Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 20 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Jogging needed to be reclassified as the fourth Unforgivable. Severus didn't care that it wasn't technically magic. It was evil, and he wouldn't hear a word to the contrary. Muggles needed to be saved from it as well.

Casting a longing look at the iced-over lake, he plodded along next to Hermione. He should have known he loved her when she'd revealed that he jogged with her when it was too cold to swim. What else but love would possess him to do such a thing?

Severus was experimenting with calling her Hermione instead of Granger. Just in the privacy of his mind, to start—rolling it around and seeing how it felt. The intimacy of it was appealing.

"None of my friends were particularly surprised," Hermione said, interrupting his musings. "Neville said it was about bloody time. Luna didn't mention any mythical beasts, shockingly. She just told me she thought we would be very happy. Ginny said I had to promise to tell her if you had some sort of pleasure dungeon. Harry and Ron looked a bit queasy, but that was likely Ginny's fault."

Severus snorted. Against his advice, Hermione had told her closest friends of their developing romance. Everyone else was being kept in the dark for the time being. Severus needed to get the two of them some Foe-Glasses.

"Anyway," Hermione said, "back to potential culprits. Do you really suspect Raffaella?"

Severus's lungs burned with every frigid breath. "Somewhat. Neither Potter nor I have been able to find anything that incriminates her, but she and I parted less amicably than I originally thought. I viewed the memory of our breakup yesterday afternoon. It was… You were mentioned."

Hermione nearly stumbled. "I was?"

"She made some offhand comment about thinking she should help you tame your hair. I told her—quite firmly—that there was nothing wrong with your hair as it was. It turned into a big row in which she claimed I wanted a different curly-haired former student of mine. She accused me of being with her only because she was closer to my own age and unencumbered by fame and ties to Potter."

"Was she right?"

"I haven't a clue. Quite possibly." Dodging an icy puddle, he shrugged one shoulder. "When we met in Diagon Alley this past summer, Raffaella mentioned that we'd both wanted other people during our time together. Given that she provided me with a few memories that pointed quite obviously towards the identity of the person I wanted, I suspect the truth is that time has healed whatever wounded pride was there. She appears happy with her new husband. Not that either of those facts are enough to strike her from the list."

"You didn't… That long ago? Really? You felt something for me back then?"

"So it would seem."

How did she have any Occlumency shields at all? Severus swore he could feel her emotions. They shone from her in the way she placed a hand over her heart and gave him a look of surprised joy tinged with regret that made his own heart give a little fluttering leap.

In the distance, the Whomping Willow shook off the frost that had blanketed its branches during the night. Hermione took a deep breath in, smiling on the exhale as if it was a beautiful morning and not fucking freezing. The vivid pink and orange sunrise would have been pleasant to watch from inside, next to a fire, Severus had to admit. Even more so if it had been a sunset.

Severus glanced at Hermione instead of the painted sky, feeling a bit less frozen as his thoughts drifted to the kisses they'd shared.

"What about other former partners?" Hermione asked, dragging him back to the present.

Severus huffed out a laugh. "Apart from a Muggle girl in Cokeworth who taught me how to kiss—"

"Ooh, I should send her a thank you letter."

He did not grin. Not even slightly. "Yes, well, apart from her, the only one I can remember is Thora Monkstanley. I cared for her not at all, and I'm certain the feeling was mutual. Even so, I will look into what became of her. I should have done so before now."

"There's also your would-be fiancee," Hermione said. "She should probably be on the list, even if we don't know who she was."

"I suppose. Oh, a woman sent me a memory of herself molesting a Severus Snape doll months ago. She should absolutely be on the list."

"Seriously?" Hermione shuddered. "I once got an anonymous love letter that used Mudblood as a term of endearment."

"I am capable of casting all three Unforgivable Curses, you'll recall. You need only point me in the right direction."

She laughed. "It was anonymous. And not worth risking Azkaban."

They ran without speaking for a few minutes, only the rhythmic thumping of their feet and their rapid breaths breaking up the silence.

"No one who was once involved with me is still carrying a torch," Hermione said eventually. "Though I don't suppose that will stop you adding them to your list."

"Of course not."

"Hmm. Viktor is married to a lovely witch named Teodora, and what little there was between us happened when we were just kids. In addition to having Neville now, Ron claims to not even remember what I look like naked."

Severus did not glower at this statement. He kept his face perfectly impassive. Inside the privacy of his mind, he began creating new hexes for certain redheaded dunderheads.

