Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 16 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Relax. Severus breathed in for a count of four, held it, and exhaled. He had caused this; he could fix it. The urge to work out the puzzle of Granger and dismantle his own shields was too persistent to ignore. It was something he was supposed to do. Conjuring a mental image of walls crumbling and disintegrating, he tried to let go.

Reality had other ideas. One glance at Granger was enough to confirm the walls held strong. His body took a definite interest in the low scoop of her neckline, but his emotions towards her remained as flat as a millpond.

A temporary fissure had blinked in and out of existence once before, when he'd almost kissed her after viewing Narcissa's memory of Charity's death. What had he done differently then, apart from some humiliating near-weeping?

Severus could almost remember how it felt to love Granger, having experienced it in the Pensieve, but trying to summon it out in the real world was similar to trying to recall a scent. He could bring to mind the bitter richness of the black coffee he seemed to live on these days, but the thought of the fragrance was hollow and lifeless without the source of it.

A giggling, tipsy Granger plopped down next to him in his booth. Severus grumbled. Against all odds, she had managed to talk him into attending Ronald and Longbottom's joint stag do. She'd already been wearing the low-cut purple robes when she'd pressed him to accompany her. The neckline was likely to blame for his capitulation.

"Do you want a drink?" she asked, brown eyes somewhat unfocused. "I was just about to head to the bar."

Severus swiped a finger through a ring of condensation on the table. "No, thank you. I've decided to abstain this evening. Who knows how raucous Longbottom's stag do might become? Someone needs to see that certain war heroes and heroines make it back to the castle without passing out in a ditch."

"Very considerate of you."

"Mm. I still have that Life Debt, you'll recall."

She sighed. "I'd erase it if I could. You know that, right? I never wanted you to be indebted to me."

As Granger leaned closer, a fresh, sweet scent wafted towards him.

Citrus. Oh.

Severus's gaze flitted from her eyes to her lips. She rested her curly head on his shoulder, her hair tickling the scar that had been carved into his neck by that snake. His arm made demands to slip around her, like his body remembered hers even if his mind didn't. He kept both hands on the table.

"Although," she said, "if your Life Debt was forgiven, you'd need to find a new excuse for being nice to me."

"Because a return to cruelty isn't an option?" Severus asked, sliding out of the booth as nonchalantly as possible. As pleasant as it was to have her so close and soft, it wouldn't do for them to be seen displaying affection in public. Not when someone had possibly gone to great lengths to keep them apart. "Hoping for another library, are you? Or perhaps you'd like me to go to the bar for you?"

"I guess I'll settle for the latter," she said with a lazy grin. "For now."

At the bar, the grooms-to-be sat surrounded by various friends who seemed to think being loud compensated for being moronic. The scene shifted before Severus's eyes, trembling into a rainy night in the same pub—a night that had apparently been during Granger's relationship with Boot. In the vision, Severus sat at the bar with Longbottom, pointedly not looking at a nearby table where Granger perched on Boot's lap. Severus's gut twisted at the sight.

"Is it everything you imagined?" Vision Severus asked, pausing to take a gulp of Firewhisky. "Getting pissed with your Boggart?"

Vision Longbottom drew himself up as if some inner voice had just delivered a lecture. "Nah. You aren't wearing Gran's clothes, for a start."

"I liked you better when you were afraid of me."

Vision Longbottom laughed into his own Firewhisky. "No, you really didn't." With a glance at Granger and Boot over his shoulder, Vision Longbottom's expression shifted into an obnoxiously sympathetic, gentle half-smile that he aimed at his drinking companion.

Severus blinked, and the room returned to the present. Damn that wolf and damn Augusta Longbottom's fashion sense yet again. And damn Longbottom for having the nerve to pity him. How much did Longbottom know?

"All right, Snape?" Longbottom asked.

"Yes. Fine." Severus paused. "Did we have a conversation here about me being your Boggart?"

Longbottom drew his eyebrows together for a few seconds. "Oh, yeah. That was a couple of years ago, I think. You want the memory?" Craning his neck to see over Severus's shoulder, he added, "Actually, there's another memory I was thinking of showing you. I'll give you both of them."

When Severus returned to the table with the memories from Longbottom and the frou-frou cocktail Granger had requested, he found Granger engrossed in conversation with Lovegood and George. Severus chose to sit next to George. Safer.

"Hello, Severus," Lovegood said. "I brought you something." Opening her rainbow-patterned handbag, she unpacked several items: a finger trap shaped like a double-headed dragon, a ball of orange twine, three rusty springs, what seemed to be a hair clip made from petrified Devil's Snare, and a box of Muggle condoms.

