AN: Dearest followers, life has been crazy for moi, and I hope you had a wonderful summer break at your end! If you have summer right now that is... Anywho, here is a new story for you guys, and I hope you enjoy it. I am very much aware that this story and the pairings won't be everyone's cup of tea, and that is absolutely fine. Mindless hatred however is something I do not have time for. For those of you who will enjoy it, the story will have 15 chapters, and I will be posting regularly as always. Leave a review if you have a spare moment and I hope that you do enjoy!
Okay, this one will be fun, Hermione thought to herself as she looked at the body lying on the table before her.
Hermione lifted both her lips and had a look inside the mouth. Early thirties by the state and development of teeth.
She looked at the pelvic bone and nodded to herself. Given birth at least once.
No noticeable abrasions or contusions, no defensive or offensive lacerations or incised wounds at first sight, no blood visible. Interesting.
"Madame," young Luke, her technician/assistant for forensic autopsies, handed over a file received from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
Hermione set her tea cup down and took it from him, opening the top cover. "Elsbeth Warwick, 32 years old, mother of four. Time of death exactly three hours ago during a raid. Cause of death unknown," she read out loud as she walked around the table and headed for the gloves and small wheelie table with the smaller instruments.
"What do they mean 'during a raid'? As in during a fight? She could have been hit with anything." Luke snorted, not happy with the vague information the Aurors provided.
Hermione shook her head. "This is not from the Aurors, this is from the Unspeakables. She was one of theirs. The Aurors only sent us her basic record, as the Department of Mysteries refuses to provide any more details. COD could be literally anything if she worked with something that had a long term impact on her down in the Department of Mysteries," she sighed and set the file down, leafing through it and starting on the medical history. "If you would get the camera and photograph her now, and then as you undress her. I'll take it from there," she gave directions and knew Luke would follow.
Luke was only 19, and practically begged the university to allow him to start his practical modules a year early when he heard Hermione had an opening for an assistant. He was still learning, but his mind was keen and curious, and she never had to tell him anything twice. Overall he was very much a capable young man and his heart was set on being either a forensic pathologist for the wizarding world, or a medical examiner in muggle America. Hermione enjoyed working with someone so curious, and they often led discussions while standing over the bodies as she tried to help him understand everything he would need for the job.
"Rigor mortis settling already in the facial muscles, around the neck and shoulder area as well. The larger muscles progressively stiffening," Luke told her, to which she merely nodded while tying her wild curls in a complicated bun at the top of her head, making sure everything was out of the way.
"Did you remember to mark the time you began photographing the body?" Hermione asked, suppressing a smile when she heard the boy cursing. Bless him. "Always keep a tight log, it will keep you organised and you can return to the findings of the examination in correlation with the time of death," she reminded.
Luke just grumbled something in response and she chuckled, pushing her glasses higher up on her nose. This will be a long night….
THREE HOURS LATER
Hermione groaned tiredly as she took off her gloves and chucked them into the bin. "They won't be happy with this one," she sighed and wrote down the official cause of death. Subdural hematoma, a result of head injury and blood clotting that ended up pressing on the brain. A muggle could die this way. The Unspeakables would be pressing for re-examination because in their opinion, everything had a magical cause. Hermione snorted internally. As if. Morons…
"Is there anything else you need me to do?" Luke asked after washing his hands.
Hermione just waved him off as she gathered the paperwork she had to fill in and send to the Ministry. "Go home to your lady. And send Lizzie my thanks for the little fob watch again, I love it. She really didn't have to go into all the trouble," she smiled, petting the lovely vintage watch pinned over her heart on the left side of her chest. Luke's girlfriend, a passionate muggle student of biochemistry, was an absolute sweetheart for remembering her birthday a month ago.
Luke pulled on his coat and gathered his bag. "She was excited that you liked it so much. Will you need me over the weekend? I mean, I can come in of course, but Lizzie wanted to go to this Halloween party…"
Hermione chuckled. "Go. I don't want to see you until Monday. Have fun," she offered.
"And you Madame," Luke smiled respectfully and left her to it.
