Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 22 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

The exterior of the Boot family home brought Petunia immediately to Severus's mind. The house was of near identical construction to those around it; only the brass house number marked it as different. Everything else—from the nondescript red bricks to the conservatory—was the same. The front garden had a weed-free lawn with neat, clear edges and a scattering of shrubs that had been trimmed with such painful precision that they resembled something produced in a factory rather than something found in nature.

It was all so normal and suburban that Severus almost longed for a loathsome youth with a penchant for graffiti to come along and decorate the place. Stepping up to the front door, he rang the bell.

Hermione's ex answered. His brown hair looked like he'd been running his hands through it. The messiness wasn't of the carefully crafted variety that took ages in front of a mirror to perfect; it was genuine. As Boot shifted back to allow Severus to enter, Severus held eye contact for just long enough to brush over the younger man's surface thoughts.

At least I don't have to watch what I think this time. I should have just told him before. Worst case scenario, what would he have done? Sold me out to Rita? Well, maybe.

Half of Severus's own thoughts remained back in Scotland, relaxing in front the fire with Hermione in those last moments of quiet before the students once again descended upon the school. As he wiped his shoes on the doormat, he tried to rub warmth back into his hands. The broom ride had been both cold and arse-numbingly long. Good gods, he missed being able to Apparate on his own. He also missed his twenty-year-old body that hadn't fought its way through two wars. At least the Apparating would eventually return to him.

The interior of the house did not blend in with its neighbours. Once they passed through the entry hall and into the sitting room, magical touches graced every corner: a Ravenclaw house crest, bookcases full of magical texts, a charmed rag that polished already gleaming shelves. There was still something too perfect about it—something that tempted Severus to move one of the cushions on the sofa so they no longer lined up like good little soldiers.

Reaching into his pocket, Severus withdrew a teardrop-shaped vial of clear potion. Time to get to the point of making that wretched journey.

"Veritaserum?" Boot asked.

"Indeed. Will you consent to taking it?"

"No. Absolutely not."

Severus arched an eyebrow. "Something to hide?"

"When it comes to things that are in any way your business? No, but I'm not going to let you render me incapable of not answering any question you want to ask."

Well. That was a promising sign. While not definitive by any means, it suggested that Boot's answers in the previous interrogation had been truthful. If Boot had been able to resist Veritaserum's effects, he likely would have agreed to take it on this visit.

"Very well," Severus said. As he returned the vial to his pocket, he withdrew his Foe-Glass. Blurred shapes whispered across the surface, none of them sharpening into Boot's features. Interesting. Such Dark Detectors could be fooled as well, of course, so Severus needed to remain on his guard. "What is it you wanted to tell me that you couldn't share with Potter?"

"Right." As Boot spoke, he paced back and forth. "About a year ago, I came to you for help. Rita Skeeter had some information she was holding over my head, saying she'd go public with it unless I could offer her a story about Hermione that was more interesting."

"Meaning more scandalous."

"Basically, yeah. She wanted something she could prove. Something people couldn't dismiss as rumour or gossip."

"And this information she had on you was?"

Boot winced. "There is a pretty rigorous interview process to become a Curse Breaker for Gringott's. In addition to needing tonnes of NEWTs, there are a few additional exams set by the goblins, and… Look, you have to understand that I have never failed an exam in my life. Never. So when I started drawing a blank, I panicked, and…"

"You cheated." A smirk powered by pure Schadenfreude dawned on Severus's face. "Never failed an exam, but you were able to cheat without being detected on your first try? When a goblin was the invigilator? Hmm. Why did you come to me for assistance? You were my student for seven years. I'm certain even you were able to guess how much sympathy I have for academic dishonesty."

"Rita said that if I told anyone, she would leak the information about me right away. I thought… I don't know. You can keep a secret like no one else. Plus, you're friends with Hermione. I thought you'd want to protect her, I guess. I'd have tried to fix it myself, but I'm no good at being sneaky."

"Your performance on the goblins' exam says otherwise."

"Rita is more tenacious than any goblin I've ever met, and that's saying something. Anyway, you said you'd help because you didn't trust me not to throw Hermione to the wolves to save my own skin. You also said I'd owe you a rather large favour at some point in the future, and you intended to collect."

