Chapter 1: Clear and Present Danger
Chapter 1: Clear and Present Danger
“Careful Granger,” Severus cautioned, drawing his wand as they approached a dilapidated semi-detached house where they believed their target to be hiding.
“Careful yourself, Snape,” she answered, squeezing his shoulder.
He stooped without her having to ask, eyes trained on the house as she tapped his head with her wand, Disillusioning him. Their years of partnership had taught them that it was best Severus take point in a fight, and certainly in their lab – but when it came to charms, Hermione should perform them whenever possible. Severus straightened as Hermione Disillusioned herself, and then they crept closer, Severus slightly in the lead.
They could not see each other, and yet they moved easily together, quietly and stealthily making their way to the house. Once at the threshold, Severus let out a long sibilant sigh of air that could have been nothing more than the wind, pausing until he heard Hermione repeat the sound.
They were both ready.
With a twist of his wrist and a silent hex, Severus blasted the door open and they were both moving through the cover of smoke, searching for their target – a madman escaped from their lab in the Department of Mysteries. There was a shatter of glass, and then the smoke was cleared by some wind, likely by Hermione unless their target had gotten his hands on a wand. A red stream of curse fire grazed by Severus’ cheek, and he turned, catching sight of a shadowy figure dashing through a doorway.
“Granger, two o’clock!” he called as he followed, giving her the direction of pursuit.
He determinedly did not think about whether or not she was hurt. They had agreed long ago that duty came first – always.
But it did not make it easier.
Sprinting down a narrow hall, he came to a flight of stairs. There were only two doors, presumably leading to bedrooms. “Do make this easier on yourself,” Severus said into the sudden silence. “You’ve nowhere left to go.”
He could hear Hermione on the stairs, and was moving to guard her entry point when the door to his right exploded from the hinges, flying down the hall straight for him. He cursed, whipping his wand in a violent arc to shred the door into splinters before it could pin him to the wall at his left. With no time to cast a shield to protect himself from the blowback, Severus crossed his arms over his face, grunting as slivers of wood embedded themselves in his arms. He was raising his wand to cast again, when a deep, snarling voice intoned a spell word he had never before heard.
He had time only to look up and see red lights like blades of blood heading straight for him and hear Hermione’s shouted spell of protection before the world went black.
“Snape!” Hermione snapped, eyes trained on the now doorless bedroom. She could see the shadowy figure of their target making his way to a window. “Snape!” she called again, when he didn’t answer her.
Torn between duty and her partner, Hermione silently cursed then fired a few ineffectual hexes at the escaping killer. He dodged, or blocked, and was gone, clearing the way for her to see to Severus in safety. They would catch Jack another day.
“Snape, you better be unconscious, because I’m not in the mood for one of your lectures,” she said after removing her Disillusionment Charm.
“Homenum revelio. Finite Incantatem.”
Once she could see Severus once more, Hermione knelt at his side. His arms and face were spotted with pinpricks of blood, no doubt the result of the cloud of splinters he had reduced the door to. She cast a diagnostic spell, crooning a ward of healing magic under her breath that Severus himself had taught her. Her eyes fluttered shut as the spell did its work, whispering to her all that was ailing her partner.
With a startled gasp, she opened them.
Nothing, not even a puff of white air. The Patronus Charm had always been difficult for her.
Taking a deep breath, Hermione focused, pulling herself from the moment, finding something happy to think of. The day she and Severus had gotten their commendation from the Head of the Department of Mysteries. Severus’ rare smile as they were presented with Orders of Merlin, Second Class.
“Expecto Patronum!” With a flare of bright, white light, her sea otter Patronus floated into the night, carrying her cry for help, and her report that Jack had escaped.
She settled in to wait, pulling Severus’ head into her lap, her lips quirking as she thought of how embarrassed he would be to awake with it there. He would frown and tell her she was inappropriate, and irritating, and she would call him a prat, and then they would return to their lab and he would stew about it the whole way there, and then pick a fight with her over some silly test tube being blotchy, or some such thing.
The fantasy kept her panic at bay.
Chapter 2: The Man Who Knew Too Little
She looked up from the case file she had been staring at without really reading it. “Harry? Ron? But how did you –“
“How’d we hear Snape’s in hospital?” Harry asked. Ron and Harry approached, the way they walked practically screaming of Auror training. Hermione hoped they would never have to take on a covert mission. They just weren’t discreet enough.
“Shh!” she shushed, eyes darting around the room. Raising her wand, she quietly whispered, “Muffliato.”
“Now, how is it that two street Aurors who don’t even have the clearance to know that a pair of Unspeakables were on assignment tonight know which pair was out and that one of them was hurt?”
“Gettin’ as bad as Mad Eye, she is,” Ron jerked his thumb at her, turning to look at Harry. “Can’t we just be concerned for the old bat?”
In an instant, Hermione had her wand trained on Ron, a mixture of temper and caution. “Don’t,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Bloody hell, Hermione, I didn’t mean… Is he bad off?”
“I’ve never seen the curse he was hit with before.” Hermione lowered her wand, feeling like a brute at the genuine look of contrition on Ron’s face. No one could fake that look, not even if they had used Polyjuice to disguise themselves as Ron. “He’s in the Spell Damage Ward. They haven’t come to talk to me yet.”
“Hermione,” Harry said softly, taking her hand and squeezing it. She looked up at him, taking in the blue eye that spun in his left socket. He’d lost the eye in a particularly nasty take down involving a dragon handler gone rogue. It was Mad Eye’s old eye that rolled in Harry’s face. Everyone agreed the Auror would have wanted him to have it.
“You’re right. We aren’t here by accident. We were cleared. Kingsley thought that we should know and…” Harry trailed off, looking to Ron for help. Ron just gave him a blank faced stare, his patented dumb Auror look. It had tricked more than one wizard into a confession.
Ron was very good at pretending he was dumber than he was. He was also a prat for not helping Harry deal with Hermione.
“… We’ve been assigned to take your hunt while Snape is down. Kingsley says it’s top priority.”
Hermione started, turning a hawk-eyed look on Harry that she had developed over her years as an Unspeakable and Snape’s partner. Harry and Ron were lucky that she hadn’t had that particular look in her arsenal at Hogwarts. They would have done a lot more homework, though on the positive side Voldemort would have waited until exams were finished to attack.
“Has L cleared this?” Hermione asked in a voice that meant hexes might start flying at any moment.
Harry looked at Ron.
“Well, er, no – not exactly. See, she’s still in bed, and Kingsley thought – ”
“You know very well a case can’t be yanked from the Unspeakables without consent of the Head of the Department of Mysteries, no matter what the Minister thinks!”
“Aw, come off it, Hermione. It’s just to keep on top of things. We’ll be good and give it back as soon as the great bat –” Ron gulped at the look on Hermione’s face, “As soon as Snape is on his feet again. Won’t we Harry?”
“Excuse me, Hermione Granger?” A mediwitch asked, looking like she was trying very hard not to explode with hero worship at the sight of the entire Golden Trio standing before her. “The Healer is ready to speak with you now. Then you can see Mr. Snape.”
Severus woke to a rolling stomach, and a dry pounding in his head. He expected to be, at best, in the infirmary of Hogwarts, and at worst the basement of Malfoy Manor.
He was in neither place.
A mediwitch in green robes popped her head into the room, smiling at him upon seeing he was awake. “Feeling better, luv?” she chirped. He immediately imagined different ways to silence that annoying voice forever.
Severus opened his mouth to ask how he had gotten to St. Mungo’s, but the witch continued before he could utter a syllable, saying, “The Healer is just talking to your next of kin, and then they’ll be in to explain everything to you. We want to keep you a few days for observation, but you should be able to go home after that. The Healer thinks you’re going to retain full function, isn’t that good news?”
He didn’t have any next of kin.
“Where,” Severus bit out, “is my wand?”
“Oh, it’s with the front desk, dear. We started confiscating them after a poor man hexed me. He was grumpy from the pain.” She smiled.
Severus closed his eyes, counting backwards from twenty. When he opened them, the witch was gone.
Thank Merlin for small favors.
Then the door opened, and in came –
“Miss Granger? What are you doing in my hospital room? Please,” he sneered, putting as much venom as he could muster into his voice, “don’t tell me you’ve come to bring me a card all the students have signed. It’s bad enough you’re an insufferable know-it-all, you needn’t be a teacher’s pet on top of it.”
She stopped, staring at him with wide eyes.
“You finally don’t have an answer? At last! I should have let you visit me in hospital years ago. Now, if you don’t mind, get out.”
She kept staring.
Just when Severus was parting his lips to call her mentally deficient, she asked him, “Se-Snape, where do you work?”
It was the serious tone and grim face that gave him pause and made him answer the question seriously. “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“And how old am I?”
