08 May 2015

Significant Digits, Chapter Six: George Jaxon

Significant Digits, Chapter Six: George Jaxon

The description on Hermione Granger’s Chocolate Frog card was as follows:

Also known as “The Goddess,” Granger is one of the world’s leading proponents for the Treaty for Health and Life.  She is also famous for her resurrection during the final defeat of Lord Voldemort in 1992, and her resulting ability to destroy Dementors.  In her spare time, she teaches at the Tower School of Doubt.

Hermione flipped the card over, and looked at the picture of herself.  She recognized the look she was trying to portray in the moving image: she’d named it “demure strength.”  It began with a strong and direct gaze looking out at the viewer, and then her chin lowered as she dropped her eyes down and just to the right, two locks of hair falling alongside her cheek.  Then it looped again, as she lifted her face back to the viewer.

The infinite loops of magical photography were fascinating.  She had posed for this photograph, of course… it was part of her carefully-managed public image campaign.  The message was deliberately modeled on the “cult of the virgin” of the first Queen Elizabeth: I am supremely powerful but not scary.  But even if the magical camera had a long exposure time -- or however it worked -- how did it fill in the “second” part of the loop, where she looked back up at the viewer?  It wasn’t just a reversal or rewind, which meant that… what?  Did the camera create its own imagery to make a coherent looping picture?

She made a face, and put the card back on her desk.  Hermione had maybe thirty copies of the card.  Apparently whenever a child anywhere in Britain (or Australia or New Zealand) got an extra copy of her card, they were sending it to her.  This didn’t make any sense at all, and yet her personal assistant kept finding them in Hermione’s mail, often accompanied by a childish letter (Hermione had read one: “dear Miss Granger:  I admire you for these reasons: you are brave, you do whats rihgt, you kill Dementors.  And those are the reasons I admire you.  Sincerely, Hosea Hussey”).

As she went to her wardrobe, she mused over what the card might have said, if she had been given the opportunity to write the description herself.  Hermione Granger, the nineteen-year-old daughter of two dentists from Surrey, is famous for her vigilante attacks on the national property of five different magical states and her pivotal role in various plots for world revolution.  She picked through the hanging robes as she thought, looking for something appropriately formal.  Miss Granger is part unicorn and part troll, combined in a way that makes absolutely no sense unless you’ve read a lot of comic books.

Hermione pulled out a long, pale blue set of formal robes -- essentially an elaborate ball gown interwoven with charms.  This set had a plunging back and short, pointed sleeves.  It would send a subtle message to the right onlooker, while still looking cute enough.  She smiled, then frowned when she noticed her nails.  The polish had come off, and they had returned to their entirely too shiny and bright natural state.  Sighing, she put down the robes, and grabbed the polish from the vanity.

She felt responsible for the deaths of some magical and truly wondrous creatures, and it was hard enough on her conscience that she felt guilty voicing any complaints.  Two unicorns had died for Hermione, even if she hadn’t been in a position to object either time, and it seemed like sacrilege to feel anything but gratitude.  She didn’t feel quite as badly about the trolls, much less the dragons, lethifolds, or other Dark creatures (and to hell with the Dementors!), but she would never dishonour the memory of those unicorns.  Or Granville.  Her mouth tightened, and her eyes burned for a second, but she ignored it and finished her nails.

Once they’d dried to a suitably dull sheen, and she’d dressed and put on her necklace, Hermione stood in front of the standing mirror.  She examined herself critically.  The shade of blue was light enough that she did not appear too pale (her slight tan was eternal and unchanging), and the shape hugged her form tightly enough to be appealing, but not so tightly as to be embarrassing.  Time to go.

She grabbed her overnight bag, then went up the stairs and out through the hatch, which smoothly opened for her.  Stepping lightly out of the drawer, she emerged from the trunk and glanced around.  Quiet in the house.  That was normal.  She checked the door.  Wards and warnings were still in place, and a single hair was still stuck where she’d placed it last week (not her own hair, of course).  No one had been in.  This room was dusty, though… she had better clean up when she had a chance.  Not now, though.

For now, Hermione was simply on her way: she stepped to the other side of the room and opened the light chestnut Vanishing Cabinet that stood there.  She closed the door only for a second, and when she opened it again, she was looking at a different room, though there had been no sensation of change.  Then all she had to do was Apparate (destination, determination, deliberation) out of this second rented and well-secured flat, and she was in Hogsmeade.  Relatively easy, considering how much security these precautions provided.

