The Source of Magic
Disclaimer: Not mine, never was, and never will be.
A/N: Many thanks again, as always, to Vern (aka Herman Tumbleweed) for his excellent suggestions and betaing skills. Make certain to read his stories if you haven't already.
A/N2: Yeah, I know, it's been far, far too long for an update, but the muse that was helping with this story seems to have fallen into another dimension – or is out on a bender to beat all benders. I've had to drag every word out, kicking and screaming, without her help [flips said muse the finger]. Hopefully, this will still be enjoyable and will attract the attention of another lovely one who will kindly offer her assistance. If not, well, I'll just have to plod on by myself. (Beta note: He's not the only one; mine followed me to Aruba on holiday a couple years ago, and hasn't come back yet… Seems she found a great beach party and a couple of boyfriends and/or girlfriends. Although, one had sneaked in the past couple days so look for a new story soon, hopefully.)
Talia once again found Harry sitting stiffly on top of the boulder he often retreated to. Climbing up and sitting beside him, she rested her head on his shoulder, her arms snaking around his waist in an attempt to comfort him.
Harry had wandered aimlessly through and around the colony after leaving Ecklin's office that afternoon, mind awhirl with the implications of the Atlantians' plans. He was stunned at the harshness of what the aliens were planning, but couldn't, in all honesty, find fault with their reasons. He just wished that there was a better way. After several hours of milling around, deep in thought (and more than a little shock), he found himself on his boulder with his beautiful, blonde lover beside him, not remembering how he got there, let alone in his current rather comfortable position. Heaving a great sigh, he relaxed against the young part-alien, letting her presence wash across his frayed emotions, restoring a sense of calm to his frazzled nerves.
Talia felt the change in Harry's demeanour and slowly raised her face to his and placed a gentle kiss on his lips before returning to her previous position, but snuggled in more closely this time. "Are you feeling better, now?" she whispered.
"Yeah." He reached around and drew her on to his lap, burying his faced in her long, soft hair. "Do – do you know what's happening?" he muttered without moving his face from her blonde locks.
"Yeah," she breathed softly in reply.
"What do you think about it?"
Talia took a deep breath, carefully considering her answer. Having been raised in both societies, she had a somewhat unique perspective, but was still afraid of alienating the raven-haired wizard who had, despite her best efforts, worked his way into her heart. Deciding on complete, open honesty, she shifted herself so that she was straddling Harry's waist. "Actually, I'm sort of conflicted about it."
Not expecting that answer, Harry's eyebrows rose as his green eyes searched her deep violet ones. He wasn't certain what he was looking for, but seemed reassured, nonetheless. He drew her closer to himself, pressing her firm breasts snugly against his chest, relishing the sense of security and comfort.
Relaxing in his embrace, Talia softly explained, "I was raised in both worlds, Harry. My parents were both half human, and my father worked in the American Magical Government for many years. We lived in both Muggle and Magical homes at different times of my life, and I attended the Rocky Mountain School of Magic. On weekends and holidays I learned the Atlantian ways of elu and our history and culture. I'm truly a product of both environments. They both, of course, have their pros and cons." She rolled her eyes and chuckled. "Believe me; you don't want to hear Atlantian music." They both laughed at that pronouncement.
"Anyway, I understand the reasons for The Plan, and I agree with them whole-heartedly. I like to think of it as, 'We broke it, so we gotta fix it.' I just wish that there was a better way to do it. I have many friends here that aren't on The List, and I really feel badly for them. Their lives are going to become so much harder…" She buried her face in her lover's chest and started to softly weep. "I-I know that it's n-necessary… I truly b-believe it's necessary, in fact, b-but that doesn't mean th-that I like it."
The young wizard held her tightly as he stroked her soft hair in an attempt to comfort her. "I got the impression from your grandfather that no-one likes this idea."
"No, nobody does, but it's the best we've been able to come up with. Have they given you the details, yet?"
"No. They gave me an infopadd that can access it, but made me promise not to look until I formally meet with the Council tomorrow."
"I thought that's what you were doing today?"
