Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 26 of 29

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

A swooping sensation went through Severus as his nonverbal charm confirmed that Ernie was his only human companion in the Headmistress's office. Well, the man standing next to him was probably Ernie.

"What spell did I teach you last spring?" Severus asked.

"A charm to remove the peel from marmalade."

"Here." Severus handed him the Foe-Glass. "We might have a slight problem."

"Well, hell. Do you think I should send a message to Harry? He'll be cross with me if he misses out on Skeeter being arrested for something."

"I was planning on squashing her under the heel of my boot if necessary. If you think Potter would enjoy witnessing that, then by all means."

"Lad, you shouldn't say things like that to an Auror."

"Probably not."

Focusing on the memory of kissing Hermione under the mistletoe, Severus sent his Patronus flying off to her with a warning. Ernie followed without further reprimands when Severus took the Foe-Glass back from him and rushed towards the stairs.

Skeeter's image faded bit by bit on their journey back to the dungeons. By the time they rejoined the now diminished audience watching the Gobstones game, the damnable woman had vanished entirely.

George and Minerva both still had as many Gobstones as when he'd left. Pathetic.

"Stand aside, Minerva," Severus said. "I'll be Mum's proxy."

"Thank Merlin," Minerva said. "I forgot how much I hate this game. And if your mother's portrait calls me Minnie one more time—"

"Thank you, darling," Eileen said. "Maybe you won't completely embarrass me."

Severus hated the game as well, but he'd played it often enough as a child. A practiced flick of his thumb sent the first of George's Gobstones spinning out of the circle. And there was the reason he hated it: the foul-smelling liquid that sprayed from the Gobstone onto George's face. Mum had been the president of the Gobstones Club when she'd attended Hogwarts. Playing the game with her, Severus had been sprayed often.

As Severus picked up the spent Gobstone, he used a silent Accio to summon a strand of hair from Sinistra's robe. Someone at Hogwarts had likely let Skeeter in. None of his fellow teachers showed up on Severus's Foe-Glass, but there were any number of reasons why that might have happened. An unwilling accomplice, someone under the Imperius Curse, a particularly trusting moron.

Severus charmed the stolen hair to wrap around the Gobstone and slipped it into his pocket. He repeated the process with his other colleagues and George, using the different coloured stones to keep track of which hair belonged to each person. Smith, Longbottom, and Trelawney were now absent; he could obtain their hair later. He couldn't use Polyjuice to disguise himself as Hagrid, Filius, or—thanks to that werewolf—Draco.

Teddy Lupin laughed as George wiped yet another glob of disgusting liquid from his face, then laughed harder when a grinning George smeared the Gobstone goo on the boy's cheek. Hmm. A Metamorphmagus could mimic anyone's appearance, half-breeds included.

No, probably best not. Hermione would duel Potter for the right to strangle Severus if he got Lupin involved. Still, at least that explained why Severus had decided to mentor the boy. He would likely come in handy someday.

"Not bad," Eileen said once the game was won. "Certainly better than Minnie."

Severus rushed in before his employer could aim a Reducto at Eileen's portrait. "Minerva, I need to speak to you and Filius in your office in fifteen minutes."

He didn't wait for her to confirm the appointment, opting instead to retreat to the fireplace in his quarters. He had arrangements to make.

The first Potter to answer Severus's Floo Call was young Lily. She made a valiant effort at reaching through the protective child fence in order to grab his nose. Her indignant wails when she failed in this endeavour brought her mother into the room.

"I'm afraid I must request that you return my birthday gift," Severus said. "The one from you."

"Ah, didn't fit in with the rest of your pleasure dungeon, then?"

"Indeed. If you would go to Spinner's End this evening, I'll arrange for it to be there."

"Check your Christmas gift," the doe said in Severus's deep voice. It stroked its face along Hermione's arm before it dissolved.

"Still a doe?" Draco said, crossing his arms. "That's interesting."

Oh, honestly. Turning her back on him, Hermione fished her Foe-Glass out of her pocket. She groaned. That bloody beetle. A slice of Hermione's wand through the air cast a wordless charm to detect the presence of other humans. Only her and Draco.

"All right, Granger?"

"Not particularly." She tilted the false mirror towards him. "Did you have any visitors at your house before you came here? I think you might have picked up a stowaway."

