"Because of what happened detective, you're being relocated to the Department of Mysteries."
Her chief's words echoed in her head dreadfully as Hermione carried a box full of her stuff, her feet numbly bringing her to the elevator.
What even was the Department of Mysteries? She didn't know such a thing existed but her boss had given her clear instructions on where to go. To the dead end alley corner at Diagon Alley where someone would pick her up. She was nervous. What if she was going to get whacked? After all, she had seen something no other human had. Was it some secret governmental ploy that she had inadvertently gotten involved in?
Still, her never ending curiosity and need for knowing everything, out weighed any worry she might have. So, she left the police station she had called her job for the past five years and followed her boss's instructions.
The spring air was cool around her, treading fingers through her curly hair as she stood by the designated spot. It was empty here for Diagon Alley was not in a savory part of town. She settled the box down by her feet and rubbed her hands together to keep warm. She wished she'd worn a heavier jacket- she wished she'd done a lot of things differently for then maybe she could keep her job- but it was too late for such regrets. She cast furtive glances this way and that, eyes and ears open to the slightest hint of a threat while she kept in mind the exact positioning of her service pistol.
When nothing happened for thirty minutes, she started to let her guard down. Maybe it was all a joke? A badly placed one? She knew how the officers liked to joke with her. Though it was never funny when they left tacks on her seat, or hacked her computer, or put hot sauce into her tea, she had grinned and bared it for what else could she do. They were just jealous she was a better detective than them and she wasn't going to purposefully fail in order to appease their egos.
She had learned to brush off their pranks and ignore them, and to just focus on her work. She had closed more unsolved cases than any detective before and it had to do with being able to notice details no one else could. It was her greatest skill as a detective. And it was why she was promoted so easily and quickly.
A sliding sound like something being scrapped across the ground drew her attention to the wall at the end of the alley. She jerked her head around and noticed that the brick wall was sliding apart, revealing the entrance to an otherwise hidden stone path. And standing there, was a woman with blonde hair and the most peculiar clothing. Her hair was shoulder length, hidden by a pointy witches hat, a pair of swirly glasses perched on her face, big enough to hide almost all of her face. She had galoshes with whimsical designs on her feet despite there being no rain. She had a pair of overalls on top of a polka dot shirt and around her shoulder hung a hemp tote bag decorated with beads and with what looked like several branches poking out from inside it.
She was pale like she had never seen the light of day and her features marked her being younger than Hermione's 28 years.
"Uh, hello?" Hermione inquired into the cold air.
The blonde woman tipped her head, her expression hidden behind the oversized pair of glasses. "Ah, a muggleborn," she said at last in a wispy and ethereal voice. "You will do nicely." And then she turned around and started walking down the path.
"Hey, wait up! I have questions for you!" Hermione called out, grabbed her box, and giving one last look to the world she was leaving, she followed the blonde down the mysterious path. The bricks slid closed behind her once she entered and she wondered how that was done. She didn't see any mechanics there. Must be secret governmental technology.
"Do you know what's going on? On why I was relocated here?" Hermione asked of the blonde's back as she strode ahead quickly down the winding unchanging path. The blonde woman must have been sent to fetch her. But to fetch her where exactly? She knew it was a place called the Department of Mysteries...but that title in itself was a mystery.
"You'll be debriefed once we reach the Department of Mysteries."
Hermione hated being denied answers right away but she bit her tongue. At the end of the large gray tunnel, they got to a large black door with a lion knocker on it.
"Password," it snarled out and Hermione blinked once, then twice. Had that just talked? What?
"Goobersnaps," the blonde said and the door swung open, the light momentarily blinding Hermione. She squeezed her eyes against the glare and walked through, blindly following the blonde woman. They stepped out into a whole other town that Hermione had never seen before. A town bustling with people. People in strange garbs- robes and hats, and carrying brooms or animals or other strange objects.
"What-what is this?" she gasped out, her sharp scientific brain trying to process everything-trying to categorize it, and failing horribly at doing so.
But her companion did not answer anything, just pressed on in her silent but hurried manner. Hermione followed after her, craning her head left and right and taking as much of everything in as she could.