Most witches and wizards would not routinely use a Vanishing Cabinet or Apparation during their daily routine this way.  The risk of splinching was not great, but if you roll a hundred-sided die enough times, eventually it’ll land on one.  But Hermione didn’t have to worry about that.  Her body knew the shape it was supposed to be, and continually transfigured itself into that shape.  Even if she was splinched during her commute, thanks to a small flaw in the Cabinet or lax concentration during Apparating, the worst that would happen was that she might lose a few liters of her grey blood.

Only a few things could hurt Hermione.  Serious curses could damage or incapacitate her, but she was immune to most lesser hexes.  They couldn’t be exactly sure why -- it was either her continuous transfiguration or the curative properties of her blood -- but she just shrugged them off.  She felt the Jelly-Legs Jinx as a moment’s tremble in her knees, and Immobulus just made her joints stiff.  In lab tests, acid also hurt her, and prevented her from regenerating the wound for ten or twenty seconds.

But fire was the most serious danger, and that included an unfortunate number of offensive spells.  There were twenty-three common attack spells that used flames or great heat, and forty lesser-known, regional, or particularly difficult others.

Hermione’s body had been imbued with the magical nature of both a unicorn and a troll.  Trolls had tissues and bones that were magically reinforced.  Assuming that trolls were the creation of some vile wizard in a past age, this property was probably what allowed them to attain their great size (up to four meters) without bursting their blood vessels or cracking their femurs.  They also continuously transfigured themselves, presumably into the shape dictated by their DNA (it wasn’t a single stable pattern, since trolls had natural life cycles).

Unicorns, on the other hand, had a magical aura of innocence and purity, as well as blood suffused with a powerful life-affirming effect.  It didn’t actually regenerate damage, but even the most grievously wounded person would clutch to life if they imbibed the blood of a unicorn.  And of course, unicorn keratin was enchanted to have a tensile strength beyond nearly any other material.

It was still a little odd, even after all these years: she, Hermione Granger, was supernaturally strong and fast and graceful, thanks to otherworldly muscle function.  She had an aura that inclined people to think well of her, and which made her seem innocent and pure.  She could not be poisoned, nor affected by disease -- she never even suffered muscle fatigue since harmful metabolites were transfigured out of existence.  She was resistant to most damaging magics, and healed immediately from many others.  Even fire or acid could only temporarily harm her, since anything less than complete incineration probably wouldn’t sever her body’s grasp on life.  Avada Kedavra would presumably still kill her, and Fiendfyre had already done so.  But overall…

Well, she was a superhero.  It was kind of a huge responsibility, but at least she was able to help a great many people.  And today, she was off to the States, to investigate a bombing that was said to have been the work of Narcissa Malfoy or one of her guerilla-fighting miscreant allies.  Let it never be said that her life was boring.


“Harry, you know something about this, and you’re not telling me.  No, even worse… this is part of some plan.  You’re pulling strings here, and I don’t know what’s on the other end.  And you’ve been different lately.”

“I’m the same as I always have been.”

“No.  You’re different.  It started when you sent your parents away.  I’m sorry, I know you don’t want to talk about it, but-”

“You’re right.  I don’t.  It’s hard for me think straight when I think about that, so please don’t make it harder.”

“All right.  I’m sorry.  But you’re keeping secrets, Harry.”

“Sometimes I have to do that, even when it comes to you.”

“For my own good?  Or do you just not trust me anymore?”

“Hermione, I honestly think you could do everything I am doing, only better.”

“Then why won’t you tell me what’s going on?”

“I just can’t right now.  You need to be out there, doing what you’re doing.  You’re saving people.  I can’t do what you do.  So please… trust me.”

“... all right, Harry.”


Charlevoix and Esther were already waiting for Hermione in the Ministry of Magic Atrium.  It was midday, and the crowds were dense, and the two witches were standing next to the Fountain of Magical Brethren so that they could be easily seen.

The Atrium was a fabulous room, and it was thoroughly representative of magical splendour... in a fairly mundane and unimaginative way.  In Hermione’s opinion, it had the same problem as most of the rest of the wizarding world’s decor: it had no central message.

