Continuing Tales

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 9 of 29

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Leverage: A Christmas Tale

Dozens of bottles littered the table in front of Severus, sorted by year. A buffet of clouds. The cats circled the legs of the table, glaring at him. Boudica had voiced her disapproval of the new anti-animal wards by hacking up her breakfast onto the carpet in the front room. Even if the cats hadn't tried to knock all of the bottles to the floor, Severus still would have cast the wards on the table. Having them walk all over an eating surface was hideously unsanitary.

Now, where to begin? Raffaella's memories, bar that first one, tended to be as entertaining as one of Cuthbert Binns's lectures. It was all Ministry events and social obligations. Not that he could blame her. She'd hardly want to send anything more personal out into the world, even into the hands of someone trusted. Not when she had Edgar. Knowing about his fiancee's past with Severus was quite different from Edgar actually seeing the memory of whatever affection had existed between them.

The Malfoys had sent another batch of vials as well, dotted along the timeline between that first year of lost memories and the final year of the war. Severus was not in the mood for anything he might see there. He seldom was.

The little line of glass soldiers that represented the year 2002 caught Severus's attention. Selecting a memory of Potter's from September of that year, he tilted it from side to side. That particular year was amber on Granger's colour coded chart, but the memory in question was from Potter's wedding day, he'd said. Not long after that bizarre interaction with Granger that had been donated by George. Clues as to how Severus had offended her might be found there.

The cats peered over the rim of the Pensieve as he coaxed the memory out of the bottle, as if they wanted to join in the viewing. Shooing them away, Severus dived in.

Ginevra Potter chose gowns for her bridesmaids that were the colour of Potter's—of Lily's—eyes. It overwhelmed Lovegood's pale colouring, but on Granger it was stunning, bringing out the golden tones in her skin and making her eyes bright. That green silk swirled around Granger's ankles as she moved across the dance floor with Terry Boot. Jealousy splintered through Severus's sternum.

If Severus's interpretation of the timeline was correct, by the time he'd been single and had realised that he reciprocated Granger's affections, she'd already taken up with Boot. Which was typical of his luck, really. If only he'd had a Time Turner.

That same lopsided house from George's memory towered over the marquee where the reception was being held. The sheer fabric overhead left the blue sky visible. Memory Severus lurked near the exit, removed from the rest of the smiling guests. And, because it was the man's memory, Potter approached the lone figure.

"I'm really glad you decided to show up, sir," Potter said. "Thank you for coming."

Memory Severus looked across the polished dance floor, past Granger and her inadequate companion, at a blonde woman with a horsey face. Severus squinted in the same direction. There was something familiar about—oh. She was much older, but yes, there was that same pinch-faced expression of disapproval. And the revulsion that made the back of his throat sting with bile was still there, unsurprisingly.


"Had I been given more information, I would have refused," Memory Severus said.

"Err, yeah, sorry about that. I kind of had to, since I invited Dudley. And I didn't know if you'd come, so I wanted someone with a connection to my mum. I'm surprised she showed up, to be honest. Never thought she would, given how many wizards and witches are here."

"You did not have to invite someone who mistreated you for years."

"Should I uninvite you, then?"

Memory Severus let one dark eyebrow raise. Potter just chuckled.

Apparently finished dancing with Boot, Granger allowed Lovegood to lead her towards Memory Severus and Potter. Memory Severus received the usual ditzy smile and nonsensical greeting from Lovegood, but from Granger, he was offered only a nod.

Potter sighed. "Luna, do you want to dance with me?"

"Yes, that's probably a good idea," Lovegood said. "They'll never make up if we're standing right here, will they?"

"I doubt it. Let's go."

What Lovegood did next couldn't possibly count as dancing, but Potter copied her erratic movements with a smile. They were close enough that Severus could just make out his own low voice over the beat of the music.

"Dance with me, Granger."

"No, thank you," she said primly.

Tilting his head back and staring up as if requesting some sort of divine assistance, Memory Severus snarled. "You are the most infuriating woman I've ever met. It was meant to be a compliment, you dunderhead."

Predictably, Granger's hands went straight to her hips.

