Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 13 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Severus rubbed his tired eyes. The acrid smoke billowing around the kitchen made his throat burn, but the potion was ready. Two chipped earthenware bowls sat before him on the yellow worktop. Into one bowl, he placed the sharp, true memory of a few hours before, when he'd drawn his own blood to check for traces of powdered moonstone and pearl dust. Ashwinder eggs—the supposed cause of his memory loss—were a main ingredient in several love potions. Remnants of some love potion ingredients (like the aforementioned powdered moonstone and pearl dust) remained in the system for months after the potion's brief effects faded.

As he'd expected, the results had been negative. Only a faint echo of Ashwinder eggs was to be found. Severus had been under the influence of a love potion before; he knew what that gnawing, disgusting obsession was like. In his fourth year at Hogwarts, Sirius Black had charmed Sylvia Somers into slipping one such potion into Severus's butterbeer. That humiliating experience had felt nothing like the genuine affection that coloured the memories of Granger, but he had to check. Unless someone had managed to brew a concoction that manufactured true love, he couldn't blame the vanishing of his feelings for her on missed doses of a potion.

Into the second bowl, Severus placed a false memory he'd implanted into his own head: Minerva tap dancing on the head table during the Welcome Feast. Dipping a pipette into the oily looking brown potion that smoked away in his bronze cauldron, he dribbled three drops of the potion into each bowl. The memory of drawing his blood turned green: true. The one of a tap dancing Minerva shifted to red: false. Colour leached out of both memories until they were once again silver mist. Good. The potion worked as expected.

Severus blinked away a sudden glimmer of memory. He had done this before, in this kitchen. Creating potions had always come naturally to him, but it was no wonder the recipe for this one had practically shouted itself from his head. This was not his first attempt. Checking the book he'd seen in that flash of memory revealed notes that proved he'd spent months toiling over perfecting the formula for the memory checking potion at some point in his forgotten past. He had no idea whether he'd needed to verify his own memories or those of someone else. Not exactly reassuring news.

He returned the bloodletting memory to his head, but placed the false tap dancing memory into a vial. It could be amusing to give it to Minerva the next time Gryffindor beat Slytherin at Quidditch.

Every memory on his table received the same treatment. One after another, they all glowed green. Next came the arduous task of checking memories he'd already received. Green, green, green. All clear and true. Severus sagged in relief. Not that he'd anticipated a different result. False memories inspiring the emotions he'd felt during the viewings was unlikely.

His fingers trembled slightly as he withdrew the flash of memory he'd experienced in Granger's bed—the one he'd reenacted by kissing her. Three drops of the potion, and it swirled into green.

Severus pushed his lank hair back from his face. It had really happened. He wasn't prepared to rule her out entirely, but instinct and a lack of evidence to the contrary told him Granger was likely another victim, rather than the perpetrator. If she'd done it, she probably would have tried to Obliviate him when he'd admitted to having that flash.

How many of her memories had they wiped? How much of Severus had been stolen from her? And if Severus discovered the culprit's identity, where would he hide the body?

Right. There would be time for revenge fantasies later. Severus needed to work on the dreams next. He was less sure about how they would react with the potion. For his control samples, he selected the memory dream of Charity's death and the nightmare he'd had of Granger being dragged away to the Dark Lord by Sirius Black. The potion correctly marked them as true and false, respectively, though the colours were paler than they'd been with the Pensieve memories.

Severus lined other memory dreams up for their turn: lounging in bed with the mystery woman, seeing Granger with Boot outside her cottage, kissing Granger beneath the mistletoe. The first two reacted the same as Charity's death: pale green. The memory of the mistletoe dream bubbled and fizzed for a moment before turning a darker green. Odd.

The dream had omitted the beginning and end of the kiss, hadn't it? Granger and Severus had been talking beneath a sprig of mistletoe, then the kiss had consumed them without warning. Watching it play out in the Pensieve, Severus confirmed that the moment his lips captured hers had not been part of it. Returning the memory to where it belonged, Severus took his time painstakingly separating the two scenes—talking and kissing—during his second attempt at extraction. Three drops of the potion in each one confirmed that they were two separate, true memories. The one had been layered inside the other in his sleep. The logic of dreams was probably to blame for that, but he would investigate it further in any case.

Chewing on his lower lip, Severus considered the mystery woman again. If she was not a mere fantasy, why the devil did she smell like Granger's bath products? Had he and Granger been talking about two different women? One who belonged to that citrus-scented dream (likely Granger herself), and one whom Severus had proposed to at some point prior to Granger's sixth year (absolutely not Granger unless time travel had been involved, because he would remain celibate for life before he would seduce an underage student)?

Severus's heart scrambled up into his throat. His skin prickled with the awareness that someone was in the house. Aiming his wand at the kitchen doorway, he came within a breath of firing a hex at Granger.

