AN: Thank you all for the support! I deeply appreciate it!
Hermione ran her fingers through her hair and groaned. Her eyes remained glued to the parchment. "None of it makes sense."
Severus leaned his back against the leg of the bed. More than once he'd questioned the wisdom of conducting research on the bedroom floor, but his in-laws' office was too small to lay out all their parchments and books. Besides, he'd sat in less comfortable conditions before. Granted he'd had youth on his side then...
His back popped. He winced and wondered for the twelfth time that day if he should be conducting this research in a comfortable chair.
"None of these ingredients should be interacting with each other in such a negative fashion," Hermione continued. "At least not like this."
Severus closed the book on his lap and shifted away from the bed. "Perhaps the lupinus albus is interacting poorly with the other ingredients."
Hermione looked up at him.
He rubbed his lower back. "The ancients abandoned use of the plant hundreds of years ago. Records claim it was because there were more effective ingredients available, but perhaps there is more to the story than we realize."
"No," Hermione replied. "If the effects were this devastating then there would be a record of it somewhere, or at least some type of warning to avoid the plant. As far as I can tell, there are no records of any amnesia epidemic quite like this one."
"Perhaps that is because nobody had ever used this combination of ingredients before."
"The other ingredients have no significant effect on a patient's memory. Why would mixing them together create a new memory problem?"
"I wish I could give you an answer."
"I have a few other questions," Hermione scooted the parchment away from her. "Why are these symptoms cropping up now instead of within the first few years of ingesting the potion? None of the patients have anything in common other than lycanthropy, and yet…"
"Yet?" Severus drawled.
She scratched the carpet. "What if there was a pattern we failed to detect? We only viewed partial memories from the patients. What if we viewed their memories from a few hours or even a few days before the attack? Could we have detected a pattern them?"
"I do not know," Severus admitted.
"We could always make out another call for memories, but if we don't know how far back we should go then we could miss something, or spend too much time wading through useless information."
Hermione yawned. "We're missing something, but for the life of me, I cannot determine what that would be."
Severus' eyes softened. "Whatever it is, I am sure you can find it after a full night's rest."
"No," Hermione covered her mouth, hiding another yawn. "I am wide awake."
Severus stared at her.
She frowned. "Love, I am perfectly awake and alert."
"Whatever you say," he answered.
Her drooping eyes lessened the effect of her glare.
"Please, get some rest," Severus insisted. "I promise you that I will behave for my dearest in-laws in your absence."
"Crap," Hermione whispered. "What are we going to do about them?"
"They are aware of magic. As bizarre as our explanation for my behavior may be, I am certain they would accept it."
"I'm not necessarily worried they won't believe me as much as I am about how they'd react to you during an episode."
"You are quite intimidating when you behave as you did as a professor. I do not think they wish to see that side of you, nor would they care to handle it," Hermione continued.
"Do not underestimate them," Severus replied. "Wilford has quite the sharp tongue, and I would not want to be on the business end of Muriel's cane."
Hermione laughed. Severus' eyes gleamed.
"Fair enough," she gasped. "My parents are quite formidable when need be."
"Indeed they are," he replied. "As is their daughter."
She gave him a small smile. "There is no worry to fret over my parents. I'm sure that no matter what you say or do, they will still consider you their favorite son-in-law."
"One can only hope," Severus answered.
"If you would like though," he began, "you may bring me a sleeping draught."
"That may not be necessary. It is still raining, and you may be able to return home soon."
"Are you certain it is safe for me to return?"
"No, but I could always check with Rose or Victor to see what the fallout from Draco's revelation is. Perhaps Percy has dropped the charges."
"Or he could still want my head on a silver platter for injuring one of his aurors. Merlin knows he'd love any excuse to dispose of me once and for all."
"Unfortunately, I fear you are correct."
He brushed his lips against hers. "Please get some rest. You have had an exhausting day."
"I've endured worse," she replied.
"Perhaps, but that does not mean you should be experiencing any discomfort now," he answered.
She yawned again.
"Please get some rest," Severus replied.
"I suppose a few hours of sleep would not harm me." Hermione stood and stretched.
"If you would feel comfortable doing so though, please get me a sleeping draught."
"I can get you one."
Severus stood up and winced. "I fear we are growing too old for this."
She massaged her back. "I fear you may be correct."
He moaned as he managed to straighten this posture.
She embraced him. "I am so happy the aurors did not manage to capture you."
He pressed her against him. "As am I, Love."
She kissed him on the lips. "Do try to behave for my parents. At the moment they do not consider me insane for marrying you. I would like to keep it that way."
