Quick Note: So here's the thing. Steve and Hermione are separate individuals. They will not being doing everything together all of the time as this is Steve's journey just as must as it's Hermione's! That's why Hermione was never going to go with Steve to rescue Bucky and Co. This is one of Steve's defining moments in learning leadership and decision making under extreme pressure. PLUS Hermione literally just came back from a two week mission in one of the most dangerous places in the world. She's exhausted. She'd be more of a weight than a help if she were to go too.
So, to reiterate: Hermione is not the plucky sidekick who warms Steve's bed. She will dramatically change the timeline by making her own decisions and navigating through this world changing War.
Hermione woke to the sound of a nurse lightly knocking at the entrance of her cabin. She sat bolt upright in her cot, her hair rising in every direction, and her eyes going wide. Steve, was her first waking thought.
"Yes?" Hermione said, blinking the sleep from her eyes several times, trying to focus on the young woman. "What is it?"
The brunette haired nurse leaned against the wood of her door frame with obvious exhaustion. The stains on her white uniform indicated she'd been working in the hospital throughout the night. "It's Colonel Phillips ma'am. He's asked to see you."
Dread pulled at the pit of Hermione's stomach. Steve was technically still in employ with the Senator, and he was currently missing. Gone on an unsanctioned mission with Hermione, Peggy, and Howard's knowledge and obvious help. If he wasn't going to yell at her, it was sure to be a sacking.
Hermione swallowed. "Alright thank you. I'll be there momentarily."
The nurse nodded, and turned to the door. "Ma'am."
Hermione stood from her cot. "And be sure to eat something," Hermione added kindly before she left. "You look like you could use a weeks ration of coffee."
The corners of the nurse's mouth lifted and her tired eyes warmed. "I feel like I could too. Thank you ma'am," she gave one last smile and then was gone.
Hermione made sure the door was closed after her, and reached for her wand under her pillow that she had charmed over with a notice-me-not. She cast a silencing spell around the edge of her cabin and reached for her uniform. Her fingers stroked the cotton of her tan tie and she looked to the small mirror that was nailed to a support beam across the room. Frizzy morning hair, pale skin, and dark impressions under her eyes stared back at her. She grimaced. Her gaze fell to her cosmetics bag sitting just below the mirror and she resolutely waved her wand. If she was to be sacked today, she was damn well going to look her best in front of the patriarchy.
When Hermione made it to the Colonel's open aired station of command at the heart of camp, she knew that her efforts had succeeded. Not even the brisk November morning air could dampen the heat of the numerous eyes pursuing her movements. She had charmed her hair into perfect curls and pinned them back from her face to tumble over shoulders like waterfalls. Her uniform was impeccably pressed and cleaned, and she was wearing her best lipstick. She looked wonderful and she knew it. It made her feel like a thousand galleons.
Peggy seemed to have the same idea, Hermione noticed, as she reached the entrance with the already present Agent. Peggy's complexion was completely smoothed, her hair was in tight curls, and she was wearing a darker shade of lipstick that complimented the red highlights in her hair.
Peggy noticed her entrance and took a step to the side so they could stand before the Colonel together. Hermione took her place beside her friend and raised her chin to the Colonel.
He stood in front of the pair, leaning against a table that sat a young soldier with a typewriter. The soldier was typing diligently after the Colonel word for word. "Senator Brant," Colonel Phillips said, and the punches of the typewriter filled the air. "I regret to report that Captain Steven G Rogers went missing behind enemy lines on November the 3rd, 1943. Aerial reconnaissance has proven unfruitful. As a result, I must declare Captain Rogers killed in action." He licked his lips and looked to the young man. "Period."
He looked back to Hermione and Peggy and put his hands on his hips. Fatigue lined his eyes. "You have anything to add?" he asked them.
Hermione fought the motion to swallow.
Peggy seemed to have no regard for the tension in the room and offered a file of photos that she had been holding. "The last surveillance flight is back," she said and Colonel Phillips accepted the folder. He thumbed through a couple of black and white images Hermione couldn't see from her distance, and Peggy disregarded the images with downcast eyes. "There's been no sign of activity."
