Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 14 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Annoyingly, the first of September insisted on rolling around. Employment put a real dent in the time Severus could devote to his investigation. He sat in his quarters after the Welcome Feast, once again kicking himself for wasting most of the summer with his hyper-focus on Granger. Leaning over his desk, he pored over his list of suspects.

1. Rupert Smith, the new Muggle Studies teacher. Showed interest in Granger again. Granger is likely correct about his motives. He wants her fame and her connections, not her. The imbecile.

2. George. A prank gone wrong is a definite possibility. Also knows at least some mind magic, as demonstrated on Edward. Close to Granger, but she knows him too well to trust him. Permanently scarred by me during the war.

3. Bert and Ernie. New to my life, and therefore suspect. Bert is an expert at mind magic, being a former Obliviator. What motive could they have? Look into their pasts.

4. Raffaella. Obvious reasons. Spurned lover, etc.

5. Lucius. He said he'd missed the twenty-year-old Severus. Skilled with mind magic. Would likely not approve of anything between Granger and myself, due to idiotic prejudices. On the other hand, his son owes me a Life Debt, and Lucius is probably more concerned with his shoes than with my love life.

6. Althea, the former Muggle Studies teacher. Nauseatingly sentimental and romantic. Might she have been attempting to push us together in some hamfisted way? Had she decided to leave her post before or after my "accident?" Get information about her resignation from Minerva at first available opportunity.

7. Marietta Edgecombe. It would be a long time to carry a grudge over a few pimples, but people have killed over even lesser slights. I doubt Granger would trust her enough to let her guard down, but Edgecombe could have disguised herself with Polyjuice. Find out whether she was gifted enough to have brewed it herself.

8. Rita Skeeter. Granger blackmailed her. I doubt I endeared myself to her after she wrote that book about me. Particularly not if she had the nerve to call me "Sevvy" before I lost my memories. If not in her Animagus form, Polyjuice would absolutely be necessary to get near either of us.

9. One of Granger's close friends: Potter, Ronald, Longbottom, Lovegood, Mrs Potter. Trying to protect her from me? The Potters named their child after me, but any admiration they feel may not necessarily extend to wanting to see their friend romantically attached to me. Longbottom apparently demonstrated plenty of courage during the war, but he has all the ruthlessness of a marshmallow. Lovegood is seldom in the country (perfect alibi). Ronald seems the likeliest of the group (ex lover of Granger's, not a fan of mine), but is currently happy with the marshmallow. All need to be investigated, regardless of resemblance to confectionery. Perhaps ask the Potter children a few leading questions? Sans Veritaserum; not worth the headache if caught.

10. A student who received a failing grade and wanted revenge. Check last year's grade books. Unlikely to possess the skill to have modified Granger's memories, but could potentially have mangled mine.

11. Someone who was hurt by me during the war. View more of the Malfoy family's memories for potential names. Also: loved ones of the Death Eaters who were captured and sent to Azkaban due to my assistance and testimony.

12. Granger. Skilled at mind magic, but unlikely to have removed thirty years of my memories, either accidentally or on purpose. Not after what happened with her parents. No evidence of our past relationship in her journal. Would she keep such a relationship from her friends? If anyone else's memories have been altered, that will add even more complications.

13. Aberforth Dumbledore. I killed his brother. The last thing I remember before Potter found me wandering the castle is Aberforth ejecting me from his pub. Possible significance?

14. Boot. It's possible I left too much wiggle room in my questions. Example: he could honestly say he did not know someone if he had never met them in person. It is also possible that I am ridiculous and simply want it to be him far too badly.

15. Sophia, the guardian of my quarters. Portrait, obviously, but prejudiced against Muggle-borns and always rude to Granger. Could have coaxed someone more corporeal into doing her dirty work for her. I am lying to myself. I know this one is a stretch. I am simply avoiding

16. Me. Could it be that I erased Granger's memories and someone else tampered with mine? Even though my faulty memory places me so close to being a Death Eater, Granger's guard is well and truly down around me. She said on the very first day that she would place her life in my hands without hesitation. Such a beautiful, stupid Gryffindor, to put that much trust in a friend (lover?). Fuck it all. She'll never forgive me if it's true and she finds out.

17. Some combination of any of the above working together. The skill demonstrated in the wiping of Granger's memory is masterful and subtle. In contrast, what was done to me is more like an accident caused by Hagrid's pink umbrella. If Hagrid could keep a secret for more than two seconds, I would suspect him. On the other hand, whatever was done to me has also buried my feelings towards Granger. Who could manage to hide love? If, indeed, I love her still.

