". . . and so we gather on this day . .. the twentieth anniversary . . . to dedicate this piece of land for a monument . . . a monument to honor those who fought in the last, great battle . . . a memorial . . . in remembrance of those we lost . . ." Kingsley Shacklebolt's deep voice rumbled through the large audience, reaching all the way to the back, touching each of them with its powerful tones.
"Never forget their sacrifices! Never forget those who chose what was right over what was easy."
The rich baritone rose in a dramatic crescendo. "Remember those who joined in the fight against evil! Remember those who lost their lives!" The audience began to shout with approval. "We have rebuilt that which was damaged or destroyed but never again will we allow the madness of the power-hungry to infect our community, to lay waste to us from within!"
"Never again!" he yelled. "Never again!"
The claps and cheers rose in volume until the ground itself seemed to vibrate. From his place behind a simple podium, on a high stage erected just for this event, the Minister of Magic raised both arms, encouraging those gathered to yell louder and clap harder. After a long moment, his arms lowered and the sounds died slowly away. He looked down at the audience and gestured to a man standing quietly with his wife and children.
"Harry, my boy, would you come up and do the honors?"
The people around him began clapping again, some of them pushing him forward, slapping him on the back and shoulders as he made his way through the crowd. When he walked across the stage, a chant started.
"Harry . . . Harry . . . Harry . . ." Embarrassed, he lowered his head, red sweeping into his cheeks. He caught the eye of his wife, who smiled and blew him a kiss as she called out his name. Shaking his head, he adjusted his glasses and looked up, smiling out at the audience.
The noise subsided when he turned his back to the assembly, facing the green field behind the stage. He raised his arms and lifted his wand.
"Mobiliaterra!" he called out in a strong voice, waving the wand in a large circle. There was an immense rumble as the ground in front of him shook. Tears in the earth began to form, grass and dirt crumbling together, collapsing into the hole being created. Suddenly, there was a loud, thin whine and the movement of the earth stopped abruptly.
The two men exchanged a puzzled look, stepping toward the back of the stage to stare down into the crater. Almost simultaneously, they looked back at each other, mouths hanging open and then turned back to the dark hollow.
Kingsley's voice was quiet. "Oh, dear."
Harry took a deep breath. "I think we might have to wait a bit longer for our monument, Minister."
The skeletal remains exposed in the dirt below leered up at them with a macabre smile, one arm bent at the elbow in a bony wave.
"Oh, dear," Kingsley Shacklebolt repeated softly.
"Well, this is awkward," Ron said, standing next to Harry and staring down at the bones. "Was there supposed to be a body under the monument?"
"No," Harry responded, shaking his head.
"Who do you suppose it is?" Ron asked. "Someone killed by the Death Eaters or You-Know-Who?"
"Ron, honestly," Hermione stepped up beside Ron. "Voldemort has been dead for twenty years. There's no need for 'You-Know-Who' any longer."
"Yea, right," Ron said with a lift of his shoulder. "Old habits. Anyway . . . who do you reckon?"
"Dunno," Harry answered. "Could be any of the missing, couldn't it, the ones we never heard from again?"
Hermione shook her head slowly. "No, I don't think so." She hesitated before continuing. "I don't think it's one of us," she finished tentatively.
The Minister of Magic joined the group. "What do you mean, Hermione?"
"I can't be positive, of course," she explained, "but I believe that skeleton belongs to a Muggle." The three men stared at her in disbelief. "None of the spells I've used have told me anything. It's possible the bones are just too old, but . . ." she paused and bit her lip. "I also believe there's a bullet hole in the skull." Four heads turned immediately back to the body lying beneath them. "You can't see it from here but I noticed it when I walked around for a better view. And if I'm right, well . . . that's a Muggle weapon."
"Wicked," Ron breathed, shaking his head.
"A Muggle?" Harry looked askew at her. "This close to Hogsmeade? To Hogwarts?"
Hermione shrugged. "Minister, perhaps we should discuss this somewhere more private?" She looked back at the crowd still milling behind them.
"Yes," he nodded. "Perhaps that would be best. Dawlish!" The auror hurried over. "Keep everyone away from this . . . this . . . well, whatever it is, until we decide what to do." Kingsley turned back to the dark gash in the earth and waved his wand in a wide arc. A thick, curving dome shimmered into place, covering the hole and blocking the contents from the view of curious onlookers. That task complete, he turned back to Hermione. "Now, shall we see if Rosmerta has a quiet room available?"
