Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 12 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Ever since he'd stirred his first cauldron in Slughorn's classroom, brewing had been Severus's chosen method of relaxation. The more experimental, the better. It quieted his mind and focused all of his senses on his task. Now was no different. Calm seeped in as he ground dried hellebore blossoms in his mortar and pestle and sprinkled them over the gently boiling purple liquid in his cauldron.

A different scene swam across his vision: himself, working on a silver potion in a golden cauldron. He added a dusting of a fine, glittering white substance he didn't recognise—some sort of powder, perhaps. It was too blurry to tell for certain. Something small and dark fluttered in his peripheral vision. The potion surged up the edges of the cauldron in a violent wave, almost bubbling over along with his surprise.

The memory receded, leaving Severus staring at his half-completed experiment. That had been it. The moment that had stolen his memories. Upon searching his lab back when it had happened, the Aurors had discovered everything scoured clean of evidence (allegedly by Severus's own wand), but that golden cauldron had been left out.

Severus bit the inside of his cheek. He'd been so focused on the mystery of Granger that he'd barely devoted any thought to the mystery of his condition. Inexcusable. Just because he felt that he could trust Minerva and Arthur and a few others, it didn't mean he actually could. What sort of spy was he, allowing these people to dole out information as they saw fit? Had he really become so complacent after the war?

He needed find out what that powder was—or what it was supposed to be. Someone may have tampered with it. No one was beyond suspicion. No one.

There was also the possibility that it genuinely had been an accident, caused by a mistake on his part. He would examine that once he'd ruled out the other options. Retreating to the sitting room, he began yanking books from the shelves. What potions ingredient would he not recognise? What on earth had he been doing?

Lovegood. He could question Lovegood. She was always sending him exotic souvenirs from abroad, was she not?

A knock at the door interrupted his impromptu research. Edward and George waited on the doorstep with matching sheepish expressions.

"Hi," George said, rocking back on his heels.

"What do you want, Weasley?" Severus asked.

"Pint of Guinness. Let's go."

Severus pictured the clear potion simmering over a low flame in one of his other cauldrons. It would be another week until the lunar cycle was complete and the potion was ready, but George would be more likely to go out for a drink with Severus sans suspicion if a precedent already existed. And Severus did need to do something about the fact that George had obtained far too many memories from Edward.

"Very well," Severus said. "But you're buying the first round."

"Granger. Granger. Graaaaaaaanger."

"You're going to scare her if you keep that up. No one wants to wake up to their former professor looming over them and chanting their name in the dark. Well, hmm. Actually, Hermione might enjoy that. Carry on."

"I could cast my Patronus. That's how she always wakes me."

"Mate, I'm amazed you can even say Patronus right now. I don't fancy your chances of successfully casting it."

"Bollocks. I could. Oh, I think she's waking up."

Hermione had been awake since the first time Severus had mumbled her name. With a groan, she cast Lumos and glared at the two wizards who stood at the foot of her bed. It had to be a bizarre dream. No way would Severus actually let himself and George into her cottage at—she glanced at the clock—half past two in the bloody morning.

"What," she said between gritted teeth, "are you two doing here?"

"Good morning," George chirped. "We need a Bonder."

She shook her head and blinked a few times. Nope. Still didn't make any sense. "Bonder?"

"For the Unbreakable Vow," Severus said.

Raising her hands to her temples, Hermione squinted at them. "Back up. Start at the beginning. If you don't explain yourselves in about thirty seconds, I'm going to feed you both to Boudica."

Boudica, the traitor, chose that moment to rub her face all over Severus's legs and purr rapturously. Some attack cat she was. Severus scooped Boudica up and smirked at Hermione as if they'd transported back to her teen years and he wasn't holding a half-kneazle, but the coveted Defence teaching position.

"I went round to Snape's because I felt bad for my part in causing a rift between him and Edward," George said. "The three of us went down to the pub and sorted things out."

Sorted things out meaning they didn't talk about what had happened at all, but took turns buying rounds and talking about inconsequential things, most likely.

"Right," Hermione said. "And the Unbreakable Vow?"

"That was Edward's idea," Severus said. "Weasley is going to vow to never tell anyone what he saw in Edward's memories. He's also to undergo voluntary Obliviation from Bert to erase the memories from his head once I've viewed all of them."

"Bert?" Hermione said.

"One of the Muppets."

"Severus. It is either too early or too late for this. I can't decide which. Are you genuinely suggesting that a piece of felt with a unibrow is going to Obliviate George?"