Hermione cast Severus a sidelong, smiling glance, as if she'd read his thoughts. "And Terry…"

As her voice trailed off, she skidded to a stop. Her hands went to her hips. Oh, hell. If Severus had to guess, he'd say she'd just flashed back to his impromptu trip to Egypt and coupled it with his admission that he'd used Veritaserum on one other person aside from George. At least he'd already destroyed the copy he'd made of her journal.

"Severus Snape! You did not smuggle Veritaserum into another country. Do you know what could have happened if you'd been caught? If you're so determined to land in Azkaban, let's go to the Apparition Point right now; I'll take you there myself. I could have told you it wasn't Terry if you had bloody asked me."

They were not going to quarrel about Boot. Severus refused to allow it.

"I have no plans to smuggle controlled substances abroad in the future," he said. "You know how to perform Legilimency, correct?"

"What? Yes, but what does that—"

"Do it now. I'll show you the entire interrogation."

Hermione spluttered a bit before saying, "Yeah, because it's not like you're the greatest living Occlumens or anything."

"I will show you only the truth." Placing a hooked finger beneath her chin, he tilted her face up until his gaze locked with hers. "I swear it."

"Fine." With a flick of her wrist, her wand slipped out of her sleeve and into her palm. "Legilimens."

Her invasion was too gentle to be called an invasion—more like being tucked beneath a puffy quilt and kissed on the forehead. It was adorable.

Severus replayed his questioning of Boot word for word. As it came to a close and she started to withdraw, he flashed up an image of himself sitting by her side in the Hospital Wing, trying to cast the Patronus Charm. He let her see the old memory of an unexpected hug from Lily failing to produce the necessary happiness. The brown eyes that held his widened at the slide-show of Hermione that he'd used to conjure the doe.

She remained there in his mind for a few moments after the visions faded, like a lingering embrace. Her presence retreated as softly as it had arrived. He hadn't said the words, the way she had, but showing her that display was as good as shouting them.

"That was… very sweet, actually, but don't think you can manipulate me into not being annoyed with you," she said, shuffling her feet as if she didn't know whether she wanted to move closer to kiss him or storm away in a fit of Gryffindor self-righteousness or both.

"I shan't be adding this to my list of Patronus-worthy memories, then," he said. "Shame."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Come on. Let's do another lap."

Mrs Potter should have asked to hear about Hermione's pleasure dungeon, not Severus's. Between the two of them, Hermione was the clear sadist.

Christmas Day started in his shower. Unlike every other morning shower Severus could remember, this one was not taken alone. It also took place within a double silver frame. Just a dream.

The shower was the one that sat tucked into the corner next to the giant bathtub in his quarters. Pale rose-veined marble tiles lined the walls, cold and slick. Severus hoisted Hermione against those tiles and hitched her legs around his hips. Her hair draped over his shoulder in long, wet ropes. Rumbling out a groan at the sharp pleasure of her teeth dragging over his neck, he held her tighter. Steam created billowing clouds around them as hot water pounded against Severus's back.

His hips surged forward, blurring everything into bliss. He woke with her moan still echoing in his ears.

As he attempted to catch his breath, Severus pinched his eyes shut and willed sleep—and the dream—to return. No such Christmas miracle was in the offing. Dragging himself out of bed, he ignored his modest pile of gifts in favour of going for an unfortunately solitary, longer than ordinary shower.

These dreams were bloody inconsiderate, ending when they did. He was still grumbling by the time he nudged Lois away from his wrapped gifts and settled down to open them.

Most of the gifts were generic: gloves, Firewhisky, a tin of shortbread. The sort of thing one gave an acquaintance whose preferences were a mystery. Lovegood had sent him some mysterious brown sludge in a jar that showed promise, according to her accompanying card. It wobbled into a rainbow when prodded with his wand. Intriguing. Molly had knitted him a green jumper with a silver S on the front. It was hideous and lumpy, but for some unfathomable reason the gesture made him smile. Lois went into fits of rapture as she rolled around in the pile of discarded wrapping paper, alternately attacking it and rubbing her face all over it.

From Hermione, he'd received a book that filled him with an urge to dive immediately into its words. Brewing by the Light of the Moon: the Journals of Hesper Starkey. Severus hadn't known Starkey's journals had been published. She was the Potioneer responsible for much of what was known about how the phases of the moon affected various potions. Tucked inside the cover, he found a sheet of parchment covered with Hermione's distinctive, rounded scrawl.


