If anyone had told Hermione that the strangest part of her day would not be the pterodactyl swooping above her head, she'd have had them committed to St. Mungo's before you could say 'boo.' And yet...
Groping behind herself for a chair in Jack's cluttered office, Hermione sat down. "Aliens," she said for the third time. "Those were aliens. Actual non-Earth aliens."
Jack grinned that thoroughly infuriating grin. "Aliens. Now I think you were going to tell me how you did those nifty tricks without already knowing about aliens."
"Magic," she said, still thinking about the face, the teeth, the creature...she'd thought it was magical, but a few muttered spells revealed no magical residue.
Jack's smile didn't change a bit as he leaned back in his chair. "Funny."
The condescension in his tone caught her attention and she scowled at him. "I wasn't aware I had said anything funny."
Sighing, he waved a hand. "Everybody tries to make the Clarke joke and it's still not funny."
She was beginning to wonder if he was even speaking the same language. "The clerk joke?"
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," he said, sounding bored and amused. "Now if you really don't want to tell me, you can go home and forget all about this."
There was something odd about his tone, but she wasn't sure what. "I told you: I did it with magic."
He was about to say something annoying, she was sure, so she pulled out her wand. His mouth closed and he considered it. "What does it do?" he asked finally.
"It's a bloody magic wand," she said, gripping it so she wouldn't shove it somewhere painful. "It does what I tell it to do." She glared at him. "Lumos!" Her anger gave the spell strength and she and Jack had to shield their eyes from the resulting explosion of light.
Moments later, the door burst open and people tumbled through, several pointing weapons at her. She automatically cast Expelliarmus, sending the guns flying across the room as Jack hollered "Whoa!"
For a very long moment, nobody moved and Hermione had the chance to examine the two women and two men who'd entered the room, who had nearly identical looks of confusion on their faces.
"Okay," Jack said, not moving as he looked at her, "that was interesting."
"That was magic," Hermione said.
The Asian woman perked up. "Magic?"
"Yes, magic," Hermione said. "Not technology. There are no computers or moving parts or..." She waved the wand and everyone flinched. "...circuits. My wand is made of vine wood and dragon heartstring. Magic." She glared at them.
"Whatever you say, ma'am," a young man in a suit murmured in a Welsh-accented voice.
Jack gave the Welshman an annoyed look. "Thank you, Ianto. Everyone, this is Hermione Granger. Hermione," he pointed at the confused people, "this is Gwen Cooper, Toshiko Sato, Owen Harper--excuse me, Dr. Owen Harper--and Ianto Jones."
Gwen smiled politely. "And who are you when you're at home, Ms. Granger?"
"Apparently," Jack said, "she's the one who's going to teach us something about magic."
With a wary glance at her wand, Jack chivvied everyone into a conference room and Ianto handed around drinks.
"Coffee, Ms. Granger?" he asked.
"Yes, please." He gave her an approving look. "Two creams and two sugars." Ianto winced and she put her wand down on the table.
In moments a cup was in front of her and it smelled much better than she'd expected. She smiled at Ianto and sipped it as everyone settled down. Jack sat in the chair next to hers, close enough she could feel the warmth of his arm. To cover her own confusion, she took another sip of coffee.
Everyone stared openly or from behind their mugs at her wand and Hermione decided she was amused. It was also time she regained some control of the situation, so she watched Jack out of the corner of her eye. (Not exactly a hardship, mind.)
Eventually he took a breath preparatory to speaking and just at that moment, Hermione spoke. "You should understand, there are things I can't tell you, secrets that aren't mine to give."
The look Jack gave her said he knew exactly what she'd just done...and he approved. His smile warmed her and he nodded. "Why don't you tell us what you can and we'll go from there."
Hermione took a deep breath and revised how much she'd intended to reveal. The existence of aliens, hostile aliens at that, changed everything. "Every country has wizards," she said. "We hide our existence from non-wizards or Muggles, as you're called..."
Toshiko took furious notes on a computer the entire time Hermione was talking, her eyes gleaming with the fervour of the true researcher. (Hermione suspected she was going to like her a great deal.)
Gwen looked interested, if slightly sceptical, Owen looked downright bored and sceptical, and Ianto was politely interested and apparently willing to believe if Jack did.
As Hermione was explaining the Ministry of Magic, Owen bumped his coffee cup and spilled half of it across the table. Without pausing, Hermione picked up her wand, said "scourgify", and went on.