Was it trying to be dignified?  It was certainly big enough.  Plus, the ceiling was a rich blue, and the floors were dark polished wood.

Was it trying to display affluence?  The walls were lined with gilded fireplaces, dozens of offices were visible through huge panes of crystal all along the walls, and there was that huge golden fountain.

Trying to send both messages meant that the expensive parts looked gauche and the dignified parts looked silly.  If it had been anything like a priority, Hermione would have dropped a word in the right ear about it, and advised them to tone down the amount of gold covering every crenulation on the wall.  As it was, the place was a bit embarrassing.  It reminded her of Horace Slughorn, last year at the Yule Ball, when he’d had gotten so woefully drunk on red currant rum that he’d asked her if she wanted to join his “Slug Club.”  Yuck.  What a git he was, Hermione thought, as she approached the two Returned.  She waved at them, and felt her face overtaken by a broad smile.  Her Returned were such wonderful people.

Charlevoix smiled faintly in return, upon seeing her “Goddess.”  Hermione had barely had a chance to speak to the French witch since the attack in Cappadocia; the Returned had only met at Powis once in the week since, and that meeting was preoccupied with discussion and planning for the care of the seven people rescued from Göreme.  One of the seven had only been undergoing the torture there for a few weeks, and a couple of days of rest and chocolate had sufficed before he was ready to go home.  The other six had been severely Demented.  What was worse, the families of three of these had already insisted that their loved ones be sent back to them, even against Hermione’s strongest-worded advice.  That still left three to be nurtured and counseled, however.

Esther was watching Hermione and those around her intently.  As Hermione paused to greet and give a radiant smile to several witches and wizards waiting in line to Floo out, she could almost feel Esther’s gaze crawling over these strangers, looking for trouble.  Hermione was grateful.  She’d read about people in public office feeling angry or stifled in such a situation, insisting gruffly that their overprotective guardians leave them in peace (like in Executive Orders, her brain automatically supplied, that dreadful Tom Clancy book that Harry made you read as a how-not-to-do manual).  But that was foolish.  When you agreed to do important things, you made yourself a hostage to fate.  It was unkind to pretend otherwise.

Hermione anticipated that Esther would also be helpful in other ways on this trip.  The witch was not only alert and protective, she was also an American and a symbol of goodwill.  Her presence in Azkaban had been a matter of controversy for some years; she had been tried and imprisoned for breeding sphinxes, which was entirely legal in America, but a serious crime in Britain.  When she had been freed, there had been an unalloyed message of gratitude issued by the Magical Congress (a body that acted essentially under the direction of the Council of Westphalia, which had controlled a majority of its seats for the past century).  It had been an early stroke of good fortune.

Esther had dishwater-blonde hair that she kept in a close bob, and deep hazel eyes.  Like Charlevoix, there was a hollowness behind those eyes.

A Dementor’s presence was a strange kind of agony, Hermione knew.  It wasn’t exactly a physical pain.  A Dementor seized upon emotions and thoughts that fed the ego or sustained the self, sucking them away.  The sensation was entirely novel.  It was generally described as a “sucking” because you could feel yourself becoming less, but there was no actual physical experience.  And after a short time, the feeding became deeper.  Positive memories help us define ourselves in the world, and Dementors were ragged holes into which those memories were drawn.

Eventually, victims were left catatonic, as their deepest parts were consumed, as though maggots had hollowed them.  They lay in place and suffered, remaining alive through some unknown mechanism of malice (a victim might last months with little or no food) until an infection or heart attack took them.

With the Tower’s assistance, the physical damage could all be repaired, even the plaques that developed in the brain.  Gentle assistance could then help the Demented begin to rebuild their minds and personalities, using a threefold approach of direct counseling, gradually lengthening visits to positive environments, and exposure to normative values through fiction (Huckleberry Finn was helpful).  Hermione had even created a protocol for assisting victims after her experiences with Azkaban, and worked to improve it with each successive set of the Demented for which she cared.

Those who had been exposed for a shorter span often suffered only minor damage to their senses of self, and could return home after a period of recuperation.  Even some long-term victims were welcomed back home, where they usually received good care and might eventually recover.

Some committed suicide as soon as they left the program, despite Hermione’s best efforts.  It tore at her, but there was only so much she could do to prevent it -- unless she wanted to make them prisoners again.  Harry said that each person had the right to decide how much sorrow they could carry with them, but it was a point of fierce disagreement.