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose to dispel the mental image of Lily's unforgiving frown finding its way onto Granger's face. He could almost see himself casting Obliviate on a wide-eyed woman, but the blurred features were all wrong in his imagination. Hair, eyes, skin, all too pale. Lois hopped onto the desk, butted her forehead against his, and gave him a flat-faced glower when he didn't immediately offer up his usual response of a smile and a scratch under her chin.

Clearly deciding that the parchment Severus was hunched over was to blame for his bad mood, Lois tried to bat it off of the desk. Severus let out a mirthless laugh. Courageous half-Kneazle, protecting him from the mean scrap of paper that made him scowl so. If only animals could donate Pensieve memories. Lois and Boudica both undoubtedly knew all of Severus and Granger's secrets.

Severus tapped the end of his quill against the fourteenth item on the list. Hmm. Portraits. He wondered if the Gobstones Museum would be willing to make a deal. Was the portrait still there, acting as tour guide to the one or two visitors the museum had in a month? He would find out at the weekend.

Setting the charm to disguise the list as a lesson plan and locking it away in his desk, Severus withdrew the copies of Lovegood's sketchbooks that he'd obtained from her father. Getting them had been easy; he'd simply claimed that he wanted to reacquaint himself with all of the ingredients Lovegood had gifted him over the years. As a Ravenclaw, Xenophilius could appreciate intellectual curiosity.

Pretending to drink a cup of disgusting gurdyroot tea had, thus far, not been worth it. Nothing in Lovegood's sketches produced anything like that mysterious, glittering white powder he'd had a flash of himself using in that silver potion. Lovegood had updated her sketches upon receiving correspondence from him, detailing how he'd prepared the ingredients and what uses he'd discovered. Interesting, to be sure, but not what he wanted at the moment.

Severus drifted away from the drawings and towards his cache of memories. Even now that he'd realised how distracted he'd allowed himself to become, he was still drawn to the vials with Granger's handwriting. Maybe there was a reason for it. Maybe she was the golden key that would unlock everything.

Giving in to his instincts, he snapped up a memory from December of 2008 that was labelled: "Mistletoe… again." It would have been Granger's first Christmas as a single woman after years of being with Boot. Severus bet that mistletoe kiss he'd dreamed about had happened then. He could check the memory for holes and inconsistencies that might indicate part of it had been erased.

Love hit Severus squarely in the solar plexus the instant he saw Granger standing close to Memory Severus in the staff room. Severus wanted to capture that feeling and carry it with him beyond the memory. Such sweet torture, with textures and layers that felt more real than the hideous blankness he was saddled with outside the Pensieve. Granger sipped one of those pink drinks again.

"It won't be that bad," she said, biting her lower lip as she grinned.

"The entire Order? It will." Memory Severus shuddered.

"You see them every May at the memorial service without complaining too much. And you went to that reunion, remember?"

"Hestia Jones never tried to kiss me at midnight at either of those events."

Granger scowled in a way that Severus found very, very gratifying. "Hestia kissed you?"

"She tried to at a similar New Year's Eve party, yes. It was the year after the war. She only did it because no one else was queuing up to do so. As if I didn't prefer it that way. I didn't allow her to follow through. Her breath smelled like Firewhisky and pity."

"Too bad I was still your student at the time," Granger said lightly. "I don't like Firewhisky, and I've never pitied you."

Memory Severus let a smirk tug his mouth up slowly, his dark eyes shining.

A drunken giggle came from across the room, followed by a reprimand in a Scottish brogue as mistletoe materialised above Granger and Memory Severus. Her lips parted.

Anticipation coiled like a spring in Severus's stomach. This was a scene from one of his mistletoe dreams. Again, he waited along with Memory Severus, holding his breath for some expected event that never arrived.

"I think it's my turn this time," Granger said, casting disappointment over him as she drew her wand. "Reducto!"

Hermione swept down the dungeon corridor, flanked by Lois and Boudica. September was her favourite time of year. It had all of the best things: a new school year, her birthday, crisp weather, and changing leaves. The only blight on the glorious approach of autumn, apart from Severus's condition, was the new Muggle Studies professor. His interest in her fame (or, more likely, the fame of a certain messy-haired, bespectacled best friend of hers) had not abated since the staff meeting before the summer holidays. It was why she was avoiding her office and the staff room and anywhere else Smith might think to look for her during her free period—which coincided inconveniently with his.

Severus's voice reached Hermione before she saw the open door. That familiar, silky baritone berated the first year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs for the miasma of cheap perfume and pungent Muggle aftershave they'd created in his classroom. Ah, the joys of teaching preteens. The clash of scents smacked Hermione in the face as she peered inside. No wonder he'd opened the door to air things out.

It had been quite some time since Hermione had seen Severus teach. Possibly since her final year as a student. Nostalgia blanketed her as she watched him pace around the classroom, robes billowing. Bert smiled at her from his stool near the back of the class. Boudica joined in on the observation, but Lois seemed more interested in cleaning herself.

