Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 27 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

The copy of Rita Skeeter's acid green quill rested on Severus's desk, blaring out tinny replicas of two familiar voices.

"What do you mean you can't approach her?" Skeeter asked.

"She reported me to McGonagall for harassment," Rupert Smith said. "I'll lose my job if I keep trying, and then where will you be?"

"I'll be exactly where I bloody am now. Why am I even paying you? You've been utterly useless."

Smith's tone turned resentful. "It's not my fault she's so frigid."

"It is, actually. If you'd used a love potion—"

"Yeah, because no one would suspect a thing if she was suddenly swooning all over me after barely giving me the time of day before. Especially not her best mate the Potions Master."

Scoffing, Hermione paused the playback charm. "Why didn't this arsehole appear on my Foe-Glass? It must be faulty."

"I suspect he had no intentions of actually going through with whatever Skeeter wanted him to do," Severus said. "His plan likely consisted of collecting her money and making a show of trying to deliver. He had no malicious intent towards either of us, unless you count his clumsy attempts at flirtation."

"I absolutely do count that."

Severus did, too. It was fortunate for Smith that he had refused to dose Hermione with a love potion. Heat rose up the back of Severus's neck as his stomach roiled. He hated love potions. Hated them. They should have been considered as unforgivable as the Imperius Curse. It amounted to the same thing. If he heard of anyone using a love potion on Hermione—on anyone… well, it was not so very long ago that he'd been a Death Eater.

A flick of Hermione's wand restarted the recording and interrupted Severus's vengeful train of thought.

"If that idiot hadn't wiped his memories, this would all be so much easier," Skeeter said.

Silence stretched out for so long that Severus started to question whether that was the end.

"Let me get this straight," Smith said with a wry chuckle. "You think that if Severus Snape had all of his memories of being a spy and deceiving arguably the most powerful Legilimens in recent history, it would be easier for either of us to find out what is in that notebook?"

"If you'd put the slightest effort in with Granger, she would have solved it. She can't resist showing off how clever she is."

It devolved into even more of a shouting match after that. At the end, Severus stood up and straightened the sleeves of his robes.

"Care to make a wager?" he asked.


"How long it will take me to get Smith to turn on Skeeter and tell Potter everything he knows."

It took five minutes.

Potter Senior and his gang of scoundrels helped, oddly enough. Once Severus flashed their little map and asked in his coldest voice why a certain name might have appeared near Smith's the other day, Smith folded.

Another option would have been to send the quill to Potter as an anonymous tip, but that wouldn't have been nearly as satisfying. Severus found a certain amount of vindictive glee in making Smith squirm with just a glare.

Hermione would likely label that as unhealthy, no matter how much she disliked the man, but Severus disagreed. Everyone needed hobbies.

Potter brought Severus two Pensieve memories once Rita was apprehended. The first was Potter's view of Skeeter's arrest. The second memory was from Skeeter herself: Severus's accident as she'd seen it. She'd been there, in her beetle form, looking for a story during a slow week.

"She's hoping to prove she didn't actually cause your memory loss by providing that one," Potter said. "Oh, and she told us where to find this." Reaching into his pocket, Potter produced the leather-bound notebook Severus had seen himself leave for Hermione in Classroom 2B. "It was open when I went into her flat, but the letters are all scrambled, so I didn't read it or anything."

At Severus's touch, the jumble of symbols on the page untangled itself into words, legible to both him and Potter. Severus slammed it shut.

"Right," Potter said. "I'll leave you to it, then. Let me know if you see anything significant in her memory of your accident."

As soon as Potter left his quarters, Severus dumped the arrest memory into the Pensieve and dived in. They'd lowered the wards and had Smith arrange to sneak Skeeter back onto Hogwarts grounds. Her preferred method of travel was crawling beneath Smith's collar as a beetle. How she hadn't asphyxiated on his cologne was anyone's guess. Once she'd been forced back into her human form and bound by Potter's Incarcerous, she'd screeched about false accusations and how she was going to ruin Smith. She would have gone on ranting if Ronald hadn't hit her with a Silencio.

Severus watched it twice. Hobbies.

The memory of Severus's accident started out in Hogsmeade. Althea, Smith's predecessor, was shopping in Scrivenshaft's when Rita saw an easy opportunity. Althea never noticed the little hitchhiker in her shopping bags.

