Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 10 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Severus didn't know what to say to Granger in the aftermath of watching his past self crush her with the words I see no difference. Out of the Pensieve, remorse churned through the pit of his stomach. His current self regretted it, apparently. In contrast, Memory Severus had been pleased that he'd upset her. Vindictive pleasure had lifted him up as tears had flooded her young eyes.

"Do I ever treat you that way now?" Severus asked.

"Of course not." Both of Granger's elbows were propped on her knees, her chin resting on her hands. She let her arms drop down as she sat up straighter. "I wouldn't tolerate that sort of treatment from you—or anyone else, for that matter."


Severus thought back to the nightmare he'd had the previous night—the one her Patronus had thankfully interrupted. In it, Granger had lingered outside her cottage with Terry Boot again. As the forest around them had decayed into rotten, blackened stumps and toppled trees, Boot had morphed into Sirius Black. Severus had been unable to move, unable to speak in anything higher than a whisper, but Granger had screamed and screamed and screamed for Severus to help her. Clenching his fingers around her arms until his nails drew blood, Black had dragged her away to the Dark Lord. Severus's whisper-shouted pleas to spare her—he would do anything, he'd claimed, anything—hadn't been acknowledged. The Dark Lord had scented the air with Granger's blood as he'd set about the task of breaking her. She had stopped moving—stopped breathing—by the time the real Granger's otter had saved Severus with its soothing light, tugging him out of that hellish world.

It hadn't been real. There had been no silver edge marking it as a memory, but he still couldn't shake the horror. Part of him wanted to hide Granger away to protect her from a dead man. Ridiculous. She was fine. She was safe.

Next to him on the sofa, an unbroken Granger fidgeted with her charm bracelet. The same bracelet that had been digging into Severus's back when he'd woken up with her clinging to him like a limpet that morning. Not that he'd objected to the clinging, but the way it had echoed his dream of that mystery woman had made his breath hitch. He knew he'd made some sort of response to Granger's shyly mumbled, "Good morning," but he couldn't for the life of him recall what it had been.

"I wonder if you might be able to help me identify a woman from one of my memory dreams," he said now, studying her reaction to gauge whether she was hiding anything. "I didn't see her face, unfortunately. Just dark, curly hair. We were… very clearly involved. I have no idea what year it was, but we were in my quarters at Hogwarts. It wasn't Raffaella."

"Oh." A sad, sympathetic smile found its way onto her lips. Ah. Bad news. "I was wondering how and when to tell you about her, actually. I don't know if I can give you any useful information. I don't know much—not even her name. It happened sometime prior to my sixth year. You loved her. Very, very much. Um. You asked her to marry you. I don't know what happened after you proposed. I'm sorry, Severus."

He'd proposed? That was… unexpected. Particularly as it had been prior to Granger's sixth year, before the end of the war. Was this mystery love of his dead? She certainly hadn't married him. Maybe she'd turned him down.

Severus would have to ask Lucius. By owl post, not in person. Seeing the amused expression on Lucius's face when Severus brought up a woman would do no wonders for their friendship.

With a whoosh of green flame, a grinning head popped into the fireplace. Why had Severus not warded it against everyone save himself and Granger? Such a foolish oversight.

"Hi, kids," George said. "How's living in sin treating you?"

"Kids?" Severus asked, ignoring the latter part of the greeting entirely. If only there had been a bit of sin involved in their living arrangements. It would have made the summer far more entertaining. Granger had said that she wanted a summer project.

The grin hitched up higher on one side. "Mentally, you're twenty. Tell me whether you think that counts as a kid when you're forty-nine again."

"I'm twenty-nine," Granger said. "You're only, what, a year and a half older than me?"

"You'll always be a kid to me, love, even when you're a hundred and twenty-nine. It's a hazard of being friends with my baby brother. Now, look out, I'm coming through."

"I don't recall you being invited," Severus said.