You read this book last spring. Funnily enough, once you reached the final page, you told me you were tempted to Obliviate yourself so you could have a chance to read it again for the first time. It was that good.

Your original copy got ruined by Lois. She peed on it. It may be wise to keep this one away from her. She is prone to fits of jealousy.

I hope you enjoy the book as much the second time around. Happy Christmas.



She signed nearly all of her correspondence with her love. Severus had seen her do so plenty of times. He placed the note safely between the pages of the book. Casting a ward on the book to protect it from certain familiars and their bladders, he set off for Hermione's quarters.

He expected to find her dressed and ready to face the day. Instead, the woman who greeted him was still in her pyjamas, all sleep-rumpled and warm from hours spent cocooned in a duvet.

"Christmas Day is the one time of year I attempt to have a lie-in," Hermione said, looking oddly proud of herself. "I actually managed it this time." The way she tugged him down to her level for a kiss hello was still new and exhilarating. "Happy Christmas."

"Happy Christmas. Thank you for my book." As Hermione began pottering around, filling Boudica's personalised dishes with food and water, Severus followed her. "Speaking of memories, I had a memory dream last night. All of my memory dreams have a sort of silver frame around the edges of the scene, but some have a double silver frame. None of the books on memory loss that I've found have mentioned anything similar. Any theories?"

"Hmm. Implanted memories, maybe? From someone who knew of your potion and knew how to fool it. You should ask Poppy. Or maybe Draco Malfoy. He's a Healer now, right? He probably knows more about mind magic than Poppy does, to be honest." A devilish grin brightened her face. "You could always go to that Healer you saw at St Mungo's. I know how much you liked her."

Before Severus could so much as laugh derisively or wonder aloud whether that Healer had managed to excavate the greenery from between her teeth, a still Muggle photograph propped up next to a Christmas card grabbed his attention and catapulted him into another flash of memory. Hermione's sitting room once again dissolved—this time into a cosy Muggle home decorated in rich earth tones. The curly haired woman and tall, balding man from the photograph sat across from Vision Severus on a sofa, nursing cups of tea.

"How is she?" the woman asked. Her voice was a higher pitched version of Hermione's familiar alto, strung tight with the same tension that held the woman's jaw clenched.

"She's well," Vision Severus said. "She has started writing a book about the wars."

The man flashed him a sad version of Hermione's smile. "You still haven't told her about this, I take it?"

"I wish to avoid any unrealistic expectations," Vision Severus said.

The memory vanished, popping like a soap bubble. Back in the present, Hermione looked up at him with another concerned expression.

"Your parents?" he asked, gesturing at the picture. "I think I might have visited them after you started writing your book."

"Really? I don't know why you would have. I'll write to them and ask."

Christmas card terms. She'd said that was the extent of her relationship with her parents. Severus could think of only one reason he would have gone to her parents, but like his past self, he did not want to raise unrealistic hopes.

Hermione settled down next to the fire to open her gifts. Most people had given her books or book vouchers. From Longbottom and Ronald, she received a mistletoe charm for her bracelet. She saved Severus's gift for last.

"It's a Foe-Glass," he said as she popped open the shell-shaped compact mirror. "I purchased one for myself as well. It seemed prudent."

Leaning over, Severus peered at the surface of the glass. Like his own, it displayed only the vaguest of shadowy shapes, though hers contained far fewer.

"Ooh, I haven't seen one of these in years. Where did you…" Her words faded into a murmur as she unearthed the other item in the box. The blue goldstone charm shimmered under her touch, its wards reacting to her magic.

"It has a few protective spells embedded in the stone," Severus said, his cheeks burning with a blush he refused to allow. He'd been too practical; his gifts were the equivalent of a Muggle buying his partner a new home alarm system for Christmas. Gryffindor that she was, she would interpret the gesture as an implication that she was less capable than him. "It will shield against mild hexes. If you should sustain any serious injuries, my own stone will alert me." He hitched up his left sleeve so she could see the strip of leather that bound a similar charm to his wrist. "Barring any Anti-Apparition wards, I should be able to use it to Apparate to your location."

It had been his dormant Dark Mark that had given him the idea for guided Apparition, though he would not reveal that fact to her.

"Do they work both ways?" Hermione asked. "Will I be able to play the hero and rush in to rescue you if necessary?"

"They can be modified to do so, if you like."