Back at the castle, Memory Severus finally came onto the scene. His emotions were locked away, held captive behind that wall that used to guard his feelings for Hermione. Rita crawled beneath the door of his lab and watched as Memory Severus sprinkled Time Turner sand into his cauldron. There was no time to react. With two flashes of light and a wave of silver from the cauldron, the potion exploded. The vial of Time Turner sand toppled over, mingling with the spilled potion. Surprise fizzled out as a potion-splattered Memory Severus collapsed to the floor.

Skeeter transformed. After checking his breathing with a conjured mirror held beneath his nose, she took his wand and cast an Evanesco on the mess of silver. Not to vanish evidence, it seemed, but because a great deal of it coated his notebook. Snatching up the notebook, she left him there.

Astoria Malfoy knew where the bodies were buried.

Not literally. Cousin Rita never murdered anyone unless it was a metaphorical slaying via print. Rita had, however, committed all manner of other sins. The most recent of her crimes wouldn't necessarily make people stop believing her stories. Her more dedicated fans might even praise her dedication to uncovering the truth. Whenever she was released, Rita would certainly try to spin it as commitment to delivering stories to her readers, no matter the cost.

Fortunately, Astoria had been preparing for this event since she was seventeen years old. After the war, Astoria had immersed herself in reading about all things Muggle. Sacred Twenty-Eight and Pureblood supremacy her arse; some of the bravest people she'd ever met had either come from Muggles or been raised by them. In her reading, she'd discovered a plant that had been used by Victorian Muggle ladies to loosen the lips of their friends. One tap of the flower into a teacup, and the dusting of pollen would encourage secrets to flow. It was just a nudge, not the blunt force of Veritaserum. A hint. Poisoning the target with an overdose was a risk, but that was why Bezoars existed. Plus, Rita was far too familiar with Veritaserum for that to be an option.

As Ginny Potter read through Astoria's exposé of Rita, Astoria stared out of the window at Diagon Alley. How many times had Draco complained about finding Rita at theirs, sipping a cup of tea? Astoria had enough information at this point for a tell-all book in the manner of one of Rita's scandalous biographies.

Hmm. That was a thought. Rita Skeeter: Fact or Fiction? Perhaps later. For now, Astoria would settle for an article. Just a little thank you card to Hermione. The fact that Astoria liked Hermione Granger had nothing to do with it. She would have done something of the same magnitude for anyone who had tried to help Draco. Even Pansy Parkinson. Probably.

"Rita has been a busy little beetle, hasn't she?" Ginny asked. "Blackmail, bribery, fabrication, plagiarism? I honestly would have only guessed the first three. It's all true?"

"Every word. I'm not entirely sure which reporter she plagiarised, but I suspect Dennis Creevey. She just talked about someone new who was young and nowhere near cutthroat enough to survive. He won't remember he wrote the stories in the first place, though."

Ginny set the parchment down on the table. "Astoria, you know I write about Quidditch, right? Part time, at that. Why bring this to me?"

Both of Astoria's parents were on friendly terms with the Prophet's editor-in-chief, but Barnabus Cuffe did not have a son who was the same age as Scorpius. A son who could help Scorpius shrug off the Death Eater shadow cast by his father and grandfather.

"I thought you'd be more motivated to see that it gets printed, given what Rita has written about your husband, your family, your friends, you. Also, I thought you might want to get your own little revenge."

Ginny chuckled. "Fair enough. I'll talk to Barnabus and see what I can do."

"That would be great, thanks."

Grinning, Astoria shook Ginny's offered hand. There would be time to discuss potential play dates with little Albus once Astoria was offered Rita's old job. And if Astoria's own image was boosted by being seen having lunch with her new colleague, well, that would just be a bonus.

"Am I having a stroke?" Hermione asked. "Severus. Severus, look at me. Is one side of my face sagging? Because I thought I just heard you say that Narcissa Malfoy is going to be the new Muggle Studies professor."

"I did say that. Your face is as symmetrical as it ever was."

"Oh my God."

"Don't twist that into an insult. You know I think you're beautiful." Severus swallowed the remainder of the cooling tea in his cup, missing the tiny smile she gave him. "I suspect Narcissa thinks it will bolster her new image of tolerance. Now, would you like to look at the notebook Potter recovered? I've already gone through it, but I would like your opinion."

Mostly, Severus wanted to show her how much effort he'd put into healing her parents. Even before they'd been friends, he'd worked on it. Side by side on his sofa, they opened the notebook to the beginning. Just like when he'd taken the notebook from Potter, the letters untangled themselves at Hermione's touch. It was charmed to reveal its contents both of them.

Throughout the book, Severus referred to Time Turner sand as "powder." Not once did he give the substance its proper name.