"Telling me that I'm infuriating is somehow meant to be—"

"Not that. The other day. I see no difference." He ground his teeth together. "The phrasing was unfortunate. I didn't realise it until after I saw your reaction. I had… not forgotten when I said those words to you before, but I don't think of it often. Some moments in a shared past are like that. I'm sure Draco thinks of the time you struck him far more often than you do, for instance."

"Are you joking?" she asked with a laugh that was only half scornful. "I look back on it all the time."

Memory Severus rolled his eyes heavenward again. "My point is, I didn't mean to be cruel." Glancing back down at her, he allowed one hand to almost brush her arm. "Quite the opposite."

"You didn't mean to be cruel this time."

"Yes. You know very well that I intended to be cruel before." Memory Severus took a faltering, almost reluctant step towards her, as if drawn against his will by gravity. "I would not say it again."

Granger stared for several slow shakes of her head before she answered. "I know." Her next words were almost lost as Potter and Lovegood twirled away like a couple of lunatics. "Wait. The most infuriating woman you've ever met? I think I should be incredibly offended by that, given that you've met both Dolores Umbridge and Bellatrix Lestrange."

"I meant human woman. Not toad or demon."

"Hmm. Well, you're the most infuriating human man I've ever met, so we're even." A touch of her hand against Memory Severus's, and Severus knew he was forgiven. "And in that case, I suppose I can dance with you."

"What joy is mine."

Joy was his; it danced and swayed together with desire and relief as Memory Severus danced and swayed with Granger. Severus couldn't hear the words they exchanged, but it didn't matter. Basking in the emotions of that moment was pleasant enough. The song ended too soon.

Mrs Potter insisted on dancing with Memory Severus next, much to Potter's apparent amusement. The two of them spun out of earshot, moving surprisingly gracefully together. With a sneer cast at Petunia, Memory Severus said something that made Mrs Potter throw her head back with laughter. She was still chuckling by the time she returned to her new husband.

"Snape just said to me, 'Mrs Potter, do you suppose your brother has brought along any of his odious inventions? It's been so long since I last saw Potter's aunt; I really should pay my respects.'"

Her impersonation of him was ludicrous. He did not sound anywhere near that nasal.

"What did you say?" Potter asked.

"I told him to make sure it was caught on camera, of course."

"I knew I married you for a reason."

Severus must not have followed through on his threat, or else Potter had decided to save that part of the memory for a special occasion, because the Pensieve ejected him.

"Isn't it weird that there's no number 20?" Granger asked as she breezed in through the front door, a jug of milk from the corner shop in one hand.

"Pardon?" Severus said.

"On your street. I never noticed it before. I've heard of developers leaving out a number 13 before, but never number 20. Do you think there are any other wizards and witches around here? It might be under a Fidelius Charm."

Severus crossed to the front window. There, across the street, was number 20, plain as day. It was the same dirty brick as the rest of the houses on Spinner's End. A flag bearing a peace symbol hung next to the yellow front door. Someone had attached window boxes full of cheerful yellow flowers. Severus couldn't see them clearly from this distance, but he had a sneaking suspicion they were zinnias.

"I can see it," he said.

"Oh! Who lives there?"

"No one I can remember from the first twenty years of my life, but I have a theory. Shall I go find out if I'm correct?"

Severus was right. Zinnias clustered together in the window boxes, doing their impersonation of miniature suns. Raising an arm, he rapped his knuckles against the door.

The freckle-faced man who answered hadn't changed much since he'd been photographed on his wedding day. His long, light brown hair was streaked at the temples with grey, but barely a line marred his skin. He beamed at Severus.

"I was wondering when you'd show up," he said. "Did school just get out? That's later than usual, isn't it?"

"Edward?" Severus said, even though the burst of friendship weighed down by a thread of guilt that he'd felt upon seeing the man had already answered the question. "Edward Burbage?"

"Err, yeah. You all right, mate?"

"Something happened. May I come in?"

Inside, the house was all beaded curtains and tie dyed fabrics. Severus decided as he observed Edward's reactions to the story of his "accident" (Severus was still convinced it had been done on purpose) that he'd been wrong in those letters he'd found in his quarters at Hogwarts. Even if Edward hadn't been born a Muggle, he was no Slytherin. Like his late wife, he was pure Hufflepuff.