Hermione watched after him in amusement before turning off the lights in the examination room and settling in the warm office attached to it with a fresh cup of tea. The paperwork alone will take another hour at least. She checked the time, nearly six in the morning. She needed a hot shower and a few hours of sleep before getting back to it.
Forensic pathology was a very recent development in Wizarding Britain, the need for it rising exponentially after the Final Battle and the end of the Second Wizarding War. Magical body scans and scanning of the wands revealed only so much, and sometimes it was impossible altogether to scan a dead body for the cause and time of death. Magical signature died with the death of the magical core and therefore identification of disfigured or burnt bodies was also very difficult until now. There were only two of them for the job currently in the whole of the United Kingdom, Hermione herself and her surprising colleague from Medical university, Millicent Bulstrode. Together they pressed for the university to accept credits from muggle modules on muggle pathology and forensic methods, and it took them all of their three years at Baccalaureate level to push for change. By the time they finished their Masters in the following year, the university began teaching the subject properly as a mixture of muggle and magical methods and procedures, developed with the aid of Hermione and Millicent. Just for their contribution to the new field, both of them received the honorary Doctorate titles, but Hermione refused to let that be the end of her education. She was incredibly busy, as Millicent was stationed in Ireland and she was in London, leaving her with all of magical England and Wales to manage forensically with autopsies while Millicent took care of Ireland and Scotland. And yet she insisted on research at PhD level, part time at least, to keep her knowledge fresh and progress in the medical field active. The university was only too happy to fund her research considering what Millicent and herself brought them. Who knew, if she couldn't deal with it anymore or grew tired of dead bodies, she was trained well enough to be a healer, or simply slip into the muggle world and work with pharmaceutics or something. For now though, she had a couple hours of sleep to catch, and research to do.
A firm but tired knock on her open office door roused her from her thoughts and she looked up to meet the piercing blue eyes of Auror Ginny Weasley. It was rather surprising that instead of flying like she always said she wanted to, Ginny ended up in the Auror training after redoing her N.E.W.T. year at Hogwarts. They were still close with Hermione as friends, but she never asked the redhead why she made the choice. It seemed to be a good fit for her however, and she was quickly rising in the ranks. At the age of 23, Ginny was already the so called 'Sub-head', which meant she replaced Kingsley in charge when he was too busy with the Minister for Magic, none other than Arthur Weasley himself. It was safe to say that the Weasleys were doing extremely well. Molly worked tirelessly on rebuilding the burnt down Burrow while keeping public appearances with her husband. Bill and Fleur were expecting their second, or so Hermione heard. George was dealing with the death of his twin much better these days, and Ron helped him run and expand the shop, making the business boom. Overall, the whole family was doing well and Hermione was very happy for them. Her relationship with Ron was no longer so close, especially as they established that the one kiss in the heat of the battle was not something they really wanted to repeat. She missed her close friends, but life happened and they mostly went their own ways. Well, not herself and Harry. The Hero of the Wizarding World was doing everything he ever wanted. Travelling, exploring, learning languages, actually enjoying cooking, and Hermione was so very proud of him. If only he wrote or called a bit more often, London was getting very boring without him. Charlie though must be delighted with the company, as she last heard, Harry was headed to Romania to stay with the second eldest Weasley son for a while.
"Hermione?" Ginny asked, her eyes tired but sparkling with amusement at the brunette's wandering mind.
Hermione finally focused on her again and cleared her throat, leaning back in her chair. "Auror Weasley, to what do I owe the pleasure?" she asked formally, trying to suppress a grin.
"Business as usual, Madame Granger," Ginny caught on quickly and teased her back with a formal tone.
"Is it ever anything but?" Hermione asked and signed the report, motioning for her friend to sit down while she checked over it one last time.
Ginny unbuttoned her formal robe and plopped down into the seat, stretching her lithe legs in front of her. It has been a long day and night, and she was ready to relax until her next shift. She accepted the folder when Hermione handed it over and quickly flicked through it. "Subdural hema-tome…"
"Hematoma," Hermione corrected automatically as she took off her glasses and rubbed her face tiredly.
"Is that the blood clot thing?" Ginny asked, always trying to listen to Hermione when she talked about medical stuff but there was just way too much to remember.
