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Everyday Chemistry

Chapter Text

early June, 1995

Severus let out a displeased huff as he heard the knock on the door. His office hours were long over, he had no detentions, and he was at a particularly involved stage in brewing the Mandrake Restorative Draught that Madam Pomfrey had requested.

“What is it? My office hours are over.” he barked out, hoping to scare off whatever hapless student was interrupting his brewing.

He was surprised to see the door open and Sybilll Trelawney enter his laboratory. She had her familiar owlish look about her, and seemed to be confused as to why she was even there.

“Severus! Whatever are you doing here?”

“Sybill,” Severus replied with an irritated sigh, “I was about to ask the same of you as you are, in fact, entering my laboratory.”

“Am I? Well, I suppose I am. There is a distinct lack of tea cups in this room and more than a few cauldrons.”

“Yes, Sybill, I had noticed. Perhaps you might tell me what brings you out of your tower.”

“It's the strangest thing, Severus. I felt I needed a walk. And now I find myself here.”

“Sybill, I am in the middle of brewing, so if there's nothing more . . .”

“No, Severus. There must be some reason that I am here. Perhaps if I simply wander a bit more.” Sybill replied, walking further into the laboratory (much to Severus's chagrin), squinting at the various ingredients and potions lining Snape's private stores. “Lophophora williamsii , Severus! I never pictured you as one with an interest in the art of Divination. Merlin knows, your inner eye is quite weak.”

Snape took a deep breath, gave his potion three counterclockwise turns, and fought the urge to stupefy Sybill, if only to stop her deranged prattling. “Lophophora has a myriad of uses, quite apart from it's hallucinogenic properties. I spent some time studying its analgesic properties for a wizard who was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. I assure you, I have no desire to further develop my so called inner eye. And I do not care to discuss divination with you, Sybill, now or ever.”

Sybill absentmindedly trailed her finger along Severus's desktop as if searching for dust. She continued her slow perusal of the laboratory, turning a corner to end up on the same side of the worktop as Severus.

“That is a shame. You know, Severus, the noble practice of divination has given my life direction and can lead one to inner peace and divine knowledge.” Professor Trelawney had turned her attention to Severus and Snape was startled to see that she was advancing rapidly upon him with a look of determination.

“Sybill, I must demand that you leave, my laboratory . . .”

Professor Trelawney cupped Severus's face in her hand and gazed intently into his eyes. Severus was so startled at the action that he backed into his laboratory bench, sending an entire bottle of mandrake root into the cauldron, which cast an unearthly shriek and effectively ruined his solution. He found himself frozen in place, dreading what he believed to be a kiss from the demented woman who was currently far to close to him.

“Potions can wait, Severus. Fate cannot.”

Severus watched in bewilderment as Sybill's face, and with it her entire being, changed. Her eyes became more focused, she stood straighter. A look of frightening clarity arose on her face. In short, he felt he was no longer looking at his dotty colleague, but another person entirely. He had a sickening feeling of de ja vu, recalling the day that he overheard Sybill make her prophecy about Harry Potter to Albus Dumbledore.

He felt as if all of the air had been sucked out of the room. As she peered into his eyes, Severus found himself afraid to breathe. The candles flickered and the fire beneath his cauldron flared. When Sybill began to speak, her voice was foreign and harsh, her words somehow disconnected from her own body.

The time draws near for an exiled witch's return.

She will be an angel of light in a time of darkness

a beacon in a darkening house

and restore the prince with powers she knows not.

In seven days hence, at the rise of the new moon

the portal opens.

Though light can prevail, if my word is ignored, the unintended will perish and the gateway will close forevermore”

Severus remained motionless as Sybill's featured softened and returned to normal. She blinked several times, licked her lips, and pushed her glasses up with a finger. “Did you know, Severus, that you have lovely eyes? Eyes are an opening to the soul, and yours are deep and dark. Much like you, very much so.” She then continued her perusal of Serverus's potions lab as if nothing had happened. After examining a few more phials, she turned once again to Severus.

“As I cannot seem to work out why I am here, perhaps I should return to my rooms. I encourage you to try the Lophophora, Severus. We never know what the fates have in mind to show us.”

“Indeed.” a stunned Severus Snape replied, as he watched Sybill Trelawney drift out of his laboratory.

 

__________________________________________

 

Dumbledore listened intently as Severus recounted his encounter with Sybill Trelawney. As Snape finished his story, Dumbledore stood to peer out one of the towering windows at the rear of his office. After a time, he turned around, his expression quite grave.

“I had hoped that this day would never come, if only for my brother. I had sensed, however, that it might.” Turning to Severus, he said, “I will need your help with Aberforth; he trusts you.”

“What does Aberforth have to do with this?” Severus asked, then continued, “And as for him trusting me, I have been forcibly ejected from his establishment, as you may recall. The prophecy?”

“Ah yes. It had slipped my mind. No matter.”

At this, Severus let out a bitter laugh. That moment had led to his arrangement with Albus, to him teaching at Hogwarts regardless of being ill-suited to teach adolescents. And to his role in the life of Harry Potter. “It is unlike you to forget such an auspicious moment, Headmaster.”

Albus continued as if he didn't hear Severus's remark. “I must ask you to accompany me to Hogsmeade, Severus, to relate Sybill's prophecy to Aberforth. I would prefer to go in the morning, before the Hog's Head opens. It's the only time he's sober enough to listen to any sort of reason.” As an afterthought, he turned to Severus and added, “Bring a hangover potion.”

Severus sensed that he had been excused. Bowing toward Albus, he took his leave. He was used to the headmaster's cryptic declarations; that didn't mean, however, that they didn't exasperate him. And that comment about him forgetting about Severus overhearing the prophecy about Potter. It was just another opportunity for Albus to sink his claws further into him, another chance to remind him that he was subservient to him, that he owed him. “The least he could have done was give me some clue as to what is going through his head,” he thought as he made his way back down to the dungeons. He had a ruined cauldron of mandrake restorative draught to dispose of and was developing a blinding headache.