"Yes, a favour would be the least you could do." Steepling his fingers together, Severus reflected on his recovered memory of searching Skeeter's flat while she slept. "And what form did my assistance take?"

"I doubt it was anything legal. That's why I didn't want to tell Harry. My guess is there was some Legilimency and Obliviation, as well as a bit of breaking and entering. Maybe an Imperius Curse. You never said. You just told me it had been taken care of."

Severus was certain it had been. He was also certain he had kept whatever evidence he'd discovered at Skeeter's flat. Not even the "depressingly noble" version of Severus, to borrow a term from Lucius, would have let something that potentially useful go to waste.

"I see," Severus said. "Why did you never tell Granger that Skeeter is your godmother?"

Boot's pacing came to a halt. "I… Well, my mum and Rita used to be best friends. They stopped talking before I went to Hogwarts. I haven't had any sort of relationship with Rita in decades. Honestly, I think part of why she blackmailed me was to get back at my mum a little bit."

"Your family dramas do not interest me. Nor does any of that answer my question."

Boot huffed. "Would you have told Hermione if you were in my shoes and you had a connection to Skeeter?"

Absolutely not.

"Yes," Severus said. "If Astoria Malfoy can accept her husband in spite of his relation to Bellatrix, then surely the fact that you possess a bothersome godmother could have been pardoned."

Almost laughing, Boot shook his head. "Bellatrix isn't likely to pop up and annoy Astoria, but you might have a point."

"I wouldn't put it past her, to be honest. Do you think Skeeter would ever harm Granger?"

"No. Not physically. That isn't how Rita works. But from what I gathered, she does really, really hate Hermione."

"Yes," Severus drawled. "I had managed to work that out for myself. Being trapped in a jar by someone has a funny way of destroying all potential for friendship."

Ron's freckled cheeks puffed out as he exhaled a long sigh. "I can't believe you assigned me homework. I wouldn't have stopped by if I'd known this would happen."

Hermione barely glanced up from the book in her hands. Now that Teddy had provided a partial ingredients list for Severus's potion, she was helping Severus go through the inventory logs for the Potions store room from previous years. They were trying to work out other possible ingredients by making a list of things that had been taken out of the store room at the same time as Ashwinder eggs, dandelion root, Thestral hair, sage leaves and Jobberknoll feathers. Thus far, they had not met with much success. Too many times, one or two of the ingredients had been taken out along with supplies for his classes.

When Ron had showed up looking for an excuse to avoid being dragged to the last of the post-Christmas sales by his husband and Augusta Longbottom, Hermione had put him to work scouring the inventory from 2004.

"You had to know it was a risk when you came to my office," Hermione said. "You've known me for nearly twenty years. Homework is a constant danger with me, Ron."

"Yeah, fair enough."

Lois and Boudica lay curled together on Hermione's lap in a purring heap. Their warm weight was a familiar comfort, even if their bulk made it more difficult for her to shift forward and jot down notes as she went through 2005's inventory. Stroking a hand down Boudica's back, she ignored the happy kneading of claws into her thighs. After owning a cat almost constantly since her third year, she'd become inured to such things.

A tawny coloured school owl tapped on the window to announce its arrival. Lois and Boudica's interest in Hermione's cuddles vanished in an instant. Human affection lost its lustre when they were presented with a large bird on which they could hone their hunting and pouncing skills. On the other side of the glass, the owl ruffled its feathers.

"Get back, you two," Hermione said as she scurried to the window. "Ron, take them, would you? I think that's the owl I sent to my parents."

With Ron's (swearing) assistance, Hermione managed to retrieve the folded, blue-lined Muggle paper from the owl and reward it for its efforts with an extra treat. The letter was, indeed, her parents' response to the note she'd sent after Teddy had helped to reveal that Severus's potion had been for the Grangers.


I'm sorry to hear about Severus's accident. Is memory loss something that happens a lot in the wizarding world? From our perspective, it certainly seems so.

Yes, Severus has been visiting us. He thought it was best to avoid raising your hopes until he was certain something would come of it, given how upset you were when the magical doctors said it was time to give up trying to restore our memories. Ever since our last St Mungo's visit, Severus has been showing up once or twice a year with updates on how his research was progressing.