George didn't let something so trivial stop him. He stepped out of the fireplace, a wicker picnic basket swinging from one arm. At least he had the decency to clean up the gritty ash that dusted both himself and the floor.

"I come bearing gifts," George said, lifting the lid of the basket to reveal bright yellow tarts with perfectly crimped pastry and a sprinkling of icing sugar. "Mum made these for you, Snape. You might not remember it, but they're your favourite."

Granger's eyes narrowed. "You eat one first, George. One of my choosing."

"Where's the trust, I ask you?"

"It's back in my fifth year. You fed it to a firstie to see what would happen."

"Fair point. All right, go on. Pick one."

Dipping a hand into the basket, Granger hovered over five different tarts, scrutinising George's face each time, before finally making her choice. George crammed half of it into his mouth without argument or hesitation. Nothing happened.

One visitor was one more than Severus wanted, so the sound of someone knocking on the front door made his lip curl instinctively. While Granger scurried off to answer it, George switched the basket to his other hand and set it on a side table that, like all tables in Severus's house, was already weighed down by books.

Edward's voice was the sort that carried, like someone had cast a permanent Sonorus on him. The boisterous greeting he offered Granger announced his presence before the sight of him did.

"Hello," Edward said to George. "I'm a friend of Severus's. I hope I'm not interrupting."

George looked gobsmacked. "Snape! You never told us you had friends. Ow!" He rubbed the spot on his arm that Granger had swatted. "Such violence. He knows I'm only joking."

Upon finding out that Edward was a Muggle, George's face lit up. He claimed he absolutely had to fetch his father. As if Edward was some sort of zoo animal to be gawked at. While George was gone, Severus pounced on his chance to interrogate Edward. Why hadn't he thought of speaking to Edward right away? The two of them had been friends for ages prior to Granger's sixth year. If anyone aside from Lucius would know about the mystery woman, it would be Edward.

"I have no clue," Edward said once Severus had explained the situation. "Sorry, mate. As far as your relationships go, I only know about Rubella."

"Do you mean Raffaella?" Granger asked.

"Yeah, that's the one. Not that I ever met her." Clearing his throat, Edward cast a sidelong glance at Granger. "I got the impression you had a couple of one night stands over the years, but you didn't seem interested in anything more long term with anyone."

Granger became very interested in the basket of lemony treats all of a sudden. Severus didn't care if they tasted better than Amortentia smelled. He was not going to eat anything that had been delivered by George Weasley.

George tumbled from the fireplace again, followed by Arthur. Straightening his crooked glasses, Arthur caught Edward's hand in an enthusiastic handshake.

"It's so nice to meet you," Arthur said. "I always enjoy talking to Muggles who know our secret. Ooh, are those some of Molly's lemon tarts?"

"Help yourself," Severus said.

To his credit, George gave nothing away. His face remained completely neutral as his father picked up a tart and took a big bite. As icing sugar and crumbs rained down onto Arthur's dark robes, his sparse hair began to sparkle. It shifted in colour from ginger speckled with grey to crimson striped with gold.

Granger crossed her arms. George's disarming smile made her scowl falter, just a little, like she was holding in a laugh. After thirty seconds (and much gaping at himself in a conjured mirror), Arthur's hair went back to normal.

"They reveal what House you belong in," George said when Granger asked him how the tarts worked. "For kids who are too young for Hogwarts, mostly, though I'm thinking of making a version that lasts longer for going to Quidditch matches and the like. Not sure what to call them yet. Sorting Snacks? The final product probably won't be tarts. That, I confess, was just so Snape would actually eat one. Not that it bloody worked. The sugar on top is infused with a potion that is activated by a charm. I cast it nonverbally after you made me eat one."

"Would they work on Muggles?" Edward asked. "I've always wondered which House I'd be Sorted into if I was a wizard."

"Don't see why not," George said. "It reads your personality, not your magical ability. There's nothing in it that should hurt you."

