Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 24 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Leverage: A Christmas Tale

The Daily Prophet's offices erupted in a storm of cooing and clucking the instant Ginny's coworkers realised she was accompanied by two of her children. Lily watched the scene placidly from her mother's arms. Albus glared at everyone in a way that suggested his parents had chosen the correct middle name for him. Unlike James, who strutted and showed off whenever people stared, Albus had always shied away from the limelight that came along with being the son of the Chosen One.

"Aww, she looks just like you, Ginny," Parvati said. "Can I hold her?"

"Please do. She's heavier than she looks. My arms are getting tired." Shifting her shopping bags around to give Parvati better access, Ginny handed Lily over. "I thought it was about time Lily met everyone here."

"Ginevra, so nice to see you," a strident, usually unwelcome voice said. Today, Rita Skeeter's less than dulcet tones made Ginny fight a smirk.

As expected, Rita's Quick-Quotes Quill hovered above a sheet of parchment, waiting to distort Ginny's words into something unrecognisable. When both of the boys had been brought in as infants to be introduced to everyone, Ginny had specifically chosen days when she knew Rita would be absent. Gritting her teeth, Ginny steeled herself for battle.

"Oh, Rita," she said. "Can't we please talk normally for a change? I really didn't come in to be interviewed."

"Of course."

A wave of Rita's wand banished the quill and parchment to her office. Naturally, the door was left open just a crack so the quill could continue scribbling. Excellent.

"Where is little James today?" Rita asked.

"Playing at a friend's house."

Rita tutted. "And poor Albus wasn't invited? Does he struggle to make friends? It must be difficult for him, having such a famous father."

"Mummy," Albus whined. "I'm bored."

"Here you go, darling, play with the stuff Uncle George gave you. I'll just be a few minutes, I promise." Ginny thrust the bright orange Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes bag into his hands. If she knew her son, it really would take only a few minutes. Turning back to Rita, Ginny nailed on a smile. "Al would have gone with his brother today, but I promised him he could help me choose a birthday gift for Professor Snape."

There. That ought to get her off the topic of the Potter children for a while.

"Oh! And how is he doing? Why are you shopping for him? I thought Snape was closer to your husband. Have they had a falling out? Perhaps because Snape still thinks himself a Death Eater?"

"Professor Snape is recovering nicely." Ginny stopped herself. She'd been about to say Snape no more subscribed to Death Eater ideology than she did, but Rita would twist that into a fake confession about Ginny believing the Death Eaters had it right. "He hasn't thought himself a Death Eater since Harry's parents were killed, as everyone knows. That hasn't changed. I needed to come to Diagon Alley, so I volunteered to get something for his birthday. He and Harry are as close as they ever were, but Harry is kept quite busy with his Head Auror duties."

Come on, Al. Ginny could only keep babbling answers to Rita's questions for so long before her temper rose above the boiling point. She shot a furtive glance at her son. Albus sat cross-legged on the floor, squeezing something that looked like a squishy green brain. Nice choice.

"Is Harry's job causing tension at home?" Rita asked with what was probably supposed to be a sympathetic pout. "Is he missing out on family meals? Working weekends instead of spending time with his children?"

Sweet Merlin. Would Harry arrest Ginny if she just killed the woman? Wasn't there something in their wedding vows prohibiting that? To love, to cherish, to aid and abet? She should have sneaked it in. Ginny could wait till Rita was in her Animagus form and squash her under her shoe. Snape would almost certainly let her borrow his dragonhide boots; she would need something extra heavy and stompy to ensure the job was done properly.

"Harry always makes his family a priority," Ginny said. "He—"

Bright green goo splattered across Rita's face and clothes, courtesy of Albus and the Bouncing, Bursting Brain. A fair amount got on Albus himself, but Rita looked like she'd stood in the way of a giant's sneeze.

"I'm sorry!" Albus squeaked.