17 July 1986

Using Pensieve memories to select a specific point might be a possibility. Interesting effects when using Thestral hair to bind the powder to memories.

9 September 1986

I cannot obtain the required information. Can I go into this with half of it?

31 October 1986

C is right. She wouldn't have wanted it.

"I got the impression," Severus said, "that I was attempting to go back in time at first. A recovered memory with Charity supports it."

"To save Lily?" Hermione asked.

Severus paused. "Does that bother you?"

"No. She was an important part of your life; that doesn't take anything away from what we have now. If I was in a similar situation with Harry or Ron or Luna or Neville, I think I'd be tempted as well."

He turned the page. "Always sullying things by mentioning Longbottom."

1 March 1998

The powder can be bound to Pensieve memories quite easily. Have stabilised the whole vial with Thestral hair. Might be able to make it bind to other memories when taken as part of a potion. Suggest powdered sage, Jobberknoll Feathers, Wartizome, Ashwinder Egg. Test on mice to start.

"Was the Healer wrong about what caused your memory loss?" Hermione asked.

"She may not have had the whole story, but I believe she was at least partially correct. Look at this bit later on: the dose I've suggested for an adult human is ten drops of the potion. I got a face full of it. That's more than enough Ashwinder Egg to erase several decades. In that memory from Skeeter, I dropped the rest of the Time Turner sand when the potion hit me. Who knows what effect that had?"

"Maybe it gave you your visions of the future."

"Perhaps. Do the ones I acted out on purpose count?"

"Hmm. Debatable. That business in the shower definitely doesn't count."

"Agree to disagree." Severus flipped through a few more pages. "This whole section here—the bit written during the war—was clearly intended for you, rather than for my own personal reference," he said. "I would hardly have needed to remind myself how to safely test a potion. I must have written it before I left it for you in that classroom."

Hermione said nothing, but brushed her fingers over her heart as she turned to the post-war section.

5 August 2002

I was not brewing the potion, but some of the components appeared in my usual cauldron. Too much powder? Will find out, perhaps, when I next attempt it.

21 August 2002

It was Lupin's fault.

"What does that mean?" Hermione asked. "How could it have been Teddy's fault? He was only four!"

"No idea. I asked him about it already; he doesn't remember whatever happened."

9 June 2004

Recovery appears to have been temporary. More Jobberknoll Feathers next time. Add some stewed Mandrake as well. The mice from the previous batch still have powder in their system, four months on.

A similar story repeated itself throughout the years. Sometimes the memories stayed, but the mice lost their sight. Once, they lost their lives. It was always failure, every time, until…

31 January 2009

The new formula worked. Ten healthy mice, everything recovered. Replicating it on a new batch before moving on to a half-Kneazle.

"You did it?" Hermione breathed.

"So it would seem."

2 April 2009

Initial experiments with the half-Kneazle have been successful. It recovers faster than the mice, but that is to be expected; it is a partially magical being.

A big splodge of ink marked a spot where his quill had paused, waiting for him to decide his next words.

Will continue monitoring the half-Kneazle for side effects. All being well, I will seek G's assistance next month and move on to the final stage of testing.

That was the last entry. His accident had taken place on the 24th of that month. Severus chewed on his thumbnail before catching himself. A possible explanation for his accident had been looming over him ever since he'd viewed Skeeter's memory—an explanation that had nothing to do with sabotage.

"Do you recall a woman named Thora Monkstanley?" he asked. "I mentioned her to you, once."

Hermione trapped her lower lip between her teeth as she tried to remember. "Oh, she was on your list of former partners, wasn't she? The only one you could remember apart from that very clever Muggle girl who taught you how to kiss. Did you ever find out what happened to her?"

"Thora died protecting her Muggle-born lover towards the end of the first war."

"Oh, no. I'm sorry."

Severus had lied to Hermione. Not a huge lie, or even an intentional one, but he'd told her he'd not cared at all for Thora. He hadn't loved her—not even close—but upon hearing the news he'd still mourned what she could have been if her life hadn't been cut short by a senseless war.

"As am I," he said, "but that isn't why I mentioned her. Thora had an older sister who was astonishingly brilliant. I have honestly never met anyone else as skilled at the creation of spells, and I include myself in that. In spite of her talent, I'm told that she was killed by one of her own experimental charms."

The rest of Severus's train of thought went unsaid. No one is infallible. Hermione went quiet for a long time, stroking her fingers back and forth along the arm he'd wrapped around her. Then she got that look on her face—the same one he'd seen in memory after memory right before her hand shot up into the air.

