Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 2 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Narcissa delivered a lecture as her son reattached Severus's splinched left thumb. The son—Draco—was a Healer, but mercifully free of the condescending talk Severus had encountered on his trip to St Mungo's. Draco's healing was accompanied by quick, efficient movements and minimal speaking. Severus thought he should teach a seminar on bedside manner to other Healers.

"Honestly, Severus," Narcissa said with her pointed nose in the air. "You're lucky it was only a thumb. Rushing in like that when you knew better, and when a far less reckless option was readily available. I suppose I should have expected it, given the company you keep these days."

Severus was reminded irresistibly of seeing Fabian and Gideon Prewett's sister (what was her name? Mandy? Molly?) in Diagon Alley a few months before. A few months according to his memory, at any rate. She'd been with her passel of ginger boys, panicking because the two youngest had managed to slip away and nearly made it to Knockturn Alley. The twins couldn't have been more than two years old, but Severus had come away from the scene with the impression that the freckle-faced menaces had somehow known exactly what they were doing. Narcissa's tone and words couldn't have been more different, but the motherly, protective fury in her eyes was the same.

Severus didn't think Narcissa would react favourably to the comparison. He was tempted to tell her anyway. She was only five years older than Severus. Far too young for her to attempt to mother him. And he wouldn't have splinched himself if the Malfoys hadn't decided to add those sodding outbuildings. As if their manor hadn't already been enormous enough.

"If you think you can manage to keep yourself in one piece for the next ten minutes, I'll get us some tea," Narcissa said. "Lucius should be home soon. He'll be pleased to see you."

Severus stared at her tense shoulders as she departed. Since when had Narcissa fetched anything instead of ordering a house elf to do it for her?

"The elves have the day off," Draco said when Severus asked him about it. "The second Saturday of every month, though they've been ordered to tell people that they get every weekend, when asked. The second Saturday is when they make a big show of visiting Potter's elf and talking about their new lot in life. It's semi-fair working hours, no punishments, and the cosiest tea towels for the Malfoy elves these days."

"Why on earth would a house elf want a day off?"

"Oh, they don't. It annoys them no end. They'll spend all of tomorrow grumbling about eternal shame being brought down upon their ears for allowing their masters to brew their own tea, but Mother is determined to get on Granger's good side. Thinks it will help rehabilitate our family's image if Potter's pet Muggle-born is seen being friendly to us in public. Pureblood supremacy has rather gone out of fashion, so she insists that we give the appearance of having turned over a new leaf. Personally, I think if Mother saving Potter's arse didn't manage to fix our image, nothing will."

Severus frowned. "What does Granger have to do with the treatment of house elves? She's a teacher."

"It's so surreal that you don't know," Draco said with a laughing shake of his head. "In our fourth year, she… No, you know what? I'll let that be a fun surprise for you. Ask someone for their memory of S.P.E.W. the next time you need a laugh."

Thumb firmly reattached, Severus flexed the stiff, freshly healed knuckle as he studied the younger man. Draco had blond hair that was just starting to vanish on top and thin lips bracketed by lines that looked as if they'd been put there by scowling rather than smiling. Severus thought he might be fond of Draco, but something dark and unpleasant crept over his emotions when Draco spoke of Granger.

"You were in Granger's year at Hogwarts?" Severus asked. When this was confirmed with a nod, he added, "How well do you know her?"

"Ah." Draco coughed. "Not well since we left school. Not that well when we were in school, either. We never got on, for obvious reasons. She hit me once. I maintain I didn't deserve it. I saw her tortured on that carpet over there. She definitely didn't deserve it."

Tortured. Severus's lungs refused to draw air for a few moments. There was no mistaking the sudden flood of helpless anger that swept through him, though it felt like a muted echo of what it might once have been. He didn't look at the carpet.

"How well do I know Granger?" Severus asked.

Draco's smirk reminded him of the one Lucius always dawned upon hearing particularly salacious gossip. "Fairly well, I think. For a while I wondered if you were fucking her, but I guess not. She would have told you already if that was the case."

"Your language is surprisingly coarse for a Malfoy."

"Hazard of my profession." Draco gave an airy wave. "Sometimes it's the best way to get one's point across. I'm not sure it's possible to treat a victim of the Entrail-Expelling Curse without resorting to profanity. I manage to rein it in around Mother and Scorpius."

Perhaps Draco shouldn't be the one to give that seminar after all.

"Scorpius?" Severus asked.

"My grandson," a familiar voice said.