His headaches were becoming more severe of late. After the end of the Tri-Wizard Tournament and the return of Voldemort to his full form, his life had radically changed. He was now expected to appear before the Dark Lord at his every whim immediately upon being summoned. He had forgotten the blinding pain associated with the call of the Dark Mark; Voldemort seemed to derive pleasure from causing his followers as much agony as possible. “Didn't I spend years enduring the torture of being separated from my body?” he would ask, often followed by directing a Crucio at whichever Death Eater was closest to him. He had always maintained contact with the Death Eaters (as necessary for his role as spy for the Order),  but between Bellatrix's maniacal ravings and the Dark Lord's grandiose schemes he felt he was ever closer to descending into the poisonous madness himself.

Add to all that Lucius's order to procure the prophecy regarding Harry (“An order from the Dark Lord, himself,” he proclaimed with puffed pride) and the machinations that the Death Eaters were planning to acquire said prophecy, his secret guardianship of a boy that he felt indebted to in ways he could not even voice, and Delores Umbridge (and her decorative plates) having taken the DADA professorship (His professorship, he thought bitterly), this year was shaping up to be yet another exercise in unimaginable patience. He had no time for Dumbledore's mysterious quests, not to mention supervising a meeting between Albus and his estranged brother.

As he entered his laboratory, he sighed at the cauldron of ruined draught. At the start of the new school year Poppy had become determined to shore up her supply of mandrake restorative draught, despite Potter's assurances that the basilisk had been slain two years previously. Her insistence that he brew ungodly amounts of unnecessary potions, coupled with his growing dread of Voldemort's increasing demands resulted in headaches that were becoming more and more resistant to even the strongest headache potions. He knew from past experience that his headache potion wouldn't be enough to ease the stabbing pain and overwhelming nausea of this particular headache. His efforts at cleaning his lab were halfhearted; his predominant thought was of a quiet, dark room and the solitude of his bed.

As he surveyed his tidied laboratory, an ever increasing thought once again entered his head. “I am miserable,” he thought. “What but death could end this pain?” He was having a more and more difficult time hiding his growing depression from his colleagues; it was with more than a little guilt that he took his hateful moods out on his students. It was no wonder they all hated him. He didn't even have to act like an evil Death Eater to make that happen.

Upon entering his chambers he disrobed with efficiency, located and swallowed a headache and anti-nausea potion, and after some consideration, a phial of dreamless sleep. His last thought before falling asleep was of the foreign look in Sybill's eyes and the dread he felt as those first disembodied words left her mouth.

 

Chapter Text

“It's too bloody early! Go away,” Aberforth yelled at the door. The pounding was insistent, however. He growled, cradling his throbbing head in his hands.

“Aberforth, I'm sorry to disturb you this early, but I have a matter that I must discuss with you.” Severus Snape's voice came from the other side of the door.

“Severus Snape? Why should I open the door for you, you despicable turncoat? I've better things to do with my time than entertain the likes of you!”

“I'm sorry, Aberforth, but I must see you. It's quite important. Do you think I would drag myself here, of all places, on a Sunday of all days, if it weren't of the utmost gravity? If it is any incentive, I believe I have a potion that might make your morning a bit more bearable.”

Aberforth grumbled to himself. “Self-important young people. Think they can just get back into my good graces.” But he stood up from the table he was sitting at to open the door.

“Good morning, Aberforth.” His brother said cheerily as he breezed through the door.

Aberforth glared at Severus. “No! Out, now! And you too, you traitor,” he said as he grabbed what appeared to be a hangover potion from Severus. He couldn't let a freely offered potion go to waste.

“I do apologize, Aberforth. Had there been any other way, I wouldn't have bothered you. But something has come up . . . “ Albus said, while examining the portrait of Ariana, who was thoughtfully examining him. “Ariana,” he said, bowing to the portrait. She smiled and curtsied in response.

“Don't even look at her, Albus. You haven't the right.” Aberforth was beginning to feel the effects of the hangover potion, the result of which was to be even more incensed that he had been duped into meeting with his brother.

“I shall not waste time, Aberforth. I know that you would rather I not be here, and I mean to respect your wishes. There has, however, been a prophecy which you must be made aware of. Sybil gave it to Severus last night. I believe it has to do with Seraphina.” Albus looked toward Severus. “Severus, if you could kindly tell Aberforth what Sybil told you.”

Severus relayed the prophecy to Aberforth, whose eyes were boring through him with an intensity he was unaccustomed to seeing in the old man. He then turned to Albus “I'm sorry sir, but I do not know a Seraphina.”

“No, you wouldn't, Severus, though it is a shame.” Albus answered.

Aberforth was sitting at his table, staring at the portrait of Ariana. Severus could see unchecked apprehension on his face. “What do you think, dear?” he asked the portrait.

Ariana simply hunched her shoulders. Aberforth knew she would offer no insight; she rarely was useful in these sorts of situations. He turned his attention to Albus. “No,” he said, with a finality meant to end all further conversation.

Albus was not deterred. “Please, Aberforth. They are all imprisoned or dead. The threat has passed. It is time to bring her back. What must it be doing to her, being in that world?”

“What must it be doing to her? It's keeping her alive!” Aberforth raged, pushing his chair aside as he stood to confront his brother. “Why now, Albus? So that she can be killed in this war you say is coming? I sent her away to protect her! I will not bring her back to die.”

“You heard the prophecy, Aberforth; she will save lives. We agreed when we sent her that she would return someday. The time has come.”

“The time will come when it will be safe for her.” Aberforth was pacing in a rage. “So I am to believe the ravings of a mad woman, then? Sybil Trelawney is a barmy fly-by-night. She spouts these prophecies and you jump! None of her prophecies have every come to bear, Albus! It's the ravings of a lunatic.”

