Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter.
Forget Me Not
She was gone. For seven days no one had heard from Hermione Granger-Snape. Albus and Minerva walked through the castle with worried looks on their faces, not wanting to believe that the worst had happened. They sent out owls asking after her, trying to find anyone who had seen her after she left Harry and Ron at the Three Broomsticks. They Flooed her friends and family, always hoping that the next person would be someone who had spoken to her. But no one had heard from her.
Severus believed the worst had happened as well—not that she had been hurt or taken by anyone, but that she had simply left. He never knew what possessed her to marry him in the first place, but every morning he was surprised to see her still sleeping next to him.
Some thought it characteristically cold of him to abandon the search so early; Potter had accused him of not loving her enough to care. But in fact quite the opposite was true. Looking for her might mean finding her and he couldn't bear the thought of seeing her with another man or even alone, but simply having decided it was too much to live with him anymore.
So, instead he continued on as if nothing had happened, the only evidence of his distress was his increased consumption of firewhisky and brandy at night. He sat marking first year exams when McGonagall called to him from the fireplace
"We've found her, Severus," she said. "They're taking her to the hospital wing now."
He didn't respond but threw down his quill and papers and rushed out of the room. 'If they are taking her to the infirmary, then that must mean she has been hurt,' he thought as he strode through the corridors, students quickly moving to the side to make room for him.
Fear rose up in him as he imagined what might have happened to her, but it was quickly replaced with relief. Was it horribly wrong of him to be glad that she had been hurt, that that was the reason why she had been missing for over seven days? The only other explanation was one he had been desperately trying to avoid.
Turning a corner, he met Hagrid and Hermione on their way to see Madam Pomfrey.
"Where have you been?" he hissed, grabbing her by the arms.
"I…was…," she stammered. She looked dazed and her robes were disheveled and dirty, like she had been wearing the same thing for days. He didn't wait for her answer but pulled her close in a crushing hug.
"I found 'er walkin round the lake, Professor Snape," Hagrid explained. "She seemed a bit confused so I thought it best to take 'er to the hospital."
"Thank you, Hagrid, I'll see her the rest of the way." He wrapped one arm around her waist and guided her up the stairs.
"Are you hurt?" he asked as they walked.
"No," she answered hesitantly. "Please, Professor, I think I'll be fine. I just need some rest."
"It won't hurt to let Poppy take a look at you. You look like you could use some Pepperup Potion and a couple days sleep."
He didn't ask again where she had been. She wasn't hurt like he thought, but that didn't matter. She had come back, and there was no need to ask why she had left. If he was lucky, he would send her off to bed with a kiss and a cup of tea, and all would be well in the morning. He would snarl at his students and the rest of the world, and she would smile and tell him he was underappreciated.
Arriving in the infirmary, he stepped back and let Madam Pomfrey work her magic. Albus and Minerva burst in moments later.
"Did she say where she has been?" Minerva asked hurriedly.
"No," he snapped. "And I didn't ask. I was too concerned about her health to overwhelm her with annoying questions."
"Annoying questions? Severus, she's been missing for seven days and you're not the least bit curious about where she's been?"
"I don't care as long as she's back," he growled. He wished Poppy would hurry up so they could return to their rooms. Minerva irritated him, and he hated the sterile antiseptic smell that every hospital wing and infirmary seemed to emit.
A sharp cry rang through the room, and he could hear Hermione growing anxious and upset from behind the curtain that shielded her. He stepped forward to go to her, to comfort her, but Pomfrey came around the divider and pushed him back.
"Perhaps you should talk to her, Headmaster," the mediwitch suggested. Albus slipped behind the curtain and he could hear Hermione calming down.
"I want to see her," Severus demanded.
"That's not a good idea right now."
"What's happened?" Minerva asked.
"It seems Mrs. Snape has lost her memory," Poppy told them with a worried look in her eye.
"What does she remember?" Minerva asked.
"Not much past her sixth year in school. It appears as if someone tried to Obliviate her but somehow botched the job."
"She called me Professor on the way here," Severus said, his stomach sinking.
"She got quite agitated when I tried to explain things to her," Poppy explained.
'So that was what she had been crying about,' he realized. She had just been told that she was the wife of Professor Snape. He didn't know if he should reach for his wand and start hexing everything in sight or if he should return directly to his room and drown himself in a bottle of brandy.
"Is there anything you can do?" Minerva asked. Severus was suddenly glad for her presence where before he had been irritated. She had at least the presence of mind to ask sensible questions. Maybe there was hope.
"What is that supposed to mean?" he practically spat at her.
