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The Fires Within by Violet Gryfindor

Format: Novel
Chapters: 30
Word Count: 153,106
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Horror/Dark, Romance
Characters: McGonagall, Snape, Sirius, Lily, Voldemort, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Snape/OC, Snape/Lily, Other Pairing

First Published: 02/12/2005
Last Chapter: 03/21/2008
Last Updated: 02/19/2013

Summary:


As the war against Voldemort tears her world apart, Emilia Goldwyn struggles to escape her cursed past. She has the power to change her fate, but as one tragedy after another strikes, will she find the strength to succeed?

2007 Dobby Winner of "Best Original Character"
2011 Dobby Winner of "Legends: Best Novel"


Chapter 1: Prologue : Broken Vow
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Author's Note: This was not my first story, but it's pretty close to that, being my first and longest "real" novel (it still is my longest, actually). The plot is weak, if not utterly confusing by the end; the canon information is unfortunately pre-HBP at times, and while I did attempt to inject HBP and DH information throughout, there are things that got missed, and other things that simply could not fit. So do be warned that this is not entirely canon, certainly not as canon as I'd prefer it to be.

However, the characters and their relationships are what is central to this story. If you do choose to read this, forget plot, forget canon, to me, those things were always less important than the people. There has to be some reason why this story has gotten two Dobbys (I'm still trying to figure out what, however thankful I am...).

- Violet Gryfindor, October 2011





Prologue: August 1961


"Darling, I’m going over to a friend’s for tea,” the young woman, in her early twenties, called to her husband. “I should be home in a couple hours. Can you watch Emma while I’m gone?”

The man sitting at the kitchen table looked up at his wife, who stood by the door. His dark brown hair drooping over his forehead from the hot, humid, air filling the room.

“Of course, Di,” he said with a small smile. “Just watch out on the road. There are some insane muggle drivers out there.”

Diana Nero smiled back, but it did not reach her blueish-green eyes. “Don’t worry, darling. I have my wand with me if any trouble arises, which of course it will not.”

She hesitated for a moment, then crossed the room and lightly kissed her husband on the cheek. He reached out his hand for hers, but she moved away.

“You worry too much, Mort. I’ll be fine.”

As she left, Mortimer Nero stood and watched his wife’s progress down the quiet street. Her blonde hair glittered in the strong sunlight, making it look as though a stream of molten gold hung down her back. Even though their only child Emilia, mostly known as Emma, was still very young, Diana’s figure was utter perfection. Diana had changed little since their marriage nearly four years ago, in mind or body. She had been barely out of school when she had accepted his proposal; he nearly a decade older, with a steady job at Gringots Bank.

Things had changed so much since they had moved to Cornwall. Mort felt that it was not for the better. Diana was drifting away from him and he knew not how to stop her.

Suddenly, a thought came to him. Last week, at the very same time, Diana had left to “go to a friend’s for tea”. That in itself was not unusual, as she was very outgoing and had made numerous friends in the neighbourhood. But, the problem was that the temperature was far above average, excruciatingly hot. Who drank tea in such heat?

There was something more in this, Mort thought. He would have to find out what it was.

Before leaving the house, Mort ran up the stairs two at a time to his daughter’s bedroom. She lay in her crib, fast asleep, as though even the most turbulent and unfortunate of events would not disturb her slumber.

With a gentle smile, Mort lightly touched the infant’s cheek. Emma stirred slightly, but did not wake. Mort left her and went back down the stairs. Checking that he had his wand safely in his pocket, he exited the house, carefully locking the door on his way out.

Walking down the street in the footsteps of his wife, Mort found himself thinking back over their relationship. For the most part, he remembered being happy, but there were some strange instances when Diana had acted peculiarly.

The day when he had announced that Gringots was moving him to Cornwall to look after banking interests in the west counties, Diana had not been at all pleased for his promotion. In fact, she had been so upset that he had needed to give her a sleeping draught to quiet her down.

Another time was soon before Emma’s birth. Diana had been so secretive about her friends, her doings, everything. Yet Mort had not asked a single question. He trusted his wife to do the right thing. She was a pureblooded witch after all.

The more Mort thought about his wife, the more he began to believe that something had gone completely wrong somewhere. The more he thought, the more he began to suspect that his wife - his beautiful, glamourous, wife - was being unfaithful to him.

If only he could find out that it was all in his head. That she had only gone to a friends as she said. That she would return to him happy and loving.

Mort wished that everything would be perfect, like it used to be.

It did not take him long to find out where she had gone. A few questions at the local pub had sent him to a small cottage near the cliffs. It was very secluded, perched on the cliffs uncertainly, as though it feared falling at any moment. There were no lights on in the cottage. It seemed very quiet, so much so that Mort began to think himself mad for ever thinking that Diana would ever do anything to hurt him.

Then he heard the voices, coming from the cottage. One was a man’s, soft and seductive. The other was intensely familiar to Mort. It was the bell-like voice of his wife, laughing blissfully.

His fears rushing in around him like the pounding waves beneath the cliff, Mort hurried towards the front door, his wand out and ready. The door was little match for his anger, splintering with the explosion spell he had used. The blood rising in his cheeks, Mort rushed through the cottage towards the room where the voices had come from.

The inside of the cottage smelled dank and unclean, with the sharp sent of human perspiration in the air, as well as something else. The walls were bare of any decoration and the little furniture there was tattered and dirty, the upholstery covered with numerous stains and tears. At the end of a short hallway, a door opened and a man stood there, surprise evident on his unintelligent face.

He was not wearing any clothes. He was also, from the look of amazement in his bland eyes, a muggle.

A muggle had seduced Diana. A foul, rotten, muggle had slept with his wife.

Mort raised his wand. “Crucio!” he yelled as Diana tumbled out of the room, wearing as little as the muggle.

“No!” she cried, her wand also raised.

But she was too late, the muggle was writhing on the floor in horrible agony.

Diana looked up at Mort, fear in her eyes. “Stop it, you’re hurting him!”

Mort lowered his wand, his hazel eyes burning with intense hatred.

“He deserves every bit of it,” he growled, the tone of his voice causing Diana to shiver. “It’s your fault that he feels such pain. Does he even know what you really are?”

The curse momentarily lifted, the muggle panted, trying to catch his breath, but did not move. Diana looked down at him, her lower lip quivering.

“No, I never told him.” Her voice was flat, but it shook with emotion.

Mort’s face had become an ugly mask of demonic anger. “Do you not think of your people? Your family? Your honour?”

“Why should I?” she replied calmly. Too calmly for Mort’s liking. “I love him.”

That was the end for Mort’s short temper. He raised his wand once more as Diana bent over the figure of her collapsed lover. One curse, and everything would go back to normal.

Avada Kevadra!”

Nothing could be normal now. Not for Mort, his wife, the muggle, nor the child Emma.

Hours later, Mort finally arrived back at his own home. Disoriented by what he had done, he had wandered the cliff side, looking for solace and redemption. Part of him was sickened by his earlier actions, but another part, one which frightened him immensely, was glad that he had stopped Diana from leaving him forever. Although Mort wanted to forgive her and disregard her unfaithfulness, the one part of his soul wished her great torment in the fires of Hell.

Slowly, Mort climbed the stairs and entered his daughter’s room. She lay there wide awake, her yellow-green eyes open. When she saw her father, she smiled and babbled happily.

Mort reached down and picked her up. She snuggled into his arms, her tiny hands grasping at the silver necklace Mort wore around his neck. Fortunately, there was no doubt that she was his daughter - a pureblood who would one day become a great witch - as her face had the same shape as his and her eyes were similar in colour to his, except for touches of green within them inherited from her mother.

“I’m sorry, my darling Emma, but I can’t take care of you anymore,” he whispered, his voice filled with sadness. What had occurred earlier was not his child’s fault, yet he had to abandon her all the same. “There is only one way that we can be tied together so that I can find you again. I don’t want to hurt you, but it’s the only way.”

Reluctantly taking his wand from his pocket, Mort gently placed Emma back into her crib and held the wand above her trusting face. Closing his eyes so that he would not have to see her innocent eyes staring up at him, he spoke the incantation.

There was a bright light, then the cry of an infant rang out over the tiny village of Lamorna. A few moments later, a shadow exited the house and seemingly flew into the night sky.

Mortimer Nero was never seen there again.

~ * * * ~


The next afternoon, two people stood over the crib of the child Emma. One was a middle-aged man with dark, grizzled hair and beady brown eyes that stared down at the infant half with pity and half with disgust. His face, which betrayed no emotion, was covered in scars and the tip of his nose was missing. He wore plain black robes, his arms crossed over them.

Beside him stood a tall, dignified woman, perhaps a few years older, with a kind face and bright green eyes. Her blonde hair was only slightly grey by the temples and was primly pulled back in a tight bun. Her clothing spoke of her evident wealth: dark green velvet robes made by the best of seamstresses. She looked at the man, tears in her eyes.

“I cannot believe that Mortimer would do such a thing, Alastor. He was such a calm, quiet individual...” She trailed off, her hand rubbing her wrinkled forehead.

“It was jealousy, Lyra,” Alastor Moody, a high-ranking Auror, growled. “Finding his wife like that made him go mad with it. I find it difficult to blame him for killing them both.”

Lyra Goldwyn, the infant’s grandmother, looked at him sharply. “But to do this to Emilia? For God’s sake, she’s only a child!”

“The particular curse he used was not intended for harm, Lyra,” Moody argued. “Few wizards would have the audacity or the skill to perform the Niveus Manus curse.”

Reaching her hand into the crib, Lyra lifted Emma’s left hand, which was now entirely devoid of colour. While the rest of her tiny body was perfectly normal, the infant’s hand was completely white. Although it no longer pained her, Emma still squirmed when Lyra touched her hand.

“Why would he do this, Alastor? To show his power?”

Moody leaned against the crib. “The spell is mainly used for identification. With her hand like that, Nero will be able to find Emilia when she grows up.”

Lyra was astonished. “Find her? But -“

”It means that he acknowledges her as his daughter, otherwise he would have killed her too. When he is able to return, Nero will search Emilia out and take her back.”

“No, I won’t allow it,” Lyra shook her head, eyes upon the sleeping infant. “As long as I live, Mortimer will not come near Emilia.”

“You cannot live forever, Lyra,” Moody said, his voice gentler than usual.

Taking her hand from her granddaughter’s hand, Lyra faced Moody, her eyes hard.

“Then promise me this, Alastor. Watch over Emilia when I am gone. Don’t let her ever know who her father was and what he did. She must never know.”

Moody looked down at Emma, who had woken and was now calmly staring at him.

“I swear that I will not be the one to tell her. You have my word, Lyra. She will never hear it from my lips.”

Emma reached out her pale hand to them, as though she was trying to grasp what was passing between the two adults above her.

Hundreds of miles away, Mortimer stood before another man, swearing his allegiance. He had made his final decision. He would be the quiet, devoted husband and father no longer. Now, he was the first of a horrible race of magical beings who would bring terror upon the known world. Mort Nero was the first of the Death Eaters, dark wizards who served Lord Voldemort, the darkest and most evil wizard who would ever live.



Chapter title from Josh Groban's album "Closer"

Chapter 2: One: She Will Be Loved
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Chapter One - Seven years later


The room looked as though it should have been dank and ill-lit, but flaming torches in large iron candelabras kept away most of the damp and nearly all of the dark. One wall was entirely covered in shelves of books and strangely-shaped flasks containing mysterious liquids of many types. Another wall held a blackboard covered in lists of hexes and pictures of magical creatures. The centre of the room was filled with four perfectly straight rows of desks. Each of these tables faced the far side of the room, where two tiny windows allowed in some of the summer sunlight.

There were no students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the moment and that was one thing that made Tiberius Grimm very happy. He sat at his heavy walnut desk, copiously writing on the yellowed pages of an ancient book. Hunched over the book, one would have thought him to be an old man, perhaps as old as the book he wrote in, but whoever thought such a thing would be terribly wrong.

Grimm looked up from his work, squinting at the room, expecting to see a student accidentally set fire to the room or someone standing in front of his desk, hoping for help with the difficult essay he had assigned. Seeing no one, Grimm smiled sardonically, his dry lips rising slightly from their usual flat line, and pushed back the reddish-brown hair from his forehead. For once, he was able to get work done with no interruptions.

Suddenly, he heard a noise at the window behind him. With a grumble, he turned to see a small brown owl sitting on the ledge, looking at him with a tilted head. Its large yellow eyes blinked once, as if to ask a question, then it hooted loudly.

Grimm stood, taking a gold coin from his pocket, and exchanged the letter the owl bore for the coin. With another, happier hoot, the owl flew off again.

His acid-stained hands reaching for a letter opener, Grimm wondered why in Merlin’s beard anyone was sending something to him. He rarely left Hogwarts Castle, much less correspond with anyone outside it.

With the quiet swish of the envelope’s fine paper being ripped open, Grimm laid down the opener and pulled out the clean, crisp paper the envelope contained. His steely grey eyes looking over the words the letter contained, Grimm pursed his lips. It was indeed a strange letter and one that he wished he hadn’t received.

Dear Professor Grimm, it read,
It has come to our attention that your cousin, Lyra Goldwyn, made some provisions for you in her will. Unfortunately, these provisions did not come to light until now, three years after her untimely death. It is of the utmost importance that you come at once to our offices in Diagon Alley to receive your inheritance.
Your respectful servant,
Cicero Nutcombe

Putting the letter aside, Grimm sighed. He hadn’t seen nor heard from his cousin since her youngest daughter’s funeral seven years before, and even then they barely spoke. Why now would she leave him something in her will?

The more he thought about it, the more curious Grimm became. As a longtime Ravenclaw supporter and scientist, he was naturally curious about everything.

The question, he told himself resolutely, is not why Lyra left me something. It is what she chose to leave me. She was always a little more than strange.

He remembered the few times he had gone to visit Goldwyn Cottage, most often in the company of his mother before her death. That part of the familiy was best known for their eccentricities. Rumours of maddness and disfigurement, even of squibs, were constantly heard of when talking about the Goldwyns. They were an old pureblooded family, reaching back to the time when Hogwarts first began centuries before, but like many pureblooded families in history, the consequences of marrying too close to the family were showing in an all-too-painfully obvious way. Cousins were being locked away in asylums; some children were never sent a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts; others who were sent to the school often did nothing great with their magic.

Finally, Lyra Goldwyn had taken it upon herself to save the family. Her husband had died long before in the war against Grindelwald, but her three children, all daughters, were the only things that kept Lyra from remarrying. So she instead made it her life's work to marry off her daughters to the most eligible wizards who were not related to the Goldwyns. Grimm thought himself very lucky to have been a relation, albeit a distant one, for none of the sisters was at all desirable to him. Indeed, each of them had been mad in her own way, the youngest being the least mad of the three. She had been the only one to marry; a quiet wizard nearly a decade older than she had chosen her as his bride.

Looking down once more at the letter, Grimm deduced what had been left to him. A scowl crossed his face as he rose from the desk, grumbling curses at the whole family. While he thought that he was rid of them, it seemed that they had come back to haunt him in a most horrible way.

Grabbing a small silver object from a drawer, he slammed it closed again and stalked from the room, still grumbling to himself. As soon as the door had closed behind with with unnecessary violence, the torches went out by themselves, leaving the room in partial darkness.

~ * * * ~


The next day, Tiberius Grimm was standing on the road in front of a stately, but modest, house in the midst of Derbyshire. In his hand he held a rolled parchment sealed with blood red wax. On his face was a frown of deep thought.

This was not at all what he had expected.

Walking up to the front door, he rang the bell, which reverberated through the house. Grimm looked at the quiet brownstone facade and the numerous glass windows which let in the light, but found himself unimpressed. The house was just like most of the others he had seen; there was nothing special about it at all. Even the peaks which surrounded the house did nothing to raise Grimm’s enthusiasm. His mood had been ruined by yesterday’s meeting with Lyra Goldwyn’s solicitor.

When the front door was opened by a dignified witch with obviously-dyed blonde hair, his frown deepened greatly. Fulvia, his cousin’s eldest daughter, was perhaps the worst person he had ever met. Her haughty and snobbish outlook on life had sickened Grimm the moment he first met her while she was still a young girl.

“Cousin Tiberius!” she cried, her sickly-green eyes betraying surprise. “How -er- nice that you’ve come to visit. Please, come in.” Fulvia opened the door wider to allow him entrance.

As Grimm entered the foyer, he felt his eyes begin to ache. The walls were a gaudy mix of high Victorian and modern styles, which clashed on every square inch of wall there was.

He had to get out of the house as soon as he could; he would get what Lyra had left to him, then return to Hogwarts.

“Yes, hello Fulvia,” Grimm managed to say as he tried not to sneeze from the woman’s malodorous perfume. “I’ve come about your niece, Diana’s child.”

Fulvia’s fake smile immediately changed to a very real look of anger and hatred.

“Oh, I see,” she blandly replied. “Please, sit down in the morning room. I’ll go and find the little br-, I mean Emilia.”

As she strode off, Grimm turned into the room she had motioned to. It was slightly better decorated with softer tones and had fewer odds-and-ends scattered about the place. On a couch situated near a large bay window sat a thin, fragile-looking woman, her wide blue eyes staring at him.

“T-Tiberius, how n-nice of y-you to c-come,” she stuttered as she tried to stand. Because the couch was overstuffed, this was nearly impossible for her.

Grimm, unable to watch her suffer any longer, hurried across the room to stop her. Cloeia was the middle sister of the Goldwyn family: quiet, unassuming, humble, and easily overpowered by both her sisters, first Diana, and now Fulvia. The poor woman had been so traumatized by the deaths of her younger sister and mother (and also having to live with Fulvia) that her hair had gone completely white, even though she was barely over thirty.

When he placed his hand upon her arm to help her up, Cloeia blushed a bright red that actually gave her some semblance of life. “Th-thank you, c-cousin. I really should sit somewhere else, I s-suppose.”

Before Grimm could respond, Fulvia entered the room like a ship coming into port, closely followed by a young girl, perhaps about seven or eight years old. There was nothing special about her: not too tall, not too short, with a plain face, and straight brown hair. However, her strange yellow-green eyes betrayed an intelligence and curiosity that interested Grimm almost at once. Unlike her two aunts, who had less brains put together than a giant and who could barely transfigure a teacup much less create a delicate potion, this girl seemed to have at least the potential for being a successful witch. The girl's identity was obvious from her appearance; she was the child of Diana and her long-vanished husband. The girl was the last of a long line of purebloods.

Grimm smiled as kindly as was possible for him. “Pleased to meet you, miss.”

The girl stared at him, her head slightly titled to the side, much like the owl who visited Grimm the day before. Her eyes seemed to catch every detail of everything around her.

“Emilia,” Cloeia told her niece kindly. “This is your grandmother’s cousin Tiberius. He teaches at Hogwarts, where you’ll one day go.”

The girl said nothing, merely blinked the same way a sleepy cat does.

Fulvia too-quickly became impatient with her nieces’ anti-social attitude. “Silly girl, at least say hello to him. He asked to see you especially.”

Seeing this as a good moment to reveal his news, Grimm handed Fulvia the letter. “I received this yesterday evening from your late mother’s solicitor. It seems as though Lyra made extra provisions in her will that did not show up until recently,” he said, his voice harder than he had meant it to be.

Fulvia opened the wax seal with an equally blood red fingernail and unfolded the letter. As she read, her carefully plucked eyebrows rose higher and higher to the point where they neared her hairline. When she finished, she looked up at Grimm, then faced Emilia.

“Pack your things. You’ll be leaving with Professor Grimm as soon as he leaves.”

Cloeia gasped, her hands covering her mouth. “Fulvia, you can’t be -“

”I am,” Fulvia interrupted, her voice hard. “Mother leaves the care of the girl to Tiberius, not to us. Obviously mother wasn’t in the crazed state of mind we previously thought.”

Emilia gaped. “You mean I can leave?”

The three adults looked at her with surprise, even Fulvia seemed shocked. Grimm could barely suppress a smile. Perhaps this girl wouldn’t be such a liability after all.

“You heard me, Miss Emilia,” Fulvia declared with a sneer. “When cousin Tiberius leaves, so do you. So get upstairs and start packing. Now.”

Without saying another word, even though she had scarcely said few, Emilia ran out of the room, her footsteps heard clumping up the stairs. Grimm turned back to the two witches, one hand rubbing the short beard which framed his jaw and mouth.

“I am sorry to do this, but it seems as though we’ve been left with little choice.”

Cloeia sniffed loudly, betraying her sadness at now being entirely alone with Fulvia.

Fulvia herself did not seem at all perturbed at losing her niece. “A right little brat the girl is, just like her mother. Always asking stupid questions and leaving for hours at a time without even a by-your-leave! I won’t miss her at all.”

Hearing a thump at the top of the stairs, Grimm found an excuse not to reply.

“Sorry, but I’ll go help Emilia with her trunk. Thank you for your time, ladies.”

When he reached the bottom of the dark stairway, Grimm stopped and looked up. Emilia stood at the top, her trunk beside her, obviously trying to think of a way to get it down without harming either herself or anything else.

Upon noticing him looking up at her, Emilia called down, “Could you help me with this? It’s rather heavy.”

Finding the smile return to his lips with little warning, Grimm took out his wand. “Of course.”

She watched with great interest every move his wand made and every incantation he spoke, her eyes wide and shining. Once her trunk (which was unbelievably heavy for one so young) was down the stairs and sitting on the front stoop, Grimm looked at the now-closed door to the morning room with concern.

“Would you like to say good-bye to your aunts? There’s little chance that you will see much of them in the future.”

Emilia pursed her lips and tapped her foot, as though she was making an important decision. After a moment, she shrugged and trotted out the front door. “I don’t need to,” she said, emotionless. “They’ll be happy with me gone, now. Aunt Fulvia never wanted me and all Aunt Cloeia wanted was someone to protect her from Fulvia. I won’t miss them at all.”

Personally, Grimm couldn’t blame her. From what he could see, Emilia had been ignored and perhaps even mistreated during her time with her aunts. Her clothing was too small and torn in places. Now that he saw her in better light, she was extremely bony and underfed, which attested to his suspicion of mistreatment.

Against his better judgement of earlier that day, Grimm found himself feeling sorry for the girl and liking her immensely. Whatever would his fellow teachers say when they heard he had adopted a girl-child, much less liked her? The thought of Minerva McGonagall’s face nearly made him burst out laughing.

"I'd rather you called me Emma," the girl said suddenly. "I like it better."

Grimm raised an eyebrow. "Do you now? I suppose I can concede to your wishes."

She tried to hide her confusion at his words, but was not entirely sucessful. "Only my aunts called me by my real name. My parents called me Emma."

Knowing the contents of Lyra's letter and what it had implied about the child's parents, Grimm merely shrugged. "If that's what you'd prefer."

They walked in silence a short distance from the house, which was, like the homes of most pureblooded families, protected from most modes of transportation, whether it be Apparation or Portkey. Goldwyn Cottage was even more hidden than most magical houses: only members of the family could find it without invitation. For a family mostly composed of Hufflepuffs, they were terribly secretive.

Taking from his pocket a muggle lighter, Grimm took Emilia’s hand and told her to hold onto the handle of her trunk.

“Is that a portkey?” she asked. “But it’s so small...”

“Yes it is, now hold onto your trunk tightly, we’d hate to leave it here.”

She nodded and grabbed the handle tightly. It was then that he noticed that her hand was pure white - entirely devoid of any colour whatsoever.

Before he could say anything, though, the portkey was already in motion. Feeling the awkward tug at his navel, Grimm looked down at Emilia, whose eyes showed the tiniest signs of fear. She held his hand until her knuckles turned as white as her other hand.

Then, amidst the swirling colour, Emilia saw a large castle sitting proudly up top a rocky cliff. Just beneath it was a giant lake surrounded on each side by thick forest and rolling hills. All at once the place was threatening and welcoming; a place that one could make into a home if only one had the strength of will to make it so. The castle and its environs were very much alive, filled with a magic that few could understand and even fewer would ever master.

Grimm let go of her hand and took possession of her trunk. “Welcome to Hogwarts,” he said. “Your home for the next ten years.”



Last Edited - 06/15/06
Chapter title from Maroon 5's "Songs About Jane"

Chapter 3: Two: In This Life
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Two

“I’ve heard you have taken on an apprentice, Tiberius, though an eight-year-old does seem a little young to work with such spells as you practice,” deputy Headmaster Albus Dumbledore stated one day in the teacher’s lounge. His auburn hair was streaked with grey, but he still looked far younger than he really was.

Across the room, Grimm scowled. It was impossible to hide anything from Dumbledore.

“Telling Headmaster that she was my apprentice was the only way to keep him from saying that she had to leave. The last thing I will do is take Emma back to her aunts.”

Dumbledore smiled, his blue eyes twinkling. “One would think that you like the child, Tiberius. I thought that affairs of the heart were not in your qualifications.”

“You know me too well, Albus,” Grimm replied, his voice flat. “But I admit that you are wrong. No one said that I liked Emma, merely that I felt sorry for her previous situation.”

Dumbledore rose from his chair, hiding a look of amusement from his face. “What will the child do while she is here? Surely you won’t expect her to help with your experiments.”

Grimm glowered at Dumbledore. The man must read minds, he thought. I was just thinking about that very subject.

“She will do as she pleases,” he replied blandly, looking back down at his cup of coffee. “I merely brought her here, Albus, it is her choice what she will do with her time. As long as she does not interfere with my work, I will be happy.”

After Dumbledore had left, Grimm sighed and placed his cup on the table beside him. For the past week, Emma had been getting acquainted with the residents of Hogwarts and nearby Hogsmeade, charming them all with her quiet disposition and intelligent voice. Grimm found that she learned things amazingly quick, remembering her way around the castle with little difficulty and slightly understanding some of his work in the dungeon. Some of his seventh year students did not even understand his research as well as Emma seemed to be.

Hearing the girl’s infectious laugh as she helped the groundskeeper, Hagrid, hoe around his patch of giant pumpkins, Grimm looked out the window to watch her. His face expressionless, but his mind overflowing with thought, he sat there silently, even when the door opened.

“Tiberius, I just heard the strangest thing from Albus,” Minerva McGonagall announced upon seeing Grimm. “That you of all people adopted a girl-child. Is that true?”

A sardonic smile playing on his lips, Grimm looked up at his closest co-worker and one-time school rival. Minerva’s face was full of disbelief, as though she could not fathom him ever taking in a sickly cat much less a child.

“Indeed I have, Minerva,” he replied. “Did you not notice that fact earlier? Emma has been here for nearly a week.”

She sniffed, her eyes glaring at him. “Of course I’ve noticed her, but I did not hear until today that she was here because of you.”

“Well,” Grimm rejoined, rising from his chair. “Now you know. Good afternoon, Minerva. I have much to work on. If you need me, I shall be in my classroom. There is this new technique that I wish to try out.”

Just as he was leaving the room, Minerva moved as though to follow him.

“You know what people will say, Tiberius, when they hear of this,” she said, her voice becoming softer. “Some will accuse you of using her for...”

Grimm rounded on her, his face disfigured with fury and his usually calm grey eyes filled with anger. “People like saying things, but that does not mean that what they say is true. Never, ever say anything like that in my presence - or in Emma’s.”

With that, he left the room and slammed the door. His angry footsteps could be heard echoing through the empty hallways and down the stone staircase to his laboratory in the depths of the castle.

Days passed into weeks and weeks passed into a month. Soon, the students would be arriving for another year of schooling. The night before the Hogwarts Express would pull into Hogsmeade found Grimm sitting at his desk, trying to plan out his lessons for the year. Not too far away, Emma sat on a stool with her legs swinging back and forth, engrossed in a book.

For many minutes, the only sounds were of Grimm’s quill scratching the page and Emma periodically turning pages of her book. After a while, however, Grimm looked up and noticed Emma sitting there. He had not known she was there.

“What are you reading?” he asked.

Emma’s eyes appeared over the top of the book. “Hogwarts: A History. I was thinking that since I’m going to be living here, I might as well know a bit about the place.”

“You do realize that most people don’t read that book until their first year?”

The book was lowered and Emma stared at Grimm as though he had grown horns.

“Of course, I know that - er - sir.”

Grimm leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head. “Please, whatever you do, absolutely do not call me ‘sir’. Even my students do not stoop to that level. Anyway,” he added with a hint of a smile. “It makes me feel old.”

A strange look came over Emma’s face, a mix of confusion, alarm, and disbelief. The book had been closed and rested carefully on her lap, her attention now wholly focussed on the man seated behind the large walnut desk.

“What should I call you, is what you are asking me?”

He raised an eyebrow, his eyes suddenly dancing with amusement. “I suppose I am, seeing that I am now your official guardian and you are under my care.”

For a moment, Emma’s face darkened, as though she were thinking about her aunts and the life she lived a mere month beforehand. It disappeared quickly, however, replaced by a devious smile.

“Cousin Tiberius wouldn’t work, would it?”

Grimm winced at the name. “Whatever induced my mother to name me after a Roman emperor I will never know...”

Emma’s face turned quizzical. “What does ‘induced’ mean?”

“You ask too many questions. You’ll be a perfect Ravenclaw one day.”

“What does it mean, though?”

Grimm laughed and told her the meaning of the word.

“Oh, I see,” she replied, still in deep thought.

When she didn’t say anything more, Grimm went back to his work. The minutes ticked by with Emma perched on the stool, ignoring the book on her lap. She was deep in thought, as could be seen by the small furrow in her brow and the way her jaw was set.

For a little while, Grimm would glance at her ever few moments, but eventually he forgot her presence in the room so far did he become absorbed in his work.

Now for that seventh year class, I should probably teach them about... he was thinking when a small voice piped up beside him, nearly giving Grimm apoplexy.

“Could I call you ‘Uncle’ then? Just ‘Uncle’ without anything else.”

Taking in a deep breath, Grimm looked over at the girl now standing by his chair, not returning his stare, but gazing with curiosity at the rolls of parchment upon his desk.

What a strange child she is, he thought. But perhaps it was not so bad of an idea as I thought. I will not always be able to teach here. One day, she will take my place and I will train her to do so. Or better yet, she can take old Sluggy’s place; he’s been here for decades.

“Of course, child, that’s quite fine. Now, shouldn’t you be getting off to bed?”

Emma grinned, barely able to keep herself from throwing her arms around Grimm. He tried to be all gruff and strict, but she could see that it was only a mask. Behind that mask was an open heart and a mind full of questions, much like her own.

“G’night then, Uncle!” she said happily, grabbing her book from the stool and running out of the room.

She slowed down only after running up three flights of stairs. Her chamber was at the very top of Ravenclaw tower, even above all the students’ dormitories, which meant that she would have to save her energy for the rest of the climb. The hallways were long and meandering, lined with seemingly thousands of portraits. Since it was so late in the day, most of their subjects were snoozing, but others called out greetings to the girl as she passed. After quietly sneaking around the sleeping gargoyle guarding the entrance to the Headmaster’s office, Emma hurried past the closed girl’s lavatory, not wishing to speak with the ghost whose moans echoed through the empty room.

Finally, with a journey filled with talking portraits and long, dark passageways, Emma arrived in her room and flopped down on the large four-poster bed. Within minutes she was asleep, a peaceful smile upon her face.

~ * * * ~


The next day, Emma remained in her chamber reading the books she had hoarded from the school library and Grimm’s private collection. From the window, she watched the Threstals bring the carriages filled with students up to the castle. Over further, upon the lake, Emma saw Hagrid leading a swarm of rowboats across - the first years arrived very uniquely.

If there was one thing that Grimm had bothered to drill into her head, it was not to be seen by other students or get in anyone’s way during the day. The thought of sitting all day in the tower was not very pleasing to the girl, whose inquiring mind wanted to explore every inch of the castle, possibly finding convenient secret passages. Any building as old as Hogwarts castle would surely have its share to hidden byways, Emma reasoned with herself. Even though she highly respected Grimm and was happy that he had taken her away from her aunts, Emma couldn’t resist the urge to explore her new home.

After two days of steadily reading and sorting through her trunk, Emma slunk down the narrow stair that led up to her chamber, listening every moment for someone to jump out and catch her. Carefully opening the door at the bottom, she poked out her head. The long hallway was empty, but she could hear voices coming from the North Tower. Turning the other way, she hurried down the side of the hall, ready to disappear into the shadows at the first sign of people.

Before she made it to the main staircase, Emma passed a tapestry that she hadn’t observed very closely before. It showed a wizard banging a stick to music as a group of trolls made clumsy twirls and fell over their own feet. The tapestry was actually quite funny as long as one did not laugh at loud, for the wizard would glare at the viewer and grip his stick in a menacing way. Hiding her laughter behind a pale hand, Emma hurried past the absurd scene, almost running into a pot that she could easily hide in for days without anyone finding her. After going by a statue of a very lanky wizard, she started down the large marble staircase.

Reaching the sixth floor, Emma turned down a hallway, and then another, and then another. Before long, she was horribly lost. Passing by the portrait of a mean-looking warlock, Emma could have sworn that she had passed that very portrait five times. None of the rooms she saw were being used, so she was unable to ask anyone for directions. Even if she had seen someone, it was doubtful that Emma would have asked because of Grimm’s instruction not to be seen.

Turning a corner, Emma walked into a person who was much taller than her and wearing black and green robes. Stumbling back, she felt a hand grab her arm roughly.

“Well, well, what do we have here?” a silky male voice said. “Certainly too young for a first year, wouldn’t you agree, Narcissa?”

Emma nervously looked up at her adversary. He had straight white-blond hair that flowed over his shoulders and a pale pointed face that could have been reasonably handsome had not a cruel smile resided upon it. A badge on his school robes proclaimed him a Slytherin, perhaps the last sort of person Emma wanted to meet in the halls. Beside him stood a tall, willowy girl with blonde hair that shimmered like unicorn hair. She was extraordinarily pretty except for the look on her face that made it seem as though she was smelling something unpleasant.

“You can never tell, Lucius,” the girl Narcissa replied in a high, haughty voice. “Those first years keep getting smaller every year.” She looked down at Emma. “Tell us your name, little one.”

“Nobody,” Emma automatically replied.

Narcissa snorted while a frown replaced the evil smile on Lucius’ face.

“Nobody? What are you then, brat, another ghost? I haven’t heard of a new one appearing since Moaning Myrtle.” He squeezed Emma’s arm harder, forcing her to wince in pain.

“I’m not a ghost, or a student,” Emma replied, her eyes beginning to water. “I live here.”

“Then who are you?” Narcissa asked impatiently, vainly brushing back a strand of hair from her face. “Surely you know that children aren’t allowed here, so you can’t live here unless you’re a student. Everyone knows that.”

Emma didn’t answer her, not wanting to give into these bullies. She straightened her back and stared into the Slytherins’ faces, desperately trying to think of a way to get out of the situation. Lucius, believing that she would try and escape him, dug his fingers deeper into her arm.

“Tell us, little girl,” he demanded, his voice becoming dangerous. “Tell us or Narcissa here will turn your pretty face blue.” At this, Narcissa giggled, which to Emma was a terrible sound, and raised her wand.

Ideas raced faster through Emma’s head. How could she get out of this safely and without getting caught? She wasn’t scared at all, though some may think she should have been. In fact, she was more angry than scared. What ever had she done to have Lucius and Narcissa attack her like this? Bumping into someone while walking around a corner wasn’t a crime, was it? Well, maybe it was to these two, Emma thought.

Feeling Lucius’ hand upon her arm made Emma angrier by the second. She could feel the fire building up within, slowly at first, then like a wildfire. For a moment, her mind went blank. She forgot everything: where she was, who she was with, why she was there. Gradually, her eyes began to close and she began to slip away...

Suddenly, she heard a yell right by her ear. Curses filled the air around her. Emma shook herself awake and turned to see Lucius holding his hand in agony while Narcissa cooed over him. Hoping she could get away without them noticing, Emma slowly stepped back, but Lucius was too observant.

“Where do you think you’re going you little -?” he started to say, but was interrupted by the appearance of a wand nearly touching his nose.

“Little what?” a new female voice said. Emma looked up at her rescuer and saw a girl who looked very much like Narcissa, but with a darker complexion and more fortitude in her soft brown eyes. Her robes denoted her as a Ravenclaw while her appearance put her as being the same age as Lucius.

Perhaps this newcomer wouldn’t help as much as Emma had previously thought. She remembered that Grimm played favourites with the Ravenclaws.

“Malfoy, I’m afraid I’ll have to report you for that behaviour,” the Ravenclaw girl continued. “You too, Cissy, “ she added, nodding to Narcissa.

Cissy? Emma thought, looking between the two girls. They could easily have been sisters.

A hand was placed upon her shoulder, but far gentler than Lucius’ had been.

“Come on now, Emma,” the girl prodded, surprising Emma with her actual name. “Professor Grimm will have to know about this.”

Lucius Malfoy, still holding his sore arm, spluttered. “Grimm? What does he have to do with this?”

The Ravenclaw looked up at him, her face showing no emotion at all. “In case you didn’t know, Malfoy, this girl happens to be Grimm’s ward. Perhaps you should show her more kindness next time. Good day to you both.”

With a curt nod, she lead Emma away from the two Slytherins down a labyrinth of hallways.

“I was lost,” Emma tried to explain. “This floor is like a big maze!”

The girl smiled kindly. “Most new people here think so. It’s why the sixth floor isn’t used that often. Too many people get lost.” She frowned. “Or use that floor for hidden meetings. You must have run into Malfoy canoodling with my little sister.”

“Sister?” Emma exclaimed. “Narcissa is your sister? But you don’t act anything alike!”

The girl laughed, a slight bitterness in her voice. “Indeed we are, though sometimes I wish it wasn’t true. I’m Andromeda Black, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you,” Emma replied. “I’d tell you my name, but you already know it.”

Andromeda laughed, a much prettier sound than her sister’s. “Professor Grimm meant to keep your presence here a secret, so naturally, everyone knows about it.”

“That Lucius boy didn’t, though. He kept asking who I was.”

The warm smile on the other girl’s face disappeared. “Lucius Malfoy lives in his own little world. Just because his family is the wealthiest wizarding family in the country, he thinks that he can do whatever he wishes. And Narcissa is naive enough to like him for it!”

Emma shrugged, but said nothing. She didn’t really understand much about the magical world. She knew that she was a pureblooded witch, but that was all. Anyway, she had other things to think about. The pit in her stomach was growing as Andromeda led her down to the first floor. Going down that hall meant that she was being taken to see Grimm. Seeing Grimm would mean getting in trouble for wandering about during school hours. This would not be a good experience.

For most of the journey, the halls were empty, but whenever they passed by someone, that person would call out a friendly greeting to Andromeda. None of them seemed to notice Emma, however. To them, she must have looked like a first year who was getting a special tour of the school, or who was being taken to see the Headmaster.

They arrived in the dungeons a few minutes later. Passing by various classrooms, Andromeda led Emma into the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, where Grimm was teaching a class of rowdy first years. Three students at the back of the room were watching as another used a charm to magically lift a paperweight from Grimm’s desk across the room.

“Put that down, Podmore!” Grimm barked, grabbing the paperweight and gently placing it off the desk. He seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, his dark robes swirling. Seeing Andromeda enter with Emma, his steely eyes narrowed.

“Take her to my office, Miss Black,” he commanded, his voice harder than usual. “I will join you as soon as I am done with this class.”

Andromeda nodded and took Emma back into the hallway and up the stairs to Grimm’s office. Emma knew the room very well; it was in this room where Grimm had begun to teach her the basics of magic and his secret love of potions-making. She also knew that this was the room where he gave detentions and tutored students. Not everyone who came into Grimm’s office had a pleasant experience. More often than not, being sent to Grimm’s office meant a weekend of doing extra assignments; all of them extremely difficult.

Emma sat on one of the hard chairs, worried about what could happen to her. Would she be locked up in her room for the next three years? Would she be not allowed to learn any more magic? Or, worse, would Grimm send her back to live with her aunts?

The mere thought of returning to Derbyshire and her aunts brought out a cold sweat on Emma’s small body, making her shiver from the cool air coming from an open window. Andromeda stood in front of the shelves, absently looking over the mostly-obscure titles and periodically taking one down to glance at it.

After about a quarter of an hour, the noise from the classroom next door subsided and Grimm entered the room, his face not quite angry, but not very kind. He refused to meet Emma’s eyes as she stared at him. She had disobeyed him, she knew, but surely she hadn’t done anything hugely wrong. Had she?

“Thank you, Miss Black,” he said, standing behind the chair to his second desk, which was covered in rolls of parchment and glass jars, much like the other in the classroom. “You may now go back to class. I’m sure Professor McGonagall will be missing you.”

Andromeda put back the dust-incrusted book she had been looking at. “It was no trouble at all, Professor,” she replied. “It was rather a pleasure to confront Malfoy. That boy really bothers me all the time!”

Grimm managed a small smile. “Indeed he does.”

On her way out, Andromeda gave a small wink at Emma, trying to comfort the younger girl, who was obviously quite worried. It did not seem to work, however, Emma only bit her lip until she could taste blood in her mouth.

“Emma, I am surprised at you,” Grimm began, sitting down at the desk and looking earnestly at the nervous girl. “First of all, you disregarded the rules I laid out for you. Secondly, you made yourself conspicuous to the two worst possible people in this school.”

“H-how do you kn-know that?” Emma stammered.

“If there is one thing that you must know about Hogwarts, Emma, is that there are eyes everywhere, watching our every move,” Grimm explained, his tone deathly serious. “Some of those eyes are not good ones, but others are willing to help those in need.”

“You know everything, then?” Emma asked, her voice still shaking.

Grimm leaned over the desk, his eyes now looking directly into hers. “Everything.”

Emma lifted her white hand hesitantly to scratch her head. “Even the fire thing?”

He sat back, a look of slight bewilderment on his face. “What about fire? I heard that you did something strange to make Malfoy leave you alone...”

“I don’t know what it was exactly,” Emma said, trying to explain. “It was like I could feel this fire inside of me getting bigger as I got more angry. Then it kind of blew up.”

Grimm raised an eyebrow. “‘Blew up’?”

“All I remember is that boy crying out and letting go of my arm. It was like he was burnt or something...”

An acid-scarred hand rubbing his beard, Grimm looked as though he were going to burst into laughter.

“All it means is that you have magical ability, a fact I was already aware of,” he said with much amusement. Then he looked back at Emma, the smile vanishing from his face. "Do not think for a moment, young lady, that you will easily get out of this scrape, even though you potentially wounded one of my least favourite students. People may know that you are here, but that does not mean that it is right for you to wander the halls. As I said earlier, Emma, this castle is not entirely safe, even for its occupants.”

Grimm’s tone was not menacing, but Emma still sat hunched in her seat as though he had yelled insults at her. Seeing that she was not relaxing, he sighed and shook his head.

“Merlin’s beard, child, I’m not going to send you back to your aunts. That would mean I would have to see them again, and that is one thing that I will not do. I promise that you will never, ever have to go back there.”

Her eyes wide, Emma stared at Grimm. “You’re not?”

Trying to force back the chuckle that was catching in his throat, Grimm replied. “No, but I will enforce some rules upon you. Spending all day up in that tower isn’t necessarily healthy for your mind or your body.”

Folding his hands upon his chest as he sat back in his chair, Grimm watched as Emma uncurled her short, but skinny, arms and legs from their positions and stood up. Her greenish-hazel eyes glowing with extreme happiness, she waited for what he was to say next.

“Hagrid has expressed the need for some help around the castle grounds,” he began, his face filled with amusement at the child who stood before him. “Although you won’t be able to do too much, I’m sure that learning about the environs of Hogwarts is just as important as anything else. During the afternoons, you will be at the mercy of the professors, running errands and such. After dinner, Emma, if you would so like I could teach you the basics of magic and potions-making so that one day you will make a half-decent witch, one who will be able to protect herself- “

He never finished what he was to say, however, because Emma, feeling so grateful to this wizard who had saved her from a life of potential pain and suffering, had run around the desk and thrown her arms around Grimm. Feeling profoundly embarrassed, but pleased, Grimm lightly patted the girl’s head and smiled.

“Just don’t let me catch you wandering around the school alone,” he warned her. “Malfoy especially may hold a bit of a grudge against you now that you made him look bad in front of the younger Miss Black. Cleaning cauldrons is not an exciting job, I’ll have you know.”

Emma looked up at him with a grin on her slightly-freckled face. A brilliant idea had come to her. “Don’t worry, Uncle, nobody will ever see me.”



EDITED - 17/07/05
Chapter title from Chantal Kreviazuk's "What if it All Means Something"

Chapter 4: Three: Somewhere Only We Know
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Three
Late Summer 1971


“Hurry up, child,” Grimm complained one late August morning. “I would like to return before tea. My experiments cannot be left unattended for too long a time.”

He stood before the large hearth in his office, impatiently tapping his booted foot on the stone floor, while Emma furiously searched through books and piles of parchment.

“I know it’s here somewhere,” she replied, sounding worried. “Just one more minute, Uncle. I’m sure I left it on your desk yesterday evening during my lesson.”

Grimm sighed and rolled his eyes. “You won’t need the letter to buy your supplies. After two decades of teaching, I’m sure to know everything you will need. Now please come, my patience is waning, Emma.”

She looked up from the book she had been holding upside-down, a strange look of exasperation crossing her face. If his patience for her was nearly gone, then her patience for him was quite the same.

"I don't know where it could have gone," she said, shaking the book in her hands. "Peeves must have taken it, there’s no other way..."

Grimm, his patience at its extreme furthest, crossed the room, took the book from her hands, and placed it back onto the desk.

"If you want to go to Diagon Alley today, I would suggest that you abandon your search and come with me now. The letter is unnecessary, I assure you."

Emma scuffed the ground with her shoe, looking properly embarrassed. She had tried as hard as she could to postpone their trip, but it seemed as though Grimm had won out in the end; they were to travel to Diagon Alley, and not by train as Emma would have preferred. Without another word, Grimm stepped into the hearth, grabbing a handful of powder on the way from a small, tin cup that hung from the stone mantle.

"Now," he instructed, turning back to face Emma. "As soon as I am through, take some Floo powder and throw it down, clearly saying 'Diagon Alley' as you do so. Understand?" She nodded, feeling the pit of her stomach drop. "Good," he replied, then a smile appeared on his face. "Just speak clearly and it should be fine."

With that, Grimm threw the greenish powder onto the ashes of the hearth, saying "Diagon Alley" in a clear voice. Green flames erupted around him and he disappeared.

Emma stared at the hearth for a moment, wondering if travelling by Floo powder was an entirely safe method of travel. What if she ended up in wrong place? Such thoughts had plagued her since the previous week when Grimm had promised to take her to Diagon Alley. It was the real reason she had 'lost' the letter of admission to Hogwarts which outlined all the supplies she would need for the coming year. Taking the list from her robes, she looked at it for what seemed to be the millionth time since receiving it a month before.

"I'm a witch," she said aloud to herself, as though to make the fact more true than it was. Her gaze resting back on the empty hearth, Emma carefully folded the parchment into her pocket and reached out to take some powder from the tin cup. Its sandy texture brought forward a distant memory of a pretty woman helping her fill a bucket with sand. Nearby on the rocky beach stood a man, smiling brightly as he watched.

Feeling the memory float away like the outgoing tide, Emma stepped under the mantelpiece and threw the powder down at her feet.

"Diagon Alley!"

A moment later, after the most exquisite feeling of being sucked through a tube, Emma tumbled out of a fireplace, landing with her eyes facing a pair of soft brown leather boots. Shakily, Emma stood and brushed off her now-dusty robes.

"It seems that you made it through alright," Grimm said, looking down at her. "The first time I used the Floo network, I ended up breaking my arm.”

Emma blanched, remembering the horrible feeling she had while being sent across the country. “How did that happen?” she asked worriedly.

“My friend came too soon after I did and fell on top of me,” Grimm replied calmly, turning to walk away. “Enough of that, now. We have some things to get for you, Emma.”

He continued down the stone walkway as Emma ran to keep up with him. Upon rounding a corner, she stopped and stared at the bustle before her. People filled the narrow cobblestoned street, which was lined with shops of all sorts. She was barely able to fathom how such a place could exist in the midst of such as city as London.

Only magic could do this, she thought, trying to take in everything she saw.

When a hand grabbed hers, she gasped, thinking the worst.

“Stay close now,” Grimm warned her, clasping her small hand within his. “There have been many reports of trouble, even here.”

Emma nodded and moved closer to him as he led her through the witches and wizards walking along the alley. As she walked down the street, her hand in Grimm’s possession, Emma couldn’t help but stare at the goods in shop windows and the food at the small cafes along the street. She’d never been to a place like this before; Hogsmeade was no comparison to the grandeur and size of Diagon Alley.

“Starting off with a wand would probably be best,” stated Grimm, who raised his voice slightly above the crowd. “It’s the most important thing that you’ll need and anyway, I have many of the things on the list already. May I see it for a moment, just to check?”

Without thinking, Emma took it from her robes. As she handed it to Grimm, she suddenly realized that he had discovered her fib.

“I - It was in a book on your desk,” she lied. “I found it just after you left...”

He looked at the parchment, his eyes running over the lines of supplies. “Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I’m dull-witted. Now look at this,” he added, pointing to the list. “You won’t have to worry about a cauldron or the phials, I’m sure Slughorn won’t miss them if they were to be borrowed. My old set of scales should do fine, I could swear that my grandmother charmed them to never tarnish. Most of these books are far too easy to find in the castle, but we will have to go and buy The Standard Book of Spells because I’m afraid that mine is rather - “ He paused for a moment, a lopsided smile appearing on his face. “Unusable. A bit of wartcap was spillt across the cover years ago and the book has never looked the same since.”

While he spoke, they had come up to a narrow, shabby-looking shop. Emma looked up at the gold letters painted above the door: “Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.”.

“Ah, here we are,” Grimm announced, ushering Emma through the door of the shop.

The interior reminded Emma of the antique store in Derbyshire her aunt Cloeia always liked going to. It was extremely dusty and filled to the ceiling with piles of boxes. In the middle of this melee was a desk, on top of which was a silver bell and a very old, hand-bound volume that seemed to be a ledger of sorts.

Grimm strode up to the counter and rang the bell, his face emotionless. From the depths of the store came a slight rustling that sounded more like a very large mouse than a human. When the source of the rustling emerged, Emma saw a set of strange, silvery eyes staring out at her. She backed into Grimm, who pushed her forward.

“It’s only Mr. Ollivander,” he told her. “He will not bite you, unlike me.”

Hesitantly, Emma went further into the shop and soon stood before Edward Ollivander.

“Ah,” he said, leaning forward on the spindly chair he sat on, squinting at Emma. “Indeed, Tiberius Grimm, you have brought an interesting child with you. There is more to her than most could believe at first sight. Yes, much more.”

Grimm said nothing in reply, only grunted.

Ollivander ignored it and continued. “I remember your parents very well, Emilia Goldwyn. Your mother was a very pretty girl, liking everything she looked upon. Never have I seen someone so incredibly happy with life. Then your father was - “

He was cut off by Grimm, who was leaning over the front desk, a strange look of impatience on his face. “Mr. Ollivander, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but we really don’t have all day to stay and chat. Could you simply assist Emma in choosing a wand?”

Ollivander sniffed, but did not argue. “The wand chooses the wizard,” he stated, reaching for a box on a shelf beside him. “Here,” he said, handing it to Emma. “Try this one. Oak, nine inches, unicorn hair.”

Emma opened the box and picked up the wand from within it. This would not be the first time she had used a wand, having ‘borrowed’ Grimm’s from time to time when he wasn’t looking, but somehow she felt that this occasion would be far different. Raising the wand before her face, she looked at the light-coloured wood, closed her eyes, and gave it a swish.

“Bloody hell!” came Grimm’s voice from the other side of the room. Opening her eyes, Emma saw the black mark on the floor where he had been standing near the desk. Now he was sprawled on the floor, apparently having jumped out of the way of the blast of magic.

“Definitely not that one,” Ollivander sighed, handing her another box.

This strange tirade continued for what seemed like, to both Grimm and Emma, over an hour. Neither of them was extremely happy: Grimm because he had to keep dodging stray spells, and Emma because she was beginning to feel that no wand would ever suit her. Finally, Ollivander, who had been digging around in the shelves for the last ten minutes, produced an old dusty box.

“This one should work,” he announced happily, opening the box. With a flourish, he handed the wand inside to Emma. “An eleven inch rosewood wand with a gryffin heartstring core. Very rare, but perhaps suitable for a rare individual.”

Emma faces flushed slightly as she reached for the wand, which to her looked beautiful with its rich, dark red wood and delicately tooled handle. As she raised it in the air to give it a swish, Grimm automatically ducked, but no blast of magic fired from the wand, nor did any of the shelves threaten to fall over. Instead, a multitude of coloured sparks erupted from the end of the wand, disappearing into the air around Emma’s head.

“Good,” Ollivander said with a smile. “It seems as though the right one found you, Miss Goldwyn. Take good care of it, such a rare wand as that may never be found again.” He turned to Grimm. “That will be seven Galleons, please, Professor Grimm.”

A few moments later, Emma and Grimm exited the shop, he leading her towards Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions. She was almost going to ask him the meaning behind her so-called ‘rare’ wand when a woman suddenly stepped in their path. Grimm stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes widening and his lips becoming a thin line.

“Hello, Dolores,” he said, his voice low and dangerous.

The woman laughed, sounding more like a frog croaking than a person laughing. Emma looked at her, wondering why Grimm would seemingly hate someone so much; usually he kept to himself, hating nor liking anyone except for a select few. With a closer look, however, Emma could not blame him for responding in such a way. The woman was short and rather plump, with short curly hair topped by a large pink bow. The look on the woman’s broad, flabby face was smug in the way that made one want to hit her very hard in order to make it disappear. Her eyes were large and bulging, just like those of a giant bullfrog. Emma disliked her right away. She would have taken her aunt Fulvia any day rather than spend a minute with this woman.

“Oh, Tiberius!” the woman exclaimed with a very fake smile. “How incredibly nice to see you again. It’s been so long!”

Grimm stiffened. “Too bad it wasn’t longer,” he mumbled to himself so quietly that Emma could barely hear him.

The woman’s face fell slightly. “What did you say? I didn’t quite catch it.”

His eyes were blazing, but his face remained emotionless. “I said it’s quite a surprise to meet you here, Dolores. Certainly I expected you to be in the Ministry building, especially after hearing about your promotion.”

The woman smiled again, fluttering her eyelashes at Grimm. The sight of it made Emma itch to use her new wand. Perhaps a slug-belching spell... She reached for it stealthily, slowly taking it from the pocket of her robes.

“Why hello, little girl. I didn’t see you there,” the woman said, clapping her hands together. She looked once more at Grimm, a question in her eyes. “Is this your daughter, Tiberius? She seems like such a sweet girl!”

Grimm’s eyebrows raised at this, nearly meeting the hair that flopped over his forehead.

“My daughter?” he asked, his voice breaking slightly. “Merlin’s beard, Dolores, what ever would make that thought come into your head? For the child to be mine, it would mean that there was a mother somewhere in the picture, and Minerva was never the type to allow herself to stoop to that level.”

This time, it was Emma’s eyebrows that raised. The fact that Grimm would ever say something like that not only surprised her, but it very nearly appalled her as well. What made up for this, however, was the look on the woman’s face, which had first turned as red as a raspberry, then paled to a colour as white as the skin on Emma’s left hand.

Seeing that he had the upper hand, Grimm couldn’t help but smile. “Dolores, allow me to present you to my cousin, Emilia Goldwyn. Emma, this is Dolores Umbridge, an old schoolmate of mine who is now the junior undersecretary to the Minister.”

Dolores Umbridge stared at Emma as though she had two heads. “Goldwyn? Indeed very interesting, Tiberius. I didn't think there were any of them left.”

The smile vanished from Grimm’s face, replaced by a look of severe distaste. “Well, I'm afraid you're wrong, Dolores. Emma is Lyra's only grandchild.”

A knowing smile appeared on Dolores’ face. “Oh, I see.”

“I’m sure you do,” Grimm returned. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have some shopping to finish up before the day is over. Good day, Dolores.”

Before she could reply, he clamped his hand on Emma’s shoulder and practically dragged her over towards Madam Malkin’s. Emma stumbled beside him to keep up to his much longer stride, her mind racing.

“Why was that woman so horrible?” she gasped, trying to catch her breath.

Grimm slowed down a bit to accommodate Emma’s shorter legs before he answered. “We went to school together and she got it into her head that I was a possible future husband for her. Ha! If she only knew...” He paused for a moment, then continued. “She discovered that such a thing was impossible when I eluded her at Slughorn's party in seventh year. I had made the mistake of asking her.”

“What happened then?” Emma asked, her mind piquing with curiosity.

He sighed, as though the memory pained him. “Well, she came looking for me and discovered my hiding place in the library. It would not have been so bad if I had been alone, however... To put it lightly - and I think you’re mature enough to handle this - it went around the school the next day like wildfire that I had been in the library snogging Minerva McGonagall.” With this he coloured slightly while Emma burst out in giggles.

“And were you?” she managed to say between giggles.

Grimm had the grace to look affronted. “No, of course not. We were doing our homework together. Dolores was just jealous because I refused to spend a moment in her presence.”

Emma was still giggling when they reached the door of the robe-maker’s shop. Grimm handed her some galleons from his leather pouch and ushered her into the store with an excuse that he was unable to accompany her as he had some other errands to run. Upon entering the shop, a small bell above the door tinkled. A short witch wearing lavender robes appeared from one side of the shop, a huge smile upon her pleasant face.

“Hello, hello. I suppose you’re here to get yourself some robes for school,” she said, without bothering to ask whether or not this was the truth. “Come, come, child. I already have another customer waiting.”

She led Emma into a curtained-off area where a boy about Emma’s age already stood upon one of the three pedestals where a dwarf-sized man with a measuring tape in his hand was taking measurements. Madam Malkin motioned for Emma to stand on the pedestal beside the one the boy stood on. Out of pure curiosity, Emma looked at the boy, who seemed to be quite nervous. He had light brown hair and was of average height, but extraordinarily thin and lanky. His face was tired looking, as though he rarely got any sleep, with a scar across it that went from his right temple to the left side of his jaw.

“Hi,” Emma said shyly as she stepped onto the pedestal. “How d’you do?”

The boy smiled back just as shyly. “Hullo.”

With that greeting, all talk stopped between them. Both seemed to be far too shy to begin an actual conversation with each other. Madam Malkin and her assistant rushed around, taking measurements, recording numbers, and deciding on fabrics. Emma became bored rather quickly, wondering where Grimm had disappeared to. She smiled to herself, most likely it was the bookshop or the apothecary.

“Turn around now, dear,” Madam Malkin’s voice said from beside her. “And face the mirror, it’ll be just a couple more minutes. You’re probably excited about going to school, I’m sure. Master Lupin told me he was as well.” She added, nodding at the boy, who blushed when Emma met his ambiguously-coloured eyes.

“Are you going to Hogwarts?” Emma asked.

“Yes,” the boy replied, his voice quiet, but euphonious. “I wasn’t sure that they’d let me.”

Emma was just about to ask why, then decided not to. She never liked to pry.

“I am too. It’ll be my first year,” she said instead.

“Me too,” the boy confessed.

Once again, the conversation ended with neither of the children knowing what to say next. Emma, who was so used to playfully arguing with Grimm, had never really met anyone of her own age and therefore was very unsure of herself. So, she turned to face the mirror like Madam Malkin had instructed, only to be surprised in what she saw there.

A short girl, not yet five feet tall, with sun-darkened skin looked back at her through a curtain of long, perfectly straight, brown hair. Her eyes were the colour of melted gold with spots of green mixed in. In all, she seemed to be an utterly normal-looking girl except for the pale, white hand which peeked out of her left sleeve. There were very few mirrors at Hogwarts castle and Emma had never really seen her self closely before. She was so used to watching others that she had nearly forgotten about her own appearance.

“That’s it, miss,” Madam Malkin told her, waking Emma from her brown study.

“Oh, right,” she replied, looking around. The boy had already left, it seemed, and Emma was now the only customer in the shop. “Can you deliver them to the Leaky Cauldron? I’ll be there until the train comes.”

After leaving the shop, Emma stood out the street alone, watching the people pass by. She didn’t want to go off to another shop in case Grimm came here looking for her. Yet, she didn’t see him anywhere.

“Are you lost, little girl?” a male voice asked from behind her.

Emma turned to face the voice, inwardly cursing the fact that everyone was calling her a ‘little girl’. Just because she was abnormally short... Her thoughts came to a screeching halt when she saw who the speaker was. A tall, shadowy figure stood before her, the hood of his dark robes covering much of his face.

“No,” Emma stammered. “I’m quite fine, really. Thanks anyway.” She began backing away towards the bookshop which she had noticed beside Madam Malkin’s.

The man leaned forward. “You had better look out. Danger lurks in every corner, especially for mudbloods.”

Rage suddenly built up in Emma’s mind. “Well then, it should be no trouble for me, seeing that I’m a pureblood. Now, if you’ll excuse me - “

He grabbed her arm roughly. “Your mother was just as pretty as you,” he whispered into her ear. “And now she’s dead. Don’t think that your blood will keep you safe, you will learn the truth eventually.”

Emma was just about the grab her wand and curse the man with whatever she could think of when he disappeared with a swish of his robes. No trace of him remained.



EDITED - 28/10/07
Chapter title from Keane's "Hopes and Fears"

Chapter 5: Four: Speed of Sound
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Chapter Four


The train sped through the hills and fields that made up much of England’s landscape as Emma replayed the previous day’s episode in her head. She had, of course, not told Grimm about the cloaked man who had approached her in Diagon Alley, not wanting to worry her guardian. That morning, when Grimm collected Emma to accompany to King’s Cross station, he had acted very strangely in a way that Emma could not begin to understand.

“Why do I have to take the train?” she had whined.

“So that you don’t stand out from the other first years,” he’d replied, his voice quiet. “I know the trouble it could cause if your peers believed that you were receiving special attention because of your connection to me.”

Emma had stared at him, not fully wanting to understand. “You mean, I’m to pretend that I’m just like them? With a home and a family somewhere?”

The hurt must have been evident in her voice, for Grimm placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Emma,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “But it has to be. I will go with you to the station, but from there, you are on your own. You must not always expect me to be there for you.”

Now, sitting in the train, Emma felt a tear trace its way down her cheek. Instead of being comforted by his kind words, she was terrified at the thought of him not being there one day. What would she do then? The professors would look after her, that was for certain, but still it would not be the same. Grimm had become more than a guardian or a surrogate parent, he was her friend and mentor. For the past three years, he had carefully taught her the basics of magic and potions, perhaps more than he ought to have.

The door to her compartment opened after an hour, admitting a girl who carefully closed the door behind her. It seemed as though she had not noticed Emma because when she turned around, she started slightly, her face turning a bright shade of red.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t think anyone was in here.”

“No, it’s alright,” Emma replied, trying the banish thoughts of Grimm from her mind. “There’s enough room in here for you as well, I’m sure.”

The other girl smiled, revealing a dimple on her left cheek. She sat down across from Emma, who had been up to that time holding a book in her hands, but not reading it.

“What're you reading?” the girl asked, then blushed profusely. “Sorry, I’m being a pain, I know.”

Emma looked down at the book she had been holding, a recent gift from Grimm, as though she was surprised to see it there. “I don’t think I was actually reading it,” she admitted. “I was just thinking about what’s to come. It’ll be my first year.”

The girl, who had startlingly bright green eyes, suddenly looked nervous. “Um, could I ask you a question? You see, I’m in my first year too and there were these people in another compartment talking...”

Emma bit her lip slightly, as she always did when she was thinking. She looked at the girl’s clothing, which was definitely not wizard-made. “Are you a muggle-born?” she asked.

“Is it really that bad to be one? I mean, those people in the other compartment said some cruel things.” The girl leaned forward in her seat, her fiery red hair hanging over her shoulders in long, snaky locks.

“Some think it is,” Emma replied, keeping her voice low. “I don’t understand why, though. There're some muggle-borns with better sense than purebloods.”

“It was horrid to stay there and listen to them,” the girl explained. “Even though I’d been talking to this other boy who was also in his first year. I mean, how could they possibly see such a thing by just looking at me?”

“Don’t worry, I don’t think it’s you at all,” Emma said. “If it’s who I think it is, then that’s the sort of thing they always talk about. Rotten crowd, that bunch. I feel sorry for the boy you were talking to. He's probably stuck with them now.”

The girl smiled again, causing the dimple to reappear. Emma noticed that her face was entirely unblemished, without either freckles or spots. “My name’s Lily Evans.”

“I’m Emma Goldwyn. Pleased to meet you,” Emma responded, reaching over to shake the other girl’s hand.

For the rest of the journey, the two of them discussed many things. However, most of the conversation after a while was simply Emma answering questions about the magical world and Hogwarts. Luckily for her, Lily never went so far to ask how Emma knew so much about Hogwarts if she’d never been there before, being a first year. As Emma was describing the four houses, the train began slowing to a stop.

“We must be there,” Lily breathed, sounding excited.

Emma stood, clutching the book she held to her chest. A rush of excitement tingled in her veins. Even though Hogwarts was her home, coming back to it like this made her feel as though she would be seeing it again for the first time. Perhaps it was just that the anxiety of the other girl had leaked over into Emma’s own mind.

The two of them joined the other students who were exiting the train’s close quarters. While the older students walked up a stone path to the waiting horseless carriages, the first years gathered around a huge, burly man with a curly brown beard and a kind face.

“Firs’ years!” Rubeus Hagrid, the keeper of the keys of Hogwarts, called out. “Firs’ years over ‘ere!”

Emma and Lily stood nearer to the back of the group of first years between a boy with messy black hair and glasses, who winked at them slyly, and a greasy-haired boy with a long nose, who glanced over at Lily but said nothing. Further away, Emma noticed the Lupin boy she had seen at Madam Malkin’s. He was now talking to a short, blond boy who seemed rather nervous. Being nervous at this time was not strange, however, most of the first years, including Emma, were all slightly nervous at what was to come: the sorting ritual.

For now, however, Hagrid was leading them to the boats in which they were cross the lake to the castle. From what Emma had heard from both Andromeda Black (who was now in her last year) and Emmeline Vance, a third year Ravenclaw she had befriended, the journey across the lake offered stunning views of the castle, showing off all of its magnificence to the new students.

Being near the end of the group of first years, Emma and Lily, as well as the greasy-haired boy, boarded the last of the small wooden boats. The boy said nothing to them, preferring to sit at the back of the boat, scowling at the world in general. Slowly, the boat began to propel itself across the lake towards the castle, which towered above them on the edge of a rocky hill.

Lily leaned over the side of the boat and touched the water with a graceful hand.

“It’s so calm,” she said in awe. “Everything here's so...perfect.”

“I thought the same thing -" Emma began, then stopped. She had almost said “my first time seeing it”, but she managed to catch herself.

For a moment, she glanced over at the boy who they were sharing the boat with. He turned his head away quickly, as though he did not want her to notice him staring at her. Emma looked closer at him, behind the curtain of greasy hair and the large Roman nose. There was something about him that she couldn’t quite place...

A shriek, closely followed by a splash, surprised Emma out of her thoughts. She looked over to find Lily no longer beside her in the boat, but in the water, struggling to keep above the surface.

Without thinking, Emma started to stand when the boy pulled her down.

“Don’t do that or you’ll be down there with her,” he hissed, his voice low and sharp. He stared over the edge of the boat, black eyes scanning the water.

Emma glared fiercely at him, but did not try to stand again.

“Hagrid!” she called out over the water. “Someone’s fallen in!”

As his gruff reply travelled back, Emma realized that she could no longer hear any splashes or cries from Lily.

“Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva,” she muttered to herself, using one of Grimm’s oaths. “She’s gone under. The squid'll surely get her if we don’t do something,” she added, looking at the boy, who merely shrugged as though he didn’t really care.

Placing her book carefully on the floor of the boat, Emma stood and leapt into the water, barely remembering the fact that she was not a very good swimmer. In the miraculously clear water, Emma could easily see Lily still floundering to reach the surface. Emma silently cursed her heavy school robes and kicked out with her feet, trying to propel herself in the water. After what seemed like hours, though it was not even a minute, Emma was able to grab Lily’s hand.

The only problem, however, was that Lily was about three inches taller than Emma and unable to help herself out of the water. Emma kicked and thrashed her free arm to try and get the two of them to the surface, but to no avail. Now, it seemed that both were going to drown, or worse, be eaten by the Giant Squid. Closing her eyes, Emma refused to give up. She pulled on Lily’s arm, trying to get the other girl to kick upwards. Perhaps the two of them working together -

Suddenly, Emma felt something trying to pull her away from Lily. Believing it to be the Giant Squid, Emma fought back until she noticed that Lily was being pulled upward by a similar force. Relaxing her tired muscles, Emma was snatched out of the water and roughly dragged into a boat.

“That is what I call being stupid,” the voice of the scowling boy said from above her. “In case you've forgotten the fact that you are a witch, which I presume you are seeing that you're here, it'd have been easier for you to simply use magic to save your friend.”

Emma rubbed her face with her left hand and groaned. She felt as though a Hippogriff had sat on her.

“Are yeh alrigh’ over there, Emma?” Hagrid’s voice rang out over the water from a nearby boat. “We ‘ave Miss Evans over ‘ere, so don’ worry ‘bout her.”

Coughing, Emma tried to raise her voice above a whisper. “I’m fine, Hagrid. Thanks.”

She heard the other boat begin rowing away and felt hers moving towards the castle as well. Feeling utterly and wretchedly soaked, she slowly sat up, then remembered her book.

“My book,” she said to the boy, who was now looking at her strangely. “Where is it? I - I don’t want it to get wet. It was a gift...”

“Calm down before you tip the boat and both of us fall in,” he chastised. “Your precious book is safe. Isn’t advanced potions a little advanced for first year?”

“My uncle likes that sort of thing,” Emma replied, her voice tight. “Can I have it back now, please?” She held out her hand.

The boy looked at her hand, his black eyes, which reminded Emma of burning coals, shining brightly. It was then that Emma realized the white skin of her hand was showing. That morning, she had laboured to camouflage it with a flesh-coloured paste bought from a Muggle shop in London. Unfortunately, the paste had come off while she’d been in the water, revealing the abnormally white hand.

“It’s not polite to stare,” she snapped, her temper finally breaking. “My book, please.”

He took the book from his robes and gently placed it in Emma’s hands. She looked back towards the shore, which was quickly approaching. In another few moments she would be safe on land and in the castle.

“I’ve heard of you,” the boy said bluntly.

Emma turned to face him. “Did you learn it from your friends on the train? I’m not as stupid as you think I am; you're that boy on the train who’d first talked to Lily.”

“I never said that you were stupid,” he replied, looking slightly shocked. “To call any Ravenclaw that would be a crime. I merely said that what you did was stupid, not that you were.”

Now thoroughly annoyed by the boy, Emma sniffed. “It means the same thing in the end. Now, if you’ll excuse me, we’re already late for the sorting ceremony.” She walked, as gracefully as one could while wearing very wet clothes, through the entrance into the castle.

~ * * * ~


After five minutes of waiting, Grimm began to worry. He was not a patient man at the best of times, but when McGonagall did not open the door, followed by the first years, at the appropriate time, he thought of the worst possible circumstances. Any other year, he would not have cared less had something occurred to a tiresome first year. However, this was not like any other year; Emma was supposed to be here and ready for sorting, which she, as well as the other first years, was not.

Absently fiddling with his wine goblet, filled with cold water because he could not stand the taste of pumpkin juice, Grimm tried to look like his calm, collected self, but he could feel the trickle of perspiration running down between his shoulders. He looked over the tables of students, who were also showing signs of impatience; after a long train ride, they were ready to eat and later go to sleep.

Grimm glanced over at Dumbledore, who had become Headmaster once old Dippet had retired the previous spring. The school had undergone many changes over the last few months, including the planting of a willow tree with a tremendously rotten temperament. Grimm believed that Dumbledore’s promotion was long overdue - the man was over a hundred years old - yet he couldn’t help but wonder if there was method behind all of the older man’s apparent madness. At the moment, however, Dumbledore was calmly sitting in his place at the centre of the table, looking towards the door without a shade of worry marking his brow.

Finally, just before Grimm was about to give up hope and actually go searching for Minerva and the first years, the large wooden doors to the Great Hall opened, admitting a frazzled deputy Headmistress and two long rows of frightened and anxious students. She met his eyes for a moment and nodded minutely, flicking her eyes towards the back of the group of first years. Emma was there, staring daggers at the black-haired boy in front of her and looking as though she had taken a swim with the Giant Squid. For all Grimm knew, she probably had.

Minerva quickly recited to them what they were to do, then she took out a scroll of parchment and began reading off the names. Trying not to look too bored, Grimm watched as Addinson, Albert was put into Hufflepuff and Black, Sirius was put into Gryffindor (to the surprise of his Slytherin cousin Narcissa). He surveyed each of the students, wondering which ones might be decent students or, Merlin forbid, troublemakers.

After Evans, Lily (a pretty and intelligent-looking Gryffindor girl) and Fawcett, Delila (a plain, but perhaps decent Ravenclaw girl), Minerva paused for a moment, squinted at the parchment, then called out: “Goldwyn, Emilia!”

A strange mix of determination and fear crossed Emma’s face as Grimm observed her walked up to the stool and climb upon it. Minerva placed the hat upon the girl’s head and stepped back, her face apprehensive. Emma’s eyes went wide with surprise when, Grimm guessed, the hat began talking to her. Then, after half a minute, the hat shouted “RAVENCLAW!” at the top of its voice.

The Ravenclaw table burst out into applause and Grimm barely prevented himself from grinning like a schoolboy. As Emma passed him to slide in beside third year Emmeline Vance, she smiled at him and could have sworn later on that he had winked back at her. However, when Grimm stole a glance at the Gryffindor table, he saw Lily Evans, whom he had earlier noted as a possible ‘good’ student, appearing quite unhappy at the news. Perhaps, Grimm thought to himself, Emma had made a friend of this Miss Evans on the train.

Minerva continued to read names off the list: Lupin, Remus - Gryffindor(probably hard-working and very responsible); McKinnon, Marlene - Ravenclaw (perhaps too serious, but sharp); Meadows, Dorcas - Gryffindor (very outgoing with an evident sense of humour); Nott, Angius - Slytherin (strong body, but weak mind and power hungry); Pettigrew, Peter - Gryffindor (far too nervous, a definite follower); Pinchey, Helen - Hufflepuff (too nice for her own good); Potter, James - Gryffindor (definite troublemaker). The list seemed to be endless. There was another Prewett, who of course went to Gryffindor, a number of Hufflepuffs, one or two Ravenclaws, and a handfull of Slytherins, including the boy whom Emma had been glaring at, a Severus Snape. When he had walked past Emma on the way to the Slytherin table, Grimm observed the boy staring at Emma with unhidden curiosity and interest.

Grimm narrowed his eyes, but was distracted from thinking of the occurrence any more by Dumbledore rising from his chair and addressing the school.

“A new year at Hogwarts has begun,” the Headmaster said, smiling in that knowing way of his. “Unfortunately, Professor Dippet, our previous Headmaster, decided that fifty years spent administering to such an institution was more than enough for his constitution. Due to this change, then, Professor McGonagall has been made Head of Gryffindor house and Deputy Headmistress. In addition to these changes, our new Divination teacher will be Antonio Sejantus, newly arrived from Rome where he has been studying for many years.”

Upon hearing the new teacher’s name and seeing the vile man sitting at the other end of the table, Grimm scowled. He had heard much about this Divination expert from Italy, and little of what he had heard was positive in nature.

Dumbledore continued his welcoming speech. “As many of you know, the Forbidden Forest is entirely off limits to all students, even those who think themselves brave enough.” At this, the old man had looked straight at the two first years Potter and Black, who had struck an acquaintanceship while the Headmaster had been speaking. “There will be no wandering the castle or the grounds after hours. Any student caught doing so will be given detention.” At this, Emma narrowed her eyes, but said nothing.

“On a happier note,” Dumbledore went on. “Quidditch tryouts will begin in two weeks, for those of you wishing to know, though first years are not, unfortunately, able to take part. The Head Boy for this year is Edgar Bones.” A tall, blonde boy stood up and waved at the crowd, who heartily applauded him. “And our Head Girl is Andromeda Black.” From the Ravenclaw table came a loud cheer as a sleepy-looking dark-haired girl stood and smiled briefly before sitting back down.

“Welcome back to Hogwarts everyone,” the Headmaster finished, raising his hands dramatically. “Hereford, Hartford, and Hampshire!”

With this strange exclamation, plates of food appeared on the tables and everyone began to eat. Minerva sat down beside Grimm while he was listening to Filius Flitwick, the Charms professor and Head of Ravenclaw, babble on about a new set of spells he was studying. Grimm begged Flitwick pardon and asked if they could continue the conversation at another time (even though Grimm silently hoped not to meet Flitwick in the halls for the next few months), then he turned to Minerva, an unasked question in his grey eyes.

“Are you sure you want to know, Tiberius? You might become...angry with the girl.”

Grimm raised an eyebrow. “It depends on how serious the situation was, of course. How did she fall into the lake?”

Minerva showed some surprise at his deduction, but went on to explain. “She was in a boat with Miss Evans and young Mr. Snape when Miss Evans leaned over the side to look into the water and ended up in the water. Emilia jumped in after her once she discovered that Miss Evans could not swim. The two of them were, in the end, fished out of the water by Mr. Snape and Mr. Potter.”

Covering his face with one hand, Grimm sighed. “I tell her not to stand out from the others and what does she do but make herself noticed. The hat should have put her in Gryffindor then, for such bravery as trying to save a person’s life. Perhaps the thing’s getting too old and can’t see their minds right.”

She lightly patted his shoulder. “It’s not necessarily courage she showed, Tiberius, it could be something called ‘friendship’, which is far greater.”

“And something that I never learned,” Grimm replied, hiding amusement behind his hand. “So I am to suppose that you dried her off with one of those spells of yours?”

“Indeed,” Minerva answered with a small smile. “It was a simple matter of transfiguring water into air.”

Grimm shook his head and picked up his fork. “Now will you be wanting gratitude for that?”

She shot him a suspicious look, but he was busily beginning to eat.

“Not from you, Tiberius. Never from you.”


Author's Note: Firstly, I'd like to thank all the reviewers for their support of this story, all your comments go a long way into making me a better writer. Secondly, the ending of Dumbledore's speech comes from one of the my favourite musicals, "My Fair Lady"; it's one of the phrases Eliza has to learn how to say properly in order to become a 'lady'.

Chapter title from Coldplay's "X & Y"

EDITED - July 22/07

Chapter 6: Five: A Whiter Shade of Pale
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Thanks to BJAuth for her continued support of this story. Your e-mail made me glow for days! Thanks as well to all my readers, even the silent ones.



Five


The next morning, Emma crawled out of bed early in order to beat the other four girls she shared sleeping quarters with to the lavatory. While she was brushing her teeth, Marlene McKinnon entered the room and looked over at Emma with bleary eyes.

“You’re already up?” she asked, pushing back her tussled hair from her face. “Don’t know how I’ll get used to these early mornings. D’you think we’ll get much homework today?”

“It depends on what classes we have,” Emma replied, putting away her toothbrush.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Marlene mused, pulling a brush through her blonde curls.

Emma took one last look in the mirror, frowning at the freckles scattered across her nose.

“Well, I’ll head down for breakfast,” she said. “See you later, Marlene.”

The other girl made a polite noise in answer, still being half-asleep, and continued to get ready for the day, while Emma made the long journey to the Great Hall, seven floors below.

At this time of morning, just after seven o’clock, most of the students were only beginning to rise and few people were in the halls. Emma enjoyed the peace and quiet, which she had revelled in all summer, as she slowly walked down the marble staircase. Her thoughts were far away, so far that she didn’t notice the person standing on one of the landings until she walked into him.

“Watch where you’re going, Ravenclaw,” a harsh male voice hissed. “You wouldn’t want to be the first person this year to lose house points, would you?”

Emma looked up at him, her eyes wide with shock. The man standing there was tall and rail thin, with dull blond hair cut short against his angular skull. She recognized him as the new Divination teacher, Professor Sejanus. He stared at her from eyes that were barely wider than slits, making it nearly impossible for her to see the colour of his eyes. A scar on his upper lip gave him a permanent sneer and his overall appearance gave Emma the shivers. He reminded her very much of a vampire.

“Sorry, professor,” she stammered. “I didn’t see you standing there.”

“Perhaps you better pay more attention to your surroundings,” he snapped, brushing imaginary dirt from his pristine robes. “You never know what may be lurking in dark corners.” With that, he stalked off, his black silk robes tight around his spare form.

Emma took a deep breath and continued down the stairs, keeping a distance between her and Sejanus. She definitely did not want to meet him again anytime soon.

Upon entering the Great Hall, she found it nearly devoid of life. Professor Dumbledore was there, of course, Emma wondered if he ever slept at all. A handful of students sat at the tables, quietly chewing on breakfast and probably thinking back on their summers. There was food already at the tables for those who arrived early to eat, so Emma sat down and took small helpings of eggs and toast. She was too nervous to eat much else.

People began trickling in as time passed and the noise level rose. Emma struck up a conversation with Marlene, but kept her eyes on who came in and out of the room the entire time. Grimm arrived, holding a cup of coffee in one hand and covering a yawn with the other, soon followed by most of the other professors, including Professor Sejanus, who did not speak to anyone. A group of Gryffindors entered the room, led by James Potter and Sirius Black, who had their heads together, talking in hushed voices, as though they were planning devious activities. Lily came in with Dorcas Meadows and smiled shyly at Emma.

Perhaps she is still embarrassed about falling in the lake yesterday, Emma thought.

While the timetables were handed out by the heads of the houses, Emma looked around the room at everyone. She had a deep curiosity that made her enjoy watching people, seeing what they did and how they acted. It was a strange pastime, Emma constantly admitted to herself, but maybe something would come of it eventually.

Upon receiving her own timetable, she frowned. It would be a difficult day for the first year Ravenclaws, with Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts in the morning followed by Charms and Transfiguation in the afternoon. She slouched in her seat with a heavy sigh, holding the schedule in her hands. Was she ready for such a day?

“It is rather harsh, don’t you think?” Marlene asked her, her brows furled.

“Most definitely,” Emma replied, shaking her head. “Ravenclaws may be smart, but even we have our limits. I'd be nice to note that at least we won’t have to sit through History of Magic today.”

Marlene snorted. “A small blessing,” she muttered, then added, “A nice touch that we have Potions with the Slytherins and Defence Against the Dark Arts with the Gryffindors. Maybe Professor Grimm'll be easy on us because we're in his house.”

“That's not something we can count on,” Emma said, feeling the blood rush up to her face momentarily. “He’s is not the type to play favourites, not like Slughorn does. I've heard he keeps enough favourites to populate a small village.”

