Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is J.K. Rowling's. Everything else is mine. If I have taken any characters, ideas, etc from your story, please let me know – it is not on purpose.
Hermione glanced up from her Arithmancy calculations and grinned as she saw Ron Weasley's new owl, Sniper, carrying a letter in its claws. She opened the window, but before she could catch the letter, the owl dropped it on the windowsill and flew away.
Odd, she mused. It must have been an urgent message for it to have left without a treat. She had, after all, picked out the owl for Ron, and it was still fond of her.
She opened the letter quickly, worried that something might have happened to Ron – he always seemed to have a knack for getting into trouble. It was amazing that he hadn't been killed in the war against Voldemort, but then again he had also had a knack for escaping the worst of the bad luck he brought upon himself. She chuckled, thinking of all the mishaps she had been through with him, and how he always got away with everything.
To her surprise though, the letter was not concerning himself, but rather a missing artefact from the Ministry of Magic. I hope it's not a wild goose chase like it was last time, she thought to herself. Last time, when she had still been working for the Ministry, her employers had thought that a magical weapon had been lost.
She could still remember the uproar, the panic, and the chaos that had threatened to bring Cornelius Fudge down from his position as Minister. He had forced her to search every room in the enormous Ministry with and without magic, but she had found it in one of the employer's 'Muggle-proof' magic-cancelling rooms, where the worker had been studying the making of the weapon without magic. Fudge had shrugged it off, but had refused to pay her the full amount she was owed, because the weapon had not left the Ministry. That had made her so furious that she quit her job, but not before making sure that Fudge would not last much longer as Minister. Luckily, after the fall of Voldemort, he went mad, and Harry Potter had replaced him.
She looked down at the parchment, reading Ron's messy writing.
Hey Hermione, emergency at the Ministry. They know you're the best, and want to hire you. No one's injured, but it's necessary to get on the track of this object as soon as possible. Harry will tell you more details in person in case this is tracked.
Hermione sighed. There went the lovely, relaxing evening of sitting by the fire with a good Potions textbook. She put away her book, cleaned up a little (she couldn't stand a messy room) and grabbed the Floo powder. A few seconds later, she was standing in the reception hall at the Ministry of Magic.
"Ah, Hermione, there you are! Come quickly, we need to talk in private," Harry Potter spoke quickly, and ushered her into a portal. A dizzying sensation overtook them both, and they stumbled as the portal spat them out into a private meeting room.
"Ouch! You really need to get that fixed!" exclaimed Hermione as she got up from the floor. Harry just groaned and rolled his eyes; he heard that complaint at least twice a week, but no one wanted to fix the crabby portal – not after the last person who tried almost got bitten in half!
"Anyway, Harry, how are you? You didn't reply to my last owl!"
"Owl? Oh, they must have screened it out, you know, I get so much fan mail." Harry gave a weak chuckle. "Anyway, about this artefact –"
"Harry! You're working yourself too hard, aren't you? You know that my owl doesn't get screened! I bet I could find my letter lying on your desk, still unopened!" She glared at him, not quite angry, but rather annoyed. "I know Fudge was a terrible Minister, and a spy for the enemy to boot, but that does not mean that you have to take on all the responsibilities in the world!" Hermione's eyes softened as she took in his ragged appearance. "You're going to burn yourself out soon enough, if you don't start delegating tasks!"
"I know, I know, no need to get on my case – Jewel does that enough! But I do need to do all this work – no one else knows how, since all the people trained by Fudge are totally incompetent. There's nothing I can do at the moment but wait for the new batch of trainees to finish their schooling," Harry sighed. Then he smiled and added, "Jewel sends her greetings by the way. She said her owl keeps getting lost, so she can't use him anymore, and she wanted to let you know that she wants to get together sometime – maybe you should owl her yourself."
"I might just do that." Jewel was Harry's wife, a beautiful French woman and definitely not as fragile as her name seemed to portray. She had had a big part in the defeat of Voldemort, and she and Harry had hit it off almost right away at the international celebratory feast afterwards. Now Jewel and Hermione got together every once in a while to chat and sometimes shop. "But I rather think we should get on with this emergency, don't you?"
"You were the one who distracted me in the first place!" Harry grumbled, but then relented and explained the whole deal. "First off, it was one of those special weapons that we tried to destroy but couldn't – you know those ones that will either give a very light hex or explode the whole world, depending on the object's mood?" He rolled his eyes as Hermione grimaced. "Well, one of those was taken just a few hours ago. It was not, thankfully, the most powerful one, but it would do a significant amount of damage if used, perhaps annihilating a country or two. We've already tried a map search, but nothing shows up, which means that it is no longer in England."
"And so you want me to find it? Alright, but my work does not come cheaply. I suspect this will take several weeks to figure out. I will need a base pay of five hundred Galleons, and I will collect the rest later. Right now, I would like to see where the object was stolen. So – "
"Hang on, take this. It will help you see traces of magic more easily. The researchers developed it just a few weeks ago, and it seems to work quite well." He handed her a small vial of liquid, and demonstrated how to dab it on each eyelid.
