A/N: I've been wanting to write a Fenrir/Hermione for so long now. So long. The murder/buddy-cop/blah-blah trope has also been niggling at me, so I thought why not? This is a short prologue. Deliberately short. Hopefully following chapters will be less brief. Enjoy!
PLEASE HEED THE WARNINGS.
Disclaimer: I do not own the works made use of herein, none of the Harry Potter features or characters belong to me. I make no money from this work. (Basically, if you recognise it, it's not mine.)
Warnings: Rated M for situations, LOTS OF swearing, violence, sexual scenes, minor character death, graphic descriptions of murder victims, references to cannibalism, torture...
Apples and Oranges
"Murder at Haresdown Castle; you're in."
Hermione didn't bother to look up. It was becoming an exercise in frustration to work in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Either they were using her as a figurehead or they were throwing her the easiest, most boring jobs around – so that they could continue to use her as a figurehead. Sure, she was only twenty-three, and most of the department looked down on her as though her youth made her intrinsically unqualified for the post, but she wasn't just any twenty-three year old Auror. She was Hermione Granger; proud co-author of the werewolf rights legislation, survivor of two years in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures; Beast Division, proud owner of a Muggle PHD in forensic science, veteran of the Second Wizarding War and close friend of the Minister. She was more qualified to be here than half of the team, including her boss.
Harry kept bugging her to transfer out if it was making her so miserable, like he had, but she was much too stubborn for that.
She recommitted herself to filing the paperwork from her last bust – an old lady in Berkshire who'd been unknowingly growing a Venomous Tentacula in her backyard – and shut her ears, determined not to listen to – and therefore be resentful of – whatever lucky sod had been given this gem of a case.
Something slammed down on the desk in front of her and she looked up in shock. It had been the meaty fist of the Department Head, Mr. Albert Kay, who stood over her with a manila file in his hand and a scowl on his weather-beaten face. Blinking, she read the label on the front and gasped. "Me, sir?" she asked, ashamed that her voice was shaking.
"Yes, you," he snapped, tossing the file on the desk. "Who else would I be talking to?"
Bewildered, Hermione gave a pointed scan of the office. "Erm, well… anybody else, sir?"
His scowl deepened and he stabbed at her with a pudgy finger. "Nope. This is your wheelhouse, Miss Granger. Enjoy."
Her wheelhouse? What on earth could that mean?
She tugged the paperwork towards her gingerly, as though it might explode any minute. There, stamped in bold ink across the top of the page, were the words MURDER: HARESDOWN CASTLE. Further underneath sat the address and their contact – a Mr. Simidh Allaidh. The first page gave a rundown of their contact's life story – born in 1951 and raised in Thurso, Caithness; a wife, his childhood sweetheart, Isbeil; no education. He claimed Haresdown Castle and its surrounding area as his ancestral estate in the aftermath of the war through the Muggle council, and then applied to the Ministry to create a Sanctuary there. The Ministry, half from guilt and half too flustered to refuse, granted him the proper licenses and since then Haresdown had been its own township.
Hermione wrinkled her brow, flipping through the next few pages. There was something off here. For one – why would Mr. Allaidh need to create his own township? It's not exactly a priority for most men, and difficult to boot. It was a near miracle that his application had been accepted, and even more of one that the Ministry hadn't yet hopped in and taken back ownership of the lot.
Beside that, who claims their ancestral estate through the council? The Muggle council? From the notes, Haresdown had been a Heritage site up until then, so well preserved, and certainly not something the government would want to give up. Hell, it must have been worth millions. How did he wrangle that? And how, after going to all that trouble to get the Muggles involved, did he manage to have them not notice when he warded them out?
She flipped back through to the front of the folder and noted the address. Middle-Of-Nowhere, Argyll and Bute. Newly intrigued, she nonetheless grit her teeth and followed protocol.
"He must have made a mistake. It's one of yours, McKinnon," she said, trying not to sound as bitter as she felt. "Argyll and Bute."
"Haresdown? Ye got to be kiddin'." Dougal McKinnon, Senior Auror for the Highlands, snorted in disgust as he dug his fork into the lunch his wife had lovingly prepared for him that morning. "Like fuck am a goin' near that one. Keep it."
Startled, she turned in her seat to stare at him. "But it's a murder," she said slowly. Her confusion was well justified – murders were rare in this office, and usually there'd be a massive jurisdiction showdown as each area tried to claim it as their own. Once, when a Yorkshire native had been murdered on boat trip in the Thames, the head Aurors for Yorkshire, the Metropolitan and River Crimes squad had had a knock-down, drag-out fight in the atrium. Helen (Yorkshire), the woman who won, still kept Scott-from-the-Met's ponytail in a box on her desk as a trophy.
Dougal, however, just snorted again. "A jus' cannae be fucked wi' it, lass," he mumbled through a mouthful of chicken salad. "S'not worth the paycheck."
Her eyebrows now firmly stuck somewhere beyond her hairline, Hermione looked back at the file on her desk. She didn't have an area – she wasn't that senior. Instead, they liked to stick her on cases as a Magical Creature Ambassador. She'd never run her own case before, though. Never. Something must be very off about this one.
She couldn't ignore the thrill of excitement that ran up her neck when she thought of it, however. A case – a murder – all of her own! A file with her name printed across the bottom, a bunch of trainees calling her 'ma'am', a notebook full of interview notes. A chance to prove herself, prove she was something more than a walking encyclopaedia…
Head stuck firmly in the clouds, she slapped the cover shut and shoved it into her bag. There was a murderer to catch, and she was going to be the one to do it.
