July 16th

My Dearest Hermione,

Training is brutal. I don't know what I was thinking when I decided it was a good idea to pursue a career as a professional Seeker. I should have had you beat some sense into me so that I might have chosen a less strenuous and respectable job, such as magical maintenance at the Ministry. At least then I might have been able to crawl into bed without every muscle of my body screaming in protest. I would have thought that with all our sparring and training together I would be in perfect shape, but I'm finding new muscles I never knew the human body possessed.

The twins wrote me and told me that you're getting to keep your position as prefect. I'm glad. I was afraid that our little adventure in the Department of Mysteries might have been too much for even Dumbledore to ignore. I suppose it helps that now everyone is aware that You-Know-Who is back. Security here is beyond insane. Even the elves attached to the stadium have had background checks and every scrap of food or supplies coming is double and triple checked. I was in need of new leathers and the team's manager sent the first set back because he couldn't confirm every set of hands they had passed through before getting to me!

July 19th

Sorry about that. I was in the middle of writing my letter when they did a bed check. I got in trouble for being up past lights out. Nothing too dramatic. Coach gave me a blistering scolding, fined me ten galleons and put me on clean-up detail for a few days. I thought it best to wait until our free time to finish up writing to you. They're worse than the professors at school when it comes to rules. Hogwarts was nothing like this.

As I was saying earlier, security is mad. And the constant watchfulness is doing nothing to help the other blokes. The other players are all nervous. We've lost three so far because of familial concerns. They were muggleborns and decided that they'd rather gather up their families and go into hiding rather than stay in the country and risk their parents and loved ones being turned into targets. I can't say that I blame them. Please tell me the Order is doing all that they can to safeguard your parents. I wouldn't put it past the Death Eaters to decide they were expendable since I'm certain they consider Professor Snape the only parent of yours that matters. Your mum and dad are too good of people to be discounted in such a fashion.

How are Harry and the others holding up? I've been keeping up with the papers, one of the few outside connects we have steady access to, and I've read what they're saying about him. 'The Chosen One'. He's got to hate that. I know how much he dislikes people making a fuss over him. One more thing to keep him apart from everyone else and rob him of any kind of normalcy.

What's more, how are you holding up? How is your recovery? Please give me something to hang onto. It's near impossible to concentrate on playing well when my mind is worrying about you. I hate being this far from you and I find I miss the danger of discovery when you would sneak into my dorm room and curl up with me to sleep. It's hard for me to go get a good night's rest without you by my side. And I'm fairly certain if I don't stop talking about you the other blokes are going to cut out my tongue. Ollie's been defending me so far, but I think I'm even starting to wear on his nerves.

We should be allowed to have friends and family near once the season officially starts and we're out of training. I'll send you our schedule once it's been solidified. With the security concerns they've had to change things quite a few times already. I can't wait to see you again.

Write to me soon. I love you. I miss you. I need you.

Yours, always,



July 28th

Dear Cedric,

Stop breaking the rules to write to me. I'll never forgive you if you bungle your career and your future over me. You can wait until your free time.

Don't worry about Harry. We'll keep his head on straight and help him through this. Ron and I have become quite skilled at Harry Keeping since we were first years.

And stop worrying about me. My recovery is going quite well. The Healers have done a remarkable job. They still don't know what was done to me or what curse was used, but I barely feel even the slightest twinge now. I was quite fortunate, given what Bellatrix has been known for in the past.

I miss you as well. Send me your schedule the second you have it in yours hands. I want a copy even before your send one to your mum and dad. I'll find a way to see you, even if I have to suffer through a Quidditch match to do it.




The letter was rolled up tightly and affixed to the leg of Cedric's handsome owl. Hermione gave the bird a gentle stroke as it finished munching on a treat before sending it back to its master. Hopefully the letter would buy some time.

Hannah and Jacob had already left for the clinic. Hannah had lingered at the door a bit longer than was needed, watching her with a worried expression. She had been exceptionally hovering since the Healers had discharged her from St. Mungos.

And Hannah was nothing compared to Severus. The man should really use his time and energy for something more productive; like killing Death Eaters.

Hermione watched the owl until the bird vanished from sight before turning to the full-length mirror on the back of the door leading to the adjoining bath. Jeans and a scarlet jumper. Normal enough clothing for a teenage girl. Primary wand up her sleeve. Double wands in the clever holsters at the small of her back. Dagger strapped to the right calf under her jeans leg. She was as ready as she was going to get.

