Written for the Winter 2006 SSHG exchange.
Theory Behind a Kiss
Hermione Granger had a theory. It had first entered her mind close to a year before Voldemort had died, on the very night that Dumbledore himself had been killed. During that long, hard year afterwards, she had kept it as just a tickle in her head—something to perhaps swat around while trying to go to sleep, something that sometimes showed up in her dreams. But because of the company she kept and the nature of the mission they were on, she never mentioned it to anyone. To do so would at worst have split the trio, at best, been an unneeded distraction. So she kept her mouth shut but never her mind. In the end, the trio had become a duo anyways, after a Dementor, under the thrall of the Dark Lord, had Kissed away Ron's life just before Harry had finally killed Tom Riddle.
After she had properly mourned her first love and started picking up with her life, she had thought to finally share this theory with someone, but then the news came: the traitor had been captured. Severus Snape had turned himself in in exchange for amnesty for Draco Malfoy and his mother. She was proud that when Harry broke the news to her she hadn't betrayed her true emotions: panic, then horror, followed by frustration when she wasn't allowed to visit the prisoner. Even an Order of Merlin, First Class didn't allow you to go anywhere or do anything you pleased. Especially not when it came to the "Dark Traitor", as people had started calling him.
Despite his grievous transgressions, the Ministry still hadn't decided what to do with him. Death was deemed too merciful. The Dementor's Kiss is what they would have liked to have given him, but no Dementors remained after Voldemort's defeat. It appeared that when the Dark Lord had died, all the Dementors had simply vanished along with him. So for the time being, according to officials, the former spy sat in solitary within Azkaban. Human guards watched him at all times, but he never saw them. A tiny cell decorated only by an unbreakable mirror and bread and water was all he was given. The unspoken hope was that he would go mad so that the Ministry would be able to announce that punishment had been served to Severus Snape.
In the meantime, Hermione had sought out Professor Flitwick with the hope to study for her N.E.W.T.S while apprenticed under him so that she would be able to skip the first year of university.
"My dear, are you sure that's wise? After all, the War has just finished. Wouldn't you prefer to spend some more time away from school and enjoy yourself?"
"But Professor Flitwick, it's school that I enjoy! Don't you see, more than anything else this past year, it's my education that I've been deprived of. Please say you'll be my mentor." A tone of desperation crept into her voice despite her desire not to sound too emotional. After having taught students for several decades, Filius recognized when someone needed a healthy distraction and decided to humor his favorite student so that at least he could prevent her from finding an unhealthy one.
"Of course I will. Who would ever turn away Hermione Granger as their apprentice?"
"Thank you so much, Professor! And I already know what I'd like to do my research in."
Flitwick chuckled kindly. "I suppose I would have been surprised if you didn't. Now tell me, what is it you're so interested in learning?"
"I'd like to find a charm to replace the Dementor's Kiss."
And only because she was looking for it did Hermione see the flash of concern that passed over her professor's face. It was quickly hidden behind a mask of mild interest, but she had caught it.
"I see. Now why would you be interested in something so…nefarious? After all, Mr. Weasley..."
"It has nothing to do with him; it's for the Dark Traitor," she interjected. "He's just sitting there in Azkaban, and I..." She glanced down at her fidgeting hands before looking back up again.
"Don't you ever think back to that night, Professor? When he ran out of his office and left Luna and I to look after you? I keep wondering what might have happened if only we had stopped him, if only..."
"Please, Miss Granger. When you have lived as long as I have, you learn not to look back too often at things that could have been."
"I understand, sir, but I can't help it. And now I can't help but think that if only justice could be served, it might help bring closure. Please, I don't want to spend the rest of my life dwelling on this…."
Professor Flitwick looked searchingly into Hermione's eyes. After a time of consideration, he sighed and consented.
"I do not believe you'll find happiness even if you are successful, but I find I cannot deny you what you ask."
"Thank you, again, Professor. I promise not to let you down."
"No, I don't think you will."
For the next six months Hermione worked at a furious pace. If she wasn't studying for a particular N.E.W.T., she was in the school library looking for new leads into how to perfect the spell she was working on. Professor Flitwick turned out to be a great deal of help, often suggestion new directions or steering her away from wrong ones.