Some had never regained full consciousness, their limbs plastic and their gaze empty.  Most of these were in St. Mungo’s.  Hermione still had hope for them, and often considered the problem.

And then there were the others: the ones who had no home, or no longer wished to be there, or who wanted to devote their lives to fighting the horror they had endured.  They had all been restored at the Tower, so they were young and fit and healthy, and they lived active and full lives.  But they had a form of post-traumatic stress disorder to which there could be no comparison.  Not that she would minimize anyone’s tragedy, but the Demented had been spiritually savaged to a preternatural degree.  Death had touched their hearts, and it left a hollow that might never be filled.

Hermione gently gave the shake-and-slide to get past the last few strangers eager to meet her.  It was a method she’d developed from watching a Muggle Member of Parliament make his way through a crowd once: smile beatifically, grasp their right hand in your own and pull them into a handshake, then put your left hand on their right shoulder as you move on past, setting them beside you and allowing you to keep going forward.  She greeted Charlevoix and Esther with a cheerful, “Good morning!”  The two witches each had their own bags with them.

They smiled, and Hermione felt a pang in her heart.  She loved them so.

“It’s time to go home,” Esther said.  “I’m nervous.  I don’t remember that much of it.”

“I have never been to the Americas,” Charlevoix lilted.  “And neither has Hermione.  So they will show us around and explain things.  No one will know.”

Hermione nodded.  “Yes. This might end up just being public relations.  The bombing was yesterday, and Harry told me last night that they’d already cleaned it up and begun their own investigation.  There might not be anything for us to contribute.”  She turned for a second, to lean down and hug a boy who was staring up at her with awe in his eyes.

“What investigation?”  Charlevoix asked.  “It was the Malfoys and their group of no name.”

Hermione shrugged, straightening back up.  “They still have to be sure.”  Because they think it might be a false-flag attack from Harry, designed to gin up animosity against his enemies, she thought.  Come to think of it, I don’t know that’s not true.

Would he tell me, if it were?

“Let’s go,” Esther said.  “I don’t like this crowd.”

Hermione reached into an outside pocket of her overnight bag, and pulled out the intercontinental portkey that Harry had given her.  It was a short piece of milled copper, with a few divots and a bright blue stripe in the center.  Different design than most British portkeys, which were usually wooden.  This probably made more sense, actually… it was less likely to trigger by accident, and had an obvious purpose.  She’d mention to Harry that they should probably copy this for the Safety Sticks, in case he hadn’t thought of it.

“Hold on,” she said.  Charlevoix scooped up her bag from the floor, shouldered it, and took Hermione’s.  Then the two witches each grasped one end of the portkey.   Hermione took hold of the center, and squeezed her fist.  The portkey bent, and there was a sudden lurch yanking them all to the side.  Not the left side or the right side, somehow… just: to the side.  It was powerful and violent, for this was quite a distance to travel.

Charlevoix and Esther landed easily on their arrival; the two Returned spun back into existence in Boston with the practiced ease of veteran travelers.  Hermione barely noticed the landing, whirling fouetté rond de jambe en tournant for a single turn, her eyes already alert to their surroundings.

They were in Boston, and the sun was just rising.  Rosy-fingered dawn stretched over the concrete reception platform on the roof of the Alþing of the Mystical and Benevolent Council of Westphalia.  Councilor Limpel Tineagar was waiting for them, her arms crossed.  She was tall and perhaps overly thin, and her mouth was twisted in a small and bitter smile.

“Hello, Miss Granger, and welcome to the United States of America.  Fine morning for a murder investigation, isn’t it?”

I HEARD a wood thrush in the dusk
Twirl three notes and make a star --
My heart that walked with bitterness
Came back from very far.

Three shining notes were all he had,
And yet they made a starry call --
I caught life back against my breast
And kissed it, scars and all.
          -- Sara Teasdale


  1. I believe the word you wanted is "crenellation" (an architectonic element) and not "crenulation" (a geologic formation)

  2. Executive Orders was published five years after Harry entered first year. This is ignoring the original point of departure of voldie back in the 60s.I find it hard to believe butterflies wouldn't have interfered. Almost as hard as it is to believe she would read that book during her owls or newts