Severus pivoted on his heel to see what looked like Abraxas Malfoy wearing Lucius's smile. Lucius strode towards him, his walking stick tapping against the stone floor.

"Narcissa told me what happened," Lucius said. "I must say, I've missed the twenty-year-old Severus. The newer model is depressingly noble."

"I see I never managed to talk you out of your ostentatious taste in accessories," Severus said. "How unfortunate."

Lucius's white teeth gleamed as his smile tipped up into a full-on grin. "Nor did I ever convince you to stop dressing like a Muggle holy man. Shame I'm such a reformed character, or we could go out and have fun like the old days."

"Yes, because that worked out so well for us last time," Draco said under his breath.

A storm cloud passed over Lucius's face. He held his hand out to his son, palm facing up.

"Draco," Lucius said. "I believe you owe me something."

Muttering, Draco withdrew a jangling pouch full of Galleons and dropped it into Lucius's hand. Lucius tested the weight with a bounce of his arm, seeming satisfied with the result.

"I told you there was no way he'd bedded the Granger woman," Lucius said. "As I said: depressingly noble."

"Or I worried that I'd be strangled to death by her hair. In other news, you've been expanding," Severus said, motioning towards the view through the diamond paned windows. "Do your pampered elves have their own miniature manor as well as a pension and holidays?"

"You see more than one building?" Lucius asked.

"I see two. One that looks like a smaller, slightly less garish version of the manor and one bungalow."

"Ah! That one on the left is Draco's house. The other is under a Fidelius Charm; Draco is the Secret Keeper. It seems you don't need to be able to remember the secret in order to see through the spell. Fascinating."

"It makes sense," Draco said. "The memories are still in there somewhere. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll leave you to your reminiscing."

The bungalow—which was at least three times larger than Severus's house—was affectionately called the "garden shed" by the Malfoys. Lucius was all too happy to take Severus on a tour. Built just after the Dark Lord's return, it held every dark object Lucius had wanted to hide from the Aurors in case the side of the light triumphed in the war.

It also had an entire room for Lucius's shoes.

"Oh, I ran out of room in the main house," Lucius said.

"Yes," Severus said in a dry voice. "I can see how you would run out of wardrobe space in a building large enough to comfortably house half of the current population of Hogwarts."

More likely, Lucius had wanted to safeguard his shoes as much as his dark treasures. Good gods.

"I suppose you want to hear about our side of the war," Lucius said. "Or my side, I should say. It wasn't exactly yours, was it?"

"That's what I came here to find out."

"Come on, then. Back to the main house with you, turncoat." Lucius said the word as if it was his favoured nickname for Severus. "We'll need tea for this."

Lucius's story matched up disappointingly well with Minerva's. Severus had hoped for there to be holes to leap through that led somewhere his actions hadn't resulted in the death of his friend. No such luck. Oh, the wording was different. Instead of, "Dumbledore sent you back to Voldemort on the night he returned," it was, "You showed up hours late when the rat finally managed to raise the Dark Lord. I thought you'd bite your tongue off from all the Crucios." But the result was the same.

Lucius didn't mention—and Severus didn't ask about—Granger's torture at Malfoy Manor.

As they lingered over hot tea that did nothing to settle Severus's nerves, Harry Potter's face appeared in the fireplace, requesting permission to come through. Oh, bollocks. Severus should have known this was coming. He sank down in his chair.

"Mister Potter," Narcissa said, turning to thin air as if to order a house elf to pour another cup of tea before she remembered herself. "Is everything all right?"

"Yes, fine, sorry for the intrusion," Potter said. He vanished the ash from his clothes and the floor as he spoke. "Draco owled me. He said he had something of mine, and asked that I retrieve him before anyone decided to get into trouble reliving old times."

Something of Potter's? Severus had known Draco for all of two hours, and already he regretted saving his life.

"Thanks ever so much for not mentioning that last part, Potter," Draco said with a glare.


Lucius tutted. "As if we would do such a thing."

"I know, I know." Turning to Severus, Potter gave him the Auror head shake. The one—if Severus's run-ins with Muggle police officers in his youth were any indication—that everyone in law enforcement mastered on their first day on the job. "You aren't in any trouble, sir. You're free to leave Hogwarts whenever you please. But next time, could you tell Bert or Ernie that you're going out? It'll save them the hassle of following you when you try to sneak off to the Apparition Point. Also, I thought the Healer said you weren't supposed to be Apparating. At least you didn't splinch yourself."