"It's only fair. I want to protect you as much as you want to protect me."

Her easy, matter-of-fact delivery of that statement made something tighten in Severus's throat. For a moment, he understood her claim that she would remember kissing him in spite of any Memory Charms. The experience of hearing words like that from someone was so foreign, he half-believed he would have been able to cling to the memory through any amount of Ashwinder egg induced amnesia, illogical as the notion was.

Shifting over until she almost perched on his lap, Hermione draped her arms around his neck and touched her lips to his. "Thank you for my gifts," she said. "You know, between this and those memories you let me see, I'm starting to suspect you have a secret soft side buried underneath all that sarcasm."

Severus grabbed the knitted hat Mrs Weasley had given her and tugged it down over Hermione's eyes. "Fuck off, Granger."

She laughed.

The Burrow smelled of mince pies, roasting turkey, melting beeswax candles, and fresh evergreen branches. Mrs Potter greeted Severus and Hermione at the door, her middle child waving shyly at them from her arms.

"Happy Christmas!" Mrs Potter chirped. After kissing Hermione's cheek with an exaggerated mwah noise and letting Albus do the same, she aimed a speculative look at Severus.

"Don't even think about it," Severus said, "or you'll not hear a word about that pleasure dungeon that interests you so."

This only seemed to encourage her. Cackling, Mrs Potter gave him the same treatment she'd given Hermione. Severus couldn't very well hex her while she was holding a child, so he tolerated it. She would have to set the boy down at some point.

The Burrow's sitting room was a quiet oasis in a house teeming with Weasleys. Mostly quiet. Potter lay sprawled on the sofa, his daughter asleep on his chest and quiet snores periodically whistling from his nose. Everyone had agreed to let him rest; he was exhausted from pursuing a werewolf who had recently attacked several people. Things had changed for werewolves since the war; the Ministry had a programme in place to provide Wolfsbane at free or reduced cost. As far as Severus was concerned, anyone who didn't take Wolfsbane when it was provided deserved far worse than being pursued by Potter.

At the sight of Potter, Severus withdrew his own Foe-Glass. Instead of a compact mirror, it was disguised as a pocket watch. The same blurry figures as the last time he'd looked at it drifted around on the glass. He glanced pointedly back and forth between Potter and the image on the false watch.

"Hmm," he said. "It must be faulty. I'm standing in the same room as Potter, and it hasn't changed."

Hermione swatted his chest. "You know very well why it hasn't. I'm going to go say hello to Molly and Arthur."

Severus opted to lurk in the sitting room. His relative solitude did not last long.

"Wotcher, Professor," Teddy Lupin said, approaching with a teetering stack of back issues of Potions Quarterly in his skinny arms. Something about the words made the briefest memory of a grinning, pink-haired witch stumble across Severus's vision. He'd seen her in more than a few donated wartime memories, that Auror who had evidently taken one too many Stunners to the head and chose to marry Remus Lupin. "I brought all of them, like you asked."

"Mister Lupin," Severus said with a curt nod as Lupin dropped his burden on the coffee table with a thunk that made Potter mutter in his sleep. "Do you recall whether a glittering white powder appeared in any of these issues?"

The boy chewed on his thumbnail. "No, but I'll help you look."

"If you must."

They sat side by side in mismatched armchairs, leafing through articles with such small print that Severus wondered if he needed glasses.

"Sir?" Lupin said after a few blessedly silent minutes. "Are you still angry with me?"

"What do you think?"

"Probably. I am really, really, really, really sorry."


Lupin sighed. "Are you going to be mad at me forever?"

"Certainly not. I won't live forever. And stop biting your nails. It's a dangerous habit to have if you wish to be any sort of Potioneer."

Yanking his hand away from his mouth, Lupin instead toyed with a lock of his dark green hair. "Can I give you memories to help you get better? I don't remember reading about any sparkly powder in Potions Quarterly, but I did see something sort of like that in your lab."

Severus's heart leapt up into his throat. "When?"

"Around last Christmas. The Weasleys and Harry and everyone were visiting Charlie, so my gran asked you to watch me for a bit, 'cause she said she was desperate. You were brewing. When we get back to school, can you teach me how to give you the memory?"

"No, he can't," Potter said. Had Severus not been so distracted, he would have noticed the shift in Potter's breathing that indicated he was awake. "That spell is way too advanced for you. You'll put your eye out."