For the next two minutes, she could have been describing the previous year's Quidditch cup for all the attention she was given--every eye in the room was on the spotlessly clean table, minus all coffee stains and dampness. She hid her smile and went on.
It took her half an hour of careful speech to explain what she could of the wizarding world. She was exhausted by the end, partially from trying to explain her life since first attending Hogwarts to these strangers, and partially by the feeling that she was making a very big mistake.
As soon as she wound down, Toshiko piped up. "Can I ask you about--"
"Tosh!" Jack held up a hand. "Hang on a sec." He looked at Hermione. "I don't know about you, but after the shocks of this morning, I could use lunch and a drink. Not necessarily in that order."
"I didn't have breakfast," she admitted.
"Well then," he said, winking at her, "I think you and I should remedy that right now." He stood, holding out a hand.
The others looked like they were going to argue, but he gave them a look she couldn't interpret and they stopped.
Within minutes, he'd bundled her out the strange airlock door and through the maze of passageways that led outside.
"You're rather good at that," she said as they stepped out of the tourist office into the warm summer day.
Ducking around a crowd of Japanese gawkers trying to photograph the Centre, Jack took her hand, leading her toward the nearby shops and restaurants. "Good at what?"
Jack threw his head back and laughed. "I'm a terrible manager. Just ask my staff. I've tried to institute flogging three times but the head office refuses."
"I didn't say manager, I said managing people." She shot him a sideways look. "You just slide everyone around and half the time they don't know why they're doing it."
Jack's face went blank and he stopped in his tracks, nearly getting hit by a child on skates.
"Jack?" Hermione squeezed his hand.
He shivered once, then seemed to come alive again. He resumed walking.
"Jack? What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry," he said with a ghost of a grin. "That description reminded me of someone, and it wasn't a flattering comparison."
"Not at all."
He laughed again, turning the full force of his charm on her. Hermione swallowed hard and tried not to melt. How in the world did his co-workers manage?
They ducked into a small pub, improbably named The Jug and Platter, and Jack helped her into her seat with a casual chivalry that the young men of her acquaintance had never managed. She could feel the warmth of his hands long after he was seated across the small table.
Hermione stared down at the menu, not really seeing it. While she was explaining magic she'd been able to forget her own shocks of the day, but now, sitting in this Muggle pub, she found herself homesick for Diagon Alley and her cubby at the Ministry and her friends.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Jack said, touching her hand. "Or is that pence? Euro for your thoughts doesn't have the same ring."
She couldn't help but grin at his babble. "I was thinking of home."
Jack leaned his arms on the table and looked directly into her eyes. "You do know I want you to stay, don't you? You could do so much to help protect the Earth. And you're quick-thinking. I need people like that." He grinned. "Not to mention, you fill out that dress rather nicely."
Hermione flushed and looked towards the bar. "I don't know. I don't know if I can. It's not entirely my choice. I doubt my colleagues will be pleased with my telling you what I have."
"Nobody will take you anywhere you don't want to go." Jack's tone was implacable.
"If I've learned anything recently, it's to not let go of the things that matter."
"You don't even know me."
He looked her in the eye again. "I know everything important. But if it makes you feel better, you can tell me about your family, your favourite candy, and your pets."
"My parents are Muggle dentists, Chocolate Frogs are my favourites, and..." She paused. "I work too much to have a pet."
"Fascinating," he said, propping his chin on one hand. "Feel better?"
Hermione laughed. "Oddly, yes, I do."
They chatted through lunch like any normal set of acquaintances, arguing about whether chips really needed vinegar and if it looked like rain later today.
He really was just as maddening as her first impression had said. He was also just as good-looking, just as charming, and just as intelligent.
When they'd both eaten their fill, Hermione found herself fiddling with the silverware and unwilling to meet Jack's eyes. She imagined Professor McGonagall's reaction to her current behaviour. 'Granger,' she'd say firmly, in that voice that made you want to confess to everything you'd ever done, 'whatever you're trying to avoid won't be improved by dilly-dallying. Get on with it, child.'
A grin stole across her face and when she looked up, Jack looked puzzled. "Something funny?"
"Just thinking of a teacher I admired." Hermione put down the fork she'd been tapping on the table. "I rather think she'd be urging me to action, rather than sitting in a pub."
"Don't disparage sitting in a pub," Jack said, pulling out his wallet. "You'd be surprised what I've accomplished in pubs."
"No, I don't think I'd be surprised at all," Hermione said.