“Fifteen or sixteen…” he trailed off as the words left his mouth. For the first time since she had entered the room, Severus took a moment to really look at the woman standing at his bedside.
Woman, not girl.
Her hair was braided with tufts and tendrils escaping, as she usually wore it, but without a quill stuck into the back of it. But the rest of her… she wore tight-sleeved black robes that laced at the front, austere and functional, but just form fitting enough for him to see that the curves of a woman lay beneath. No make-up adorned her face, but she was beautiful, age defining her features – time had melted the round-faced girlishness away. Not yet grey, face not yet lined, she was not old by any means.
But most definitely not fifteen.
Suspecting some sort of trick, Severus met Granger’s eyes, silently invoking his abilities as a Legilimens. He found an organized mind, sharp and focused, memories that confirmed that the woman standing before him was indeed Hermione Granger dancing along the surface. But it was as if he was visiting a polite neighbor. He was allowed into the lounge, offered tea, and then firmly shown the door.
“Who taught you Occlumency?”
“You did,” she said quietly, a small catch in her voice. Without prodding she allowed him to see the memory, a hazy image of them staring at one another eye to eye.
She stood silently for a moment, and then took the seat next to his bed. She reached for his hand, and he pulled it away. A small twitch passed over her face, but then it was gone – wiped away.
“You’ve been hit with a curse that hasn’t yet been identified,” Granger said, looking past him, at the wall. “This is the Spell Damage Ward of St. Mungo’s. It seems that the last thirteen or so years – your most recent long term memory – has been erased.” She paused to meet his eyes, “That’s not entirely correct, but it’s essentially what happened, and I know you hate it when I prattle about inconsequential details.”
Severus felt his eyebrows climb his forehead in surprise.
Not noticing his perplexed look, Granger continued. “You’re my partner. We’re Unspeakables. We were out in the field tonight, going after the…aftermath… of one of our experiments, when you were knocked for six. Not that you weren’t brilliant, as always,” she reassured him, seeing his sour look. “We were just unlucky. I can’t tell you more than that until you’ve been put back on active duty, or you remember on your own,” she pursed her mouth sourly. “As of this moment, your usual clearance is revoked.”
Granger was blessedly silent in the time Severus took to gather his thoughts. Assuming everything she told him was true – and he was beginning to think it was – age had improved her a great deal.
He did not think he would like her, per se, but she seemed vaguely tolerable.
“The last thing I remember is teaching double potions, third year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs,” he said. “The Order had reassembled and the Mark – ”
Realizing what he was saying, Severus pulled his arm out from under his blanket, examining the skin. The Dark Mark was little more than a shadow of pigment, a blotch of faded memory.
“We won the war, ten years ago,” Granger told him, her voice thick. He suspected she was about to blubber, and had already set his teeth on edge in anticipation, when she cleared her throat. “You saved all our lives, more than once. You were awarded an Order of Merlin, First Class, and your portrait is in the Hall of Heroes in the Ministry of Magic.”
It didn’t seem real. Couldn’t be real. And yet it was. His mind told him he was still hunted and haunted, twisted by lies, grief and regret. That he would not live to see the end of the war he had helped start.
But he lived.
And he lived.
Free at last, from both his masters.
Granger occupied herself with the wizarding wireless receiver in the room, showing an unusual perception of his moods. It was strange to him for someone to know him so well – and to care enough to pretend not to notice the things they saw written on his face.
“I’m going home,” he said, beginning to rise.
Granger tutted at him. Tutted.
“The Healer says it will be good for you to be surrounded by familiar things, but you need to stay for observation for at least one night. Do me a favor and stay, so that I won’t have to knock you out to make you.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” he began, ire rising, sitting up straight.
She gave him a blasé look, “I haven’t been afraid of you for a long time, Sev.”
“I refuse to believe I allow you to call me Sev,” he snarled, eyes snapping.
To his surprise, Granger laughed, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, “Of course you don’t. You positively hate it. That’s why I only do it when you’re being an arse.”
It took all of his years as a double agent to keep his mouth from dropping open.
“I promise, I’ll check you out and take you home tomorrow. Just humor the Healers this one night?” she asked kindly, so much so that he almost believed she actually cared.
He snorted at her and rolled over.
Chapter 3: For Your Eyes Only
When Granger arrived to fetch Severus the next morning, she was wearing the same robes she had left in. They were decidedly more rumpled, and her hair was a great deal frizzier, her face holding that wan look of someone who had not slept. Severus recognized that look all too well from the mirror.
He wondered if his face still looked like that. With a start, he realized he didn’t know.
“Are you ready?” Granger snapped at him as she unceremoniously dumped an arm full of files and papers into the chair next to the bed. Not looking at him, she started grubbing through the bits of parchment.
She had not changed as much as he initially thought.
Severus closed the morning’s Daily Prophet he was studying and rose, refusing to be embarrassed by the hospital issue robes he wore. Granger finally glanced at him after pulling two sheets of parchment from her unruly stack, her mouth popping into a small ‘o’. Setting the parchment aside where she wouldn’t lose track of it again, she reached into the bodice of her robes and removed a small pouch she wore on a string around her neck.
Severus did not look at her breasts.
“Here,” she said, startling him. Reaching into the impossibly tiny pouch, she pulled out a bundle of cloth, and then a set of boots. “I picked up spares from your house. We’ll have to get your wand at the front desk. Get changed and I’ll fill out your discharge papers.”
She thrust the cloth and boots at him, and Severus took them, finding that the cloth was a set of robes, and the boots exactly his size and to his tastes. He felt a small twinge of almost-affection, that she took the time to spare his dignity.
Almost. Not quite.
“You were in my house?” he asked, managing to turn the simple question into a threat.
To his consternation, Granger didn’t seem bothered in the least. She turned over a form and began scribbling, replying offhandedly, “Oh yes. You keyed the wards to me after the third time I had to dismantle them.”
“You dismantled –”
“It’s a long story,” she interrupted, making Severus clench his jaw in irritation.
It was difficult to adjust to her being an equal. An adult. A partner?
He scoffed, taking the clothes into the small washroom attached to his room. He told himself the only reason he didn’t take her to task was that he wanted to get out of hospital as quickly as possible.
Once dressed, he returned to the room, standing before Granger with his arms crossed. She looked up at him with an annoyed huff.
“Sev, you’re blocking my light, and I know you’re doing it on purpose. You always loom when you’re impatient.”
A tightly coiled spring of impotent rage unfurling in his gut, Severus opened his mouth, a wave of vitriol ready to spew forth… and then he noticed the slight trembling of her hands, the dark circles under her eyes. “Why have you not slept?” he demanded, sounding accusatory even to his own ears.
But Granger didn’t mind. “Unspeakable Regulation. My partner was hurt on a field assignment. His room had to be guarded in case… just in case.”
Severus stepped out of her light and Granger resumed scribbling.
“Should I not fill out my own discharge forms?”
Signing one last line with a flourish, Granger gathered up her papers again, awkwardly holding the large pile against her chest. “You were admitted for spell damage, Snape. Your next of kin has to take charge of you for St. Mungo's to let you out before the Healers deem you fit.”
There was so many things wrong with that statement, Severus wasn’t sure which to take issue with first. After several seconds of rapid thought, he focused on the most shocking. “Does this mean that you are my next of kin?” he sneered. “Tell me you aren’t my wife.”
Granger actually blushed, fixing him with a scathing look, “Certainly not, Severus Snape. And I don’t appreciate your tone.”
She wouldn’t let him know that he had hurt her.
“We’re partners, that’s all. It just so happens that you don’t have any relatives, no woman will put up with you for more than a week, and I’m usually nearby when you get knocked ass over teakettle. So you gave me power of attorney.” With that, she turned on her heel and stormed from the room.
Severus was forced to follow in her wake.
After retrieving his wand from the front desk of St. Mungo’s, Granger took Severus home. That was to be expected. What was not expected was that he had to go by Side-Along Apparition, for he no longer lived in Spinner’s End. Even more unexpected, he could not immediately see his house. Granger went digging through her stack of parchment again and held out a neatly folded scrap. Severus unfolded and read it.
Severus Snape resides at 221-B Baker Street, London.
Do feel better soon, Professor. It’s always so quiet when you’re off active duty. I’ll have my father send you a cauldron of plimpie soup. Good for the memory, you know.
Severus thought he had seen that handwriting recently on a potions essay. But then, if he thought it was recent, it was actually fifteen years prior.
He found it was helpful to approach things as if he had suddenly been propelled into the future, rather than forgotten his past. And Granger… well. He was beginning to separate the woman completely from the girl-child, which could only be to the good.
It was something the war and his role in it had taught him. Survival meant finding ways to live with your reality. Severus Snape had awoken to a strange world in which people had known and worked with him for years that he could not remember. A world where children were suddenly attractive young women.
A world without Voldemort.
