Harry woke up with a smile on his face. He had a good night sleep filled with pleasant dreams. They were all focused on a red haired girl with brown eyes and a warm inviting smile.
“Hey wake up! Just because you’ve been out all night with my sister doesn’t mean you can lie in till noon. Mum and Dad want all of us downstairs for breakfast in a half an hour”
“Are the girls up?”
“Mum said Hermione is up and dressed but Ginny is refusing to get out of bed.” Ron stood towering over Harry with a look on his face as though he was ready to pummel his best mate.
Harry sat up and put his feet on the floor. The muscles in his back and legs, fatigued from last nights dancing, screamed in protest.
“You have yourself a good time with my sister last night?” The question was filled with danger. Harry, even in his groggy state, picked out the emphasis Ron put on the words “good time”.
Looking at Ron in his present state of distress, Harry chose his words carefully. “I enjoyed dancing with her, as you probably noticed.” He kept talking ignoring Ron’s grunt. “Then I escorted her to her door, where I kissed her goodnight, before coming in here for a kip. I hope that is acceptable behavior, for you.” Ron blushed slightly before nodding and turning away, walking towards his side of the room. “I told you yesterday that this was just a date. I wasn’t trying to shag your sister.”
“Yeah! What if she had offered?” Ron had stopped walking and looked at Harry with a raised eyebrow. “Would you have said no?”
Harry was shocked at Ron’s question. He had never even considered that possibility last night. “Are you calling your sister a ….”
“I am not calling my sister anything,” shouted Ron, clearly offended by Harry’s accusation, and then continued talking softer. “The way she looks at you and acts around you…,” Ron stopped talking and looked at Harry, before talking barely above a whisper. “The last time I saw a girl look at a man like that was Fleur looking at Bill at their wedding. You can guess how that night turned out. Look! I just don’t want her to end up a…,” he cleared his throat, “… a young mother.” Ron finished and went to his side of the room, and started playing chess.
Harry sat on his bed with his head swimming with what Ron had said. He would never want to do that to her. He knew he would have declined her last night, but if she would ask another time. What would he say? If he said no, would she think he doesn’t care that much for her? Harry vigorously ran his hand through his hair as though it would help sort out his thoughts.
Standing up he took a deep breath before walking over to Ron. “I – I want to tell you,” stuttered Harry, as he tried to organize his words. “That I would never want to get Ginny – um – that way.” Ron nodded in response to Harry’s statement. “I’m…,” Harry cleared his throat nervously. “I’m not sure if I’m ready – for – for that, yet. I’m just – a – trying to understand dating and snogging.” Ron didn’t look up at him, and Harry turned and walked towards the loo to get showered.
“Harry,” He stopped when he heard Ron say his name.
“I want to – say – thanks. I don’t want to lose you as a friend. I know you love Ginny, and all, but if you would hurt her…” Ron’s conflicted feelings about his best friend and his sister were evident, as saying every word seemed to be a huge effort.
The two friends stared at each other for several seconds, before grunting, “All right then” and, “fair enough”.
Harry continued into the loo. After a quick shower, he dressed and was ready for breakfast. Hermione had already come over and was sitting on a chair, while Ron rubbed her neck.
She stated that she did not have a good nights sleep. Hermione carried with her the book on Australia that Mr. Weasley gave her and the letters from her parents.
“I am really worried about having sent my parents here now. This book told about how Australia was a British penal colony for years, and many outcast witches and wizards came over on the same boats as the prisoners. This country could be filled with Death Eaters or very similar wizards.”
“Hermione, what are the odds of anything happening,” stated Ron.
“I know its long odds, but I’m nervous for their safety anyway.”
“When was their last letter to you?” asked Harry.
“A month ago so I guess they are still fine.” Hermione seemed to relax a little when she said this. The three of them talked about last night, and what Mr. Carl would be like.
“There you are,” Ginny said as she entered the suite. Her hair was still damp from her shower. “Did you and Ron have a good night sleep last night?” She asked Harry as she gave him a hug and quick kiss good morning. He noticed that she seemed to give Hermione a wry smile.
“Yes, brilliant, we had better get down to breakfast, now, before your parents send out a search party for us,” replied Harry.
Harry and Ginny left after the other two, saying that he wanted to check on some things before leaving. This gave him a private moment with Ginny, to snog, and tell her how much he enjoyed last night.