Just as Marlene opened her mouth to make a comment, a dark robed figure appeared at Emma’s side, startling both of the girls. Emma quickly recognized him after realizing that what she had first thought to be a hood was really the boy’s longish black hair.

“Excuse me, Goldwyn,” Severus Snape said with a nod of his head. “But I was wondering if you'd give me the privilege of working with you in potions class this afternoon. I've heard that you are a bit of an...expert.”

Marlene’s jaw dropped as Emma stared back at him, barely able to hide her surprise.

“D'you think me mad, Snape?” she asked, her voice filled with a venom she didn’t even know existed. “I understand that you're kind enough to rescue me yesterday, but other than that, why should you even bother talking to me? I'm no one special, not to any Slytherin, at least.”

The tone of her voice caused Snape to step back, surprised, and caught the attention of Grimm, who watched the conversation with a strange look in his eyes.

“Who says that I'm like any of my housemates?” Snape contended, his dark eyes flashing. “You're being too judgemental of my character, Goldwyn. I only wanted the opportunity to work with one of the blossoming minds in the realm of potions making. I too have an interest in the subject and was hoping...” He stopped suddenly and his face hardened into a mask of indifference. He had been talking too quickly as though he were actually excited.

Emma tried to listen for sarcasm in his voice, but found none, which confused her immensely. Why was he trying to be so nice to her? What was it about him that made her hate him, yet want to know more about him at the same time?

“What makes you think that I'm any good at potions, Snape?” she asked, wondering how he had known of her peculiar talent.

She looked up and met his eyes. Opening her mouth to repeat her question, she found herself unable to. Something was in her mind, sifting through the layers of memory and thoughts that made up her mind. With a gasp, she resisted, gazing into Snape’s dark, unyielding eyes while she carefully closed the doors of her mind, shutting him out. With a final push, she found herself within his mind, seeing the fear and anger that filled his entire being.

He broke the eye contact with difficulty, his breath heavy, as though he had run across a Quidditch pitch. He would not let her see into his mind, whatever the cost. Emma’s hands were shaking and she accidentally knocked over her glass of water. The strange events had been noticed by some of the surrounding students, who shamelessly stared at Emma and Snape. Grimm continued to watch, his hand halfway in his robes, reaching for his wand.

“Snape,” Emma managed to say, her voice shaking as much as her hands. “Thanks for the compliment, but I'm going to have to say no. I don't want to get mixed up with a Slytherin.” There, she thought, I said it.

Snape’s expression changed from indifferent to hurt, then finally to angry.

“Forget that I even bothered asking you, Goldwyn. I can see that my company is repulsive to you.” He turned with a swish of his robes and stalked over to the Slytherin table without a glance back.

Marlene looked over at Emma, her eyes filled with worry.

“Emma, what’s wrong? You acted so strange, then you hit your glass...”

“He’s maddening!” Emma exclaimed, her cheeks red with a mix of fury and embarrassment. “Everything he says feels like an insult.” She bit her lip, unable to explain why she felt such feelings of hatred towards the boy who had saved not only her, but her prized book.

Taking out her wand, she waved it in small circles above the spilt water and idly watched as it floated into the air and back into her cup.

“It’s nothing,” she said sharply, more reassuring herself than anyone else. “Simply nothing. He just...bothers me, that’s all.” She kept her gaze directed downwards at her now-empty plate, feeling the grey eyes of her guardian boring a hole in the side of her head. Whatever she did, she would not look up at Grimm. He would see into her and know what it was she felt and why.

A commotion erupted across the hall at the Gryffindor table. Swooping down from an open window was a pure black owl carrying a blood-red envelope. The owl dropped the envelope in the hands of the tall, dark-haired boy Emma recognized as Sirius Black, the one who had been surprised at his chosen house. He stared at the letter, his face a ghostly white.

“You better run before it goes off, mate,” James Potter said, his voice carrying over the hall. The students were quieting down, watching, waiting for what they knew was to come.

Sirius Black jumped from his seat and bolted for the door, clutching the letter, a howler, in his hand. When the door to the Great Hall slammed behind him, a screeching voice was heard on the other side. Emma could just barely make out the words.

...do you think you are doing, letting yourself be sorted into Gryffindor? Blood Traitors and Mudbloods, the lot of them! You’ve brought shame upon all of us by doing this, Sirius Black. You’ll never hear the end of it...

The voice disappeared down the corridor. Most likely, the boy had run as far as he could from the hall filled with students. Obviously he was supposed to have been placed in Slytherin, like his elder cousins Narcissa and Bellatrix before him. Emma frowned, she didn’t understand why some pureblood families were so strict about honour and connections. It sounded like a waste of time to her; surely what a person was like should be more important than who they were?

She snuck a glance over to the Slytherin table, where she noticed Severus Snape hunched over, his dark eyes shooting black looks at everyone. It seemed at first that he had no friends or acquaintances among his housemates, then Emma saw Lucius Malfoy lean over and whisper something in Snape’s ear. The younger boy turned to look at Malfoy and nodded. A disgusting smirk appeared on Malfoy’s face and the two of them began to converse.

“Well, he couldn’t do far worse than that,” she grumbled to herself, standing up from the bench. “We better go grab our things for class, Marlene,” she said, her voice audible to those around her. “Professor Grimm won’t tolerate us being late, even by a minute.”

~ * * * ~


The two of them, along with the other first year Ravenclaws and Gryffindor, arrived at the first floor classroom a few minutes before class began, giving them enough time to settle and get their books and parchment set out. Emma sat behind Lily, who had been happy that they had at least one class together. Lily admitted quietly that she still felt uncomfortable, not understanding much of what was going on at the school. At the same time, Emma was glancing over her Defence Against the Dark Arts textbook because she was curious as to how the author viewed the subject differently from others. It was a new book for the first years, having been written by a distant colleague of Grimm’s who lived in Wales.

She was still reading when Professor Grimm swept in, fully awake now that he had consumed his usual three cups of coffee at breakfast. His steely gaze took in the entire room and all its contents. He strode up to the front of the room and pointed his wand at the blackboard. Immediately, a multitude of neat writing appeared upon it, giving a detailed description of proper wand use and a list of basic spells and jynxes.

“Before you can learn anything about the Dark Arts, or rather, the defence of it,” Grimm began, his voice sounding slightly bored. He had said this speech far too many times in the past. “You must learn the basics. Learning to defend yourself is more than simply another subject, it is an art. An artist has to learn how to care for his brushes and paints before he can paint. Similarly, you will learn how to maintain your wand and know the proper incantations for all the spells.”

He stood at the very front of the room, leaning back on his desk. “I will not have students blowing up their friends or hexing their enemies, causing harm to themselves and others in this class. The Dark Arts is a dangerous form of magic, used primarily for self gain, but having a knowledge of its limits can - and will - one day save your lives.” His robes swished on the floor as he paced in front of the students, his eyes sharp and bright. “In this classroom, you will take the utmost care to do things properly and efficiently. Lazy students and troublemakers will not be tolerated. During class, I expect you all to pay attention, even you, Miss Goldwyn.”

Emma jumped at the sound of her name. She looked up from her book and met Grimm’s eyes. They were deadly serious, but there was a flicker of amusement in their depths, or had she merely imagined it?

“Sorry, professor,” she said quietly. At the back of the room, a Gryffindor girl snickered.

For the rest of the class, the students wrote seemingly endless notes about various spells and their incantations, as well as on magical creatures, whether they be dangerous or life-saving. The entire time, Grimm looked over the entire class, memorizing their faces and little habits. In one glance, a person’s entire character could be revealed, Grimm believed.

Having finished the note faster than some of the others, Emma surreptitiously glanced around at the room and the people within it. Having been under the influence of Grimm for a third of her life, she had unwittingly taken on some of his traits. The room itself was extremely interesting, filled with dusty old books and mysterious boxes that left the observer wondering what they could contain. Pictures of various magical creatures hung on the wall, arrows pointing to parts which could be used for medicines or potential weapons. A large, and very old, cabinet stood in one corner, periodically shaking as though something were trapped inside. Emma guessed that it contained a boggart.

The Gryffindor students also interested her. Other than Lily and Remus Lupin, she hadn’t really met any of them. Dorcas was a very bubbly girl, laughing and smiling at nearly everything; Emma couldn’t help liking her immediately. There were two other Gryffindor girls, but they seemed to already be enamoured of James Potter and Sirius Black, even though it was the first day. All they could do was stare at the two boys and sigh every couple of minutes. The boys, on the other hand, would every so often mutter something to each other, then subdue their laughs so as not to alert Professor Grimm of their inattention.

As thick as thieves, Emma thought, pretending to hiccough to hide a giggle. The two boys could have been brothers with their black hair and body shape, although Sirius Black was perhaps an inch taller.

In front of them sat Remus Lupin, his shoulders hunched and his nose nearly touching the parchment he was furiously scribbling upon. Beside him, Peter Pettigrew chewed on the end of his quill, looking up at the blackboard with wide eyes. He didn’t seem like the scholarly type at all to Emma.

Once he was sure that all of the students had completed the note. Grimm began pacing the front of the room. Emma smiled to herself. While pacing, Grimm tended to come up with his most effective speeches and lectures.

“The Dark Arts is a very important subject in your education here,” he began, his voice low, but somehow very clear and audible. “Learning how to defend yourself against dark witches and wizards, as well as magical creatures, could mean the difference between life ... and death. It is acknowledged that some of the things I must teach you are dangerous, but danger is one thing you will get used to, especially in times such as these. Many a wizard has lost his life because of ignorance with magic too advanced for his skills. Many others have become mad with power and caused the deaths of hundreds. You will have to be able to help yourself against such situations and make the most of them.

“Do you think that Professor Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald using silly little charms and jinxes? Did the great Merlin crush his enemies with a wave of his hand? No, they spent years learning the correct spells and incantations for the world’s greatest and most powerful spells,” Grimm continued, his eyes looking at each student in turn, making them all nervously shift in their seats. “Which is exactly what you will do. Class is over. Read the first chapter of your text book and make detailed notes of everything you think is important.”

As the students were putting away their belongings, Grimm grabbed some books and left the room, discreetly nodding to Emma on his way out. Most likely he was on his way to the teacher’s lounge for another cup of coffee. Even though he never admitted it, first year classes always made him nervous.

“Now this will be a difficult class,” Dorcas said, packing away her things. “He’s even worse than McGonagall, if that’s possible.”

“Yeah, the two of them together will be the death of us all,” James Potter laughed.

“Then they’ll make us all part of their zombie army,” Sirius Black added, punching James on the shoulder. “And we’ll follow them around like house elves...”

The two of them burst out laughing, while Peter Pettigrew giggled and Remus Lupin shook his head, but was smiling all the same.

“Honestly, you two,” he said. “Do you have to make a joke out of everything?

“Of course!” Sirius exclaimed.

Lily rolled her eyes as the four of them left the room together. Most of the other students were gone as well, leaving Emma, Dorcas, Marlene, and Lily alone in the room.

“Are they like that all the time?” Marlene asked with a raised eyebrow.

Dorcas was grinning. “Always. It’s rather amusing.”

“No, it’s rather annoying,” Lily corrected, frowning.

“The Gryffindor common room must be a fun place to be with them around,” Emma said with a small smile. “Ravenclaw is almost too quiet for my taste.”

“I could barely get a word of reading done last night,” Lily complained as they left the classroom. “All Potter and Black did was make stupid comments about everything in the school. It will be nearly impossible to survive the next seven years with them around.”

“A little fun never hurt anyone,” Dorcas said. “Anyway, you spent most of last evening talking with Remus Lupin about books and all sorts of smart things. You two just kept going and going, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”

Lily blushed slightly, but said nothing in reply. Emma glanced over at Marlene, who was reading over her notes from Defence Against the Dark Arts, probably looking for errors. If she found any, Emma knew that the other girl would rewrite the entire note that night.

Potions class was not at all what Emma hoped it would be. First of all, Professor Slughorn barely paid any attention to any of his students, except those with well-known surnames. From her place in the front row, Emma could barely make out the form of Severus Snape in the far corner, his eyes intense upon his book. It seemed that she wouldn’t be the only one teaching herself Potions. Emma wondered how Slughorn could possibly have become the Potions Master with his nonchalant and even careless methods of teaching. He did not mention anything about cauldron care or the proper way to stir certain mixtures.

After introducing himself and telling them tales about the famous people he knew, Slugorn gave them a set of notes that sent Grimm’s to shame. Even for Emma, who was curious about everything, they were extremely boring and the rest of the class seemed half-asleep when Slughorn finally dismissed them.

“Next class you will be making your first potion, which is outlined in the first chapter of your textbook,” he said at the end of class. “Please read it and know exactly what you are to do. I will not tolerate incompetence, especially from your two houses. Good day.”

As they were leaving the dungeon classroom, Marlene leaned over and whispered in Emma’s ear, “He’s certainly a strange teacher, I don’t like him very much. If we work hard and do our homework, we should get through, but just listening to him is near torture!”

Emma was just about to agree when she tripped on an uneven stair, causing her to fall forward. Before she could hit the stone wall lining the corridor, a hand grabbed her arm and pulled her upright. Swearing loudly, not caring if anyone heard her, she turned to see Severus Snape holding out her book-bag, which she must have dropped.

Rubbing her arm, now sore from where he had held it, she looked up at her twice-rescuer. “Thanks,” she muttered. “It's like you're always out to save me, Snape.”

His dark eyes showed the smile that his countenance did not. “It would have been a crime to let you crack your head open. There is too much inside of it to risk losing.”

“Oooooh!” Emma exclaimed, snatching her bag from his grasp. “Dammit, why do you have to always have to be so bloody sarcastic? I say one thing and you have to make me feel like a brainless idiot! Thanks, but leave me alone.” Turning on her heel, she stalked off with Marlene, not even troubling to think of why she fell in the first place.

The rest of the day passed quickly, but Emma enjoyed every bit of it. Every one of her classes was interesting and helped to feed her hunger for knowledge. After dinner, she spent the time before lights out ensconced within the library, reading her book on advanced potions. The smell of the books comforted Emma more than anything else could ever have done. It was home to her, a place where she felt safe and happy.

Just as the stars were sprouting in the coming darkness, the librarian warned Emma that she ought to be getting back to her common room. Reluctantly, Emma left, hugging her book to her chest. In the candle-lit corridors, she kept to the shadows as she made her way up to Ravenclaw tower. Anyone who passed her did not see her, nor did she pay much heed to them. Her brown hair covering much of her face, the only part of her most people could see was her white hand, reflecting the light from the flickering candles.

She was not at all afraid of the dark, or of anything within it. The scratching of a mouse in a corner, the distant voices of older students, the far away cry of a dying creature in the Forbidden Forest, they were all the same to Emma. That is, of course, until she heard familiar footsteps heading towards her and two voices speaking in hushed tones.

“... not think that I am questioning your choice, Albus,” Grimm said, rounding a corner of the corridor. “But how can you be sure that Sejanus is trustworthy? The things I have heard of him in the past are not at all pleasant.”

Emma backed into the shadows behind a tarnished suit of armour. The two wizards’ conversation was too interesting; it piqued her curiosity.

“You know I always have my reasons, Tiberius,” Albus Dumbledore replied. “Antonio is trustworthy enough to teach the students and that is all that I require of him. His past is irrelevant; he is perhaps the most qualified Divination expert in this part of the world.”

“He is not very trustworthy, Headmaster,” Grimm argued. “His loyalties are too easily bought, if a dark wizard ever got hold of him -"

”Then we must hope that never happens,” Dumbledore said, passing the place where Emma was hidden. He stopped and turned to Grimm. Emma could clearly see the face of her guardian, but not that of the Headmaster. “Tiberius, do you know anything about a certain so-called dark wizard?”

Grimm looked puzzled for a moment. “Well, not much at all, if you mean the one they call Lord Voldemort. He leads a small group of fugitives who wreak havoc on the Continent. Every year, they seem to be moving closer to England, which is why the Ministry is taking precautions against any trouble.”

Dumbledore tilted his head to the side. “You are right, that is very little, though not much more than the majority of our kind know. Tiberius, it is the identity of this dark wizard that I worry about. You knew him once, but not very well. Tom Riddle.”

Grimm's face did not change, as though he had half expected the news. "I see."

“The year after you and Minerva left, Tom murdered his father's family," Dumbledore said, shame in his voice. "There have been more victims over the years as he gathers his strength...."

Emma was barely able to suppress the gasp that came from her mouth. Fortunately, neither of the wizards noticed her.

Shaking his head with disbelief, Grimm met Dumbledore’s eyes. “So it is Riddle who is leading this cult of renegade wizards. Are you worried that he will recruit students?”

Dumbledore nodded. “We will have to keep the students safe from all this. I am afraid that he will try to recruit more followers in the coming years, primarily from families who sympathize with his cause. Riddle will want to enact his revenge against muggleborns and half-bloods. If he is anything like his ancestor, then we will have to be very careful.”

Grimm paled slightly. Emma had never seen such fear in his eyes before as there was now. What did he have to worry? she wondered. Then she realized that she knew less about his ancestry than she did her own. Surely he was a pureblood?

“Antonio is necessary because he can teach the students to use what they can see about their own futures against Riddle,” Dumbledore continued. “That is why I asked him to come here.”

“Yes, of course,” Grimm said absently, his eyes on the ground. “Sorry for doubting you, Albus. I should know by now that you are rarely ever wrong in a decision.”

“You have your reasons, Tiberius, as I have mine.” Dumbledore patted Grimm’s shoulder lightly. “Do not worry so much. The future may not be as bright as we wished, but there is still hope.”

Grimm left, probably back to his office where he would spend most of the night working on his experiments. Dumbledore remained in the hall, seemingly staring at nothing. When he turned, Emma shrunk into the shadows even further, hoping that he would not see her.

“It is impossible to hide everything of yourself, Miss Goldwyn,” he whispered to the air around the suit of armour. “Especially your heart.”

While Emma breathed in sharply with surprise, Dumbledore disappeared down the hall towards his office, a knowing smile upon his face.


EDITED 28/10/07
Chapter title from Procol Harum's 1967 classic song.

Chapter 7: Six: With a Little Bit of Luck
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Chapter Six


As the days passed, Emma found herself with no time at all on her hands to do the things she was used to doing. Much of her time was taken up by the immense amounts of homework given by the professors, while any spare moment was spent with Lily, Marlene, and Dorcas. It was difficult for the four girls to meet because they were from two different houses, but they managed to find places where they could do their homework or talk about happenings in the school.

One evening in late September, the four of them were sitting in the Transfiguration classroom after practising the incantations Professor McGonagall had taught them earlier that day.

Dorcas waved her wand, attempting the spell for the umpteenth time. In front of her sat a matchstick which she was trying to turn into a needle. When nothing happened - the matchstick hadn’t even become sharp at one end - she sat down in a huff.

“I don’t get it,” she complained. “Why can you three always get the spells to work?”

Marlene shrugged, looking up from a parchment. “Bad luck, maybe?”

“Don’t worry,” Lily said assuredly. “You’ll get it with practise.”

“Emma got it to work on her first try,” Dorcas pointed out.

“That’s because she’s been working at it since Merlin knows when,” Marlene explained. “I’m sure she can do some spells better than the fourth years.”

“That’s going a little too far,” Emma said from the window. The light of the three-quarter moon illuminated the castle grounds. “I don’t know that much, when you think about it.”

Lily leaned over and whispered into Dorcas’ ear: “But she’s a Ravenclaw, she’s supposed to know a lot.”

“I heard that,” Emma said, throwing an apple at them. Lily caught it with a laugh.

“What’s going on here?” came a voice from the door. “Are we missing a party or something? It sounds like you ladies are having a lot of fun.”

Lily’s smiling face quickly turned into a scowl as James Potter and Sirius Black entered the room. Marlene didn’t even look up from the note she was carefully re-writing and Dorcas sighed wistfully as the two boys entered the room.

“We’re studying,” Emma told them, but neither of the two boys seemed to notice her.

“Do you need any help with Transfiguration, Evans?” James asked, staring into Lily’s eyes.

“No thank you, Potter,” she replied crisply. “The four of us are doing quite fine on our own.”

Emma noticed the quick look of defeat cross James’ face, then disappear back into the goofy grin. Sirius was standing in the middle of the room, looking at nothing in particular, a frown on his finely-formed face and his arms crossed over his chest.

“Come on, James,” he drawled. “Leave them alone. Maybe we’ll find something to do somewhere else”

James ran a hand through his already-messy hair and sighed. “Alright. Anything’s better than studying, or watching people study. Sounds like something Remus would do.”

Sirius turned to leave. “Yeah, and we might meet Snivelly on the way, you never know.”

With a mock bow to the girls, James hurried to catch up with his friend.

Lily stood up, holding her wand, watching the boys leave with her eyes filled with rage.

“Emma, do you know any nice hexes we could send after them?” she asked, her voice filled with a dangerous calm.

Rising from the window ledge, Emma couldn’t hide the mischievous smile growing on her lips. “Indeed I do.”

Taking her wand from her robes, she joined Lily, who was hurrying towards the door.

“Do you think they’ve gone far?”

“Hopefully not,” Emma replied.

To their luck, James and Sirius were nearing the end of the hallway, but were still well within range.

“What’s the incantation?” Lily asked.

Emma whispered it to her, then Lily called out: “Oy! Potter! Black!”

When the two boys turned around, both Emma and Lily spoke the words of the spell out loud, their voices echoing down the corridor. A cry echoed down the hall as the two boys tried in vain to fight off the bats that had suddenly appeared from nowhere and landed on their faces. Behind Emma and Lily, Dorcas burst into giggles and even Marlene had to smile while the four of them watched James and Sirius jump around, flailing their arms, trying to rid their faces of a number of flapping bats.

“Now that's something you don’t see everyday,” Lily said conversationally, her green eyes dancing with amusement. “Should we spread this event around a bit?”

“But that'll ruin their poor egos,” Emma answered, matching her friend’s tone.

Lily rolled her eyes. “Their egos won’t be hurt. With the size they are, it’ll take a lot more than a bat bogey hex to get them on their knees, begging for mercy.”

Sirius yelled something out to them, but it was indistinguishable behind the flapping wings of the bat bogeys.

“You better watch where you walk, Black,” Emma threatened, her voice, though not loud, sounding louder as it reverberated off the stone walls. “Because you might step on our heels! We’ll always be a step in front of you. Don’t forget that.”

She thought of all the times since she arrived that Sirius and James had pulled pranks on unsuspecting students, especially Severus Snape, who they enjoyed terrorizing daily. She may not have liked Snape, but she hated bullies. They reminded her too much of her aunt Fulvia. Although many of the students seemed to not mind, or even care, when the two pranksters set their eyes on a victim, Emma could not stand watching it, and was therefore happy to see both of them get their comeuppance.

What bothered her much less was the fact that she remained mostly unnoticed by her classmates. If she was noticed at all, it was because she was “Lily’s friend” or “that Ravenclaw girl”, though for the latter she was unsure if they meant her or Marlene, who was very intense in her studies, more so than Emma ever was. It seemed as though no one noticed Emma except for Severus Snape, which annoyed her all the more. A small part of her wanted the attention that Sirius Black gave the Gryffindor girls, and wanted someone - anyone - to look at her the way James Potter looked at Lily.

But that was a very small part.

~ * * * ~


“Now add the asphodel,” Grimm told her. “Carefully, mind you.”

Her eyes intently staring at the cauldron, Emma gently sprinkled the root powder into the bubbling purple mixture. Grimm stood beside her, watching the potion just as intently.

“The dangerous part is that, if you add too much of the root, this mild sleeping draught can become the Draught of the Living Death,” he said. “Then the person who takes it will never wake up, though they will still be alive.”

Emma looked up from the potion, a look of worry in her eyes. “Why would anyone want to do that? Wouldn't it be easiest to just give them poison?”

Grimm sighed and took the wooden stir stick from Emma’s hands. “You still have much to learn about the world, my child. There are some who would do evil for their own advancement. Innocence fades quickly in a word filled with guilt.” His grey eyes were hard and distant while he spoke, as though he was remembering something unpleasant.

If there were one part of his life that Grimm was unhappy with, it was his teaching position. He was a specialist in potions, having been at the top of his NEWTS class and later becoming an expert in healing potions. It was he, not the Potions Master Horace Slughorn, who made all the potions for the school’s hospital. Emma knew that Grimm preferred the anonymity of being a Hogwarts professor to working at an establishment such as St. Mungo’s. Grimm did take pride in keeping his life private; there were many aspects of his personality that even someone as close to him as Emma could not grasp.

Being a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor did not stop Grimm from pursuing his love of potions making. He remained a teacher at Hogwarts with the hope that one day, Slughorn would retire, leaving the position open for Grimm. He despised Slughorn’s teaching methods and favouritism of certain students over others. It was bad enough that the seventh year textbook was greatly flawed, but to see a perfectly good student fail because he or she was from an obscure family angered him beyond belief. Grimm made a point of ignoring Slughorn, which was not too difficult, seeing that the Potions Master spent more time away from his classroom than he spent in it.

For the present, the only person Grimm could pass on his knowledge of potions to was Emma, and he tutored her nearly every evening in the fine art of potions making. He saw a talent in her for the subject and he made great use of this talent frequently. At the moment, however, Tiberius Grimm was paying more attention to the potion boiling in the cauldron than to his young ward beside him.

Staring at her mentor and guardian, Emma suddenly wanted to ask him about her parents. Except for her Aunt Fulvia’s jibes, she had never heard anything about either her mother or father. She did not know who they were, or what they did, only that her mother had died and her father had vanished soon after.

“Uncle, d'you know what happened to my parents?” she blurted out.

Grimm was so surprised by her outburst that he dropped the stick into the cauldron, splattering droplets of the potion across his brown robes. Swearing under his breath, he grabbed an old rag off of the desk and tried to clean off the spreading purple stains.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to -"

Grimm raised his hand to quiet her. “You did nothing, only startled me a little.” He did not look at her while he used his wand to clean the stain from his robes. “There is not much that I do know about your parents, so I would not know what to tell you. During your mother’s funeral, I was here teaching, so all that I heard was rumour, and rumour cannot be trusted.”

“Right,” Emma said quietly, feeling the heat in her cheeks.

“I knew your mother slightly,” Grimm said, still avoiding her eyes. “But not enough to form a true opinion of her. The girl I saw was happy and always laughing, much like your friend Miss Meadows. From what I heard of her death, I could not believe that she had changed so much.”

“What d'you mean?” Emma asked, her curiosity growing.

Grimm had turned to the cauldron and was testing the potion’s readiness. He looked up at Emma’s question, his cheeks flushing minutely.

“I will put it bluntly to you, Emma,” he said, his voice hardening. “You cannot learn of your mother’s death until you are old enough to not only understand, but to manage the truth of it. The events of that night are not ones that I know clearly, but all that I’ve heard of it was not at all positive. Please do not ask me again. Am I clear?”

Emma sighed and tried to hide her unhappiness by looking away. “Yes, Uncle.”

“Now help me empty this cauldron.”

The rest of the evening, Grimm had Emma assist him in bottling the sleeping draught and getting it ready to take upstairs to the hospital wing for Madam Pomfrey to use on her patients.

“I have a few more things to do down here,” he told her when they had finished. “So could you possibly take this up on your way to Ravenclaw tower? It would save me the time of going up and coming back.”

He handed her the pottery jug that held the light purple mixture, his question obviously not a question but more of an order. Emma took it, cradling the jug in her arms and praying that she would not drop it. She whispered a good night to Grimm, who was at the black board, writing meticulous calculations in the mysterious code he created ‘so no one can steal my ideas’, he’d said when she had asked him. It seemed as though he did not hear her leave, since he remained turned to the black board, his mind in another world.

With a heavy sigh, Emma left the potions classroom and trudged through the dungeons, hoping that a particular Slytherin would not appear to annoy her once again. With a careful step, she made it up to the main entrance hall, which was at this time empty. The pottery jug was getting heavy in her arms, but she still had two more flights of stairs to climb.

Halfway up to the first floor, she heard footsteps behind her. Although she kept to the shadows with little fear of being seen, her whole body tensed. Here she was, walking up the main staircase in nearly total darkness, alone, carrying an awkward and heavy jug that would be death (or worse) to drop, therefore she was unable to reach for her wand, which she could feel in the inner pocket of her robes. It was not a situation what she enjoyed being in. Rather, she wished that she was safe in her bed in Ravenclaw tower, fast asleep.

The footsteps came closer, obviously from someone larger in size than she was. At best, it would be the Head Boy or Girl coming to ask why she was out after curfew, at worst, it would be Malfoy and his Slytherin cronies come to torment her, or even Professor Sejanus to give her detention; he seemed to like doing that to every house except Slytherin. It might not even be anyone she knew. Emma chided herself for being too fanciful, but still the footsteps continued up the stairs behind her.

Once she arrived at the first floor landing, she stopped and turned to face whoever was there. The person behind her stopped as well, but Emma could not see the person’s face among the shadows.

“Emilia, I never would've expected to see you here at such a time,” a familiar voice stated. “Surely you’re not breaking the rules, Merlin forbid. Ravenclaws don’t do such things as that.”

Severus Snape. It was just as bad as Emma had imagined.

“I don’t remember giving you permission to call me by that name, Snape,” she replied, struggling to keep her voice even. “And about my being up past curfew, how d'you answer for you being here?”

She knew he was smiling, even though she could not see his face.

“Strange noises in the corridor of the dungeons disturbed my reading,” he said with an amused tone that made Emma want to throw the potion-filled jug at him. “So I came out and noticed light coming from the potions classroom. From the doorway, I saw you, Emilia, and Professor Grimm working on a potion. Presumably the one that you are presently carrying up to Madam Pomfrey.”

‘What difference does that make?” Emma argued. “I've permission to be out in the halls during this time. Something that you don't have, I'll bet.”

“I don't,” he agreed complacently. “But if I can be so bold to ask, why are receiving lessons on how to produce potions that are way above your skill? I understand that you're talented in potions, Emilia, but why does Grimm show such an interest in you?”

While he spoke, Snape came out of the shadow he stood in. Looking at him closely, Emma could see that he was more relaxed than she had ever seen him in class and that he seemed to be laughing at her from the way his dark eyes glittered in the candlelight. There was no one else in the halls near them, she was alone with Severus Snape. Yet, for some strange reason, she did not feel frightened of him: something in his stance and voice was companionable and almost friendly in nature.

“How can I be sure to trust you, Snape?” she asked.

Suddenly, the candles all went out, leaving them in nearly complete darkness. Upon hearing a small sound behind them, Snape whipped around, brandishing his wand and moving to stand in front of Emma, as though to protect her.

Lumos,” he recited, and the air around his wand erupted in light.

A large tabby cat sat at the edge of the light, staring at the two students with flashing red eyes. It was Mrs. Norris, companion and minion of Filch, the Hogwarts caretaker. If he caught the two of them on the staircase after curfew, they would be in deep trouble. The cat mewed and disappeared into the darkness, most likely to warn Filch of their presence in the halls.

“Hurry,” Emma whispered. “We got to get out of here. Follow me.”

Before she could move, Snape grabbed her arm. “How do you know - ?”

“I just do,” she interrupted, her voice hard with impatience. “Are you coming or not?”

For a moment, he stared at her, his eyes questioning, then his mouth set in a firm line.

“At least let me take the jug, then. It’s too large for you to carry,” he said.

Gratefully, Emma handed him the potion-filled jug and began hurrying through the hall towards the Hospital Wing. “There’s a place in there that we can hide until Filch is gone. I doubt he’d even look there for errant students.”

For once, Snape did not give a curt reply, he simply followed her through the shadows towards the Hospital Wing. They passed paintings in which the occupant was fast asleep, suits of armour covered in dust and cobwebs, and empty doorways that seemed to lead nowhere. Snape noticed how Emma’s footsteps made no sound on the stone floor, and how at times he could barely make out her form in the dim light from the full moon that streamed through the windows. He began to believe that she was part of the shadows, merely a figment of his imagination who would disappear without warning.

When she stopped at the double doors that led to the Hospital Wing, he walked into her and she squeaked with surprise and a bit of pain. He had stepped on her toe and she bit her lip to deep from making another sound.

From down the hall, a flickering lantern travelled closer and closer, while the voice of the caretaker closely followed. “Here kiddies, I know you’re hiding somewhere here.”

Before she opened the door, Emma stood on tiptoes to whisper a warning into Snape’s ear. “When I open this door, place the jug on Madam Pomfrey’s desk and continue to the back of the room, where you’ll see a storage room. Go in there and wait for me, I’ll be right behind you.”

He nodded briskly and stepped through the open door while Emma watched the approaching lantern, the hair on the back of her neck prickling uncomfortably. Never in her entire time spent had Hogwarts had she been caught by the old caretaker, Apollyon Pringle, a very old squib with a hunchback and distorted face, but a great sense of humour. Unfortunately, Argus Filch was not the same sort of person.

As soon as she was sure that Snape was in the storage room, Emma slipped into the Hospital Wing, gently closing the door behind her. Tiptoing through the long ward, making sure not to step on a creak in the floor, Emma noticed that all the beds were empty, but that there was a strange hum of expectancy in the air. This mysterious current that flowed through the entire ward caused Emma to forget her purpose there and to freeze in the centre of the floor, looking about for the source of it. She turned towards the window, almost hypnotized by the bright moonlight shining through, and stepped closer. There was something out there. Something both dangerous and exciting at the same time.

Just as she reached the window and layed her hand upon the cold stone ledge, she was roughly pulled back, her assailant using one hand to cover her mouth and the other to drag her towards the storage room. She fought back, moving her legs about to kick whomever had grabbed her when a stray thought passed across her consciousness. Severus.

Where was she? Why was she here? The feeling in the room had made her forget. Severus Snape, however, was not affected by such trivial things and shoved her into the storeroom before closing the door behind him and rounding on her.

“What in Morganna’s name were you doing?” he whispered fiercely. “It’s like you were possessed. You just stood there, even when I called your name.”

“There’s something out there,” she replied, her voice barely audible. “Something terrible, over by the Whomping Willow. A monster.”

He looked down at her pale face and wide eyes, wondering at the sudden change in her mood. From what he had seen of her in the past month, she was quiet and cooly logical. He knew of her sudden temper caused by impatience or ringing laugh caused by intense happiness, but never had he seen her eyes so filled with fear. Seeing monsters in the light of the full moon did not fit into the character of the person before him.

The door to the Hospital Wing opened with a loud creak. Looking out a crack in the storeroom door, Snape mused over how Emma was able to open the door so quietly. He felt her presence behind him, still not fully understanding what had occurred to her only moments earlier. She knew more than to ask who had just entered the Hospital Wing: Filch had been the only person in that hallway.

Stout footsteps came from behind a curtained partition on the far side of the ward and Madam Pomfrey, the school nurse, stepped up to where Filch was standing, looking about the room.

“Mr. Filch,” she said with a yawn. “What seems to be the problem?”

The caretaker’s beady eyes swept across the room. “I followed some students in here, Madam. It’s after curfew, too. Headmaster wouldn’t be pleased at all...”

Snape could imagine Madam Pomfrey, who had her back to the door, raising an eyebrow. “Indeed? No one has been in here that I have heard. And believe me, Mr. Filch, I would have heard.”

“Are you sure?” he persisted, raising his lantern to squint at her face. “What about that jug there on your desk? I could swear that it wasn’t there earlier when I checked the rooms.”

Madam Pomfrey turned her head to look around Filch at her neat and tidy desk. “Yes, that should be there, Mr. Filch. Professor Grimm probably sent Miss Goldwyn up with her on her way to Ravenclaw tower. He does that often when I need a healing potion.”

“Does he really?” Filch asked incredulously. “He’d trust a student with it?”

Madam Pomfrey crossed her arms impatiently. “Yes he would. She’s a good girl and capable of doing many things. Now, I need my rest for the morning. Good night, Mr. Filch.”

Knowing a dismissal when he heard one, the caretaker frowned and turned to leave, waving his lantern around the room one last time before the door creaked shut behind him. Madam Pomfrey sighed a breath of relief, obviously she didn’t like Mr. Filch very much, and took the jug off of her desk, carrying it over to a table in the corner. For a few moments, she fiddled with the bed beside this table, seemingly preparing it for a future patient. Then, looking around the room to check for complete tidiness, she disappeared back behind the curtain.

Snape heard Emma breath a sigh of relief that matched Madam Pomfrey’s in measure and feeling. He then felt her hand rest gently on his shoulder.

“So you've saved me again,” she told him, her voice playful. “I don't know why you bother, but I am thankful for it.”

He froze, not knowing what to say in return. Perhaps it was because he himself could not understand why he was interested in the awkward and humourous Ravenclaw. Or rather it was because he was surprised at her gratitude and was unsure of how to accept it.

“It was nothing,” he said stiffly, brushing her hand from his arm. “I would have done the same for anyone else.”

Snape began pulling open the door, but a pale white hand stopped him by placing a finger upon his lips.

“Liar,” she said, a crooked smile playing on her mouth. “You’d have never done it for Potter and Black, nor for any other Slytherin. You're an interesting person when you're not being a git.”

She moved towards the door and opened it herself, gently pushing him aside.

“Good night, Severus,” she said, daring to call him by his first name.

With that, she disappeared into the shadows. Snape did not even notice when the door opened and a shadow slipped out. His black eyes stared at the place where she had last stood and spoken to him as an equal and a friend.

Severus Snape had claimed another friend in the strange world that both resented and required his presence.

~ * * * ~


Autumn became winter, a long winter that was bitter cold. Even though the four girls had kept to themselves for most of the autumn, the weather later in the year kept the students inside the school, including James Potter, Sirius Black, and their new friends Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. The four boys could be heard setting off dungbombs in the lavatories and running through the halls, closely chased by an angry Filch.

Emma immersed herself in her studies, almost beating out Marlene in a History of Magic test and tutoring Dorcas in Transfiguration. She and Snape had barely spoken since the incident in the Hospital Wing, having been shy of each other’s presence. In potions, Emma would feel Snape’s gaze upon her, but Professor Slughorn’s praise of her work would always bring her back to the potion she was brewing. Emma vowed not to let anything distract her during the long winter months; she meant to learn as much as she possibly could. Anything to keep her mind of her parents, whom she frequently found herself thinking about.

In her dreams, she would see featureless faces staring at her from above and strange flashes of light that made her wince from the brightness. Over and over again, she would relive a day at a beach with her parents, her mother holding her and always laughing while her father splashed water at her. The feeling of sand running through her fingers persisted in that dream, but after having it, she always felt happy. Those smiling faces similar to her own gave her comfort, even though they had changed too soon after.

No one had ever told her why she had been taken to her grandmother’s as an infant and what had happened to her parents to cause her mother’s death. Whenever she had asked her grandmother, all she had received in reply was the rebuff that she was too young. Emma’s aunts had only told her off, saying that if she weren’t careful, she’d end up like her mother.

It seemed that they all knew what had happened and why, but that they would not tell her.

Sitting on her bed one Sunday morning, Emma was searching through her books for a parchment that she’d scribbled some notes upon and was unable to find it anywhere among her possessions. Angrily, she kicked her trunk and was rewarded by a dull thump. Papers fell out that had not been there before.

A secret compartment.

Kneeling down beside the trunk, Emma picked up all the papers, finding not only a packet of letters tied with a faded yellow ribbon and a small pile of photographs, but the parchment she had been searching for as well. Looking closely into the deepest corners of the trunk, Emma discovered a crack in the back of the trunk that, when she pushed upon it, opened up to reveal a space about one inch thick that resided upon the entire back wall of the trunk.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Emma first glanced through the pile of photographs which were mostly of a dark-haired man in rich wizards’ robes and a short blonde woman smiling brightly at the camera. In later pictures the man and woman were joined by a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. But Emma knew who these two people were because they were the ones who haunted her dreams.

Her parents.

Someone many years before had hidden these photographs and papers inside the trunk for safe-keeping. Someone who may or may not have known that Emma would one day use the trunk when attending school. Someone who wanted to keep her parents' secrets hidden away.

Footsteps on the stairs woke Emma from her brown study and she quickly stuffed the letters and photographs back into the trunk’s secret compartment. She looked up to see Marlene at the door, her head tilted with curiosity.

“House cleaning?” she asked.

“Something like that,” Emma replied, standing and brushing dust from her robes. “I lost a piece of parchment somewhere in there.” She motioned to the massive trunk.

“Must've been pretty important,” the other girl commented. When Emma said nothing, she continued. “Are you going to come down for breakfast or are you going to be rummaging through your stuff all day?”

Grabbing an armful of books, clothes, and rolls of parchment, Emma dropped them into the trunk and slammed the lid closed, securely locking it. Dusting off her hands, she joined Marlene at the door to their dormitory.

“D'you know if there’s a snowball fight planned for today?” Emma asked absently as they walked down into the common room and through the hidden entrance door.

“You know that they never plan them,” Marlene replied. “It'd make things so easier if they did.”

Emma grinned. “Indeed it would.”



EDITED - July 22/07
Chapter title from Lerner's "My Fair Lady"

Chapter 8: Interlude: Point of No Return
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Interlude


The room displayed none of the opulence it once had, centuries earlier. The velvet drapes hung in tatters from tarnished bronze rods, once-colourful tapestries resembled rags, and the stone floor was covered in detritus and dead rats. It was not a place of happiness for Mortimer Nero, once a contented curse breaker and family man. He may have been alone in this dreary and depressing room, but in his mind, he was never alone. The Dark Lord was always with him, seeing what he saw, thinking his thoughts. He was no longer his own person, he was forever another’s.

He walked around the room, wondering when his master and the lower minions would return. Mort seemed to be left at headquarters each time the Dark Lord went off, usually hunting for muggles or Ministry officials. All of the Death Eaters knew that Mort was too weak to join the Dark Lord on his hunts. Since the incident of the old lady, Mort could barely stomach the thought of killing someone for fun. Like a true Ravenclaw, he believed that everything should have a reason, preferably a logical one. This belief included death.

Yet Mort was a murderer. This fact haunted him each morning when he woke up and each night as he fell asleep. He had murdered the woman he had sworn to protect, to love, and he had abandoned his daughter, his blood.

Blood was important to him, that is why he was able to keep himself as the Dark Lord’s right hand, even if he despised the secrecy and the merciless killing. Betrayal to that blood gave only few options. His wife, beautiful Diana, had betrayed not only him, but herself, by loving a muggle. For years, Mort had wondered that, if he had not let his temper get the best of him, perhaps she would still be alive, and then he would not be here, in a place of shadows and hatred.

He began to make a circuit of the room, taking in each stone, each speck of dirt, each item in the room. Anything to distract him from where his thoughts were heading. The Dark Lord would never forgive him for feeling guilty, for being a coward. That’s all that Mort thought himself: a coward. He had been unable to stand up to his wife and talk to her, ask her why. Instead, he had brutally murdered her and abandoned their child. What sort of person did that? The Dark Lord at least had never run away from his crimes; he took them all in stride, proud of what he had done.

Mort was not proud, he was disgusted. He hated only one being in the world: himself.

Why was he even a Death Eater? He never did anything to help in the actual killings, he merely told them which roads were quickest and safest to take, and he often spoke to the local police forces, distracting them from the Dark Lord’s trail. He was a brain, that’s all. A mind without a soul or spirit. That had long ago died with his wife.

There was a noise in the courtyard below. Mort looked out to see the small group of Death Eaters arrive, their voices excited from the hunt, like a pack of hounds coming back from catching a prize fox. He felt sickened by their glorification of death and turned away from the window, his head in his hands.

He did not want to be in this room when they came to taunt him and describe the outcome of their mission. He had to leave the room or else he would go mad, like the young Lestranges or Dolohov, the Dark Lord’s favourites. They were radicals, not thinking about what they did or why they even did it. It was just for fun, just for fun...

Mort rushed from the stone room (had it been once a throne room?), his tattered and patched robes billowing slightly around his spare, malnourished form. He barely noticed where he was going, but felt that anywhere would be safer than the room he’d left.

Monsters, the lot of them, his mind told him, but part of him knew that he wasn’t any different than they were. Why else would he be here? He could have left years before, but he was too afraid, too bloody cowardly. Every day, he watched his fellow Death Eaters paying court to the Dark Lord, silently laughing at Mort who stood quietly beside his master, pretending not to hear their whispered words.

Mort would do anything to take back the events of so long ago that sent him running to the Dark Lord, a fugitive. But after ten years, it would be impossible. His daughter would not recognize him, much less allow him into her life. She would be at Hogwarts now, he supposed, probably charming the teachers with her brains and quick wits. When he first held her, he knew she would one day do something great. He did not wish fame and fortune upon her, that was not within his power, but he did hope that she would not be like him or like her mother. Perhaps knowing neither of her parents would be the best thing for her.

Emma would be safe in England at Hogwarts with whoever was taking care of her. As long as Voldemort did not find her, Mort would be happy. It meant betraying his master, but it meant keeping his daughter from harm, which, as her father, it was his first priority.

Finally, Mort turned into a room and closed the heavy door behind him, leaning against it for support. When he looked up, he found himself in a newer portion of the castle. The room was not stone, but plastered and decorated with delicate trim and gold leaf. It was a comforting room. Mort imagined that he could still smell the gardenia scent of the woman who had once inhabited it, for the layout of the room made him think that it had been a woman’s sitting room.

Another door across the room called to Mort and, out of pure curiosity, he went through it, eager to see what was on the other side. Another comforting room met him, smaller than the last, but still very pretty. This room, however, was not empty. In the furthest corner was a full-length mirror, which Mort supposed had been for the woman to see her appearance before attending court. Mort stepped towards the mirror and brushed away the cobwebs that covered most of its reflective surface.

The man looking back at him was not a person Mort recognized. The cadaverous face and shocking white hair had not been a part of the man he had once been. His once bright hazel eyes were now dull, all spark and life chased away by time and grief. No one from his past would ever recognize him now. They would simply see him as an old man, or even a young man who had aged too quickly. But they would not see Mortimer Nero. He was dead. The body remained but the soul inside was gone. It had been gone for ten years.

In a sudden fit of rage at his own self pity, Mort hit the mirror with his fist. It shattered on impact, the glass cutting into his hand. Blood streaming down his arm, Mort stumbled across the room, finally coming to rest upon the floor. Like a small child, he began to cry, burying his face in his robes. He did not hear anyone entering the room until a voice spoke.

“Mort, why have you come here?” the man once known as Tom Riddle asked, his voice hushed and strangely gentle.

Mort looked up, the tears shining on his face, and began to rise when his master made a motion with his hand. Then Mort was still.

“Stay, stay,” Riddle told him. “You are hurt and tired. You must rest, Mort, there is much ahead of us.”

The cold emerald eyes bore into Mort’s brain, and he knew that all his thoughts were laid bare.

“You are having second guesses,” Riddle stated flatly. “You regret what you have done, yet you know that you cannot return to your old life. What will you do?”

“I don’t know,” Mort eventually admitted, feeling shameful for what he had been thinking. “There are many times that I don’t feel I belong here. That I’m not good enough to be your servant, my lord.”

Riddle knelt down before Mort and softly raised the other man’s chin in order to see his eyes, still glittering with unspent tears.

“For the past ten years, Mort, you have been by most humble and loyal servant,” Riddle began. “All our plans, all our battles, have been planned by you most brilliantly. A general does not look down upon those who do fight, but he most highly condones the ones who make sure the battles are won.” When he could sense Mort’s inability to fully grasp his words, Riddle tried another metaphor. “Those who work behind the scenes are just as, if not more, important than the leading actors. You, Mort, are my most important servant, and you should not forget that.”

Whether or not Tom Riddle actually believed what he was saying can be left aside, however, Mort believed him and the tiniest spark of life appeared in his golden eyes.

“Master, I have spent so long doubting myself that I have found that through doubting myself, I have also doubted you, please forgive me.”

Riddle smiled a smile that did not reach his eyes and held out his wand to Mort’s injured hand. In a single wave, the wounds had vanished, not even leaving any scars to prove that the glass had cut him. Looking into Riddle’s eyes, Mort began to forget the last hour. He forgot all his thoughts, all his doubts, then all his memories. His wife, then his daughter, disappeared from his mind. All Mort could think of was his master, the one who had saved him and given him new life. He could never kill again, but nor would he think evil of the Death Eaters who killed.

In the blink of an eye, Mortimer Nero was truly gone.



Chapter title from Weber's "The Phantom of the Opera"

Chapter 9: Seven: Uninvited
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Chapter Seven


A full year passed, bringing new experiences and new challenges to all the students of Hogwarts. News from the Continent spoke of midnight raids on muggle towns and sightings of werewolves throughout the Black Forest. Some people worried about these events, wondering what they would lead to, but others dismissed them entirely because all these horrible things were occurring far away from England. Nothing bad could possibly happen to them because of some mad French wizards or German werewolves. It just wasn’t like that.

The following spring erupted almost magically from the cold, bitter snows of winter. There was a buzz throughout the school; the students were both excited for the approaching summer yet also anxious about the swiftly approaching end of term exams. However, on the weekends, few students seemed to study or keep to their books. Many of them instead played games on the dewy lawns or gossiped in the courtyards.

One particular Saturday evening, a group of second years sat together in the Great Hall. A number of the boys were playing Wizard’s Chess, partaking in small tournaments to see who was the best. Others - both boys and girls - watched them or caught up with their correspondence from home. Finally, some others were helping each other on a rather difficult essay handed out by Professor Grimm on various herbs and plants, poisonous or otherwise. The students had complained about such an essay, telling Grimm that it would probably be better suited to such a subject as potions, but of course, he had responded by adding another six inches to the essay length.

Sirius Black and James Potter were among the first group, finishing the tournament by playing each other, having eliminated the competition from both Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. They were quiet players, neither looking up at their surroundings or each other. Sirius would grin evilly whenever his pieces smashed one of James’ off the board, but other than that, no facial expressions were evident on either boys’ face.

Two Gryffindor girls, Sophie and Amara, gave hints to the two players (none of which were paid heed to), but mostly oohed and awed over each move the boys made. The previous combatants from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff also watched, trying to take in every move so that perhaps they could see some sort of weakness or even gain a few tips on how to win themselves. Dorcas also watched the game from the sidelines, but did so only when she was sure that no one was watching her. She tried to keep her attention on her essay, but found it difficult whenever Sophie and Amara shrieked in fear if the taking of a piece was particularly gruesome. Peter Pettigrew, sitting across from Dorcas, was also sneaking glances at the two chess players between lines of his essay, which did not seem to be going well at all. Out of every three lines he wrote, he crossed one out. Often he looked at the book before him, but the words on the page only confused him more.

“Remus,” Peter asked the boy beside him for the twentieth time that hour. “What does it mean by ‘scurvy-grass causes severe inflamation of the cerebrum, which has been the cause of many lynchings.’ I can’t make any sense of it.”

The boy beside him, with his essay nearly completed, had been going over it with the two girls across the table from him. With a kind smile, he winked at the one girl, a red head, and turned to Peter. As he did so, the light from the floating candles above them shone reflected off the scars across Remus Lupin’s face. “The cerebrum is the largest part of your brain, and lynching is an old word for a hanging.”

“So scurvy-grass makes you hang yourself?” Peter asked, entirely perplexed.

Remus grinned. “Close. It makes a person become reckless, so most likely - as the book states - they get hanged for stealing or assaulting the townspeople.” He pointed to the book, a huge old thing that they had borrowed from the library in order to help with the essay. In Peter’s case, however, it had hindered rather than helped.

Peter frowned, looked down at his essay, then shook his head. “I’m never going to get all this like you do. I mightn't even finish this essay at the rate I’m going.”

The red headed girl sitting across from them looked up at the sound of Peter’s anguished voice. “Come on, Peter. It’s not hopeless. We’ll help you with it, the three of us.” Lily motioned to herself, Remus, and the blonde girl beside her.

“Indeed we will,” Marlene added, not even looking up from her essay, which was, by now, three inches over the requirement Grimm had given them. “What are you having problems with, by the way?”

Peter sighed pitifully. “Everything.”

At this, even Marlene looked up from the last sentence she’d been adding. “Surely not everything, Peter. There's got to be some of it you understand.”

Lily smiled at him, a radiant expression which seemed to send waves through the air. “Look at the notes you’ve written from class. If there’s anything that you can firmly say you understand, then start there and then go on from there. It will make it a lot easier.”

As though he were taking energy from Lily’s smile itself, with a renewed effort, Peter dug into his messy notes, looking for something he definitely knew about. His mother had taught him about basic healing herbs - she being a village healer - and he thought that he could write something about them with a good understanding.

As another cheer went up from the chess game further down the table, Remus looked over the piled notes and books at Lily and Marlene once again.

“Where’s Emma gone? She was here a minute ago,” he asked.

Marlene shrugged and went back to her essay, but not before her blue eyes had furtively glanced over at Lily. Momentarily, Lily frowned and even Dorcas glanced over at the two girls, worry in her soft brown eyes. A similar question seemed to be ringing in their minds: what to tell him? It was not keeping Emma’s whereabouts from Remus that worried them, it was the possibility of being overhead that did. It was well known that James and Sirius disliked a certain Slytherin. To hear that Emma - friend of Lily Evans - was currently spending time with Severus Snape, was something that the three girls preferred to hide, even if it meant lying.

“She’s in the library,” Lily told him. “She wanted to look up some extra things for her essay before she finished it. Just to check that she hadn’t left anything out.”

Remus looked slightly confused. “But she spent most of the morning there as well!”

“You know Emma,” Dorcas said with a half smile. “She lives in the library.”

With a shrug, Remus agreed and bent down over his essay once again. Minutes later, a cry went up further down the table, disturbing them all. Sirius, after a number of close calls, had won the chess game, much to James’ disappointment, since he had been champion the previous year and was hoping to gain back his title.

~ * * * ~


In the depths of the dungeons, a tall boy was bent over a steaming cauldron, checking to see if it were ready. Perched on a stool behind him was girl, nose in a small leather book. The candlelight flickered on their robes and threw peculiar shadows on the cold stone walls that danced like pagans around an open fire. Neither made a sound.

The boy by the cauldron suddenly turned and his face was cast in half-shadow, half-light, giving his sallow skin an eerie glow. Too-long black hair framed his angular face and his too-long arms and legs gave him a stork-like appearance. Black eyes as deep as an abyss radiated intelligence and a general impatience with the surrounding world. Right now these eyes were staring at his companion, who had not yet taken it upon herself to notice. The girl’s long brown hair that hung almost to her waist was held back only by her ears as she carefully turned the yellowed pages of the book she held. When she felt the gaze of the boy upon her, she looked up at him, curiosity filling her gold-coloured eyes.

“Are you finished it?” she asked him.

“Yes, in case you didn’t notice,” the boy replied, his voice like acid.

Emma raised an eyebrow. “I noticed, of course, but you didn't say anything, so I'd thought I'd ask.”

Snape breathed out angrily. “Do I have to make everything obvious for you?”

Emma closed her eyes, as though collecting herself. Whenever she spent time helping Severus with potions, somehow they always ended up at each others’ throats, arguing about nothing in particular. This time, however, instead of taking up Severus’ challenge, she burst out laughing, the sound echoing through the classroom. Putting down the book on the table beside her, Emma jumped off the chair and went over to the cauldron, which was still bubbling.

“Really, Severus,” she said, smiling as she picked up the stir stick. “You're the one who asked me for help in potions, which makes me, in a way, your professor. Sometimes you can be so...” She trailed off, unable to think of a word to describe him.

“What, Emilia?” he asked, looking over her shoulder at the cauldron. “Can't you find the words to describe me? And there I thought you were clever.”

She pulled away, dropping the stick on the floor. It made a loud noise which neither of the two students paid any attention to. They faced off across the cauldron: Severus with an evil glint in his eyes and Emma looking uncertain, almost scared.

“Shut up, Severus,” Emma said after a moment. “We can’t talk like this now, not with exams coming up. It’d be best if we forgot about it and went back to working on this potion.”

“How calmly you say that when I know you're afraid of me,” he hissed. “You go around all the time, knowing that you’re safe from the taunts, the whispers, the jokes because you are one of them. Yet here you are with me, the dirtiest of mudbloods...”

Before he could finish the sentence, Emma’s wand was out, its tip pointing at the bridge of his Roman nose.

“I told you to shut up,” she said.

“But it’s true!” Severus persisted. “Why do you help me? Why do you befriend half-bloods and muggleborns when you’re as pureblooded as any Black or Malfoy? Tell me why you do these things when you have no reason to?”

“Who says I have no reason?” she cried, causing him to jump back in surprise.

Minutes passed, the only sound in the room was that of the ticking of the clock behind Slughorn’s desk. Emma had turned away to stare at the floor, her free hand in a tight fist. Severus stared at her, his mouth slightly open. He had not expected such an outburst from Emma. He knew about her temper - everyone had seen her impatience time to time - but this was more than he had ever imagined. Swallowing, Severus took a step towards her and gently placed his hand on her thin shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.

Emma turned and looked up at him, her eyes wide and innocent. That look always made his nerves tingle and his knees weaken. After that first day in the Great Hall, he had tried to avoid direct contact with her eyes, knowing that she would easily see into him, but her gaze attracted him, similar to what a snake does to its victim, not that Severus had ever thought of Emma as a snake.

“What is it that you hate so much, Severus?” she asked him suddenly. “There's so much hatred within you that it's all people see when they look at you. Lucius Malfoy saw it and thought you a candidate for evil. James and Sirius see it and think you weak.”

Instead of answering her question, Severus said, “What do you think of me?”

She was looking away from him again, staring into space. “I think you're misunderstood, that's all.”

With that judgement, she went over to the cauldron and extinguished the fire with a lazy wave of her wand. Her entire concentration seemed to be on the potion before her, as though it were the most important thing in the world she could be doing. Wordlessly, she collected equally-sized flasks of the thick liquid, placing them on the table beside her. When all the potion had been bottled, she pointed her wand at the cauldron.

Scourgify,” she muttered, causing any remnants of the potion to disappear.

When she was finished all this, Emma spoke. “Answer my question, Severus. Why do you hate the world? Or rather, what do you fear, since fear causes hatred.”

With a heavy sigh, Severus pushed the black strands of hair from his eyes. His mother would be after him for not keeping himself neat and presentable when he returned home. She had been like that since he had been a little boy, getting in trouble each time he arrived home from school dirty and covered in bruises. He heard his own voice echoing through the room, but did not know why he had begun telling someone the truth about his family.

“My father is - was - a muggle. My mother is of the purest blood - a Prince - but she gave it all away for true love, thinking that there could be nothing which could break such a bond. She did not count on death in destroying her happiness.” After a short pause, he continued. “Two years ago, my father died - of cancer, the doctors said. And my mother had been unable to save him. She who had been brilliant at potions could do nothing. Nothing!”

The last word rang out into the room, but all Severus could see was Emma staring at him, her eyes filled with pity. He did not want any sympathy, especially not from her.

“The bills began piling up and we had little money to even pay the rent,” he continued bitterly. “Mother sold nearly all of her jewellery, books, and heirlooms to try and keep the debt collectors away, but it never seemed to work. We moved from place to place, and no one wanted to help us. What sort of pureblood would take in a blood-traitor and her half-blood son? Soon mother found a cheap house in some rural village and we settled down there, entirely among muggles. I couldn’t bear to hear them laughing at us and talking behind our backs. They could tell we were different. And we were powerless to do anything about it.”

Silence filled the room, while Severus put his head in his hands, remembering the shame and the hatred. He hated his father for leaving them, the debt collectors who knew no mercy, the muggle children who made fun of him in the street. But he knew that Emma was also right, he hated them because he also feared them. Nothing could ever extinguish that fear or cool the hatred. It had become a part of his very soul.

Very wisely, Emma said nothing. Instead, she carefully and quietly put all of the unused ingredients from the potion and the cauldron in their respective places. Professor Slughorn would never even notice that anyone had been in the potions classroom. He seemed to spend as little time in the room as possible.

“Does it not bother you that I’m a mudblood?” Severus asked, spitting out the last word as though it's very taste was unpleasant.

She looked up from the cupboard that held all the ingredients for potions. “No, why should I be? In case you haven’t noticed, my closest friend is a muggleborn.” After reaching her hand in the deep cupboard one last time, she frowned. “I suppose it’s because I was never raised properly. My mum died with I was an infant, and my dad disappeared soon after. Neither my grandmother or my aunts seemed to think that learning about pride and haughtiness was very important.”

“So that’s all you think it is? Pride and haughtiness?”

“What else would you call it?” she returned. “I think it’s all very silly. It doesn’t make sense to me why there should be any difference between those who are from an old magical family or a new one. We’re all the same otherwise.”

Severus was unable to think of anything to counter her statement. When he really thought about it, Severus realised that Emma’s train of thought was idealistic, but very logical; what she said should have been the truth. Unfortunately, however, it was not. The rift between purebloods and mudbloods was just as wide as it had been when Salazar Slytherin angrily left Hogwarts nearly a thousand years before. The trouble on the Continent with the dark wizards certainly added to the situation by creating a greater imbalance among the wizarding community.

“That would only happen in a perfect world, Goldwyn,” said a voice from the shadows of the doorway. “Purebloods are like the lords and ladies of long ago. The blood that runs through our veins has not been marred by muggles.”

The boy who stepped into the room was a first year, but his appearance could have made him easily mistaken for someone a few years older. His face was similar to that of the great emperors of Rome, with a seemingly-perfect bone structure and ambition pouring out from every pore of his being. Curly black hair covered his head and his blue-grey eyes danced with amusement tinged with naivety. Many argued that Regulus Black was even more handsome than his elder brother, but as he was only eleven, it was difficult to tell whether or not this was true.

“Regulus, we’re trying to study for exams,” Emma told him, her voice kind but with an underlying tone of impatience. “Shouldn’t you be in your dormitory by now? It's past curfew, you know.”

“Then why are you two down here?” Regulus returned with a raised eyebrow. “Surely it’s bad enough that a Slytherin boy and a Ravenclaw girl are down here alone ‘studying’, but if it’s after curfew, you should be in your houses as well.”

“We have permission to be here,” Severus cut in, his face devoid of expression.

Regulus brushed away their excuses with a wave of his hand. He came further into the room and picked up Emma’s potions textbook, absently flipping through it.

“What would people say of Goldwyn if they knew that she spent her free time with a Slytherin?” he asked no one in particular. “I know my brother would hardly approve, being the Gryffindor he is.”

“And what makes you think I care about your brother?” Emma inquired.

Regulus put down the book and looked at his pale, sensitive hands, examining the neatly-cut nails. “They all respect you, you know.” he told her, ignoring Severus entirely. “You’re not the smartest, nor the prettiest, not even the kindest. No, you leave that to your friends. Yet there’s something about you that draws people to you even though you might not want them to be. They mightn't even realize it, but it's true. I’ve seen it with my brother and his traitorous friends.” He spit out the last words as though they sickened him.

Emma looked over at Severus, her eyes filled with worry.

“Okay, Regulus,” she said sharply. “What do you want?”

He laughed harshly. “Why am I here, in other words?”

“Yes.”

He didn’t say anything at first, rather the fire left his eyes and he looked towards the ground as though all his energy was spent. Regulus Black sighed almost wistfully. It was perhaps the saddest sound Emma had ever heard.

“I’m scared,” he finally said, barely above a whisper. “About Sirius, about what’s happening around us, all this about purebloods and family pride. I don’t understand it anymore. I thought I once did, but things have changed so much.” Suddenly he had become a child, frightened and alone in an unforgiving world.

“They keep telling me that blood is important, that we should stick together as purebloods and leave behind all the others,” he continued, still not raising his eyes from the ground. “But then I see Sirius with his friends, and I wonder why he’s so happy with them. He rarely ever speaks at home, or does anything.”

“You miss him,” Emma stated. “Don’t you have anyone to talk to, any friends of your own?”

“They aren’t real friends,” Regulus said angrily. “They only like me for my name. If I weren’t a Black they wouldn’t even look at me. And my brother thinks I’m a snob, that I don’t understand him, but if he just talked to me I could. I swear I could!”

Emma breathed out quietly, wrapping her arms around herself as though trying to protect herself from the despair and immense sadness that was the world of the two Slytherins in the room with her. A headache was coming on, a sure sign that she was becoming stressed. She turned to Severus, an unasked question in her eyes. They exchanged a single glance that bespoke of a conversation unheard by any but themselves. After a moment, Severus nodded and left to lead Regulus, who was now near tears, from the room and presumably to the Slytherin common room just down the hall from the potions classroom. But as he passed by her, Emma felt the slightest touch upon her left hand and she looked up to see Severus’ hand upon hers for the tiniest fraction of a second. Her heart thumped in her ears, and after the sounds of their exit had finished echoing through the room, she sat down on a stool, staring at her hand - the pale, cursed one.

~ * * * ~


The spring continued without incident, that is, if one discounts the various pranks and tricks that were played by a certain group of four Gryffindor boys who had begun to be known as ‘The Marauders’. They had overrun the Great Hall with owl droppings from the owlry one morning at breakfast, then just before exams had made it so all the books in the library had blank pages. There were many unhappy OWL and NEWT students were upset after that episode, though Headmaster Dumbledore always seemed more amused than angered at the four boys’ ideas of fun. Certainly Professor McGonagall was not amused, and forced the Marauders to suffer through many hours of detention either scrubbing the lavatories or assisting the Mr. Filch in cleaning the tarnished silver in the trophy room.

When the end of finally neared, however, even the Marauders harnessed down to write the increasingly-difficult examinations given to them by the professors. Much of the school was completely quiet during the evenings after one exam had finished and the students prepared for the next one the following morning. There were a great many things for the second years to memorize and understand that caused many headaches and sleepless nights. Emma, who thought herself to be rather intelligent, kept having the nagging feeling that she would fail and be cast out from Hogwarts. She told no one of her fears, as she knew that her friends would think them ludicrous and utterly absurd. Yet the more she kept it to herself, the more she worried.

The final exam for the second years was that for History of Magic, a long and very boring exam that required an intense knowledge of all the dates, names, and places mentioned throughout the term. Emma had been suffering from a headache since the night before when she had been unable to sleep, her stomach filled with what felt like very large butterflies fluttering about. Her entire body seemed to hurt, but she had refused to take any potions since she was afraid that they would affect her memory or, even worse, make her fall asleep during the exam.

She sat in the desk and looked down at the question sheet, which asked for a painfully long essay about the International Warlock Convention of 1289, and duly dipped her quill into her ink jar, then began to write. All she could hear in the room around her were the sounds of quills scratching on parchment and the students around her moving in their seats or scratching an itch. However, to Emma, these sounds were intensely magnified so that each one sounded like an explosion going off in her brain. She winced when someone sneezed a few rows over, then jumped when another coughed. She blinked, trying to clear her vision, which was beginning to turn blurry, the world around her seemingly moving around in circles. The air around her suddenly felt very hot and stuffy, making it difficult for her to breathe.

After nearly two feet of writing covered her parchment, she moved to rise, hoping that she could hurry to the lavatory now that she had completed as much of the exam as she could. The heaviness in the air was becoming too much for her, as was the heat, which was by now unbearable. The students around her glanced up at her movement, wondering what was going on. Lily mouthed a question, but Emma could not see her since the room was now swirling around her. When Professor Binns finally noticed her predicament, he floated up from his chair and slowly moved towards her, but he was not fast enough. Emma fell to the floor, her arm crashing against her desk, sending her ink, paper, and quill flying through the air.

By the time she reached the floor, she was unconscious and the room was in uproar.



Chapter title is from Alanis Morissette's song off the "City of Angels" soundtrack.

Chapter 10: Eight: Come Undone
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Chapter Eight


She was alone.

There was a strange feeling filling the room she was in, a certain electricity that made her shift uneasily on the bed she lay on. Something was dreadfully wrong, but she could not understand what it was or why it was wrong.

A few times, she had cried out, hoping for someone to hear her and come. She was hungry, thirsty, and lonely. Where were the people she relied upon? Why was she alone?

Suddenly, she heard a sound. It was like thunder. Then a dark shape she recognized entered the room, the beads of sweat upon his face shining in the light from the hall. She knew that it was a he even though she couldn’t see his features clearly. All she knew was that he was someone who cared for her and loved her. Someone she could trust.

She tried to speak, but only nonsense emerged from her lips, like the sound of a baby’s pleasant babble. Now she could see his smile and his bright hazel eyes gazing lovingly upon her. Once again she spoke, but once again she heard only babble. When he reached for her and picked her up in his arms, she at once recognized his scent. It reminded her of peppermint candies and sweetmeats.

It was a smell she could never forget.

Around his neck was a glittery chain and she reached for it with a laugh. Then he said something to her in a mournful voice, but the words didn’t make very much sense. She heard her name and a few choice words, that was all. She still could not fully make out his face; other than the eyes and the smile, the rest was a blur.

When he took a long stick from his pocket, she looked at him with what she hoped was a quizzical look. What was he doing? What this a new sort of game? She had seen him use the stick to lock doors and move things about, but he had never brought it near her before and she was curious to see it up close.

He put her back down on the bed and she reached her arms out to him. She didn’t like the feeling in the room, nor the tears in his eyes. Where was the other big person who usually looked after her? She wondered what was happening around her that she could not understand.

However, when he raised the stick above her and spoke some powerful words, she began to feel afraid. Would he hurt her? He couldn’t ever do that, that’s why she trusted him.

Then came the pain.


~ * * * ~


A single candle was the only source of light in the Hospital Wing as a man sat by the only occupied bed, his head bowed in what some would think was a prayer. Perhaps it was. Tiberius Grimm had not bothered to take on the religion of his father, but there were times in his life in which he wondered if it could make a difference. He had done all he could for Emma, whose nightmares continued to rage along with the fever that burned within her. But what if it was not enough? It was that worry that had made a wizard look beyond his magic.

Grimm looked over at Emma and watched her moan with the pain of her illness doubled with the pain of the dreams currently haunting her. The hallucinations she experienced had to be the most horrible nightmares, Grimm thought, surely there were no memories that could be bothering her in such a way. There was perhaps one memory that could explain the intensity of her dreams, but Grimm secretly hoped that Emma could not remember the day her mother died.

Brain fever was hardly something that could be explained away, nor was it easy to treat. Emma had been in a comatose state for the past forty-eight hours and too fragile to risk the move to St. Mungo’s. Dumbledore trusted that Madam Pomfrey and Grimm would be enough to keep Emma’s illness from growing worse. Even though no one had said anything, they all knew the worst possible outcomes of brain fever: permanent brain damage or death. Emma’s case was fortunately not a serious case, but every precaution was still taken just in case her condition worsened.

Since classes had ended, Grimm had taken over watching Emma during the night, making sure that she didn’t go into convulsions or that she didn’t wake up disoriented and alone. Emma’s friends often came for visits during the day - they weren’t due to leave for another day - and Grimm had heard from Madam Pomfrey that she had to shoo them away if they stayed too long, as Miss Evans usually did. Others had come as well, including Remus Lupin and Severus Snape, both of whom remained only for a few moments, barely making a sound as they did so.

After that time at the Sorting ceremony, Grimm had wondered about the relationship between Emma and Snape. It seemed like a friendship that was as unstable as Hagrid after too many drinks. Not only were the two of them complete opposites, they also couldn’t be together for longer than five minutes before having a verbal war. How could the quiet, imaginative Ravenclaw be friends with the dark, mysterious Slytherin? It didn’t seem right to many, but Grimm had seen their work with Potions and had been greatly surprised by their degree of skill and patience. Together, the two could make a better potion than most of-age witches and wizards.

Emma stirred once again, bringing Grimm’s attention back to her present state. The brown hair that had hung down to her waist had been cut short by Madam Pomfrey, who claimed that it would help reduce the swelling and keep the fever down. Grimm secretly thought that it only made Emma look more sickly than ever. Hourly, he had been giving her various potions to keep her asleep and to keep the pain away. Across the room a window had been left open, allowing in a cool night breeze that would hopefully prevent the room from becoming stuffy and hot.

The latest dose of medicinal potion suddenly took effect and Emma relaxed, the pain in her body vanishing. Her breathing steadied and the face which had been contorted into a grimace became peaceful. With a sigh of relief, Grimm sat back in the hard chair, his grey eyes focused on Emma’s features. The slightly snubbed nose, stubborn chin, small forehead, and full cheeks were still the same as they had been five years before when he had first seen her. Yet, there was a change in her appearance. It may have been maturity sinking in, but it could have also been a reflection of the experiences she had gone through since their first meeting. It was strange to watch a child grow up and become an adult. Grimm wondered what Emma would be like a few years in the future when she would graduate from Hogwarts. With a small smile appearing on his face, he wished her all the luck he could give.

He caught himself quickly. What was it for him to become so attached to Emma? She was in reality no more than a distant cousin, an apprentice at most. Yet Grimm could not help feeling a greater connection with her. Had he ever gone so far as to father a child, he hoped that such a child would have been just like Emma.

A small sound alerted him to someone else’s presence in the room. Grimm turned to the doorway to see Severus Snape standing within it, his black eyes fathomless in the darkness of the large room. His dark robes were pulled tightly around him even though the night was not very cold. Silently he walked towards Grimm, but his eyes only saw Emma’s motionless form.

“How is she?” he asked, the sound of his voice breaking the silence.

“It’s hard to tell,” was Grimm’s reply. “The illness was not severe, so she should be improving within the next few days, though it’s likely that she’ll be unable to leave this room for most of the summer.”

Severus nodded, stepping closer to the hospital bed, the candle’s light illuminating his face. For a minute or two, he did not speak, he instead stared at Emma as though his will alone could force her back to health. From what little Grimm knew of the boy, it was quite possible that such a thing could happen. He was the most mysterious and elusive student Grimm could remember, and his strange affection (if that’s what it could be called) for Emma only intensified the boy’s mysterious nature.

“Do you know how it happened?” Severus asked, once again breaking the silence.

It was a question Grimm had asked himself thousands of times over the past two days. He could tell Severus the medial reasons for brain fever, or he could tell him the probable truth.

“I believe it was stress,” he answered, not bothering to look at Severus. “For some reason Emma was worried about her exams. She needn’t be, of course, but she was and I can’t for the life of me understand why.”

“So it goes beyond the illness, Professor?”

“Presumably,” Grimm grudgingly admitted.

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, in which Grimm shifted in his seat and Severus moved even closer to the hospital bed until his robes brushed against the mattress.

“I must take responsibility, then,” Severus said. “Emilia is a wonderful listener to the confessions of others. Both Regulus Black and I spoke to her some days ago. Perhaps it was our troubles that caused her distress.”

Grimm stared at Severus with a raised eyebrow. “I doubt that, Mr. Snape. Emma listens to whoever confides in her without worrying herself to death over the problems of others. She probably knows more secrets than all the pensieves in the world can hold.” Grimm stated with a bit of a huff. He could not understand Emma’s listening ability. Too many people found her innocent face and quiet nature easy to talk to. “No, I believe that it’s something else,” he quickly added, rising from the hard chair he had been sitting in. “Whatever it is, it is within herself, not the fault of anyone else. Don't take the blame on yourself.”

Not that Severus looked assured by Grimm’s comments. His pasty-coloured face was blank of any emotion except for the tiniest pursing of the lips that came with intense thought.

Severus’ thoughts were indeed intense. He was wondering if he should tell Grimm about the piece of parchment he had picked up when it fluttered down from Emilia’s satchel. For the shortest second he had seen the spidery writing across the page - It seems, Mother, that Emma is learning everything incredibly fast. Mort and I cannot believe the way that she is so advanced in her skills! Already she is interested in magic... It was a letter of some sort and Severus deduced that it had been written by Emilia’s mother. He knew that Emilia knew very little of her parents, so perhaps, he thought, she was finding out for herself what others would not - or could not - tell her. At least Severus knew who his parents were, even if he did not always think highly of them.

“Is there something else, Mr. Snape?” Grimm was asking, startling Severus from his thoughts. “If you think any harder, I wonder if you'll have much thought left in you.” There was a small smile on his face, a phenomenon completely alien to the stern professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Was this the man who cared for Emilia, or was it simply a facade to make Severus confide in him? Rarely did Severus Snape confide in anyone. Emilia was one of the few exceptions. She was different from others his age, yet the same as them. For some reason she both confused and intrigued him, to the point where he was almost excited to see her. Perhaps a summer away from her would remedy such madness.

“Nothing at all, Professor,” Severus replied cooly. “I only wished to pay my respects before leaving in the morning.” He turned and left the room, forcing himself not to glance back at Emilia’s peaceful face. If only...

Grimm watched Severus walk out of the room, feeling strangely perplexed. First the boy was quiet, then curious, then cold ... it made little sense at all. With a sigh, he leaned back in his chair with a heavy sigh.

“Honestly, Emma,” he said to his ward’s sleeping form. “I cannot understand what you see in that boy. He’s extremely intelligent and very gifted, but certainly the strangest person I have ever met. And that includes Dumbledore.” With a quiet chuckle, he lit up his wand and picked up the book he had brought with him to the Hospital Wing. It was a perfect time to read, quiet and comfortable.

~ * * * ~


It was dark. She hated the dark, especially when she was alone. This darkness seemed to eat at her, snapping at her fingers, hair, and toes like tiny teeth. Near-helpless, she lay on her bed, watching and waiting. Someone will arrive, they must. Never has she been left alone for so long, even crying out did nothing.

She was afraid.

The pain in her hand had subsided, but still she knew something was wrong with it. Her blurry eyes could just make out the difference in the way the light from the street lamp outside reflected off her skin. It was very strange, the way it did so. Yet she could not explain it except that it was somehow related to the pain from the magic spell, if that’s what it had been.

When the light suddenly when on, she blinked and looked up to see a semi-familiar figure looming above her. The light-coloured hair was certainly familiar as it was much like her mother’s. It must be Grandmother then, since Mother’s face was of a different shape and size. Another face appeared beside the older woman’s, one that was scary with a big blue eye that seemed to turn around on its own. She didn’t like that eye very much.

They were talking, but she could only pick out her name being spoken. Every so often they would look down at her and soon she felt like an animal in the zoo her parents had taken her to once or twice. She wondered which animal she’d like to be if she was in the zoo and laughed, reaching out her hand to the people above her.

She remembered nothing more.


~ * * * ~


With a gasp, she sat up from her bed, drenched with sweat. Once again, the strange dream had overtaken her, filling her with fuzzy images and inaudible voices. Ever since she had taken ill, Emma had experienced these dreams continuously. It was the same events over and over again. She felt as though she’d go mad if she had to go through them again.

Emma threw off the covers of her bed and stood up, cursing when she nearly fell over a pile of books and parchment. In order to make sense of her dreams, she had searched through all the letters and photographs she’d found in the trunk. She’d even stolen into the library at night to look up references on dreams and visions in obscure books, but to no avail. Whatever it was that she dreamed about wouldn’t allow itself to be explained. Emma knew the dream could very well be a memory, yet she still looked for other reasons, secretly hoping that it wasn’t true.

Stumbling around the dark dormitory, she finally found her wand stuck in yesterday’s robes and waved it in the air, whispering the incantation for light. The glow coming from her wand was enough to get Emma safely to a pair of shoes and her dressing gown. Scowling at the toe still smarting from having walked into a table, she stalked out of the room with the plan of going on a nighttime walk. Once she had been well enough to leave the Hospital Wing, Emma had explored the castle more than she ever had, unable to sleep due to the haunting dream. There were far more hidden passageways than she’d ever imagined, including a few that led out of the school. To where they led, she could only guess, not having the courage nor the energy to follow them.

Walking along the empty corridors lined with sleeping portraits, Emma often thought about her friends. Lily, Marlene, and Dorcas had frequently sent her owls, as they had since the summer of the first year. In addition to them, however, she had also received a single owl from Severus Snape. In the past she had believed that he was simply one of those people who never wrote letters to anyone, and indeed it seemed that way in the very format of the letter he had sent to her. It was brief and somewhat terse, asking only after her health and mentioning that he and his mother were spending the holiday at the seaside with his great-aunt. Nothing more. What surprised Emma the most was the fact that he had written at all.

With a small sigh, she wrapped her dressing gown tighter around herself and continued down the hall towards the main staircase. She thought about her friendship with Severus, if that’s what it could be called. She worried about him, if that counted as a part of friendship, especially when he got into trouble with James and Sirius, both of whom enjoyed taunting the Slytherin. Usually, she found the four Gryffindor boys fun to be around with all their jokes and ways of finding humour in everything, but when she watched them abuse Severus, she wondered if they could possibly be the same people. Lily definitely was against the way they treated the Slytherin, constantly telling them off, especially James. Yet Emma could never find the courage, she instead stood in the background, like always. Being the one behind Lily was quickly becoming her role, something that she was not sure that she minded. At least it meant that people would leave her alone.

Emma smiled to herself at her last thought. She was beginning to sound like Grimm and his endless complaints about noise and fuss.

The thought of her guardian made her suddenly want to go see him. It may have been the quite late, but she knew that he’d still be awake, working on his experiments with potions. Skipping down the steps two at a time, she ran down the hall to Grimm’s office on the second floor. Not finding him there, she hurried down to his classroom, but he was not there either. Her curiosity piqued, Emma went down into the dungeons, ducking behind an outcropping when the Bloody Baron floated past, the bloodstains on his doublet visible even in the darkness. In the potions classroom, she once again found no signs of life. Thinking back on her walk down from Ravenclaw tower, she could not remember hearing a sound much less seeing anyone about.

It was indeed very strange.

Then she heard the clock ring twelve times. Midnight.

Rubbing her eyes, Emma turned and began heading back up to the tower. Perhaps sleep was the best thing for her, especially with the throbbing that had suddenly begun in her head. For a moment, her vision blurred and she fell against the wall, gasping for breath. Resting her head against the cool stone, she slowly breathed in and out, trying to regain her balance. Madam Pomfrey had told her such fainting spells would occur if she did too much. After a couple of silent minutes, Emma continued down the dungeon corridor, using the wall as a guide.

Eventually, she made it up to the seventh floor and began to walk down the hall towards the entrance to Ravenclaw tower. Over and over she wondered where all the teachers could be, especially Grimm, who was as predictable as the sun rising each morning. Just as she was passing the tapestry of Barabas the Barmy, she noticed something strange on the floor that she could have sworn had not been there earlier. Bending over to pick up what looked like a white stone, she saw another one across the hall, shining in the dull light of a dying torch. Reaching to pick that up as well, she moved closer to the torchlight to see what they were. That was when she observed the door in the wall, a door that had definitely not been there a moment ago.

Then she heard the voices coming from the room behind the door.

Even though she had lived in the castle for the past five years, Emma had never expected a room that could appear out of nowhere. Especially when that room seemed to hold the people she had been looking for, for she had recognized the voices speaking as those of Professors McGonagall and Flitwick. She presumed without a second thought that Grimm would be there as well. Where else would he be? Emma asked herself.