"This sister… was her name Pandora?" she asked.


"Did she happen to have a nine-year-old daughter who witnessed her death?"

"Err. Yes."

She pressed her lips into a thin line. "You lost your virginity to Luna's aunt?"

"You lost yours to Ronald. Glass houses, Granger."

Hermione laughed. "I wasn't throwing stones, you dunderhead. But… Harry's mum, Luna's aunt. Dare I ask about your past with Molly?"

"You really are insufferable sometimes."

"Hey, Molly is a fine woman. You could do a lot worse. Also, I notice that wasn't a denial."

"We had a torrid affair that spanned decades," Severus deadpanned. "Ginevra is actually mine. Can't you see the resemblance?"

His chuckles mingled with hers as she swatted him with a cushion. Mirth faded when his gaze once again fell on the notebook. Such a waste.

"I could do it, you know," he said. "With some Time Turner sand, I'm certain I could fix them. I had it. That was the formula."

With the gentlest of touches, Hermione pushed his lank hair off of his face. "It means the world that you tried."

The anniversary of Severus's accident came and went. Hermione started marking the days in her head, watching him for signs that the end was drawing near. When the time came, she knew Minerva would follow his orders to pack him off somewhere secluded. Hermione tried not to think of that Swedish wizard who had accidentally vanished his own house when the bridge had been built between his buried memories and those he'd borrowed from others.

On their last morning at Hogwarts before the summer holidays, they lounged in bed, nothing in particular to do until it was time for the students to leave. Tucked up beneath Severus's duvet with his body curved against hers, Hermione felt content. Safe. Like uncontrolled magic could never intrude into their little bubble.

With a soft sigh, she murmured, "I love you."

Severus tightened his arms around her, the same way he always did when she told him she loved him. Hermione smiled. That little squeeze—that silent acknowledgment of her words—was one of her favourite things. Hearing it in return would be nice, but she knew—

"Marry me," Severus whispered.

One of Hermione's hands flew to her mouth as she sat bolt upright. She knew this scene. She'd felt the devotion and rightness before, when she'd looked into a younger Severus's eyes and had fallen into his thoughts.

"Is the idea so objectionable?" Sitting up, Severus tugged at the duvet until as much of his bare skin was concealed as possible. "You look horrified."

"I'm not. It isn't—not at all. Oh, Severus, that isn't what I… It's just that I'm a bit stunned. Floored, really. You proposed to that mystery woman exactly like that. I saw it in my first Occlumency lesson."

"What? Show me."

"Will what I saw in your mind even show up in the Pensieve, or will you just see us staring at each other?"

"I'm not sure. If you focus, I can use Legilimency." The duvet slipped back down as he rummaged beneath his pillow for his wand. "Don't let your mind drift to other memories of me."

Unlike that first Occlumency lesson, Severus waited for her nod before he went in.


Memory Severus aimed a wand at young Hermione's temple without warning, not even allowing her to sit before he attacked. A cold, sinking sort of fury clung to him, just waiting for an excuse to seek revenge.


The nervousness was definitely Hermione's contribution, but Severus thought the sudden wash of surprise came from both of them. Layered beneath it all was a contradictory burst of the sort of warm security Severus felt in the present day when embracing his Hermione.

Narrowing her eyes, Hermione pushed back. Severus had felt her gentle attempts at Legilimency since losing his memories. It shouldn't have worked. And yet…

Everything flickered and banded itself in silver as she entered Memory Severus's mind. It was just a few seconds: a brief impression of love and soft skin. The woman's face was not visible in his thoughts; he lay spooned up behind her in bed. His current bed. Her curly, dark hair tickled his nose and blocked out most of his view, the same way Hermione's curly, dark hair always did.

The woman sighed Hermione's sigh. "I love you."

His answer was the same one Severus had whispered to the present day Hermione moments before. "Marry me."

Memory Severus stumbled back as he kicked the young Hermione out of his head. The anger flowed back, but quieter this time—more like a question.

"I'm so sorry, sir," Hermione babbled as he glowered silently at the ceiling. "I didn't mean to. I had no idea I… Are you going to end our lessons?"

"No." Memory Severus cleared his throat. "But if we are to continue, we will do so with the understanding that I will Obliviate my memories from your mind if I deem it necessary."

"As long as you're better at it than Professor Lockhart, I have no problem with that."

Snorting, Memory Severus raised his wand. "Again." A flinch from her halted his approach. "It will not be comfortable or pleasant, but I will not hurt you, Miss Granger. Not any more than a Headache Relief Potion can remedy."