Ginny started giggling at the last statement. “Hermione and I were talking, yesterday, and she also thought the same things about your plans for last night.”
“Oh really,” replied Harry, slightly offended.
“Yes. She didn’t want to interfere, so she slept in the closet, with a silencing charm on the door. That is why she is so stiff and sore this morning.” They both broke out in giggles over the thought of Hermione curled up in a closet while Ginny slept peacefully in her bed. After a few seconds they looked at each other and realized that, they should be ashamed of themselves, but that didn’t stop their sniggering.
By the time, they left the room, Ron and Hermione had already gone down the lift to the dining room. Harry and Ginny arrived as the waiter was taking orders for breakfast.
Before he left, Harry caught him by the arm, and whispered something in his ear. The waiter nodded and left.
“What secret plans are you formulating now?” inquired Mrs. Weasley.
“You’ll see.” Harry had a pleased look on his face.
“We ordered for the two of you,” said Mrs. Weasley, as she smiled at her daughter.
“We weren’t sure when you would show up.”
The waiter returned with tea and orange juice for everyone and a Daily Prophet for Mr. Weasley. Everyone was in shock, that the hotel had a wizard’s newspaper.
“I figured out what was going on last night. This place is filled with wizards and witches, or at least, the workers here are. When we left the dining room last night, Ginny forgot her shoes. The waiter ran after us with her shoes and called her, Mrs. Potter, but all the reservations were for the Weasley family. I assumed that this place must have wizards and witches on staff. It would be logical, considering the Ministry made our reservations.” Harry looked over at Hermione whose eyes were full of excitement at having a puzzle to solve. Everyone else looked at him, not quite believing what he just said.
“Of course, look at all the things that happened yesterday: they wouldn’t accept tips, we had at least six different waiters serving us, and they all bowed like we were the royal family. I wonder if our Ministry runs this place, since Australia doesn’t have one.” Hermione was now looking around the dining room as though looking additional clues.
Another waiter returned with breakfast, after serving it, he bowed and left. Everyone noticed that it was to Harry that the bow was directed. Ginny looked at him and simply said, “What, no autographs, he looked like he had nice legs?” The table howled with laughter at this statement. They all joined in harassing Harry about his celebrity status, which made him feel good that they found it amusing instead of annoying.
“Well I’m glad that everyone is enjoying themselves,” said a middle-aged man. He appeared to be a typical Muggle on vacation, with tan Dockers and a light green polo shirt. “I am Brad Carl.” Everyone turned to look at him and say hello. He was tall and muscular. His thinning hair was a mix of colours, from reddish brown to dirty blonde, with grey sprinkled in around his temples. He had clean-shaven square face with hazel eyes. He also spoke with a slight Scottish lilt. Harry mused that he would be a person that Uncle Vernon would view as “perfectly normal”.
“I need to know. What made you realize that this was a hotel for magical people? We were trying to be inconspicuous, even though you were the guests of honour.”
“Last night, when a waiter called Ginny, Mrs. Potter, instead of Weasley,” stated Harry, then as an afterthought he added. “I should have realized something was up earlier, when we had the best table in the place, and the band seemed to play according to what we were doing.”
“That was a good observation, particularly after a long night on the dance floor. Most people would be too exhausted to notice much.” Brad Carl said this with a smile that made Harry and Ginny blush. “This hotel acts as the center of Australia’s Magical Community. We don’t view being magical as being different or better, but blessed. We were preparing to celebrate the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, when we received notification that you would be arriving here in a couple of days. “
“Mr. Carl, I thought you didn’t have a Ministry of Magic here?” inquired Hermione.
“We don’t call it that, but this place functions as one. Unlike in England, we want to blend in with non-magical people. We call them folks here. If you hear someone saying folks then they are talking about Muggles. We find it’s easier to talk between each other without giving away our secret.”
“Excuse me again…,” Hermione piped in again. “… but do you have problems here with dark wizards,”
“On rare occasion, yes,” his reply had an impatient tone.
“According to A Magical History of Australia dark wizards use to come over here on prisoner ships.”
“Do you always believe everything you read?”
Ron, Harry, Ginny all emphatically answered. “YES!” Hermione seemed to be a bit put out, by either his question or everyone’s answer.
“Well, when you read a book about potions, spell casting, or anything that isn’t subject to opinions, you can believe it. Topics that are subjective like “good” and “bad” wizards, you must use discretion when reading. A good example is your friend, Mr. Potter. Every year the Daily Prophet seemed to be changing their opinion of him.”
