Severus Snape felt every single one of his thirty-six years, and then a couple of decades on top of that. He was already exhausted from this war and he knew that it had only just begun. And of course Potter, whom Albus swore was their only hope, was doing his level best to get himself killed and seemed determined to take as many of his friends with him as possible. It was a miracle they wouldn't be burying six students after that fiasco at the Ministry.
Poppy had just roused him from his bed because it turned out that Miss Granger's injuries were too much for even her capable hands, and she needed his expertise in the Dark Arts to heal the girl. She'd apparently been hit with one of Dolohov's favorite curses.
Severus could only assume that the man had been somehow disabled at the time because she would already be dead if he'd cast it at full power. He hurriedly finished gathering the supplies he'd need to treat the Gryffindor know-it-all and made his way to the hospital wing.
When he came in view of her bed and caught sight of her face he stopped dead in his tracks. Only his years of spywork allowed him to quickly compartmentalize what he was seeing and gather himself so that he could do the job he'd come to do. Anybody else would have been too shocked to continue.
Because the young woman on the bed was clearly Hermione Granger, she looked no different than when he'd last seen her the previous afternoon. But it was now obvious to him that she wasn't just Hermione Granger, she'd been born Calliope Nott. Severus' clever mind quickly came up with a theory: she'd been placed under a charm that concealed her identity by whomever had taken her, and that it had been shattered by the force of Dolohov's dark curse.
However, understanding that intellectually didn't stop it from feeling like an earth shattering revelation. One that was inevitably going to shake up their world.
Severus had known Calliope as a little girl, but she had been missing for over ten years. Her disappearance was infamous in magical Europe and it had almost destroyed two families. If he hadn't understood the complexity and strength of magic that would have been required to keep her identity hidden for so long he would have felt foolish for not recognizing her sooner. But he knew, without specifically knowing how it had been done, that she'd been well disguised and hidden in plain sight.
She was also the spitting image of her mother and even ten years after her death Marguerite Nott held a special place in Severus' heart. Of course, he had always intended to tend to Miss Granger's wounds to the best of his ability, but now that he knew she was actually Miss Nott, doing so suddenly became much more personally important to him.
Marguerite Nott née Beauvais- Daisy, as she had affectionately been called by her friends- had been four years ahead of Severus at Hogwarts and was a fellow Slytherin. She had been kind to him from day one and was one of the few who didn't turn her nose up at his Northern accent, his secondhand robes, or his half-blood status. She had been too old to truly be his friend while they were in school, but she had been a rare and essential ally.
She had introduced him to her best friend, Narcissa Black, who had, in turn, introduced him to her betrothed, Lucius Malfoy. Lucius would end up being the only reason Severus was able to obtain a potions mastery. He recognized his talent, encouraged his interest, and eventually sponsored his apprenticeship. Severus wasn't naive, he'd known Lucius had cultivated his talents for his own purposes- Malfoys were brilliant at knowing how to invest in the right things- but he'd needed a benefactor and Lucius eventually became a friend as well.
Marguerite went on to meet and bewitch a wizard twenty years her senior and once Severus left Hogwarts he became a welcome and honored guest in her home. On the surface she appeared to be more of a Hufflepuff than a Slytherin, as kind and caring as she always was. But a small peek into the cunning way that she handled her husband and ran her household would have told you otherwise.
Oh, she'd loved Tahvo Nott deeply. However, pure blooded women rarely wielded the kind of power in their marriages or control over their husbands' ancestral estates that Marguerite had.
Severus had admired Marguerite and had enjoyed her company in a way he rarely had another person's. She had been brilliant. And he could admit that it was a trait she'd passed on to her daughter, as loath as he was to compliment a Gryffindor for any reason.
Though Severus strongly suspected Calliope would have been a snake if her identity had been known at the time of her sorting. He'd heard about what she'd done to Dolores Umbridge not twelve hours ago. Not that the toad hadn't deserved it, but the girl had a ruthless streak the other professors chose to pretend didn't exist.
Severus still vividly remembered the beaming smile on Marguerite's face on that day more than seventeen years ago when she had informed him that she was expecting, and twins at that. It had been the only time he'd actually been pleased to hear that there were more children coming into the world, and that was simply because he knew how much she had wanted them. (When Narcissa Malfoy had announced her pregnancy he'd only worried about the size of that child's ego, no matter how fond he'd grown of Lucius and Narcissa.)
But he had never considered he might actually grow to care for the children she was carrying. But he had. The wisp of a girl lying on the hospital bed in front of him had ensured that.
While Theodore had been quiet, like his father, and right from the beginning seemed perfectly content to live in the shadow of his tiny twin. Calliope had been an alert and personable baby who grew into a charming and affectionate little girl. She simply wouldn't be ignored and had everybody who met her wrapped around her little finger in minutes. For Merlin's sake he had, on more than one occasion, witnessed her godfather Lucius allowing her to play with his hair.
Draco had, as the story went, loved her almost from the moment he emerged from the womb and Calliope adored him in return and very quickly, much to their mothers' delight, the twins and the youngest Malfoy became inseparable. So, when she'd disappeared seemingly into thin air right out from under the noses of both her mother and godmother while shopping in Diagon Alley at aged five, it had completely devastated not just the Nott family but the Malfoys as well.