It was simple enough to catch a bus at the end of her street to the underground. From there she caught the train to the stop three streets over from the Leaky Cauldron. Since only magical people could see the little pub, no one questioned her arrival there or that she went out the back door to the secret entrance onto Diagon Alley.

The alley was only slightly less crowded than usual, but there was a definite tension in the air. People kept close to their loved ones, wand hands always empty and ready at a moment's notice. Eyes darted furtively hither and yon. They were wise to be so cautious. These were not safe times. She, too, kept a wary eye open as she made her way to Gringotts and passed through its heavy doors.

A squat little goblin caught sight of her and came forward to greet her. "Miss Granger, Gringotts is honored by your presence." Such was the way the very wealthy were greeted at the wizarding bank. The bigger your vault, the more personal the service. "How may we assist you today?"

She ignored the few curious stares turning her way. "I need to speak with the head goblin regarding a significant withdrawal." The goblin visibly flinched before giving a short bow and scurrying off. A moment later she was being escorted into a well-appointed office with a surly looking goblin seated at a chair far too big for his tiny body.

"Miss Granger, I am told you wish to make a significant withdrawal from our bank."

She waited until the door shut behind her. "You were told correctly."

"Has any employee of Gringotts done something to upset you? I assure you that if such has happened we will be more than willing to make amends."

She gave him a slow smile. "That is not necessary. The amount I am removing from my personal vault is actually very reasonable. The 'significant withdrawal' is an item that I am removing from vault Theta-2."

The ruddy complexion of the goblin paled, his mouth gaping open and his ears visibly drooping in shock. "Vault Theta-2? Surely you are mistaken."

Hermione arched a brow. "I am nothing but serious. I trust that the vault is still in tact, or did someone actually managed to claim it before now?"

The goblin shook his head. "No one has come asking about a Theta vault in over eight hundred years." He cleared his throat. "Miss Granger, even a Gringotts goblin cannot get into a Theta vault. Only a wizard can open the door, and even then they must use the correct sequence of wand movements. One wrong move and the consequences are dire."

Her smile returned. "Of that I am well aware. I assure you, I do know what I am doing. Is this going to be a problem?"

The head goblin swallowed. "No, Miss Granger. I will escort you to the vault myself." He fumbled with a ring of keys dangling from his tiny waistcoat and came around the desk. Taking up a lantern he escorted her from his office and towards the entrance leading to the vaults and the precarious railway that carried the carts to and fro. To the casual observer she looked like any other patron of the bank, perhaps a bit better favored at having the head goblin escorting her to her vault, but just another witch.

They stopped at the Granger vault first. Hermione removed a bagful of galleons, enough to purchase her school supplies once the lists came out and to get something for Harry's birthday while at the alley. Her withdrawal there didn't even manage a noticeable dent in her fortune.

That done, she got back into the little cart and they zoomed on past the vaults held by the oldest and wealthiest families. The goblin pulled a little lever inside the cart and a part of the rail several meters in front of them detached from the rest of the railing to angle downward still deeper under the bank. Hermione ducked her head down as they zoomed into a darkness quickly banished as ancient and long-forgotten torches burst into flame as they passed. After a small eternity, the cart came to a stop in a large circular landing surrounded by four imposing vault doors.

"The Theta Vaults, Miss Granger."

Hermione unfolded herself from the cart and walked towards the second vault on the left-hand side. The goblin watched on as she pulled out her wand and started to trace intricate patterns upon the door. Her hand did not falter in the slightest and her reward was that the magical locks began to turn and slide until the heavy door was free to swing open. It groaned in protest on unused hinges until she was looking into the massive cavern and the treasure within.

The bank goblin took several tentative steps forward. "No one has seen the inside of Theta-2 in over one thousand years."

Hermione looked around her, eyes scanning the piles of coins and artifacts. "That is very good to hear. For a moment I was afraid that want-to-be overlord might have actually known how to get in here." There was a note of heavy derision in her voice. One that the goblin's sensitive ears picked up, causing him to tilt his head curiously.

"Shall we move everything to your vault upstairs, Miss?"

Hermione paused slightly. "Tempting, but I don't think so. I'm only looking for one particular item." Her eyes continued to scan the contents of the vault until they found their quarry. Her lips turned up into a smile as she walked over to a stack of scrolls. With one hand she reached in and extracted a slender wand of some thick, dark wood. "Hello, Old Friend."

The goblin observed her as she turned the wand over in her hand, fingers stroking it lovingly. "Will that be all, Miss?"