"No, I just met with Ecklin. He told me what was going on, but I have to meet with the full Council tomorrow and formally accept my, uhm, ambassadorship, I guess, before I'm allowed to know everything."
Her head shot up and violet locked with green as her voice took on a hard edge. "Harry, what else did you and Grandfather talk about?"
Harry swallowed as he registered her change in mood. "Well, we just talked. You know, got to know each other over tea and pastries."
"Oh? What else?" she asked, her eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"Nothing bad," Harry sighed. "Really, love, we mostly just talked about our lives and things we've seen and done and been through. A little bit about Atlantian involvement with some of the worst Dark Lords. He's a great guy and we seemed to hit it off pretty well."
Talia cocked her head to the side in confusion. "That's it? Nothing about us? No threats? No warnings?"
Harry shook his head slowly. "Nope. He did say that he was proud of you, though. Repeatedly," he added wryly.
With a sharp squee, Talia pulled her whole body even more firmly against his, wriggling excitedly, incidentally causing certain pleasant and insistent reactions. "Do you know what this means? He approves, Harry, he approves!" This cry was accompanied by more excited wiggling and grinding.
Finding it difficult to not react and tear her clothes off right then and there (possibly resulting in their deaths as the boulder was on the edge of a cliff), Harry forced out, "How did you come to that conclusion?"
"Because he didn't threaten your health or even your life. Or worse, send you off-planet to a research station in the middle of a black hole." She smashed her mouth to his, her tongue parting his lips as her hands started to wander.
"Okay," Harry thought, "I suppose it is a good thing, then. Only one thing to do, I guess…" He Apparated them both, tongues still battling, to their bedroom in the colony and proceeded to tear both their clothes off and celebrate properly well into the night.
"Arrrrgh. Mmmmphfffffff." Hermione stretched painfully as she woke up late the next morning. Looking to her bedside clock, she was relieved that it was the weekend and consequently had no classes. She sat up and rolled her neck around, realizing that comfort charms only worked so well when you fell asleep reading.
She sat bolt upright as her head cleared at the sudden recollection of the previous night's discoveries. "There are aliens among us," she thought in awe. "They've been here since before we had any sort of organized civilization, yet they've stayed hidden all these millennia. I wonder if they really are still around?" The wavy-haired witch looked around in a sudden panic and sighed in relief as she found the ancient infopadd on the floor. "Amazing how it still works after all this time." Finally, she dragged herself out of the chair and headed to the kitchen for a wake-up cup of tea, infopadd in hand and still wearing the previous day's clothes.
Hermione replied to her parents' amused greetings with a mumbled groan as she poured herself some tea and plopped down at the table. She set the infopadd down and took a deep whiff of the fragrant brew before sipping carefully at the hot liquid.
"Long night, sweetheart?" asked Frank as he and Jane noticed their daughter's dishevelled state and abnormally grumpy manner. They both chuckled at their offspring's grunted reply.
As the senior Grangers watched the cranky witch slowly return to the land of the living, Jane noticed the white object on the table. "Hermione," she asked, "what happened to your PDA?" At Hermione's questioning look, she continued, "It's white, when, as I recall, it was more of a silvery-grey. Did you change the colour somehow? I thought magic would mess up electronics."
Her daughter's look of confusion turned to panic as her eyes fell on the white infopadd at her elbow. Thinking quickly, she drew her wand and hurriedly cast several high-powered privacy charms around the dining room. Her parents glanced at each other in concern before returning their attention to their child.
After completing her charms work, Hermione faced Frank and Jane and began seriously, "Okay, now what I'm about to tell you can't leave this room." Seeing the concern form on her parents' faces, she added, "It's nothing dangerous, just, ah, rather sensitive." After seeing them exchange their normal silent conversation, and anticipating their agreement, Hermione continued with her explanation. "You remember that Jeremy and I went into the Outback for a project and I came back early because we found something, er, beyond what was expected and the University sent out some experts to continue our research, right?"
They nodded their agreement.