In the wake of Calliope's kidnapping Severus had been interviewed by aurors, as had every friend of the family. He'd suggested to the investigators that whomever had taken her had understood the family dynamic in addition to their relationship with their closest friends, the Malfoys, very well. Taking Calliope had probably caused more damage than any other single act could have, and only somebody who knew the central place the tiny girl had played in all of their lives would have been able to predict that.
The baby Narcissa had been carrying was born too early due to the stress of the ordeal surrounding the kidnapping and only survived a few days. Heartbreak and guilt at failing to protect her daughter ate at Marguerite and she succumbed to doxy influenza within six months. Tahvo and Lucius both withdrew into themselves, Theodore largely became an orphan.
Draco still had his mother. But it was almost as if she was afraid to show him the affection she once had. She would have wrapped him in cotton wool if she had believed it would have kept him safe, but she couldn't love him like he craved.
And Theodore and Draco, once like brothers, became nothing more than polite acquaintances. In the five years they'd been under his care Severus had only seen them exchange words a few times, and they lived in the same room for three of those years.
Severus had watched it all with a sadness that surprised him. His own childhood had been even more of a nightmare, after all. But there was just something especially tragic about watching two houses that had once been filled with joy, descend into despair.
He hoped that Calliope's reappearance would bring Marguerite some peace in the afterlife. He couldn't even begin to imagine the effect it would have on the living.
Miss Granger/Nott was relatively lucky. The damage was extensive, but it was mostly reversible, and more importantly, he had the knowledge to reverse it. She would have a scar but it would be little more that a pale line bisecting her breasts and continuing down her chest and abdomen to her right hip. Evidence of such a dark curse simply couldn't be completely erased.
Severus knew that teenage girls could be vain and dramatic creatures. However, now that he knew that he was dealing with Marguerite's daughter, he could admit that she'd demonstrated enough sense over the years to lead him to believe she wouldn't allow such a trifling thing to bother her unduly. He had no idea if she'd be able to move past the role her father and godfather had played in doing this to her and her friends. Such issues of the heart extended far beyond his area of expertise.
Poppy helped him finish bandaging the wound. Calliope would have to take a regimen of potions and the area would be raw and prone to infection until that was completed. As they finished cleaning her up and settled her as comfortably as possible in the bed he heard the healer gasp.
"Severus!" She hissed, "this girl is Calliope Nott!"
He bit back a sigh. He'd hoped that he would be the only one to recognize her, but that had been a foolish idea. Even though he didn't think any of the other staff had ever met Calliope, but many of them had taught her mother, and the resemblance between the two was remarkable.
Not to mention her picture had been splashed all over the papers in the weeks following her disappearance. Then she continued to be mentioned regularly for years afterwards. Every wizard in Britain, and most on the continent knew her story. She was the Lindbergh baby of the magical world.
"Yes," he agreed, "I recognized her as soon as I got here. I can only assume her identity had somehow been cloaked but that the effect was shattered by Dolohov's curse."
"That makes sense, but why would anybody do that?" She wondered.
He shrugged. "Perhaps her kidnappers merely wanted to remove her from her family, deprive her of her life as a Nott and them of her company; turn her into a muggleborn. She has certainly suffered because of it. Maybe they found that easier to stomach than physically harming a child, or maybe they actually thought that this was worse. I know her father and her godparents, at least, would consider being raised by muggles to be a fate worse than death."
Poppy shook her head and clucked in disapproval and sympathy.
"What do we do?" She asked.
"I think we put her in isolation until she wakes up and can decide for herself. I will inform the Headmaster and her brother. For differing reasons they can be counted upon to keep quiet."
"The poor girl just fought in a battle against her own father!" She exclaimed, covering her mouth with her hand.
"I imagine the next days are going to be quite an adjustment for her, I don't know if it will be easier for her if her memories have also returned or not. Given how she reacts, this could change the course of the war," he observed gravely.
"Are you serious, Severus? She's just a girl! I know she's bright and has the makings of a powerful witch but she's not even of age!" She wailed.
He bit back another sigh at the healer's Molly Weasley-esque hysterics.
"She is the beloved only daughter of a politically powerful, ancient and wealthy House. And it was in all the papers when she went missing, but I don't know if you remember, her godparents are the Malfoys. Which essentially makes her the beloved only daughter of yet another powerful, old, wealthy House. On top of that, she's actually betrothed to Draco. Not only is he Scion Malfoy but with Black's death he will become Head of that House next summer when he comes of age. This little witch holds in her hand the key to much of the Dark Lord's political sway and even more of his monetary backing."
Poppy just stared at him, open mouthed. "I see why you think we need to keep this quiet."
When he was finally able to leave the hospital wing it was already time to address his Slytherins. It would not do for any of his students to find out their relatives were in Ministry holding cells and on their way to Azkaban from the morning paper or the rumor mill. Almost every person arrested had a child, a niece or nephew, or a close cousin in his house. This was not going to help the way most of the school already treated them.
He would inform Albus of Miss Granger's true identity only after he took her brother to see her. Despite what many thought, he did have a conscience and he wouldn't risk the chance that the wily old man might try and keep them apart, particularly in such a trying time.
And then he would brace for the fallout.
Author's Note: You guys are so amazing. I never imagined this kind of response to this story, but I couldn't be more grateful. I said I'd update soon, and I will continue to do so as much as possible without ignoring my other WIPs. But seriously guys, THANK YOU.