"Alright, thank you. I'd better go before the traces get cold, though, so if you don't mind?" Hermione gave Harry a nod and stepped back into the portal, and emerged once again in the reception hall, this time without falling.
She stepped up to a receptionist's desk and presented her card. "Hermione Granger, Missing Persons and Items Detective, and Research in Potions and Arithmancy. I would like to see the scene of the crime, please." There was no need to specify which crime – there could only be one crime that would call for her services.
"Wand please," the receptionist asked calmly. Hermione sighed, and pulled out her wand for inspection and a scan. "Thank you, fifth door on the right, two floors up, first door on the left."
Hermione silently repeated the directions as she walked away. The Ministry was rather like Hogwarts; it had confusing twists and turns and many mazes that could easily trap the unsuspecting – which she most luckily was not.
She arrived safely at the warded room a few minutes later, and had started to examine the wards to dismantle them, when an Auror rushed up.
"Here, Hermione, let me, I set them so I should be able to undo them easily," Neville Longbottom panted, breathing heavily. Neville had come a long way since Hogwarts, and was now one of the Aurors who worked on wards – both setting them up and taking them down.
After half an hour, Neville finally managed to undo the last one, and Hermione stepped through the doorway.
"My apologies for having taken so long, but the weapons in here must be carefully guarded," he said earnestly, and Hermione gave a small smile before sweeping past him, "That's alright, Neville, I don't think I could have done it any better."
Neville beamed, always happy to hear that he had done a good job, and left, mumbling about how he had some research to finish on how certain wards could protect people. Hermione grinned to herself and scanned the room to make sure no one else was there.
Once that was done, she looked for clues – how many people there had been, how they arrived and left, and any other pertinent information. To her surprise, there were very few clues of any sort; she had only been able to figure out that there had been two thieves, one smaller and one quite big, and that they had not spent much time in the room at all.
She belatedly remembered the vial of potion, and dabbed a few drops on her eyelids. The room rapidly blazed a blinding white, then dimmed itself to a thin veil of lavender over everything magical, as well, as a bright green over any magic used by people not keyed to the Ministry wards. She saw very little green, and could not figure out how they had left the windowless room without breaking the Apparition wards, or those on the door.
That means that I'm on the track of two very, very, smart thieves. Who else could have broken those wards set by Albus Dumbledore himself? Hermione frowned at the display case that had held the weapon before it was stolen. There was no display tag anywhere either; the Ministry had decided that naming it would make it easier for people to accidentally let it slip, so they left the dangerous weapons nameless. Just for her own sake, though, Hermione decided to call it Apocalypse.
Alright Apocalypse, I'm going to find you, whether you like it or not, Hermione chuckled to herself, despite the seriousness of the situation – here she was, talking away to some inanimate object again.
"'Mione, there you are! I thought you were with Harry!" Ron called from the doorway, careful not to enter the room, lest he disturb the traces of the thieves. Hermione smiled at him; he had matured so much in the past few years.
"Yes, well, I wanted to have a look at this place. I got all the details I need to know from Harry," she replied, then focused her attention back on the display. A few minutes later, she looked up, only to find him still standing there.
"Ron, if you need something, tell me!" she snapped impatiently. Ron just stared for a few seconds, then scowled and left, his robes billowing in a way that was oddly reminiscent of Snape. Hermione stared after him, puzzled by his behaviour. Then she shrugged, and returned to her work, dismissing all thoughts of Ron.
I just hope this doesn't take too long to puzzle out, she thought as she tapped the glass with her wand. It wouldn't do to have to world blow up on us.
"Severus, we are having a guest at the castle for a few days. While I know you're not going to scare her away, I would ask you not to be rude, and if you cannot do that, then at least stay away from her. She is doing a very important job for the Ministry, and were it to be interrupted or ruined, it could be disastrous." Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, smiled, and popped a lemon sherbert into his mouth.
"And I suppose you've given all the other professors this little 'talk'?" Severus Snape glared at Dumbledore.
"Of course, of course. Although, I did not need to tell them to" – he cleared his throat – " behave themselves," the Headmaster replied casually.
"I – of all the! Are you accusing me of being cruel, Albus?" growled Snape, knowing very well that he was known for being harsh, yet unwilling to hear it from someone else's lips. Albus simply stared at him, his eyes twinkling ever so slightly, until Snape sighed and agreed, "Alright, I won't disturb her. But you have not yet told me who is coming."
"That, Severus, is going to have to wait until dinner. And no, before you ask, I have not told the other teachers who it is. Now, I'd better be going." Dumbledore grabbed some Floo powder and tossed into Snape's fireplace. "Headmaster's office!" he shouted, and disappeared into the flames.
At the moment, I do not have a beta reader…if you would like to beta, please let me know via email. I know my grammar should be fine…I mainly need it for the flow of the story.