"Okay, while we were out there, we found some pieces of this same," she held up the infopadd for a moment, "white material; some of it with markings. We managed to translate some of them, and they made reference to a civilization known to magical culture as The Originators." She paused for a moment, brows furrowed as she thought deeply, carefully considering her explanation. "Think of them like the Federation from Star Trek. They travelled the galaxy exploring and landed here to study us, except, apparently, they became stranded and made their lives here. Of course, to magical culture, they are just a name lost to time."
She once again held up the infopadd. "Jeremy brought this to me a few days ago. It was found at the site, but they couldn't figure out what it did, except that it would light up and display some unknown text when magic touched it. He brought it to me because it reminded him of my PDA, although he couldn't remember what it was called." Hermione chuckled fondly at the memory.
"What's so funny about that?" Jane asked.
Collecting herself, Hermione explained between giggles, "When he brought it to me, he told me how he recognized the similarity to my Palm, but thought it was a… oh, how did he put it? A Hand or a Foot, that was it. When I reminded him that it was Palm, he said that he knew it was a body part."
Both Granger parents laughed at this as Jane commented, "I thought you said that the Magicals were more tech-savvy here."
"They are, but honestly, that doesn't really say very much."
Frank was closely scrutinising the alien device. "What does it do, sweetheart? I can't even find the on switch."
"Here, Dad, let me show you." The witch took the device from her father and activated it before handing it back.
The middle-aged dentist took it back and examined it once again. His eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he stared at the alien display. "How can you read this? Is this some of those, uhm, Ancient Runes you studied at Hogwarts?"
"No, Dad, that's the native language of the people who landed here. Magical Culture refers to them as 'The Originators'. They call themselves 'Atlantians'." She took it back from him, and concentrated for a moment before handing it back. "Here, try it now."
Recovering the strange object, he examined the translated display as his daughter continued her explanation, "From what I've been able to read, it's called an infopadd. The Atlantians used them as some sort of data retrieval device, although I don't know if the data is stored locally or if it's transmitted from somewhere else." She shook her head tiredly as she ran her fingers through her unbrushed hair, wincing in pain at the pulls from the tangles. "Once I figured out how to use it, I was reading from it most of the night. There's a phenomenal amount of information available here, including twenty thousand years worth of detailed history regarding their stay on this planet. I didn't get much past their landing and attempts to contact their home planet, but from what I gathered through randomly looking at their history, there may still be some of them here."
Her parents stared at her in shock. "Don't you think," Frank began slowly his voice cracking slightly at the enormity of Hermione's discovery and subsequent revelations, "that maybe you should tell somebody about this?"
She shook her head, "No, at least not without finding out what else is on here. For all we know, they want to just live in peace like the rest of us." She sighed deeply. "I have a unique perspective on the situation. I know what it's like to be judged based on things beyond your control. I was a witch born to non-magical parents in a world run by Pureblood bigots who felt that I was less than pond-scum because of my lack of magical parents." She glared at her elders as she continued in irritation, "You may recall just how that ended up – betrayed by those we thought of as friends because they thought that was all we were worth. They even did it to Harry and his father was a Pureblood of an old and respected family, but his mother was a Muggleborn like me, which still made him less in their eyes. I won't act without more information – something you both taught me from a young age. If they are dangerous, then I'll try to figure out whom to inform and do so. But I will not be a party to a group being subjected to the same bigoted crap I was." The slam of her fist against the table accompanied the passion in her eyes as her voice got noticeably louder at the end of her speech.
Suddenly, she realized who she had been ranting at, and with an embarrassed flush, she retrieved the infopadd from Frank and poured herself a fresh cup of tea. Looking back at her parents, she said quietly, "I'm sorry for that, Dad… Mum, but I feel very strongly about this. I'm not even planning on telling anyone at the university about it without having a lot more answers first. Anyway, I have some more reading to do. I'll be out back if you need me." She quickly made her way out the back door.
Frank and Jane looked at each other as Hermione left the room. "Well, that was unexpected all around. I didn't realize things were that bad back home," Frank said thoughtfully. "What do you think we should do?"
