Secret Agent Man
Hermione Granger sat in her cozy underground office at the Ministry of Magic, biting her nails like a child. Her eyes strayed to the enchanted window that was installed in every subterranean office, even though it was pointless.
She knew if an owl were to arrive it wouldn't come tapping at this window, but she felt that her eyes should be doing something and she couldn't focus on reading right now. In fact, the basket she kept her reports in was overflowing, a sharp contrast to her normally efficient personality.
A blue paper airplane suddenly swept into her office through the letter slot she had installed and she jumped at it's unexpected appearance. She leapt to her feet and snatched it out of the air before it could land on her desk.
I require your presence in my office at this time. This regards a personal matter.
Hermione felt a chill go through her. She took a deep breath as she left her office and began the long path to the Minister of Magic's office.
She knew she passed coworkers and other people on her journey. Later she could have told you she did say hello and acknowledge other people along the way, but she couldn't recall who any of them were and seemed to only remember walking the long path through the Ministry.
By the time she reached the elevators she felt her heart fluttering and she had to resist the urge to shake a laughing young wizard in white robes who was standing beside a grinning wizard. How dare they be so light-hearted when one of their Agents could be in peril? Her Agent.
She threw them a filthy look as the doors finally slid open and unsurprisingly, they decided to wait for the next one.
While she was alone in the elevator she shook herself out, trying to get rid of some of her jitters, but she found it made her feel more high-strung. She reached into the neck of her robes and brought out the flat blue rock she kept around her neck on a leather string. It had an indentation on one side that she rubbed sometimes when she was anxious.
She composed herself when she saw one of the small round lights glow, signaling that someone else would be joining her soon. She tried to calm herself down, but when the doors slid open, she found herself face to face with Ron Weasley. He had a crumpled paper airplane in his hand.
When she saw the expression on Hermione's face he stepped in and charmed the doors shut. He opened his arms and she collapsed into them, allowing herself to sob for a moment, her fingers curling around the thick fabric of his robes and burying her face into the red hair that brushed his shoulders before unsuccessfully trying to control herself.
“You have no idea why we're being summoned. It could be for something completely different that what you think.” Ron said unconvincingly.
“Like what?” Hermione demanded. She roughly tried to wipe her tears away and blew her nose in her sleeve before pulling her wand out and cleaning it.
Ron tried not to chuckle at her, but he was feeling anxious as well. “We're having another Tri-Wizard Cup? Hosting the Quidditch World Cup again? He's lonely?”
Hermione laughed in spite of herself as Ron pulled his wand out to clean her tears away and relieve some of the puffiness from her face.
“There you go.” Ron gave her a small smile. He looked up at the floor numbers as they moved through the building. “We're almost there.”
Hermione took a few deep breaths as the elevator slowed down as it reached the Minister's Office. When it stopped, a small panel popped open on the doors.
State your reason for seeing the Minister. A metallic voice squawked from somewhere above them.
“Ron Weasley. Hermione Granger. Summoning.” Ron spoke clearly. “Thorax.”
As the doors slid open Hermione stared at Ron. “How'd you learn to bypass all the prompts?”
“I know things,” Ron said mysteriously as they stepped into the Minister's office.
Hermione snorted as the Minister of Magic, Kingsly Shacklebolt, turned around to greet them, his dark eyes conveying sadness and frustration. He was standing in front of an ancient, amber-colored map. There were small glowing dots on it that Hermione knew represented Agents or persons of interest. Her heart sank.
“He's not dead,” Shacklebolt said, and Hermione let out a cry of relief. Her shoulders sagged as if a weight had been lifted from them.
“Something tells me he's not in an ideal spot, though,” Ron said with a quirk of one ginger eyebrow.
“You're right about that,” Shacklebolt said grimly. “Severus Snape disappeared into the Forest of Shadows about an hour and a half ago.”
“He was supposed to be back two weeks ago!” Hermione said in a frustrated voice. “Why wasn't he back yet?”
“We think he was following a trail.” Shacklebolt shook his head in frustration. “We have no idea why he didn't come back when he was supposed to. He missed his contact in Vienna, even though we know he was in the city. That was when we lost him” Shacklebolt turned back to the map.
Hermione walked closer to him, hoping she could see what he did in the map and failing.
“We think he was captured.” Shacklebolt looked grim, his dark lips set in a tight line and his eyes darting over the map.
Hermione's heart sank. “Captured by who?”
“If he's in the Forest of Shadows it could be either ex-Death Eaters or the Sect of Verisimilitude,” Ron said as he stepped up to the map. “What route did he take?”
Hermione took a few steps back as the men went over the details of the trail that had been left for them to find. She wanted to concentrate, but she needed a few moments to herself. She felt as if she were going to be physically ill.
She had never meant to fall in love, and certainly not with Severus Snape.
If someone had told her as a girl that she would end up with her malicious Potions Master she would have have suggested that they take a trip to the hospital wing of Hogwarts. However, if someone had told her that she would end up with a brilliant man who was an expert in his field she would have swooned.
Their courtship had a bit of both.