"Someone more experienced can perform the spell for you," Severus said over Lupin's responding whine. "Legilimency is also an option, but not one either of us would find pleasant."

"Legilimency is not an option," Potter said, shifting Lily around to cradle her in one arm as he sat up. "I'm not subjecting him to that. Come here, Teddy. Focus really, really hard on the memory. I'll get it out for you."

Severus's private lab at Hogwarts was more cluttered in Lupin's memory than in the present day. Not messy, by any stretch of the imagination, but there was more stuff. A few white mice snuffled through the wood chips that lined their cage. One table was dedicated to holding a mountain of books and scrolls of parchment that were filled to the margins with Severus's handwriting. Lupin hadn't paid close enough attention to them for Severus to be able to make out any of the titles on the worn spines.

Next to a golden cauldron full of a simmering silver potion, a familiar leather bound notebook was open to a list of ingredients. The notebook he had left for Hermione in Classroom 2B during the war. Lupin craned his neck to see the contents, and Severus found he could make out part of the list.

2 Ashwinder eggs, frozen

Root of one dandelion (gone to seed), minced

3 strands Thestral hair (mane), offered willingly

10 sage leaves, powdered

5 Jobberknoll feathers

There was far more—it was a monstrously complex potion—but Lupin only managed read the first five lines before Memory Severus slammed the notebook shut.

"Sit on your hands," Memory Severus said.

"Why?" Lupin asked as he obeyed.

"So you are unable to touch anything."

"Oh. OK." The boy swung his scrawny legs so his heels knocked against the rungs of his chair. "What are you making?"

Severus gave the potion three anti-clockwise stirs. "Something I have been attempting to perfect for nearly a decade."

"Wow. Do all potions take so long when you're making it up yourself?"

"No. This one is particularly complicated. And before you ask, its purpose is none of your business."

Reaching across the table, Memory Severus plucked up a vial of a glittering white substance. It looked more like sand than powder when he weighed a pinch of it and sprinkled it over the surface of the potion. Lupin couldn't see over the rim of the cauldron, but from what Severus could tell, the potion emitted a gentle glow instead of bubbling over as it had in his recovered memory.

"What is that stuff?" Lupin asked, nodding at the vial.

"Also none of your business. Do not so much as breathe on it."

"Ooh, is it dangerous?"

"It can be, but I am more concerned with the expense and the rarity. It's worth more than I could get for your organs on the black market, and I could not easily replace it even if I was able to raise the funds."

Lupin giggled. The stern look Memory Severus shot him from beneath lowered black brows held none of its usual weight. Hiding under the resentment at the intrusion and the knee-jerk refusal to acknowledge any positive traits in Remus Lupin's son, there was the faintest trace of something Severus hadn't yet acknowledged. Something that had been present in every interaction he'd had with Lupin prior to Hermione's accident. It felt disconcertingly as if he liked the child. More than that, he was proud of Lupin's intellectual curiosity and his drive to do well in Potions.

Life was bloody bizarre at times.

Crossing to the mice's cage, Memory Severus grabbed one of the wriggly creatures and brought it back to the cauldron. Lupin made a murmur of protest as Memory Severus dipped a tiny pipette into the potion and brought it to the mouse's mouth.

"It's not going to hurt her, is it?" Lupin asked.

"No, but you would do well to become less squeamish if you want to advance beyond basic potions. Brewing is a subtle art, but preparing the ingredients can be gruesome. Now, shall I proceed, or are you volunteering to take her place as test subject?"

"Err, no. Go ahead."

The mouse drank down three drops of the potion and cleaned the remnants off of its whiskers. Upon being placed back in its cage, it shook its head a few times, looking dazed, before curling up in a corner and going to sleep. All of its compatriots had the same reaction.

Lupin stared at the huddle of snoozing mice for a beat. "Is that it?"

"For now." Memory Severus decanted the remainder of the potion into four vials. "I should find out whether this version worked in a few hours. After that comes the tiresome part of waiting and checking for side effects. If all goes well, I can finally move on to testing on half-Kneazles."

"Like Crookshanks?"

"Yes, but not so old as him. Half-Kneazles have minds that are a better match for ours, but mice are a good starting point to work out some of the kinks."

Breaking the sitting-on-the-hands rule, Lupin gnawed on one of his hangnails. "Sir? Can I have the mice when you don't need them anymore?"

Memory Severus pursed his lips. "We shall see. Now, did you read that article I sent you?"

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 20 of 29

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