Wincing, she held up a bag that had a few little round windows where the brown paper had been rendered transparent by grease. Instead of the pungent sting of his potion, the kitchen now smelled like sausages, baked beans, smoky bacon, and all things delicious.

"Sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to startle you. I was just going to leave this under a Warming Charm in here. I thought you'd probably dragged yourself home to be miserable and headachey in your own bed when I woke up and you weren't there. Your approach to hangovers is very, very different from mine, apparently."

"Is that a fry up?" Severus asked.

"Of course. I always like one when I'm a bit worse for wear after a night of drinking, even with Hangover Relief Potion. Sometimes only the Muggle cure will do."

Waving his wand, he summoned a couple of plates and two sets of cutlery. Her concern for his wellbeing (especially after he'd woken her in the middle of the night with his fake drunken antics and absurd demands) made the copy of her journal jab at his conscience from where it was locked upstairs in his bedside table. Severus dismissed the feeling.

"I'm quite well," he said, "but I won't turn down breakfast. There's coffee if you want it."

Granger poured another cup for Severus while getting one for herself. Given that he hadn't slept at all the previous night, it was not only appreciated, but necessary. Cringing at the horrible squeak of the polystyrene containers within the bag, Severus unpacked enough breakfast to feed a family of four. Granger had expected him to eat all of this on his own with a delicate, post-drinking binge stomach? They really did have different approaches to hangovers. It was a good thing he wasn't currently suffering from one.

"Where's Lois?" Granger asked, nibbling on a triangle of toast.

"Chasing gnomes in the garden and sulking because I wouldn't let her stick her face in the cauldron to supervise my brewing."

"Hmm. Too bad. I had it on good authority that she misses me."

Severus stared at Granger's mouth for a beat before responding. "That she does."

"Boudica was disappointed when she discovered your absence this morning."

"Indeed?" Beneath the table, he bumped his foot against hers. "Next time I'll stay for breakfast. For Boudica's sake."

With a barely suppressed smile, she shifted ever-so-slightly closer to him. "Next time? You're going to make a habit of stumbling into my bedroom drunk?"

Severus's raised coffee cup only partially hid his smirk. "Well, not stumbling or drunk, perhaps."

Granger rolled her eyes and huffed out a disbelieving laugh, but she didn't move her foot.

During his brief perusal of her journal, Severus had caught sight of his own name again and again, but nothing she hadn't led him to expect was to be found in its pages. No descriptions of kisses, no mentions of Severus sharing her bed, no allusions to a secret romance. Either she hadn't written about any of it, she'd been the one to erase Severus's memories and had covered her tracks, or whoever had tampered with her mind had edited the journal. If they had gained access to either her home or her quarters at Hogwarts, that likely meant they were known to her. Trusted. Someone she would have invited in, never suspecting.

Maybe it had even been Severus himself, trying to erase a love affair gone sour in order to salvage their friendship.

No. It had to have been Boot.

"Speaking of Lois," Severus said, "would it be too much of an imposition to ask you to allow her to stay with you next weekend? I'm attending a potions conference."

"Of course it wouldn't be an imposition. Especially not after you let Boudica and me stay here for so long. Where are you going?"

"Cairo. Your ex lives in Egypt, correct? I thought I might drop in on him while I'm in the country and request the donation of a few memories. The more sources I can draw from, the better."

"Terry?" Granger's eyes widened. "He does live there, yes. I have his address, but we, err, don't exactly talk anymore. He didn't want to stay friends when we split up."

A refused marriage proposal would do that.

"Do you have reason to believe he would rather not see me?" Severus asked.

She frowned. "I think he'd like to help out, but… I don't think he'll exactly be pleased to see you."


"You know who would be pleased to see you, though?" Granger asked. "Ron and Neville, at their wedding. Well, that might be overstating things. But I would be pleased, and so would Harry and Molly and Arthur. Have you finished considering it yet?"

Severus speared a bit of hash brown with his fork. "Honestly, Granger, I'm shocked at you. Bringing that up now is clearly taking advantage. I'm liable to agree to anything in this weakened, hungover state—even something as tedious as attending a wedding."

She laughed. "You have repeatedly given the impression that you wouldn't mind me taking advantage of you."

As soon as the words were out, Granger looked as if she wanted to bite her tongue and take them back. Her cheeks burned pink. Severus gave her a slow, broad smile.

He had to take a breath to stop himself from telling her about her missing memories. No matter how much he wanted to include her, he needed to do more research first. Nor could he give in to the building urge to kiss her—properly, this time—until she remembered what they'd been.

Instead, he chuckled low and let his hand brush against hers where it rested on the table. "True," he said. "I would not mind at all. Hmm. I suppose I can suffer through one wedding, for your sake."

The way she beamed at him made the idea of subjecting himself to the Longbottom-Weasley wedding almost bearable. Almost.