"Bert is one of the Aurors who follows me around Hogwarts." Severus's tone oozed with the sort of disdain he usually reserved for his worst students. And Harry. "He used to be an Obliviator before he became an Auror. He said he'd do it. There are quite a few memories, you see. George wants a professional so he doesn't end up like me or… Who was that idiot you said Obliviated himself with your brother's broken wand?"

"Gilderoy Lockhart," George said.

"Right. Him. So, we need a Bonder."

Hermione closed her eyes so she didn't have to look at the two of them. "I'm not going to be part of an Unbreakable Vow you make when you're drunk, George."

"I'm sober as a judge. Snape, not so much, but I appointed myself the designated Apparator. Only had one pint, and that was hours ago. Not that he trusted me to Side-Along him here. That's why he came by Floo."

Hermione had three exceptions to the wards she set on her Floo connection every night, in case she needed to be reached during an emergency: the Potters, the soon-to-be Weasley-Longbottoms, and Severus. That list had just diminished by one third.

"Could this not wait till morning?" she asked. "You decided to just barge into my house in the middle of the night? What if I'd been sleeping naked or something?"

George smirked. "Then he really would have forgiven me."

"Weasley," Severus said in that tone again. Apparently, being drunk brought out the professor in him. "Do try to focus on the task at hand."

Climbing out of bed, Hermione lumbered towards the kettle. She needed tea.

"I'm not doing it," she said. "Your parents would never forgive me if I took part in something that could result in your death with one accidental slip of the tongue. And you." She pointed an accusing finger at Severus, who simply raised his eyebrows and kept scritching behind Boudica's ears. "Haven't you had enough of Unbreakable Vows for one lifetime?"

"I don't recall," Severus said sardonically.

"Very funny." Attempting to rake a hand through her messy curls, Hermione leaned a hip against the kitchen worktop. "I might be able to help you another way, I suppose. Do you remember what I did to Marietta Edgecombe, George?"

"Yeah, of course." He faked a sniffle. "I was so proud. Fred was, too."

She allowed a soft smile in spite of the ridiculous hour. "We could do something like that. A jinxed contract that writes something on your face if you break the terms."

"I've heard she still has scars from those spots. So you won't take risks with my life, but you'll take risks with the glory that is this?" George waved a hand over his face.


"Hmm. I guess that could work. Snape? What do you reckon?"

While they explained the back story, a wobbly Severus sat on the edge of Hermione's bed. He was the one who came up with the winning idea during the ensuing debate about what to potentially spell out in spots on George's face: "SHOP AT ADA'S" over his forehead and cheeks. Ada's Amusements was a fairly new shop in Diagon Alley, and George's only real competition.

By the time Hermione drafted the contract, applied the necessary jinx, and George signed it, Severus had removed his boots, flopped back on the bed and spread his arms and legs as if in the middle of making a snow angel on her sheets. Hermione saw George to the Floo and firmly warded it behind him.

"Budge over," she said with a shove of Severus's shoulder. "If my hair maims you, it's no more than you deserve."

Severus took his time about complying. Squeezing in next to him, Hermione put her forever-cold feet against his. It had the desired effect. With a yelp, he scrambled away from her side of the bed.

"Good gods, woman," he said. "How do you manage to walk around on those ice blocks?"

With a whispered Nox, Hermione cast the room back into darkness. "It's a talent."

"Hmm. Should I Floo home?"

"It's fine if you want to stay. You're not impregnating me tonight, though."

Severus snorted in a way he never would have allowed when he was sober. "I should think not. I'd rather have all of my wits about me for such an event." Deciding to risk the icy punishment of her feet again, he wriggled closer. Each exhale that passed his lips washed over her cheek and cooled her skin. Instead of sour alcohol, his breath smelled like mint. "I'm far too old to be this drunk. It's disgraceful. I can't believe I allowed it to happen."

Hermione laughed. "That's what you said on my twenty-fifth birthday. That's the only time I've seen you drunk other than right now, actually."

"But you've seen me stoned on pain potions. You said so in that flu memory."

"Oh, yes." Hermione hesitated. Why not tell him? She traced meaningless shapes on the scant stretch of bed between their bodies. "You were so stoned, in fact, that you stripped down to your underwear in the drawing room at Grimmauld Place and passed out on one of the sofas."

"I did no such thing!"

With her eyes once again adjusted to the darkness, Hermione could make out the stubborn set of his jaw. She was sure he could see the eyebrow she quirked up in response.

"Do you want to see the memory?" she asked. "Because that can be arranged. Harry was there as well."

"Potter saw me?" There was that disapproving professor voice again.

Hermione hid her smile against her pillow. "Why is that worse than me seeing you?"

"Because you're you, and Potter is Potter. Obviously."

"Mm. Obviously."

Clearing his throat, Severus tugged on one of her curls and watched it spring back. "Lois misses you."

