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Antediluvia

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Antediluvian: (adj.) Before the Flood

When the Portkey landed, he was still thinking about the newspaper. The front page, the blown-up, scowling photograph of his face, taken in a moment of surprise—and how could he still be surprised, after all these years? The inflammatory words; vitriolic and inciting and increasing with each publication.

After thirteen years, Harry had hoped that the speculation would have died off. He would have hoped that the unfounded accusations would have ended. He would have thought people would get on with their lives instead of trying to prevent his.

A moment later, Hermione arrived, her hair still twisting with momentum that physics hadn’t yet realised was missing. And just after her, Lee materialised, his face much calmer than it had been when Harry first asked him to come. He’d had a week to decide. And stop throwing things.

“Well,” said Hermione, bracingly. She put her hand to her stomach and leaned against the International Arrivals dais gate, her face more green than tan. They apparently didn’t stock courtesy Ill-Effects Bags for international Portkey travellers on this side of the Atlantic.

“Well,” she said again, forcing stable breaths out. She stood. “I think I would have preferred the long lines at International Security and a transatlantic flight after all.”

The wizard behind the Arrivals desk smirked and continued typing on his computer, pretending he wasn’t listening. A sign behind him had an enlarged photograph of a witch in thigh-length American flag robes, with a caption that read: Terminal M, Gate One-Seventh, Washington, DC International Airport.

“Agreed,” said Lee. “Never wanna do that again.”

“Well, you might not have to,” Harry muttered. They didn’t hear him.

Harry and Lee approached the Arrivals desk, and the wizard looked up from his computer, smiling.

“Welcome to the Magically United States. How can I help you?”

“Thanks,” said Lee. “Where’s cargo claim?”

“And currency exchange?” Hermione added.

The wizard pointed. “Go past the Starbucks with the three-tailed Mermaid, not the one with the two-tailed Mermaid—that one’s in the NoMaj section—and take a left. It’s just there. For currency exchange, you’ll want to stop by the First National Bank of Numinous People. They can exchange Magical or Non-Magical for you. It’s outside Security and through the atrium. Follow the signs for Metro until you start seeing signs for the bank. It’s disguised as a closed magazine kiosk.”

“Thanks, mate,” Lee said.

Harry nodded, and he and Hermione picked up their carry-with bags and followed Lee somewhat sluggishly towards the three-tailed Starbucks. Lee’s posture screamed exhaustion, but he gave them both a smile when they caught up.

“They’ve got one on every corner,” he said, gesturing to the three-tailed Starbucks. “Which one are we supposed to turn at again?”

“The first, he said,” said Hermione. “It’s this one.”

They passed that Starbucks, turned, and thankfully saw a huge sign directing them to international cargo claim. Harry didn’t think he could manage the energy to keep searching if they hadn’t. He hadn’t slept in two nights.

Hermione, probably three. The divorce hadn’t finalised until Thursday, and Harry would be surprised if she’d gotten any sleep at all that night.

They managed to collect their entire households with only a few hours of paperwork and bureaucracy. They had to go back to the three-tailed Starbucks for Venti Mocha Lattes (extra shot, for Hermione) before they could stomach the thought of currency exchange.

The airport was about twelve miles long in Harry’s estimation. It felt like that, anyway, as they walked from Terminal M, out of Security, and towards the signs pointing to Metro. In the end, they almost missed the kiosk leading to the bank. Lee happened to spot it when he bumped into a Muggle businessman too busy staring at his mobile to watch where he was going.

“Arsehole!” Lee yelled, swiping ineffectually at the remains of his latte on his jacket.

The businessman gave him a finger over his shoulder, not bothering to look back.

“Oh, there it is,” Lee said, as he ducked to inconspicuously siphon the latte from his clothes with his wand. There was still a faint stain.

“Brilliant,” said Harry, but there wasn’t much enthusiasm behind it. He was just so tired.

Hermione gave him a small smile. He smiled back, but it was hard to mean it when the circles beneath her eyes were so deep and purple. She should’ve been home, curled up in an ugly, hand-knitted, mauve afghan on her parents’ settee, nursing the withered emotions of a broken marriage. But she wasn’t. She was here, with him, across the fucking Atlantic, and she couldn’t go home again until Harry’s penance was paid to London’s satisfaction.

Guilt was an emotion Harry was comfortable wearing. He just didn’t particularly like doing it.

If Luna were here, instead of West Wherever, she would’ve reminded him that he didn’t owe anyone his guilt and, even if he did, it didn’t help them. She would have told him to plant a garden instead, and pay it forward, and a bunch of other shit that would’ve helped his heart, even if it didn’t help the world.

The bank was full of artificial light and bored tellers reading Muggle gossip magazines. The first one looked so relieved to finally have a customer that Harry almost smiled.

“Hello! How can I help you?”

“We need to exchange some British pounds and Galleons to… er, your currency,” Harry said. “I’m not sure what it is.”

“Oh, we use dollars,” she said, smiling more. “Doesn’t make any sense to have a whole ‘nother currency in such a big country.”

“Right,” said Harry. He pulled out his wallet and extracted a shrunken bag of his entire Gringotts vault and his Barclays accounts. He set it on the counter and slid it over. The teller peeked inside and her well-defined eyebrows rose quickly.

“I’ll just be one minute,” she said, standing up. “I’ll need my manager to help with this one.”

Ten minutes later, they’d decided that Harry was just going to have to open at account at the bank.

“This is quite a lot of money, Mr Potter,” the manager said, too casually.

“I’m emigrating,” Harry said, perhaps too tersely.

“Ahh,” she said. Then, apologetically: “I’m afraid we don’t have this much cash on hand. In fact, I’m not sure we have it in the city. The best we can do right now is deposit it into an account and provide you with a debit card. It would take some days to have this much brought in.”

By Hermione’s snort, Harry guessed she’d suspected as much all along.

“Fine,” Harry said. “One less thing to carry around, I suppose.”

Both the teller and the bank manager looked so relieved that Harry wanted to smile yet again.

They got him sorted with a new account, which took far less paperwork than the cargo, although he did have to fill in several forms for the IRS, whatever that was. Another self-important governmental agency without enough oversight, Harry assumed.

By the time they exited the airport and were staring in some confusion at the signs stating that the Metro was under repairs for severe safety concerns at present and trains would not be running between Reagan National and L’Enfant Plaza, whatever that meant, and that there was a shuttle available outside, Harry had had nearly enough.

Hermione spoke to the station manager and returned with a hand-drawn map, on a Dunkin Donuts napkin, directing them to the shuttle, and that they should re-enter the Metro at Rosslyn and take that line into Federal Triangle, where they were to meet their American liaison, who’d expected them two hours ago. She apparently had not anticipated international cargo claim.

Which was fair. Nothing that hellish was anticipatable.

The time was three in the afternoon, Eastern. They’d left England at two. Four hours gained Portkeying across the Atlantic. Five lost in cargo and currency exchange. Thus began Harry’s first day as an American immigrant.

Not entirely by choice.