Jane stared at her cold tea for a long moment before answering, "Nothing. I think that she's got the right of it. She told me about some of the shite she had to take from those… people." Seeing the beginnings of outrage from her husband, she continued, "Hermione was afraid you'd take her out of that world. I know you still have reservations about her being involved in the Magical World, but it has been better here than in England, right?"
Frank grumbled a faint affirmative.
Jane reached across and took her husband's hand. "Hermione has grown up to be a strong, independent woman with a very deep-seated sense of what's right and wrong – just as we wanted her to." Frank just sat there, looking lost.
"Don't worry," she reassured him, patting his hand, "she'll still need her daddy."
Ecklin stormed into the security section of the Planetary Computer Control Centre located deep beneath the dry bed of Groom Lake. He was not happy being called anywhere at 4 AM. "What's so damned important?" he snapped at the room at large while heading for the coffee pot in the corner of the room.
"High Councillor," a lean Atlantian began nervously as the elder man took his first sip of the hot coffee, "we've had an unusual breach in the DataNet."
"You called me in at this hour for that? What the hell is Security for?"
"Sir," a senior officer approached. "It's the nature of the breach that concerns us. All the data that was accessed was purely historical in nature. Just details of our ancestors' arrival and the founding of the first colonies."
Ecklin's face took on a surprised expression. "That is strange. What else?"
"Well, the strangest part is the ID of the requesting unit. The UnitID was number 403."
"So?" the older wizard prompted in tired frustration.
"Unit 403 was issued to the Atlantis before she left the Homeworld on her mission here." He paused for emphasis. "That infopadd is twenty thousand years old and was reported as never having been recovered from the wreckage."
The High Councillor moved unsteadily to a conveniently empty chair and sat heavily, spilling some of his coffee in the process. He cleaned his mess with an absent wave of his hand, and thought carefully about this news. "What else do we know about this breach?"
"We've determined that the infopadd is currently just outside of Sydney, Australia and we managed to get a reading of the magical signature of the primary user."
"Primary user? There've been more than one?"
"Yes, sir. After the main breach, we checked the logs more closely and have discovered that it has been activated a large number of times over the last several days, but nothing was accessed. It seems that there has been some archaeological research being done in the Australian Outback by some students of the University of Magic and Technology Sydney and we think that someone has discovered some of the wreckage of the Atlantis that was not recovered at the time. It has since become a major dig."
Ecklin let out a deep breath. "Wonderful, just wonderful," he muttered, his voice laced heavily with sarcasm. "What are the chances of discovery?"
"Very little, sir. The magical Terrans don't have the technological background to understand it and the current non-magical technology isn't advanced enough to figure it out."
"If that's the case, how did someone access the DataNet?"
"I suspect that a highly intelligent magical Terran accidently stumbled into the system. The first thing they accessed was the tutorial." He shrugged. "It is an unsecured unit, after all."
The old Atlantian lowered his head and rubbed his eyes with the thumb and forefinger of one hand. "Do we know anything about the primary user?" he asked tiredly.
The security officer looked to his own infopadd. "Yes, sir. It is a young witch born to non-magical humans named Hermione Granger. She's…"
Ecklin's head shot up. "Granger, you said?"
"Let me see that." The officer handed his superior the infopadd he was using. Ecklin scanned the first few screens rapidly, then returned it to the officer with a chuckle. "Give her, and only her, access to everything except The Plan, but monitor her activity and keep me apprised."
"Sir?" the officer asked in shock.
"Just do it. And get a message to my granddaughter and her boyfriend. I need to see them in my office immediately."
"Yes, sir." The younger Atlantian scurried away to tend to the High Councillor's tasks.
The old alien wizard hauled himself out of the chair and made his way to his office in the Council Centre in the middle of the colony, wondering if it was really wise to try and wake Talia up at this hour.
Hermione stepped out of the shower, feeling reasonably human again after quickly realizing that she needed to be fully awake before tackling the infopadd once more. A quick hair care charm that one of her first friends in Australia had taught her quickly had her much-better-but-still-bushy mess dry and tidy. The witch took a moment to reminisce about her friend.
