A Boon for Bill
a HP fanfic by canoncansodoff
A/N : I've been in a manic writing mode before, but this past week has been ridiculous. 17,000 words in a new "chapter" that was barely half-written out beyond my outline. Wondering what the heck I should do now (keep going, cut, or run), I took an unusual step (at least for me) and asked a trusted reader for her opinion. I think she was one of the readers who was really anxious to see Molly get at least some of her just deserts, because she encouraged me to get that scene posted while I work on other parts of the update. So here it is, along with the scenes that follow Bill's journey to freedom, and just enough from the other story threads to let you know that I haven't forgotten about them.
Please don't expect the next "chapter" to be updated as quickly.
Disclaimer: Not my characters, no money being made, etc. , etc.
Chapter 13: Mollywobbled
3:00am, July 31
Theoule sur Mer, French Riveria
A suspicious-sounding sound brought Roger Granger's head up off his pillow very, very quickly. His eyes darted towards the door. He heard another noise…it was definitely coming from the hallway. Hermione's father let out a deep breath, then let out a disappointed sigh.
So much for his daughter's promise.
The Muggle dentist pulled down his side of the bed linens and swung his legs off the bed that he was sharing with his wife. The moonlight filtering through the bedroom suite's windows provided just enough light for him to find his dressing gown and slip it on without bumping into anything. Roger tip-toed silently towards the door and pressed his ear against the wood. He reached for the doorknob, gave it a quiet twist, then cracked opened the bedroom door.
Roger was expecting to either catch his daughter slipping into her boyfriend's bedroom, or catch the boyfriend doing the opposite.
He definitely wasn't expecting to catch Apolline Delacour falling out of her nightgown as she knelt on the hallway floor.
Roger's gasp drew the French witch's attention away from the little girl who had curled-up in front of Harry Potter's bedroom door. Apolline's eyes found Roger's as he stared out the cracked doorway. She smiled, and shook her head as she reached up and casually closed the top of her dressing gown.
"I am so sorry to have awoken you, Monsieur Granger," the part-Veela whispered.
Roger glanced back over his shoulder towards his sleeping wife, then returned his focus on Apolline and her youngest daughter. He thought about slipping all the way out into the hallway, then decided that keeping most of his body hidden behind the door would be a prudent way of dealing with the blood that was rushing towards his todger.
"No problem," he whispered. "I just heard a sound, and…"
"I understand," Apolline replied. She looked back down and tucked the summoned blanket a little more tightly around her daughter. "You know, I could carry her back to her bedroom, but it would be a futile gesture. At least she is sleeping outside her hero's bedroom door, rather than inside, no?"
Roger vigorously nodded his head in agreement.
"My little Gabby," her mother sighed. "I am afraid that her goal in life is to become Monsieur Potter's personal bodyguard...I don't imagine that anyone could gain entrance to his bedroom without a very loud challenge from her."
Again Roger nodded in agreement.
The part-Veela smiled as she bent down to kiss her daughter on the cheek. She then gracefully rose from the hallway floor and nonchalantly tightened her dressing gown sash. She caught Roger's gaze and said, "Again, my apologies. Please remember, Monsieur Granger, that if you need something…if you need anything at all…you merely need ask for it out loud, and one of our house elves will respond."
"Good night, Monsieur Granger."
"Good night, Madame Delacour."
Roger quietly closed the bedroom door, then leaned back against it and let out a deep breath. He replayed the entire conversation in his head (both the audio and the visuals, of course). Then he glanced down at the tent that had grown beneath his dressing gown sash and shook his head.
Hermione's father wondered what would happen if he gave voice to what he was thinking at that moment. He really needed a cold shower…if he voiced that need out loud would a house elf pop up and dump a bucket of ice water over his head? What if he said out loud that what he really needed was to rub one off?
This was a very disturbing thought (not rubbing one off, but how a house elf might help with that voiced need). But it also turned out to be a productive disturbing thought…something off-putting enough to bring down his tent pole and allow him to safely crawl back into bed with his wife.
His wife. Roger loved his wife. He really did. Loved her enough to resist the allure, but…damn. That resistance didn't make him blind.
Roger leaned over and gave his loving wife a kiss on the cheek.
"Something wrong, Roger?" she whispered.
"No, it was nothing, Luv," he whispered.
Roger gave his wife another kiss, then rolled over onto his other side.
The phrase "mental sigh" didn't even begin to describe his levels of frustration and resignation.
On the other side of that bedroom door, the cute little witch curled up in front of Harry Potter's bedroom door smiled in her sleep, and unconsciously congratulated herself for being so useful to her future Alpha (and to the future husband who was currently sharing his bed with her future Alpha).
3:10am, July 31
The girl resting her head against a rolled-up sleeping bag had a nose piercing and an eye for things out of place.
"Hey!" she called out across the empty terminal. "Whatcha doin'?"
The tall red-haired man she was yelling at glanced towards in her direction, shrugged, then returned his attention to wall-mounted bank of monitors.
"Just trying to find an airplane ride to France," he said.
That the girl could clearly hear this response with his back turned, and from a distance of more than twenty meters, said far more about how quiet it was within the departure lounge than the girl's hearing abilities.
"You want an airplane ride?" the girl asked incredulously. "What are you, three? Going to take a horsey ride after that?"
Bill turned back towards the backpacker and gave her a second look. The girl was wearing denin cutoff shorts and a gray zippered hooded sweatshirt. Strings of dirty blond hair were slipping out from under a navy blue bandana. She was sitting within a loose perimeter of packs laid out end-to-end, next to three companions who were stretched out inside their sleeping bags.
The curse breaker then took another look up and down the long departure terminal. There were a few more clusters of travelers stretched out on rows of seating, but they were either sleeping or pretending to be asleep. The only other options were an earbud-wearing cleaning employee who was driving a floor buffer machine and a semi-dazed, sleep-deprived man who spoke Polish and Russian. Bill knew a nifty translation spell, but the last thing he wanted to do was to draw attention from the Ministry and its surveillance sensors by using magic in a place where it was very rarely used.
Making a decision, Bill pointed towards the monitors and asked the girl, "Would you be willing to help me make sense of these things?"
The girl stood, stretched out her limbs, and smiled.
"You betcha," she replied.
Bill tried to make sense of this (apparently) affirmative response as the girl stepped over the backpacks and walked towards him.
"I'm Aubrey," she said, holding her hand out.
"Bill," the red-headed wizard replied.
