Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 23 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Lovegood's memory began with a view of the cobblestones of Hogsmeade's High Street. She traced the toe of a neon green boot over the frost encrusted moss that grew in the gaps between stones while Longbottom hemmed and hawed over a window display of shiny necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Nearby, Memory Severus swooped down upon a group of students who mistakenly thought they could get away with sneaking sips from a bottle of Firewhisky as long as it was concealed by a brown paper bag. Imbeciles.

"Hermione said her parents always used to buy her jewellery on Christmas and her birthday," Longbottom said. "I thought Ron and I could carry on the tradition, since everyone else always gets her books, but I don't know. Do you reckon it'd make her sad?"

"A little, maybe, but just because it will make her sad, it doesn't mean it won't also make her happy," Lovegood said. "I think it's a nice idea. Ooh, Neville, look at that one."

Lovegood's breath fogged the window as she pointed out an enormous, sparkly brooch that would not have been out of place among the Potions ingredients she posted to Severus from far-flung corners of the globe. Severus couldn't decide whether the strange protrusions of jewels looked more like eye stalks or antennae.

"Err, yeah," Longbottom said. "That's… nice."

"Yes, it is exactly Granger's style," Memory Severus said sardonically. He removed the contraband bottle from its wrapping as he approached, sneering at the label. "Even if those cretins hadn't put their disgusting mouths all over this, it's not fit for human consumption." He sniffed it. "And unless I'm mistaken, they've mixed it with butterbeer. Monsters. Here, Longbottom. Happy Christmas."

Laughing, Longbottom accepted the bottle. "Cheers. Maybe I can use it as an herbicide to get rid of that Pernicious Pine that keeps trying to creep into my garden at home."

"Hello, Severus," Lovegood said. "Are you shopping for a gift for Hermione as well? There's a ring that matches the brooch."

"So there is." Memory Severus smirked. "Alas, I've already purchased a book for Granger, and she has not done anything since her school days to warrant being presented with… that."

"Do you think so?" Lovegood asked. "I think she would like to get a ring from you."

With a dreamy smile, Lovegood resumed her examination of the cobbles. Everything else blurred, as the memory belonged to her. It was like viewing the world through a frosted window. Surprise blossomed and brightened into recognition before Severus could locate the source of the initial feeling. All he could make out was the painful straightness of Memory Severus's posture and the way his gaze stayed riveted to the jewellery display.

"Longbottom," Memory Severus said. "Give her that. Her Patronus is an otter, is it not?"

As Lovegood's face rose again, everything wobbled back into focus. There, next to the hideous brooch and ring, was Hermione's bracelet. Only the tiny otter charm dangled from the delicate chain.

Longbottom babbled about how perfect it was and how it would pave the way for easy gifts of more charms in the future, but Severus barely heard him. All of his attention was consumed by the fact that Memory Severus knew that bracelet. He knew it was meant for Hermione.

Severus stared at the threads of Lovegood's memory as he rose out of the Pensieve. The bracelet. If it had been visible in any of his double-framed dreams, Hermione could look at which charms were present and estimate when it had taken place. One after another, he examined each dream.

Their kiss beneath the mistletoe was no help; her long sleeves concealed all but a brief flash of silver chain. The shower dream had no bracelet present at all, but it was hardly surprising that she would remove it to bathe. He watched it a second time, anyway. Her arm stayed beneath the blankets in that first double-framed dream he'd had—the one that featured her spooned up behind him in bed, touching him and whispering, "Good morning." In spite of her face never being visible, he was certain that woman had been Hermione. Finally, the dream in which he'd kissed his way down the naked body of a much more identifiable Hermione revealed a fleeting glimpse of three dangling charms.

Severus watched it play out again and again. There was no denying what he saw. A metallic sprig of mistletoe swung back and forth between miniature representations of a book and an otter. Longbottom and Ronald had given Hermione that mistletoe charm after Severus's accident. On Christmas morning, he'd watched her carefully peel open the wrapping paper instead of ripping it like a normal person.

Perhaps time travel was not such an outlandish theory after all.

Hermione's colour-coded chart (now mostly amber and green, with only a few splashes of red) sat propped up in the valley between two mountains: one formed from shelf upon shelf of bottled memories, and one made up of mistake-riddled essays. Copious amounts of red ink bled through the parchment, proving that Bert the Auror really was a marvel when it came to copying Severus's grading style. When the whole lost memories ordeal was over, perhaps Bert would consider retiring from the Auror Department and taking up a part-time position as a teaching assistant.

On the sofa, Hermione grumbled at a book that had been written about the Goblin Rebellions. It had almost as many bookmarks as it had pages. Entire sections had been crossed out. Scathing notes filled the margins as if it was an assignment from one of her students, rather than a published manuscript from an alleged expert.

"It's just as well this idiot lives in New Zealand," Hermione said. "If he was anywhere nearby, I'd show up at his house with a list of corrections. I can't believe some of my students read this rubbish. Why does no one ever consult the goblin historians about these things?"