A prickle of unease crept over Severus's skin like goosebumps as Edward raised one of the tarts to his mouth. If George's invention caused Edward any harm, Severus would make him pay.

Instead of yellow and black, as Severus expected, red and gold shot through Edward's hair. Great. Another one. George clapped Edward on the back.

"Welcome to Gryffindor, mate."

Arthur began pestering Edward with inane questions about Muggle inventions, starting with hair dye. Edward didn't offer up a single word of truth, just like he'd done when quizzed about Muggles by his late wife. Arthur ate up every outlandish claim. Both Granger and George had to smother a few laughs, leading Severus to believe that George knew far more about Muggles than his father did.

Severus made a mental note to keep Edward and George away from each other in the future. They could get up to all sorts of mischief if allowed to collaborate.

"What do your Sorting Snacks do when the person has to choose between Houses?" Granger asked George, gingerly picking up a tart. "The hat gave me a choice between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor."

"Huh," George said. "I'm not sure. Try one and we'll find out."

Granger nibbled on the pastry. One half of her curls transformed into blue and bronze spirals, while the other half shimmered into red and gold. She looked like an indecisive circus performer. Thirty seconds passed. Another thirty. And another. Her hair didn't turn back to brown.



I cannot recall you being attached to any woman, save Raffaella Zabini, for longer than an evening or two. I asked Narcissa (in my experience, women have much longer memories when it comes to this sort of thing), and she agrees.

You always were good at keeping secrets, so I wouldn't be surprised to find you had a wife and family hidden away somewhere. I do think you would have avoided any such attachments during the war. I'm sure you know she would only have been used against you—by both sides.

Dark, curly hair isn't much to go on. Did you see her face? You are a passably good artist. If you sketch her, I might be able to tell you her name. I imagine you won't want to send me a Pensieve memory of the dream; it was of an intimate nature, was it not? I don't remember you being any less prudish at age twenty. Such a pity. I did my best to break you of it, but no one can succeed in every endeavour.

Let me know if you stumble upon any other clues to this little mystery of yours. And do come for another visit sometime soon.


Squinting, Hermione scanned through the notes she'd taken during her interview with Severus about the start of the first war. It was well past time to either cast Lumos or turn on a lamp, but she was too focused on her task for silly distractions like adequate lighting.

The movement of Severus withdrawing from the Pensieve didn't catch her attention. It was the sound he made that did it: a rattling breath like a trapped sob. Hermione's gaze snapped to him. He stared at the memory that still eddied around the bowl of the Pensieve, his face pale and devastated.

"Severus?" she said. "What's the matter?"

He didn't answer. Rushing to his side, Hermione picked up the discarded vial and read the elegant handwriting on the label. Narcissa Malfoy. July 1997.

Oh, Severus.

"Was it Professor Burbage?" Hermione asked.

He opened his mouth a few times as if attempting to reply, but instead offered a stiff nod. As Hermione reached a hand towards him, his chin wobbled ever so slightly. He turned away from her. Again, she remembered his robotic voice from his trial, echoing Professor Burbage's last words. Severus, please. We're friends.

That man hadn't seemed like even a distant cousin to the one in front of her now, much less the same person. His walls had been up, his emotions locked away and buried. She wouldn't have believed he'd ever cried over anything, looking at him that day.

Stepping closer, Hermione risked wrapping her arms around Severus's waist from behind. He remained motionless for a few moments before resting one hand on her wrist. His thumb rubbed back and forth over the chain of her bracelet.

"That Healer is a fucking liar," he said, his voice gravelly and choked. "She said that dreams exaggerated everything. She said I should try to obtain the associated memories. Seeing the real thing was worse."

His breaths were ragged, each one a battle against the threat of tears. Seeing him in so much pain made Hermione's chest ache and her eyes sting.

"If you want to cry—"

"I don't."

"Well, that's fine, too. I was just going to say that I've seen you do far more embarrassing things than cry over something that damn well deserves your tears. I'm not going to judge you."