"So you can't remember Charity at all?" Edward asked.

"I remember her from school. I don't remember our friendship, though, no. And I don't remember you."

"Wow. You'll get it back, though, right?"

"Eventually, yes." Severus took a sip from the horrible herbal infusion Edward had tried to pass off as tea. He immediately regretted it. "How did you come to be living under a Fidelius Charm?"

"It was your idea. You, err, tried very hard to make Charity and me leave the country during the war. When that didn't work, you convinced her to do this. Char was caught when she went to Diagon Alley, so it didn't help her, but I'm still here." Edward flashed him a weak smile. "You're the one who has to tell other people where it is. Sometimes it's inconvenient, not being able to invite most other Muggles round, but there are benefits. The council can't charge me council tax if they don't know my house exists."

Severus studied this unlikely friend of his. If Edward had trusted him enough to safeguard the location of his house during the war, would he allow Severus to retrieve memories from him?

"To heal the damage, I have to view memories of myself that are donated by others," Severus said. "Muggles can't give memories, exactly, but I can obtain them if I cast a spell that allows me to look into your mind."

"Oh, yeah, no problem. I'd love to help. Go ahead."

Definitely a Hufflepuff.

"Were you present when Charity and I became friends?" Severus asked.

"No, but she told me about it. She rescued you from a disastrous second date with a woman who should have been a one-night stand. It was right after she moved to the neighbourhood—she was lured in by low property prices and the abundance of Muggles, you see. She recognised you at the pub. You had this look on your face that you used to get at school, apparently. Like you were about to say something that would make the woman cry. For some reason, Charity decided it would be kinder if the woman left outraged rather than with her self-esteem in tatters. So she stormed up to your table and pretended to be your wife."

Severus smirked. "Sounds more like she rescued the woman, rather than me."

"Yeah, you always said so."

"Very well, then think of some event when you were present. It's important that I only get one memory from you," Severus said. "Taking in too many memories at once gives me a headache that would rival the worst hangover. Do you think you'll be able to concentrate on just one event?"

"Yeah, of course," Edward said. "I'm pretty into mindfulness these days."

What mindfulness might be, Severus didn't ask. Pointing his wand at Edward's temple, he murmured the spell.

It was a cosy memory, nestled into layers of steadfast love and devotion. In contrast, nerves that Severus thought weren't his own jumped around in his belly. Unlike viewing memories through a Pensieve, which only inflicted his own past emotions upon him, Legilimency left him feeling what the donor had felt in that moment as well. It had been the same with Potter.

Edward walked down the wood panelled hall of a Muggle church, wiping his sweaty palms on the trousers of his suit. Two voices came from within a nearby room: Memory Severus and a woman who had to be Charity.

"It's your last chance," Memory Severus said. "Are you certain you want to do this, or do you want me to help you run away?"

Edward muffled a laugh with his hand. He pushed the door open, revealing a room decorated with childish drawings of animals marching two by two onto a large boat. A toy kitchen with scratched plastic pots and pans stood in one corner next to a kid-sized table and a big box full of toys. Memory Severus and Charity stood in a beam of sunlight spilling in through a tall window: him in a suit like Edward's, her in the lacy wedding dress that Severus remembered from the photograph.

The conflicting jolt of desire (Edward's—definitely Edward's) and wash of brotherly affection (Severus's) was nauseating. As much as he wanted to have memories of Charity beyond what they'd shown their colleagues, Severus decided then and there that he was sticking to the Pensieve in the future. Even the memories he got from Lucius that showcased the most violent moments of the war were less revolting than feeling any level of lust when looking at Charity.

"Edward!" Charity said, ducking behind Memory Severus. "It's bad luck for you to see me."

"Surely it's worse luck for Severus to help you run away," Edward said.

Memory Severus shrugged. "The offer is open to you as well. Are you sure you want to marry her? She can be dreadfully loud."

"Severus!" Charity said, her grin never faltering as she swatted his arm.

Feigning a wince, Memory Severus put a hand over his ear. "As I said: dreadfully loud."