"Just what you always wanted," George said.

Lovegood reached deeper into the bag. "No, those are mine. Just a minute, it's in here somewh—oh, here we are." Into Severus's open palm, she deposited a tiny bottle full of clear turquoise eggs.

"What are they?" Severus asked.

"No idea." Lovegood began repacking the items she'd shifted out of the way during her search. "They're from a newly discovered species of magical beetle. I haven't named them yet. Their bites leave big green welts that last for days and leave you seeing Snunks everywhere."

Severus opted to refrain from asking what a Snunk might be. George picked up Lovegood's finger trap and slid his index fingers inside. Tiny flames shot from the nostrils of the dragons as the teeth clamped down, making him jump. Lovegood took it back with a dire warning about the fire attracting some of the aforementioned Snunks.

"Lovegood," Severus said. "I had a recovered memory of myself brewing with a glittering white powder I didn't recognise. Any idea what it might have been?"

"Ooh, interesting. Nargle droppings, maybe? Though I think they're usually more gold." She ignored Granger's snort. "I don't think it's anything that came from me. The things I give you tend to ooze, rather than glitter, as a rule."

"It doesn't sound like any ingredients you've given to me, either," George said.

"Why would he give you ingredients?" Granger asked.

"For my inventions. He and Luna have a nice little business set up selling me exotic ingredients at exorbitant prices. Didn't you know? He also let me help out with testing the stuff from Luna once, but I got myself banned from his lab for," George lowered his voice in an imitation of Severus's, "excessive stupidity."

Granger's hands fell to the table with a thunk. "You let him test ingredients with you?"

The unspoken words rang clear: you let George test ingredients with you instead of me?

"Hey," George said with a smirk, "maybe he just didn't want to mix business with pleasure."

Severus watched George in his peripheral vision. In the past, George had dropped heavy hints that he harboured some far too accurate suspicions about Severus's feelings for Granger. Who else knew, apart from George and—astonishingly—Longbottom? Draco had wagered that Severus had been bedding Granger. It didn't necessarily follow that Draco knew about any deeper feelings on Severus's part. Lucius had bet against intimacy, claiming the older Severus was depressingly noble. That could go either way.

Thanks to the Skeeter woman, many people probably thought something along the same lines as Draco. Plenty were at least aware of his friendship with her. He'd lost count of the number of times people had asked him where she'd been when they'd attended the memorial event separately.

Granger stabbed her straw into her glass and took a resentful sip.

"Maybe it was because George has more experience with experimental potions," Lovegood said. She patted Granger's hand. "You're very good at following instructions, though."

This was not the consolation that Lovegood seemed to think it was.

"George is capable of some truly impressive magic," Granger said, "but Severus, do you have any idea what sort of grades you gave him when you were his teacher?"

A mental image of leaning over and kissing Granger's scowling mouth chose that moment to taunt Severus. Not a flash of memory—just a fantasy.

"No," he said. Reaching across the table, he stole a skewer of pineapple slices from Granger's drink. "But nor was I aware I'd ever allowed him to assist me. What sort of grades did I give you, Weasley?"

"Difficult to say. Is there anything lower than a T? Probably that."

Severus rolled his eyes. "It's no wonder you got yourself barred from my lab."

Longbottom's memory opened up into the loft at Spinner's End in December of the previous year. Severus's nose itched with a phantom sneeze as billows of dust greeted Memory Severus, Granger, and Longbottom.

"Do not attempt Accio," Memory Severus said. "It was already old and fragile when it belonged to my mother. I can't imagine being stored up here has done its condition any favours." He gestured to the stacks of boxes that he'd filled with Eileen's books after her death. "It should be somewhere in one of these."

"Are there any dangerous volumes we should know about?" Longbottom asked.

Memory Severus scoffed. "Unless you consider Muggle Chalet School books to be dangerous, none of my mother's books require caution."

"I have no idea what those are, so I'll remain armed, just in case."

"Ooh," Granger said, dropping to her knees in front of a box. "I read a bunch of the Chalet School books the summer before I started Hogwarts. You know, to prepare me for boarding school."

Another swirl of dust rose up as Memory Severus opened what turned out to be Eileen's collection of Muggle mythology.

"And how did that work out for you?" he asked Granger

"Well, let's just say it's a good thing I also read all of my school books and Hogwarts, A History." She stretched out an arm and nudged his shoulder with the tips of her fingers. "Though none of them prepared me for you."

"I should hope not."

The three of them fell into silence, save for the rustling of papers and opening of cobwebbed boxes. Most of the contents were Muggle in origin, but Memory Severus discovered a battered old book on the history of house elves buried beneath some Georgette Heyer novels.

