Healer Hermione Granger was exhausted. She was in the 20th hour of a 24 hour work shift. She was supposed to have had a six hours break mid-day to catch a meal and some sleep. The two hour nap she had pulled that afternoon had done little to refresh her. She was at the daily limit for pepper-up, something the hospital monitored closely. Things were so bad she was beginning to consider grabbing one of the listed potions just to make it through the rest of her day. Ten months ago she would have been appalled to even consider such an action. Now, with her 12 month residency rotation in the emergency room at St. Mungo's nearing its end, she could see why the majority of healers who passed this the program thought so lightly about helping themselves to the meds and potions locked in the department's storage vault. The ethics of self medication were quickly forgotten when one considered the risks associated with having to treat a patient when you were too tired to think or function properly. Hermione was in the minority in that she hadn't sunk to that level. Yet.
Returning to the admitting desk after treating the victim of a drunken-broom flying accident, she sighed at the stack of patient folders waiting for her. She'd be lucky to have caught up with the load of incoming patents by the end of shift. Her hopes of a quick nap in the early morning were long gone. She handed the file from her previous patient at the admitting nurse, a fifty year old witch who had become something of a friend of to her the last few months. "Who's next Estrella?" the young healer asked the nurse.
"This one just came in. Room 5." The nurse handed over a single piece of parchment which had the results of the patent's initial examination that had been completed by another of the nurses who worked in the emergency room.
Hermione quickly scanned the examination results. He or she obviously was in the right place. They were a bit of a mess, but nothing looked to be life threatening. The point of ER was to treat the most seriously people first. Considering the nature of the reported injuries and the fact it was just past two thirty in the morning on a Saturday, Hermione reasoned her patient was probably someone who had one too many and got into it at a pub. Makes it likely her patent was just some drunken bloke then. "Surely we've got people here who should be ahead of this guy."
The nurse pointed at a pair of men in Auror's uniforms Hermione didn't recognize. "They said to get our patient in and out of here a-sap. I wasn't going to argue."
"What's the rush?" Hermione asked. Estrella just shrugged. She was more interested in completing the paperwork associated with Healer Granger's last few patents then explaining triage procedures to the pair from the "Ministry's Finest" who were looking rather agitated.
"Where's the admitting report. Or the medical history?" Hermione asked with a huff.
"Admitting hasn't been competed yet. And his history hasn't been pulled yet. Should be here in five," the nurse answered with little emotion.
"Fine. Then I'll put this guy aside and get on to the next patient." Hermione made to reach for the stack of medical folders for the waiting patients.
Estrella slammed her hand onto the stack before Hermione could take the next one. "Room 5 Healer Granger. I don't feel like dealing with those pea-brained muscle-bound goons tonight," the nurse explained while nodding her head to the pair from the Auror's office.
Hermione spat out a disgruntled "Fine" as she turned on her heals and left the ER's admitting desk. She scanned the list of injuries one again, a bit more closely this time. Unidentified curse damage to the right shoulder. Deflected bone breaker to the ribs. Multiple contusions along with splitters to the face. Blunt force trauma to the patient's right rear cranium and right arm. Possible concussion. Fracture in the left arm. Swelling in the knee indicating possible ligament tears. She was still reading the initial examination report as she pushed open the door to Room 5.
Hermione was greeted by a loud wolf whistle. Instantly her face hardened and she looked over the parchment, with a look that showed she was ready to spit fire. Her stare was met with a sheepish look from her patient who just happened to be the person she considered her best-friend. Her look instantly softened as she took in the sight that was her patient. He was a mess. His face was bruised. He had blood in his dark black air. His clothes, an efficient and sleek looking Auror's field uniform was ripped and torn in several places. He gingerly held his left arm with his right hand. After one quick look at her patient, Hermione asked in a raised voice, "Harry James Potter, what have you gotten yourself into this time?"
Harry just gave her a lopsided smile and shrugged. She found the expression both endearing and infuriating at the same time. Instead of answering her question, Harry took in the sight of his exhausted friend and responded, "You look terrible 'Mione."
Hermione looked incredulously at her patient who was bleeding, bruised and cradling his arm. "I look terrible?" she huffed.
"You've got bags under your eyes the size of teabags and you're as pale a sheet. Aren't you taking proper care of yourself?" he asked with concern.
"It's this damn ER rotation. Not getting enough sleep is all," she answered dismissively. "Only got nine weeks left, and then I'll be fine. Now what did you do to yourself this time?"