It looked like she had stepped into some fantasy world. The road was cobblestone and the buildings looked like they had been built in the medieval ages. The store fronts contained marvelous objects. Cages of owls, bubbling cauldrons, floating books...the list went on. Hermione's eyes were wide and her jaw was slack. She had never heard of such a place before. Was this a governmental base where they experimented with insane technology that seemed almost magical? And who were all these people here? Volunteers? She had more questions now than ever.
Hermione almost lost track of the blonde woman through the crush of the crowd. She sped up to catch her, the crowd thinning out as they stepped to a less visited part of town. They stopped right in front of an inn called Hogshead. "In through here," the blonde informed and they entered a dingy bar smelling of smoke and alcohol. It was dark and only had two people inside- the bartender and one customer snoring loudly on a table in the back. Given the multiple bottles of drink by him, it wasn't hard to guess why he was knocked out.
"The usual, Arnold," the blonde said to the bartender who nodded his head and put down the dirty glass he was cleaning with a dirty rag. He turned to rifle through his drink cabinet.
"I don't mean to be rude- but I didn't come all this way for drinks," Hermione spoke up, unable to bear the suspense any longer. She had too many questions to drink. So many she didn't even know where to start.
The woman continued on as if she hadn't heard Hermione. Arnold turned around with a key and a shot. The blonde tipped the shot back easily and pocketed the key. "New recruit?" he asked, rubbing his grizzled chin and not looking at Hermione even as he spoke about her.
"Yes. She has a reputation for being really good at what she does so we have high hopes," the blonde answered.
"I can speak for myself, you know," Hermione pointed out, getting a bit peeved. When they ignored her at that too, she let out a blustery sigh and shifted the box in her hands. They were getting a bit tired from carrying the weight around for so long.
"I hope she can solve that case. We're all counting on it," Arnold said and that signaled the end of the conversation for the blonde moved on again and Hermione, still pissed, followed after her. They went to the room on the first floor and unlocking the door, they stepped into a cheaply furnished room that looked like it hadn't been dusted in a while. Hermione sneezed at the dust that the blonde woman's actions brought up as she opened up the bathroom. A couple of roaches skittered past and Hermione shivered in disgust.
"Step in the toilet please," the woman instructed and Hermione did a double take.
"Excuse me?" she raised her voice a pitch or two, incredulous eyes on the blonde next to her.
"In the toilet." Was the nonchalant reply.
"Just trust me."
"I have no need to! You haven't given me any reason for it." Was this blonde woman daft? Hermione was starting to become convinced this was some elaborate prank where the officers behind it were trying to see how far they could go with this until Hermione exploded with anger.
The woman tipped her head as if not understanding why Hermione would refuse. "If you do so, I can start answering your questions. I know you are brimming with many."
Hermione tried to fight the offer, she did, but truly there was no bounds to her curiosity. She had done many stupid things to quench it and today certainly wouldn't be the day she would stop. Thinking on how anserine this was, she closed the lid with one hand, tucking the box of her things under her other hand as she got ready to stand on the toilet.
"In the bowl."
Hermione paused at that and looked at the other. Was this woman crazy?
"You want me, to stand in the water?" she said slowly, so that the blonde could hear how insane the demand was.
"Yes. It's the only way this will work."
Hermione took a deep cleansing breath here, deciding if she would still do this for answers, and realizing she would, she muttered out, "I can't believe I'm doing this," before stepping into the water.
"Excellent!" the blonde clapped her hands and instructed, "hold your breath," as she tugged on the toilet handle.
"Hold my breath, what do you mean-" but Hermione's question was cut off as impossibly the toilet roared loudly and she began to twirl as it sucked her in.
Hermione didn't know how to discuss or explain what happened next except that she was flushed down the toilet like a piece of paper and when the screams coming from her throat died out and she opened her eyes she found herself, dry, standing in an open stall, in an entirely different bathroom with another woman there, drying her hands on some towels.
"You sure pick the screamers, Luna," said the vaguely amused woman with her back to Hermione.
