Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 17 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Hermione grumbled under her breath about dunderheads as she turned Rosalind Macmillan's essay red with corrections. Honestly, the girl had listed the outcome of the 1964 Quidditch World Cup as one of the contributing factors behind Voldemort's first rise to power. Hermione would never go all vintage Severus and call her students idiots to their faces, but within the privacy of her office, it was another story.

The flare of green in her fireplace that signalled an incoming Floo-Call was a welcome distraction.

"Hey," George said, giving her a strained smile from within the flames. "Got a minute?"

"Sure." Abandoning the essays, Hermione crouched down next to a snoozing Boudica to get a better look at him. "Is something wrong?"

"Maybe. I, err. Well. I visited Snape back in September to buy some ingredients. Something about it has been nagging at me ever since, but I couldn't work out what. It just seemed… off, somehow. So, I finally borrowed Harry's Pensieve and checked the memory. Took me a few times to catch it. You know that clock over the fireplace in Snape's quarters? It skipped ahead by about ten minutes at one point."

The muscles in Hermione's legs tensed as the urge to run away from every logical conclusion washed through her. She wiped her suddenly clammy hands on her robes.

"I haven't told Harry or Ron," George said. "I thought I'd get your opinion first. You don't suppose he isn't quite as convinced about that whole defection from the Death Eaters thing as we thought, do you?"

"I don't think so." Dusting her hands together, she stood up. "I can think of a few other reasons he might have Obliviated you. I'm going to go have a little chat with him."

For a moment, George looked like he was going to object.

"Bert or Ernie will be outside the whole time," Hermione said. "And Severus himself taught me a very useful charm in my second year."

"If you don't get back to me within twenty minutes to let me know you're OK, I'll… I'll tell my mum!"

She released a brittle laugh. "Shame you were never a Prefect. You clearly missed your calling. Don't worry, George. I'll be fine."

Professor Snape had been very specific. He'd told Teddy he was not to melt a cauldron or cause an explosion when he was in Snape's presence. But Moaning Myrtle's bathroom wasn't anything close to the Potions classroom. Teddy could be a bit more adventurous while he was within shouting distance of Myrtle's u-bend.

Hunching over his little cauldron as the liquid inside simmered into molten gold, Teddy thought about all of the stories Harry had told him of his escapades at Hogwarts. Harry had—well, Hermione had—brewed Polyjuice Potion in this very bathroom.

As Teddy didn't have access to a Hermione to help him steal from Snape's stores (and would have felt bad about stealing from him, truth be told), he had to content himself with experimenting with the handful of ingredients he'd pestered his grandmother to buy him at the apothecary in Diagon Alley.

"Ooh," Myrtle said, floating just over his left shoulder. "Hello again."

This was the only problem with his choice of location: Myrtle herself. He'd made the mistake of mentioning Harry on his first visit. She hadn't left him alone since.

"Hi, Myrtle," Teddy said.

"I don't suppose Harry is going to visit you anytime soon, is he?"

"Err, no. I don't think so. He's pretty busy with Auror stuff. I'll see him next week when I go home for Christmas."

Myrtle sniffled. "Too busy to see me—for years and years."

Teddy held his breath. This was a crucial moment. Just a sprinkle of powdered dragon horn. The potion belched out sulphurous steam.

"Just like when I was alive!" Myrtle wailed.

"Myrtle," Teddy tried to shout over her, "could you please—"

"No one had time for me then, either!"

Her cries rose to an ear-piercing level. Teddy groaned. Myrtle made it very difficult to remember his resolution to be kind to her.

"Well?" Granger said, tapping Severus's wand against her leg. That she'd managed to take him by surprise and disarm him was nothing short of humiliating. "Are you going to explain why George is missing those ten minutes?"

The clock. How could he have been so careless? Some instinct that Severus didn't recognise demanded he go against years of offering up half-truths and misdirection and avoidance when cornered. Because he likely wouldn't have landed in this mess if he'd listened to his own urge to leave George's memory intact, he obeyed.