After a few steps across the creaky floorboards towards Granger, history book in hand, he paused. Longbottom carried on working, but Granger had her wand out, a muted Lumos shining from the tip and illuminating the pages of The Chalet School in Exile. She was three chapters in.

The amused affection that grew within Severus was echoed in the smile that crept across Memory Severus's face. The way he looked at her had no possible description other than tender.

Longbottom noticed. He said nothing.

"Granger," Memory Severus said, schooling his expression into something more neutral. He had to repeat her name twice more to get her attention. "Here. I forgot Mum had this, or I would have offloaded it onto you years ago. The subject matter is far more to your taste than mine."

"Oh." She accepted the book as if receiving something precious. "Thank you."

It was eventually decided that Granger would levitate the Muggle novels to the front room. According to Memory Severus, "You're bound to read them no matter where I store them, and I can't have you stirring up dust by traipsing up here every time you visit."

"You've been changing a lot of stuff around here recently, huh?" Longbottom said once Granger had vanished down the loft ladder, taking the Chalet School and love along with her.

Memory Severus gave a noncommittal hum.

Longbottom scratched his bearded chin. "She hasn't said anything, but she likes you too, you know."

Severus honestly couldn't say whether more hope or more annoyance rippled through him at those words.

Memory Severus pried open another box. "Longbottom, you and I aren't friends."

"Oh, believe me, I know."

"We are colleagues. That is all. We tolerate one another—a small miracle, considered I was once cursed with the burden of teaching you. We will not be engaging in any heart-to-heart chats."

Chuckling, Longbottom shook his head. "I think I'd hate it as much as you if we did, given that I was once cursed with the burden of having you as a teacher." He used his wand to shift a box from the top of a teetering stack. "But Hermione does like you. Very much. Merlin knows why."

Silence. They went back to their search.

After several strained minutes, Memory Severus produced a crumbling Herbology text from one of the boxes and held it out to Longbottom. "This is the edition you have been looking for, correct? You needn't bother returning it. I have no use for it."

"Yeah, this is it." Longbottom grinned. "Thanks."

Granger had a tiny mole next to her left nipple.

Severus thought it was Granger. All he could see was naked skin, a sea of white sheets, and a double frame of silver enclosing the dream instead of the usual one. The dream controlled the direction of his gaze, and it seemed quite content to look at her body. He couldn't complain too much.

Bending over maybe-Granger, Severus trailed a path of heated kisses down her abdomen. Nerves jostled around in his stomach and made his hands shake where they touched her. The scent of citrus teased a smile from him. Yes, that was Granger's waist. Granger's curvy hips. Granger's small, high breasts. Granger's soft, soft ink-stained fingers digging into his shoulders.

"Severus," she whispered. His name had never sounded like a prayer before.

On a blissful shiver, the dream collapsed. Severus opened his eyes.

Well now. Knowing what Granger looked like naked was a whole new level of distraction.

Even with winter fast approaching, Longbottom's garden was impressive, Severus had to admit. In one of the few open patches of grass, Longbottom had planted a large ring of some sort of fast-growing trees that had twined their branches together to form a tent canopy. The foliage was a dazzling mix of bright red, orange, and yellow that would have looked pulled from a Muggle postcard of New England, if such postcards featured leaves that were as broad as a hippogriff's wingspan.

Wedding guests sat in gold chairs beneath the laced-together branches, waiting for the ceremony to begin. For lack of a better option, Severus sat in the back on Longbottom's side.

Instead of the lurid orange favoured by the Chudley Cannons, Granger, Lovegood, and Mrs Potter wore robes that were closer to the rusty orange of the leaves overhead. Lovegood really needed to stop acting as bridesmaid for friends who put her in colours that did nothing for her and everything for Granger. Not that Lovegood seemed to mind. She pranced down the aisle next to Mrs Potter with her usual dreamy smile on her face.

Both Granger and Longbottom teared up before Percy Weasley—the officiant—had said a word. Ronald swiped Longbottom's tears away with a pair of freckled thumbs. Potter was ready with a handkerchief for Granger. Watching her happy sniffling, a bright pang ricocheted through Severus. It was like that time he'd nearly wept in front of her—there and gone in half a heartbeat. Too quick to identify the feeling beyond knowing that it was something treasured and necessary.

No matter how he strained or relaxed or reached, it didn't resurface. Solid familiarity reigned once more.

Severus used the wedding reception as an opportunity to talk to as many potential suspects and informants as possible. Most people, he had always found, would fill the silence if it was left there too long. He let them. The technique was especially effective if one first coaxed the person to talk about everyone's favourite topic: themselves.