Hermione felt her heart drop.
Peggy had come to her in the dark hours of the morning, windswept and shivering from the cold, but with news of Steve's descent into enemy territory. The fact that he had jumped out of the airplane in bullet infested enemy airspace, and ejected miles away from his original landing point had made Hermione toss and turn throughout the night. She had hoped for some sort of word after that. Better to know the result of his expedition now than wonder if he had been blown out of the sky in his descent, or if he was hung from a tree during his landing, or if he had been shot and killed before he'd even stepped foot onto the enemy base.
She tried to remain positive in this new light however. No news might mean good news.
Colonel Phillips still held one of the photos. "Go get a cup of coffee, Corporeal," he ordered without looking up.
The young man behind the typewriter stood up. "Yes, Sir," he answered immediately, and left the tent. Only the three of them remained.
Colonel Phillips put the photo back in the file and walked to the other side of the tent, his hands back on his hips. He looked to the clear skies outside. "They can't touch Stark," he started. "He's rich, and he's the Army's number one weapons contractor." He turned around to face them. "Neither of you are either one," he said. "Do you know what that means?"
"Respectfully, Sir, I don't regret my actions," Peggy answered. She met his gaze unflinchingly. "And I don't think Captain Rogers did either."
His jaw clenched. His eyes turned to Hermione. "And you, Agent Granger?"
He's not dead. He can't be. "Yes, Sir. I don't regret it either, Sir."
Colonel Phillips scowled. "Well then I don't give a damn about your opinions." He turned to Peggy. "I took a chance on bringing you on," he said, and glowered at Hermione. "And you were an accident that I didn't have to get my hands in. Now look at us." He shook his head in disgust.
Hermione's throat swelled, and she clenched her teeth.
"America's Golden Boy, and a lot of good men are dead right now," he said dangerously low, and settled his gaze on Hermione, "all because you had a crush."
"I believe in him," Hermione snapped back. "It's called faith."
Colonel Phillips stared back stonily, ignoring her present tense. "Well I hope that keeps you warm at night when they shut this division down."
Hermione's heart raced, but she didn't look away. She couldn't. He's not dead. He's not.
The Colonel's attention was driven away from her when several loud shouts started overlapping each other from outside the tent. "There's no way-!"
"You gotta see this!"
"-can't believe it!"
Colonel Phillips placed his hands behind his back, and he narrowed his eyes. "What the hell is goin on out there?" he growled, and stepped in between Peggy and Hermione to the door behind them.
The warmth of Peggy's hand on Hermione's shoulder stopped the frantic mantra of He's not dead. He can't be. He isn't. Steve's not gone. He's not. circling in her mind. Her eyes fluttered open up at Peggy, but the panic and subsequent guilt of letting Steve go out alone filled her lungs like rising water. She felt as if she was drowning, breath by breath.
Peggy's fingers curled around the base of Hermione's neck and she stepped in close enough for Hermione to smell her lavender perfume.
"He's not dead," Hermione said so softly, it might as well have been a whisper.
Peggy pressed her lips together and moved her hand to Hermione's back. "Come along. We should see what the fuss is about."
The unbreakable steel in her friends eyes calmed Hermione's hitching breath. She just had to wait. It didn't matter what the reconnaissance said. Steve will find his way back. He'll come back. She just had to wait.
Peggy lead her securely through the tents entrance, and they followed the frantic steps of soldiers nearly breaking out into jogs at something over the eastern hill of camp. Hermione came fully back to the present when the sound of heavy machinery accompanied the noise of the soldiers around her. Then, there were the echoing 'thumps' of marching feet from the same direction. The marching of many, many feet.
Hermione's eyebrows drew together. They weren't under attack, that was for sure. But they weren't meant to receive any further support either.
"Look who it is!" someone yelled, and a wave of cheers and enthusiastic applause rose over the soldiers. Hermione and Peggy exchanged a bewildered look before catching up to Colonel Phillips. Soldiers parted like the red sea ahead. Hermione's eyes widened as she got closer to the disturbance.