Stooping down until his face was level with Granger's, he presented his temple to her. "As I am currently lacking my wand, you will need to extract the memory for me."

It was uncomfortable, allowing someone else to pull the misty threads from his mind. Like the difference between lightly touching one's own skin and the tickle of another person's fingers. Severus winced as he maintained focus on pushing out the record of the mistletoe dream in which they'd kissed.

His heart dropped into his stomach for the second time that day as Granger flicked the memory into the Pensieve—the first time being when she'd uttered four of the most terrifying words in the English language: We need to talk.

Granger looked dazed when she finally emerged from the Pensieve. Two patches of pink stained her cheeks.

"What was that?" she breathed.

"A memory dream. I've devised a potion to test whether such dreams depict true events. That one does."

"Your potion is faulty. That never happened."

"Did you feel any foreign emotions as you viewed it?" he asked. "That's how it feels when I view a memory—as if the emotions belong to someone else and they are being forced into me. I suspect it's different when the memory loss is the result of an Obliviation. The only way to recover Obliviated memories, as far as I'm aware, is torture."

"What does any of this have to do with George?"

"It is my opinion that someone has altered your memories," Severus said, the words scraping against his throat as he forced them out. "Memory dreams and recovered memories have both indicated that we were… considerably more than friends prior to my accident. I used Veritaserum on George to see if he had anything to do with it. I thought a prank gone wrong was a possibility. He is an Occlumens—a talented one. He was able to block the effects of the potion. He knew the Obliviate was coming before I cast it and assured me it was fine with him, for the record."

Granger's grip on his wand slackened to the point that he could summon it back to himself with a murmured Accio, as easy as blinking. Severus left it where it was.

"How much more than friends do you think we were?" she asked. "Was it just that one kiss, or—"

"Unless I'm mistaken, you have a mole on your left breast."

With a noise that was somewhere between a squeak and a cough, Granger rubbed the back of her neck. "Um. So, I gather you decided it wasn't George? Who do you think might have done it? And how many other people did you interrogate and Obliviate? I don't for a second believe George was the only one."

Severus considered showing her his list, but decided nothing good would come of taking that route. She would only get indignant about his very reasonable methods of investigation and squawk about Longbottom not being a marshmallow.

"Apart from George, I have questioned one other," he said. "No one was harmed, and no memories were taken apart from the questioning. As of right now, my main suspects are people who are new to our lives, people with reason to hold a grudge against one or both of us, and… someone who would not currently remember casting the spell."

Granger stared at him as if he'd announced a penchant for house elf abuse. "You don't seriously think that you Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Minded me."

Severus squinted at her. "Those words do not make sense when used collectively as a verb."

"It's a film. Well, it's also a line from a poem. I'll show you the—never mind. You think you might be the one who Obliviated this more than friendship from my memory?"

"It's a possibility, yes."

"No." Her curls swished back and forth as she shook her head. "You wouldn't do that to me."

Severus arched an eyebrow. "I did it to George."

And to Boot, but Severus wasn't going to confess that. Best to let her believe his other interrogation had been with that Skeeter woman or some other enemy.

"What you took from George wasn't importantto him," she said. "If you said you thought you might have Obliviated some of George's memories of Fred before you lost your memory, I wouldn't believe that, either."

"You think you know what I would do? Funny, so did the Dark Lord. I'm told that did not work out particularly well for him. Everyone thought they knew me during the war, but none of—"

"I did. I knew you were on our side. That was one of the first memories I showed you, remember?" Granger stalked forward until they stood toe-to-toe. "I can imagine you doing any number of shady things if you deemed them necessary. Particularly when you're lacking decades of memories that place you on the side of the Light. Why do you think I cast Expelliarmus before I confronted you? But the man who knows me—who spent hours using Legilimency on Muggles and risked Azkaban on the off chance it would heal my parents… That man would not rob me of memories that mattered to me."