"I'm not sure this is what you want, Miss Granger. This would cause the spell caster to drain not only the target's soul but merge his memories with yours, most likely leading to madness. I can't have the best wizarding mind in Britain losing her sanity now, can I?"
"No, of course not, Professor. Thank you for your help." Hermione set the book aside and reached for another one. "Now what do you think about this…?"
Another time when she was trying to figure out how to contain the soul after it had been released from the body, Flitwick had explained to her how unnecessary the step was. "Only two things are known to be able to contain a soul: a living body and a Horcrux, the latter of which can only hold a part of a soul."
"What happens when a Dementor Kisses someone then?"
"The Kissed soul, once freed from its human host, simply dissipates into nothingness."
"But I thought…I'm sorry Professor," she said as she blushed. "I was concerned that my physical proximity at the time of the Kiss might prove to be a risk. What if instead of dissipating, his soul enters my body?"
"Now, now, Miss Granger. I'm sorry that thought ever crossed your mind. I should have made it known to you earlier; one soul cannot enter another body which already houses a soul unless it is invited."
"Well that's a relief. Thank you, Professor."
Finally it was time to test out the charm. Unfortunately, her first try was going to have to be on the Dark Traitor himself. It wasn't like there were any willing subjects, and the Ministry had decreed that if anything were to go wrong, they would prefer to lose the prisoner (and conveniently be able to blame another party). They were tired of waiting for Snape to go mad.
Not that most people thought anything would go wrong; she was Hermione Granger, after all. Of course she would be able to do anything she set her mind to doing. Nor was anyone surprised at what she was attempting to do; most just wished they would have been able to do it themselves.
The Daily Prophet wanted to be present, but Hermione would have none of that. She requested that only Professor Flitwick and she be there during the experiment, citing the dangerous nature of her spell. Her request was denied; even the Minister of Magic wanted to be there when the Dark Traitor was finally Kissed. She appealed, this time asking her mentor to ask on her behalf. Her request was granted.
She thought she would have been prepared for seeing Snape again but never had she imagined the condition she found him in. Were it not for the shallow rise and fall of his chest, she might have thought he was a corpse. He was emaciated almost beyond recognition, and his formerly black hair, though still lank and stringy, had turned completely gray. His eyes were closed, which she counted as lucky, for she was afraid of what she might find if they had been open.
Before she crossed the magical boundary shielding their presence from him, she turned back towards her companion. "Professor, did you know…?"
"No, I had no idea. Even for the Dark Traitor this is appalling."
Hermione sighed. "I suppose I'll have to wake him, won't I?"
"Yes. Don't worry. I'll be right here if you need me."
She crossed the threshold with her wand out at ready. Despite his appearance, she didn't want to be caught unawares by the notoriously dangerous man.
"Prof—Mister Snape. Wake up."
Severus' eyes opened at once. He looked at her in confusion, and she found it impossible to say anything just then.
"You. What are you doing here?" His voice was clearly unused to speaking out loud but had lost none of its former intimidation.
Flitwick cleared his throat beside them, and he shifted his gaze. Formerly bewildered eyes narrowed with suspicion. Before he could speak again, Hermione rushed to say, "Severus Snape, you have been charged with treason and murder and sentenced to living death by a Dementor's Kiss." He directed his glare back to her.
"I repeat, what are you doing here? Don't you think I already know my own sentence? Horribly inconvenient for the Ministry that their former method of doing away with their worst criminals has vanished along with the Dark Lord, isn't it?"
"Your Dark Lord, Severus. And I dare say, it may be even more inconvenient for you that my apprentice here has found a way to replicate the Dementor's Kiss herself," replied Flitwick.
Disbelief fought with the slightest glimmer of hope in his eyes. "Is this true, Miss Granger?"
"Yes it is, sir."
He snorted. "There's no need for manners anymore, Miss Granger.
"Then you might as well call me Hermione, Severus."
The newfound respect in his eyes was marred by the sneer on his lips. "Touché." Again, Hermione found herself frozen under his gaze.
"That's enough, Severus. Miss Granger, it is time."
Snape blinked, and the spell was lost. Hermione drew a deep breath. I'm sorry for this, she thought at him. I wish I didn't have to do this. She raised her wand and pointed it at her mouth.