"I love your ear ring," the girl said. "What kind of tooth is that?"
Bill tried not to wince at that question (or at his own stupidity for not pocketing the dragon tooth before entering the Muggle airport). He offered a weak smile and replied, "Egyptian Crocodile."
"Nice," the girl replied. "You've been to Egypt, then?"
Bill shrugged. "Once or twice."
"See the pyramids?"
The tomb-raiding curse breaker chuckled at that question…he'd seen far more of the Gisa complex than just about any modern-day human. Swallowing a few wise-arse retorts, he settled on saying, "Yes I have, although I was mostly there on business."
"What kinda business?"
"I'm an archeologist," Bill lied smoothly.
"Cool!" the girl said. "I'm an art history major myself."
"From the States?" Bill guessed.
"Yeah, how could you tell?" the girl replied. "Suppose it's my accent, which is funny because to me you're the one who has the accent."
Bill replied with a polite nod, as he wondered if every American asked complete strangers this many questions. Aubrey took this as her cue to continue on.
"I flying back home to Chicago," she said. "Well…Chicago isn't actually my home, we're going back to Madison…not that that is home either…certainly not according to the 'rents back in Minnesota, but yeah. Anyhoo, it's way cheaper to fly from O'Hare and take the bus from there to Wisconsin."
"We've been backpacking," Aubrey continued. "Well, actually, we started out on a class trip with my European art history professor, nice guy but way too high-strung…you can drink legally over here when you're eighteen, right? So why should he care? Anyways…so, that was only for a week…did the grand tour of British and Irish art museums, but as long as we're over here, it'd be a crime not to see some more, right? So he flew back all on his own, and all of the students went off in, like, eight different directions. My friends over there and I, we Europass'ed everywhere, which was great not having to worry about buying tickets…Thanks Mom and Dad! But, where was I…oh, yeah. So, saw a lot of cool stuff but now we're broke…not enough money to bunk in a hostel…and I'll be eating Ramen for, like, the next six months…but it was so worth it, right?"
"It certainly seems that way," Bill agreed, wondering if the American girl ever needed to breathe. "You always this wide awake at three in the morning?"
Aubrey shook her head. "Spent my last eurobucks on three Red Bulls and a litre of pop. Have to pee every half-hour, but it's worth it."
I…see," Bill said (although he really did not…the reference to purchasing colored cows being particularly confusing). Trying to wrestle back control of the conversation, he pointed towards the monitors and asked, "So these screens…I'm looking for the first flight to France."
The American girl gave Bill a funny look. "You take business trips to Egypt, but you can't figure out a departure schedule on your own? That's weird."
Bill sighed. "Erm…my employer usually makes all of my travel arrangements."
"Your employer?" Aubrey asked. "Huh…figured you to be a grad student. What kind of company hires archeologists?"
"A very private kind of company," Bill said curtly.
"Oh…kay. So you want to go to France?" Aubrey asked. She looked up at the departures screen and said, "First plane to Paris is an Air France flight. Leaves at 6:40."
Bill resisted the immediate urge to whip out his wand and cast a Tempus spell. He instead looked at his Muggle wristwatch and said, "That's more than three hours from now?"
Aubrey shrugged. "It's not bad…our flight doesn't leave until nine, and the first plane going anywhere doesn't leave until six."
"And that's the only option?"
The American girl looked back up at the screens. "There's a couple of British Airways flights, but they don't leave until later in the day."
Bill looked at the screen again and muttered. "Three hours…damn it!"
"What's the rush?"
"My fiancée is waiting for me on the other side of the channel."
"She pregnant and in labor, or something?"
"Just trying to figure out why you're so anxious to get there."
Bill thought for a moment, then reached into his pocket, removed his billfold and flipped it open to a wallet-sized photograph of Fleur.
"Whoa…enough said," the girl said. "I'm not into girls, but…if she was waiting for me? You're a lucky man, Bill."
"Erm…thanks," the wizard replied. He glanced back at the screens and asked, "Isn't there a train now that goes to France through a really long tunnel?"
"Yeah, it's called the Chunnel," said Amanda. "Funny thing though…it's only Americans who call it that. But why am I telling you this…are you Australian or something?"
Bill chuckled, and shook his head. "No, I'm English. I just spend a lot of time in the desert."
"Do you know which London station this Chunnel train leaves from?" Bill asked.
The girl's eyes lit up. "Yeah it was Saint something."
"Bingo!" the girl replied.
"You wouldn't happen to know when the first train leaves that station, would you?" Bill asked.
Aubrey reached out and grabbed Bill's elbow. "Oh…wait. Hold on!" she said.
Bill watched as the American girl scampered back to her group and unzipped a pocket on her backpack. One of her companions let out a moan and complained about the noise, prompting Aubrey to launch into a mini-lecture about Minnesota-nice and "paying it forward." It was almost enough to stop Bill from reaching into his pocket and (once his back was turned) retrieving a single strand of tracking-charmed hair.
Almost, but not quite enough (points gained for offering assistance having been more than lost by the girl's long-windedness).
Aubrey walked back to Bill with a dog-eared, broken-spine'd rail timetable in hand.
"Let's look in the Bible," she said, as she flipped open the book. "Well, it's not really the Bible, but you knew that, didn't you…even with all that time you spend in the desert doing your digging, right?"
"Right," Bill agreed.
"'Kay, so…we got to Paris from here on an Eurostar evening train, after we ditched our professor, but you want something earlier with that gorgeous girlfriend of yours on the other…erm, sorry, you said fiancée, right?"
"Lucky girl…well then, Eurostar…Eurostar…Euro…here we are. Looks like first train to Paris leaves at 5:40."
"That's a little better, I guess," Bill reasoned.
"Except I don't think you could get from here to St. Whatever in time, 'cause your Underground needs its beauty sleep and doesn't run at night…not like Chicago. Those el's run all night…although it might not be safest thing in the world to do, you know? So that's why I had voted for crashing at the tube station and catching first subway train out here in the morning, so we could have stayed out all night in Jolly Ole' Londontown, 'cept we didn't have any money left to do much of anything anyways, so…there you go."
Bill nodded. "It really does seem strange…to spend all that money on underground trains and tunnels to France but not use them around the clock."
"Oh, they get used…at least the Chunnel ones, I think," Aubrey replied. "They've got these cool car carriers…you drive off the highway, drive right onto a train car, and they carry you over to the other side, and Bob's your uncle, there you are in France. Drive off the train and you're back on the road, except only you'd have to remember to drive on the right side of the road, instead of the left. Did you know one of my classmates almost killed herself walking out onto a street in Edinburgh?"