A five man width column of more than four hundred mud encrusted soldiers marched determinedly forwards through the camp's Eastern entrance. An Uber tank and several tarp covered hummers and trucks drove in the midst of the exhausted, but grinning returning Allied soldiers. They were all the POWs from the Hydra factory in Krausberg. Most held guns with a familiar blue tint in the magazine, but Hermione couldn't look away from a dusty and battered familiar face leading the lot of them at the front.
Hermione's breath left her. "Steve," she managed to say, and Peggy let out a sharp puff of air.
Cheers began anew as row and row of returning soldiers filled the awakening camp. Men moved out of the way as Colonel Phillips made a direct line to Steve, and when Hermione's soldier stopped in front of the Colonel and saluted him with the fear of God in his eyes, Hermione's heart expanded in her chest. A smile broke across her face. Relief then hit her over the head like a metal bat, and Peggy gently wrapped fingers around Hermione's wrist.
Steve dropped his salute. "Some of these men need medical attention," he started.
Colonel Phillips gazed at the rows of men behind Steve, who were coming to a stop behind the Captain that had led them home. Medics began to disburse from the field hospital into the new soldiers for the wounded. Steve caught sight of Hermione's face behind the Colonel, and she watched his eyes go up and down her figure as if he was checking her for injures. His eyes came back to Colonel Phillips.
"I'd also like to surrender myself for disciplinary -"
"That won't be necessary," the Colonel interrupted, and his hands went behind his back.
Hermione watched as Steve's jaw nearly dropped.
The Colonel raised an eyebrow, and Steve's face went neutral. The Colonel grinned.
"Yes, Sir," Steve said softly.
The older soldier turned from Steve and met Hermione's eyes with a mirth that Hermione had never seen before. "Faith, huh?" he seemed to nod to himself. "Well, faith it is."
Hermione watched as he walked away from the crowd with a grin at the edges of his mouth, his hands in his pockets.
When she turned back, she met the intense blue eyed gaze of her - boyfriend? Lover? No, no title seemed to fit at that moment. He was hers, just as she was his, and that was it.
Hermione didn't realize they were staring at each other until Peggy walked pointedly forwards and slowly evaluated Steve's dirtied appearance. Hermione jumped into the awakened mind, and followed her friend as Peggy raised her chin. "You're late, Captain."
Steve smiled. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a transmitter with a clear bullet hole in the middle, showing the top half that had been blow away. "I couldn't call my ride," he answered with a grin.
Peggy raised an eyebrow at the machinery, and Hermione laughed.
Steve's gaze dropped back down to Hermione, but it was a different voice that caught her by surprise.
"It's good to see you smile like that doll-face," it said, and Hermione's eyes widened at a bleary eyed, ragged looking man standing beside Steve.
"Bucky!" Hermione smiled, and darted forwards. She stopped herself from throwing her arms around the man in front of every soldier in camp, and instead clasped his arms against her palms. His hair was limp, there were dark circles under his eyes, and dirt nearly covered every square inch of his skin, but he was alive. "I'm so glad you're okay!" Hermione nearly cried. "I tried to find you and I thought - Well, it doesn't matter now, I'm so happy to see you! Alot of people were very worried."
Bucky grinned and lightly pulled on one of her curls. "Alot of people huh?" He suddenly grimaced. "You didn't tell Rebecca did you?"
Hermione shook her head."No, no I didn't have the heart to tell your sister to be honest."
He smiled. "Good, I'd hate to have to give her a heart attack before her wedding."
"She's getting married?" Hermione asked, surprised.
"Probably already is by this time. Ralph got drafted about a month ago."
"Oh-" Hermione faltered. She had met the couple several times in Brooklyn, but Hermione knew that Becca was young. She'd only turned eighteen less than five months ago. "Bucky, I'm real sorry you had to miss-"
"Ain't no use cryin over spilled milk now doll," he said, and pulled on her curl once more before stepping back from her embrace. "We'll have ourselves a celebration after we win the War."