"I would have thought your experiences during the war would have robbed you of some of that naivete and idealism," Severus said. "You are allowing your emotions to cloud your judgment. Humans have an almost endless capacity for betrayal, Granger."

She surprised him with a chuckle. "I'm aware. Are you actually convinced it's you, or are you just being contrary because I'm so against the idea?" Without giving him a chance to answer, she scrubbed a hand over her face. "I want to see how this potion works, even if you do know about my mole. And why does no one else know about this thing between us? None of my friends have ever said a word about it. Do you think they were Obliviated as well? That's a lot of ground to cover."

"I imagine you didn't tell them about us."

"If it was just a one-night stand that got wiped from my memory, then maybe, but not if we were in a relationship. I would tell the whole Wizarding World. We are no longer at war. I'm no longer your student. There's no reason for me to keep a relationship with you a secret, so why would I? Would you be ashamed for people to know you were with me?"

"Of course not."

"Neither would I." As she leaned closer, her jaw set and determined, citrus wafted towards him. "I would be proud, Severus."

A pair of small fists banged against Eileen's portrait frame. Reluctantly, Severus went to investigate with Granger at his heels. Zeb Burke, his most incompetent student, stood in the corridor, his arms raised in preparation for another volley of knocks. That the boy had been sorted into Slytherin was a source of constant bafflement.

"Professor Snape!" Zeb said. "I need your help. Gabriel Flint took my Charms essay."

"I'm sure Professor Flitwick is preparing a fruit basket to thank Mister Flint for sparing him the task of reading it," Severus said.

Zeb blinked. Ernie leaned back in his chair and shot Severus a reproving look. Granger gave Severus a firm jab in the back, out of Zeb's eyesight.

Severus rolled his eyes. "Where is he keeping the essay? His dorm? Did you try creating a distraction so you could sneak in and take it back?"

"Well, see, sir, he stuck it to the ceiling in the second floor corridor. I could unstick it if I could get close enough. I think. Maybe. But I'm rubbish on a broom, and—"

"Come along," Severus said with a put-upon sigh. "I'll retrieve it for you." He grabbed the old broom that was propped up against his wall. Broomless flight tended to unsettle people.

"You'll be wanting this," Granger said, holding out his wand. "I'll walk up with you. I'm headed that way, anyway. I need to go Floo-Call George."

Severus wanted to ask what she would tell him, but couldn't with Ernie and Zeb tagging along.

Zeb's short legs moved double-time trying to keep up with Severus as they neared the stairs. "Professor Granger? Why did you have Professor Snape's wand?"

"We were duelling," Severus said. "The war may be long over, but keeping one's skills sharp is still important. And sometimes, Mister Burke, it can be advantageous to allow Gryffindors to think they have the upper hand."

Granger laughed.

Smith, the Muggle Studies professor, gave Granger an oily grin worthy of a used-car salesman as they passed by him at the centre of a crowd of students. One glare from Severus quelled whatever he opened his mouth to say, thank Merlin. In the second floor corridor, Zeb pointed out the location of his essay. Before Severus could go after it, shouts came from within Moaning Myrtle's bathroom: Myrtle herself, and what sounded like a male student.

"I'll check it out," Granger said, striding through the door.

Severus turned to Zeb, prepared to tell him that they would be having a discussion about suitable methods of revenge once he'd retrieved the essay, but a new commotion from within the bathroom killed the words in his throat.

"Protego!" Granger said, the last syllable drowned out by the thunder of an explosion.

"Murder!" Myrtle screeched. "Another murder in the bathroom!"

"Stay here," Severus commanded Zeb before rushing in, wand drawn.