Hermione chuckled at the simple explanation but nodded. "Yes, that's the culprit. And if anyone has a problem with that assessment, they can do the second examination themselves. This is the cause of death, and I won't have the Unspeakables waving their wands in my face with demands. I don't have time for it," she said, perhaps a bit more sharply than originally intended.
Ginny lifted her hand defensively. "Hey, I'm not here to bite your head off, don't bite mine. It's been a long shift, for both of us as far as I can tell, so chill," she soothed and shrank the report to fit into her pocket.
Hermione organised her desk and began readying the files that needed taking home with her. "Sorry, sorry, I need tea, food, and sleep. So do you, by the way. You should get home, Gin."
Ginny looked at her friend and just observed her for a moment. Hermione has changed in the most subtle ways over the past few years. Her hair was wild as ever but no longer bushy, the curls heavy and shiny with health unlike after the war. Her skin was pale as porcelain from rarely seeing the sun these days, but ever so lovely nonetheless. And her skinny built has thankfully filled out after the war with proper food and much less action due to no more danger. Ginny's infatuation with Harry quickly dissipated after the war, especially when he still tried to prevent her from fighting and standing up for what was right. Maybe they have never been suited for each other, maybe the war did too much damage. In the end, it didn't matter. They went their separate ways amicably and she dedicated herself to law enforcement, as there was still so much more to do. Considering their professions and the fact that she relied on Hermione often when they had homicides, duel deaths, or suicides. They saw each other quite often but rarely had time to actually sit down and have a chat apart from the usual Weasley brunch on Sunday that her mum still insisted they all attend. And over the years Ginny came to really appreciate the person Hermione became, especially some of that dark sarcasm that leaked through when unguarded.
"We both need tea and food. Let's have breakfast, my treat," the redhead suggested after a moment of thought.
Hermione looked at her in surprise and let her hair down from the tight knot at the top of her head, the curls bursting down around her shoulders. "That's very kind of you, Gin, but I'm not much of a company after the night I had. Maybe another time?"
Ginny shook her head. "Don't you think it would be less depressing if both of us actually had someone to eat a meal with once in a while?" she asked bluntly.
Hermione raised a brow at the remark, but couldn't deny the fact that they both lived alone and apart from the brunch on Sunday rarely actually shared a meal with anyone. A quick coffee, yes, but not an actual meal. She looked up at Ginny who seemed to be patiently waiting for her response. "I went through four gruesome cases before this one today. I don't feel talkative."
Ginny shrugged. "I nearly lost one of the boys on my team today and had to actually kill a perp in self-defence. I don't think I have the energy to talk about much either," she responded simply.
Hermione clicked her briefcase shut and picked up her handbag, gratefully relinquishing the heavy case to Ginny when she kindly offered to carry it. Their friendship was a bit odd at times, but honestly, Hermione thought they would both go mad without each other as a constant reminder or reality…
Harry breathed in deeply, the fresh smell of the thick pine forest and smoke from the dragons filling his lungs deliciously. It was quite a change from the humid heat of Miami where his travels took him as a last part of his USA exploration. After a year spent travelling around the different states of America, he craved getting back to Europe, and most of all missed Hermione and the Weasleys, the only family he had. Conveniently enough, he's kept in touch with Charlie regularly after coming across an injured Chinese fireball in Ukraine three years ago and notifying the dragon tamer. The dragon's name was now Freiheit, and he was happily settled into the Romanian reserve, as no one else laid a claim to him. So when Harry asked if he could come and see the man for a few days and visit with the dragons as well, Charlie happily invited him over for a few weeks, with the offer to let him learn at the reserve and help out with the work that was always endless no matter how many hands they had.
He looked around, wondering where Charlie was as this was the agreed portkey point where he was supposed to be picked up. His sensitive hearing, honed by years of running away from Voldemort, picked up the distant sound of an engine. And a few moments later a car was approaching on the horizon at a rapid speed. He wondered whether it was Charlie or a muggle out hunting in the woods, as Romanians apparently did when the deer population got too large and threatened resources. Ah, that was definitely Charlie, he chuckled to himself when he caught sight the messy fiery curls over the open roof of the beaten up Jeep.