Jack paused, head tilted. "Very good. I think you're getting the hang of this innuendo thing."
Hermione felt herself flush, but Jack's grin invited her to share the humour, and when he took her hand across the table, she gripped it tightly and grinned back at him.
"Let's go back to the Hub," Jack said, "before I get any more distracted."
Hermione blushed harder.
"I think," Hermione said when they were all assembled around the table again, "that the wizarding world has insulated itself too well from Muggles."
Gwen grinned at Jack. "Sounds familiar."
"Funny," Jack said.
Hermione ignored their by-play. "And apparently you've done such a good job of hiding the aliens that wizards haven't detected anything, even this rift we're sitting on. I haven't even figured out what kind of spell can detect it." She drummed her fingers on the arm of her chair. "The wizard news sources all dismissed the Cyberman attack as Muggle technology gone wrong. I'm going to have a chat with the editors of the Daily Prophet. Soon."
"Don't feel too bad," Toshiko said. "Most people have managed to explain away the Cybermen as figments of their imagination or drug-induced hallucinations."
"We humans have a marvellous capacity to delude ourselves," Ianto said, with a sad smile.
Hermione got the feeling there was something there she wasn't getting, but the expressions on the others' faces--guilty, sad, annoyed--made her think twice about asking. "Many wizards have no interest in working with, or dealing with, the Muggle world, but I've always thought differently."
"Didn't you say your parents are...Muggles?" Jack was hiding a grin as he forced the word out.
"Yes," she said. "And that's why I have a different perspective, I think. Harry agrees with me, as well, but our influence is still limited."
"Harry?" Gwen asked.
"I mentioned him before, the 'boy who lived' who finally defeated Voldemort." Hermione sighed. "He was also brought up among Muggles."
Jack leaned forward. "But can you convince other wizards to help us with the aliens? That could be just the edge we need, something totally unexpected." His eyes shone with glee. "Can you just see the look on the next alien's face as it gets, oh, wrapped up in a magic web or something?"
Jack stopped and looked at her. "Uh, can you do that?"
She looked back at him gravely, before giving in and laughing. "Yes, I'm sure I can manage that."
The others chuckled as Jack put a hand over his heart in simulated relief. "Oh good. I'd hate to find out all you could do was make light. That'd be disappointing."
"I can do a great many things. Not all of them are useful, mind." Hermione looked at the strange equipment surrounding her and felt a shiver of intellectual excitement. "Who knows what things your science and my magic could do together?"
Toshiko smiled at her. "I can't wait to find out."
Oh yes, Hermione thought, this was just the challenge she'd been waiting for. Let the Ministry police the wizards, Hermione Granger was a researcher and a scholar, not a soldier.
"Hermione," Jack said, taking her hand, "please stay."
Nodding slowly, she squeezed his hand. "I would be delighted."
Over the course of the next week, she delved into a crash course in aliens and got to know the team.
Owen she not-so-cordially detested, but Jack swore he was good at what he did, so she tolerated him. (Although the day he pinched her arse, he ended up hanging from the ceiling upside down for half an hour, until a laughing Jack finally asked her to bring him down...but not before snapping a few pictures.)
She and Gwen got along fine, but they were never going to be best mates. Hermione suspected that Gwen was unnerved by magic, and wanted very much to deny its existence. Hermione found that amusing, considering that Gwen's job was to catch aliens, but everyone had their lines, she supposed.
She and Ianto got along quite nicely, once she found that his coffee didn't need too much doctoring, and once he showed her his well-organized archives. With a happy sigh, she looked around her. "And here is the index, updated every day and carefully annotated," he said.
"Will you marry me?" Hermione asked faintly, fingers twitching to start looking around.
Ianto's lips twitched. "Captain Harkness might have something to say about that."
"About you or me?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Ianto said.
Jack continued to be an enigma, but everyone assured her that she wasn't alone in feeling that way.
Tosh, she frankly adored, of course. From the moment they delved into research on how magic and computers might combine, Hermione knew she'd found a kindred spirit.
Jack often had to roust the two of them to make them eat and sleep, and then Tosh took her to her apartment and they kept talking over tea and biscuits until they nodded off at the table and Hermione stumbled to the couch for a few hours of sleep.
It was pure bliss--the kind of research she'd hoped to do when she began studying magic what seemed like a lifetime ago. She got to spend hours delving in the archives and further hours testing out various theories.