Lina was a beautiful Maori girl who had an even bushier head of hair than Hermione did and was a great help in the British witch's adjustment to life down under. They had formed a close friendship which culminated in a brief, but passionate affair the summer before Hermione entered the University. They had still remained friends, often exchanging letters and phone calls, even after Lina returned to New Zealand to help with her family's business.
Shaking her head from the memories, which were not helping her loneliness at all, Hermione grabbed the infopadd and returned to the back garden with another cup of tea to try and figure out if aliens really were still among us.
"Good morning, sunshine," Ecklin chuckled as a grumpy and dishevelled Talia stumbled into his office, followed by a slightly less grumpy, but equally dishevelled Harry. "Help yourselves." He gestured to the platter of coffee, tea, and pastries on his desk.
"Yeahrightgdming," Talia replied through a big swallow of strong coffee. "What in the hell is so important that we had to get up at this ungodly hour?"
Still chuckling, the old man turned to his other young visitor. "How do you deal with this every morning, Harry? I'd have strangled her by now."
Swallowing the last of his first cup of tea and pouring another, Harry answered slowly, "I try not to wake her at five in the morning." He glanced at her cautiously, yet affectionately. "I've learned to value my life."
"And other things," muttered his still grumpy lover. She turned to her grandfather. "So what's the big emergency?"
Ecklin looked up from the croissant that he was smothering with far too much fresh butter to be healthy. "Harry, what was your friend's name again? The one who moved to Australia?"
Confused by the seeming non sequitur, Harry answered, "Hermione. Hermione Granger. Why?"
"And she lives where..?"
"Sydney, with her parents."
Talia, still not awake enough to have even the slightest semblance of patience, interrupted moodily, "What does Harry's old friend have to do with getting us up at this hour? I thought there was an emergency going on."
"Drink some more coffee, sweetheart," Ecklin chuckled before turning back to Harry. "Now, Harry, tell me this: do you trust her?"
Hermione, after reading page after page of Atlantian history, realized that they were still living among the human residents of the planet. Then it hit her. "There are no Purebloods!" she thought. "We're all part alien." She giggled to herself. "I wish I could see the look on those bigoted bastards' faces if they ever find out. But how to find them…" She continued her search of the seemingly never-ending Atlantian computer system.
"Of course I do. I trust her with my life. Hell, I'd trust her with Talia's. We've been through too much together to do otherwise."
"Can she keep a secret? For example, if she were to find out about The Plan, would she keep quiet about it?"
Harry started to automatically defend his friend, but hesitated. Hermione would despise the plan, as she would see it as interfering with others' rights. But then, she would also see the logic in it as well. "I… I think so, sir… at least if I asked her to. I know that she wouldn't approve of it, though." He chuckled weakly, "She'd probably make it her personal mission to talk the Council out of it."
Ecklin snorted. "And we'd be grateful for a viable alternative, if she could come up with one. Do you know what she's been doing lately?"
Harry, sensing Talia's impatience rising again, stalled by swallowing the rest of his tea and pouring some more. "I haven't spoken with her in a while, so I'm not certain. Why is this so important?"
"Please, just humour me for a few more moments."
"Well, the last time I spoke with her, she said that she was going into the Outback with another student to try and find evidence of early Aborigine magic or something. I guess that the other student is studying Magical Archaeology and they were going to try to, erm, dig something up."
Talia and Ecklin groaned in unison. "Don't try to be funny this early, dear," Talia giggled grumpily.
They were interrupted by a soft chime which emanated from Ecklin's desk. Touching a faint red light which had appeared with the sound, he responded, "Yes?"
"Sir," the voice of the senior data security officer sounded in the room, "you wanted to be kept apprised of the young lady's access."
"She accessed the DataNet again a short time ago, studying more recent history. Just a few minutes ago, she started running a series of detailed searches which indicate that she's actively seeking us out. Should I allow her to continue?"
"Yes. Keep me informed."
