A burst of white-hot flames shot out of the dragon’s nostrils, and despite the dozen-odd metres that separated Padma Patil from their source, she felt the beads of sweat gathering across her forehead as the heat hit her
No matter how long you worked with dragons, you never quite got used to that kind of heat. At least, that was what Rachael Codnor had told her before she’d transferred out to join Werewolf Capture, and nothing in the four years since Padma had joined Dragon Research had contradicted that.
However, despite the sweat dripping uncomfortably down the back of her neck, there was nowhere in the world that Padma would rather be.
The Welsh Green let out another snort, but continued to slumber peacefully.
Padma approached it cautiously. It had been given a powerful sleeping potion along with its goat that morning, but you could never tell how those would work on any given day, because effectiveness of the potion differed depending on a wide variety of factors that Dragon Research was only just beginning to identify. They’d had a Horntail drop dead the year before from a dose that a Ridgeback just two weeks before had been able to completely ignore. Unraveling that mystery alone would have been enough to keep a person occupied for their entire life.
Stunners were much more reliable, but on the balance, Padma much preferred sleeping potions in situations like this. The added risks weren’t really that high – not with a dozen other members of the Research Bureau right behind her – and stunners had a nasty tendency to leave a dragon more vicious and tense for days.
Better to risk the damn burns.
When she exited the holding pen ten minutes later holding several vials of dragon’s blood, she headed straight for the lab. She heard a roar echo from behind her, and when she turned back toward the pen, she saw bright red flames leaping into the sky. She made a note to get the branch they were licking a bit too close for comfort to taken down – no one needed another forest fire – and felt a smile spread across her face. She’d finished up just in time.
Padma stopped at the door of the lab and took a deep breath. The scent of the pine trees that still peppered the landscape of Dragon Research’s base of operations and the warmth of the midday sun flooded her senses, and she closed her eyes, enjoying every moment of it.
How anyone could stand to work inside the walls of the dense, stifling walls of the Ministry of Magic would always be beyond her.
She slipped inside the building. As she pulled the door shut behind her, she blinked several times to adjust to relative dimness of the room.
“Hey, Padma,” she heard a voice call, and looked to the left. Sue was sitting at a table by the windows, enjoying her lunch.
Padma made her way past the racks of vials, the carefully-labeled shelves that were stuffed to the brim with books and scrolls, and the scale models of the Romanian Longhorn, Scottish Bluetip, and Antipodean Opaleye to join her coworker.
When she laid the vials down carefully, Sue’s eyes immediately went to them. “Those the Welsh Green?” Padma nodded, and Sue went back to her sandwich with a vigour that Padma found almost alarming.
She chose not to comment, though. Everyone in Dragon Research had been working hard lately, but no one had been working as hard as Sue, as evidenced by the bags under her eyes and the cracks in her hands from spending too much time in the cold. When Sue swung her leg over her seat and got to her feet, however, she looked as agile as ever.
Dragon Research had been very, very busy lately. A resurgence in the incidence and virulence of dragon pox in the wizarding population was highly concerning, especially since there had been cases before where the disease had, through dark magic, become resistant to the cure.
They were fairly certain that there wasn’t dark magic causing the problems now, and the disease had spread more across mainland Europe than into Great Britain. However, there was still something decidedly odd about the whole thing, and Dragon Research was determined to get to the bottom of it.
For one thing, the safety of the British wizarding populace was at stake. For another, there were far too many former Ravenclaws in Dragon Research to let such an interesting puzzle pass them by.
And if there was one thing that every Healer and Dragon Researcher knew, it was that new forms of dragon pox always started in dragons.
Sue snatched the vials off the table and Padma followed her to the other end of the room. “Damn Ministry is trying to stick their noses in again,” Sue said as she placed the vials on her research table.
“What, with the dragon pox?” Sue made a face and nodded as she pulled her thick, silky black hair back.