"No, I didn't," said Bill. "So these car carriers, they run all night long?"
"Think so," the girl replied. "Saw one loading up as we flew by at a gazillion miles per hour…that's 1.6 gazillon kilometers per hour to you, by the way…the tunnel entrance on this side is in some place called…Folk-rocks, or Folkes - stone… but it's just for cars and trucks, mind you…hah! Hear that? I used 'mind you' just like I was English, instead of being French and sayin' 'n'est pas,' or saying 'don't you know' like we do back home…home-home in Minnesota, that is…although I guess there's a few 'Sconnie's that say that too..."
"So, I need to go to Folkestone," Bill summarized, as he glanced once more at his wristwatch. He could always apparate there and back if the story didn't pan out. And if this shuttle only went as far as the French coastline, then he could apparate while standing still in Calais, rather than try to apparate from a moving train (or wait until the train or plane arrived in Paris).
"If you really think so," Aubrey replied. "Can't see how you could get to the coast in the middle of the night sooner than either flying or taking the train from London."
"Well, we'll see, I guess," Bill replied. He reached out to shake the American's hand, pulling her close enough to pat her on the back and slip a pubic hair into the hood of her sweatshirt.
"Thanks for your help, I really appreciate it," he said.
"Sure, no problema," Aubrey replied. "Say, you got an e-mail address? I'd love to hear how you finally end up getting to see your fiancée."
"Sorry, I don't," Bill replied. "Don't really use computers out in the desert."
"Ah, that's too bad," the American said. "Cheerio, then?"
Bill chuckled, and nodded his head. "Cheerio, Aubrey."
Gringott's Wizarding Bank
Chokebar's plans to distribute tracking-charmed pubic hairs to the four corners of Magical Britain were being seriously delayed by the stack of reporting forms that sat on top of his office desk. Justifications were required for every snap decision that he had made and for every action that he had taken (or not taken) that night. And the forms that he was filling out weren't going just to his immediate supervisor…the Board of Auditors was being copied on each document placed with the Potter Account Manager's out basket. And this provided even more incentive to be very meticulous as he completed each form, since he wasn't at all interested in having to defend himself in person before the Board.
By Chokebar's estimation, it would take at least two more hours to complete the paperwork already before him, and that estimate was making the envelope filled with his client's pubic hairs rest very uncomfortably in his vest pocket. The longer it took to get out of his office an into the cart network, the more likely it was that his client's gambit would be found out by either the white-haired manipulator or the red-haired harridan. And Chokebar didn't even want to think about how many forms would be needed document what would happen if those hairs were tracked down to his present location.
It was clear to Chokebar that someone else would have to help him set up the Wild Hare Chase. But who? The only person he trusted implicitly was Malice, his secretary, but she had limited experience top-side, and would be hard-pressed to quickly and efficiently travel across Britain. He had subordinates that could be tasked with the job, but they had barely more experience than his secretary operating within the human world. Chokebar has briefly considered calling in one of the Potter house elves not presently under contract…but most of those worked on an ad hoc basis at Hogwarts. So what to do? The answer came to Chokebar when he remembered that there was an independent house elf option…someone who had been pestering him about becoming a House Potter house elf for the last three years.
The senior account manager rose from his desk, walked over to his file cabinet, and began to flip through tabbed folders linked to the various Potter account files. Once he found the one marked "house elf management" he pulled it from the drawer and opened the file cover.
The handwritten servitude application that Chokebar was looking for was at the top of the stack of papers. At the bottom of this application was an ink-smudged circle. Two seconds after the goblin pressed his thumb against this circle, a very excited house elf popped onto the office.
"Is Dobby's applications for being the Great Harry Potter's Sir's house elf forever and ever being accepted?" the bouncy little creature asked.
Chokebar smiled, but shook his head.
"I am sorry, Dobby, not at the moment," he said. "I am working very hard to make it possible for you to ask my client that question yourself."
"Really? Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, Harry Potter Sir's Goblin!"
Chokebar pushed down his natural inclination to reach for his steel-spiked mace as the excitable house elf invaded his personal space. Pulling Dobby clear of the leg that was presently being humped, the goblin asked, "You know that Albus Dumbledore would try to block your attempt to become part of House Potter, and that Molly Weasley would never allow you to serve my client while he is staying under her roof, right?"
"Yes, Mr. Accounty Manager, Sir! Dobby be knowing how nasty Ole Whiskers and the nastier Miss Nosy Bitch be keeping Dobby from helping the Great Harry Potter Sir!"
"Well, if you can keep a secret…."
"Dobby be keeping secret about anythings be helping him to be a Potter elf!"
"Well then, Dobby…the secret is that my client has run away from Miss Nosy Bitch's house."
"Really! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!"
Chokebar took a moment to stop Dobby from literally bouncing off the stone-hewn walls. Once he had a firm grip on the house elf's shoulder, the goblin said, "I think that Harry Potter is in a safe place now. But Dumbledore and the Nosy Bitch are going to try to find him and drag him back to the Burrow."
"What can Dobby be doing to help Accounty Manager Sir in stopping them?"
"I'm glad that you asked, Dobby," Chokebar replied. "I'd rather see Dumbledore chasing his own tail, than chasing Harry Potter." The goblin then reached into his vest pocket, and pulled an envelope and a travel map.
Folkestone Eurotunnel Terminal
The lorry driver let out a deep sigh as he pulled up to the end of the queue waiting to enter the freight terminal. He'd been twenty minutes late leaving the cheese distributor thanks to the loaders, and the biweekly drive from Wellington had taken fifteen minutes longer than normal due to road construction. Still, nothing to be done about it…even if the delays caused him to miss his normal shuttle train connection and make his arrival in Brussels even more delayed.
The driver was in the middle of pouring a cup of tea from his Thermos when the passenger side cab door opened and a man dressed in black climbed inside.
"Jeee-sus! What the bloody hell you think you're doing!" the driver shouted.
The passenger held one hand out as he used his other hand to close the door.
"Sorry for the intrusion, just need a couple of minutes of your time."
"Well you can't bloody 'ave it! Get the fuuk outta my cab!"
The unwelcome arrival pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket and peeled off a 100 euro note.
"This is just for you to listen to my offer," he said. "No other obligations…two minutes from now you can tell me to fuck off and I'll gladly leave."
