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Hermione sat at her desk staring at the small stack of papers in front of her. Innocuous pink flags poked out the side of the pile and she was momentarily grateful that the Wizarding World hadn't decided to make post-it notes all blinky and flashy.
She picked up her quill and lifted the top sheet quickly, sticking her tongue out the corner of her mouth in determination. The pointed tip of the shaft hovered over the first blank space momentarily and she wavered. Sitting up straighter and letting out a breath she set the quill back in the ink well and dropped the sheet of paper back in place, shoving the ten or so pages back into their manila envelope.
"What are you doing Granger?' she muttered to herself as she slammed her top drawer closed. Her marriage was over and she knew it. Just over two years and she already found herself looking forward to the weeks Ron would spend away with the Wanderers, almost dreading his return and with it his expectations of her being a Weasley Wife. Dinner at six thirty, meat and three vegetables. Listen to all the details of the rest of the team's love lives or lack thereof, perhaps a bit of hanky panky before bedtime at eleven.
She groaned and leaned her elbows on the desk, head falling into her hands.
"Chicken shit," she grumbled and kicked the back of the solid wood desk, wincing as the tip of her black pump crumpled a little and squished her toe.
"Everything alright Mrs Weasley?"
Hermione looked up at the head peeking in the doorway. Kingsley Shacklebolt's concerned face looked back at her and she smiled.
"Everything's fine, thanks sir. What can I do for you?" She sat up straighter and reached back towards the ink well.
"I'm afraid your presence has been requested at Saint Mungos."
"Oh?" Her eyebrows raised. "Any idea why?"
"None, I'm afraid. The Mediwitch was rather abrupt." He opened the door a little wider. "She did, however, mention it was urgent."
Her lips firmed into a line and she narrowed her eyes. "Probably Sirius again, he's making a habit out of having a few too many Firewhiskeys and getting himself into sticky situations." She stood and headed toward the door, snatching up her purse and jacket from the coat rack on her way. "Thank you, by the way for appointing me his minder. It's been a wonderful experience." Kingsley chuckled.
"I imagine it has been. You two seem to have become quite close."
She looked at him pointedly. "Yes. Close enough for me to stab him repeatedly." Pausing, she looked at him suspiciously. "What are you doing down here anyway, surely the Minister of Magic doesn't waste his days delivering inane messages to those of us cooped up in the basement?"
"I actually came down to congratulate you on a job well done in Tiraspol." He held the door open and gestured for her to walk through. She complied, but not without a suspicious glance in his direction.
"I imagine you read the report?" She tugged on the jacket and zipped it up; stepping into the hallway she tossed the bag over her shoulder and walked briskly down the hallway.
"I am ignoring your recommendation." Her confident stride faltered briefly, but she continued toward the elevator at the end of the corridor. "You two make a brilliant team, I'm afraid I am not prepared to squander that because of a small disagreement."
Hermione stepped into the lift and turned, staring blankly between the open doors. "Atrium please." Kingsley took his place beside her and spoke his own destination. "Small disagreement, you say?"
"You are my two best agents. Deal with your issues or don't deal with them, I don't particularly care. I'm not prepared to split up the best team this department has seen in sixty years, so I suggest you choose option number one." The doors opened on the Atrium and she looked up at him in frustration. He smiled at her cheerily.
"Good day, Mrs Weasley."
She huffed and squared her shoulders as she strode out into the busy entrance chamber, not bothering to reply. She couldn't help but wonder if the day could get much worse.
Sirius stood stiffly outside the entrance to the Tate Modern art gallery, eyes darting from left to right, occasionally glancing upwards to scan the sky momentarily. The unfamiliar pressure of a Beretta 9mm strapped to his side in a holster below his shirt bothered him a little, but his client had insisted on him wearing it to keep up appearances.
He admitted to himself that private security wasn't really his first choice, but as far as jobs went, it wasn't that bad. Mostly just required standing around looking menacing and occasionally flashing the gun at dodgy looking Muggles. It also didn't hurt that his charge was a rather pretty Ukranian heiress.
"Mister Black?" He turned towards the voice and smiled.
"I am satisfied with my perusal of the architecture, shall we move inside?" The blonde witch smiled back and fluttered her eyelashes a little.
"Certainly, Ma'am." He gestured for her to head towards the entrance, but she reached for his arm, tucking her own around his elbow and gripping his bicep surprisingly firmly.
"There is no need to address me so formally, Mister Black. Rayna will be fine." She smiled up at him and he chuckled.
"I'm afraid if you insist on calling me Mister Black, I intend to continue referring to you as Ma'am." She chuckled.
"I must insist on a little further distance between us. I am afraid you make an easy target while I am in such close proximity." She laughed and tucked in a little closer to his shoulder.
"I will admit, I am more concerned with the unwanted attentions of men than Unforgivable curses." He smiled and repeated her phrase from a few moments earlier.
Hermione turned her head towards the small mousy woman a few feet away from her and smiled.
"I'm Healer Griffith." The woman spoke in a brisk tone and her face held little humor. Hermione stepped forward and shook her hand firmly.
