AN: Thank you so much for such a great year! It has been a blast posting this work for all of you. Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!
Ginny poked her head above the four overstuffed manila folders. "Where do you want me to put these?"
Hermione pointed to the east end of the kitchen table. "Over here is just fine."
With a groan, Ginevra plopped the folders onto the table. She wiped her brow. "Well, it wasn't easy, but I think I've managed to collect all the receipts from our charitable donations. Hopefully, you'll get some answers for your lycanthropy conundrum."
"Thank you so much for doing this on such short notice," Hermione answered.
"It was no problem at all," Ginny answered. "To be honest, we could both use a distraction right about now."
Hermione swallowed. "Is everything fine with Draco and the children?"
"Draco and the children are fine. We are all healthy, and finding a way to manage amidst all this chaos."
"Then what's wrong?"
Ginny sighed. "Percy has Dad, Bill, and Charlie stashed somewhere."
"What?" Hermione gasped.
Ginny answered, "According to Scorpius, they had another amnesiac episode last night. Percy found them, and persuaded them to take off with him somewhere. Nobody has seen them since."
"Oh Ginny." Hermione put her hand on her friend's shoulder. "I am so sorry."
"Thank you, but it isn't your fault."
"No," Hermione sat in a kitchen chair. "But if there's anything I can do, then please let me know."
"I will," Ginevra promised.
"Good," Hermione whispered.
Ginny took a ragged breath as she sank into the kitchen chair to the right of Hermione. "George has some type of plan to find them, but he wouldn't let me in on what it was. That's probably for the best though.""
Hermione hummed. "I would imagine so."
"Enough about George and my family," Ginny took the top manila folder from the stack and set it on the table. She did likewise to the other two. "We organized our receipts by the organization which handed out the cure. This could make it difficult to find individual names."
"That should not be a problem," Hermione muttered.
"I know a few spells which can pull up names from receipts."
"You do?" Ginny asked.
"Do I want to know why you found it necessary to create such a spell?"
"You'd be surprised how many lawyers come in wanting to sort out the mess caused by a love potion."
Hermione pulled out a list from her pocket and unfurled it. "Our first name is Vince Starr."
She took out her wand pointed the wand at the piles. "Gasi Vince Starr."
The wand turned magenta. Within moments, a receipt flew from one of the manila envelopes and landed in Hermione's hand.
"So he was changed?" Ginny asked.
Hermione read the list. "Unless he took the potion because he thought it tasted good, then yes, he was changed."
Ginny twiddled her thumbs.
Hermione pointed to the edge of the table. "Could you please reach over and grab my ink pot and my quill?"
"Certainly." Ginny handed her the requested items.
Hermione dipped the quill into the ink pot before scratching out Vince Starr's name. "The next name is Joe Raji."
"Gasi Joe Raji."
Another receipt landed in her hands.
Hermione crossed off his name.
"Gasi Peyton Vinitari."
Once more, a receipt was in her hands.
Ginny watched as twenty-seven more names were called, and twenty-seven more recipes leapt from their folders into her hands. After the last one was called, Hermione buried her face into her hands.
"Hermione," Ginny whispered.
"I did this to him," Hermione whispered. "I am the reason my husband does not remember me."
"No, you aren't," Ginny replied.
Hermione ran her hands through her hair. "There's no way around this. I mean, the evidence is right before our eyes. I did this to Severus."
"You cannot blame yourself," Ginny answered.
"He," Hermione scratched her left arm. "He wanted to stay home the night Rose was kidnapped. He thought we should only give a written statement. Had we stayed home instead of giving that stupid press conference then Rose never would have been kidnapped. We could've handed out that cure, and Severus would still be here. It's my fault for insisting on a press conference. In my arrogance and my need to please others, I put his life at risk. I almost killed him, and now he's paying the price."
"Hermione," Ginny whispered.
"We saved the Wizarding World by damning half the population to relive one of the worst periods in history…"
Hermione jerked back.
"Fenrir damned the Wizarding World to relive their worst memories. He was the one who attempted to shape the world into his image, not you. Someone needed to stop him, and you did," Ginny answered.
"At what cost?"
"The cost of twenty-five years of peace."
Hermione opened her mouth.
"Merlin Hermione, everyone else had given up on a cure. People thought curing lycanthropy was impossible, but you and Severus did it. You saved the Wizarding World, and we all have better lives because of it," Ginevra argued.
"I suppose you have a point…"
"I'm completely correct, and you know it."
Hermione's eyes remained misty.
"You cannot take the blame for a freak accident. We all did what we thought was best, and because of our actions, Fenrir can no longer hurt us," Ginny replied.
"True, but…" Hermione began.
"No buts! You saved the Wizarding World, and you should take pride in that," Ginevra demanded.
"Fine, yet," Hermione sniffed. "How am I going to break the news to Severus?"
"I would imagine being direct yet gentle with him would be helpful."
"Are you certain of that?"
"Over the years, I've watched you take that approach with him. So far, I'd say it has served you well."
Ginny gave Hermione a soft smile.
