For KawaiiRayne and the December One Shot Challenge. This one features a Hermione/Theo match with the prompts Drama, Blood(object not word) "How many secrets can you keep?"(Quote)
"Look what I brought for date night Hermione!" Theo bounced in to her flat his usual bubbly self much to her annoyance and amusement. Her partner was nothing if not enthusiastic.
"Partner Bonding Night, not date night Theodore Nott and you know it." He rolled his eyes and tossed a CD at her. He had really got into muggle movies since she had introduced him to the experience. He flopped down on her sofa and began pulling white cardboard cartons from the bags he had also brought in. "Chinese takeout and movie night. Nothing but the best for my partner!"
Theo and Hermione had been partnered up shortly after they had completed Auror training. Their partnership should not have worked on paper but they were the departments dream team. His daredevil tactics and her research led to more captures than any other partners on the department. Not just at this time, in any recorded time. They just worked.
Lately Theo had been making less than subtle hints about wanting to take their work relationship to a far more personal level. They were both carefree divorcees and he was tired of playing the field. She had never been one for casual dating. No matter how many times she carefully explained her rules about not dating co-workers, especially her partner, he never gave up. It was one of his most endearing and irritating qualities.
"Turner and Hooch? This wouldn't happen to be another one of your ploys to convince me that partners can date and still be partners would it?" she asked amused.
"Why? Would it work if it was?" he waggled his eyebrows in what he clearly thought was a seductive way. It may have been if she were at all interested. Which she definitely was not. No matter how well his muggle jeans stretched across his thighs or how soft his hair looked.
Even she had to admit Theodore Nott had grown up quite nicely from the thin boy he had been at Hogwarts. His lean frame had filled out. Where once he had been gangly he was now a rock hard wall of muscle. His dark brown hair had grown out to almost touch his collar and curled just a bit at the ends. His eyes were what got most women. They looked like just ordinary brown eyes at first. But when you really looked in to them they had these flecks of gold. Of course all of this was purely objective. She noticed these things only because they spent so much time together as partners not because she fancied him.
"Definitely not. Hooch is a dog." She laughed at his surprised look.
"Oh then. No, it was definitely absolutely NOT a ploy." She laughed as they settled back on the couch propped up against each other to eat their takeout and watch the movie.
Partner Bonding Night was one of the reasons they were so successful. Instead of just pouring over the same files time and again at the office they met at her place or his once a week for food and movies or board games and discussed their case. They had their best break throughs after a rousing game of checkers or a romcom.
Tonight fortunately was no exception. They had been chasing a serial killer they had dubbed The Collector because he collected skin and blood from each of his victims (Theo had wanted to call him Skin Flint after an old Slytherin buddy of his but she had quickly nixed that idea) and were working over what they knew.
"So none of the victims are biologically related." Theo began.
"Which rules out any reason for keeping the body parts to track their relatives." Continued Hermione.
"They are all experts in their field, but all different fields." Of the four victims one had been an expert in dragons, one in finances, one in ancient history and one in atronomy. There was no connection that they could find beyond the fact that they all used the same research libraries for their material. But as there were really only two sources in the UK for that and one was Hogwarts, that was hardly a great lead to go on.
"What about the rumors that the first victim Hamilton Shufflebottom essentially ripped off his entire research material from another dragon expert?" mused Theo.
"Charlie Weasley. While I can well imagine Charlie going ballistic and thrashing him for that, maybe even tossing him to the dragons, Charlie is scary when riled up, killing him and skinning him and siphoning blood? No. Besides not only does his alibi check out, he was in Romania watching dragon eggs hatched in full view of others at the time of the murder, there would be no reason to kill the others." She divided up the last egg roll and fed him his half while he murmured his thanks around his mouthful.
"I still think the answer lies with the skin and blood, he is doing something with it." frowned Theo.
Theo rolled his eyes "Not a time to stand up for equal rights, I don't care what the gender of the wizard or witch is."
"OK, so what can you do with skin?" asked Hermione.
"Well… parchment is made from sheep skin…" her face turned pale.
