Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

A/N: This fic was written as a part of the fic-exchange challenge at our Tomione forum.

Spoilers: all HP books; EWE; disregards canon death of Severus Snape. We'll assume he took a preventive Anti-Snake-Venom Potion that overturned his temporarily death-like state. ^^

With thanks to Lady Miya and Serpent In Red for beta-ing this.

For BrightneeBee.


Prologue

The devastation in the air was so thick he could almost taste it. Behind the rudimentary fence they'd put up, family, friends and co-workers stared at the still burning ruin in the distance and the bodies, or rather, body parts that were pulled away from it. So many deaths, it was horrible.

His green eyes took in all those tear-stained, pale faces, wondering for a moment if he looked equally distraught, but then he swallowed, pushing his own grief away. It wouldn't help those who'd died … it wouldn't help Hermione if he cracked now. He noticed a limb, lying slightly to the side of the enclosed ward where they catalogued the remains. It was blackened and hacked to pieces so much that he couldn't identify which side was up or down. Now that he looked at it closer, he wasn't even sure if it were a limb at all.

Would that be another bit of Hermione?

He closed his eyes, shaking his head. He had to keep it together.

'Make sure to keep those remains behind the ward, Anderson,' Harry ordered as he, with a flick of his wand, moved the anonymous body part back into one of the boxes. 'We don't want to misplace someone or upset the crowd outside.'

'Sorry, Boss,' Anderson replied business-like, looking green around her nose as she sealed and labelled another box.

Harry placed his hand on her shoulder for a moment and squeezed it gently. Anderson sent him a weak smile.

'We'll get through this,' Harry promised, not sure himself but Anderson nodded nevertheless.

'Mr Potter, Mr Potter!'

Harry turned around, facing the Head of Health of the mental hospital who'd run off to talk to the person in charge of investigating the origin of the blast. It wouldn't surprise Harry if it would be filed as an accident; that was Riddle's M.O. after all. However, that wasn't how his Aurors would treat it—he'd already sent them out on a search-and-apprehend mission.

'Healer Zeus, what's the news?' Harry inquired politely.

'It seems to have been a potions accident,' Zeus said, panting. 'They found traces of Erumpent Horn at ground zero. It seems the Potions Master of Ward Four made a monumental error.'

'This is not an accident of any kind,' a silky voice said coolly, 'and any fool can tell you the Erumpent Horn blast pattern is outwards. This building imploded. The Dark Lord did this.'

'Don't be absurd, he showed no tendency towards violence anymore,' Zeus sputtered. 'Besides, there were no survivors.'

'And you're calling me absurd?' Snape snarled condescendingly, his mouth curving up in disgust. 'Found his body then, have you?'

'We can't make any official positive identifications as of yet,' Harry intervened.

'You know he won't be amongst those bodies, Potter.'

Harry shared a look of agreement with his old professor. He didn't believe Riddle was dead either. Everything about this had his handiwork written all over it, including an available patsy for the blast.

'Every moment you don't have every single Auror under your command looking for him will be another mile he'll put between you and him.'

'I've already put a team on it, but I doubt they'll find anything. He's not stupid enough to go to his former hideouts.'

'Now wait a minute,' Zeus objected, 'he doesn't remember anything of his past. We cured him.'

Snape made a disparaging noise.

'I was the Healer in charge of his treatment,' Zeus said, narrowing his eyes at Snape in anger. 'I've spoken to him many times. I would've noticed if he started to remember or was faking anything. You know he got better; you've even assisted us in fixing his Amortentia-induced mental disability with the potion you created. He was doing excellently.'

'Really?' Snape said softly as he glided closer towards the Head Healer and looked down his nose at him. 'That's not Granger's opinion.'

'Hermione Granger is a trai—'

'A Healer-Trainee who saw more than you, I wonder what that says about your intelligence or lack thereof,' Snape snarled, interrupting Zeus. 'She confided to me that she thought he was putting up an act for you all. She was actually in the process of attempting to prove that when, conveniently, the hospital blows up. But sure, treat this all as an accident. Ignore the clear signs of the Dark Lord's return and be taken for a fool like Fudge and all the others he tricked in the past.' He swirled away from Zeus and halted in front of Harry. 'For once in your life, Potter, try using that one miniscule brain cell of yours. You don't need to look for him at his old hideouts. Just follow Granger around, he'll show up eventually. I've seen the possessive way he looked at her; he won't stay away from her for long. He'll want to own her.'

Harry swallowed, watching his former Potions Professor swirl away in the bat-like manner he always did.

'Hermione's dead,' Harry said barely audibly.

Abruptly, Snape froze on the spot, his black cloak falling flat around him as if it had died on the spot.

'We've identified her engagement ring on a blackened— It was in the ruins.'

'It's her regular day off,' Snape said stonily, unmoving.

'She filled in for a colleague who had to attend a funeral.'

Snape slowly turned around; his sallow face was expressionless and yet his posture was tight. 'He will not have let her die. This only means he already has her.'

'She wasn't working on his ward today; he wouldn't have known she was in.'

'Why isn't anyone listening to me?' Zeus asked, frustrated. 'Your own investigation team is already saying he didn't do this. It's my professional opinion that, in a couple of days, you'll be identifying his remains amongst the bodies.'

Snape ignored the Healer and coolly addressed Harry, 'You better find him before I do, Potter, or there won't be a piece of him left for you to put in Azkaban.' On that note, Snape swirled away.

'As if that will bother me,' Harry muttered.

'This is outrageous,' Zeus sputtered as Harry ignored him, too, and continued overseeing the crime scene.

xxx

Less than a year ago, Hermione Granger wrote down her daily thoughts with her tiny, impeccable penmanship into a special notebook Ron had given her upon leaving Hogwarts. She'd been using it throughout her Healing Studies as a reference guide and to clear any pent-up emotions. As such, it was very useful to help collect her thoughts in a rational manner and form a suitable method in dealing with difficult situations when she reread her emotional ramblings at a later date. She never stopped using it, happy to have found a way to get around her lack of strategic insight.

xxx


A/N: Review replies to anonymous reviewers can be found on our Tomione forum (link in profile).