"Peris Basium Vos Intereo," she intoned. A coldness descended upon her lips and quickly spread through the rest of her body.
"Quickly, Miss Granger. You cannot afford to wait."
She heard her mentor speaking to her, but already her body was reacting on its own to the spell. She found her hands moving towards the gaunt face in front of her without her guidance. They gently cupped his sunken cheeks and brought his lips closer to hers. Instead of fear in his eyes, all she saw was relief, and peace. I'm sorry, she thought again as her head angled so that their lips could meet. They touched, and the last thought that was her own was another I'm sorry.
The coldness was immediately replaced with a scorching heat. Shocked, Hermione took an involuntary step back and dropped the now lifeless body in her hands.
What did you do? What did you do?!
His voice was so loud she automatically cupped her ears, but it did no good.
You stupid girl! You've gotten the spell wrong and now…
"Miss Granger!" She heard no more as she lost consciousness and fell.
When she regained consciousness again, it was to the biggest headache she had ever felt in her life. Even her eyelids were too heavy to lift. What happened…?
I'll tell you what happened, you've messed up that spell of yours, and instead of killing me, you've trapped me in your own body!
What makes you think I messed up the spell? she thought back indignantly.
Of course you messed up the spell, how else would you explain…?
The silence that followed was such a respite that she remained quiet and relished the moment, which didn't last as long as she would have liked it to.
You mean to tell me you did this on purpose?! Well congratulations, Miss Granger, you've succeeded in torturing me even more than what I received in the Dark Lord's service and Azkaban combined.
Please, let me explain…
Seeing as how I have no other choice, please, explain away. Even without any visual prompts, Hermione could imagine his sneer very clearly from his voice.
I have a theory. Although she had practiced this speech many times in her own head, now, knowing that Snape was listening to it made it sound much less concrete. I don't think you're guilty for killing Professor Dumbledore.
Unbelievable. Next you'll say you're in love with me.
What? I never…
Well I can assure you, it was me who cast the Killing Curse on Albus.
If you'll let me explain, I never said you didn't. I just said you weren't guilty.
Silence. Good, now I have his attention.
I can still hear you, Miss Granger.
Fine, then listen to the rest of what I have to say: that night when Luna and I were guarding your office door and saw Professor Flitwick run in—we heard a thump, and then you ran out. But what I never told anyone was that I'm certain someone Obliviated me between those two events. When he didn't comment, she continued. I ran in, didn't I? I ran in and saw something I shouldn't have seen, and then someone Obliviated me.
Wherever did you get such a preposterous idea?
It's because of the whole Time Turner mess.
After having had to be so careful with my timing that entire year, I've developed a rather accurate sense of how much time has passed, even when I've been unconscious.
Not only is that completely ridiculous, it fails to explain your theory.
Between the time I heard that thump and when you ran out, several minutes passed. I know it.
You can't prove that.
Like I said, it's just a theory, but now that I have access to your memories, I'm going to find out for myself what happened that night.
Stop! I forbid you! But as he was a guest in her body, he had no power to stop her. She delved into his past, trying to pinpoint the span of time she was missing without accidentally peeping into other parts of his memory. It was already bad enough that she had commandeered his mind and soul; she didn't want to be guilty of forcing him to do anything else he didn't want. Especially since that was exactly what she thought had happened to him that night.
And then there it was, replaying itself for her. She had burst in expecting to find Flitwick on the floor, but instead it was Snape lying on the ground with Flitwick in the middle of an Imperius curse.
"What are you doing?" she had screamed, not believing her eyes. And then before she could say or do anything else, he had cast Stupefy on her. By then, Luna was at the opened door as well and it had been short work to Stupefy her too. From Snape's point of view she saw Flitwick magically transport the two of them outside the door and heard him Obliviate them before returning.
"You weren't counting on me, were you, Severus? The constant spy, always so suspicious of everyone else, but never little, old me. Even Dumbledore doesn't consider me worthy enough to join his precious Order. But I've been watching you, Severus, ever since you were a student here. I've noticed the curses you created. But did you ever think that your teacher could be better than you? Not many people realize what a thin line it is between a charm and a curse. And no one ever suspected the small, cheerful professor. Which is exactly why Voldemort approached me.