If Narcissa or Draco said a word, Severus would find a way to make Silencio permanent. Bad enough Potter had revealed that one of the elderly Muppets had managed to trail Severus without him realising. That, on top of being caught eavesdropping by that goaty old barman. If Severus didn't know he'd made it through two wars as a spy, he would question his ability to do anything with stealth.

"If you don't want to be there, you could probably take a leave of absence," Potter said. "I'm sure Hermione could manage your classes, and they could just put Binns back in charge of History of Magic while you recover."

"I don't think so," Severus said. "I'd rather be doing something instead of sitting around and waiting to heal. I suppose I'll decide for certain once I find out how I like teaching."

Potter laughed. "Good one, sir. You, liking teaching."

Draco chuckled along with him.

At Severus's request, each of the Malfoys extracted memories for him to view later, with the promise that they would owl more. Severus decided that once he was back at Hogwarts, he would go to the library to find those back issues of the Daily Prophet. He had a lot of research to do.

Severus was still half asleep by the time he reached the lake. He went to the lake automatically after brushing his teeth, lacking the caffeine to jolt him into questioning his actions. The whole time, his mind lingered somewhere back in his bizarre dreams. It was only when he found himself at the water's edge that he began to wake up and wonder what he was doing.

Had swimming become part of his morning routine? He'd enjoyed swimming as a child the few times he'd gone with Lily and her family. Well, he'd enjoyed the actual swimming part. Putting up with Petunia, less so.

Deciding a dip in the lake might help him approach something resembling alertness, Severus transfigured his clothes into a swimming costume and jumped in. The cold, dark water sent a goosebump-prickled shock through his body and make him suck in a startled breath. Definitely awake.

As he windmilled his arms in a freestyle stroke, he thought about all he'd read in the library the night before. It was a miracle he hadn't murdered Harry right after the war, given how the boy had apparently shouted Severus's private business to the entire wizarding world. It was likely only the fact that Harry was Lily's son that had saved him. Well, that, and the fact that he appeared to have played an instrumental role in keeping Severus out of Azkaban.

The Giant Squid made waves rock against Severus as it splashed a tentacle down on the mirror-smooth surface of the lake. Severus realised he'd gone hours upon hours the previous day without thinking once about Lily. That knowledge felt a little bit like loss. He wondered if he'd gone weeks or even months in recent days.

The memories of his childhood with her that had been so vivid and raw in the aftermath of her marriage to James Potter were now fuzzy and indistinct. Most of what remained was just a general sensation of the warmth of companionship, the weight of unrequited love and the jagged slice of guilt. Perhaps the feelings of this 49-year-old him would make more sense once he'd viewed more memories.

The sound of trainers slapping against muddy ground drew him out of his thoughts. Granger was there, running around the lake and not looking as if she enjoyed one second of it. Her shoulders were hunched, her mouth set in a grimace. She had been a soldier in the second war; maybe she forced herself through this exercise because she still wanted to be able to run for her life. Severus treaded water, half-resenting himself for staring at the way her tight Muggle shorts hugged her arse. Her legs were far longer than he would have guessed when he'd seen her all covered up in robes. The bare skin looked smooth and soft.

"What?" Hermione asked, slowing her stride when she noticed him watching her.


"You should mind your posture," Severus said. "Relaxing your shoulders will make it easier to breathe."

She stopped and turned fully towards him, hands on her curvy hips. "Have you always been such an insufferable know-it-all?"

For some reason, she found her own question immensely funny. She took off (shoulders more relaxed, Severus noted) in a giggling jog before Severus could reply. He glowered at her. It didn't seem to have much effect.

Draco was right. Severus definitely hadn't slept with Granger.

Back in his quarters after his swim, Severus stripped down and studied his older body in the mirror. His hair was as greasy at the roots as ever. No amount of shampoo had ever seemed to help. New scars mapped out a landscape he didn't recognise: ropey red marks beneath the fine smattering of black hair on his chest, a white slash over a bicep that bulged ever so slightly more than it previously had, faded scratches on strong legs. He seemed to be in better shape than he'd been at age twenty. Lean, rather than skinny and underfed. Interesting. But there… oh, Merlin. He'd been almost prepared for the few threads of silver hair he'd found on his head. A strand of grey in the base of the short curls leading down from his navel was another story entirely. Unacceptable. Severus plucked it.

"You look fine, dear," the mirror said. "Not a day over sixty."

Severus wondered if Muggles were right about smashing a mirror bringing seven years of bad luck.