“We both know that she was correct about Harry Potter.”

“We know no such thing! He is a boy whose parents were murdered by a power hungry mad man. Then again, Albus, you know a thing about power hungry mad men, don't you?”

Severus sighed. The argument was always the same. Albus had been taken with Gellert Grindewald. Ariana had died as a result. Aberforth wouldn't forgive him. “Perhaps, gentlemen, you could tell me what this all means, and I could be of some assistance in reaching a resolution?” If it got him out of here, sooner, Severus thought, so much the better.

“You lost all right to speak when you tricked me into letting HIM in.” Aberforth seethed, motioning toward Albus.

“Aberforth, we agreed that it was not to be forever. She is an adult now. She is intelligent and meant for this world. With some teaching she could easily defend herself.”

“Defend herself, you say? Just like Gwendolyn was able to? Or Aaric? And Ahearn and Artemesia? They were all strong and skilled, Albus, and they are dead. All dead, Albus.”

“They were all ambushed, Aberforth. You know that. They didn't have a chance. That danger has passed. She is needed here, where she belongs. Erwin has told us that she is remarkable; he wouldn't be surprised if she has surpassed her parents.”

“And how, exactly, has Erwin reached this conclusion? How could he possibly know? It's all just speculation, Albus, and you know it! Just bloody speculation!” Aberforth turned back to the portrait of Ariana, who appeared to be listening to and contemplating the conversation. Addressing Ariana, he said, “She's all I have left, even if it's there. Even if she never knows me.” As an aside, he mumbled, "I'll always have my goats. They can't take my goats." Severus saw Albus shake his head morosely.

Severus watched as Ariana walked closer to Aberforth, until it seemed she would leap out of the portrait. ”I hate to see you fighting,” she said, mostly to Aberforth. “Albus couldn't stop it, Aberforth. Not any of it. He didn't know.”

“No!” Aberforth yelled, “No Ariana! I will not have this argument with you! He was blinded! He could have killed him, but his cock got in the way of reason!”

“Aberforth!” Severus shouted. “I hardly think such talk is appropriate or necessary.”

“You don't, eh? He could have killed Gellert, had him right where he needed him, but he loved him, didn't you, Albus?” he sneered at Albus. “You had feelings for the maniac. So you let him go. After he killed Ariana. Never mind the things he told you; disgusting things about killing muggles and squibs. You knew that it wasn't right, didn't you, but you'd buggered him and you couldn't do it.”

Albus was staring at the fire. Severus couldn't recall ever seeing shame on Albus's face, but he had seen sorrow. The deep sorrow and shame that he saw on Albus's face made him look small, defeated. “Aberforth, Albus is the reason that Grindelwald is currently locked away in Nurmengard. He defeated him. Surely that means something?”

Aberforth spit on the dirt floor. “Not before Gellart raised an army of followers ready to avenge him. Not before I was forced to send the only person who had survived the attacks into hiding. No, Albus has done enough damage already.” Turning to Albus, he said, “I will not allow it. Not that anything I say will stop you. Now get out!” He was pointing toward the door.

Albus stood and walked out the door. Severus looked back and forth between Aberforth and Albus, confused. He couldn't recall ever seeing the headmaster back down so quickly. He bowed toward Aberforth. “I'm sorry to have taken up your time, Aberforth.”

Aberforth did not answer. Severus followed Albus out of the door and heard Aberforth slam it behind him. Speaking to Albus he said, “Are you going to tell me what that was all about?”

Albus sighed. “As much as I would like to, Severus, I do not think that would be wise. You will know more soon enough. I will be leaving Hogwarts for a few days. I trust you will keep this between us.” It was a statement, not a question.

“As you wish.” Severus replied. He knew that continued prying would get him nowhere. He also knew, regardless of what had just occurred between Albus and his brother, that once Albus Dumbledore had formulated a plan, no one could stop him, family loyalties be damned.

Chapter Text

August, 2007

Sarah Douglas sipped her mint tea during a rare break in the flow of patients. She typically spent her day running from exam room to exam room in an effort to keep up with her growing roster of patients. It hadn't taken long for her naturopathic practice to grow; natural healing was all the rage, especially in a progressive community like Yellow Springs, OH. She was now in her second year of practice and was busy from the time she stepped into the office until she left in the evening. She stood and took a moment to straighten her clothes, which always seemed to be a bit askew, and gather her blond hair into a messy bun. She invariably ended up with her hair pulled back as the never ending curls constantly fell into her field of vision. She didn't even know why she bothered trying to wear it down, topsy-turvey mess that it was.

“Doctor Douglas, your patient is ready,” her MA Livvy told her. “You're gonna have fun with this one, he's a real charmer.”

“Thanks, Livvy,” Sarah said, taking the patient's chart. New patient, here for a rash, elderly, visiting professor emeritus in English Literature from England. Spotless medical history, family history also excellent. Single, no children. Sarah enjoyed her senior patients and was a bit of an Anglophile as her family was from England; she was looking forward to meeting this man.

She walked through the door and did a quick visual assessment of Mister (quick look back at the chart) Albert Douglas (a Douglas, how had she forgotten that name?). His face was covered with a red blistering rash. He was wearing an obviously expensive, purple pinstriped suit (out of place for Yellow Springs, even at Antioch) with perfect creases and a ribbon around his long, white beard (much more appropriate in the little hippie town). On his lapel was a sprig of what looked like eucalyptus. He had a distinct twinkle in his deep blue eyes and looked much more spry than most 89-year-olds that she knew.

“Doctor Douglas, I presume?” he asked, offering her his hand.

Sarah took it and shook. “Yes, and you are Albert Douglas,” she said with a smile. “It's always fun to meet another Douglas, and a smart looking Englishman, at that. I don't see many pin striped suits in my practice. What can I do for you today, Mister Douglas?”

“I seem to have developed a bit of an itchy rash. Poison sumac, I believe you call it?”