"Obliviating someone is a tricky business, that's one reason why it's so carefully monitored by the Ministry. There's often no way of reversing the effects without doing serious damage in the process. Sometimes, though, the memories come back on their own, given enough time. We'll just have to wait and see," she explained. Albus returned from behind the curtain.
"I think a strong sleeping potion might be just what she needs right now," the headmaster told the nurse. She nodded and moved to the cabinet to retrieve a bottle of Dreamless Sleep.
"What did she say to you, Albus?" Severus asked brusquely.
"She informed me that you greeted her quite enthusiastically. She seems to think that you have developed an inappropriate attachment to her, though she assures me that you have not acted indecently in any way…yet."
"Inappropriate attachment, I'm her husband!"
"And she believes herself still to be a student. From her perspective you are acting a bit odd."
Severus had thought that the worst that could have happened was that she left him, but with a sinking feeling, he realized that this was much, much worse. His wife hadn't left him; she had been stolen from him.
He might have one day gotten used to the idea that she was gone, leaving him with only bittersweet memories of their time together. He might have rid his rooms of her things, trying to deny she had ever been there. Or perhaps he would have kept them, building a small but still pathetic shrine to what they had once been.
But to have her here, to see her everyday, without her remembering, that could prove crippling. He remembered what his life was like before Hermione, and he didn't like it. He didn't think he could return to a time when she thought of him as nothing more than her greasy, sarcastic Potions master. He had a war to distract him then, but what now?
"What am I supposed to do?" he asked.
"Let her sleep. She is going to need all of her strength to face this. She has ten years of catching up to do starting tomorrow."
Severus had no choice but to leave. Hermione didn't want to see him and Poppy had finally snapped at him, accusing him of getting in her way. He returned to their rooms, despondent and depressed. Pouring himself a glass of firewhisky, he sat on the sofa and stared into the fire. He had passed every night she had been missing in the same fashion, after having discarded the pile of essays to mark. He had been unable to sleep or concentrate on anything knowing that she was out there somewhere, with someone else. Now, he realized that she had been with someone else, someone who had hurt her, had stolen ten years from her, and he had done nothing.
He glanced around the room as the alcohol took its desired effect. Everywhere he looked, he saw evidence of her and how she had taken over his life. Gone were the green and silver befitting the Head of Slytherin House, replaced instead with soft beiges and creams. It had been their first compromise. Still pictures of her Muggle family and friends littered the mantle, next to pictures of the Weasleys, Order members, and the bane of his existence, Harry Potter. Knickknacks covered every surface, each one a memory, now painful to think about. He stumbled around the room, picking things up at random.
"You can use it as a paper weight!" she told him enthusiastically. He regarded the conch shell suspiciously. "And if you put it close to your ear you can hear the ocean."
"If I had wanted to hear the ocean then I would have gone with you on your little seaside holiday."
He hadn't gone with her on that trip. He hated the beach; the sand invading every crevice of his body and the insistence of others that he remove his layers of clothing. Potter and Weasley had gone with her and she had returned relaxed and reddened from the sun. She traveled a lot, during her holidays, as well as in her role as an Auror. Sometimes he went with her, but most often, he stayed at Hogwarts, wondering if this time would be the time she didn't come home. But she always had and usually bearing some sort of gaudy gift to let him know that she had been thinking of him.
"It reminded me of you," she said, presenting him with a round figurine.
"I remind you of a rotund Russian woman?" he asked sarcastically.
"No, not that part. This part," she said with a smile, opening the little woman to reveal a replica inside, this one slightly smaller. That one opened as well, another figurine hidden within. "You have so many layers. I had to keep peeling back one after another until I found you!" She punctuated the end of her speech by opening the last figurine, showing him a miniature version of the first.
Sitting back down on the couch, he clutched the doll in his hand. It was much easier getting to the center of this doll than it was getting to him, but somehow Hermione had managed it. He fell asleep hours later, his glass still perched precariously in one hand and the figurine in the other.
After a quick swallow of a hangover potion the next morning, Severus returned to the infirmary, collecting Hermione and escorting her back to their rooms. He tried not to notice her slow and reluctant steps as they neared the dungeons, but when she stopped he lost all patience with her.
"Are you coming or not?" he snapped.
"Professor, I…are you sure there hasn't been some sort of misunderstanding?" she asked. The confident, self-assured woman he had married had been reduced to the hesitant, quivering wreck standing before him. Even as a first year, she hadn't been this frightened of him, of course, she hadn't been faced with the prospect of living with him then either. He glared at her.