“That is different, it’s a newspaper writing what the Ministry tells them, or lets them,” replied Hermione.
“Do you really think the Ministry doesn’t control the publishing of books also?” Mr. Carl hesitated to let Hermione digest the possibility of her beloved books being published under the scrutiny of the Ministry. “I am not trying to demean you, my dear. I just want you to realize that what you read is not exactly how things have occurred. Many of the undesirable wizards that have come to this country were trying to get away from the pure blood fanaticism that exists in England. Many, of us, still have loved ones there that we want safe. That was why we are so happy that the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was defeated. I am an alumnus of Hogwarts. I am a Hufflepuff and five years ahead of Arthur and Molly. My name then was Ignatius Bradley Carlyle. I made it more folk friendly after moving here.”
The next half hour was spent eating breakfast, and listening to Mr. Carl talk about living in Australia as a wizard. He lives in a neighborhood of folks and use all their devices; telephone, microwave ovens, television, and even computers. He said that the magical community even has its own website and many of them communicate using email. Only Harry and Hermione had a vague understanding of what email was, as they both had technology classes in public school, before going to Hogwarts. They also have a Floo network but it isn’t widely used because of the lack of fireplaces in most homes. When Apparating to a place, they have, buildings and locations designated for that purpose, so no one sees them appear or disappear. They even have their own court system and governing body to help control misuses of magical powers.
“Now that I’ve bored you all with my version of Australia, we get to the reason you are here. Ms. Granger, have you any idea where your parents might be in this country?”
“Yes, I do. They have been writing to a ‘friend’ I implanted in their memory. Here is the address.” She handed him one of the envelopes with a return address on it.
“I am impressed. A very smart thing to do, this will make the search quick and easy. I need to go to my office, look this address up, and make plans accordingly. I shall be right back.”
Hermione had a relieved look on her face as he walked away from the table, when she realized that she might actually be able to find her parents quickly and easily. Everyone else, at the table, was chatting animatedly, about the things that Mr. Carl had told them.
He returned after ten minutes. “Well I’ve checked the location and there is an Apparating site thirty kilometers away near the city of Brisbane, where we can pick up a van. We should be there in an hour. Now if everyone will get ready to travel as folks and meet me at the front desk in fifteen minutes, we shall be on our way. Oh, the rooms are yours for as long as you want, free of charge. The bill is being paid by the wizards and witches of Australia’s Magical Community, as a thank you.”
Everyone finished eating and hurried back to their rooms. Harry was thinking about what to take along. He decided to grab his invisibility cloak, a habit he developed over the past two years. They all met again at the front desk and were escorted into Mr. Carl’s office.
He took them, to an adjacent boardroom, which had a plastic dish sitting on the table. Mr. Carl activated the Portkey after everyone grabbed a hold. The landing spot was a large warehouse that also housed a variety of vehicles. They spent several minutes finding a van large enough for them to get into without magic. Once inside they drove out of the warehouse and through the suburbs of Brisbane north, to a town called Brighton. Mr. Carl drove and Hermione sat in the other front seat. Ron and Harry sat directly behind Mr. Carl and Hermione, while the other three squeezed into the back seat.
As they drove, Hermione became increasingly nervous and irritable. No one reprimanded her, but tried to support her. They understood the anxiety she must be feeling.
Harry was wondering if she had any plan to get close enough to her parents to reverse the spell. He laughed to himself at the thought of her knocking on their door, saying good day, and hitting them with a spell in the doorway.
The van had an electronic navigation system, which guided them through to their destination. They drove into a housing development in Brighton, which vaguely reminded Harry of Little Whinging. The houses were set close together, but they each were unique in their own way. The houses in the Dursley’s neighborhood looked almost like they came from a die, they were so much alike. When the navigation system stated that at the next intersection turn left and proceeds 100 metres to your destination. The tension and anxiety was thick in the van. No one spoke to each other. When Mr. Carl turned onto the road, Hermione uttered a nervous, “Oh No!” The navigation system told them to stop in front of a house and Mr. Carl checked the address. Tears spilled down Hermione’s cheeks. Yellow tape surrounded the property, and the front door had tape on it along with a sign, “Do not cross by order of the police.”
“Oh no…nooo what did I do? What did I do?” wailed Hermione.
“Mr. Carl what is going on?” shouted Ron, as he reached forward to comfort her.