"I'm certain," Edward said. His voice was steady and firm.

"Good. Because if you don't make her happy… well. I was a Death Eater, you know."

"You're also an arse." Charity made it sound like a term of endearment.

"I'll let that one slide, as it's your wedding day. Speaking of which," Memory Severus extended an arm to Charity, "Are you ready?"

"You bet," Charity said, resting her fingers in the crook of his elbow.

With the barest trace of a smile down at her, Memory Severus made a dismissive gesture at Charity's groom. "Away with you, Edward. I've a bride to escort down the aisle."

Sensing Edward's thoughts begin to drift to a different memory, Severus withdrew from his mind.

"Wow," Edward said. "That was intense. I've never had someone else in my head before." He grinned. "Thanks for being gentle."

Severus disguised his laugh with a cough. "I should probably let Granger know that I'm alive. She can't see your house, so—"

"Granger? The Granger?"

"If the Granger is Hermione Granger, then yes."

"I'd love to finally meet her. I'll go with you."

The Granger? Just how much had Severus revealed to Edward over the years?

Hermione was in love. Instant, at-first-sight, overwhelming love. It had happened twice before. She should have been prepared, but seeing another one of Harry and Ginny's babies went straight to her tear ducts. The newest Lily Potter dozed in Hermione's arms, oblivious to her aunt's (because Harry was her brother, after all they'd been through together) over-emotional state.

"Don't leak on her," Severus said.

One corner of Harry's mouth curved up. "You said the same thing to her with James."

As if the baby she was cradling wasn't proof enough, Harry demonstrated how much of a dad he'd become by pulling a tissue out of nowhere and dabbing at Hermione's cheeks. Thankfully, he stopped short of holding it up to her nose and commanding her to blow. From the hospital bed, Ginny let out a snore that could have put Hagrid to shame. Hermione's low giggle grew into a full laugh when she noticed the horrified expression on Severus's face.

"Do you want to hold the baby, Severus?" Hermione asked.

His horrified expression didn't change. "Absolutely not. I wouldn't know how."

"You did fine with the other two," Harry said.

It was only a partial lie. With James he had been stiff and severe. Hermione had half expected him to take House points from James for squirming. By the time Albus had arrived, he'd simply chuckled at Hermione's predictable tears and accepted the baby into his arms so she could wipe her nose.

"I did?" Severus asked.

Harry slowly tilted his head from side to side as if weighing his answer. "Well, they're still alive, aren't they? I think Ginny gave you the memory of you holding Albus, so you can probably see for yourself when you get home. April of 2006."

Luna appeared in the doorway, holding what appeared to be a bouquet of pineapples. While Harry went to greet her, Hermione passed Lily into Severus's arms. His mind might have misplaced the memory of holding babies before, but his hands remembered. He supported her head without prompting. When Lily grizzled at being jostled, he swayed back and forth. Against his tall, black-clad frame, Lily looked even tinier. Hermione sighed.

"I want to be a mother," she said without really meaning to. She blamed it on the exhaustion of spending much of the night in the waiting room.

"Do you?" He said it in the same tone he would have used if she'd announced her desire to get fish and chips on their way home. "Would you like me to kidnap this baby, or would you rather go through all of the needless morning sickness and pain?"

This man. Hermione half believed he would do it, if she asked.

"Needless?" she asked with a shake of her head.

Severus nodded towards the bundle in his arms. "There is a convenient baby already here. She's very small. Easy to smuggle out. Reasonably cute, as far as these things go. All newborns resemble garden gnomes, to some degree. Probably best to keep her away from the cats."

"I don't want a child right this instant, but someday. Unfortunately, I don't meet many potential fathers in my line of work."

"Hmm. I'm sure that oaf teaching Muggle Studies next year would be willing to offer his services."

"Yes, because 'oaf' is exactly the description I want for the father of my children. I'd rather someone reasonably intelligent, thank you."

Severus gave her that savouring look again. It made it harder to breathe.

"Very well," he said in a rumbly whisper. "If you wish to besmirch my virtue in order to realise your dreams of mothering the swottiest child to attend Hogwarts since yourself, I'm willing to make the sacrifice."