You asked what we know about the potion Severus was brewing. We know next to nothing about the ingredients, but he did show us the final part of the process on his last visit. I think it was late January or early February of last year when that happened; we haven't seen him since then. He thought he was finally getting close to perfecting it. Apparently he'd been working on the theory since sometime during your war, but he didn't start any sort of trials until it became clear the usual methods wouldn't fix us.

Severus warned us there was little hope of rolling our memories all the way back to your birth; there were no memories belonging to anyone magical available from that long ago. He did think he could get us back to your first clear memory, which we all agreed was better than nothing.

The potion requires two memories to work: one as early as possible and one as late as possible. Severus was testing the potion by teaching mice two tricks: how to run a maze and how to press a button for food. For the mice, he used the same spell that you used on us. He taught them how to press the food button, hid their memories of learning how to do that, then taught them how to navigate the maze. It might have been the other way around; the point is he removed the memory of the first skill before teaching them the second one. A big challenge, according to him, was restoring our memories of having you as a daughter without erasing everything we'd experienced since you altered our memories. We didn't want to suddenly think it was 1997 again. Nor did we want to forget our memories had been altered in the first place.

To the potion, Severus added his own memory of the mice just starting to learn how to press the food button, as well as his memory of seeing them complete the maze for the tenth or eleventh time in a row. He called those the anchor memories. Once those were in, it needed to sit for an hour or two.

When the potion was ready, Severus added some sort of sparkling dust. The potion glowed with symbols that he said gave him the range of dates that would be restored to the mice's memories. He dosed the mice with potion, they went to sleep, and when they woke up they remembered how to press the food button again. They also still remembered how to run the maze, which proved that their more recent memories remained intact.

Severus's idea was to use your earliest memory of us and his latest memory of us as the anchor memories for our potion. Everything before your earliest memory would still be the false memories of the life you created for us when you forced us into hiding, but we would know you.

Oh, Wendell has just remembered that there was definitely some sort of magical snake egg in the potion. Does that help at all? Severus said he was going to move on to testing the potion on some magical cats, but we never heard back about any of that.

Hope you are well. Please pass on our wishes for a speedy recovery to Severus.


Severus had seen Hermione's parents more often than she had since that final St Mungo's visit. Unlike Severus, the Grangers had not retained their old emotions. Her enchantment of them had seen to that. With the owl gone, Boudica consented to being held again. There was a curious kind of hollowness that always came packaged up with the few notes Hermione received from her parents. A yawning emptiness that carved itself into the place they used to occupy.

Their situations were different, since at least her mum and dad could still flourish and be happy even if it was without her, but Harry had warned her it would be like this. He'd said you never really forgot that your parents were gone, but sometimes something small made you remember the full weight of it all over again.

"Do you reckon Snape tested this potion on them?" Ron asked with a nod towards the cats. "They're half-Kneazles, right? And you two got them around the same time he gave the mice to Teddy."

And that was how Hermione and Ron found themselves attempting to draw blood from two half-Kneazles on a Saturday afternoon. Ashwinder egg stuck around in the system for ages. Severus undoubtedly still had a tiny bit floating around his bloodstream. A simple charm could potentially tell them whether the cats had been exposed to the potion. Hermione and Ron chose to go after Lois first; she was the more likely test subject, as Severus had unlimited access to her.

"You hold her," Hermione said, "and I'll cast the spell to draw the blood."

Lois was also the more temperamental of the two. The second the procedure was complete, she slashed at Ron's arms with her claws in revenge.

Ron hissed in pain. "Why didn't you stun her so she wouldn't feel it?"

"Oh, don't let her fool you. She didn't feel a thing. I can demonstrate on you, if you want to see for yourself. The spell makes it painless."

"No, I think enough of my blood has been spilled just now."

Handing a vial full of half-Kneazle blood over to Ron, Hermione snuggled Lois to make up for the ordeal. Lois apparently blamed Ron for the whole thing; she yowled and glared at him from the sanctuary of Hermione's arms.

"Hermione?" Rupert Smith said, letting himself in as he gave a token knock on her office door. Taking in the sight of Hermione cradling Lois and cooing apologies to her while a scratched-up Ron stood nearby with a vial of blood, Rupert froze. "I was just wondering if you wanted to accompany me to the Three Broomsticks for some lunch."