She had been annoyed that she had been assigned to assist Severus on a project for the Department of Mysteries, but once she had started her assignment all of that changed.
He wasn't friendly at all, but she found him efficient and practical in his brewing. He had taught her how the difference in instrument metal quality can change the result of a potion when using certain rare ingredients; how certain fruits should be scored prior to chopping to maximize the effects; but Hermione had been most surprised when he treated her like an adult and freely taught her the most secret theories of potion brewing.
Hermione had stayed quite professional in her dealings with him, never trying to make small talk or waste time on anything that wasn't their assignment and he seemed to appreciate it.
That all changed the night the Noctem Potion entered it's final stage. They had to both spend the night to perform the proper enchantments at the proper time, something that could only be done by a witch and wizard knowledgeable in Sleep Spells.
They had ordered food in and were eating in silence when Hermione had let out an irritated sound and turned around to fish about in her knapsack. She came out with a square silver item.
“Of all people, I didn't think I'd have to tell you electronics won't work here,” Severus had said with a patronizing look.
“They will if you take out most of the electronics.” Hermione had snorted at him.
She popped the small DVD player open and put in a popular sci-fi movie before settling back in to eat her meal.
“How, in the name of Merlin, did you do that?” He looked at the little starship flying across the screen in wonderment.
When their assignment had ended they had kept working on joint projects together: he teaching her more about potions than she had ever dreamed possible, and she teaching him about Muggle-to Magic experimental charms.
When their first invention had been sent to the Magical Patent Office they knew they had something; but it wasn't until Severus moved their laboratory to her sitting room when Hermione was struck with the Hangardium Flu did they truly know what they possessed.
While alternately experimenting with their project and heating chicken broth, Severus tentatively began showing genuine concern and affection for her and it was done.
Several months later, he surprised everyone by finally selling his familial home on Spinner's End and moving in to Hermione's small cottage in the country.
Hermione and he had talked about the dangers involved while being abroad, but kidnapping had never come up. He swore he'd never do any investigating without backup! Damn him, he was a Potions master, not an Auror!
Hermione looked up to see the Minister trail his fingers through a small mountain range. “Is that the way he went?”
“As far as we can tell.” Shacklebolt shrugged as he turned to look at her.
“I have contacts there. They could have more information!” Hermione felt hopeful.
The tribe of forest nymphs she had saved from a Muggle arsonist were never friendly, but they did owe her a favor. If Hermione released them from their magical bond for simple information, they would be relieved.
“Are you sure they'd be willing to receive you?” Ron asked, a frown on his face. “Those nymphs weren't thrilled the last time you saw them.”
“That had nothing to do with us,” Hermione said hotly. “Whether they like humans or not, they owe a favor to this witch and they're going to pay it!”
Ron and Shacklebolt glanced at each other as Hermione drew up herself to her full height and pulled her wand out of her sleeve.
“If they can give me a direction I can track them,” Hermione said in a threatening tone. “Send a team in after me. Teleport them to the Fields of Monarah and they'll get their orders there.”
She waved her wand and with a 'pop' she was gone.
“Right.” Shacklebolt turned toward his desk and began walking. “Weasley, go to the wooden cabinet behind you and take out the red lacquered box. Bring it to me, please.”
Ron quickly did as he was told as the Minister scribbled out two hasty letters. The first turned into a paper airplane and shot off as soon as his pen has lifted from it, while the second was folded carefully and a magical seal put on it.
“Be careful when you open that,” the Minister warned as he nodded to the box. “They can be tricky if you give them half a chance.”
Ron took this as a cue and carefully lifted the lid on the small box. His face lit up and he quickly snatched the contents before it had a chance to react.
“They're handy when I need a message to cross continents,” Shacklebolt admitted. “I know they're outlawed, but I get to have them. You can look it up if you like.”
“I believe you,” Ron grinned as the small stone bird took the letter from the Minister and phased out of existence.
“We're asking the nymphs to stall her so we can get her backup there. She's not the only one they owe favors to,” Shacklebolt said grimly.
“How badly injured is Snape?”
“You aren't supposed to know the tracers register physical health, Mr. Weasley,” Shacklebolt said, raising an eyebrow at the Auror.
“I know things,” Ron said mysteriously.
“He's fine so far. Just a bit of bruising and that could be coincidental,” Shacklebolt said, his eyes appraising Ron. “Been seeing Wendy in security, have we?”
Ron blushed. “Well, I'll be off, Minister. We'll have the first squad ready in twenty minutes. Anyone left behind can come in the second wave, thirty minutes after that. God help anyone who gets in Hermione's way in the meantime.”
“Indeed.” Shacklebolt snorted. “I have no doubt she can get him back, but I don't want her to spark an international incident.”
“Understood, Minister,” Ron said seriously. “We'll do our very best.”
“I'm sure you will.”
Notes: This was a great prompt, so great that this is the third fic that spawned from it. Both of the previous attempts were shelved when it became obvious they were going to be epic length and would never get in on time. They will be coming out at a later date and will be gifted to corianderpie.