"Oh, no," Ginny said over Rita's indignant shouts. "I'm so sorry, Rita. I'm sure it'll wash right off, or George would have complaints from parents, wouldn't he? Goodness, what a mess. I didn't realise. I'd never seen that one before."

Complaints from parents were one of George's favourite things. If Howlers didn't self destruct, they would likely get pride of place on the wall of the shop's staff room.

Dabbing at Rita's slime-coated glasses with the edge of her scarf, Ginny carried on spouting apologies until Rita spun on her heel and marched off to the loo.

"Here you go, mate," Dennis Creevey said with a chuckle as he crouched down and offered Albus a handkerchief. "You can wipe yourself off with that. I don't think you want to use soap and water. It'll just make it worse."

Ah, so Dennis was familiar with that particular product.

"What else did your uncle give you?" Dennis asked. "He didn't send you over here to Dungbomb our office, did he?"

Albus giggled and opened the bag to reveal the rest of his treasures. Dennis reacted to each one with the sort of enthusiasm Ginny remembered him and his brother showing for all things magical when they'd been at school. She allowed herself a brief smile before shuffling around so her back was to Rita's office door.

Everyone's attention was either on the kids or on their work. Holding her wand behind her back, Ginny nudged the door open a tiny bit more and cast a wordless Switching Spell. A rustle in her pocket let her know the dummy quill with the Recording Charm had been swapped with Rita's.

A shriek came from the loo. Rita had discovered the result of using soap and water, then.

"Come on, Al," Ginny said, taking his hand. "Let's go see Professor Snape."

Albus Potter looked like a Muggle fairytale illustration of a goblin. Splotches of bright green decorated his skin, hair and clothes. A few similar spots had also found their way onto Mrs Potter and young Lily.

"Hi, Severus," the boy said in his careful, lisping way. "I got hit by a brain."

"Hello," Severus said. "I see this."

"Invention of George's," Mrs Potter said. "It vanishes in a few hours, unless you try to wash it off."

"Slim chance of a small child trying that tactic."

Mrs Potter laughed. "Grown reporters, on the other hand…"

"Now that, I would like to see." Severus nodded towards the Pensieve. "Have I mentioned that tomorrow is my birthday?"

"I already knew. I have a few things for you. Albus chose the one from all of us. The smaller one is just a little something I thought you would like." Mrs Potter winked in a way that would make even the first year Slytherins roll their eyes at her. "Let me know if you want anything exchanged."

While Mrs Potter deposited two brightly wrapped parcels into Severus's arms, Albus sprawled out on the floor with Lois. The half-Kneazle rubbed her face all over the green marks and purred, much to the boy's amusement. Hmm. George had likely used Green Goosegrass to create the resistance to washing; Kneazles were drawn to it. A toy stuffed with catnip and Green Goosegrass would just about do Lois in from sheer bliss. An infusion of Starthistle would easily wipe the green stains from Albus's skin. Severus chose to keep this fact to himself. The child seemed to enjoy his bizarre appearance.

"Come on, Al," Mrs Potter said. "Let's see if we can find Aunt Hermione and Uncle Neville before we head home."

Moments after their exit, Severus discovered that Mrs Potter had neglected to fill the Pensieve with the memory of Skeeter being turned green because she had already tucked a vial of cloudy silver into the gift from the entire Potter family. Dipping into the Pensieve revealed that she'd cut the vision off before the swapping of the quills. Thank Merlin she had that much sense.

The gift Albus had chosen was an almost comically large pot of red ink. The inkwell was carved with an ornate array of potions ingredients. Severus chuckled to himself once he'd viewed it from every angle. It was the formula for Shushing Solution. A perfect addition to any classroom, in his opinion. The boy definitely took after the Evans side of the family.

Opening the box with Skeeter's acid green quill sent Severus into a silver tailspin of recovered memory.

His surroundings morphed into the kitchen at Spinner's End. On the worktop, a different Self-Writing Quill scratched across the pages of a leather-bound notebook. The same notebook he'd seen himself leave for Hermione in Classroom 2B in a wartime memory. Next to a jumble of cauldrons and ingredients, a Bubble Charm held a bottle of sparkling sand captive.