Slowly, she turned the doorknob and opened the door, careful not to allow the hinges to squeak. All she wanted to do, she told herself, was to see where the professors were, then she would leave, her curiosity satisfied. Once inside the room, she kept to the shadows near the door, which she quietly shut behind her. Emma barely suppressed a gasp when she saw the immense size of the room, with its high ceiling and solid wood walls carved with images of great sorcerers of the past. In the midst of the grandeur was a long table which at one end sat Professor Dumbledore, who calmly sat listening to Professor McGonagall finish speaking. Emma only caught the last few words, something about looking out for the future. Then the stern-looking witch sat down and the eyes of the others - which, Emma noticed, included most of the professors, even Grimm, as well as others she did not recognize - turned to a man with dark hair and a heavily-scarred face. Somehow, he looked familiar to Emma, but she could not understand how such a thing would be possible. Surely she wouldn't know such a frightening-looking person.

When he began speaking, she knew for sure that he had been the man from her dream, the one that had stood with her grandmother. Suddenly wanting to leave the room, she turned to open the door, but must have made a sound, however small, for the man’s gruff voice rang out in the room.

“What do we have here? I didn’t know there was anyone else in the castle, Dumbledore.”

“There is no one in the castle right now who could find this room, Alastor,” the Headmaster’s voice replied from the other side of the room.

“Hmpf, I’m not so sure of that now,” the man called Alastor said, peering over at the shadows where Emma stood, frozen. “Either there’s a very large mouse over by the door, or a very curious someone has found out our secret meeting place.” He came towards her, his beady brown eyes staring straight at the spot where she was hiding.

“Leave it be, Moody, whatever it is,” Grimm said impatiently. “The meeting’s nearly over and I’m sure that I speak for some of the others as well when I say that there are things to be done around the castle. The students will be arriving in less than two weeks, if you remember.”

Alastor Moody turned to face Grimm, allowing Emma to take a deep breath and sink further into the shadows. “Could it be, Grimm, that you’re covering up for someone? Why else would you try to distract me in such a way? Constant vigilance, I say!”

Professor Flitwick rolled his eyes while another of the wizards unsuccessfully attempted to cover a snicker. Apparently, thought Emma, Moody was not the most rational person in the room. His entire persona appeared to be outlandish and over-cautious, except, of course, for all those scars. Somehow the man had run into trouble, and it wasn’t the sort of trouble Emma wanted to get herself into.

Grimm rose from his chair, his bored-looking face showing some anger. “You know damn right that I don’t “cover up” for anyone, Moody. You’re hearing things, that’s all. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true. The Ministry won’t put up with your ranting much longer.”

Moody tensed, obviously ready to return Grimm’s cutting remark.

“It’s alright, uncle,” Emma said, hastily coming out of the shadows. She hated when people argued. Raised voices had always frightened her, making her feel guilty for things she had not done. “I’m sorry that I interrupted your - er - meeting. It was an accident that I even found this place...” She trailed off when she saw Moody staring at her once again. Something in his eyes made her mind stop working and her body freeze in terror.

“Well, well. I didn’t think of meeting you again,” he said to her. “I admit that you look quite different from the last time I saw you, Miss Emma, but you look enough like your parents to be impossible to recognize.”

“Then it wasn’t a dream,” Emma breathed, feeling the blood rush to her face as she felt the gaze of everyone in the room upon her.

A corner of Moody’s mouth twitched. “It wasn’t. It’s a surprise that you’d remember such a thing, being only a baby as you were.”

During the moment of silence that followed, Dumbledore coughed quietly, an action that caused Grimm to noisily push in his chair and cross the room. He gently took hold of Emma’s arm and she nearly stumbled backwards as he began to lead her out of the room.

“That’s enough, Moody. Lyra left me all the details, as you may know, and you’ve said too much already,” he said with a frown. “The meeting’s over anyway, so I’ll be off and take Emma back to Ravenclaw tower.” With a nod to the group still seated and a small glower in Moody’s direction, he practically dragged Emma out of the secret room, closing the door behind him with a loud snap.

Grimm was completely silent as he walked with Emma towards the entrance to Ravenclaw tower, letting her arm go only once they had arrived at a door with no handle or knob to open it with. The aged wood blended in with the surrounding stone wall, making it hardly noticeable to anyone who did not know of its existence. Before it, Grimm lazily raised his hand over the place where the doorknob should have been and mumbled the password. Without the tiniest sound, the door opened inwards, revealing the Ravenclaw common room; a richly decorated room filled with chairs for reading and studying. On one side, a giant fireplace stood cold and empty, much like the rest of the room. It seemed a lonely, although quiet, place to spend one’s adolescence, but as a Ravenclaw, independence and privacy were highly valued.

“Did I not tell you the negative aspects of wandering around the school after dark?” Grimm asked, breaking the silence of the empty common room.

“I couldn’t sleep, so I thought a walk would help,” Emma replied defensively, plopping herself down in an overstuffed chair. “Then I decided to look for you, but you weren’t anywhere I thought you’d be.”

“Hence you stumbled in on our so-called secret meeting,” Grimm finished, pulling a chair closer to where Emma sat (since most of the chairs in the room were spread far apart from one other). “Well, I suppose I can’t say that I’m too angry that you stumbled in. It was not the most interesting meeting I’ve ever attended.”

Emma stared at him, her face entirely confused. “But why'd you drag me out of there like that, uncle? I swear my arm’s going to bruise now because of it.”

Grimm paled slightly and looked away, clearly embarrassed. “I’m very sorry, Emma. Moody always seems to bring out the worst in me, not that I’m making excuses or anything...” he trailed off uncertainly, which shocked Emma. He wasn’t supposed to be like this.

She leaned forward and gently patted his hand. “It’s okay, uncle, please don’t - “ Don’t what? Show your weaknesses in front of me? Curse it, why can I never find the right words to say? Somehow I always make myself out to be a fool.

“Are you going to tell me about the dreams you mentioned?” Grimm asked, still not looking at her. “I wondered what it was that bothered you so much.”

How could she tell him about what she thought her father had done?

“They seem like memories, almost,” Emma began. “When I saw that man in the secret room, I knew for sure that they were. How else would I have recognized him otherwise?”

A small smile appeared on Grimm’s face and his eyes brightened with amusement. “It’s not as though Alastor Moody could be confused for anyone else. Not only is his appearance memorable, but his theories of conspiracies are widely known throughout the Ministry.”

Emma smiled back, but it was not a whole-hearted effort. She was still confused by the secret meeting, Moody’s presence, and Grimm’s sudden changes in temper. With her pale hand, she rubbed her forehead, feeling the throbbing return with a vengeance. Emma closed her eyes. It was as though she wished to keep the world’s troubles from bothering her any longer.

“He was friends with your grandmother a long time ago,” Grimm mentioned seemingly out of nowhere. “Moody, I mean. That’s how he knew your parents, and that’s why he was there after .. after your father left.” He paused for a moment, then went on, keeping his voice low. “Your grandmother wrote to me, but I didn’t receive the letter until a year after her death. That letter contained the basic knowledge of what transpired that night, but of course, it wasn’t the whole story. The only person who knows the exact events is your father, and it’s likely that he’s dead by now. He disappeared and no one has seen or heard of him since.”

Curled in the chair, Emma swallowed then bit her lower lip. “He did this to me,” she croaked, holding out her left hand to show him the discolouration. “He killed her, then did this.”

“It’s not known if he killed her or not - “ Grimm started to argue, but Emma cut him off.

“Mr. Moody knows. I could see it when he looked at me.”

Grimm stared at her for a moment, the frown on his face from intense thought rather than any sort of anger. “Don’t think like that, Emma. You’ll only make it worse for yourself. Everyone in the world has their burden to carry, perhaps this one is yours.”

Emma met his eyes, wondering what burden he carried. His grey eyes always held some sort of grief. Perhaps that was the reason he rarely smiled or laughed. She’d never seen him smile to anyone but herself. Then she decided to change the subject of their conversation. Talking about herself had always made her feel uncomfortable, especially when it had to do with her parents. So far, none of her friends - not even Severus - knew about the letters she had found, nor about the dreams she had experienced. Such things, Emma believed, were best kept to one’s self.

“What was that meeting about, anyway?”

“I really can’t tell you that, Emma. Dumbledore wants it to be kept quiet.”

She raised an eyebrow, imitating his usual skeptical expression. “You know I’ll find out eventually without your help. I got into that room without permission.”

“A fluke, my dear,” he replied, releasing himself from the extremely comfortable chair (one that he remembered well from his own time as a student). “Merely a stroke of luck in your case. We discuss problems that may affect the school, if you must know,” he added, finally standing. “Now if you excuse me, my experiments beckon for my presence.” When she looked up, her eyes filled with interest, he shook his head. “You, young lady, need your sleep. I can get on fine without you. Remember that I have been working with potions and magic for how much longer than you?”

Emma couldn’t help but smile at this. Somehow his strict attitudes vanished so easily into playful humour when he wished them to. Having Grimm mockingly treat her as a child was far better than the high expectations that her peers constantly set her to.

“Alright, alright, I promise that I’ll go back to sleep,” she said, rolling her eyes.

He patted her on the shoulder just before she went up the stairs to her dormitory. Looking back, she saw Grimm watching her, a curious expression of sadness and wistfulness upon his face. It would be a long time before she could speak to him so earnestly as she did that night. A change was due in the world, even if those who would experience it did not agree.



Author's Note: I apologize for the length of this chapter. It came out a little longer than I had originally planned.

The chapter title is from Robbie Williams' album "Escapology".

Chapter 11: Nine: With or Without You
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Chapter Nine


“The first Hogsmeade weekend is tomorrow,” Lily said one evening in early October. “What should we do while we’re there?” she asked the other three girls as they sat in the library. It would be their first time ever going to the only Wizarding community in England. Their third year at Hogwarts had begun without incident. The four of them had been happy to see each other again; sending owls back and forth wasn’t quite the same as continuously seeing one another.

“We have to go to the Three Broomsticks,” Dorcas replied excitedly. “And Zonko’s, and practically everywhere!”

“What about the Shrieking Shack?” Lily asked slyly. “That could be fun.”

“Isn’t it haunted?” Marlene enquired, looking up from her homework. “At least, that’s what they say about the place.”

“Allegedly,” Emma replied with a frown. “But we aren’t allowed to go there anyways. The floor of the house is supposed to be rotted through and filled with rats. Too dangerous, I should think.”

Lily laughed. “A little danger never hurt anyone.”

“Why then won’t you go to Hogsmeade with me, Evans?” the voice of James Potter came from the next table. “I can take you to the Shrieking Shack if you’d really like to explore.”

“I doubt your idea of exploring is the same as mine, Potter,” Lily replied dryly.

Sirius coughed to cover a laugh, but James still heard him. “That’s not funny, Sirius.”

“Siriusly, it is,” Sirius managed to say through his growing laughter.

Remus groaned at the joke that had become old too quickly. “At least think up new jokes to laugh at,” he complained. “Notice that you’re the only one laughing?”

“Look, Goldwyn’s smiling at it,” Sirius defended. “And you know she never laughs unless it’s truly funny.”

“I wasn’t smiling at you, Black,” Emma replied sharply.

Sirius flashed her a smile that was supposed to be charming. “Of course you were.”

Rolling her eyes, Emma went back to her homework, the translation of ancient runes.

“What did you get for that Divination chart, Lily?” Remus asked. He had abandoned his friends and was now leaning over Lily’s shoulder. The flush on her cheeks from the closeness was evident to nearly everyone, except of course Remus, who was too busy trying to make sense of her handwriting.

“Well you see where Jupiter and Mars are aligned,” she told him, then went on to explain the astrological chart she had been constructing the entire evening.

Dorcas looked across the table at Emma and Marlene, nodding her head sideways towards Remus and Lily, giving a little wink. Emma couldn’t help but smile a little bit. It seemed that Dorcas was trying out some matchmaking among the third years. Though, when Emma looked at Remus and Lily, she noticed that they did make a appealing couple. Their personalities seemed to compliment each other perfectly. Glancing over at the boys’ table, Emma could see James continually look over at Remus and Lily, a small frown on his face. Clearly he was jealous. Lily would barely give him the time of day much less profess any affection towards him. However, it was well known that Lily harboured an affection for Remus.

Remus returned to sit with his friends, either not noticing or skilfully ignoring James’ glares.

“Come off it, James,” Sirius said, nudging James with his elbow. Then his voice lowered until he knew the girls wouldn’t hear him. “She’ll see you eventually. Just stop asking her stupid questions and acting like a general idiot around her.”

“You should talk!” James replied in an angry whisper. “You’re always acting like an idiot! The only two girls who’ll even bother to look at you are Sophie and Amara.”

“Who says I need any girls looking at me?” came Sirius’ answer in a rather loud voice. He hated it when people harped on the fact that he was constantly annoyed by those two girls. It wasn't as though he actually liked it.

All the people in the library looked up at this statement, some with surprise written across their faces. Others snickered under the fierce stares of Madame Pince, who had scurried out from the shelves to see what the commotion was about. With a loud ssshhhhh! in the general direction of the third years, she disappeared again.

James, in the mean time, was continuing to glare angrily at Sirius, but he said nothing. He knew his friend well enough not to pay attention to the strange things he said sometimes.

Dorcas, who had been disturbed by Sirius’ words, was whispering to Lily. “Can you believe what he said? Sirius Black not interested in girls? But everyone knows he’s the most popular boy in our year along with James Potter!”

“Being popular hardly means anything,” Lily scoffed, probably thinking only about James and not Sirius. She and the latter seemed to get along far better; she could actually stand his presence for more than a minute or two. With that, she returned to her Divination homework, although Emma had thought that Lily had already finished it a few minutes before.

Fifteen minutes later, Sirius leaned back and stretched his arms.

“Done at last,” he said with a grin. “Now what to do?” He seemed to be talking to himself rather than directly addressing anyone in particular. James merely scowled and loudly slammed his book shut.

“I should go,” he announced. “I’ve Quidditch practice in the morning and I don’t need another detention, especially with the match coming up next week.” He collected his belongings and left the library with a nod towards Peter and Remus, who were staying behind to finish up their work before returning to Gryffindor tower.

“What’d you do this time, Sirius?” Peter asked, looking up from the mass of scribbles that was his herbology assignment. “Did the lavatory experiment not work out well enough?”

“Perhaps it’s that time of the month for him,” Sirius replied with a careless shrug.

“That remark wasn’t necessary, Sirius,” Remus pointed out, his voice stern. “James just doesn’t like missing practices or matches. The last time you got into trouble, Gryffindor team lost because of it.”

“And you know how important honour is to him to be on the team, Sirius,” Peter added quietly. “Losing because of a detention really hurt him badly.”

“Almost as badly as Lily’s rejections,” Sirius muttered to himself.

Silence reigned over the two groups of third years. It seemed that their work was done, yet none but Sirius had bothered to announce that fact.

“Are you done yet?” he asked impatiently, looking over at Remus and Peter. “I don’t want to be stuck in this place all night. It’s not like there are any classes tomorrow or the day after. Can’t you do your homework then?”

“But if we finish it now,” Remus answered calmly, “then we would have to worry about it all weekend. Knowing you and James, we wouldn’t.”

“Don’t be so damn logical,” Sirius said with a huff. “I’ll begin to think that you belong with the Ravenclaws, and you know what nerds they are. Always doing their homework, or worse, reading for fun.”

There was a short moment of silence in which it seemed as though the room was holding its breath, waiting for a response to Sirius Black’s derogatory comment, especially since he was sitting near two Ravenclaws.

“At least I’m not a pompous ass with nothing better to do than sit around all day thinking up ways to insult people,” Emma exclaimed, rising from her seat. Her usually pale cheeks were flushed and her eyes blazed with the anger that pulsed through her veins. “You’re not the most perfect person in the world, in case you haven’t yet noticed.”

Sirius’ eyebrows rose up to his hairline, surprise crossing his face. “And what would you know about my personal life, Goldwyn?” he asked, his voice level, though there was an uncertainty to his tone.

“I draw from things I’ve seen and heard,” Emma shot back.

“Ha! So you’ve been talking to my perfect little brother, haven’t you?”

“We’ve exchanged words, if that’s what you mean.”

Remus made a gesture towards Madame Pince’s desk, where she sat carefully checking each book that had been returned that day for damage. Fortunately, she had not yet heard the two students arguing. Glimpsing in the direction of Remus’ hand, Sirius took a step back as though he meant to end the conversation, but he had not taken his adversary’s temper into account. Emma raised her wand and muttered a spell. Madame Pince turned the page of a book, hearing only buzzing noises in her ears.

“We’re not done, Black,” she told him sharply.

“Yes we are,” Sirius declared, collecting his things with a swish of his wand. “Quite a hypocrite you are, Goldwyn, being friends with both my brother and Evans at the same time. Living the life of a pureblood yet spending your free time with a mudblood. And there I was thinking that you weren’t that bad of a person, for a pureblood.”

Dorcas gasped and Lily’s face turned white. Remus stood with a raised hand to stop Sirius from saying anymore, but like Emma, he had begun to lose his temper as well.

“You - you..." Emma stuttered, unable to think of any term that would match the insult he had just paid her friend.

Sirius grabbed her arm roughly. “You don’t know a thing about me, Goldwyn. Not about anything I’ve been through, the insults I’ve had to take for being a Gryffindor, having to be a traitor to my family, my blood. The hatred I see in my mother’s eyes each time she looks at me, the disapproval in my father’s voice each time he speaks. Don’t even think you can begin to understand -“

He stopped when he saw the fear in her eyes and let go of her as though she was on fire. Something in the way she looked up at him proved that she understood, maybe not his exact motives for saying what he had, but she understood something. Then he saw the shocked stares of Dorcas, Marlene, and Peter; the scornful distaste written across Remus’ face; Lily’s hands shaking as she gathered her books and parchment. She said nothing nor met anyone's eyes as she left the library.

Emma wrenched her arm from his grasp then, with a wave of her wand, gathered her own belongings. Before she followed Lily, however, she sent an icy look in Sirius' direction.

"Don't think that this will be soon forgotten, Black," she said, acid dripping from every syllable she uttered. "You're appaling. It's not a wonder that your parents hate you so much." Sirius’ face paled at this remark, but Emma had turned away before he could respond.

Under the curious stares of other students, she swept from the library, feeling the deep flush that had crept over her cheeks. A short moment later, Dorcas and Marlene caught up with her. Wisely, neither of them mentioned Sirius Black, at least not until Emma was out of earshot.

"We must find Lily," Dorcas announced, her mouth set in a determned line.

"And tell her that everything that git said was a bloody lie," Emma added, still feeling the rage of temper burning in her soul.

"But how are we to do that?" Marlene asked, a note of worry leaking into her voice. "Furthermore, where can we find her?"

"D'you think she went to Gryffindor Common?" Emma enquired of Dorcas as the three of them rushed down the hall.

Dorcas shook her head. "Not if she thought James would be there. She avoids him anytime she can."

"Alright, what about ..." Emma went on to name a number of places throughout the school. Not the Great Hall, nor the dungeons, nor the courtyard, not even Hagrid’s hut. It was not until she reached the Owlery that she received a positive response.

"She said something about writing to an old friend of hers from before coming here," Dorcas explained. "Maybe she thought it'd be nice and quiet there to post the letter to her muggle friend."
As soon as she said the words, Dorcas covered her mouth with her free hand. "Merlin's beard, I shouldn't've said such a thing. It's things like that which make Lily so upset. We’re no better than any of those Slytherins when you really think about it."

Marlene patted her friend's shoulder comfortingly. "None of us can help it, really. There's only about one muggleborn per year, that's how rare they are." She paused a moment to catch her breath since walking as quickly as they were and speaking at the same time is hardly a simple task. "I overheard at the Slytherin a few days ago that Sirius Black's cousin Andromeda ran off with a muggleborn after she heard that her parents were planning on marrying her off to Evan Rosier."

"Can't say I blame her," Dorcas interjected. "Rosier's nearly old enough to be her father and he's hardly the handsome type. And I remember seeing Ted Tonks with her in Diagon Alley this summer. Quite a handsome bloke he is." She finished with a small sigh.

Marlene frowned, not liking that she had been interupted by such idle thoughts. "As I was saying, Black shouldn't be calling Lily a - a- you-know-what when he's related to one."

"Would you venture to say that he's barking up the wrong tree?" Emma asked, relaxing enough to pun on Sirius’ namesake, the dog-star.

Dorcas grinned and Marlene snorted; both were glad that Emma's surprisingly vicious temper had somewhat subsided. The three of them had by then reached the Owlery, a rather malodorous tower at a fortunate distance from the rest of the school. Emma stopped and turned towards the Owlery stair.

"It's probably best if I go alone from here," she said quietly. "She's upset because of me."

Dorcas opened her mouth to argue that it was in fact Sirius Black's fault, but the mournful expression on Emma's face stopped her. She saw that her friend needed to do this alone. Gently tugging on Marlene's sleeve, Dorcas stepped aside to let Emma pass the two of them and walk alone up into the Owlery. Emma could hear them still whispering to one another, probably arguing over the matter as they usually seemed to about everything else. She was not, however, very interested in what they were saying. All of her mind was on the action of talking to Lily.

Climbing the stairs, most of which were covered in owl faeces, Emma thought over what she would say and how she would say it, playing out every word, every action in her mind. Her stomach was filled with butterflies that seemed to fly faster and faster around with every step she took. The nervousness she felt grew and grew until, at the top of the steps, she stopped at the sound of Lily’s voice. Who was she talking to? Emma wondered.

“Now don’t scare him this time,” Lily was chastising. “The poor fellow didn’t know about the owl post, you know. Nearly had a heart attack was what he wrote back, though it was probably exaggerated. He’s always been like that.” The voice was light, far lighter than Emma had expected it to have been after the incident in the library.

Suddenly Lily looked toward the entryway, as though she could feel someone watching her. Emma ducked back, not wanting to be seen right away. It was not at all going the way she had planned in her mind; she shouldn’t let herself be seen by Lily until she was more composed and ready to handle the sensitive topic. But Emma did not see the disturbingly large pool of faeces on the ground where she was about to step. She did not realize it was there until she was on top of it and it was covering her robes.

It was definitely not going the way she had planned.

The cry she had uttered while falling alerted Lily of her presence. Lily’s head poked around the corner of the doorway, a puzzled expression on her face.

“Em, what are you doing here?”

Emma scrambled to stand, still slipping on the faeces. “I was coming to see you.”

“Oh,” was Lily’s only reply. “I was just posting a letter.”

“I noticed,” Emma said, then added quickly, “I heard you talking to your owl.”

Lily reached out a hand to help Emma get her footing. “Yes, I was. She didn’t understand that not everyone in England knows about owl post.”

A tiny smile appeared on Lily’s face. It was enough to give Emma some confidence when she most direly needed it.

“Look,” she told Lily. “It’s important that we talk about what happened back there.”

“What, you falling?” Lily asked as Emma finally was able to stand upright.

They entered the Owlery and leaned against the sturdy stone walls. Emma no longer cared about getting anything on her robes: they were already soiled because of her fall into the muck at the top of the stairs. Lily never seemed to care about such secular things such as dirt; she somehow managed to look pretty no matter where she was or what she was doing.

“No, that thing with Black,” Emma explained. “About what he said.”

“Oh, I know that it wasn’t true.”

“You do?” Emma inquired, surprise evident in her voice. “But why did you - ?”

An angry frown appeared on Lily’s face. “Because of him. He’s such a jerk. Just as bad as Potter, if not worse, strutting around the school like they own the place.” Then she looked up and saw the expression on Emma’s face, one full of guilt. “What’s wrong?”

Emma swallowed. “Well, what he said was partially true, I do speak with his brother.”

Lily looked slightly confused. “I know that already. You’ve mentioned it before.”

“Yes, but have I told you what he says? About the things he tells me?”

Both were silent for a moment, each thinking about what had been said and what could be said next. Perhaps the horror of the next words could throw their friendship into chaos. Perhaps the unsaid words could build a wall that could never be destroyed. Or perhaps the words could create a closer bond that would keep them from never growing apart, as friends do over time. There are many “perhapses” one could think of, but they are only things that could happen. Yet they are the things that haunt every person.

“Is he one of them?” Lily asked, suddenly breaking the silence like the shattering of a mirror. She didn’t need to explain who she referred to. They were the ones who filled the Daily Prophet with their feats of terror, bringing death to all they came across. Everyone called them the Death Eaters because of the terrible things they had done.

Emma shook her head. “But he will be soon if Mrs. Black has her way. She apparently told him that it would bring glory back to the family, a glory lost when Sirius was sorted into Gryffindor.”

“Does he want to join them?”

Looking at her hands as though they were the most interesting thing in the world, Emma replied, “I don’t know. There are some days when I think he does, then others when he’s very much against their ideas.” She laughed bitterly, something she had been doing more often. “He’s as bad as his brother sometimes, contradicting himself like he does.”

“And what he says affects you,” Lily stated. “I can see that it has.”

Emma looked off towards the distant mountains that could be seen through the large windows. “One would think that being someone’s listening post wouldn’t be hard, but it is. Hearing people’s problems, their troubles and desires, is so - so hard.” For the second time that day, she couldn’t come up with a better word. “There’s an obligation there that I don’t want to have, but that I feel that I have to recognize. It’s so difficult to explain.” She walked in the direction of the window, her face filled with an intense sorrow.

Still standing by the doorway, Lily felt helpless, unable to think of any advice she could give her friend. Getting Regulus Black to stop confiding in Emma wouldn’t make a difference, the damage was already done. Emma would have to live with the weight of other people’s sorrows on top of her own for the rest of her life. Such things cannot be gotten rid of easily. Lily could see that her friend was no longer quite as carefree as she used to be. With the darkness approaching everyday, each student at Hogwarts was growing up too quickly. But Lily also knew that until they left Hogwarts, there would still be times of happiness and joy. There would still be a chance to maintain that childhood innocence for a few more years.

Delicately placing her hand on Emma’s shoulder, Lily said quietly, “Don’t think of it anymore, don’t think of anything he’s told you. It’s best to forget it all, Em. You shouldn’t be the one to hold all his thoughts, his brain is enough for that.”

“He is a Black, remember. He may not have the full capacity for that.” Lily could just imagine the ironic twist of Emma’s lips as she spoke. It was almost frightening at times how much her friend could sound like Professor Grimm.

Emma turned, determination visible in her eyes. “You’re right, Lily, I’ll just put it all in the back of my mind and hopefully it won’t bother me anymore. Sirius is a prat and Reg is not much better. Both of them can go to Hades for all I care.”

Lily was always astounded by Emma’s quick changes of mood. How could a person go from the depths of despair to strong-willed determination in so short a time? It was at times similar to this one that Lily wondered how much of Emma’s attitude was an act, how much did she hide behind her supposedly calm facade? Yet she could not imagine asking Emma that question. It would be shrugged off as unimportant and illogical. Although they were close friends, Lily could not help but feel a great distance between them.

Unlike all the other times, however, Emma noticed Lily’s silence and felt the uncertainty in the air. She could sense the distance between them, one that should have been bridged by the simplest of friendships. For the first of many times, Emma wondered how she could be so cold and unfeeling, so ignorant of those close to her.

“I’m sorry, Lily,” she whispered. “I’m sorry you have to go through all this about blood and all the other things that are happening.” She paused, then hurriedly continued. “Things are changing, aren’t they? And we can’t stop them.”

“We can’t stop them alone,” Lily said quietly.

Emma smiled. It was the smile that had charmed and excited, the smile that had caused people to like her, to confide in her. It was a smile full of innocence and hope. It was all that Lily needed to know that her friend cared.

“We won’t have to worry about that, will we?”

The two of them left the Owlery, their troubles for the moment set aside, but never forgotten.

~ * * * ~


The seasons turned once again, burying the earth in a thick blanket of snow. Long icicles as sharp as blades hung from the rooftops of the Hogsmeade stores and cottages. The creatures of the Forbidden Forest were mostly silent, deep in the sleep of hibernation. Drifting piles of snow covered all available space in Hogwarts castle’s courtyards. There was so much snow that the practical assignments for Astronomy class were cancelled until the snow could be safely removed from the top of the tower. The lake was covered in a layer of ice thick enough for students to skate upon without worrying about falling through. Snowball fights took place nearly every free hour of the day, causing teachers grief as they tried to keep the students under control.

Christmas, as always, had been a quiet affair at Hogwarts since the majority of students went home to spend the holiday with their families. The few students who remained at the school were those who were unable to go home or who simply had no interest in seeing their relatives. After months of bustle and noise, the school was finally quiet, which made some of the few still there quite content. In the dungeons, Tiberius Grimm carefully mixed ingredients in the creation of a potions experiment he was working on, the blackboard behind him covered in coded scribbles. High above, in the Divination classroom, Antonio Sejantus stared into the misty depths of a crystal ball, gazing far into an uncertain future. Somewhere in between, Emilia Goldwyn pursued the letters and photographs of her family, never completely filling the gaping holes in her past.

Time passed once more, until the school once again was full of laughter and the scratching of quills on parchment. The snow remained on the ground for what seemed like ages while the temperature dropped even lower, reaching a bitter cold that few dared to brave. Classes went on from day to day in a most boring way, leaving many students in a semi-stupor. It would not be a surprise to hear that a number of detentions for sleeping in class were given out during this period of time. Winter raged on around the school with a stubborn refusal to release its frozen grasp.

One particularly glum morning, Emma sat up in bed, propped up with pillows. She had not been feeling extremely well of late; nausea had taken over her senses after dinner the previous day. Although it was a weekend, meaning time away from schoolwork, the last number of weekends had been spent deciding what to do when there was nothing to do because of the cold. There was only so much one could do inside the castle and homework was not an option unless one was very desperate.

When the other girls from the dormitory had gone downstairs to eat, Emma pulled out the last stack of letters from the pile she had discovered in her trunk. Between her attempts to keep the letters secret and decoding the horrible messiness of her mother’s handwriting, Emma usually could only read one letter at a time. Reading her mother’s bubbly words was not extremely interesting. Only once in a while did Emma see a phrase or two that captured her interest. On the whole, however, she found that she and her mother had very little in common. Emma felt that she wouldn’t like her mother very much, their personalities were simply too different.

Halfway through a letter to Lyra Goldwyn from her youngest daughter was a statement that caused Emma to sit up straighter and pay more attention to the words upon the parchment. Mort announced today that we’re moving to Cornwall, the letter read. Of all the places he had to chose that most boring place! What in Merlin’s name will I do there? Other than look after Emma, there’ll be really nothing for me to do. Here at least I can go out with my old school chums or shop or something. He’s not even taking us to a large town, it’s this tiny village probably in the middle of a moor. I begged him to find another place, but he refused to listen and won’t listen now either. So that’s it, I suppose. It’ll be a tragedy having to leave the city. I’ve grown attached to it... and the letter returned to its usual bubbly and girlish tone. Something had to have happened for Emma’s father to have made a decision like that. There would be no need for her father (Mort, what a strange name...) to move the family to Cornwall; Gringotts had no connections to the far western reaches of England. There had to be something more to the matter than Emma, and perhaps her mother as well, did not know about. Or could it have been that her mother had indeed known, but she didn’t want to reveal her knowledge of the truth to Lyra Goldwyn?

Emma’s head spun with all the possibilities to the point that she had to run to the lavatory due to the return of her nausea. Catching influenza was definitely not a good idea in a cold, draughty castle. After coming back from the lavatory, Emma hurriedly put away the letters and dressed in an old robe. She noticed that the robe now came to her ankles, a sure sign that she had grown a few inches in the last year. A smile came to Emma’s face. Perhaps she wouldn’t be shorter than the rest of her classmates for much longer.

She trudged down the stairs to the common room, then out into the hallway. It took her longer than usual to reach Professor Grimm’s office, where she knew he kept some healing potions. Emma hoped that the one for nausea would be among them. Finding the office door locked, she reached behind the frame of a nearby portrait, which immediately chastised her for disturbing it, and pulled out a key. She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to know where Grimm kept his spare key, but she knew his habits too well, even the ones that were disturbingly muggle in nature. A spell like Alohomora would not do a thing to open the door, yet it could be opened with something as simple as a key.

As Emma searched through the contents of Grimm’s small cupboard of most-needed potions, she did not see the one she needed. It was likely that Madam Pomfrey had a nice stomach soothing potion, but Emma did not want to go to the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey would only fuss over her, claiming that she was having a relapse of the previous year’s illness. Emma hated it when people fussed over her, so she decided to go down to the potions room and make her own. It wasn’t as though Professor Slughorn spent much time there except for classes, and even then he always came late and left early.

There was no one in the halls on the way down to the dungeons; everyone was in the Great Hall eating breakfast, then they’d go off to whatever activity they’d planned for the rest of the day. Emma laughed to herself when she thought of all the times she had snuck around the school like a spy or criminal, as she was that morning. There was no reason for her to most of the time, yet she still did it. It had become her habit to creep through the shadows, one that could be dangerous as well as helpful.

She arrived in the dungeons and was met by a rush of cold, damp air. Not for the first time did she wonder how the Slytherins could stand living down there. At least the Hufflepuffs were near the warmth of the giant kitchen. Shivering in her robes, Emma turned down the passage that led towards the potions lab. In there she could safely light a fire and keep herself from catching a chill. The passage was long and narrow, with sconces in the walls were sentries must have once stood long ago, guarding prisoners and slaves.

She could see the light from the potions lab just around the next corner when a shadowy figure seemingly came out of the very walls. Emma gasped as the figure came towards her, almost blocking out the little light there was in the passage. It was not until she saw the long hooked nose and sensitive hands did she recognize the person as Severus Snape. His quiet laugh echoed in the lonely passage as Emma placed her hand over her heart, not sure whether to laugh along or hit him very hard.

“What,” she gasped, “was that about? Are you trying to scare me out of my wits?”

Through the curtains created by his greasy hair, Severus smiled. His smile was like a rare jewel, not often found, but quite pleasant when it was. There was nothing about his smile that set it apart from any other except that it happened next to never.

“The expression on your face was rather amusing,” he replied sardonically, then added, “You weren’t at breakfast, Emilia.” The tone of his voice had changed so suddenly that it made Emma look up at him in surprise.

“Is there something wrong with that? Surely you remember that I was not particularly well last night after dinner.”

“Oh, I did not notice. You must be quite skilled at hiding illness.”

Emma stuck her tongue out at him. “And what were you paying attention to instead, may I ask?” she said archly.

Severus didn’t bother to reply, not seeing any reason to as it would only dig him into a hole he would not be able to get himself out of. Revealing to her the truth would cause more pain than anything else.

He turned and began walking towards the potions classroom. “Am I right to suppose that you were going to the potions laboratory? Perhaps because you could not find the one you needed for your illness?”

Emma nodded, not ignorant of the fact that he had evaded her question. “Uncle didn’t have any left in his stores and Slughorn won’t be down until Monday at the earliest.”

Severus stared down at her, as he was nearly a head taller than she would ever be. Although she did not look terribly different from the girl he had pulled out of the lake that first day, he kept noticing things that had changed over the years. Or perhaps they were merely things he hadn’t noticed before. He was comfortable in her presence, yet at the same time, he was ill at ease around her, almost uncertain of himself. This unease had increased greatly since that time Regulus Black had confronted them in the potions laboratory. It had been the moment that Severus Snape had impulsively reached for Emma’s hand when he had revealled more than she should have. A stupid action in front of a fellow Slytherin, but it was unlikely that the younger Black had not noticed anything; he had only been caught up in himself, just like his elder brother.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Emma asked him, waking him from his thoughts.

When he didn’t respond right away, as he was trying to think up a suitable answer, she reached her hand up to his face, gently brushing his pale cheek. He closed his eyes, not wanting her to see his weakness, but she knew. She could see what he felt written across his features.

“Severus,” she whispered. “Your face says many things that your voice does not.”

He took her other hand, the colourless one, in both of his. “You’re cold,” he told her.

“I do not feel it.” Her hand lowered from his cheek and rested upon his shoulder.

“But you feel something else?” the statement ended in a question, revealing to her an uncertainty. It was one that she was experiencing as well.

“Perhaps,” she replied, her voice shaking slightly. Her heart was beginning to pound. She wished that she could understand what was happening, why the butterflies were flying madly around her stomach. It was not logical to be nervous about being with Severus, he was her friend and had been for over three years.

He lifted her chin so that their eyes could meet. Gold met darkness and Emma felt her legs weaken. The blackness of his eyes burned with a fire that she would not understand until a number of years later. She could feel him shaking just as she felt a shiver run down her spine. Their eyes locked together, they saw not each other’s thoughts, but rather emotions that neither could explain. His face slowly, oh so slowly, was coming down to hers. Their breath mingled as they came closer and closer to meeting in a way that so many like them had met before. Emma closed her eyes, expecting to feel a brush of lips upon her own. The slightest touch, so light that a butterfly’s wing could not match it, was all Emma felt before it vanished again.

Severus had pulled away from her. His hands released hers and he backed against the wall, leaving Emma not only feeling lost and confused, but embarrassed as well.

“No,” he said. “It’s not safe for either of us.”

Emma could not reply. She opened her mouth, but no words came. It was as though the touch of his lips upon hers had stolen away her voice.

“Anything like ... like that is too dangerous,” he continued, keeping his eyes away from her. His self-control would not go so far as to protect him if he looked once more upon her vulnerability at that moment. They had been so close...

“Why?” Emma managed to croak.

His gaze remained upon the time-worn stones of the floor. “You know what is happening out there right now. This is not the time or place for such things as ... as ...” He found that he could not say the word, the word that many could speak of so easily.

“As love,” she finished for him.

Severus snuck a quick look at her and saw the tears forming in her eyes. He would not reach for her, offer her comfort. It was better that way for both of them...

“That is what you meant, isn’t it?” her voice reproached him, filled with bitter suffering.

“Yes, it is.” What else could he say to her? Lying would do no good when she could see into his heart as though it were the pages of one of her books.

“There would be danger for us no matter what path we took,” she said quietly, trying to keep herself from shivering in the cold dampness of the dungeon passage. “But you are right.” He looked up at her, meeting her eyes once more and feeling the inevitable drop in his heart rate that had happened each time he had looked at her since term began. “We are too young.”

“So you plan on pursuing ... this ...” he trailed off, silently cursing himself that he did not know the right words to say.

“At a later date, yes,” was her calm reply. Her voice had mysteriously levelled out once more. She could have been reciting a report instead of planning a future love affair.

He scowled, adding her stubbornness to his list of things to curse.

She must have seen his expression because he could hear her move towards him.

“Don’t!” he cried, his voice ringing down the passage. He balled his hand into a tight fist, keeping only an iota of control over himself. His internal struggle was painful and trying, she could see it written across his face and so stepped back, fear in her eyes. “We mustn’t,” he told her. “If we make that step now, we may never be able to return.”

Emma nodded and began to move away. “I suppose I’ll go to what I came to do now,” she said lamely. “Not that I really need the potion anymore, but you never now.” She was rambling on, like she usually did when she was anxious.

She had nearly reached the door when he stopped her. “Emilia!” The sound of his voice saying her name sent her nerves tingling and she turned to look at him, hope in her eyes even though she tried to restrain it.

When he saw that hope, he could remember nothing but the near-kiss. The misty darkness that had surrounded them, the feeling of exhilaration that he would probably never feel until that moment could be fulfilled. But he knew that this could not go on. To save her from himself, he would do anything.

“You will not see me for a while now,” he told her. “You needn’t search for me.”

The hope in her eyes died and she looked away. “But you will be there still, in the shadows?”

Before he could stop himself, his mouth replied, “Yes.”



Thanks so much to everyone for their kind support of this story. It wouldn't be the same without you! =)

The chapter title is from U2' album "The Joshua Tree".


Chapter 12: Ten: Trouble
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Chapter Ten


It was not until the beginning of fourth year that a surprising difference in Emma's behaviour was noticed. That September she was particularly cheerful: an unusual change from what had been thought to be her normal moody behaviour. She had spent one week each with Marlene, Lily, and Dorcas, which had only contributed to her apparent happiness. Exploring new places, both Muggle and magical, had not only helped to fill her curiosity, it had also heightened it, thus making the world a much more interesting place.

Most people attributed her happiness to a well-deserved holiday spent away from books and potions experiments. A very small minority took into account another possible reason. Being as cynical as he was, Grimm was part of this minority. A few days into the term, he voiced his concerns to Minerva McGonagall.

"It doesn't seem quite right," he told her at dinner, watching Emma smile at everyone around her. "Last year she was so quiet and moody, now she barely frowns. Yesterday I could swear that she actually smiled at Sirius Black.”

Minerva, who harboured a particular fondness for Sirius, replied, "You must remember that she was extremely ill one year ago, Tiberius. I see it as quite a relief to see her so happy." Then she noticed the troubled expression on Grimm’s face. “Do you think that she’s hiding a problem, something she wants no one else to suspect?”

Grimm let out a breath and reached for his drink. Luckily Dumbledore didn’t know that Grimm constantly changed his dinner drink from pumpkin juice to fine Italian wine. “If only it were as simple as that,” he muttered. “All of us have our secrets and hide them in different ways.”

Minerva resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Ravenclaws could be such strange people at times. “What do you think then? I have not yet the gift of reading minds.”

After a long swallow of his drink, Grimm finally responded. “I think she’s in love.”

A coughing fit suddenly broke out at the staff table and it took a few moments for Professor McGonagall to restore herself to normality. Students and other staff members alike were staring at her, some with worry in their eyes, others merely looking curious or confused. Minerva smiled wanly at them before turning back to Grimm and his very strange thoughts.

“Do you indeed? Now I would be greatly surprised if such a thing were true. Emma is such a mature young lady and wouldn’t allow herself to be taken in by any boy here.” Her eyes roamed the hall, looking for possible suspects. She noticed the way that Remus Lupin was staring into space, trying to ignore the fact that James Potter was shooting bits of bread at Lily Evans, who appeared to be growing angrier by the second. She also saw how Severus Snape was scowling at his dish, looking up once in a while to scowl instead at Sirius Black, who was laughing along with Peter Pettigrew at James’ antics. Other students were talking with one another, making jokes, or generally enjoying the meal before them.

Then she glanced over at Emma, who was happily chatting with Marlene, seemingly eating little in the meantime. The girl had grown somewhat over the summer, though she was still smaller than many in her year, maintaining her lack of height, but also keeping herself from filling out the way that other girls had begun to do. Her hair had lightened, probably from numerous hours spent in the sun rather than in a library or potions laboratory. Minerva had never agreed with Grimm’s so-called parenting method of allowing a child to assist in making complex potions. Not only was it potentially dangerous, but it also kept the child from “normal” activities. It was quite a relief to Minerva, therefore, that Emma had spent the summer away from Hogwarts.

“She was never like this before, though even before the summer began she seemed a little ... flighty at times. I caught her daydreaming once or twice.” His eyes stared at the goblet in his hand as though it were something vitally important.

“Is there something wrong with daydreaming, Tiberius? Even a girl as sensible as Emma needs to dream a bit.” She then realized that what she said had not registered in his preoccupied brain, so a change of tactic was required. “She is fourteen now, you know. Hardly a child anymore. You’re far too hard on her.”

That managed to attract his attention, but the smouldering glare he gave her was not quite the reaction Minerva had expected.

“How can I be ‘too hard’ on someone who I haven’t said more than two words at a time to for over eight months? I know very well how old Emma is and how ready she is for certain things.” His voice softened slightly as he said, “I turned out to be quite the father-figure, didn’t I?”

Minerva’s eyes opened wide with shock, although she said nothing, partly because she could think of no appropriate response to Grimm’s muttered statement. She had previously believed that Grimm was merely training Emma as an apprentice, imparting his knowledge to a young and curious mind. However, it appeared instead that he cared for the girl, something quite novel when it came to what Minerva thought she knew about Grimm’s character. Could it be possible that the cold-hearted, scientifically-minded wizard could care for another being?

“Why this worry about her being in love with someone?” she asked him quietly, her voice taking on a more gentle tone.

He frowned, the furrows on his brow deepening into well-defined creases. “I suppose that I don’t want to see her hurt in any way.” Leaning back in his chair, he continued. “Just think if the object of her affection was someone like Black or Potter. Once they tired of her and left her for someone new, what would she do then? What about Lupin, if she found out about him? Or how about Snape? He wouldn’t cheat on her, but he won’t be able to resist the temptation of the Dark Lord’s tales of glory and destiny.”

“But that is only the pessimist’s view,” Minerva argued. “All those are ‘what ifs’, nothing of what you’ve said is for certain.”

By then dinner had finished and the noise level within the Great Hall increased very quickly. Grimm pushed back his chair and rose, wincing somewhat due to one foot having fallen asleep during the meal.

“There is still that chance,” he said. “A chance that I refuse to take.”

~ * * * ~


Perhaps the only one who did not notice Emma’s change in behaviour was Emma herself. Although she still did well in her classes, there were many times when either the professor or a classmate would have to bring her back from where ever her thoughts disappeared to. It would be a great exaggeration to say that she was utterly changed, however. All that was really different was her mood, which hardly fluctuated from happiness. She could concentrate on performing a spell or making a potion, but no more did she feel the need to frown or lose her temper. To some, the latter was definitely a blessing.

Sirius Black was certainly one of the people who was pleasantly surprised to see the change in Emma. The disagreement between them was still there, he could see that in her hesitation when she saw him and the way that she continued to ignore him. Even though it had been much the same before their argument in the way that they hardly ever spoke except out of necessity, Sirius kept imagining the present silence to be more strained. Over the summer it had been easy to forget about Emilia Goldwyn and her silly logic, but seeing her around the school and having her in his classes continuously brought back the anger in her voice as she yelled at him in the library. It was bad enough having to deal with his parents, whose disapproval of him escalated every week it seemed. Sirius Black wasn’t about to let any girl, especially a girl he didn’t particularly like, continue to interfere with his thoughts. The least he could do was apologise and send her to the back of his mind - preferably out of it.

It seemed as though the moment he had made this decision, Sirius never was able to find Emma alone anywhere. Not in class, not after class, not in the halls, not in a single place in that blasted castle. He was beginning to wonder if she spent a shred of her time alone when, one October day, he caught sight of her hurrying down the main staircase. As he followed her, he rehearsed a short speech of apology that she wouldn’t be able to refuse. Anyway, who could refuse a Black?

When she continued down towards the dungeons, Sirius quickened his pace, hoping to catch up to her before she disappeared into the labyrinth beneath the castle. Most likely she was going to the potions classroom, but he could not be entirely certain of that. There had been rumours - very quiet ones, but rumours all the same - that Emma spent more time than she should with a certain Slytherin. Sirius knew that it wasn’t his brother those rumours were about; from the way Regulus had so nicely put it when asked over the summer, Emma was a “mudblood-loving arse of a stupid girl”. Just remembering how Regulus had said those words made Sirius grin; the dejected and resentful tone was similar to the one usually used when he complained about Sirius’ abandonment of the family. Hearing that same tone used to complain about someone else was refreshing and rather amusing for Sirius.

She had to know that he was following her, Sirius thought, listening to the sound of their footsteps echoing off the damp stone walls. He was just about ready to call her name and ask her to stop when her steps began to slow and she turned her head slightly to see who was following her. But in the dim light of the corridor, Sirius suspected that she saw little more than a dark figure.

By the time she slowed to a stop, Sirius was directly behind her. She turned so suddenly in the hall that he barely had enough time to stop and had to brace his hand against the hall so as to not fall on top of her. Then he saw the expression on her face and he was lost.

The brightness in her eyes was like he had never seen before. It was as though they glowed with an inner light that radiated from her very soul. There was more green in her eyes than he had previously realized, though it was so mixed with gold that it was nearly impossible to make out from a distance. How could he ever had thought them to be unremarkable, even cold? Her skin held more colour than he had thought possible; usually she was so pale that she could have been mistaken for sickly. The mouth he had once thought too thin and that too often frowned for him was now posed in a perfect smile, pink lips moist and slightly parted. Other details he had never noticed suddenly came to light: the way small hairs curled over her forehead, the way that freckles were dusted across her only slightly-snubbed nose, the way that the top of her head was only slightly higher than the bottom of his chin. She was plain, there was no contesting that, but there was something more about her that didn’t require prettiness to give her beauty. It would never be comparable to the beauty of his cousins, but it held warmth where Narcissa’s was all coolness, and constancy when Bella’s was all passion.

Sirius couldn’t explain what had come over him at that moment. For a very long minute, neither of them spoke, but he could see the glorious expression melting from Emma’s face and being replaced by disappointment. If she as though she had been expecting to see someone and had not come across the person she had been looking for. From the mixture of confusion and annoyance in her eyes, Sirius could see that he had not been that person and that observation gave birth to envy. Instead of acting embarrassed and coming up with a lame excuse, the Black pride took over.

“What’s all this, Goldwyn?” he asked, his voice coming out more angry than he had planned. “Were you expecting someone special?”

At the sound of his voice, she recoiled and stepped away. “No, and if I was, it certainly wouldn’t be you, Black.”

Sirius mockingly placed his hand over his heart. “I’m heartbroken to hear that. And there I was thinking that you were secretly in love with me.”

The revulsion on her face both made Sirius fell crushed and triumphant all at once. She had done exactly what he wanted, yet he also wished that she had looked embarrassed at the last comment. At least then he could always wonder if she really did like him.

“The day that happens is the day that the world stops turning,” Emma calmly replied. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more important things to do than waste my time speaking with you.” With that, she turned on her heel and hurried down the corridor towards the potions classroom.

Left alone in the shadows, Sirius was able to reflect. What exactly had come over him? Had he really fallen in love with Emilia Goldwyn for that moment, only to have his heart broken when she had so quickly rejected him? And yet she had looked so extraordinary... Even while they had exchanged words, the flush still resided on her pale cheeks and her eyes still shone with that inner light. The illusion had not been entirely a creation of his mind, although things would have been better off if it had been. For now Sirius Black was intrigued by something, or rather a certain someone who had only just disappeared from view, and being the object of intrigue of such a person was hardly easy.

It wasn’t until he had reached the top of the dungeon stairs that he remembered the reason why he had been following Emma. The apology would have to wait, seeing that it wouldn’t be likely she would be willing to speak to him for a long period of time. Cursing everything he could think of, Sirius trudged up towards Gryffindor tower, his mind full of the image of the last girl on earth he would ever want to think about. He didn’t know exactly why she was the last girl he’d want to think about, he just knew it was the truth.

Unfortunately, it took an entire week to find something that could sufficiently distract him from the problem of apologising to the difficult Emilia Goldwyn. It was a week spent in anguish - which, according to Sirius, was simply failing at something he was determined to do - but eventually he had a brilliant idea that had nothing to do with Emma. Instead, it had everything to do with his friend Remus Lupin.

The morning schedule for the Gryffindors that day was quite distressing. First they had Transfiguration, in which McGonagall had them and the Hufflepuffs try to change hedgehogs into pincushions. As usual, it was fun for James and Sirius, who got the spell to work by the end of the class after being jealous of Remus having been able to do it a full ten minutes earlier. Many of the other students, on the other hand, struggled mightily with the task. While some of them could not make a single change in their sleeping hedgehogs, others, like Peter, were able to at least make the hedgehog turn red with silver spikes. Of course it did not help that McGonagall sat at the front of the room in cat form, watching them all through beady cat’s eyes. It was something she had often done in the past and the students were now quite used to it.

Next class was Defence Against the Dark Arts with “The Grimm” as James liked to say. The topic of the day was werewolves and throughout the lecture and subsequent discussion, Sirius imagined that Grimm’s eyes too-frequently rested on the head of Remus Lupin. The fact that his friend was a werewolf was nothing new to Sirius, but he did wonder how many people in the school knew the truth about the quiet Gryffindor boy. From the looks of it, Grimm certainly did, which did make sense since he was Defence Against the Dark Arts professor; he would know how to deal with such things as students who were also werewolves.

“As of yet there is no cure for lycanthropy,” Grimm was saying. “Although many have found ways of decreasing the symptoms, such as the aggression or amount of hair, none have discovered a way of making the transformation stop altogether. Now turn to page 324 in your books, where you’ll see a full list of the symptoms...”

Sirius turned to the requested page, hiding a yawn behind his other hand. Even the connection to one of his friends didn’t make the class any more interesting. Beside him, Remus looked his usual peaky self - the full moon was less than a week away - and gazed at the book which depicted a ferocious-looking werewolf with large teeth and claws. Perhaps Remus was wondering if that’s how his three friends saw him those nights. Sirius wanted to tell him that werewolves didn’t really look that bad, but he’d learned the hard way not to talk during one of Grimm’s lectures. Detention with Grimm, usually spent cleaning cauldrons or organising his collection of herbs (which all seemed to look alike) was not the way Sirius planned on spending his evenings for the next three weeks.

Suddenly, Sirius’ attention was caught by something in the book. To the side of the illustration, the text read “only humans are affected by the werewolf’s bite.” The first thing that Sirius pictured in his mind was McGonagall transforming into a tabby cat. An Animagus.

When he raised his hand, the room went silent. Even Grimm was surprised, having stopped in mid-sentence to join the other students in staring at Sirius.

“This is indeed a shock that Sirius Black should ask a question during class,” he said in his usual drawl. “Please, ask away.”

“It says here in the book that humans are the only creatures affected by the werewolf’s bite. So does that mean that every other animal is immune or something?”

Grimm placed the book he’d been holding on his desk, a thoughtful look on his face. James rolled his eyes, knowing they were in for another lecture, but his expectations were not met. The only reply Sirius received was: “Yes, that’s true. Lycanthropy is a wholly human ailment.”

Sirius nodded, perhaps more for his own thoughts than for anything else. Within his mind, a great plan was beginning to take shape. It would not be as easy a plan as, say, pulling a prank on Snivellus; it would be far more difficult to put into action and could possibly take a few years to complete, but in the end, it would be worth the trouble.

For the remainder of the class, he was completely silent, lost in his plans. The miracle of him having participated during the lesson went right over his head and was soon forgotten by everyone else. That is, everyone except James.

“What was that about?” he asked Sirius in the hall after class. “First you ask that blasted question, then you don’t say a word the rest of class? Honestly, Sirius, I’d say that there’s something wrong with you.”

Sirius shrugged nonchalantly. “It’s nothing really, just an idea.”

“With you, ideas always mean trouble,” Peter remarked. Remus was nodding in agreement.

“But this time’s different,” Sirius told them. “This time it’s for the greater good.”

“Who’s greater good, your’s or everyone’s?” James asked sarcastically.

“Our’s of course.”

“In what way?”

“I can’t tell you now, I’ve only just thought it up. Some research is required to finalise my plans before I can fully reveal them to you.”

“That’s a crock of -“ he stopped himself as they passed Professor Kettleburn, who was limping down the hall with his crutch. Usually the four of them would ask after the professor’s latest injury, but today was not any usual day.

“You’re not serious about this, are you?” Remus wondered, managing to actually look rather worried. It wasn’t everyday that Sirius volunteered to go do research.

“I am, this is important, Remus.”

“In what way though?”

Sirius made a noise somewhere between a grumble and a sigh of impatience. “Just wait, please. Give me time to think.”

“Don’t hurt yourself doing it,” Peter joked, only to be smacked on the side of the head by James.

“You heard the man, let him think!”

“I know that, but you didn’t have to hit me!”

“You were being stupid, that’s why.”

“Oh shut up, both of you,” Remus said. “Just like children...” he added quietly, rolling his eyes dramatically.

Sirius paid no attention to his friends, rather his mind was occupied with his plans. He turned into the library, then stopped and stared blankly at the shelves, only now remembering that he’d never once searched for a book in the school library. He couldn’t even guess the first place to look for the book he needed.

“Remus, old chap, do you think you could...?” He let the question hang in mid air as he gave his friend the best ‘I’m seriously in need of your assistance’ expression.

Now it was Remus’ turn to sigh with impatience. “Alright, what is it you’re looking for?”

Leaning over, Sirius whispered the spell’s name in Remus’ ear. James and Peter watched with curiosity as Remus’ eyes widened with shock.

“But that’s impossible!” he spluttered. “You’ll never learn that spell, at least not well enough to actually use it. And just think of all the trouble you’d get into if...”

“Since when have I gotten into trouble?” Sirius asked with mock innocence.

“How about at least once a week?” Remus shot back. Yet all the same, he disappeared into the shelves, apparently knowing exactly where to go.

“Twice would be a better estimate,” James added once Remus had left.

“That’s not the point,” Sirius argued, leading them towards an empty spot by the windows. “There’s nothing stopping us from doing this. We have the capabilities and the need.”

“Exactly what is ‘this’?” enquired Peter.

Sirius stopped in his tracks and looked around them for eavesdroppers. Seeing only an upper-year Hufflepuff at the far end of the row, he whispered in a low voice, “The three of us,” he pointed at himself, James, and Peter. “Can become Animaguses. That way, we can go with Remus during the full moon. Grimm said today that werewolves will only go after humans, so if we’re animals, then –“

”We’ll be safe,” James finished, his eyes bright. “Sirius, that’s ingenious!”

“I agree with you on that, if I may say so myself,” Sirius said with a grin as James clapped him on the back.

While they celebrated, Peter was thinking hard about the matter. Perhaps for James and Sirius, using such a complex spell wouldn’t take a tremendous effort, but for him who could barely transfigure a guinea pig, it would not be so easy.

“You do realise that it’ll take a while to learn how to do it,” he told them nervously. “From what I’ve heard, it’s not a simple spell to perform. It could take years to get the hang of it properly.”

“We’ll get you through it, Pete,” Sirius said, placed his hand on Peter’s shoulder.

“Speaking of that, though,” James wondered as they continued down the shelves. “How do you expect us to learn this spell without anyone else finding out?”

“We’ll think of something when the time comes, I expect,” was Sirius’ reply. “I mean, this castle is huge, there’s bound to be someplace no one else goes.”

~ * * * ~


A few weeks later, after many nights spent reading the dustiest and more boring books ever written, Sirius proposed that the three of them find a safe place in which to practise the new spell. For the time being, he saw no point in asking Remus to join them since he would not be working with them on the spell. It was better for him to get all the sleep he needed; Sirius knew too well of the nightmares that haunted his friend and seeing him sleeping soundly was perhaps the major reason why he’d left Remus alone in the dormitory

So that left Sirius, James, and Peter to wander the school after hours under the cover of James’ invisibility cloak. They had decided to start at the bottom of the school and work their way upwards. The dungeons were skipped because they housed the Slytherin dormitories and common area, although Peter had argued that the kitchens were also housed there. The ground floor was also excluded since too many people were always about, even at night. Anyway, Filch’s office and the teacher’s lounge were too close for comfort. On each floor they visited, the three of them argued some more, generally not being able to decide on quite the right location.

“Maybe it’d be better to do this outside,” James pointed out as they climbed towards the sixth floor. “There’re lots more places that no one ever goes to and at least then we wouldn’t have to flinch at the sound of every creaking floorboard.”

“But how would we get outside?” was Peter’s question. “We can’t just go waltzing out the front doors in the middle of the night.”

“Very true,” said James. “In that case, we should be looking for a secret passage.”

Sirius raised his hand in a silent request for quiet. “Let’s just finish searching inside first. There has to be something on the sixth floor. It’s a literal maze of corridors and rooms.”

Ten minutes into their search, they heard a voice at the far end of the hall.

“What’s that, my pretty? Do you hear something amiss?” It was Filch. Mrs. Norris must have been with him and noticed the boys. It was sworn that she could see through magic, including invisibility cloaks.

Peter stiffened with fear, while beside him, James swore under his breath and Sirius wrenched his hand back from the door he’d been about to open.

“What should we do?” James muttered.

“Just stay still,” Sirius replied. “Maybe they’ll pass by.”

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Mrs. Norris mewed loudly and began trotting towards them, her red eyes glowing with triumph; this occasion would definitely be worth that extra can of salmon she knew Filch had hidden in his office.

When Peter made to dash off, Sirius grabbed his shoulder. “Don’t. Then we’ll be caught for sure. Slowly, towards that suit of armour.” He nodded at the tarnished knight a few feet away.

Once behind the suit of armour, Sirius began to think of a way that they could get out of the situation. Their hiding place wasn’t much of one to begin with and probably wouldn’t last long once Filch approached. Mrs. Norris they could deal with, but not Filch.

“Any ideas, genius?” James asked, a note of sarcasm in his voice.

A noise from behind the armour interrupted Sirius from replying with equal sarcasm. Instead what he replied with, “What the hell was that?”

“In here,” a voice hissed. “Hurry, before Mrs. Norris comes.”

Each of the boys, thinking that the voice belonged to one of them, moved towards what appeared to be a hole in the wall. It was as though the stones behind the suit of armour had vanished, forming what looked like a doorway barely three feet tall. As soon as they had entered this doorway, it closed behind them, leaving them in complete and utter darkness.

James tried to stand and hit his head on the low stone ceiling. Peter slid away from the sound, still clearly rattled from nearly meeting Filch, and accidentally stepped on Sirius’ hand. While all three of them cursed and moaned in pain, a fourth voice entered the fray.

“You ought to be more careful. Filch nearly caught you back there.”

The three boys froze.

“James,” Sirius said slowly. “Were you the one who told us to come here?”

“No, I thought Peter did.”

“But I thought that Sirius did.”

“Damn! So who’s in here with us?”

“I don’t know.”

“Me neither.”

“You three are rather amusing to listen to. And someone said that you were some of the smartest in Gryffindor. I’m beginning to think they were mistaken.” The voice, which sounded female and definitely familiar, was filled with amusement.

Lumos,” James recited, his wand lighting up the space around them.

“Ow, that’s bright,” the girl said, shading her eyes and shuffling further down the passage.

Sirius stared at her open-mouthed. Her black robes were those of a student - that was obvious enough - but the Ravenclaw badge upon them tipped him off immediately. The small form and straight brown hair only proved his suspicions.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked her.

“What does it look like, Black? I just rescued you.” Emilia’s hazel eyes, now adjusted to the light emitting from James’ wand, stared back at him calmly.

“Well we weren’t in need of rescuing!”

“Actually we were,” Peter said, but he was quickly sent back into silence by Sirius’ glare.

“Peter’s right, we were in a bit of a fix back there.” James carefully stood again, this time watching not to hit his head on the ceiling.

“But we would have gotten out of it fine without the help of a stupid girl!”

“If it had been anyone else, would you be arguing so much,” Emilia said, brushing imaginary dust off of her robes. “I didn’t have to bother myself, you know. It would’ve been easy to just walk away and leave you to get another detention.”

James nodded. “I think we’ve already reached our quota for the year in the detention area. McGonagall’s probably tired of seeing us being sent to her office.”

“Thank you, Potter. Now if you’ll follow me...” She began to lead them down the passage, but stopped when she saw the worry in Peter’s eyes and the distrusting expression on Sirius’ face.

“I know my way around this place perfectly fine,” she assured them. “This passage, for instance runs parallel with the regular corridor then goes up to the seventh floor. It’s an old servant’s passage from when the castle was first built.”

“And you know this how?” Sirius asked, feeling miserable. Of all the people who could have been in that hidden passage, it had to be the one girl he wanted not to see. With her know-it-all and nonchalant attitudes, he could have throttled her right then and there, but she had helped them out a bit. Perhaps he’d wait until after they’d made it through the passage.

“A book, where else?”

Sirius groaned and put his hand to his face. Damn Ravenclaws!

“Does the very thought of reading make your head ache, Black? That’s strange, from what I’ve heard, you’ve borrowed an awful lot of books from the library lately.” The suspicion in her voice was enough to make him nervous. If she’d noticed, had anyone else?

She must have seen the look on his face. “It’s just that I was looking for a couple of the books and Madam Pince told me that you’d borrowed them. Don’t look so frightened about it.”

“I’m not frightened,” Sirius countered.

“Will you two stop it?” James said impatiently. “I would like to get out of here before morning comes.”

Emilia shrugged and started walking down the passage, soon disappearing into the darkness beyond the reach of James’ wand. Peter hurried after her, not wanting to stay near a pissed off Sirius for much longer, followed by James, who glared at Sirius as he passed by. Seeing the light shrink as the others moved away, Sirius contemplated braving Filch in the hall over following Emilia Goldwyn like an obedient puppy. Now he not only had to apologise, but he had to thank her as well. It was getting to the point where detention would have been preferable. At least then wouldn’t be torn between killing and kissing someone.

At his last thought, Sirius paled. He oughtn’t think that way. It’d get him into more trouble than he was already in. Hearing James ask about other passageways in the castle, Sirius glumly followed them, shuffling his feet the entire way.



Author's Note: Most pathetically, it takes me ten chapters to set up a story - the full plotline that will continue until the end. Anyway, sorry if this chapter sounds strange, I just wanted to add a different point of view for a short time. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed thus far, your comments mean a lot to me. =)

The chapter title is from Coldplay's Parachutes album.

Chapter 13: Eleven: My December
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Chapter Eleven

The noise within The Three Broomsticks was almost deafening. Every single chair was filled with chattering students, happy to finally have a weekend away from the school. The intervals between Hogsmeade weekends seemed to be endless sometimes, especially when the professors were handing out assignments left and right. Madam Rosmerta was flitting about, pouring drinks for her patrons, tactfully ignoring the winks from young wizards who watched her shapely form as it gracefully traversed between tables.

In one corner of the room, a group of girls from various houses and years discussed a number of topics from the spells they were learning to the latest gossip going around the school. Of course the latter took up the majority of the conversation. Alice Delaney blushed when someone asked about her new boyfriend, Frank, and another seventh year girl burst out in laughter when she heard that Gideon Prewett had asked Emmeline Vance to come with him to Hogsmeade. On the edge of the crowd sat Emma, her chin resting on the palm of her hand. She was very bored listening to the older girls gossip and talk about boys. Every so often she would look out the window at the snowflakes drifting down towards the ground, wanting to be outside, yet at the same time she didn’t want to leave her friends. So instead, she watched the clock on the far wall, counting every second that passed.

On the other side of the room, the Marauders sat at a booth, sorting through their latest purchases from Zonko’s joke shop. Each of them had contributed some money to buy the largest number of items they possibly could. Since they did share the same dormitory, they decided to also share their jokes as well. Anyway, it was more exciting to have four pranksters than only one. Yet, every so often, Sirius would glance up at the group of girls, quickly glancing away when Remus tried to catch his eye. As much as he had tried, Sirius had not been able to keep a secret from Remus, who had cornered him in just outside the Great Hall before breakfast.

“What’s bothering you?” Remus had asked. “For weeks you’ve been too quiet, even with that so-called great idea of yours.”

There was no hope in distracting him. Once Remus had the bit between his teeth, he wouldn’t stop until he had the answers he wanted.

“I’ve been trying to apologise to Goldwyn, but it never works. I can never say the right thing.”

“You? Lost for words? That in itself is a miracle, much less getting her to listen to you for one moment.” Sirius wasn’t in the mood for a joke, this was a serious issue.

“You don’t understand, Remus.”

Sirius had started to walk away, but Remus grabbed his sleeve. “Who says I don’t, you dolt. Now listen to me, talk to her when we’re in Hogsmeade. Maybe it’ll be easier for you away from the school.”

“But she’ll be with her friends the entire time.”

“If she is, you’ll just have to walk up to her and ask her to speak with you.”

Sirius was silent for a moment, thinking it over. “Alright. I will, promise.”

Before he was able to get away to grab some food before James ate it all, Sirius was stopped by Remus’ voice.

“Why does she bother you so much?”

Good question, Sirius asked himself while glancing over at where the girls were sitting. Emma was on the edge of the crowd, staring at the clock and looking entirely bored. It didn’t look as though she was going anywhere for the time being. So Sirius went back to counting whizzing worms while James examined the nose-biting teacup he had bought, jumping back when it lashed out at him.

“Well, at least it was worth the money,” he said lightly, holding the teacup tightly in both hands and placing it carefully back in its box. “Just wait until we serve tea in the common room.”

“Evans will love you for that,” Peter said, rolling his eyes. “Can you imagine the look on her face when the teacup takes a bite at her face?”

James went pale and pushed away the teacup. “Then again... perhaps it would be better to slip it into the staff longue...”

Remus coughed to hide a snicker. “Too scared of her wrath, James?”

Wisely, James ignored that statement, preferring to place greater interest in his drink.

The scrapping of a chair being pushed back on the tile floor took Sirius’ attention away from his friends. Emma had stood up and was collecting her scarf and cloak, her cheeks red and her breath coming in deep gasps. The other girls at the table were staring at her with curiosity and Lily was about to push back her chair to help her friend.

“I’m alright,” Emma told her, holding up a hand. “I just need some fresh air, that’s all.”

“If it’s a relapse, Professor Grimm will want to know —“ Lily was saying worriedly.

"I’m fine and he doesn’t need to know. It’s nothing.” Throwing her cloak over her shoulders, Emma ignored the stares of the people around her and hurried from The Three Broomsticks into the snow-covered landscape.

A swift kick under the table brought Sirius’ gaze up to the brown eyes of Remus Lupin.

“Now’s your chance, Sirius. Go!”

With a sigh of defeat, Sirius got up from his chair and grabbed his cloak. Before he made it to the door, he could hear Peter asking Remus, “Where’s he going?”

“A quest for a damsel in distress,” was Remus’ vague reply, leaving Peter even more confused than before.

Sirius had always guessed that Remus was a Romantic at heart.

~ * * * ~


A few minutes in the brisk cold air was enough to take the fire from Emma’s cheeks and help her catch her breath. The warmth and closeness of The Three Broomsticks had been a little too much; she simply needed to breathe air that hadn’t been previously used by another. Anyway, the weather was beautiful, although slightly cold. Large fluffy snowflakes fluttered to the ground, dancing upon the breeze like butterflies on a summer’s day. The crunch of the old snow under her booted feet made a pleasant sound in the overall hush of the surrounding woods. The path she walked upon was untouched by footprints, making her feel as though she was heading into unexplored territory.

The solitude hung heavily about her, and she wished that someone could be there with her. True, she hadn’t asked anyone to accompany her, but she didn’t want to force anyone to come against their wishes. Lily had seemed happy listening to the older girls and relating her own humourous stories to them; she always seemed to belong, even though there were things weighing against her in the magical world. Dorcas enjoyed hearing the latest gossip and observing other people in the room, especially the Marauders, who had been sitting directly in her line of sight. Marlene couldn’t have cared less where she was, as long as it was warm and comfortable. Even she could be pulled away from her books to engage in social activities. Then there was Emma.

As much as she wanted to belong, something always distanced her from everyone else. She could listen to the secrets and dreams of so many, yet no one knew her own. Never had she told anyone about her parents or how she wanted one day to be like Grimm, experimenting with all sorts of magic and potions.

Guiltily, Emma wondered if she should have told Lily about the change in her relationship with Severus, not that he had shown that there was a change since that moment in the dungeons. Lily would have at least been able to give some support, or tell her that she was completely mad for ever wanting to love someone like Severus Snape.

He had become increasingly distant from her, never speaking or even looking at her in class or if they passed in the halls. Emma always waited for a moment when he would catch her eye or meet her alone somewhere. They had potions class together, but he preferred to work alone in a far corner of the room, scribbling notes in his textbook and proving by far that he was the best at making potions. There had even been times when Emma had stalled after class, just to see if he would say something - anything - to her, but he always managed to slip away unseen.

Now, as she walked along that snow-covered path, Emma asked herself if that near-kiss had merely been a dream, a figment of her imagination. Severus ignored her because he thought nothing of her; he did not need the friendship of a girl to ruin his future. He was a Slytherin, anyway. He had probably used her friendship as a way of increasing his knowledge of potions. Once he had gotten what he needed, their friendship had fallen by the wayside.

Thinking these horribly depressing thoughts, Emma found herself hating the loneliness that she had once revelled in. A few moments ago, in The Three Broomsticks, she had wanted so badly to be alone, to have silence fill the air around her, but the longer she walked, the more she wanted someone to talk to. Anyone would do.

Looming ahead was the low stone wall that surrounded the Shrieking Shack. She stopped, not sure exactly what to do. She could walk back to Hogwarts and hide in the library with a book or always return to The Three Broomsticks, where she could be bored, but not alone. However, something attracted her to the dilapidated building that stood in the middle of the snow-covered clearing. People had once lived there, made it there home. Smoke used to come out of the chimney and lights shone from the windows. It once may have been a place of happiness, with laughing children running up and down the stairs and their proud parents sitting before a blazing fire in the hearth.

She walked over to the stone wall and brushed the snow off with a mitten. As much as she yearned for companionship, she wanted a few moments to think before she turned back to Hogsmeade. This place was as good as any to contemplate all the troubles of the world. She climbed up and sat down, wrapping her cloak closely against her shoulders to keep out the cold. The snow continued to fall gracefully to the ground.

Emma had never come to the place alone, always with her friends just to look at the old building, hoping to hear the ghosts howling within. Without talking friends to distract her, Emma imagined the family that used to live in the house, almost seeing their shadows in the windows and hearing their voices resonating across the clearing. When she went deeper into the dream and tried to picture their faces, the mother looked eerily like herself while the father’s dark hair and eyes reminded her too much of Severus. He stood beside her near the fire - both seemed to be warming themselves before it - his fingers mingling with her own. Desperately, she shook her head to clear away all thoughts of the past occupants of the Shrieking Shack and moved to jump from her place on the wall. Such an image was too hard for her to bear.

“Leaving so soon?” a voice asked from directly behind her. “Don’t tell me you have eyes on the back of your head, too.”

She turned, nearly falling off the wall, but a hand steadied her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you like that. I thought you’d heard me walk up.”

It was Sirius Black.

Caught off guard, Emma hurried to think of something to say. “I was lonely,” she blurted out. “And was just going to back to Hogsmeade. I shouldn’t have come out here alone, you know what they say about this place. Maybe it is haunted.”

If Sirius was surprised that she was babbling, he didn’t show it. “Do you mind if I join you for a little while? Then you won’t be alone with the ghosts.” There was a touch of amusement in his voice, but it was something Emma was sure was always there.

“Sure. I mean, only if you really want to. I wouldn’t want to intrude on you in case you didn’t like my company or anything.” What was I saying? she asked herself. Why am I talking like a blundering idiot?

“I thought it’d be me doing the intruding,” he said with a small smile. He jumped up on the wall beside her, close enough for companionship, but not enough to invade her personal space.

They sat for a few moments in silence, neither sure what to say.

“It’s an interesting old building, isn’t it?” he eventually asked, following her gaze.

“Yes, I was thinking about the people who used to live there.” Her voice was calmer, less filled with surprise and nervousness.

Emma wondered why he had come, but she would let him reveal it on his own terms. He would not have come out here unless he needed to speak with her. It had been obvious which way she had come from The Three Broomsticks; her footprints were the only ones on the path to this place. He must have followed her.

“How did you see them?” He was still on the subject of the family.

She told him about the children and the parents, how they were all happy.

“If only all families were like that,” he muttered, looking away.

“Mine was once,” Emma said. “Or it could be just me wanting it to be that way.”

“At least you can dream about having one. I’m reminded how terrible mine is each time I have to see them.” His voice had grown dark, with no hint of its usual tone of amusement.

Emma knew he didn’t like his brother, but had always supposed it was merely sibling rivalry. She’d never seen him speak with his cousin Narcissa, but then again, she had been older and female, which would be enough to keep a distance between them.

“Regulus said once that your parents were upset with you for being in Gryffindor. They never got over that?”

Sirius ran a hand through his hair. “They can’t forgive me for not being in Slytherin, nor can they understand that I’m not like them. Not that I care anymore.”

Another pause transpired.

“Did you think I was like them?” Emma asked. She guessed where the conversation was leading from the way he held his head and refused to look at her.

He didn’t reply right away. The slightest flush spread across his cheeks, but that could have been from the cold.

“Yes. Regulus kept gloating that you were his friend and that you were only friends with Evans because she was popular. At first I didn’t think you the type, then when I saw you talking with my brother and Snape, I –“ He stopped to collect his thoughts, then said, “But I was wrong.”

Her heartbeat was thumping in her ears. He had seen her with Severus? How was that possible? They’d always made sure that no one knew about their friendship; the three other girls had known, but Emma knew she could trust them with that sort of secret. They would not have told anyone, especially not Sirius Black or James Potter, who were known to despise Snape, although their reasons were a bit vague. Emma cared nothing for Regulus Black, he had been easy enough to avoid, but her friendship - was it more than that? - with Severus was something that needed to stay hidden for the safety of both of them. She understood that now, after thinking over the summer about what Severus had told her in the dungeon corridor. While the threat of the Dark Lord loomed on the horizon, any friendship with a Slytherin was dangerous.

Sirius was waiting for a response; she could feel his tenseness as she remained silent. He needed her to say something, anything that would help him apologise to her.

“If you must know,” she said, trying to keep her voice light and even. “I thought you were a total prat with no care in the world except for anything pertaining to yourself. However rotten it may have sounded at the time, what I told you in the library last year was perfectly true.”

To her surprise, he burst out laughing. “Can’t say I blame you. I did deserve it.”

A wry smile appeared on Emma’s face. Perhaps he wasn’t as egotistical as she had previously believed. “So now that we’ve settled that I’m not a future Death Eater, would you like me to apologise first, or should you? We were both quite horrid to each other, one has to admit.”

He looked mildly surprised at this. “You did nothing wrong. If I hadn’t said what I did, you wouldn’t have lost your temper, which I now know to avoid.”

She shrugged. “I’m still sorry for losing it. Lily wouldn’t have done that.”

When he laughed this time, she noticed how relaxed he was compared to when he had first come up to her.

“If only we could all be as perfect as Lily Evans, the world would be a much happier place,” he said merrily, then he quickly sobered. Jumping off the wall, he knelt in the snow in front of where Emma still sat. “Please forgive me, Misstress Goldwyn, for being a conceited and irascible git who deserves nothing better than to be shamed in front of the whole school for his lack of manners.”

Emma tried not to giggle. “I hope your mother didn’t teach you to speak like that.”

He looked up at her with a roguish grin. “It was something like that. Hers was a little –“

”Less silly?”

“Not quite as eloquently I would have put it, but in a nutshell, yes.”

“You are an idiot. At least I was right about that.”

“Aren’t Ravenclaws right about everything?”

She shrugged again and didn’t reply.

“Admit it, Goldwyn, you’re not too normal yourself.”

Now that was unexpected. Emma stared down at him, still keeling in the snow. His legs must have been getting cold.

“I don’t understand what you mean.” Her voice had tightened. Sirius realised that he was getting into dangerous territory, but he ploughed on.

“Maybe you don’t see it, but people do notice you, even when you don’t want them to.”

Emma shivered. The cold that had not bothered her before suddenly took hold of her, filling her with a semblance of fear and dread.

“Your brother told me the exact same thing once.”

Sirius went pale. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean –“

”You meant it differently from him, I think.”

“Well, yes. I mean, not that I know what he was thinking...”

“But you do know your brother. He’s only a year younger than we are.”

He stood up and brushed the snow from his robes. “I used to know him. The person who claims to be him now is not one I know.” Turning away from the yellow eyes that sought his, Sirius stared at the Shrieking Shack, trying not to think of the boy he had once called brother.

“Everyone has their problems, Sirius,” she said, using his name for the first time. “You shouldn’t dwell on them so much. It only makes them appear worse than they are.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he said after a moment. “In a bit more than two years, I’ll be of age, then I won’t have to worry about them again.” He glanced over at her, the expression of loss gone from his face. “I should probably head back,” he said. “The others will be waiting for me.” His eyes asked if she would accompany him, but she didn’t want to. There had been enough awkward moments in the time they’d already spoken.

“I think I’ll stay here a few moments yet,” she replied to his unasked question. “It’s nice and peaceful out here.”

He looked back at the house. Emma wondered about his attraction to the abandoned building. She could understand her own, mere fantasies and imaginings, but she could not think of a reason why he continued to stare at it as though it held the key to something.

“Well, see you another time then.” He started off down the path, the same way they’d come. Not once did he look back. His confidence that he had fulfilled his goal wouldn’t let him. Anyway, what reason would he have had to do so?

Emma watched him go, curious as to why he had so badly needed to apologise. It accounted for his strange behaviour since the school year had begun, but what was so important in gaining her forgiveness. Furthermore, why had she been so stringent in giving it to him? Both of them had been angry, allowing their tempers and pride to get ahead of their better judgement. She had acted horribly to him, yet he only blamed himself, not her. It was all very strange.

She settled herself on top of the stone wall once more, regretting that she had wished for any companionship. What she had gotten instead was something she had not exactly wanted.

~ * * * ~


He watched her leave The Three Broomsticks, thankful that she had finally come to her senses. For days, even weeks, he had wished to speak with her, but had kept himself from doing so, unable to come to grips with the conflict raging inside of him. He could not trust himself around her, not with what had happened. Recently, she had not looked happy, even though the expression on her face said otherwise. He could see the loneliness in her eyes and the pain of rejection each time he struggled to resist her pleading looks. As much as Severus Snape had tried to distance himself from Emilia, he found that it was far more difficult than he had ever imagined.

Hesitating a moment, he pulled a small black box from his pocket and opened it, checking to see that the contents were safely inside. Just as he returned the box to its place in his pocket, the door to The Three Broomsticks once more opened and Sirius Black appeared. Slinking back into the shadows, Snape observed Black glancing at the muddle of footprints in the snow. Finally, he noticed the single set of prints leading off down the path towards the Shrieking Shack. Snape could hear Black’s sigh of relief as he bounded off after Emilia.

A strange emotion suddenly flooded Snape’s thoughts. Waiting until Black was safely out of sight, he carefully followed, making sure not to leave a new set of prints in the snow. Until he could fully assess the situation, it would be best that neither Black nor Emilia knew of his presence. The enmity between them was well-known around the school: the sarcastic tone whenever they were forced to speak to each other, the way they ignored each other’s presence the rest of the time. But Snape had also noticed that much of the enmity was one-sided. He’d seen the anxious expression on Black’s face whenever Emilia entered the room, seen the way that Black appeared to seek out Emilia’s company, only to end up arguing with her. There was something mysterious about Black’s motives, something that Snape greatly distrusted.

He followed the footprints slowly, remaining safely behind Black the entire way. It appeared as though Emilia had walked a long distance down the path. Her footprints led in a straight line, never revealing a change of pace or deviance from the path she followed. Snape could picture her in his mind, blue scarf wrapped around her neck and trailing down her back, her face glowing from the chilled air. Immediately suppressing the thought, he shoved his hands in his pockets and continued on.

As he neared the Shrieking Shack, he heard a pair of voices over by the stone wall that surrounded the land once owned by the occupants of the Shack. He rounded the last corner, ducking down behind a row of evergreens. From behind the needle-covered branches, he could see Emilia sitting on the wall facing the Shack. Beside her sat Sirius Black, one hand smoothing back his dark hair. He appeared to be nervous while Emilia seemed calm and collected. Snape wondered how she had originally reacted at Black’s appearance. He leaned forward to hear their words more clearly; at the moment, he could make out very little of their conversation.