"There has been no misunderstanding," he said evenly, trying to check his anger. He wasn't angry at her, but at the situation they had been placed in, and at the person or people who had placed them in it. If it took the rest of his miserable life, he would hunt down the miscreants who had stolen the one thing that had given him joy in his life.
He took her by the arm when he realized she wouldn't move on her own volition.
"I don't bite," he told her as he ushered her through the painting that covered the entrance to their apartments. He took her things and began putting them away while she wandered around the rooms, occasionally picking things up and then putting them down.
"You have a lot of books," she said with admiration in her voice.
"Most of them are yours."
"Oh, of course," she said, placing a volume of Shakespeare back on the shelf. "Then these are really our rooms?"
"Look around, Hermione. Do you really think I would have muggle literature on my shelves, pictures of Potter and Weasley on the mantle, or knickknacks?"
"I guess not," she admitted. She sat down on the couch, looking uncomfortable. He sat down in the chair opposite her, feeling much the same way she looked. What were they supposed to do now?
"How much do you remember?" he asked. It seemed the most logical question even if he was terrified by what she might answer.
"I remember leaving school at the end of sixth year. My parents died in a car crash this summer, and I live with the Weasleys for the moment. I was shopping in Hogsmeade when Draco Malfoy started giving me a hard time and then the next thing I know I'm here and everyone is telling me that I'm married to you."
"And that's so hard for you to believe?" he snapped.
"Honestly, yes," she retorted. The shyness she had in the hallway vanished and her razor sharp tongue returned. Potter and Weasley had admitted once that she had always been like that, though living with him had only honed her ability to come back with a sarcastic remark.
"You're the man who for as long as I can remember hasn't wasted an opportunity to humiliate or degrade me, preferably in front of others, but alone as well. You have never hid your extreme distaste for my origins, my House, or my choice in friends. But suddenly I'm supposed to believe that somehow you got over all that and more to the point fell in love and proposed to me. And that I agreed!"
She said everything he had hoped she wouldn't, bringing up every ugly facet of his past behavior towards her. He had often wondered the same things before.
"If the thought of being my wife is that distasteful to you, perhaps you should just leave," he said standing.
"Where will I go? Back to the Weasley's?" Her voice carried both her anger and her fear.
"I don't care," he said coldly, leaving the room. He locked himself in his office and poured himself a stiff drink. If things continued in this manner he would soon be an alcoholic.
When he ventured out again, she was gone. He hadn't really expected her to stay after their argument, but he had hoped. The same hope, that she would be there the next morning when he went to sleep or that she would come home after she left for a trip, surfaced again. He didn't need others to tell him that he didn't deserve her, he knew that.
He sat staring mindlessly into the fire when he heard a knock on the door. The Headmaster didn't wait for an invitation, but came in. Severus acknowledged him with a glance and motioned for him to sit.
"Hermione is with Minerva, if you care to know," Dumbledore told him.
"Is she?" he said nonchalantly. He said a silent prayer of thanks that she hadn't gone to the Weasley's. He would have never been able to convince Molly to release her back to him after hearing the horrible way he had treated her. They already considered him a monster for not looking for her when she first disappeared.
"She was quite upset. She told Minerva that you told her to leave."
"I might have said something like that," he admitted, pinching the bridge of his nose. Thinking about what he had said to her gave him a headache.
"Severus, she needs you."
"The last person she needs right now is me. I know I'm the last person she wants at the moment."
"Well do you blame her after your behavior this morning?" the older man asked. The accusation in his voice stung.
"That girl is not my wife. She doesn't see me as her husband but as her greasy Potions professor who liked to insult her in class. Everyone said she was throwing her life away on me. Well now she has a chance for a fresh start, and I say let her have it. I won't stand in her way."
"That woman is your wife and she needs you more than ever. You promised to support her 'in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.'"
"She doesn't want me," Severus argued.
"No," Dumbledore said firmly. "She doesn't remember that she wants you. There is a big difference. You have to help her remember."
"And how do I do that?" he asked skeptically.
"By courting her, wooing her, showing her why she married you in the first place."
"But I don't know why she married me," he protested.
"Then I suggest you prove to her why you married her." Standing up, the old man put his hand on Severus' shoulder. "Marriage is a two-way street, my boy. It's time to give back. I'll send her back down after dinner tonight. I know you will do the right thing." And then he was gone.
Severus stared into the fire, contemplating Albus' words. For seven years, he had leaned on Hermione for love and support. And when she had desperately needed him, he had played the coward, turning his scathing sarcasm on the one person who had seen through it before. The man she loved was buried deep beneath years of mistrust and mistreatment and now he would have to dig him out and prove to her that he was worthy. She had made him believe it once, now it was his turn to convince her.