Sarah leaned in to more closely examine her patient's face. “I think you're right. Do you have it anywhere else?”

Mr. Douglas took off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves. “Covering my arms and chest, I'm afraid.”

Sarah held his arm to get a better look. “What brings you to Yellow Springs, Professor Douglas?”

“Well, I have some business to attend to with an old friend and I had the opportunity to give a lecture on Shakespearean sonnets yesterday evening. Earlier in the day my friend took me for a nature hike and we went a bit off path . . .”

“That will do it around these parts. Poison ivy and oak are pretty ubiquitous and if you aren't looking out for them they tend to find you. The rash can develop further over the next few days. Do you have any allergies that I should be aware of? On any medications?”

“As I told your lovely assistant, I have no allergies, save this menace of a vine, and I only take Wellman's Vitabiotics.”

“That's a multivitamin?”

“Yes. They aren't sold in the States?”

“Not that brand, no.”

“Isn't that interesting, the differences between our two countries?” Mister Douglas mused.

“Well, yes, but I sincerely hope that you take home more about the U.S. than it's prevalence of poisonous weeds and absence of multivitamin brands.”

“Of course! The United States also has delightful puddings – or rather, desserts, I believe is the correct term? Yes. Yesterday, after our ill fated walk, my friend took me for ice cream and I had the most delightful sundae. It had, what were they called – ah, yes! - gummy worms in it! Candy and ice cream; will wonders never cease.” Sarah smiled at the old man who had found so much delight in a children's sundae. “Oh, I meant to ask you,” Professor Douglas intoned, “are those herbal preparations that I saw in the pharmacy your invention? They are quite impressive for someone just graduated from university.”

Sarah had always been fascinated with herbal remedies; she had maintained an herb garden since she was a young child and learned early on from her uncle how to use them for various illnesses. She knew the trails in Yellow Springs well, as she was often cataloging plants with potential therapeutic uses along them. After she graduated from medical school she took a year and worked with another naturopath to develop a line of herbal remedies that was being sold in a few natural food stores and pharmacies in Ohio. “Yes, they are. It's a small line, but we're hoping to expand it gradually. Speaking of which, I have a cream that combines jewelweed, milkweed, oatmeal, and aloe to relieve the discomfort of the rash, but I also think you would benefit from a Kenalog injection. I'm concerned that this isn't done spreading.”

“I would love to try out your cream. I would prefer to stay away from the jab. Nasty things, jabs.” Professor Douglas smiled.

“As you wish, Professor Douglas, but promise to return to me if the rash gets worse? A steroid injection can stop this rash in its tracks.” Professor Douglas smiled and nodded indicating that he would.

Sarah took a moment to do a more thorough examination, noting that Professor Douglas was in amazing health for a man of his age. “Everything seems to be in excellent working order. I'll just be out a moment, then, to get your cream,” Sarah said, opening the door.

As she walked to her supply closet, Livvy walked up alongside her. “He could play a wizard, couldn't he? And that rotten twinkle in his eyes! So am I giving him a shot?”

“Nope, he just wants the cream. And yes, he'd make a great Gandalf, wouldn't he?” Sarah grabbed a container of her poison ivy relief cream and headed back into the exam room.

Professor Douglas was standing, putting his suit jacket back on. “Here you are, Professor Douglas. On the house. Just be sure to stop by before you leave Ohio and let Livvy know how it worked. And you WILL come back if the rash gets worse.”

“Of course. What a lovely gesture. You're sure I don't owe you something for the cream?”

“Consider it a welcome to rural Ohio survival gift. Although you will need to stop before you leave to pay for the visit. It was lovely to meet you,” Sarah said, extending her hand.

Professor Douglas kissed it. “The pleasure was all mine, I assure you.”

“Livvy was right; you are a bit of a scoundrel, aren't you?”

“That I am, Sarah Douglas.” He winked at her, walking through the door.

Sarah could only smile as she watched Professor Douglas kiss Livvy's hand before he left the office.

__________________________

“Well, that was fun, wasn't it?” Sarah said to Livvy after recording the exam in Mister Douglas's chart.

“Sure was. And guess what?” Sarah looked up at her. “All the rest of your patients have gotten miraculously better and have canceled, and your uncle called to invite you to an early dinner at his house. I've already closed down the lab and pulled the charts for Monday.”

“They all canceled? You can't be serious. Eight people just coincidentally canceled on a Friday afternoon.” Sarah looked at Livvy with disbelief.

“Why would I make this up? You never get any time off. I say you close down and take your uncle up on his offer. I've got everything ready to go. Oh, and Doctor Sprouse is on call this weekend, so you've got some time to yourself. And I'll see you for ladies night tomorrow. Gotta defend your karaoke crown!” Livvy was already packing her bag.

“Well, I see that if I stay I won't have an MA to help me, so I might as well,” Sarah said jokingly. She didn't get many emergency walk-ins, they tended to go to the traditional physicians in town. And she really didn't take much time off. A short break would do her some good. “I'll lock up, then, since you're itching to get out of here.”

Livvy gave Sarah a hug. “You're the best. I'm so happy you hired me. Every other doctor I've ever worked for wasn't nearly as nice as you.”

“Just don't take me for granted. I'm told I have a wicked temper.”

“I won't believe it until I see it,” Livvy replied as she walked out the door.

Chapter Text

At 4:30 Sarah Douglas arrived at the house of her elderly uncle, Professor Erwin Whitacre. As a professor emeritus of physics at the university, uncle Erwin loved to discuss the more theoretical and esoteric areas of his field. Sarah had spent many a night listening to him wax philosophical about topics such as astral projection and time travel. Truth be told, she found her uncle a bit batty at times, but loved him for it all the more.