“They don’t want to look weak or negligent,” she said in a mocking tone as she began to rifle through some papers. “Someone should tell them that dragons aren’t the same thing as dark wizards.”
Padma shook her head as she turned to her work station. “Well, if you have any sway with the Minister, now’s the time to use it.”
Sue snorted. “Nah, the only people he’s got time for are the damned Aurors.” She snapped her fingers. “Hold on, speaking of Aurors—” Padma crossed her arms and waited expectantly as Sue pointed her wand in the direction of the perpetually-unoccupied desk by the doorway. “Accio letter!” A letter zoomed across the room and into Sue’s hand, and she handed it over to Padma. “Letter from your sister. It got here while you were in with the Fireball.”
Padma took it curiously; it wasn’t like Parvati to send letters to her at work. When she opened it, she found a cryptic, two line note jotted hastily in her sister’s thin script.
Hope your workday is going well. Just got some news that I wasn’t expecting. Need to talk to you immediately.
Padma blew out her breath and glanced up at the clock. It was nearing one. She’d gone in to work with the fireball at half-past 10.
She came to a decision and turned to Sue. “I need to take the rest of today off. Cover for me?”
Su nodded, looking a bit taken aback. “Everything okay?”
Padma looked back down at the letter. “I don’t know.” The thought of stepping foot into the crowded, closed atrium made her wrinkle her nose in disgust.
“Hey, Padma.” She looked back up at Sue, who had a gleeful smile on her face. “What’s the difference between a first-year and the Minister of Magic?”
Padma an answering grin spread across her own face. “The first-year knows not to wear white around a Catalonian Fireball.”
Padma theoretically worked for the British Ministry of Magic. That is, they paid her salary, and usually had the good sense to leave well enough alone. In return, she almost never went in the place.
Because whatever the Ministry thought it knew about dark wizards – and, being the sister of an Auror and the wife of a Hit Wizard, Padma had to admit that they did know something about that – the Ministry was absolutely hopeless when it came to dragons.
As she entered the atrium, she couldn’t help but wrinkle her nose at the sterile environment and the dozens of people rushing through it, intent on getting done with what Padma could only assume was anything but time-sensitive assignments. As Padma made her way past the new, gleaming fountains that inevitably put her in the mind of dragon treasure, a blond woman bumped into her and continued on without so much as a muttered, “Excuse me.”
She approached the lifts, grateful for once for her technical status as a Ministry employee. The line at the security stand would have probably taken at least half an hour, and she wanted to get out of this claustrophobic environment as quickly as possible.
As the lift’s doors closed, she slumped against the wall and closed her eyes.
The lift stopped, and the doors cranked open again. “Good afternoon,” she heard a familiar voice say, and opened her eyes.
“Hey,” she said, smiling at her husband and reaching out a hand.
Dean took it and squeezed it before leaning in to kiss her on the cheek as the lift doors creaked closed again. “I didn’t know you were planning on coming in today.”
Padma wrinkled her nose. “I wasn’t planning on it,” she said. “But when I got back to the lab from the Welsh Green, I got an owl from Parvati. It said that she needed to talk to me, and it was urgent.” She studied his face. “Do you know anything about that?”
He shrugged. “Seamus hasn’t mentioned anything to me, but I haven’t really talked to him in a few days.”
She leaned her head back against the wall. “I hate being in here. This had better be good.” The lift jerked violently, and she groaned. Between the stale air, the artificial ceilings, and the lifts that never failed to made her stomach turn, the British Ministry of Magic was one of her least favorite places in the entire world.
There was a reason she had chosen to work with dragons.
Dean slipped a comforting arm around her shoulders, but since there wasn’t really anything he could say that would make her feel remotely better, he chose to keep his mouth shut.
That was one of the many things she appreciated about her husband.
The lift screeched to a halt, and he sighed. “This is my stop,” he said. “Stop by on your way out. I should be able to get off early. We can go out for a drink or something before we go home.”