Teddy Lupin screamed for help in front of a shattered cauldron. Severus barely registered his presence. The Protego Granger had cast had been for Lupin. The boy was fine. Ernie could see to him. But Granger…

Red spread out from her crumpled body, creating a macabre inkblot test on the damp floor tiles. Severus felt as if all of the blood in his body drained away to join hers. His shields cracked down the middle, releasing everything he felt for her—everything. On a wave of love and desperation and oh, fuck, why now, he skidded to her side and dropped to his knees.

"Hermione," he gasped, turning her over.

Her neck had been torn open by a piece of cauldron. Whatever Lupin had been brewing had raised blisters where it had splashed against her face and arms. Severus's eyes stung. His whole body wanted to tremble, but he forced himself to remain steady as he passed his wand over her wound and muttered Vulnera Sanentur. Her pulse was fast and weak, her skin clammy.

Scooping Granger's limp body into his arms, Severus left his broom behind and flew towards the Hospital Wing.

George gave her thirty minutes. He didn't really think Snape would do anything to Hermione. Not if Snape had the emotions of his older self. Those two had been smitten since Hermione had barely been out of school. Maybe even before that. And it was a long journey down to the dungeons from her quarters.

Still, it wasn't like Hermione to fail to check in. That was the sort of thing she'd lecture George for doing. By the time he made the sprint from the Apparition Point into the castle, George's heart was racing for reasons that he suspected had little to do with the brief burst of exercise.

Bad news had always travelled fast—if not with much accuracy—at Hogwarts. George motioned to the first person he saw: a distraught Hufflepuff girl who was surely tinier than George had ever been when he'd attended school.

"I heard that Professor Snape flew her out of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom," the Hufflepuff said when questioned about Hermione's whereabouts. "He didn't even use a broom; he just flapped his robes like a bat. And Professor Granger was bleeding everywhere and Teddy Lupin was there and now Hufflepuff don't have any points left AT ALL and my brother said Teddy is probably going to go to Azkaban for killing a teacher but I don't think they put kids in Azkaban but maybe they will since Professor Granger is friends with Harry Potter."

If the Hufflepuff finally paused to take a breath, George didn't witness it. He ran at full speed towards the Hospital Wing. Through the double doors, he found one of Snape's guard Aurors talking in tense, stern tones to a sobbing Teddy, whose hair was mousy brown instead of turquoise or orange or purple. Madam Pomfrey stood on one side of an occupied bed, smearing a green, camphor-scented ointment over swollen skin. Snape sat hunched over on the other side.

George struggled to breathe. The pale, blistered figure occupying the bed was Hermione. Snape wasn't touching her, but the way he looked at her was almost like clasping one of her hands in his. His robes drooped open, revealing an ugly splash of blood on the white shirt beneath. A matching stain was painted over the front of Hermione's robes.

"What the hell happened?" George asked.

Teddy barrelled straight into George and locked his skinny arms around George's middle. "It's all my f-fault!"

"Shh, lad," the Auror said. George couldn't remember whether he was Ernie or Bert. "There was an accident with some illicit brewing of potions in a bathroom. Professor Granger cast a Shield Charm on the boy, but ended up getting hit herself."

George patted Teddy's back. "Hey, mate, it's OK." He gave Madam Pomfrey a pleading look. "Isn't it?"

"She'll be fine," Madam Pomfrey said, and George's lungs worked again. "You were very lucky that Professor Snape was there, Mister Lupin."

George wasn't sure how lucky Snape's proximity truly was. If this wasn't Snape's doing, then Teddy had awful timing.

McGonagall marched in at the brisk pace she'd always used when George and Fred were about to get into serious trouble. An excuse almost tripped off of George's tongue as a reflex. Close behind her were Harry and Andromeda, both still dusting Floo Powder from their clothing. Releasing George, Teddy trudged on heavy feet towards his grandmother and godfather.

"George?" McGonagall said, seeming to notice his presence for the first time. "What are you doing here?"

"He has some business with me," Snape said, sitting up straight. It was only then that George noticed Snape's eyes were red-rimmed. Had he been crying? Bringing his wand up to the side of his head, Snape withdrew a memory and swished it into a conjured vial. "Here, Weasley. The password to my quarters is Murtlap Essence. The Pensieve is in the sitting room."

