Authors' Note: The "American Wizarding Union" mentioned in the chapter is a contribution from DarthIshtar's Harry Potter fanon, specifically "Wrong Turn at Nantucket."
Will squinted at the sepia photo in Johnston's wallet. All the people in the dog-eared family photo were moving. He flipped the plastic sheet to see a more-traditional stationary picture of a couple of cute kids on the reverse side.
"My sister's children," Johnston explained. "But you'll want to speak with my Grandpa Dirk."
Will ignored him and reached into the sheet pocket to pull the moving photo out, turning it over a couple of times and looking for whatever was behind this practical joke. The Autobot hangar had been cleared of everyone except Will, Johnston, and Optimus, but Lennox glanced suspiciously around the echoing room. He'd seen one too many Autobot pranks to not be wary.
"Dirk Devonshire," Johnston tried again. "My mother's father. He's..." The poor man flushed in embarrassment. "Don't you Americans have an equivalent of the Ministry of Magic?"
"Yes, they do," the man in the photo said, and Will almost dropped it. "The American Wizarding Union. And careful there, Yank. You're making me dizzy." He continued, "Problem is, the Union isn't in league with the military. You NEST chaps and the Union both don't know that the other exists, and it's taking too long to go through traditional channels. There's a man by the name of Sam Witwicky on Diagon Alley."
"Sam?" Will demanded. "If he's behind this..."
"Seems to be an innocent bystander from what I can gather. But is young Bradley right that you know this Mr. Witwicky?"
"Then I need you to call this number." He recited it while Will dialed.
"HULLO," the voice on the other end of the line shouted.
Wincing, Will held the receiver away from his ear and put it on speakerphone before turning it down. "This is Major William Lennox. Who am I talking to?"
("To whom," the photo of Grandpa Dirk corrected.)
"I AM BRADLEY JOHNSTON'S COUSIN, MARCUS ASTRID. IS THERE ANYONE MAGICAL ON YOUR BASE?"
Lennox gave Johnston a disbelieving look, and the machinist ducked his head a little before answering, "Marcus, it's me, Bradley, and I told you, you do not need to shout. The phone carries your voice just fine."
"Muggle contraption," Marcus muttered. In a slightly-quieter bellow, he said, "I NEED YOU TO COME COLLECT ONE OF YOUR ROBOTS! IMMEDIATELY."
"Sure," Will said, deciding that thinking about it too hard would make his head explode. If it was a joke, he'd give brig time to whoever was behind it (even if it was the human Prime). If all this hocus pocus was for real, well...he'd been chased through Qatar by a demonic rotary-propeller engine. Stranger things had happened to him than talking wallets. "Just tell us where – "
"That's the problem," Bradley said before his deafening cousin could try to explain. "Diagon Alley is Unplottable. It doesn't exist on a map. It's..." He paused obviously struggling to explain.
"It's betwixt and between," a female voice declared on the British end of the phone call. As an aside, Will could hear her say, "Thank you, Mr. Astrid. I'll take it from here." Then addressing the Diego Garcia group, she said, "I apologize about Mr. Astrid. He's only had limited interaction with the non-magical world. I'm Hermione Weasley, and I'll be your liaison now."
Will stared heavenward, cursing whatever deity had added a liaison to this insane day.
"Diagon Alley is a magical thoroughfare," the woman continued. "It exists within and beyond the world you know."
Optimus straightened in surprise. "They're in a subspace bubble."
"No, no. That rubbish is the stuff of science fiction. I'm talking about magic."
"I assure you, Ms. Weasley - "
"Missus," she interrupted.
"- Mrs. Weasley, that I use subspace technology on a daily basis. Magic, however..."
"...I use on a daily basis."
"Calm down, people," Lennox interjected. "So Sam and Bumblebee are someplace that we can't find on a GPS. How do you expect us to come get them? Or better yet, why can't you just wave a magic wand and send them here, if you're all real witches and wizards?"
"Well..." Hermione hedged, "Magic and electronics are a bad mix, and it appears that magic and alien electronics are even worse. Normal procedure for an accidental Muggle incursion is to remove the evidence and Obliviate the offenders."
Optimus made an unhappy noise at that comment. He wasn't entirely sure how a human was Obliviated, but he was quite certain he didn't want it done to his bond-brother.
Unaware that she'd just made it onto Optimus' 'bad' list, Hermione Weasley continued, "But we didn't get any further than trying to remove the evidence. One of the workers at Gringotts - the bank your robot and his boy landed in - tried to Apparate them into a vault, but it didn't work. In fact it..." There was the sound of rustling papers. "...according to Mr. Witwicky, and I quote, 'It made him drunk. Like, really drunk. Not just the overenergized thing like at the party on the island last week. Like human drunk. He's giggling uncontrollably, and it's really creepy so can somebody please come get us?'"
Will was quite tempted to facepalm, but that would have been below his already-low level of dignity for the day.
"I want to speak with Sam," Optimus blurted out.
"I'm afraid that's impossible at the moment."
"I am his brother," Optimus added, a hint of anxiety in his voice. Will knew that, if Optimus was willing to claim Sam as a brother in front of a complete stranger, then he was on the verge of a panic-attack inside. "If he has been detained..."
"Oh! No, Mr. Witwicky - I'm sorry, I didn't catch your first name. It might be helpful to know, just to keep everyone straight."
"Optimus. And you may call me by my first name."