“Regulus ... friend and ... Evans ... popular ... type ... my brother and Snape ...“ Black’s voice could be heard to say, causing Emilia to flush and look away.

Snape crept forward, trying not to step on any dead branches or pine cones. She had still not spoken and he wondered at her thoughts.

When Emilia finally spoke, her voice was clear and rang out over the snow. “If you must know, I thought you were a total prat with no care in the world except for anything pertaining to yourself. However rotten it may have sounded at the time, what I told you in the library last year was perfectly true.”

With an inner smile, Snape held back a snort. Her blunt honesty was far more amusing to listen to when it was being used on another person, especially a person such as Black. Unfortunately, however, Black began to laugh. When Emilia mentioned the word “apologise” Snape felt his body go cold and numb. Once Black jumped off the wall to kneel before her like a knight errant greeting his lady, Snape’s hand unconsciously reached for his wand. Hatred flowed through his veins when he heard Emilia’s laugh, a sound that he never would have associated with Black’s presence.

Suddenly, however, her entire body stiffened. “Your brother told me the exact same thing once.”

Snape guessed at once what Black had said to her and his mind filled with the memories of that evening. He and Emilia had been discussing - arguing, his mind corrected - the significance of blood purity when Regulus had arrived, spilling his heart to Emilia. That had been the first time Snape had revealed any sign of their growing partnership. He had touched her hand ever so gently, but hadn’t looked back to see her response. It wasn’t until he had come across her in the dungeon corridor that he realised... but he didn’t want to think about that right now, not when she sat, seemingly enjoying the company of someone she had once disliked.

Seething with anger in a way that nearly made the snow around him melt, Snape did not notice right away when Black stood up, the clownish smile gone from his face. Suppressing the bitterness momentarily, Snape observed that both Black and Emilia were exchanging words in more serious tones. It appeared as though Black was getting ready to leave. A nagging voice in Snape’s mind questioned whether or not Emilia would return to Hogsmeade with Black. If she did, she would be lost to Snape forever.

Footsteps were approaching, forcing Snape to make a decision. He peeked through the trees, to see Emilia still sitting on the wall, staring at the house. Black, on the other hand, was coming down the path, his face in an expression of relief, perhaps even happiness. Scowling deeply, Snape was barely able to keep himself hidden. The urge to leap into Black’s path and challenge him to a duel was nearly unbearable. All the times that Black and Potter had teased him in front of others flew through Snape’s memory. Only Emilia’s presence stopped him. It would do no good to fight Black with her as bystander; he had seen the painful hallucinations during her illness and understood her fear of violence, something that lived deep within her past.

Once Black’s footsteps receded into the distance, Snape emerged from behind the evergreens. He was within ten feet of the stone wall when her voice stopped him:

“If you’ve come back again, Sirius, I might be disinclined to forgive you twice.”

Silently, Snape walked up to the wall and leaned his arms in the place swept clean not to long before by Sirius Black.

“Is it possible, then, to forgive me for not being the one you expected?”

“Severus!”

She turned to gape at him, her eyes and smile revealing such a happiness that nearly all of Snape’s anger vanished. Then a deep flush spread up her neck and crossed her cheeks.

“You didn’t happen to run into Sirius Black on your way here, did you?”

“No.”

“Then how –"

”I followed him here, but he did not see me, nor did you.”

By now the colour on her face made her appear sunburnt. “You overheard everything?”

“Not everything.”

“It was nothing really,” she said quickly. “He just wanted to apologise for his earlier rudeness.”

“I gathered that.” He kept his face unreadable, enjoying her temporary embarrassment.

“You’re not helping any, you know. It’s not like he was asking me out on a date.” She was beginning to sound angry; her hands were bunched into fists as she tried to control her temper.

Snape raised an eyebrow. “I was not the one to push the conversation down this path.”

“Damn right you were,” she grumbled.

He hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to say next. His glove-less hand felt in his pocket for the small box, its sharp corners digging into the skin on his fingers. He kept the box where it was and reached out to touch her cheek. It was a silly motion, but perhaps it would be one that would attract her attention.

It was successful, she looked straight at him, her eyes betraying emotions the rest of her face was too stubborn to show.

“I’m a fool, but you know that already,” she said glumly. “The capacity to hate was never something I really had. It’s one thing to find someone annoying, but hatred ...”

“You are lucky then,” he told her. Before she had the chance to reply, he grabbed the box and handed it to her. “Here, I want you to have this.”

Emilia stared at the box he had placed in her hand. What was this about? she asked herself, unable to look at him for fear that she would reveal more about her emotions than she already had. While she had been wallowing in pity for herself, believing that she had been mistaken about that moment in the dungeon corridor - that perhaps he didn’t like her in such a way. Perhaps whatever was in the box was merely a gift of friendship, not of anything more. She opened it and gasped, having not expected what lay inside. Gently, she pulled out a slightly tarnished silver chain, at the end of which was a small charm. Engraved upon it was an “E”.

She looked up to thank him profusely, but no one was there. In the time she had taken to examine the box and its contents, he had disappeared, leaving her to be alone once more.



A/N: Extra thanks to Llewellyn McEllis for kindly allowing me to use the last name for Alice from her wonderful story, "Alice".

The chapter title is from a song by Linkin Park.

Chapter 14: Interlude: Down Once More
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Interlude


The moorland was bathed in the dull light from a waning moon. Strange shadows from the dry stone walls and scraggly shrubs resembled demons wandering the moor in the darkness. In such a setting, it would not have been a surprise to see an actual demonic figure fly past, cackling in a most terrible voice. There was no sign of life upon this moor; even the sheep had forsaken it for greener and kinder pasture.

Suddenly, a shadow flit across the landscape, ducking past an ancient stone circle towards the ruined huts once used by tin miners. The shadow stopped for a moment, leaning back against the cold stone to take a deep breath. As he rubbed his hand over a stubbly blond scalp, the shadow tried to look into the future to see whether or not his current task is worth all the trouble. If anyone were to find out what he was about to do... but he didn’t want to think about that. One thing at a time. First he would reach his destination, then he would make his decision.

The shadow continued across the moors, his stark black robes billowing slightly around his thin bony frame. Finally a small light appeared on the horizon; it was the light of a candle, flickering in the window of a giant mansion that rises from the moors like a monolith. The shadow hurried towards it, frequently looking back to search for anyone in pursuit. While he was sure that no one had seen him leave, he continuously felt the strange pricking at the back of his neck that warned of spying eyes. As he neared the mansion, the shadow felt as though more than just the stone gargoyles on the roof are watching his movements. The dark windows were not empty, but he did not want to think about what lay behind them.

After stumbling up the hill towards the Hall, the shadow cursed himself for not finding an easier mode of transportation. He doubted that the Hall was on the Floo network and apparation was out of the question due to the fact that he’d never seen the place in his life. Of course, having the Sight, he should have been able to conjure up a decent image in his mind, but of late, he had been far too distracted. That distraction is what had brought him to this place.

At the top of the rise, he came across the stone path leading up to the house. It was lined on both sides by hedges that must have once been meticulously manicured. Now, however, these hedges are overgrown and unsightly. The shadow supposed that the Hall was in much of the same condition as the surrounding estate. The family that had once occupied these lands had died out near the beginning of the century. Even though the Hall had changed hands many times, no one had lived within its walls for very long. The ghosts of the past were too disturbing for many. It was rumoured in nearby villages that the Hall was as cursed as the family who had built it. With his Sight, the shadow could agree with the rumours; the drunkard in the pub who had related the story now appeared much wiser than the shadow had previously believed.

At last the Hall came into full view, the shattered glass panes of the bottom storey making the place seem more forbidding than it already was. The dull grey stone was blackened with age and pollution, while roof slates littered the ground where they had fallen from high above. The shadow’s eyes involuntarily rose to examine the massive structure that does not at all fit upon the moors. The Hall was a sign of man’s failure to govern nature. Within the next decade or so, the shadow pictured the Hall crumbling back to the ground from which it had come. No one would have memory of its existence by then. Already the place was nearly forgotten except by the oldest and most inebriated villagers.

Finally he approached the door, which opened immediately as he neared it. Only for the shortest moment did he hesitate before entering. The door closed behind him as though it were sealing his fate.

If he had glanced upwards once more before entering, he would have seen the deathly pale face at a first floor window. The eyes of this face were sunken, his hair a shock of white. This face was far older than the age of the person who owned it. Perhaps if the shadow had seen this face he would not have entered the house. As it was, however, the lives of many would be forever changed by this single, seemingly unimportant event.

The footsteps of the shadow echoed in the dusty silence as he made his way through the ruined grandeur of the Hall’s foyer. He could hear nothing except his own footsteps, which made him wonder if indeed this was the meeting place. Had it not been for the flickering candle in the window, he would have left. Part of his conscience told him that he should have never come. As the seconds passed, this part of his mind grew rapidly.

A figure appeared on the main staircase.

“At last you have come.” The voice was no more than a whisper, yet it resonated through the foyer like the roar of a dragon. “I was wondering if you would, Antonio.”

The shadow bowed stiffly. “My lord, I will admit that I was uncertain of many things.”

The figure on the stairs nodded his head slightly. “We all are uncertain of something in our lives. You would not be the first to be wary of my motives.”

“Not your motives so much as how you decide to carry them out, my lord.”

“Ah yes, you do not like violence, do you, Antonio? Again, you would not be the first of my flock to dislike my methods.”

The shadow shifted nervously. “Your flock, my lord?”

The laugh that came as reply sent shivers down the shadow’s spine. “You do not know much about the muggle world, I see. I will not burden you with their ideas of faith, no. There is something of far greater importance that needs to be dealt with.” The figure motioned with his hand. “Come, follow me.”

The shadow hesitated, uncertain if he should follow. The situation rather reminded him of that old story about the spider and the fly. In this case, he felt as though he were the fly while the figure on the staircase was the spider. When one was in the company of Tom Riddle, a most deadly and compelling spider, one could not help but feel stuck in the role of a pathetic, powerless fly. At the moment, as he watched Riddle ascend the spiral stair, Antonio Sejantus could feel the sticky web surround him. It would be impossible to turn back now. Without knowing it, and without really wanting to, he had made his final decision.

The usual disapproving frown that resided upon his face had been replaced by a fearful, worried expression that was not all fitting to his angular features. He could feel a bead of perspiration roll down his temple. Quickly wiping it away, he followed the Dark Lord up the staircase. Parts of the once grand stairs had rotted away and more than once Antonio’s foot nearly broke through the ancient wood. He looked around him at the dark panelling and once beautifully frescoed ceilings, seeing only termite-infested wood and chipped plaster. He wondered at the way time could steal away so many things, not only life, but everything that one put into it. In the distant past, workers had built this manor house and aristocrats graced its halls. Now it was empty and decaying like the world around it. When someone like Tom Riddle came into the spotlight and told of a great future filled with glory and power, it was not too much of a surprise that people listened.

He followed Riddle down a long hallway filled with empty spider webs. Even the spiders had abandoned the Hall, seeing it as uninhabitable. Antonio was curious as to why Riddle had chosen this place for his Headquarters. Surely there were finer and more appropriate places in London or the surrounding towns and villages. Then Antonio remembered the visions he had seen of Riddle’s past and understood. Tom Riddle enjoyed shocking people and putting them on edge for his own amusement, to show his power over their fears and desires. The old Hall on the moors was such a place that could induce fear as well as give evidence to the weakness of mankind. It was enough to make the heart of the most hardened Slytherin fill with dread.

Eventually, Riddle stopped at a doorway framed in heavy walnut. The door was nowhere to be seen, in fact, nothing was beyond the doorway except for thick grey mist. It was as though they were looking out onto the moors in the deepest of fogs. Raising an elegant hand, Riddle made a symbol in the air and the mist suddenly cleared, revealing what must have once been a grand bedchamber, now bare of furniture except for some hard wooden chairs scattered about the room. Two windows looked out upon the front garden of the Hall, the winding path that lead to the house disappearing into the high shrubs that lined each side of it. In front of one window stood a man. He was not too tall, but not too short either. His hair was white and his shoulders were hunched like those of a nervous follower rather than a scholar. When Antonio and Riddle entered the room, the man turned his head only slightly to look at them, then turned back to the window.

Riddle pointed Antonio to one of the chairs. “Please sit down, make yourself at home.” The smile on Riddle’s face was fake, yet compelling enough to make a person want to believe that the sincerity in his voice was genuine. “That is Mort, an associate of mine.” He added, nodding towards the man at the window.

“You flatter me, Master,” the man named Mort replied, his voice flat and emotionless.

It did not appear as though Riddle had heard the man speak, or that he simply wasn’t bothering to pay attention. Instead his wand was raised over an empty space on the dust-covered floor. A large silver bowl appeared, its surface shiny even in the dull darkness.

“Is this all you require?” he asked. “A Pensieve is not what I had in mind.”

“But Pensieves are not made of silver, my lord,” Antonio replied, sounding more bold than he’d intended. “Stone is used for looking into the past. In my research, I found that silver can be used for looking into the future.”

Riddle’s eyes lit up with expectancy. For a moment, they turned a disturbing shade of red, then so quickly became their usual emerald that Antonio was not sure if it had been a trick of the light. Certainly Riddle did not look his age. Antonio remembered hearing from Slughorn that Riddle had been a student of his over thirty years before. The smooth, youthful skin on Riddle’s face as well as his overbright eyes were in stark contrast to one he had referred to as Mort, who appeared to be a very old man. For a moment, Antonio thought about the ancient spell that could leech the life from one person so that another could become stronger, then he shooed the idea from his head. Riddle would not have known such a spell, that was impossible.

A noise from the hall alerted Antonio of the approach of the Death Eaters. They arrived in groups or alone, quietly filing into the room and taking a seat on one of the chairs. Riddle barely acknowledged their presence; his entire attention was taken up by gazing into the silver bowl.

Mort hobbled over to his master, his right leg limping heavily.

“Your loyal servants have arrived, Master,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper. “Surely greeting them would strengthen their resolve?”

Riddle looked up into Mort’s eyes, causing the other man to jump back as if in pain.

“I know very well what is going on around me. Nor do I need you to tell me what to do.”

“Sorry, Master. Forgive me, please.” Mort backed towards the window, not daring to meet his master’s eyes once again. He opened the window, allowing in a damp breeze to cool the perspiration evident on his wrinkled brow.

Without giving further attention to Mort, Riddle straightened to look upon the shadowy figures surrounding him.

“Welcome to my humble home,” he said in greeting. “I have called you here tonight to witness the power of the Dark Lord in all its glory.” He made a gesture towards Antonio. “The ability to see into the future is one that many claim to have, but few can call upon what visions they wish to see.” Then he pointed to the silver bowl. “Anything in the future I desire to know about can be observed within this device.”

There was a stir among the Death Eaters. Though they were but shadows in the darkened room, Antonio recognized some of the faces as those of past students from Hogwarts. Lucius Malfoy sat proudly on one of the chairs, his long blond hair reaching his shoulders. Beside him was the massive figure of Rodolphus Lestrange and his wife Bellatrix, her dark beauty a near-legend. Her younger sister was engaged to Malfoy while another sister had run off with a muggle. On the other hand, Lestrange’s younger brother still attended Hogwarts. He of course had not been in any of Sejanus’ classes. It appeared as though future Death Eaters had no need for Divination.

Antonio didn’t realise that Riddle was speaking to him until he saw Riddle’s face staring at him. The lips were moving, but Antonio was so far into his mind that he did not hear the words right away.

“Pardon?” he asked, trying to think up a good excuse. He did not want to upset someone with more power than anyone in the world really needed. “A semi-trance is helpful when one prepares for such a task.”

Immediately, the storm cloud growing upon Riddle’s face vanished. “Of course.” Once again the fake smile appeared on his face. “I was asking if you were ready.” It sounded more like a command to be ready than a simple question. Antonio doubted that Riddle hardly ever asked for something to be done. It would be done because of his power with dark magic and his status as a leader of wizards.

Leaning over the empty bowl, Antonio waved his wand and a silvery liquid appeared, filling the bowl to its brim. No one in the room made the slightest sound. They were perfectly still, watching and waiting for what was to come. Allowing his quaking nerves to relax, Antonio closed his eyes and whispered the words of the spell that would bring the future to life on the surface of the liquid.

Ostend me posteram!

The liquid began to swirl. Shapes and flashes of colour formed on the surface. Dull sounds could be heard coming from the bowl. For a few moments, nothing clear could be seen or heard; everything within the bowl was a blur. Riddle frowned, the impatience obvious on his face in the glow of light created by the swirling liquid. He preferred to have things finished as quickly as possible. For him, waiting was not a desired option.

“What is it you wish to see, my lord?” Antonio asked, his voice quiet and distant.

The shapes forming in the liquid suddenly shifted; the sounds became clearer.

“The glory of the Dark Lord, defeating those who obstruct the true path of purity.” Riddle’s voice was low. He was watching the liquid intently, almost mesmerised by the pictures he was beginning to see within it.

The battle was raging on. Spells flew across the cramped space surrounded by the high stone walls of the narrow alleyway. Two people - a man and a woman - were backed against one of the walls, looking at their opponents with unwavering eyes. The woman was short with a round face, the man beside her tall and fair-haired. They bravely shot spells at the approaching Death Eaters as they knew they had fallen into a horrible trap. Separated from their allies and now alone, they knew that this battle would not end well for them.

The seven Death Eaters closed in, their wands at the ready. The couple used stunning spells to keep them back, but it seemed as though the Death Eaters were able to block each and every one. The woman’s free hand reached out, the gold ring on her finger shining briefly in the light from the moon high above. The man grabbed his wife’s outreached hand and, exhausted, he raised his wand one last time.

“Expelliarmus!” he yelled. One Death Eater’s wand flew from his hand; he must not have been quick enough to block the spell.

“Stupefy!” the woman cried out, pointing at the same Death Eater. He fell in a heap where he stood, stunned by the bolt of red light that had come from her wand.

But none of this stopped the other six. Perhaps with two opponents the couple could have escaped, but six were simply too difficult to fight off. One of the Death Eaters leered, she was happily anticipating what was to come. Her black eyes were full of triumph.

“We cannot give up, Alice,” the man whispered.

The woman smiled. “We’ll go down fighting.”

They launched into the group of Death Eaters, spells flying from their wands, but they did not last very long. A few minutes later they lay on the ground, separated from each other, their wands in the hands of the enemy. The female Death Eater stood over them, her eyes glittering with ferocious passion. She stood over the man, a terrible smile on her face.

“Crucio.”


Antonio wrenched his eyes from the depths of the bowl, disturbed by what he had seen in there. He had recognised the couple as Frank Longbottom and Alice Delaney, two Gryffindor students at Hogwarts. Alice was in one of his classes; a successful student of Divination. The female Death Eater had been none other than Bellatrix Lestrange.

His breath heavy, he glanced over at Riddle, whose eyes were bright with such a happiness that he looked for a moment like a child on Christmas morning, opening the largest present of them all.

“Good, good,” he muttered, still staring into the bowl. Antonio shuddered to think of what was occurring far into the future.

“What is it?” Bellatrix asked suddenly. “What does he see?” The other Death Eaters mumbled an agreement. “We want to know what will happen.”

Riddle straightened. Obviously the scene - for it could not be quite called a memory - had ended. The smile remained on his face, accentuating his handsome profile. As he told his followers just what he had seen within the liquid, the faces of his followers changed from sceptical to victorious. It was as though they were beginning to envision their place among the ranks of the Dark Lord when he finally came to the rule the Wizarding world.

“Show me more,” Riddle demanded as soon as he had finished relating the scene. “I must know more about the future!”

Antonio hesitated for a moment. He knew the repercussions of both revealing future events and of this device, which had not yet been perfected. The spell he had used in its creation had many similarities to the spells behind the Mirror of Erised, which showed the one who stood before it their greatest desire. For all he knew, the silver bowl could be showing only the events that Riddle wanted to see: his victories over mudbloods and their protectors. Only Merlin knew how many losses the Dark Lord’s army would suffer for Riddle would not wish to see those events. For the shortest second, Antonio nearly refused. But then he realised that such a refusal would cost him his life. He had gone too far to pull out now. Like Frank and Alice would be trapped in that alley one day, he was trapped in this room filled with dark wizards.

“Of course, my Lord.”

Over the next few hours, they watched event after event that would one day occur. There were battles, short conversations, numerous scenes of new Death Eaters being ordained, a strange one in which a rat-like man was given a silver hand... In most of the scenes, Antonio recognised many of his students as well as others from Hogwarts, including professors. Some died, others were maimed; very few were able to escape unharmed.

Time passed: Antonio’s head throbbed, Mort had fallen asleep standing, and it looked as though many of the Death Eaters were snoozing in their chairs. Dawn was appearing on the horizon when Riddle finally looked up from the bowl and sighed a sigh of pure and utter happiness.

“I thank you for the use of this device,” he told Antonio. “It has been most ... gratifying.”

He strode to the door, too enthralled with what he had seen to notice the closed eyes and tilted heads of his followers. Soon they too began to rise, ready to leave and head back to their homes across England.

Riddle stopped at the door. “Mort will show you out, Sejanus.”

And with that, he vanished into the gloom of the hallway beyond, the Death Eaters following behind him like an oversized shadow. Antonio glanced over at Mort, whose eyes were now open and alert.

“Does that thing show us whatever we want to see?” Mort asked.

Collapsing in a chair out of pure exhaustion, Antonio nodded, brushing his hand over his short hair. “Anything that will happen can be seen, yes.”

“And if I want to see a person?”

Antonio wondered where this conversation was leading to. “I suppose.”

“You won’t tell him that I looked, would you?”

“If by ‘him’ you mean Riddle, then no, I won’t,” Antonio replied suspiciously.

Mort warily approached the silver bowl and it was then that Antonio noticed the other man’s dull hazel eyes and rounded face. Such features were vaguely familiar...

“He thinks I don’t remember,” Mort muttered to no one in particular. “He thinks that he erased everything, but he hasn’t. Parts are still there, bits and pieces of the man I once was. I wasn’t always like this...”

He leaned over the bowl, his gnarled hands clenching the sides. The liquid began to swirl once more, forming images and echoing sounds. Antonio looked over Mort’s shoulder, curious as to what the man was hoping to see.

It was a rose garden with fragrant blooms that filled the air with their enchanting scent. The time was twilight, just when the stars were beginning to appear, distant white and blue lights against the velvety blue of the surrounding sky. Among the roses were narrow stone paths, built both for gardeners and pleasure walkers alike. Stone statues and benches were tastefully scattered about, not taking away from the brilliance of the flowers. On one of the benches sat a woman with straight dark hair that flowed half-way down her back. She sat there, unmoving, staring into space.

Suddenly there was the crackle of footsteps on gravel and a dark figure walked over, obvious confidence in his every step. Upon seeing him, the woman rose from her seat.

“I didn’t think you would come.”

“I was held up at the Ministry. There were problems with the last report.”

The woman sat back down again, her fists clenched.

“What sort of problems?”

“I cannot discuss them with anyone. I’m sorry.”

She waved a hand to show it was no matter. “Are they still safe?”

The man stiffened and turned his head away from her.

“For the moment, yes.”

“There is still hope then,” she replied quietly.

Impulsively, the man sat beside her and took her hands. “If only this was over.”

She bit her lip, as though she were holding back tears. “It will be soon.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.

“But who will win?”

The woman didn’t reply. She looked away, removing her hands from his grasp.

“It can’t go on like this. Surely you know that,” she said passionately. “All the secrets, the deceptions... It’s no way to live.”

The man lifted her chin so that her eyes would meet his. “You should not think about that. It will only make it worse.” He leaned his head down to hers, meeting her lips halfway. She put her arms around his neck, the tears freely flowing down her cheeks.


Mort wrenched his eyes away from the bowl, his shaking hands knocking it over, sending the liquid across the floor in a silvery puddle. Mumbling an apology, he hurried from the room as fast as his injured leg could take him, leaving Antonio staring at an empty silver bowl lying overturned on the floor. It was then that he recognised who the woman had been and what she was to the strange man named Mort.

But who had been the man?



The chapter title is from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera".

The quote is real Latin too. It means "Show me the future." How original.


Chapter 15: Twelve: Here is Gone
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Twelve


“It’s certainly a nice day out, isn’t it, Emma?” Lily asked.

Emma looked up from the book she’d been flipping through. The two of them were sitting at Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, enjoying a short rest before they continued their shopping for school. While Lily twirled her spoon in the strawberry sundae she’d ordered, Emma pushed aside her empty bowl to look though the book she’d bought that morning.

“Oh? Yes, of course,” she replied absently, her mind filled with ancient runes.

Lily rolled her eyes. “You would have said that no matter what I asked.”

Flushing slightly, Emma closed the book and shoved it back into the bag.

“Sorry. I guess it can wait until we go back to school. It is still the hols.” She looked up at her friend, who was grinning ear to ear. “What’s so funny?”

Lily laughed. “You, of course! Putting away that book for you was like having to go to the dentist for most people. Sorry, but it is rather amusing.”

“I live to amuse,” Emma said sarcastically, which caused Lily to almost choke on the spoonful of ice cream she’d just placed in her mouth.

A hand appeared out of nowhere to not-too-gently pat Lily on the back.

“Watch it there, Evans. Wouldn’t want to see your pretty face turn blue.”

Just hearing his voice was enough to clear Lily’s throat. “Sod off, Potter,” she croaked.

James Potter crossed his arms, which were quite muscular after hours of Quidditch practice during the summer. “Now that’s not very nice, is it?”

Lily scowled, a definite sign that she was angry. “If I want help, I’ll ask for it.”

“Even if you can’t speak at that moment?”

“Yes, even more so then.”

“Well that doesn’t make sense at all,” he said, turning to Emma. “Surely you can see that your friend’s logic is flawed.”

Emma raised an eyebrow. “Not when I’m looking at you, I can’t.”

James frowned, his lower lip wobbled as though he were ready to break into maudlin tears. “Woe is me,” he said dramatically, placing the back of his hand on his forehead and leaning backwards as if he were ready to swoon.

Lily and Emma exchanged suspicious glances, and while they were doing so, James swooped down, grabbing Lily’s half-finished bowl of ice cream before he started to run off. His laughter, however, came to an abrupt end when he ran head-first into a wizard clad in brown robes.

“What in Merlin’s name are you doing, Potter?” Grimm asked, obviously annoyed.

James shrank back, his eyes wide behind his wire-rimmed spectacles. “Nothing, sir.”

Grimm pointed at the bowl of melting ice cream. “I don’t think that’s yours.”

“Well, sir, you see...”

“Don’t give me a lame excuse, Potter. I saw you take it, now give it back.”

Head bowed and shoulders slumped forward, James trod back to the table and set the bowl in front of Lily. “Sorry, it was just a joke.”

“With you, Potter,” Lily said, “everything is.”

James shrugged. “Want me to buy you another one?”

“And why would you do that?”

They began to squabble, which was not a rare occurrence whenever they crossed paths. Grimm stared at them a moment, bemused, then turned towards Emma.

“Come, I need to speak with you for a moment,” he said in a low voice, gesturing towards an empty corner of the shop.

Emma was taken unawares was Grimm’s request. During the summer months he had often left her to her own devices while he worked on his experiments. They had gone to visit her aunts in Derbyshire as well as stopping off at Grimm’s home in the Dales, but other than that, he had rarely spent any time with her. Even if they were in the same room, he’d only mutter a greeting before burying himself in his work or in deep thought.

As soon as she had settled herself in a chair, he continued, a deadly serious expression on his face. “There’s been rumours that Lord Voldemort has come to England, bringing his followers with him. The Ministry’s looking for him, but they haven’t found him yet. He could be anywhere.”

Emma swallowed, then asked, “Why are you telling me this?”

Grimm looked down at the tiled floor, which was littered with rainbow sprinkles. “The return of Voldemort also means the return of someone else. Someone that you know...”

Her left hand suddenly clenched into a tight fist; she could feel her nails, short as they were, digging into the skin like needles. She did not need Grimm to tell her who had followed the elusive dark wizard to England. Grimm’s present behaviour only intensified her suspicions as to what her father had done after her mother’s death. He had become a Death Eater. She was the daughter of a Death Eater. The very thought disgusted her beyond belief.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” she asked, not daring to meet Grimm’s eyes.

“I’m afraid so,” he said quietly. “If you must know...”

She held up her hand. “Don’t tell me. He might be related to me, but he’s not my father, not in the sense of what a father should be.”

Grimm smiled, understanding what her statement implied.

“If I see him,” she whispered suddenly. “I won’t be able to control myself.”

The smile vanished from his face.

“What do you mean, Emma?”

She looked up at him, her eyes filled with loathing. “I might kill him.”

He gripped her shoulder, fear filling his heart. He prayed to whoever was listening that she would never have to kill anyone, not even her father.

“No, not before I do,” he said softly.

That caught her attention. Her jaw dropped. “You wouldn’t!”

“But you’ve never seen me duel before, have you?”

Now her eyes widened too. “I – I ... no.”

“Well, then, you can’t really have an opinion on the subject, can you?” He was glad he’d gotten her mind off her father, at least temporarily.

“It’d be great if you could show us all that in class. Your duelling capabilities, I mean.”

“If it comes to that, then I will.”

“Good,” she said with a smile. “Now, I better go. Potter’s friends are coming and Lily will need some protection.”

Glancing over at the red-head with her arms crossed and a no-nonsense expression on her face, Grimm said, “If you must, not that she looks as though she needs it.”

“Looks can be deceiving, Uncle. You taught me that, remember?”

She hurried off to join her friend, only to meet with loud greetings from Sirius Black, who winked at her, receiving a playful insult in reply. A short time later, Emma and Lily left the shop and the four boys went to order their desserts. Grimm remained in the corner, biting his lip until he could taste the blood. Emma may have been skilled at hiding her feelings, but he knew very well that his news had upset her, yet he had been given no choice but to tell her about it. The chances were too likely that Nero would try to contact his estranged daughter, perhaps believing that she would join him once her schooling was complete.

There was always the chance that, instead of embracing his child, Nero would instead complete his work and kill her like he had her mother. If that was the case, then Nero had a big surprise coming to him. Not only was Emma ready for him, but Grimm would be there to protect her. Hopefully it would never come to that point where lives would hang in the balance, but with the horizon growing darker, one never knew what lay in the future.

~ * * * ~


Knockturn Alley was a dark and rather menacing place at any time of day. The light from the brightly shining sun reached the cobblestones with great difficulty, blocked by the close proximity of one side of the street to the other as well as numerous overhangs. Anyone wandering down this alley most likely knew the place by feel rather than sight, knowing difference between the entrance to Borgin & Burkes and Carrows’ Fine Contagions by the way that the pavement dipped on one side or in the differing sounds that resonated from each shop. For the young man currently traversing the Alley, it would be obvious to any resident of that place that he had not been there often enough to know his way around. So like the residents of any other friendly community like their own, they entirely ignored him. From the looks of him, he was definitely not a curious Ravenclaw, silly lost Hufflepuff, or naively brave Gryffindor. That, therefore, put him at the same level as the people of Knockturn Alley, and because of that, they left him to his own devices.

He carefully walked down the alley, avoiding the gaze of passers by and squinting into the ill-lit window displays of the various shops. It was not his first time there, but it was not very often when his mother allowed him to come to London alone, so the opportunity to visit Knockturn Alley was a rare one.

The very thought of his mother deepened the sneer on his face. She had travelled to Bath for health reasons, at least that was the excuse she had given her son, but he knew better. She was on the lookout for another husband, having spent too long a widow in their dumpy home on Spinner’s End. The young man only hoped that the men there would have the sense to see the desperation in his mother’s eyes and scarper before she could drag her victim to the next registry office. Coming home to find a new step-father would not at all suit the plans of Severus Snape. Having one father had been bad enough.

He stood at the window of Borgin & Burkes, longingly gazing at the assortment of items resting on black velvet just beyond his reach. All of them would be ridiculously overpriced and far too expensive for an otherwise-unemployed student. Snape longed to learn more about the Dark Arts and the powers that could be controlled by such knowledge, but unless his situation changed drastically, that knowledge would be like the items in the shop window: nearly impossible to attain.

Glowering, he stuck his hands deep into his trouser pockets and walked towards the entrance of the alley, from which he’d go purchase the items required for fifth year at Hogwarts. When he reached the entrance to Diagon Alley, he was forced to squint as the sudden change in light overpowered his eyes. Through the slits of his eyelids, he saw the shadowy figures of a group of boys heading towards him. Their boisterous voices echoed against the storefronts and the facade of Gringotts Wizarding Bank. They did not see Snape as he ducked behind one of the crooked Doric columns, but in doing so, Snape himself saw the flash of red across the alley. In front of Fortescue’s stood Lily Evans, who was openly arguing with James Potter. Glancing back at the group of boys, he knew at once that they were not the ones he had dreaded to meet.

Regulus Black and his two Slytherin friends strode down the alley in new robes of the best quality. They pointed and snickered at anything that deserved their attention, laughing loudly when one of their group made a joke, even if it wasn’t very funny. They simply wanted to draw attention to themselves. Yet as they neared Knockturn Alley, Regulus’ voice lowered and he leant over to whisper something into the ear of the friend next to him. On his face was an expression of mirth very similar to the one his elder brother easily took on whenever he spied Snape, yet on Regulus, the expression was far more disturbing, even ruthless in nature. The group stopped close to where Snape stood, not realising that someone was eavesdropping on their conversation.

“What did your brother say about this?” Regulus asked Rabstaban Lestrange, who stood beside him.

“He wouldn’t say very much,” Rabstaban replied furtively. “Just that it’d be around this time and this place.”

Regulus frowned. He hated to be left in the dark about something. “Why did he make it such a secret? It’s not like we can’t do anything to help.”

Rabstaban shook his head, causing the black curls upon it to shake wildly. “He and Bella said we were too young to get involved, that we should worry about school right now.”

“That’s bloody stupid,” the third boy in the group complained, carelessly brushing back a strand of straw-like hair that had fallen into his eyes. “What do they think we’ll do? Mess up their plans or something?”

“No, more likely they want all the glory,” Regulus said bitterly. “If they kill as many mudbloods as they can, the Dark Lord will reward them greatly.”

The blond boy suddenly looked worried. “Kill people? They’re actually going to go through with it?” he asked in a hushed whisper, the awe audible in his voice.

Rabstaban spat on the ground and leered at a group of witches who passed by. “Of course they will, you dolt! What did you think they’d do, Barty? Dance around like pansies?”

The boy known as Barty Crouch the younger flushed in frustration. “No, I didn’t mean that! I was only saying that...”

Regulus cut him off impatiently. “Shut up, both of you! We have to make a plan if we’re going to do this right. Down here,” he whispered, pointing to the entrance to Knockturn Alley. “It will be more to our advantage if others can’t overhear our plans.”

The two other boys glared at each other, obvious dislike between them, but followed Regulus down into the dark, gloomy alleyway. Snape remained behind the crooked pillar, thinking over what he had just heard. Something was going to happen that afternoon and it would not at all be a pleasant something. If his guess was correct, an attack by Death Eaters was on the days’ agenda, and no one but him and the conspirators knew about it.

His first instinct was to tell someone, but who would believe him? He was a Slytherin and should be loyal to his housemates, yet at the same time he knew of the destruction and possible death that could ensue as a result. He also knew that he himself was in danger of being on the casualty list due to the not-so-simple fact that he was a half-blood: going by his mother’s maiden name, a half-blooded Prince.

He was just about to leave the shadows of the entrance to Gringotts when the sound of a familiar voice forced his body to throw itself back behind the safety of the pillar.

“Of course I remembered my list this time! I’ve only done that –“

”Every year,” Lily Evans finished, her voice filled with amusement. “Either you leave it in a book as a marker, or you’re so caught up in what books and potions supplies you want to buy that you entirely forget your reason for coming here in the first place!”

Emilia’s reply did not come right away. She must have been trying to think of a worthy-enough response to Lily’s remark. “Well, can you blame me for coming with you then? At least one of us will have the proper list of things to purchase.”

Snape glanced around the pillar just to see her for a moment. Other than the rare letter, they had barely corresponded since the school year had ended. She was walking beside Lily with her arms crossed, looking back longingly at Flourish and Blotts. The sleeves of her robes hung over her hands and it was evident to the watchful eye that the hem of her robes was pinned up to keep her from tripping on it. He smiled at the clue to Grimm’s frugality, then was gratified to see a glint of silver at her neck when she turned her head back in the direction she was walking.

Catching Emilia’s eyes looking at the bookshop, Lily nudged her friend in the arm. “We’ll go there soon, don’t you worry. It’s just that I need to look for a few things down this way. You won’t die or anything if we don’t go to Flourish and Blotts right away?”

Emilia rolled her eyes dramatically. “As long as we get to go to the junk shop,” she stated with confidence, walking off in the direction of the far-end of the alley, leaving Lily to hurry after her, trying to argue. Snape was unable to hear Lily’s response, but he was too engrossed with watching Emilia as she made her way up the street, tripping over a cobblestone when she wasn’t properly looking where she was going.

After the two of them had vanished from sight, he leaned back against the pillar, berating himself for being ridiculous in his thoughts about the Ravenclaw girl. He forced his mind back to the problem of the young Slytherins and what they had been discussing. Sneaking a glance over at Fortescue’s, he noticed Professor Grimm standing in the street, hands in the pockets of his robes, looking bored. Snape thought that if he told anyone about what he had heard, he would be safe telling Grimm, who not only would know what to do, but he had influence, being a Hogwarts professor.

Leaving the safety of the shadows, Snape began to cross the street.

“Hey look,” said a grossly familiar voice. “It’s Snivellus!”

Snape whipped around to find himself staring into the dancing hazel eyes of his worst enemy. Standing beside James Potter was Peter Pettigrew, who did not seem at all happy to have a confrontation going on in the middle of Diagon Alley right in front of him.

“Out of my way, Potter,” Snape growled. “I’ve more important things to do.”

He started to push by, but Potter continued to bar his way.

“Like what? Hang around with your Slytherin cronies, dreaming about becoming a Death Eater? Or would you prefer becoming the next Dark Lord yourself?” The taunting in Potter’s voice was too much to bear, yet Snape would not allow himself to draw his wand in the middle of Diagon Alley, not with what Regulus Black had said would occur possibly happening at any moment.

“I was going to go talk with Professor Grimm, if you must know,” he replied with a scowl. “Not that it’s any of your business.”

“Never would have taken you for the type to talk with teachers during hols, Snape,” said Potter, not bothering to hide the hatred in his voice. “Especially a Ravenclaw one. Or wait, is it because of little Goldwyn that you want to talk to him?”

At that moment, Snape’s control broke. His fist connected with Potter’s nose, which made a horrible crunching noise. Potter lunged forward, but Pettigrew grabbed Potter’s arm to pull his friend away.

“Don’t James, not here,” he whispered, glancing around them at the people passing by, who were stopping to stare.

“Let go, Peter!” James cried, holding his nose with one hand and reaching for his wand with the other. “I’ll kill the bastard!“ But when he looked around to find Snape, there was no sign of the Slytherin boy. It was as though he had vanished into thin air, but in all reality, the shadow moving through Knockturn Alley at breakneck speed was the form of Severus Snape, despising his cowardice with every step.

~ * * * ~


“I can’t understand why you wanted to come here,” Lily said, pulling her hand away from a pile of mysterious objects as a spider scuttled past. “This place makes has to be the dirtiest one I’ve ever seen.”

Over in the next aisle, Emma shoved aside a box full of rusting gears and switches. “Believe me, my aunt Cloeia’s bedroom was far worse. It was like she’d kept everything she’d ever owned. She still had her baby teeth in a porcelain box.”

Lily shuddered at the thought. “That can’t have been healthy,” she said, staring at the overstuffed shelves of every item imaginable. “What are you looking for anyway?”

The dull sound of a clunk instead of a reply caused Lily to rush around to the other side of the aisle. There, she found Emma sitting on the floor with no care for her robes, digging through a small container.

“It’s a bit of a long story, you see,” Emma said rather sheepishly. “It’s about Grimm’s pocket watch...” She trailed off with a wince. “I sort of broke it.”

“How can you ‘sort of’ break something?” Lily asked skeptically.

Emma bit her lip, keeping her eyes downcast. “It fell off his desk when I shuffled around his papers a bit.”

With a frown, Lily said, “So it’s probably worse for you to have been looking through his papers than it was for you to have broken his watch.”

“And finding out that I broke the watch means that I looked through his papers,” Emma completed with a fitful sigh. “He’s been so secretive lately about his experiments and I couldn’t help my curiosity.”

“You’re starting to whine,” Lily remarked dryly, starting into the dark recess that was the shelf.

Emma scowled. “No I’m not. And if all you’re going to do is just stand around and make me feel more guilty than I already am, you might as well help me look. I’m trying to find a medium-sized gear. They either had small or large ones at the shop in Hogsmeade.”

“And he hasn’t noticed yet?” Lily asked with surprise.

Coughing to hide her laughter, Emma replied, “He thinks he misplaced it somewhere. I’m safe for a couple more weeks. Most of the time he just forgets about these things.”

Just the way that last sentence had been said made Lily wonder how much more Grimm wasn’t noticing. Certainly it made Emma’s curiosity into his experiments easier to understand. Something he was doing had take precedence in his mind to nearly everything else. Although she knew that Emma had often been neglected during the years she had lived with her aunts, Lily guessed that her friend was more affected by Grimm’s preoccupation than she ever would have been if still living in Derbyshire.

The sound of Emma rising to her feet and walking towards the front of the store woke Lily from her thoughts.

“Is there something wrong, Em?” she asked.

Emma stopped near the window, an expression of suspicion crossing her face. There were strange sounds coming from outside: angry yells and fearful screams as well as the crashing of objects both large and small. The shopkeeper stood behind the counter, his hands shaking wildly as he locked the cash box with an ancient key.

“They’ve come." The old man finally broke the heavy silence in the store, wiping perspiration from his wrinkled brow with a yellowed handkerchief embroidered at the corners.

“Who has?” Emma inquired, trying to get a better view through the grimy windows.

The man stared at her with wide eyes that were only enlarged by overly thick spectacles.

“The Death Eaters, child,” he whispered. “They’ve come for the muggleborns.”

Emma turned to look at Lily, whose face had gone as pale as a sheet. Without a second glance towards the window, Emma hurried down the crowded aisle, grabbing her friend’s arm as she passed.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” she hissed under her breath. “It’s not safe here anymore.”

Lily pulled out her wand, green eyes watchful. “But where will we go?”

“Anywhere but Diagon Alley. Hopefully having come to this place has bought us some time, it being at the end of the row,” Emma said, moving towards the back of the store. “They’ll be storming the busier shops first.”

Stopping in her tracks, Lily began to turn back. “We have to help them. The first years...”

“No! Lily, they’ll kill you once they know who you are! We have to go now!”

Hesitating for only a moment, Lily nodded grimly. “Come on. There’s bound to be a back entrance somewhere here.”

Winding through towering piles of boxes and crates, the two young witches were beginning to feel as though the store went on forever. It was definitely larger than it appeared on the outside, but that should not have surprised either of them, since it was a magical store. Yet panic was building within Emma’s heart and she could see the beads of sweat on Lily’s forehead. When they heard the crashing in of the front door, they froze. It was doubtful that the old man at the front counter would not betray their presence. He had probably guessed what Lily was the moment he had seen her; those who believed in Voldemort’s ideas about blood purity always seemed to know the purebloods from the mudbloods. It was as though it could be written across someone’s face without the knowledge that it is there.

Both of them could hear angry voices from the front of the shop and the pathetically weak responses from the shopkeeper.

“Yes, there were two girls here, but they were only children –” There was a high squeak from the old man. It was likely that they were torturing him.

Lily turned and hurried further into the shop’s storage area, not wanting to hear what would happen next in the front of the shop. She hissed an affirmative to Emma when she finally found the back door. Wands at the ready, Lily cautiously pushed open the door in case there were Death Eaters on the other side, waiting for the two girls to walk into their trap. No one was there. The dusty service alleyway was empty, nearly devoid of life except for some rats by the rubbish bins, searching for food.

Emma and Lily tumbled into the alleyway, closing the door tightly behind them. Turning only to put a warding spell on the door, Emma followed Lily down the alley, running as fast as her legs could take her. Lily had pulled ahead, being a few inches taller and in far better shape physically and was now reaching a corner in the alley. A moment later, when Emma reached that same corner, Lily was nowhere to be found. The alley was completely empty.

Panic surged through Emma’s mind. “Lily!” she cried out, running down the alley, checking every shadow-filled doorway for any sign of her friend waiting for her to catch up.

Then she realised that she had no clue where she was. Diagon Alley was a magical place like Hogwarts; there was no telling where one could end up if the magic suddenly decided to take hold and change things about. Could it have happened so quickly, though? Could Lily have rounded that corner only seconds before Emma and still have ended up somewhere different? It didn’t make any sense at all to Emma, who was now severely out of breath and not able to think clearly as she stumbled down the alley. She could hear people’s voices, both crying out in fear and uttering spells, from somewhere, yet she could not see any sign of life. Finally, the alley she was in came to a dead end at a high brick wall.

She was trapped here while only Merlin knows what was happening in Diagon Alley. Staring at the wall, she was reminded of the entrance to Diagon Alley through the Leaky Cauldron. That had a brick wall which a person tapped on in a certain pattern to open it. Perhaps the same thing happened with this wall. Her wand held in shaking hands, Emma tapped out random patterns on the bricks, hoping that one would eventually work, but none did. The wall remained firm and unmoveable.

Quickly coming up with another plan, she hurried towards the doorways to see if any would open. Perhaps she could go through the buildings to the other side, but every one she came to was locked. Not even Alohomora worked to open them; each lock was rusted shut, having not been opened in what appeared to be many years. Using every curse she had learned from Grimm didn’t work either. She was trapped in the blasted alleyway. The only way out would be to go back from where she’d come.

As she turned to leave the alleyway, Emma heard a strange sound that was resonating from behind the brick wall. The sound grew louder and deeper as the second passed, soon making any loose stones on the ground vibrate. She stopped in her tracks, looking back at the wall with wide eyes. Something was on the other side of it, trying to get through. Emma backed into a shadowy doorway, holding her wand aloft. Whatever the thing was, it was certainly large enough to get through. Probably it was some sort of powerful spell with a very long incantation or a magical object that had been outlawed by the Ministry. With Death Eaters around, one could never be sure exactly what would happen.

The sudden explosion seemingly rocked the world on its axis. Fire and light burst through the wall, sending bricks and pieces of mortar flying for many yards. The pressure from the blast hit Emma hard, even in the relative safety of the doorway, causing her head to crash back against the stone wall behind her. Her consciousness swam for a moment; she could see among the flames a figure stepping through the ruins of the brick wall. Then her legs weakened and she fell to the ground, feeling a tremendous pain on the back of her head.

After that, all was darkness.


I'm not that good with action scenes, so please bear with me. Thanks so much to everyone for the amazing reviews. It's been wonderful to receive them all. =)

The chapter title is from The Goo Goo Dolls' album "Gutterflower".


Chapter 16: Thirteen: A Bad Dream
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Quick Note: The scenes written in italics refer to a future event which is seen by Mort in the forward-looking silver bowl from a couple chapters ago. They are the ones he refers to in his so-called "madness".



Thirteen



October 30, 1981

She was standing at the door of a shabby house, wondering how he could live in such a place. It did not suit his character at all. From the peeling grey paint on the front door to the crumbling brick facade, the house did not look as though anyone lived in it at all. Yet it was the correct address, of that she was sure. Looking back at the empty streets, with the shadow of the old chimney a menacing figure looming overhead, she began to believe that no one lived in this ghost of a town. Turning back to the door, she knocked again, the noise echoing strangely in the silence that pressed against her like a heavy weight. It was a weight no greater than the one she always seemed to carry, especially now.

There was a sound behind the door. First footsteps, then the sound of old locks being undone. As the last lock clicked back, she swallowed, suddenly feeling more nervous than she had in many years. What would be his reaction to seeing her? Would he slam the door in her face, bitterly remembering the words she had told him when they had last parted? As the door began to open, she knew there was no way of turning back. She had made the choice to find him and now she had to face the consequences of that choice, whatever they may be.

The pair of eyes that met hers from the darkness beyond the door filled with surprise, then suspicion, at seeing her standing on his front step.

“What do you want?” he asked bitingly.

“I need to speak with you,” she whispered in reply. “It’s important.”

For a moment she worried that he would indeed refuse her entry into his home, but then he pulled open the door the rest of the way.

“Welcome to Spinner’s End,” he said, the sarcasm in his tone impossible to ignore.


~ * * * ~


August 1975

“Emma! Emma wake up!” a voice called from just beyond the fog that encased her. “She’s still alive, Moony, so why isn’t she responding?”

“She must have hit her head very hard,” another voice answered.

Something was gently tapping on her cheeks.

“Don’t do that, you dolt,” the second voice chastised. “You’re not helping any.”

Emma groaned, deciding that perhaps she should at least try to open her eyes. “Hell, what happened?” She raised a hand to touch the back of her head. There was no blood, but a nasty bump foretold of a possible concussion.

“There was an explosion,” the second voice said. Her vision swam when she first tried to see who it was, then she recognised the rail thin, almost sickly form of Remus Lupin. “People think that it was He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself that set it off.”

“It could have been any of them,” the first voice broke in angrily. “All of them are bloody dark wizards.” Sirius Black was kneeling beside her in the doorway, worry lines deeply marking his forehead. “Merlin only knows how many are injured or dead because of this.”

“We can’t change what’s happened, Sirius,” Remus said sharply, kicking aside half a brick. “You might as well accept the fact that it’s not safe even here in London under the nose of the Ministry.”

Sirius turned back to Emma, gently helping her sit upright. “I guess asking how you feel will only get me a dirty look?” The old humour was in his voice, but shock and worry too easily overpowered it.

“I doubt that I’d have the strength to,” Emma replied, trying to gain control of her senses.
“How bad is it?”

“What, the damage to your head or the damage to Diagon Alley?” Remus asked, his voice bitterness evident in his voice. “You got off easier than a lot of folk. There’s a pile of bodies outside of Gringotts, if you must know.”

Emma shivered at the very thought of it as Sirius glared at Remus. “Stop being such a damn pessimist, Remus! Either shut up or go get help, but stop with the cynicism already! It’s not the end of the world. We can fight this.”

Remus stared into Diagon Alley, the wall that had once blocked the way now lay crumbled across the cobblestones. “How can we? They’re too strong.”

An expression of determination crossed Sirius’ face. “Then we’ll be stronger,” he said. “Just you see.” He offered a hand to Emilia and helped her stand.

The world spun for a moment as she blinked, trying to get her bearings. She leaned heavily on Sirius’ arm, not entirely sure if she could stand on her own. Certainly her head didn’t seem as though it could control the rest of her. She could feel the scratches and bruises on her arms and legs. Quite a sorry sight she must have looked, though she knew she was lucky to be alive.

“Here,” Remus said, taking her other arm. He and Sirius exchanged a look that she supposed must be an apology. “They’ve set up a small area for the injured over by Fortescue’s. James is there with a bloodied nose, though he won’t say how he got it.”

“And Peter’s been sent off to St. Mungo’s for a broken arm,” Sirius added. “It looked pretty nasty when I saw it.”

“Have you seen Lily at all?” Emma asked, suddenly remembering her reason for having been in that alley in the first place. Briefly, she told the two wizards what exactly had happened leading up to the explosion.

Remus shook his head. “That’s terrible, but now that I think of it, I haven’t seen Lily anywhere since you two left Fortescue’s.” He started to look worried.

“Me neither,” Sirius said. “Who knows what happened after you two got separated.”

Emma froze, dread filling her heart. While she was safe with the two Gryffindors, her friend could have been captured by the Death Eaters, or worse, was dead somewhere in an abandoned alley. She had to be found, even if the worst was indeed true.

“We have to find her!” she said breathlessly, beginning to pull away from Sirius and Remus.

Sirius’ hand gripped her arm. “No, you’re not going anywhere but to a Healer.”

“I’ll go look for Lily,” Remus said, gently patting Emma’s other arm. “We’ll be back before you can say ‘Quidditch’.” The smile on his face did not reach his eyes, but it was obvious that he meant well. He exchanged a glance with Sirius before rushing off.

“This has been hard on him,” Sirius told Emma. “It’s difficult to explain why, though. Probably it’s the injustice of it all.”

She turned her head to stare at the rubble and ruin that surrounded them. The alleyway she had found herself in somehow entered Diagon Alley beside Quality Quidditch Supplies. How it could have connected with the back exit of the junk shop boggled the mind, and Emma’s brain was already boggled enough as it was.

“Why now?” she asked. “There had to be a reason they would chose this of all times.”

“Look around you. It’s time for Hogwarts students to shop for school. Talk about the most perfect time to go after wretched mudbloods,” he spat out the last words with distaste.

It was at this moment that Emma’s head began to swim again, causing her to lose her balance. Sirius caught her and she found herself leaning against him, his arm around her waist. Perhaps his arms were holding her just a bit too tightly, or her head rested a bit too easily against his shoulder. Part of her wanted to remain like that for a while, in the arms of someone who would protect her, but something quavered deep in her heart. It just wasn’t right.

Blushing bright red, she pulled away, only to fall against the nearest wall.

“Sorry,” she muttered. “I’m still a little unsteady, I guess.”

“Do you need to rest for a moment?” he asked, swallowing uncertainly.

She nodded, only to find that it made the pain in her head worse. Gasping for breath, she rested her back against the wall, closing her eyes in pain. The owls in Eeylops were loudly hooting their displeasure at both the noise and amount of dust in the air. Shadowy figures rummaged through the rubble, searching for missing people and items. The names of the missing were being hollered by search parties, while vigilant Aurors checked every shop for Death Eaters who may have remained in the aftermath of the attack.

Sirius placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m going to get some help. Stay here, alright?”

She managed to whisper a “yes” before he stepped over a pile of rubble and disappeared into the clouds of dust. He wouldn’t be going far at all, but at a time such as this, the distance felt like an eternity. Her heart still racing, Emma turned sideways, feeling the coolness of the brick against the burning skin of her face. She just wanted to be away from this place, away from all the destruction and suffering, away to somewhere she would not have to face such horrors.

~ * * * ~

October 30, 1981

She entered the foyer of the house, trying not to stare too long at the torn wallpaper and numerous cobwebs. The floor was fairly clean, so was the small side table near the door where she placed her gloves, but everything else was decrepit, almost to the extreme. He caught the shock in her eyes and sneered.

“I do not usually spend so much time here,” he said disdainfully. “This is my mother’s house, or was before her remarriage. Now, unfortunately, it is mine.” He pointed her through to a sitting room. “We can talk in here just fine.”

This room was no better than the foyer, the chairs and couch within it thoroughly battered and old-looking. She carefully sat on one side of the couch since the two chairs did not look as though they could hold the wait of a cat much less her own. He sat down in one of the chairs, eyes seemingly boring into her very soul.

“You said that you came to talk. So, now talk.”

She swallowed nervously, afraid to meet his eyes. “Do you remember the attack on Diagon Alley six years ago?”

His face darkened. “Yes.”

“Were you there?” she asked hesitantly, her eyes rising to meet his.

“Did I help them in the attack, in other words?”

She paled. “No! No, I didn’t mean that –”

”That’s what you were thinking.”

“You shouldn’t be reading my thoughts.”

“One doesn’t
read thoughts like a book,” he snapped, eyes blazing with cold fury.

She rose from the couch, eyes full of tears she loathed to shed. “I shouldn’t have come.”

He stood up as well. “Merlin knows what sort of monsters have followed you here.”

Rounding on him, eyes wide with shock, she spluttered, “What are you accusing me of?”

The scornful smile chilled her to the core. “Now you know what it feels like.”


~ * * * ~

August 1975

Hands covered in blood that was not his own, Grimm bent over the wounded form of a young witch, trying to stop the blood that dripped from her stomach. Most likely its cause had been accidental - from falling on something sharp - but it still angered him greatly. That someone so young and full of promise should be lying here with Death standing at the end of the bed was more cruel than anything Grimm could imagine. It would be impossible to move her to St. Mungo’s without causing greater injury and it was a slim chance that she would be able to get proper treatment from a Healer, not when they were all so busy with other patients.

Every time he looked at the girl’s face, he could visualise Emma lying the same way, dying cold and alone in some godforsaken alleyway. Yet as much as he wished to go search for her, he knew that he could not leave the makeshift hospital, not when they needed every pair of hands they could get. He poured some more pain-killing potion into the barely-conscious girl’s mouth. She coughed slightly, then closed her eyes, her breathing ragged. It was as though she knew what was coming for her.

“Professor! Professor Grimm!” a voice called out from behind him.

Grimm whipped around to face a very pale Sirius Black.

“What is it, Black? Have you found something?” he asked, his voice cracking as he did so.

“Yes, sir. I found Emma,” he said breathlessly. “She’s just down the street, across from Eyelops. She’s got a concussion, and couldn’t go any further.”

Grimm handed Sirius a clean handkerchief. “Hold this to the girl’s wound. Call one of the other Healers for help if she goes into shock. Don’t leave her for a moment!”

Sirius nodded as Grimm pushed past the Healers and bystanders, disappearing into the crowd and the dust. Wand in hand, Grimm stepped over fallen bricks and merchandise from the stores. The alley was a complete mess. This attack was by far the worst in the history of wizardkind; not even Grindlewald had ever inflicted so much damage in so short a time. This Dark Lord and his followers had turned the ordered world into chaos, and probably would continue doing so for a very long time unless they were stopped. But who could put an end to such evil?

When he came to the spot across the Eyelops, he could see shoe prints in the dust which matched those which Emma had been wearing earlier. They stood against the wall, turning one to the side, probably because of the bump on the back of her head. Black had said that she had a concussion. Merlin only knew how she had gotten it. The absence of the feet to which the prints belonged bothered him. Even worse were the prints that led up to Emma’s then disappeared down a narrow walkway between the stores.

Swearing under his breath, Grimm rushed down the alley, hoping that he would not be too late. He did not need to guess what had happened.

~ * * * ~


The voice was one she knew, of that she was certain. It was soft and somewhat hoarse, but filled with gentleness. Her head was resting against what seemed to be a cushion; the cuts on her hands had been wrapped in a handkerchief which had been torn in two. She had the vague memory of a shadow approaching her as she waiting for Sirius to return with help. The shadow had spoken to her, led her away from where she should have stayed. She had not been able to control the shadow - she had barely been able to speak, the pain in her head had been, and still was, overbearing. She had stumbled many times and the shadow had always stopped her fall with shaking hands.

Finally, they stopped near a rubbish bin. Emma rested against the wall, trying to control her head long enough to see who this shadow-person was. But whenever she thought that her vision was clearing, the world around her would become blurry once again.

A hand rested against her sweating forehead. “It’s not a fever,” a voice mumbled, more to itself than to Emma. “Yet something is wrong with her head, but how?”

“It was the explosion,” Emma managed to say. “I hit my head.”

There was a sound of shuffling footsteps. “Yes, yes. Of course it was that thing. I told Master not to use it, but he rarely listens to me now...”

Trying to grasp the meaning of his strange way of speaking, she asked, “Who are you?”

In the pause before he replied, Emma could barely hear the sounds of the search parties and people rummaging through the debris. They must have gone a distance from Diagon Alley.

“You do not remember?” the voice whispered. “Did they make you forget me?”

Dread filled Emma’s stomach, making her feel ill. This was the last thing she needed to happen to her on such a day. Surreptitiously, she reached into her robes only to find that her wand was not there. She was defenceless against the only person in the world she could bring herself to hate: her father.

She tried to move away from him, only to stumble against the wall. “Get away from me,” she said, her voice finding some strength at last.

He reached out to touch her face again, but she slapped aside his hand.

“They’ve poisoned you against me, Emma. I only want to help you...” his voice trailed off into silence.

“Help me! Why would you start now after all these years?” she replied bitterly. “You killed her and you left. Tell me why I should forgive you for that.”

His voice was now shaking from what could have been either excitement or fear. “I did what I had to do. I cannot take that back.”

Tears were filling Emma’s eyes. “No, you can’t. She’s gone. You lost us both that night.”

“What is the past when it is compared to the future?” he said quietly. “I’ve seen what will happen and I must stop it. Please, let me help you. I can save you from what is to come.” His voice was becoming more high-pitched with each statement, and the sound of it was beginning to hurt Emma’s ears.

She backed up a few more steps, not wanting to be near this man any longer. “You’re talking nonsense. Just leave me alone. I want nothing to do with you or your master.”

He shuffled after her. Dim sunlight shining over the top of a building highlighted the deep creases in his face and made his shock white hair seem impossibly bright.

“Terrible things,” he muttered. “All the things I have seen. Much death and unhappiness. The world will be at your fingertips, but you will refuse it for your true desire.”

He grabbed her pale hand, holding it tightly within both of his own. Pain seared through Emma’s arm. She cringed, unable to pull away from his grasp.

“In the end, even that will desert you. Then there will be nothing, nothing but death. Oh child, I can save you from this. Just let me – just let me...”

He was cut off by a wand pointing at his face. It seemed to appear from nowhere, along with the wizard who was holding it. Immediately, he let go of Emma’s hand and stepped backwards, his eyes never drifting from the wand. She stumbled backwards and would have fallen over if it had not been for Grimm’s supporting arm.

“Why didn’t you follow your beloved master back to his lair?” Grimm asked mockingly, his face filled with disgust. “Did you think you could first seduce your daughter to his cause?”

Mort cowered against the wall. “No, no. She must stay away from Him at all costs...”

Grimm raised an eyebrow. “Then why are you here risking your worthless life?”

“You wouldn’t understand,” Mort muttered with a sneer. “People like you wouldn’t.”

“Understand what? Try me, Nero. I may be a half-blood, but I’m not dim-witted.”

Emma looked up, twisting her head around to look up at Grimm. He was a half-blood? Not that it made any difference, but hearing it from his lips was a surprise.

Mort’s laughter quickly dissolved into a coughing fit. When he regained control once again, Emma could see the drops of blood glittering on his hands. She shuddered, not wanting to think about the things her father had been through over the past fourteen years. He was not only ill in his mind, but in body as well. Even though the skin on her pale hand burned with pain, for the shortest moment she felt sympathy for the broken man who stood before her. He was dying, it seemed, yet he still wanted to help her, his only child.

When another spasm of pain soared through her arm, any sympathy she had been feeling vanished. Her father was part of an evil society who would kill to achieve their means. Just how much of the killing he had done himself, she would never know, but he had been there at Voldemort’s side. Of that she was certain.

“You don’t know, do you Grimm?” Mort rasped, holding onto a rubbish bin for support. “I followed her one day to see where she went. Once a week she would go, to tea, she always said, but I knew better. Yes, I knew better...”

“Shut up, you fool!” Grimm said as the tip of his wand began to glow. “No matter what she did, your actions were far worse. No respectable wizard would have done such a thing!”

Mort’s glittering hazel eyes, filled with a terrible loathing, looked straight at Grimm. They were the only part of the Death Eater that did not waver.

“My master is proud for what I did,” he said quietly, his voice gaining the strength of the fanatic. “He would not have taken me otherwise, leaving me a helpless coward, unable to face the truth of his wife’s misdeeds.” He coughed into his hand, leaving a fresh spattering of blood.

The spell hit Mort without warning, sending him flying into the rubbish bins. Grimm had never needed to cheat in order to perform a spell without reciting its incantation. He did not even blink nor did any part of him twitch, as was often the cause with many magic-users.

“Only a coward would have committed murder,” Grimm snapped, finding that he was having to support more of Emma’s weight as she slowly lost consciousness. It was best that she did not hear what was being said.

Scrambling up from amidst the old fish bones and greasy newspapers, Mort’s shaking hands reached into his patched robes for his wand.

“Let me have the child. That is all I ask.”

Before he could even decide upon the correct spell, his wand flew from his grasp and into Grimm’s hand. “It’s not even yours,” he scoffed. “Nice of you to steal your own daughter’s wand.”

This incensed Mort, whose eyes were burning with a terrible rage. His hands were clenched so hard that his short nails were cutting into his skin, but he could not feel the pain.

“She is my daughter, Grimm. Give her to me!”

Grimm held Emma even closer. He would die before handing her over to such a monster.

“You gave up any claim to her the moment you abandoned her,” he growled, his wand steadily pointing at Mort’s chest.

Stupefy. The words were loud within his mind. It would not be difficult to capture the Death Eater and send for the Aurors. A slow painful existence in Azkaban, or even death at the hands of a dementor would keep this man from doing more evil. It would keep Mort away from his daughter forever.

But somehow, the spell missed, brushing against Mort’s robes as he turned in a circle. With a sound that resembled a gun shot fired in an empty room, he was gone.

~ * * * ~

October 30, 1981

The two of them stood facing one another across the room. Through the slats in the boarded window shone rays of light that played games with the dust in the air and cast strange shadows across the faces of the witch and wizard.

“What has happened to us?” she asked suddenly. “How could we change so much?”

He snorted and leaned against the doorjamb. “You always were an idealist. Some would call it naive.”

“Do you know why I came to ask you about Diagon Alley?”

“I doubt that you simply wanted to chat about old times,” the sarcasm in his voice was extremely pronounced. He was already becoming bored with her.

She brushed a strand of hair from her pale face. “I don’t remember a thing about that day. Things happened, but I can’t picture them in my mind. Nor has anyone told me. That’s why I came to you.”

His eyes narrowed. This was not what he had expected. Her suspicion of him had stemmed not from herself, but from the stories of others. Others who had seen him lurk behind the columns of Gringotts and fight with Potter. Others who had seen him flee into Knockturn Alley and not appear again for many days. He had been afraid and that was the last thing he would ever admit to anyone, even Emilia.

“They have not told you for good reason,” he said, turning away. “It is best that you go now. For you to be seen here will only put you in great danger.”

She stepped towards him and lightly touched his arm. He flinched and pulled away, his face a mask of suffering and hatred.

“You heard me. Get out,” he snarled in a low voice.

Her eyes dropping to the floor, she brushed past him and walked down the hall to the door. Placing her hand upon the doorknob, she looked back.

“It doesn’t have to be like this, Severus. You have a choice.”

His body stiffened. Did she know the truth about what he was? Is that why she had come to him and not gone to her friends? Had she realised the sort of work Dumbledore had put him up to, making him feel more guilty with every dishonest word?

“That choice is no longer mine to make,” he whispered, disappearing into the house.


~ * * * ~

August 1975

Hospitals are rarely ever pleasant places to be. Their clean white halls and thick scent of disinfectant only mask the dank odour of death and suffering. Grimm was only fortunately that he did not have to travel to the fourth floor, where the worst-off of the patients were kept under lock and key. His great dislike of hospitals was the reason why he had become a professor instead of a Healer. Only those with the strongest of wills could manage in a place like St. Mungo’s without going insane with helplessness. Just because magic was used to heal did not mean that patients could all be treated. Some died. Others would never be able to leave.

There were always patients who could not be saved, as hard as any Healer would work to try and save them. Fate could be dreadfully cruel.

He sat on a chair in the long, painfully white hallway on the ground floor of St. Mungo’s, listening to the flurry of sounds at the reception desk. Even though the desk was a long distance away, the sound from it still carried. At least it kept the place from being too silent. Then it would feel too much like a graveyard.

“Professor Grimm?”

A young Healer stood in front of him, a warm smile on her face. She seemed to be the type that would always be smiling no matter what the circumstances were.

“Yes?” he asked.

“She’s doing quite well, sir. A nasty bump, it was, but it didn’t cause a great amount of damage. In a few days, she’ll be ready to take home.”

Grimm frowned, puzzling over the “great amount of damage” part.

“So there is something wrong with her still,” he stated bluntly, not about to allow the Healer to go without telling him the problem.

The smile wavered, but only slightly. Perhaps she’d put a hex on her mouth to permanently keep it in that position.

“There will be some memory loss, sir. It was unavoidable because of the ... situation.”

The muscles around Grimm’s eyes tightened, but otherwise there was no other reaction.

“Do you know to which extent?”

The Healer nodded. “Yes, sir. It’s very short-term. Most likely she won’t remember the events of today, but everything else should be intact.”

Grimm looked down the hallway, trying to force back the tide of memories that was slowly washing over him. But that had been another time, and a very different place. There simply had not been the resources to fix the problem then. This time, however, he would not lose the battle against death.

“We can be thankful for that,” he told the Healer. “If only all of us could just as easily forget what happened today. Thank you for your help.”

With a nod and a kind smile, the Healer walked into the next room down the hall, ready to help another patient.

Grimm rose and stood at the open door to Emma’s room. She lay there, hands neatly folded over her stomach, so serene-looking. Had it not been for the pink tinge to her cheeks and the small movements of her chest, she could have been peacefully dead. The uncanny similarity between sleep and death was too disturbing for Grimm, who quietly shut the door and fled down the hallway, wondering if the tea room had improved any since his last visit.

After turning the final corner in the corridor, Grimm realised that the sounds from the reception desk were much louder than they should have been. It was not simply the noise from people bustling in and out of the building. Rather, it seemed that there was a full-blown argument going on. Unfortunately, Grimm recognised the two voices involved. There would be no sneaking up the lift unnoticed on this occasion.

Severus Snape lay on the floor, one hand wiping blood from a cut on his cheek. He stared, eyes full of furious hatred, up at the equally angry form of Sirius Black, who had his wand pointed directly at Snape’s heart.

“What makes you think you can show your face here after what’s happened, Snivellus?” he asked disdainfully.

“I don’t believe that there are rules barring me from this place,” Snape snapped in reply.

This only seemed to anger Sirius more. “There damn well should be. I know what you are, Snape. You can’t lie about it.”

With a small snort, Snape rolled his eyes and slowly rose from the ground. He dusted off his clothes, paying no attention to the wand pointed at him.

“Rather you know what your brother is, Black. Or should I say, what he will be?”

The mocking scorn in his voice should have been enough to set off Sirius’ already-hot temper, yet for some reason, it did not. Sirius stood there, staring at Snape with a slightly open mouth as though he could not grasp the meaning of Snape’s words. Knowing that he now had the upper hand, Snape took full advantage of the situation.

“Oh yes, didn’t you know? Your nasty little brother is getting himself into something that he’ll never be able to get out of again. Not without dying first. The Dark Lord never lets anyone leave him alive.”

With a roar, Sirius grabbed the front of Snape’s robes, glaring straight into his eyes. Perhaps if neither had hated the other so much, they would have noticed the great similarities between them: not only the physical resemblance, but the emotional one as well. Both neglected by their families, on the outside of the world in which they should have belonged. It would not be until too late that they would realise the true reason for their mutual hatred.

“Don’t you dare say such things about Regulus,” Sirius growled. “He’s twice the wizard you’ll ever be, Snivellus.”

“We’ll see about that, Black,” Snape said with a scowl, watching as Sirius turned away and wove through the spectators.

Making sure that Sirius was safely exiting the reception area, Snape pushed through the crowd until he found himself face-to-face with Grimm. Before he could escape the notice of the professor, Grimm took hold of his arm.

“That course of action was necessary if you have a death wish, young Snape. Sirius Black won’t be the only one out for your head if you continue in this manner.”

Snape’s scowl deepened as he wrenched his arm away from Grimm’s hold. “I know very well what I’m doing, Professor,” he whispered fiercely. “And I don’t intend to get killed because of it.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about,” Grimm said quietly, before stepping aside to let Snape pass.

~ * * * ~


Her eyelids were so heavy, making it difficult to lift them. She couldn’t remember going to sleep or even where she was, but she was certain that she was not alone in the room.

“You’re awake,” a familiar voice said happily. “I was wondering if you would when I was here.”

Opening her eyes the rest of the way, Emma looked up into the face of Lily Evans. Something inside her tweaked strangely, as though she’d been looking for Lily in the worst part of her dreams.

“Where am I?” she managed to ask around a numb tongue and dry, cracked lips.

“At St. Mungo’s. They said that you hit your head in Diagon Alley.”

Lifting an arm to feel the back of her head, she could feel the bump there.

“Ugh, how did it happen? Do you know?”

Lily shook her head. As she did so, the light from the window caught her hair, setting it afire. “Remus said something about an explosion, but otherwise I have no idea. People aren’t saying much about anything that happened there today.”

“What happened to you?” Emma asked, pointing at the scratches on Lily’s arms.

“A cat, if you can believe it,” she replied with a laugh. “I got lost in those terrible alleyways and came across a rather angry feline who took a great dislike to my presence.”

Emma smiled. “It’s good to see that you’re okay. I was having some terrible dreams...” She trailed off, squinting at the opposite wall as she tried to remember.

“Maybe they weren’t dreams after all, Em. They could have been what really happened.”

“No, it can’t be,” Emma whispered, frowning.

Then she saw the bandages covering her left hand. Lifting it from the bed, she pulled away some of the white gauze, dread filling her with every millimetre of skin appeared.

The pale skin was completely gone, revealing a perfectly normal-looking hand.

Emma met Lily’s eyes for a moment as they both stared at the hand in amazement.

Swallowing anxiously, Emma said, “There’s something you have to know, Lily, about my family.” Trying not to look away, she added, “And my father.”


If you want, though, you can always take it that those flashforward scenes were those that she was dreaming about. =P

Chapter title is from Keane's album "Under the Iron Sea". And that line that Snape says about "reading" people's thoughts is paraphrased from OotP.


Chapter 17: Fourteen: Not Enough
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Fourteen



Give five signs that identify the werewolf.*

Emma chewed on the end of her quill, only to spit out the pieces of feather that had come off in her mouth. They’d all been given special “anti-cheating” quills with which to write, and of course none of these quills were quite as easy to use as her own quill. She would have been quite happy getting through school without writing a single exam - it was always so troublesome to memorize all the material, then try to regurgitate it. It didn’t help that this was the Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL. She could just imagine Grimm’s face when he saw the failing mark at the top of her paper.

Now what made a werewolf look differently than a regular dog? Surely that could be a helpful strategy in answering the question.

As she bent over to scribble down as much as she could in the time that still remained, Emma dared to glance around the room at the others writing with her. Those writing the Defence Against the Dark Arts exam took up most of the Hall, while those writing Care of Magical Creatures and Arithmancy were clustered on the other side of the room. Emma was glad that she hadn’t taken either of those classes as electives - it would have meant having to write one of the exams in an empty classroom under the supervision of Filch.

Hearing the squeak of a chair, she focused her attention on the person sitting three rows over. Sirius Black was leaning back in his chair with ease, appearing entirely relaxed as though the exam wasn’t really that important to him. James Potter had turned to give his friend a giant grin, like they were sharing a private joke over the exam. Somehow, Emma wouldn’t have been surprised if the two of them had discovered a way to cheat.

Seeing Flitwick nearing the font of the room, Emma felt her stomach drop. The exam was nearly over, and she hadn’t yet finished this question! Taking a deep breath, she hurriedly started writing the last part of her answer, making up anything that she could about the ways in which a person could properly identify a werewolf. A couple moments later, Flitwick called the room into order, telling everyone to put down their quills and hand in their parchments. With a sad sigh, Emma rolled up her parchment and watched as Flickwick was buried under a giant pile of exam parchments. She was so absorbed in her exam that she barely noticed the event.

In the hallway, she saw Lily wave her over.

“We’re going to go sit down by the lake,” the red-haired girl said with a bright smile. “Are you coming?”

Emma nodded. “Yes, of course. I’m just going to go get a drink first.”

“Alright. See you then!”

Turning back into the crowd of people pouring out of the hall, Emma pushed through them to reach the stairwell to the kitchens, passing by an also deep in thought Snape without noticing his presence. She could hear the laughter from the Marauders over by the doors and wondered how they could be so unworried about their exam results.

There was a water fountain near the kitchen which would quench her thirst at least until dinner. While she walked down the steps, she thought over in her mind each of the questions on the exam and pondered what they could ask for during the practical part of the OWL later that day. In deep thought, she wondered down to the kitchens then wandered back to the giant oak doors of the school’s main entrance. The sun outside was extremely bright, and she did not immediately notice the crowd of people hanging about a beech tree on the edge of the lake. Rather it was the loud voices that caught her attention. Someone was reciting spells ... a duel!

Hurrying down the steps and shading her eyes against the sun’s rays, Emma managed to make out the forms standing on the grass facing each other with wands raised: Potter, Black, and Severus Snape. Well, Potter was the only one actually holding a wand at the moment: Sirius was merely playing instigator while Snape’s wand was no where to be seen. Most likely it’d already been tossed aside by one of Potter’s spells. He and Black were laughing hysterically as Snape lay on the ground, struggling against the jynx that bound him tighter than any rope ever could.

With a gasp, Emma ran - not to join the crowd gathered around the three - back inside the school, taking a turn down the first corridor and stopping before the door to the staff room. She knocked frantically upon it, knowing that this fight between Potter, Black, and Snape was not at all like the ones in the past - this one had gone beyond that.

The door was opened by a surprised Professor McGonagall.

“Miss Goldwyn, what seems to be the problem?”

Trying to catch her breath, Emma said, “Potter and Black are fighting Snape over by the lake. They’re using spells...”

There was a shuffling of chairs in the room. Emma saw the figure of Grimm come to stand beside McGonagall, his face more weary than usual.

“I’ll go, Minerva,” he said, but as he moved to pass, McGonagall stopped him.

“Potter and Black are in my house. It’s best that I deal with it, Tiberius.” She turned back to Emma, “Now show me where they are, Miss Goldwyn.”

They moved quickly back towards the main entrance to the school, Grimm following at what he must have thought to be a safe distance. His curiosity was proving too great to not see what sort of trouble Potter and Black had gotten themselves into. If it had made Emma as upset as she was, then something must have gone terribly wrong.

He caught up to Minerva and Emma at the bottom of the stairs which led up to the school’s main entrance. It was then that the words rang out over the noise of the students who had crowded around to watch.

“I don’t need help from filthy little Mudbloods like her!”*

Emma stopped dead in her tracks, seeing Lily’s hair glittering in the sun as it was tossed aside by its owner. She knew very well whose voice had spoken those words. McGonagall rushed forward, no longer needing Emma to guide her to the root of the problem. A moment later, Lily rushed off across the lawn back towards the lake, too angry at Potter to notice anything else. Suddenly, before McGonagall could reach the Marauders, Snape flew into the air upside down.

“Who wants to see me take off Snivelly’s pants?”* Potter asked, his voice filled with both fury and laughter all at once. That any Gryffindor could show so much hatred against another person was almost disturbing. The others around him didn't seem to notice - they laughed as Snape continued to swear and curse.

“Stop right there, Potter!” McGonagall yelled out, causing those standing closest to her to jump back in fear at the sound of her voice.

Remus and Peter, who’d remained under the shade of the tree, rose to their feet in a hurry, looking terribly guilty even though they had done nothing, or perhaps because of that reason. Sirius’ face fell, the grin that had been upon it vanishing into thin air. James was the last to notice that they’d been caught, but when he did his hand went directly to his hair, smoothing it back. Perhaps he thought it was possible to charm McGonagall even though he’d failed oh so horribly in charming the love of his life. Snape crashed to the ground when Potter’s concentration was broken. He lay on the grass, cursing everything he could think of, not caring who did or did not hear him.

The crowd quickly dispersed as McGonagall approached, her face a storm cloud. “To think that some of my best students would resort to treating another human being in such a way,” she chastised, shaking her head in shame.

Behind her, Grimm reached down to help Snape rise. The Slytherin boy quickly shrugged off the professor’s helping hand, preferring to sulk into the shadows of the bushes he’d originally been sitting under.

“It’s no different than what He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named does to his victims,” McGonagall continued, causing Black to wince and look away, his face flaming. Potter blinked, but otherwise his expression did not change.

“He called her a Mudblood, Professor,” he said.

“But you were the one to start the whole thing, Potter,” McGonagall returned with a snap. “Do not forget that if it had not been for your taunting, he would not have said that word.” She turned away from the two of them, leaving them time to mull over their actions.

“I am surprised at you, Lupin,” she said, this time more quietly. “There was good reason for you to have been made a prefect. You could have exerted your authority over your friends.”

Remus paled even more than he already was. Peter supported him, believing that his friend would faint. “It won’t happen again, Professor,” Remus said weakly, not able to meet her unyielding eyes.

Meanwhile, Snape had collected his belongings and was stalking off towards the school. Their laughter still rang in his ears, as did the horrible taunts. This was the last straw. He would get his revenge upon them at last. He knew that Lupin was their weakness; something about the Gryffindor boy and his strange “illnesses”, if they could even be called that, was suspicions. Glowering at the ground, not wanting to see anyone else at this point in time, Snape brushed past a figure who was standing frozen on the lawn.

“Out of my way,” he began to mutter, then stopped when he realised who it was.

She stared up at him, eyes filled with pain. “How could you have said that?” she whispered. “You’re no better than they are.” There was a certain ambiguity as to who the “they” referred to - the Marauders or the Death Eaters - but Snape was in no mood to argue.

“Don’t expect my thanks for snitching on them,” he said with his signature sneer.

Emma honestly looked as though she was ready to burst into tears. “I had to stop them.”

He snorted. “Well you’ve done your good deed for the day, just like a good Hufflepuff, not that you are one.” His next words took her beyond the breaking point. “Maybe the Sorting Hat was wrong after all. A real Ravenclaw wouldn’t have bothered helping me. It wasn’t the logical thing to do.”

Tears spilt down her face as a shadow grew behind her eyes, attempting, but failing, to the hide the pain. But still Snape did not stop, even as he heard the footsteps of Grimm approaching.

“Your innocence disgusts me, Emilia,” he said with derision. “You think that everyone in the world has a heart, that they feel love for something. Before long, you’ll learn how wrong you are about that.”

Utterly taken aback by his words, it took her a moment to find the strength to reply.

“And you only see the evil in everyone’s soul. You enjoy manipulating people, don’t you? You like watching them suffer.”

He had been in the process of leaving her standing there, but he swung around, his face less than an inch from hers.

“I am not the Dark Lord, nor can I ever stoop to such a level,” he hissed. “I do what I must to survive.”

“So this is what it comes to,” she snapped in reply, feeling something within her soul shatter. Why this? Why now? What sort of curtain was being drawn between them, causing us to act in this way? “You’re too bloody proud to accept the fact that people want to help you and maybe even like you. What is it? Do you hate yourself so much that you have to make others hate you as well?”

Staring down at her, the tear stains on her face shining in the summer sunlight, Snape only felt more anger burning within him. Something in his mind - his conscience, perhaps - was telling him that he should not reply, that what she said was the truth, but the stronger side of him - his fierce pride - would not back down for anyone, not even the girl he had once tricked himself into believing that he loved her.

“Out of my way, blood traitor,” he snarled. “I have no patience for fools.”