With two Aurors and the Headmistress present, George decided Snape was sufficiently supervised. Down in the dungeons, he got past Eileen's portrait with minimal conversation due to promising her a game of Gobstones at a later date. How he was supposed to play Gobstones with a portrait, he had no idea. Dumping the memory in the Pensieve, George dived in.

In spite of the drama and worry of that evening, George had to crack up laughing when his memory self talked about spanking Hermione. Oh, he amused himself sometimes. And the expression on Snape's face was priceless. Watching the memory through to the end made him sag with relief. Snape wasn't plotting against them any more than he ever did. He was just worried about someone hurting Hermione—altering her memories.

Who the hell would have been able to get close enough to do that? If George discovered their identity, they would be finding itching powder in unspeakable places for the next several decades.

Hermione's mouth tasted like pennies.

Smacking her chapped lips together, she opened her gritty eyes. The last thing she remembered with any clarity was going to investigate a disturbance in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. That had apparently not gone particularly well, as she now stared up at the vaulted ceiling of the Hospital Wing.

A rustle of parchment at her side drew her attention. Severus sat there with a stack of marking and a red-tipped quill.

"Severus?" she said, her voice coming out as a dry croak. "What happened?"

"Mister Lupin decided to carry on his grand family tradition of trying to kill people."


Sighing, he set his marking aside and gave her the whole story. Little flashes floated back to her as Severus explained what had happened. She had a vague, misty recollection of Severus saying her name—her first name. Then she'd been weightless, flying through the air.

The multiple Blood Replenishing Potions explained the coppery taste that lingered on her tongue. Hermione tested out the raw, reddened skin on her forearm with a touch of her fingers. Not too bad. She'd definitely had worse.

"I guess you finally repaid that Life Debt," she said.

"I don't give a fuck about the Life Debt, Granger. But yes, it appears to be gone."

"Hmm. Then I suppose I can't call upon it when I ask you to treat Teddy the same way you've always treated him."

"Granger. You cannot let the boy get off lightly for this. You could have died."

The way Severus's voice cracked on the word died made Hermione's heart stutter. Her palm found its way to his stubble-dusted cheek, drawn there by the need to press comfort into him.

"I would never suggest he go unpunished," she said, "but a fair punishment is a very different thing from you making his life hell for the next seven years."

Severus harrumphed. "I will consider it."

Hermione realised that reply meant no, but she intended to ask again. Deciding to abandon the topic for the moment, she rolled gingerly onto her side.

"Did you bring me any books?"

"I did, but I also promised Poppy I would withhold them until morning and convince you to get some much-needed rest."

Hermione tutted. "You shouldn't make promises you can't keep."

His lips twitched with a suppressed smile. "I don't."

"What if I close my eyes and you read to me and we both pretend that I'm trying to sleep? Just for a while?"

"Hmm. A short while."

Severus didn't give her a choice of listening material. Instead of any of the books he'd had Neville retrieve from her bedside table, he read the essay he'd been marking. His deep, precise voice held a sneer with every syllable.

Hermione tuned out until the words blurred around the edges and became meaningless. She wanted him to crawl into bed next to her and carry on reading—close enough that his voice would become a physical thing, a rumble that she could feel.

Reaching out, she took Severus's free hand in hers. His reading didn't falter. Somehow, she believed his hand should have felt as familiar as her own if they'd been lovers, even if the memories had vanished. It didn't. Hermione traced the scars and calluses that were his souvenirs from decades of brewing potions until, finally, the heaviness of sleep pulled her under.

Hours later, the scene still kept replaying in Severus's mind: the blood, the roaring in his ears, the soul-shattering panic, the onslaught of love. Seeing Granger near death had done what he'd been unable to accomplish; the clouds surrounding his emotions for her had cleared.