"Speaking of discussing this, I suppose you and Draco will need to break the news to all of Britain," Hermione mused.
"Well, it would be in the best interest of transparency."
"Indeed it would."
Ginny leaned in closer to Hermione. "That being said, we can wait until the afternoon to release a statement. That way, you and Severus will have a few hours to discuss it."
"Thank you," Hermione whispered.
"Anytime," Ginevra answered.
Hermione wiped her eyes.
"As for how we break the news, it not need be definitive or negative. We can say something to the extent that there is a correlation between Fenrir's victims and those who have developed amnesia," Ginny suggested.
"I suppose that would work," Hermione answered.
Ginny embraced her. "Nobody will hold this against you."
"I don't care what the Wizarding World thinks," Hermione choked. "I care whether or not Severus blames himself for this mess, and how he will live with the truth."
"Well, as you and your husband used to tell Rose, the first step to finding a cure is to determine the cause of an ailment," Ginny began. "So now that you know the cause of what ails your husband, you can go about treating it."
Hermione returned the embrace. "What did I do to deserve a friend like you?"
"A lot," Ginny answered.
They held onto eat other, each woman absorbing the strength of the other.
"The premises should be secure."
Headmaster Longbottom cocked his head. "What do you mean by, 'it should be secure?'"
The auror glanced down at a clump of dust on the floor.
"Jerry," Headmaster Longbottom folded his hands. "What are you not telling me?"
"Then why can you not look me in the eye."
"One of," Jerry stammered. "One of the victims may have escaped?"
"Escaped?" Headmaster Longbottom asked.
"Who exactly escaped?"
"Well, one of the victims of this amnesia curse is Severus Snape."
"I'm aware of that fact."
"Indeed, I noticed him in Professor Rose's quarters the night these episodes began."
"That makes sense, given that we found him in the dungeons as well."
Headmaster Longbottom scratched his chin.
"We attempted to detain him…"
"What exactly was he doing?"
Headmaster Longbottom asked, "What was he doing which warranted him being detained?"
"He was standing in the laboratory…." Jerry replied.
"Was he an immediate threat to anyone?"
"He became one."
"So he attacked without provocation?"
"Look, he was very opposed to being taken away…"
Headmaster Longbottom held up his hand. "You mean to tell me that Severus Snape posed no immediate threat to anyone, yet you were willing to have him arrested?"
"We are not arresting the victims," the auror argued. "We are detaining them."
"The distinction between arresting and detaining still isn't clear to me," Neville replied.
"By detaining, we mean that we are putting them in a place where they can receive treatment for their disorder."
"What kind of treatment?"
The auror's face reddened. "I told you, that's classified."
"I beg to differ."
The auror bit his tongue.
Neville steepled his hands. "You barged into my school, antagonized the parent of one of my professors, and now I'm supposed to take it on good faith that you've done the right thing?"
"That is exactly what you are supposed to do," Jerry answered.
Headmaster Longbottom looked upon Jerry with the same expression he'd used on many a troublesome student.
Jerry cleared his throat. "Currently, we are searching for Rose Snape. She might be able to help us find her father…"
"No, you are not searching for Rose Snape."
Jerry's mouth hung open.
"I've had quite enough of aurors running amok in my school for one night. You will allow her to spend the rest of her evening in peace."
"With all due respect, Rose's father stupefied our head auror. Then, he took Rose hostage. I believe that warrants an arrest."
"Arrest?" Neville asked. "I thought the amnesia victims were merely being detained."
"If one of them commits a crime, then an arrest is in order."
"It seems to me to be a waste of time and resources."
"We both know any charges you bring against him will not hold up in court given that he was not in his right mind."
Jerry put his hands on his hips. "With all due respect, Headmaster, you are not a judge."
"True," Headmaster Longbottom admitted. "But I am a taxpayer who would appreciate seeing his tax dollars being put to good use."
"Why are you defending Mr. Snape? His feelings towards you are no secret, and he's done little to earn your loyalty."
"First of all, you should not presume to know the details of my interactions with Severus Snape," Neville warned.
"With all due respect, your attitude towards him is baffling."
"What is so baffling about it? We are no longer professor and student, but rather a former and current headmaster. It is a common ground I share with few others who are still amongst the living."
"Second of all, I feel more strongly about a man being falsely arrested than I do about avenging any past traumas."
"You are a stronger man than I then," Jerry admitted.
"I would not claim to be stronger than anyone," Neville replied. "I will only claim that over the two decades I've been headmaster, I have gained a unique perspective on certain issues."
"I suppose you have," Jerry muttered.
"All that being said," Headmaster Longbottom's expression hardened. "I do thank you for your protection. It will be nice to have a full night's sleep."
Jerry grinned. "The pleasure is all mine."
Neville sat back in his leather chair.
"If you see Professor Rose," Jerry continued. "Please tell her that the Ministry would like a word with her."
"I will be sure to relay your message," Headmaster Longbottom promised.
Jerry gave him one last look before departing.
Neville tapped his finger against the desk and furrowed his eyebrows.
What is the Ministry not telling me?