“Sarah, is that you?” her uncle called from the kitchen

Erwin Whitacre was what Sarah would describe as slight. She had never known him to be anything but a small, thin wisp of a man. She had once referred to him as a “Shrinky Dink” as his measurements were almost exactly ¾ of what a normal adult males would be. He was completely bald, having lost all of his hair years ago and he often wore a bowler hat. His brown eyes were always bright and mischievous. He seemed to have been old and covered in age spots for the entirety of her life. Despite his diminutive frame he was quite possibly the most fashionable person Sarah had ever met. He liked to mix styles in his own eclectic way. One day he might be wearing a custom tailored suit (all of his suits were tailored; it was hard to find luxurious adult clothing when you were ¾ size) with a fedora, playing the part of Frank Sinatra; the next might find him in khakis, a white tee, and boat shoes. Today, he was wearing a brown corduroy jacket with elbow patches, a wonderfully faded and soft Def Leppard Union Jack tee shirt (that Sarah openly coveted), a pair of dark indigo jeans tailored to fit, and a pair of obscenely expensive dark brown oxford caps that had been made by John Lobb, Ltd.

What he lacked in height he made up for more than enough in personality. He strolled the streets of Yellow Springs as if they were his own Saville Row, holding court with its other eccentric inhabitants. He had a wicked sense of humor and a list of comebacks to match. He seemed to be conversant in any subject one could think of; there was no one who had a firmer grasp on pop culture that Sarah could think of. He did not hide his admiration of the fairer sex, though Sarah had never known him to have a serious relationship in her entire life.

“Yes, uncle Erwin. I brought wine. It's that white you like. I hope it goes with whatever is on the menu.”

Erwin walked into the living room wiping his hands on a kitchen towel. “As I have told you many times before, my lady, if you bring it, we shall drink it! What good is wine in the bottle, I ask you?”

“No good, whatsoever.” Sarah replied while bending over to give her uncle a hug. Sarah noted that he felt even thinner than the last time she had hugged him a week ago. “Are you eating, old man? You are feeling much too thin.”

“I eat like an elephant. So much lettuce you could feed a marching band. And so many other things, too. Have you ever known me to skip a meal? You know I am a gourmand of the highest level, Sarah.”

“If that's true, why are you so thin? Are you drinking those nutritive shakes I bought you?”

“You mean the shakes that taste like cough syrup and tree bark? Good God, no. One taste and they were relegated to the trash bin.” He pointed toward the table near the kitchen. “Help and old man set the table, would you, dear. We'll need three places set.”

“Three? Who will be joining us?” Sarah asked, adding, “And don't think the discussion about the shakes is over. I'm worried about your weight.”

Erwin dismissed the statement with a wave. “An old friend of mine from England is in town. I invited him to join us. He's quite knowledgeable and a wonderful conversationalist. I think you'll like him.”

A Sarah laid out the cutlery, she couldn't help but wonder. “I met an older gentleman from England today. A visiting professor of English Lit. A Professor Douglas, funnily enough. He wouldn't be the same man who is joining us, would he?”

“One and the same!” Erwin called out from the kitchen. “I hope he enjoys coq au vin. Who doesn't enjoy a smashing coq once in a while, I ask you?”

“Uncle Erwin! I hope that's not one of your innuendos. Although Professor Douglas seems to be wicked enough to enjoy a bit of your brand of humor.”

“Oh, that he is, dear. When you are done with the table, perhaps you could select some music. And don't touch the typewriter, dear, no matter what!”

Sarah sighed. The Typewriter. Which was across the room from the stereo. Which she was never to touch, much less breathe upon. Her uncle said it had been owned by Isaac Asimov (and her uncle had named it Mr. Asimov), but Sarah had her doubts, especially since she could never remember a time that her uncle had been without The Typewriter. “I will not even be going near the hallowed typewriter, uncle Erwin. But after I choose the music, maybe I'll go over and change the ribbon, or type a dissertation, hmm?”

“Don't even joke about Mr Asimov, young lady. You know that I do not allow joking about Isaac. He's much too special.”

“Whatever you say,” said Sarah, while setting the stereo to the local classical music station.

Uncle Erwin's house, the house that Sarah had grown up in, was a mid-century ranch located at the edge of town. Like Erwin, it held an eclectic collection of furniture and bric-a-brac, from the egg chair in the corner (Sarah's favorite growing up and a source of envy for her childhood friends) to the string of origami cranes in the side window to the phrenology head in the kitchen and a bronze armillary that held pride of place next to Mr. Asimov. Rainbows of lights danced across the rooms from the various prisms that Erwin had hung in the windows and wind-chimes sang outside the kitchen window. Growing up, Sarah's friends had found the house a wonderland, with something hew to discover around every corner.

There was a knock at the door, followed by the doorbell being rung repeatedly. Sarah ran to the door and opened it, revealing Professor Douglas on the porch. “This button, I'm trying to determine its use,” he said as an introduction.

“Well, Professor Douglas, that is a doorbell. Surely you have them in England? It lets us know that someone is at the door. They generally only need to be pressed once to announce one's presence.”

Erwin rushed out of the kitchen, “Of course there are door bells in England. Albert has always been a bit dotty.” He turned to Albert smiling. “It's been such a long time since I saw you last, old chap! How long now, possibly six hours?”

“If that, Erwin. After such a long time we can't seem to get away from each other.” Bowing toward Sarah, he said, “and Dr Douglas, how unexpected and wonderful to be dining with you.”

“Uncle Erwin, how do you know Professor Douglas?” Sarah asked, taking Albert's overcoat. He was wearing a different suit, this one jewel blue, again perfectly cut, with a tiger lily on the lapel. Sarah smiled at the eccentric choice of flower.

“Albert and I go way back to boarding school. He was a mentor of mine; we formed a friendship after I graduated. He was always the dreamer and planner, and my interest in theoretical physics was a bit unheard of in our circles. Albert and I had the best conversations, didn't we?”