So far, Jack had steadfastly refused to take her out in the field, saying she was still getting settled, but she'd wear him down eventually.
In all, it was a week that left Hermione dazed with her good fortune as she wandered through the Plass to lean against a railing and look at the water. The bright sunlight made her blink, but she'd needed some fresh air and a few moments to digest.
The smell of the salt water was perfect to chase away the cobwebs in her mind, and she wasn't particularly paying attention to the people around her. So it took a few moments before she realized the excited voices next to her were saying "A snowy owl?"
Hermione whirled around and Hedwig landed on the railing, giving her a disgusted look, pecking her hand twice before flying away. Sighing, Hermione put her head in her hands for a moment, before tapping the strange phone thing in her ear. "Uh...Jack? I think we have a small problem. You might want to come up in a minute."
Jack leaned against the railing next to her. "So, how do you want to play this?"
"Play it?" She gave him a disgusted look. "These are my friends."
"I know." Jack shrugged. "I'll follow your lead."
She groaned. "Oh god, I have no idea what I'm going to say."
"So wing it. Trust your instincts."
"That's how I ended up here."
"I know." He grinned. "Isn't it great?" And with his usual uncanny timing, he took her hands in his just as a breathless familiar voice called out to her.
"Hermione, what's going on? We've been looking for you. Neville said you'd resigned from the Ministry by Owl Post and Ron hasn't heard from you in a week." Harry skidded to a halt, apparently noticing that not only was someone standing next to Hermione, but she was holding hands with them.
Jack's eyebrows went up. "Introduce me to your friend?"
Hermione heaved a sigh. "Captain Jack Harkness, this is Harry Potter. Harry, this is Jack."
The two men looked at each other, suspicion obvious, and Hermione felt a headache coming on.
"What's going on, Hermione?" Harry asked, hand on the wand tucked in his pocket. "Who's he?"
"I resigned, Harry. I've found something that needs doing. Something I can do other than mopping up from the war. I was going to owl you soon, I just..." She trailed off.
Jack pulled her a step closer. "She's been busy."
Those three words were filled with Jack's usual innuendo, and Hermione sighed as Harry flushed. "Knock it off, Jack, he has a right to ask. Harry, I'm sorry. The situation is complicated and I wasn't sure what to do."
Harry still looked suspicious, and she couldn't blame him. They'd been in some pretty dangerous situations these past years, after all. "Do you remember six months ago? I caught Crabbe not far from here?"
"Well, that's when I met Jack."
Jack smiled and threw his arm around her shoulders. "Ah, I remember it like it was yesterday. Like an angel from heaven, she--"
"Jack, you're not helping. What happened to following my lead?" She tried to glare at him, but his transparent glee was too much for her and she found herself laughing.
"Sorry," he said, with a smile that said just how much he was lying and without taking his arm off her shoulders.
Hermione shook her head but didn't pull away. "Jack...does important work, protecting Muggles and wizards. And I'm helping him."
"Helping?" Harry asked. "You mean--"
"He saw me do magic, Harry. And he invited me to come back and visit."
"Saw you--why didn't you wipe his memory?"
Jack's hand tightened on her shoulder convulsively. "You can do that?" he asked, voice much more casual than his body.
Hermione knew she had to focus. "I was exhausted, Harry, I didn't even know if I'd manage to safely disapparate. And Crabbe was fighting my spells and I didn't have the time to cast a proper Obliviate."
Jack was very still beside her, and Hermione took a deep breath. "And I didn't want to do it."
"Thank you," Jack said very softly.
When she looked up at him, his expression was more sincere than she'd seen, looking like a combination of pride and joy and possessiveness. Momentarily forgetting Harry, she leaned her head against him.
"Uh..." Harry looked like his eyes were going to bug out.
Hermione flushed. It had only taken her a week to get used to the casual touching of the Torchwood team. "Harry, what I'm doing here is important."
"So is the Ministry."
"That's true, but you don't need me. I'm not the most powerful witch of our generation," she said with a grin. "Now that we've won, you don't need me there anymore. There's more at stake here than you know."
"Can come visit," she said quickly. "You can all come visit when I'm settled."
"We'll need to talk about that," Jack said.
"I know. But if there's one thing I can say about my friends, it's that we know how to keep secrets."
Harry shook his head slowly. "You're sure about this, Hermione? You want to stay?"
"Why?" Harry asked. "Why give up everything?"
"I'm not giving up anything. Besides," she peered up at Jack with a smile, "he said please."