It would not have been his method of choice, to say the least.

Banishing the image of her sprawled face down and bleeding, Severus set his marking aside. Granger's breaths were deep and even, but the unmarred stretches of her skin were still too pale. He wanted to take her back to Spinner's End, where she could rummage through his books and sing that blasted song in his shower and feel brand new.

Being without the Life Debt was odd. Like the sudden absence of a noise he'd grown accustomed to hearing forever buzzing in the background. A different sort of tug towards her had lodged itself in its place, streaming past the wreckage of the walls that had once caged it in. The love he felt for her now was more intense than it had been in the Pensieve, as if all of these months together had built on top of their forgotten past.

As Granger slept on, Poppy looked in, checked vitals, administered more potions. She didn't attempt to order Severus to return to his quarters. She'd likely known him too long to bother.

A restless whimper from Granger alerted him to her nightmare before her magic reached across the scant distance between them and called his name. Severus didn't think she'd lash out the way he would if surprised out of sleep, but he didn't risk it. Instead, he drew his wand to cast a Patronus. When she'd done the same for him, he'd found the joyful light a soothing way to wake up.

The old memory didn't work. A feeble glow sputtered into life, nothing more. Severus sighed. Fine.

Closing his eyes, he summoned a parade of memories, both recent and borrowed. Dancing and flirting with Granger. Granger taking care of him when he'd had flu. Granger beaming at him in Mrs Figg's house. Kissing Granger beneath the mistletoe. Granger opening her eyes, alive and safe, just hours before.

"Expecto Patronum."

Severus's Patronus sprang forward, powered by thoughts of Granger, but still a doe. Still his long-lost friend offering him protection in spite of himself.

Without Severus commanding it to do so, the doe nuzzled Granger's neck. Granger's whimpers ceased. Her eyes fluttered open, regarding the doe with an expression that flickered between adoration and heartbreak.

"Oh!" Granger said, sitting up too fast and looking as if she regretted it.

Severus banished the Patronus. "What's the matter?"

"Boudica. Will you feed her for me?"

"Both of our beasts are currently being spoilt by Minerva. And before you worry yourself about George as well, he barged in while you were unconscious, intent on rescuing you from my evil clutches. I gave him back the memory I took. We parted on amicable terms."

"Oh. That's good. I'm still annoyed with you for doing that to him in the first place, though." Her frown looked as if it was meant to convince herself as much as him. "What time is it?"

"Nearly two."

"You can't be intending to sit in that chair all night." With a long-suffering sigh, Granger shifted over to one side of the bed and threw back the blanket. "Come on. Get in."

It didn't take much convincing for him to remove his outer robes and his boots and slide in next to her. A look from her was enough. He didn't point out that there were plenty of other beds available.



Her mouth opened and closed a few times with words that were never given breath. Placing a hand on his chest, Granger offered him a fragile smile. "Will you show me the other memories?"

"If you wish." Sweeping her hair back from her forehead, he dropped a kiss there. "Go back to sleep."

Elbows jabbed at him as she wriggled around and fought to find the most comfortable position. She finally settled with her head on his chest and her arm flung across his midsection. One of Severus's arms ended up wedged beneath her. Experimentally, he brought it up so his hand cradled her shoulder.

"You don't make the best pillow," she said. "I forgive you for that, though."

"How magnanimous of you."

Granger yawned. "I think I could forgive you for almost anything. You know that, right?"

He didn't. How could she possibly make such a claim?

"If you say so," he said.

"I do. But come to me before you go using more Veritaserum and Obliviating people, OK? We'll work it out together. And we can take our suspicions to Harry and Ron. Believe it or not, you can trust them."

Either he wanted too badly to please her or he was still half-mad from his earlier frantic worry, because Severus found himself saying, "Very well. I will include you in the process. I make no promises about Potter and Weasley. Now, goodnight, Granger."

"Mm. Night."

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 17 of 29

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