With a sniffle he tried to hide, he glanced back at her over his shoulder. "What sort of things?"

"On my twenty-fifth birthday, you went with me to meet up with my friends at The Three Broomsticks. Harry got the bright idea for us to play Never Have I Ever. It's a Muggle drinking—"

"I know what it is."

"Oh. Anyway, you and I got sort of competitive with making each other drink. Never have I ever read Hogwarts, A History more than three times. Never have I ever had a tattoo, that sort of thing. That one was really insensitive of me, wasn't it? You seemed amused at the time." She smiled into the fabric of his shirt at the tiny laugh that escaped him. "We both got completely pissed. You had Sobering Solution back at Hogwarts, but we had to make it there first. We took turns holding each other's hair back when we vomited on the side of the road."

He let her see his face then, tears and all. Spinning around in the circle of her arms, he placed one hand on her hip and the other on the small of her back. Hermione's hands found their way to his shoulders. The hair that brushed his collar tickled her fingers. With an unsteady sigh, Severus rested his forehead against hers.

"Who won?" he asked.


"Our little competition on your birthday. Who made the other drink more?"

She chuckled. "I think we both lost, to be honest."

"Hmm. That means I won."

"If that's what you want to believe."

Stubble scratched her fingertips as she wiped the tear tracks from his cheeks. Because they were so close, his dark eyes were nothing but a blur. She felt, more than saw, his eyebrows raise. Turning his head to one side, he feathered the lightest kiss over her palm.

He would not do such things if he was completely himself. He wouldn't. Hermione's poor heart didn't get the memo. It skipped and fluttered into a quicker rhythm. Oh, she'd been lying to herself for years, hadn't she? She'd never got over her silly, silly infatuation.

"Granger," he whispered. The hand grasping her hip tightened, drew her closer.

Her name spoken in that deep voice sounded like an invitation. If the man in front of her had all of his memories and wasn't in such a distraught state, she would accept. She would stretch up on her tiptoes until their mouths met, swallow his gasp of surprise, and channel all of her pent-up longing into a kiss.

But he didn't know the full weight of their history, and he was upset. Hermione stretched up on her tiptoes until her lips met his forehead.

"Do you want to watch more Black Books?" she asked.

He stepped back, removing himself from her hold. Those walls that had been absent went up. "No, thank you. Go back to your writing. I think I'll brew something."

"Severus, please. I need you."

Severus blinked the sleep from eyes that were still sore and gritty from weeping. Another pulse of magic coursed through him, as familiar and bright as Granger. He remembered, suddenly, being roused from sleep by this magic before, deep in the dungeons. It had been different then—all panic and fear, wailing and sobbing. The magic that called out to him now was not from any nightmare of the battlefield. It did not wail; it whispered in a lover's voice. It wrapped around him, warm and enticing. It wanted. Wanted him.

Well now. That was a useful bit of data, indeed.

He considered casting his Patronus, the way Granger did for him when he had a nightmare, but why disturb what was clearly a pleasant dream? Instead, he padded downstairs to the kitchen.

As he waited for his tea to brew, Severus thought back to that embrace they'd shared earlier. For half a second, he had been so, so close to untangling how he felt about Granger. Something unwavering and essential had shone through—just a flash that had quickened his pulse when she'd touched his face so tenderly. Not long enough to name it, but long enough to know that it was precious to him. The sort of thing that—if experience and borrowed memories were any indication—Severus didn't get to keep.

In the wake of whatever that feeling had been, he'd almost kissed her.

As if he hadn't already been exposed enough around her, with his nightmares and his reaction to the memory of Charity's murder. As if he hadn't already given Granger enough ammunition, should things between them ever turn sour.

Flirting with her so blatantly that even a Gryffindor couldn't misinterpret it was one thing. He could play that off as a joke if necessary. He could spin some lies and take it back. She'd never need to know that he'd meant every word. But a rejected kiss?