“I have no idea what has happened?” he replied
“Can’t we go and look or ask someone?” asked Mr. and Mrs. Weasley from the back seat.
“NO! We must leave! We can’t stay here!”
As all this shouting and confusion was happening, Harry slipped on his cloak as he stepped out the van.
“Who left? Where is Harry? We must leave before someone calls the police!” Mr. Carl was getting nervous and angry at this point.
“He left under his cloak. I think he is going inside to see what happened. We must wait a little longer!” demanded Ron. “He knows what he is doing.”
After Harry closed the door of the van, he Apparated inside of the house. He wanted first to determine if this was the Grangers’ home, that they had not moved. Then he wanted to see, if he could figure out what happened. He found the answer for the first question within seconds, as he saw pictures of Hermione’s parents on the wall.
He looked around the house quickly and noticed that there was an appearance of a small struggle. As he looked more carefully, he noticed some unusual footprints in the plush carpet. Among these footprints were strange looking leaves and berries. After finding these, he decided that he should leave. He Apparated out to the van and found that the police had arrived to question why it was in front of the house.
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When Hermione heard that Harry had left she began to calm down. She knew that he would be back with information. They sat in the van waiting in silence. Time seemed to creep along. Harry needed to get back, and soon.
A police car appeared around the corner with its lights flashing and pulled up to the back of the van. The officer got out and started to question them and ask for identifications. He stood away from the van’s window so he could see everyone inside. They made the excuse that they left their visas back in the hotel. He said he was going back to his car to call for support and they were not to leave or get out of the vehicle.
Mr. Carl nervously sat in the van and watched the officer walk back to his car and reach for the radio, without taking his eyes off the van. He pulled the microphone to his mouth, and hesitated before replacing it in the car. He then walked forward to the van’s window and told them that everything checked out. The officer returned to his car and left without looking back.
“I hope I Confunded him in time?” Harry’s voice outside of the van’s window made Mr. Carl jump. “Let me get in and we can leave.”
He opened the door and sat down after Ron had budged over, but did not pull off his cloak until the van turned a corner. Hermione besieged him with questions about what he found.
“Hermione, I am not sure what happened. It appeared that there was a struggle, but no signs of blood. I found some footprints and some type of berry. The footprints were either Goblin or House Elf.”
Mr. Carl glared at him in the rearview mirror. “There has never been any evidence of Goblins or House Elves in Australia. We use folk banking methods and… ”
“I know what I saw. They were Goblin or House Elf footprints. Does anyone know anything about this type of a berry?” He handed the berry first to Hermione, who took it and made a repulsive face because of its odour. It was small, round, and a beige colour. The leaves were deep green, elongated, and had spiny white fibers covering them. The stem was woody, grayish brown, and appeared to be octagon in shape, and a pungent oily substance covered the leaves and the berry. Eventually, everyone in the van looked at the berry, and all commented on its strong odour of dung, but had no idea what type it was.
Brad Carl reached down and pulled out a cell phone. “Hello, Lisa, this is Brad. I will be at the hotel in about fifteen minutes with some guests. I need you to check the news for the Brighton area look for incidents on Seaview Lane. Thanks. Bye. We will be arriving at another hotel shortly. There we will be able to do some research into what is going on.”
This hotel was small, barely thirty rooms which stretched along the parking area away from the office. They pulled into a parking space outside of the office entrance.
Everyone got out of the van and entered the door marked employees only. Lisa was a middle-aged witch who looked like a typical Muggle secretary, except when she got up, her keyboard kept typing. Walking over to Mr. Carl, she handed him some sheets of paper with printing on them. “Well, Brad, I found what you are looking for,” she informed him.
He showed them the print out of a newspaper headline; Mysterious Disappearance: another one in a long string of disappearances. Hermione walked over and took them from Mr. Carl, who said that if she wanted to read them, then she could go to the employee’s lounge. Hermione walked towards the door and everyone else followed.
“Mr. Carl, Regi’s back there celebrating,” stated Lisa with some concern. “She’s been drinking.”