"Mister Lupin," Severus said, making the name sound like an insult. He paused by Teddy's cauldron. "Explain to me why you have added extra Flobberworm Mucous to your potion."

Teddy drew his shoulders back and looked Severus straight in the eye. How was it possible that little Teddy was already eleven years old? Wasn't it just yesterday that Hermione had held his chubby hands to steady him as he'd learned how to walk?

"Because it makes the potion thicker, sir," Teddy said. "I read in Potions Quarterly that this year's crop of Punguous Onions was a bit watery, on account of flooding in the fields where they're grown. I added the extra Flobberworm Mucous because I thought the potion wouldn't be much good for curing boils if it slid right off of them."

Severus crossed his arms. "You expect me to believe that you read Potions Quarterly?"

"I used to, sir. Um. Before your… you know. Memory thing. The last one I read was in April. You used to owl me your old copies. You said you didn't think I would understand them, but you lived in hope that someday you'd have someone to talk about it with who was less… verbios? Verbose?"

"The latter. Verbose. Which you are currently proving to be."

"Right. Less verbose than Hermio—than Professor Granger."

Hermione choked back a laugh. Why did that make her miss the complete version of Severus with a sudden ache? There was something deeply wrong with her.

Severus let out a dubious hmm. Leaning over the pink smoke that rose from Teddy's cauldron, he stirred the potion.

"One point to Hufflepuff," Severus said. As he straightened, he gave Teddy an assessing look. "Be absolutely certain you know how all of your ingredients will interact before you experiment in my classroom, Mister Lupin. If you dare to melt a cauldron or cause an explosion in my presence, I will take double the number of House points I would usually deduct. You have just demonstrated that you should know better."

Teddy's cheeks flushed. "Yes, sir."

In the past, Hermione had witnessed Severus telling a rapt Teddy about Tonks's Potions experiments (many would have apparently gone quite well if only she'd been able to keep from knocking the cauldron over so often). Hermione had long harboured suspicions that Severus actually liked Remus's son, though she knew Severus would never admit it.

Catching sight of Hermione, Severus tilted his head at her in a silent question. She waited till he'd dismissed his students before she entered the classroom. Bert followed the kids and took up his post outside the door. As Teddy passed by her, Hermione squashed the urge to ruffle his hair like they were at Harry's house. She wasn't Hermione to him here. She was Professor Granger, the same as the rest of the students, no matter how many of his nappies she'd changed.

"Why were you watching my class?" Severus asked, shooing a curious Boudica away from the batch of potions the first years had produced. "Have Bert and Ernie taken you on as an apprentice?"

Hermione shrugged. "It's been a while since I saw you teach. I noticed the open door, looked in, and started feeling nostalgic."

"Given the memories I've seen, I find it hard to believe that any former student of mine would feel nostalgic for my classroom."

"I know. There must be something wrong with me."

He laughed. "Clearly."

Picking up one of the vials of potion, Hermione wrinkled her nose at the murky, watery attempt. Someone would be getting a T.

"If I asked you to make a colleague cry, what would you say?" she asked.

"I would say name the time and place, and please tell me it's Longbottom."

"Of course it's not Neville. It's Rupert Smith."

"Oh." Severus sneered. "Him. Is that why you're here? Am I to be your bodyguard during dinner?"

She tutted. "As if I would use you so shamelessly."

"Did I imply that I objected to you using me? I thought we'd firmly established that I am amenable to being taken advantage of by you."

He was using that smirk. The one that made her insides twist pleasantly as her old crush bubbled back to the surface. It was different from his usual mocking smirk. Softer, more like a smile in the way it reached his eyes. He'd used it before he'd lost his memories, but always paired with silence rather than suggestive statements. And now she knew what those lips felt like brushing against hers. A breath snagged in Hermione's throat.

"Did you get on with Charity Burbage?" he asked.

Hermione blinked at the sudden switch in topics. "Erm, yes? I generally got on well with all of my professors, except for Sybil and Umbridge. And you. For a good portion of my school years, anyway."

"I was wondering whether you dislike Muggle Studies professors as a rule, or if you've just been unlucky with the most recent ones."

"I wouldn't say I dislike Althea," Hermione said. "She isn't my favourite person, but that's more to do with us having wildly different taste in almost everything. She is nice enough, in spite of her love of all things twee. I can't recall us ever having a serious disagreement. I don't need to have Sybil's dubious talents to tell you that Smith is not going to be so fortunate."

"Really? I thought Althea must have had some sort of problem with you, given that she made mistletoe chase you year after year in spite of the fact that you were involved with someone."