"Can you get me out of here quickly Mione? Just patch up. My team is waiting for me to return."
"Wait, you're in the MIDDLE of an operation?" she asked as she reached him and started to cast a diagnostic spell on his head.
"Yeah. They're waiting for me to return so we can finish up," Harry explained with a shrug.
"Why didn't your team medic patch you up?" Hermione asked.
"She didn't know what to make of my shoulder. If you could just loosen it up a tad and deal with the fractures, I'll be fine for now. I'll come back after I'm done. I promise."
"We'll see about that," she told him in a voice that left considerable doubt that he was leaving the ER any time in the near future. "Let me see your shoulder," she told him.
Harry pulled off his torn and stained Auror's tunic with a bit of effort. He hissed in pain as he pulled his broken arm through the sleeve of his torn shirt. Hermione gulped at the ugly bruise forming on Harry's chest, likely caused by the same deflected spell that had caused his broken ribs. Looking at his muscled chest certain other unwelcome thoughts entered her mind. Mentally, she shook her head and focused back on the task at hand.
"How did you do this to yourself?" she asked.
We found a crude hidden vault outside of Cornwall. We decided to get a team together to check it out. Someone tripped the wards.
"Ron," she said bitterly. Ron and Hermione had dated for close to a year immediately after the defeat of Voldemort until she found out he was cheating on her. She never fully forgave him. A couple of years ago Ron decided to 'get serious' about his life and joined the Auror Corps so he could work with Harry. Hermione derided his efforts as half-assed and refused to listen to Harry's insistence that Ron was in fact a perfectly capable Auror.
"No, he wasn't there tonight. McDougal tripped the ward." Harry told her.
"Let me see that shoulder." It appeared to be covered in silver and black fish scales. She ran several diagnostic charms on it without any significant results. As she was examining his cursed shoulder she bumped his broken left arm and Harry yelped.
"Can you do something about my arm first?" Harry asked, gritting his teeth.
Hermione cast a quick diagnostic spell at his off arm. "Compound fracture. This is going to sting." She told him. Before Harry had a chance to brace himself, she said "Episky Humerous". Harry grunted as his bones painfully realigned themselves and knitted themselves back into shape with three or four loud crackling and popping sounds. Ten second later, Hermione cast a pair of diagnostic spells on his repaired arm. "No vascular or nerve damage," she told him. "There is some muscle damage, but I don't want to heal that right now. If I did, it would raise your metabolism and heart rates. Might complicate matters with your other injuries. That arm is going to be a bit weak and sore the next few days."
Harry nodded moved his arm around, testing the repaired bone. Nodding his approval he raised his arm over his head testing the range of motion and then winced again. "And my ribs?" Harry asked.
Once again Hermione cast a diagnostic spell on Harry and then repaired a pair of broken ribs just as she had with his arm. "Now let me see that shoulder."
Harry had already tested it and said so. "Actually, it's much better already. If you could give me something for my headache, I promise I'll be back as soon as the raid is finished."
"That's not a headache, it's a grade one concussion you're sporting. And as for as the shoulder goes, I'll be the judge of when it's good enough that you can go," she told him sternly. "Let me remind you that your own medic didn't send you here for your broken bones or concussion. It was the shoulder that landed you in my ER Mr. Potter."
She waived a number of diagnostic spells at his shoulder with little result. Finally she moved on to his head, curing the bruising on his brain which had caused his headache. Hermione was quite familiar with the effects of a concussion on a first hand basis. Her dad had suffered one skiing when she was a child. It had taken several weeks for the headaches to completely go away. She was glad she could now cure Harry's in a matter of minutes.
"So is my head sorted out now?" Harry asked.
"There isn't a treatment in the world that can straighten out this noggin Mr. Potter. But the concussion is healed," she said with a smile.
Harry smiled at her. If she was joking that meant that whatever was up with his shoulder, she didn't consider it to be all that serious. After his headache went away, she cast one more detection spell on his scaly shoulder, shaking her head and biting her lower lip in deep thought.
"Is it getting worse?" he asked.
"No. Nor is it getting better. No change in the affected area," Hermione told her patient. "I just can't figure out how this happened. It's a new one to me. She poked it a couple of times with her fingers. I'm sure someone in spell damage could fix this in a trice…"
Harry shook his head. A visit to spell damage meant he would need to be admitted. And it wouldn't be a trice. More likely there would be several hours of research, checking and cross checking which would only start when the morning shift arrived at 8:00. And that would mean at least a day in a hospital bed and that he wouldn't be headed back to the rejoin the raid. He was the only one on the team who had extensive curse breaking training. If he didn't return, the raid would be called off until the team could be reformed. During the break, whoever built the stash could easily apparate in and move it before Harry's cohorts had a chance to return.