"You don't think he is making books out of them?" she looked ill at the thought.
He sighed "Only you would think of the books first Hermione. I doubt he has enough to make a full book yet let alone books but it is possible."
"Then he could be turning the blood in to ink." she pondered this,
"That doesn't leave us any closer, you know, that has to be pretty easy to do." Theo was getting frustrated.
"No, not really. Not if you want to do it right. The parchment in untanned, so it has to be very specifically treated to keep it from rotting. That takes skill…"
"Unless he is letting it rot" he pointed out.
"I don't think so. I think he is being very particular. This is someone who knows what he is doing."
He tossed her a fortune cookie "And another case solved by Nott and Granger before dessert."
She laughed "Not quite but we are closing in. And it should be Granger and Nott. Alphabetically speaking." They both laughed at their long standing debate.
The next day they hit the streets going to every place someone could reasonably and even unreasonably, pick up the skill to treat parchment. The problem was it did not let them narrow down any particular suspect.
"Who knew so many freaks wanted to learn to make parchment?" Theo groaned.
Flourish and Blotts was Hermione's last hope. They had always come through for her in rare books, hopefully this would prove successful.
"Miss Granger" called out Nadia the store clerk "I was wondering if we would see you soon. The new History of Hogwarts has just hit the shelves!"
"Thanks Nadia, I will take one, but I have come in for a different reason today. I am looking for information on anyone who may have seemed odd, well, beyond the average level of odd, who was looking to learn to make parchment, perhaps out of unusual… hides." she had to keep the exact nature of what they were looking in to quiet.
Nadia thought about it for a while "I can't think of anyone like that unless you mean Betram Pennington… but he wasn't looking to learn to make parchment."
Theo and Hermione looked at each other "What do you mean?" asked Theo.
"Well, Bertie was as odd as they come. He claimed he could turn any animal in to parchment, like any animal using this new procedure, but of course no one would touch him once he started offering to make "memorials" out of loved ones from their skin" Hermione felt her heart quicken and Theo tensed beside her "then he just disappeared. Thing is, I guess his theory was pretty sound because all of the major companies use it now." The young clerk finished wrapping up Hermione's purchase "I hope that helped Miss Granger."
"Maybe, we'll see, thanks Nadia." She offered the young woman her most neutral smile.
"We need to find this Bertram Pennington immediately" said Theo "He may not be our guy but…"
"But he is the closest we have to a suspect. Agreed. I will check the files at the Ministry, you check your less savory contacts." She wrinkled her nose.
"Friends Hermione, I call those "less savory contacts" friends." He laughed "see you at the office partner."
It took two days but they finally found an address in Knockturn Alley, which surprised neither of them.
They took no one with them. They never did. Because in the end, Hermione and Theo didn't really trust anyone else. She had trusted Ron and Harry. Still trusted them, even though she and Ron were divorced, she trusted him. But he ran a joke shop and Harry was Head Auror. Neither was going to be coming with her. She trusted Theo. If Theo had ever trusted anyone besides Hermione she had never learned. He certainly hadn't trusted his ex-wife Pansy. And it didn't really matter. He trusted her. And right now that was all that mattered.
After staking out the place they watched their quarry enter the building with his arms full of parcels. They had no authority to take him here. They were not even certain beyond a gut instinct that he was guilty. Circling the building they found every exit Bertram could possibly take and magically sealed it. An anti apparition spell was in place. The floo network was cut off. Bertram Pennington was not leaving this building.
Entering carefully they made their way to the third floor where they knew his flat to be. They could smell it long before they got there. Rot, death and chemicals. A quick spell performed by Hermione ensured they would have fresh air and the worst of the odors would be filtered out.
With a grateful look Theo pounded on the door "Bertram Pennington open in the name of the Ministry. We have a warrant to search the premises."
They could hear scrambling and smell smoke. "Shit he is trying to destroy evidence. REDUCTO" Hermione shouted shattering the door.
"Auguamenti!" followed up Theo putting out the fire.