Now, tea in hand, Severus moved to the front room and decanted his memory of their embrace into the Pensieve. Reliving it wasn't like viewing his lost memories. No emotions came swirling back to the surface as the scene played out before him, no matter how he strained and reached. Just to be sure, he watched it all the way through twice, stopping at the point when Granger kissed him on the forehead like he was her little brother.

Yes, she definitely would have rebuffed his advances if he'd gone in for a proper kiss. Thank Merlin he hadn't.

Footsteps creaked down the stairs. The dream was over, then. Granger's hair was almost back to normal—or as normal as her hair ever got. In the low light of the table lamp it was more brown than a wild mishmash of red, gold, blue, and bronze. The light was strong enough to see that her cheeks flushed pink the instant she entered the room and noticed Severus standing there. He affected a puzzled expression. Inside, he was smirking.

It must have been quite the dream.

"You're not looking at more memories, are you?" Hermione asked, peering over the rim of the Pensieve. "You just watched two a couple of hours ago. Remember what the Healer said about taking it slow—"

"I was reviewing memories that I've already seen," Severus said, whisking the contents of the Pensieve back into his head before she could get any ideas about snooping. "I spontaneously remembered something about half an hour ago."

"Really? That's wonderful!"

One of her hands rose to press over her heart as the other grasped his arm, heedless of the fact that her fingers wrapped around the dormant Dark Mark. Severus did not think anyone was sweet under any circumstances, but the way her whole being nearly vibrated with hope was almost a little bit sweet. Almost.

"What did you remember?" she asked.

"Being in my quarters at Hogwarts as your magic called out to me during a nightmare."

"Oh. Do you think anything triggered it?"

Stepping closer to her, Severus considered his options. No, he wouldn't tell Granger that her magic had made him aware of the erotic nature of her dream. She would be embarrassed, not pleasantly off-kilter and flustered. He would tuck the information away for a later date.

"No," he lied. "From what I could tell, it happened randomly. It felt like… like the opposite of stepping into a room and forgetting why I'd entered it."

As he spoke, he swept his thumb back and forth over the knuckles of the hand she'd placed on his arm, making the gesture seem absentminded rather than calculated. She worried her lower lip between her teeth.

How could his past self have missed the flashing neon signs that pointed to how Granger felt about him? He must have known. Mere days of observation had led Severus to the conclusion that although she wasn't prepared to act upon it, she still wanted him. And he… Well. He wouldn't mind recreating whatever she'd been dreaming about. He was certain of that much, even if his deeper emotions remained a mystery. Being close to her was surprisingly pleasant.

"Were you ever really like this?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"This." Removing her hand from his arm, she gestured vaguely at him. "I struggle to believe that this is how you would have behaved towards me at age twenty. All… you know. Tactile. Not that I'm objecting. Hugging you like I hug all of my other friends is nice. But once you have your memories again, you'll have quite a few objections for yourself. Particularly about some of the things you've said."

Severus made a half thoughtful, half amused hum. "So you've mentioned. We shall see. And to answer your question, I would not want you to meet me as I truly was at age twenty."

He'd been someone who would have handed Granger over to the Dark Lord before she could have drawn breath to shriek out a protest, not someone who would have invited her into his home for a summer of reading her way through his library and engaging in pyjama-clad midnight chats. According to his own faulty memory, he'd been a devoted Death Eater a short time ago, but he couldn't imagine going back. Not now. Not even if the Dark Lord had never gone after Lily.

Granger studied his face as if she thought she would find some hidden answer there. "Maybe having your older self's emotions has mellowed you a bit."

"Would you ever describe him as mellow?"

She giggled. "Good point. Hmm. I think I'm going to get that glass of water I came down here for and go back to bed. I might be able to squeeze in a few more hours of sleep."

"Very well." Bending down, Severus kissed Granger's forehead the same way she'd kissed his earlier: quick and platonic. "Sweet dreams."

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 10 of 29

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