The stall next to Hermione's flushed and a second later the blonde woman stepped out. "It's my fault. I did not explain anything to her."
"Luna, we went over this-you need to give them some warning."
"I'd rather not risk others overhearing valuable secrets," the blonde- Luna- explained.
The other woman in the bathroom turned around, and if Hermione's heart wasn't beating so hard from a mind bending journey of 'what the fuck', she would have been taken with the other woman's appearance. Dark curls as thick as midnight pulled into a messy ponytail, heavily lidded eyelids over black eyes, pouty lips colored a deep red, and a toned and lean body that was adorned in tight black slacks, a white pressed shirt rolled up to the sleeves, and suspenders.
"Well then, I suppose we own Miss Granger some answers," the dark haired woman said and strode out of the bathroom, Luna and Hermione following her, Hermione with shaking legs and clutching onto her box of possessions as if it was a life line to her sanity.
They entered a giant dimly lit office, the ceiling so high up it became black with distance. And in the air, floating over the disorganized mess that could only be called the office desks, was a full sized ship. The sails moved in a breeze and she could make out shadows moving on it, meaning someone was on it, if the fact there were loud boisterous voices and music playing as it sailed on and out of Hermione's sight was not enough proof.
How-how was that up there? Had they used wires to make it work?
There was a tall mirror in one corner, glass smooth and with no reflection at all. Another corner held a knight in rusted armor, propped up lazily and a bit clunky looking as if someone had hastily remade him. Jars, ancient looking pottery, elaborate bowls, simple vials, and scrolls upon dusty scrolls of paper were lined up against the walls. And in the back of the room was a massive door that was locked with a heavy pad-bolt and had a bar across it like it was keeping others out. But who? What secrets could be in there?
Starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, she looked at things she could make sense of. Like the desks. One was messy, with stacks of paper on it, by it, and surrounding it. How could a person function in such a mess? One of the other desks had weird objects on it, a couple even steaming oddly colored smoke into the air, but none of them objects that Hermione could name. And there was one that was organized but that had some bolts and gears on it in a neat pile. And then there was one that was empty. Hermione reckoned it would hers.
"Welcome to the Department of Mysteries," Luna said as she drew to a stop in the middle of the room and spread her arms out wide. "The place where the magical and mysterious occur in tandem."
"What does that even mean?" blurted out of Hermione's mouth as she stopped a few inches off from Luna and the dark haired woman who plucked a steaming cup of coffee off of the desk with many papers on it.
"We'll get to that Miss Granger," the dark haired woman said as she leaned back against a desk, crossing her legs at the knee and putting her hand in her pocket. Whereas the blonde gave off air head vibes and a mellow demeanor, this woman gave off an almost cocky and intimidating feel. "First off, introductions are in order, as I'm certain you have no clue as to who we are."
She didn't give Hermione time to confirm this before pointing to Luna. "This is Luna Lovegood, our researcher. She's responsible for tracking down our cases and making sure we are aware of what we're going into." Luna smiled at the praise as the dark haired woman continued. "She is highly credited and has a sharp eye for details. She is also well versed in every single curse and mystical object that we could possibly need to recover and takes care of the objects we capture."
Hermione's brows furrows here. Curses? Mystical objects? What?
"I'm Bellatrix Black, the field agent in charge of recovery of the objects and of damage control," Bellatrix said, taking a sip of her coffee, black like her namesake. "I was chosen for this job because of my accuracy with a weapon and my gut instinct. And my nearly impeccable success record rate."
Hermione was becoming more and more frustrated. What the hell was going on? Who were these people? Their introductions only confused Hermione more.
And what did this have to do with her?
If this was a prank, then by hell it was the best one the boys had pulled on her. Seriously, they must have paid a lot of money on the location, the costumes, the special effects, and even the actors. They were super convincing.
But by the extensive nature of this, it was how Hermione knew it wasn't a prank even as her mind told it was because she didn't want to face the other reality of it. That this was, somehow, impossibly real and that Hermione had been thrown into something far larger than she could handle.