Drawing a dressing gown around himself, he flounced away from the mirror before he embraced the temptation to test the theory. A potted yellow zinnia that was perched on the chest of drawers drew his attention. Since when had he kept plants that had no use as potions ingredients? Next to the zinnia was a plain wooden box, stained the colour of dark honey. It opened at his touch. Inside, Severus found dozens upon dozens of letters. Almost all were signed with the same flowery signature.

Charity? Who was that? Severus's suspicions that he had a lover somewhere were dashed within the first few pages. This Charity appeared to be nothing more than a friend. She had been in love with a Muggle whom Severus had apparently tried to dissuade her from marrying, using his mother's experience of being bound to a Muggle man as a cautionary tale.

Edward isn't like that, Severus, one of Charity's letters said. He's not afraid of powerful women. His last girlfriend was an MP (but I like him anyway). And he's absolutely enchanted (pardon the pun) by magic. Almost as much as I am by everything Muggle. I know him. I trust him. He won't grow to resent me. He's already talking about how exciting it will be if our children are magical (though he will of course love them every bit as much if they aren't). I am sorry that your father wasn't more like him. He should have been. All children should have parents who are so enthusiastic about their natural gifts.

A faded wedding invitation revealed their full names: Charity Doge and Edward Burbage. Hmm. Severus had known a Charity Doge back when he'd been a student at Hogwarts. Hufflepuff. Talked to him in Ancient Runes, but she had been one of those people who talked to everyone. Because it hadn't seemed to come from a place of pity (and because she'd had some brilliant techniques for remembering translations), he'd tolerated her chatter. It seemed as if they'd become friends at some point. Maybe they still were, unless he'd managed to drive her off.

A magical photograph followed the invitation. An older, slightly rounder version of the Charity of his school days stood in a lacy white Muggle wedding dress, her arms looped around the shoulders of a younger Severus and a man with light brown hair and freckled skin. The bride and groom grinned and waved as if everything was perfect and war would never intrude on their happy little bubble. Charity tapped the younger Severus's shoulder until he offered up a smile that wasn't nearly as grudging as he tried to make it seem.

Reading through the remaining letters, Severus came across several from the Muggle husband. He laughed. Edward had apparently delighted in tricking Charity into believing the most ridiculous things about Muggles. More than once, Charity had scolded Severus for confirming Edward's "facts" when she'd asked Severus about some particularly outlandish claims. For almost a week, they'd had her believing that Muggles were born with a tail that their doctors amputated.

I think you're right, one of Edward's letters said. If I'd been born magical, you and I could have had great fun in Slytherin together. Then again, I might not have been able to convince Char that I knew much about Muggles if that had been the case, and that would spoil it. Did she tell you she has an interview to be the new Muggle Studies professor?

Edward and Severus's mischief didn't immediately cease when Charity took the post at Hogwarts. It drifted off gradually, until Edward's communication consisted of occasional missives inviting Severus to tea at theirs or thanking him for a birthday or Christmas present. The darkness that was ushered in when Severus had been forced to resume his spying duties had likely left him with little energy for such bright frivolity. Charity kept writing faithfully, even though she and Severus worked in the same place and saw each other almost daily. The penultimate letter from her made the smile melt completely from his face.


I forgive you. What you did was an enormous violation of my trust, but I know your heart was in the right place. I had no idea my will was strong enough to fight it. I never had the opportunity to try before. Never, ever give me reason to try it again. I won't be so forgiving next time, no matter if you're only trying to protect me.

I meant what I said. Edward will leave if things become too dangerous for him, but I'm not running. I can be brave like you. I can stay and fight. Hogwarts will need all the defenders it can get in the coming months, I fear. Maybe I should trust your instincts, given who you are and what you do, but you said before that You-Know-Who was barely aware of my existence. I'm no one important. Writing an article that contains what we both know to be the truth won't change that. I doubt I'll even manage to get it published. And I have to try to help save our world, Severus. I have to speak up for the Muggles who can't speak up for themselves—for my husband and his family and millions like them. If I convince even one wizard or witch that Muggles are not the enemy, the risks will be worth it. I will not be silent and complacent in the face of hatred just to save my own skin.

Just in case I do gain enough attention that your dire predictions come true, know this: I already forgive you for anything you need to do. I love you, my dear, infuriating friend. I can already sense you sneering in discomfort, but I do, and no action you are forced to take in this war will change that. I promise.