The driver's eyes shifted back and forth between the single bill now sitting on the front dash and the wad of bills still in the other guy's hand. He stuck his head out the window and counted out his place in line.
"Two minutes is all you'll have, mate," he said, reaching out to pull the euro note into his pocket.
"Thanks, my name's Bill, by the way," the other man said, holding out his hand.
"Steve," the driver said cautiously, as he shook the wizard's hand.
"Nice to meet you, Steve," said Bill. "So the proposal is a simple one…you help me get to the other side, and there's another three hundred in it for you."
"Three hundred?" the driver asked incredulously. "You're willing to pay that much just to hitch a ride?"
"What the fuck for?" the driver asked. "You can take the bloody ferry from Dover for a hundred."
Bill shrugged. "I'm in a hurry."
The driver asked, "You aren't runnin' from the coppers, are you?"
"Not trying to enter illegally?"
Bill pulled his Muggle British passport out of his pocket and shook his head.
"I'm a legal U.K. citizen, and if I'm wanted by the authorities, then surely they'll find me out when we go through passport control, right?"
"Bah!" the driver scoffed. "They hardly ever bother to even make me roll the window down as I roll by. But if you think it wouldn't be on my head if I was giving a lift to a wanted criminal?"
"But I'm not wanted, so it's not an issue," Bill declared.
The driver pursed his lips.
"So why are you in such a hurry, then?" he asked.
Bill thought for a moment, then pulled out his billfold. This time, he pulled the picture of Fleur out of its protective cover, and handed it to the driver.
"That's my fiancée," he explained. "She's waiting for me on the other side."
The driver's eyes glazed over, and his hands began to shake, as if Fleur's allure was somehow escaping from the Muggle photograph itself. He let out a low-pitched whistle, and shook his head.
"Should've started your sales pitch with the picture," he told Bill, returning the photo. "Would have saved you some money."
The two sat in the silent cab for another minute, as it slowly rolled towards the front of the queue. Once it was his turn to drive up to a touch-screen terminal, the driver rolled down his window and pressed a couple of buttons…the most relevant being the number of passengers traveling in the cab.
"Gonna owe my mate in the front office after this," Steve said.
"Cause all this data is going directly back to the company…they take a dim view of their drivers taking on hitchhikers."
"So you'll get in trouble, then?"
"Nah, like I said…I've got a mate that works in the office that will take care of things," the driver said. "Still…."
"Might be easier explaining things if I had that picture of yours to show."
Bill let out a snort as he handed the picture back to the driver.
"We have a deal, then?"
The driver reached his hand out.
"If anyone asks, you're the new guy learning my route."
Bill nodded, and shook the driver's hand.
The light in front of the truck turned from red to green, and they began to move again.
"That's it, then?"
"Yeah, as far as payment and registration goes," the driver explained. "Next it's our customs and immigration guys, who'll wave us right through…just like this…."
Bill nodded as an overweight agent who was wearing an orange reflective vest and carrying a clipboard waved the truck through.
"Very nice," the driver said. "Next it's the Frenchies' turn."
"What's that?" Bill asked.
The driver turned towards Bill and said, "The French do their immigration control and customs inspections on this side of the tunnel, just like our guys do their work on the other side…is that a problem?"
"No, no…just didn't realize," said Bill.
"No worries mate," the driver said. "The French are ten times lazier than the Brits. Most of the time, they don't even bother coming out of their shed as we roll…right by…bugger!"
The driver stopped the lorry twenty feet short of the two French immigration control officials who had popped out of their little building and waved a hand-held stop sign.
"That was a real passport, right mate?" the driver asked.
"Yes, it is," Bill insisted.
"Right, stay calm, then," the driver said, as he rolled down his window. "Probably just going to check the back for stowaways."
This assessment appeared fairly accurate…at least as first. As one official asked for the driver and passenger to produce their passports, the other official, who carried a small box from a shoulder strap, inserted a small probe into the refrigerated trailer.
The first official flashed his torchlight on first the driver's passport, and then Bill's. When he spotted the name on Bill's passport, the agent did a double take. He then pulled himself up the driver's side door, and flashed his torchlight in Bill's face. After a comparison between face and photo was made, the agent returned the two passports.
"Just a moment, please," he said.
The over-sized windows in the immigration control office allowed Bill and the lorry driver to watch as the French agent placed a call. There was a brief conversation with someone on the other side of the line that involved three head nods and two glances at Bill's passport. The call ended when the officer gave the telephone receiver one very sharp salute.
"Sorry about all this," Bill told the driver, as the French official walked back towards the lorry.
"Maybe it would help if we showed the Frenchie that picture of your girl?" the driver asked.
Bill was considering this idea as the immigration officer gestured for him to roll down the passenger-side window.
"My apologies, Monsieur Weasley, but if you would follow me? There is someone who wishes to talk with you."
The deferential tone of voice prompted Bill to go with the flow and open the cab door.
The driver grabbed his sleeve and held out Fleur's picture.
"Couldn't hurt, mate," he said.
The French officer smiled at the driver. "Please do not be concerned…I give you my personal assurance that Monsieur Weasley will be joining you in the club car."
Bill turned towards the driver and shrugged.
"Guess you should hold onto the picture as collateral," he said.
"Yeah…if need be I've got a couple of more photos in my wallet that would work even better."
The driver looked once more at the head shot of Fleur and shook his head in disbelief.
"How could you improve on perfection?" he asked.
Bill grinned as he stepped down from the cab, then looked back towards the driver and replied, "By dressing perfection in a swim costume!"
Heart medication hastily retrieved from the lorry's glove box was the only thing that kept Bill from causing a second fatal heart attack that night.
One-hundred forty-two miles west of the Folkestone Terminal (as the naked witch flies), a house elf was comparing his checklist against a street sign. Pleased to have reached one of his destinations, Dobby pulled out one of Harry's tracking-charmed pubic hairs, and began searching for just the right place to hide it within the sleepy little hamlet of Shitterton.
Bill thought it unlikely that anyone magical would be eavesdropping on the telephone call. But as he was still on the English side of the Eurotunnel, he didn't take any chances, and he didn't say anything too revealing (or too racy) during that conversation. After an "à bientôt" and one final "Je t'aime," the curse breaker handed the telephone receiver to the immigration officer. The officer nodded curtly and clicked his heels together as he placed the receiver back onto its cradle.
