Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 18 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Darkness brightened into the staff room at Hogwarts, but not as Severus had ever seen it. The walls and floor were a misty shade of white instead of the usual dark wooden paneling and dull grey stone. Fairy lights twinkled in and out of existence over every inch of the high ceiling. The silver frame around the dream indicated—quite impossibly—that it was a memory.

Impossible, because Severus was naked.

"Christ, mate, put some clothes on," a familiar, laughter-tinged voice said. "You can't just walk around the staff room with your bits out. I've half a mind to tell the Headmaster."

Charity stood before him in a purple Muggle tea dress, smiling and whole and looking as if she'd never been touched by the Dark Lord's magic.

Severus blinked. "I am the Headmaster."

"So you are." Charity held out pale grey robes for him to shrug into. "Though if we want to get technical, you abandoned your post a little while ago."

"I did." The robes fit him perfectly, enveloping him in velvety comfort. "And now it appears I'm hallucinating."

"Why would you say that?"

"You've been dead for months."

"Oh, that." She waved a dismissive hand. "You're pretty close to being dead, too. At least for now." Tilting her head to one side, she gave him a sad smile. "I know you'd probably rather see Lily, but you're stuck with me. If I'm honest, I would have fought her for it. And you know I would've won. She might be all Gryffindor-brave and have more experience duelling with a wand, but I grew up with three older sisters. I can pull hair and give wedgies like you wouldn't believe."

A choked laugh escaped Severus. "Char—"

"I'm really glad you put on those robes, or this would be incredibly awkward."

With that, she flung herself at him. Their arms locked around each other. There was a curious sort of peace in the tightening of her embrace—something that hushed the apology that welled up in his chest.

"I am so proud of you," Charity whispered, backing up to hold his face between her hands. Her eyes overflowed with tears, but she kept smiling up at him.

Severus wiped her cheeks. "As far as delusions go, this one is tolerable."

"Tolerable. High praise, indeed."

"It is. You were usually intolerable in life."

"I did try." Charity let out a sniffly giggle. "Right. Time to make a decision. Do you want to carry on living, or would you rather move beyond the Veil? Goodness knows you've fought long enough, but I hope you'll decide to fight just a little bit more. There is love waiting for you out there among the living. Trust me; I'm dead. I know things." She waggled her eyebrows.

"That must make a refreshing change from when you were alive."

Charity cackled. "Oh, I love you, you miserable old bastard. So, what's it to be? Go through the door and back to your life, or take my hand and go on?"

Severus stared at her open palm for a few tense seconds before shaking his head. As he took a shuddering breath and stepped away from his dear friend, the room began to fade. Her voice became little more than a distant echo.

"Severus?" she said.


"It's exactly who you think it is."

What certain Gryffindors thought passed for whispers roused Severus from sleep. He kept his eyes closed, listening to their conversation. Granger had shifted around in the night; her back was nestled against Severus's front. One of his hands rested on the pleasant curve of her hip. The arm beneath her body was starting to go numb, her hair tickled his face, and the presence of her friends was unfortunate, but it was far from an objectionable way to wake up.

"Maybe we should just leave the stuff and go," one of them said. Ronald, unless Severus was mistaken.

"Yeah, maybe." Potter. "Err. Do you reckon this has been going on long?"

"I don't even know what this is."

"Really? Should I have given you an instructional guide as a wedding gift?"

A third person chuckled. Longbottom, perhaps. "Ron, I told you I thought they fancied each other." Yes, definitely Longbottom.

"I thought you were joking."

"Well," Potter said bracingly, "as long as they're happy, right?"

"Of course," Longbottom said.

"Err, yeah," Ronald said. "Yeah, sure. Merlin, what if they end up having kids, though? Any kid of theirs will be brilliant and absolutely fucking terrifying."

"I am retiring from teaching the day any Granger-Snape children start Hogwarts," Longbottom said. "I'll go back to being an Auror. It's less dangerous."

"I'm sure any future progeny of mine will thank you for making that career change, Longbottom," Severus said.

Granger made a sleepy noise of protest as Severus withdrew his tingling, heavy arm from beneath her with as much finesse as he could manage.

"Sev'rus?" she mumbled.

"You have visitors," Severus said, glaring at the three men who stood at the foot of the bed.

Potter and Ronald, both in their work robes, carried a giant floral arrangement and a bag from Honeyduke's, respectively. Unlike Longbottom, Potter and Ronald had the decency to look suitably uncomfortable.

