compatibility with Harry." On the wrist of the animated Harry, a number glowed with a pale white iridescence: 97%. "This is true of anyone Ginevra meets," George continued, as three other animated characters appeared on the banners with three numbers on their wrists, respectively: 46%, 71%, 31%. "If Harry were to get the charm as well—" George motioned for the animation to continue, prompting a number to appear on Ginevra's wrist. "You can see his percent compatibility with Ginevra is a confirmed 97%, and so on and so forth."
As the Harry illustration turned to the other three participants, three new numbers glowed on their wrists: 84%, 69%, and 45%.
"No one but Ginevra can see Ginevra's numbers," George assured the crowd. "Likewise, only Harry can see his own, thus preventing any embarrassing situations—say, discovering over a polite family dinner that you're more compatible with your girlfriend's brother than you are with her," he added with a wink, to which Harry sighed loudly, shaking his head.
"So what determines the number?" called a correspondent behind Hermione, and George looked up, spotting the reporter in the crowd.
"Well, I'm so glad you asked," he said approvingly. "The number is designed to analyze personality traits, genetic feasibility, and sexual preference. It does not take into account gender or any sort of binary identification, and the sexual component exists on a sliding scale. For example, for someone who is asexual, the charm will weight their sexual compatability appropriately," he said, "just as it would for someone with a voracious sexual appetite."
"What about friends," someone asked from the front row, "or family members?"
"Family's easy. The genetic component will take care of that," George said, prompting an illustration who looked precisely like him to show a low, glowing 4% when matched with Ginevra. "Sparkling sense of humor and leggy dexterity aside, genetic diversity is crucial for overall compatibility. Or so I've been relentlessly nagged by certain 'science' enthusiasts."
Harry slid Hermione a sidelong glance.
"What?" she whispered. "It is important!"
"As for friends," George continued, "the charm will not indicate platonic compatibility. That, I'm afraid, is up to you to determine. It may, however, help to persuade you one way or another," he advised, "should you have any intent to pursue any troublesome feelings you may have for someone you currently consider a friend."
The whispers grew louder, peppered now with tones of excitement.
"The Meant 4 Me charm is a one time, by-appointment enchantment which can be performed at any Weasley's Wizard Wheezes location," George said. "Its purpose is to take the uncertainty out of dating, and as such, it will be available for the very reasonable cost of—"
The banners changed again, flashing with a single numerical digit.
"One galleon," George announced, and immediately, the crowd around Harry and Hermione burst into noisy chatter. "Yes, I'll take questions from the audience, one at a time, please—"
"One galleon, huh?" Harry said, leaning in to speak to Hermione privately. "Seems fairly low, doesn't it?"
"I said the same thing," Hermione replied with a nod, "but George rather cleverly pointed out that it only works if everyone has it, so…" A shrug. "Plus, a galleon from every eligible witch and wizard in the United Kingdom eventually turns quite a profit, I assume. Along with everyone who becomes eligible as time goes on."
"I can't imagine anyone would actually want it," Harry replied with a laugh, and then hastily sobered, noticing Hermione's look of confusion. "Wait. Do you?"
"How can you even ask that, Harry? Of course I do," Hermione scoffed, admonishing him with a glance. "Wouldn't you want to know for sure you were meant to be with Ginny?"
"No," Harry said. "Seems restricting, doesn't it?"
"How is it possibly restricting?" Hermione demanded, her voice rising a bit with a mix of indignation and inarticulate confusion. "It's… finite, it's definite, and—for godric's sake, Harry, it's mathematically sound—"
"Sure," Harry agreed, shrugging, "but what happens if you and Ron aren't compatible?"
"Don't be ridiculous," she told him. "Ron and I are perfectly compatible."
"Are you?" he countered, sounding a bit doubtful. "You argue quite a bit, you know."
"Well, of course we do," Hermione sniffed. "That's just how we function."
"And you told me yourself the sex was—"
"Shhh," she hissed, glancing over her shoulder despite knowing full well no one was paying them any attention. Understandably, the others were much too enthralled by George's presentation to notice any messy-haired Boys Who Lived flagrantly revealing the private love lives belonging to their close platonic friends. "I love him, Harry. The rest will eventually sort itself out—"
"Right, but that's my point, isn't it? What if you love him," Harry said, "but you're not compatible with him? Or," he pressed tangentially, "what if the person you're fully compatible with lives somewhere in another country? It's a big place, you know, the world," he pointed out. "Seems highly improbable that the person you're 100% compatible with lives in the same city you do, much less that you happened to meet them when you were eleven."
Hermione frowned. "Well, I—"
"So," Harry pressed on, "what do you do if that number is… 80%? Or even 90? What if it's high," he postured neutrally, "but it's not 100%? Do you choose to hold out for the one?" he pondered, choosing an unsatisfactory time to begin experimenting with Hermione's usual method of laboring a point to death. "And if you choose to keep looking, then at what point do you stop?"
Hermione considered it a moment, lips pressing together thinly, and then shook her head, dismissing the theoretical exercise for precisely what it was: farcical catastrophizing.
"You're being unnecessarily apocalyptic," she informed him. "And besides, I thought you approved of my relationship with Ron?"
"Of course I do, you're both my best friends, but—"
"Because I'll have you know, Harry, that Ronald and I are one-hundred percent compatible, and I have no doubt in my mind about it. In fact, I'll prove it," she informed his smug expression of skepticism, knowing as she did that Harry Potter could never resist a dare. "I'll go this afternoon and get the charm done myself, and then you'll see I'm right."
His green eyes danced beneath his glasses. "Oh, will I?"
"Yes," she confirmed, firmly thrusting out a hand, "you will."
"What's this?" he asked, inspecting her palm with a laugh. "Is this a wager?"
"Yes," Hermione said. "Obviously."
"But you hate bets," Harry reminded her. "You always say you're highly risk av-"
"Yes, yes, I'm risk averse, I know, but the trick is, Harry Potter, I've got the winning hand this time. I know that Ron and I belong together," she said firmly, "and I'll bet you the cost of the enchantment on it."
"One galleon?" Harry said doubtfully. "Seems like low stakes considering it's your entire relationship on the line, doesn't it?"
"Yes, one galleon—in addition to your handwritten confession that I'm always right and you're always wrong," Hermione informed him, ignoring his subsequent groan of laughter.
"Oh really, Hermione? So we're including the Eileen Prince fiasco in that, then?" he asked drily. "Not to mention the Deathly Hallows—"
"For every Eileen Prince and Deathly Hallows, there's a me-being-right-about-a-basilisk," she reminded him. "And the journal, and the potions book—"
"Fine, fine," Harry conceded, rolling his eyes. "Alright, a wager, then."
"Good. So," she prompted, holding her hand out again, "do we have a deal?"
He accepted her grip with spectacular arrogance, raking his free hand through his hair and mussing it so thoroughly Hermione made a mental note, wager or no wager, to charm it respectably flat before they parted.
"Deal," Harry confirmed, closing his hand around hers as George and his Meant 4 Me banners vanished ostentatiously from the stage, a small cloud of questionably-scented confetti precipitating from the ceiling in his wake.
a/n: Hello and welcome to a new story! As you may know, The Commoner's Guide to Bedding a Royal is now complete, so my best guess is this will take over TCG's update time slot. Next chapter: the results of the bet, plus what a certain pair of independently wealthy rakes about town have been up to in the meantime. Oh, and the chapter title comes from The Princess Bride: "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line." Thanks for reading!