"Yes, you weren't the only spy within Hogwarts, but it wouldn't do to have let you known. Not when we were always questioning your loyalties. Well, after tonight there will be no more questioning; you're going to take care of that, my boy. Yes, you're going to kill Dumbledore, the only person besides yourself who knows whether or not you're truly on their side."
That was enough for Hermione. She quickly withdrew from his memories. She had no desire to see Dumbledore's actual death.
So was your theory correct? Did the know-it-all figure it all out? For the first time ever, she heard her former professor sound wounded.
As a matter of fact, I did. The only part I didn't see was when he placed a geas on you preventing you from speaking about what happened.
There was no geas, came the flat reply.
Then why did you never tell anyone?
And who would have believed me? He was right, you know? Albus was the only one who knew which side I was on. Who would have listened to me?
I would have!
A slight pause. Perhaps, but answer this: if you were so certain you had been Obliviated, why haven't you told anyone else yet?
I needed proof. I—
You tore me out of my own body just so you could prove to yourself you were correct?
No! Now we can prove to everyone else—
What, that you have the soul of a convicted traitor inside of you and that he said he was innocent? Miss Granger, even I thought you had more brains than to think anyone would believe that
Of course not, Severus, she threw in as a barb in retaliation to his patronizing tone. First, we find you a new body, and then we find a Pensieve.
A new body? I assure you, I am perfectly happy with my own.
Hermione snorted mentally. I'd ask you if you've seen a mirror recently, but I saw the one they placed in your cell. You can't seriously want to go back into that.
I'm sorry I wasn't able to meet your expectations after half a year in prison. However, the fact remains, it's my body, and I want it back.
Fine! Tired of bickering with another voice inside her head, she decided it was high time to open her eyes and figure out where she was. Doing so proved harder that it should have been. Was I drugged?
Merely the residue of a Dreamless Sleep Potion, was the unbidden reply.
Ground rules, Professor: no speaking up unless you are addressed. It's hard enough concentrating without you talking, and I don't want anyone suspecting—
Maybe you should have thought of that before Kissing me.
You know, I can just as easily kiss Ron's body next, and then you'd live out the rest of your life surrounded by the Weasley clan.
Knowing how stubborn Hermione could be, Snape remained silent.
Good, now let's find out where we are and where you are.
She successfully opened her eyes this time and found herself (themselves?) lying on a bed in a ward at St. Mungo's. Both Harry and Professor Flitwick were sitting on either side of her. At her awakening, Harry jumped up with a smile while Flitwick's expression was more complex. He's suspicious. Although she didn't hear Snape's voice, she could feel his consensus.
"Hermione! You're awake!"
"Yes, Harry." Her voice was hoarse. "Professor…?"
"You collapsed after performing the Kiss, Miss Granger. I'm happy to say that your spell was successful, however, and I'm awarding you full points." The smile on his face didn't quite reach his eyes. "Mr. Potter, if you wouldn't mind fetching a glass of water for your friend..."
"Of course. I'll be right back, Hermione." He patted her hand. "I'm glad you're all right."
"Thanks, Harry." If only he knew….
"I must say, I don't think part of the spell involved you fainting," said Flitwick in a light-hearted voice. He had stood up and was leaning over her. No small feat for such a small man. His face was now mere inches from her, and Hermione had nowhere else to look but directly into his eyes. In a flash, she felt something shield her mind from the incoming probe. Confused, she merely blinked and tried to break eye contact by leaning forward to cough.
"I'm sorry, Professor. I wasn't expecting that either. It was probably because I hadn't slept at all the night before; I was so anxious."
"Perhaps that's all it was. You are sure you performed the spell exactly as we had planned?"
"Of course," she lied. "As you said yourself, the spell was successful."
"Yes…yes it was." After a brief second of consideration, Flitwick sat back down. "I'm sorry I had any doubts. It's just not every day that I have to watch my favorite apprentice kiss the Dark Traitor."
"Believe me; I'm just as glad as you not to have to do it again." She felt what amounted to a mental elbow jab. "Speaking of which, Professor, do you know what happened to the body afterwards?"
"Yes, perhaps it was a good thing you weren't awake. As soon as the deed was done, the Minister barged in with along with a reporter and photographer from the Daily Prophet. After the article was released documenting what you had done, a mob appeared outside of his hospital room. I'm ashamed to say what they did with his body."