Hermione turned on the spot, her eyes leveling on the goblin. "I trust that Gringott's reputation for absolute discretion is still in tact."

The goblin's shoulders squared. "You were never here, Miss."

Her smile returned. "Good." She pocketed the wand. "We're done here."


"Is she secure?" Michael ignored the curious onlookers as the gurney was wheeled past him and loaded into an official looking ambulance. The medic following it stopped by him.

"Strapped down and sedated. We barely got here in time." Both men turned their eyes to the dark head of hair before it was hidden from their view by the closing doors. "She hadn't actually slit her wrists just yet."

"That's better than last week, at least."

"Any word on our girl?"

Michael checked his watch. "I'm on my way for a heart to heart with Daddy Dearest, now. I'll let you know what I find out." He patted the medic briefly on the shoulder. "Get our lost little bird back to the nest and comfortable, would you?"

Turner continued to ignore the onlookers as he made his way past the mock-up police tape and towards his car. It helped to be a government agency, even a covert one. They were able to use all sorts of official looking goodies.

The black sedan pulled away from the crowd and moved through the busy streets of London. The café where he was to meet Snape was almost completely on the other side of the city, but traffic was with him today and he managed to get there only a minute late. Still, for Severus Snape, a minute was a bit too long.

"I'm so pleased you finally decided to show, Mr. Turner."

"Sorry. We had an emergency to deal with." Michael pulled out a chair at the small table and ordered a coffee from the waitress. "Things are rather hectic."

Severus made a non-committal sound as he waited for the waitress to leave. "Any news on Trout?"

Michael shook his head. "He's still managing to keep under the radar, though we're fairly certain he is somewhere in the UK. I'm not certain what talents he has in his employ at the moment, but at least one of them is effectively throwing off our spotters."

"Such is the way with villains and enemies, Mr. Turner. The rats hide in the shadows and in the sewers, slithering out when the shadows can better hide them."

"Sometimes I think you could be this century's Lovecraft or Poe." Severus gave a smirk but didn't comment. "How is Hermione?"

"Better. She's back at home with the Grangers and seems to be recovering well."

Michael's hand stilled on his coffee cup. "Back at home?"

"Yes, she woke up almost two weeks ago. She appears to be almost completely recovered." Snape caught the shocked expression in Turner's eyes. "I thought you'd be pleased."

"Ah… of course! I mean... that's great news." Michael's brow furrowed. "Does she seem all right? What I mean to say is, does she seem to be in control of… all her faculties?"

Snape arched a brow. "I do believe that is what I said. Do you have some reason to think otherwise?"

Could they have been that wrong? Was something else causing the problem with the natural mediums? "I… no, of course not. It was just, she was out for so long." Michael stirred some sugar into his coffee. "Have they determined what that Bellatrix person did to her?"

"They have not. They could not find any evidence of magic, dark or otherwise. The healers are quite mystified as to what may have caused her to lapse into unconsciousness as she did."

"That… is unsettling." Michael stared into his coffee. "Any indication that she might relapse?" He could feel Snape's narrowed gaze on his face.

"Not that anyone has been able to identify." Severus leaned back in his chair, gaze still narrowed. "Is there something of which I should be aware, Mr. Turner?"

Michael considered telling him about their theory regarding the Keoghs and their affect on the world's dead. But there was still the possibility that the theory was wrong. In the end he decided to keep his worries to himself. "No, I don't think that there is. Just… ideas I have running around in my head. I'm sorry if I seem distracted, but I just came from a scene where a previously unidentified talent tried to kill herself."

A single black brow arched. "Telepath?" A reasonable assumption. Telepaths and empaths were just as likely to think that they were going mad. All those extra voices and constantly, erratically shifting emotions.

And it was something to deflect the questions. "Unfortunately." Well, what Hermione did was sort of like a type of telepathy, only with the dead rather than the living. "The poor girl had just moved to the city." That part was true. "What she could reason away in a small town became unbearable. We had to sedate her. She'll likely be in restraints until we can convince her that she hasn't lost her mind." That part was also true.

Severus studied him silently for a moment before picking up his own cup of coffee. "Wild talents have the same trouble as muggleborns, or so I would imagine. At least a magical child born into a magical family is aware of what he is and what he can do. How terrifying it must be for someone who does not have such a background."

Michael nodded in agreement. Something told him that Severus did not entirely believe his story, but that the wizard was willing to let things lie. For the moment at any rate.