Your friend,


What had he done? Her will had been strong enough to fight it… the Imperius Curse? Tear stains smudged the ink here and there. Severus had a sneaking suspicion the tears hadn't come from Charity. A lump formed in his throat as he reread her forgiveness of whatever his crime had been. Something far worse than an ugly word said in a moment of pain and panic, no doubt. Emotions surfaced, as easy and quiet as floating on the lake: guilt, sorrow, fondness—so much fondness, not eroded by time. He loved her, too. As dearly as if she was his flesh and blood sister.

The very last letter wasn't long enough to count as a letter, but it felt more monumental than anything else he'd read. Its brief message made his hands inexplicably tremble.


I still believe in you.

Love always,


The parchment bearing those final words felt like cloth from being unfolded and refolded so many times. A dark stain marred one corner. Not ink; it looked more like blood. Perhaps he had carried Charity's belief with him into battle.

Severus wondered what had happened to her. Someone else held the Muggle Studies position now: an older witch with unnaturally vibrant red hair whose name he hadn't bothered to commit to memory. He would have to ask Minerva or Granger about Charity.

One of the Muppets, as Severus had taken to calling his pair of Auror guards, was in Hermione's seat at breakfast. She had been sitting in the chair next to Severus at the end of the table since she'd joined the faculty. As she approached, the Muppet in question shuffled down to the next chair. Either Hermione's expression or a warning from Harry must have informed him of her ownership of the seat.

Severus acknowledged Hermione with a nod over the top of his book. The gesture was the same greeting he'd given her almost every morning for the past decade. She wondered if, come autumn, he would run with her when the weather became too cold to swim. He'd done so over the past couple of years, though he always groused about how much he preferred swimming. The Severus she knew would have held up his coffee cup to show how much progress he'd made in caffeinating himself. Hermione was only allowed to engage him in conversation once the cup was half empty. This Severus simply kept reading.

It was strange, observing the differences in the version of Severus with only twenty years of memories. His ever-inscrutable face was more open. It didn't betray his every thought, but there were more hints to what he might be thinking. Not that Hermione knew how to interpret them.

Lowering his book, Severus swallowed what remained of his coffee. Probably safe to talk to him, then. The book, Hermione noticed, was a collection of essays on Occlumency by Thaddeus Thackeray that he'd assigned to her in her sixth year. He stared out at the horde of students. Tomorrow would be his first day of teaching. Hermione hid her smile by taking a sip of her own coffee. At least his sneer was still the same.

"What am I like as a teacher?" he asked.

"Oh, goodness me." Hermione chuckled. "There's a question. Here." Bringing her wand to her temple, she withdrew the silvery strands that held her memory of her first day in his classroom and placed them in a conjured jar. "Watch that when you get a chance. That's what you were like in my day."

He labelled the jar and placed it in his pocket, where it rattled against similar containers. Everyone had been forthcoming with memories for him, it seemed. Good. She didn't want to see him suffer the same fate as her parents. Even the thought of it made her heart clench.

Owls swooped into the Great Hall bearing letters and rolled up copies of that morning's Daily Prophet. A haughty looking screech owl alighted onto the table in front of Severus and offered him a thick parcel. The brown wrapping paper fell away under his long fingers to reveal the cover of an all-too familiar, loathed book. Snape: Scoundrel or Saint.

"Sevvy," he read the accompanying note aloud to Hermione. "I hear you've been having some memory issues. That means you get a second chance to read this for the first time, you lucky thing. Maybe it will jog some memories for you. Rita." The twist of his lips proved that his sneer was definitely still the same. "Sevvy? And who the devil is Rita?"

Hermione groaned. "A hateful little insect of a woman. That horrible book."

Severus's eyes grew wider and wider as he thumbed through the book. "How much of this is true?"

"Almost none of it. Certainly nothing in the chapter on me."

"You got a whole chapter in my biography?"

They were almost the same words as he'd used the first time around, spoken in the same incredulous tone. Back when the book had first been published, he'd followed the statement up with, "Why anyone would think you merit more than a footnote in a book that claims to be about my life is beyond me, Miss Granger."

She'd felt so small, sitting there in his hospital room. She'd wondered, then—and many times since—if he'd resented her for saving his life. If the Life Debt had twined around them until it had become a physical thing that pulled and strangled and smothered. If he'd wanted to die when he'd poured out his heart for Harry to see on the floor of the Shrieking Shack.

"Ugh, don't call it your biography," she said with a shudder to banish the ghosts of their past. "That gives it too much legitimacy. It's rubbish. Published while you were recovering in hospital without a word of input from you." She gave one of her hash browns a vicious stab. "The chapter about me speculates about why I might have chosen to save your life, since I did so before your true loyalties were widely known."