What?! Hermione winced at the roar, a gesture which Flitwick didn't cease to notice.
"Is everything all right? I'm sorry to have upset you."
"No, I'm fine. I suppose it was only to have been expected, after all."
"Here you go, Hermione," said Harry as he reentered the room and placed a glass on her night stand. "Was the professor telling you about what they did to Snape?"
"Harry, you didn't have anything to do with that did you?"
"No, although I have to admit, if I weren't so afraid of what the Daily Prophet would have said about me had I shown up, I might have."
"Oh, Harry. You need to…" At the wary look on her friend's face, she chose to suppress her admonishment. "Look, can you take me to him? I need to see what condition he's in."
Harry looked at Flitwick in confusion. "You didn't tell her?" He merely shook his head. Harry sighed. "Hermione, there's nothing left to see. After what they did, we thought it best to just cremate the remains."
Hermione's hand shot out and grabbed Harry by the collar with a will she wasn't entirely sure was her own. "You mean he's gone?"
"He was gone the moment you Kissed him, Hermione." Harry gently removed Hermione's hand. "Why does it matter so much to you?"
"I…I'm not sure. I'm sorry, Harry." After years of friendship, Harry knew when she was hiding something but decided not to press her at the moment.
"Fine. Get your rest now. We'll leave you alone." At the hint, Flitwick rose to leave as well.
"Goodbye, Miss Granger. And please, listen to your friend and get your rest."
"I will, sir. Thank you for everything."
As soon as the two left, Severus began cursing up a storm. A full two minutes later he realized Hermione wasn't even listening anymore.
What the hell do you think you're doing now? he asked as she got up from her bed.
Well I'll be damned if I have to keep listening to you in my head for the rest of my life. I'm finding you a new body like I had planned to in the first place.
And just where do you think you'll be finding such a body?
We're in St. Mungo's. Where do you think?
Severus found himself unable to answer at the moment. Simple movements like getting out of her bed and even just walking felt significantly different to him. It wasn't only that her body was much younger than his; he'd also never had his upper arms brushing the soft sides of breasts before. And despite the loss of his own corporeal body, it didn't keep him from reacting as a man. Unfortunately, every thought and reaction was also felt by Hermione.
Oh. Can't you control…that
It's been six months since I've even seen another human being, Miss Granger. I'm sorry if I can't exactly help myself.
As if it wasn't confusing enough to have to hear his voice so intimately in her own head, having to deal with his reactions to her body was really starting to distract her. It was a good thing she knew exactly how to get to the ward where they kept those that had been Kissed during the war since Ron's body was kept there. She had visited what was left of him almost every day after he had been Kissed, but as her research and studies grew more strenuous, her visits grew less frequent. She didn't feel guilty; she understood full well that the shell that was left wasn't really him. Regardless, the nurses on duty easily recognized her and didn't question her presence in the ward.
This time, instead of going straight to Ron's bed, she stood near the center of the room and surveyed all the other "patients".
So, do you have a preference?
You don't expect me to just choose a new body just like that, do you?
Actually, I do. I'd be more than happy to choose for you, she said turning towards Ron's bed.
No. I'll take himSnape mentally nudged her to look at the young man lying in the corner of the room. Truth be told, Hermione had never noticed him before, and even after a good look, didn't recognize who he was.
Did you know him?
It doesn't matter. Let's just get this over with.
She looked around to make sure no one else was in the room. She didn't know what the rules were against kissing an already Kissed patient, but she also didn't want to find out. The body he had chosen looked to be in his early twenties. Tall and lanky, the physiques matched. The face and hair, however, were nothing similar to Snape's. The man looked…well, nice, for lack of a better word. Nondescript, even. Not a terrible burden to kiss, which was what mattered most to Hermione at the moment.
She pointed her wand at her lips again and intoned the counter-spell. "Peris Basium Vos Ago." Then, pulling her bushy hair back away from her face, she bent down, poised to kiss him.
You're sure this will work?
The first half of the spell worked, didn't it?
Before he could reply, Flitwick burst into the room.
"What are you…? Stop, Miss Granger!"