Like the morning person she was, Granger popped up with a grin. While her friends showered her with get-well gifts and hugs, Severus took the opportunity to make his exit. Charity's words from his dream raced through his mind again and again during his descent to the dungeons.

It's exactly who you think it is.

Severus couldn't have suspected what he and Granger would one day become. Not as far back as that. At a guess, the whole scene had happened in his own head when he'd hovered on the edge of death.

Could it have been something to do with the war, now forgotten and not offered up in anyone else's memories? Perhaps it wasn't a true memory at all, but his subconscious telling him now that the person he most suspected—himself—was the one at fault for his current woes. He would need to brew more of the potion to test the dream for accuracy. And to show Granger how the potion worked.

Upon reaching his quarters, Severus searched his stock of memories from immediately after the war. The earliest one from Granger had taken place in August. Trial, part one.

The drawing room of Black's childhood home materialised when Severus fell into the Pensieve. Memory Severus folded a knitted green blanket with military precision and placed it over the armrest of a sofa. Granger stood in the doorway, so young, smoothing imagined wrinkles out of her sensible charcoal coloured robes. Severus didn't love her in this memory—didn't even particularly like her. Not a hint of desire crept into the Pensieve. Mostly, he felt a contrary blend of gratitude and resentment.

"What will you do when the trial is over?" she asked. "Will you go back to teaching?"

Memory Severus made a noise that was part scoff, part laugh. "Oh, Miss Granger," he said with the same mocking expression he'd given her when he'd uttered those words in an empty classroom during the height of the war. "Surely it doesn't need to be written in a book for you to understand that I will almost certainly not be acquitted? I am exceedingly guilty. I won't pretend otherwise."

"You also told me you didn't expect to live through the war." She spread her arms wide. "And yet, here we are."

"Hmm, I don't know. It may be that I am dead after all. I rather think my own personal hell would resemble Black's hovel."

Granger smirked. "And I would be there, asking you questions?"

Memory Severus didn't smile, but Severus did, feeling the bright burst of amusement that rippled through him.

"Undoubtedly," Memory Severus said. "Ah, and here are two more pieces of evidence."

Potter and Ronald gave him befuddled looks as they appeared behind Granger. A couple of Aurors accompanied them.

"Sir?" Potter said. "It's time."

Memory Severus nodded, giving no hint of the panic that punched him in the stomach. One of the Aurors escorted him to the Ministry. As Granger, Potter, and Ronald walked with him to the courtroom, a bystander tried to spit on Memory Severus.

Granger raised her wand and sent the disgusting projectile back at the man with a decisive flick. "I think not," she said.

"See?" she whispered to Memory Severus, taking care to speak through her teeth so the countless reporters couldn't read her lips. "If this was hell, I'd have let it hit you."

"That is precisely what you want me to think, Demon Granger."

Granger sat squeezing Potter and Ronald's hands through what this memory had captured of Severus's testimony. Memory Severus answered the Wizengamot's questions in a neutral, even tone. Unlike Severus's approach to collecting memories, the Wizengamot started at the beginning and worked their way through. Much of the information consisted of things he genuinely remembered.

He emerged from the Pensieve without any firm conclusions.

"Just to warn you," Harry said, "Rita Skeeter wrote about your accident."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I suppose I'm endangering the students of Hogwarts with my negligence in some way?"

"No, actually. She sort of accused you of doing it for attention, since you've not been in the spotlight recently."

"That cow."

Hermione picked through her selection of chocolates from Honeyduke's, setting aside the fruit creams for Ron. She couldn't stand them, but they were his favourites. Which was probably why he always chose that particular box for her. She didn't mind. By now it was as much a tradition as getting a Weasley jumper on Christmas morning.

A twee card from Rupert Smith was vanished without regret. Moving on to the next envelope in her stack, she recognised George's untidy scrawl. When opened, George's offering rained confetti over all of them. Hermione should have expected it, really. Opening the dancing Pygmy Puff card, she read the message inside.


Get well soon!


George, Angelina, Fred and Roxanne

PS: Everything is sorted with Snape. Don't be angry with him on my behalf. It happened exactly as he said. I really was fine with it.

PPS: If Madam Pomfrey makes a fuss about the confetti, tell her it will vanish itself in ten minutes. Probably.