"Monsieur Weasley, someone will be waiting for you in Coquelles," he said. "But if there is something that we might do for you on this side that would facilitate your travel? Anything at all?"
Bill acknowledged the offer with a warm smile. "So was there any specific reason why you stopped the lorry that I was riding in?"
The official nodded. "There is a special kind of sensor that each vehicle rolls across. It is very rarely tripped, but in these instances we are instructed to stop the vehicle, determine who is inside, and report this information to someone back in Paris."
"Ah, that makes sense," said Bill. It sounded as if there was a magic-detection ward line in place, and that the person on the other end of the telephone call was in the know about magic. But since it was clear that this agent wasn't in the know, he didn't explain why the comment made sense.
A different lorry rolled passed the guard shack, prompting Bill to think of a different question. "So, how many lorries are going to be on this shuttle?"
"Thirty-two total, Monsieur."
"And is there any way of knowing their final destinations?"
The French Muggle nodded, and said, "But of course!"
He typed something on his computer keyboard. A few seconds later, a piece of paper spat out of the beige box that sat behind the metal desk. The French official grabbed this sheet and offered it to Bill.
"This is a list that matches vehicle license plate numbers against their destinations," he said.
Bill took the paper and quickly scanned its contents. He liked what he saw…after planting pubic hairs on Annoying Aubrey and eighteen other air travelers at Heathrow, he still had roughly twenty tracking charms left in his envelope.
"Is there any way that I can gain access to these lorries?" he asked.
"You wish to obtain access inside each trailer?"
"No…I just want to walk alongside them…to put my hand on each one."
"Ah…that can be easily arranged," the agent replied. "Is there anything else that I might do for you?"
Bill's eyes drifted over towards a side table, where a box of freshly-baked (and just-delivered) croissants and French pastries sat next to a coffee maker.
"Well, if it's not too much to ask….."
Halfway down his checklist, Dobby popped up in the Welsh village of Pontarddulais. This time, he was looking for a specific street within a specific village, for reasons that the house elf didn't really understand. But anything to help the Great Harry Potter, Sir…right?
Most of the houses in this village had slate roofs, which would make it harder to hide a hair than it was within the thatched roofs in Shitterton. Not that Dobby was interested in being repetitive, or in making things easy for anyone trying to track down a hair. He wanted hiding places that would make Ole Whiskers and Miss Nosy Bitch think twice before they played with the Great Harry Potter Sir's privates.
Once he found what he was looking for, Dobby popped back and forth, until he found just the right place to leave a hair…on top of one of the poles that supported high-voltage power lines down the length of Pant-y-Felin Road.
Bill used spell-o-tape to fix the last tracking-charmed hair in his envelope to the undercarriage of an Istanbul-bound lorry. He climbed back onto to the platform, where a shuttle bus was waiting to deliver him to the passenger car at the head of the train. Bill was going to wave the driver off and walk the short distance, but then he spotted the white boxes and insulated carafes sitting next to the bus driver. So he stepped aboard, and after a very short trip, helped the driver carry three boxes of pastries, five litres of fresh-brewed tea, and ten litres of fresh-brewed coffee into the club car.
By this point in time, Bill was already the most popular guy on the train; Steve the cheese truck driver had seen to that by allowing all of the other lorry drivers to take a look at Fleur's picture. The pastries and coffee that he shared with everyone in the club car merely cemented that position.
It took thirty five minutes to journey the thirty-one miles from Folkestone to the French terminal at Coquelles. Half-way through that trip, one of the nineteen taped hairs was sucked out of the open sides of a shuttle car and was left behind within the tunnel. Bill didn't find out about this until a few days later, when Fred and George regaled their older brother with a hilarious story about Severus Snape's Soggy Visit to the Bottom of the Sea.
While sunrise was still an hour away, there was more than enough early-morning twilight to define the moment that the shuttle train emerged from the Eurotunnel and rolled onto at-grade track. The lorry drivers (no strangers to this transition) marked the occasion by using the loo and finishing off the last of the pain au chocolat. But Bill's focus was the scenery outside of the car's windows…and, specifically, the oversized Tricolour that flew 24/7 over the main terminal building. The wide smile that formed on the curse breaker's lips lasted through all of the handshakes, and well-wishes, and futile requests to see the picture of Fleur in a bikini.
When the train came to a stop, the club car's doors opened with a whoosh, and the drivers filed out onto the platform. A shuttle bus was waiting to reunite them with their rigs, and a half-dozen terminal personnel were preparing to guide the small convoy off of the train cars and back onto the road. But there was another man waiting on the platform…someone who was not a Eurotunnel employee (based on the lack of reflective striping attached to his expensive three-piece suit). This man was quick to pull Bill to the side.
Kisses were offered on each cheek as Bill was welcomed to France. This confirmed the well-dressed man's nationality.
A government id was shown that included a magically-animated head-shot. This confirmed both the well-dressed man's employer and his magical status.
Bill was led off the platform and behind a building, where the well-dressed man placed a portkey in his hand and stated that it was set to deliver him to "Le Cogfir Inn." This confirmed that the well-dressed man was completely trustworthy.
Too excited to crack a joke about only wanting to visit The Cogfir Inn with his fiancée, Bill took hold of the offered gold chain and disappeared within a rainbow spray of colors.
There were two more hairs than places on Dobby's checklist. So once he visited every place on that list, he decided to show just how loyal and worthy he would be as a Potter House Elf by taking some initiative.
Dobby really, really needed to find a great hiding spot for a tracking-charmed hair. And where do you go when you really, really need something the most?
The excitable house elf popped to Hogwarts, and walked back and forth three times in front of the Come and Go Room.
Dobby could have found hiding spots for both hairs in the cluttered storage room, but something that Chokebar had said earlier that evening was stuck in the back of his mind. The senior account manager had told Dobby that he wanted Dumbledore to be chasing his own tail. Now this was a silly thing to ask for, since every house elf who had ever worked at Hogwarts knew that the Headmaster's tail had been surgically removed decades ago. So what was the next best thing?
After a brilliant idea popped into the house elf's head, the house elf quietly popped into Dumbledore's private quarters. Once there, he surreptitiously wove the very last pubic hair into the fabric of the boxer shorts that had been set out as part of the Headmaster's next-day outfit.