They picked their way through the gathered mass of wizards and witches, nimbly dodging questions. While Ginny and Mrs. Weasley gathered all of the children together, quieting their protests and questions with the promise of a trip to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes before the oldest headed back to Hogwarts, Harry and Ron followed Hermione and Kingsley. At the edge of the crowd, the Minister noticed the two men sticking close behind.
"Yes?" he asked with an arch of one brow.
Harry and Ron looked at each other and then at Hermione uncertainly. "Uh . . ." Ron began.
"We thought . . ." Harry's voice trailed off.
"Oh, come along," Kingsley gestured with one hand. "I'm sure the three of you will end up involved anyway." Inside the shadowed interior of the Three Broomsticks, he held a whispered consultation with Rosmerta before leading everyone upstairs. Finally, Kingsley shut the door of a small room above the bar and shook his head.
"Ah, well, so much for a quiet afternoon." He paced to the window and stared down at the busy streets of the village. "So, Hermione, you believe we have a Muggle killing on our hands, here in Hogsmeade?"
"I believe it's a strong possibility, Minister," she answered, taking a seat. "But the only way to be sure is to have an expert examine the body."
"Someone from St. Mungo's, you mean?" he asked.
"No, Minister. I don't believe anyone at St. Mungo's would have the expertise required for this situation." She hesitated a moment then added with regret, "I believe we will have to involve the Muggle authorities."
The Minister of Magic turned a severe look on her. "Is that your recommendation as Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Mrs. Granger-Weasley?"
She held his gaze. "It is, Minister."
"Do you have any thoughts as to how we should proceed? The potential for the exposure of our world is disastrous, as I'm sure you can appreciate, Hermione."
"Yes, sir," she responded. She pursed her lips and sat quietly for a few moments. "I believe as a first step, you should inform the Muggle Prime Minister of the discovery. We may require his assistance, if I'm right about the body."
"He tends to get rather upset when he sees me, Hermione," Kingsley smiled ruefully. "Are you certain we need to take that course of action?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry." She returned his smile sheepishly.
He sighed heavily. "All right. Any other suggestions?"
"I believe we can contain the risk to our world if we handle this properly, if we limit the knowledge of the discovery to only those Muggles directly related to investigating the remains. The fewer people we involve, the better."
"Hmmm," he murmured, tapping a long finger against his lips. "Yes, yes. And that would make it easier to erase their memories, as well."
Hermione grimaced. She had a particular distaste for memory charms. "If I may offer a suggestion, Minister?" At his nod, she continued. "There is a doctor lecturing at Oxford at the moment, from America. She's an expert on this sort of thing, on identifying bones. My father mentioned her on my visit last week; he's been rather impressed with her since she did a spot of work involving an archeology dig a few years back."
"An expert on old bones?" Ron whispered to Harry. "Americans are mental."
"An American, Hermione? Would that be wise, to involve one of them?" Kingsley looked unconvinced.
"In this case, I think so, Minister," Hermione insisted gently. "She also might be able to solve this quickly, which would be very helpful."
"Yes," he agreed. "A speedy resolution in this situation would be most helpful."
"With your permission then, sir, I'll visit her personally and make the request," Hermione offered, standing.
"You have it, my dear," he answered. "Perhaps Harry should accompany you?"
Harry looked startled. "Me? Why? I mean, I'm sorry, Minister, but I don't understand what purpose that would serve."
"What purpose?" Kingsley laughed. "Harry, m'boy, you're the most famous wizard of our time. Surely your history alone will impress upon this American doctor our great need for her services. Your position as Head of the Auror Office will also lend weight and gravity to our request." With a glance at Ron, Kinglsey added, "You might as well go along, too, Mr. Weasley. Strength in numbers and all that."
Harry mentally argued the fact that this American doctor wouldn't know anything of his history but said nothing aloud. Standing beside Ron and Hermione he barely suppressed a grin. Ron's face wore a similar expression. It felt almost like old times.
"Thank you, Minister. We'll report back as soon as possible," Hermione said.
"I have complete faith in you, Hermione," he said with a smile. "Good luck with this doctor . . . what did you say her name was?"
"Dr. Brennan," Hermione said. "Dr. Temperance Brennan."
I have two great loves in my life - Harry Potter and Bones. It's about time I let them say howdy-do.