Charlie slowed down and parked right beside him with a large grin. "Welcome to Romania, Harry," he greeted, still the same old Charlie with his easy smile, laid-back attitude and those tight bloody shirts of his.
Harry knew years of malnourishment hardly allowed his body much growth. He was still short and lean, a seeker's built as always. Next to him Charlie looked like a bloody mountain with those shoulders of rock and muscles of steel. The man hasn't changed one bit since he last saw him three years ago… "Thanks. And thank you for letting me stay with you."
"Not a problem. The more the merrier. At least that's what my parents thought, and we mostly turned out alright," the dragon tamer winked, making Harry laugh at his cheekiness as he threw his duffel bag onto the back seat and pulled himself up into the passenger seat.
"Why the car?" he asked curiously.
Charlie shifted gears and off they were, turning back towards the reserve. "Well, we could fly but I prefer not to be breakfast to a pissed off dragon when I interrupt his mating dance for a female," he explained, eyes on the uneven road at all times.
"I didn't know it was mating season," Harry nodded. Okay, no flying, remember that.
Charlie chuckled, the sound rumbling from his chest as if he were an amused dragon himself. Harry always found that intriguing. "When is it not mating season?" the dragon tamer raised a brow at him, his eyes filled with humour.
Harry didn't miss the innuendo but decided to attribute it to Charlie's generally flirty attitudes. The man even wrote like he spoke. As if a simple monologue produced by his cheeky mind. Winky faces at the end of the sentences just to push a point that little bit further in his letters. And yet it always made Harry smile at least.
"Are you sure you can spare a room for me?" he asked instead.
"Room? What do you think I live in a palace? You can have the sofa or share my bed, your choice," Charlie chuckled but clearly joking. "Don't worry, you can have the bed, I'll take the sofa for a few weeks, it's very comfy. I would know, passed out on it a few times before."
"I couldn't. If the couch is so comfortable, I'll have it," Harry smiled but yelped a moment later when they took a sharp right and he flew into the dragon handler's solid shoulder.
"Oops, sorry. Hold on tight," Charlie helped him back up in the seat while keeping a tight hold on the wheel with the other hand.
The reserve was coming into view and Harry marvelled at the way the camp was laid out. Two large buildings, most likely dormitories for the workers, a few cabins littered on the outside, probably for the senior handlers like Charlie. He could see another building with a distinctive red cross above the door, the infirmary, and another that had 'Cafeteria' written on it. There were two more smaller buildings and Harry tried to determine what they were, but there wereno indications.
"Dragon nursery," Charlie pointed one of the remaining buildings out, as if reading Harry's mind. "And that one is the offices, everything to do with the bureaucracy and the finances. And the Director's office of course, I will introduce you later," he offered a smile before wading around the buildings, waving to a few passing men and women.
Harry took everything in quietly, knowing right away that he will love every second of his stay. They finally stopped at the edge of the circle of buildings beside a lovely little cottage, smoke rising from the chimney welcomingly.
"Well, home sweet home," Charlie jumped out and took Harry's bag for him, letting him enter first after unlocking the door.
Harry stepped over the threshold curiously and looked around the lived-in home. A worn but comfortable looking sofa in front of the fireplace, the living room open to a decent kitchen with a dining table on the side. It smelled of lavender and sage for some reason, and Harry wondered why until he saw the herbs drying on the warm stones of the chimney, above the fire. "It's lovely. Are you sure it's okay for me to stay so long?" he asked, wondering if Charlie won't get sick of seeing his face and sharing the space. It was not small but just about comfortable for two people that knew each other well. Charlie and Harry were not quite there yet.
"Of course, no problem at all," Charlie smiled easily and set Harry's bag on the sofa. "Wanna take a walk around the base camp?" he asked.
Harry looked surprised. "Don't you have work I'm keeping you from?"
Charlie stuck his hands in his jeans pockets and shrugged. "I took the day off, to rest a bit and have time to show you around."
Harry smiled appreciatively at his kindness. "Thanks, I'd love a walk," he smiled and quickly dug a thicker sweater out of his bag to protect himself from the October cold wind.
Charlie pulled on a hoodie since they wouldn't be using the magically heated car, and they headed out to start Harry's Romanian adventure.