"No thanks," Hermione said. "I'm kind of busy."

"Are you sure I can't convince you?" Rupert asked with an uncertain smile.

"Now is really not a good time."

"I could bring some lunch here, if that would be more convenient," Rupert said. As his gaze passed up and down Ron, his eyes widened as if he'd only just realised that Lois's new scratching post was another one of Harry Potter's best friends.

Hermione sighed. Rupert hadn't bothered her for more than colleague-type small talk about the weather and students in ages. Why couldn't he have stuck to that?

"I'm sorry, Rupert, but I'm really not interested," she said.

Ron waved the vial of blood. "We have lunch sorted, anyway."

Rupert backed slowly out of the room. Well, that was one way to discourage him.

"Who was that?" Ron asked.

"New Muggle Studies professor. If Severus hadn't objected to me tagging along to talk to Terry—"

"Tagging along?" Ron interrupted with a grimace. "Why the hell would you ever want to be in a room with your ex and your current… boyfriend doesn't seem the right word, does it? He's way too old for that. Hmm. Your ex and your current… Snape? I say avoid it at all costs. There's no way it could be anything but awkward."

"You're frequently in the same room as me and Neville. I was in your wedding party."

"Yeah, but you and I stayed on good terms after we split. And you've been friends with Neville for years, too. That is definitely not the case with Terry and Snape."

"No, that's true. I'm pretty sure out of all of my exes, Terry is the least likely to be friends with Severus."

"Which one is the most likely?" Ron asked.

"Err, I wouldn't place any bets on any of you managing it, if I'm honest."

"But say you did have to choose one of us. Who would you choose?"

Hermione snatched the vial from his hand. "You just want to know if you'd rank above Viktor, don't you?"


"You amaze me."

Stretching out along Severus's sofa, Hermione rested her feet on his leg. His hand moved in a hypnotic rhythm, passing from her ankle up the length of her shin and back again. It was the most he'd ever touched her bare skin, and Hermione was loath to break the spell by bringing up any of the things they needed to discuss. In spite of the fact that he never ventured any higher than her knee, her mind went a little fuzzy every time his fingers vanished beneath the hem of her robes.

"Boot was being blackmailed by Skeeter for information on you," Severus said. "I assisted in making the problem go away, but likely not in a manner I would wish to confess to Potter or Ronald."

"Oh. Well, that explains why he wouldn't say anything to Harry. And you just… helped him?"

"So it would seem," he said, his face remaining completely straight when he added, "I'm sure it was an act of pure generosity on my part."

Hermione laughed. "I'm not." Leaning to one side, she plucked her mother's letter from the detritus of inventory logs and Potions texts on the coffee table. "This came from my mum. I tested Lois and Boudica's blood for Ashwinder egg. It came back very faintly positive with Lois, but not at all with Boudica."

As he read, Severus's touches slowed. "Hmm. There must have been a charm cast on the potion. That would be what revealed the range of dates she talks about. Arithmancy had to have been involved in the process of creating it as well, but I'd already guessed that much."

"Maybe you asked Septima for assistance."

"I doubt it. I would have definitely wanted more than one test subject. Maybe we should ask Mrs Figg about that. I wonder why I didn't use Boudica."

"Because you've met me."

One corner of his mouth quirked up. "That would explain it, yes." Severus let his fingers wander up to just above her knee. "Did anything else of note happen today?"

"Nope. What about for you?"

"Not particularly."

Gradually, those sweeping touches rose higher. Severus traced his fingertips along one inner thigh before skipping over to the other and going back towards her knee. Again and again, he followed the same path. Every time she thought he would finally move higher still, he denied her. Every teasing repetition made her breathe faster.

"Come here," Severus said, right as she was on the verge of begging.

Grasping her waist, he guided her up until she straddled his lap. The now-familiar sensation of his mouth against hers made her sigh. They'd spent plenty of time kissing in her rooms and his, but it had always been quite… polite. She'd kept her attentions tame, determined to let him set the pace if he wished things to progress to where they were now—to where his hands wandered beneath her robes and she could feel how much he wanted her.

Recalling his confession that he'd retained memories of only one previous partner, Hermione wondered for a world-tilting second if Severus was nervous.