“Indeed we did. Your uncles theories still fascinate me. Tell me, Erwin, what theory will we be discussing tonight? I would love to hear your musings on parallel universes. The topic seems to keep popping up, and I always think of you.”

Sarah saw a flash of something in Erwin's eyes, but she couldn't name it. It was gone as soon as she saw it. Erwin pointed toward the sitting area. “Albert, sit with me. Sarah, perhaps you could open that bottle of wine?”

“Of course. Would you like some, Professor Douglas? It's a chardonnay. Quite delicious.”

“Yes, please. Far be it for me to turn down a delicious wine.”

Sarah entered the kitchen. The smells of her uncle's cooking surrounded her. He really was an accomplished cook, and for many years an invitation to his table was a coveted thing. Having grown up eating with him, it was occasions such as this that she was reminded of how remarkable her uncle really was. She didn't remember much from her early childhood, but she knew from the start that her uncle had taken custody of her when her parents both died in an airplane crash. As her only living relative he had gladly taken on the responsibility and had been a wonderful guardian for her, having entertained her scientific mind with herb gardens and kitchen experiments. He helped her build an enormous volcano for her middle school science fair that earned her a blue ribbon. He taught her about anatomy and biochemistry and all things medicine in addition to his duties as professor of physics at the university. He encouraged her love of herbs and folk remedies, and had told her that her mother had also been an accomplished herbal healer.

Despite her constant nudging and no small amount of interest from the available ladies in the area, he had never dated any one woman for very long, saying his life was full enough. He devoted all of his time to her and the University. She had hoped that during her four years away at Medical School he would find a companion, but he found himself happy doddering around town, getting to know the new students, and hosting his famous dinner parties. Her uncle was a confirmed bachelor, and there was little she could do to change that.

She returned to the living room with two glasses of wine, handing them over to her uncle and Professor Douglas. “Would you like me to get the casserole, Uncle Erwin?”

“No, I will see to that. Why don't you sit and chat with Albert while I make the final preparations.”

Sarah sat on the settee next to the professor. “So how's that rash?”

“Oh! The cream you gave me has helped with the itching quite a bit! I do believe that you have a miracle cream on your hands, Dr. Douglas.”

“Please, call me Sarah. I'm so pleased to hear that. Now if the rest of the country would discover that, I'll be set for life.”

“Yes, you will, and please call me Albert.” After taking a sip of wine, he continued, “My, but that is wonderful. Nothing like a fine wine. So, is there a young man in your life, Sarah, or perhaps and young woman?”

“No one right now. Not since Medical School.”

“No? A woman as lovely and accomplished must have a few admirers?”

Sarah laughed derisively. “No admirers. Just a few good friends.”

Erwin called from the table, “Sarah refuses to put herself out there. She was quite hurt by her last young man, so I can't say that I have been pushing her too forcefully.”

“Is that so? I'm so sorry to hear that.” Albert said to Sarah.

“Never mind all that,” Sarah hastily replied. “Is dinner ready, uncle Erwin?”

“Yes, please come and sit. I'll pour more wine and we can begin.”

Albert took a seat at the table. “Coq au vin. One of the triumphs of the European continent. Who can resist chicken drowned in wine, I ask.”

“Uncle Erwin's is the talk of Yellow Springs. He's a great physics professor, but he should have been a chef.”

“Oh, pish posh. I have never had a greater love than physics. It just so happens that I enjoy a good meal as well. Tuck in, you two, tuck in,” he said, picking up his knife and fork.

Albert watched as Sarah and Erwin cut their chicken, then switched their utensils to opposite hands to eat. “I have always been fascinated by the differences between the British and Americans. Erwin, have you forgotten the proper way to hold your knife and fork?” He asked, keeping his knife in his right hand and his fork in his left to eat.

“No, Albert, I have simply become an American. It isn't the most efficient way to eat, but it works just the same.”

“I imagine in some other world the Americans are playing cricket while the British bash each other playing American football,” said Albert.

“Are you on about parallel universes again?” replied Erwin. “You know I find the concept ever stimulating, but our Sarah thinks the whole concept poppycock.”

“Well, outside of some great science fiction, it is. I haven't read anywhere about anyone actually traveling to another reality. Well, nothing believable, anyway. And you cannot convince me that there are alternate versions of us living out their lives right here beside us, but in a dimension unseen by us. It's a plot taken directly from the Twilight Zone,” Sarah said, taking a sip of her wine.

“But why not?” replied Albert. “After all, isn't one of the beliefs of theoretical physicists that there are infinite numbers of dimensions? Just because one can't see it does not mean that it doesn't exist. It simply means that it cannot be proven.”

“And Sarah will tell you that no experiment can rule out a theory if the theory provides for all possible outcomes,” said Erwin.

“Which is true! It's basic scientific method!” she said to her uncle

“And I will counter that we also can't disprove parallel universe theory; we can only hope to prove that it is fact by visiting them,” Erwin replied

“Sort of a Schrodinger's cat?” Albert asked.

“Exactly! Until we open the box and observe the cat, the cat is both dead and alive! Until we poke through the universes, others may be there or not.” Erwin was gesticulating with his fork and knife as if conducting an orchestra. Sarah smiled affectionately at her uncle's enthusiasm.

“I have always been fond of that elusive cat.” Albert winked at Sarah.

They ate in silence for a bit, enjoying their meals and wine. Sarah smiled when she saw that Albert was chewing with his eyes closed, as if deep in bliss. She was rather enjoying this meal and the interesting Professor Douglas. He seemed to be as learned as Erwin and she couldn't help but notice how alike they were. Their conversation was easy, like two people who had known each other for a lifetime, though Sarah could never remember meeting Professor Douglas in the past. Surely she would remember someone as dynamic as him!

“Oh, Sarah, I've forgotten the rolls. Be a dear and get them for me, would you? They will need to be taken out of the baking pan, I'm afraid.”

Sarah rose to go to the kitchen. Looking at her uncle, she could have sworn she saw him mouthing something to Albert. “I'll be right back,” she said.