"Dare I ask what conclusion she reached?" His smirk—all wickedness and dark delight—suggested he'd already guessed.

"Not the right one, that's for sure. It couldn't be because I'd worked it out. It couldn't be because I would have tried to save anyone in that situation. I'd already seen enough death. It couldn't even be because I thought it might be useful to interrogate you if the war continued. Nope. It had to be because I'd seduced you. Or you'd seduced me; she never seemed to decide which way round it must have been."

Hermione glanced up at him. Two spots of pink appeared high on his cheekbones, contradicting the confidence of that infernal smirk. Almost as soon as she noticed, the colour leached away and his face went back to its usual impassive pallor.

"It's a shame Rita registered her Animagus form," she said. "Don't worry. No one who matters believes it. I was still your student for a year after I saved you, and they know you'd never… Oh, that reminds me. The anniversary of the end of the war is coming up next week."

"Yes, I'd gathered that. I've been perusing back issues of the Daily Prophet."

"Well, I just want you to be prepared," she said.


Hermione hesitated, a weary sigh chasing the words out of her mouth. "The goddamn lilies."

"Pardon?" Severus asked with a familiar arch of one eyebrow.

"Every year, the more unimaginative of your hero worshippers owl you bouquets of lilies. Sending back the charred remains doesn't seem to dissuade them."

She always had an urge to blast the lilies to confetti, like he'd done with the roses at the Yule Ball. So many people had been swept up in the romance of his one, true, tragic love. She knew better. She knew there had been another. That one had seemed far more requited—though Hermione was not supposed to have that knowledge, exactly. And since the war there had been Raffaella Zabini, but that hadn't seemed at all like love.

"I… see," Severus said, his mouth pressing into a thin line. "And this has something to do with Potter announcing the motivation behind my actions during the war to a battlefield full of people, I assume?"

"It does. You redirected the lilies to him one year. Ginny—that's his wife-hit you with a Bat Bogey Hex in retaliation when it made her allergies act up. She was pregnant at the time, so you just gave her a lot of menacing looks. And then they went and named the baby after you."

"Ah. I read about that. Albus Severus Potter. That poor child. Not only does he have Potter as a father, he's been saddled with that moniker."

A smile turned up one corner of Hermione's lips. "That's exactly what you said when he was born."

The clink of cutlery on plates and the chatter of the students seemed all the louder without Severus's voice layered over the top. He leafed through Skeeter's book in silence, his scowl deepening with every page.

"Nothing in here about her," he murmured at last. "I suppose there wouldn't be, if it's all lies. Granger? Do you know Charity Burbage? Or Charity Doge, maybe. I'm not sure whether she changed her name when she got married."

Present tense. He didn't know yet. Shards of ice lanced through Hermione's stomach. It was like being plunged back into the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts, being pressed down by the weight of desperate voices pleading for information about their loved ones.

"I did know her," Hermione said. "She was my professor for one year."

"But I thought she taught Muggle studies. Draco Malfoy said you're Muggle-born."

"She did. I am. I thought it would be interesting to get a wizarding perspective. I was very, very ambitious with my course load in my third year." To play for time, she readjusted her napkin on her lap. "Professor Burbage didn't survive the war, Severus."

His reaction surprised her. At most, she'd expected a barely audible sigh and the slight drooping of his shoulders. His usual stony-faced silence would have been the more likely outcome. Those reactions both belonged to the older Severus. Instead, hatred and anger flickered in his black eyes. The expression that shadowed his face was the one Harry had described from that night on the Astronomy Tower.

What had Charity Burbage been to him? Had she been the woman in that snippet of memory Hermione had seen during her sixth year? Given what Hermione knew of Professor Burbage's death, she didn't think so. At Severus's trial, he had spoken of it in a robotic voice. Even the barest trace of emotion had been absent as he'd quoted Professor Burbage's final words.

Severus, please. We're friends.

"Who?" Severus asked. "Who killed her?"

"Voldemort. You were there. So were the Malfoys. If you need the memory, one of them can…"

She let her voice trail off. Not all of the memories he collected could be pleasant ones. A great many would have to be as bleak as his days had been during the war. Nausea roiled through her.

"Yes. I'll send them an owl." Severus swiped the last of his toast through a bright yellow smear of egg yolk. "Granger, what is S.P.E.W?"

She blinked at the sudden subject change. "Why?"

"Draco said to ask for the memory of it when I needed a laugh."

Hermione rolled her eyes as she once again brought her wand to her temple to extract a memory. "I bet he did."

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 2 of 29

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