"You know precisely why they do not," Severus said.

"Maybe it should be my next project, after I finish my book about the wars. Anyway, back to this dream of yours. When did you have it?"

"Autumn. Just before Longbottom and Weasley's wedding. I spoke of it to Longbottom; he said they had no idea at that point that they would give you the mistletoe charm."

Scrawling a final note in her lesson plan, Hermione chewed on her lower lip. "I don't know," she said. "Time travel still seems pretty bloody outlandish to me." She made a face as if her next words tasted bitter on her tongue. "Maybe you're a Seer."

Unbidden, Charity's words from Severus's dream of that hinterland between life and death came back to him.

It's exactly who you think it is.

He had clearly believed something had been about to happen on the night of his accident. Why else would he have squashed that tidal wave of hope and buried his love for Hermione so deep that even he had been unable to find it in the months that followed?

He'd felt that same suppression of emotions recently, when viewing additional memories of his trial. First during his retelling of the night he'd killed Dumbledore, then during his account of the day he'd watched Charity die, and again as he'd waited for the Wizengamot to deliver their verdict. That wall going up had been like a breath before plummeting into icy water—a closing-in on oneself and bracing for impact.

"As far as I can recall, I have never shown the slightest talent for Divination," he said, "but it is worth investigating."

"I would never say Divination made sense, by any stretch of the imagination, but it makes more sense than… Oh!"

The Goblin Rebellion book dropped with a thump, startling both cats out of their nap and sending Boudica scurrying to the bedroom. Lois settled for lunging at Hermione's ankles.

"I know where I've seen it!" Hermione said, dodging the attack from Severus's familiar with a practiced sidestep as she stood up and marched towards him. "That glittering stuff that you called powder and my mum called dust—the final ingredient in your potion. It's sand, by the way. Remember how I said I thought it looked familiar? It bloody well should have. I only wore an hourglass full of it around my neck for the better part of a year. How could I have missed it?"

"Divination makes more sense than you're making at the moment. What was it?"

"Time Turner sand. I'm almost certain." Brown eyes that had, in recent days, mostly gazed at him with warm affection or fond exasperation, narrowed at Severus. "How could you allow Teddy to be exposed to that? How could you allow yourself to be exposed to that? Do you know how dangerous it is? I once saw it turn a grown man into a baby. You could have been turned so far back that you ceased to exist."

Well. That potentially lent some credence to his time travel theory. Severus chose to refrain from voicing the thought aloud. The hands-on-hips, teeth-clenched Hermione before him did not look as if she would appreciate such an observation.

"I did not know how dangerous it is," he said, "though I could have guessed. I'm certain my past self knew. I must have taken precautions."

"That's all you have to say for yourself?"

"What else do you want me to say? You are berating me for a crime I don't remember committing. Do you truly think I would allow Lupin to be placed in danger?"

"No," she said instantly. "I don't."

That was something, at least.

"I would apologise if I knew whether there was any need for it," Severus said.

Hermione snorted. "You would, would you?"

"I can apologise."

"All evidence to the contrary."

He thought about saying it. The words were simple. Brief. I'm sorry. And yet, he did not wish to throw the sentiment around as if it meant nothing. Particularly not when he felt certain it was unnecessary in this case.

"If it helps," he said instead, "I would not risk toying with something so volatile in my current state."

Hermione shrugged. While Severus continued sorting memories from the years that were still labelled as amber or red on the chart, she paced around as if unable to settle anywhere. Eventually, her steps took her to his bookcase. Her fingers tripped up and down the spine of a book about the history of the Patronus Charm and Dementors.

"Severus? I think I've changed my mind."


"Your dreams. The ones with two silver auras." Her cheeks turned pink. "I do want to see them."

"Do you? Very well."

Severus stood with his hands clasped behind his back as Hermione dipped into the Pensieve to watch his double-framed memory dreams. His stomach flipped over and over as he waited. Somehow, it felt more like stripping himself bare than when he actually removed his clothing in front of her.

At last, she emerged. The blush that had previously only painted her cheeks spread down her neck and beneath the collar of her robes. She cleared her throat.

"I wonder why that memory of me asking you for an interview repeated itself as a dream," she said.

Of all of the things he had shown her, she chose to focus on the most innocent.

"I plan to ask Draco's opinion," Severus said.

Hermione made a dubious hum. "You trust him?"

"No, but he possesses relevant knowledge, and he does owe me a Life Debt. I trust Lois and you. No one else."

Lois flicked her tail and yawned to show her opinion of this declaration. Months before, on Hermione's birthday, Severus had named Lois as the sole recipient of his trust. I'm getting there, Granger, he'd said when Hermione had asked about herself. Now, she shifted close enough to surround him with the comforting scent of citrus and linked her hand with his.

"Who is still on your suspects list?" she asked. "Apart from Rita Skeeter, obviously."

"Nearly everyone who was on it at the start."

"What about Rupert? Was he on it at the start?"