"What if I dug up the ward-stone and had someone bring back?" Harry offered.
"That would help," Hermione acknowledged. "But have someone else do it."
"Can't," Harry explained. "I'm the warder on this call. And the stone or stones are undoubtedly inside the ward area."
"You promise to be back as soon as you find the ward-stone?" Hermione asked.
"I'll get you the stone as soon as we locate it," Harry promised. Before Hermione could protest, he jumped from the examination table and gave his friend a quick hug.
"Harry, wait a moment," Hermione said.
"No time," he answered, pulled a small metal ring from his pocket, which Hermione instantly recognized as an emergency portkey. "See you shortly," he told her just before activating his transport.
She knew he was back at the Auror HQ right now. In perhaps another couple minutes he would be changed into a new field uniform. Then he was gone, rushing back off to danger, and Hermione knew there was nothing she could do.
# # #
Hermione walked shakily back to the admitting desk. She hated when Harry did this to her. It was the third time in the last ten months he'd shown up in the ER. That, more than anything else, more than the horrific injuries, the insane hours and the overwhelming patient loads was the main reason she was looking forward to being out of this department. She couldn't be the one to patch-up her best friend just to send him back out again into the line of fire anymore. After this rotation, she had a six month stint in the spell damage ward to finish her residency and she was looking forward to the change. After that, she would start in on the specialization she had been planning for all along: medical research on combining magical and muggle medicines. Most of her friends thought her idea was mad or silly. Harry was one of the only ones to fully support her decision because he agreed with her principal premise: the international statue of secrecy would not last the decade.
In this age of 24 hour news reporting and live video streaming to the internet, it was only a matter of time until the cat got out of the bag. Eventually, most likely sometime soon, someone would broadcast something in the muggle (or as she called it "mundane") world that would provide irrefutable proof of the existence of magic. There were already viral videos of real magic on the web that, for now, were still being dismissed as hoaxes. That wouldn't last forever. The American magical government had been policing the web for more than 10 years. They had more people working the internet than they had Obliviators in the field. Eventually though, something would happen that couldn't be hidden or explained away and her adopted world would be outed.
When that happened, Hermione planned on being on the forefront of providing the entire world with the one thing that magic had yet to be outstripped in by the mundane: medical care. She knew that magical cures were possible in areas mundane technology could not hope to touch for generations. Cancer, diabetes, AIDS and so many other scourges could be cured. Others, she felt with certainty, could be at least be arrested, if not reversed, such as MS and the Alzheimer's that claimed her grandmother. Her goal was to provide mundane physicians the means to deliver magical remedies. But right now, that day seemed far away. This early morning a tired Hermione Granger walked back to the admitting desk, ready to help her next patient.
"I take it he's gone already," her friend Estrella said.
Hermione noticed the two Auror's who had been in the lobby earlier were also gone. She sighed, waded up a piece of parchment and tossed it into a rubbish bin. The bin gave out a loud burp as it ate Harry's initial evaluation. In his condition, there was absolutely no reasonable justification for releasing him and both witches knew that. "He was never here," Hermione told her friend.
"I understand Healer." The nurse watched her friend reach for another patient file. This time the nurse gently put her hand on top of the stack. "There's nothing in that pile that won't wait for a few minutes. Why don't you take a break? I'll have Healer Emry handle anything critical that comes through the doors in the mean time." Warren Emry was the other physician on duty in the ER that Saturday morning.
"Thanks," Hermione answered. "I'll be in the healer's lounge. Have someone check on me if I'm not back in fifteen minutes."
# # #
It was nearly 7:30 in the morning by the time Hermione returned to her flat and she was seething. As promised, Harry had someone deliver the ward-stone to her for examination and she'd been able to quickly determine the obscure curse that had hit him in the shoulder. The curse should have turned him into some sort of amphibious lizard, but the spell had been underpowered, likely due to degradation of the ward-stone.
What angered Hermione was that Harry had not returned to St. Mungo's before the end of her shift. She slammed the door shut and locked it. As she turned around, she spotted a shirtless figure lying on the sofa. It could only be one person. "I should have known," she said.
"Known what?" Harry asked groggily. The slamming door had apparently awoken her rouge patient.