Instead of listening, Hermione quickly pressed her lips down on the ones below her. As soon as they touched, she felt herself fly backwards away from the body from a Disarming Spell. In quick succession, Flitwick Stupefied Snape's new body and then cast Imperio on her.
She remembered what it had been like to have that particular spell cast on her from the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes back in her fourth year with the Moody imposter. Fighting the spell that Flitwick had just cast was exponentially harder. She now had an inkling of how it was possible for Snape to not have been able to throw off the spell himself.
"Pick up your wand, Miss Granger." It was not an outrageous request, yet her mind tried its hardest not to obey.
It was all for nothing. I failed him anyways, she thought dejectedly.
Miss Granger, listen to me, and do exactly as I tell you.
Severus! You're still here! But how…?
Hush now, and listen. Do what he says; pick up your wand.
For once in your life just do as I say!
And she did. Between the two men, she knew whom she trusted. As she stooped to pick up her wand, Flitwick continued speaking.
"I don't know how you did it, Granger, but I should have seen it coming. Always had a thing for the old bat, didn't you? I was so glad when you came to me; what better way to dispose of him than to use you? But you were playing me the entire time. Bravo, Miss Granger. Only now, it looks like I have the upper hand again."
Now give me control of your body.
Do it! He's going to order you to do something you'll regret.
But you know you can't break his Imperio
I couldn't when I was in my own body, but this time he intended the spell for you, not me. Give me control; I can't take over unless you release it.
"Now I want you to Incendio his body."
Hermione's arm lifted and pointed at the nameless man's body.
Take it! she screamed as she dropped whatever control she had on her body.
The curse, instead of hitting the young man, had at the last minute been directed at Flitwick instead. Hermione watched in horror as the small man combusted before her eyes.
Stop it! Stop it! she shouted. Instead, Snape merely turned her away so that she wouldn't have to watch him burn any longer. He walked her over to the bed again and sat down in the chair beside it.
Do it, he said, releasing his hold on her. Kiss him.
She obeyed him one last time before collapsing in tears. She felt strong arms gather her to his chest, and the gentleness in the action caused her to cry even harder.
"It's okay. It's all right. You did well," he murmured as he stroked her back.
Spent, she sniffled one last time before sitting back up.
"What are we going to do about…?" She gestured towards the scorched remains.
"I'll transfigure his body and use it to replace this one on the bed."
"But they'll it figure out eventually."
"They'll see what they want to see at first. By the time they figure out who it really is, I'll be long gone."
"You-you're leaving? But why run away now? Don't you want to prove your innocence?"
He sat up and leaned towards her, putting his hands on her shoulders for emphasis. "No. I've had enough of that life. Thanks to you, I have a chance to live however I want now, without any obligations to anyone. I don't want the burden of being Severus Snape anymore."
Hermione searched his face, recording it into her memory, although she knew it would not stay there very long. "You better Obliviate me, then, so I don't remember what happened. Because I'd go looking for you again." Snape nodded slowly.
"Before you do that, though. Can you answer me one question? Why did you choose this body?"
"Because it was the only one still with his wand," he replied, lifting it into view.
She closed her eyes. Even though she had volunteered, she hated the idea of losing any part of her memory and dreaded the moment. Instead of the spell she expected, however, she felt warm lips descend upon her own for a very thorough kiss. Without opening her eyes, she responded to it, melting into the contact. When it finally ended, her eyes fluttered open.
"Goodbye, Hermione," Severus said one last time before Obliviating her.
When Hermione woke up again, it was to find herself back in her hospital bed. She immediately thought back to recount the course of her day and realized that Snape had left her with almost all her memory intact. In fact, the last thing she remembered was closing her eyes after telling him to Obliviate her. Relying her finely tuned sense of time, she realized she was only missing a few minutes, probably all it had taken for him to replace her on her bed.
"What the hell?" she wondered as she sat up. Only then did she notice the note in her hand, written in a very familiar handwriting.
"I trust you, too. When you find me again, I'll show you what you've forgotten."
A/N: My prompt was "68 - Hermione has wiped Snape's memory clean, and now the Order needs the info back" which, as you can tell, I've taken great liberties with. Regardless, I hope you had as much fun reading the story as I had writing it!
Oh yes, and the two new spells are just direct Latin translations for "with this kiss you die" and "with this kiss you live".