As far as Severus was concerned, thirty-eight degrees was no sort of temperature for a place where humans lived. Fortunately, Boot's flat was in a blocky, yellow building that kept Frost Pixies on the top floor. Frost Pixies survived by absorbing heat from their surrounding environment, so it was a beneficial arrangement for all concerned.

If only the organisers of the potions conference had thought to book a few Frost Pixies instead of cramming several dozen Potions Masters into the airless heat of a hotel function room in Cairo's magical district. Severus had lost count of how many Cooling Charms he'd cast as the speeches had droned on and on.

The subject of the conference had not interested Severus at all: recent advancements in potions to treat psoriasis. Many of said potions required extended exposure to sunlight, thus their choice of somewhere so infernally sunny for the conference. Still, it had provided a useful excuse for Severus to be in the area.

The cup of tea Boot presented to Severus had some sort of greenery floating in it. What the hell was this? He'd said yes to tea, not to salad. Severus gave it a closer look and a sniff. Oh. Mint leaves. Boot had apparently started to adopt local customs. That could be a good sign; it pointed to him being content in his new home rather than longing for the old one. And at least there was actual tea in it, unlike the entirely herbal nonsense Edward always tried to serve him. Severus took a sip. It would do.

Boot's own cup had a dose of Veritaserum drifting amongst the mint leaves and black tea, deposited there when Boot had gone back to the kitchen to retrieve a plate of what looked like shortbread topped with almond slivers. Severus had already rifled through every drawer in the sitting room while Boot had been preoccupied with the brewing of the tea. Nothing relevant had turned up.

Looking at the other man, Severus had a flash of himself casting Obliviate—just the sound, unaccompanied by visuals. Not exactly promising.

"So you have no idea how it happened?" Boot asked.

"Not yet, no."

"Wow. That's really awful. I'm sorry." Boot cleared his throat. "How's Hermione?"

"She's well. Progress on her book has been delayed due to my condition, but she's very… dedicated to seeing that I recover."

Boot chuckled. "Yeah, I can imagine."

Just in case, Severus tried skimming Boot's surface thoughts. A gifted Occlumens could, after all, block the effects of Veritaserum. Nothing pushed back against Severus—not even the slightest flicker of awareness from Boot that his mind has been breached. A stream of, "How long is he going to stay? I wish Hermione had warned me," and similarly predictable thoughts rolled past. Severus ducked back out before Boot's mind could land on any headache-inducing memories.

Instead of savouring his tea sip by sip, Boot downed the whole thing in a few gulps. A waste of perfectly good tea, but convenient for Severus's purposes. Boot's face took on a blank expression.

"When was the last time you were in the UK?" Severus asked.

"At Christmas, to see my parents," Boot said in an emotionless voice.

Hmm. That didn't fit with the timeline. Severus's memories had gone into hiding in late April, but that didn't exonerate Boot. He could have planted the seeds back in December, hired someone to do the dirty work for him.

"Did you see Hermione Granger on that visit?"

"No. I haven't seen Hermione since we ended things."

"Did you play any part in my memory loss?"

"No. I didn't know about it till you showed up here."

Damn. This was not going at all to plan. Boot was supposed to have confessed and be bound by an Incarcerous by this point.

"What would you do if Granger moved on?" Severus asked.

"Be a little sad, then get angry with myself for being a hypocrite," Boot said.

"Why would that make you a hypocrite?"

"Because I've been dating my coworker for the past four months."

Severus glowered at Boot. He hated when his instincts were proved wrong. The man wasn't pining over Granger. There weren't even any pictures of her on the walls.

"Would you ever do anything to harm Granger?" Severus asked.


"Have you ever tampered with Granger's memories?"


"Do you know anyone who has harmed Granger or tampered with her memories?"

"I met a few Death Eaters who injured Hermione during the war. I don't know anyone who has altered her memories, as far as I know."

Severus's glower intensified. "You haven't ever hired someone to meddle with another person's memories?"

"No, I haven't hired anyone."

"Have you ever worked against me or Granger in any way?"

"Not since my seventh year, when you were Headmaster. Never against Hermione."

"If you heard that Granger's memory had been erased, who would you suspect of casting the spell?"


Severus clenched his teeth. Good gods, how he hated this man. It was almost worse than loathing Potter or Black; he couldn't point to any bad behaviour on Boot's part to justify it, which made it all the more frustrating.

"Why would you suspect me?" Severus asked.

"I always thought Hermione trusted you too much. If anyone could get close enough to trick her, it would be you."

"Obliviate," Severus said with relish, wiping the interrogation from Boot's mind. He ate one of the biscuits as he waited for the effects of the Veritaserum to wear off. He'd heard all he wanted to.

Finally, Boot shook his head and blinked a few times. "Sorry about that," he said. "I was miles away. What were you saying?"

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 13 of 29

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