"For fuck's sake," he muttered. "No, she wasn't there, as far as I know. Why is she so interested in you?"

"I sort of kept her in a jar once. And blackmailed her. A bit."

Blinking, Draco stared at her as if they'd never before met. "Huh. So that's what Severus sees in you."

Statements like that were best ignored, even if Hermione did almost want to laugh.

"Come on," she said. "Bottle up your potion and let's… I don't know. See if we can find her, I guess."

She needed the Marauder's Map. If Harry hadn't insisted it was unfair for a professor to always be able to catch students wandering the halls…

"And what do you propose we do if we find her?" Draco asked. "Should we take a jar along?"

"Legilimency? I bet she's skulking around in her Animagus form and trying to keep her presence here a secret, so I can probably justify it to the Headmistress."

"Ugh, fine. As a favour to Severus, I suppose I can—"

"Not you. I meant I would do it."

Draco tucked the bottled potion into his robes and held the office door open for Hermione. "You cannot be serious."

"Of course I am. Severus taught me in sixth year." Hermione squinted at the Foe-Glass as she tried to determine which staircase to take. Rita's image was beginning to fade.

"Yeah, I'm sure he was really ruthless with you when you were his student and the Headmaster was watching his every move. I, on the other hand, learned from Aunt Bella."

"Severus didn't need to be ruthless in order for me to get past his shields. I sincerely doubt Bellatrix ever managed that."

Draco scoffed. "Right. Anything you saw in Severus's head, he wanted you to see."

He really hadn't. Severus had, in fact, threatened to Obliviate her at the time.

In between bickering over who was better suited to invade someone's mind, Hermione and Draco bickered over which route to take. The image in Hermione's Foe-Glass became more shadow than substance.

"You do realise that Severus didn't intend for you to tell me that Rita was here, right?" Draco asked.

"I'm sure he didn't, but you were willing to let me brew Wolfsbane for you. Several of the ingredients are poisonous, as I'm sure you know. There's a fine line between killing and curing with that potion. You trusted me with your life, so I reckon I can trust you with this. Plus, you must know her far better than I do by now."

"Not sure Severus will agree with that logic, but OK."

Hermione glared at the Foe-Glass. It had the nerve to no longer show Rita's face.

Hermione and Severus started off with a cushion separating them on his sofa. Placing one hand into the demilitarised zone, he decided to begin with facts instead of apologies.

"Minerva and Filius have added extra wards," he said. "The secret passageways we know of are all blocked off, and only the Headmistress will be allowed to let visitors in at the gates. If someone who isn't an employee of Hogwarts tries to pass through when a teacher opens the gates, they'll be stopped. She's going to tell the staff that it's the Governors' fault—I told her to claim that they were concerned about a former Death Eater coming to visit me when I was without my memories."

Hermione nodded. "I owled Harry to ask to borrow his map. And you contacted Ginny?"

"I did. She is going to switch the quills back at the first opportunity." Severus tugged at a loose thread. "I made a discovery, earlier. All of my double-framed dreams, save one, have come true."

Dream by dream, he talked her through his findings. Hermione let her own hand wander into the boundary cushion as he spoke, stopping centimetres away from touching him. Lois eyed the cushion, but decided the spot Boudica occupied next to the fire was the more valuable real estate.

"I wish I could ask your fifty-year-old self about all of this," Hermione said.

"Me too."

That potion he'd been creating for Hermione's parents had revealed the dates of the memories within it. If Severus had a cauldron full of the potion, would he be able to alter it in order to discover if—when the shower dream would happen in real life?

No point in wondering about it, he supposed. Even if he had access to the formula and the ingredients, he wouldn't waste something so valuable on something so frivolous.

Severus brushed his little finger against Hermione's. Right. Time for those apologies.

"I'm sorry. Not that it excuses my actions, but I was attempting to rule you out as a suspect when I read your journal. I have not once invaded your privacy since we… advanced beyond friendship."

"Oh, is that what we are? Advanced friends?"

"You know very well that isn't what I said."

"Hmm. I just realised we never actually sat down and discussed exclusivity. I just sort of… assumed. We are exclusive, aren't we, Severus?"

It was so artless that Severus had to smile. She delivered the question like a girl passing a note to him in class, asking him to be her boyfriend. He opened his mouth to tick the box that said yes, but Hermione smirked and carried on speaking.