Charity tapped her foot on the worn lino and stirred a steaming cup of tea. The pair of them couldn't have been older than twenty-five, at most.

"Hair from a Thestral's mane, given willingly, allows the substance to be bound to one object," Vision Severus said to the quill. "It appears to neutralise the unwanted effects in mice as well. Arithmantic calculations indicate I should be able to stabilise and manipulate it further. Future experiments to include Stargrass, Unicorn Hair, possibly Wartizome."

"Did I ever tell you that I wanted to be an Unspeakable?" Charity asked.

"Really? I'm astonished it didn't work out. You are so taciturn."

Ordinarily, in these visions and dreams, Charity reacted to his teasing with laughter and called him an arse. This time, she looked down at her tea and exhaled a cooling breath that rippled across the surface.

"I was particularly fascinated with the possibility of working in the Time Chamber." She swallowed hard. "Severus… I may not have known her well, but I don't think she would have wanted whatever it is you're planning to do with that."

The memory shattered and blew away, leaving Severus once again in his office, alone.

He slumped into his chair. His younger self obtaining the Time Turner sand as part of some ill-conceived plot to save Lily shouldn't have surprised him. Not at all. Had Charity managed to dissuade him, or had he carried on with his attempts?

Shoving the lid back onto the box, Severus tucked it into one of the inner pockets of his robes. He owed Edward a visit. A Muggle house under a Fidelius Charm would be a suitable spot to hide the quill.

Hermione, framed by two bands of silver, gazed out of the lake window in Severus's quarters. Panic and regret tainted the air, but instead of going to her and trying to fix whatever had been broken, Severus opened the door to find a blurry Draco waiting there.

"Hello," Draco said. Distorted by the dream, it could have been anyone's voice. "May I come in?"

"Of course."

Draco paced, glanced at Hermione, threaded his hands through his hair. He sounded like a lost child when he finally spoke again.

"I need your help."

A gentle hand on Severus's shoulder brought him back to the surface, out of the watery light of his dream. He'd fallen asleep at his desk, his head pillowed on his folded hands. Wincing, he stretched until his stiff back popped.

"Sorry I'm so late," Hermione said, bending down for a kiss that was comfortable and familiar and made his breath hitch. "How was your day?"

"Fine." Severus did not breathe a word about his vision of Charity. "Yours?"

"It was OK. Teaching kept getting in the way of research. Time sort of got away from me once I was free to stay in the library. Apparently, prophetic dreams usually begin manifesting during childhood, around the same time as accidental magic. It's exceedingly rare for them to start as late as your forties. You never had any dreams as a child that came true?"

His dreams as a child had mostly featured exaggerated versions of the fears that had haunted his waking hours. Being left alone, being ridiculed, angering Tobias, clowns.

"No," he said. "Never."

"Hmm. I also researched your mother's family, since Seeing tends to be hereditary. If there was a Seer among the past four generations, they kept it a secret. Maybe we should go Muggle and look up the Snape family on the Internet, see if there were any magical ancestors there."

Severus barked out a laugh. "If they existed, I would have found them decades ago. Death Eater desperate to distance himself from his Muggle upbringing, you'll recall."

"Ah, right." Bouncing on her toes, Hermione checked her watch. "Hey, it's after midnight. You're officially fifty."

"I feel it."

"Falling asleep at your desk will do that." Chuckling, she twirled her wand between her fingers. "Do you want your present now? Here, stand up."

A flick and swish of her wand sent a familiar sensation along the length of his body. It was like the rush and weightlessness of diving into the lake. Severus tilted his head to one side.

"OK, try running," she said.

"You're making me run on my birthday?"

"Oh, just do it. You'll see why."

Severus's put-upon air only lasted for a few steps. His movements looked the same, but instead of the jolt of his feet pounding against flagstones, it felt like kicking his legs to propel himself through water.