"The Muggle Studies professor? Yes, why?"

"He's just suddenly started trying to get me to spend time with him again. I don't know. It might be nothing."

Severus scowled. "If Smith is making you uncomfortable, it's not nothing."

"True. I'll talk to Minerva about it." The hand that held his drifted up to pluck at a loose thread on his sleeve. "I was thinking about the whole Skeeter thing earlier, and I had an idea."

"I still say we should fall back on your tried and tested methods."

"She registered her Animagus form years ago; it wouldn't work."

"I was referring to trapping her in a jar, obviously." Severus pushed a disobedient curl out of her face. "What's your idea?"

"It would involve trusting someone else."


A half-grin teased at one corner of her mouth. "No. Ginny. She writes a monthly column for the Daily Prophet. We could make a copy of something Skeeter always has with her. A certain quill, for instance. We'll charm it to record her conversations—a bit like those Whispering Wasps. Have you heard of those? Then we just have Ginny swap them the next time she's in the office."

Severus had not only heard of Whispering Wasps; he'd been warned against their use by Potter.

"And you believe Mrs Potter is capable of accomplishing this without being caught?" he asked.

Potter himself was watching Skeeter's comings and goings, clutching at anything that so much as looked as if it may have once been in the same neighbourhood as some evidence against her. If he discovered his wife attempting to gather information illegally… Well, Severus quite enjoyed the possibilities, actually.

"Ginny grew up with Fred and George," Hermione said. "She knows a thing or two about being sneaky."

Severus would believe it when he saw it.

Mornings had always been Hermione's favourite time of day. There was something about the clean slate of a new sunrise that always energised her. Ordinarily, she climbed straight out of bed and got ready for her run. In the pervasive chill of the dungeons, she stayed between the sheets to soak up Severus's warmth for just a bit longer.

They would have to let Minerva in on the secret if they carried on like this—if the Headmistress didn't already know that Hermione had spent the past few nights in Severus's quarters. Standing guard over Severus as they did, Bert and Ernie had already been informed.

Minerva and the Muppets—and didn't that just sound like a god awful Muggle rock band?—were the last thing Hermione wanted to think about when her front was curved against Severus's back, skin on skin. One of her arms was wedged between them, her charm bracelet digging into her ribs, but she hardly noticed. Sliding her other arm around his waist, she kissed the space between his shoulder blades.

It was how she'd ushered in the previous morning, in an echo of his memory dream. She'd let her hand drift down to touch him, whispered, "Good morning," and picked up where the dream had left off. True or false, those double-framed dreams had proved to be inspirational.

She was unconvinced by the one that took place in his shower, though. It seemed impractical to risk slipping and breaking something when there were any number of sturdy surfaces nearby. Her desk, his bed, her sofa, the floor, the bench she'd used when she'd been his student…

"No. Hermione."

It took her a moment to realise that the words had come not from Severus's mouth, but from his magic. As a nightmare quaked through him, panic rippled out from the epicentre and caught her in its aftershocks. With her wand out of reach, she risked holding him tighter and saying his name. He sat up, gasping as if she'd taken him on several laps of the lake.

"You OK?" Hermione asked. She rubbed a hand back and forth over the tense line of his shoulders.

"I am fine, thank you."

He wouldn't want to discuss it, she knew. He never did. Hermione did what she could to infuse comfort into the steady brush of her hand as she waited for his heartbeat to calm. Sliding back down next to her, Severus rested his head on her breast.

"Did my magic call out to you again?" he asked, waiting for her murmur of confirmation before he continued. "Curious bit of magic, that. Did you know it can happen with good dreams as well as nightmares?" One finger traced a swirling pattern over her belly. "I obtained proof over the summer, when what seemed like an exceedingly pleasant dream of yours made your magic call to me."

"Did it?" Hermione chuckled. "Ah, I think I remember the one you mean. That was exceedingly pleasant."

Severus raised his head up just enough to smirk at her. "I thought you'd be more embarrassed."

Shrugging, she smoothed a hand over his lank hair. "You've acted out most of that dream in real life. Even if you hadn't, I can't control my subconscious. I had this dream about Neville once—"

"Good gods. Stop talking. Why must you sully things by bringing up Longbottom?"

"Because it makes you make that face, right there." She kissed the furrow between his eyebrows. "I'm going do some research on prophetic dreams during my free period today. I've been thinking about it. You could be a Seer. Just look at Sybill."

"Mentioning Trelawney when we are naked is even worse than mentioning Longbottom, for the record. Suggesting I look at her is obscene."

"I have to agree with you there. I only meant that it isn't like She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned can control her Seeing. She isn't even aware of it when she has a genuine vision."

"I suppose that's a valid point. Hmm. I'll take prophecies about my own sex life over prophecies about Potter any day."

"Oh, so it's OK to bring up Harry? All right, noted."

Severus chose to shut her up by covering her mouth with his instead of using words. Hermione did not complain.

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 23 of 29

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