"OK. I'm ready, sir."

"Are you? Make your mind still and calm. Legilimens."

Severus's temples throbbed as he withdrew from Hermione's mind.

"I don't think that woman's identity is a mystery at all," he said. "I'm fairly certain that was you."

"Yeah, I got that impression as well. Seer it is, then?"

In spite of the fact that even the thought of asking the question a second time was more nerve-wracking than any memory he'd received, Severus said, "If I was a Seer, I would have used my powers to divine the answer you still have not given me."

Silence. Good gods. Was she trying to kill him?

"You really meant it?" she whispered, shifting closer.

"Of course I bloody meant it. Should I have taken Weasley's advice and mentioned that I know how to cast all three Unforgivable Curses as part of my proposal?"

Hermione's lower lip trembled as she let out a quiet gasp of laughter. "It does give you a dangerous, mysterious air. I—"

Doubling over, Severus clutched his head. Burning silver filled his vision. Hermione—Miss Granger—Granger—Hermione called his name, but Severus barely heard her over the roar in his ears as rapidly flickering scenes of everything—everything—took him.

The Granger woman was still shouting at Draco. Lucius sighed. This was what came of doing a good deed.

Peering at the arguing pair from behind a tree, Lucius wondered if Granger might strike Draco as she had when they were children. Instead of lashing out like a Muggle, she sank to the ground as Draco marched away from her.

Lucius waited. And waited. And waited. For the love of Circe, she didn't intend to remain there the whole time, did she? What if someone saw?

Perhaps Lucius could owl Potter to collect her. Then again, would she consent to going with her friend? She'd probably just start doing her impression of a harpy again, and then Potter would get his little feelings hurt, and Lucius would be burdened with two morose Gryffindor garden ornaments instead of just the one. They would clash with the peacocks.

Well, fine. Lucius approached the trespassing witch. Granger stared at his feet.

"Nice shoes," she said.

"Thank you." Lucius beamed. "Do you intend to stay down there for the entirety of Severus's convalescence, or can I persuade you to join us inside? Tea in the drawing room, perhaps?"

At the mention of the drawing room, she tilted her face up to shoot him a venomous scowl.

"Ah," Lucius said with a wicked grin. "There she is. Come now, Miss Granger. Get up."

"Just for the record," she said as she clambered to her feet with all the grace of a dairy farmer, "it is always going to be too soon to joke about the last time I was in that room."

"It made you stop sulking on the ground, did it not?"

"I wasn't sulking. I was plotting."

"Something better accomplished in comfortable surroundings, in my experience. Shall we?"

Granger scoffed at the arm he offered her. "Aren't you afraid I'll muddy your robes?"

"My elf is a very thorough laundress." Lucius waited until her hand was tucked in the crook of his elbow before he continued. "Why don't we go to Astoria and Draco's house? I'm sure Astoria would like to see you again."

And Astoria and Draco's house was as far as possible from the little Secret-Kept fortress the elves had built for Draco's… new lifestyle. At the moment, that fortress was serving as Severus's hospital room. Both McGonagall and Severus had been very clear in their orders to keep Severus isolated until the danger of uncontrolled magic had passed.

"Draco assures me everything is progressing as it should," Lucius said. "He has a monitoring charm in place to track Severus's vital signs at a distance. Which he might consent to show you, if you cease speaking to him in the sort of voice that can only be heard by Crups. What has you so convinced that Severus is in imminent danger?"

"This." Granger nodded towards a faintly lit charm on her bracelet. "The fact that it's reacting means Severus is hurt. It's linked with one that he wears."

Severus's intention had undoubtedly been for him to be the one rushing in to save an injured Granger. Depressingly noble strikes again.

Lucius opened his mouth to say that her jewellery was merely responding to headaches and severe emotional distress. Merlin knew Severus had plenty of distressing memories. The little star-flecked stone charm halted the words by burning brighter.

Tightening her grip on his arm, Granger gasped. "Mr Malfoy…"

"Everything is fine," Lucius said in a calm, even tone. "We've simply reached the end. That's all. Severus will be back to sneering at all of us and remembering every single reason behind that sneer within the hour, I'd wager."

"Stop treating me like I need to be sheltered and coddled. I really, really don't. You know I don't. It's demeaning and—"

"If everything wasn't fine, Draco would be doing something other than standing at that window over there, wouldn't he? Look. Does he seem concerned?"

He did, actually. Lucius couldn't blame him. Far across the grounds, the fortress that Granger could not see glowed silver.

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 27 of 29

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