"I'm afraid I'm in a bit of a rush, Healer Griffith. If you could show me to his room I'll ensure he makes it home safely. This isn't the first time I've dragged Sirius Black to his apartment after an altercation with Muggles." She chuckled and reached into her pocket to check the cellphone that had started buzzing. She glanced at the display and pushed the ignore button, not in the mood for a verbal showdown with Draco Malfoy at that moment it time. As she was shoving the small device back into her leather jacket the Healer cleared her throat and frowned.
"I'm afraid it's not Mister Black who is the problem. It's your husband."
Hermione's brow wrinkled. "Ron?" She frowned. "What has he managed to do to himself? He's been training for the last week, surely a broken collarbone isn't grounds for admittance here?"
"I'm unsure of the circumstances at this stage, but he has suffered a major brain injury. I'm terribly sorry Mrs Weasley, but we've had to place him into a magically induced coma."
"What?" She stared in shock at the healer and her mouth hung open for a few moments. "How? I mean, they have magically cushioned pitches at the training grounds, how could he possibly suffer a brain injury?"
"It appears that upon impact the angle at which he hit the ground caused his head to knock against the base one of the goal posts. I'm terribly sorry, ma'am." Hermione sat down on a nearby bench and rubbed her hands through her hair.
"Well is he going to wake up?" she asked quietly.
"We put him in the coma mainly as a precaution, it should stop any swelling and minimize damage. There is still a significant chance that his brain may have suffered sufficient enough trauma to have caused a permanent affliction, however," she paused, "but in answer to your question, yes, he will wake up eventually."
"But he may have brain damage?"
Hermione sat back on the bench and pulled her knees up to her chin, resting her heels on the edge of the seat and wrapping her arms around her legs. She rested her forehead between her kneecaps and let out a deep breath.
"I'm very sorry, Mrs Weasley."
Hermione looked up. "May I see him?"
"Can I interest you in a coffee, Mister Black?" The pretty blonde batted her eyelashes at him and he smiled flirtatiously back at her.
"Surely that is a question that I should be asking you, Miss," he quipped, following her into one of the two restaurants the gallery held. Modern and bright, the airy space was not somewhere Sirius would normally frequent and he bristled a little in distaste. After being seated and ordering coffee and cake, Rayna glanced up from her menu and bit her lip.
"So, I have to ask Mister Black, what has inspired a wealthy man such as yourself to take on a menial job like personal security?" Her eyebrows were raised and she smirked. Sirius smiled benignly back, having expected such a question. He had deliberately asked his contacts not to mention his name when referring clients so as to avoid this question until well after the job had begun.
"I find myself with much time on my hands and not a lot to do in it. I'm sure you understand?" A brief flash of confusion crossed the woman's face but it was quickly masked by one of understanding.
"Of course. I would go crazy if my father did not send me off on these scouting missions," she paused. "Even so, there is only so much modern art one can take, yes?" She smiled at him brightly, her shifting eyes and fidgeting hands revealing more than she most likely would have hoped. Sirius couldn't help but wonder why she was nervous, but pushed it to the back of his mind. Her eyes eventually focused on the windows at the far side of the room and he pulled out his cell phone, holding it up he looked at the screen and muttered a spell, transforming it from a standard glass plate to a mirror. By the window a man in a dark jersey and jeans was watching them closely and Sirius narrowed his eyes and tucked the phone back into his pocket.
"Excuse me, for one moment," he said, pushing out his chair slowly and standing.
"Certainly," she replied. Her fidgeting stopped and she placed her hands on her lap. Sirius headed towards the table the suspicious man was occupying, shoulders squared and his favorite blank look etched on his face. As he approached the man looked up.
"Can I help you?"
Sirius smiled and tucked his hand into his right pants pocket, casually pulling his suit jacket aside as he did so, revealing the outline of the gun beneath his black shirt. "I think it's more how I could help you, don't you think?"
The man's eyes widened and he cleared his throat. "I apologize, sir. I didn't mean to cause any threat. Your friend is a very beautiful woman." Sirius detected a vague German accent and narrowed his eyes.
"Well my friend would appreciate it if you would focus your attention on your meal rather than her." He cocked his head a little and looked expectantly at the other man.
"Certainly. I was just finishing up here anyway." Sirius looked at his plate and smiled when he saw an almost full meal.
"Excellent. I hope you enjoyed your lunch."
He pulled his hand from his pocket, allowing the jacket to fall back into place and turned back towards his table. He smiled when he noticed his chocolate cake and flat white sitting on the table waiting for him. Free food was definitely a perk of the job.
"Merlin, Malfoy. I really don't have time for this," Hermione hissed into the phone. The last half an hour had been stressful to say the least. Filled with forms and medical information that even her advanced brain function found difficult to fathom, she had certainly not had any time to worry about work.
"Get your head out of your ass, Granger. We need you back here. Somethings come up on the Dostesky case."
She groaned and ran a hand through her hair, "Can't you go without me? Ron's had an accident."