From various fellow guests, Severus learned about two extramarital affairs (cheerful conversation for a wedding) and one case of acromantula egg smuggling (Hagrid would never learn), but nothing that seemed immediately relevant to him. Still, he made a mental note. The information could prove useful.

At the very least, he would obliquely warn Minerva of Hagrid's activities. It would be no skin off of his considerable nose if one of the cretins he taught got themselves devoured by an acromantula, but Minerva might require him to assist with the paperwork and the notifying of guardians after the fact if it was one of the Slytherins. Best avoided.

The party was a bit like that memory from Raffaella—the one from the night George had proposed to his wife. Severus watched Granger dance with Potter, with Longbottom, with too many Weasleys to count, with Lupin's son, with men he didn't recognise. Only, this time Severus was confident he would not be Flooing home with another woman at the end of the night.

How had he ever questioned whether he found Granger pretty?

Once he'd had enough of socialising with purpose, Severus retreated to the apple and hornbeam orchard on the other side of the little stone house. Tilting his head back, he stared up at the night sky through the nearly-bare branches. Like Scotland, there were more stars here than he'd ever dreamed of during his early childhood in Cokeworth.

"You've been doing a good job of hiding," Granger said, drawing his attention back down to earth. As she approached, she offered him one of the glasses of elf-made wine she carried.

"Not good enough, apparently," Severus said, echoing the memory of that Ministry Christmas party. He shook his head at the wine. "No, thank you. I am not sure I wish to drink anything that impairs my judgment and control until I am fully back to myself."

Granger set both glasses on the low stone wall that marked the perimeter of the orchard. "That makes sense. After all, the last time you drank you did end up kissing me."

"The next time I kiss you, I will be completely sober, I assure you." Severus extended a hand. "Dance with me."

Granger let herself be drawn into his arms. This far from the party, the music of the band was nothing more than a faint collection of slow notes accompanied by a muffled voice, but it was enough to sway to.

"What makes you think there will be a next time?" she asked, smirking up at him.

Severus urged her closer with his hand on the small of her back. "Won't there be? I may not be able to read your mind right now, Hermione, but I thought I could still read you."

He used her first name like a weapon. A jagged sigh told him he'd hit his target. She moved closer still. It felt as if he'd downed a whole bottle of that elf-made wine, let it bubble through his veins.

"Sometimes you make it very difficult to remember all of the reasons I shouldn't let you flirt with me." Her tongue darted out to wet her lips. "Much less let myself flirt back."

When had flirting with Granger transformed from something Severus did to glean information into something he did purely because he wanted to?

"Why shouldn't we do something so undeniably pleasant?" he asked. "We are both single, correct?"

"Yes, but if you had never lost your memories, you would be appalled if I so much as cast a longing glance your way."

"Is that right?"

She would know it was not right if she'd ever paid attention. He had seen it play out in borrowed memories again and again. She'd never understood what he'd meant with all of the library building and Valentine's gifts of cats and statements that implied her body was exquisite.

Or maybe she had, given the memories she'd lost.

Granger shrugged. "You never wanted me before," she said, her voice paper-thin.

"What if I did?" Severus brought a hand up to cup her cheek, tracing his thumb along her full lower lip. "As I've said before, I still possess the emotions of that other me. Maybe I kept my interest carefully guarded."

"Well," she said with a breath of laughter, "I guess you were a spy."

"Indeed." Letting both arms wrap around her waist, he relished the enticing warmth of her body against his. "What would you say if I did approach you with my memories intact? Would you want the version of Severus Snape who remembered being your teacher? Would you try as hard to please me now as you once did in my classroom?"

It was difficult to understand her when she pressed her face into his chest, but Severus thought she muttered something like, "Good Lord."

"Which one do you want?" he asked. "Me with my memories or without?"


Severus let out a dark chuckle. "At the same time? That may be a challenge, but if we can find a third party willing to take Polyjuice once my memories are recovered…"

"You are going to be the death of me." Her fingers moved around to the back of his neck to toy with the hair at his nape.

Severus was still attempting to twist her words into a mention of the little death without being completely crude (likely impossible) when she spoke again.

"There would almost certainly be much less hand waving."


"Compared to when I was in your classroom," she said. "You asked if I'd try as hard to please you. Also, I assume I wouldn't need to hiss instructions in Neville's ear, since he wouldn't be there."

"Don't sully this by bringing Longbottom into it."

With a mischievous grin, Granger rose up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "I was never bossy with you, since you were my teacher. I'm afraid that would probably change."

Severus laughed. "I would expect nothing less."

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 16 of 29

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