Ecklin closed the connection and looked up at Harry, surprised to see an amused smirk on the young wizard's face. "So what has Hermione done now?" Harry asked.
"That's it! I've found it." The once bushy-haired scholar mused."Damn, they're everywhere. They even have cities… cities completely hidden from the rest of us, Muggle and Wizard alike. Now… where's their capitol? That figures, Groom Lake in Nevada. The infamous Area 51. That's just too funny. I need to tell Harry… oh, shit! Nevada! Harry! I gotta call Harry!" She darted back into house to retrieve her mobile, certain that Harry had once again gotten himself into trouble.
"What makes you say that?" the elderly man asked with an amused grin.
"I've known Hermione since we were eleven years old. Trust me, if there's an untapped source of knowledge somewhere, she'll find it and do her best to read the whole damned thing. We had a professor during our third year at Hogwarts that used to call her 'The Smartest Witch of Her Age'… and for good reason."
Chuckling, Ecklin finally started the explanation they'd been waiting for. "Very early this morning, while you two were still sleeping," he shot the pair of lovers a feigned glare, "someone breached our computer network. After a bit of research, Security determined that your friend had gotten her hands on an infopadd and was studying Atlantian history.
"From what we can only surmise, when she and her friend were 'digging things up', as you so aptly put it, they ran across some wreckage from the original colony ship that had never been recovered. When they realized what they'd found, professionals were sent out from the university and it became a full scale dig. At some point, the infopadd was discovered and it was eventually given to Hermione, who managed to figure out how to use it."
The High Councillor grew more serious. "This is why I asked if you trust her, Harry. We need to know if there's any risk of exposure. In fact, as your first duty as Ambassador," he added with a smirk of his own, "you need to contact her and…"
A warbling sound came from Harry's pocket. As Harry pulled his mobile phone out, he laughed and said, "I doubt I'll need to contact her." Without looking at the CallerID, he answered, "Hello, Hermione."
"Harry! Are you okay?"
"Of course, Hermione, why wouldn't I be?" he asked with a stifled chuckle.
"Well… I've learned something recently that I really need to talk to you about." There was a noticeable pause. "Oh wait, it's still pretty early there, isn't it? I-I'm sorry, I hope I didn't wake you."
"No, I've been awake for a while. It seems that some bushy-haired know-it-all breached an alien computer system. They seemed to think I might be able to help with that."
"That's what I wanted to… wait a damned minute! Harry James Potter, what the hell's going on?"
Harry couldn't help but laugh out loud. "Calm down, love. I can explain everything. Oh, wait a sec…" He looked to Ecklin who was whispering, "See if she can get away for a few days."
"Hey, can you get away for a while? It would be better to explain this to you in person."
"I… I guess I could… but, Harry… how do you know about this? And why didn't you tell me?"
Harry sighed, "First of all, it wasn't my secret to tell."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Harry. I didn't mean…"
"It's okay, Hermione, really. I know how you are…"
"Prat," she laughed into the phone. "And the other thing?"
"Well… Talia's grandfather is the Planetary High Councillor and I'm in his office right now."
"Oh. I guess I'll probably get to meet her, too, then."
"Yeah, especially as you've been invited to visit by her grandfather."
"Ah, yeah… I'm in trouble, aren't I?"
"No more than we ever got into before."
"That's not very reassuring, you know."
"Sorry. Everything's okay, though. I'll call you back later when I have the details, okay?"
"Okay. I suppose I should quit playing with the infopadd, then."
"I don't think they'd mind if you kept using the 'padd." He looked at Ecklin for approval. Receiving a nod of the head, he reassured the bookworm. "Yeah, Ecklin said it's okay to use it. Just don't try to free the house-elves with it, okay?"
"Remind me why we're even friends again?"
"'Cause I'm so loveable?"
"Yeah, right," she replied snarkily. "I do love you, Harry."
"I love you, too. I'll call you back later, okay?"
"Bye." Harry turned to the Atlantians. "Well, that was easy."
They all laughed and Talia added, "I didn't even have to hear her side of the conversation to know that I'm gonna love her."