Nearly 500 miles away and a day beforehand, Fenrir Greyback stood over a corpse.
It wasn't a pretty corpse – all torn up from predators and bloated from a float in the lake. His face was puffy and unrecognisable, largely from the massive bite that had ripped his nose, his lips and half of one eye-socket out. He grimaced, feeling slightly nauseous. A face didn't qualify as 'good eatin''.
Beside him, his Beta Simidh kicked the foot of the poor, murdered bloke and watched it twitch. "Why didn't they just eat him?" he asked idly.
It was a good question. Fenrir couldn't answer it. If it were him – and it had been, not so long ago – he'd have at least ravaged it to enough of an extent that the blood had saturated the ground, drawing in predators from far and wide. Or he'd have done it close to a full moon, left it in his territory, and pranced off safe in the knowledge that the bloke would never be seen again.
Instead, whatever inept murderer had killed this guy had dragged him into Loch Awe and left him, probably thinking he'd sink or float away and never be seen again.
This person did not know much about the Lochs.
The corpse had appeared at dawn, when one of the pups, taking an illicit early morning dip, dragged it onto the shore. At first they'd thought it was treasure, or saved meat – it wasn't unusual for a female to hang a fish from the bank overnight, to a purpose Fenrir couldn't understand – and upon realising it was a whole human male she'd shrieked the damn village down.
Now, Abigail sat miserably in a room up at the castle, waiting to be questioned.
Simidh busied himself sniffing about the body, but Fen didn't bother. If it had been in the water long enough to absorb that much water, it had been there long enough to disperse any helpful scents. Which, if it had been a werewolf – and it very likely had, from the bite marks – was likely the smartest move they'd made.
He cursed loudly and foully, earning himself the evil eye from Elder Peg, who'd limped her centuries-old body out to oversee the discovery. She was his paternal great-grandmother, and the only woman who'd ever managed to cow him. Not today. Today, he was too pissed.
This murder jeopardised the Pack; everything Fen had worked for his entire life. He loved this pack. He gave his whole self to this pack. He'd led them into the wrong side of a war because they'd thought the benefits package was better there, and after they'd lost he'd built them back up from the ground. It was he, with the help of Isbeil and Peg, that had found them this land. It had been him that had (through Simidh) bullied the Ministry into accepting their requests for Sanctuary. It might not have been him that had changed the werewolf laws but it had been him that had twisted it to their advantage, receiving the compensation they'd needed to make their village habitable.
He'd sacrificed, too. He'd allowed Simidh to be the public face of the pack: him being much more friendly and fit for public consumption than Fen, despite how it undermined his status as Alpha. He'd stopped biting people; one of the great joys in his life. He'd never mated so that he could be free for this pack, so that the Pack could be his first priority.
The murders jeopardised that by requiring them to bring in the Ministry. He'd worked to hard to keep them separate – they were allowed to rule under their own laws, now, for the most part, and they no longer had to register their existence every year. Only the nomadic weres had to do that. Murder, however, they didn't have the resources to investigate. Mostly because it was so rare.
Violent deaths, you understand, were not. They were wild animals; they fought. They killed. They paid restitution to the families of the dead and moved on. It was a fact of life. These deaths were combat deaths, rather than the unjust attack of the cold-blooded murder.
"No signs of a fight," Simidh said then, as if he'd read Fen's mind. "I can't tell anymore than that. I'm no dead-healer."
"I believe they're called coroners, dear," Peg said, opening her mouth for the first time since she'd walked into the clearing. "Oh, it doesn't smell so bad," she exclaimed in surprise, smiling faintly and drawing Fen's scowl when he realised that meant she hadn't been breathing. "I expected rot."
"You shouldn' be out 'ere," Fen growled at his nan for the third time, who only rolled her eyes. He didn't know what else he'd expected, not really. She was an odd duck, his nan. When he'd first come back to the pack with the news of the Castle, she'd sniffed and said 'well, now – do you see how much you can get done when you stop eating people and instead let them do their job?'.
No-one challenged Peg, and even Fen couldn't push it too far, but damnit, she was old. Even for a werewolf she was getting a bit rickety, her hair steely and eyes bleached white. The pack revered her as an Elder, and as well they should, but it didn't change the fact that she was near-as blind and couldn't walk more than a mile a day.
He feared that one moon the change would kill her. It was his worst fear. Aside from the pack, the old bitch was all he had.
"Don't look at me like that," she scolded him all of a sudden, her thin lips pursed.
"Like wha'?" he grunted, turning back to the body. Simidh was messing with it's head, which lolled on its neck like a snapped branch.
"Like I'm going to die, insolent pup." She chuckled. "You know well and good I ain't dying 'til I get my grandbabies."
He snarled slightly – only a little, as a warning. She'd live forever, then, because the Pack was his child and always would be. None of the females here were fit to be his mate, and with his outside reputation, not to mention the small fact that they all thought he was dead (and good riddance), he wasn't likely to find one there, either.
He remembered the mudblood chit who'd been so scared of him and smirked. She would have made a decent mate, if he'd managed to keep her. Had Crazy Bella not taken her away.
"Nothing," Simidh said, climbing back to his feet. "We'll have to call them in."
Fen grimaced. He'd like nothing less than to have some Ministry ponce sniffing about his pack, but it didn't look like he had a choice. Like he'd said – the Pack was everything, and he'd do whatever was best for them. Right now, finding the murderer was a priority. Before they killed again.