Hermione stammered and blinked for a few seconds before regaining her footing. She really had to start keeping a record of all the things he said to her so she could tease him when his memory finally returned.

"What virtue? And what do you mean sacrifice?"

"There's at least a 74 percent chance I will emerge from the encounter maimed by your mad hair in some way."

"That's… very specific."

Severus leaned in closer. "I've run the Arithmantic calculations. One must be prepared for all eventualities." Backing up, he raised his voice but kept his gaze on Hermione. "Lovegood, here. Take this baby. Granger doesn't want it."

"Hermione, no, please. No, no, no."

The familiar voice speaking unfamiliar words snapped Hermione out of the fuzzy, syrupy world of her dream. Severus's magic was calling out to her again. Fumbling beneath her pillow for her wand, she called up the moment she'd discovered her library and cast her Patronus.

Hermione followed the otter down the hall to Severus's room, already knowing what she would find. The flirtatious little mustelid had chosen to drape itself around Severus's neck like a ghostly scarf this time. She'd asked Ron about it, and he'd said it always behaved normally around him. Only Severus got the special treatment. If she was still in contact with Terry, she could have asked him whether her Patronus had ever tried to snuggle him, but those bridges had been burnt when he'd moved to Egypt.

Severus looked so young sitting in the middle of the bed with rumpled hair and a panic-stricken face—as if his body, as well as his mind, had gone back several decades.

"Are you all right?" Hermione asked as she banished the Patronus.

"I'm fine. It wasn't anything real. Just a nightmare, not a memory."

"Is it because of… earlier?"

He blinked slowly. "Earlier?"

"You know. There's a new Lily Potter in the world."

"Oh. No. Lily did not make an appearance." The years came rushing back as his spine stiffened. "I don't want to talk about it."

"All right."

She was sure he would claim that he didn't want to watch any Muggle television programmes and order her back to her own room, when he grabbed her arm and tugged gently until she sat down next to him. Drawing in bravery with a breath, she wriggled beneath the sheets and rested her head on a pillow. In the darkness, he was all indistinct shapes: black slashes for eyebrows, a thin line for his mouth, a large triangle of a nose.

Severus batted at a lock of her hair that worked its way over to tickle his cheek. "I knew it would try to maim me."

Hermione chose not to mention that he'd watched an episode of Black Books and dozed for hours with her without being assaulted by her hair once.

"Do you want me to leave you alone?" she asked with a laugh.

"Hmm. I'll tolerate it. I'm not impregnating you tonight, though."

Good Lord.

"Well, obviously," she said shakily. "I doubt I'm ovulating right now. It would be pointless to try."

Those black slashes shot up. "Dear me. Your previous partners must have been hopelessly inept to make you think that."

"Speaking of past partners, what can I say to persuade you to go to Ron and Neville's wedding and sit with me and entertain me with snarky comments about everyone? I won't even try to make you wear sequins, I promise."

Not her smoothest attempt at a subject change, but it would do. One of his hands caught another wayward curl. He twirled it around his finger and let it spring back, watching its movement as if mesmerised. Lois curled up between them, purring and content.

"I'll consider it," he said.

"If you go, you'll get to see me looking like a human tangerine. Ron has chosen to put me in orange. So much orange. He really needs to discover other colours."

Severus made a thoughtful, sleepy sort of hum. "You looked nice in green. At Potter's wedding."

"You saw that?"

"Bits of it. You were cross with me."

"I was."


It was one of the last things she wanted to do, but Hermione said, "I'll show you the memory that will explain it, if you insist."

"I do. No point in hiding from it. I'll remember it eventually, anyway. Show me tomorrow." He wrapped another curl around his finger. "What made you decide to become a teacher?"

They talked until the sky lightened to dusty pink—until the breaths between sentences lengthened and their eyelids grew heavy. When Severus rolled away from her with a soft snore, Hermione was only half-aware of seeking him out. She draped an arm around his middle and nuzzled her face between his shoulder blades seconds before she, too, drifted off to sleep.

A Light in the Fog

A Harry Potter Story
by turtlewexler

Part 9 of 29

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