"Oh, for crying out loud, surely he can put a frickin' plaster on his own knee."
"He's in a coma, Malfoy," she snapped.
The line was silent for a moment.
"Well if he's in a coma, he won't notice you're gone then, will he?"
She muttered a curse and hung the phone up. Despite her guilty conscience, logic won out. As much as she hated to admit it, Draco was right.
Signing the last of the paperwork she muttered her leave to the duty nurse and stormed out of the hospital. Her phone rang again as she walked through the main doors.
"I'm coming, alright. Geez."
"Meet me at the Tate. There's been a Vodislav sighting."
"Fine." She snapped the phone closed and popped out of sight, not bothering to duck down an alleyway before Apparating away.
Sirius groaned and lifted his head, bleary vision eventually focusing on a blank white wall in front of him. Strange disembodied voices wafted in and out of his hearing range and remembered that he was in the Turbine hall of the Tate Modern. Something about an exhibition that was all about sculptural sound. He shook his head and jumped a little as a hand clapped on his shoulder.
"What in Merlin's name are you doing here," a woman's voice hissed in his ear. He turned towards her and opened his mouth to speak, but before he had a chance Hermione interrupted. "You know, don't bother answering that, I'm sure you're only here for the boobs exhibition on level four."
"Act-" his voice cracked and he cleared his throat. "I was working... I just can't really remember anything after walking through the front doors." He wrinkled his brow and scratched his head. "What's the time?"
"Whaa-" He rubbed his eyes and reached into his pocket. Pulling out a business card and a cell phone, he held his thumb over the keypad, poised to dial the number on the card. Except the card was blank. "What the fuck is going on here?"
"I'm beginning to wonder the same thing. We received intelligence that Aindrick Vodislav was in the country and had been sighted here, except none of the security cameras have picked anything up and we haven't seen any sign of his wand work."
Sirius cleared his throat again and reached down to the floor, picking up the large cardboard coffee cup that he had snuck into the exhibition. He raised it to his lips and hesitated, eyes widening in realization, he pulled off the lid and pointed his wand at the dark brown liquid.
"Quod Medicamentum," he muttered, twirling his wand quickly in small circles over the top of the cup. A misty word wafted up from the surface of the coffee and he swore. "Rohypnol. Why on earth would a Ukranian heiress witch drug me with Roofies?" he asked, looking to Hermione for the answer.
"Perhaps your Eastern European rich bitch is on someone's payroll." He looked up at her raised eyebrow and let out a breath.
"Perhaps." He thought for a moment. "Was there a visual sighting or a magical sighting?"
"Magical. He entered the country without a visa, Immigration tracked his magical signature here. Apparently he's still in the building." She took hold of his arm and tugged him to his feet.
"Where?" He rubbed his eyes with his free hand and blinked, his vision finally beginning to clear.
"We don't know. The DMI can only track the geographical location, he could be on any of the levels. Unfortunately the management haven't been particularly helpful with allowing us into restricted areas of the building." She sighed in frustration and touched his forehead, brushing away a lock of hair that had fallen over his eye. He frowned.
"I'm growing it, leave it alone."
"You look like you're having a mid-life crisis."
"What does this have to do with locating a Russian terrorist?"
"You can't see with hair in your eyes."
He chuckled and grabbed her wrist, gently lowering it to her side. "So, sneak and creep?"
"So where's blondie?" he hissed as they hurried down a corridor in one of the secure areas of the gallery. Hermione was thankful that the Tate was a Muggle building, it made Disillusionment charms more than sufficient in hiding their presence, even from the cameras.
"He's on level three, I had just left him when I found you."
"Well isn't that a loaded statement." He peeked around a corner and motioned for her to follow. She poked her tongue out at his back.
"You're an ass."
"But you love me for it." She cocked her head and nodded to herself. She had no snappy comeback for that one.
"This is it." They stopped in front of a blank wall and looked at one another. "I don't suppose whatever they want is in the basement then?" she looked up at him and raised an eyebrow.
"Obligatory revelation charm?" he asked.
"Obligatory revelation charm," she replied, waving her wand over the white plasterboard. Her eyebrows shot up as the bright orange glow of a Reparo recreation began. "Warranted revelation charm?"
Sirius took his wand out of it's holster and drew a large rectangle on the wall as Hermione called the Department of Magical Immigration, stepping aside she held the phone to her ear and bit her lip.
"Agent Weasley," the crisp voice on the phone answered.
"Yes, I need the location of Aindrick Vodislav please."
"Mister Vodislav is no longer registering as being in the United Kingdom."
"And you didn't think to call me earlier?" she snapped.
"I'm terribly sorry, Agent Weasley, but it is a very recent development. He was registering as being at your location until only a few moments ago."
"Thank you," she snapped. She turned back to Sirius as she slipped the phone back into her pocket, but stopped her movement as soon as she saw what had been revealed behind the wall. A dark tunnel stretched before them endlessly, cool dry air wafting into the contrasting stark white of the corridor they still stood in.