He swept away, knowing that he had broken the tie that held them together. He would not let her see his hands shaking, both from the anger as well as from something else, something that he would never admit to. Hatred for the one thing he should have never hated flowed through his veins, forcing him to walk on without looking back at the only person who had brought out his weakness, the one person who could very well bring about his downfall.

Further away, still standing by the beech tree being given a stern lecture by Professor McGonagall, Sirius Black watched as Emma stumbled back from Snape’s sharp words. Clenching his fists, Sirius was tempted to shoot a curse at Snape that would send the Slytherin to Hades to die in pain with the other tortured souls that resided in that fiery pit. He had guessed in the past that Snape was the true bearer of Emma’s affections, as unworthy of them as the slimy git was. But now, to watch Snape throw away what Sirius was unable to achieve enraged the Gryffindor beyond belief. He could very well believe now that his intense dislike of Snape was quickly surpassing that of James. Yet instead of leaping after the Slytherin and using a convenient crucio to make him suffer, Sirius waited. He would act when the time was right.

For what seemed an eternity, Emma stood on the lawn unmoving, the tears freely dripping down her chin onto the grass below. Her eyes saw nothing and her ears heard sounds as though they were eons away, echoing through time and space. The world was closing in against her, slowly eating away at all her hopes and dreams and feeding the fears hidden deep within her heart. She watched him walk away, powerless to do anything about it. For all the logic that she held dear to her heart, she could not understand his reasoning nor how he could have hurt her in such a way. The silver necklace hung heavily around her neck, seemingly choking her like a hangman’s noose, but she did not remove it. She would let it hang there for the rest of her life, constantly reminding her of her mistake in ever believing that he had felt anything akin to love for her.

Then she turned and ran away as fast as she cold, unable to stand the sight of him leaving her. Not now, with the sudden break between them that was tearing her apart from the inside out. She therefore did not see the strange flash in his eyes as he watched her leave. Nor did she hear him whisper her name once before he made off for the castle, his mood darker than ever. Behind him, Grimm stared after Emma with a slightly open mouth, guessing what had transpired, but not entirely understanding why it had taken place.

~ * * * ~


She kept on running. Even while in the midst of the attack on Diagon Alley she had not run so far as this. It was not fear that filled her mind and heart; she wasn’t exactly sure just what she was feeling at the moment. She only wanted to get as far away from that place as she could. It was easy to run; far easier than confronting the demons that had brought this upon her. She had seen from the corners of her tear-filled eyes the shocked expression on Grimm’s face, heard an unrecognizable voice call out her name in vain. Severus’ words had torn her to pieces, yet she knew in her heart that they had been true, terribly true. She did not want pity, nor anything else for that matter. She only wanted to be alone, to drown her sorrows in self-disgust, and live in the dream that was slowly and painfully dying with every breath she took.

Finally, she had to stop. Her lungs felt as though they would explode if she took a step further. For the first time, she paid attention to her surroundings and realised that she had run halfway to Hogsmeade. The clearing in which she stood was quiet and soothing - the only sounds filling the air were those of birdsong and a gentle breeze blowing through the summer leaves. The grass beneath her feet was a rich shade of green, while the wildflowers swaying in the breeze were of every colour imaginable. Yet she did not see their colour, nor their beauty. There was a strange absence of life behind her golden eyes, as though, with his words, Snape had murdered a part of her soul. It would be a part of her that could never be replaced.

She collapsed on a rock in the middle of the clearing, its smooth flat surface revealing that it had been used many times before by the fatigued. It was the perfect place to sit, far away from watching eyes and busy tongues. She did not need to hear the words of pity from friends, nor the laughter of enemies. Yet to be lost alone in thought was no better: images of him kept appearing in her mind unbidden, and there was little she could do to banish them. Upon her lips she could feel the brush of his breath, while her hands felt his resting upon them. Oh how she regretted that moment in the dungeon corridor; how she wished that it had never happened! Then she would be free of this torturous pain that ate away at her being.

Exactly how many times had they even met alone? Emma was sure that she could count them on one hand. Severus was definitely not of the demonstrative sort, but still she felt as though they had gone so much further than just friends. A simple glance here and there, a few words spoken quickly in deserted hallways, an accidental touch of the hand while working in the potions lab. It had been enough then, but now it was so silly to her. She had been led astray by her dreams and now she didn’t know what to do.

Putting her head in her hands, she endured the suffering silently. Her eyes were now dry of tears, but the stains still marked her freckled cheeks. Snatches of memory and dreams flew through her mind like a herd of young Hippogriffs, clumsily knocking into one another as they went on their way.

The candlelight flickered across his face as she watched him mix the potion, one strong sensitive hand holding the stirring spoon delicately while his eyes took in every detail of the bubbling liquid. The book she held in her lap went unheeded as she sat there, enthralled by his every movement.

“What are you looking at?” he asked, his querulous voice echoing in the silence of the room.

She flushed, having believed that he hadn’t known she was watching him. “The potion, of course,” she lied. “I’m just checking that it’s going correctly.”

The quick smile that flashed across his face sent her heart beating at an illogically fast rate.

“I rather thought you were admiring the person mixing the potion rather than the potion itself,” he said with amusement.

Her book clattered to the floor as she stared at him, her mouth slightly open. He placed the stirring spoon on the side of the cauldron and bent over to retrieve the book. Handing it over to her, he purposely touched her hand with his, taking advantage of the moment to whisper in her ear.

“You look far prettier with your mouth closed, Emilia.”


No! No! No! She wouldn’t think of that! He had been surprisingly cheerful that evening. Well, as cheerful as Severus Snape could possibly be. His moods were so varied, so turbulent, that she could never count on him acting the same way, even if he was faced with a similar situation. While she felt that she knew him better than nearly everyone else, there was still so much about him she would never, nor could ever, know. He was an enigma, now further from her than ever. It was unlikely that she would see him smile again, or see that strange look in his eyes, or hear his voice say her name. She had lost him in one stupid, stupid moment.

And it was all her fault.

She cursed everything that she was, hating the emotions that made her feel so wretched. What would have happened if she hadn’t gone for help? What if she had stood there watching them torment Snape, just like the other students? She certainly would not have been brave enough to confront the Marauders - or would she? Emma knew that she’d be more likely to cry and run away than face something like that, to speak up to people so obviously stronger than she was. The word “coward” kept coming to mind, automatically reminding her of her father.

The pain of this thought made her choke.

“Oh Merlin, what am I becoming? What will be left for me?”

“It hasn’t come to that yet, has it Emma?” a voice asked softly.

Emma jumped up from the rock, hands shaking as she reached for her wand.

“It’s just us,” another voice said. “We’ve just come to talk to you, not blow you to bits.”

There was a snort. “You do come up with the strangest statements, Dorcas.”

Her eyes cleared and she saw the shapes of her three closest friends.

“Hi,” she said weakly, trying to fake a smile before sitting back down on the rock.

Lily and Marlene sat on either side of her while Dorcas happily plopped down on the ground in front of them, picking daisies to make a chain. The four of them were quiet for a few minutes, taking in the peace of the forest glade.

“I suppose you’re here because of what happened,” Emma spoke up glumly.

“Well not only for that,” Marlene stated. “We were also told to bring you back for the DADA practical. It starts in an hour.”

“And there’s no getting out of it,” Dorcas added. “We already asked.”

“Great,” Emma said sarcastically. “It’ll certainly go well now that I’m in top form.”

The bitterness in her voice brought Lily out of her silence.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, Em. I should have noticed -“

"How could you have?” Emma interrupted. “You were still seething over Potter and Black. Who can blame you for that? I certainly can’t. They’re both bloody idiots.”

“They’re boys. What else would you expect?” Marlene sniffed.

Dorcas looked up, eyes wide with shock. “Surely not all of them are terrible!”

“Fine then,” Marlene said. “Tell me of one boy you’ve met who’s actually worth knowing?”

Pursing her lips in deep thought, Dorcas fiddled with the flowers in her hand for a few moments before replying, “That Quirrell boy isn’t so bad. When I tripped in the corridor a few weeks ago, he picked up my books for me.”

Marlene frowned. “I really don’t think that counts, though. It was only one isolated incident. I’m sure even Sirius Black would have stopped to pick up your books.”

“But he would have slipped something in them as another of his silly jokes,” Lily pointed out. “Quirinus would be too afraid to do that. It seems like the poor boy’s afraid of his own shadow.”

“Sirius Black asked me to come with him to his parent’s Christmas party,” Emma suddenly said, her voice distant. “How could he have been so nice then, yet still be able to watch as Potter did those things...?”

The other three turned to look at her with questioning faces.

“So you refused?” Dorcas asked quietly. “And you didn’t tell us?”

“I really didn’t think he was being serious. Maybe it was just another of his jokes.”

“But what if it wasn’t?” She was in a state of such great surprise that she had dropped her unfinished daisy chain on the ground. “What if he meant it and wanted you to come with him to that party and... what if he likes you, Emma?

Suddenly, an expression of intense sadness crossed Emma’s face. The other three were worried that she’d begin to cry, but she found enough strength to keep her emotions under control, at least for the time being.

“He’s wasting his time,” she said with a sigh.

Silence reined once again. Finally, Marlene rose and brushed invisible dust off her robes. Reaching down, she grabbed Emma’s arm and hauled her upwards.

“I’ll be damned if you’re not there for the practical,” she said seriously. “If you say that Black is wasting his time with you, then I say that you’re wasting your time about Snape. There are far more important things to life, like getting good OWL results.”

While she said this, Dorcas rolled her eyes dramatically, only to be elbowed in the side by Lily. “Not now,” she hissed into Dorcas’ ear. “We have to get her mind off Snape somehow.”

Marlene, in an unusual display of compassion, had her arm around Emma’s slumped shoulders as they walked back towards the school.

“Now you remember that spell, don’t you? The one the Professor was showing us last month? I know for certain that they’ll be asking us for that, so don’t forget the incantation.”

“You mean Expecto Patronum,” Emma broke in, her voice flat. “The one that works against dementors.”

“Yes that one,” Marlene continued with a short pause for breath. “And do you remember how one should properly perform the spell?”

Emma thought for a moment, then replied, “One has to remember something happy...” She trailed off, her face going pale. “Merlin, I won’t do it! I can’t! Not if he’s going to be there too.” Stopping in the path, she stood there as frozen as she had been when she had watched Severus walking away.

Lily cautiously laid a hand on Emma’s shoulder. She could feel the tremors wrenching through her friend’s body - a sign of how Emma was slowly losing control. Then an idea came to Lily’s mind. She let her hand fall back to her side.

“Fine then. Let him make you into a nervous wreck. A fine show it’ll be when your name is called and you can’t perform this important spell just because he’s there. He probably won’t even notice you, so what does it matter?”

There was a small movement on Emma’s face as she listened to what Lily was saying.

“You’re right. I can’t go on like this.”

The words were spoken so quietly that even Marlene, standing close beside Emma, barely heard the words.

“I can’t hate him, but maybe I can just forget him, just for a short while.”

It was not exactly what Lily had wanted to hear, but it would do for now, she supposed. At least they’d be able to get through the upcoming exams without Emma broken-heartedly moping about. Lily had been hurt more than she’d like to admit by Snape’s ingratitude, and she could not for the life of her understand why Emma, who had been hurt far worse by that same sharp tongue, could not be angry with him. Was that what love did to a person? If it was, then the last thing Lily wanted was to have it happen to her.

Marlene had already started up the path, dragging Emma along with one hand while she looked with worry at her wristwatch. Dorcas was just behind them, but had stopped to look back at Lily.

“Aren’t you coming, Lils?”

Lily didn’t reply right away, she was still remembering the strange feeling she had experienced while watching Potter fling Snape into the air as if by invisible hands. She had previously thought him capable of being a regular pain in the arse, but not of cruelty. Now, everything - and everyone - around her was changing. The world was no longer the one she had entered nearly six years before when she had received that first letter by owl post. There was a storm on the horizon, bringing with it great suffering and terror. She only hoped that all of them would come out of it alive and whole, but part of her knew that was impossible.

“I’m coming,” she finally replied, hurrying to catch up.

~ * * * ~


He sat in the shadows. The only nearby light was that of a small, flickering candle resting by his left hand. Hunched over his books, he wrote spidery letters in the margins, making reference to further reading or alternate uses for various spells. Many times he had tried a slightly different incantation or changed the amount of a certain ingredient and found that the result was a small improvement in the spell or potion. He would test these changes in the dead of night, when no one could spy on him. Even Peeves could not find the hidden room of Severus Snape.

The practical exam for Defence Against the Dark Arts had gone very well for him, just like all of the previous exams had. Certainly his proficiency with spells had surprised the old wizard examiner, but Snape knew that he had the ability to do much more.

Snape now sneered, congratulating himself on choosing to go directly after that snivelling excuse for a Gryffindor, Pettigrew. However, the word “snivelling” only changed his sneer into a scowl. With all the work he had put into all his exams, he knew that among the handful who scored higher than him would be those he hated above anyone else in the world. It seemed at times that the Marauders - his mind recoiled at the name as his patronus had at the shield charm - would always be a few steps in front on him. They had it all: good looks, good families, good grades...

And what do I have? Snape asked himself.

Power, a voice within him replied. Ambition.

Using those two strengths he could become the next Dark Lord if he wished, but that was not listed among his ambitions. A rise to power that would only lead to his own demise was below him. He had better things in mind for himself.

“You’d be good to watch your back now, Snape,” came a grumbling voice from behind him. “Those bloody Gryffindors will be after your blood.”

Snape looked up, his lip curled with impatience. “I can handle myself quite well, Rosier.”

The other boy, who was solidly built with brown curly hair, didn’t seem to notice the derision in Snape’s voice. He shook his head and met Snape’s eyes.

“Didn’t look like that from what I saw. They had you -"

"I know very well where they had me, Rosier,” Snape said, his voice dangerously quiet. “And I don’t need you to remind me of this afternoon’s events. They are clear enough in my mind.” His hand was clenched around the ink bottle, bringing both it and his anger close to the breaking point.

Rosier shrugged. “Most of us couldn’t believe what you did to that Ravenclaw.” He didn’t need to say anything else, not when he saw the flare of something deep in those coal black eyes.

“Do you regret what you did, Snape?” he persisted. “Some of us actually thought that you were rather fond of her. That’d certainly look good for you, pairing up with a pretty little pureblod.”

The ink bottle shattered within Snape’s hand, the glass cutting into his palm while the ink oozed over the desk, mysteriously missing the surface of the book.

“Unfortunately,” Snape whispered. “That so-called ‘pretty little pureblood’ had a certain fondness for Mudbloods and Blood Traitors. I was forced to cut all ties with her because of that.” His voice was even, almost as though he were trying to convince himself that he was speaking the truth.

With a smile, Rosier offered Snape his clean handkerchief. “The Dark Lord will look upon you with pride when you join his ranks, Snape. Even the small... inconvenience of your heritage, I’m sure you will quickly rise to a high standing in his eyes - the greatest of his followers.”

After he had turned to leave, Snape wiped away the mixture of ink and blood from his hand, a barely-imperceptible smile upon his face. “Follower” indeed. That was a word more suited to slime like Pettigrew than someone like himself. No, he would never follow anyone, not even as great a being as the Dark Lord.



The chapter title is from the song by Our Lady Peace, and the three lines in italics marked with a * are from Chapter Twenty-Eight of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" by J. K. Rowling.

EDITED - July 22/07

Chapter 18: Fifteen: Stupid
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Fifteen


The rain poured down onto the pavement, washing away the dirt and dust left behind from weeks of drought. In the distance, lightning flashed, closely followed by a grumble of thunder just over the horizon. It rather sounded like a hungry stomach, as though the spirit of the storm hungered for something more. The street was in darkness, its occupants having long given up on the lack of electricity due to the storm. The power had been out of service for near on two hours and it wasn’t likely that it would be brought back before the sun rose once more.

In the mean time, the world around them was in total darkness. The only light came from the brief lightning strikes that shook the ground with their purity. Curtains were pulled shut, hiding their occupants from the blinding flashes and otherwise dreary landscape. The fog was coming in from the sea in a slow-moving cloud that slowly snuck up on the village, like a cat ready to pounce. Soon it would enfold the buildings in its dampness like a thick blanket left too long in the rain, refusing to release its hold until the sun burnt it away.

There was a sudden splash as a purple triple-decker bus appeared out of thin air and landed in the middle of the village green. It came to a roaring stop just before it would have hit the delicate wrought iron fountain at the centre of the green. A lone figure jumped, or rather fell, out the door and landed in the middle of a particularly muddy puddle. In the next flash of lightning, the bus vanished once more as though it had not been there at all. Had it not been for the figure rising from the depths of the puddle, swearing under his breath as he dragged behind him a large wooden trunk, it would have been easy to believe that the bus had been a figment of the imagination. Even the young man who had been ejected from the bus was beginning to believe that all this was a dream: the most terrible sort of dream possible.

In the darkness, it was difficult for him to see where he was going, so he reached into his shirt and withdrew a long piece of polished wood. With a single word, the wand lit up, giving him just enough light so that he wouldn’t walk into every tree or lamp post in his way. He hoped that the storm had caused all the muggles to tightly shut their curtains. Otherwise, he would be in deeper trouble than he already was. Walking up the high street, he checked the numbers on each house, searching for the correct one. The seconds ticked on as each house, from the largest brick Victorian to the tiny thatch cottage, was scrutinised, then quickly passed on. It was difficult to recognise anything in that infernal storm and the raindrops running down his back certainly did not help matters any.

The light of his wand shone on the numbers “forty-two” that hung beside a door that, although it was firmly closed, emitted a feeling of warm welcome. The young man hurried towards the door, still dragging his trunk behind him. When he finally stood directly in front of the door, the hand that had been reaching towards the doorbell hesitated. Would they allow him in? Would they inform his parents of where he was? Would they ...

Don’t be silly, he told himself. Of course they’ll let me in. It’s a bloody hurricane out here.

The sound of the doorbell seemed to echo loudly through the entire village, as though it would awaken every occupant who had dared to fall asleep during such a storm. A few moments later, footsteps could be heard from within the house, then the latch was thrown back and the door opened to reveal a gangly youth with glasses hanging off the end of his nose. He squinted his eyes and leaned forward to get a closer look at his nighttime visitor.

“Hell,” he finally said when he recognised his best friend. “You better come in, mate.”

“What about your parents?” Sirius whispered as he entered the foyer, dripping water all over the tiled floor.

James closed the door behind his friend. “Their room is at the back of the house. It helps that Dad’s deaf and Mum took her sleeping pills. You’ve got no reason to worry about disturbing them.”

For the first time, Sirius thought he could hear bitterness in James’ voice. What was it like being the spoiled only child of elderly parents? He knew that James was constantly doted on, and had always envied him of such attentions, but now he wondered if James was lonely in this isolated village, far from the life Sirius knew, or rather had known. All of that was going to change.

James adjusted his glasses, his eyes suspicious. “There’s a story behind this, isn’t there?”

Sirius sighed, allowing the warmth of the house to settle over him like a comforting blanket.

“And as soon as I can change out of these muddy clothes, you’ll hear all about it.”

~ * * * ~

The rainstorm reached far to the north of East Anglia, spreading its gloomy wetness across the countryside. Lightning lit up the clouds high above the Yorkshire Dales, flickering eerily against the windows of a small cottage perched on the edge of a hill. The shadow standing in the doorway of one room watched as the figure at the desk was illuminated for a short moment, then fell back into darkness. He sighed as he noticed the piece of parchment underneath her arm. It had been her project for the past three days, writing a letter that would most likely be disregarded and scorned by the one who received it. She refused to give up on the one person she should have hated for the rest of her life. It left the man by the door wondering a child with such a giving heart could have been the product of two selfish parents.

He flicked up a switch and the room burst into brilliant light. The figure by the desk stirred and rubbed her eyes, turning in her chair to see who had disturbed her sleep.

“Uncle, is something the matter?” she asked, her tongue tripping over the words as her mind slowly awoke.

Grimm raised an eyebrow. “Surely falling asleep at your desk is enough of a problem?”

“Are you going to complain that it’s bad for my posture?” she asked peevishly.

“Perhaps I should mention that I’m bothered by the reason for you having spent the past three days holed up in here.”

The scowl that crossed her face certainly gave Severus Snape a run for his money. “It’s something that needs to be done. Nothing you or anyone else can say will change my mind.”

He crossed the room and stood gazing out over the rain-soaked valley. “And what will you do when he doesn’t reply to your letter?”

She looked down at the words interspersed with ink blots. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Grimm snorted. “Were you expecting a fairy tale ending? Or did you truly think that you could keep him from his chosen path?”

“I don’t know,” she replied, putting her head in her hands. “I just felt that it was right between the two of us, that we could be something more than what we were....” Taking in a deep breath, she wiped away the moistness in her eyes and looked up at Grimm. “If it hadn’t been for the stupidity of Black and Potter, it wouldn’t have happened.”

“It would have happened another way, then.”

She picked up the letter and scanned its lines with something bordering on disgust. “He’ll hate this, I know he will. It’s far too sentimental.”

Another flash of lightning lit up the landscape. “But does it get your point across?”

“Want to take a look?”

Grimm waved away the parchment. “Not for me are the words of true love.”

Her ears turned bright red while she turned away to hide her flushed cheeks. “It’s not like that, Uncle. I’m only asking for his apology.”

Apology?” Grimm choked on the words. “You are apologising to him? Are you mad, child? He’s the one who insulted you in front of half the school and you’re apologising to him!”

She crinkled up the paper and threw it across the room. “You see? I knew that you wouldn’t agree! Everything Severus said to me was right - I think too well of everyone and trust them without their trust having been earned. I’m too soft...”

“Not soft enough to balk at arguing with me,” he muttered, pursing his lips. After a moment, he added, “And talking like that about yourself only proves that Snape was correct in his assumptions.”

Slouched in her chair, Emma was staring a hole through the desk.

“Emma, look at me,” Grimm said impatiently. “I cannot expect to give you fatherly advice if you’re just going to stare at knotholes.” Wincing at the creaking in his knees, he knelt down beside her. Slowly, her eyes rose to meet his.

“A year from now, or rather in less than a year,” he began, “you’ll be of age in our world, and from that moment on, no one can have legal power over you or anything you own. Not me, not your father, not Snape. Tell me, what do you plan on doing with yourself after that point?”

“I’ve not really thought about it.”

He nodded. “Alright, so if I’d asked you this same question a few months ago, what would you have told me?”

The flush returned to her face. It was enough of an answer for Grimm.

“I thought so,” he said, gently patting her arm as he stood up. “Think about your future, Emma. Dreams can only last for so long before they run dry. There are more wizards other than Snape, and there is more to life than loving someone who refuses to return your love.” He paused, allowing the words to sink in before continuing. “I won’t be here forever to help you up when you fall...”

Emma shook her head, clenching her fists on the handles of the chair. “Don’t say that, Uncle,” she whispered.

“But it’s the truth,” Grimm answered. “Now get some sleep. I’ll be needing your help in the morning. St. Mungo’s has once again given me a hefty order that they, of course, require as soon as humanly possible.”

Pushing back the hair from her face, Emma rose from the chair and followed Grimm to the door. “Good night, Uncle.”

He smiled, but it was one filled with sorrow. “Good night, my child.”

The reply to her letter arrived one week later, even though Emma could have sworn that she had left her letter crumpled in a ball in one dusty corner of the room. Magic can indeed work in wonderful ways.

~ * * * ~


“This isn’t another of your jokes, Padfoot, is it?” Peter asked while staring in frustration at the knot of string that had been his game of cat’s cradle. “I know you hate your family and all, but running away from home is stretching it a bit.”

Sirius placed his hand over his heart, his face oddly grave. “I solemnly swear that I am telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me Morganna.”

“You’ve been watching too much telly again,” James remarked from his bed, upon which he sat with a dingy piece of parchment in his lap. In one hand he held a quill while in the other was his wand. “All those American movies are doing you no good at all.”

“They are a good distraction, you have to admit,” Sirius argued.

“Especially with all those pretty actresses,” Peter added with a snicker and was rewarded with a dark look from Sirius.

“This is a serious matter, though,” Remus said, breaking into the conversation after some moments of silence. “You’re barely of age, with no finances, no home, just whatever you were able to carry in your trunk. What can you expect to do with yourself?”

Sirius shrugged, looking bored. “I’ll stay here with James until I can get a place of my own. And as for money, Uncle Alphard left me all he had in his will.”

“That’s a lucky stroke,” James told him. “At least you won’t have to be borrowing off me for the rest of the summer. I’ve been saving up –“

”For what?” Sirius interrupted. “Your wedding to Lily?”

James frowned, trying not to look hurt. “It’s not entirely hopeless. Eventually –“

”Eventually she’ll say yes just to get you to stop annoying her!”

“He’s got a point, you know,” Peter broke in. “You can be a bit forward with her at times.”

With a sound that was very much like a growl, James bent over the parchment, his displeasure at the turn of conversation radiating throughout the room. It was enough to lapse the other three into silence for a short period of time. Sirius could only restrain his boredom for a short time, anyway.

“How’s the map going?” he asked James.

There was a short pause before he got a response. “Well enough. Parts of the castle are unfinished, but we can add to it during the year. However, it will need a locking mechanism of a sort to keep others from making use of it.”

“It would have to be something that couldn’t be fooled by a spell,” said Remus.

“But there has to be a joke in it somewhere so that people will think it’s something from Zonko’s,” Sirius added.

“I was thinking an incantation,” James said. “Something that no one else would be able to guess, but that we can remember.”

Peter looked up from detaching the tangled knot from his fingers. “What about ‘we swear that we’re not up to any good’?”

James shook his head. “Too wordy, but I like the basic idea of it.”

“‘Solemnly swearing’ would sound better,” was Sirius’ contribution.

“But what would we solemnly swear to?” asked Remus. “And what if it’s only one of us that’s using the map at a certain time? It’d be better to stick to a single person saying the incantation.”

James quickly leapt to summarising their combined efforts. “So we have ‘I solemnly swear that...’ that what? Something like being not up to any good would fit, but how could we shorten it?”

“Only with bad grammar,” Remus muttered, just loud enough for Sirius to have heard him.

“Up to no good!” Sirius laughed. “It’s perfect!”

“I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good.” James tasted the words on his tongue, getting used to saying them. “It certainly has a nice ring to it.” Holding up his wand, he waved it over the parchment, whispering the words of the opening incantation.

“All we need now is a way to make the map vanish,” he mused a short time later.

“It has to be something that gives a sense of completeness,” Remus pointed out.

Sirius snorted. “For Merlin’s sake, Moony. Speak English.”

“You know exactly what I mean, Sirius.”

“Yeah, but why do you have to talk like that?”

“Because I enjoy sounding reasonably intelligent, unlike you.”

Peter rolled his eyes. "There they go again," he muttered

“I think I’ll go for ‘mischief managed’,” James said to no one in particular. “Short and sweet.”

“The alliteration in it is fascinating,” Remus said with more than a little sarcasm. Now he was purposely trying to annoy Sirius.

“Don’t make me hex you, Moony,” Sirius grumbled.

Remus leaned back in his chair, enjoying the moment. “You ought to suppress your violent tendencies, Sirius. Or does it just happen when you’re talking to me?”

“Oh shut up, both of you,” James impatiently remarked, waving his wand over the map. “We need to plan our first prank of the year. There’s only a week to perfect our ideas. And, no, Moony, we’ll try to not get your prefect status removed,” he added in reply to Remus’ slightly worried expression. “If you feel that the prank is too serious, then we won’t force you to help us.”

“We’re the Marauders,” Remus said quietly. “We stick together.”

~ * * * ~


Emilia,

The reason for you bothering to write me a letter is one that I cannot comprehend. I thought that I had made it obvious what my feelings were during our last meeting. Nonetheless, it is very gratifying that you have seen fit to follow my advice, however little you may do so. This letter alone is enough to prove to me that you have not changed very much at all. Although you may be more cautious in portraying your emotions, they are still blatantly visible in your words and I can suppose that they are just as visible on your face.

My decision has not changed. It is for your own safety that I ask you not to contact me again and however much these words may hurt your sensitive heart, they are the complete truth. There is little that could cause me to alter my decision.

Your servant,

Severus Snape


Once again, Emma crumbled up a letter and tossed it into the corner of the room. This time, however, she made certain that the corner was very dark, dusty, and would not be violated by the curiosity of her guardian.

To hell with wizards, she thought. They only manage to mess up the word, anyway.

Collapsing onto her bed, she covered her head with the sheets and none-too-patiently waited for sleep to come. Eventually it did.

~ * * * ~


“Another plan, Padfoot? Something tells me you’ve become a genius.”

Sirius sniffed and brushed a hand through his hair. “I’ve always been a genius, Prongs.”

When James burst out laughing, Sirius widened his eyes in mock surprise. “You mean you didn’t know?” he asked innocently.

“Oh yeah, the prowess of your deductive powers is simply phenomenal.”

“You’re beginning to sound like Moony.”
“Will you tell me about your genius plan?”

“Sorry, it’s a secret.”

“Even from me, your closest friend?” James asked in shock. “Impossible!”

“I’m not joking. It’ll be a surprise.”

James removed his glasses to give them a good cleaning. Peter’s accident with the microwave had caused a very big mess indeed.

“Can I have a clue then?”

“Like what?”

“Who the person is you’re going to pull the prank on.”

Sirius shook his head. “That’d give it away.”

“So now I have to be left in suspense for how long?”

The smirk on Sirius’ face made James suspicious as to what sort of joke his friend was going to play. Knowing Sirius, it could be anything from blowing up toilets to wreaking havoc with the Slytherin’s laundry.

“Not too long. Maybe a couple weeks after school begins. It’s a time sensitive prank, you see.”

Right then and there, James should have guessed. Maybe he did, but didn’t think that Sirius would go that far in either his hatred or his sense of humour. But whatever James was thinking at that moment, he simply shrugged and left Sirius to his own devices, hoping that Sirius would get bored with the idea before he ever went through with it.

~ * * * ~


Each person in the world has their own problem, one thing that follows them about everywhere they go. Sometimes these problems are small and seemingly insignificant, yet they continue to haunt the mind and slowly eat away at the soul. For some people, however, their problem is monstrous, controlling their very existence and refusing to let go even in the happiest of times. Yet when one looks up and down the street, it is not littered with the bodies of those who could no longer bear the weight of their problems. Many people stoically plough through life, unable to entirely forget the problem, but doing the best that they can in the circumstances. Only a true-hearted Hufflepuff could be enthusiastic and optimistic enough to actually be able to forget for a few moments and enjoy life for what it is.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the world can be a Hufflepuff.

So imagine a group of adolescents, all with their own problems, congregating to one place and having to extend their problems by socializing in good and bad ways with people just like them. While Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was well known for its effectiveness in teaching the youth of the time, there were always those couple of students whose life at school was not at all happy. In fact, they were so often bullied or snubbed that they receded into themselves, learning how to hate the world instead of how to embrace it.

One of these students was Severus Snape. Who, although he was to become perhaps the most illustrious Potions Master the school would ever have, spent the majority of his last two years at Hogwarts alone, discovering things that few before had realised and studying books that some Dark Wizards would shirk from in fear.

But some of that was going to change. He found his chance one mid-autumn evening in which the leaves soared across the Quidditch pitch and the sky was a misty, dreary grey. After five years of taunting, torture, and browbeating, he would get his revenge. He would make those Marauders pay for the torment they had put him through. He would never let them forget that he, Severus Snape, was better than they’d ever be, the pureblooded brats. What did they truly know about the world, having lived their lives in comfort? Black was about the only one who knew some sort of pain, Snape knew from Regulus’ constant complaints about his brother, yet that didn’t stop Black from being the worst of his tormentors. He may have had the power to make Potter do all his dirty work, but it was Black who stood behind and goaded his friend on, manipulating to get what he wanted without lifting a finger, just like a true Black.

This chance to get back at the Marauders arose from the strangest of situations. Hurrying at a moderate pace towards his common room, Snape noticed Black standing alone by the main entrance to the school. Since Black was never seen alone at the school - either he was followed around by his adoring female admirers or was in a corner conspiring with his friends - and the very sight of it was intriguing enough for Snape to dodge behind a pillar and wait. No one would notice his absence in the Slytherin common room, least of all the prefects, who would be up to their own secret desires, whatever they may have been.

Black appeared more sombre than usual: his eyes were watchful and suspicious of all who passed; his posture was stiff and spoke of discomfort; his knuckles stood out in white mounds upon one fist. Then, as swiftly and carefully as any spy, he pulled open the door wide enough so that his body could only just fit through the hole. The door was closed again before Snape could even blink, yet he quickly moved across the great marble foyer and gently open one towering oak door. The gust of wind hit him right in the face, blinding his vision for a long painful moment. When he finally was able to wipe away the dripping mess that poured from his eyes, Black was out of sight, but that didn’t mean that Snape was about to give up. The anger within him was bubbling like a cauldron ready to explode. He needed his release, and he would get it by catching Black red-handed at some illicit activity. Watching Black suffer would perhaps be the most gratifying moment Severus Snape would ever experience.

Finally he forced open the door and slipped outside before closing it again. The harsh wind blew leaves across the courtyard and off towards the rough waters of the lake. Snape hurried down the steps and slunk into the shadows surrounding the doorway, ever watchful for Black or one of his friends. He was well aware that this could be a trap for him, another of their painful pranks that slowly sucked away his pride.

Out of the corner of his eye, Snape saw a figure crossing the lawn and followed after it, refusing to let Black out of his sight once again. Snape noticed that Black was heading towards the willow tree Dumbledore continuously warned the students against approaching. The tree hadn’t been there very long; the elder Slytherins had told him that it’d been planted the summer before his first year. Most people regarded the tree as just another eccentricity of the Headmaster, who was well known for being more than slightly batty, but Snape often wondered if the tree had another purpose. The way that Black was hurrying towards it in the dying sunlight only intensified Snape’s suspicious, for he was suspicious of nearly everything that went on around him.

Black stopped in front of the tree, furtively glancing about him before he picked up a long branch and poked one of the willow’s roots. Immediately, the angry branches stopped their whipping movements and became eerily still, allowing Black to slip between the tree’s roots and vanish into the ground. Snape could hardly believe his eyes as he waited for Black to reappear. He thought that perhaps Black was simply hiding between the roots, waiting for Snape to approach, ready to entrap Snape in another shameful prank. One minute passed and all was still. Slowly the willow began to move once more, waving its branches in growing anger. His curiosity getting the best of him once and for all, Snape leapt forward and slipped between the roots in the same place that Black had vanished into not long before.

The blackness immediately swallowed him within its greedy mouth and he slid down a steep grade, feeling every stone and bump on the tunnel floor on his back. When he finally came to a stop, he struggled to rise, knowing that in the morning his back would be covered in bruises. Not that it’d be anything new for him, Snape thought bitterly. Placing one hand against the side of the tunnel, he pulled it back with a wince. The raw skin was slashed and bleeding; he could feel the syrupy liquid dripping from his palm. Ripping off a piece of his already-ruined robes, he carefully wrapped it around his hand, jaw clenched with the pain. There was a small amount of light shining in through tiny holes in the roof; the full moon was rising blood red against the deep blue sky that darkened with every passing moment. It was just enough light for him to stumble on down the tunnel, hoping that the far end was not so steep as the part underneath the willow. Other than his footsteps, he could hear no other noise: no crickets or other night animals. Even the wind had quieted down, creating a stillness that made even Severus Snape quake, however slightly.

Far away, there was a cry. Someone was yelling, but it was so distant it could have been in Hogsmeade, perhaps it was a drunk at the Hog’s Head who’d been booted out. Snape continued up the tunnel, feeling the floor beneath his feet slowly begin to rise; he must have been approaching the end. The darkness was starting to get to him more and more. Each tiny sound caused him to whip around, looking for an opponent. He had no idea where Black had disappeared to, but above all he wanted out of that tunnel. There was something not quite right about it. He took his wand out of his robes and held it tight in his good hand. He wanted to be ready for whatever trap Black had led him into.

The tunnel came to an abrupt end at a wooden door. Snape fumbled for the handle and, upon finding it, turned the brass knob with relief flooding his brain. He would exit the tunnel and return to Hogwarts. If he happened to meet Black on the way, well, that would be Black’s problem, not his. Snape relished the thought of seeing Black withering on the ground before him under a well-aimed Unforgivable....

The cruel smile that had been appearing on Snape’s face vanished in the blink of an eye when the door swung open the rest of the way. It was not at all the sort of exit he had expected: the wooden floorboards were nearly rotted through, a cracked lightbulb hung from a long wire connected to the ceiling high above, and the smell of wild animal filled every nook and cranny. The hackles on the back of Snape’s neck rose when he began to hear the sounds of growling and scratching from above. Something else was in the building and as every second passed, Snape was more and more sure as to what that something else was.

He should have realised from the beginning what sort of trap Black was leading him into. All the times he had seen four figures in the shadowed moonlight, heading for that tree; the strange illnesses of Lupin that came once a month, always at the same time as the full moon; the injuries on the other three Marauders’ bodies that could only have come from a very angry creature....

It was coming down the stairs. It knew that Snape was there. It could smell his human blood and wished to have a taste of his flesh. It came closer, even closer; its claws clicked against the planks on the stair and its nose sniffed the air.

Snape stepped back towards the tunnel door, fumbling with his wand. He pointed it towards the werewolf, ready to cast a spell, but as the creature approached, the words and incantations he had known so well became all muddled together. He couldn’t think straight enough to remember them clearly, let alone speak them clearly in his mind. Still the werewolf came closer; its teeth baring in a ruthless grin. It leapt into the air, a deafening howl emitting from its gaping mouth.

The door behind Snape burst open, throwing Snape aside into a pile of mouldy rags that lay in a dark corner. A tall figure held his wand high above his head and remained steady as a burst of white light shone from it, sending the werewolf into the wall across the room. It moaned pitifully and turned its head to lick a wound. Snape watched it through darkening vision, wondering if it would be the last thing he would lay eyes upon. Someone roughly grabbed his arm, then the world imploded upon itself, leaving only a cold and empty blackness that overpowered everything.

~ * * * ~


She was woken up by someone running down the stairs from the boy’s dormitory. Groggily, she looked up to see James Potter rush through the common room, carrying a shimmery cloak in his arms while he swore underneath his breath. He must not have noticed her presence since he passed through the portrait door without a glance about him. That was strange, Lily thought, since he usually made it his business to know what she was doing at all times of the day.

Carefully, she stretched out the kinks in her back which were a result of falling asleep in a chair. Comfortable it was definitely not. Putting aside her Transfiguration text book, Lily stood up and looked once more at the portrait door. James had not at all been himself when he’d rushed out and, furthermore, he had been very much alone. James would not have left Gryffindor tower after dark without the company of at least one of his friends. Either way, Lily knew that she wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep with the knowledge that something was amiss. Stowing her textbook under a cushion, she moved towards the portrait door and, for the first time since she had arrived at Hogwarts, she left the common room after dark.

There was a first time for everything.



The song title is from the song by Sarah McLachlan.

Much thanks goes to all my readers and reviewers for the constant support over the time I've been writing this. =)


Chapter 19: Sixteen: Don't Speak
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Sixteen


The scene in the Hospital Wing was perhaps one of the strangest tableaus ever to be found in the history of Hogwarts. One boy in shredded clothing lay prostrate upon a bed, deep asleep under the influence of Madam Pomfrey’s strongest sleeping potion. Across the aisle, a boy with matted black hair lay staring up at the ceiling, his nose sticking upwards like the prow of a sinking ship. His hands were tightly wrapped in bandages, otherwise he would have kept them clenched in fists. A few beds away, a third boy sat rubbing his head while his cracked glasses hung precariously from one ear. Every so often, he would glance up at the first boy and shake his head.

The door to the room flew open and a girl entered. She looked thoroughly angry, but plopped down on the bed beside the boy with glasses.

“Dumbledore swore me to silence,” she said.

James Potter swallowed nervously. “And Sirius?”

Lily rubbed her drooping eyelids. “As far as I know, he won’t be expelled.”

A low growl came from the greasy-haired boy. The girl’s eyes strayed towards the window. A red glow reflected off the lake, creating an impression of warmth. In the distance loomed giant grey clouds which threatened to bring a snow storm to the area. She wanted to say something else, but couldn’t think of anything appropriate. James was being uncharacteristically silent, but she put that down to shock.

“So I guess you know?” he asked in a low voice, glancing distrustfully at Snape whose eyes were still directed towards the ceiling.

Lily blinked. “About what? It was just a wild animal that attacked the three of you. Some stupid prank of Sirius’...”

James’ shoulders straightened slightly as though a load had been lifted from them. “Yeah, it was a werewolf in the woods. I’ve got no clue how Sirius managed to attract it.” He managed to keep his voice even through the lie.

“It’s one of the spells he’s learned, I’m sure,” she said. “I’ve seen him sneaking around the library when it’s usually quiet.”

Making a mental note to warn Sirius to stop sneaking about the school in a suspicious manner, James absently ran a hand through his hair, then remembered that he had sworn never to speak to Sirius again.

“So that’s your big secret then?”

Her words surprised him. “What?”

“That Sirius has been learning spells too advanced for our age.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I’m sure if Dumbledore heard about it–“

She smiled elusively. “He won’t hear it from me, James.”

It wasn’t until after she had gone that James realised that it had been the first civilised discussion they had ever had. Furthermore, she had called him “James.” Gazing at the fading red sky, he blocked out the sounds behind him and fell into fantasies as he replayed the sound of her lips pronouncing his name over and over again. It was far more pleasant than listening to Snape’s grumbles and Remus’ painful moans. The previous night was one that James never wanted to relive. He had saved his enemy, but had been alienated by his best friend.

How had it gone so wrong?

He remembered Sirius returning to the dormitory, his eyes glittering in a menacing way. It was the same look that Regulus and other Slytherins got in their eyes when they’d just terrorised the most pathetic first year Hufflepuff. Of course he had asked Sirius what he’d done, hoping that his glorious plan had simply been a harmless prank in one of the lavatories. Sirius only smiled before leaping into bed and closing his eyes.

Remus had already gone to the hospital wing to see Madam Pomfrey before going out to the Willow. He never wanted his friends to go with him, not only because they’d probably be seen by Pomfrey, but also because he forbid them to watch his transformation.

“If you see me like that,” Remus had said. “You’ll never want to be friends with me again.”

James had argued, Peter had gone pale, and Sirius had remained silent. Even then he had probably begun planning the near-fatal prank.

Laying back on the bed, James stole a glance towards Snape. For all his hatred of the Slytherin, James would never want to kill him. Hell, he’d proven that by saving Snape’s greasy-haired life, hadn’t he? What had come over Sirius to make him think that no one would get hurt, that it’d all just be something to laugh at in the morning?

Sirius hadn’t come back down from the dormitories by time that they usually went out to join Remus. It right away had alerted James that something was amiss. Sirius never missed a full moon; he was perhaps more devoted to Remus’ furry little problem than James or Peter. It was like Sirius felt a connection with Remus because they were both outcasts. James knew he could never understand what being an outcast was like.

“Stay here and watch for Padfoot,” James had whispered to Peter as they sat by the dormitory window. “He’s done something, I know it.”

Peter had nodded before settling into the chair, his eyes focussed on the bed in the corner as James had sneaked out of Gryffindor tower, throwing his invisibility cloak over his body. It was soon after that he’d found the three sets of footprints leading to the willow. Only one set had returned to the castle.

Remus groaned in his sleep. James sighed and put his head in his hands. He’d broken his silent promise to his friend. I won’t ever let them hurt Moony. He deserves better. Sirius had betrayed them all and James hadn’t noticed until it was too late.


~ * * * ~



Lily’s footsteps echoed in the cold stone corridor, creating a hollow sound that resonated through the musty air like the distant thumping of a drum. She stopped in front of the portrait of a very fat sleeping woman, who grumbled before allowing the hidden door to open. The boy warming his hands by the hearth looked up when Lily entered the common room.

“I thought one of you might come.” Sirius said glumly.

“You’re lucky you haven’t been expelled.”

“It isn’t morning yet.”

“So you realize how stupid it was to do.”

Sirius turned away from the fire, his hands stuffed into his pockets. “I don’t regret it, if that’s what you mean.”

She leaned back against the heavy wooden door. “What would’ve you done if he’d died because of your so-called prank?”

“He wouldn’t have been missed.”

“How the hell can you say such a thing?”

Sirius shrugged, but didn’t look up to meet her eyes. “I just did, didn’t I?”

A strained silence was his only answer.

“It was the perfect opportunity.” He walked over to the window and stared down at the willow tree with its shimmering silver leaves, glittering in the early dawn light. “And you know what? He deserved every bit of it.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And so you saw fit to punish him by putting your own friends into danger? Didn’t you realize that they’d also get caught in your trap?”

He whipped around to face her. “It wasn’t supposed to happen that way–”

“What were you expecting to happen?” she asked, her voice rising. “Weren’t you thinking at all, or is that too much to ask of you?”

Walking towards the door, he tried to push her aside. “I don’t need this.”

Lily grabbed his arm, nails digging into flesh. “What you need a good wack over the head to get some sense knocked into it. ”

He met her eyes. “You don’t understand. I had to do it.”

She snorted. “Don’t tell me it was for revenge. They told me you were a proud–”

“It was.”

A log in the fireplace imploded with a loud snap.

“If I remember, you were the one usually playing the bully. Why would you need revenge against him?”

He wrenched his arm away from her grasp and walked back over to the window.

“You’re only making it worse,” he grumbled.

She stared at him in wonder. “You don’t get it, do you?”

Sirius crossed his arms and shuffled over to the window. He pushed open the leaded glass, closing his eyes as a crisp breeze blew against his face. “What is it that I don’t get?” he said bitterly. “I can’t answer you unless I know what you’re talking about.”

“She loves him, you fool!”

He turned to look at her, a complete lack of comprehension in his face. “Who loves who? What the hell are you talking about, Evans?”

Her face flushed a dark pink that clashed horribly with her hair. “You wanted revenge because of Emma, didn’t you?” A slight widening of the eyes revealed to her the truth. With a frustrated sigh, she collapsed into a chair. “Tell me, did you think pranking Snape would send her into your welcoming arms?”

Sirius reddened and clenched a fist. “This has nothing to do with her.” His voice was dangerously low.

Lily peeked over the back of the giant chair and gave him a cold stare. “I don’t understand why she of all the girls in this school would attract your attention. Marlene’s far prettier –“

”– too brainy – “ Sirius muttered.

“– and Dorcas wouldn’t mind some attention from you, from what I’ve heard –“

”– too bubbly –”

“– and I think the other houses have quite a few eligible females, most of whom would be more than happy to go out with you–“

”Who said I wanted just to go out with a girl?” Sirius snapped.

“Don’t tell me you’re looking for a soul mate.” Lily couldn’t keep the sarcastic tone from entering her voice.

He didn’t reply, remaining by the window as the light from the rising sun shone against his pale face. The light made the hollows of his cheeks and the lines on his forehead stand out in a ghostly way. He looked like someone who was slowly being eaten away from the inside out.

“You are a very strange boy, Sirius Black,” Lily said quietly. “For all your friends and airs, you’re very lonely, aren’t you?”

His fist clenched tighter; his jaw became firmly set. Without a word, not even a backwards glance, he turned and proceeded up the stairs to his dormitory. Lily leaned back against the soft cushions of the chair, forming the beginnings of an idea in her mind.


~ * * * ~



Whist slapping an inch of jam onto a slice of bread, Emma stared at Grimm’s empty chair with curiosity. It would be the fifth time in a row that he hadn’t bothered to come to breakfast and would probably be the fifth day that he’d make his students copy notes from the textbook rather than teach a lesson. The sight of his drawn face and bloodshot eyes constantly worried Emma, but she didn’t dare to confront him about it. In addition to being ill in appearance, Grimm had also become ill in manner, snapping at whichever student courageously raised their hand to ask a question. His shuffling footsteps in the corridors now sent the students rushing into empty classrooms and behind statuary so they would not encounter Grimm’s nasty mood.

Emma kept her distance from him, even though it hurt not to hear him bid her good night or give a reassuring smile when she asked for help with her homework. She listened to the stories of the other students and kept to the back of the room in Defence Against the Dark Arts, her nose in a book.

With a small sigh, Emma turned back to her plate and nibbled on her jam with bread. James and Peter entered the Great Hall, James talking to Peter as they strode down towards the far end of the Gryffindor table. As soon as he saw Sirius, who was already seated in their usual spot, James steered himself and Peter to another place at the table, pushing in amongst a crowd of all-too-happy fourth-year girls. Sirius watched his friends with a frown, then went back to pushing his food around the plate. His shoulders were hunched; his eyes were without their usual glimmer of mischievousness.

Lily then entered alone, giving a friendly wave to Emma and Marlene before making her way down Gryffindor table. She stopped, most surprisingly, behind James and coughed loudly enough to catch his attention. As the group of girls twittered and gasped dramatically, Lily leant over to whisper something in James’ ear before giving him a serious nod and moving down to her regular seat with the other sixth-years. For the remainder of the meal, Emma closely watched the four Gryffindors, noting the absence of Remus Lupin. He’d probably fallen ill again - he was a very sickly boy.

“I’m going to see Professor Grimm,” Emma told Marlene, who shrugged and went back to the book she’d been reading.

“Mind you won’t be late for class.”

Emma laughed. “Have I ever been?”

She strolled out of the Great Hall, wondering where she should go first to find Grimm.

“He is still in the potions lab, I believe,” a voice from beside her said.

Emma started, her heart skipping a beat as she turned to the familiar voice.

“It appears that both he and Professor Slughorn managed to have the same period free today,” Snape continued with more than a little sarcasm in his voice.

Immediately lowering her eyes, Emma swallowed. “Thank you. I’ll go look.” She began moving away, not daring to look up at him. She didn’t want to see the hate that she believed to be in his eyes.

He touched her arm. Her skin tingled at the place where his hand lay upon it.

“He doesn’t want anyone disturbing him, Emilia. Least of all you.”

She raised her eyes. “How d’you know he doesn’t want to see me? Why would he let you talk to him and not me?”

“Don’t be–“

”Don’t be what?” she snapped. “Stubborn? Stupid? Come on, Severus. Say it.”

His eyes flashed dangerously. “It’s useless trying to speak to you.” He turned to walk away, but she reached out to grab his robes.

“It was you who started this, Severus. You can’t blame me.”

She heard the desperation in her own voice and hid her shaking hands in the oversized sleeve of her robes. They used to argue all the time, just like this, but there was something else now that hadn’t been there before. Bitterness and resentment were hidden behind every word, every action. Emma fought back the desire to see him smile, to hear him say her name. It was silly, entirely illogical. She was supposed to hate him; he had called her terrible names and treated her like common rubbish. Yet why couldn’t she? Why did she want to keep her hand on his arm a little longer? Why couldn’t she walk away with silent dignity?

“Well, well, Snivelly. Thought you’d have another go at Goldwyn?” Sirius Black stood with crossed arms in the doorway of the Great Hall. “Got a few more insults up your sleeve? I’d love to hear them.”

Emma let go of Snape’s arm and stepped back, feeling her face turn lobster red.

“It’s none of your business, Black,” Snape snarled. “Shouldn’t you be looking after your mutt in the hospital wing? I’m sure he’d love to hear about last night.”

Glancing back and forth between them, Emma tried to understand what exactly was going on. Something had happened to Sirius that led James to shun him and gave Snape blackmail material. Something that involved whoever was in the hospital wing...

Remus Lupin was ill again...

“Like you should talk, Snape,” Black shot back. “It was you not being able to keep your slimy noise out of my business that got us all in trouble!”

Snape reached into his robes, his eyes blazing. Taking a deep breath, Emma stepped in front of him.

“Please,” she whispered. “Don’t.”

He froze in mid-motion, eyes locked on her face. The breath caught in Emma’s throat as they stared at one another. Snape’s hand relaxed and fell to his side. They were too far apart to touch; Emma would not step closer, not in front of Sirius Black.

A cold laugh erupted from the shadows surrounding the entrance to the dungeons.

“What’s this? A lover’s quarrel?” Regulus Black stepped into the light, a smirk on his face.

Both Sirius and Snape visibly stiffened.

“It must be something if Mistress Goldwyn can stop a battle between Snape and my darling brother,” Regulus said. “So will you be the one to stop the blood feud between their houses, too?”

“Quiet, Regulus,” Sirius snapped. “You never could remember your place.”

“Yes, my place as the heir to the noble House of Black.” Regulus strolled forward, grey eyes dancing with amusement. “Mother took great relish in blasting you off the tapestry, brother.”

There was a slight tightening of Sirius’ jaw, but otherwise he remained still.

“I’m surprised that you still call me ‘brother’. Father certainly wouldn’t want you to be associating with lowlifes like me.”

Regulus breathed in sharply, only now realising his mistake. A light flush crept up his throat as he struggled to find a suitable retort.

“You better get to your breakfast before it’s all gone, young Mr. Black.” Grimm emerged from the dungeon stair, blinking as he entered the bright hall. Regulus muttered darkly under his breath and stalked off, elbowing Sirius as he passed. “And the elder Mr. Black ought to be going up to see the Headmaster. Professor McGonagall mentioned that you had much to discuss.”

With clenched fists, Sirius began climbing the staircase upwards to the Headmaster’s office just as the students began to spill out of the Great Hall.

“A fight, you say?” someone asked. “Ah damn! We missed it.”

“Between Black and Snape? Aye, that would’ve been a good one.”

“And Black’s little brother joined in too.”

“Who’s that girl standing there? What’d she have to do with it?”

“Emma!” Dorcas threaded through the crowd, apologising to everyone who stepped on her toes on the way. Upon reaching Emma, she latched on to her robes. “So is it true about the fight?”

Emma nodded, glancing over to look at Snape. She only saw the back of his head as he disappeared into the crowd.

“I’m so sorry to have missed it, not that I’m saying it’s a good thing,” she quickly added when Emma glared at her. “But everyone knows that they’re the best duellists in the school and just think, Em, they were fighting over you.”

“What? They just hate each other, that’s all.” Rubbing her temple, Emma tried to catch Grimm’s eye as he watched the students pass.

Shaking her head, Dorcas patted Emma on the shoulder and flitted off into the crowd, her laughter lifting above the noise. With a sigh, Emma turned towards Grimm, who was still standing nearby, looking at everyone except Emma. She built up the courage to actually say something to him when he cut off her thoughts.

“You ought to be getting to class as well, Emma.”

“I wanted to talk to you, Uncle,” she said without thinking. “It’s only History of Magic anyway. I can always get the notes from Mar–“

”No.”

She kicked one foot against the ancient stone floor. “Why don’t you want to talk with me?”

“It’s for the best.” His voice was very quiet, yet she heard him very clearly.

For the first time, she made a closer examination of his face. A web of lines crossed his face, from the crow’s feet by his eyes to the frown lines around his mouth. His pallor was a sickly shade of grey. It was beyond a simple paleness caused by staying out of the sun. Grimm was ill, more ill that he would ever admit to being.

Upon noticing Emma’s wide-eyed stare, he said, “I’m very busy, working on my experiments. Dumbledore understands and I hope that you do as well, Emma.”

She wetted her dry lips and pushed a strand of hair out of her face. Maybe if she didn’t say anything, he’d change his mind. He walked away from her silence and went into the Great Hall, leaving Emma alone before the main staircase. She looked up at the portraits lining the walls, then the dark hole of the dungeon stair caught her eye. Temptation crept through her veins. She took a tentative step forward, itching to see what Grimm was up to. The voice of her conscience whispered a warning, but she pushed it aside. With a quick glance at the Great Hall, she slipped into the shadows, forgetting the cruel laugh of Regulus Black, the mocking words of his elder brother, the hints that Dorcas had given her, and the way that Snape’s eyes had met hers. They were all petty compared to the so-called experiments of her beloved guardian. She had seen death in his eyes.

The dungeons were eerily quiet. Without a class in the potions lab, there may have been only one or two people in that whole area of the school; perhaps a few upper year students without first period classes. It was as convenient for Emma as it had been for Grimm. Every little sound, from the smallest drip to the pattering of a rat’s footsteps, made her jump in fear that it was Grimm on his way back.

She stepped into the potions lab and the lamps flickered on, as they did each time someone entered the room. With a wave of her wand, the majority of them went out again except for those closest to the blackboard and still-bubbling cauldron. She leaned over the cauldron and sniffed. The clear brown liquid smelled no better than it looked, rather like the juice from rotten apples. Her stomach turned and she backed into a stool, toppling it to the ground with a crash. The noise echoed off the stone walls. Emma stood perfectly still for a moment, listening for footsteps in the corridor. She was sure that someone had heard the sound; it had certainly been loud enough.

But no footsteps came. The only sound came from the hissing of the gas lamps and the endless drip drop of water running through the pipes.

Emma let out of the breath she didn’t realise she had been holding. She carefully set the stool upright and began reading the notes scribbled on the blackboard. Grimm’s code was illegible to the majority of people, but Emma had been around him long enough to understand much of what he had written. It was a list of ingredients for, she believed, the potion currently in the cauldron. She’d never seen any such combination before.

crushed scarab beetles – mythological properties
ginger root shavings
crocodile heart, finely chopped
essence of sopophorous
powdered root of asphodel – afterlife connection
oil of aconite – very small dosage



She could read all but the last line, which contained a symbol completely foreign to her. Squinting, she traced the lines of the symbol, trying to understand what it could stand for. Grimm never made his code obvious – it had taken Emma years to figure it out on her own – but this particular symbol was beyond any of the others. It resembled the sign for feather, but it was upside-down with extra lines crossing over it.

Her finger touched the board, smudging the symbol and releasing a cloud of chalk dust into the air. Damn the man! He had cursed the chalk to defend itself against an intruder; he must have known that she’d go down there, that she knew who to read his code....

Footsteps. Someone was in the corridor, walking towards the potions lab.

Wiping her fingers on the hem of her robe, Emma glanced around the room. There were plenty of hiding places, but she needed one that Grimm hopefully wouldn’t know about. The cupboards would be full of supplies, there wasn’t enough cover beneath the desks, but there was a storage room conveniently filled with packing crates. Who knows, it may even have had a secret passage out into the corridor or even to the kitchens.

The footsteps were now just outside the door. Ducking around the blackboard and errant stool, Emma ran into the storage room, making sure to leave the door in the same position it had been when she entered. The chalk dust remained in the air around her, filling her nose and making her eyes water. If she sneezed, she knew that the only way to avoid being heard was to hold her breath, but was it worth the trouble of killing brain cells and the pain it would cause? She covered her nose with a sleeve and settled behind a pile of boxes to wait.

She recognised the sound of Grimm’s shuffling footsteps as he entered the room. He was eating something, probably a croissant, and probably thinking about the things he’d heard from the other professors before they hurried off to their classes. She heard him drag the stool over to the cauldron – it clanged against the battered black metal – then there was silence. Emma closed her eyes, praying that he wouldn’t bother to look at the blackboard, that he had memorised the ingredients, that he wouldn’t see the smudged symbol.

Her head throbbed; her nose tingled, her eyelids were ridiculously heavy. She leaned her head back against the wall, wishing that she had listened to Grimm and gone back to class. At least the desks in History of Magic were comfortable to sleep in. Merlin knew that most of Binns’ students dozed off from pure boredom. If Binns had been set to teach even the most interesting subject, he’d somehow make it the more boring.

There was a noise from the other room. He must have been stirring the liquid, or taking it out to bottle it. Emma sat up straight, rubbing her eyes to remove the infernal dust. She crawled over to the door, not trusting her legs to work properly. Whatever Grimm had cursed the chalk with, it was quite effective in putting a would-be-thief out of service. She settled by a knothole in the door to watch. He held in his hand a ladle that looked full of the foul potion. Grimm sniffed it once and nearly threw the thing down, but for some reason he found the will to continue holding it. He licked his dry lips then lifted the ladle to them.

It was then that he broke the first rule of potions making: never drink your own experiments.


~ * * * ~


The sun had set by the time Grimm had a moment truly to himself away from students, his colleagues, and that blastedly disgusting potion. He’d had no choice but to drink the stuff; no one but Dumbledore knew he was making. As difficult as it was to keep the experiments under wraps in a place such as Hogwarts, Grimm believed that his secret was well-kept. The taste of the potion still lingered in his mouth, seemingly ruining his appetite for the next year. Perhaps he would find a sweetener that would not chemically affect the potion. No one, not even someone on the brink of death, would be willing to drink something that tasted like it’d come straight out of last month’s rubbish bin.

He turned to reach for a book off the shelf behind him when he noticed a shadow in the doorway, a shadow that had not been there a few moments before.

“You might as well come in, whoever you are,” Grimm said, placing the book on the desk before him. “It’s discomfiting to be spied upon like this.”

“Perhaps you should not leave the door open then, Grimm,” Antonio Sejanus said upon entering the room. “An open door is always a temptation.”

“Only to thieves and the noisy ones.” Grimm flipped open the pages of the book, scanning to find the list of potion flavourings. He was sure that it was in this particular volume, though there were plenty of others that could contain it, now that he thought of it.

Sejanus snorted, which was probably the extent of his laughing abilities. “You were always one for a good joke, Grimm.”

Grimm looked up from the book, his eyes watching every movement Sejanus made as the Divination professor claimed the seat across from him. “Why did you come here? Not simply to be social, I should think.”

A fraction of a smile appeared on Sejanus’ face. “No, of course not. Neither of us is the social type, that is certain.” His accent became more apparent the more he spoke.

“If you wouldn’t mind getting to your point then. I’ve much work to do.” And much sleep to catch up on, Grimm added silently. It was something that he’d never admit to someone like Sejanus. It was bad enough that he was a Divination teacher, much less one with too great an interest in the Dark Arts.

Sejanus’ eyes did not meet Grimm’s. Rather they stared at the shelves of leather-bound books as though they held the answers to all the world’s questions. “I have been shown a sizable number of things, some of which have involved you, Grimm, believe it as you will.”

A small rumble in Grimm’s stomach distracted him from the full impact of Sejanus’ statement. The potion’s bitter flavour had kept him from eating since that croissant in the morning and the very thought of food still made him feel ill. His stomach could suffer; the rest of him certainly was. He felt older than Dumbledore and Merlin knew what that meant.

“So you’ve seen me in your crystal ball, why should I care?”

Sejanus sniffed and plucked at his uncreased robes. “If you do not care, then there is no reason why I should tell you. I have plenty of respect for your work here–“

”And that gives me a reason to respect Divination? Surely you knew when you took the job that it’s not highly respected by anyone.”

“Least of all you?”

“Especially not by me.” Grimm slammed the book closed. It was doubtful that he would be able to find the reference while this bug was pestering him. “Whatever is in my future will happen unmolested by anyone’s dirty hands. I don’t need people like you bothering me about it.”

Grimm reached for the canister of wine sitting on one corner of his desk. It would do the trick to remove the essence of that potion. He should have thought of it sooner.

Sejanus leaned forward in the chair, his blue eyes narrowing.

“What if I were to tell you I had seen your death? What would you say then?”

The canister fell to the floor, shattering into a thousand pieces as the wine splashed against the floor. Grimm’s eyes rose to meet those of the man sitting across from him.

“Get out,” he growled. “You just lost me the finest wine north of Yorkshire.”

Sejanus shrugged and stood up in a graceful movement.

“How is it that the Americans say it?” he asked. “It’s your funeral.”



Once again, I'm sorry for the long wait. The final crunch of three monster-sized essays kept me from updating at the usual time, but I hope that this chapter was enough to make up for it. =) Thanks again to all my readers and reviewers - I really appreciate your support.

The chapter title is from the song by No Doubt.

Chapter 20: Interlude: All I Ask of You
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Interlude
One Day Earlier


It was a dark night, but unfortunately not a stormy one. The sky was clear and filled with millions upon millions of stars; burning lights from far off places that only decorated the night. The moon was nearly full, lazily hanging over the horizon and covering the ground in cold yellow light. Even after a few years, Riddle had decided not to move his headquarters from the lonely house on the moor. He told his followers that they would never be disturbed in such a place, not even by the bravest of wizards or the most foolhardy of muggles. The house was haunted, but not by the spirits of the dead. Rather it was filled with the dark spirits of the present and future. Tom Riddle the Second had no patience for the past, a time of ignorance and struggle. No, the future interested him the most, just like it interested the hunched figure hidden in the attic of the house. With each season, this figure grew older in appearance, though he aged the same as every other human being. As the minutes ticked past, he was brought closer to death. He was too weak to be any more use to his master, and so was left alone in the lonely house on the moor with little to do but play his own games with the future. His focus was not on the future in general. He cared not a wit for the lives of the populace. They could live or die, be free or enslaved, and he would not raise a finger. He only cared for the future of one person, more specifically one young girl.

One grimy, wart-covered hand reached for the crooked stick his master had given him. It was very kind of Riddle to still let his most loyal follower wander about and take part in the meetings. The others shunned Mort, turning up their noses at his shrivelled form and scowling at his hacking coughs, but he ignored them all. They had never liked him from the beginning; he could sense their jealousy at his position with the Dark Lord. He may have appeared nothing more than a senile old man, but his mind remained strong. Very strong.

He took the stairs very carefully, holding tightly to both his stick and the handrail. All of his movements were slow, but calculated. His hazel eyes watched each tiny movement, from the footsteps of a mouse to the cries of the prisoners deep in the cellars. Upon reaching the main corridor that connected the first floor rooms, Mort counted the doors he passed until reaching one made of solid oak, upon which was the carving of a serpent. He reached forward and pushed on the wood, using most of his strength to get the door open wide enough for his body to squeeze through. The room was empty. Moonlight filtered in through the dirty leaded glass, creating strange designs on the dusty floorboards. Mort shuffled towards the centre of the room where a tall and narrow table stood. There was nothing on its surface just yet.

Mort gently touched the surface of the table, running his fingers over the smooth, polished wood. The things he had seen in this room had given him hope of a sort. Perhaps this hope was all that kept him alive. Even the healers at St. Mungo’s would have despaired at Mort’s poor health and the disease that was slowly killing him.

He did not have to wait very long. Footsteps, those of a younger, more agile wizard, stopped outside of the room. The door opened to reveal a blond-haired man closely wrapped in thick black robes. In his hands, he carried a silver bowl.

“Your master would not approve of this,” Antonio Sejanus said. He walked over to the table and set down the bowl, not once looking at Mort even though they stood so close together.

Mort’s quiet laughter quickly turned into a fit of coughing. He put a handkerchief to his mouth to wipe away the droplets of blood. “I am doing this for him,” he finally whispered. “All that I do will strengthen his power and ensure he never loses it.”

Sejanus shook his head. “You’re only doing it for yourself, Nero. And for your daughter.”

“You think she is undeserving?” Mort’s gaze seemed to find its way into Sejanus’ soul. “If so, then you do not see how she could turn the balance in our favour.”

A sneer crossed Sejanus’ face. “She’s a foolish girl. I have seen nothing in her manner to speak of her being anything more than that.”

He had half-expected Mort to rage at such a statement, but the old man simply smiled.

“I can prove you wrong, Sejanus. Indeed, you know nothing of what my daughter could be.”

Mort leaned over the bowl, whispering the words he now knew so well. The silvery liquid within the bowl began to slowly move about in a circle, stirring itself like the batter in a bakery bowl. The colour of the liquid began to change from silver to blue, then to green, and finally to brown. Mort looked closer, leaning heavily on his stick as he tried to make out the shapes and sounds within the bowl. The desperation within him grew by the minute. It became more than wanting to see the future. It was a need only strengthened by giving into it.

The images in the bowl became clear...

A group of witches and wizards sat in a corner table of the Hog’s Head pub, furtively checking the doorway every few seconds. Most of them nursed bottles of butterbeer, but a couple of the wizards held glasses of Firewhiskey. They were only just old enough, not that the bartender really seemed to notice their ages, only the coins they placed on the counter. One of these wizards adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat.

“I’ve–” He was cut off by a cough from the sandy-haired wizard beside him. “I mean we’ve asked you here for reasons that I’m sure you can guess. Things aren’t going well in our world, with those Death Eater raids and muggle murders.”

“And we want to put a stop to it,” said the other Firewhiskey-drinking wizard. He pushed back the overly-long black hair hanging over his forehead. “We want the bastards to pay for what they’ve done to innocent folk.” He took another sip of his drink.

“But what about the Aurors?” one of the witches asked, tossing back her blonde curls. “It’s their job to stop these people.”

It was the sandy-haired wizard who replied. “They’re not enough on their own. Something more is needed.”

The witch nodded and the conversation went on to discuss meeting times and things that were possible for them to do. They were, after all, still attending Hogwarts and only a small number of them were of age. In the eyes of many, they were still children.

Another of the witches, a short one with mousy-brown hair, suddenly spoke up.

“Where’s Emma? I thought she’d be here by now.”

The rest of the table went silent. The two other witches looked guiltily at one another while the young wizard with too-long hair looked down at the table, a slight flush on his cheeks.

“She’s not interested,” he finally said, refusing to meet anyone’s eyes.

A red-haired witch added, “She doesn’t want any part in a war.”

The short witch still looked perplexed, but nodded anyway. “Because of what happened to Professor Grimm? But why–”

“It’s not for us to guess why,” the bespectacled wizard broke in. “We can’t force her to join us, but we can at least be glad that she won’t join the other side.”

The red-haired witch shot him a scathing glare which he did not seem to notice.

“It’s better off this way,” he continued, turning his glass in circles. “Her relationship with certain Slytherins is too dangerous for us.” He said the word ‘Slytherin’ with his lip curled disdainfully. “We need people we can wholly trust, and as helpful I’m sure Goldwyn would be, I for one do not trust her.”

The three witches stared at him, surprise evident in their expressions. The one with red hair pushed back her seat and moved to stand. “I won’t stand for this, Potter. It’s one thing to drag us here and talk about saving the world, but quite another to insult my best friend. You’ll have to do a lot better than that to get any help from me.”

“Or me,” the brown-haired witch said.

“And me as well,” the blonde witch added. “We could say the same thing about Black’s family because of its ties to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

The dark-haired wizard flushed an even deeper red, but the second flush was from anger rather than shame. “I have nothing to do with them! They all hate me, you know that.” His tightly clenched fists rested on the surface of the table.

“And it’s well-known that Emma and Snape bitterly argued at the end of fifth year,” the blonde witch stated. “If Potter allows himself to trust you not Emma, he’s being highly illogical.”

This time, it was Potter’s face that turned red, but he remained silent, still turning his empty glass. The wizard beside him, a small boy with a pointed nose, swallowed and, for the first time that conversation, ventured to speak.

“There’s not much we can do if she’s not interested. It doesn’t really have anything to do with who trusts who.” He shifted nervously in his seat. “We’re all fighting on the same side in the end, you know.”

The sandy-haired boy smiled. “Well said, Peter.” He turned to the other five. “It’s a stupid thing to argue about. Emma’s completely trustworthy, but it’s her choice if she wants to join or not. I personally can’t blame her for her decision, especially after what happened.” His eyes met those of the red-haired girl until she nodded and once more made herself comfortable in her seat. The other two made faces and did the same. Soon, their discussion returned to the topic of the evil that was taking over their world.


Mort raised his head from the bowl and looked up into Sejanus’ pale face.

“What did you do?” Sejanus asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

A smile appeared on Mort’s face. “You’ll see, my friend..” He waved his hand over the bowl once again. “Watch. Watch what one can do with the power of time.”

The images in the bowl spiralled around and around with increasing speed, then it slowly began to clear. Sejanus stared down into the bowl to see a young woman walking up a dark and lonely street. In the near distance, a brick chimney reached for the sky, while surrounding it were dilapidated houses and piles of rubbish. It was a strangely familiar scene.

“What’s with this then?” he asked Mort. “Why are you taking us back there? We’ve already seen what happens.”

Mort’s eyes were glued to the image upon the surface of the liquid. “No, you saw what could have been. Now you’ll see what will be.”

Sejanus raised his eyes from the bowl. “You cannot, you must not, play with time! If you go too far, you could destroy everything...” His voice trailed off as he contemplated the consequences of Mort’s actions.

“I have done what I needed to do,” was Mort’s only reply.

Running a hand through his cropped hair, Sejanus wanted to leave this room and the desperate hunger of its other occupant. He had once believed that the Dark Lord’s motives were hazy and unjustified, that he was just a madman intent on gaining power over those weaker than he was, but Mortimer Nero was far, far worse. Even Riddle knew the dangers of fooling around with time, that it could cause death before triumph, ruin before success. But Mort had nothing to lose. His life was nearly expired, all else he had once had was gone.

He stared at Mort for a moment, taking in the shaking hands, spotted with age, and his wide eyes, taking in all he could see of his beloved daughter. A child he had never gotten acquainted with and who probably wanted nothing to do with him. Sejanus looked back down into the bowl, still wondering what Mort could have done to change the course of time.

She stood on the small porch of the equally small house, looking at the door with an empty gaze. Her face was so pensive that she did not seem to actually take notice of anything around her; she was entirely lost in thought. Her robes were completely black and a veil covered much of her brown hair, as though she were in mourning. She slowly raised a hand to the door and knocked. The sound eerily echoed down the vacant street. In the alley beside the house, a fox scampered away, frightened by the noise.

The door was soon wrenched open and a pair of dark eyes above a long, hooked nose peeked out. “What are you doing here?” The man snapped.

“There’s no one left to come to.” The woman’s voice was soft, but filled with a long-suffering bitterness.

The man laughed, a noise completely devoid of amusement. “So I am you’re last resort. You’ll have to do a lot better than that, Emilia.” He moved to shut the door in her face and return to his empty contemplation of what was left in the world.

“My father is dead, Severus,” Emilia whispered. “Just like the others. They’re all dead. And because of me.” She choked upon the last word, but she did not begin to cry, as she once may have.

Mort gasped, but could not take his eyes from the scene in the bowl. Perhaps Sejanus was correct. Perhaps his actions would only destroy, not repair.

A small bit of surprised registered upon Severus’ face. He opened the door an inch further, then quickly stopped himself.

“How do I know that, because of you, I will not be the next to expire?”

Her head snapped upwards and a dash of colour spread across her cheeks. “I shouldn’t have come. I knew I’d be wasting my time coming here.” She turned to walk back down the steps onto the pavement.

Severus seemed to be fighting a battle within himself for a moment. He stared after her, the hardness in his eyes changing to a strange longing. His breath quickened as he opened the door wider and stepped onto the porch.

“Emilia.”

He only had to say her name. She stopped in mid-step and looked back at him, bitting her lip. In the light of a nearby street lamp, her face was haggard, her skin sickly, almost jaundiced. Tiny webs of lines spread from the corners of her eyes and mouth. Small frown lines crossed her once smooth brow.

The man reached out his hand, palm upwards. She stared at it with pursed lips, then quickly stepped forward to place her hand upon his. He closed his fingers around hers and pulled her towards him.

“Your hand is cold.”

The statement shattered the wall between them. A smile played around Emilia’s lips. Years ago, she would have laughed, but there was no laughter left, just as there were no tears.

Neither moved at first. They stood, hand-in-hand, a short distance apart, becoming comfortable in each other’s presence. Each created turmoil within the mind and heart of the other that made it difficult to find the words that would fill the void of silence surrounding them. Finally, he led her up the porch steps and in through the door. He was still in possession of her hand as he shut the door behind them.

“I was just going to make tea when you knocked,” Severus said.

Emilia pushed back the veil from her hair with her free hand. “Yes, that’s fine.”

They both suddenly seemed to notice their clasped hands. Emilia blushed and pulled hers away, lowering her eyes. Severus seemed amazed that he had dared show any affection and hurried himself into the room that sometimes served as his kitchen, at other times his laboratory.

She watched him on his path down the narrow hallway, her eyes following each movement of his hands and the way that his robes billowed slightly from the motion of walking. There was admiration in her eyes, but also something else. When he disappeared into the kitchen, she stepped into a sitting room with wallpaper in a ghastly shade of green upon which was an even more ghastly print from thirty years in the past. There were two chairs decorated with torn upholstery and a couch with broken springs. Emilia decided that the chairs were the lesser of two evils and chose the one furthest from the window.

A few minutes passed. She heard cups being placed on saucers and filled with hot tea. Severus must have been telling the truth about making tea when she had knocked upon the door; she had not heard the whistle of the kettle. He entered the room bearing two tea cups. The sight of him looking so awkwardly domestic brought another smile to her lips. He had not needed to ask how she took her tea.

When he handed her the tea, their fingers touched. She froze and raised her eyes to his, feeling the bottom of her stomach drop away. Her ears filled with the sound of her heart beating at an incredible volume. She could feel the heat creep across her cheeks, but she could not move her eyes away from his gaze. It was as though they were locked together.

They both let go of the teacup at the same time and it fell to the ground with a muted crash, spilling tea across the hem of Emilia’s robes as well as upon the already-stained rug. She quickly rose to escape the worst of the mess and lost her balance, falling against his body. His arms steadied her, holding her for a moment longer than necessary. She shivered at his touch, wanting to struggle against it at the same time that she wanted it to last forever.

She finally pushed away and moved to retrieve the now-cracked teacup.

“I’m sorry for being–” she began. She was never to complete her apology.

His lips came down upon hers in a way that hardly masked the passion behind the kiss. She hesitated for the briefest moment before responding to the touch of his lips on her skin. At once her nerves tingled and her hands reached out to pull him closer while his did the same. It was not a frenzied or lustful kiss, but rather one between two people who ultimately belonged together and had been evaded that fact for far too long. Once their mouths broke apart, she rested her head on his shoulder.

“What will happen now?” she asked, feeling her entire body shake from the strain of the last few months and anxiety for what was to come.

Severus ran a hand over her hair, finding within himself a peculiar delight in holding her close. “You could return to your home in the north and live out your days wallowing in self-pity. The role of the tragic heroine would suit you well enough, I suppose.”

Emilia pulled her head back to look at him. The raised eyebrow and twitching lips were all she needed to see. She burst into laughter, hiding her face in Severus’ robes.

Her muffled voice said, between giggles, “I’d rather stay with you.”


Mort dragged himself away from the scene, his eyes filled with triumph.

“It worked. Yes, I made it work.”

“Made what work?” Sejanus asked, his brow furrowed. “You caused the deaths of countless people, and all for what?”

Mort smiled, glancing back down at the images within the bowl. “I made her happy.” The light from the bowl played upon his features, highlighting the deep crevices that lined his face.

Sejanus waved his hand over the bowl and the scene immediately vanished. “Tell me what you did for all of that to happen, Nero. What did you do to Grimm?” His voice snapped with electricity and his near-colourless eyes bulged in a freakish manner.

Running his fingers over the surface of the bowl, Mort appeared lost in thought.

“My master wanted a way into Hogwarts to find more who would serve his cause, so I gave him an idea. That was all it was, an idea. And it changed the future.” His voice was soft, as though he was in a trance. “I told Master that he should try to become a professor...”

“But not just any professor,” Sejanus whispered, beginning to understand just what Mort had done. “You told him to try for the Defence Against the Dark Arts position.”

Mort chuckled. It was a disgusting sound. “A position that some would die for, I’ve heard.”

Sejanus’ already pale face dipped a shade closer to white. “Or kill for.”

Mort said nothing more. He hobbled from the room, still chuckling.

Looking back at the bowl, Sejanus cursed the day he had created it and the day that he had first brought it to this terrible place. He should have left things as they were, and now it was his fault that destruction would fall upon the wizarding world and all within it. Sejanus shook his head and leaned over the bowl one more time.

“Show me the death of Tiberius Grimm.”



The chapter title is from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera".

Chapter 21: Seventeen: The Scientist
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Seventeen


He was very good at pretending. He had known that something was wrong for many months, but it was easier to blame it on poor sunlight than to admit that it could be serious. After the first month, he stopped looking in the mirror. It was too troublesome to watch the sickness slowly eat away at his features. His hair had too quickly turned to grey, a colour that matched the tone of his skin. But really, he could manage the deterioration of his appearance. How was he to know that it was simply not old age? He was not a pureblooded wizard – he could hardly expect to have the long life of someone like Dumbledore.

Things began to look worse when the tremors came. One moment, the graduated glass had been in his hand, the next it had shattered upon the floor. He could not remember actually seeing it fall, only of hearing the sound of the glass as it broke into a hundred pieces. Thankfully, no one had seen it happen. He could imagine Minerva’s worried glance and Dumbledore’s omniscient expression. They would not, could not, understand what it meant to him. No, he did not want anyone to know of the incident. His experiments were not yet complete, and to be hounded by a group of mother hen-ish fiends was the last thing he needed.

September arrived calmly, too calmly for him. The sun shone, the leaves were slowly beginning to change, and there had not been a drop of rain for at least three weeks. The students arrived at a glacial pace, knowing full well that events at home were far more interesting, if dangerous and, to many, fatal. Their parents, on the other hand, must have been pleased to ship their children off to a supposedly safe location. London and the south were filled with rumours of strange disappearances and gruesome crimes. The Daily Prophet only exaggerated the rumours, sending many into hysteria.

The truth behind these rumours was even more difficult to pin down. It seemed that every crime was connected with the Dark Lord, though many obviously had no connection at all. The newspapers could not be trusted, nor could the Ministry. They were the last ones who wanted mass hysteria throughout the country. Muggles were already cluing into the issues and often they were the ones found slashed in alleyways and dead in their own homes.

Yet, life at the school appeared the same as it had been for centuries. It was as though the war was in a distant country, even on a distant planet, only spoken of in hushed voices in the dead of night. Some students more than others showed too much interest in the rumours, hanging on their every word and allowing their minds to be filled with ideas of finding glory on either side of the so-called war. There were those who desired to join the Dark Lord rid the world of muggles and muggleborns, while there were also those who wished to stop the Dark Lord and his followers, putting an end to the fear and violence.

Grimm wondered which was the more dangerous.

He constantly overheard snatches of conversation in the corridors. They were some of the only safe places to talk – the staff had agreed to not allow the students to speak of the troubles in the south. It was a cause of too much grief. The students were skilled at keeping quiet, but only to a point.

“My cousin watched them crucio someone to death. Eddie said he’ll never be the same now after seeing that...”

“...as soon as I’m old enough, Father will let me join...”

“...can you believe all those things? People killing each other left and right, and for what?”

“...but that’s too dangerous, we couldn’t.”

“You worry too much, Wormtail. Just think of all the things we could do.”

“And all the ways we could get killed doing it.”

“Shut up, Moony. You’re not helping any...”

“...said he actually wants to fight You-Know-Who! He could hardly beat a doxie...”

“...hard to leave my mum at home with her looking after my sister’s new baby and all this going on. Maybe when I’m of age I’ll go right home...”

“How old to you have to be for an Auror again?”