Returning his attention to the scrap of paper in his hand, Severus asked, “Is there any particular reason my house is Secret-Kept?”
“You’re an Unspeakable,” Granger answered. “All of our homes are Secret-Kept, with the Head of the Department of Mysteries as the Secret Keeper. Only close friends and family can find us this way.”
It was a nice brick front townhouse, two stories. Everything about the building was well cared for, and had the flavor of old London about it. All in all, it was a much nicer place than he had thought he would be living in after the war, if he survived at all.
“Muggles think your house is the Sherlock Holmes Museum,” Granger piped up. “I’m next door at 221-A. My house is the gift shop.” She smiled, a laugh at the back of her throat.
Severus looked at her blankly, and her smile faded. He was left with the feeling that something was expected of him, but he didn’t know what.
He didn’t like it.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Granger handed him another slip of paper, this time allowing him to see 221-A as it really was.
They lingered awkwardly.
“Well then, I’ll leave you to it,” she said. “I’ll pop round later with some things that might help jog your memory.”
Severus spent some time acquainting himself with his house. It wasn’t much different from Spinner’s End once layout was discarded. He still ordered his books the same way. He had the same things in his cupboards. He still stacked copies of The Daily Prophet next to his favorite armchair, ostensibly for the news, but secretly because he liked doing the crossword.
But there were little differences that he could only attribute to the changes in his life brought by the years he couldn’t remember.
There was Muggle toothpaste in his bathroom, and a spare toothbrush. There was coffee in a tin on the countertop, but he detested the stuff. There was a rather forlorn goldfish swimming about in a tank in his lounge.
And there was a jeweler’s box in the back of his sock drawer, resting on top of a pile of letters he couldn’t make sense of, no matter what decoding spell he tried.
He didn’t open the box. He didn’t want to know what was in it.
He was examining himself in the mirror when a knock came at his door. He had been pleased to find that rather than looking worse than the mental picture he had of himself, he looked a great deal better. He was not so gaunt as he had been during the war, and his skin had lost that texture like old paper that heralded a lack of sleep. There was the beginning of grey at his temples, but he rather thought it made him look distinguished.
His nose was still awful, but not any worse than usual.
It turned out to be Granger at the door, still in her rumpled robes. Severus thought she had yet to have a lie down. She held a bundle of letters, neatly tied up in a bit of twine. “Severus,” she smiled, touching his wrist absentmindedly. She walked past him without asking if she could come in.
Firmly reminding himself that she was not Miss Granger, but Granger, the Unspeakable who would help him fathom the new world in which he found himself, he mastered his temper and followed her to his lounge.
She dropped the bundle of letters on his coffee table, and then perused his bookshelves until she found what she wanted.
It was The Tales of Beedle the Bard, as translated from the original runes by Hermione Granger.
Granger laid the book almost reverently next to the letters. “The Healers said that familiar things might help you remember. These are the letters you’ve written to me over the years that I’ve saved. I thought reading them might help you.”
Severus sat, pulling the bundle of letters toward himself with long spindly fingers. Granger watched him intently in a way that would have disconcerted him if he had not spent so much time before the blood red eyes of Voldemort. Meticulously unknotting the twine that held the letters together, he opened the top one on the stack.
It was the same gibberish as the stack of parchment he had found in his sock drawer, only this time written in his hand.
“What spell will decode these?” he asked, knowing from his earlier attempts that it was not one he knew.
Granger deflated, and Severus had the vague feeling that he had disappointed her. She wanted him to remember.
But he didn’t.
“It’s written in code, not coded with a spell,” she said after the silence had stretched long enough that it was apparent he did not know the solution to the puzzle. “We started doing it that way after a message you sent to me in the field was intercepted.” She slid the book of fairytales toward him. “This book is the key to the cipher. Do I need to explain straight substitution codes?’
“No,” he snapped, hackles raised by the implication of the question. “You might also try being less condescending.”
“I –” she stopped herself, taking a deep breath. When she spoke again it was barely a whisper, “I’m sorry.”
She left without another word, and Severus did not show her to the door.
Chapter 4: From Paris With Love
Severus spent three blissfully quiet days doing nothing but puttering about his house and decoding the letters Hermione had brought to him.
No. Not Hermione. Granger.
It had become easy for the name to slip into his thoughts, as he read the letters he himself had penned. Before his eyes, a wonderfully effective partnership – and even friendship – bloomed. With his gift of reading people, honed to a razor’s edge by the necessity of war, he could see the respect and genuine affection with which he had come to regard Hermione as if it flowed from the page.
But he was not that man. Yes, it was his handwriting and sounded entirely like something he might write. But he had no memory of it. He could see the close partnership that the letters represented – but that partnership existed with a man who was gone.
Severus was surprised to find he mourned the loss of the man he would never be again.
He wondered if Granger missed him too.
He had yet to decode and read the letters securely tucked into his sock drawer. He knew that they must complete the set, provide the missing half of the conversation, the partnership he had gleaned from his letters to Hermione. The letters in his sock drawer were surely all the ones Hermione had written to him over the years.
It said a great deal that his other self had kept them, secured them in the sock drawer as if they were a precious, private secret. Perhaps that was why Severus didn’t want to read them. Somehow he knew there was a great discovery waiting there, in the back left corner of his sock drawer, and like Pandora’s Box, once it was uncovered he would not be able to neatly put it away.
His musings were interrupted by muffled screaming from the wall his house shared with 221-A. Perplexed, Severus drew his wand and moved to the front door. He’d dedicated his life to righting the wrongs he had done. Letting Granger get murdered just next door at this late date would be poor form.
He exited his house, frowning at the Muggle couple who saw him as an actor dressed as Sherlock Holmes thanks to the Concealment Charms, and made his way stealthily to 221-A. Granger’s wards flowed over him like a warm jumper, easily letting him through. They were keyed to his presence, just as his wards were to her.
He supposed it only made sense, given their partnership.
The floor plan of the house was identical to his, allowing Severus to easily make his way to the lounge. He lowered his wand when he saw that Granger wasn’t in any danger, but was having a heated argument with someone over the Floo. She waved him to a seat, and then pointed her wand, summoning a teapot that drifted over to pour him a spot of English Breakfast with a slice of lemon, just the way he preferred it.
Either entering her house unannounced was something that was acceptable, or Granger was too busy shouting at the person in the fireplace to spare any righteous indignation for Severus.
“Kingsley you can’t possibly send Harry and Ron. They don’t understand what they’re up against, and they don’t have the clearance to be told!” Hermione ranted at the Floo. Leaning casually to the side, Severus was able to see Kingsley Shacklebolt’s head among the flames
“Potter and Weasley are some of the Auror’s most decorated field officers. Another witch has been murdered. We have to send someone, Hermione, and I’m not prepared to risk you on a solo mission when Snape is already down,” Kingsley replied rather reasonably.
Hermione made a noise of supreme frustration. “I am surrounded by dunderheads!” she muttered through clenched teeth.
“Sorry, Granger, what was that?”
Severus realized he was smiling a tiny smile, and that it did not feel as unnatural on his face as he had thought it would.
Perhaps he smiled more since the defeat of Voldemort.
Granger glanced back at him and their eyes met, her lips twisting into a wry grin as they shared a moment of understanding.
“Look Kingsley, this isn’t a jurisdictional pissing contest. There really are things about this wizard that anyone who goes after him needs to know if they want to succeed without being horribly mangled. And only Class Five Unspeakables have the clearance to be told.”
“How many Class Fives are there?”
“Counting myself, Snape, and the head of the department? …Three.”
“Then you see it has to be the Aurors, Granger. This witch was butchered. Cut apart. I don’t know what you’ve been getting up to in that department of yours, but if this is what your experiment has led to –”
“It isn’t. It’s. It’s complicated. And you know I can’t tell you.”
Kingsley snorted, “Well then set up a meeting with L. We have to find some sort of working solution.” A peculiar look crossed Kingsley’s face, and his hands appeared in the flames as he adjusted his collar.
Hermione had a sudden epiphany. Did Kingsley fancy L?
“Bring Snape along. Afternoon, Severus!” Kingsley called from the fire, then was gone.
“A meeting with L?” Severus asked, perplexed. He sipped his perfectly made cup of tea, idly wondering if the coffee in the tin on his countertop was there for Granger.
“Luna, Luna Lovegood,” Hermione said as she turned to take a seat across from him. “She’s Head of the Department of Mysteries. When she was a field agent she just went by ‘L’ and some people still call her that.”
She summoned a cup of coffee for herself, and Severus’ suspicions about the coffee on his countertop were confirmed. They drank in companionable silence for a while, Severus casually glancing over the plethora of files on the coffee table. If he knew Granger, and he was beginning to feel that he did, all of those files would be for the case they had been on together before his unfortunate incident.
They would be about the wizard that erased his memories.