PPPS: Any idea how to play Gobstones with a portrait? I may have promised Snape's mum something I can't deliver.

"So," Ron said, shaking confetti from his hair, "are you shagging Snape?" When she didn't immediately reply, he added, "I'm not saying it's a bad thing. You'll notice I didn't mention his greasy hair or the fact that he's so old and mean or—"

Hermione shoved one of the chocolates into his mouth. He chuckled around a mouthful of strawberry cream.

"I'm not," she said quietly. Because Neville saw her and Severus more often due to work, she turned to him. "Did you ever see any indication that Severus and I were romantically involved before his memory loss?"

"Beyond just fancying each other? No. Why?"

"He has had some recovered memories that feature me, but I don't remember any of it. He thinks I've been Obliviated. Wait, why are you so sure that he fancied me? No offence, Neville, but if you tell me that Severus confided his feelings in you, it will completely shatter my worldview."

Neville shrugged. "Well, there's the fact that he didn't hate you and even went so far as to seek out your company. That was a pretty big clue. Also, the way he looked at you sometimes when you weren't paying attention." He paused just long enough for Hermione's stomach to swoop at that claim. "But let's circle back to this Obliviation."

"Yeah," Harry said, his voice hard. "That grabbed my attention, too."

"I don't know if I believe it," Hermione said. "They could be implanted memories, right? Although, if they are, whoever implanted them has apparently seen me naked—or at least topless. That would narrow the pool of suspects considerably."

Ron made a strangled noise. "It wasn't me," he said. "I don't even remember what you look like naked. Forgot it all the second I took my wedding vows, obviously." Ignoring the snort that came from Neville, he grabbed another chocolate. "I forgot on purpose—not because anyone messed with my memories. Felt like I should specify, since memory tampering is apparently really in fashion right now."

"It does seem to be, doesn't it?" Harry grumbled.

A drop of water tickled Hermione's back as it travelled from her damp hair down between her shoulder blades. She thought she'd scrubbed away the last traces of the camphor scented ointment in her lengthy bath, but the way Severus kept breathing in deep through his nose made her second guess how thorough she'd been. Maybe she should have repeated one more time after lathering and rinsing.

Her skin was back to normal, smooth and flushed pink from the heat of her bath. Thanks to Severus's quick action with a Healing Charm and Dittany, she wouldn't be adding a mark on her neck to the map of her scars. It had been enough progress to convince Poppy to discharge Hermione from the Hospital Wing in time to teach her classes earlier that day—after seven minutes of debating.

Sprawling on the floor of her sitting room in her warmest pyjamas with a roll of parchment in her lap and a steaming mug of tea in her hand was miles better than being cooped up in the Hospital Wing. Hermione leaned her back against the sofa, where Severus sat with his own parchment (clad in his usual black robes, not pyjamas). The box of non-fruit cream chocolates laid open on the coffee table. At Hermione's suggestion, they were brainstorming alternative theories about what had happened to them.

"Are you free tomorrow evening?" Severus asked, scribbling something on his parchment.

She tilted her head back onto the cushion behind her so she could look at him upside-down. "I have patrol duty at eight, but other than that, I don't have any plans."

"I'm brewing another batch of my memory testing potion. You can come to my quarters after your patrol if you wish to see it demonstrated." His dark eyes studied her from beneath half-lowered lids. "I will also provide you with the memories you requested."

"Right. Yes. Good."

Hermione busied herself with fishing a catnip mouse out from beneath the sofa to throw to the cats. Could her naked body have been something he'd glimpsed in her mind during Occlumency lessons? She'd lost track of all of the embarrassing moments he'd witnessed while helping to build her shields brick by brick, but she rather thought she would remember him seeing that. Especially as he had been Professor Snape, not Severus, back then.

"Was it just me in the dream?" she asked. "The one with my mole, I mean. Was I just standing there topless?"

Severus's smirk was that lazy, warm one that she loved. It left her feeling as if her pyjamas had gone transparent.

"I played a rather… active role," he said.

Definitely not something from the era of Occlumency lessons. A pleasurable shiver ran through her.

One of Severus's thumbs caressed the place on her neck where the cauldron shard had struck. "I am still furious with Lupin for nearly killing you," he said, "but you'll be pleased to know that I resisted taking even more points from Hufflepuff when I saw him breathing in the corridor on the way up here."

"Such admirable restraint."

"I thought so."