Expecting a wand to wand duel Hermione was surprised when the small man before her suddenly rushed her but she was trained in hand to hand. Without enough room to maneuver out of his way she fully intended to go loose and when she hit the wall come back and sweep his legs from under him. She was unprepared for the searing pain in her chest. Looking down she saw a sharp metal hook protruding through her chest.
"HERMIONE!" screamed Theo just before hitting Bertram with a full body bind.
Running to her he grabbed both sides of her face "Don't die on me Granger, I have a few more ploys up my sleeve!"
She laughed weekly, coughing "Send a patronus Theo, get healers here and take that son of a bitch in."
"No way, I am not leaving you; someone else can make the famous Granger Not collar this time."
"Hey look at you, alphabetizing and everything. There is hope for you yet Nott." He laughed weekly and sent his patronus for help, holding her hand until they arrived telling her every ploy he had planned to prove to her they were the perfect couple.
The healers came and managed to carefully extract Hermione from the hook and true to his word, Theo let others cart off Bertram and categorize the crime scene while he stayed with his partner.
The damage was severe, but the healers were able to repair it without too much trouble. No major organs were irreparably damaged. She would have to stay a week in St. Mungos to make certain there were no complications, but she would make a full recovery.
As soon as she was out of danger Harry demanded Theo go home and sleep and eat. He had not left the hospital in over twenty four hours.
He did as ordered, but returned immediately to the hospital where he was glad to see Hermione awake. Harry was there briefing her on what was found at Pennington's flat.
"Apparently he was killing individuals who had been accused of taking credit for the work of others. In each case there had been a scandal involving charges of plagiarism."
"How did we not find this?" asked Theo.
"Because except for Charlie, the charges were completely unfounded" said Harry, "we only know about them because he wrote down every dirty little secret he could find about each of his secret on their parchments in their own blood."
Hermione shuddered "And then what? He was just… keeping them? How many secrets can you keep?"
"No more thanks to you two. Get some rest Hermione, don't keep her up too long say your goodbyes Nott and report for debriefing immediately." Harry left and Theo followed soon after
As soon as He had given a full account of their investigation and Hermione's injury he sat back and looked at Harry for a long time "I am here to formally request a change in policy. I would like the ban on partners becoming romantically involved to be lifted."
"And why exactly would you like that?" asked Harry smirking. He was absolutely going to win this bet with Ginny who had insisted it would take another six months before he was asked this particular question.
"I intend to start dating my partner." Theo said "clearly."
"Oh, clearly, and does your partner know this?" Harry was still amused, last he heard Hermione had told him "no" in several different languages.
"She will before the end of the day." Theo said confidently.
"Well, good luck with that. But I cannot grant your request. We have that policy in place for a reason Nott. Partners who date endanger missions and each other. I am sorry but that is my final word." Harry crossed his arms.
Theo still had one card to play. He shrugged "OK, but YOU get to be the one to tell Hermione she is getting a new partner, and well, good luck with that." He crossed his own arms and smirked.
Harry lowered his arms in defeat "By the end of the day you say?"
Hermione was relaxing in the hospital wondering why her no good, lazy partner had not been in to visit her all day. She was bored, and irritated. Not that she missed him, but he was her partner. It is his job to entertain her when she is injured on a mission.
No sooner had she become thoroughly annoyed than he stuck his head in the door "Look what I brought for Date Night" he considered it a win that she did not correct his choice of words this time. He carted in her television that she had magicked to play CD's and Thai takeout. He tossed her the CD "No Strings Attached".
"Another ploy Theo?" she asked amused.
He just grinned at her. After setting up the television and enlarging the bed he curled up next to her and started dishing out the Thai food.
After they had eaten their fill he pulled her closer to his side and pulled the blankets up over both of them.
Looking up at him with a twinkle in her eye she said "This isn't your most subtle ploy to date Nott."
Grazing his lips over hers he murmured "Is it working?"
She just laughed and tucked her head under his chin wrapping her arms around his waist.
The healers found them like that sound asleep later. They would have thrown Theo out if Harry Potter had not been there to stop them. There were some benefits still to being The Boy Who Lived.