Granger saw the direction of his gaze, and turned her head, tapping her chin with three fingers. There was something significant about that gesture.
When she met his eyes again, he used Legilimency to search for the meaning. It was their sign, a signal to snoop without discussing it. To allow for plausible deniability.
She was too skilled an Occlumens not to notice he had to search her mind for the meaning of the gesture. She excused herself to the kitchen, giving Severus the privacy he needed to examine the files.
Four were for victims, witches that had been murdered. The fifth was for a wizard by the name of Jack.
The sixth detailed an experiment he and Granger had been carrying out in the Time Room of the Department of Mysteries. An experiment that had gone wrong, and resulted in plucking a wizard out of time.
Thinking of time, Severus realized that Granger had been in the kitchen far longer than was necessary, and he couldn't hear any of the small noises that usually accompanied someone puttering about a kitchen, almost as if she had employed a Silencing Charm. Casting a quick spell to duplicate the files, he shrunk his set and put them in his pocket, and then went in search of her.
She was stooped over the sink, tears running silently down her face.
“Granger?” he asked, both irritated and concerned and then further irritated by his concern.
She started, turning to look at him, her eyes horribly red and puffy. “Don’t start, Severus. I’m not in any kind of mood. You can be horrible about it later.”
Severus pursed his lips, studying her. “You are upset that I did not remember our signal.”
She shook her head, swallowing thickly. “I’m upset because every time something like that happens, I remember my partner is gone. You aren’t my Severus.”
He was silent at that. There was nothing he could say. She was right – the man who had written her all those letters, who had worked with her so long they didn’t need to speak to understand – was gone.
“… You miss him?” he asked at length.
“Of course I miss him!” she snapped, then sniffled. Her voice catching, she said, “H-he was my b-best mate.”
Severus was uncertain, a feeling he despised. Should he embrace her? Pat her on the back? Slap her? Eventually he settled on offering her his handkerchief. “Wipe your face. You look awful.”
It was not the thing one usually says to a crying woman, but it was the best Severus had. To his surprise, in Hermione’s case it turned out to be precisely the right thing. She gave a watery chuckle, and dabbed at her eyes.
“That’s what he would have done,” she said, and then threw herself at him, wrapping her arms about his neck.
He stiffened, “Granger, this is highly inappropriate.”
“And that’s what he would have said,” she sighed, then buried her nose in his chest.
Awkwardly, Severus wrapped his arms around her and allowed himself to enjoy the moment.
He went home that night after a pleasant evening spent discussing (read: arguing about) magical theory and proceeded straight to his sock drawer. He carefully did not disturb the jeweler’s box, but he did decode and read the letters.
Hermione had signed two of them “From Paris, with love.”
He wondered what it meant.
Chapter 5: Where Eagles Dare
Hermione was sitting in Severus’ lounge when he came down the stairs in his dressing gown.
“Granger, have you no sense of propriety at all?” he barked bad naturedly, pulling his dressing gown tighter over his grey nightshirt as he moved past her into the kitchen.
“Growl at me all you want, Severus, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen you in the all together,” she replied, nose buried in a new case file.
He froze, thinking of the letters, the partnership he couldn’t remember.
From Paris, with love.
“What,” he bit out, “do you mean by that? Spy on me in the bath, do you?” he jeered once he was certain his voice would sound something approximating normal.
She turned a page. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not that desperate for male company, I’ll have you know.”
Severus deflated a little, then wondered why he cared. “Is that the new victim?” he gestured at the file as he made himself a bacon sandwich.
She gave him a long look, then came to a decision, entering the kitchen to spread grisly crime scene photos out on his dining room table. “You mustn’t let Luna or Kingsley know I’ve shown you.”
He nodded, then sat down with his sandwich and a pot of tea. He didn’t make any coffee for Granger. She presumably knew where the tin was. She could get it herself.
The splashes of red and ichor in the photos made it hard to see that the witch had ever been human at all. There was an Auror in the background of one, continually bending out the window as he sicked up his lunch.
“Mary Pims,” Granger said in the detached way of someone who had seen a lot of horror. “Found in her flat on 13 Miller’s Court in Whitechapel. Throat cut down to the spine, abdominal mutilations, most of her internal organs removed. Cuts to the face, probably made with dark magic, occurred post mortem.” She met Severus' eyes as a bit of brown sauce dribbled down the side of his chin. Making a face she handed him a napkin. “He’s started his pattern again. This is the fifth one.”
“And this Jack has been pulled out of time by one of our experiments in the Time Room. He’s from the past?” Severus mused aloud, though he knew the answer from reading the files. “Whitechapel…”
His eyes widened as he made a sudden intuitive leap. “That’s the reason they never caught him. He didn’t die, or stop killing. He was transported to our time.”
“Yes,” Hermione said grimly. “The man we’re chasing is Jack the Ripper.”
“Jack the Ripper!” Kingsley sank heavily into his office chair.
Hermione stood in the Minister of Magic’s office, Luna at her side. Snape had been made to wait in the hall while she and Luna briefed Kingsley of the full facts of the situation, much to Snape's disgust. It was comforting to Hermione that some things about him hadn’t changed. He couldn’t remember their years of partnership, but he was still the infamous Severus Snape, Super Spy.
Of course, he scowled when anyone said so.
“Ripperologists have been saying for years that he didn’t just vanish,” Luna commented dreamily. She smiled, “Now we know they were right.”
Sometimes, Hermione really wanted to wring Luna’s scrawny neck. In many ways, being recruited to the Unspeakables had been humbling for Hermione as Luna’s once outlandish and sometimes downright loony suppositions were revealed as truth.
Truth the Unspeakables kept from the public.
Hermione was woman enough to admit that she greatly enjoyed knowing things others didn’t.
“Severus and I have been experimenting in the Time Room, on – ”
Luna held up her hand, and Hermione fell silent.
“I don’t think Kingsley needs to know just yet, Hermione,” she said, drifting over to stare out the window. “Needs to be able to deny knowing and have it be true.”
Kingsley looked between them, but Hermione kept her eyes on Luna. The blonde witch didn’t look like much, but there was a reason she was Head of the Department of Mysteries. Hermione would need a powerful motivation to cross Luna, and satisfying Kingsley Shacklebolt’s curiosity just didn’t qualify.
“Bring the Professor in,” Luna said after a few moments of silence in which she appeared to be listening to the rather neglected fern sitting on top of Kingsley’s bookcase.
“You’ve just spent hours explaining why we can’t tell anyone without Level Five Clearance about this. Why bring him in now, L?” Kingsley asked, furrowing his brow as Hermione immediately went to the door to get Snape.
Luna answered in her light, airy voice as Severus entered the room, “Because he may not remember his years in the department, but he is still Unspeakable, and that is what this case needs. Someone Unspeakable.”
No one but Luna knew what she meant by that.
“You’re looking well, Professor.” Luna grasped one of Severus’ large hands in her two smaller ones, the usual way she greeted him.
“It is my understanding that I am no longer a professor, Miss Lovegood,” Severus answered.
“Yes, that’s what you always say,” she returned, her eyes crinkling at the corners. She looked much as Severus remembered, just a bit taller, a bit curvier, and she had traded in her radish earrings for a pair of bronzed eagles.
Ravenclaw pride, no doubt.
“Have Professor Snape retake the Unspeakable Examination. He’ll pass, and I’ll restore his Class Five status. Then we’ll catch Jack the Ripper,” Luna announced as if she were commenting upon the weather.
As Granger and Snape left Kingsley’s office, they could hear the Minister asking the Head of the Department of Mysteries to lunch in a much too casual tone.
“Miss Lovegood and Shacklebolt?” Severus raised an eyebrow.
“Stranger things have happened.”
He snorted. “Next you’ll tell me that the Rotfang Conspiracy she used to waffle on about is real.”
Hermione stopped, dead cold.
“The Rotfang Conspiracy was real. Luna almost lost all of her teeth stopping them, back when she was a field agent. What really happened there is a mystery, even to us. By the time the rest of the Unspeakables heard about it, Luna had been promoted to department head, and her partner had resigned.”
“Who was her partner?”
“Draco Malfoy. He’s been bald ever since,” Hermione answered, resuming her brisk pace.
Severus had absolutely no idea if Granger was having him on.
Chapter 6: True Lies
Hermione knocked on Snape’s door, a bottle of firewhiskey they had been nursing together for over a year in hand. After the sour faces he had been making every time she let herself into 221-B, as was their custom, she thought it was best to respect his newly rediscovered boundaries. It was another thing that brought home the fact that years of friendship had been erased, but Hermione determinedly put it at the back of her mind. She was going to celebrate, and she’d not let her own inability to accept Severus’ injury ruin the occasion.
After ten minutes passed with no indication at all that Severus was going to open the door, she knocked again.