Hermione didn't bother trying to conceal the grin that comment inspired. It was too big to be contained. "Lois does, huh?"

"Yes." Frowning, he made a confused little hum. "I've been here before."


"Your bed. I just had a flash. I remember…"

A flash of memory that placed him in her bed? Impossible. He had to be confused, getting things all muddled up from the alcohol. Hermione and Raffaella had similar enough features that one could be confused for the other in a darkened room. It had probably been some memory of Raffaella. Hermione ignored the bitter taste left in her mouth by that thought.

"Severus, you haven't," she said. "I don't think you've even been to my cottage since Terry and I broke up. Not while you still had your memories. Before that, I was in a relationship for quite a long time. Not in any position to be entertaining other men in my bed."

"Are you certain?"

"Trust me; I'd remember that. What did you see in this flash?"

"Me, here, with you like this. Exactly like this. And then I…" His hand hovered for a moment before settling on her shoulder, warm and dry. "I would like to try something, if you will allow it."

Her consent was as easy and automatic as a first year spell. "All right."

It happened quickly: just a closed-mouth brush of his thin lips against hers. Backing away, Severus furrowed his brow as if trying to assign a name to a semi-familiar face. Hermione held her breath. She had time to replay the event in her head before he spoke, the slow-motion repetition ramping up the speed of her pulse.

"Have we done that before?" Severus whispered.

"No." She exhaled. "Never."

"Not even when there was mistletoe involved?"

Hermione shook her head.

"Hmm. Pity."

For a second, he looked as though he wanted to go back in for a more thorough investigation. That, she would have refused, no matter what the little flip of her stomach had to say on the matter.

The reassuring weight of Severus's hand stayed on her shoulder as his eyes drifted shut and those mint-scented breaths grew slower and deeper. Sleep took longer in finding Hermione, but it eventually tugged her under.

She dreamed of mistletoe.

Severus was, as George had put it, as sober as a judge. All evening he'd pretended to drink, putting on a show of becoming more and more intoxicated. As Granger succumbed to sleep, Severus remained wide awake. Lifting his hand from her shoulder finger by finger, he wandlessly cast a spell to alert him if she woke. It wouldn't do for him to get caught.

The memory loss had to be connected to Granger in some way. His focus kept snapping back to her again and again. No one else was a puzzle; he'd known how he felt about the rest of them instantly. Bumbling around with memory after memory hadn't been necessary with anyone but Granger.

Then there had been the flash of memory he'd experienced when stretched out next to her in bed. He had been there before. In the silvery, runaway memory, there had been that flowering vine crawling up the wall behind her, that soft halo of curls framing her face, that stack of too many pillows beneath his head. He'd kept the kiss the same as it had been in the memory, too: brief and sweet. As expected, it had been inconclusive on his part. Pleasant, of course, but there was that infuriating block. Granger had reacted as if kissing him was something entirely new. He was fairly sure she thought she was telling the truth.

Had someone done a better job of erasing her memories than the butchering he'd received? How could he tell? He couldn't spot the gaps in her memory when his own was entirely absent.

Severus moved through the cottage methodically, opening drawers, speed-reading any scraps of parchment he found, searching for anything resembling a clue. Granger slept on. This older version of him suffered a pang of guilt when he discovered Granger's journal, but Severus ignored the uncomfortable twitch that rippled through his abdomen. Keeping one eye on Granger, he cast Gemino on the journal, then shrank the copy and slid it into his pocket.

Had his "accident" been caused by someone who had been jealous of whatever had been developing between himself and Granger? Raffaella? True, Raffaella was married now, but that didn't necessarily rule out the possibility of her being bitter. Boot? Granger had been with him for six years, and she'd refused his marriage proposal. It stood to reason that Boot wouldn't be pleased if Granger started to move on.

Sighing in her sleep, Granger stretched an arm over the spot Severus had previously occupied. Severus squashed the urge to abandon his search and crawl back in next to her. Instead, he shooed Boudica away from the wardrobe and began digging through the pockets of Granger's robes. No one was immune to suspicion, he told himself again. He had to be thorough, even if he couldn't imagine a world in which Granger had attacked his memories. His theory about former flames made far more sense.

Perhaps the culprit hadn't been a frustrated ex-lover, but an enemy. That Edgecombe woman, for instance. Did Severus have many enemies, now that all of the Marauders were dead? None had, as of yet, made themselves known. Boot could potentially fall into both categories: spurned lover of Granger, enemy of Severus.

Where had Granger said Boot lived now? Egypt? Damn. Severus hated hot weather, but there was nothing for it. He'd have to pile on the Cooling Charms and pay Terry Boot a visit.

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 12 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>