There was a pause. "Are you sure you're not from a wizarding family?"
"Well, Optimus, your brother is refusing to leave his car's side, and since a telephone wouldn't work at all on Diagon Alley, there's really no way to speak with him."
Lennox stepped in again. "So...I'm still not sure what you want us to do. Even if we fly there, how are we non-wizards going to get onto Diagon Alley."
"A witch or wizard could escort you in," Hermione answered. "It's highly irregular, but so is an alien robot crash-landing in Gringotts, so we'll be making an exception."
"But I thought regular channels were bogged down," Will said, all too familiar with bureaucratic red tape.
"A friend of mine carries a lot of clout, and he's given us the green light. If he escorts you onto Diagon Alley, then no one will dare say a word."
"We want to come on this mission, sir," Arcee announced to Will ten minutes later. Her three components were surrounding him, with the pink one doing the actual speaking. He knew she was talking to him in her bike-bots instead of in her unified bi-pedal form just to freak him out, and he hated that it was working. One 'bot was bad enough - Arcee could gang up on him all by herself. He opened his mouth to protest, and she said, "It's in the UK. Our motorcycles will be much less conspicuous than Optimus or Ironhide. Since this 'magic' is affecting Bumblebee, you'll want a medic on hand. If he's in some back-alley, we'll have an easier time reaching and treating him than Ratchet."
"It's not a back-alley. Mrs. Hermione Weasley informed us that it's a 'magical thoroughfare.'"
"Oh, we're going to Disneyland?" Arcee snarked dismissively. "Why didn't you say so? We'll just bring the pink component - she'll blend right in."
Lennox sighed, exasperated. "It's negatively affecting 'Bee - I don't want a dozen drunk Autobots on my hands."
"You'll want Jolt along, at least," Pink-Arcee retorted. "His build is designed to handle and manipulate most forms of energy."
Will hadn't thought about that.
"And, as we said, you'll want a medic. Any 'bot else will probably be too many, but Jolt and we should come along."
"Okay, fine. You and Jolt and no one else. You get to be the one to deliver that news to Optimus."
"Agreed," she answered, leaping into her unified form. "I'll go talk to him now."
Lennox wasn't sure if the lingering ominous feeling was because of Arcee's intimidation tactics or because he'd actually given her her way against his better instincts. Either way, though, this mission was doomed before it began and he decided that 'roll with it' would be his motto for the next 48 hours.
Once they were airborne, Will didn't mince words. Fixing Johnston with a commanding glare, he said, "Explain."
The machinist took a deep breath, mentally bracing himself. "What I'm about to tell you is covered by a law of theirs known as the Statute of Secrecy. Essentially, it's so classified you will not be allowed to remember it."
"What exactly do you mean by 'not allowed?'"
Johnston shifted nervously. "There's a spell...consider it a very effective brain bleach. That's what Mrs. Weasley meant when she said Muggles would be Obliviated. 'Obliviate' is the spell. It removes a specific set of memories, and as far as any human will remember, we found Mr. Witwicky and Bumblebee somewhere in London."
"And Muggles are...us?" Lennox asked.
"Yes. Non-magical folk."
"What about us Autobots?" Jolt demanded. "Will they try to Obliviate us, too?"
"I doubt it, sir," Johnston answered him. "It seems that spells don't work quite right on you."
"How do you know about all this?" Lennox blurted out.
"I'm not a squib, if that's what you mean, sir," his fellow human said a little stiffly.
"I suppose I'd better start at the beginning," Johnston said, deflating a little. He seemed to gather his thoughts for a moment. "For centuries, the human world has been divided between magical and Muggle, with the Muggle world remaining largely oblivious of the magical. There are wizarding families that have produced generations of powerful witches and wizards, and every now and then, a person with magical abilities is born of Muggle parents. Mrs. Weasley is one of those. And then there are people who are half-and-half, the children of one magical and one Muggle parent. I come from a long line of these cross-cultural families. They tend to band together, the Muggle-born and the halves, especially the last several generations. Like the Muggle world, the magical world had its own castes and wars, and there is at least a little safety in numbers."
Arcee was fascinated. "So you're...?"
"My mother's father and my father's sister were both magical - a wizard and witch respectively, of course. I've known about the magical world since my childhood, but I've never personally seen any magic."
"You said they've had wars," Will stated, though it was more of a question.
Johnston nodded again. "The most recent one ended a little over a decade ago. The hero who won that war is the wizard who will be escorting us into Diagon Alley. Harry Potter is his name, sir. The Boy Who Lived."
Will snorted. "Sounds like Sam."
Johnston looked a little insulted. "Hardly, sir. The magical world feels about Harry Potter much the same way that NEST feels about Optimus. I tend to take some of the stories about Mr. Potter with a grain of salt, sir, but it would be prudent to be respectful all the same."
Lennox nodded, understanding. He wanted this briefing so he had at least a basic grasp of what he was getting into. The last thing he wanted to do was offend the natives on accident.
"But what is a 'squib?'" Arcee demanded.
"Just like every now and then a Muggle family has a witch or wizard, every now and then a wizarding family has a non-magical child, and that's a squib, ma'am. It's actually a bit of a scandal to have one in the family."
"What happened in this war?" Will asked. "What was it about?"
It took Johnston the rest of the flight to answer that question, and when their plane finally touched down in England, Lennox felt like he'd just discovered another alien world.