Padma smiled and raised herself up on her tiptoes for a quick kiss. When they’d parted, he smiled before turning and exiting the lift.
Two people that Padma didn’t know entered it before the doors could close, and she sighed. The only thing worse than being stuck in one of these things was being stuck in one with strangers. She was glad when the lift stopped at her destination, and she sidled past the two chatting women to get to the hallway.
Of course, things with her sister could never be simple. Despite the owl that had stressed urgency, Parvati was nowhere to be found, and no one in the Auror office had any idea where she might be. Suppressing the desire to strangle her sister once she managed to find her, Padma re-entered the lift and made her way back up to the Dangerous Creatures Bureau.
Mercifully, Seamus was in his office, though he appeared to be deep in conversation with Harry. She was about to stick her head in when she heard a deep voice that she knew belonged to neither of her former yearmates. When she neared the door, she saw Shacklebolt leaning against one of the walls.
Padma slumped into a seat at one of the desks across from the office. If it had just been Harry, she would have had no qualms about interrupting. However, even she knew better than to interrupt the Minister of Magic.
“Hey, Padma,” she heard a voice say, and looked up just in time to see Lavender Brown sliding into a chair at the desk across from her. “What are you doing here?”
It took Padma a moment to recover. The last she’d heard, Lavender was having regular panic attacks and refusing to leave her flat on a regular basis. “Looking for my sister,” she said after a moment. “What are you doing here?”
Lavender shrugged. Padma thought that the look on her face might have been a smile, but it was impossible to be sure with the heavy scarring covering it and her neck. “I work here.”
“Since when?” Padma winced at her tone. “Sorry,” she said quickly. “This just isn’t really where I expected you to be, considering…” her voice trailed off, but the unspoken comment about the attack during the Battle of Hogwarts and Lavender’s mental state in the years that had followed it hovered in the air.
Lavender shrugged again. “It’s better than being cooped up at home. Seamus talked me into it. We’ll see how it goes.” She tucked her hair behind her ears, and this time Padma was sure that she was smiling.
She smiled back tentatively; she’d known Lavender fairly well at Hogwarts, and she’d liked her fine, but it was still very difficult to reconcile the woman sitting in front of her with her memories of the bright, happy girl she’d known at school.
Lavender opened her mouth again, but instead of speaking, she jerked her head toward the door. When Padma leaned over, she could see Shacklebolt making his way down the hall with Harry.
She jumped up. “Nice talking to you,” she said to Lavender, and darted across the hall to Seamus’s office. She did not wand to spend a second longer in this place than she had to.
At the sound of her knock, Seamus looked up. His face immediately took on a look of surprise. “Padma. What are you doing here?”
“Parvati sent an owl saying that she needed to speak to me, and that it was urgent.” Padma glanced around the small office, hoping that perhaps her sister would be hiding in one of the corners. Unfortunately, she had no such luck; other than a table with a large map spread across it, the desk Seamus was seated at, and several chairs, the room was completely bare. “Do you know where she is? Or what it was about?”
Her brother-in-law groaned. “Unfortunately, yes. The baby is a girl. She has a list of names.”
Padma stared at him incredulously. “That’s it?” Her sister was months away from giving birth – she was barely even showing yet. Naming her child was hardly a pressing matter.
Padma stared at him for another minute. “Tell her— tell her to buy a goddamned dictionary, so she can learn what the word urgent means.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “And tell her that I went back to work.”
“Will do.” He looked down at a letter on his desk, and Padma stalked out the room, inwardly fuming.
The baby’s name? That was urgent?
What was wrong with her sister?
A/N: I’d like to thank my friend Jade.Sterling for looking this over for me.
This is definitely a bit different from stories I've written before, so I'm a bit unsure about it. I'd love any feedback you, my lovely readers, would be willing to give. :)
I'm also curious about whether anyone would find a story about the dragon pox interesting, so any thoughts on that would also be appreciated!
Thanks for reading!
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