"You know," she whispered, tilting her head back to coax his lips to trail along her neck. "I imagined the two of us ending up in this exact position the first time I was allowed to enter your quarters."

"Did you?"

She nodded. "It's different than I expected. It's… more now that it's real." Drawing back, she scrutinised his face in the dim firelight. "It is, isn't it? You're absolutely certain of how you felt about me before your accident?"

Severus shifted his hips, smirking when she let out a little gasp. "Yes," he said. "I'm certain."

Together, they stumbled between kisses towards the one place in his quarters she'd never entered: his bedroom.

Deciding to behave as if he was genuinely new to this, she backed away slightly and unfastened her robes. The fabric fell away with a rustle to pool at her feet. Severus's hands tightened into fists. She took charge of removing her bra as well—that was an advanced manoeuvre if any of her clothing was. Slipping out of her knickers was accomplished with help from Severus, but she swore she saw the slightest of tremors in his hands.

Her own fingers shook as she started tugging at the buttons of his robes. The only assistance he offered there was bending and moving to allow her to remove each article in between pressing encouraging kisses to her neck, her mouth, her chest. A hint of evening stubble dusted his jaw, scratching lightly at her skin.

With a hushed word from Severus, the bedclothes folded back. Hermione tumbled onto soft, soft white sheets that smelled like him. He bent over her, his brewing-roughened hands parting her legs, his mouth teasing its way down her abdomen. Hermione grasped his shoulders.

"Severus," she whispered.

He had been fairly new to this at the age of twenty, she decided, but it didn't matter. He studied her responses to the movements of his lips and tongue and fingers, following her occasional nudge or murmured request until he had her cresting, spiralling, falling.

Severus lay on his back, and as Hermione shifted her body onto his, trembling and breathless, she nearly wondered if she was new to this. And then finally, finally

"Oh, Hermione," Severus said, his eyes fluttering shut.

Feeling his skin grow slick with sweat, watching him lose control, she almost believed she would have remembered being with Severus through any number of Obliviates, logic be damned.

The scene within the double silver frame of Severus's dream was familiar. Not in a vague, deja vu sort of way, but in a very definite one. It was a memory Hermione had already given him.

Dream Severus and Hermione stood together in her quarters. With a radiant smile, she flew at him and locked her arms around him in a hug. Just like in her memory, Dream Severus returned the embrace as if he had only ever heard descriptions of hugs and this was his first time seeing a real one in the wild. Severus predicted the exact instant of his dream self's chuckle when Hermione squeezed him tighter. Love held him along with her arms.

The same kiss that Hermione had pressed to his cheek in her memory landed there in the dream. "Thank you, Severus," she said. "I know how private you are. I won't pry too much… OK, I will, but just let me know whenever you need a break. And I promise I'll let you approve the final copy before publication. Not a single word will be printed without your consent."

Syllable for syllable, it was the same. The dream cut off before her memory had, evaporating with the end of Hermione's speech. It missed the moment when Severus's walls had inexplicably slammed into place—when all of that love had been hidden away for months on end.

Severus woke to the deep breaths of the woman sharing his bed. One of Hermione's hands curled over his upper thigh, and that same love curled around him. In an ideal world, Severus would smirk to himself as he recalled the events of the night before, wake her up, and do his best to keep her in bed for the rest of the morning. Instead, he blinked up at the ceiling and puzzled over his dream.

Why would that memory need repeating? Why would any of them? The Healer had said that viewing donated memories when some event returned to him as a dream would be beneficial. No mention had been made—not by the Healer nor in any of his reading on the subject—about memory dreams replaying what he'd already seen in the Pensieve.

And this one had been wrapped up in that double silver aura.

Hermione snuggled closer. Pushing her hair out of her face, she gave him a drowsy smile. "Oh, good," she said. "You're not bleeding."

"Was there a chance I would be?"

"I had it on good authority that there was a 75 percent chance of you being maimed by my hair if you allowed me to besmirch your questionable virtue. I'm relieved you beat the odds. That, or your Arithmantic calculations were incorrect."

"It was 74, not 75."

Hermione chuckled. "You really are an insufferable know-it-all, aren't you?"

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 22 of 29

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