6:30am, July 31
The flat above Weasley's Wizard Wheezes
Fred Weasley's randy early morning dream involving girlfriends, canary creams, and oversized nests was interrupted by an unwelcomed shake of the shoulder. He turned away from the contact, pulled the blanket over his head, and muttered, "Awww, Mum give it a rest…we're just nesting…"
The witch who was standing at his bedside yanked the blanket back and said, "This bloody owl is going to make a nest in our bed unless you wake up, Luv."
"Luv?" Fred asked, as the cobwebs rapidly cleared. He opened his eyes, glanced up towards his employee/girlfriend, then glanced back over his shoulder in the direction she was now pointing.
"He won't let me take the message off of his leg," the witch noted.
Fred nodded in understanding, letting out a yawn as his eyes shifted away from the perched post owl towards the opened bedroom window. Reaching underneath his pillow for his wand, he turned towards the delivery bird and asked, "What has you being all insistent, like?"
"I've already checked it for curses, his girlfriend noted.
"Just to be safe," said Fred, as he sat up and cast a proprietary prank detection spell that also served as an effective mail screen. The red-haired wizard liberated the envelope from the owl's leg only after the document passed this safety test.
Verity (the younger of the Weasley Twins's two live-in employees) tracked the post owl as it launched off the head board and glided out the opened bedroom window. Her attention was brought back towards the bed when Fred pumped his fist and shouted, "Yes!"
"Hush," the witch whispered. "George and Chastity are probably still sleeping."
The smile on Fred Weasley's face didn't falter as he looked up from the slip of parchment and said, "They'll want to be woken to hear this news."
"What's that?" Verity asked.
Fred handed her the letter, then swung his legs off their bed and stood.
"They've all four successfully flown the coop," the wizard announced.
His girlfriend looked down at the cryptic message and read it out loud.
"I solemnly swear that the co-owner and le coq disent, 'Cock-a-diddle-do'?" she asked. "How do you figure that from this?"
"Easy," said Fred, as he pulled on a pair of trousers. "We nicknamed our brother 'Le Coq' after he bagged a French bird, and Harry is our co-owner. Disent is French, so that means Fleur got away clean, and the diddle-do part can only refer to Hermione."
"Oh…well, good for them, then," said Verity.
Fred frowned when he recognized disappointment within his girlfriend's tone of voice. "Something wrong, Sweetheart?"
Verity smiled and shook her head as she dragged a finger down the front of her night gown.
"No, no," she insisted. "Just a little disappointed that it wasn't another message like last night's."
Fred's eyes bulged out a bit as he followed Verity's finger.
"Oh, sorry…did I fail to mention that 'I solemnly swear' is code for 'You need to do some more fornicating this morning'?"
Verity smiled as she toyed with the strings that tied her nightgown shut. "How long this time?"
Her boyfriend quickly cast a Tempus charm.
"Well what do you know? Two hours of fornicating, beginning in exactly two minutes."
"So why are you getting dressed, then?" Verity asked, as her fingers loosened the knot that held her nightgown shut.
As he watched his insatiable live-in girlfriend/employee rush to get naked, Fred Weasley once again silently thanked Merlin, Morgana, and the teen-aged co-owner whose investment allowed his brother and him to rent a flat and make their own escape from their mother's overbearing oversight.
A knock on the door drew the red-haired wizard's attention away from his lover's body.
"Go away! Nobody's home!" he called out.
Verity giggled as she held the nightgown that she'd just pulled over her head against her chest. "Shouldn't we tell our siblings that they need to be fornicating as well?"
"I suppose they should hear the good news," Fred reasoned.
"And also hear about the successful escape," his girlfriend purred seductively.
Fred dashed towards the bedroom door and opened it just a crack.
"Good morning…just got word that they all got away safe and we need to shag for two more hours starting right about now!" he loudly declared.
A laugh came from the hallway as Verity's older sister pushed her way into the bedroom. "Don't think I'd survive another two hour marathon after last night," Chastity declared. The witch glanced towards her half-naked sister and shook her head. "We got the same message…minus the need to shag part."
Fred's girlfriend shrugged her shoulders. "Oh well, guess that means that you two get to open the shop this morning."
"Nice try, Sis," said Chastity. She turned to Fred and added, "George is getting dressed and sent me to make sure that you're doing the same. He's expecting you both to be summoned either by your mum or by Dumbledore. Probably both."
Fred let out a deep breath, shook his head, and began to think about where he had left his howler-cancelling headphones.
The painful itch that woke up Molly Weasley was so intense that she almost dropped the clock and grabbed her crotch with both hands.
Arthur immediately woke, and in a flash had the lights on and the tip of his wand pointing towards his wife's bed.
"What's wrong?" he shouted.
"Ermm….nothing," Molly hissed through clenched teeth, as she turned away from her husband and curled into a fetal position.
"That doesn't sound like nothing."
"Just a bit of an issue down there."
"Ah…is there anything I can do to help?"
"NO!" Molly spat. "Nothing for you to worry about. Go back to bed."
Arthur glanced at the magical alarm clock. He shook his head, stepped onto the carpeted floor and said, "It's just about time to get up…might as well take a shower."
"Good idea," Molly hissed.
"Are you certain there isn't something that I could do to help?"
Molly shook her head. The head shaking was much more insistent when Arthur asked if she wanted him to keep the door to the attached lavatory opened, just in case.
The Weasley matriarch had barely enough willpower to cast locking charms on the doors leading to the lavatory and hallway. Only then did Molly pull down the bed linens and pull up the hem of her nightgown. What she saw down there added thick layers of fear and loathing to the pain…someone replaced her unruly, untrimmed fanny forest with a mixture of angry pus-filled pimples and nasty ingrown hairs.
Molly was going to go Medieval on whoever had cursed her quim.
And this intent to go Medieval led her to reach for her clock; by her logic, the hand that was turning color in response to the "imminent harm" that she was about to inflict would point her directly towards the culprit. But to her great surprise, all of the hands on the clock were colored green, and sat just where she'd expect them to be.
Thinking that pain relief should come before pain deliverance, Molly set the clock down and hobbled towards a wall-mounted mirror (wand in one hand, raised hemline in the other). She levitated the mirror onto the bedroom floor and squatted over it.
The fanny reflection looked just as bad as it felt.
As her youngest son had noted earlier that summer, Molly Weasley was an accomplished amateur healer. Her skills in diagnosing, treating, and reversing all but the most challenging ills and magical maladies were a reflection of her fierce self-reliance, her family's limited finances, and her fertility (there having been far less need for healing and prank-reversing before her fourth and fifth sons came along). But she had never had to deal with in-grown hairs before; the men in her house shaved daily, while the women in her house never shaved (at least not the ones who would trust Molly with their medical care).
