Disclaimer: Not-for-profit fanfiction. The main characters and some of the situations described are the property of J. K. Rowling and the companies she deals with.
This story was written for harrietvane as part of the winter SSHG exchange on livejournal. Her prompts were rather good and rather detailed. They will therefore be given at the end of the story. Thanks go to melusin for her wonderful beta work.
Chapter 1: Political Suicide.
Christopher was dangerously bored. He'd had the same job for six years. His wife was happily occupied raising money for good causes. His daughters had both managed to pass their A-levels and get into respectable red-brick universities. His parents had shuffled off this mortal coil before finding a suitable old people's home became an issue. Work could be a pain in the arse sometimes, although it was quite interesting. But nothing seemed to be much fun anymore, except for the rather feisty redhead he'd met recently – who was apparently rather keen on him.
Christopher had a bit of spare money tucked away, so he decided to buy something nice to cheer himself up. A chap from work recommended another chap who could help, and a few months later, Christopher purchased a rather nice ground-floor flat in Islington. The chap who helped to buy the place dropped the keys off on a Thursday. At dinner that evening, Christopher told his wife he had meetings in Edinburgh the next day, so he'd see her for lunch on the Saturday. On Friday morning, Christopher began to shag his feisty redhead in every single room of his new flat.
Unfortunately, the combination of the washing machine, the kitchen window and the new camera phone belonging to the chap who'd been so helpful, led to by far the most popular footage ever to grace a video hosting website. It depicted the redhead – who was also known as the Right Honourable Member of Parliament for Bootle – and Christopher – who was also known as the United Kingdom Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service.
New technology share prices rose slightly, and the news was splashed over every front page in Muggle England. It only warranted a small article at the bottom of page six in the Daily Prophet and didn't make it into the Quibbler Redux at all. However, Hermione Granger read both the Daily Telegraph and the Prophet, so she knew all about what had happened and even sneaked off to an internet café to have a look at the evidence during her lunch hour. She didn't like Christopher's paunch much, but it certainly looked like the MP for Bootle was enjoying herself. Hermione tutted disapprovingly, pondered the mid-life crisis phenomenon and, in the spirit of thoroughness, watched the video clip three more times.
Four weeks later, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer moved into number ten, Downing Street. Bob Daniels was an unassuming career politician with a good head for figures, and he was more than a bit surprised that his party had seen fit to vote him into the top spot. His wife was extremely annoyed about the whole thing. She was scared of flying, and she thought the President of the United States' wife was an awful snob. She also missed her Warwickshire garden and didn't like the new anti-rocket propelled grenade wall at the back of number ten.
The evening after Bob moved house, he was fiddling with the ergonomically designed leather chair in his office (Christopher was at least four inches taller than Bob) when a man's voice said, "Excuse me! The Minister for Magic wishes to introduce himself. Have you got a minute or two?"
Suspecting some sort of 'Welcome to Power' practical joke, Bob checked the telephone on his desk, his mobile phone and the space behind him. He still couldn't see the source of the voice.
"No, no, I'm over here!" called a portrait of a man, who was waving a hand in a friendly manner.
Bob blinked. The man in the portrait beckoned him closer.
"Listen, the Minister is going to come through the fireplace. Don't panic, it's quite normal," continued the portrait.
"Right then," said Bob. "Something MI5 have developed, I take it?"
The man in the portrait smirked.
"Not exactly," he said.
A blaze of green flames, a little bit of soot and a practical demonstration of the art of Transfiguration on a pot-plant later, and an enormous man with smooth, black skin and a diamond-stud earring was lounging in the chair opposite Bob's as if he'd been there many times before.
"Doesn't change here, does it?" said the man. "I'm Kingsley Shacklebolt, and I'm the Minister for Magic in this country. You don't need to know anything much about my people because the wizarding population is enjoying a stable period at the moment. If anything happens that might affect you Muggles, though, I'll keep you informed."
"The wizarding population?"
"That's right. There is a segregated community of witches, wizards and magical beings living in Britain. The Muggle population don't know about us, and we'd like to keep it that way."
Kingsley began to look a bit impatient.
"Yes, Bob. As a rule, non-magical people, or Muggles, do not know about magical people or beings. Only if Muggle parents give birth to a magical child, or if a magical person wishes to marry a Muggle, are these rules transgressed. You, for example, are a Muggle. I, on the other hand, am a wizard."
"I see," said Bob, who didn't really see at all, but who was quite good at getting to the heart of the matter. "You imply that this wizarding population has unstable periods?"
"Not for a long time, now," said Kingsley smoothly. "We had a parliamentary coup and a civil war about twelve years ago, but everything is hunky-dory at the moment."
"You had a war!" spluttered Bob. "Why wasn't it in the papers?"