She smiled at his warmth. "Yes," Hermione immediately agreed, and met Steve's eyes. "After the War."
Soldiers began to disperse into the camp around them, and Bucky raised his voice. "Ey!" He called, and heads turned. "Let's hear it for Captain America!"
Thunderous applause swept over Hermione. Whoops and cheers echoed off the pine trees. Men laughed to each other, and further chants were thrown in with their celebration.
"Fuck those Krauts!"
"For the Captain!"
"You great American asshole!"
Steve took in the praise with a half smile, his gaze sweeping over the men surrounding him in satisfaction. Some might have called it pride, but Hermione knew he was just grateful he had the chance to save lives.
As the cheers began to crescendo in the clearing, charged with the last lingering energy of desperate men finding escape from certain death, Steve's face turned down. His attention fully fell over Hermione like the caress of a hot fire on a chilled evening. It seemed to seep into her skin and awaken every part of her body she'd thought long put to rest.
He smiled at her. The blue costume helmet that he wore on stage only the day before shielded his eyes from the rest of the men, but Hermione was at the perfect height beneath his face to see the overwhelmed flash of his eyes under his thankful expression.
November 5th, 1943
"I can't explain it," Howard said, removing the goggles covering his eyes and narrowing them at his microscope. "It's like nothing I've ever seen before."
Hermione grimaced. She'd been afraid of that. "Well what can you tell me?" she asked.
Howard took a frustrated swig of something dark colored from a glass on his desk, and wiped the sleeve of his white coat across his lips. "It's what we thought originally." He motioned to the blue colored sample they'd extracted from a Hydra gun. "It's some kind of energy. How they produced it, or where they even got the components for it is beyond even me."
"Do you want me to take a look at it?" Hermione asked, eyes scanning the room filled with Howard's assistants. "Later on?"
Howard frowned for a moment, before his eyebrows rose. "Oh, you mean with your - can you scan things with it?"
"It's a tool Howard. I can do lots of things."
He nodded. "It's actually not a bad idea. I might just have to take you up on that. But here-" He stepped away from the microscope. "-come look at this."
He led Hermione across the lab to a thickly enclosed metal box with metal claw-like arms inside with only one thick pane of glass to help them view inside of it. Hermione watched as Howard stood behind the machine and navigated one of the claw arms to remove another small sample from the Hydra magazine. A glowing blue speck less than half the size of her pinky nail tipped the metal.
"We found that its emission signature is unusual. Alpha and Beta ray are both neutral." He winked at her. "Not that any of our new soldiers noticed that, bringing these things in."
"I feel as if they'd been rather preoccupied Howard," Hermione answered.
"That's what they all say."
She struggled not to roll her eyes. "Although both rays are interesting." Hermione frowned. "What about Gamma ray?"
Howard glanced at her. "High. Gamma emission is very high."
Hermione felt something tickle at the corner of her mind. Something she'd forgotten. Something about the strange blue energy, and of all things, gamma radiation. Somehow there was a connection, wasn't there?
Howard went back to the sample. "But it looks harmless enough." He navigated the arms closer together. "Such a small, little thing. Hard to see what the fuss is about."
"Gamma radiation," Hermione echoed to herself just above a whisper. Gamma radiation, the product of radioactive nuclear decay. She concentrated. Where have I heard this before?
Howard moved the metal arms closer and closer to each other.
Hermione recalled a conversation in Germany three years ago. From a completely different world.
Her breath stopped. Her eyes widened, and then zeroed in on the luminous energy.
The second metal arm touched the speck of blue, and a white electrical current blazed across the metal and energy source.
Hermione only had the chance to inhale, before she was thrown backward off her feet in a resounding explosion. The observation window burst outwards. Hermione flew through the air and crash landed against the cement wall on the opposite side of the room. Her head slammed against the stone, and she dropped like a troll to the ground. Glass showered her from above.
Howard struggled to sit up from where he had landed beside Hermione, shards of glass falling from his lab coat and hair. His glazed eyes tried to focus. "Someone-" he coughed, and several lab assistants got to their feet and rushed forwards. "Write that down!"