The Weasley matriarch kept home-brewed salves on hand to effectively and magically deal with irritating skin blemishes and rashes. But she figured that she would have to really lay it on thick this time, and would have to leave it on down there for a while. And that salve would hide the ingrown hairs and delay their removal. So it was hair removal first, salve application second.
The course of treatment determined, Molly aimed her wand towards her crotch and cast a hair-removal jinx.
It was an unfortunate choice of magic.
In the midst of her pain (and her plans for punishment) Molly had forgotten some of the most basic principles of magic. There were two basic ways for a witch or wizard to remove hair. Both the shaving charm that Arthur was using in the shower and the depilatory charm that Hermione had used on Harry were spells designed for beneficial effect; the intent of the spells was to remove unwanted hair. On the other hand, the hair-loss jinx that Molly had just used on herself was designed for ill effect…the intent of the jinx was to inflict harm and/or embarrassment on the target by removing hair that was wanted, rather than unwanted.
Molly Weasley knew how to cast a hair-loss jinx. She'd used the spell when she was still a Prewitt, and had seen it thrown around her house more than a few times once she became a mother. So while the correctly cast self-inflicted jinx didn't therapeutically vanish her ingrown pubic hairs, it did a bang-up job of shaving her head bald and causing her eyebrows and eyelashes to fall off.
Arthur heard his wife's wails and jumped out of the shower. Discovering that the door to the bedroom was locked, he banged on it with his fist and yelled, "Molly? Are you alright? Open the door!"
"You don't sound fine."
"Well I am, so leave me be!"
Arthur took a deep breath, counted to ten, then let the breath out and stepped back into the shower.
Back on the other side of the door, Molly was tearfully considering her next steps. The standard counter-treatment for the hair loss jinx was a proprietary hair restoration potion from Sleakeasy's. Not that the potions that she used came from Sleakeasy's, or that she paid any mind to the fact that it was a proprietary product; the pirated instructions that she used to brew her own version of the potion worked well enough, thank you very much.
Bald Molly hobbled over to her nightstand and cast an unlocking charm that opened the hidden drawer where she stored all of her "special" potions (i.e. anything someone might consider to be illegal or improper). She had to pull the drawer almost all of the way out to reach the bottle that had been pushed to the back by more recently-brewed love potions. The bottle stopper pulled, Molly guzzled the foul-tasting potion down.
In the midst of her pain (and her plans for punishment) Bald Molly had just forgotten another important magical principal. The hair restorative belonged to a broad class of magical potions that were developed to return a patient to a normally healthy state. It didn't go overboard and grow scalp hair out to Rapunzellian-lengths, or allow a wizard to challenge Albus Dumbledore in a longest beard competition. What it did do is generally restore a witch or wizard's hair to the lengths that existed before the catastrophic hair loss event. So when Molly drank the potion, she was able to regrow normal-looking eyebrows and eyelashes, and regain the same length and style of scalp hair that she'd enjoyed the day before.
The problem was that the potion worked on all types of hair.
When Fleur told Harry and Hermione that she had numbed Molly's privates and permanently jinxed Molly's pubic hairs to become ingrown, she had left out a critical step. The "normal" time for ingrown hairs to develop was right after a close shave. But Molly never shaved (at least not down there) and Fleur wasn't certain that her curse would work on an untamed forest. So, when Fleur slipped into Arthur and Molly's bedroom the night before, she cut down Molly's forest before she cast the jinx that forced the remaining stubble to grow inward.
If Molly hadn't realized that her ingrown pubic hairs were only a quarter-inch long before she drank that potion, she surely figured it out afterwards, when the potion added three inches to the length of each and every pubic hair.
Three additional inches inward.
Arthur didn't stop to call out to his wife, and didn't bother with unlocking charms. This time, when he heard Molly cry in pain, he simply vanished the door and rushed towards his wife, who was curled up on the floor with her nightgown bunched up above her waist.
His position at the Ministry and his experiences as a father had given Arthur Weasley his own level of competence when it came to providing emergency first aid. While he didn't know the underlying cause of Molly's suffering, he was easily able to diagnose acute symptoms from the visual evidence and from the few words that she was able to get out in between sobs.
Arthur waved his wand and used the same numbing charm that Fleur had used the night before to eliminate most of the pain. He then cast the same Somnus spell that Bill had used to put his wife into a light (if uncomfortable) sleep. The goal of this sleep spell wasn't to manage pain…it was to manage the embarrassment that Molly would have experienced when her husband rolled her onto her back and spread her legs to gain a better (and far closer) view of where it hurt.
The same spell that Arthur had just used to shave his chin was then used to remove the ingrown hairs from his wife's crotch. It was a messy process, as the hairs growing underneath each pus-filled pimple burst those puss-filled pimples on the way out.
It was also, to Arthur's disappointment, a seemingly futile process; the hairs that he had just removed were almost immediately replaced by new hairs that grew out before they grew inward. It didn't take long for him to reason out why…the hair restoring potion that his wife had swallowed was still in her system, and that potion would continue to catalyze new hair growth until it was completely out of her system.
The Weasley patriarch realized that the start of that process would be way messier than the bursting fanny pimples. It was also going to be far more time intensive, and require a bit of planning and proper staging. Of course, the safest and easiest course of action would be bringing Molly to St. Mungo's, but that wasn't the most secure location, and she would have fits if he brought her there and left the children behind (even with the wards, and guards, and Bill and Fleur on hand). So a messy home treatment it was…so long as the problem didn't seem life threatening.
He started with the paralysis charm that would buy him most of that time. The spell froze Molly's muscle movement and shut down all but the most critical organ functions. Skin is an organ, and hair growth isn't a critical core function, so the spell stopped the ingrowth. But it also stopped digestion and liver functions, so it wasn't a long term solution.
A quick check of the family clock showed hands that were all green, and that was good enough for Arthur; he paid little attention to where any given hand was positioned at any given moment. The Weasley patriarch then threw on a robe and knocked on Ginny's bedroom door. When his groggy daughter opened that door, Arthur explained that her mother wasn't feeling well, and told Ginny to keep an eye on her while he called into the Ministry to take a sick day. He didn't stop to wonder why Molly's screams hadn't woken Ginny in the first place (and wouldn't have liked the answer had he asked…earlier that summer, Bill had applied silencing charms on the walls at Ginny's request, keeping her from having to hear her parents having loud, hippogriff-riding sex).