"You were insane for marrying me," he answered. "Nevertheless, I will attempt to behave for them."
"I suppose that is the best I will get from you." She broke away from him. "I shall return in a few moments."
"I will be here," he answered.
Hermione strolled out of the room.
Severus took another look at the parchments and the books strewn about the floor.
What are we failing to grasp?
Percy stormed through the fireplace, not bothering to brush himself. He kicked his desk chair to the right. "What is so important that I needed to be woken in the middle of the night?"
"I do apologize," a man in long teal robes held out a manila envelope. "But I thought you would be interested in this."
Percy snatched the folder from his hands. The Minister candidate cast a lumos before setting the folder on the table, and sneezing.
"Bless you," the man began.
"Thank you," Percy mumbled before pulling out a document from the folder.
The man observed Percy's expressions. At first, his eyebrows were furrowed, and his snarl widened. As the minutes ticked on, Percy's face became pallid. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead. Soon he was shaking, as if he had contracted the flu.
Percy whispered, "H-how many people know about this?"
The man answered, "So far, it is only my team and I."
"How many people are on your team?"
"Yes, there is one healer and two Mediwitches on my team."
Percy cleared his throat, but his voice remained soft. "How certain are you of these results?"
"They've come back with every blood test we've performed," the man replied.
"How many have you run?"
Percy stumbled back, as if he'd just been punched. "Four?"
"At first we didn't know what to make of them," the man continued. "When we saw the Snapes' findings though, everything fell together."
Percy shut the folder. "Nobody can know about this."
"With all due respect sir…."
"Nobody can know about this!"
The man gulped.
Percy pointed to the folder. "As far as anyone is concerned, these test results do not exist. You never conducted a single test. Do you understand that?"
"But we took blood samples from the patients."
"Then tell them the tests were inconclusive."
"As healer we are obligated to share this finding with our patients and out colleagues."
"No, you are not."
"The patients have a right to know."
"This is a state of emergency, and certain rights must be waived, this being one of them."
"Fine, don't tell the patients, but what about our colleagues? Our chances of finding a cure will increase exponentially if we discuss our findings with others…."
"Either find a cure yourself or I will pull all funding from St. Mungo's."
The man closed his mouth.
"I have been very good to you recently," Percy hissed. "You have received far more funding now then ever before. That will not change if I am minister."
"Is that what this is about?" the man retorted. "Do you only want these test results suppressed so you can become minister?"
"I want them suppressed so that we can offer the people a cure when they become public."
"I," the man coughed. "I know these results could create a panic, but if I may observe, there's already one going on now."
"It will only increase if this gets out," Percy warned.
"You are playing politics with people's lives."
"I am trying to save the Wizarding World."
"By suppressing valuable information?"
"By ensuring that a panic does not erupt."
The man raised an eyebrow.
Percy leaned in closer. "Let me ask you something: do you think people will respond positively when they discover the cause of the amnesia?"
"I'd imagine not," he admitted.
"Exactly," Percy replied. "There is going to be mass hysteria if anyone learns this information. That is why we need a cure in hand before disclosing it. That way, we can smoothly transition from problem to solution."
"That's all well and good, but we only have a finite amount of resources. We could gain more if we at least disclosed this to the scientific community."
"How long do you think it will take one of your colleagues to go to Draco?"
"Is that all this is about, politics?"
"No," Percy snapped. "This is about a man who has no common sense."
"Do explain," the man answered.
"If you go public with this then Draco will put it in one of his little newsletters without so much as considering the consequences of his disclosure. There will be a panic, wizards will act irrationally, and lives could be lost. Is that what you would like?"
"Could you live with yourself if someone died simply so you could have a few extra voices in your ear?"
"Of course not."
"Then follow my lead and say nothing."
The man buried his face into his hands.
"You're a capable man, Clinton. I trust your team is capable as well. You will find a cure all by yourselves. There is no need to inform anyone else of this. In fact, there is no reason to disclose that this conversation ever occurred."
Clinton opened his mouth but wilted under Percy's glare.
"Do you need further Ministry funding?" Percy asked. "For I could give that to you. Anything else is out of the question."
"Funding does not necessarily equal fresh ideas."
"Would you like no funding at all?"
Clinton bowed his head.
"Thank you for these," Percy took the folder and pointed his wand at it. "You are excused."
"If I may…"
"You are excused."
A spark flew form Percy's wand. The folder ignited.
"You are excused."
Clinton nodded before rushing out the door.
Percy gazed at the remaining ashes on his desk. After two long minutes he collapsed onto his chair.
What the hell do I do now?