One of the advantages of Erwin's age (at least as far as Sarah was concerned) was that he was becoming more and more hard of hearing and his pride prohibited him from wearing a hearing aid. It made eavesdropping quite a bit easier she had found. Taking her time in preparing the rolls she heard her uncle loudly whisper, “As I've told you, she senses things, so we must be careful.”

Sarah heard no reply from Albert, but after an appropriate amount of time she heard her uncle say, “Are you sure we are ready? Tonight is so soon.”

She cleared her throat before entering the dining room again, handed the bowl of rolls to Albert, and sat down.

“Erwin, are you trying to fatten me up?” he said

“I try to bake bread every day; it is only fair that I share it with my guests.”

Albert turned to Sarah. “I seem to have gotten the conversation off to a flying start without inquiring about you. I already know Erwin; I was hoping to learn a bit more about you, if I may?”

“You already know most of it. I grew up here. Erwin raised me after my parent's death; they were traveling back to England for a vacation when their plane disappeared. Anyhow, after high school I studied Organic Chemistry at Princeton and went to Duke for Med School.”

“She's my genius,” beamed Erwin

Sarah smiled at her uncle and continued. “I've always been interested in alternative methods of healing – herbal medicine, cranio-sacral therapies and the like, so I studied a few years with a naturopath after medical school and after talking a while with my preceptor we decided to try our hand at a small line of herbal remedies.”

“Thus your amazing cream,” observed Albert.

Sarah nodded. “I always wanted to come back home and start a practice. This is a great spot for an alternative practice. I was lucky that somehow the stars aligned and it happened and I'm here today.”

"And if you don't mind me asking, how old are you, Sarah?"

"I'm 32," Sarah answered.

"She's just a young pup, Albert. Do you remember 32?" Erwin asked a little wistfully.

“Indeed, I do, though it seems a long time ago. I was just a young professor at the time." He smiled, then said, "A physicist and a chemist. I may be out of my depth here tonight, though I do enjoy a lively discussion no matter the topic.”

“But Professor Douglas, you just gave a lecture on Shakespearean sonnets! Neither one of us could possibly accomplish that,” Sarah said.

Erwin chimed in “Yes, Albert, give us a sonnet.”

“Oh, I couldn't. I don't want to monopolize the conversation.”

“It would be no imposition at all, Albert. We so rarely have poetry recited at this dinner table. Do go on.”

Albert carefully put down his knife and fork and thoughtfully stroked his beard. “If you insist, Erwin.”
Albert cleared his throat and began:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

All were silent at the completion of the sonnet. Sarah felt unbearably sad for reasons that she could not name. She looked to Albert, who was looking down at the table as if lost in thought. It was Erwin who broke the silence.

“That was beautiful, Albert. Quite touching.”

“But so sad,” added Sarah.

Albert looked up at Sarah. “It is rare that one goes through life without a bit of sadness. It is because of that we can know what joy truly is.”

Erwin was looking at Sarah. He touched her hand and said, “Sarah, are you quite alright?” then to Albert, “She gets so emotional at times. I say that she is empathic, but she won't hear of it. Sarah is always the empiricist.”

She turned to Albert, “Tell us about it, the sonnet.”

“Yes, well, it is his 30th sonnet and it is as it sounds: a sonnet to lost acquaintances and loves and the grief that accompanies that.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “Love often is accompanied by pain and regret, but I do believe that when one finds their truest love that it can be a transcendent experience. We often commit errors on our search, which can heighten the grief.” He looked into the distance, weighing his words. “You must remember that Shakespeare was a great believer in joyful life and love. But like most of us, he appears to have experienced life's sorrows as well. I remain optimistic that even the most lost of us can be found; rather that love can find its way into even the most broken of hearts.”

Erwin was holding Sarah's hand. With a hardened look on her face, Sarah took a deep breath and replied, “Yes, that's all quite lovely, isn't it, Erwin? Which reminds me, I've been considering your alternate dimensions and I have a question.”

Erwin glanced quickly at Albert in apology, who nodded his head in deference to Erwin. He addressed Sarah, “Yes, dear, do ask us your question.”

“Right. So if there are these alternate universes, do you believe that people have actually traveled to them? You've never given me a straight answer to this question. And I don't count Everyday Chemistry as proof of anything.”

“The Beatles album? I quite like that one,” interjected Albert.

“Surely you don't believe that it's real? It's clearly a hoax. Whoever recorded it created a mash-up of recordings that the Beatles did after they broke up then used it to claim that he traveled to another dimension that had green ketchup and inter-dimensional vacation travel. I give you that it is a rather good mash-up, but it is a hoax nonetheless.”

“But it is an adored album even to this day, is it not?” Albert asked.

Erwin was staring wide-eyed at Albert, seemingly trying to shush him. Sarah didn't notice this interaction and was addressing Albert. “Albert, with all due respect, I don't think it's even made it off of the internet.”

“Well there are other stories of interdimensional travel that have yet to be explained,” Erwin hastily interjected.

“Only stories. And how could such travel even be possible? It's rather convenient that they all begin with someone hitting their head and losing consciousness, Sarah said.

“Not all of them. And as for how such travel is possible, it's rather simple really. One must simply create a portal connecting one dimension to the next. Think of it as a rip in reality. You step through, and there you are.”

“Yes, quite simple indeed,” said Albert

Sarah snorted. “If it's so easy, why hasn't someone already done it? I would think a discovery of that magnitude would set the world on fire! Physicists have been debating wormholes and the like for decades; it would be the feather in some lucky scientist's hat.”

“Sarah calls theoretical physicists the Rock Stars of the scientific world. I rather like that,” Erwin said, addressing Albert, who answered with a chuckle. Turning back to Sarah, he answered, “Who's to say that someone already hasn't?”

“How could you keep something like that under wraps? It would be the biggest discovery since Relativity!” Sarah countered.