Harry turned to Ecklin with panic in his eyes. "I'm in deep shite, aren't I?"
"I would say so, my boy. Now, let's make the plans for Hermione's visit. Then we have to get you dressed and ready to meet with the Council. You still need to officially accept your new job, remember?"
Harry just groaned as he allowed his head to thump against Ecklin's desk. So much for a peaceful day.
Hermione ended the call and sat back in her lounger, chuckling to herself that Harry seemed to already be in the thick of it, as usual. Her humour faded as she realized that she'd have to tell her parents that she was leaving for a while. Even worse as far as her father was concerned – she was leaving to see Harry.
"Better get it over with," she thought as she slowly got out of the chair and went in search of the elder Grangers.
To say that Frank was upset was a gross understatement.
The next day, Hermione was pacing in the sitting room of her parents' home while she waited for whoever was coming to take her to Groom Lake. Her parents were waiting with her, not at all happy with the situation.
After getting off the phone with Harry the previous day, she had immediately recounted the conversation to Frank and Jane. A loud argument had ensued, as the elder Grangers were afraid that, once again, they'd be losing their daughter to another world that they could have no part of.
Hermione had done her best to reassure them that she wasn't abandoning them again and that she would return soon. Finally, it took Ecklin himself speaking to them on the phone and his promise of her safe return within a week to mollify them. They were still unhappy with the situation – Frank especially – but had to admit that this was an historic opportunity for his no-longer-so-little girl.
"Daddy, it will be okay. I'll only be gone a few days." Hermione tried to reassure her father for what seemed to be the millionth time as her mother went to answer the knock at the front door.
Frank drew his daughter down next to him on the couch and into a deep hug. "I'm just worried about you, sweetie. It seems that every time you get involved with this Potter character… bad things happen."
Hermione returned the embrace. "Dad, this is different. I'll be perfectly fine."
"That she will, Dr Granger," came the voice of a lean man in a Muggle business suit entering the room behind Jane. "In fact, she'll be in one of the safest places on the planet. My name is Tardok, and I'm the Australian envoy for the Atlantian Terran Research Colony." He held his hand out to the worried dentist.
Frank stood and shook the alien's hand. "I'm sorry; it's just that ever since we learned about Hermione's abilities, things have often been… frightening – no offence intended."
Tardok smiled warmly. "None taken, Doctor. Having children of my own, I understand completely. I can only imagine what it was like for you to discover that your daughter had seemingly supernatural abilities."
"Please forgive my husband's lack of manners, Mr Tardok, and have a seat," Jane interjected. "Would you like some tea? Or coffee, perhaps?"
"No, thank you, ma'am," he replied politely as he settled himself on a nearby squashy chair. "We need to leave in a few minutes, anyway." He turned to Hermione. "Miss Granger, may I see your infopadd, please?" She drew it from her purse and handed it to him. "Amazing," he said in a bare whisper while gazing at it reverently. He looked back up while taking another infopadd from his breast pocket. "Miss Granger, I'd like to offer you this newer model in exchange as this unit is of great cultural and historic value to us. It was issued to the crew of the vessel which brought our ancestors to your world and will have an honoured place in the museum in the Groom Lake Colony."
Nodding respectfully, she silently accepted the new device.
"Thank you, Miss Granger. Now, the new one is slightly different as it's been designed for use off-colony and has some security features added to it. Otherwise, it functions in the same manner as the old one. When you activate it for the first time, think of your full name while pushing some of your elu – your magic – into it. This will key the infopadd to allow only you to use it. I'm sure that you understand the necessity as you've seen what information is available to it."
"Yes, I have and thank you for this. I appreciate the trust you're showing me. I promise not to abuse it."
"You've been given full access to all but the very few things that are limited to the highest levels of our government. You've proven your discretion to the High Councillor himself and Ambassador Potter has spoken highly of you…"
Hermione's eyes grew wide as she interrupted with a small shriek, "Ambassador Potter?"