When there was still no movement from inside, she became vaguely alarmed, drew her wand, and went in.
It was pitch black inside, sending a cold finger of dread down Hermione’s spine. “Lumos.”
She crept down the hall to the lounge, pausing when she found a glass shattered against the wall. Throwing caution to the wind in her panic that something else had happened to her partner, she called, “Severus?”
Stepping into the lounge, she could see his face and hands, skin faintly blue in the wandlight. “Severus!”
He opened his eyes.
Hermione’s heart hammered in her chest as she waved her wand, lighting the candles and lamps about the room. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to kiss Snape in relief, or smash his stupid face in. “What are you doing sitting here in the dark? Why didn’t you answer when I knocked?”
She didn’t ask about the broken glass. Instead she simply repaired it and promptly poured herself a glass of the firewhiskey she still held, then knocked it back in one go. It burned all the way down, making her cough and sputter, but as her neck muscles unclenched she felt it was worth it.
“Now then, Severus. Why are you in a strop? I’ve brought over the firewhiskey to celebrate your passing the Unspeakable Examination.”
His eyes darted to a book sitting on the coffee table before him, his fists clenched so hard that his knuckles turned whiter than the rest of his skin – which was quite a feat. Following his gaze, Hermione felt her heart sink. She should have thought to take it out of his house. She hadn’t considered how he would react to finding it, especially as he wouldn’t remember some of the events it discussed.
Severus had been reading his copy of The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, Revised by Rita Skeeter.
“There are three chapters about me,” he said flatly, though his eyes said more than the words ever could.
“Oh, Severus…” Hermione sighed, uncertain what to say. She went to sit next to him on the sofa, pouring another measure of firewhiskey into her glass. This time she handed it to Snape. He ignored her offer at first, but eventually frowned and took it when it became obvious she would not withdraw her hand until he did.
Hermione fidgeted with her hands as she watched him sip. This was something they had never discussed, in all their years of partnership. Severus refused to speak on the subject of Albus Dumbledore, or what had motivated him to switch sides in the war. He always said it was history, and that was how it would stay.
“Is it true?” he asked quietly after he had finished his first glass of firewhiskey. Hermione poured him another.
“Yes and no,” she answered. “The facts are there but… Rita tells them in her own way.”
She took the glass from his hand to have a few more sips herself. Neither of them conjured a second tumbler. Neither of them knew why.
“I killed him,” Severus said, pressing his lips into a thin white line. His eyes glittered with things unsaid.
He took the glass of firewhiskey back.
“Yes,” Hermione confirmed, looking at the picture of Albus on the cover of the book that had brought about the tense moment.
“Did I ever forgive him?”
She squeezed his leg. “I don’t know.”
Severus finished the firewhiskey. “I doubt that I did.”
Neither Hermione nor Severus knew whether he was speaking of Albus Dumbledore, or himself.
In the days that followed, Hermione was blissfully silent on the subject of Albus and the reasons Severus had turned to him in the first place, much to Severus’ relief. He had rather dreaded fending off inane questions at every turn whilst clutching at his temper.
But Granger did not ask, and he did not tell, and they passed several weeks in companionable, if sometimes a trifle combative, partnership.
Severus found that baiting Granger could be amusing upon occasion.
“Severus, good morning!”
He strode down the hall of the Ministry’s atrium, making his way to the lift that would take him to Level Nine, and the Department of Mysteries. The cheery morning greetings grated on his nerves, and so he ignored them. He did not recognize half of the speakers, at any rate.
When the lift stopped and announced his floor, he got off, ducked a few fluttering memos, and made his way to the lab he and Granger shared just off the Time Room. Normally (or so he had gathered) their work tables were covered in potions equipment, rune stones, references, and sensitive magical arrays designed for specific (and mysterious) purposes. But currently there were files, stacks of parchment, and moving crime scene photos everywhere – aids in their search for Jack the Ripper. Hermione was ensconced in the center of the mess, several boxes of parchment stacked around her.
“What are those?” Severus asked as he hung his cloak on a peg and moved to his customary stool across the table from Granger.
She looked up. “Our requisition to the archives and request to the Muggle police just went through. We have every official piece of paper that has anything to do with Jack the Ripper in these boxes. I’m cataloging and cross referencing now.”
Severus nodded and returned to his own work – attempting to identify the dark spells that had been used on the victims – and himself. He had yet to find an exact match for any of the damage inflicted. He would locate a reference to a likely spell, only to find that the one used was actually a shade darker, a perverted permutation. Severus was beginning to think Jack the Ripper was quite mad, in every sense of the word – even in his spellcasting.
“The Muggles think his victims were prostitutes, you know,” Hermione said conversationally. “I always did as well. It wasn’t until we got this case that I learned they were witches. The Ministry told the Muggles to say prostitute to explain why the bodies were in clothing considered odd by Muggle standards.” Her lip curled.
“I recognize that look, Granger. Has something ignited the eternal fire of righteous indignation that ever burns in your breast?” Severus raised a brow, telling himself firmly that he would not glance at Hermione’s breasts simply because he had said the word.
At that point, he really just should have counted backwards from ten.
They were very nice breasts. What he could see of them, at any rate.
“It just strikes me as in poor taste. It implies that witches dress like prostitutes, and adds insult on top of all the injury these women suffered.”
Severus pulled his gaze back to the parchment in front of him. “Men are pigs,” he agreed dryly.
Hermione snorted. “Present company excepted, of course… Most of the time.”
Severus tried not to look shifty. Fortunately, he had a lifetime of practice.
At that moment, a silvery white hare bounded through the door, stopping to hover and twitch between Hermione and Severus.
“New body found in Whitechapel,” the Patronus said in Luna’s voice, sounding unconcerned. “Another witch. Apparate as soon as you can. A Muggle found the body. Bring Obliviators.”
Severus and Hermione arrived on the scene in a crack of Apparition. Luna was already there, a gaggle of Aurors and Obliviators swarming around her as she gave them directions in her quiet, gentle way. The sound of Luna’s voice was punctuated by the screams of a hysterical woman in Muggle dress, who was shouting that they were all demons and that she was going to call the Met.
“No, don’t Obliviate her yet!” Hermione ordered, hastening over to the woman’s side, wand raised. “We need to question her first, in case she saw anything.”
Severus followed at a more sedate pace, watching as Hermione first tried reasoning with the Muggle, then casting Cheering Charms to no avail. Finally, he placed a long fingered hand on Hermione’s shoulder, gently moving her from his path. Taking the Muggle woman’s face into both his hands, he leaned in to stare into her eyes with his own unfathomable ones, so close it seemed they would kiss. She quieted under his touch, though whether it was the Cheering Charms having a delayed effect or a byproduct of the Legilimency Severus was employing, he couldn’t say.
“She saw nothing but the body,” he said as he stepped back, directing the woman into the waiting arms of the Obliviators. When he turned to look at Hermione, her arms were crossed and there were two spots of color high on her cheeks. “I will examine the corpse,” he continued, not willing to scrutinize why she was angry.
Moving briskly to the center of the crime scene where photographs were being taken, objects examined, and diagnostic spells cast, Severus got his first firsthand look at Ripper’s handiwork.
What was left of the woman’s face was frozen in an expression of anguish. Blood formed a pool around her mutilated form. There were curse wounds slashing their way down her face, her neck, her breasts – below that she was only so many scraps of meat. Raising his wand, Severus closed his eyes and silently began casting spell after spell, gathering information.
She had not been dead long. Ten hours at most. Her heart was gone, as was her uterus – torn from her.
The organs had been removed before she died.
She felt them being taken.
But why the heart? Why the uterus? Why witches? Why this witch?
They would never catch Ripper if they couldn’t answer those questions.
“Severus,” Hermione’s excited voice broke his concentration.
Opening his eyes, he looked at her, brow raised.
“Where are we?” she demanded, a gleam in her eye that made Severus’ blood quicken. “What street?”
“Osborn Street,” he answered, a certain excitement going through him. He recognized the look on Hermione’s face. It was a look that said she was about to do something absolutely brilliant.
Not that he would ever let her know he thought so.
“We have to go back to the lab,” she bossed. Turning on her heel, she Disapparated without waiting for him to reply.
It occurred to Severus that he was continually forced to toddle after Granger like a schoolboy.
Resolving that this would be the last time (though he had sworn that the last last time), he turned smartly on his heel and vanished with a crack.
He appeared in the atrium of the Ministry, proceeding quickly to the lab he shared with Hermione. She was already there, rifling through parchment with an intense look upon her face that set things below Severus’ belt to twitching. It was in moments like these - when Hermione’s face lit with the glow of her brilliance before she announced a great discovery or sudden leap in logic - that she was the most beautiful to Severus. In those moments, when she smiled at him as if she was about to hand him the world, he thought he almost loved her.