"Ah. It was, to an extent. You remember the Brockdale Bridge disaster? The unusual amount of snow we had before Christmas in ninety-seven? Well, the first was a terrorist attack signalling the other side's intent to gain power, and the second was the side-effect of some of their dark magic."
"We had a white Christmas in southern England because of a magical war?"
"Of course! It wouldn't happen usually, would it?"
"Er … No. No, I suppose not. I can't believe the Government at the time didn't know!"
"Well, it did, actually. I even worked here for a while. The Prime Minister before Christopher was quite upset when I had to leave, but I picked up some very useful tips about Spin Doctors."
Bob stared at Kingsley incredulously.
"But what caused the war? Is it going to happen again?"
"We had a bit of a problem with a wizard who didn't like Muggles, called Lord Voldemort. He wanted to get rid of anybody magical who was born of Muggle parents. It was terrible! We couldn't have had him in power."
"Hang on a second. I thought you said that I was a Muggle."
"So if one of my children turned out to be, erm, magical, this Lord Voldemort would have killed her?"
"Possibly. Or enslaved her, or had her soul sucked out."
Kingsley laughed. Bob frowned. He didn't like the sound of this at all.
"What security measures have you put in place? What guarantees do I have that my people aren't going to be harmed by yours?"
"Oh, Voldemort was killed in battle. And most of his supporters were either killed too or rounded up and put in prison. We've got a very good Department of Magical Law Enforcement, nowadays. The young man who killed Voldemort even works there."
Bob was only slightly mollified by this information, but he had another pressing question, and it was nearly time for his dinner.
"So, are you all paying taxes?"
"We pay income tax to the Ministry of Magic. We don't need to pay it to the Muggle government."
"So, you don't use the National Health Service?"
"Only the Muggle-borns experience primary school education, and their parents are paying their taxes, I'm sure …"
"Dustbins? Street lights? The police?"
"Or the roads?"
"Er, not much."
"Define, 'not much'."
Kingsley sighed and fidgeted in his chair.
"Look, Bob. I'm a bit busy at the moment. Can we do this another time?"
"Yes of course, Kingsley," said Bob politely. "But I want to know everything.
"You want to know it all?" exclaimed Kingsley.
"Of course I do! I'm the Prime Minister. I can't be ignorant about a whole section of society!"
One of Kingsley's plump cheeks dimpled rather pleasantly when he smiled.
"Right then," he said, heaving himself upright, aiming his wand at Bob's chair and silently altering something so that Bob's back felt much more comfortable. "I'll see what I can do."
The Prime Minister was desperately keen to keep his new interest a secret – in politics gaining a reputation as an eccentric was far more damaging than gaining a reputation as a sleazy bastard. Bob and Hermione Granger could therefore only see each other when nobody else was around. Obviously, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Director of Political Strategy, Director of Government Relations, Head of Policy, Press Advisor, Head of International and Economic Affairs, Head of Domestic Policy and Strategy, Head of Foreign and Defence Policy and wife had higher priority than Hermione. So she used their one and only meeting to confirm her salary, fill out the form for the Inland Revenue that Bob was very insistent about and draw up an exhaustive list of 'Topics that Bob Should Know All About'. Then she had a meeting with Kingsley Shacklebolt, showed him the list, accepted the salary he offered after an infinitesimal pause and didn't have to fill out any forms at all because magic is a wonderful thing.
Being able to double up on her wages was terribly convenient, and Hermione very much enjoyed writing well-researched and beautifully presented reports on various aspects of wizarding life. She quickly realised that if she worked too hard and too quickly on Bob's Topics, she'd be out of a lucrative job within a year. In order to drag out her task for as long as possible, she spent most of her 'working hours' carefully re-decorating the ground-floor Islington flat she'd managed to buy very quickly and cheaply. She also spent a lot of time helping her parents to tidy up and sell their (once again) thriving dental practice in Surry in preparation for retirement.
The only annoying thing about life was the way Hermione's mother kept nagging her to find a nice man and settle down. There were no attractive, intelligent, witty men working in the Ministry of Magic's archives and library. Or in W.H. Smith's where she bought all the Muggle stationary necessary for her writing. When she went out for drinks with her old school friends, Dean Thomas always seemed to like ogling her tits, but she didn't really fancy him. And Ron Weasley was, well, Ron Weasley. Hung like a donkey and occasionally funny, but incredibly insecure and not an attractive long-term prospect.
As is usually the case in Britain, the summer passed unsatisfyingly quickly and Hermione's thirtieth birthday was nearly upon her. Unlike Harry Potter, who positively revelled in organising large, loud, expensive birthday celebrations, Hermione wasn't bothered about making a big fuss. She was quite relieved when Harry and Ron told her not to worry about a thing because they'd be sorting out something quiet and fun for her birthday weekend. All she had to do was pack some sensible clothes and shoes and Apparate to 12, Grimmauld Place at five p.m. on Friday.