The seemingly thirty-something envoy chuckled. "Yes, as of yesterday afternoon, Harry Potter was named the Atlantian Ambassador to the British Ministry of Magic and Wizengamot. I understand that he was as surprised as you are, but I'll leave it to him and High Councillor Ecklin to tell you about it." Turning to the senior Grangers, he again reached inside his jacket, this time removing a small cube made of that same ubiquitous white material. "While your daughter is at the colony, her mobile phone should work normally, unlike when she's in the regular Terran magical communities. But just in case, this," he held up the cube before setting it on the coffee table in front of him, "will allow you to contact her. Simply touch it and say her name and it will contact her through her infopadd."
"But," Jane said hesitantly, "we're not magical."
"No, you're not," Tardok replied calmly, "but this does not require magic – what we call elu – to operate. It's simply a machine." He took a breath as he explained, "Our society learned long ago not to depend on any one thing. If we hadn't learned to embrace technology and science as well as elu, we never would have been able to explore the galaxy as we have been for millennia. In fact, some of the more pessimistic scholars think that without that balance, we would have destroyed ourselves. I'm not certain that I entirely agree, but they do make convincing arguments."
He stood and held his hand out to Hermione. "We must go. Do you have all of your things ready?"
Accepting his assistance, she stood and gestured to her purse. "It's all right here."
"Then shall we go?"
Hermione hugged her parents and they all went out the door to see a gleaming, black Cadillac limousine waiting at the kerb. A tall, uniformed driver got out and opened the back door.
"I figured that you'd disappear like you would with your Portkey that the school gave you, or at least," he glanced at Tardok sheepishly, "maybe a shuttlecraft or something."
Tardok laughed out loud. "I can understand that. If it's any consolation, this limo can be used in that manner, if necessary. We just do a better job of blending in than the Terran Magicals do."
A chuckle escaped Hermione's lips at a sudden thought. "Harry put you up to this, didn't he?"
The Atlantian grinned in reply.
Turning to her parents, she explained, "When Harry and I were planning my trip to find you, he was adamant that there should be a limo to pick me up at the airport. I was eventually able to talk him out of it as most of the Magical governments really didn't want British witches and wizards entering their countries at the time and I was trying to be discrete. Limos really aren't terribly discrete." She shook her head in amusement. "I love you Mum and Dad. I'll see you in a few days." After another round of hugs, she walked to the waiting car and got in.
Tardok held back for a moment. "I understand your concern and assure you that she'll be fine. I, too, would be worried if my daughter were going off to someplace strange. But even if she were invited to join our society and accepted, you two, as her parents, would be equally welcome and we'd willingly assist you in staying in touch. Unlike the magical societies you are more familiar with, we encourage intermingling with the non-magical inhabitants of this world. Please don't worry, you won't lose her.
"If you have any other concerns, the communications device I left you can be used to contact me as well in the same manner. It was wonderful to meet you both." Shaking their hands, he also entered the vehicle and they drove away.
Hermione sat in silent contemplation as the car was skilfully navigated through the outskirts of Sydney. Turning to her companion, she asked, "So, how are we getting to Nevada and how long will it take?"
Tardok replied as the car headed towards what seemed to be a large industrial complex. "We're taking this car and it will take less than half an hour."
He held up a hand to stop her. "Just wait a few more minutes and you'll see."
The limo pulled inside a walled compound and stopped. A moment later, it lifted gently into the air as it ever-so-slightly reconfigured itself – the wheels retracted and a long, narrow cylinder protruded from the bottom of the car on each side – before hurling itself into the sky at high speed. She raised a questioning eyebrow as she smirked at her chuckling escort.
"I'm sorry, Miss Granger, but I couldn't disappoint your dad. I figured that if I admitted that this was a shuttlecraft, he'd want a ride and we really didn't have the time," the Atlantian admitted sheepishly.
"You're right, he would," Hermione laughed. "Another time, maybe?" Her eyes were shining in amusement.
"Absolutely," he assured her with a wide grin.
With another laugh, she sat back as the Cadillac sped through the clear Australian sky and across the Pacific Ocean, heading for the infamous Area 51 and, more importantly, her best friend.