He wasn’t sure where that thought had come from. Perhaps it was a memory, bubbling to the surface. He frowned to himself, thinking of the jeweler’s box in his sock drawer. But then he had no more time for introspection – Hermione was mumbling to herself as she used her wand to send various pieces of parchment hovering around them.
“This is a survey map of the Whitechapel District of London, drawn in 1894,” she said, moving the map to float before them with a point of her wand. Another swish, and five dots appeared on the map, glowing red. “These mark the location of what is known as “The Canonical Five” – the murders that everyone agrees were done by Jack the Ripper. I should have noticed before,” Hermione mumbled under her breath. “I can’t believe I didn’t notice before.”
Severus moved closer, studying the street names of the marked locations. His eyes widened.
“He’s doing it again. Just like he did back then,” Hermione declared, noticing that Severus had seen the pattern for himself. “Hanbury Street, Buck’s Row, Berner Street, Mitre Square, and Dorset Street – we found Mary Pims’ body in her flat, which was on a little road just off Dorset Street. We found all of the other victims on the same streets as they were found in 1888. But,” she continued, her voice almost seductive with the weight of the revelation, “there is no Osborn Street among the accepted five murders.”
Severus felt his lips twitch. “But there were two other Whitchapel murders that could have been attributed to Ripper.” He stepped closer to Hermione to better see the map.
She turned to look up at him, “And one of them was on Osborn Street.” With another twist of her wand, two more red dots appeared on the map.
“And that means,” Severus began, looking at the location of the last dot.
“We know where he’s going next,” Hermione finished breathlessly. “We can set a trap.”
“George Yard,” Severus said, wetting his lips with a corner of his tongue. He was struck with a strong urge to kiss her. She was so close, her face turned up so invitingly.
“Infinity,” Hermione gasped, all the blood draining from her face.
“Immortality,” Severus sneered. “That is what he is after. He is mad, but not merely a madman. It is a dark ritual he seeks to complete. The hearts, the organs –”
“Perhaps. Or something darker still.”
“He doesn’t have to torture them. And they needn’t be young witches.” Hermione stared dully at the map. “That part he does because he likes it. Because it excites him.”
“Yes,” Severus agreed, his eyes dark as pitch.
He watched Granger study the map, suddenly realizing the sum of all his fears.
Original map from the Jack the Ripper article on wikipedia. Infinity symbol added on second map by this author.
They had been watching George Yard (now called Gunthorpe Street by the Muggles) for three days, and there was still no sign of Jack the Ripper. It made Hermione wonder if he had some way of detecting them, though they were Disillusioned.
“There’s nothing for it, Severus,” she said as twilight fell once more. “He isn’t going to show himself until he has a target. We need a witch for him to hunt.”
“Granger,” he answered in a warning tone. “No.”
Standing on tiptoe, Hermione whispered to Severus, not realizing that her lips would brush his ear, “Don’t you dare let him kill me.”
With that, she became visible once more and strolled from their hiding place down the street. She could just hear Severus mutter “insufferable Gryffindor” as she turned the corner. Despite the potential danger she walked into, she smiled to herself, unable to help it.
It was overcast, typical for London. Gunthorpe Street was not very crowded – just a few people milling about, and the occasional person walking swiftly down the footpath with some destination in mind. The street was narrow, bordered on both sides by buildings that seemed to lean against one another to remain standing. With its reputation as a meeting place for crooks and thieves, Hermione thought of it as the Muggle equivalent of Knockturn Alley. If Jack was present, and visible, they would see him. If he was Disillusioned or Polyjuiced, he would still have to reveal himself in some way if he wanted to attack a witch.
Hermione waited well into the evening, pacing up and down the street and occasionally going into the White Hart pub, her nerves taut and vibrating like harp strings, but to no avail. The only encounter she had was with a polite blonde man, who apologized profusely for jostling her, and then faded back into the background of Gunthorpe Street. If asked, Hermione would have said he was well dressed, or perhaps a bit shabby. Tall, but a little short. Handsome, but also plain.
But no one asked, and so she did not think of him, and did not realize how odd it was that she could not settle upon what he looked like.
“Let’s go back to Baker Street,” she said to Severus under the light of the moon. “We’ll try again tomorrow.”
He grabbed her arm in a firm grip that made her frown at him, but then he removed his Disillusionment Charm and she could see the worry lines on his face. Severus Snape was sweet, in his own way, even if his concern was an insult to Hermione’s abilities. She decided to be flattered that he cared enough to work himself into lather over her making a target of herself, rather than upset he doubted she could best Jack the Ripper.
She patted his hand, and then stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek, just to see the flicker of shock that always crossed his face when she was so forward. And if her heart gave a patter and her cheeks flushed red, well that was only natural and it was too dark for anyone to see.
After a bare minimum of five hours of all too precious sleep, Severus roused himself for another day of staking out Gunthorpe Street. For once, Granger wasn’t already in the lounge or kitchen when he descended the stairs. Perhaps she had realized that she had her own house, and could in fact make use of it instead of continually invading his.
He ignored the small twinge of loneliness that struck him as he passed the chair next to the goldfish tank that he had come to think of as ‘Hermione’s Chair’ without really meaning to.
Making his way into the kitchen, he made his customary bacon sandwich with brown sauce and conjured a cup of English Breakfast. It did not occur to him that something may be wrong until he had finished both the sandwich and tea. It was unusual for Hermione to leave him in peace so long – especially when they were working on an important case or experiment. He could not remember the entirety of their partnership, but just the experience of the past few weeks was enough to tell him that.
Still in his dressing gown, and finding that he didn’t care about his state of undress, Severus made a dash for 221-A.
He was relieved to see that there were no signs of a struggle. No suspicious stains, no broken furniture, no shattered glass. He let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding.
He had just turned to go up the stairs to rouse Hermione from her bed when he saw it. Sitting there, oh so innocently on the side table by the stairs, was a letter. It raised all the hairs on the back of Severus’ neck.
Meet me at George Yard immediately. It’s important.
The only problem was Severus had not written the letter.
The was a long moment of complete stillness in which he wasn’t sure if his heart had stopped beating, and then he flew into action, using spells he didn’t even know he knew but performed on instinct to dress and take off into the air, flying without a broomstick.
If Hermione had got herself murdered, he was going to kill her.
Hermione regained consciousness with a muffled groan. The inside of her mouth tasted like violets. A sleeping draught, perhaps?
She remembered Apparating to Gunthorpe Street, horribly anxious that something had happened to Severus, or that perhaps the seventh witch needed for Ripper’s ritual had been killed in their down time. And then… nothing. Just darkness and the taste of violets.
Well, the logical conclusion was she had been rendered unconscious somehow and dosed with something. Wherever she was, it was dark, and there were ropes binding her hands and feet. Most likely they were enchanted. She hoped they were. She actually stood a better chance of escaping from enchanted ropes.
She was lying on her back, staring up at the ceiling overhead. It was plaster, with exposed beams. The room was dim, though it was the early morning, due to the heavy shades pulled over the windows. Blinking to clear her vision and turning her head, Hermione realized she was laid out on one of the tables of the White Hart pub, closed for the early hours of the day.
“So stupid,” she muttered to herself, thinking of the note – the bait she had all too easily taken. If Severus had not lost his memory, she would have never believed a note not written in their code came from him. Just that the note referred to Gunthorpe Street by its old name of George Yard should have been enough to tip her off. But she had chalked the small discrepancies up to his lost years – her own mistake.
And what a very, very, incredibly stupid one it was. She had done the very thing Severus was always cautioning her against - let her feelings get in the way of the job.
If she survived, Severus was never going to let her live this down. She just knew it.
“There was once a handsome, rich, and talented young warlock,” a deep male voice sounded from the dark.
Hermione started, twisting her head until she could see the silhouette of a man who seemed vaguely familiar. “Hello, Jack,” she said as calmly as she could manage. He wanted the terror, the fear, the screams, the begging.
She would not give it to him.
Maybe it would buy her time to escape. Maybe it wouldn’t. But it was better than nothing, and if nothing else, she would die with her dignity intact.
“That isn’t my name!” he roared, spittle flying from his lips as he seemed to almost blur towards the table. Veins stood out in his neck, his face purple in his rage.
Hermione said nothing and made no sound, though she couldn’t keep herself from shivering when he reached out to touch her. He calmed, walking around her, trailing his fingers over her skin. He wore dragon-hide gloves, and a leather apron over a set of nondescript robes.
She felt bile seep up at the back of her throat.
“He observed that his friends grew foolish when they fell in love, gamboling and preening, losing their appetites and their dignity,” Ripper continued, gently grasping Hermione’s face to look into her eyes. It was so gentle, it seemed almost obscene. “The young warlock resolved never to fall prey to such weakness, and employed Dark Arts to ensure his immunity. Dark Arts, yes… Dark Arts to protect myself.”