"Because if anyone dares to touch you," she said, "I'm likely to learn how to cast some of those Unforgivables you're so proficient in."

Chuckling, Severus risked placing a leg on the cushion and lifted his hand to cup her cheek. "As entertaining as that would be to watch, I do not wish to be with anyone else."


He was quite ready to place his imbecilic confession behind them and jump headlong into make up sex (Lucius had once shared far too much information about the benefits of the occasional disagreement with one's partner), but Hermione had other plans. After touching her lips to his in the chastest of kisses, she brought her wand to her temple.

"I have a memory for you," she said. "Have you viewed any today?"

"Just one, this morning." Potter had written Roonil Wazlib down as the owner of the memory. Idiot. "What is it?"

"It happened in October of 2001, I think. Have a look."

Within the memory, Severus's quarters were almost as disorganised as they were in the present day, with open books and piles of notes strewn about. These days, it felt strange to see his living space sans Lois and Boudica. They'd become a constant fixture in his life. Like familiar furniture, but much needier. And moodier, in Lois's case.

The fuller figured, early twenties version of Hermione looked around the sitting room as Memory Severus led her inside.

"It's not how I pictured it," she said.

Oh. She'd once told Severus that she'd daydreamed about sitting on his lap and snogging him the first time she'd been allowed entrance to his quarters.

"What did you imagine?" Memory Severus asked. "An overlarge bat roost?"

"Of course not. But where do you hide your coffin?"

"I dearly wish I could still take points from Gryffindor for your impertinence."

"I'm sure you'll find some unfortunate student to pay the price for me."

Memory Severus maintained a straight face, revealing none of the amusement that bubbled through him. Nor did he let on to the ripple of half-formed desire and fondness that appeared when he took the seat next to Hermione on the sofa. Her robes shifted as she got herself situated, revealing the slightest glimpse of cleavage. Memory Severus looked.

So did Severus, to be fair.

Was this the earliest memory in which Severus had felt such emotions? It hadn't been there in the memories from the era of Raffaella. Not really. And this had taken place just two months before Severus had kissed Raffaella in the Ministry Atrium as Hermione and George had looked on. There was an undercurrent of conflict and reluctance to it in this memory—like he wanted her to remain firmly in the Miss Granger box forever. The fool didn't know what he was missing.

"How are your parents?" Memory Severus asked.

"Tired of looking in the Pensieve. Other than that, it's hard to say. They still haven't had any spontaneously recovered memories, in spite of your recent contributions."

Even when they were only friends, Severus would have tried to ease the pain of that statement by wrapping his unpracticed arms around her. Memory Severus merely allowed his hand to linger on Hermione's as he passed her a book that detailed the long history of Potions research—the intersection of his discipline with hers. She gave him a brittle smile.

They looked at it together, Memory Severus thumbing to passages he thought would interest her and taking the opposite side in every debate that ensued. With each page, the space between them shrank. Still not close enough to be classified as intimate, but close enough that his tentative desire began to warm and a blush stained Hermione's cheeks.

"There's another volume I've been meaning to show you, but I left it in my office," Memory Severus said. With instructions to browse his personal library if she got bored during his absence, he set off to retrieve the missing book.

Nestled among the shelves was a plain, honey coloured wooden box. The box that now lived in Severus's bedroom. The box that contained Charity's letters.

It was like watching a Muggle horror film with characters who were, of course, intent on wandering into danger. No matter how much Severus willed those infuriating characters to not open that door, not go investigating that strange noise, not trust that hitchhiker, they always refused to obey. Forcefully thinking leave the box alone at Hermione didn't make her comply, either. The lid sprang open.

She didn't see much. Only Charity's final, bloodstained note that said I still believe in you. Upon realising it was something personal, she hesitated just a beat too long before moving to close it. Memory Severus was already there, slamming the lid shut.

"Leave," he said.

"I'm sorry! Oh, no. Severus… I'm so sorry. I didn't think—"

"No, you didn't. You're like Potter in more ways than one, it seems. I said leave, Miss Granger."

Everything good he felt for her was shoved down, trampled under the anger and hurt that roared through the memory. Hermione fled.

"How long did it take before I forgave you?" Severus asked once he rejoined Hermione outside the Pensieve.