"And Nymphadora Tonks is our house keeper. She makes sure we're in top shape, that the place is in top shape, and she handles any small tasks or cataloging that needs to be done," Bellatrix said, but there was no sight of the woman being mentioned. There was an awkward beat before:
"Nymphadora!" Bellatrix called out shrilly. "Our guest is here."
At this there was a loud thud and a hiss that all seemed to come from below ground. A second later, one of the marble panels on the floor slid open to reveal a dirty faced woman rubbing a bump on the top of her head. Her hair was bright pink and spiky and she had goggles over it. She didn't pull herself out of the floor, so Hermione could only see her head and shoulders. "Sorry, I was in the middle of fixing something up. I didn't think it would take this long." She explained to Bellatrix before extending her hand towards Hermione. "Nice to meet you. You can call me Dora." When it became obvious that she was waiting on Hermione to shake her hand, Hermione rushed to do so, taking the glove covered one in hers.
"Nice to meet you," she said with a stiff grin before Dora slid back down into the hole, replacing the tile correctly as she went.
Everyone was so odd here.
"Now, I'm sure you have a lot of questions. We did too when we first joined. But our program director- Kingsley- isn't here yet and so we'll have to do the explaining for now," Bellatrix said, swallowing down the rest of her drink and setting the empty mug on her desk. "I don't like long winded speeches, nor do I have the time for them, so I'll be brief. You, Miss Granger, were selected to be here because you have a special ability that not many muggleborns share."
There it was. That odd phrase again. What did it mean?
"The ability to see things that aren't usually visible to those without magic-"
"Excuse me, did you just say magic?" Hermione incredulously asked.
Bellatrix flashed her an annoyed look at being interrupted. "Don't interrupt me." The look was scary enough that Hermione didn't.
Bellatrix plucked a file off of the top of the stack on her desk and opened it. "During a robbery happening, you were able to spot three green men-Goblins, as you will realize they are rightfully called- behind the attempt. No one else saw them, but you were able to stop them from carrying out the crime. Surveillance footage that had been recovered inexplicably showed you wrestling with invisible forces and while it made no sense to anyone watching it, you were able to stop money from mysteriously moving into the bags being loaded." She snapped the file closed and tossed it haphazardly onto her desk. "Thus, you are here as per your chief's reports to our program director. You are detail oriented, have a long track record of solving cases and are capable on the field as your past files have shown. It was decided you should work here from now on, given your special ability and our other field agent's- and my partner's- untimely death."
Hermione sucked in a huge breath. This was a lot to take in. "So, you honestly don't think I'm crazy?" Hermione herself hadn't known what to make of that incident. She knew those things had been real. She had fought them. Felt their breath on her back, their claws in her skin as she fired at them repeatedly. And even when they died no one could see them.
They had thought her raving mad when they heard her report.
"Looks like Granger's finally lost it. That big head of yours get too big?" Goyle had teased.
"She's asked too many questions and got into someone's business that she shouldn't have and now she's daft!" Crabbe contributed unpleasantly.
She had ignored them as best she could, but the words got to her because she herself wondered what had happened. Was she really losing her mind?
And then when the chief had told her he was letting her go she'd feared she would be fired because she was deemed too mentally unstable. But in fact it had been because another department had wanted her and the chief couldn't keep her here despite her being his best detective.
"I wish we could close this case that you were involved on, but sadly the higher ups told us to let it go and for you to come work with them. I tried to keep you, I did. But I could not. Their order overrides mine." He looked deeply apologetic at this.
And now here she was, with a group of people in a place who knows where, who were treating her like those things- goblins- were real.
Luna chuckled and it was such a sprightly sounding thing. "Don't be silly. You're more sane than the rest of them, because you can see the world for how it is."
"So those things- goblins, they really exist?"
"They're not our department. The Department for Mystical Creatures deals with them. We only focus on magical objects that seek to harm folks. Muggles or wizard kind," Bellatrix said.
"Wizards? Muggles?" Hermione echoed because it seemed her tongue couldn't really work well right now.