It was too early to speak to somebody directly when Arthur floo-called into work, so he just left a message saying that he had to stay home for the day to care for his wife. He then went into the kitchen and opened the cabinet drawer that held the potions that Molly didn't need to hide. He briefly considered the bezoar that was at the front of this drawer, but decided that it wouldn't help (since the hair restorative potion wasn't a poison). Instead, he grabbed the potion that no child wanted to take…the potion used when a parent didn't have a bezoar on hand.
When he returned to the bedroom, Arthur thanked his daughter for her help, and told her that he would be busy caring for her mother over most of the morning. He therefore asked Ginny to help with making breakfast for the others. She agreed, disappeared into her room, and promptly decided that everyone else could make their own damn breakfast. Ginny then crawled back into bed and cuddled up against her two pygmy puffs.
Meanwhile, Arthur had stripped off his wife's nightgown (just one more thing to get in the way), and carried her into the lavatory. He then propped her onto the toilet seat, positioned the garbage pail in between her knees, and cancelled out the paralysis and sleeping charms. It took only a few seconds for the pain to wake Molly up, and not that many more seconds for Arthur to explain the situation and convince her to swallow the Twipecac potion…the potion that thoroughly emptied out Molly's stomach by expelling its contents in two opposite directions.
Arthur spent the next several minutes reapplying the numbing charm, and holding his wife's newly-grown hair back from her face as she vomited into the bucket and violently moved her bowels. Once the vomit and diarrhea was replaced by dry heaves and wet farts, Arthur cleaned Molly with some magic and guided his sobbing wife back to her bed. He recast the Somnus spell, the spent the next thirty minutes repeatedly casting the shaving charm in a battle against his wife's pubic hairs.
The ingrown pubic hairs won.
Close to the point of magical exhaustion, Arthur reluctantly dragged himself down to the ground floor and placed a floo-call to Poppy Pomfrey. The Hogwarts matron was happy to come through the floo and help out, once Arthur whispered Molly's symptoms into the fireplace. Upon Poppy's arrival, Arthur led her up to the master bedroom. Once inside the bedroom, Poppy announced that she now had two patients, and ordered Arthur to crawl into his separate bed and recharge his magic with a nap. He didn't fight this order.
An hour later, Poppy touched Arthur's shoulder and gently woke him up.
"Is everything….?" he asked.
The mediwitch nodded her head. "I ferreted out the root cause, and used enough blood replenishing potion to dilute the hair restorative's residual strength. She's out of the woods."
Arthur got out of bed and walked towards his wife's bed. She was sleeping peacefully, with the bed linens pulled up to her chin. He thanked Poppy for her help, then asked about that root cause.
Poppy snorted. "I see something like this once or twice a year at school, actually," she said. "Never heard of it happening to an older witch…"
"There's a female version of the shaving charm," said Poppy.
"Really? What in Merlin's name for?" Arthur asked.
Poppy shrugged. "Well, let's just say that a few witches, and more than a few Muggle women, don't care have hair on their legs, or in places…higher…than that."
"Oh," said Arthur. His eyes widened as he realized what the Matron was intimating.
"Really? They use a shaving charm…down there?"
"It's called the depilatory charm," Poppy said with a head nod. "It's not a terribly difficult spell for a witch to learn, once she gets over the embarrassment of needing to ask how it's cast. And there's the problem."
"The problem comes from being too embarrassed to ask for help," said Poppy. "If a witch tries to wing it, and casts the spell incorrectly, it will still take off the hair. It's when that hair grows back that the ingrown problems start."
"Oh…so you're thinking that Molly tried to shave…and botched it?"
"But why…I know that she was still was…erm…unshaven…the night before last. Do those kind of hairs grow back that fast?"
"Not without the help of a potion like the one Molly used."
"Why would a witch want to grow back what she just shaved off?" Arthur wondered.
Poppy shrugged. "Second thoughts? Regrets? Satisfying their curiosity?" she asked. "Magic makes it easy for a witch to change back and forth between different hair styles. This is the same kind of thing, only lower. Not a problem if you cast the depilatory charm correctly, but if you don't, then try to gain it back all at once with a potion?"
"Oh," said Arthur. Now thoroughly embarrassed, he asked Poppy if she had been able to fix everything. The Matron shook her head.
"I really haven't seen a depilatory charm botched this bad before," she stated. "There's no easy way to reverse the damage. Good news is that the ill effects will eventually taper off."
"So Molly will need to keep herself hair-free down there until they start growing out straight again," Poppy stated. "She'll have to learn how to correctly cast the depilatory charm, and then use it every day or two for the next few months."
"I see," said Arthur. He looked at his sleeping wife, and then let out a deep breath. "I really appreciate you coming over straight away and helping sort this out."
"Not a problem."
"So…would you be willing to explain this to Molly once she wakes? And maybe teach her how to correctly use that charm?"
Poppy smiled as she closed her medical bag.
"I'll let you in on a healer's secret, Arthur…it's the exact same spell that you use to clear stubble from your chin."
"Did you have any problems using your shaving charm on her?" Poppy asked. "Until, that is, you wore yourself out?"
"No, not really."
"Bang up job delivering emergency first aid, by the way," the Matron stated. "What I'm driving at is…you could teach Molly yourself. Unless you think that she'd be more comfortable having a witch teach her?"
Arthur winced at the question. He shook his head, and said, "No, I really don't think she would want me to walk her through that kind of spell, in that kind of location."
Poppy let an unprofessional giggle escape from her lips as she imagined how that scene would play out. She patted Arthur on the back and said, "No, I don't think so either."
A/ N #2: Chapter scenes in the Muggle world forced me to deal with timelines and the age-appropriateness of bank notes, train timetables, and attitudes toward backpackers overnighting in airport terminals. I've never been a slave to canon or its timeline, and prefer not to devote extensive time researching what model of mobile phone was available in retain in 1996. But even I would think it strange to have a HP story in which a modern-day Muggle helps Bill by whipping out her smart phone to check out on-line train schedules. So, while not shying away from contemporary Muggle tech, infrastructure, or culture, I've tried to push these elements far enough into the background so that they aren't critical to the narrative. In other words…you don't need to point out that the 100 euro note wasn't introduced until 2002, or that Paris-bound Eurostar trains departed from Waterloo Station up until 2007. I already know. It really doesn't matter. Apologies to those whose reading experience was ruined by these minutiae.