She shrugged. "Difficult to say. After giving you a couple of days to cool off, I wrote you a heartfelt apology. The only response you gave me was to start sitting next to me at meals again. You claimed it was because of the Life Debt."


Severus could almost see the looping script. She would have included a simple admission of guilt, a fervent hope to regain his trust, and a claim that she would have regretted her actions even if she had not been caught. None of it would have swayed him. Not on its own.

Severus thought his forgiveness had less to do with her contrition and more to do with the fact that, like Charity, Hermione had believed in him when no one else had. Sinking back down onto the sofa, he reflected on a parade of memories. Her brief capture at Hogwarts, when he'd first shown her the cottage—when a simple sigh of relief from her upon seeing his face had felt a little bit like Light magic. Her defence of him against the crowd at his trial. Her magic reaching out to him when her dreams turned dark, asking him, of all people, to keep her safe. Her ridiculous Patronus cuddling up to him without her knowledge every time she sent him a message. Her sad smile on the very first day he'd lost his memories, when she'd told him she would trust him with her life.

"I wasn't offered entrance to your quarters again until, hmm, February, I think?" Hermione said. "It was the day my parents viewed the final memory from you and we gave up for good. Or we gave up as far as I was aware, at any rate. You didn't say anything about my parents that day; you just told me to come over so you could show me a variant of Blood-Replenishing Potion you'd developed that took half the time to brew."

So, it had been before his split with Raffaella, but only just. Raising his wand, Severus summoned the box of Charity's letters from his bedroom.

"Here," he said, thrusting it into Hermione's hands. "Read them."

She gaped at him. "It's not some sort of scale we have to balance so things are even on both sides. You don't have to do this to earn my forgiveness. You apologised, and I believe you meant it and won't go snooping again; that's enough for me. I don't want to go snooping, either. We're still allowed to keep some things private, Severus."

"I am aware of that. Read."

Severus wasn't sure why he wanted to share this piece of himself with her—all of the pieces, really. It didn't make sense. Hermione read cautiously at first, casting glances at him out of the corner of her eye. By the time she reached the final letter, tears streamed down her face. Setting the box on a side table, she climbed into Severus's lap and wrapped her arms around him.

"I wish I'd known her better." She sniffled. "I'm glad you had a friend like that."

Severus rubbed a hand up and down her back until her breathing calmed.

"Am I forgiven?" he whispered.

"Of course. I already said you were."

"Good. There's something I would like to try."

Leaning past Severus, Hermione turned the shower up to a temperature that was better suited to melting flesh from bones than to bathing. He flipped it back down with a yelp. It was still far too close to boiling for his liking, but she would probably compare it to the Arctic. They would both have to compromise. It was worth it to have her pressed against him, naked and smiling.

"We can try," she said as her back met the shower wall, "but I still say it won't work."

Severus kissed her. "It will. Trust me."

"Shower sex is for twenty-year-olds who devote most of their waking hours to staying fit. They do yoga and a billion squats and can put their feet behind their heads, probably. If we were closer in height, then maybe I could turn around, but you're too tall. Also, you don't even have a mat or anything to keep us from falling and breaking a hip."

"I could cast a Temporary Sticking Charm and attach you to the wall—"

"Don't you dare."

Her ensuing laughter shivered into a gasp when Severus slipped a hand between her thighs.

Everything was like the dream he'd had on Christmas morning. Her teeth scraped against his neck and her legs wrapped around him in just the same way. Even the sound of her moan was identical.

It did work—for a minute or two. Gravity kept interfering and making Hermione slide down the marble tiles. Severus's arms and thighs ached with the effort of hitching her back up again and again. Eventually, with a squeak of alarm from Hermione, things came to a halt as Severus's feet skidded backwards. They both landed upright, but only just.

Severus couldn't help joining in with her laughter. He expected Hermione to make some comment about broken hips or having told him so when she held his face in her hands. Instead, three unexpected words drifted up to him between her chuckles.

"I love you."

She'd made that same declaration before, after a fashion. Beneath the mistletoe, she'd told him she'd been half in love with him since she was nineteen years old. More than half. A lump formed in Severus's throat. Holding her close, he hid his face against her shoulder. The truth he'd never before said aloud refused to come out, but she seemed to hear it, anyway.

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 26 of 29

<< Previous     Home     Next >>