"A wizard is someone who has magic. I think that should be fairly clear. Stories of witches and wizards exist in your world. And muggles- are terms used to describe nonmagical folk. You used to be muggle but are actually muggleborn. Because goblins are magical creatures, you need magic in order to be able to see them. So that means you have latent magic inside you that simply hasn't been unlocked yet."
"Me? With magic?" Hermione sputtered and the box dropped out of her hands, crashing to the floor unnoticed by her.
"We'll get to that later," Bellatrix dismissed with a wave of her hand. "We have to get started on our new case as soon as possible. Too many people are at danger if we don't catch the culprit and we've wasted enough time as it is," she said brusquely.
"Madame Black, I bring da last files," a voice with a Jamaican accent interrupted and Hermione glanced at the floor thinking it would be another woman crawling out of the floor but instead she found a shrunken head, complete with no eyes and a bone under the nose, hopping on the floor, a manila file dragged behind it by invisible wire it seemed. "Where do I put eet?"
"You can leave it on my desk with all the others. Thank you, Jasmin," Bellatrix said casually as if this was nothing out of the ordinary. Hermione stood there completely floored, unable to say another word as she watched the shrunken head deliver the file and then hop off to wherever it had come from. Now, Hermione wasn't squeamish but to see a shrunken head, bouncing around and talking? That was enough to make anyone light headed.
Luna followed Hermione's gaze with some amusement while Bellatrix didn't spare it another thought and began the ginger process of sitting down in her desk chair without causing an avalanche of files. "That's our head librarian. She used to have a full body and a normal sized head too, the poor thing, but one mission to Louisiana and she got caught up in some local voodoo magic gone bad."
Hermione opened her mouth not sure what she could even say about this situation, but when only air came out, she closed it again. This was a lot to take in.
She wasn't sure she could.
Maybe she was dreaming?
She pinched herself.
No. This was real. So did this mean there was a whole other layer to the world she hadn't known about? That had been kept hidden? This could destroy society if it ever leaked out.
"Are you going to stand there all day gaping about like a fish or are you going to help me with these files?" Bellatrix asked without picking up her head from the file she had opened. She had lit a cigarette now and the plume of smoke curled up around her lip.
Luna studied Hermione, tipping her head to the side.
"Is this a lot to take in? You look pale." She was sympathetic.
"No, I'm fine," Hermione shook her head, from a long ingrained habit of never wanting others to see her down, or hurt, or upset. "I'm just going to pass out over here," she said, moving a bit to the side and pointing to the couch she intended to reach, before her eyes rolled up to her head and she passed out on the floor instead.
Bellatrix still didn't pick her head up at this. Luna sighed, frowning at Hermione's form. "How do you think she's handling this?"
"Given she's muggleborn unlike the rest of us, I'd say pretty well," Bellatrix grunted out.
"Maybe it wasn't a good idea to bring her down like this. But to ease her in slowly to this new world."
"We don't have time for that, Luna. We need this case solved. We should have had it solved by now!" Bellatrix slammed the desk angrily while Luna took out her wand from her tote bag and casting a silent spell, lifted Hermione's form up and onto the couch before magicking some pillows and blankets in place.
"I know that Tom's death was particularly harsh on you-"
"Shut up, I don't want to talk about it-" Bellatrix growled out in warning, and picked up her eyes to fix one of her murderous glares on Luna who was mainly unaffected by it. Any other person would have backed off but not Luna.
"I promise we'll avenge him, but it won't bring him back."
Bellatrix clenched her jaw stubbornly and looked down at the files. "There's a chance. I know there is. People have been brought back from the darkness before and so can he."
Luna shook her head. "Such thinking can get you killed."
"Then so be it," Bellatrix stood up stiffly, needing to be out of this room. It was suffocating her. She hastily grabbed the file and then her jacket from where it hung off the back of her chair. "I'm going out for fresh air. When Granger awakes, fill her in on the case."
She strode off without another word and Luna sighed heavily. She was worried for Bellatrix. This wouldn't be a healthy path she was going down on. Looking on at Hermione's sleeping form, she only hoped that as Bellatrix's new partner, she would be able to help her look past the path of revenge and keep her on the right track.