"Oh." Hermione chuckled. "The mistletoe wasn't chasing me. It was chasing you. Althea liked to send it after all of the single staff members when she'd had a few too many drinks. Which usually meant everyone except Neville and me. I did wonder why you never stopped her. If you'd wanted to, you could have reduced her to tears with no effort at all, but you just kept casting those Reductos every time the mistletoe caught you."

"And it always caught me with you?"

"No." Hermione's cheeks hurt from how wide her grin became. "Not always. One time it caught you with Sybil. The look on your face… Yes, that's basically it, right there. Ah, that was one of those Patronus-worthy memories."

"Hmm. You've mentioned these allegedly Patronus-worthy memories a couple of times. What were the others?"

Hermione dipped her face into the Pensieve without waiting to be invited to join Severus. The memory she'd chosen had happened quite late in her sixth year, when their Occlumency lessons had veered more towards long discussions that were peppered with surprise attacks from him. Memory Hermione scurried into his office, too-heavy schoolbag levitating behind her. She had two quills holding her enormous hair in a bun; smooth skin without even a hint of crow's feet; and absolutely no idea how many heartbreaking, horrifying, and beautiful things were in her future.

"Occasionally I forget how much younger than me you are," the present-day Severus said with a grimace.

"Really? I never forget how very old you are."

"Watch it, Granger."

"You watch it. Literally. It's about to start."

"Sir?" Memory Hermione said as she took her usual seat next to his desk. "May I ask you something?"

Memory Severus didn't look up from the paper he was marking with a D. "In my experience, yes. Constantly. Whether I will answer rather depends on the topic."

"Are my parents a target?"

That made him look up. Setting his red-inked quill down, Memory Severus swivelled in his chair until they were almost knee-to-knee, the way they had been so many nights after dinner in those days.

"I have not been told of any immediate plans, but that doesn't mean they are safe. The Dark Lord may not involve me."

Nodding, Memory Hermione drew in a steadying breath. "I've been thinking about casting a memory charm on them—making them forget me and think their names are something else. And then I'll give them a burning desire to move somewhere far, far away."

"You realise such a charm may be irreversible if you cannot remove it in time?"

"Yes." Memory Hermione's chin wobbled. "Better they not know me than be tortured and killed because of me. Since I am going to stick by Harry until the end, my life is in rather a lot of danger. And I will carry on fighting without him, should he f-fail. I am willing to die in this war if I have to, but I'd rather spare my parents the pain of burying their child."

Hermione knew better now. She knew, after difficult discussions with the couple known as Monica and Wendell Wilkins, that her parents would have preferred to feel that indescribable pain. They had made it clear that they would rather know her and feel the never-dulling ache of her absence than have an empty space inside them where memories of happiness and love and a daughter used to be.

Memory Severus paused for a long time, tapping an index finger against his lower lip. "When you first entered my classes," he finally said, "I wondered why the Sorting Hat had not placed you in Ravenclaw. Your thirst for knowledge was—and still is—immense. The intervening years have disabused me of the notion that you are anything but a Gryffindor. In addition to the lamentable tendency towards showing off… You are extraordinarily brave, Miss Granger."

Memory Hermione's mouth dropped open. "Oh," she whispered. "That is my new Patronus memory as of right now. Finally getting praise from Professor Snape."

Memory Severus scoffed. "I—"

"Shh. No. Please don't ruin it, sir. You called me brave. Extraordinarily brave. Let's leave it at that."

A few beats passed, his glower getting darker as Memory Hermione's eyes went wider. It hadn't actually been strong enough to power a Patronus, of course, but the whole scene still made Hermione smile, years later.

"Miss Granger, did you just shush me?"

"I think I might have. Just a little bit. Sorry, sir."

"Five points from Gryffindor." Without warning, his wand shot up and aimed at her temple. "Legilimens."

Once they were out of the Pensieve and Hermione returned her memory to her head, Severus squinted at her.


"Shhh. No." Laughing, she placed her fingertips over his mouth. "Please don't ruin it, sir."

His lips pursed, kissing those fingers before he took her hand in his and arched an eyebrow. "Very well, Miss Granger. You may keep your… schoolgirl fantasy."

Hermione covered her face. "Sweet Merlin, Severus." She could no more hold in her giggles than she could stop Boudica from chasing gnomes. "Did you seriously just use your innuendo voice when calling me Miss Granger? You are going to be extra disturbed by that one when you finally get your memories back."

He chuckled. "We shall see."

Severus marched down a rain-slicked road. Silver snaked around his vision like a frame. A dream. Just another memory dream. A few steps more, and that silver exploded everywhere. It thrashed and pounded in his skull like a hangover. Indistinct scenes fluttered behind his eyelids, slipping away before he could grasp them.

He sat up in bed, awake.

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 14 of 29

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