The sixth years entered the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, prepared for another boring class of copying notes from the textbook. Grimm usually spent his time at the front of the room, not daring to stand or perform any spells. Most of the time now he doubted that he had the strength for even the simplest of spells. It was difficult for him to climb the stairs between the dungeons and his classroom. It was as though he had aged thirty years in only a few months.

Today, however, was different. Grimm was standing at the front of the room, ashen faced, but stubbornly refusing to give in to weakness.

“I shall need two volunteers for a demonstration,” he said as the students settled into their seats. “Two who have at least some control of their wands.”

Sirius and James exchanged grins.

“Which, of course, excludes the two of you.”

The grins fluttered, but did not fade.

Grimm’s eyes passed over the students. Sometimes he would frown, while at other times there would be a small twitch in one cheek.

“Evans, Lupin, come up here please.”

Remus’ ears turned red, but he managed to throw a mocking smile in James’ direction before he went to the front of the room. Lily’s face was guarded – there was something not quite right to her about the beads of sweat resting on Grimm’s forehead.

“Alright, then,” Grimm said. “Stand apart as though you are going to duel. Yes, just like that, Evans. Don’t look at her like that, Lupin. You won’t be hurting her, only demonstrating simple spells.” He stepped away from them, his back against the blackboard. Was he using it to support his weight, or merely relaxing?

Grimm continued to give instructions. “Choose any spell you’d like, within reason of course, and be prepared to use it without actually saying the incantation.”

“But we still think the incantation, right professor?” Lily asked, trying not to look anxious.

He nodded in reply. “The strength of your thought should be just as strong as it would be if you spoke it aloud. It will require practice, even for the best of you. Now try it.”

Remus’ face took on a very serious expression as he focussed on the words of the spell in his mind. Lily stared straight ahead, lips moving without emitting any sound. They pointed their wands at each other, but nothing happened.

Sirius laughed, but was quickly stopped by James’ elbow poking into his stomach.

Lily narrowed her eyes, becoming more resolute to succeed in this new task set before her. She raised her wand again, pointing it at Remus, who hardly had enough time to react before the spell hit him square in the chest. The sheer force of it lifted him off his feet and into the wall. He swore aloud, forgetting just where he was.

“Nice use of stupify, Evans,” Grimm said, his lips twisted upwards. “Hopefully you haven’t injured Lupin too seriously.”

While Lily flushed, Peter had gone over to help Remus up. “You alright, mate?”

“Course he is,” Sirius said loudly. “He was just flown into a wall by a girl!” He glanced over at James and grinned. “At least she’s a pretty one.” A number of students laughed at this. James’ secret love for Lily Evans was widely known, as many secrets were at Hogwarts.

Grimm raised his hand for silence. “Evans has kindly shown you how it’s done. Any more volunteers?” The students clammed up, looking around to see if anyone would raise their hand.

“You mean against Evans?” James asked in a quiet voice. He looked over to where Remus was rubbing his sore arm.

“Black, up here,” Grimm said. Sirius hesitated for the briefest second before scrambling to the front. He winked at Lily, who scowled at him in return. “And Goldwyn too,” Grimm added.

Emma looked up with wide eyes. “I’d rather –“

”No, you’re not. Come here.”

He never called upon her in class. She’d taken to sitting in the back of the room to keep people from thinking she was privileged. In fact, she could safely say that Defence Against the Dark Arts was her lowest grade. Strange creatures and fighting spells were not things she had much interest in. Charms and Transfiguration were far easier to manage – they contained nothing about killing or violence. Just the thought of the Dark Arts caused a shiver to run up her spine.

She stood up and went to the front of the room, never raising her eyes from the floor. Lily patted her shoulder as they passed in the aisle.

“Now think of a spell, both of you.” Grimm wiped the perspiration from his brow.

Biting her lip, Emma tried to think of the best spell. There were so many to choose from....

Sirius shrugged and pointed his wand, seemingly ready to cast his spell. He stared at Emma, willing her to look up at him. Anything to make her look at him, even just once, but she continued to keep her gaze on the floor. She knew that she would lose, that she wouldn’t be able to make her spell work. Her thoughts were muddled – images flashed through her mind like pieces of a puzzle that could never fit together.

She raised her wand at the same time that Grimm collapsed.

At first, no one moved. The scene was a strange tableau: the professor lying ashen faced on the floor, the two students pointing wands at each other, the rest of the class watching it all in astonishment. The first to reach the professor’s side was Severus Snape. He placed two fingers against Grimm’s neck.

“Emilia, the elixir!”

Emma shook her head, her wand hand falling to her side. She stared at Grimm’s body, unable to move. “What?”

Snape turned his head towards her, his too-long hair flipping around. “You know which one! It’s in his office. Hurry or he’ll die!”

The last words hit her at a similar force to Remus’ meeting with the wall. Her wand slipped from her fingertips as she flew up the short stair to Grimm’s crowded office. The potions cupboard was behind his desk, a desk that he rarely ever used except to pile papers upon. Lifting the hem of her robes as she stepped over an empty doxy cage, Emma noticed signs of neglect and decay throughout the room. It was as though Grimm had stopped caring. He had never been a neat, orderly person, but nor had he been messy. The walnut potions cupboard was filled with bottles of varying shapes and sizes. It did not take more than a moment to snatch up the delicate glass vial of green liquid.

She arrived back in the classroom at the same time that Professor McGonagall ran in, closely followed by James, who had run to find her. Both Lily and Sirius were also missing.

Emma knelt beside the unconscious Grimm, struggling to lift his head to pour the content of the vial down his throat.

“The whole thing?” Severus asked, his brow furrowed.

“He’ll need it,” Emma replied. Her voice was calm, emotionless, but her heart beat madly within her chest. Hovering her hand over Grimm’s face, she felt his breathing deepen. She looked up at Professor McGonagall, whose face was pale. “What’s wrong with him?”

The professor shook her head. “I cannot say. He was always good at hiding things.”

Moments later, Madam Pomfrey rushed into the room, wringing her hands. She glanced over at Professor McGonagall. “He must go to the Hospital Wing at once. The Headmaster is contacting St. Mungo’s.” She said the last with a sniff of distain as she conjured a stretcher.

McGonagall nodded and moved aside to calm the rest of the class. “For the time being, Defence Against the Dark Arts classes will be cancelled until a substitute can be found or Professor Grimm comes back to health. Now please, go back to your desks.”

Emma remained by Grimm’s side, assisting Madam Pomfrey place him on the stretcher, though Severus could be said to have been more of a help as Grimm was not a small man. While the stretcher floated out of the room, closely supervised by Madam Pomfrey, Emma ran back to her desk and packed up all her belongings. Without exchanging a word or glance with anyone in the room, she left for the Hospital Wing.

~ * * * ~


She spent the night sitting in a chair by Grimm’s bed. He hadn’t yet woken, but at least his breath and heartbeat had remained steady. She watched his chest rise and fall beneath the thin white sheet. A single candle rested on the bedside table, its flickering light casting the room into dancing shadows. Rubbing her eyes, Emma wondered if she should go up to bed. The only thought that prevented her was the fear of him waking once she had gone. What if he woke alone, without memory of his collapse? No, she had to stay.

The room was silent. There were no other patients to disturb the peace. Emma willed Grimm to wake, to somehow acknowledge that he would be alright, that he had just been working too hard and forgot to take care of his himself. She wanted him to talk to her, tell her what he had been doing. She despised his silence.

The minutes ticked past, but the only object that changed was the candle as its wax dripped into a red pool. It looked like blood. Emma had to blink more often as sleep tried to grasp hold of her consciousness. She would not leave him, even to sleep.

Her head drooped as the clock tower announced the hour with a single chime of his monstrous bells. Once the sound echoed itself into silence, a footstep alerted Emma to the presence of another. His robes swished as he came to a stop behind her. She did not move. She already knew who it was.

“Any changes?” Severus asked, his voice no more than a whisper.

“No. He just lays there,” she said in reply. “I wish he’d just wake up.”

“That would be easier for all of us, would it not?”

She turned to look up at him. “What d’you mean by that?”

“Will you make yourself ill by constantly remaining by his bedside?”

“Why d’you always ask so many bloody questions?” She looked away.

He hesitated for a moment, then placed his hand upon her shoulder. She stiffened at first, as though surprised, then relaxed, letting out a sigh. Tears were filling her eyes.

“There are those who would worry about you,” he said, choosing his words with care.

She let out a strangled laugh. “Go on, Severus, say it. The world won’t come crashing down because you said it.”

He removed his hand and crossed his arms. “You need to rest, Emilia.”

With some difficulty, as her legs had fallen asleep, Emma rose from the chair and faced him. It was only then that he saw the tears and the worry in the line of her mouth. He glanced towards the doorway. Anyone could be standing in the shadows, watching, waiting for the moment when Severus would reveal his weakness.

“I will stay here in your place,” he said, meeting her eyes. “You mustn’t over-worry yourself over Grimm.”

Her gaze fell to the floor. The moment had gone.

“I can’t leave him. What if–“

”He won’t.”

There was a sharp intake of breath. “He won’t wake up? How can–“

He put his hands on her shoulders and forced her to look up at him. “He won’t die, Emilia!” He hated the words as soon as he said them. The lie within them was all too obvious.

The tears spilled over and she moved closer to him, wanting him to hold her close and make it all go away. She didn’t want to see through his lie. “What would I do without him? He’s always been there to look up to, to worry about me....” She sniffed, choking on her tears. “Merlin, I’ve missed him so much. He’s always busy, but at least he’s there. But now.... now....”

He pushed her face against his robes so that she could not speak. There was another way, but he would not do it, not at this moment. “You have me,” he whispered into her hair. “You have me to worry about you.”

When she did not move, he wondered if she had even heard.

Even if Emma had not, the figure in the doorway had. You see, Severus was not the only nighttime visitor with enough interest to come visit the Hospital Wing in the middle of the night. This shadow hid himself well, but as he observed Snape gather the tearful Emilia in his arms, he shuddered with disgust and fury. How she could associate herself with the lowest of Slytherins, he never understood, yet there they were, comfortable in each other’s presence and unafraid to hide their emotions. It was impossible that they should be allowed together. Sirius Black had half a mind to barge in and crucio Snape on the spot, but something kept him back. That same something made him turn and disappear into the corridor, his mind still aflame with hatred.

Emma pulled away without warning and returned to stand by Grimm’s bed. Her cheeks were flushed.

“Thank you,” she said. “I needed that.” She pulled a yellowed handkerchief from her robes and wiped her eyes. “It’s silly of me to be upset, really.”

“Is it?” He watched the flurry of emotions upon her face.

“A specialist from St. Mungo’s will be here in the morning. Madam Pomfrey thinks that Uncle could have come into contact with a poison.”

Severus snorted. “Of course he will come into contact with poisons. He works with potions.” He paused for a moment, glancing over at Grimm’s prostrate form. “Has Professor Slughorn come up with any brilliant antidotes?”

She smiled, but only slightly. “I doubt that he even knows.”

They stood silent for a few moments, until Emma yawned, unable to conceal her fatigue.

“Go to bed, Emilia. I will stay with Professor Grimm.” Severus reached down for her bookbag and held it out for her to take.

She stared at the bag, but did not take it. “I shouldn’t–”

“Please?” He looked sour at saying the word. It was not a popular one in his vocabulary.

Emma gave Grimm a worried glance, biting her lip as she thought, then nodded. “Alright. I’ll go.” She took the bag from his offering hand and took advantage of the moment to reach her lips to his in a short, chaste kiss.

Severus froze as he felt her lips against his. The silence in the room was overpowering.

“Good night, Severus,” she whispered against his face. “I’ll be back in the morning.”

And then she was gone.

~ * * * ~



Once events start unfolding in a negative manner, it is very likely that they will continue doing so to the sorrow and consternation of those affected by them. The healer from St. Mungo’s arrived and examined the nature of Grimm’s illness under the jealous supervision of Madam Pomfrey. No one was allowed in the room except for Dumbledore and the two healers. Even during the examination, Grimm did not wake, nor did he make any movement to show that he knew of anything in the world around him.

The St. Mungo’s healer said something about a coma resulting from a poisonous combination of potions ingredients, then left. There was supposedly nothing he could do, not without knowing the exact combination that Grimm had ingested. Madam Pomfrey claimed that she had known as much in one glance and rushed off to concoct various medicines for her patient. Dumbledore, meanwhile, remained standing at the end of Grimm’s bed. His face appeared both sympathetic and impassive all at once, as though he had foreseen this occasion, but dearly wished that he could have prevented it.

Indeed, he knew of the curse that Tom Riddle had placed upon the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. Yet what had Dumbledore done about it? Nothing, nothing at all. He had not told anyone of the interview, fearful of its potential outcome. It was not widely known that the Dark Lord that threatened the Wizarding World was the same being as the popular, handsome Tom Riddle. Who would want to believe that one with so much potential for greatness could find his greatness in the evilest of things?

Until this point in time, Riddle had not harmed anyone in Dumbledore’s immediate circle. The Death Eaters slowly ate away at the edges of Wizarding society, but had not yet reached its heart. This curse, this action of spite, was Riddle’s first true invasion into the pillar of safety that was Hogwarts. The death of the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor would be greatly detrimental to the schooling of students, and to find a suitable replacement willing to risk their well-being would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. He could temporarily teach the classes, but soon his gaze would have to fall elsewhere, outside of the school, where the world was swiftly degrading into a reign of terror. Then he would have to rely on the students’ own willingness to learn and make what would become the most important decision of their lives.

His face was a mask of sadness as he looked once more at the comatose Grimm.

For some, whatever decision they made would lead to tragedy. There would be no happy endings to their stories, no fairy godmother to whisk them into safety and isolation. There would only be great suffering followed by death. They would be martyrs to a future that would try too quickly to forget a past too painful to recall. It was all a waste, an incredible waste.

“I’m sorry, Tiberius,” he said, knowing that the words would go unheard. He had spoken them too late.

“He’s going to die, isn’t he, Headmaster?” The quiet voice came from the doorway. Dumbledore turned to see Emma standing there, a multitude of emotions upon her face.

“That seems to be the case.”

She nodded. “How much longer does he have? Can you tell?”

“It is difficult to say. No one seems to understand the true nature of his illness.”

“But you do.”

Her hands were clenched before her, the knuckles showing white.

“As do you, Emma.”

Her gaze faltered. “He broke the first rule of potions making.”

She seemed so small and insignificant, standing in the doorway with her head bowed. Any pride she had was quenched, and the fiery temper within her extinguished. It would take a very long time until she would find them again.

“And what is that?” Dumbledore asked.

Emma shook her head, trying to compose herself before she managed to whisper, “He tested his own potion, one that he made up himself.”

Addicted to his experiments, Grimm had gone too far, taking the step that could only lead to self-destruction. Had not that final step been all-too-painfully marked by the footsteps of illustrious Jekyll and doomed Frankenstein? An ill-timed meeting with Riddle had coincided with the drinking of a potion that had turned to poison in the body of its creator.

“Do you know anything about this potion?”

Her eyes said yes, but her voice said otherwise “No. He kept all of his work secret.”

Dumbledore wondered why so many people lied to him with such guilt in their eyes.

~ * * * ~


The office of the Divination professor could be found in the room above the Divination classroom in the North Tower. Each wall contained a large window, supposedly so that the inner eye could gain more insight into the ways of the world. According to others, however, the windows were the perfect way to sit back and enjoy the view whilst pretending to divine the future. Sejanus did admit that he enjoyed the view of the crystalline lake and the mist-covered mountains, but he also did work, though many would not term it “honest” in any sort of way.

He heard the news of Grimm’s illness and swept back up to his office with mixed emotions. The popular cliche “told you so” came to mind, except Grimm would never be able to acknowledge his fatal error. Sejanus’ hatred for Mortimer Nero grew to its peak. Indeed, Nero was to blame for Grimm’s illness and forthcoming death. The madman truly believed that the only way to save his precious daughter was to kill those she held most dear. Sejanus took a deep breath and closed his eyes. If only he had never taken his invention to the Dark Lord.

The footsteps charging up the stone stairway were troublesome. He guessed whose footsteps they were before the young man came into view.

Severus Snape entered the room in a flurry of black robes, his eyes sparking with fury.

“You knew. You bloody knew and you didn’t stop him.”

It would be easiest to affect ignorance. “Knew what? You better be able to explain your accusations, Mr. Snape. I do not take lightly to being spoken to in such a way.”

Snape gave him a glare that would have killed a weaker adversary. “I heard you tell him that he would die.”

“We all die in the end.” Sejanus reached for his wand under the cover of his desk.

“But when someone has the power to prevent it?”

Sejanus sighed. This boy was annoying him. “I warned him, yes. What more could I possibly do? In case you did not notice, Professor Grimm was not highly receptive of my words.” At Snape’s slight hesitation, Sejanus added, “You were there, were you not, Mr. Snape?”

“What does it matter, Professor?” The boy was certainly skilled in sarcasm. Sejanus could sense the acid dripping off the boy’s tongue.

“I hope you know that it is impolite to eavesdrop?”

The expression on Snape’s face was enough of an answer.

“Well then, Mr. Snape. What would you propose I do? Turn back the clocks so that you can save your girlfriend’s adoptive father?” Snape’s eyes gave too much away. He could not hide everything that passed through his brain. “Oh yes, I’m sure that such a thing would please her greatly. Quite a thanks you would get, I’m sure.”

Snape’s lip lifted in a snarl. “The death of a good man has nothing to do with her.”

Sejanus clenched his fist. How much could he take? “It’s all about her,” he muttered. “All you do is moan over her, just like her damned father....”

“Her father?” Snape leaned over the desk. “Consorting with Death Eaters now, Professor?” His voice became mocking. “I’m sure that such a thing could not be good for your reputation.”

“Oh really? Perhaps, Mr. Snape, you should think about your own reputation.”

Snape waved the comment aside. “That does not matter.”

“But it does,” Sejanus persisted. “For instance, you know exactly what sort of experiments Grimm was making, yet you did nothing. You are to blame just as much as I am, Mr. Snape.”

Snape made the mistake of looking away from Sejanus’ piercing gaze. Memories of listening at Grimm’s door, trying to comprehend the strange codes that filled the professor’s notebooks, and spying on the professor as he mixed his experiments filled his consciousness. He forgot to hide these memories from Sejanus until it was too late. The doors of his mind closed, but already the information was in the hands of the enemy.

“Interesting,” Sejanus said with a smile. “Bits and pieces that seem like nothing, but that hold the key to understanding.” Snape shuddered, his fists clenched in anger. “Yes, Mr. Snape, you still have much to learn. You are good, I will grant you that. But you are not perfect.”

Scarlet blotches now covered Snape’s pasty cheeks. “I’ll be watching you, Professor. If I find that you are associated with the Dark Lord....”

“I do not fear your petty threats, Mr. Snape,” Sejanus replied more calmly than he felt. “It is more likely that, one day, you yourself will follow in the shadow of the Dark Lord.”

A bitter laugh rose from Snape’s throat. “A half-blood would have no place in the Dark Lord’s army.” He turned and left the room, his robes billowing around him.

Sejanus leaned back in his chair and gazed out at the sunset. The red light shone like blood upon the snow and ice. “You may be surprised,” he said quietly. If only young Snape knew the things had he did. Perhaps then he would understand that fate was inevitable.

~ * * * ~


She was there beside him when he took his last breath. No tears fell from her eyes when she realised that he was gone forever, that he had slipped away to a place she could not follow him to. She had known him for half her life – a mere eight years – and for that time, he had been everything: father, idol, friend.

She could not remember the last thing she had said to him.



Author's Note: this is shorter than I would have liked, but I did not wish to stretch out the scene any longer, nor make you lovely readers wait. Once again, thank you for all your support during the writing of this story.

The song title is, of course, from Coldplay's amazing song. It just fit this chapter so well. ^_^


Chapter 22: Eighteen: February Song
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Eighteen


The wind picked up dead leaves from the ground and blew them down the side of the mountain towards the lake. Hogwarts castle stood in the near distance, the sun shining down upon it with a brilliant light. To look at the snow directly was to be blinded by the pure whiteness. The side of that particular mountain was dotted with upright stones that could, from afar, be mistaken for the remains of druid circles. However, any who believed that would be incorrect. Those stones were grave markers.

The newest of these stones was a dreary gray against the snow. In front of it, the ground had been magically opened because the frost was deep and hard. The snow here was not untouched. Footprints surrounded the grave, and one set was still filled with the boots, and person, who had made them. She stared down at the stone, looking both confused and entirely heartbroken all at once. Her hands were stuffed in her pockets; she’d forgotten her mittens. It was very cold, both outside and in. She had been there so long that it was as though she had become part of the landscape, another monument to the dead. Then, without warning, she turned and walked down the mountain path, choosing her steps with care, her eyes seemingly unseeing. She reached the shore of the lake and looked down the path that led back to Hogwarts, to warmth and humanity. She swallowed, then went the opposite direction. She never wanted to feel warm again.

There was a log lying a ways from the water, probably washed up by the autumn rains. To dust it off and sit upon it eerily reminded her of the wall near the Shrieking Shack, when she still felt something about the world. She looked into herself now and found nothing at all, no memories or thoughts or emotions. Something inside of her had died, and she didn’t know how to bring it back, if that were even possible.

It was a dismal February. Even though the sun shone, it lent no heat to the world. It made her want to be happy, but she knew that wouldn’t – couldn’t – happen again. The only sound she could hear was the wind blowing the dead leaves down the mountain. It was like there was nothing else, not even her heart made noise as it beat. She did not want to hear anything. When there was nothing, there could be no feeling, no pain. When there was nothing, she wouldn’t feel so cold and confused.

She put her head in her hands. She did not cry. She couldn’t. It had been one thing to cry when there was still hope that he’d live. Those tears had been part of her anxieties, her fear of losing him. Now that there was no hope and no Grimm, the tears wouldn’t come.

“There is no use blubbering about it, Emilia,” said a voice from behind her.

How had she not heard him coming up the path? “I’m not blubbering, Severus,” she said, clenching her fists and setting them on her lap. She raised her head and stared blankly at the ice-covered lake. “You may’ve noticed that my eyes aren’t red and tear-stained.”

Severus stepped in front of her, his arms crossed. “You are wrong in one aspect: your eyes are very red. When was the last time you slept?”

She bit her lip. “I can’t remember.”

He closed his eyes and let out a breath, the fog emitting from his lips floating off into the air. “You are impossible, Emilia. You overreact to everything.”

“If you’re just going to criticise me, just go away.” She kept her eyes away from his face.

“I criticise you for good reason.”

She didn’t reply, but seemed to sink deeper into herself.

It was one of the few whims he ever followed. Disregarding the snow drifted against the log, he knelt in the snow and placed his hands on her shoulders.

“Do not do this to yourself,” he said, his voice revealing more passion than he’d prefer. “He would not have wanted you to–”

“How the hell would you know what he would’ve wanted?” she said, her eyes meeting his. “You don’t mean a damn word of what you’re saying.” Her fists clenched tighter. She could feel the nails cutting into the palms of her hands.

Finally. Perhaps there was something left within her after all. He pulled himself closer to her, hesitating for the briefest second before kissing her on the mouth. She stiffened under his touch, but he refused to break away. He caressed her lips with his, tasting the blood from her bitten lip and feeling her hands push against his chest.

“I can’t,” she whispered when he had retreated to take a short breath.

“Think of it as medicine,” he replied, sounding amused.

“Better than any potion?” she asked a minute later. One of her hands touched the fastening of his robes, then reached up to his throat.

He was finding it difficult to breathe. “Yes.”

One moment, they were losing themselves in each other’s embrace, feeling as though they were drowning under the lake they sat near. The next moment, however, she gave a half-strangled sob and pulled away. She rose from the log and moved closer to the water’s edge, leaving him to find his balance.

“I’m sorry, Severus, but I can’t do this now, not again.” She was shivering beneath her thick winter robes.

He pulled his cloak around him and sat on the log where she had been seconds before.

“What I said once about it being dangerous was wrong, Emilia,” he said. “I am not one of them. I never can be.”

“It’s not you, Severus,” she whispered, her bottom lip trembling. “If I could, I’d do anything to be with you, to finish what we started, but things are different now.”

He glared at her. “Because of Grimm’s death?”

She shook her head. “No, not that....”

“You loved him, didn’t you.”

“Different from you.” It was as close as she could come to telling him the truth, to telling him what she really wanted him to know. The three words she could have said weren’t good enough, not for Severus. There was more between them than just love. Love had killed her mother, had made her father abandon her. Love had ruined everything for her.

She looked up to meet his eyes. She could feel the slightest touch upon her mind as he probed, searching for the meaning behind her actions. He wouldn’t be able to find anything.

“What do you feel guilty for?” he asked.

“I know something that could change the world.”

He snorted. “Now that is rather dramatic of you, Emilia.”

“It’s the truth!” she told him, fumbling in her pocket for something. “The potion he was making, the one that killed him, is one that people would do anything to get.” She pulled out a tiny glass vial and tossed it over to him.

He held the vial up to the light. It was a terrible reddish brown colour with the consistency of blood or overcooked coffee. The vial itself was also interesting. There was no visible opening from which to extract the potion.

“You can only get it out by breaking the vial,” she said. “To cure, you have to destroy.”

“What does it do?” He held the vial out for her.

She took the vial, hiding in once more in her robes. “That’s what I can’t tell you. I wish I could, but I hardly know myself....” She trailed off, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. “I’ve been trying to figure it out, but I doubt that even Uncle knew what we was making.”

“So I am to have no part in this?”

“Oh, Merlin, I don’t know!” She swallowed, then continued. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

He stood, brushing the snow from his robes with a scowl. “You already have.”

She looked up at him, her eyes impossibly large. He could see his reflection within them.

“There’re some things that can’t be helped,” she said, her voice gaining strength. “It feels like there’s something out there that’s controlling everything, pushing me on a path that maybe I don’t want to take, but I don’t have that choice anymore.”

“You are only looking for an excuse.”

She raised her hand. “No, listen to me. Please, Severus, you have to understand....”

“I think I already do.”

Her brow furrowed. “You do?”

“Yes,” he said, his scowl transforming into a sneer. “You want all the glory for yourself, just like a Ravenclaw. You are too proud to allow anyone else to know about the potion.”

Her face paled and she shook her head. “No, no. Severus–”

“You knew all along about the potion. You knew what was happening to Grimm, but you did nothing. You let him die.” He watched the words hit home and she closed her eyes in pain.

“I don’t want that,” she said, her voice muffled. “I’ll only finish it for him.”

Severus laughed. “Keep telling yourself that. You will not convince me.” He flicked the last of the snow from his robes and began to walk away. He could still taste her upon his lips.

He looked back. She was not watching him. In her open palm was the tiny vial. She stared at it with pursed lips, as though she was making a decision.

“I knew as much about this as you did, Severus,” she said. “This potion could change the world, but is this worth it?”

He narrowed his eyes. “Haven’t you already chosen, Emilia?”

She closed her eyes and closed her palm around the vial. It would be easy to throw out across the lake and forget about the coded lists of ingredients that haunted her dreams. She could forget about Grimm’s experiments and destroy all that he had been creating. The danger of his creation had already been proven with his death. Who knew what other destruction it could cause?

But it was his. He who she had loved and respected and idolised. To forget it would be to forget part of him. She could imagine forgetting him – first his voice, maybe then his face, then he would be gone forever, nothing more than a name and an empty significance. But she wouldn’t need to remember him, would she? She would be with Severus. They would leave Britain, maybe go to the Continent, or Australia, or even America. Anything to escape the fears, the memories, the suffering. She would be happy, then. It wasn’t as though she was too young anymore. She was seventeen, now of legal age, as was Severus. It wouldn’t be perfect, but she had enough money and they both could work as chemists or for healers if they needed to. He had been ready to set aside his ambitions for her and escape a future as a Death Eater, but could she do the same? Could she set aside the memory of Grimm?

She could not meet Severus’ eyes. She knew what she would see in them.

“Your silence is enough.” His voice was painfully quiet.

He turned and left while she continued to stand there, silent. She felt more empty than ever, but that had been her choice. She had proven to be the more selfish, the one who would not sacrifice for the sake of being with him. And he would never make the same offer again. If he had asked only a few weeks before....

She placed the vial back in her pocket and looked up at the sky. It would not have made any difference at all.

~ * * * ~


“Hey Snivelly. What have you been up to?” Sirius called out as Snape entered the courtyard. “Off with your girlfriend again?”

The scowl was still firmly planted on Snape’s face. “I would not regard her as such.”

Sirius laughed. The sound echoed across the courtyard. “What? Did she finally realise that your hair is greasy?”

Snape kept walking, prepared to ignore Sirius, but Sirius was not prepared to be ignored. He jumped off the short wall he’d been sitting on and stepped in Snape’s path.

“Answer me, Snivelly, or I’ll get out the shampoo.” His hand was reaching for his wand.

But Snape was faster. He had his wand out and cast the spell before Sirius could even notice that Snape had not spoken the spell aloud. Snape sneered, half with fury, half with delight, as blood suddenly spat from gashes across Sirius’ face. The spell that was half-created the year before was now complete. Sectumsempra was a success.

Sirius fell to his knees, his hands trying to cover his face. He looked up through the blood, his grey eyes glittering with hatred.

“Coward! You cheated!”

At the word “coward” Snape shuddered, his mouth setting in a firmer line. He kicked Sirius to the ground. “You should show more respect to the Half-Blood Prince, Black. Obviously you never learned very much from your family.”

Sirius coughed, spitting blood onto the snowy ground. A gurgling sound came from his throat, as though he wanted to speak, but couldn’t.

Snape watched him for a moment, a smirk appearing on his face.

“Remember this, Black.”

He disappeared into the building, leaving Sirius defenceless, bleeding, and alone. For once, the tables had turned. Walking down the corridor, he felt something hit him in the back, like a spell not properly cast. He whipped around, wand outstretched.

Peter Pettigrew stood in the centre of the corridor, face shining red.

“I won’t let you get away with that, Snape.”

“Do you think that is worse than what you and your friends do to me? Think about it, Pettigrew. He got what he deserved.” Snape spat out the last words, but kept his wand pointing directly at Peter’s heart.

Peter swallowed, wavering. “He’d leave you alone if...” He trailed off.

“If what,” Snape said, mockingly. “If I threw myself off the Astronomy tower?”

“No, if you stayed away from ... from that girl.” Peter said the last word with distaste.

Snape narrowed his eyes, remaining silent.

Peter took this as a lack of understanding and rushed to add, “You know, Goldwyn.”

“I know which girl you meant, Pettigrew. I am not a dunderhead like you.”

Flushing, Peter clenched his fist around his wand and bit the inside of his lip.

“And you can tell Black that he need not worry about Miss Goldwyn and myself.” Snape allowed acid to drip from his words.

While Peter squinted, turning over the words in his mind, Snape silently disappeared into the shadows. When Peter looked up, Snape was gone and Sirius was standing at the end of the corridor, his eyes wild and his face covered in blood.

“Where is he?” Sirius raged, the hand holding his wand shaking.

Peter flushed, this time with shame. “I don’t know. He was here one moment....”

Sirius swore, the sound echoed down the stone corridor. “Next time I see him....” He could not even finish the sentence before he stumbled against the wall.

Peter ran to his side. “We’re going to the Hospital Wing now.”

Wiping some of the blood off with his sleeve, Sirius resisted. “First tell me, what he said.”

Peter hesitated for the briefest second before replying. “He said not to worry about him and Goldwyn. It’s like something happened between them.” He stowed his wand, then added, “I’ve never seen him that angry before.”

There was a flicker of something in Sirius’ eyes. “She refused him,” he said, in awe. “There’s hope in this world after all.” He actually laughed. “You know, Wormtail, maybe I won’t need revenge after all. Snivelly’s done me a favour!”

Sirius may have been excited at the prospect, but Peter was certainly not.

~ * * * ~


The new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor arrived the following week. He was short, extraordinarily thin, and had a high wheezy voice that annoyed everyone, even the other professors. Minerva McGonagall spent most meals glaring at him from over her goblet while Sejanus narrowed his eyes each time the new professor came into sight. The new professor moved all of his belongings – of which there were quite a few – into Grimm’s old office even before McGonagall had been given the chance to remove Grimm’s things.

The professor was staring at one of Grimm’s potions when Minerva entered one day.

“Put that down,” she told him in the voice usually reserved for errant first years. “That is not yours to touch, Professor, and I cannot attest to what it could do to you.”

The wizard – his name was Gaius Callaghan – only smiled. “A little bit of potion can’t cause much harm, Professor McGonagall.”

Minerva crossed her arms. “Then you indeed know very little, Professor Callaghan. I asked you to put that down, so please do.”

“Correction: you told me to. You didn’t ask.” He placed the jar back in Grimm’s cupboard.
“And why are all his things still here? Surely a week is enough time to have moved them out.” He looked around at the room with distaste evident in the line of his mouth.

“The previous professor died eight days ago, Professor. There is something called a mourning period that many people require.” Minerva glared daggers at him.

Gaius waved his hand towards the mess on the desk. “With that disaster of a desk, I can hardly blame the professor for wanting to escape it. If I’m to start classes tomorrow, I’ll need all of this stuff moved out.” Without offering any assistance, Gaius whisked himself out of the room.

Minerva stared at the room, her anger receding as she remembered the times she had stopped by Grimm’s office for a nightcap or tea. That had mostly happened when they had first begun teaching – the two newest and youngest professors shying away from the staff lounge where Slughorn bragged about his contacts and Binns snored away in the chair before the fire. It had changed over the past decade, but nothing could alter how she –

“Professor McGonagall?” Emma entered the office, her face very pale.

Minerva tried to manage a smile. “Hello, Emma. What can I help you with?”

Emma’s eyes gazed around the room, landing on the new professor’s trunk. She turned up her lip in a bastardised version of Snape’s sneer. “So he’s here already?”

“Show more respect for Professor Callaghan, Emma,” Minerva chided. “You start classes with him tomorrow.” She shifted the papers and books on the desk around, trying to put them in some semblance of order.

“Forgive me, Professor, but, I can’t help not liking him,” Emma said, kneeling in front of the potions cupboard. “Is there an empty room I can take all this to until I leave?”

Minerva looked up, still holding one of Grimm’s books. “Leave, Emma?”

Emma frowned. “I can’t stay here for much longer. It’s too... I don’t know.” She took out her wand and locked the cupboard. “I’m of age now, I won’t have to ask for permission from you or the Headmaster.”

“Do you think that is a good decision, Emma? You are still too young to be on your own, especially out in that cottage. It is so isolated.” Minerva’s hands gripped the book tightly. She watched Emma’s face – there was a hardness in the girl’s eyes that reminded her too much of Grimm’s stubbornness. It was not the first time that she truly wondered how closely related the two of them were.

“There’s not much here for me, Professor,” Emma replied, waving her wand at one of the shelves of books, which promptly packed itself into a box. “I know enough to keep on with Grimm’s work for St. Mungo’s. They probably won’t notice the difference.”

Minerva placed the book into the box with the others. “And your friends? Will they not object to your departure?”

The next row of books flew into the box. “They’ll understand.”

“You have already told them?”

Emma shook her head. “I’ve barely spoken with anyone about anything, Professor. But everyone is very nice about everything. I’m glad for that.” She went over to the desk and picked up a glass paperweight. A thin ray of sunlight hit it, sending reflections of rainbows onto the walls and boxes.

Minerva gave her a long, hard look, trying to discern if the girl’s use of “nice” was entirely sincere. “Remember that you are not the only one who will miss Professor Grimm.”

Closing her fingers around the paperweight, Emma looked up to meet the older witch’s eyes. Emma’s face betrayed no emotion at all, nothing to show that she felt anything for anyone, not even herself.

“You don’t need to remind me, Professor.” She put down the paperweight and wiped her hands on her robes. “I have to go to the library now. Marlene’s giving me extra help so that I don’t fall behind. Good day, Professor.”

Once Emma had gone, Minerva collapsed in Grimm’s old chair, running her hand along the worn leather of the left arm. The room was empty of life, but she could feel the ghosts of memories and emotions that existed there. How many professors had spent there time in that very room, consulting with students and colleagues, marking papers, or simply enjoying the peace and quiet once the students had all left? Grimm had been a professor for twenty years. A small amount out of a school with a thousand year history.

So then why was his death causing more problems than his life ever had?

Minerva guessed the reason behind Emma’s closed and emotionless features. Death caused sorrow, not bitterness. Minerva had seen that same kind of bitterness in the eyes of another as he made the decision to go his own way, away from her. It had been, he said, for the best, they needed time apart, to grow up and experience freedom before slavery. Minerva touched the leather in a way that could have been taken for a caress. She hoped that–

It would do no good to hope. There wasn’t much left to hope for.

~ * * * ~


“And so,” Professor Callaghan announced to the sixth years. “I am your new professor, as you already know, I’m sure.” He was pacing the front of the room, hands in his pockets. “It has come to my attention that you were last learning about wordless spells, am I correct?”

Some of the students nodded.

“Good, good. You were on time for the course, it seems, so there’s little for me to do except let you practice.” He stopped in the middle of the floor and waved his hands at the students. “Now get into pairs, all of you. We’ll have to start at once, if you’re to catch up. Six weeks without proper classes is hardly acceptable.”

“It’s a bit hard to avoid when the professor gets sick and dies,” a small voice muttered from the back of the room.

Callaghan’s eyes drifted over the students’ faces, searching for the guilty party.

“Who said that? It was entirely uncalled for.”

A few students shrugged, others gazed at the ceiling or out the window, while only a couple dared to meet the new professor’s gaze. Sirius, with his face only slightly scarred by his encounter with Snape, tried very hard not to grin, but was not entirely successful. Remus was looking out the window, while Peter stared at his textbook more intently than he ever had done before. James was oblivious to everything as he drew Snitches and arrows through hearts all over his parchment. Callaghan looked at them the longest before moving on to the other side of the room, where most of the girls of the class had congregated. Only one person from this group met his eyes.

“You, you there,” Callaghan said, pointing to this girl. “Was it you who spoke?”

“Yes, sir,” Emma replied. She hadn’t blinked for an unnaturally long time.

Callaghan went up to her desk and stared down at her with narrowed eyes. “And you agree that it was an inappropriate remark?”

A cold smile crossed Emma’s face. “The truth is never inappropriate, sir.”

Sirius covered his mouth, pretending to cough.

“And your name for the record, miss?”

“Emilia...” she hesitated. “Emilia Grimm, sir.”

Callaghan’s eyes widened, causing Emma’s to light up with victory. Sirius stopped laughing and other students whispered to each other in excited tones.

“And, sir, you do not intimidate me, if that’s what you’re trying to do by standing over me like that,” Emma continued, slamming her textbook shut. “If you want me to leave, I will.”

“You should speak with more respect towards a professor, Miss Grimm.” Callaghan pursed his already-thin lips. His cheeks were turning red.

Emma stood up, grabbing her books and parchment in one sweep of her arms. “If I was a less polite person, sir, I’d tell you to do the same, after how you treated the Deputy Headmistress.” She smiled at her friends before turning back to Callaghan. “Good day, sir.”

As she passed by him, he grabbed her arm. “Don’t think that you can leave like this, Miss Grimm, if that’s even your name,” he hissed into her ear. “I never forget when someone disrupts my plans.”

“Let go of her, Professor,” Lily said, rising from her seat. “You’re overreacting. She’s still upset about what happened to–”

“Quiet girl!” Callaghan snarled. “You stay out of this.”

Emma was motionless. “The last time someone grabbed me like that, they ended up with a very sore arm,” she said, keeping her voice steady.

Callaghan opened his mouth to speak, but a voice from the doorway interrupted him.

“What is going on here?” Professor McGonagall stood at the door, squinting over the top of her spectacles. “You are not supposed to manhandle the students, Professor Callaghan. Please let her go.”

His face now very red and very sweaty, Callaghan dug his fingers into Emma’s arm, causing her to wince, then let go and walked to the front of the room. “A slight disturbance, Professor. It’s nothing important enough for you to have to deal with.”

Minerva frowned. “It is very important, Professor, and will have to be reported to the Headmaster at once.” She nodded at Lily. “Miss Evans, if you do not mind? You know the password, I am sure.”

“Yes, Professor.” Lily motioned for Dorcas to take her things, then hurried from the room.

“This class is dismissed,” Minerva said, still glaring at Callaghan. “Mr. Lupin, Miss McKinnon, please stay behind to inform me of exactly what happened. The rest of you will return to your common rooms until your next class.”

Most of them remained in the hallway a moment, hoping to hear anything about what would happen to Professor Callaghan, but Minerva knew enough to narrow her eyes at the students, then shut the door on their ears. Dorcas, buried under Lily’s numerous books and parchments, stood apart with Emma.

“All the interesting things always happen to you, Em.”

Emma snorted. “I wouldn’t call them interesting.”

A laugh bubbled from Dorcas’ lips. “Of course you wouldn’t. I guess we have to go all the way to the seventh floor now.” She paled slightly at the thought. “It’s such a bloody long climb.”

It didn’t take very long for them to make the journey, not once Dorcas began talking about every topic she could possibly think of. Fortunately for Emma, it was one of those conversations where one could simply listen without really paying attention. The other Gryffindors and Ravenclaws seemed unable to keep up, or perhaps they were lagging behind on purpose. At the meeting of two corridors, Emma and Dorcas stopped. Emma opened her mouth to say a hollow farewell, but Dorcas cut in.

“When are you going to leave, then? Everyone says it’s inevitable.”

Emma leaned back against the wall. “Inevitable? Am I acting that depressed?”

Dorcas tried to raise her eyebrow. “Yes.” When Emma stared at her without comprehension, she added, “You just told off a professor! It’ll cause a scandal! Everyone will know about it and everyone will talk about it and everyone will know.”

A flush rose up Emma’s throat. “Everyone? Well, in that case, I’ll be leaving tomorrow.” She attempted a smile as the flush gave life to her white cheeks. “All this time I’ve been hidden and ignored, and it only takes one bout of temper to make them remember me.”

With a sigh, Dorcas reached out from behind the pile of books to pat Emma’s arm. “It’s more than I’ve done, Em. But you are serious about going?”

Emma nodded. “I’ll miss all of you, but I just can’t... I don’t want to stay anymore.”

“Yeah, it’s been terrible for you. I can’t even begin to understand what you’ve gone through.” Dorcas shook her head. “But I better go before McGonagall comes to check up on us, because everyone knows that she always does.” She turned, then hesitated. “Remember, Em, that you’re not alone. You’ll always have us.” With a parting smile, she hurried down the corridor to the entrance to Gryffindor tower.

Emma remained against the wall, staring into space. Her fingers absently fiddled with a loose thread on her robes while her books began to slide out from under her arm. When they and her parchments crashed to the ground, she swore and knelt to retrieve them.

“Need some help?” a voice asked above her.

She looked up into Sirius’ face. “If you want. It doesn’t matter either way.”

He knelt beside her, neatly stacking the books. “How do you carry so many?”

She wanted him to leave. “Because I need them. How d’you carry so few?”

The usual grin appeared. “Because I have all the answers memorised.”

“Right, like I believe that,” she said, reaching for a parchment.

He caught her hand in his. “Would you like to come for a walk?”

“Only if I can go alone.”

“That would kind of defeat my purpose, don’t you think?”

She pulled away. “You need more of your purposes defeated, Black.”

He frowned. “So it’s Black again? Come on, Emma, I’m not a villain, just a friend.”

“I need to pack my things.” Emma grabbed for her pile of schoolbooks.

“So it’s true.” His voice lowered.

“Of course it is,” she snapped, walking towards the Ravenclaw entrance. “I’m better off alone, without all these people asking questions and bothering me all the time. I just want to–“ She stopped, her eyes gazing at the floor.

Sirius loped along beside her. “They only ask because they care, Emma.”

She grimaced. “Well, I’d prefer it if they kept their caring to themselves.”

He pulled ahead of her, then blocked her path. “Listen to me for a moment. Going on like this will only make everything ten times worse. Running away won’t solve anything.”

She laughed. It was a bitter sound that echoed down the corridor. “Yes, you should know that, shouldn’t you, Sirius. You ran away too, and now you’re lecturing me on that same subject? And you called me a hypocrite!”

Sirius staggered back at her words. He opened and shut his mouth a couple of times, unable to find the strength to reply. She was right, of course. Maybe that was why he felt so sorry for her, why he felt that he could understand what she was going through. And all he got in return was a mirror image of himself: the deep pain, the unhealable wounds, the blackness that grew upon his soul.

Emma swept around him without even meeting his eyes in defiance, like he would have done had he been victorious with words alone. Sirius felt anger bubble up inside of him, old anger caused by a million things, including those for which the only one to blame was himself.

“No wonder even Snivelly couldn’t handle you anymore,” he said, his voice so low that it was almost a mutter.

She stood still, with her back to him. He could see the sudden stiffness of her shoulders.

“If you want to go so badly, Goldwyn, then you should. You’re only depressing the rest of us with your angst-driven lifestyle.”

Now she turned to face him.

“I only wanted to be happy, that’s all,” she said.

Then she was gone.

~ * * * ~


The door was open, letting in the cold. Emma stood off to the side of the door, hoping to avoid the worst of the draught and knowing that soon she wouldn’t have the protection of Hogwarts for warmth and safety. Professor McGonagall stood on the other side of the doorway, her face impassive.

“Once you exit those gates, you cannot return.”

Emma swallowed and stared out into the snow. It was falling in giant clumps that swirled in the wind. All of her and Grimm’s belongings had been sent ahead to the train station, but she had lagged behind, unable to make the final decision even though it was already too late. She would travel by train south to the village nearest the cottage on the Dales because she hadn’t even taken her Apparition test. She would probably end up being the only witch in her class who hadn’t, but it didn’t really matter to her. Why would she need to travel long distances, anyway? It wasn’t like she expected to be invited to fancy pureblood parties or show her face at the Ministry. Once she passed through those gates, there would be no reason for anyone to know her.

Her gaze turned to Minerva, who was tapping her foot on the stone floor. Should she apologise for a lack of gratitude and sympathy towards the professor? That day in Grimm’s office, she had been so cold and distant to the older witch, selfishly putting her own sorrows before those of others. Just how close had Grimm and McGonagall been? Emma would probably never know.

“Thank you, Professor, for everything you’ve done,” she said, choosing her words with care. “I was pretty beastly to you a few days ago, and I–“

”You do not need to apologise, Emma,” Minerva replied quietly, then she let out a small laugh. “At the time, I could have sworn that I was speaking with Professor Grimm again. The resemblance between the two of you is great.”

Feeling her throat tighten, Emma nodded, unable to speak. She looked back into the castle one last time, her eyes searching the shadows in vain.

She closed her eyes and stepped outside. The wind whipped around her, nearly blowing off the scarf around her neck. Her footsteps were tentative, as though she did not trust her balance. The snow on the path was pristine, and she felt as though she were defiling its perfect beauty. She kept her eyes directly ahead, on the tall stone pillars that marked the entrance to the school and that now marked the point of no return.

Reaching into her pocket, she felt for the tiny vial. It was still there, intact. She still had the chance to destroy it here and now, before it could destroy her. But she knew that she had gone too far. All the bridges behind her were burnt. To turn back now was to admit defeat, so she continued on through the snow along the seemingly-endless path.

Finally, she stood before them and turned her face upwards to see the details of the winged boar statues. The snow fell onto her face and into her eyes, but she welcomed their cold touch. She extended her hand out to the cold wrought iron gates and pushed them open just wide enough for her to fit through. As soon as she reached the other side, they closed shut behind her. She did not need to touch them to know that they could not be reopened.

Before the tears could overwhelm her, she turned and ran the rest of the way to Hogsmeade. She had made her choice, and now she regretted it.



Author's Note: The chapter title is from the Josh Groban song that never fails to make me cry.

Chapter 23: Nineteen: Only an Ocean Away
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Nineteen


The sun would not rise in such a place as this. Fog swallowed the land in its grey, misty blanket, making everything damp and dreadful. The mud went up to their ankles, the air smelled like rotting plants, and it looked as though it was about to start raining again. The path they walked upon was narrow, forcing them to go one at a time, which was potentially dangerous as the fog thickened and tightened its grasp.

“Is there a good reason why we could not simply apparate, Malfoy?” Snape lashed out whilst yanking his foot from a sinkhole of muck.

Malfoy responded with half a shrug. “It is what the Dark Lord wishes, and what he wishes, we must do.”

Grumbling at a volume low enough to not be heard by his companion, Snape continued along the path, scowling at the dirt, the moss, the fog, the rain, and the lack of complete civilisation in this hellhole. He didn’t dare kick at the ground, knowing that just beneath the surface was the rock face of the moor. Snape was not in the mood to break a toe. Or worse.

The house loomed up in front of them so suddenly that Snape was certain it had apparated out of the fog. Black against the swirling mist, the house stubbornly set itself up on the moor – the poor presence of humanity in the face of nature’s bleakest landscape. Death rode across these hills on his thestral, probably preying on this house more often than not. Snape did not need to hear the tales to know that it was haunted by unfathomable horrors.

He followed Malfoy’s crunching footsteps as they reached the gravel path that was just wide enough for an Edwardian motorcar, nothing as large as the present day automobile. The blind windows on the front of the house gazed into the mist, ignoring any sign of life. No candles flickered in the windows. The electric lights that lined the path had long burnt out. This house, perhaps once alive with true humanity, had been swallowed by the darkness and mist. The analogy to the house’s occupants was all too obvious, and all too tragic.

There was nothing intriguing about the front door, or the entryway, for that matter. No one was waiting to greet them or take their cloaks. The mist had penetrated the very walls, preventing the spread of warmth from the small fires in random hearths. Both Malfoy and Snape kept on their cloaks. The chill was deep.

At the end of a long hallway was a room, once the dining hall of the vast estate. The fireplace was of stone and carved with hounds chasing a fox through the woods. The walls were of wainscoting from floor to ceiling and also carved with scenes of hunting and idyllic life. Snape waited for his footsteps to echo upon the marble floor, but no sound reached his ears. The entire room was silent, as though lying in wait. There were shadows in the corners and in the niches, but they did not acknowledge the entrance of the two wizards. No movement, no words, no sharp intake of breath. They only had eyes for the figure upon the throne.

It was not exactly a throne, such as that which the queen uses today, but it was a large wooden chair, perhaps made of ancient walnut. Like the walls and fireplace, it was intricately carved, but with all sorts of morbid things – skulls, dark angels, and cloaked Death. The figure upon this chair slouched, leaning upon his elbow in a most leisurely way. He was the only one who watched Malfoy and Snape as they strode up to the dais.

“So you’ve stooped to bringing me children, Malfoy?” the Dark Lord asked, his red eyes narrowing with distaste. “This boy isn’t even out of school yet.”

Malfoy bowed, kicking Snape in the ankle to force him to follow suit.

“My greatest apologies, my lord.” His blond hair fell forward into his face, obscuring his vision. “But I will swear that this boy will become your most loyal follower. He has many great talents that I think you will be interested in, your lordship.” He rose from his bow, flicking his hair back over his shoulders.

The Dark Lord snorted. “We’ll see.” He waved his hand towards a figure standing behind his chair. “Show him to a room for the night. I’m sure we still have one for this talented young lad.” He laughed, a ringing sound that was still not enough to kill the silence in the room.

The figure shuffled forward, leaning on a crooked cane. His spine was just as crooked.

“This way,” the old man muttered, not even looking towards Snape.

Hands clenched, Snape felt that he ought to look at Malfoy for direction, but knew that he would just be told to follow the old man no matter what because the Dark Lord had ordered it. His eyes went back to the chair on the dais and its occupant. The Dark Lord gazed back, a twisted smile on his lips.

“Perhaps you were correct after all, Malfoy,” the Dark Lord said. “It will be a pleasant change to have a minion who can actually think for himself.”

He waved a hand, the dais fell into shadow, the lights having moved to light the passage out of the room. It was not the same one that Snape had entered through, but rather a smaller one to the side that once had been a servants’ door from the banquet hall to whatever lay beyond it. Snape gave a curt nod – not a bow – to the Dark Lord and whisked off after the old man without another glance at Malfoy or any of the others. What was he to them anyway? A tool? A useful, but expendable, half-blood that could be killed without anyone even caring?

His foot stubbed into the heel of the old man, who had stopped at the bottom of a steep stairway. With extreme weariness, he lifted one foot at a time, moving up the staircase with the speed that a turtle could double without difficulty.

“Why do I have to stay?” Snape asked, his voice hollow against the bare grey walls.

The old man stopped for a moment, but did not look back. “It is what the Master bids.”

Snape swore aloud, not caring who heard him. “That appears to be the mantra here, and I cannot admit to admiring it.”

“Do not scorn the Master’s word. He has the power to destroy the world, if he wishes,” the old man coughed once, twice. “Destroying you would be of little consquence.”

Red flashed before Snape’s eyes. One hand reached for the old man’s foot, the other for the cane, which clattered down the stairs to rest at the bottom, unbroken. Snape caught the old man before he too fell, for his body would not remain unbroken. The old man choked under the pressure of Snape’s arm shoving against his throat. For one painful moment, they were face to face, eye to eye.

It was a nightmare come to life. The shape of the face, the colour of the eyes, the small forehead, the snubbed nose, they were all hers, yet arranged on the face of a stranger. Snape almost dropped the old man down the stairs, anything to rid himself of her image standing before him in this place of dread and death. The old man grabbed at Snape’s arms and thrust his face closer to Snape’s. There was no escape from the vice-like grip of this strange being who was to Snape a terrible haunting spectre.

“I have seen your face before,” the old man whispered. “And you have seen mine.”

Snape shook his head. “Not yours.”

A cruel smile crossed the old man’s face, doubling the number of his wrinkles. “My image, if not myself. And you, you are not supposed to be here.”

The old man’s hands dug into Snape’s arms. There would be bruises in the morning, not that Snape cared. He stared into the old man’s eyes and saw how the irises were like molten amber, waiting to entrap any innocent insect that happened along. There was no warmth in those eyes, only a sick ambition combined with intense anguish.

Hers had those specks of green that always distracted him....

“Why do you never speak of your family?”

She dropped her quill at his question. “Haven’t I?”

“No.”

“Oh, I thought I had.” She picked up her quill and went back to writing. She was not going to answer his question.

He placed one hand on the back of her wrist and plucked the quill from her grasp with his other hand. “It is not fair if you know about me and I know nothing of you.”

And then she told him everything.


And now he was standing before her father.

“This is not the place to talk,” Mortimer Nero said, glancing down the stairs. He dug a hand into his robes and rummaged around for his wand. Thankfully for Snape, this meant that he was free from the old man’s grasp.

Snape brushed off his sleeves in disgust. “I am not going to speak with you, Nero. I am leaving this place right away.”

Mort laughed and fell into an episode of hacking coughs. A mixture of blood and spittle shone upon his upturned hand. “Leave? He will not let you. Now come.”

The cane flew up into Mort’s hand. When he turned back to look at Snape, he seemed years younger than the man who had shuffled out from behind the Dark Lord’s chair. His back was straighter, his eyes were bright and flickered from side to side, as though taking in every detail for future use. Mort stowed his wand back into a corner of his ragged, torn robes and began to slowly climb the rest of the stair. His balance was still off – he came to the top step and nearly fell flat on his face.

“It is important that I speak with you, young Snape,” Mort said as he picked himself up from the ground. There was a smear of dust on his right cheek. “You were not supposed to come to this place.”

Snape was utterly confused with everything about this old wizard, and a confused Snape was not a happy one.

They were in a long hallway that appeared to run the length of the house. Once-scarlet rugs covered the floor and the walls were lined in walnut wainscotting, much scarred with claw marks, of all things. Werewolves? Or something else? There were rumours about the previous occupants of this mansion, how they had been picked off by a murderous hound.....

“Are you going to wait for the hound?” Mort asked. His voice was a whisper against the spider webs.

Snape touched the wand in his pocket. How much good could it do to a centuries-old spectre that ripped out throats and hearts and Merlin knew what else? He remembered the description that the book had given and shuddered.

Mort wheezed. Perhaps it was supposed to be a laugh.

“So you know the legend. You have no choice but to follow me.”

Snape looked at his feet, then at the long hallway. How far could he go before the beast found him?

“You killed her mother and you abandoned her, why should I listen to a word you say?”

“Do you care about my daughter, young Snape? Even though you stand here now in the home of the Dark Lord. Even though she herself rejected you. Even though she may not care a whit about you.” Mort started right through him.

Fists clenched, jaw set, eyes narrowed, Snape said nothing.

“I know everything that has happened and everything that will happen,” Mort said, making one unsteady step towards Snape. “I know the future, young Snape, and I can shape it!”

Snape stepped back, feeling the mold-ridden carpet squish under his boots.

“You’re mad.”

Mort brushed back a strand of yellowed-white hair from his face. “Perhaps. Living here does that to one.” He turned and began walking down the hall, away from Snape. “So does dying.”

Snape was pulled in two directions. One called him to go back down the stairs, and out of this house, this place that would consume him, body and soul. The other wanted him to follow the old man and satisfy his curiosity. The future, the past, the present, they all ran together and in different directions all at once. How could anyone control them?

“It feels like there’s something out there that’s controlling everything, pushing me on a path that maybe I don’t want to take, but I don’t have that choice anymore.”

He remembered her words as she stood by the lake, knowing that she had to choice but to follow time’s bidding, her father’s desire, and go against everything she had dreamed of, had ever wanted for herself. It had not been his fault that she had pushed him away. She had cried not for him, but for herself, for knowing what she had to do, for knowing that she was being forced against her will to follow like a lemming, like one of those idiots in the banquet hall who did as the Dark Lord wished simply because it was his word.

Could he change all that? Could he, Severus Snape, change time?

~ * * * ~



A spider crawled across her hand. In her slumber, she moved to shake away the feather-touch of the spider’s legs, only to have it bite her. Waking with a yowl, she grabbed the nearest potions bottle and slammed it on top of the spider, watching the legs shiver in the throws of death. She had killed it without fully realising what she had done. Her eyes widened with awakening as she watched the last shiver of life run through the dead spider. When it stirred no more, she lifted the bottle and stood up, all of her body moving at what seemed a snail’s pace. She turned the bottle over to examine the death that lay on its underside.

The bottle fell from her hand and shattered into a hundred thousand pieces at her feet.

She decided that it was time for a walk outside.

Her back cracked when she straightened it. Surely she had learned by now not to fall asleep whilst sitting at a table? The smell of chemicals filled the air. The kitchen sink was covered in multi-coloured droplets and filled to the brim with dirty beakers and vials. There were no plates with crusted food nor any glasses to be seen. What was supposed to have been a place of family meals and happy conversation and bubbling cauldrons only had the bubbling cauldrons, though they were hardly bubbling with supper.

Her hand touched the wooden door frame as she passed into the hall. All the doors were open but one. The padlock upon it was, for now, enough to keep the past hidden from sight. Turning a corner, she came to the cottage’s front door. The soft wind gushed in, clearing the air of its thick perfume. The dull sunshine filtered down through the clouds, brightening the world without making the snow-covered landscape blinding to the eye. The sheep were all in their barns, warm and safe, and not a living soul was to be seen upon the downs. She was the only one who ventured out into the cold, and she was glad of that fact.

She shuffled her feet, kicking the snow about. She loved its lightness. Her cheeks flushed with the cold. Her cloak was back in the cottage.

Was it that she just didn’t care anymore? Or something else?

An owl swooped over her head, missing its mark as a gust of wind threw it off course. It turned between gusts and landed on her outstretched arm. She took the letter and scowled.

“Another one. Brilliant.”

She dipped into her pockets for a few sickles and placed them in the bird’s leg pouch. It flew off into the clouds, disappearing from sight within a moment. The owls had been the only beings to approach the cottage. The villagers did not know exactly where it was, and no one she knew ever came. They would have still been in school – it was March after all. They wrote her letters that she never read. A pile of letters sat on her desk and would remain there as long as it took her to..... As long as it took her to what? Get over what had happened? To forget the past and begin to hope for the future? Ha! There was no hope.

Her eyes rose upwards to the clouds. To the west more snow was falling; to the east the sun was breaking through, or was it the moon? What was time to her, anyway? Whether it was the time of day or the time of year, she no longer really cared whether or not it snowed or was sunny, if it was day or night. Neither gave her any emotion, but only reminded her that time was beyond her control, something that would eat away at life until nothing remained.

With a huff that sent a cloud of steam into the air, she turned back to the cottage, carefully stepping in her old footprints. At the doorway, she paused, but did not turn her head to look at the dales behind her. She had heard the quiet popping sound, but was not sure if it had been merely her imagination or some strange animal’s noise. She stood in the open doorway, feeling heat on her face and a chill her back. Footsteps crunched in the snow and the wizard – she could tell it was a wizard by the way he walked – stood some feet behind her.

“What do you want?” she asked, not moving.

“It is important that I speak with you, Miss Goldwyn.” His voice held a touch of a Latin accent. It was familiar to her, and certainly the very last voice he had expected to hear in this place, her home.

She finally moved so that she could see him. The light from the cottage masked her face in shadows. Her head tiled to one side.

“Why?”

A simple question, but a most annoying one as it deserved a full and honest answer.

Sejanus clutched his robes around him. The cold was insufferable, yet the girl could stand there in nothing but her regular robes, without apparently noticing the temperature.

“Severus Snape disappeared from Hogwarts last Hogsmeade weekend, only to return in the early hours of Monday.”

“And you think he came here?” Was she smiling, or glaring at him?

He shook his head. “If I had, I would not be so disturbed.”

Now she was glaring. “What does it have to do with me, then?”

At this rate, she was going to shut the door in his face any moment now. Her hand was resting upon the handle.

“It has to do with your father.” She tilted her head again, and he added, “Your natural father. Mortimer Nero.”

Her hand tightened on the door handle, but she remained silent. Sejanus stepped forward, arm outreached to stop her. He stopped in mid-step upon seeing her face in the light. She was pale, and there were dark splotches beneath her eyes, which were bloodshot and slightly yellowish around the irises. In a few more weeks, she could look like her father – skin and bones with nothing left inside.

“You look cold,” she said and stood aside to let him pass into the cottage.

He looked at the locked door, but pretended not to notice it.

She led him into a small sitting room. A thin layer of dust encrusted the sparse furniture. One wall was covered in bookshelves so overstuffed that books had been piled up on top of the neatly aligned rows. The facing wall was almost entirely covered in glass. The room was only slightly warmer than the outside had been. When he took a seat, she remained standing, her lips in a thin line.

“I don’t want anything, thank you.” He anticipated her question.

There was a small twitch above her right eye as she sat down. “You came here to tell me something, so tell it, Professor. I can’t stay away from my work for long.”

He decided not to tell her how much like Grimm she sounded.

“A number of years ago, I came across the notes of an alchemist who lived in my old rooms in Florence,” Sejanus said. He re-arranged the way his robes spread around his feet. “The notes described a liquid, a sort of potion, that when poured into a silver bowl, would allow someone to view the future.”

Her eye twitched again. She stared at him with a creased brow.

“It took many years to complete the potion and then many more to find the correct bowl, as finding a bowl of pure silver is difficult, even in my country. By the time I began experimenting with its limits, I had already been offered the position at Hogwarts, and thus, I brought the experiment with me.” He gave a casual shrug and ran a nervous hand over his almost bare head.

She snorted, a small bitter smile upon her face. “And you were stupid enough to give it to my father?”

He paled. “Worse.” Swallowing, he looked out the window and watched the snow blow across the dead grass. “I have offered it to the Dark Lord.”

This news did not appear to bother her. Her eyes were unblinking and stared straight through him. Sejanus knew that she had been listening, but she looked as though her mind was in another world altogether. It was the expression that students often wore in his class, especially if they were discussing the state of Mars for the umpteenth time.

“I don’t think he’s nearly so bad as my father,” was all she said.

Sejanus agreed, but would not admit to it.

“With that bowl, the Dark Lord can manipulate the future. Bend it to his will, as I have heard some of you English say....”

“But he hasn’t,” she said. Her fingers tapped against the arm of her chair. “Otherwise, things would be much worse than they are now. He hasn’t yet figured out the nature of your invention, has he?” At Sejanus’ confused glance, she added, “The power to change the future is perhaps one of the greatest powers of all. If the Dark Lord, if that’s what you call him, had used it, he would have already won this war, even though it’s hardly begun.”

“You are right,” he said with a nod. “The Dark Lord has only viewed the future perhaps once or twice.” Sejanus frowned. There was some note of regret in his voice, as though he were unhappy that his work had not been appreciated by the right parties. “I believe that he has forgotten about it. Perhaps that has been Nero’s doing.”

At that last statement, she actually laughed.

“My father? Manipulating the Dark Lord? That is certainly news.”

“It is not something to laugh about, Miss Goldwyn. Your father manipulates more than the Dark Lord.” He watched her shudder without warning. She bit her lip and looked as though she could guess his next words. “He is the one that manipulates the future. Specifically, your future.”

Her next laugh was softer and filled with a distant regret. “I could feel it, Professor. It was like I was a puppet and he was the one holding all the strings. Even now, I wonder....” She rose from her chair and went to the window, hugging her arms. The room had grown colder. “He’s done everything he possibly could to ruin my life, you know? Why does he even bother? He doesn’t even know me.”

She gazed out towards the horizon, where the lights from the village reflected off the clouds.

“I bet that he says he does it for me.”

Sejanus watched her with suspicion. Her changes in mood were frequent and intense. “Yes, he does. But he is mad. Even the Dark Lord knows that.” She did not move, so he continued. “Your father is a madman, and he must be stopped.”

“And you think I’m the only one who can?”

“Yes.”

She turned and met his eyes. He could swear that, for a moment, she was probing into his mind, but that was impossible.

“What could I possibly do?” she asked. “Run down to wherever he is, walk right past the Dark Lord, and see my father for the first time in years? Oh yes, that would certainly go well.” She began to pace the room, arms crossed over her chest. “If he’s mad, there’s nothing I can do to stop him. He’ll just keep going until we’re all dead.”

Sejanus had never seen this side of her before. He always remembered the quiet, unassuming girl who had kept herself out of his way after their altercation in her first year. But this girl, no this woman, was too intense, too passionate, and it scared him to death. He had wondered what Snape saw in her and had believed that she had only been the “pretty pureblooded girlfriend” to the Slytherin boy. Was this the person that Severus Snape saw, even when she was only the snivelling girl-child?

“What is it with people wanting to see the future anyway?” she continued, stopping a few feet away from Sejanus. She gave him a glare that could turn a man to stone.

It was not as simple a question as it sounded. “What do you mean, Miss Goldwyn?” Sejanus asked with uncertainty.

“His potion,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper. “I think I’ve figured out it’s purpose. It’s so strange.... I don’t know why he’d want to play with time.” Once again, she became small and defenceless and she thought of her guardian and his demise.

“I don’t know much about him at all,” she added. “I’ve come to realise this the more I look through his things and see objects, books, pictures, that I never even knew existed, yet they were part of him, parts of him that I never saw. And now....” She paused and took a deep breath. “Come with me,” she told him, walking out of the room, towards the back of the cottage.

The room he followed her into was an old-fashioned kitchen, but instead of smelling like Yorkshire pudding and fresh-baked cakes, it reeked of chemicals and potions. She did not seem to notice the smell, and Sejanus wondered how much the smells had affected her brain. Her hands were shaking as she picked up a small vial of liquid the colour of dried blood. She turned to Sejanus, and held the red vial between her thumb and forefinger, the expression on her face halfway between pride and distrust.

“This is it, the finished product.” She held out the vial to the light, which changed the colour to a scarlet red. “There were only one or two changes to be made in the mixture and how it was produced. He had put in too much wolfsbane.” She choked on the last word. The poison that had killed her guardian.

“How can you be sure that it works, Miss Goldwyn?” Sejanus stared at the liquid, as though wondering how such a thing could transport a physical being across time.

She saw his stare and laughed. It was more like a girlish giggle than anything else, lacking the bitterness of earlier. “I tested it. Simple as that.”

Sejanus’ eyes widened. All this time, he had been telling her of her father’s misdeeds while, all along, she had been performing them as well. No, her deeds had been of a greater degree. She had been to another time, been to a time that was not hers, seen and experienced things that she never ought to have. A timeturner had its limits – it could only take one, at most, a day or two beyond, usually back – but this liquid, who knew how far it could take her.

“I watched him kill my mother,” she said, in a voice too calm to be real. “And that is why I’ll help you, Professor, because I know how far he will go and I won’t let him do that to me. Never to me.” She closed her hand around the vial, her eyes alight with hatred and determination.

~ * * * ~



Night had fallen over Hogwarts and Minerva McGonagall lay in her bed, very much awake. Sleep only came with exhaustion, and she had not yet reached that limit. She tried to think of lessons and grades, of the upcoming OWLS and NEWTS, but it was to no avail. The only thing she could think about was him. She could picture him sitting at his desk, or at his potions cabinet, or beside her as they walked by the lake, or in so many places. Yet she could not, would not, think of him as she had seen him last.

Her father had once told her to remember people, not by their last words or deeds, but by the ones that brought pure and utter happiness. Although Minerva was not able to always follow that mantra, she found that it was easy to think of Grimm that way. The one hurt he had given her had long ago passed away, and twenty years – was it that long? – of working together at Hogwarts made them closer than twenty years of marriage ever could have.

But why did she constantly think of him? It was an endless distraction, even more so than his mere presence had been at times. She could not forget the slight brush of his hand on her arm or the private smile flashed across a room. Oh, she wished it would go away at the same time that she missed him with a dreadful ache in her bones.

“Thinking of me again, Minerva?” The voice came from by the window, where shadows reigned.

She sat up as though shocked by electricity and tried to discern his form from the velvet curtains. A ghost or a dream? A memory or a terrible trick? She could not speak, could not move, she had to know if the voice was real.

“I could always tell, you know,” he said, stepping into the moonlight. It fell strangely upon his face, making him appear as a ghost when Minerva knew differently. She could see the imperfections of humanity that no immortal being would have.

She opened her mouth and forced out a word. “How?”

“It was an opportunity that I could not miss.” His voice lowered. “I had to see you again.”

“But Emma, but everyone, we all thought you were dead....”

“I am, in your time.” He shook his head. “Merlin, it’s hard to explain.”

“Please do.” She stood up, disregarding the robe on the chair by her bed, and walked towards him, only stopping a few feet away.

He smiled that peculiar smile of his. “My experiments. I made a potion that lets me go through time. Amazing, isn’t it?”

“At the price of your life? I think not,” she said, her voice shaking.

“That was an accident and not entirely my fault.” The line over his forehead deepened in a frown. “There was a curse on my job that mysteriously appeared last summer, and the wolfsbane solution I produced was too strong. I hope that she sees that soon enough.” He pressed his lips together, deep in thought.

Minerva stared at him. She understood, but also felt as though she didn’t, that he was speaking a new language she could not comprehend. “You gave this potion to Emma? But won’t she –?”

“She’s smarter than I am. She knows not to test it until it’s right.” He smiled again and made a half-step towards her. “There’s not much time left, I’m afraid. I didn’t mean to spend it explaining everything, but I guess I should have known better.” He was laughing at her, silently, but she could tell by the look in his eyes. He held out his hand to her. “Can you forgive me? For everything, anything, that I’ve ever done to you. There was so much I never did right, but too much that I did wrong.” His voice was no louder than a whisper, meant for her ears alone.

She stared at it, seeing him fade around the edges. How much longer? She could not hesitate and lose this chance she had been blessedly given – the chance she had yearned so much for – the chance to say goodbye.

“I forgave you long ago, Tiberius,” she said, placing her hand in his. “You know that.”

He brought her hand to his lips, a feather touch that did not last long enough. He was so real, she could feel his breath upon her skin, see the look of desire in his eyes, yet there was no time to truly say the goodbye she knew he deserved.

“I went back.” His voice was fading, as was his touch. “I wanted to change what I did, or what I didn’t do, but I couldn’t, Minerva. I just stood there and watched myself leave you, and I couldn’t move.... such a coward....” He closed his hand around hers, but it did not tighten his grasp. “Curse this potion.... always gives out at the worst moment....”

“Goodbye,” she said.

Her hand fell to her side, no longer supported by his. Her eyes were on his face, even as the moonlight shone right through him, and his eyes were on hers, even when he had faded into nothingness: just a ghost after all.



Author's Note: That last bit is an "almost-deleted scene", since it's connection to "Ghosts of You" is pretty strong, but I included it because .... I like Grimm too much and wanted to include him one last time. ='(

The chapter title is from the song performed by Sarah Brightman (I'm not sure who wrote it, sorry). Thanks again for all your support and reviews. I really appreciate them all. =)

Chapter 24: Twenty: Live and Let Die
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Twenty
Three Years Later: Autumn, 1980


They came from all directions and used all different paths to reach the meeting place. Times had grown so dangerous that they dared not use the Hog’s Head anymore – it would be watched, as most places these days were. This time, their leader had chosen a dank cellar filled with upturned crates and barrels of butterbeer. There was enough room for all of them to take a seat while lanterns were placed throughout the space. Many of the people shivered in their robes – the warmth outside could not penetrate to this depth.

The meeting proper began as usual, with reports from all parts of the country, then moved onto plans for the future, not that there was much of one for most of them.

Sirius Black was lounging on a butterbeer barrel, wondering if there was indeed liquid contained within it, and more importantly, if he could get it out. Order meetings always bored him to tears, even though the information being passed around was highly significant. He would look at his friends and, secretly, try to imagine what it would be like if something happened. The tables had begun to turn against them in these past few months – the Death Eaters were growing in strength at an impossible rate and the Order could simply not keep up, not even with the mind of Dumbledore reeling to give them every possible advantage.

Hades, Sirius would need more than butterbeer to cope with such thoughts. He watched with envy as Mad-Eye Moody took a sip from his flask. Whatever was in there had to be enough to keep a man sane. Sirius paused in mid-thought. Well, maybe not. The Auror was known as "Mad-Eye" for good reason.

He glanced around the room to see what the others were up to. James and Lily were paying close attention to Dumbledore, as always. Remus looked as though he’d fallen asleep while Peter actually was sleeping. The Prewett twins seemed to be comparing battle scars and Marlene was squinting at a spider that was crawling across her foot. Sirius caught the eye of Dorcas, who was staring wishfully into space, and winked at her, making her blush scarlet from head to toe.

He then realised that Moody was watching him with obvious disapproval, so he tried to pay attention to Dumbledore’s voice, which was, over time, sounding more and more like old Binnsy. Drone, drone, Death Eaters, drone, drone, Diagon Alley, drone, drone, we have a guest....

Sirius sat up. A guest? That couldn’t have been right.

But it was. Moody opened the door as Minerva McGonagall swept in accompanied by a short woman dressed in a strange assortment of muggle clothes. Black dress, purple jumper, brown boots, and too much white powder on her face. It was nearly impossible to recognise the hollow eyed figure beneath the disguise. At least Sirius hoped it was a disguise.

“These were all I could find,” she was saying to McGonagall. “Muggles wear the oddest sorts of things, you know.”

Only a pureblood would ever say such a thing. Sirius was sure of that, he’d said it himself many times while walking down the streets of Muggle London, that very messy, very busy place that sprawled across much of the city. He saw their large hair styles and wide-bottomed trousers and shook his head, much preferring the long, loose robes of his own kind. It seemed more dignified, to say the least. Not that he didn’t mind a nice pin-striped suit every so often.

The guest stepped towards Dumbledore and fumbled in the pocket of her skirts. She pulled out a small vial.

“I brought it, and others,” she said, her eyes filled with suspicion. She did not hand him the vial, but kept it in her closed fist.

Some of those in the room leaned forward to try and see the vial, while others tried to look closer at the witch. She was familiar and yet a stranger. Her voice was too low to hear properly, and her muggle disguise too concealing.

“How can I be sure that you’ll use it well?”

James made a noise of protest and began to rise. Beside him, Lily grabbed his arm. Her green eyes were settled upon the witch’s face, already having guessed who it was. Sirius knew as well, but he could not quite believe what he was saw in the witch’s face. When was the last time she had slept? Eaten? Why was she dressed as a London streetwalker? Why had she been in hiding for so long? He could not decide which question worried him most. Her eyes were empty, like one dead, and she moved as though in a dream.

“It is a pertinent question, isn’t it?” she asked the silence. “I can’t trust my work to just anyone.” She looked around the room, frowning at all the faces she knew. “I never wanted to be involved in your war, Headmaster.”

“The tables have turned against us.” Dumbledore turned to address the whole room, though his eyes remained on Emilia. “The Death Eaters have infiltrated nearly all parts of our society, from the Ministry to even Hogwarts. No one can be trusted outside of those you see in this room, Miss Goldwyn.”

Dorcas gasped aloud at the name.

“But how we can trust her?” Peter’s voice echoed through the room. “She was close to Snape and he’s one of them now.” Emilia flinched at this. “She could be giving us poison in that glass, not something that’ll help us.”

Dumbledore nodded. “That is a fair point, but you will find that this is the first time that Miss Goldwyn has had any interaction with any side of the war.”

“And I am only here under the greatest duress.” Emilia’s eyes flashed impatience. “It would be nice to return to my home as soon as possible.”

She stared at her hand, then at Dumbledore, than at the others in the room. With a sigh, she held out the vial. “He would have wanted this.”

Minerva paled, but said nothing. Dumbledore removed the vial, holding it between his fingers. “Could you explain for the others what this potion is capable of?”

Emilia frowned. It was almost a scowl.

“That potion will take you to whatever place in time and space you desire. It only takes one sip from that vial and the willpower to control when and where you will end up.” She absently fiddled with the material of her skirts. “As of yet, I have only gone to the past, never the future.”

Sirius gaped in disbelief. “You’ve tried it already. You've gone back into the past?”

When her gaze fell upon him, he could swear that she was drilling a hole in his forehead.

“Yes. And I wish I never had.”

She reached once more into her pocket and handled three more vials to Dumbledore. “These are the others you asked for. Two healing potions and an antidote for the other one. It’s got wolfsbane in it, so unless you’re used to the stuff, you’ll need it.”

“You did not reduce the amount?” Minerva asked, so suddenly that it made Emilia jump and whip around to face the older witch. Emilia stared with wide eyes as her mind raced to put together the pieces of a long-unfinished puzzle.

“Doing so would have reduced the amount of time one could spend in the other time. I didn’t dare risk it, so I created the antidote instead.” She paused, her gaze dropping to the dusty floor. “If only–" She faltered and stopped, her mouth open but unable to speak.

”What will we use it for, Headmaster?” Remus asked, filling the silence.

“It would be a good tool for spying on the Death Eaters,” Marlene said from the other side of the room. “We would only have to know the time and location of their meetings, and we could view them.”

James removed his glasses to polish them with a corner of his robes. “We would still risk being caught and we’ll have no clue as to how long we’ll have.”

“The spy could disappear at any moment, even before the information can be heard.” Minerva spoke with a shaking voice. “It is much too uncertain.”

Emilia nodded. “You’re all very right, so I’ll just be going....”

Moody blocked her path to the door. “Not until you explain that potion of yours, missy. I want to hear everything about it. Don’t go running off like your–" He stopped when Dumbledore coughed politely.

“That is enough of that, Alastor. Now if you would show Miss Goldwyn to a seat, I am sure that she’d be glad to tell us all about her potion.” Dumbledore motioned to a seat and stepped aside to let Emilia pass.

She was trapped in this room with familiar people whom she only wanted to forget. They were like from another world, another time, a world and time that were not her own. With a parting glance at the doorway, she settled down on the upturned crate, curling her feet beneath the hem of her skirts.

“It’s a complex combination of ingredients, and I won’t tell you them, just to be safe. What you do is take a small drink of the potion – the longer the drink, the longer you’re likely to stay at your destination – and then you’ll just disappear into that other time.” Her brow furrowed. “I haven’t trying going to the future yet, and he only tried twice. At least, that’s what he wrote down.”

At her pause, Remus asked, “Why haven’t you tried it yet?”

She gave a nervous laugh. “I guess I’m scared of it. You see, after he tested it the first time, he knew that it had done something to his body. Using the potion had taken something away from him.”

“There is always a price,” Dumbledore said, glancing sideways at Minerva, who was growing more pale by the minute.

“A price too high for knowledge we don’t need.” Emilia’s voice seemed to come from a great distance, but then she shook herself awake. “I've read his journal for as long as I can, yet there're many parts that I can’t understand. Either he leaves too much out or the words just don’t make sense. He didn’t realise how little time he had left.” She laughed at her words. It was not a pleasant sound. “Pun not intended, I assure you.”

She looked around the room at the mistrustful and expectant faces. “Why do you need my potion, Headmaster? You never answered that question.”

“Time is a dangerous thing,” Minerva added in a whisper.

Sirius turned to stare at their leader, as did the others. In those times, there was no room for misplaced trust, but how could they not trust Dumbledore’s motives? Surely he knew what was best for them, for the world, for everything?

“If I were not to ask for it, Miss Goldwyn, then Voldemort would likely take it for himself.” He looked at her over his half-moon glasses. “This is not about the power that your potion can offer, but rather about who wields that power.”

Emilia shook her head. “But he already has time in his hands.” The others stirred. James and another wizard reached for their wands. “It was not of my doing, and it wasn't my potion that gave him that power. The one who made that mistake repents it at every moment of his miserable life.” She rose from the crate and pulled at the itchy fabric of her jumper. “Now can I please go? I don’t want to miss my train.”

“You shouldn’t go alone,” Moody grumbled. “Not in that outfit.”

“I’ll go.” Lily jumped up from her seat and went to stand beside Emilia.

James made a face, but Lily ignored him, taking Emilia’s arm none-too-gently and guiding her from the room. Emilia’s head spun with the quickness of Lily’s step and the speed at which the meeting had gone. She was not sure if she had revealed too much or too little about the potion, and she only hoped that Dumbledore would never use it. At least having it out of her hands would remove the temptation that festered inside of her. She would not, could not use it again, not after what happened the last time.

She looked down at her hands to see if they were fading away. Lily saw the fear flash across Emilia’s face.

“Has that happened often?” she asked, startling Emilia, who failed to hide her hands in the sleeves of her jumper.

“Only once, and it scared the hades out of me.” She paused as they reached the top of the stairs. “It could have just been a trick of the light.”

“But it’s doubtful.” Lily shut the door and tested to see if it would open again. It remained shut. “Why did you do all of that? Go to all those places, see all those things you weren’t supposed to? Did it make things any better?”

Emilia did not reply right away. She stared straight ahead as she walked down the damp alley. “It’s like an addiction. I kept thinking that next time, I could change something. That the next time, maybe I could make all this go away.”

“Maybe it’s something that the potion does, taking away your ability to do anything.” Lily, always the voice of reason.

“But how?” Emilia asked, waving her hands. “It makes me use it more and more, yet for what purpose? To torture me? To remind me of everything I’ve done wrong?” Her fists clenched. “I just want to go home,” she said quietly.