"That you wouldn't return like I asked you too," she said.
"Sorry 'Mione. I just didn't fancy spending the day strapped to a bed in that bloody place," Harry replied, humor evident in his voice.
"I would not have strapped you in," she said indigently.
"Admit it. You would have tried to admit me and if I'd decided I'd had enough of the place, you would have had to strap me down to keep me there," Harry accused.
Hermione wasn't sure if he was having her on or not. He was giving her that lopsided smile he used all the time to win her over. "I wasn't going to admit you," she said.
"So then, the curse is not that serious. So then what's the harm in my not dropping by the ER? Now, am I going to live?" Harry asked, tapping his scaly shoulder with his finger.
"Not if I have any say in the matter. But it won't be that curse that'll do you in," Hermione told him. She pulled out her wand, touched it to his damaged shoulder and muttered a string of words Harry barely recognized as being a long dead Macedonian dialect of Greek. The scales on his shoulder slowly vanished and Harry tested his shoulder before nodding in approval. Hermione then continued working on Harry's battered body, healing the numerous cuts, scrapes and bruises she hadn't had time to cure during his visit to St. Mungo's.
When she finished, Hermione tucked her wand back into its holster. "You need to be more careful. I can't take seeing you hurt like that. Two of those spells that hit you tonight could easily have killed you." There were tears in Hermione's eyes.
"I am being careful. But there are dark forces rising again. And we need to stamp that out now." Harry told her.
Hermione understood the urgency in Harry's mind. He worked so hard at erasing the dark forces from their world for the same reason she studied medicine. Harry also believed that the statue of secrecy was going to fall. When it did, the forces of light had better be in firm control of the magical world or there would be a serious conflict between the two worlds. And in a conflict between roughly 6.9 billion muggles and just under 2 million magical, it was not hard to figure out who would come out on top in the end.
Harry and Hermione were working towards the same ends through different, all-be-it compatable means. They were both trying to save the magical world once it was revealed. She would help provide the world magic's greatest gifts. He would eradicate any reason to have the magical world wiped out.
She closed the distance between the two of them and wrapped her arms around his neck. "That's all I ask. Be careful. I don't want to lose you now Mr. Potter." She tilted her head and kissed him softly on the lips.
"So am I forgiven Healer Potter?" Harry asked with a tender smile.
"You can't call me that for another eight months. I'm still Healer Granger until then," she said returning the smile.
"Sod it Love. I know what we promised each other, but this ER rotation has taken too much out of you. You need a break. Once this rotation is done, take a week off before you start you next one. I'll take off from work at the same time. While we're away, we can move up the date and get married. I don't want to wait another eight months while you finish your residency."
It was typical Harry. No matter what his own situation was, he always worried more for her then he did for himself. It was one of the many things she so loved about the man. For a moment Hermione considered the risks Harry was taking on an almost daily basis. Her greatest fear wasn't Harry being wheeled into her ER. No, her greatest fear was having Ron and the Chief Auror knock at her door in the dark of the night to tell her Harry wasn't coming back at all. Who knew how much time they had left? If that terrible tragedy ever happened, she didn't want to be remembered just as his closest friend. She wanted to be remembered as his wife. Even still, she knew she was marrying him out of love, even if the timing was influenced by fear. With tears in her eyes and a smile on her face, she nodded, agreeing to Harry's suggestion. This time it was Harry who leaned into her and kissed her, more passionately than the time before.
When they broke apart, he offered, "I'll call you folks in the afternoon and let them know about the change in timing. That way you and your mother won't wind each other up too much."
Hermione gave Harry a playful slap to the shoulder and called him a prat after which she let out a large yawn. "Let's get some sleep, love," she suggested. "I've been up the best part of the last 27 hours."
Harry had seen the concern in her eyes as she had considered his proposal to change their wedding date. He didn't need a boggart to guess at her greatest fear. "Don't worry 'Mione. Things will be better soon," he told her confidently as they made their way through their shared flat.
Hermione leaned into her fiancé, the only man she had ever loved, her best friend, and the man she prayed she'd be able to spend the next 100 years or so with. As they walked into their bedroom she answered, "I hope so. I really hope so."
# # #
A/N: This extended drabble occurred to me this morning and I decided to spend the day knocking it out. I know some aspects of the healer residency Hermione is taking part in may not match up with the residency programs in the U.K. or U.S. medical professions. That can be attributed to differences between the muggle and magical worlds." This is a one shot. I'm currently reworking my full length EWE DH postscript.