Hermione felt the dark edges of unconsciousness close in around her. She tried to lift her head. It felt as if someone had put dumbbells on her neck. Glass fell from her curls. "Howard-" she gasped.
She heard faint shuffling at her side, and felt a warm hand touch her jaw. It came away slick against her skin.
"Herm- Someone get a medic!" Howard roared to the room.
"Howard-" Hermione tried again, blinking furiously at the spinning room and encroaching darkness. "Power- sss- Tesseract."
"Hermione, hold on!"
"Tesser-" Hermione managed once more, before her eyes rolled up into the back on her head, and then she knew no more.
Hermione awoke on the rooftop of a skyscraper.
She blinked several times, hands traveling the length of her body for the cuts and bruises she was sure she would find from the explosion. When she felt nothing but the brisk outside air of a smog filled city, Hermione sat up.
She quickly took a look around the empty rooftop, and managed to get to her feet. Looking over the edge of the building, she realized several things.
1) Thick concrete buildings filled the horizon around her, which meant she was no longer in the forest in Italy, but in a large city.
2) The cars navigating through the blocky streets were driving on the right side of the lane, and advertisements wrapping around some of the buildings indicated that she was in an English speaking place. So she was not in England, but most likely, a large American City. New York, or maybe San Francisco.
3) And lastly, every advertisement and car style she saw made it look like she was back in 2007.
"Do you recognize where you are?" a woman's voice asked from behind.
Hermione jumped in place and spun around to the new voice. When her eyes landed, her brows rose.
For behind her, a bald woman a little taller than Hermione, stood wrapped in what looked like layers of Tibetan robes colored in orange, blue, and purple. She had very pale skin, blue eyes, and sharp cheekbones that seemed to take up most of her face. The crinkles at the corners of her eyes indicated the years of life she had lived, but Hermione couldn't tell if she was youthful, or elder. It was as if she was in a perpetual state of inbetween.
"Who - who are you?"
She gave Hermione an airy lift of her lips. "My students call me the Ancient One," she answered, and a shiver passed down Hermione's back. "However, I am Sorceress Supreme of this world, Master and teacher of the mystic arts."
Hermione stared. The breath left her lungs. Her eyes filled with unshed tears, and desperate relief swept over her. "M-Magic," she whispered. "You're a teacher of magic."
The Ancient One nodded. "As you are a wielder."
Hermione's mind raced, and her relief turned into suspicion. Several questions nearly erupted forth, but Hermione settled with the most pressing. "How do you know me? Where are we?"
The Ancient One walked forwards, and placed her thin hands behind her back. She looked over the edge of the building. "Do you not know? This is in your mind."
"New York," Hermione answered immediately, and for some reason, she knew she was right. "2007, or a little before. I was at a conference here."
The Ancient One's eyes roamed over the skyline. "In the future." It was not a question.
Hermione's eyes narrowed. She searched her pockets and arm holster for her wand, but she felt nothing. Her wand was not with her. The Ancient One's eyes returned. Hermione nearly took a step back. "What do you want?"
"Nearly three years ago," the Ancient One said, folding her hands into her sleeves delicately, "I felt you come into this world from a universe that was not our own."
Hermione said nothing.
"I could not find where you were, but I could feel the foreign energy you brought in with you. The power. This world has not felt its likeness in many centuries, and it drew my eye."
"It was an accident," Hermione said truthfully. "My being here. It was from a strange energy source that was neither man made or by magic."
The Sorceress Supreme studied her. "I know. By what you call the tesseract."
Hermione nodded and looked between both of her eyes. "And I have been searching for a way back since, but I don't think it's possible to, even if I did manage to find it again."
"What was done cannot be undone," the older woman agreed softly, and Hermione felt the last bit of hope for her world crumble away. "And I cannot explain to you the decisions of the universe, as a wielder of your strength should be dead from such dimensional magic, but I can shed light on the some of the paths emerging."