Hermione spent the week thinking about a nice hired cottage somewhere pretty – the Lake District or Dorset would be nice – and dug her walking boots out of the bottom of her wardrobe. She arrived at the Potter house in time to see Harry and Ginny's two children before they Floo'ed to the Burrow to stay with Granny and Grandad for the weekend. She experienced her first pang of concern when she noticed a familiar sausage-shaped canvas bag on the kitchen table. It looked like a tent. Sod it, it was a tent. And at the tender age of eighteen years and eight months, Hermione had publicly vowed never to go camping ever, ever, again.
When Ron took her hand and side-along Apparated with her to a heavily wooded part of Gloucestershire, Hermione's pang of concern began to evolve into a discontented snit. When Harry and Ginny Potter, the tent and a picnic hamper appeared with an unmistakeably chirpy pop, things began to take on a sort of nightmarish quality.
Harry suggested that Hermione deal with the usual wards and enchantments whilst he and Ron pitched the tent and Ginny saw to dinner. The tent was brand new and apparently had two sound-proofed bedrooms. Ginny and Ron both smiled at Harry approvingly. Hermione raised her eyes to the heavens, hedged her bets and silently begged God and Richard Dawkins to give her strength. Being reasonably kind, she decided to give her oldest friends one chance to explain themselves before she gave the malicious side of her personality a free rein.
"Whose idea was it to camp in the Forest of Dean?"
Harry grinned at her.
"It was mine, actually. I always thought it would be nice to bring Ginny here and spend a night in a tent with her, rather than thinking about her being miles away. And I thought it would give you and Ron a chance to … um … lay a few old demons to rest, so to speak."
"So, essentially, my thirtieth birthday weekend is planned around the concept of fulfilling the teenage wank fantasies of both you and Ron?"
They smiled at her uncertainly. They wouldn't have used those words, but at least she was quick on the uptake.
Hermione drew her wand and effortlessly cast the series of spells that she had memorised all those years ago. Without pausing, she added a testicle itching hex to the incantation and Apparated to her parents' back door.
"Hermione, darling! Happy birthday. We weren't expecting you until Sunday evening. Is something wrong?"
"Camping, Mum. They decided to take me camping."
"Gin and tonic?"
"Don't let Dad pour it."
Hermione could hear her mother chuckling all the way to the drinks cabinet in the sitting room. She dropped her handbag onto the kitchen table with a satisfying thump, retrieved the tonic water from the fridge and wandered in the direction of alcoholic solace. She found her mother doing wonderful things with a green bottle and a large glass and her father on the sofa chewing his biro and considering two down in that day's Telegraph crossword.
"Hello, Hermione, happy birthday. 'Bird on fire, leave'."
"Hey, Dad. Flamingo. Are you trying to cheer me up?"
Hermione's father regarded her over the top of his reading glasses.
"I have spent an exhausting day rejecting all the over-valued houses your mother thinks we ought to buy, and now I have a few minutes of peace, I find them slipping away from me because of an unexpected visitor. Why on Earth would I be trying to cheer you up?"
"Because you heard me talking to Mum in the kitchen."
Hermione's father smiled his Daddy smile, pulled her down to his level for a kiss on the cheek and returned to the crossword.
"Here you go, darling. There's cassoulet in the oven and a comfy bed upstairs. You can open your presents after dinner."
Hermione gratefully accepted her drink from her mother and spent dinner explaining to her parents that she had several very good reasons not to be settling down with any of the wizards of her acquaintance. Her birthday presents turned out to be a horribly frilly, yet embarrassingly see-through, nightie and a recipe book full of hugely complicated romantic dinners for two.
The following morning, a big white envelope arrived in the post from the offices of Cobbledick and Dewhurst, Est. 1954. In it were the details of a three bedroom detached property on the outskirts of a little village called Slapton Poppleford in Devon. The pictures showed a solid 1930's house, a pretty garden and an absolutely wonderful view. In amongst the waffle, the estate agent's blurb contained several pieces of pertinent information. 'Award-winning pub', 'close-knit community', 'area of outstanding natural beauty' and 'twenty minute drive from Exeter', all received approving murmurs from both of Hermione's parents. Miracle of miracles, it seemed that the retirement home of Hermione's Mum's dreams might actually exist at a price that her Dad was willing to pay.
A phone call registered their interest and resulted in a viewing appointment on the following Tuesday. Hermione's Dad said that he and his wife might as well explore the area and booked a nearby bed and breakfast for two nights. This decision represented something of a watershed. When Hermione's mum lifted her head from his chest for long enough to ask why he was suddenly so keen on moving, Mr Granger tugged one of her greying curls and said he'd got a good feeling about the place.