"I wanted to have it finished by Christmas, but it wasn't quite ready."

His stomach gave a little swoop. "You invented a spell for me?"

"To be honest, it's as much for me as it is for you. I figured you wouldn't whinge so much about running with me if it felt more like swimming." Hermione grinned. "Happy birthday."

Draping one arm along the back of the sofa, Severus toyed with a lock of Hermione's hair. She glanced up from the book in her lap—a slim volume featuring personal accounts of recovering lost memories. Severus was somewhat amazed there were any books on that particular topic that she had yet to read.

"You know how the force of someone's memories unlocking can sometimes cause an involuntary eruption of magic?" she said. "Well, this wizard in Sweden accidentally vanished his family's entire home a couple of years ago. I didn't realise it could be quite that dramatic. In all of the other cases I've read about, it was always someone lighting all of the candles in the room or levitating their cat or something."

"I imagine it depends on the power of the wizard in question. The amount of memories that have been lost could also be a factor."

Worry lines creased the skin between her eyebrows. "That doesn't exactly bode well for you."

"Near the end, the spontaneous recovery of memories happens faster and faster, as I'm sure you know. When it gets to the point that I am bedridden, Minerva has instructions to see to it that I'm taken somewhere secluded. There's no need for concern. I won't be vanishing Hogwarts."

"You know I'll be going with you, right?"

Severus made a noncommittal hum. He knew she would try. He would make Sybill his Secret Keeper if he had to. Trelawney disliked Hermione enough that she wouldn't be easily swayed by pleading. Severus wanted Hermione close, but more than that, he wanted her safe.

"Was the Swedish wizard's family included in this vanishing?" he asked.

"No. Can you imagine? Losing his home must have been traumatic enough. This says they rebuilt in the same spot. I think I'd want to move."

"It would be a sensible time to do so. You wouldn't need to pack anything. The family let him carry on living with them?"

"Of course they did." She bumped her shoulder against his. "I'd still keep you around, even if you vanished my library."

"Would you?"

"Didn't I once say I could forgive you almost anything?"

His heart and his brain got in an argument, one thudding out its desire to accept her words, one demanding solid proof. "How can you be so certain?"

She smiled like she was the one who was twenty years his senior. "You are one of the most important people in my life, you dunderhead. You have been for a long time now. We've forgiven each other a lot over the past decade or so."

Pausing for thought was the wise thing to do, but some part of him wanted to test her—to discover whether her impossible promise was hollow, never meant to be redeemed. Severus heard himself say something that was possibly one of the stupidest things to ever pass his lips—right up there with a hateful slur and "My Lord."

"Would you forgive me if I'd invaded your privacy?" he asked. "If, for instance, I'd shown up at your cottage in the middle of the night, feigned intoxication, waited until you fell asleep, and then made a copy of your journal to read at my leisure?"

Severus wanted to snatch the words back out of the rapidly chilling space between them. Of course she couldn't forgive that. He should have been content with what she could offer him instead of prodding at the limits of her affection.

He knew her body: the ticklish spots; the places that, when touched just so, made her beg for more; the hills and valleys of her curves. In the weeks since his birthday, he'd memorised all of it. He did not know the closed-off expression on her face. He didn't want to.

Out in the corridor, a deep voice traded muffled words with Eileen's portrait and Ernie. A fist rapped smartly, requesting entrance.

"You'd better get that," Hermione said. Crossing to the lake window, she turned her back on him.

Draco stood on the doorstep, his grey eyes shadowed by dark circles. He tugged at the cuff of his left sleeve.

"Hello," he said. "May I come in?"

Severus blinked. It was clearer and less muffled than his dream, but the words were identical. He tried out the same response he'd given in his sleep. Stepping back to allow the younger man entrance, he said, "Of course."

Both of Draco's hands swept through his platinum hair. He stared at Hermione for a beat before shaking his head. Severus knew what Draco would say on the breath after a broken sigh.

"I need your help."

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 24 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>