Hermione swatted his leg. "Tell me your most outlandish theory so far."

"I do not have outlandish theories." He selected one of the dark chocolates from the box and paused to eat it before he continued speaking. "My most unlikely, however, is time travel. I briefly considered the possibility that a future version of you will travel back to some point prior to your sixth year. In this scenario, the reason you don't remember being with me is because it has yet to happen to you."

"Time Turners don't work that way—at least the one I had didn't. They're far more limited."

Severus's hand halted on its path to grab another chocolate. "You had one?"

"Borrowed, yes. Ages ago. You were still my teacher at the time, and I was still a child. I suppose I could go back by some other means. We do live in a magical world. But you looked as old as you are now in that dream you showed me." Hermione placed a chocolate on her tongue, taking a moment to savour the hit of caramel when she bit into it. "Why before my sixth year?"

Severus stared through the window at the dark sky and tumbling snow. "It is the time period you gave when I asked about that mystery woman from my dream."

The flutter that swept through Hermione's abdomen left her feeling weightless and a bit breathless. She remembered the radiant devotion that had enveloped her when she'd been in his mind, the rasp of his voice whispering, "Marry me."

It couldn't have been her. The point she'd made about his appearance in the dream was valid, and where would he have hidden an adult Hermione while the younger Hermione was potentially running around the castle? Possibly during the war, no less.

It had to have been someone else.

"Maybe," she said, "you and I were together without any time travel involved, but we hadn't told anyone yet, because it was very early on. We'd been on one date."

"It went quite far for a first date, then."

"You clearly couldn't resist me." Hermione gestured at her ice skating Niffler pyjamas. "How could you, when I wear things like this?"

"Indeed." Severus's eyes shone in the firelight as a tiny smile tugged at his mouth. "Your theory sounds plausible thus far."

"So, after our date, I was Obliviated for whatever reason. You figured out what had happened to me, and you tried to create a potion that would get even with whoever cast the spell. Something that was designed to erase decades from their memory in a way that would look like an accident. You intended to tell me about my lost memories only after the deed was done, because you knew I'd tell you not to go seeking revenge and to report them to Harry and Ron instead."

"Also plausible."

"Somehow this potion got spilled on you, and here we are."

"Hmm. I am by no means infallible, but I can't imagine myself being so careless with something so dangerous." Stretching his legs out, he rubbed his temples as if trying to soothe away a headache.

"Maybe one of the cats is an Animagus who is madly in love with you," Hermione said. "Or with me. Will you help me check? I've never cast the spell before. The one time I saw it done, it took two wizards to manage it."

Combining her magic with Severus's made Hermione's skin warm and her mouth dry. He moved no closer, but it felt like his body draped over hers as their spells layered together. Intoxicating power pulsed through her wand hand: darker than her own, with an edge as sharp as his tongue.

Neither of the cats reacted much when the blue light of the joined spell hit each of them in turn. Boudica curled up next to the fire and dozed off. Lois stared at the humans as if she expected a treat for being subjected to such undignified treatment. Both of the cats remained cat-shaped instead of twisting and morphing into witches.

"I thought not," Hermione said, sagging at the withdrawal of Severus's magic. "At least we know we don't have any infatuated Animagi secretly living with us."

Lois pounced on Hermione's bare toes with her claws extended, lest Hermione think herself too well liked.

"I'm not sure this exercise is helping us get any closer to the truth, Granger," Severus said. "At Spinner's End, I had a recovered memory of making my memory testing potion, which would suggest I had some reason to check the validity of memories in the past. Any theories about that?"

Hermione scowled. "Well, that's not at all reassuring. I guess it could have been something to do with Voldemort. He did manage to trick Harry with a false vision of Sirius. Maybe you were inventing something to prevent Harry from falling for that again."

"Possibly." Leaning forward, he tapped his wand on the side of her mug. The cooled liquid inside was replaced with fresh, hot tea from the teapot she'd placed under a Warming Charm. "If you refuse to accept that I may have Obliviated you without your consent, will you consider the possibility that you requested it? Perhaps we agreed that becoming involved was a colossal mistake and opted for Obliviation in order to retain our friendship."

"I don't think so. I prefer to learn from my mistakes."

Severus let out a short laugh. Given how prim her voice had sounded, she couldn't blame him.

"No, you're right," he said. "I don't believe that's what transpired. If we were together, I doubt it was a mistake."

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 18 of 29

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