Hermione looked away, and blinked the tears from her eyes. The Ancient One looked out over the horizon with her.
"Are you able to see the future?" Hermione asked.
"No," the other woman answered, "not in the sense you might be thinking, but I can see the options of what could be."
"And why now?" Hermione asked. "Like you said, it's been nearly three years. What makes today the day to know everything?"
The Ancient One placed her arms on the railing of the rooftop, and looked down at the palms of her hands. "This material universe we live in, and your old where you use to, are not all that there is. This universe is only one of an infinite number. Worlds without end. Some benevolent and life-giving, others filled with malice and hunger. Dark places, where powers older even than time may lie ravenous… and waiting," she said. "My place as Sorceress Supreme for this world means that I fight against an infinite multiverse filled with infinite dangers to protect this reality. I am granted powers that show me the best course to protect all of Earth. Some of these dangers are so potent that no matter what I do, it still finds its way to affect our universe. The tesseract and powers like it are such dangers," she looked to Hermione, "And you were born from one of these in this universe. For reasons unknown, you were not immediately destroyed when you passed through not only dimensions, but time itself as well."
Hermione was silent.
"You asked, why now?" she continued. "And it is because you are at the precipice of change in this reality. You, who should not exist, somehow have the power to alter the threads in the fabric of our timeline. As I have divinned dark paths in the future of Earth, I see you now plucking at the strings."
None of what she said made any sort of sense to Hermione. "Cosmic energy? The multiverse." Hermione's head swam. "I confess, those are terms that i've read in books and in passing research, but I never thought of it more than theoretically."
"Until you traveled by dimensional magic."
Hermione huffed a laugh. "I thought it was more of a cosmic glitch than anything else," she confessed. "But you're telling me it's all real, and it has a purpose for me."
The Ancient One smiled for the first time, and true warmth shone from her eyes. "I tell this to you, to bring you hope child," she said. "You are able to walk a fragile line no other is able to."
Another shiver ran down Hermione's back.
"And life is not kind to those who fight back at Fate," the Ancient One said sadly. "Although I cannot clearly see all of your roads, I do know that one day... some day, we will meet properly when your soul is broken by this world."
The blood left Hermione's face. She took a step back in horror at what that could mean.
"But it will not be the end for you," the Ancient One continued on, her eyes searing into Hermione. "You have your magic, and with that, the power to change your reality. To change the world. It will be difficult, but you can once more, feel whole."
A cold burst of New York air swept against the pair, but it was not the frigid wind that set goosebumps over her skin. "That feels like a prophecy."
She shook her bald head. "It is not certain. Every path may change."
Hermione let that settle. "Is there anything you can tell me for certain?"
"That this is a dream," The sorceress answered, extending a hand to New York. "And Johann Schmidt must not be allowed to continue to wield the power of the tesseract. He provokes what he does not understand, and it will bring destruction to our world."
Hermione grimaced. "Another cosmic certainty?"
The Ancient One smiled again and took a step back. "When you are ready to begin your training, you may find me through the Astral Dimension."
Hermione blinked. Training?
Before Hermione could ask her anything further, the Ancient One disappeared in a gust of wind, New York fell away into darkness, and Hermione opened her eyes.
November 6th, 1943
"... 'why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.'"
Hermione's first awareness was a deep, comforting voice amongst the darkness.
"'That is because you have no brains,' answered the girl," it said again, and Hermione began to recognize the male's velvety, gentle timbre. "No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.'"
Hermione slowly opened her eyes, and felt soft cotton sheets surrounding her lower body. Looking down at herself, pale bandages wrapped around parts of Hermione's arms, and she could feel the pressure of another bandage across her chest, but she did not feel pain. Daylight streamed through a window at the end of the small hospital room, and she blinked several times to focus the blurry world.
"'The Scarecrow sighed.'," she heard him continue, and Hermione slowly turned her face against her hospital pillow.
Steve sat in his military uniform next to her bed with a ratty green covered book between his hands. His outer jacket was discarded carefully over the back of his chair, and his service hat sat on his knee. He was leaned forwards, elbows on his thighs, and his cornflower blue eyes were focused on the text below.