When they entered the room, they saw Regina McKinnon. She was leaning back in a chair, with her feet up on the conference table, reading several Daily Prophet’s about the fall of Voldemort. She was an intimidating sight. She did not appear to be taller than Ginny or Hermione, and she had the look of someone who has lived off the land for years. Her skin was bronze toned and appeared to be as tough as leather. He arms and legs were lean and muscular. The arms of her shirt were cut off, and she wore shorts. Her hiking boots looked beaten and worn and she wore them without socks. Her hair was sun bleached blonde, and her eyes were bright blue and beamed with intensity, which added to her striking appearance. Sitting beside her was a half-finished bottle of scotch. She closed the newspaper and looked at who had entered the room. She looked at their faces and back to the front of the newspaper where she also saw Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s pictures.
“Harry Potter! I am so glad to see you! Thank You!” she stood up, ran to him, pulled him into a tight hug, and kissed him on the lips. She also turned to Ron and did the same thing. She grabbed Hermione, hugged, and kissed her on the lips. Harry, Ron, and Ginny almost started laughing, as Hermione’s eyes became as big as a House Elf’s.
“I can’t believe He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is dead. Finally! Justice for my family!” Everyone stood there in shock, taken back by her aggressive personality, raspy voice, and the strong odor of scotch. “Whoa, who stepped in crocodile shit?” Everyone’s expression now was one of puzzlement at what she said. “You mean you people can’t smell that?”
Hermione suddenly realized what she was talking about, “Do you smell this?” She reached into her jeans pocket and produced the berry that Harry had found.
“That explains what the odour is. You people just get back from Queensland?” inquired Regi, looking at the odd berry.
“No we found this in my parent’s house in Brighton.”
“I wonder how it got there. This thing only grows in the swamps in Queensland, and only in one spot. This protects the crocodile’s domain, according to the originals.”
“Originals? Who are they?” asked Hermione.
“Aborigines, the original inhabitants of Australia. They say that this plant protects the kingdom of the crocodile because it grows as a giant hedge in the middle of the swamp. No one has ever been able to cut through it and live.”
“Great, we know where to start. Can you take me to this place?” Harry had a look of determination as he said this. They had an actual lead to where Hermione’s parents were.
He immediately wanted to know how long it would take to get there. He was told that brooms would be best, but it would take several hours from the nearest Apparation point, which was in the outskirts of Cooktown.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley tried to convince him to wait and plan this better, and give Regi time to sober up. She took offense at this statement, and said that she has flown in worse shape than this.
It was decided that everyone would Portkey to the next point and wait there for Harry and Regi to investigate. Ginny insisted on going with the two of them, but was loudly told no, by her parents.
The eight people appeared in the middle of a storage room. There were brooms placed along the one wall. The place also had other rudimentary provisions in various cubbies. Harry and Regi picked up two of the short heavy brooms and readied themselves to leave.
They took some food and water along with them, since it was close to noon, and they would be flying for a long time. They could eat in transit, or after they located the place.
He said goodbye to everyone. Ginny hugged, kissed, and wouldn’t let go of him.
Once they stepped out of the warehouse, the oppressing heat made Harry realize, that they were in a subtropical jungle. The brooms length was beneficial, since the path, they would take wound through the thick tangle of trees. They stayed below the canopy to prevent accidental sightings and flew around and though limbs and leaves. The jungle foliage was so thick that they couldn’t see more than ten metres in front or behind them. The only way they kept on course was by using the compasses that were on the brooms. The flight was long and tiring, but, finally, they arrived at the location.
The hedge was enormous, almost twenty meters high and capped by a thick canopy of trees. It stretched in both directions in a slow arc. The area around the hedge was thick jungle. Someone could stand a few meters away from it and never notice it for the thick foliage, but the odour of the berries was oppressing. They flew along the face of it for a few minutes, looking for openings to the inside.
Harry asked how far it was to go around it. Regi said that she had no idea because no one had ever bothered to do that. After landing, he stepped up to the hedge pulled out his wand and yelled “Reducto” and large potion of the hedge fell away. He repeated this several more times until he had started to form a tunnel into the hedge. Suddenly he hit something as his hex deflected and almost hit him. When he had stepped to the hedge he had felt a tingling on his skin, he thought there was magic present. Now he was sure of it.
“Regi, Go get the others I am going to investigate further. Where will I be able to find you, when I’m done?” She told him that she has a home thirty kilometers down the river at the base of a large hill of stone. He will be able to see it from the river since no trees grow on this hill.
Harry realized that the clothing he was wearing would be to warm for this place. He removed his heavy jumper leaving only an undershirt. He then used his wand and trimmed the legs off his pants. With that task taken care of, Harry pulled out his invisibility cloak threw it over him and disappeared.
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