Lily took a long look at her one-time friend. The person standing before her was more of a stranger than familiar, both in appearance and actions. There had once been happiness in the eyes, however distant, and innocence in every line of her face. Now there was none of that, only the bare shell of a girl who'd lost almost everything.

Emilia noticed her friend’s look. “Why do you trust him?”

“Who?” Lily was caught off guard.

“Dumbledore.” She frowned. “I don’t quite understand him.”

Lily laughed nervously. “Does anyone?”

Emilia let out a sigh. “No, not in that way. I mean that I’m not sure whether or not he’ll do the right thing. Will he put everyone into danger for the greater good, or for some purpose of his own?” She stopped walked and stared straight ahead towards the main street, busy even so late in the evening. “Something in his eyes, in how he talks, doesn’t seem right.”

“Do you think he knew about Grimm?” Lily said his name with care, remembering how Emilia had refused to speak it aloud.

The scowl that appeared on Emilia’s face surprised Lily more than anything else her friend had done that evening. “Of course he did. How else would he have known about the potion?”

They kept walking, though to Lily it felt as though they walked with a wall between them. The determination in Emilia’s step was juxtaposed against her hunched shoulders and lowered eyes. Lily wanted to reach out, but was afraid of Emilia’s reaction. The last thing that Lily needed was rejection from someone she had once – did she still? – cared about. Keeping her hands at her sides, she wondered if she could instead reach out with words.

“I’m sorry about everything, Em. I wish I could–"

"There’s nothing you can do, Lily. There never was.” Emilia looked up, her eyes filled with something – could it be pity?

Lily stopped, her face flushing. “What do you know?” Emilia had kept walking forward. “Emma, tell me!” She allowed a note of begging into her voice as she raged with fear and anger at the thought that her friend somehow knew something.

“My potion doesn’t work in the future, but the potion isn’t the only thing that can warp time.” She spoke quickly, glancing into the shadows as though she expected someone to appear. “You’d never believe what he’s told me. I wish he hadn’t....”

“Who?”

“Would you believe me if I said it was Sejanus?”

“The Divination Professor?”

Emilia nodded. “But his invention's in the hands of the Dark Lord, or at least, in those of his minions.”

“Sejanus is one of them?”

“Not anymore, but I’m not sure really.”

“Have you spoken with him?”

“Yes, he knows the dangers, but I needed to know....”

“Your curiosity finally got the better of you.”

With a sigh, Emilia closed her eyes. “I know.”

Lily observed the way that Emilia’s jumper was at least two sizes too large.

“What has Sejanus told you?”

A ragged breath escaped Emilia’s mouth. “About my father, and the mess he has made with all our futures.”

Lily stopped short. “Your father....”

“He’s mad, Lily. It’s impossible to even understand that he’s related to me.”

“All of this is so hard to understand,” Lily said after a moment. “There’s a lot to this war that I can’t put my head around. You, for example, and how you fit into all of this.” She kept walking, deep in thought, along the street. Vehicles whisked past and the lights glared into every dark corner, keeping away even the most persistent of shadows. But even with this, Emilia kept glancing about, as though she expected something to pop out and snatch her away.

And something did.

The street grew silent. Cars stopped passing; the lights from stores and clubs faded out; a chill wind blew through the air, rustling through the leaves and rubbish on the pavement. Lily huddled in her cloak, while Emilia – wearing little more than the jumper – shivered.

A distant whisper, the shuffling of boots on stone, a flutter of fabric as a wand was slipped out of a pocket. Lily stiffened, her hand reaching towards her own wand. Emilia stood perfectly still, face blanching with fear. The shadows grew around them both as four Death Eaters appeared, masks covering their faces, but not their intents. All of them had their wands at the ready, and all of them were larger than the two witches.

“What a sight this is,” one of them said with a laugh. “Why’re you out here without your wondrous husband, Missus Potter?”

“Yes, and with a little friend too.” Another Death Eater’s voice echoed against his mask. "Now she's a pretty one."

Lily stepped closer to Emilia. “Be ready to run,” she muttered, not moving her lips.

“Did she say run, Travers?” asked the third.

“It certainly sounded that way.”

“Well we can’t allow that.” He moved forward with a sound that might have been a giggle of some sort.

“Shut up, Avery,” the fourth snapped. “We are to follow orders, nothing more. Take the Potter woman, that is all.”

“But the other–?”

The fourth turned his head towards Avery. “She is not to be touched. Special orders.”

“It’s not fair that you keep getting these ‘special orders’.” It was Travers that spoke.

“It is because I have at least some degree of intelligence,” the fourth said, keeping his voice low. He looked back towards the two witches. Lily raised her wand, pointing it at his face. Emilia stared at him, her eyes focused on the eye-holes of the mask. He added, “You would not want me to give a negative report on your behaviour, would you, Travers?”

The hand clutching Travers’ wand tightened, but his voice said, “Of course not. I wouldn’t want to piss off his highness the Half-Blooded Prince.”

The other two laughed while the fourth Death Eater kept his attention on the two witches. He did not appear to notice Travers’ sarcastic remark., or he was simmering within, hiding all his emotions as two worlds collided before him.

Emilia, not letting her eyes leave the Death Eater’s, reached for Lily’s arm. “When I give the signal. Run.” Her voice was merely a tickle against Lily’s ear.

“But–?”

“I’ll hold them off. It’s you they want.”

Emilia reached into her robes. She always carried too many vials, absently placing them in her pockets while walking from one room of her cottage to another. She hoped that whichever one she found would create the right effect.

“Don’t do this.” Was it Lily who whispered those words?

Emilia raised her arm and threw the potion towards the three Death Eaters. Her eyes once again met those of the fourth wizard’s, then he was hidden by the smoke that filled the street. Lily’s footsteps could be heard running away, not once pausing to look back. For a moment, Emilia felt very alone. Abandoned. She did not try to run or move from where she stood. The Death Eaters coughed and fell against a wall, trying to clear their lungs. The fourth Death Eater glanced at them and pointed his wand at Emilia.

“Very clever, but perhaps the affect was not as... powerful as you intended?”

She tried to prevent a smile from appearing.

“I’m not afraid of you.”

“You should be.”

She glanced towards the regrouping Death Eaters. “I’m afraid of them.”

He snorted. “You are not a total fool then.”

Travers spoke through a fit of coughing. “Let me at her!”

Emilia could imagine the fourth Death Eater narrowing his eyes. “You follow the Potter woman. All three of you against her should even out the odds.”

Avery growled. “And what about the girl here?”

The fourth Death Eater stepped forward, resting the point of his wand upon Emilia’s forehead. “I think that I shall have a most enjoyable evening with this young lady. As you can see, she is not resisting at all.”

“Aye, he’s right,” the first Death Eater said, winking at the other two. “Snape’s got this one covered, that’s for sure.” He ran up the street, his laughter echoing against the walls.

“You always take all the glory.” Travers glowered at the fourth Death Eater. “You could have at least shared her.” He nudged Avery, who, with a scowl at Emilia, followed him away. Their footsteps finally dwindled away into the buzzing sounds of the city at night.

The fourth Death Eater stowed his wand in a graceful movement and removed the mask from his face. His too-long hair stuck to his forehead with perspiration, and his breath came in deep gasps, as though he had been running.

“That was very stupid, Emilia.”

“You wouldn’t have let them touch me,” she replied with crossed arms. Anything to hide the tremors in her hands.

“How could you be sure of that?” He held his mask with the tips of his fingers.

A waif of smoke, still from the potion, drifted past her face. “I still have some hope left.”

He turned away with a frown. “You must be the only one.”

Her brow furrowed. She stepped forward and reached for him. “What else–"

"Get away from me,” he snarled, pulling away.

She stumbled back, surprise registering on her face.

“Do you like how it feels, Emilia?”

“It was a mistake, Severus. You know that.”

Now she could see his eyes narrow. “Do I? Can I be sure about anything that happened between us, Emilia? At that moment, it felt like it had all been for nothing. Why should there be anything now?”

She said nothing, only stared at him as each word broke into her spirit, shattering the hopes she had been holding on to in all those dark and lonely moments of her life. She had known his voice, seen the eyes behind the mask staring at her, and she had felt something in the air, or had it been merely the sound of her heart pounding in her ears? And now he was waiting, but for what? She had admitted her stupid, so very stupid mistake, the one that had haunted her every breath for three years. Three years of hiding from the world. Three years of hiding from herself.

“We all make choices, Severus. And we sometimes make the wrong ones.”

She reached for him again. He did not move. Her hand rested upon his left arm, but still he remained motionless, glaring down at her. He must have felt her hands shaking as she pulled back his sleeve, revealing the mark branded upon the skin.

“Would you have–?”

His lip curled up in a sneer. “How am I to know what could have happened?”

“You know something that you shouldn’t.”

“I could say the same for you.”

Both her eyebrows rose. “Indeed?”

As he pulled his arm away, his hand brushed against hers. “We all have secrets.”

“Obviously, I have none from you.”

She thought she saw a hint of laughter in his eyes. “That is to be expected. Now come.”

He motioned for her to walk with him down the street.

“What?”

He turned back with a single raised eyebrow. “Did you not have to catch the train?”

“I don’t need a body guard, least of all one with... with that... thing on his arm.”

He frowned. “So you have chosen a side.”

She shook her head. “There’s too much I dislike of either.”

A laugh burst from his lips. “I should have guessed that you would not decide.”

Emilia rubbed her temples. “What?” Hearing his laughter echoing across the cobblestones raised the hair on the back of her neck. “Why does everything you say to me sound like an insult?”

“Perhaps because it is.”

“I’m going to miss my train if we keep on like this.”

He grabbed her shoulders and pushed her against the nearest wall. The roughly carved stones poked into her back. She raised her eyes to his, her body shivering more than ever. She knew that his fingers would leave bruises on her arms. He pushed his face close to hers. She could smell coffee on his breath. He had never drunk coffee before, only tea.

“Like what, Emilia? Do you forget that it was you who decided upon this course for our lives? What you said about being caught in the grasp of fate was very true, but you could have fought it. We could have–" He stopped, his eyes bulging with fury.

“Would it have been any better, Severus?” she asked, feeling tears in her eyes from the pain in her back and arms. “Would you still have run off to the Dark Lord, just like my father?”

His hair wafted against her face as an automobile passed. The driver would not have seen them behind Severus’ giant cloak, and even if he had, this was not the most respectable part of London. It was always easier to look away and forget.

“How can I know that?” Severus hissed, his mouth closer to hers than either desired. “There is no way to see what could have been.”

If she tilted her head forwards, perhaps their lips would meet. “But what of now?”

His grip on her arms relaxed. “There is nothing now.” He began to pull away.

She put her hands on each side of his face. “Severus, please,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.” She lowered her eyes; it was too difficult to look into his.

He took her hands in his. She thought – hoped – that perhaps he would draw her towards him, but he simply held her hands.

“We all make our choices, Emilia.”

Her own words were returned and only then did she know that there was no hope left. It had all been a lie.

She opened her mouth to speak. The words on the tip of her tongue could take back the three wasted years they had both spent alone, but there was a sound from the other side of the street. Three sets of boots clattered on the cobblestones, followed by the grumbling voices of unsuccessful hunters who had lost their prey in the wilderness. Severus’ hands tightened on hers, squeezing the fingers together in a way that made her cringe. He pulled her closer and pressed something cold and hard into her hand.

“Take this and go. They will not listen to me twice in one night.”

She did not argue, probably because she did not have time to. As soon as the object was entirely in her palm, she felt the familiar tug at her stomach and watched as Severus turned to meet his companions as she fell into darkness.

When she opened her eyes again, she was standing in a quiet corner of Kings Cross Station, a few steps from the ticket booth. She looked down at the silver cigarette lighter, a very familiar one. Her fingers closed around the cold metal, remembering how she had first learned about Portkeys and had been taken away to a magical castle by the equivalent to a fairy godmother, not that Grimm would see himself that way. No, would have seen was correct. She had to remember to think of him in the past tense.

But where and how had Severus gotten the lighter?

Her mind distracted, she counted out the muggle coins for the ticket home and found herself in an empty compartment, the lights of the city flickering past.

He had known that they would meet. He had planned it all, from the “capture” to the Portkey. We all make our choices....

And he had made his.

~ * * * ~

James moved a green disk across his table-sized map of Wizarding Britain. He frowned. There were far too many green disks of late, outnumbering the red disks clustered about London and Hogwarts. His chair creaked as he leaned back and removed his glasses. The backs of his fingertips were cool against his burning forehead.

His wife had nearly been captured by Death Eaters and he hadn’t even been there to protect her. Why had he let her go off alone with Goldwyn? It had been madness.

He looked up at the sound of someone sitting down across from him. Sirius was gazing at the map, neither smile nor frown upon his face.

“It’s not your fault, James.”

The pressure was building up. James slammed his fist on the table, rattling the coloured disks in their places. “Damn it, Sirius. Why did I let her go?”

“Because she told you to.”

James’ arm was shaking. “I have to learn to say no to her.” He glanced up to meet Sirius’ eyes. His friend’s expression was unclear without his glasses.

“She spent years saying no to you.”

Now this was a turn. Sirius the calm confidant, handing out wisdom for free.

“So I’m supposed to be afraid of that word?”

“You’re supposed to be afraid of losing her.”

“Merlin, I am!” James leapt from his seat. “Even if she’s in the next room, I worry.” He shoved his glasses onto his nose. “Padfoot, what’s happened to me? I’m a nervous wreck.”

Sirius sat with his elbows on the table and his chin resting in one palm.

“You’re in love, mate.”

James slid back into his chair. “I’m not sure if I like it much.”

“Hey, at least you have her.”

Squinting, James tried to discern something from Sirius’ non-expression.

“Becoming a bitter bachelor?”

“All those b’s in one sentence is disturbing.”

There was a moment of silence. The front door slammed shut on the heels of the two missing Marauders. Remus and Peter settled on the other two chairs around the table, making them once again the quartet that had haunted the halls and passages of Hogwarts, and that had hounded the professors and Filch for over half a decade. They were all united, yet torn apart by the cruelties of time and life.

Peter stared at his hands. “Is she alright?”

Sirius was still looking at James. “She will be, though I’m not too sure about Prongs here.”

“Oh piss off.” James gave a glare that could have committed murder on its own.

“He thinks that Goldwyn had led Lily into a trap.”

“She did.”

“And that she covered it up by saving Lily’s life.”

“I never said that.”

“That’s what happened, though. Lily told me.”

James frowned. He did not dare disagree with his wife.

During their verbal tennis match, Peter and Remus had glanced back and forth at the sparing partners, watching as the words were tossed back and forth.

“Goldwyn risked her life so that Lily would get away,” Sirius said, crossing his arms. “Lily does admit that some weird things were going on between Goldwyn and one of the Death Eaters.”

“He had to have been Snape.”

Peter spoke up. “But he hates her now, remember?”

Sirius closed his eyes for a moment. The scars on his arms throbbed in response.

“Hate is a strong word.”

The four fell into different types of silences. Sirius remembered and mourned the loss of a simple phrase he could have said to make her listen to him, but he had let it, and her, run away. Peter also remembered, but he only mourned the loss of the deep bonds between the Marauders, who seemed to stay together out of habit more than anything else. James was in an angry silence, frowning at the thought that his friends disagreed with him. They would see that he was right, they would understand that he had almost lost Lily, the one person that meant anything to him these days. Remus, who had not said a word upon entering the room nor as his friends argued, had his forehead creased in deep thought. His eyes were bright with ideas, while his nervous hands tapped out hollow notes on the arms of his chair.

“We have a problem,” he finally said.

The other stared at him: angry, confused, and bored. They waited for him to continue.

Remus rose from his seat and began pacing the room, hands behind his back and head down, his eyes analysing the ornate rug. “It seems that half of us are willing to trust Emma Goldwyn, while the other half of us see her as a consort of the enemy. Either way, we’re divided, and we promised that would never happen.”

He stopped in front of the hearth. Was he hoping for such a dramatic effect?

“But of course, times have changed and sometimes, I think we don’t even trust each other anymore.” He looked at the others to gauge their reactions. James didn’t even look up, Peter’s face flushed as he held his breath, and Sirius bit at his bottom lip, but his eyes betrayed nothing.

“I know for certain that Emma wouldn’t willingly let Lily get into danger, and according to Lily’s story, Emma caused a distraction so that Lily could get away safely. But the problem is that Emma did nothing for herself, as though she knew that the Death Eaters wouldn’t hurt her, and what does that mean?” He narrowed his eyes in thought.

The skin on Peter’s forehead was scrunched together. “It could mean that she doesn’t care about dying. She did act strangely before she left Hogwarts.”

“And it could mean that she’s on their side,” James growled, but no one listed to him.

Remus smiled. “And that is why we need someone to watch her movements, check on who she sees and who she doesn’t. Gain her trust so that we can be entirely certain as to her loyalties, or whether she has none.”

“A spy?” Peter asked with wide eyes.

With a nod, Remus replied, “Yes, and the perfect candidate is sitting here in this room.”

Both he and Peter looked towards Sirius.

“You’re kidding right?” James rolled his eyes. “He’d be too busy trying to seduce her.”

“You shouldn’t be allowed in public when you’re like this, Prongs.”

“I’m not in public, I’m at home.”

“But you’re with us.”

“You hardly count as ‘the public’.”

Remus sighed. Not again. “Shut it, you two. This is a very important issue.”

They stopped and looked at him. James looked weary – the skin beneath his eyes smudged with shadows, the size of which was only magnified by his glasses. Sirius was still himself, seemingly uncaring but ripping himself apart from the inside. Remus knew exactly what every twitch of his friend’s cheek and every nervous finger tap signified.

“Sirius, we need you to talk with her and try to understand what her part in all of this is.”

“If she even has one,” muttered Peter.

Remus pretended that he hadn’t been interrupted. “You should go as soon as possible. Her cottage is in the Yorkshire Dales – I’m sure that Professor McGonagall knows its location, or at least the name of the closest village.” He stepped forward and rested his hand on Sirius’ tense shoulder. “Remember what happened in Hogsmeade, Padfoot. She trusts you, even just a bit, and that’s all you need, all we need.”

Sirius smiled, but it was too obviously fake. “Of course, Moony. I’m the only one who can do this.” He wondered how hard she would slam the door in his face.



Author's note: once again, thank you to all my readers and reviewers. Constructive criticisms are always welcome - I'd love to know what people think, whether it is good or bad. =)

The chapter title is from the song by "Wings" on the Live and Let Die soundtrack.

Chapter 25: Twenty-One: Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of
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Twenty-One


The dreams had started long before, with always the same vision. The long hall spread away from her, a once-scarlet rug down the centre like a river of old blood. On either side there were doorways, all closed and she could feel their locked facades glaring down at her as though she did not belong. Her head felt fuzzy; the feet that moved forward seemed dismembered from her mind. Was she walking, or was she seeing someone else’s point of view?

She tried to turn her head, but nothing except her legs moved. Perhaps an imperious curse, with her mind left to watch as her body followed another’s will? But who, and where, and how? She thought about flexing her hands, of feeling something other than her thoughts, but nothing ever happened. She was trapped in the body of another, and it scared her more than anything else ever could. Each night she moved further and further down the hallway. It seemed to never end, though she could always see the blank wall far, far away. It was not the actual distance, but the slow movement of the legs that kept her from reaching the end. They moved like leaden weights, lifting and falling in double, maybe triple, time. But she would always wake before they could move her very far.

Tonight she stopped at one of the doors. Like all the others, it stood strong against forced entry, and anything else that might keep it from doing its assigned task. The hand that reached out towards it – she could not recall telling the hand to move and therefore could not call it her own – held a wand. The door opened without question.

The room was worse off than the hallway. Tattered curtains hung from a tarnished brass rail over the window. The wooden floorboards were filled with termite holes. The bed in the corner was no more than a camp bed with a thin mattress and maybe a sheet if the occupant was lucky. He did not acknowledge her presence at the door. The only movement he made was the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, though even that was not right, as the intake of breath did not always come easily.

She moved nearer, one step at a time, wand still in the body’s hand.

The man on the bed shifted and coughed. She stopped and waited. Nothing happened.

Another step. She looked down at the bed below her.

The other hand reached out to pull back the hood that covered the man’s face.

Emilia sat up in her own bed in her own cottage, far away from wherever she had been in her mind. It did not feel like a dream.

~ * * * ~


A disgruntled Professor McGonagall had given him the directions to the tiny village on the banks of a river – if that creek could actually be called a river. It was the usual sort of Yorkshire village, more tourist than agricultural these days and perfectly charming to a fault. He bypassed the pub with a wistful sigh – if she slammed the door hard, he’d dip in for a wee drop – and continued down the main street until it became nothing more than a cow path, then narrowed further to a footpath, and finally seemed to disappear into the endless dales.

He stopped and looked around. Sheep grazed between dry stone fences. The wind rustled through the grass with a musical tune. The ground had been rising beneath him the whole way, and now he turned to look down upon the village along the river that led to the sea, a grey line far on the horizon. When he looked back to the path, he was standing beside a cottage built into the stone of the hillside. A small herb garden surrounded the door. Smoke rose from the chimney, though he would swear that he had not seen it, or even smelt it, before.

The house had appeared from nowhere. Either he was lucky, or she was expecting him.

The door was ancient oak with iron fastenings that could have been made by a passing Roman. He looked behind him at the village for reassurance that he hadn’t been thrown back in time a few thousand years. That would have been very inconvenient.

He raised his hand to knock and hesitated. The memory of her face at the Order meeting haunted him. It had been the face of a ghost, of someone long dead inside. What hope did he have of speaking to her, of ascertaining her loyalties? What if Snivellus was inside that cottage, with her? Oh Merlin, that was a nasty thought. That greasy nose ... ugh, it was disgusting.

His hand fell against the doorway while the expression on his face couldn’t relieve itself of the disgust before she opened the door.

“Does it really smell that bad?” she asked peevishly.

He opened his mouth, at the same time taking in a mouthful of the sent of rotten eggs.

“You came at exactly the right moment, Black. Your knock has probably ruined the whole thing.” She threw open the door with a scowl. “You might as well at least help to clean it up.” Without another glance at him, she stamped down the narrow hallway towards the back of the cottage. Sirius stared at her with a slightly open mouth, then followed.

It was a cozy house, perhaps too cozy. The hallway was almost too tight for Sirius to squeeze through without rubbing his shoulders against the heavy panelling. He had to crouch through the doorways, as they were made for someone three inches shorter than him. Once in the kitchen, however, Sirius felt as though he had been through the dwarves’ entrance to a giant’s cave. The ceiling rose up into a peak. There was considerable space between the walls, leaving room for two tables covered with tea cups, plates, and potion bottles. Each surface had something upon it. Beside the window as a glass-doored cupboard lined with spices and potions ingredients. The room was part-kitchen, part-laboratory, and Sirius wondered how she prevented herself from mistaking food from potion.

In the centre of the floor was a puddle of the foul-smelling liquid, all yellow and lumpy. It made old milk look appetising.

Sirius pulled out his wand.

“If you use magic on it, it’ll explode on you.” She stood across the kitchen with crossed arms. “Believe me, I’ve tried.”

A spoon and bowl floated towards him.

“Once you’re done that, I’ll make us some tea.”

Sirius glanced from spoon and bowl to mistress of the house. “Is this how you treat all of your guests, Goldwyn?”

One corner of her mouth twitched. “How should I know? I don’t get any.”

She strode past him, holding her nose all the while. He heard a door further down the hallway shut behind her. Sirius looked down at the mess, which bubbled happily away. What was worse: getting the door slammed in his face, or having to play housemaid? He pondered it the whole time it took him to clean the stuff up.

When the last spoonful hit the side of the bowl, the kettle started to boil. He heard her footsteps behind him.

“Thank you, Black. That was very kind of you.”

He shoved the bowl onto the counter. It clanged against other, similar bowls.

“Don’t you have a house elf or something?”

She stepped around him and reached for the kettle. “My grandmother’s old one died ages ago, when I was still young. Uncle never had one, him being a half-blood.”

“You call him that very casually.”

Emilia turned to face him, her head tilted. “It is the truth, nothing more. Only certain people can make the truth sound ugly to everyone else.”

“Tell that to the Death Eaters. I’d like to see their reactions.”

She rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Black. You should try to be serious for once in your life.”

“I am Sirius!”

“That joke is so old that it’s turned green.”

“Interesting choice of colour, Goldwyn. Got a certain House in mind?”

She scowled. “I meant it as the colour of mould, you dolt. Now do you want tea, or do you want this poured over your head?” She gestured with the kettle.

Sirius went to sit in the parlour, if one could call it that. There were only two chairs and one table, all chipped and battered, and the number of books that sat on the shelves or in piles rivalled that of the Hogwarts library.

She came up behind him, carrying the tray. “Families sell them off when they need the money, while others are from families that have died out. That’s how things are these days.”

“The fear is what brings about war,” Sirius said, taking a seat.

“Exactly.” Emilia dropped a dollop of cream into her tea. “No one wants to see their legacy destroyed, and for most of our families, blood is the only legacy.” She stared over his shoulder and out the window.

“We’re both the last.”

She bit her lip. “I’m sorry about your brother.”

He waved a hand, then dropped it to his lap when it began to shake. “It’s nothing. I didn’t know him anymore.”

She dropped her gaze and watched the tea swirl round her cup.

“Not exactly the best to represent our families, are we?”

A small smile appeared on his face. “Our ancestors would roll over in their graves.”

“Perhaps they already have.” Now she was smiling too.

The cottage became more comforting than before. The cold silences had been swept away by laughter and tea, if only for a short period of time. A brisk wind blew dead leaves and a spattering of rain against the large window.

“It’s nice to have someone to talk to,” she finally said. They had been listening to the rain for some time, drinking the dregs of their tea.

Sirius knew that inviting her to London would be pointless. “You know why I came, Emma.”

She looked at him, a measure of sadness in her eyes. “Of course. There’s no one any of us can trust anymore.”

He could not make out the expression in her face. Just how had her trust been jeopardised by another? She only sighed and stared out the window. The silence crept back into the room, filling the corners with its discomfort. It would be far more difficult to vanquish again.

“That’s true,” he said, though it was meaningless to say.

He busied himself with sipping his tea. It was too sweet.

“I can’t tell you any more about the potion, if one of them sent you.” She was looking at him again, a hardness coming into her eyes. “I can guess that Lily made it home alright?”

The swift change in topics made Sirius hesitate before answering. “She was more alright than James was. He threw a fit about it. I was glad to get away.” He mocked a scowl.

“He’s grown up a lot.”

“Yes, it’s damn frightening.”

She did not reply. Her gaze was drifting again, this time towards the books. If she couldn’t hold a proper conversation for more than two minutes, how in hades could she spend all her time making potions - a most painstaking process?

“I’ve been asked to go to the Ministry of Magic first thing tomorrow.”

It was not a wonder she was distracted. Not with whatever they planned to do with her hanging over her head night and day.

“Two invitations in two days!” She waved her free hand like the society witches always did. “I really don’t know how I can accommodate them all into my schedule.” Her face turned down into a scowl.

Sirius put his tea cup down on the table. “Who has asked you?”

Her eyes flashed. “Dolores Umbridge, believe it or not. I hope she doesn’t ask for any of Grimm’s legacy. Even Professor McGonagall didn’t get much from him.”

He pushed aside these strange facts to pursue later. “What for, though? Yesterday was the first time you left here, wasn’t it?”

“For all they know, yes.”

“Moving in time doesn’t count?”

She blinked in surprise. “No. And they don’t know about the potion.”

Sirius rose and walked over to the window, watching the rain patter against the glass. “They have to know something. There’d be no reason for asking you to go there, otherwise.”

Emilia took a sip from her cup, watching him from over the rim.

“Will you come with me?”

He turned. “Why?”

She placed the cup on the table beside his and sat back in her chair, clutching her hands.

“Umbridge has asked to meet with me in the Department of Mysteries. One of the interview rooms, apparently. It is .... worrying, to say the least.” She stared down at her hands.

Sirius leaned his head against the glass. It was cool, refreshing. The room was not warm, but there was too much filling the empty spaces. There were the old books with their various histories across many families – those who let them rot on the shelves and those who wore down the pages with too-eager fingers. There was also the whole cottage, which reeked of loneliness and solitude all at once. And how could he forget the cottage’s lone occupant? He could see the suffering hanging from her shoulders. It was part of her, and she wallowed in its darkness. Why else would she keep herself in this place, knowing that those she used to call her friends were in danger of dying at every moment?

When he looked up, he saw that Death was already at her side. Her skin was too pale, her eyes too bright, her forehead shone with perspiration. She kept her left hand hidden in the sleeve of her robes. Sirius guessed that it shook without warning. She was ill, perhaps seriously so, and she was trying her best to hide it. How long had she been like this?

“She will see that something’s wrong with me, Sirius, and she will have me committed to St. Mungo’s. I can’t let her do that, not yet.”

Sirius rubbed his temples. “Not yet?”

She fiddled with the hem of her sleeve. “There’s still much to do before the end.”

Sirius stopped in mid-breath and slowly lifted his eyes to meet hers.

“Dammit, you lied! You have seen the future!” He hit his fist against the glass, which groaned in protest, but did not crack.

Emilia put her face in her hands. “I shouldn’t have, I know. But I had to see it! I had to know!” Her voice shook with passion. “Can you now understand why people think I’m mad? Why I haven’t appeared anywhere for years? Why I wanted to badly to stay away? Because I knew.”

She stood up, leaning heavily against the chair. “I know now and I can’t do anything.”

He strode across the room and grabbed her shoulders. “Can’t do anything? You can save them! You can stop this war! You know the key, you must!”

She shook her head, closing her eyes to block out the images flashing before her. “I don’t. It wouldn’t let me see.” She was shaking uncontrollably. “Sirius, please. I’m scared.” She leaned against him. “He won’t come back for me.”

Sirius let his hands slide down her shoulders to hold her, though he didn’t mean for them to. “Who?” There was only one answer, perhaps two, but only one that was possible. He closed his eyes and rested his cheek against her hair.

“He’s always loved her, never me. All those times I thought that maybe, maybe we had a chance together, he was thinking about her. My own... no, I can’t tell you.” She pulled away, her fingers lingering against Sirius’. His heart skipped a beat as he felt the feather-light touch of her cool, almost cold, skin against his. He was falling, fast and hard. How hard the ground beneath him was, he could only guess.

But she was not paying attention to his emotions. “I saw it last night in the alleyway. He looked at her once, only once, as she got away, and I knew.” She paused, hugging herself to keep out the chill. “She didn’t even know it was him.”

He touched her long braid, marvelling at its length.

“I supposed that she never forgave his words from that day. So long ago, but she couldn’t look at him the same way....”

His hand rested against the nape of her neck, fingers playing against the smooth, white skin of her throat.

“Yet he couldn’t forget her. All that time I thought it was me, but all along, it was her....”

Sirius leaned his face towards hers. The words she spoke only peripherally entered his mind, mere background noise against the rushing of emotions and the banging of his heart against his chest. He brushed his lips against hers, not sure as to how he would be welcomed nor sure of his talents in the seduction of a girl very much – and very foolishly, he thought – in love with another. In love with his rival and arch-nemesis, to be exact. It was like something from a trashy novel, but he liked the idea of it very, very much.

He hung over her, touching his lips to hers with a fleeting lightness, as though he knew that the moment would vanish as soon as it had appeared. Her lips moved against his, as though she tried to speak, but Sirius no longer wanted the background noise to plague him. He wanted one thing now, and it was the one thing he ought to never have.

Her hands entangled with his, just as his tongue desired to entangle with hers, but her response to his kiss was not that of desire. It was chaste, and he pulled away without warning, wiping his lips on his sleeve. While he had kissed as a lover, she had returned it as a friend. Nothing more than a friend. That was all he was to her. Her earlier words began to make sense within his mind. All along it was her.... she never forgave his words from that day.... my own... my own.... Her own best friend.

Sirius’ eyes widened. She squeezed his hands, too much hope in her eyes.

“You understand?”

He managed to nod, digesting the consequences of her discovery.

All along, Severus Snape had loved Lily Evans. Emilia had merely been his friend, his confidante in everything except one very important secret.... but was that even true? Could it be her delusions, her loneliness, her madness, that had created the ideas in her mind, proven with nothing but coincidence?

“I can prove it to you.” She was staring straight at him, as though she could see his doubt.

He pulled his hands away. “How?”

“Do you trust me?”

It was the sort of question that one could not answer without a wavering of the soul, a questioning of one’s judgement. Sirius pressed his lips together, hoping that he would not need to answer her, because he did not know the truth. Just a moment ago, he had felt something for her, but had it been anything real? Would he be willing to risk himself for her?

Sirius Black, questioning the level of risk? It seemed impossible. It was.

“It depends.” Three years ago – even before that – he would have answered with a silly grin, but now he said it slowly and uncertainly.

“I didn’t believe it either until I saw.” Her eyes widened as she spoke. “Neither will you. So many think I’ve gone mad. All I’ve done is seen their secrets.” She pressed something cold and made of glass into his hand. It was a vial of dark red liquid.

Sirius felt his own eyes widen. “You’re taking me back in time?”

“It’s the only way, Sirius.” Her voice was imploring, and something within him could not ignore her desperation. Whether it was love or mere chivalry, he still found it annoying.

She held up a matching vial in her own hand. “We must drink at the same time, and I’ll hold you hand. That should insure that we arrive at the same place, at the same time.”

“Have you taken anyone else?” He unplugged the stopper and took a whiff, then cringed away from the scent.

She smiled. “There’s always a first. Now drink.”

He did it. If not for her, then for James.

~ * * * ~


Staring into the silver bowl, Severus Snape watched the shapes and colours pass by his vision, but he did not pay close attention to him. There was a buzzing in his ears that distracted him at every moment, as though a hive of bees had taken residence in his brain. His forehead was creased as he leaned closer, his nose nearly touching the liquid. He watched as a flash of red hair whisked past, followed by a green light that made him see spots in front of his eyes. He heard a woman scream, but it was so distant that he could not be sure if it came from the bowl or from one of the muggleborn prisoners below.

The images shifted again, to a hilltop where a dark-robed figure rushed through the tall grass, then it changed again to a large, cavernous building where a small group of people stood in a circle around two others. Before it shifted again, it cleared, allowing him to see how the man and woman in the centre looked at everything but each other. Before he could recognise their faces, the image changed. Someone was running down a narrow path between two buildings, tripping on the cobbles, but never looking back. The person ran and ran, eventually coming to a dead end. With a cry of sorrow, the person turned and Snape saw who it was.

He backed away and the image vanished. Rubbing his ears, he threw out his arm towards the bowl. It crashed to the ground, spilling the liquid onto the floor, where it gathered itself into strangely-shaped puddles. Snape edged his way around him and picked up the bowl. A crack crept from the lip to the bottom. He traced his finger along the sharp edge, feeling it scratch against his skin.

“You have destroyed it!” The wheezing cry came from the doorway. Mort limped in, his hunched back crippling him nearly as much as his weakened knees. It was easy to forget that he was only fifty-six.

Snape tossed the bowl to the floor. “It is for the greater good.”

Mort made a noise in his throat and fell on his hands and knees, crawling forward to touch the liquid and the bowl, like he thought he could repair him with nothing more than his will. “How can I see.... how can I know....?”

The sneer that appeared on Snape’s face surpassed that of the darkest villain.

“Her future no longer concerns you, old man.”

He swept out of the room, his cloak brushing against Mort’s bare foot. The old wizard let forth a sob that wracked his entire body, tearing at his lungs and heart. It was a sob of one in the deepest of grief. It was not the sob of a Death Eater.

Snape slammed the door behind him. She would be waiting.

~ * * * ~


“That was my foot!”

“Sorry, you shouldn’t stand so close.”

Sirius refused to admit that he had stood close to her out of fear. The place was familiar, too familiar, but it felt wrong. He was not in his own time and nothing seemed right. His head pounded, his muscles were stiff, he found it difficult to breathe. The very air had recognised his displacement. Any moment now he could suffocate. Either that, or his head would explode.

“It only feels this way the first time,” Emilia told him in hushed tones.

He snorted in reply. “Not likely I’ll be doing this again.”

She just shrugged and tip-toed down the darkened corridor. It was the way to Gryffindor tower, with the same wall-hangings, the same statues, the same portrait at the end of the hall. Someone was sitting beside it, leaning his head back against the wall as the Fat Lady stood with crossed arms, refusing him entrance.

The portrait opened and a girl emerged, wrapping a dressing gown around herself. Upon seeing her, the figure – a boy – jumped up and began to whisper, waving his hands excitedly. Sirius stared at them, his jaw falling further from the rest of his face. Snape was apologising, almost begging. Lily, on the other hand, was glaring down at the Slytherin with a stern expression that rivalled that of McGonagall. As Lily turned to leave, Snape reached for her hand, but she pulled away, slamming the portrait door behind her.

Snape stood there, staring blankly at the portrait. She scowled at him before stalking off to visit her friend Violet, but Snape did not move.

Emilia crept closer along the wall, ignoring the tears that ran down her cheeks. Sirius touched her shoulder. “Don’t go. The consequences –“

”Bugger them! Like you ever paid attention to consequences.” At her fierce whisper, Snape looked up and frowned. Emilia watched him, her breath catching in her throat. It was strange to see him so young, so ignorant of the things that would pass in coming years. He was the same, yet the way he had approached Lily was so unlike him. Why would he apologise to Lily, who he never seemed to speak to, who he always seemed to ignore?

Unless it had all been an illusion.

Had he reached into the lake that first night, hoping to retrieve Lily? Had he realised the insult he had caused Lily on the school grounds and taken his anger out on Emilia? Had he used her to hide his adoration for Lily? The Slytherins would have teased him over Emilia, but they would have crucified him over Lily. He had done it to save himself, and the wrong girl had forgiven him over and over again. The wrong girl had fallen in love with him.

Snape had been walking towards her the whole time, and she had not noticed. Sirius made a noise of warning and tried to pull her backwards, but his hand could not find a hold. He gasped as his hands faded away, followed by his arms and body. The first time was always the fastest, that is what Grimm had written in his journal. Emilia turned back to see Sirius vanish, his lips moving as he tried to speak.

She heard the footsteps behind her before she could duck behind the nearest suit of armour. She closed her eyes, feeling his presence and knowing that this could be her one opportunity to alter the world. It was still fifth year. Grimm was still alive. Why was she standing there spying when she could be saving his life? Why bother with Snape, who never loved her, when she could save the one person who had? She had wasted too much time on Snape.

“Emilia?”

His voice, oh Merlin.

“What are you doing here?”

As long as she did not turn around, he would never know how much older she was.

“Taking a walk. The Ravenclaw Room is near here.” She tried to keep her voice level.

“You were spying on me.”

“No.” Damn, she’d said it too quickly.

He let out a breath. “There is no use lying to me, Emilia. What did you see?”

She bit her lip, deciding on the best words to say, but she took too long. He grabbed her arm and would have forced her to look at him – what would he say when he saw the lines on her face, the premature aging of one who has killed herself from the inside out?

“Why apologise to her and not to me? You’ve rarely ever spoken to Lily before.”

His hand fell. Rage filled the air around him.

“It shows you how much of a fool you have been, Emilia. You know nothing.”

She laughed and turned, feeling as her hands and feet began to tingle. Not long now.

“I know a hell of a lot more than you, Severus! Look at me! Look!” The sickly moonlight fell upon her face. She saw his brow crease as he took in the changes to her face, to her whole body. “The girl you know as Emilia is a fool for loving you, and you’re a fool for not caring,” she snarled, reaching for his face. Her hand went right through. “Look... at... me....”

She floated into the darkness, surrounded by the loneliness of the world that existed between the past and the present. The darkness would recede and she would wake up with a sense of victory. She had changed time.

~ * * * ~


The ceiling plaster was decorated with endless swirls that rebounded against each other in a battle for mastery of space. The floor beneath her head was hard, but clear of dust. It was not as she remembered. Beside her was a couch, which certainly had not been there before. She was in her home, but it was different.

Her head swirled like the plaster when she sat up too quickly. Her hand brushed against a soft pile rug as she looked around at the transformed room. The shelves were arranged in neat rows of leather-bound volumes, without the barest sign of dust or cobwebs to be seen. Morning light filtered in through the window, brightening the colours of every object within the room. The only thing that did not belong was her.

Struggling to rise, she noticed the tea set resting on the table. There was only one cup, one saucer. In this time, Sirius had never called, had never drunk tea with her. He had left before she had changed the past, and thus he was not affected by the change. Where had he gone? Did he even know her now? She remembered the feeling of his lips touching hers, and his hands holding hers, and she had liked it. If she had listened to him, she may have grown to love him in time, perhaps they would have married, as James and Lily had.

Lily.

She had not changed the fact that Snape felt something for Lily. All she had done was... what? What were the effects of her conversation with the younger Snape? Her home had changed, so what did that mean? She hurried from room to room, gazing in wonder at the perfection of everything. Even the kitchen was orderly, though the laboratory equipment still remained, claiming more than half of the room for its own. The room at the end of the hall – His room – was tightly locked, and she felt the weight of the key in her pocket. At least not everything had changed. Her hand was on the knob of her bedroom door when the doorknocker clanged warning. Emilia’s heart jumped and it took a second clang for her to reach for the deadbolts and pull open the front door.

“Not even ready yet? I cannot admit to being wholly surprised.” The sound of his familiar drawl, appropriately spoken with a sneer, made her feel faint. She opened her mouth to speak, but no sounds could escape her throat.

He crossed his arms. “Your meeting with Madam Umbridge, Emilia? Have you forgotten it already? The invitation only came yesterday.” He pushed past her and strode into the cottage.
“Is this tea from last night? Disgusting.”

She followed him into the sitting room, her mind churning with excuses. “I made the mistake of testing my latest sleeping draught. It works. Very well.”

“Obviously,” he said, using his wand to make the tepid and lumpy mixture vanish.

His eyes flickered up to meet hers. “You asked me to accompany you to the Ministry, Emilia, I assume that you are still going?” He should not have bothered to ask it as a question, since it sounded more like a command.

She smiled, her heart growing lighter with every moment. “Of course, Severus. I’ll only be a moment.”



The author is proud to present her cliffhanger of doom and hopefully will have another chapter out before all her readers die of waiting.

This chapter's song is by U2. Very suiting for a chapter dealing with time travel.
;-)

Chapter 26: Twenty-Two: Anywhere
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Twenty-Two


It was impossible. She had only spoken to him, and even then for the barest moment. How could it have done that much? He was here, with her, and it appeared that all his built up hatred no longer existed. He treated her as he always had – protectively with that bit of sarcasm that kept others from believing that he cared. Unless.... unless that he feared what she knew.

She looked at herself in the mirror and froze half-way through pinning up her hair. He was standing at her bedroom door, eyes focused upon her actions.

“I’m nearly ready.” She pushed another lock in place.

“I can see that.”

They fell into silence, an uneasy one from Emilia’s perspective. Her hair arranged with a swish of her wand, she looked down at the box of jewellery that had nearly been empty when she had last seen it.

“Your first time out and you wish to flaunt yourself at the Ministry? That’s very unlike you, Emilia,” Severus said, coming into the room. He reached forward and picked a piece of lint from her robes. It was an intimate action – his face neared hers and his hand rested perhaps a moment too long upon her – but he managed to make it appear trivial, just as though he had done it to himself instead of to her.

He did, however, hear her sharp intake of breath at his closeness. In reply, he grabbed her arm and pulled her from the room. They ended up in the sitting room, his arm slug around her waist in a surprising manner. Emilia looked up to ask a question when she felt the familiar tug at her bellybutton. She turned to throw her arms around him as they apparated away.

Upon landing, she staggered off to wretch in a well-placed bucket. Clutching her abdomen, Emilia glared once at Severus and followed him into the Ministry of Magic. Seemingly endless droves of witches and wizards flowed in and out of the atrium. In the midst of them, Severus stopped and looked back for her, his eyes like marble. Brushing off her robes, she pushed through the crowd and took his arm. She felt strangely like a swimmer in the ocean holding onto a rock for dear life.

“How are we going to get through all this mess?” She had to yell in order to get herself heard above the din.

He touched her hand, briefly. “The lift is this way.”

That space was cramped. Jammed between Severus and the wall, Emilia took in deep breaths and tried to catch a glimpse of the other people travelling with them. Some were very tall, others very short; and it seemed that they could represent each of the Wizarding peoples of the world with their appearances and varying accents. Some could have been familiar, but the tight space made it too difficult to see much more than snatches of a face. Then she saw a great blue eye staring in her direction. She knew it at once and ducked behind Severus’ shoulder, tightening her grasp on his arm.

Moody.

It was the wizard who had shown too much interest in her as a child and who claimed to have known her grandmother. The damning fact against him was Grimm’s obvious dislike and distrust of the Auror. There she was in a time she did not know, in a place that shook her nerves to distraction, in the company of a man she could not trust her feelings about, and the one person who had to find her first was Mad-Eye Moody. Time was already punishing her.

He did nothing as the lift began to empty, one or two passengers at a time exiting the small space as the perfect voice announced each floor. Cowering behind Severus was not entirely Emilia’s best idea for hiding from Moody. His magic eye would see her no matter how hard she tried to conceal her presence.

She was not sure that she liked this new time very much.

“Are you feeling ill, Emilia? You look as though you are having a fit.”

As Severus spoke, Moody’s eye spun to stare at her once again.

“Oh no,” she said, reaching up to needlessly check her hair. “I’m just.... not.... used to these lifts, you know.”

He raised an eyebrow in reply. “Quite.”

Level three: Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes.” The voice rang out through the lift. Three more people left, leaving only Moody, another Auror, Severus, and Emilia behind to studiously ignore each other.

The other Auror – a younger dark-skinned man who seemed impossibly large, rather like a jinni – kept glancing over at Severus with a frown marring his face. Severus stared at the lift door, his eyes so hard they may have found the ability to burn through the iron doors. His arm twitched beneath Emilia’s hand. It was his left arm, the one with the mark. She tightened her grip, willing him to keep still.

It was the moment that Moody chose to face them. There were more scars upon his face than there had been before, which made him appear more terrifying.

“You damn your grandmother’s memory,” he growled, spitting at her feet before the lift doors opened.

Level Two: Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”

The other Auror blinked, hesitating for a fraction of a minute before he followed his superior into the corridor.

Emilia felt her jaw drop as her eyes tried to avert from the glob of saliva on the floor.

“What did I do?”

Severus did not look away from the doors. “You made a choice, and in his opinion, it was the wrong one.”

“Evidently.” She moved to stand on his other side. “I’m very confused.”

“You should be.” His voice carried no sign of emotion.

The lift came to a halt.

Level One: Offices of the Minister of Magic.”

“I know what you did, Emilia, but we cannot speak of it now.” He stepped aside to let her pass as they exited the lift. “We are already late.”

The door to Dolores Umbridge’s office was just like any of the other doors in the empty, almost lifeless, corridor. The brass nameplate listed her ridiculous title in a such a serious manner that made it appear even more absurd: Under-Under-Under Secretary to the Minister of Magic. The humour of it did not appeal to Emilia, though a twinge reminded her that Grimm would have found it very amusing. She could almost hear his voice with its lilting sarcasm.

Severus’ hand had hardly touched the door before it swung open. Umbridge sat at her desk, hands folded in her lap and her mouth in a smile that did not reach her eyes. Emilia doubted that it ever did.

“Miss Goldwyn! I didn’t realise you’d bring a .... a friend.” Her emphasis on the word friend brought a rush of blood into Emilia’s cheeks.

Her mind rushed to think of a reply. “It would hardly be safe to come alone, Madam, and I’m sure you know my travel situation.”

The large eyes bulged in some semblance of shock. “Indeed.”

Without waiting to be asked, Emilia sat down in the only other chair available. The hair on the back of her neck rose on end when Severus stood behind her.

“Why did you ask me here, Madam?”

Umbridge blinked and tilted her head, the smile still plastered across her face. “Just some minor issues, of course. I would hate to keep you too long from your very important work.”

A snarl rose upon Emilia’s lips and she would have risen from the chair had not a too-familiar hand placed itself upon her shoulder. She could feel his request for silence in the tension of his fingers.

“My wife’s work is hardly any of your business, Madam.”

Wife? It took all her will to keep Umbridge from noticing the flush that rose up her cheeks.

The tittering laugh that bubbled from Umbridge’s lips made the bile rise up Emilia’s throat.

“Oh, you are greatly mistaken, Mr. Snape. Her work is the business of the Ministry, as is the work of any suspected individuals.” Her smile transformed into something real and triumphant.

“Suspected of what?” Emilia managed to ask, her throat going dry.

“Working for He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, of course. There have been some allegations against you, Mrs. Snape, that are very serious indeed.” The neat hands whisked a rather thick and bulging file out of the air. It landed open on her desk, the pages spreading themselves out for the most efficient outline of facts. Or at least they called themselves facts.

Severus’ fingers dug into her shoulder. Was there a ring upon his finger? She had not seen one upon her own.

“The evidence of any such suspicions must be quite flimsy, Madam,” Emilia heard her self saying while her mind raced in too many directions at once.

The tittering laugh returned. “You might be surprised.” She shuffled through the various parchments. “I have a report here that states you have been attempting to study necromancy, which, as you know, is illegal in Britain.” Another shuffling of papers. “There are other reports of your connection to your biological father, and these are indeed very interesting to read, I might add.” She hem-hemmed that fake clearing of the throat she was famous for. “It seems that you have dug yourself a very deep hole, Mrs. Snape, one that I’m afraid will be very difficult to get yourself out of.”

Emilia felt frozen in the chair, her face drained of all colour and her hands clenched on the arms of the chair in the same way that her – no, she could not call him that – as Severus’ hand was clenched on her shoulder. She sat, and she thought about the little things she had seen since the rift in time. The neat house, her treatment by Moody, her treatment by Severus, her new name, these allegations against her. They all contributed to form a witch who was not at all the Emilia Goldwyn who sat staring across a desk at Dolores Umbridge. Just who had she been in this time? Just what sort of world had she created for herself? What sort of mistake had she made with one accidental conversation?

The longer she thought, the clearer her mind became. It was unlikely that she would ever be able to cause another rift so that she could return to her old time. The sequence of events that led to that moment could never be repeated in just the right way. Therefore she had to make sense of the new world around her, and make use of it to her own advantage. It was a very Slytherin way of thought, but it was the most logical to follow.

“I can hardly agree, Madam,” she said, her stomach fluttering while her voice sounded strong and unmovable. “Those who made those reports could merely be people with grudges against me or someone close to me, or they could have been mistaken in what they saw on a particularly foggy night when they had drunken a few too many Firewhiskeys on the way home from work.” She took a breath, feeling her confidence grow as Umbridge’s began to fail.

“If you wish to test my innocence at any time, Madam, you have my full permission to inflict me with a dose of Veritaserum. Surely such a test would prove one of our sides. Even the Wizemgamot could not dispute such a test, am I correct?” She felt Severus’ hand slip off her shoulder, leaving a strange tingling sensation behind in its wake.

Umbridge had forgotten to replace her smile. “That would not be necessary.” The pages flew back into the file, which slammed itself shut. “All I offer you today is a warning, nothing more.”

Emilia rose from the chair, a real smile upon her face. “Then good day to you, Madam. I wish you the best of luck in your ambitions. Bringing in any suspected Death Eater these days must increase your reputation tenfold.”

As Severus shut the door behind them on their way out, Emilia imagined that Grimm would be proud of what she had done. They walked back towards the lift, not daring to speak in this corridor of eyes and ears. Although they met no one on the way, it did not mean that there was no one there, waiting for either of them to reveal their secrets on the way to the lift. It was fortunate that both Severus and Emilia were lost in their own thoughts.

Necromancy. Bringing the dead back to life. Impossible to many, secretly studied by others, but forbidden to practise in public. Surely she hadn’t....

The lift doors shut behind her.

But how? It would take more power than she had to raise the dead, even with someone’s help. She glanced up at Severus, who stood beside her, stiff as a board. Had he contributed his power to help her? Did her dedication to Grimm outlive her relationship with Severus? Is that why they wore no outward sign of their connection? Could it be the reason she felt a great distance between them, even as they stood so close together?

“You are thinking too loudly.” His scowl was pronounced.

She crossed her arms. “I haven’t said a word.”

“You have thought them, and that is enough.”

“Enough for what?”

His upper lip drew upwards in a half-snarl. “For me to hear.”

He was being his usual difficult self, just as he had been at their first meeting.

“Then don’t listen.”

A pause. The lift passed another floor without stopping.

“She should not have let you go so easily.”

Emilia swallowed. “I agree. Something’s stewing in her mind.”

He sniffed. “Perhaps she noticed the difference between you and–“

Level Six: Department of Magical Transportation.” The doors sprung open and a group of young witches and wizards entered, joking about their apparition test. Severus glared at them, but they paid no heed.

The trip to the eighth level took an eternity according to Emilia. Her curiosity hungered to know, and she was powerless to satisfy that hunger. They walked out into the Atrium, which was still abuzz with people and creatures entering and exiting at a terrifying pace. Severus grabbed her arm just before she would have become lost in the crowd. They stood in the centre of the Atrium, face to face. People stared at them in passing, perhaps wondering at the witch’s feverish cheeks and the confusion of emotions upon the wizard’s face. But they passed so quickly that nothing more registered on their memories.

Severus took her arm in a formal manner and led her towards the exits.

“We have much to discuss.”

~ * * * ~


Lily Potter leaned back in her chair, taking in a moment of unfamiliar peace. For days she had sat hunched in a corner of the Skull and Serpent pub in Manchester, disguised as an old blind witch. It had taken time to convince James of the mission, then more time to convince the people at the pub that her disguise was legitimate. Many times in her life she had felt blinded by emotion or the world around her, but to mimic real blindness had been a dangerous challenge. She could not look directly at a person when they spoke; she could not look up at a noise; she could not give any indication that she could see anything that went on around her. It would have been easier to take Polyjuice, but rumour had it that the Death Eaters had a counter spell that could detect the potion. There were only two others who could have given the Dark Side such a power.

She sighed, a sound filled with wistfulness and despair. It was wrong to think of them at all. The ways that Emma had changed since she’d married Snape were unfathomable. Then the secrets surrounding that cottage in Yorkshire....

Shaking her head and wiping away a tear, Lily stood up and immediately her head began to swim. Fatigue had rooted itself deep within her consciousness, making it difficult to think of more than falling into bed. But something was prodding and poking about in her head, frightening away any hope of sleep.

Her eyes wide open, she stared into the far corners of the room, taking note of the cobwebs that had built up during her mission. She tried to remember the last time she’d seen Emma, but failed. It must have been nearly a year ago, before she had gone into complete seclusion, studying her subject in a way that had ignited the rumours in the cruelest, fiercest way. Even Snape could not bear them, returning to Spinners End, that place where so long ago, a red-headed girl and her sister had been confronted by a boy in ragged clothes. It was the place where it had all begun for Lily, and none of the insults, the lies, the secrets, or the disappointments could change that.

The front door opened. Lily held her breath, praying that it would not be James. She could never stand to be near him when she thought of Snape or Emma. The anger too easily emerged, hurting the one person she knew she still loved most.

“Lily? Are you here?” It was Peter. He rambled in with a small smile and sat himself down on the couch without invitation. Remus was the only one of the Marauders to bother with manners.

She sat up a little straighter. “I wasn’t expecting you, Peter. Is something wrong?”

He shook his head. “The others are fine. Their last reports came in an hour ago.” Shifting in his seat, Peter bit his bottom lip. His eyes were focussed on the ground, with the occasional glance up at Lily.

“It’s not about the others that I came. It’s about.... well, I should have gone straight to Dumbeldore, but you need to know more than him.” Peter hesitated, rubbing one shoe against the other, then continued. “The Snapes went to the Ministry today. Umbridge had asked to see Her.” He never said Emma’s name aloud, but Lily was used to that by now.

“Were you able to listen in?”

With a grin, Peter said, “Yes, from the next office over. The bloke there was off for lunch. I was supposed to be too, but it’s easy enough to miss the lift.” Just like a Marauder, always looking for the most risky missions.

“And?” Lily leaned forward, waiting.

The grin vanished. “You won’t believe it.”

When he told her everything, she almost didn’t. Leaning back once more in the chair, she watching the reflection of the setting sun on the pictures hanging on the wall. Something had changed, but what?

“Only tell Dumbledore about this, maybe McGonagall if she’s there too,” she finally said after a few moments’ contemplation. “But not to the others. There’s something about this that doesn’t seem right.”

Peter’s eyes widened. “So you want to look into it on your own?”

She nodded. “James won’t allow it, not if Snape’s involved.”

“You’d do this for Her?”

Lily looked at him, her emerald eyes sparkling in the fading light.

“Wouldn’t you do the same for a friend, Peter?”

~ * * * ~


They were eating fish and chips out of old newspapers in the kitchen of Spinners End. It was inconceivable to imagine Severus eating such a simple food in such a simple-looking place, but there he sat, across from her. She watched him for a while as her haddock grew cold – the way his hair always got into his eyes when he hunched over; the way he stared so intently at the food as though it were an experiment; the way that shadows formed on his face even when he sat in the light.

He looked up and caught her eyes on his face. Did she imagine the slight reddening of his cheeks, or was it simply an effect of the sun shining through the window?

“Are you not hungry?” It was difficult to hear his voice over the drumming of her heart.

She glanced down at her pulled apart fish and untouched chips. It did taste good, but it was just that.... how could she explain? It didn’t even make sense in her own head.

“You can always save it for later.” There was a crease in his brow.

She nodded, not feeling the need for words.

He rose and began to clear away the debris of dinner, or was it lunch? She had lost track of time altogether. The height of the sun told her nothing and the clocks on the wall no longer held meaning. It was as though she was no longer governed by time. She was free of time, and also lost within its terrible emptiness. Her bones were weary with age, but she could not sleep, not now when there was so much that needed to be said.

“When was I last here?”

He was not facing her, but she could see his back stiffen. “Eighteen months, three days.”

Her lungs roared for air, yet breathing seemed irrelevant. “I’m sorry.”

There was no reaction from him at first. His hands crumpled the newspapers and packed the leftover fish into the icebox, but his mind was far, far away from those actions. Then, suddenly, he was gone from the room. She could hear his footsteps go down the hall, followed by the slamming of a door. Her shoulders slumped as she tried to understand what it meant. Had he left? Could he not stand being in the same room as her any longer?

But the door opened and the footsteps returned. His one fist was closed over something, but she could not see the objects until he banged his hand down upon the table. The whole room seemed to shake.

Two rings, one silver and one bronze, one larger and one smaller.

A dream lost in a nightmare.

Emilia reached towards the smaller silver ring. It fit her finger perfectly. She could feel Severus’ eyes boring holes into her skull. Her heart quavered.

It was an eternity before he took the other ring and placed it on his hand. A small glow formed around his finger, and soon her ring responded in kind. A magical binding of the body, the heart, and the spirit that would last as long as the rings were voluntarily worn. Emilia’s senses ran amok as she watched the cold silver glow. Now she could hear his heart beating as loudly as hers.

“It has been that long since any semblance of a marriage existed between us, Emilia. Eighteen months since you took yourself off to that cottage and never emerged. Eighteen months since I had heard from you in any way.”

That couldn’t have been right. “But you said I’d asked you....” There was a twitch of his lip. “Or did you know that this would happen? That I’d come out being different?”

He leaned back against the counter. “My memory of that moment is very clear even now. It was not difficult to estimate the time that the rift would occur.”

“So you just bided your time for eighteen months, right?” Impatience rose in her voice. “That seems a little far-fetched, even for you.” The scowl she’d been practising for ages took root on her face, a poor imitation of his.

His eyes filled with some emotion she could not place. “It was worth the wait.”

A shiver went up her spine. She wanted to escape at the same time that she never wanted to leave. But she had to know more.

“Why did I leave you, Severus?”

His face darkened once more. “Because of Grimm.”

She blinked. “What?”

“You do not know?”

Necromancy....

She put her head in her hands. “Oh Merlin! I... we didn’t bring him back....” She could even finish the question.

“No. He never died. I suppose that in your time he did.”

Her nod was weak.

“We saved him, you and I, because of the knowledge you had given me.”

Was he being vague on purpose? It was maddening.

“Stop talking in riddles, Severus!” She jumped out of her chair so quickly that it clattered to the floor. “What did I do?”

He did not answer at first, his eyes watching her fury with emotion that was not so well guarded. “That one moment I saw you, spoke with you, was enough to reveal what sort of experiments Grimm was working on. I learned the ingredients, understood their faults, and used that knowledge to save him from death.”

“And I suppose that in my gratitude I married you.”

“Yes, if gratitude is all you felt for me then.” There was a measure of defeat in his voice.

“How should I know, that wasn’t me! I’m not even married to you, she is! I’m not the same Emilia Goldwyn, and I can never be. She’s gone now.” Her voice was breaking, but she managed to hold back the tears.

Grimm, alive? It was too impossible, too difficult to take.

“No, you are not the same as her. That difference is all too obvious.”

To her, his voice was filled with mockery. Her nerves reacted violently, making her hands shake and her legs unable to move. She could not even find the strength to cry, though she could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. The world was moving too quickly. There were so many things she should have known, should have remembered, but they were part of a person that was her, but that wasn’t her either. The distance between her and the rest of the world widened, leaving a near-impossible gap.

“What will others say when they notice?” Her voice sounded appropriately distant.

He took a step towards her. “What do they matter, here and now?”

Here and now. Here and now in a place that she did not belong, yet that she had dreamed of so many times in those cold, lonely years. They were bound together by a marriage she had never participated in, never even attended. Her mind drifted momentarily to a subject her aunts had only whispered about and her schoolmates had giggled over with guilt and curiosity. She felt her eyes widen when she understood what he meant.

His hand touched her arm and ran down its length to her hand. Their fingers mingled together like a crowd of socialites, but unlike such a crowd, they did not want to disentangle. It was he who moved closer to her – he did not pull her closer, she was sure. Either way, she leaned her head against his shoulder, listening to the beating of his heart. His other hand rested on the small of her back as though it belonged there. Surely this had all happened before, she thought. Surely they had stood this way at least once in however many years they had been together. But to her it was all unfamiliar – actions that she had never felt, never experienced, and an absence of words that confused, even frightened her. Yes, she was scared of him, but not because of his darkness, not because of his crimes. She feared him because he had done all this before, with her, and she could not even remember what it must have been like.

The tears had finally come, dripping from her eyes in giant droplets. She buried her face into his robes, not wanting him to see her cry.

“Why now, after all this time?” she whispered, her voice muffled.

He took a very long moment to respond. “What you told me in that corridor changed something. I cannot explain it, but I thought about your words for a very long time.” His hand let go of hers to brush against her cheek. She dared not glance up to see his face. “The image of you as you appeared, as you are now, never left my memory. It was there when the darkest of thoughts crossed my mind, when the worst of words emerged from my lips, and it stayed my hand, even when she was doing unimaginable things.”

She felt herself burrowing deeper into him, to have him surround her and block out all the nightmare that hung around them, waiting for a moment of weakness.

“You are everything she was not, Emilia.”

“How can we be so different if we were the same person?” She knew he would understand the question, even though the subject ‘we’ was not the appropriate one to use. How else could one refer to another of themselves?

He pulled away to meet her eyes and she felt the distance between them as a physical pain.

“In this time, I made the choice for her. I suppose that in your time, you made it for yourself.” There was a burning in his eyes of longing, despair, and regret all melded together. He had waited for her with only the barest hope that the rift would ever occur. All the distrust and jealousy that had led her to that accidental meeting in a corridor long ago receded from her, leaving her defenceless before him.

She placed her hands on his shoulders, staring into his eyes like one mesmerised by what she saw, what she wanted to see. They were so close, the distance between them vanishing ever so slowly, like a veil lifting around them, allowing them freedom. She felt the ring burn into her finger, yet there was no pain. It was the magic doing its work while they were unable to resist it. His breath wafted against her face, still smelling of the fish and chips, but also of the tea he always drank. She smiled just before their lips met, and then she smiled against his lips, shivering as his hands touched her body. Her head became dizzy, her knees grew weak, but their kiss only increased in its power and its passion.

It stopped all too soon, her gasping for air as he held on so that she would not fall. Or was he only supporting himself against her. The air rushed into his lungs, chilling and hurting more than bringing sustenance. The need to take breath only separated them, and both could feel the separation all too clearly.

Before she could rest her face in his robes once again, he let his lips rove across her face, taking in her eyes, nose, forehead, and the corner of her mouth before letting her bring her lips to his a second time. She pushed her body against his, wanting him, needing him, losing grip upon consciousness as her heart took hold of her mind.

She could not, upon later recollection, recall how they travelled up the stairs to the only serviceable bed in the house. It was too narrow and too lumpy, but neither seemed to notice as they fell upon it, his weight resting upon hers as they continued the kiss, never wanting to let go in case time took its revenge and stole away the dream of so long. But time was always there, ticking off the minutes they spent together, waiting for its chance to take back what it had lost in their meddling. Hands touched hands, lips touched lips, skin touched skin, and long into the night they brought to life a love that neither had understood before now. There was no guilt in the room, no regret, no despair, no suffering. Only the knowledge that they had beat time to be together, to find a seed of happiness in the midst of war and darkness.

But even what existed between them could not make them immune to weariness. Not the weariness of boredom, but merely physical exhaustion. His head lay against her shoulder, his hands were everywhere. The tears came into her eyes periodically, though she would not allow him to see any sign of them.

“So this is what it’s like.” Her voice echoed off the walls decorated only by moonlight.

“Yes.” It was strange to feel him speak against her skin. “It took too long.”

She laughed. The first real laugh in what felt like eternity. “So long that we had to change time to make it work.”

As soon as she had said the words, a coldness filled her heart. This could not last forever, eventually she would have to pay. Perhaps both of them would. The end was not yet in sight. This was only the beginning.



Author's Note: Chapter title and summary lyrics from the song by Evanescence. Bet you never expected the chapter to end like this, eh? *grins* Thank you for all your wonderful reviews (I will respond to them all soon) and also thank you for your support in the Dobby Awards, for which I'm eternally grateful. ^_^

Chapter 27: Twenty-Three: She Has No Time
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Note: this chapter is replacing the one I posted a couple of weeks ago, but removed because of its poorer quality and damaging plot twist. Sorry for the inconvenience of that.





Chapter Twenty-Three


When the dream came to her, she was unprepared for its onslaught, her mind instead filled with the sweetness of the previous night’s activities. She could still feel the trail across her skin where his lips had touched as her consciousness became lost within the shadow of the dream. Once again, she was in that endless corridor, the blood red rug beneath her feet – which were bare this time, she noted – and the single open door before her, beckoning.

Unlike the other times, she felt as though she had more control over the body her consciousness was occupying. She stopped before the open door, hesitating, and looking inside for any clue that could tell her where she was, and why she was there. There was the bed in the corner, with its always-sleeping occupant – the old man with the sunken face and erratic breathing, the old man on the brink of death. She stepped closer to him and realised that her wand was in her hand, the tip lighting up the shadows. Her other hand reached out towards him. His skin was cold, clammy, like a dead body.

She pulled her hand away with a hiss. Was he already dead?

Scratch. Scratch.

Something was there, in the room, with her.

Slowly, slowly, she turned to peer into the shadows that filled the corners of the room. No light could filter in through the mud-stained window. But how would it get stained this high up? Or was she even higher than the ground floor? Where was this place she spent her dreams in?

Scratch. Scratch.

The same noise. Again. A flick of her wand filled the room with light to an extent, but there were still corners of shadow. Corners that included the thing that made those sounds.

She backed towards the bed, but stopped, not wanting to go any closer to the man who might have been dead. Mysterious thing making noise versus dead man. Why couldn’t she dream of more pleasant things than this?

Scratch. Scratch.

It was on the floor by a pillar that stood in the centre of the room, topped by a silver bowl. A small shadow, four legs and a long snaky tail....

A rat. Nothing more than a dirty, stinking rat.

But it came closer and sniffed at her toes before looking up at her.

With blue eyes.

Her wand moved. A flash of light. The rat squealed, scurrying towards the pillar. It stopped there, peeking out at her, fearing the wand’s power. There were words in the rat’s squeals, but that was impossible. Rats were unable to speak, unless....

“Master! Please, Master!”

Blue eyes. Light-coloured fur. The rat-shaped face. A great secret.

She knew that voice, or did she? And why would it call her “master”?

Frozen in place, she still held the glowing wand, not knowing what to do. It was as though she had become someone else, someone who could strike fear into the hearts of others and who had such a power that could keep a soul on the brink of life - never dying, and never living.

There was a pain in her wrist, like it had been grabbed and held tight, but there was no one there to hold it. She turned her wrist upwards to see its underside.

Upon it was the Dark Mark.

Her heart rate increased. It was banging against her chest, though she couldn’t hear it, or couldn’t feel it. She couldn’t feel anything, really. It must have been the dream. It wasn’t real. There weren’t any talking rats or almost-dead men and strange silver bowls and endless hallways and mud-stained windows... no Dark Marks on her arm....

She heard the gasp from behind her and turned. The old man’s breathing had changed, steadied, like one coming out of a very long and very deep sleep. He did not move. She leaned over, reaching for his wrist. She had to know. She had to see. Her fingers brushed against his cold skin, teasing the thick, dark hairs on his arm. She bent closer, her eyelids lowering into a squint. Something about his face... it was familiar somehow. Like she’d known him a long time ago, even for a moment, or that she’d known someone related to him. Perhaps a son, a nephew, a cousin? She didn’t know anyone so old as he looked, other than Dumbledore, but he didn’t count. He wouldn’t be here in a hovel like this and he certainly did not look like this man....

The eyes flashed open, the same shade as her own.

“Go!” It was no more than a whisper of breath, but there was power in that single syllable.

She was floating backwards, away from the clammy hand that held her own, away from the darkened room, away from the red-rugged corridor, away from the strange place of her dreams.
The voice had been real. The dream had been real, in some demented way.

Her father. Dying. Being murdered. By her.

~ * * * ~


Emilia awoke to an empty room and an empty bed. The first thought that passed through her mind was that perhaps it had all been a dream – a strange dream-within-a-dream concept which made her believe that she had actually... that she was married to... that she was at his home in Spinner’s End. Then she saw the bare walls and felt the lumps in the bed and she knew that at least that part had not been a dream.

The wooden floor was cool, but not cold, beneath her feet. The wardrobe in the furthest corner of the room was her first destination. It was lit by the tiniest glint of pink coming in through the window.

The moonlight had decorated the walls....

Inside were his usual plain black robes. He must have been wearing his only pair of boots, and one hanger was empty. Gone, but to where, she did not care to know. Not with the mark on his arm. The mark that had, in the dream, appeared on her own arm. With a shiver, she grabbed a moth-eaten dressing gown, hoping that the holes would not be in any indiscrete areas. She left her feet bare and went into the corridor, half expecting it to be long with a red carpet. It too was bare, however, and with another shiver – perhaps for good luck? – she began her search for the kitchen to get a nice cup of tea.

The Earl Grey scorched her throat, but did nothing to warm her. The coldness of the dream had settled into her soul and would not surrender it. She shivered and shrugged further inside the dressing gown, turning her mind towards the curiosity that was her predicament.

She was in a time that she had created by changing the course of events. These events had been further manipulated by Snape, just as she had, perhaps, wanted him to. It still hardly made sense that she had landed in another time, a time that contained a different her, someone with the same name, who looked the same, probably who acted much the same, but had gone through different experiences and was therefore not her. Could one single moment – a single conversation with the right person at the right time – change so much about someone?

Technically, there existed two of everything – one set from her original time and another from this new time – but why, then, was there only one of her? What had happened to the other woman named Emilia Goldwyn? Had she landed back in the other time? Or had she just vanished into the ether?

What exactly did it mean to change time? What consequences would it bring, other than the obvious of being thrown into a place that was so familiar yet so strange? The positive had to be mixed with the negative, something had to happen that would change it all back again, right? She shivered at the prospect as her tea went as cold as the air around her. There was too much to the idea of time travel and meddling with things no human should have. She would have to watch and wait, always wondering, always looking over her shoulder for the one thing that would come to take her back to the time she had escaped.

She took a sip of the tea, grimacing at the taste. Emptying the dregs into the sink, she avoided the splinters on the floor as she made her way to the stairs.

By then, the dream had left her mind. It had only been a dream, after all.

~ * * * ~

The house had stood empty for a number of months, most of the operation having moved to more convenient locations within the great cities of Britain. The majority of the Death Eaters were centred around London, the home of the Ministry of Magic and the base of the rebels, otherwise known as the Order of the Phoenix. They were the one thing that stood in the way of the Dark Lord’s complete control of the Muggle and Wizarding worlds alike. They were the ones the Death Eaters now focussed their full force upon, the Ministry already like putty in their silk-gloved aristocratic hands.

Not that anyone but the Order seemed to notice the danger surrounding them.

But that is another story.

There was only one light high in the facade of the house on the moor. One little window directly in the centre that shone with a dying light. Severus Snape stared up at that one window, knowing whose it was and what the light meant. The old man often lived in complete darkness. The Dark Lord was the only one who would dare turn on the light, the only one who did not fear anyone catching sight of that lonely patch of yellow in the stony facade of the house. And there was only one reason he would go to see the old man.

Another victim of the Dark Lord’s wrath, impatience, and hatred of anything useless.

The door opened with a squeak at the slightest pressure of Snape’s hand. He stepped into the house, dreading the ascent to the upper storeys where the old man lived alone. It was unknown if Mort had even noticed that the others had left. He lay comatose hour after hour, day after day, acknowledging nothing but the sound of his master’s voice. Snape knew of one other voice that the old man would acknowledge, but the last thing he would ever do would be to bring Emilia to this place of death, decay, and destruction.

Everything in the house seemed to cry out his presence to the Dark Lord, betraying Snape’s curiosity. The pain in his arm increased with each step – he had been called to London, to a raid on a supposed Order meeting place, but he had come here instead, he had dared to defy his master so that he could satisfy his bloody curiosity. She was being a bad influence on him.

“What are you doing here, Snape?”

It was the Dark Lord’s new “most trusted servant”, an equally snivelling young man who could only follow like the basest of lemmings. Snape knew him well enough to almost smile at the sight of the one person who ought to have been loyal only to his friends. Too bad he had chosen the wrong friends this time.

“Out of my way, Pettigrew.”

His arm reached out to shove the other wizard aside, but Pettigrew spun away. He had become skilled in avoiding rough physical contact.

“His Lordship said–”

“What he says to you if of no consequence to me.”

Snape swept past, landing a smack on the back of Pettigrew’s unnaturally balding head.
“He will not be pleased with you for impeding my way, fool.”

Pettrigrew drew aside with a shudder, disappearing to cower in the shadows once more.
The room was not difficult to spot. The only open door, the only light to be seen through the grimy windows at each end of the impossibly long corridor. Snape paused just outside the circle of light. The Dark Lord would know of his presence – that was the power of the Mark – but the risk was well-calculated.

“Is there not a certain mission I have sent you on, Snape?”

The haughty voice emerged from the otherwise-silent room, mocking. Always mocking.

“Other loyalties have brought me here tonight, my Lord.”

There was a laugh, then Tom Riddle came to the doorway, his form filling its breath and width with its intensity, its pool of endless strength.

“People might start to think that you actually care for your pretty pureblood.”

Snape bowed his head. Meeting the Dark Lord’s eyes at a time like this would be too dangerous. The memories of finding Emilia, of knowing her in an entirely different way, were still too fresh, still at the top of his mind. There’d be no time to hide them behind a veil of disinterest.

“She can be very persuasive at times, my Lord.”

With a smirk, Riddle stood aside. “Her father is dead. You came too late, Snape.”

The old man’s eyes stared upwards, wide with fear and dread. His hand was frozen in the air, the fingers posed as though he had been grasping something.... another arm? The arm of his murderer? Snape scoffed and looked away from the scene. He cared nothing for Mortimer Nero, the meddling sod who had almost ruined everything, and he could not risk Emilia ever meeting him again, ever seeing the reflection of herself in the old man’s eyes.

“That is good news, my Lord.”

Riddle was beside him. A painless brush against his consciousness that Snape had grown used to, had come to control when the Dark Lord attempted to steal away his thoughts.

“If I had not done it, Snape, would you have done it yourself?”

Snape turned away from the scene of death, his eyes making their way towards the silver bowl on its pedestal, the bowl that which, in another time, had been shattered by another Snape’s furious hand. But in this time, in this place, it was the old man who had shattered while the bowl remained, ready to corrupt the next soul who attempted to assert human power over the fates.

“I would have been more worried about the actions of my wife, your Lordship.” The title he spoke with a twist of the lips. The word tasted bad in his mouth.

A laugh erupted from deep in Riddle’s throat. Murder had put him in a very good mood.

“I never realised that you had a sense of humour, Snape.”

With a swish of his robes, he vanished. The light in the room dimmed in his absence.

Snape surveyed the room. A dismal place to die. He wondered if the same fate was in store for himself. It would not be a surprise to him if it was.

“The joke appears to be on yourself, my Lord.”

He took out his wand to gather the bowl and its liquid together. When he brought it near to himself, images swirled among the silver and dim sounds emerged from the bowl’s death. His earlier curiosity still remained, and however much Snape wanted to resist, how much he knew looking could lead to madness, to death, to a lifetime of suffering, his eyes became glued to the images. Even as the last owner of the bowl lay dead behind him, Snape stared into the bowl, transfixed with what he saw.

The death of Emilia Goldwyn. His wife.

~ * * * ~


Of all the people to go to, of all the people she could have asked advise from, she went to see Albus Dumbledore. Grimm had disliked the man – Emilia believed that it was some form of jealousy – and thus she herself could not trust the old Headmaster. He was too clever, too experienced. He would be able to spin words around her head in ways she could never hope to understand. And she was going to talk to him about time.

Needless to say, her expectations of the meeting were rather low.

The gates of Hogwarts stood before her, closed shut. His owl had said that someone would come to open them for her – it had been a very short, very to the point sort of letter that revealed nothing about the sender’s thoughts. Did he see her in the same way that Moody had? Did he think her some sort of freakish hag, involved in all sorts of dark magic and unmentionable activities? Was this some sort of trap in which she’d be forced to reveal the Dark Lord’s secrets? Or did he already know that she had changed time? Would he send her back?

She placed her hand against the cold iron, remembering that day she had left the school – she had thought forever. Had the Emilia of this time done so as well? Had she taken Grimm away to that cottage, hiding herself and him for years? Or had Snape pressed her to stay as they experimented on Grimm’s soul-less body? Her hand tightened at the same moment that the gates swung open, sending her to the ground at the feet of Professor McGonagall.

Minerva’s beady eyes – Grimm had always said they were like marbles, stony, yet beautiful in the light – stared down at Emilia, assessing her clothes, her position on the ground, the emotions on the young witch’s face.

“Right on time, Miss Goldwyn. Please, follow me.”

It was impossible to miss her emphasis on Emilia’s maiden name, the name her grandmother had given her. Not even her real name.

Emilia walked a few steps behind, trying to remove a stubborn stain of mud on the hem of her robes. Hogwarts mud had always been annoyingly immune to spells. Looking up after repeated failures, she saw no students hanging about the lake, walking through the courtyards, running down towards Hagrid’s hut. It was all for fear of an attack. There were things that even a new time could not alter.

Minerva remained silent, her back ramrod straight, one hand in the pocket of her robes, the same pocket where her wand was kept. Danger was always about, especially in the form of a Death Eater’s wife. Emilia didn’t feel very dangerous.

The giant door, the marble stairs, the climb to the seventh floor, the entrance to the Headmaster’s office. No sight of another soul, though there were drones of professor’s voices drifting down the halls. At the floor of Grimm’s old office, Emilia hesitated for the briefest moment, causing Minerva to turn.

“There is no time to waste, Miss Goldwyn, especially not here.” The accompanying glare would have held the power to kill, if eyes could create murderous laser beams.

Emilia looked at the floor the rest of the way. Minerva left her at the bottom of the Headmaster’s tower, speaking only to whisper the password in the gargoyle’s attentive ear. Both of them glared at Emilia before they disappeared from view up the moving stairs. It was as though her heart was split in two – one needing run back and scream the truth for all to hear, shouting her innocence to the world, while the other wanted to become the thing they believed her to be, to hate them as much as they hated her.

She had never been in the Headmaster’s office before. All those years living at Hogwarts and never entering that room where the power behind it all sat behind his desk, making decisions that could forever change the future of the Wizarding World. Others had described the room to her, telling of the endless shelves of books, the strange and wondrous objects, the portraits of past Headmasters, and the stand where Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, made his home. All this was laid out before her as she stood at the top of the stairs, gazing into the most exquisite room of the entire castle.

“Ah, just on time, Emma. Please, come in.”

He was sitting as his desk at the other side of the room, beckoning for her to come forward. She did so at a snail’s pace, shivering under the dozens of pairs of eyes that stared down at her from high above on the walls. Their shared whispers floated down for her to hear.

“She’s not a student, Everard. Wrong again.”

“A new teacher then?”

“In the middle of October, you old fool?”

“Certainly a pureblood. Look at how she walks.”

“Only you’d care about that sort of thing, Phineas.”

Dumbledore waved his arm and they all fell quiet, but their eyes still watched.

“How was your journey? Well, I hope?”

She settled into a chair, glad for the wings that hid her from view of at least half the spying portraits. “Yes, Headmaster. The weather is fine for this time of year.”

He nodded. “Indeed it is, but it is not about the weather that you came, is it?”

Emilia swallowed, uncomfortable under his gaze. “No. Not at all....” She would not look to him for guidance. She had to do this on her own, entirely without assistance, without being drilled by a manipulative genius. “I assume that you had spies in the Ministry yesterday.”

Not as subtle as she would have wanted, but perhaps the best starting point she had.

Dumbledore was smiling, that preposterous twinkle in his eye. “Eyes and ears are needed in every corner of his world, Emma. And yes, I have heard... reports of yesterday’s events.”

Her hands were clenched in her lap, a knot of fingers and knuckles. “Then you must know that something’s different.”

“What sort of difference are you implying? Everyday that passes brings change.”

She frowned. It was as she expected, he was already running circles around her.

“But this sort of change.... Oh damn it! Do you know exactly what happened?”

The twinkle grew brighter.

“I am not the same person that people think I am.”

Oh yes, that certainly sounded sane. Now the rumours of her madness would have truth behind them. She wondered how much of this conversation would be reported to the rest of the world by the portraits. Why bother with listeners at the door when you could have portrait spies in every corner of the room?

“I know that, Emma. I am sure that your... husband would have told you that the difference was obvious.” Even he spoke the word with distaste. Did he harbour a dislike for Snape? If so, for what reason?

“What can you tell me about time, Headmaster?” She allowed a note of desperation soak into her voice. Part of it was real, but the other needed her to be just as manipulative in getting what she needed out of this meeting.