"'Of course I cannot understand it,' the scarecrow said," he read to her, and she smiled at his choice of book. "'If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine, you would probably all live in beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you -"
Hermione shifted in her bed to turn more fully towards Steve, and the metal on her bed creaked.
Steve's head snapped up and his eyes widened. "Hermione!" he whispered in a startled breath. Then he was on his feet, and the book snapped closed.
Hermione frowned. "I was hoping you'd read more." Her voice sounded thin and scratchy.
"You're awake!" Steve exclaimed, and knelt low to her bed. His fingers edged the skin of Hermione's jaw, and then they came under her chin, so that she was looking up to him. He stared down at her intently. Hermione felt fire rise to her cheeks. "How are you feeling?" he asked, and his thumb grazed the other side of her jaw. "Do you need anything?"
"I'm -" Hermione started, and swallowed. Steve's eyes followed her movements. "I'm fine!" she burst out. "I feel okay. No pain."
Steve's other hand cupped the side of her face. "You sure?"
She cleared her throat. "Water," she said. "I would like water. And my wand."
Relief filled Steve's eyes, and he let go of her to walk to the opposite side of the room where a pitcher and cup stood waiting. She immediately missed his warmth. "Your wand is beneath your pillow," Steve said as he filled a glass and turned back around. Hermione slowly brought a hand behind her head, and felt the familiar edges of her wand. "Howard brought it in this morning for you." He came back to her and she gratefully accepted the cup.
When she had drained the water, she found Steve sitting back down in the chair besides her bed. "What happened?" she asked.
"Severe concussion, lacerations from the glass, but no lasting damage," Steve reported.
"Is everyone else okay?"
"Only you needed immediate medical attention. The doc says you should be okay, but you're not to do anything strenuous for the next day or two. Head wounds can be serious."
Hermione nodded. "How long have I been here?"
"Just through the night," Steve said. "The only thing you've missed was my meeting with Colonel Phillips and Peggy in the Command Room this mornin. I'm sure you'll get a report on your desk about it. But there's at least five Hydra weapons factories scattered in occupied territory, and Bucky reported that whatever they were building was being shipped out to a top secret Hydra facility somewhere that we don't know about. Peggy's coordinating with MI6 to find its location."
Hermione pulled out her wand, and unwrapped some of her bandages while Steve was talking. She used Episky on every small glass shard wound she could find. "Was there anything else?" she asked.
Steve watched her while she worked and he licked his lips before continuing, "The SSR is focusing on Johann and his factories. They want me to put together a small team to take down every Hydra factory and base we come across. Wipe 'em off the map."
Hermione blinked in surprise. "Have you chosen a team?"
He nodded. "I've got some in mind, but we're meeting tonight so I can ask officially."
He nodded again. "He's knows. He's agreed to do it once medical clears him."
Hermione frowned. "How badly was he hurt in that Hydra base?"
Steve sighed. "No one knows. He-" he stopped. "They experimented on him doll. Hurt him. Did things that he won't talk to me about."
She listened to him, silent, overcome with compassion.
Steve looked to his shining shoes. "You know physically he's in workin order. Eats and drinks like the rest of us," he shook his head. "But sometimes, I see him, and I know he's far away," he admitted. "I don't know how to help him."
Hermione sat straight up in bed and reached over to touch Steve's shoulder. "I think just being there for him is enough right now," she said.
Steve peered upwards and put his hand on top of hers. A corner of his mouth lifted. "You're probably right. I just wish there was more that I could do."
Before Hermione could say something back, a nurse walked into her room.
When Hermione was released back into freedom later that afternoon, she asked for Steve to find Colonel Phillips, Peggy, and Howard.
"I know what Johann is using to power his weapons," she told him before he left. He kissed her cheek once, twice - and the took her hands in his. "Have them meet me in my office," Hermione said. "This changes everything."
Ah yes, the Ancient One. I honestly can't wait to hear your theories on this!
Thanks for reading :)