Ripper stepped away, and to Hermione’s horror she could hear the peculiar sliding clang of a blade being drawn, all underscored by Ripper’s continual recitation of the story of the young warlock.
The muttered introduction of the tale washing over her ears again and again, Hermione gasped, then cursed herself as it drew Ripper's attention, an aroused gleam in his mad eyes. She felt as if lightning shot through her, electrifying every inch of her body in a moment of extreme clarity where time seemed to stand still. She knew what he was doing, what he was reciting.
After how important The Tales of Beedle the Bard had become to her, after all the time she put into translating the copy Dumbledore left to her, the many hours she had spent using it both to code and decode messages from Severus, she would never forget any of the stories it contained.
“Are you,” she began hesitantly, and then cleared her throat and began again. “Are you The Warlock with the Hairy Heart?”
Ripper leaned over her, a blindingly bright smile on his face. But it did not reach his eyes – they were as cold and dead as they ever were.
The Warlock's Hairy Heart told of a wizard who so despised love that he removed his own heart and placed it in a crystal casket, where it grew cold, and shriveled, and hairy. He was driven to kill and steal the heart of a witch he desired, only to be murdered in turn by his own blackened, hairy heart, for it had become a thing of twisted desire and evil impulse.
Ripper watched Hermione with reptile eyes, devoid of warmth. Perhaps Jack the Ripper really did have a hairy heart.
Severus has lovely eyes, full of life even when he tries to hide it, the thought flitted through her mind, darting among her frantically working intellect and the fear that she kept at bay. It could all be felt later, when every action wasn’t life or death.
Ripper began speaking again, the timbre and meter of his words different from before. He was no longer speaking to himself, but to Hermione. “One day a witch of prodigious skill and possessed of much gold arrived in the neighborhood to visit her kinfolk.” He raised his hands and Hermione could see that in one he held a wand, and in the other a ceremonial knife – an athame of the kind that had not been used in common practice since the age of the Founders Four. “Her beauty was such that it tugged at the heart of every man that saw her. Every man, that is, except one.” Ripper pressed the blade of his knife to her cheek, and Hermione strained her fingers, trying desperately to get a grip on the wand secured in her sleeve.
Ripper saw the movement and jerked his wand. The ropes binding Hermione’s hands and feet split, pulling her limbs spread-eagled and hoisting her in the air in front of him. “The warlock’s heart felt nothing at all,” he hissed, staring at her. For one horrible moment, his gaze reminded her of the basilisk.
“You speak well, Warlock, and I would be delighted by your attentions if only I thought you had a heart!” Hermione returned quickly, voice an octave higher than normal. She hoped playing the role of the witch in the story would buy her more time, for now she could not reach her wand and couldn’t see any other way out of her predicament.
“I have hearts!” Ripper returned, deviating from the script the fairytale provided. “Many hearts. Mother has given me her heart many times. I always find her, and she gives me her heart, many times, yes.. Many many many. You are the first, to guess who I am. I don’t know… I don’t remember… I ah… what was it Mother used to say?” he asked himself, growing more and more agitated the longer it took him to remember.
“Did your mother read you The Tales of Beedle the Bard?” Hermione asked as casually as she was able.
A visible shudder went through Ripper, his face twisting. He turned with a vicious lunge, his fist thumping into Hermione’s side. She grunted as he snarled at her, “Never mention my mother!”
It wasn’t until he withdrew the knife that Hermione realized he had stabbed her. Blood flowed from the wound, dripping onto the floor in time with her heartbeat. With the cool calculation of someone going into shock, she studied the ever growing pool, thinking it looked very, very red.
"Be a strong boy. Be a good boy. Boys don't cry. Be a strong boy and one day you'll be a Warlock. One day, yes..." Jack mumbled in his deep, rough voice. He stalked back over to Hermione, treading in her blood, to press the cold, hard point of the athame to her breast, just over her frantically beating heart. "I will be a Warlock. Seven is a magic number," he told her, as if it made complete sense. Looking up, Ripper stared openly into Hermione's face, and for just a moment, she saw the look of a lost child in his eyes.
"Are you proud of me, Mother?" he asked her.
"Yes!" Hermione asserted. "Yes! Mother loves you."
Ripper raised his knife, the child gone from his eyes. "Liar," he hissed in a voice that sounded almost like Parseltongue. "Seven times a liar."
There was a clatter outside. Hermione barely noticed, she was much too preoccupied with staring at her wound and trying to think around the fog that was quickly enshrouding her mind.
Suddenly the darkness of the pub was alight with wave after wave of curse fire and hexes. Pretty colors that confused and distracted her. Glass shattered and sunlight flooded the dim interior of the White Hart, Ripper exiting the pub through a broken window.
And then Hermione was falling, and hitting the ground hard as the ropes that held her in the air dissolved, and it seemed like it could be a good place to have a little lie down. Her eyes were so heavy, and it was so difficult to think.
And then she heard a voice, demanding to know where she was. She knew that voice.
Fighting through the haze of shock and blood loss, Hermione pushed herself up on one elbow, weakly tugging on the thong that held the Bottomless Pouch she wore around her neck. Reaching inside, she summoned the Essence of Dittany and a Wit Sharpening Solution from the kit she had begun carrying with her during the war, chugging the latter and pouring the former on her stab wound. Her head cleared almost immediately.
Able to think once more, she pulled her wand from her sleeve and pushed herself to her feet, limping in the direction of the wandfight, a hand pressed into her side to stem the flow of blood while the dittany did its work.
She emerged onto Gunthorpe Street just in time to see Severus fling away a curse Ripper had cast and return fire in a rather dashing display that whipped his dark hair about his face and made his robes billow dramatically. “My hero,” she muttered, irritated at having to be rescued. With a certain feeling of cold satisfaction, she leveled her wand at Ripper’s back and said, “Stupefy.”
Severus was at her side in an instant, mouth open to bawl at her when he noticed the blood seeping through her robes. She found herself hoisted into strong arms, her face pressed into Severus’ chest. She could hear his heart beating a wild tattoo, and wondered if it was because of the duel he just fought, or because of his feelings for her.
But no, Hermione reminded herself. They were just partners. That’s all they ever would be. No matter what she thought about in moments of idle fancy…
“Don’t worry Sheverus,” she slurred, the blood loss making her tongue thick, as if she were drunk. “You can scold me later.” She frowned at the sound of her own voice. The Wit Sharpening Solution had cleared her head, given her a momentary burst of strength, but she had still lost a great deal of blood and her body was reacting accordingly.
“You bloody idiot,” was all Severus managed before he worked his jaw silently, as if there were simply too many things he wanted to say and he couldn’t decide which to say first.
Hermione rested her head against his chest, not noticing when he fidgeted or the brief flush of his skin. “Don’t let Jack get away,” she ordered. “I want to watch him get the Dementor’s Kiss.”
Severus took a moment to perform a quick Incarcerous to ensure Ripper wasn’t going anywhere. “That’s unusually bloodthirsty of you, Granger.”
“He deserves it,” she returned a bit fustily, her eyes fluttering closed before snapping open again.
Severus went completely still. Hermione could feel the muscles in his arms and chest tensing. “What did he do to you?” he asked, face suddenly chiseled from stone.
Hermione smiled a dazed smile and reached up to pat Severus’ cheek. “Not what he did to me, Severus,” she answered, taking great care to pronounce his name properly. “It’s what he did to you. I almost killed him. But then I thought I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.”
Severus was silent, stunned.
Hermione’s head tipped forward, and Severus blinked, gently shaking her. “Stay awake, Hermione. Miss Lovegood will arrive soon with Aurors and Unspeakables. You must stay awake until then.”
Finding a relatively clean stretch of the footpath, he sat, Hermione awkwardly arranged in his lap. He adjusted her until he could examine her side, prodding the knife wound with long fingers. She hissed at him, going a funny shade of white-green with the pain of it before leaning over to be sick all over the pavement. Severus calmly held her steady, even holding her hair back with one hand.
“Thank you,” she squeaked once she could speak again, her vision going black at the edges. Focusing on his face, she said in a hoarse whisper, “This is why I love you,” then promptly passed out, going completely limp in his arms.
The lines of narration and the one line of dialog that Ripper and Hermione recite are from "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" in The Tales of Beedle the Bard. It is speculated that "The Warlock's Hairy Heart" is actually about the first Horcrux that was ever made.
Chapter 9: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Severus was sitting at Hermione’s bedside when she awoke.
“Where?” she asked, her mouth dry.
“You are in St. Mungo’s,” Severus answered. “The athame Ripper stabbed you with was cursed. You are lucky to be alive.” Rage boiled in the depths of his eyes, in the tension of his jaw. “You have been unconscious for several days.”
"Ripper, is he -"
"He is in Azkaban, awaiting trial. Unfortunately, his barrister is doing quite a job ensuring that his trial never occurs."