“A strange subject, wouldn’t you agree?”

He knew. She could tell by his voice that he knew what she had done, but she could not discern his opinion on it. Did he think her foolish for meddling with time so selfishly, just so that she could make the man she loved fall in love with her in return? Did he pity her for falling into a world that hated her as much as this one did?

“It’s important, sir.” She felt as small as her voice sounded.

An intensity appeared in his eyes – in his entire being – that frightened her to the core. Dumbledore transformed in the space of a moment from a doddering old professor to a wizard of extreme power, into the only being in the world feared by the Dark Lord. He rose from his chair, towering over her.

“Then it is best if you come with me, Emma. There is much you will need to know.”

~ * * * ~


The hour was late when she finally stumbled into the haze-filled rooms of the Hogs Head pub. One or two heads bothered to glance up at her entrance, but their eyes were already glazed over with drink. They would not remember her in an hour much less the next morning. She needed to be as discrete as possible. Dumbledore had said this would be the best place to test his theories. His brother would show her the way....

“Emma?”

She froze, her hand reaching for the wand in her robes.

“What are you doing here?” The same voice asked again.

Emilia turned and came face to face with Lily Potter. The last person she had wanted to see in this world. She stared at Lily, speechless and unable to move, to run away from the reason she had changed time. Her best friend.

Her brain moved liked molasses whilst thinking up a suitable response. With a swallow, she at last said, “Under Headmaster’s orders, I’m afraid. He needed me to... to... to deliver a message.” A bead of perspiration dripped down the side of her face.

Lily nodded, her face otherwise unreadable in the dim light. “Not a problem. It was just a surprise to see you in a place like this.”

A laugh erupted from behind her. Emilia whipped around, still clutching her wand.

“It’s definitely not the right sort of place for her, is it Lils?”

Sirius Black.

Things were growing worse by the moment. She had to get out of there. Her throat and cheeks turned crimson, Emilia shuffled to the side, hoping to allude both of them. It had been a trap, after all.

“I have to go,” she said, slipping past Lily. “Sorry I can’t stay to chat....”

Sirius reached out a semi-drunken arm. “You’re not g–”

His statement was lost in the crash as Emilia shoved him into a nearby table of toughs, who in turn rose up to shove Sirius towards the bar. By the time Lily raised her wand against them, the door was shutting behind Emilia. She heard Sirius’ roar of anger and ran faster, tripping over stones and fallen leaves as she tried to make her escape. Her path led not towards the village, but away from it, in the direction of the Shrieking Shack. A place from which she would have no escape. A most perfect trap.

Her footsteps echoed loudly in the darkness, filling the air with cracking branches and crumbling leaves. Her breath came in heaving gasp, each intake of air becoming more difficult as fear overrode her common sense. There was a gap in the woods ahead and she ran in that direction, hoping to find safety among the ghosts of the Shack.

“Sirius, stop!” Lily’s voice rang out through the woods.

Emilia turned her head back, hesitating for a slight moment. Light flashed past her head, bursting into flames when colliding with a tree stump. She jumped away from the sparks, hitting the ground with a muffled cry of pain. Another flash of light burst through the trees, but it was further away, shot from a different wand.

“Did you not hear the lady, Black? Or do you not even listen to those supposedly on your side?” The voice droned through the trees. “Utterly useless, aren’t you?”

Sirius swore, the word clear even where Emilia had fallen. It was followed by silence.

She rose on shaky feet, uncertain if her ankles had remained intact during the fall. Limping, she moved towards the place she thought they would be.

Lily’s voice said, in quiet tones, “She went that way. I think she was going to the Shack.”

The twitch of Snape’s lips was easy to imagine. “That is hardly a surprise.”

“Severus, I–”

A branch broke beneath Emilia’s shoe, cutting off Lily from whatever she had been about to say. Emilia could not help the wideness of her eyes as they stared from Lily to Snape and back again. Her stomach plummeted. For a moment, she saw herself in their eyes: weak, always choosing to run away, helpless to prevent them meeting. She swallowed to hold back the tears. Helpless, always helpless, even when she held the power to change the course of time.

Lily was the first to look away. “I better take him back to the village. Ja– the others will be back soon.” She waved her wand at Sirius’ unconscious body and it rose from the ground, floating with this feet dragging along the ground.

Emilia did not miss the sharp nod Snape gave the other witch as she left. Lily tried to smile in Emilia’s direction, but it did not appear genuine in the cold light of their wands. No other sign of acknowledgement passed between them. Emilia bit the inside of her cheek, watching as the light of Lily’s wand faded into the woods.

Snape was the first to speak. “He would have killed you.”

She made a noise akin to a snort. “Perhaps.”

He placed his hands on her shoulders, pushing his face closer to hers. Her gaze eluded his, falling to examine the spots of dirt upon his boots. Snape let out a sigh, but did not release her from his grasp.

“I still have not forgotten your words, Emilia. However long ago you spoke them to me.”

The only places her body felt any warmth was where his hands rested on her arms.

“Should I be immune to jealousy, then? Just like a true pureblooded wife ought?”

A growl emerged from his throat. “No.”

“You care for her. It’s impossible not to see.”

He kept silent, his lips pressed together. She watched his face, trying, wanting to understand all that passed through his mind, knowing that much of it was beyond her grasp. Emilia knew all her thoughts – Lily was the better of the two witches, there was no contest to that – and Snape, by marrying Emilia, had settled for second best.

Did he now regret that?

He was still silent.

“Severus, please....”

“It was difficult enough to incite a relationship with you, Emilia,” he said in a low voice. “You can imagine what sort of life I would have led had Lily allowed anything to develop between her and myself. An utter impossibility.” He dropped his hands from her shoulders and turned away, staring off into the darkened forest.

She should have felt anger. She wanted to hate him, to hate Lily, to hate everything that stood in the way of her happiness, but she had been too selfish for too long. Pity was all she could feel for the two who could never, in the world they lived, expect to be together. Yes, Snape cared for, perhaps even loved, Emilia – he was there with her, was he not? But part of him still desired Lily Evans, the smartest, the prettiest, and the most powerful witch of their age.

“What others would’ve thought of it shouldn’t have stopped you.” The words came out before she had taken the time to think them over. “If you truly loved her–”

The air snapped with his rage as he whipped around to face her, his eyes blazing in the light from their wands. He held up his free hand, the bronze ring upon it glittering.

“See this? Look at it closely, Emilia, for it was you who once put it on my finger.” He waved his hand to cut off her reply. “Claiming that it was not you means nothing. Even time cannot change the mere fact that you are the same as her, the same in name, the same in nature, the same in being.”

Dumbledore had spoken similar words. She remembered his explanation of the two times now running parallel, of the dangers she now ran by being the bridge between time. He had warned her, as well. Warned her of the one object in this world that could steal her back to the old if she didn’t take the proper precautions.

He was waiting for her reply, glaring at her from across the small clearing.

She would not think of anything to say. At least, nothing that made her sound astute, always she was to be the weaker, looking to someone else for advise, for help, for someone to look after her. Weak, meaningless, useless. A nothing, a nobody in this world that needed her to be somebody, someone she had no idea how to become.

“Your father is dead, Emilia. That is why I sought you out.”

He hit her with the blow as though expecting it to crumble what remained of her will.

“The Dark Lord had him killed,” Snape continued, still waiting for her to respond.

She would not become like her father. No, she was not yet helpless or useless. There was still much she could do to change the course of time, to change the course of fate, to change the outcome of this bitter, bitter war. She held a power that no one else had, and she could use it in any way she pleased. The potion did not exist in this world, but the ingredients were there in her mind, still written on the slate of her memory just as they had been on the blackboard in Grimm’s laboratory. She would not be weak. She would not die as her father had – alone, betrayed, unforgiven for his sins.

“It was inevitable,” she said. Her only words.

Snape came forward and touched her hand. They vanished into the night, not certain what they felt of the other, not certain knowing who the other was. The silver bowl was cold against Snape’s skin – even through his robes did its chill permeate. Only it could be certain of what fate lay in store for the both of them. A fate that was more cruel than kind.



Chapter title and summary lyrics from the song by Keane. Thanks, as always, for all your wonderful reviews. =)

Chapter 28: Twenty-Four: Somewhere A Clock is Ticking
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Twenty-Four


“I’m not entirely sure I want to go in.” She sounded like a whining child, but didn’t care. Her fingers plucked at the fabric of her sleeve where his hand had gripped her.

His hand was firm on her arm. “You must see him.”

“I’d rather be a coward.”

He stiffened at the word, his voice dropping to a hiss. “He is your responsibility, Emilia. Refusing to see him is downright childish.”

Still she hesitated at the door to her own cottage, tugging against his grasp. The birds chirped in the air surrounding them, though the air was chilled. The scarf wound round Emilia’s throat flapped in the breeze like a long green ribbon.

“I know, but I’m still... still scared of him. He’s supposed to be dead.”

“And you are supposed to be looking after him day and night, which you have neglected for the past four days” Severus shoved the key into the door, pushing it open so that the knob thumped against the inside wall.

“They were busy days.” She stepped inside first, frowning at the new dent in the wall.

He followed, the door closing with a snap behind him. “Nevertheless.”

She continued to stare at the wall, unmoving. “I don’t think I can do this, Severus. It’s more than being a coward, or knowing that he’s supposed to be dead. It’s... I don’t know.” Her shaking hands brushed hairs off her brow then moved to unwind her scarf. She could hear her heart drumming in her chest, its awkward beat making it difficult to breathe.

A shiver ran through her body when he stood behind her, taking the scarf from her hands.

“It is necessary, Emilia.”

When she did not reply, he turned off towards the kitchen. She imagined the scowl upon his face and the disgust in his heart.

The door to Grimm’s room was a short distance away, the brass lock catching the light from a window down the hall. The key was heavy in her pocket. She touched its cold surface, running her fingers over the bumps and ridges. He was leaving her alone for a reason. Hades, he knew her better than she knew herself.

The key slid into the lock without difficulty and then she was in the room.

It was as her dream. The bed in one corner with its sleeping occupant, the window blacked out from the burning light of day. Yet it was also different. Everything was spotless, painful in its perfect cleanliness. She stepped closer to the bed, heart fearing, eyes expecting. She could hear his breathing, so shallow and weak. How could anyone live on so few breaths?

And there he was. The great Tiberius Grimm, loved and cursed, brilliant except for the single mistake that ought to have taken his life. It had, in another world, another time, but here, here at this very moment, he lay upon the bed in that dark, suffocating room, neither alive nor dead. His heart beat, but his mind knew no thought. Perhaps it never would again. All that existed now was the body, the physical form that could not compare to the spirit that once filled it with curiosity and passion. Everything that Emilia had loved about him was gone – the quick smiles, the strange laugh, the voice, the ... everything. It was not Grimm, not the wizard she had so long wished to see just one more time. That wizard had been gone for many years.

She touched his hand, cold and dead. He did not move, except for the breathing. Slow. Repeated. Breath one. Breath two. Mechanical. Inhuman. Dead.

Why? Why hold on to something so long dead? Was it hope? Fear? Insanity?

A flash through her mind. Redness. Sharpness. The smell of blood. The feeling of cold steel in her hand, the stickiness that spotted her robes. Kill. Kill.

She blinked and it was gone.

There was someone standing at the door behind her.

“What should we do with him?” she asked. It was like a whole minute had passed and she’d missed it. Her heart was racing for no reason.

Snape stepped into the room. “That is your decision.”

She turned to face him. “What? No masterful advise for your wife?”

His response was a snort.

With a sigh, she turned back to look at Grimm. “St. Mungo’s is the only place I can think of.”

“There are others.”

“That would suit his... needs better?”

“Yes.”

Her eyes narrowed as she watched the movement of Grimm’s chest, up and down.

“I can’t believe we did this.”

“It was a means to an end.”

“For you, or me?”

“Emilia.”

The way he said her name was enough. “We will send him away. To anywhere that would accept him. Anywhere proper. Maybe they’d know a way....”

“To what, kill him?”

Her body stiffened and her eyes grew misty. She did not, at first, speak. Her eyes stared at the body on the bed and its lifelessness within the living human form. The human remained, the humanity was gone.

“We already did that.” She swallowed to stop herself from choking on the words.

He was closer behind her now. She could feel him there.

“Come. I will make the arrangements.”

She kept her chin up as she left the room. Snape closed the door behind them. They stood in the hallway, unmoving. She kept her back to him.

“Were you expecting something more, Severus?” It hurt to ask the question.

She could imagine him tightening his lips.

“I did not expect anything, Emilia.”

“Of course.”

When she walked towards the bedroom, he did not follow. When she slammed the door behind her, he still did not come. Only part of her wanted him to. He was being himself, and she hated him for that. She hated him for being what he always had been for all those years – despising her when he had her, yet desiring her once she was gone. What sort of relationship was that? Is that what she had changed time for?

It was too late to go back now.

Her head resting on the pillow, she closed her eyes. There were no tears; she had no reason to cry. She had cried for Grimm many years ago, and she had cried over Snape too many times. She had never cried for herself, not seeing the logic in it. It was tempting now, after all that had happened since the shift in time had occurred. There was just too much, an overabundance of events and emotions and things that wrought her to the core. But the tears would not come, and for that, she was glad. It was easier just to close her eyes and sleep.

~ * * * ~


It was a house she had been to before, but the name of the family who lived there would not come to mind. The street was quiet; the streetlamps giving off a dim glow that wasn’t quite enough to see by. She was a shadow in the street, watching the house with the warm light emerging from behind the drawn curtains. Who was inside? What were they doing? She moved closer – was she walking, or floating? – towards the main entrance. The door was ajar, an inch of light shining out onto the veranda. There was a noise, then another, from the first floor. She pulled the door open to feel the light fall on her face.

Then she heard the scream.

Frozen in place, her hand still on the doorknob, she looked upwards. The stair was nearby, but she could not go to it, could not bear to see who had screamed and why. There were more cries and muffled whimpers from above. She remained in one place, listening.

The laughter was the worst sound of all. It was not the laughter of innocent happiness, but rather the laughter of cruelty, the sort of sound that resonates into one’s heart, creating an intense fear worse than any other. The sound was unfamiliar to her, but it still gave her goosepimples, raising the little hairs along her arms as she winced under the sounds of thumps on the floor above her. Things falling, heavy things. She did not want to imagine that they were bodies.

But what else could they be? Who would be moving furniture about at this time of night?

She moved towards the stairs almost instinctively, but out of what? Morbid curiosity? The possibility of offering assistance? Or was it, again, that something else was moving her?

One step at a time, her feet making no noise on the thick carpeting.

What would she have done if it was blood red?

There was a landing, upon which was a single door. Closed, of course. She pushed it open, the wood warm against her hand. The window was open, the curtain billowing over a fallen body. It was not the only one in the room, but it was the only one that she recognised. The face, the eyes, the form: she knew it well. The whole family was there – all the siblings, the parents too. Marlene’s eyes were wide in horror, the pain of having watching her family die in front of her, slowly, painfully.

Those staring eyes were impressed on her mind. She felt her knees weaken, her stomach heave.

She hoped she would wake up soon.


~ * * * ~


Her awakening cry echoed in the room. She sat up in bed, hand over her throbbing heart, perspiration dripping between her shoulder blades, tears in her eyes. Gods, no. It was just a dream, just a dream....

The door slammed open, the floorboards creaking under Snape’s footsteps.

“What in Hades’ name...?”

She could not see him clearly through her wet eyes, but felt the bed shift under his sitting weight. His hand touched her shoulder, the fingers uncertain.

“A dream?”

Biting her lip, she nodded. Why couldn’t it be forgotten like the other dreams?

He moved as though to pull away. “I will get you something.”

She reached out like a frightened child; he must not leave her. He caught her arm. “No.”

“It won’t help, whatever it is.” Her voice shook. She wiped her sleeve across her eyes. “I don’t want to be alone. Not after that....”

His sigh was too audible as he pulled her towards him. “You must forget it.”

It was comforting to be close to him, even after the discomfort of that morning, of being in this cottage of haunted memories and shattered realities. She knew that she was becoming too reliant on him. The three years of solitude meant nothing in this new time – all the stubbornness, strength, and will had melted into a childlike devotion to her husband. Her old self would have scowled at the thought, but her new self - the person this time was making her into. She rested her head upon Snape’s chest, clinging like a stranded sailor to a slippery rock.

“It isn’t the first like this,” she muttered against him. “But the first I can remember.”

His fingers paused in their action of smoothing her hair.

“How many?”

“Too many to count. From before I came here, too.”

“All disturbing?”

“I guess. It’s like I’m–” She stopped, shifting closer to him.

“Emilia.” There was a partial warning in his voice.

“I can’t explain it, really.”

“Try.”

She sighed, lifting her face to meet his eyes.

“Like something’s in my head, directing what I do in the dream.” She frowned, the words coming to her mind with difficulty. “Similar to your Occulmency, but stronger. So strong that I barely notice it because it’s as though they are mine own thoughts.”

His eyes were darker than usual. “Have you spoken of this to anyone? Dumbledore?”

“No, only you.”

He stared at the wall behind her. “Tell me everything you remember of these dreams.”

She nodded with a sniffle. “Of course.” She did not want to try to describe that morbid scene, but if it was so necessary, then she would have to face it again. Just a dream... just a dream.... Her voice came out flat, it was the only way to keep her emotions at bay. It helped that he was there, to guide her words and keep the monsters away, but even then, she still felt the same terror that had oscillated through her entire body the moment she had recognised Marlene. Her friend before all of this. How long at it been since they had last met?

Once she finished, he said nothing. He sat there with her, but offered no comment, no word of advice. He likely could not discern the meaning of these dreams, visions, no more than she could. Or was it more possible that he knew what they were and feared to tell her? Would he want to reveal a dark connection that could destroy everything she had done up to this point?

“Is there nothing that can be done?” she asked, shattering the silence around them.

He looked at her. “I do not know.” Truth, or lie?

She took in a breath, not wanting to decide now. “I see.”

They sat there on the bed, staring at each other and thinking thoughts that the other could not hope to understand. Emilia gave up looking at him and let her eyes roam around the room, taking in the unfamiliar features that should have been familiar. It was her room, the same one that she had used for years, but it was the subtle differences that bothered her most, just like the differences in everything this world threw at her.

There was a gap between them now, though Emilia could not remember him pulling so far away. Her memory was slipping – she could feel it more and more with each day. How long until the rest of her mind followed? How long could she survive in a time that she had created, but did not belong within?

She must have made a sound, for he looked at her again. A long, assessing gaze that only seemed to see into her heart, but had to settle for reading the expression on her face. His hand crept across to cover hers – was he colder than she? It was a peace offering, perhaps, or his desire to reach further into her, find whatever part was breaking, find if her heart was breaking? No, it was not her heart, just her mind. Even her thoughts were muddled, her perception of him. Jealousy alone could not skew the world in such a way.

“Is everything settled with Uncle?” The random question was tossed out like a challenge.

His hand retreated. “Yes. They have already come to take him away.”

“So he’s gone?”

He nodded, still watching her. Since when had she become such an object of observation?

“I should’ve been there to see him off.”

“It would not have been appropriate, Emilia, not in the circumstances.”

She sighed. “I don’t care anymore. The circumstances shouldn’t matter.”

“Appearances are everything in this age. You appeared at the Ministry a changed person, you cannot go back to what she was.”

“You said two nights ago that I was the same as her.”

An almost-sneer turned up his lip. “You are, and you are not.”

She snorted. “Oh, that makes sense.”

“Not everything needs to.”

“Fancy you saying that.” Was she trying to make him angry?

“Must you be so difficult, Emilia?”

She stared at him a moment, comprehending the words, then started to laugh. Falling back against the pillows, she listened to her laughter echoing through the room.

“Dare I ask what amuses you?” He crossed his arms, black eyes glaring.

It took some minutes to regain a steady voice. “You can’t imagine how many times I’ve asked myself that question, about you being so difficult.” She took in a gasp of breath. “Honestly, we must be the least-matched couple in Wizarding history.”

One side of his lip twitched. “That would be an exaggeration.”

Some of her confidence was returning – she could feel it rushing through her veins, giving life to her wounded form. How did she look to him now? The madwoman from the attic, mocking him from the pillows, a monstrous temptation. Or was it that he only saw his wife, reclined upon the bed, searching for comfort in his stiff presence? She could imagine either or both, but could not see the answer written on his face, not in the furrowed brow and the burning gaze. They watched each other, his emotions more easily masked than hers, and waited for the other to take the first step.

“What will happen now?” she asked, resettling herself more modestly. Definitely not a madwoman.

How fast he moved, she could not tell. As she blinked, he uncrossed his arms, unfurrowed his brow, and leaned over her, his hair – still too long – brushing against her forehead. Though he settled his weight on his arms, she still wondered at the feeling of his body lying atop of hers. Hands touched her face, her shoulders, her arms. She could not meet his eyes, fearing what she might see within them.

“I must leave in the morning.” His lips touched her forehead, then her cheek. “My master calls me.”

“Which one?” Breath catching in her chest made it hard to speak.

She felt him smile against her face.

“It wasn’t that hard to guess.” She gasped as his lips touched her throat.

He shifted and his eyes were staring down into hers. “There are some things even you cannot know, Emilia.” There was no regret in his voice. He never allowed the separate parts of his life to meet, even by accident, unless reason demanded it.

His lips approached hers.

“Severus, no.”

He stopped, eyes darkening.

“I can’t do this.” She tried to pull away, but his arms trapped her. “Don’t you remember? My father’s dead and Grimm’s gone to whatever sanitarium you could dig up, it’s not right that we do this now, not after all that.” Her eyes closed, unable to look at him any longer.

“Is that what you told him, the other Snape?” It was the growl in his voice that frightened her most.

“Who?”

“Why else would you have been alone for those years, why you had to use the potion.” His voice was the only part of him that betrayed anger, the rest still held the lingering tones of his desire for her.

“Because you chose all the wrong times to bother expressing anything.” She half-freed herself from under him, his hand still pressing her shoulder, but at least she was able to turn her face away. Why did this always happen? Why must she refuse him so often?

His response was a lack of words. He turned onto his side, still facing her.

“Sorry,” Emilia said, placing her hand on his cheek. “I just need time to mourn.”

A slight crease appeared between his eyes. “For what? Your father....”

“Was a coward and a murderer, but all the same, I can’t stop him from being my father.”

He averted his eyes. “And Grimm? What of him do you mourn?”

The jealousy was still there, a strange monster rooted in the heart of love. It occurred to her that his feelings towards Grimm were not that different than her current ones towards Lily – not only jealousy, but some fraction of betrayal, that things were never as they seemed.

She brought her face closer to his. “Without him, how could I have gotten on with you?” He still would not look at her. “Just think, he taught me potions and would you have thought twice about me if I’d been an ignorant witch?”

“It did not prevent you from being foolish.”

“What would you do if I wasn’t a fool?”

Finally, his eyes flickered towards her.

“Spend more of my time doing something practical and less of it placating you.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You never placate, Severus. You instigate.”

“No more than you.”

Emilia laughed again, a more subdued sound, but still containing a childish mirth. She leaned forward to kiss him, her lips lingering on his longer than was her wont - perhaps a gift of apology, perhaps of some other guilt. His answer was more than half-hearted, and bespoke of more if she lingered for too long.

“I should go make tea,” she whispered against him, heart lighter than when he pressed his passion upon her. It was sweeter to just be close, to have that lingering moment, than to have any of the other things he offered her.

“If you must.” He sounded peevish, which made her laugh all the more.

~ * * * ~


Some weeks later, she was still at the cottage, having set it into a more appropriate disarray for her liking. The kitchen stunk of sulphur and other potent potions; there were tea things all over the house; and the books in the sitting room were piled up in all the wrong ways. Emilia had gone digging for her old school trunk and found all the old things she’d cherished – the photographs, the letters of her mother, the moth-eaten scarf (Severus having wanted his back), and the million other little objects that had filled her school years. The cottage was often lonely – like it had been in the other time – but there was far more hope now, hope that Severus would return from whatever mission he was on, perhaps hope that someone from the past would come for a visit, though that was a far more distant hope. She did miss them, but it had been too long since she’d known them – they wouldn’t be the same now, just as she wasn’t. She knew better than to expect anything from what they’d become. Probably they expected nothing of her.

Intermittently, she’d gone down to London, but only for more supplies, and always wearing a veil over her face. After the incident with Sirius, she did not desire to repeat the experience in Diagon Alley. It also awarded her the opportunity to explore the wonders of Knockturn Alley and all the potions ingredients that filled its eclectic shops. The silver ring on her finger appeared to give her access to places otherwise closed to the general Wizarding public.

She never told Severus of these places. She didn’t tell him very much, it seemed.

With a cup of rather tepid tea, she sat by the great window, looking out but not watching any specific thing, hardly seeing the setting at all. Her vision was focused upon the memory of the blackboard in the potions laboratory at Hogwarts – the list of ingredients that she needed to remember properly, exactly, in order to recreate the one potion that did not exist in this time.

Then came the knock on the door.

Like most unexpected knocks at doors, it burst itself through the silence, shattering the thoughts she was trying to concentrate upon. They fell from her mind, leaving her holding a cold cup of tea and not much else. She blinked. The knock came again. This time, she rose stiffly to answer it, her body unwilling to see reason that day, first peeping through the small hole in the door, just in case.

All she saw was red.

Lily.

Her hands mechanically unlatched the various bolts and locks, at last turning the knob.

“Hello, Lily.” Her voice sounded just as mechanical.

The green eyes took in Emilia’s appearance, from the rolled up sleeves of her robes – borrowed? – to the stocking-less feet and the more-spotted-than-usual face. They seemed to notice something of interest, though Emilia couldn’t for the life of her guess what that could be.

“How are you, Emma?” It was like she came everyday, just to pass the time.

Emilia stood aside to let the other witch come in. “Pretty good, thanks. Yourself?”

Lily nodded. “Quite well. It’s good to see you.”

Suppressing the desire to snort, Emilia said, “Oh yes, definitely after our last meeting.” Rather more sarcasm found its way into the words than she’d meant.

She felt Lily’s eyes on her, a strange feeling. They were assessing her, but in a completely different way from the glance of Severus. “That was unfortunate, Em. I’m very sorry that you got mixed up in that. Sirius....”

Emilia showed her into the sitting room, frowning at the tea stain on the floor. “... should take more control of his drinking. He probably didn’t even remember it in the morning.”

Lily went to stand by the window. “He thought it was a dream.”

“Lucky him.”

A moment of silence, over too soon.

“You’re rather different, you know.”

Emilia turned from her contemplation of her half-empty teacup, breath catching in her throat.

“Whatever do you mean by that?”

“I heard what happened at the Ministry.”

With a shrug, Emilia sat on her usual chair, fingers absently pulling on loose threads in the upholstery. “Umbridge deserved no less.”

“It was a bit out of character for you, though.”

“What does it matter to you?” And why should you care, Emilia wanted to add. She could see the reflection of Lily’s face in the glass and remembered what Dumbledore had told her of mirrors and reflections, of all the dangers that lay in the time-traveller seeing herself reflected in the glass.

Somehow, it was all connected.

Lily pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “A person doesn’t change like that.”

The room was getting cold. Emilia glanced at the empty hearth. “I’ve always been like this.”

“You say that earnestly.” Lily turned to look at her directly.

“Because it’s the truth.” Emilia met her eyes, unwavering.

Lily was the first to look away. “So it is.” Her hands wrenched together. “How?”

Emilia let out a breath. “You won’t like the answer at all, I’m afraid.”

“Oh?”

“You’re at the centre of it, for the most part.”

“Me?” Lily was frowning, a mar across her freckles, still prominent on her pale skin.

Emilia nodded. “It takes a long time to get there, though.”

Moving away from the window, Lily sat in the chair facing Emilia’s.

“I’m ready to listen.”

Biting her lip, Emilia dropped her gaze to the carpet, to the mysterious stain.

“I thought you might be.”

How does one tell such a story, including all the parts that no longer made any sense, if they ever did in the first place? It was a story of many years, not to be told in on hour or two. She was not prepared to become any sort of Scheherazade, continuing on and on to save her life. The less there was to say about all the mistakes, all the pain, all the stupid little things that seemed to make up her entire life, the better. Her audience was not one of preference. Memories of two young witches who spent nearly every moment together had long faded into shadow. The fault was not with Lily – it was all within Emilia’s mind – but the wall had been constructed, an indestructible barrier between them that could not be crossed.

The sun had fallen behind the hilltop before Emilia’s voice fell into silence. They sat there in the darkness and the cold, listening to the fleeting echoes of memory. Emilia made the first move, sending the hearth into flames with a flick of her wand. The firelight played upon Lily`s hair and eyes, giving her the appearance of some other-worldly spirit, or a giant faerie come out of the moors.

“In a very strange way, it all makes sense.” Her voice was uncertain.

Emilia sat back in her chair, staring at the flames. “I don’t know what to do now.”

Lily’s eyes turned her way. “Do you feel a pull?”

“Of what sort?” Emilia frowned.

“Something pulling you back to where you came from?” Her hands waved about as she spoke.

The moon was rising, a pale sliver, like a foolish grin against the sombre sky.

Emilia shook her head. “Not yet.”

“But you expect it?”

Her hands twisting together, Emilia rose, forgetting the empty teacup in her lap. It fell to the rug in the very same location was the stain. Like she had dropped her cup at another time.

In another time.

Or was it?

She could remember falling asleep in the chair at some time or another over a book, but which book? Perhaps if she knew the book, she’d know when she read it. The answer had to be from her school days, not after, not after that moment when she had spoken to Severus in the corridor – the young Severus speaking to the older, ruined version of herself. If after, then how did she remember it?

But a stain! No, the stain was not supposed to be here in this room at this moment. When she had arrived, she had noted the perfect spotlessness of the room, the whole cottage. No stain would have been left to sink into the rug’s pile. There was one major difference between herself and the true Emilia of this time – one had loved Grimm, and the other had become him. She, the Emilia who stood there right now staring down at the stain on the rug, had put that stain there two years ago after reading that terrible work by Butler on.... well, it was that bad that she couldn’t remember the content.

But she had put that stain there in her own time. It should not be here in this one.

Something was slipping. Were the minutes circling upon themselves, the seconds ticking back instead of forward? Time itself was ripping at the mangled seams and in the centre, grasping at the fabric of it all, was Emilia.

“Em, are you alright?” Lily was half out of her chair.

Emilia shook her head. “I’m fine. Really.”

“Do you need anything?” Now Lily was standing, her hand on Emilia’s shoulder. She followed the other witch’s gaze. “Is it the stain? Want me to remove it?”

“No!”

Lily stepped back, her hand not yet at her wand.

“It’s just a stain. It’s nothing.” Emilia tried to shrug, then moved away. Towards the door, towards anything, anywhere.

“Then what?”

Her stomach was hurting, not the first time, but the worst that it had yet. She felt that she should have known what was wrong, that it was something she should understand, but the full sense of it never reached her consciousness. She took in a ragged breath, but her head grew dizzy. Her hand reached for the chair, but could not grasp it – somehow it was further away than she’d thought it.

“Emma! Gods....”

Lily’s grasp was strong, preventing her from creating another kind of stain on the rug. Emilia’s fingers touched the worn armrests of the chair, her head feeling like a rocking cask of firewhiskey. She felt more than saw Lily’s presence, the checking of her pulse, the pinching of her arm, the footsteps leading away, then returning with something that smelled just like the potion she’d been working on yesterday, a putrid-smelling thing rather like a mixture of sardines and rotted apples.

She blinked, pushing Lily’s hand away. “Like that’s going to help.” Her words were slurred. “Think I’m going to be sick.”

And so the rug came to be stained again, the tea stain vanishing beneath the contents of a stomach empty except for numerous cups of tea. Even scourgify could not remove it entirely.

“I don’t think that you’re just sick, Emma.” Lily, always the voice of reason.

“I don’t want to think of why.” But she already knew. It came to her as the smell of the potion wormed its way into her sinuses.

Lily was smiling, her hand still on Emilia’s shoulder. “It means more than others think of him.”

Emilia closed her eyes, leaning her head into the wing of the chair.

Now there was to be another hostage of time. Her child.



Author's Note: not that much left to go. Thank you so far for all the support! Keep those reviews coming (I will respond to them soon, I hope).

The chapter title is from the song by Snow Patrol.


Chapter 29: Twenty-Five: Against All Odds
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Twenty-Five


He had been away for over two weeks before she began to wonder. Jealousy takes its hold upon everyone, and more upon those in love, thus leading Emilia into a world of green-lined walls and burning fires as her curiosity took advantage of all her weaknesses. She glanced into mirrors only to catch a glimpse of red hair and green eyes staring back. There were whispers behind the doors – only draughts in the aging cottage – and she could have sworn that, with a flutter of owl’s wings, she would discover a letter to her husband from... from....

She cried a lot more than she used to. A proper Healer would have told her that her emotions were all part of her condition, but innocently ignorant of everything to do with that sort of thing. The potions lab grew dusty with disuse; the books on the shelves stood untouched upon their shelves. She spent most of her time by the window, staring out onto the cheerless dales. There was no life out there, and no life within her. Once or twice she thought of going to London, but fear kept her inside. What if someone was to see her? What if she was to fall ill away from home?

Her thoughts would take her along this path until she would sit down in her chair once again and wonder when Severus would return. He never sent word when he was away, but now each passing day she wished that he did. Even just a line or two to let her know how he was, when he was returning, what was going out in the war. She did not regret her decision to remain apart from the fighting, keep herself neutral in a world where everyone was forced to choose a side. But now what was there for her? She was neither good nor evil, yet both flowed through her veins. She felt love and hate, desire and repulsion. She wanted someone to talk to, but there was no one there. No one had been for many years. When was the last time she had been honest? Certainly not to Lily, from whom she now had to hide everything. Perhaps that last time with Grimm. Yes, he had always known when she was lying. He would only smile, as though the truth was written upon her face.

Perhaps she should visit him. Surely that would not hurt. A way to leave this place, at least for a short while, and to see him again. It was better than the worrying, than the nightmares of Severus being with Lily, however silly and irrational they may have been. It was strange because she did not fear his death, only his disloyalty. Even she could recognise her selfishness and that made her more scared than anything else. It was her greed, her desire, that had led her to this point – stranded in a time not her own, now pregnant and without anything, anyone. Her very mind was slipping away and she could not prevent it from falling into madness, her father’s madness. If only....

She looked out the window once again, watching the sun’s rays reflect off the dead grasses that waved in the wind. It was hypnotic to observe, with the ever-changing colours and shades that made the death of winter appear as though it still lived.

If only she’d been Grimm’s daughter instead.

~ * * * ~

“Headmaster!”

Lily’s face appeared in the fire of Dumbledore’s office, her eyes strained and her mouth lined with concern. Dumbledore not was not entirely pleased to see her, not at this moment. A shadow moved by the door, fading into darkness.

“There has to be something that can be done,” she continued. “You know who I speak of.”

It was like she knew that Dumbledore was not alone in his office, but then again, it was the second month of the winter term, and there were always students about in unexpected places.

“What of ... this person’s plight bothers you, Lily?” Dumbledore adjusted his spectacles, his face unreadable. The fire cast strange light upon the creases of his face.

Lily frowned, eyes starting towards the shadows, but through the fire, she saw nothing.

“They’ve taken ill. Rather unavoidably.”

Dumbledore leaned closer to the flames. “In which way?”

Sparks arose from the fire as she shook her head. “I won’t say here. Not safe. When can I next see you, Headmaster?”

Although Dumbledore raised an eyebrow, he nodded. “I understand, of course. I will be in the usual place tonight. Take care, Lily.”

“Yes, sir.” The sadness in her eyes prevented any measure of a smile. “Until then.”

The flames fell back into place, her face vanishing into the logs.

Dumbledore rose from the hearth and moved towards his desk. When he spoke, he did not look at the shadow.

“I am afraid that matters are becoming more serious by the day, Severus.”

There was a snort, then a pale face appeared. “That is the way of things, Headmaster.”

“You have your instructions, then.”

“Indeed.”

“Good luck, Severus. You perhaps need it more than anyone else.”

The snort became a laugh, harsh and biting. “Except one.”

Dumbledore stared into the fire, his face softening.

“When was the–“

The door snapped shut before he could complete his question.

Now that he was alone, he became an old man. Ancient, even. Each bone, every muscle, seemed to decay, leaving the old wizard to collapse into his chair and put his head in his hands. The downward motion of the war was pulling everyone, whether good or evil, with it. He had no power to stop it, not yet, at least. There was something missing, his secret weapon. But from where? How would it appear? In which form? Too many things were affecting each movement, each decision being made by either side. An outward power was taking control of the war, stealing it away from the hands of Lord Voldemort, and from his own.

Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last time, Albus Dumbledore felt a failure. He did not have to have Lily tell him what illness Emilia suffered from. He only had to look at Lily before he saw that she, soon, would suffer the same. But what weight did these events have upon the wider picture? These children-to-be might not be anything other than what they would, but they could also be much more. Two children, so opposite one another in parentage, family, and future... but what if there was another? He must not forget the other couples who fought side-by-side throughout the war. Oh Merlin, it was getting to be too much. The war would destroy everything, including the lives of all within the Order.

He looked towards the door and its surrounding shadows. Just how much had Severus understood of the conversation? Had it been too transparent? Would he know, or have guessed, of whom they had spoken? Did he even know of his child?

The answer to that final question could have changed everything.

There was still time before his meeting with Lily Potter. Dumbledore strode over to the grand fireplace, took one handful of Floo Powder, and was gone. Not even the portraits on the wall could tell just where he had vanished off to, but that was no great surprise for them. They were used to being left in the dark, perhaps they actually enjoyed it.

The Hog’s Head was empty when he arrived a few hours later, as it usually was at that time of the day. Too late for the students, who’d all be abed by now, and too early for the scum of the Wizarding World who made this place their haunt. The goat in the corner bleated a welcome to the old Headmaster, who only shook his head in return. To think that Aberforth had kept the blasted creature all these years was preposterous, but even worse was the portrait above the pub’s mantlepiece. Dumbledore refused to glance at it. Now was not the time for sentimental memories, particularly those with a darker side.

She was already there, of course, sitting in the corner with her regular draught of butterbeer – she never drank anything else, it seemed. Her hair was severely tied back from her face, revealing more of her mood than she would have guessed. She’d only taken the first sip of drink when he took the chair opposite hers. Her glass clinked upon the table when she opened her mouth to speak, but he cut her off.

“You need not inform me of that, Lily. I am already aware of Emma’s physical condition.”

A small, strained laugh erupted from her lips. “Of course.” Her voice cut off; she wiped something from her eye. “But it’s her mind I’m more worried about. The child is Snape’s problem.” A certain coldness invaded her voice at the use of his name.

Dumbledore took a sip of his Firewhiskey. “Her mind?”

“She admitted to seeing things that weren’t there.” Lily took a ragged breath. Sometime that day, she had spent a considerable time in tears. “I suspect that it’s worse than she’ll admit, being like she is.” After a pause, Lily added, “Emma told me about what had happened to her. About the time... change.”

“And you blame the change for her problems?”

Lily shook her head with vehemence. “No! I mean, not completely. It’s making it worse for her, like something’s trying to control her.”

Dumbledore coughed on his drink, splattering liquid onto his beard. He sat silent, staring at the wall to the right of Lily’s head. She shifted in her seat, not daring to interfere. The expression in his eyes made her fear just how far things had progressed. What in Merlin’s name was happening with Emma? Was there any hope....?

“Did she speak of any particular situations?” Dumbledore’s voice sliced through the air.

The electric shock of his intensity made Lily shrink backwards.

“Only of dreams. Strange things she’d seen in dreams, like....” She trailed off, trying to recall the little that Emilia had told of the dreams that haunted her nights. “She saw murdered people.”

“People she knew?”

“She wouldn’t say.”

Dumbledore looked away and the electricity passed. “Did she say any more about these dreams?”

“No, but they had an affect upon her. Scared her half to death, if not further.” Lily wrapped her arms around herself, though the room was burning hot from the fires. “Her face when she told me.... Merlin, I won’t forget what it was like.”

“Then you’d need not tell me.” Dumbledore shoved his empty glass aside. “Riddle’s power is growing at a higher rate than I expected. It is probably though her father that his route into Emma’s mind has been so smooth.”

Lily paled. “What do you mean, Headmaster?”

Not meeting her eyes, he replied, “Legilimency. Riddle is using her mind for a purpose I cannot comprehend. At this time, she is his greatest weapon.”

There was still a lack of understanding in Lily’s expression, but it was soon overcome with pity. “Poor Emma. All this time, she didn’t want to be involved, and now.... Surely there’s something–”

With a sigh, Dumbledore rose from his chair. “I am afraid not, Lily. Time must work itself out this time. We are powerless in its wake.” He stared down at her, pensive. “All the pity you can feel cannot help her, Lily. Emma can only help herself.”

~ * * * ~

She did not like the reflection of herself in the mirror. Nothing about her seemed to look right. There was always a spot in the wrong place, or her skin was discoloured, or there was a curve that should have been concave instead of convex. Since when had she gained so much weight? It seemed impossible to look as she did on her non-existent diet. She stared down at the bump of her abdomen. Well, her diet only felt non-existent because she threw it up every morning, otherwise she was eating more than her usual, forcing her to send to the village for supplies at ever-decreasing intervals. The girl from the pub never blinked an eye at Emilia’s increasing size, as though it were completely natural. Which, it was, Emilia supposed, as much as she didn’t like it. She still had no idea how she would deliver the news to Severus. Would he storm out in a rage? Burst into tears of sorrow? happiness? Say nothing at all? None of the options were very exciting.

Just as she was about to turn away from the mirror, she heard a voice, no more than the quietest or whispers. It was more like the breathing of wind through a crack in the door than a human speaking out to her, but her rattled mind heard it for what it was.

“Do not look away.”

Emilia froze in place, eyes yearning to look – just he smallest glance – but the warning from Dumbledore stood strong within her mind. She must not look again.

“I can help you, child.”

She had heard the voice somewhere before, though it was difficult to tell because of its volume. Perhaps it was something else within her mind that was slipping.

“It only takes one look.”

Like the poor musician of ancient legend who looked back once and lost everything, Emilia’s curiosity won out once again and she looked back at the mirror, risking everything, including her life. The reflection of her own face was there, but something was behind it. How could something be behind a mirror upon a wall? How could there be a face just beyond her own reflection?

“Ah, so you see me now?”


She nodded, once, unable to tear her eyes from the face. It was long and thin, almost skeletal, full of hard lines and sharp corners.

“Good. Now you must listen. And listen closely.”

The voice was so soft, so gentle, like the voice of a lover or like the serpent in the tree.

“You have been betrayed, Emilia Nero.”

Her name! How would the face have known her name, the name she was born with? She stepped back from the mirror, her face blanching.

“Wh–who are y–you?” She sounded so weak, so pitiful.

The smile which appeared upon the face contained rather more malice than was comforting.

“You know me, child.”

The voice had changed again, growing more familiar with each syllable. Oh Merlin, no. It couldn’t be.... No, of course not. He wasn’t here, he was far away.

She was shivering beneath her light robes. “You’re not him.”

“Do you doubt me, then?”

She wanted to. Oh yes, she had to doubt the voice and the face. It was so close to what was real, but something was missing. There was a heaviness to the voice, a strangeness to the face, that made her doubt. It was like all the jealousy in her heart had warped his form, had changed the ideal that had formed over those three long years of mourning. Was his memory to become her downfall?

“Of course you do.” There was laughter in the voice now. “A wise decision, child.”

Emilia placed her arms across her chest, cupping hands over elbows. It afforded some protection.

“What do you want?” She watched how her question hardened the eyes of the face. It seemed to grow clearer with every moment.

“I have been looking for you a long, long time.”

Ominous did not begin to describe that statement.

“Oh, well... I see....” She backed away a step.

“You must go back to your own time.”

Emilia took in a breath and held it, her eyes widening. The face drew back, slinking into the shadows just beyond the mirror.

“Without you, they will fail... and die.”

She moved closer, almost pressing against the glass. “Who will? Who will die?” Her breath came in heavy gasps. There were so many of them in danger, too many to name.

“You have seen some of what has passed, but there is more, always more....” The voice was fading.

Now her fingernails scraped upon the surface of the mirror as though she could reach the face through the glass. “You’ve been giving me the dreams! I must know more!” Something ate away at her mind, filling her with the hunger of curiosity, the need for knowledge of all things past, present, and future.

She could have sworn that she heard laughter. “Yes, you must and you will, child.”

The next breath she released was a sigh of relief. “Yes. Thank you.”

“But you must do something for me in return.”

The face became clearer once more, revealing skin so pale that it seemed translucent. The eyes were of such a strange colour... green one moment, then turning... red? No, it was not Grimm, as she had feared. His eyes had been very different, so much softer, also intense in another way, not with such ambition as those of the face. And now it was asking her for something in return. It had lured her in, but was there a way out? Or was she already too far gone? Its eyes met hers again, and the doubt fled further into the corners of her mind.

“Whatever you wish, my lord.”

She was not as easy to crack as her father, but the challenge was exciting. Something that he had not truly felt in a long while. The memory of that damned Grimm still lingered in her mind, a small problem that would be quickly remedied. His silent laughter filled the air around him, yet she would not hear it. She would hear nothing now other than the sound of his voice. Yes, he would have her, she and that child. He needed both of them, the would suit his plans most perfectly. His laughter increased in volume, echoing against the walls and the cracked mirror he gazed upon. The old man could do nothing against him, the greatest wizard of all. Lord Voldemort. No longer the insignificant half-blooded orphan. And this girl would be the secret weapon, the thing that would control the pawns, both black and white. Snape. The Potter girl. Dumbledore. Sirius Black. They would all fall to him, powerless and begging for mercy.

He turned his attention back to the girl, whose eyes blankly stared upon the mirror.

“You will follow my instructions exactly,” he said, his voice as soft and seductive as before. “And you will have your life restored to you in the fullest.”

He heard her gasp. “The fullest?” Hope dripped from the words.

“Oh yes. Would I ever lie to you, child?”

~ * * * ~

Snape’s fingers fumbled with the awkwardly-sized key to the cottage. Swearing under his breath, he pulled out his wand and the door blew open, slamming against the outer wall. She would likely complain of the dent, if she was still there at all. Stupid, stupid, stupid. The cursed Dark Lord must have guessed at his double dealings and attacked the one thing he supposed closest to Snape. If only the Dark Lord knew... but it was still a blow. He should not have been away for so long.

It could, however, all be unnecessary worry. He did not yet know if she was missing.

He charged through one room at a time until he came to the open door of the bedroom. She was there by the window, eyes blank and hand upon her abdomen. He saw the swell of it against her fingers and halted in mid-step.

“So you finally bothered to return,” she said, the old bitterness returned. Old to her, if not to him.

He took a step into the room, eyes roving every corner before focussing upon her. “Emilia–”

“I suppose that you’ve been with her.”

“What–?”

“I’m not a fool, Severus. Not as big a one as you think me.”

She had not moved, and neither had he. It was a dreadful tableau, all dialogue without action.

“Lily’s prettier than me, I know. Smarter too. But look at me, Severus....” She turned, now, her face still pale, too pale. “You can’t be going after her anymore.”

He could see the Dark Lord’s touch upon her brow. There was nothing in her eyes, not the passion she ought to have shown with such an accusation, not any of the hurt, the tears, that she would have flung at him in frustration and pain. The words were empty, weapons to pierce his heart without the emotion that would have made them real.

“You can’t even say anything in your defence,” she continued, oblivious to his thoughtful expression as she was oblivious to everything. “Surprising, but pathetic all the same.”

He could hear the Dark Lord’s laughter, far in the distance. This was his punishment.

“Stop it.” Snape’s whisper was almost lost upon the draughts from the window.

Her left eye twitched. “What will I do once you’ve run off to her again? What of your child, Severus?”

Snape set his mouth in a firm line and strode forward. She blinked, twice, but remained still. He placed his hand on her stomach, beside hers. She was cold, her hand like ice.

“Your hand is cold.”

It was an echo from a distant time, one that both of them had lived, so long before. The bedroom fell away as the memory of the chilled dungeon walls rose around them, as the woman once again became the girl with round face and mousy hair, while the man facing her became the pasty-faced boy.

She had looked up at him, the blush rising her in cheeks, only to reply that the cold did not bother her. This time, however, she shivered, her hand brushing against his, both resting upon her abdomen. The memory was far away, but it was enough to crack through the ice growing around her, the ice that the Dark Lord had tried to smother her with. She took in a breath as though she had not done so for many long minutes. A spark of life appeared in her eyes as the memory guided her back to him.

She blinked again. “I feel it now.”

He covered her hand with his. “Inside?”

“Yes. But how?”

“He is here.”

She frowned, biting her lip in the way he knew well. The colour was coming back to her face. “I’ve had the strangest dreams, Severus. So horrible....”

“Forgive me.” He wanted to pull her closer, but what if it had not been enough? What if the Dark Lord still lurked in her mind, watching, waiting for the perfect opportunity to entrap him? She was violated now, never to be the same.

“For what? You were busy, I’m sure.” She didn’t even remember the other things she’d said. It was another blank spot in her mind, her memory. Pray to Merlin that she would never remember. “Afraid I don’t have anything for you, though. I think I ate it all, though I can’t quite recall.” Her frown deepened.

“I want no food.” His lips twitched upwards. “Only a place to rest.”

A smile slowly crept onto her face. “For the night?” She was blushing now, even though her eyes met his without modesty.

Perhaps there was a chance that the Dark Lord’s grasp upon her had been thrown away before it was too late, before she could go completely mad with his thoughts of hatred and murder. She appeared her usual self now, even bit healthier than before, pleased that he had finally returned to her. Damn that he had stayed away for so long. If he could, he’d quit it all just to hide away in this place of safety, concerning himself only with her and all that she had always given him.

“With some persuasion, I would gladly stay longer.”

Whether he had moved towards her, or she towards him, he could not be sure. It was that magnetism again, uniting them like it had done so many times before, against their wills, yet with the permission of their hearts. It had never happened this way with Lily, all those years ago. She had never done this to him.

“Maybe forever?” she asked, her face raised up to his, their bodies pressed together.

Before his lips touched hers, he whispered, “Yes. Always.”

But nights cannot last forever, nor can love, however awkward, always overcome evil. Long after he had pulled her mind from the Dark Lord’s hands, Severus did not hear Emilia whispering in her sleep to an unseen face. He did not feel her sit up in the bed. He did not see her rise and dress. He did not hear the door close behind her. It was not until the morning, when he awoke, that he realised that she was gone.

Forever.

~ * * * ~

It was another quiet morning at the sanitarium. Half the patients were still abed – whether sleeping or not, it didn’t really matter – and the other half were decently subdued to the point that they might as well be sleeping for all the trouble they caused. The night watchman looked to be in much the same condition, nodding off in his chair surrounded by black and white security cameras that flickered from one image to the other, showing nothing of interest. He glanced at them from time to time, expecting nothing because nothing ever happened. The director of the sanitarium wouldn’t allow for any instances to occur. Her snapping eyes and voice were enough to keep the employees hopping.

At least, they would while she was in the building, which, thankfully, was only three times a week.

The night watchman relished his position, never having to meet the director, not even to collect his bi-weekly salary – the pretty secretary always did those sorts of things. He stretched out his legs, putting his hands behind his head. It was six a.m. and the nursing staff was arriving in meagre waves depending on which bus they took to get here. He nodded at each of them in turn, wondering for the day when one of them would actually smile back at him. They certainly didn’t relish their jobs.

“Excuse me. Sir?”

The voice seemingly came out of nowhere, startling the night watchman out of his sleepy stupour. A young woman stood at the desk, plucking at the silky dress thing she wore. Fashions these days....

“And what could I be doin’ for you this fine day–” He glanced at her finger, checking for a ring. Could never tell these days, with them marrying early and late alike. Ah, there was one. “Mum?”

“I’m here to see a patient.” Her matter-of-fact voice contradicted her restless hands. “It’s probably a bad time, it being so early, but do you think....?” She appeared genuinely distressed by something, putting up a strong front that was nothing more than a thin facade.

He tilted his head to take in her pale, freckled cheeks, the wide, empty eyes with tears at the corners. Not pretty, no. That’d be a stretch, for certain.

“Well, I’ll go call the nurse for you, mum. She’ll help–”

Her eyes widened. “Oh no, you mustn’t do that. Surely your help would be enough.”

The night watchman hesitated.

She gave a weak smile that only heightened the appearance that she was about to burst into tears.

“We need not bother her, don’t you agree? She’ll be quite busy right now.”

Her voice was tantalising, so strange coming out of such a plain, childish face. There was a depth to it that surprised him, but dragged him in, its tones twisting about him like invisible bonds. And this was the greatest power of the Dark Lord: to do his work through the minds and bodies of others.

“It can’t hurt, I s’pose.” The night watchman glanced over the cameras. Nothing at all. He pushed back his chair. “Right this way, mum.”

It was a labyrinth of a building, constructed to confuse the already insane, just in case one happened to... wander off. Such things had occurred once or twice over the years, but they’d been kept all hush-hush, even from the director, and she was one of those sharp ones. The name this girl had given him was at the far end of the wing, where no sound ever emitted from except those of the machines which ensured that these patients stayed alive. The oldest nurses were placed here, watching over patients that would never move much less say a word. Some of the nurses here were said to be as batty as the patients in other wings.

“Here you’ll be, mum.” He opened the door to the last room on the hall.

She nodded and reached into her pocket for a fiver. “Many thanks for your assistance, sir.”

The night watchman bowed his head – if he’d been wearing a hat, it wouldn’t have been grasped between his hands. She was already inside the room before he could reply, shutting the door with a snap behind her. He glanced up at the name beside the door – one of the long term patients, it was, brought in a few weeks past. Could have been dead, for all anyone knew.

The name plate caught a sliver of light from the still-rising sun. Tiberius Grimm, it read. Strange name, that was for sure. The night watchman shrugged his shoulders and strode off back down the hall, the fiver clutched in his hand. What young ladies did inside the rooms of comatose patients had nothing to do with him.

But what was occurring within the room could not have been more different than the night watchman imagined. Emilia stood at the end of the bed, staring up at the face of her guardian. He was the same as he had been in the cottage, in that stage between sleep and death that could have been both or neither. The machines around him clicked and whirled, but it was not they that kept him alive. It was a thing that had stumped the doctors and nurses for the first week after Grimm’s arrival. Emilia did not care what kept him alive. She flicked her wand at each of the machines in turn, silencing their motion. Turning her attention back to Grimm, part of her hesitated. A cold tear dripped down her cheek, falling onto the snowy sheet.

“You must do this, child....”


She shook her head wildly. “No, no. Not him.”

“It is not him,” the voice in her head whispered. “It is the being that forced your hand once before, throwing you into a time not your own. Destroy this being, and set the world to rights....”

Her fists tightened. “But why? It’s fine here. Better than there.”

There was a blissful second of silence before the voice replied. “Is it?”

One of her hands unfurled on its own, shaking as two minds attempted to control it. Droplets of perspiration appeared on Emilia’s brow as she struggled, remembering the changed Severus, the happiness she felt in his presence... but there was also so much pain... the attack by Sirius Black, the distrust she had for Lily, the endless battles that raged beyond her reach, growing closer and closer with each day....

“See? This place is not safe for you.”

Her free hand touched her abdomen. “But I have this. I have him.”

“How can you be sure of having Snape?”

Teeth gritted against each other. “More than I was before.”

The laughter in her mind almost caused her to double over, hands over her ears. He mocked her with every breath, but there was no door to close against him, no way to shove him out of her mind. Her strength, the strength awarded to her by Severus’ memory, was waning. She turned her head to look at Grimm’s face, hoping, wishing that just his presence would give her something to fight back with. But nothing was there, no grey eyes smiled at her, no oaken wand appeared to rid her of this parasite in her brain, no words of advise of reassurance spilled from those lips. She was alone and on the verge of breaking.

“Why do you fight me, child? The timing is... unfortunate.”

Emilia said nothing, tried to think nothing.

“When you assisted me in removing your father, you made no qualms at all.”

She closed her eyes, the pain of her head worse than any she had experienced.

“But could you feel more for this... this person who has done you the greatest harm? He who created the potion that ruined your life?”

Her entire body began to shake, muscles and nerves feeling as though they would burst from position.

“Tell me, child, do you love this wizard?”

With an intake of breath, she shuddered.

“Could your love for him be what stops you?” Some quiet laughter resounded through her brain. “Would you even renounce your husband before this man?” The question met with more silence. “Very interesting, indeed.”

Her hand, the left, once-cursedly pale hand, moved against her will. Nothing in her power could cease its movement.

“It is touching that one should feel such affection for another being, true?”

The hand reached into her pocket for the object she had, in that blank moment between being asleep beside Severus to being at the doorway to this room, taken from the kitchen of the cottage. It was a knife she had never used – too large, too sharp – and the very feel of it in her hand brought tears to her eyes.

“But would you sacrifice yourself to save him, a lifeless form that can do nothing for the world?”

The blade of the knife glinted in the sun. She strained against the power forcing her hand.

“Sacrifice is a silly act of heroism. What a waste.”

She moved towards the window, away from the bed. If she could use the power against itself....

“The loss of your child would be a tragedy. I’m sure dear Severus would mourn it.”

A gasp escaped her mouth. Her legs, now also controlled, stumbled towards the bed.

“Perhaps more than he’d mourn for you.”

The cry that emerged from her throat was the only sound in that wing of the sanitarium. The knife rose in the air, high above her head. She continued to cry out as more laughter echoed through the enclosing blackness of her mind. It was all slipping away as the knife screamed through the air, aimed directly at Grimm’s heart. Emilia grasped at anything at all still left just as the knife crashed through cloth, skin, muscle, and bone, reaching its target with exquisite precision.

Light filled the room, the dust swirling about like in a vacuum, capturing every moment, each breath of air, before sucking itself into the great emptiness of time. Although the minute, hour, or day changed, the world around did, taking back all the things which had happened in the time Emilia had created, all except one thing. The old world filled in all the gaps – Snape was loyal only to his Lily; the Order had been searching for the missing Emilia Goldwyn for many months; and Grimm lay in his grave, dead these last three, almost four, years. The only thing more cruel than time was the Dark Lord.


A/N: not much left after this chapter, but there will be more. Thanks, as always, to all the readers and reviewers who have taken time to read this story.

Chapter title is from the Phil Collins song (which tends to break my heart, like this chapter).


Chapter 30: Twenty-Six: Ending of a Story
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Note: it's probably a confusing chapter, but fitting. Hey, at least I managed to finish it. ;-) Thanks again to everyone who has read (ie: made it through) and/or reviewed this story. It means a lot that you have taken the time to read this, and I hope that you enjoyed it (or part of it).





Twenty-Six
May 1980


The room was neither bright nor dark, just perfect for its single occupant. This figure sat at a desk, sifting through a pile of papers and old assignments never again collected by errant students. There were streaks of grey among the hairs of black, with too many wrinkles of past sufferings lining the face. Minerva McGonagall eyes looked up from their search to glance at the shelves on the walls and the neat rows of desks lined up in front of her. Where had she put it...?

The beady eyes flickered towards the back cabinet with its brass lock.

She kept the key in her pocket, just in case. The door opened easily, with much use, revealing a small pile of letters, tied up with a spare bit of twine, some books, other odds-and-ends, as well as a box. It was a plain thing, like the boxes Muggles used. The sides were unmarked, but the inside was heavy with memory. Pushing aside the letters and other objects, Minerva pulled the box from its position and pried it open. The contents were all she had left of those days.

Perhaps what she was looking for would be found here.

Among the things she had collected from his office, she had taken some of those which could not be trusted to the girl. And good riddance, with the way things had gone, first with her going off on her own to live like a nun – to live like he did, part of her said – then vanishing into thin air with only the strange story told by Sirius Black to give it any authority. No one had returned to the cottage since the Aurors had left off investigating some months before. All his things were left to rot in that building.

Of course it didn’t matter all that much to Minerva. She didn’t let herself be bothered by such trivial, materialistic things. If no one else cared for his belongings, then there was no reason she should.

A cloud of dust emerged from the box. Coughing, she managed to find her handkerchief and covered her nose and mouth.

Had it been that long since he had died?

The pile of papers was there, covered in grey clouds of dust. What had he called them, dust bunnies? Peculiar, but that’s how it had always been. She picked through the thin parchments. The one she needed was an onion skin sheet, so thin you could see through it, scrawled upon with browning ink. It had been hidden in one of his books, one he must have known she would look through.

There it was. She held it in her fingers, eyes tracing the ripped edges, then tracing the lines of writing. The words and numbers were the cause of his problems, even his death. And now the girl had returned out of nowhere: pregnant and scared with something strange in the back of her eyes. Madness, perhaps. It had been in her father’s blood and had likely passed to her. Nothing anyone could have done would have....

Maybe Grimm. If he had known....

A knock at the door caused her to put a hand over her heart, twice-broken by the same man.

“You got it, Minerva?” Moody’s voice was strangely quiet. Still gruff, but somehow softened.

She nodded, rising with the paper still pinched between her fingers. She didn’t dare crumple it.

“Dumbledore will be wanting to read it.” When she hesitated, Moody added, “Come on, then.” He reached forward for her arm.

They were silent as they walked down the hall, his hand still strong on her arm. Had she become so infirm that she couldn’t find Dumbledore’s office on her own? Yet even with her indignation, Minerva could not break from Moody’s grasp. A mirror in the hall revealed her face to be sickly pale, like she had seen a ghost. The paper fluttered in her hand.

Dumbledore sat behind his desk, slowly flipping the pages of an ancient book. He looked up at their entrance, eyes searing into Minerva. There was no hint of a sparkle in his eyes; there, only seriousness could be found.

Minerva pulled away from Moody, still drawn to Dumbledore’s presence.

“I found it.” But she did not offer him the paper.

“May I see it, Minerva?” As he rose, she could see the slightest stiffness in his joints. That knowledge scared her above all else. Her hesitancy failed.

His fingers brushed against hers when he took the paper, but no electricity passed between them. Sometimes she still wondered about him.

“Ah,” he said, taking his seat once more. “It is certainly enlightening to know how he did it, even if this knowledge cannot help Emma, poor child.”

She took in a breath.

Moody’s brow fell further over his eyes. “Nothing at all? So what are we going to do about her then?”

She watched Dumbledore glance back at the ingredients to Grimm’s potion. It was more simple than she had expected – Dumbledore must have felt the same about it. The weariness upon him increased as he set the paper down upon his desk, less gently than she would have hoped.

“Let time take its course.” He leaned back in the chair, looking up towards Fawkes. “There is nothing else we can do for her. It could not have been the potion that caused her ill-health.”

“What did?” Moody demanded, shifting on his wooden leg.

Minerva moved to the window, resting her hands on the worn stone ledge. “Whatever happened to her there. Something terrible.”

“The Dark Lord has the power to do such things.” Dumbledore absently strokes Fawkes’ feathers. “He has ways of tricking the mind into believing what is not true.”

Moody snorted. “So this whole thing she says about being in a different time could be a lie, eh?”

“It could be.”

At the tone of Dumbledore’s voice, Minerva swung around. “And how do you explain the child? She claims that it’s Snape’s.”

Dumbledore scrutinized her expression whilst maintaining no set expression on his own face. However, it was Moody who answered her.

“There have been attacks on women by Death Eaters, and she is a pureblood....”

A spark of anger reached Dumbledore’s eyes. “It is too simple an explanation for her condition, Alastor. You may find that Minerva knows more about Tiberius’ potion than you could suppose.” He raised his voice a touch so as to address her, and only her. “You have seen it work, have you not, Minerva?”

Her sharp intake of breath should have been enough of a response.

“He came to me, after his own funeral.” She looked towards the two wizards. “He was not a ghost.”

Before Moody could speak – there was much suspicion in his gaze – Dumbledore spoke.

“One would think it impossible, travelling through time without the use of a timeturner. How much did it rely on the person’s own desires?”

Her memory was far away, remembering. “Entirely. He could only go where he wanted.”

“Not a bad deal,” Moody grumbled.

“What time do you think Emma desired to travel to?” Dumbledore was using his soft, persuasive voice once again. The voice of a Headmaster, interrogator, not a friend.

Moody’s eyes narrowed. “Before Grimm died, likely. Try to save him.”

Minerva shook her head. “No. Not to save him. There was something else....”

Another moment of hesitation. She would be a doddering old woman before the day was out.

“She would go back to change Snape, perhaps to the very day he and Potter fought on the grounds in their fifth year.” Her hand balled into a fist. “I had the power to stop her, when she left here. I could have done something to help her.”

Moody let out a harumph of distaste. “Doubt that. Too much like her father.”

Dumbledore raised a weary hand. “Stop, stop. We cannot change what has been, no matter how much Tiberius desired it.” His eyes shot over to Minerva, quickly removing themselves again. “We can only work towards the future and what it may bring.”

“We must fight for the common good,” Minerva said, a sneer growing on a face unfamiliar with such an expression. She saw the recognition in Dumbledore’s eyes.

“We must all be rational,” his said quietly.

“Reason and war never work well together.” Moody’s wooden leg banged on the floor.

Minerva looked out the window once again. Nothing in those beloved mountains and lakes could stave her growing temper. Everything Dumbledore was telling her only fuelled the fire. Anger, burning frustration at all that had gone wrong and could never be the same again, ran through her body, flushing her cheeks in a way that even Grimm could not have found flattering.

“Reason? Albus, think!” Her robes whipped around her as she flew towards Dumbledore’s desk. “Try to explain the girl’s story in a rational way, if you can. Time travel, different worlds, how can any of that make sense or be used for the common good?”

Although silent, Moody gave a brief nod and looked to the Headmaster, awaiting the answer.

But no suitable one came. Dumbledore closed his eyes.

“We must do what we can for her, that is all.”

~ * * * ~


However many times Emilia had asked to see Severus, she had been denied. The Healer had shaken her head, otherwise providing no information. Dumbledore had come and gone many times, but he had gotten no more out of Emilia than she from him. Her mind pulling itself apart at the seams, she wanted only to find some pillar of sanity in all the mess surrounding her. Even Professor McGonagall, if she ever came....

Footsteps. Someone in the corridor, coming this way? Perhaps, it was hard to tell quite yet. Hers was not the last door, that would have made it easier to tell if someone was coming to see her.

The door opened, Emilia strained her eyes to the lightened doorway, so bright against the darkness of her room, the darkness of her mind.

“Hello?” Her voice felt plaintive, beginning for communication.

The figure stood, silent, watching her. Shocked, perhaps? Not expecting to see the jaundiced skin, the hollow face, the empty eyes. She had only seen herself in the mirror once, by accident. She’d never thought herself pretty. No one else had thought her that way, either. But now... now....

“I’ve brought your medicine, miss.”

Just another Healer, with more of that stuff they gave her. Not like Grimm’s potions used to be.

“Fine. I’ll take it.”

She struggled to sit upright, her balloon-like belly hindering every move, every breath. The Healer offered a hand, but Emilia shoved it away. She couldn’t even say why she let them give her medicine, why she let them keep her here. There were so many hours that were just blanks in her memory, times when she knew she existed, but she could never remember. They were only dark, like this room. That dark cloud ventured nearer to the last bit of herself she had, threatening to take it all away. Perhaps the medicine was supposed to help. It stopped the pain, helped her to sleep.

The Healer gently placed the vial to Emilia’s lips. She coughed once after the Healer backed away.

“You alright, miss?”

Emilia took in a deep breath. She stiffened, her hand going to her abdomen. Her face transformed into a grimace, soon changing again into a mask of pain.

The scream reached the ears of all in the hospital, waking patients and startling Healers.

In the waiting room, Minerva woke from a snooze, her heart leaping in place. Hand over that sensitive instrument, she rose and rushed down the corridor, her robes billowing around her.

The Healer met her at the door to Emilia’s room.

“It’s begun again.”

~ * * * ~

“Can I see her, Professor?” Lily, her own abdomen swollen tight, brushed a strand of hair from her eyes. “Maybe it would do her good to see a friend.”

Minerva shook her head. “It is best if you do not go in.” How could Lily ever hope to understand Emilia’s ravings, her sudden bouts of blankness, the cries of pain tearing her apart? “Her health is too delicate.” Those had been Dumbledore’s words.

Lily frowned, a distant snap of temper flaring in her eyes. “So she has to lie there alone for how much longer? Keeping her alone is the worst thing!”

Straightening her spine, Minerva glared back. “Her mind is nearly gone, Lily. If she sees you in your present condition, she will hate you.”

“Hate me?” Her brow fell into a deep furrow.

With a sigh, Minerva added, “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named made her believe that you and Snape....”

Lily’s eyes widened. “No.”

Minerva placed a hand on the younger witch’s shoulder. “You must understand me. To see her is to inflict pain on both of you, and neither of you are in the condition to withstand such a shock.”

The green-eyed gaze dropped. “How much longer does she have?”

“Not long. A week at best.” Minerva removed her hand from Lily’s arm. “I will make sure that you know when it happens.” She stepped back towards the closed door to Emilia’s room.

“Thank you, Professor.”

Minerva listened to Lily’s footsteps disappear down the corridor. She had been tempted to go against Dumbledore’s wishes and let her into the room. No one could be sure just when the dark mood would arise, leaving her raving about betrayal and revenge. Just what He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had put into her mind, not one, not even Dumbledore, could do anymore than guess at. But why Emilia? Why not someone who was involved in the war, whose demise would send a shock through the system of the Order? If it had been Lily instead of Emilia....

If He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had wanted to harm the Order’s work with this crime, he had not succeeded all too well, and perhaps that was the greatest tragedy of all, how little many of them seemed to care, or even notice.

Hours passed. She remained in a chair by the doorway, having moved there after the last emergency. Dumbledore wanted news of any problems as soon as they occurred, and she was the only one who could spare the time. Imagine being useless for battle, not that she would ever want to take part in them. She wasn’t much different from Emilia in that way. Each had to win the war in their own way.

Her eyes were closed when a new set of footsteps approached. Heavy, wearing thick-soled boots and filled with fury, or some similar emotion. Minerva opened to eyes, though she knew who had finally bothered to make an appearance.

“She’s been asking for you.” There was no need to hide the coldness in her voice.

The sneer on his face appeared to be frozen in place, a permanent fixture. “Then she is a fool.”

He closed the door behind him with a sharp click. Minerva stared at the wood, not daring to guess what would occur within. However much Emilia dreamed, speaking of that other time in which she and Snape had been together, she could not change the reality of this world. He would never loved her. Probably he never had. If there was any ability in his cold, solid heart to love, he would not give any to Emilia.

The door was not thin enough that Minerva could hear their words.

Would Emilia tell him of her adventures? Of the things she had seen?

Or would she actually tell him that she carried his child?

Minerva hoped it would not be so. Telling Snape such a thing would....

A yell from him. A cry from her. He burst through the door, his sneer changed to a snarl. Teeth bared, he rounded on Minerva, dark eyes burning with more hatred than any being should have.

“She’s mad. I won’t be making the mistake of returning again.”

She did not watch him leave. She could hear Emilia’s sobs from inside the room, her eyes on the figured curled in one corner of the bed. Was this how things had to end? She, too, had once been abandoned by a lover, a child growing within, yet a second chance had come. For Emilia, she doubted that such a second chance would come. Snape was no Grimm, and the world was not as it had been then. There would be many deaths before any form of peace could settle over the land. Within that peace, there would be no place for Emilia and Severus. They would forever be separated by their own follies, their own stubbornness, their own refusal to accept the roles they should have performed.

And now their child would grow up as alone as they had been, and would be, all their lives.

Minerva quietly shut the door. Nevermore.

~ * * * ~


“Must we take the child away, Albus?”

“We must. It is best if she never knows.”

“But–”

“You should not let your own past cloud the present, Minerva.”

A shining tear upon a cheek. She held the swaddled child close.

“Where will you take him?”

“To a safe place. You can see it in his eyes.”

Squib.





Finale. 1997.

He stood over her bed, watching. How many times had he watched her in her sleep? So many times, so many reasons. And this was to be the last time. This would be the last time he would ever lie to her, to himself. What he had come to call her madness was more substantial than anything he had ever known. It was passion, it was reason, it was love. The love she had for himself, for Grimm, even for Lily, whom she should have hated most of all....

No, it was not Lily’s fault. It was his.

His hand reached to smooth out the sheets covering her wasted frame, so different from how she had appeared after returning from that other time. The glowing cheeks had transformed into purple hollows. The soft flesh had fallen away to skin pulled tight over bone. There were grey hairs among the brown. He felt a shudder run through his body as he stared down at her, the woman he had destroyed. All that had happened, all that she had become, all that she had lost, was of his doing. He heard his words echoing through the room still.

“She’s mad.”

The news of the child came soon after. They had told him of its nose, so much like his, and of the eyes that were more green than gold. There had been no doubt as to the child’s parentage, yet he had doubted, he could not believe that he, in another, distant, time, had fathered a child. Instead of embracing the news, he had thrown it away with the rest of the things he’d wished he’d never heard. They were the things that now haunted him. She had become a ghost in his mind – the girl he had scorned and loved and wished had never been there, always loving, always loyal – and now she was a ghost in body too. Yet she would outlive him, she would go on with her life and he would go onto his death.

She moved, the small hands pulling at the sheets, the body shaking with every breath, as though she was sobbing without sound. Watching her, he let himself forget the flashes of red hair and green eyes blocking his sight to look down at the plain brown hair and hazel eyes – a washed-out reflection of her rival. He sat on the edge of the bed and took up her hand in his, like he had long ago as a boy. Only now, he could not forget, however much she could forgive.

The fingers beneath his moved, taking in the texture of his callouses.

“Severus? What are you doing here?”

Her eyes opened. He could see the dots of green within the gold irises.

“You recognized me.”

A weak laugh emerged from her throat. “The Healer would call this a good day.”

He looked down at the floor, his hand receding. She refused to let it go.

“It’s gotten to that point, hasn’t it?”

There was no hint of insanity in her voice. How could he have ever believed her mad?

“Yes.”

She rubbed a finger against his hand. “You’re cold, Severus.”

The words struck him with more memories, more ghosts. He moved her gaze to her face and remembered what he had always, and never, wanted to forget.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Emma asked him, waking him from his thoughts.

When he didn’t respond right away, as he was trying to think up a suitable answer, she reached her hand up to his face, gently brushing his pale cheek. He closed his eyes, not wanting her to see his weakness, but she knew. She could see what he felt written across his features.

“Severus,” she whispered. “Your face says many things your voice can’t.”

He took her other hand, the colourless one, in both of his. “You are cold,” he told her.

“I don’t feel it.” Her hand lowered from his cheek and rested upon his shoulder.

“But you feel something else?”

Her caress on his hand was comforting.

“Are you afraid of dying, Severus?”

He shook his head. He should not have come, even though it was the last time.

“I suppose you have everything prepared?” Her voice was as soothing as her touch, even as the words struck him. Of course she would have known; she had all of time at her fingertips, the same ones that touched him now.

“I will not ask how you know.”

A fragment of smile appeared on her face. “I wouldn’t tell you, even if you did.”

He straightened his back and stared at the blank asylum walls. They were not the place for her. She belonged in rooms lined with books and filled with all sorts of old and wondrous things. They need not be beautiful things, only nice. She would not have asked for more, yet he had given her this place of blankness and nothingness. And she still forgave him, just like she always had.

It was too much. He pulled her hand to his lips, letting it rest there. So many mistakes....

A single tear fell upon her hand as he remembered all the things he’d once told her.

“I can’t leave him. What if–“

”He won’t.”

There was a sharp intake of breath. “He won’t wake up? How can–“

He put his hands on her shoulders and forced her to look up at him. “He won’t die, Emilia!” He hated the words as soon as he said them. The lie within them was all too obvious.

The tears spilled over and she moved closer to him, wanting him to hold her close and make it all go away. She didn’t want to see through his lie. “What would I do without him? He’s always been there to look up to, to worry about me....” She sniffed, choking on her tears. “Merlin, I’ve missed him so much. He’s always busy, but at least he’s there. But now.... now....”

He pushed her face against his robes so that she could not speak. There was another way, but he would not do it, not at this moment. “You have me,” he whispered into her hair. “You have me to worry about you.”

She pushed herself into a sitting position and, gasping for air, leaned her head against his back, her free hand hanging from his shoulder.

“Don’t cry, Severus. Not for me.”

“I never answered your question,” he said, still keeping her hand close.

“You don’t need to. I always hoped–”

Her voice cut off into silence. There was no sound in the room save their breathing.

He took a chance and said, “The potion is ready. Whoever finds me will find it as well.” He squeezed her hand. “There is nothing of you within it.”

“Good.”

“They will forget you, one day.” He turned, slipping his arm around her.

“But they won’t forget you.” She sighed against his chest, closing her eyes. “You’ll get to see him before I do.”

It took him a moment to understand whom she meant. “I am sorry, Emilia.”

Pulling away, she looked up at his face, studying every feature. She did not miss the newly-formed lines, or the despair in his eyes, or the dullness of his hair. Part of him was already dead. He, too, was a ghost.

She used all her strength to raise herself to his height, so that they were face-to-face, so that they could see death in each others’ eyes. She rested her weight against him, touching her dry lips to his once last time. His arm tightened around her, but he also struggled to maintain balance. Neither had strength for passion, for anything more than a meeting of lips. It was not a real kiss, but it was all they had.

He was the first to pull away. There was no clock here to tick away the minutes, but he could feel the thread of his life shortening with every breath. He wanted to make use of each last breath, and there were not enough to include her. There had never been enough of him for her, just as part of her had always been with Grimm.

“It’s not you, Severus,” she whispered, her bottom lip trembling. “If I could, I’d do anything to be with you, to finish what we started, but things are different now.”

He glared at her. “Because of Grimm’s death?”

She shook her head. “No, not that....”

“You loved him, didn’t you.”

“Different from you.”

His hand caressed her feverish cheek, every emotion spent after the years of suffering, the months of battles, and the few days that he had to live out whatever life he still had in his grasp. Time was ticking past too quickly. He would face it, but he was not prepared for it.

“I must go.”

Her eyes rose to meet his, the yellow irises so dull.

“I wish I could come too.”

With a nod, he placed her back underneath the sheets.

“I’ll see you when it’s over, Severus?”

She must have been losing herself, the “good day” fading into darkness.

“It’ll all be right again in the morning.”

He leaned down to kiss her eyelids, wishing he had never come. Turning away from the bed, he stopped when she spoke one last time.

“See you at King’s Cross.”

The words meant something – they triggered a distant memory that he could not recall. When he looked back, she was already asleep, her breathing steady and even, as though her body could transform as quickly as her mind.

“You were always a good man.”

He shut the door on her last words, feeling as though he had shut the lid on her casket. His ink-stained fingers removed an unsealed letter from his pocket. There was just the epilogue to write, and then it would all be over.

~ * * * ~


Some weeks later.

The young man arrived after the funeral had ended. He hung behind the crowd, observing their actions and noting their words. It was the usual funeral-talk, the assertions of having really liked the dead person and having always admired their work. Lies. All lies. Now more than ever at the funeral of the most-hated Headmaster of Hogwarts, even more hateful than Phineas Nigellus. The dead wizard had managed to save them all, yet they could not forget their hatred of him. The young man’s lips twisted up into a smirk. If only they could see the lies on their faces.

As the attendees went their separate ways, the young man stood aside, keeping his face turned away from their prying eyes. It would do no good for them to see, and wonder about, his appearance. He made his way towards the grave, eyes never leaving the ground. He did that a lot. His aunt had told him his mother did it as well, but he’d never believed her. How could he, if he’d never known either of his parents?

Until the letter had come.

It was in the pocket of his borrowed robes, the heavy parchment pushing against his chest, reminding him of all the lies.

The monument was closed, so he was unable to see the dead wizard’s face. Perhaps it would have meant more if he had – it would have revealed the truth that no person could speak. He read the name over and over in his mind, catching the alliteration of the first and last upon his foreign tongue. But he was not foreign by birth, the letter reminded him of that strange fact. It was just where he lived.

He squinted down at the casket which hung over the open grave. There would be no great monument for the dead wizard. Even his last act of heroism, and all the things he had done outside of their knowledge, could not grant him that privilege. It would not be right to give it to someone bearing the Dark Mark on his arm, not when the next nearest tomb was that of the most highly-regarded and brilliant Headmaster of all. Evil always outweighs the good, even in the best of men.

The letter was in his hands, unfolded, when he heard a voice beside him.

“Did you know him at all?”

Another of those funeral questions. Meaningless.

“No.” His voice was damning.

“Oh,” the other voice, that of a wizard his own age, said.

The young man tapped the letter. “He wrote to me not long ago.”

He would not say why unless the other asked for it.

“Were you related?”

The young man raised his eyes to look at the wizard. It was the person he expected – the glasses, the eyes, the face, the wizard was as all the stories claimed him to be. Here was what should have been his mirror image, but the reflection was so distorted. Just like it must have been for his mother, the mother he had never met.

“Yes. Distantly.”

The wizard nodded and looked at the grave. “You look a bit like he did.”

“So I am told.” The words were uncertain on his tongue, revealing his accent.

They stood in silence for a few moments, as though waiting for the other to speak. There were others still about, including the group the wizard had originally been with. They were probably talking about the strange young man with the pale skin and long, hooked nose that seemed so out of place on his otherwise plain face.

The wizard held out his hand. “Sorry, my name’s Harry Potter.”

Half as second passed before the young man touched his fingers to the wizard’s hand.

“I know.”

Harry laughed, but it was guarded. His eyes were upon the letter.

“I am Marius Grimm,” the young man said. He folded up the letter, replacing it in his empty pocket, the one most convenient for storing wands, but not before the wizard had recognised the handwriting. It was a difficult hand to forget.

“Want to join us in Hogsmeade for a drink?” Harry asked.

Marius shook his head. “Forgive me, but I cannot stay for long.” He absently waved his free hand, a light flush appearing on his face. “Perhaps another time.” He could not look at those green eyes any longer. They held within them all that Marius had never had. All that he never was.

He turned away.

“Wait!”

Harry came up beside him, his hair rebelling in the still air. “Who are you, really? Why did you come to Snape’s funeral?”

A smile crossed Marius’ face. Some would have said it was his mother’s smile.

“I think you already know, yes?”

Their eyes met. Gold meeting green for the last time.

Harry was the first to look away. “I see.”

The smile broadened. “I knew you would. Good day, Monsieur Potter.”

He walked off towards the school, where his surrogate aunt waited, perhaps to tell him the rest of the story that had been left unfinished for too long. Half-way, he paused, his hand reaching into another pocket and removed what appeared to be a silver cigarette lighter. The smile on his face had changed. Only his mother could have said whose smile it was now. She was, after all, one of the few who had ever seen a smile on the face of Severus Snape.

Finis


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