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The Gold Curse

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A small bell tinkled as she entered the pawn shop. Hermione could feel the magic emanating from all the jewels and things inside the glass cases and hanging on the walls. This was definitely the source of all the power that was hanging over the town. It should be a simple matter to find the object powering the curse, destroy it, and then Apparate back to London with everyone. Hermione kept her wand ready as she examined a snowglobe that caught her eye - the snow was covering a small yellow car in the middle of a city, and if she looked at it long enough, it seemed like the cityscape was slowly changing...

"That's not for sale," said an older man from the counter. Hermione turned to see him - wizened some with age, a cane in his right hand, wearing a three-piece black suit, and a skin color that had metallic tones to it, like someone was trying to bleach a piece of gold to an approximate white.

Hermione could also feel the waves of dark power rolling off him. This wasn't possible - He-Who--Voldemort had been killed a long time ago. She had seen him destroyed, and yet this person felt exactly like him, steeped in Dark Magic. Hermione pointed her wand at him and put the entrance door behind her, in case she needed to make an escape.

The man seemed to take all of this in stride, as if he were used to people pointing weapons at him all the time. "I can see you're not going to be a typical customer," he said. "You have the look of someone who understands exactly what is going on here."

"You cast a curse on Hogwarts," she replied. "Since I've studied how they work, I knew how to protect myself, but the others all seem to believe they're someone else. I demand you release them and let us go."

"Welcome to Storybrooke," he countered, sketching a bow and giving her a smile that conveyed no warmth or friendship. "You can put that wand away, too. I don't do well with people threatening me," he said, showing Hermione a small bit of the sword hiding inside his cane.

"Expeliarmus!" Hermione snapped, pointing her wand at the cane.

"That won't work, either, dearie," the man said, much less pleasantly. "It takes a lot of magical ability to maintain yourself while under this curse. Your power is all tied up in keeping you together. You haven't got any more to use." The man advanced on Hermione, who tried to keep some distance between them. "Now, I can offer you a deal, if you like. I can give you back all your power and let you use any of the magic you have access to, but in exchange, you're going to go under the curse - the you that's here may not even believe in magic, much less know how to use it." There wasn't as much space between them now, and Hermione felt behind her to see if she could open the door and flee. "Or, perhaps, if you were willing to apprentice to me, you could build up a reserve of Dark Magic that you could use while you're here." The man was far too close now, and Hermione all couldn't find the door, or even a wall behind herself. "Or maybe I'll just-"

The bell rang and a pink-haired woman with carrots for earrings and square-frames glasses stuck her head in the door. "Oh, hello!" she said to Hermione, surprised to see her there. Turning to the other man, she smiled. "Hello, Mr. Gold. Are you pressuring young women into making deals that would be ill-advised and reckless?"

The sunny disposition of the pink-haired woman was at utter odds with the serious question, but Hermione was not about to discard an opportunity to get away from Mr. Gold's threats. Hiding her wand back away, Hermione made for the door in what she hoped was a deliberate, measured pace.

"Thank you for the information, Mr. Gold, but I must be on my way." The two women left the pawn shop, the pink-haired one leading, even though she didn't appear to know where she was going.

"Thanks, Luna," Hermione said. "I didn't think anyone else here had been able to fight off the curse."

"Well," said Luna, "I don't know who Luna is, but it has a nice ring to it. So does the idea that we're all cursed, but that requires the existence of magic, which hasn't been proven yet. So I'm not sure exactly how true what you said just is."

Hermione's expression changed from delight to despair. Luna hadn't been able to resist the curse. But, perhaps because she was Luna, she seemed to have retained her ability to see the world a lot closer to what the truth was.

"Mr. Gold is quite scary, isn't he? He's not very well liked in this town. Most people stay very far away from him if they can. He and the mayor are regularly in competition for the least-liked person in Storybrooke."

Hermione mentally filed that information away. Regina had been cold and dismissive of her polite inquiries about the town. She had originally assumed it was because Regina didn't appreciate being interrupted while governing, but perhaps there was another reason to discourage her.

"The Evil Queen and Gold-emort," Luna said, giggling. "Don't tell them that's our nicknames for them, though. They'll get all grumpy and make things hard for us."

Hermione looked at Luna with a slightly horrified look on her face before remembering that this woman, whomever she was, didn't have any memory of the battles that has been fought in their past. She didn't know what she was saying evoked so many painful memories and experiences in Hermione.

Luna noticed the expression on Hermione's face. "I'm sorry," she said quickly. "That was a rather poor joke, wasn't it? I don't know why, but I've clearly hurt you."

"No, it's okay, Miss." Hermione waved away Luna's concern. "You remind me of someone I knew from home. We fought together against something great and evil, and I was just...remembering." No sense in getting to get Luna to remember everything now.

"That's true, too. How interesting." Luna dug in her pocket and produced what appeared to be a cigarette case. Opening it, she extracted a business card and handed it to Hermione, who looked at it to see what she should call her while they were here.

TRUTH SHOP
Storybrooke, ME
Phyllis Moonchild, proprietor

"You should stop by the shop sometime, Miss Hermione Granger," Phyllis said. "We have all sorts of things that can help you find your truths." She smiled a warm smile at Hermione before skipping off down the sidewalk, destination still unpredictable.

Hermione turned the business card over in her hands for a little bit before realizing that there were no directions on the card, or even an address to ask about in the town. Spying a wisp of pink hair disappearing into an alley, Hermione chased after Phyllis, many more questions forming in her head that she needed to ask.