Hermione frowned, "Mental incompetence?"
"Something like that, yes. I doubt they will have trouble proving he is quite mad. It seems he has contracted some sort of deficiency of the brain associated with the consumption of human flesh."
Hermione blanched. "Like in the story. He ate what he took from them, the women." She frowned, deeply disillusioned with the justice system that she found hard to believe in at moments like these. "So he'll live then."
"Yes," Severus practically growled, face full of black thunder. "Surrounded by Dementors, but he will live."
“Severus, have you slept?” Hermione asked, reaching out to touch his hand.
He didn’t pull it away.
“It is an Unspeakable Regulation, is it not? My partner was injured.”
She smiled at him weakly and there was some unspoken, frankly unspeakable something between them.
Hermione looked away.
Pushing off her covers, she stood.
“What do you think you are doing, Granger?”
“I’m going home,” she said incredulously. “I’m fine now.”
Severus smirked, “You have been admitted for a curse wound. The Healers won’t let you go until they are certain you have been cleansed unless your next of kin takes charge of you.”
Hermione huffed at him. “Really, Severus, sometimes I think you enjoy irritating me far too much. Go on then, go fill out my discharge papers. I’m sure you’ve discovered you have power of attorney by now.”
Suddenly serious, he met her eyes, prepared to use Legilimency if necessary to get a straight answer. “Why? Why me? As you pointed out, I do not have anyone but you. But you… why me, why not Potter, or Weasley?”
Hermione stared at him for a long moment, and then said simply, “For the same reason you gave power of attorney to me. We’re partners.”
Severus frowned, then reached into his robes, pulling out a sheaf of parchment and a jeweler’s box. “I kept your letters. All of them. They were with this, in my sock drawer.”
“Your sock drawer?” she raised a brow, but then reached for the letters, and the box, her hand trembling slightly in a way that had nothing to do with her recent injuries.
“You signed two of them with ‘From Paris, with love.’ Why?”
“It was a joke of ours. That’s all. Just a joke, having to do with a Muggle film we liked to watch together, Casablanca.”
Relentless, Severus pressed onwards, “You said something to me before you passed out. Do you remember what it was?”
Hermione flushed red, revealing that she did indeed remember, though she opened her mouth and said, “No.”
“Do. Not. Lie. To. Me,” Severus scowled, pushing at her mental barriers with a flash of his eyes.
He had not slept in days. Not since waking to find Hermione gone. Not since holding her bleeding in his arms, and knowing that if she did not wake he would tear Jack the Ripper limb from limb and it would still not be enough.
Not since hearing her say she loved him, and spending hours going in unproductive circles of hoping it was true and convincing himself it was a side effect of shock.
Uncaring that Hermione had just woken after recovering from a curse wound, uncaring that he would seem a bully to anyone observing from without, Severus pressed onward, determined to know once and for all.
“What do you want me to say, Severus?!” Hermione exploded under his onslaught. “That I love you? That I’ve loved you for years and thought you would never be interested because every time I touch you, you push me away and tell me I’m inappropriate? That I compare every man I go out with to you? That you not remembering our partnership, at the very least, is killing me?”
She began to weep, and Severus hated her tears.
“And now you’ve made me tell you, and ruined everything. I expect you’ll put in a request for a transfer in the morning. Well I won’t let you avoid me! I won’t. Do you hear me, Severus Snape? I will not be avoided because you couldn’t leave well enough alone!”
Severus kissed her.
It was hot, passion fraught, and tasted of salt and her lips. She clutched at his robes, and he slid his arms around her, moaning into her mouth at the feeling of her breasts pressed to his chest.
“Your wounds,” he murmured after a moment in which neither of them felt the need to breathe.
“I have been waiting years for this,” she almost growled in response. “I shan’t let a minor stab wound get in my way now.”
Eyes dark with lust, Severus pressed another teasing kiss to her lips. “I’ll get your discharge papers.”
When they returned to Baker Street, they went first to 221-B. Severus wanted his potions equipment nearby in case Hermione was overestimating her rate of healing.
After a few hours of her enthusiastically proving that she was indeed well, Severus stopped worrying about her wounds and became vaguely concerned about his stamina. Fortunately his potions equipment was equally useful in that regard, so they were able to continue enjoying themselves until Severus announced that she had knackered him and they would have to stop for food.
They had bacon sandwiches with brown sauce. In a fit of chivalry, Severus even brewed coffee for Hermione, though he was vehement that he would not have any. It was the best coffee she had ever had, so she used the renewed energy it granted her to reward him. Multiple times.
So thoroughly engrossed in themselves were they that they completely neglected to use Silencing Charms. Several passersby stopped to show interest in the Sherlock Holmes Museum, thinking there was a special exhibit on The Hound of the Baskervilles.
It was not until the next day when they had moved on to 221-A that Hermione remembered the jeweler’s box that Severus had thrust at her in her room at St. Mungo’s. Fetching it from her Bottomless Pouch (which had somehow ended up hanging from the chandelier in the dining room), she opened it.
Inside was a ring. A modestly cut diamond on a white gold band. The inscription read simply “Partners Eternally.”
“Severus?” she said as he came into the room, tears gathering in her eyes.
“I bought it before the spell damage – ” he began.
“Oh,” Hermione said, her heart sinking like a stone.
“But that does not mean you shouldn’t have it,” Severus finished gruffly.
“Oh!” Hermione said, her heart soaring like a dove.
Severus ruined the lovely moment by asking if she’d like another shag. The man really couldn’t get enough of her breasts.
It was utterly unromantic, and utterly Severus Snape, and exactly what Hermione wanted. Though she scrunched up her nose and pretended to bawl him for being crude, in reality she couldn't be happier.
For Severus' part, he felt he had rediscovered his identity. He would never recover the memories that had been taken from him, but in the end it didn't matter. He was still Severus Snape.
And Hermione Granger loved him.
And that was enough.
One year, five experiments, two field missions, and 1, 918 cups of tea later
“Careful Snape,” Hermione cautioned as they approached a sumptuously appointed dining hall.
“Careful yourself, Snape,” Severus answered, sliding a large hand around her waist.
He stooped without her having to ask, eyes trained on the door to the hall as she straightened his collar. Severus stood as Hermione double checked her own appearance, and then they crept closer, Severus slightly in the lead.
They moved easily together, her arm threaded through his, quietly and stealthily making their way to the doorway. Once at the threshold, Severus let out a long sibilant sigh of air that could have been nothing more than the wind, pausing until he heard Hermione repeat the sound.
They were both ready.
With a twist of his wrist and a fortifying breath, Severus pulled the door open and they were both moving through a crowd of people waiting to shout wedding congratulations to them. A red stream of rose petals grazed by Severus’ cheek, and he turned, catching sight of Draco Malfoy wearing a cheeky grin.
“Do make this easier on yourself, mate.” Harry Potter materialized at Severus’ side, holding one of his mewling brats on his hip. “You’ve nowhere left to go.”
He could hear Hermione talking near the punch bowl, and was moving back toward her when the door to his right practically exploded from the hinges, and Molly Weasley bustled through, heading straight for him.
He had time only to look up and see red heads of hair converging on his location and hear Hermione’s laughter before he found himself surrounded by Weasleys.
It was a great relief when Miss Lovegood drifted by on Kingsley Shacklebolt’s arm to absentmindedly inform him that Eros had escaped from the Love Room in the Department of Mysteries, and Unspeakables Snape and Snape were needed to deal with it right away.
End of Report
Only Class Five Unspeakables Are Permitted Access to this File
Firstly, a great big thank you to serendipity513, the moderator of the exchange, for pushing me into doing this. I really did have buckets of fun. Also thanks to my betas, who closed up a few plot holes, and to my husband and brother in law for britpicking (and refraining from taking the piss). Yet more thanks to everyone on the various HP writer's resources I used who took the time to answer my questions about specialized capitalization and the occasional British phrase my britpicking team was unsure about. <3 Particularly those over at hp_britglish.
The title of the fic and each chapter title is a reference to a spy movie. All of them are the actual title of the movie, save “The Snape Identity” which is a reference to “The Bourne Identity” and “Mr. & Mrs. Snape” which is a reference to “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”
Hermione being unable to give an accurate account of Ripper’s looks is a reference to the fact that eye witness accounts of him were incredibly varied and unreliable.
All Jack the Ripper info is based on what I could find on Wikipedia, and what I remember from the Ripper Tour in London.
221-A and 221-B Baker Street are based on my memory of having been there.
I have always seen Unspeakables as researchers and spies, a lot like MI6. It has been pointed out to me that they may be only scientists of a sort, but for the purposes of this fic, I went with my original impressions of them.
Thank you for reading! As this was my first foray in to the world of SS/HG, I would appreciate reviews, if you have the time. ^_^