At this, Albert rose from the table. “I don't know about the two of you, but I can only tolerate a proper dining chair for so long. Arthritis. What do you say to adjourning to the sitting room?”

Sarah thought she caught a glimpse of anxiety in Erwin's eyes. “So soon, Albert? I've made such a delightful pear galette.”

“I couldn't eat another bite, Erwin. The coq au vin was delicious. Though I wouldn't turn down another glass of wine. Perhaps you can serve the bottle I brought? It's a wonderful aperitif. Dr. Douglas, will you join me?”

Sarah and Albert made their way to the living room while Erwin disappeared into the kitchen. She could hear him searching the drawers for the bottle opener; she had left it on the counter in plain sight when he opened the Chardonnay earlier. “I don't remember you bringing a bottle of wine, Albert.”

“Yes, I brought it over earlier. We just haven't had the opportunity to open it. Having a bit of trouble, Erwin?” Albert asked.

“No, not at all Albert. Er – well, the bottle opener was on the counter all along.” He laughed nervously.

Sarah was puzzled by the decidedly awkward change in the evening. Her uncle was rarely nervous; in fact she thought him the most self-assured person she knew. He entered the living room with three aperitif glasses on a small tray and placed them on the side table.

“Erwin,” said Albert, “I couldn't help but notice your typewriter. I don't believe that I've ever seen another one like it.”

“Yes, well, it belonged to Isaac Asimov. It is quite a special piece.”

Albert picked up a glass and sipped his wine. “Won't you join me, Sarah? The wine is quite delightful. I think you'll find it soothing.”

“I generally don't drink dessert wines. I find them too sweet.”

“I think you'll find this one to be quite different. I would love it if you would give me your thoughts on it.”

Sarah leaned forward and selected a glass. It contained a small amount of a clear, slightly green tinted fluid that smelled earthy and herbal, unlike anything she had ever tried. She looked at Albert. ”Is this absinthe, professor?”

He smiled. “No, it is not, though it has been known to cause varied pleasant sensations in those who drink it. It's all quite harmless, I assure you. I wouldn't dare give a physician a hallucinogenic nightcap.”

She looked dubiously at the small glass.

“Oh, just take a sip, Sarah! It's not going to bite you. Go on then, live a little!” prodded Erwin, after which he downed the entire glass in a gulp. Albert laughed and sipped the wine.

She sighed. She didn't know why she suspected anything to be amiss with the beverage, it was just that sometimes she got certain feelings, and right now, she thought that something just wasn't right. She looked back at the two elderly men who were watching her with bated breath. If two old men could handle whatever Albert was serving, certainly she could. It's not like she didn't have a few (okay, more than a few) beverages at ladies night every week.

She took a sip. Her mouth was flooded with the taste of bergamot, lemon, and something pleasant that she could not place. At the same time, she thought she smelled lavender, camphor, and geranium. She was overwhelmed by the flavors and smells assailing her, yet felt a deepening sense of calm.

She heard Erwin exclaim, “Does this have pot in it, Albert? I wouldn't put it past you.”

Albert chuckled. “I believe hemp oil has a part in it's manufacture, but only those with a intimate knowledge of the marijuana plant usually pick up on it. How do you find it, Sarah?”

“It's delicious. Unlike anything I have ever had before.” She looked down at her glass and found it to be empty, though she was sure that she had only taken a sip. She vaguely felt as if she were floating on water, though she knew herself to be sitting in her uncle's living room. “Albert, have you drugged me?”

“You have not been drugged, Sarah. My aperitif is no different than the cream that you gave me earlier today; just an expert mix of herbs that are then distilled into a lovely drink.”

“I would swear that there's pot in this, Albert,” she heard Erwin say. He seemed far away, unlike Albert, who seemed clearer than anyone she had ever encountered.

Albert stood up and walked to the other side of the room. “Perhaps you can show me Mr Asimov's typewriter, Erwin. It is very unusual, is it not?”

Sarah heard herself saying, “You can't touch Mr. Asimov. He's the most holy object in this household.” She couldn't feel the words coming out of her mouth.

“Mr Asimov,” replied Erwin, “is the most special typewriter in the entire world, Albert. There is no other one like it. You know, I've lied about him all these years to keep our secret.”

“As you should have, Erwin. You know that Seraphina's safety is of the utmost importance.”

Sarah felt herself rise, thought she didn't remember standing, and saw Albert push the carriage release to the right. “Have you any paper, Erwin?”

“Who is Seraphina?” she thought to ask, though she wasn't sure if she actually said it.

“It's not necessary, Albus, oh, bugger! Albert is what I meant to say! It will work without it, Albert.”

Sarah had thought she'd heard Erwin call Professor Douglas Albus. She felt unbelievably giddy at the thought that Erwin must be more high than he looked.

“But I would like Sarah to see what we type. It's quite interesting, don't you think?”

“Yes, I imagine so.” Erwin answered, sounding even further away still, though she was standing right beside him. (“When did that happen?” she thought. She had just been standing over there, and now she was here.)

Sarah saw paper being loaded onto the cylinder, she distantly hear the click clack of the keys. She felt herself lean in to see Albert type the words “Silver Springs, Ohio.”

She could swear that the letters were glowing. She felt Erwin and Albert take hold of her arms on both sides, as if she were falling and they were trying to keep her upright. Just then, a brilliant light flashed from the words and engulfed the three of them. Sarah felt herself falling, felt her body pulling in upon itself, and then all went black.

Chapter Text

 The next few hours came in quick flashes: Feeling like she was being torn apart on a rack, landing somewhere (or on something?) that smelled of patchouli and sandalwood and promptly losing the contents of her stomach followed by the distinct fuzzy feeling of impending unconsciousness, being held by Albert and feeling like she was being sucked into herself, landing somewhere that smelled of floor wax, was much too bright, and had black and white tile, and promptly trying to heave up contents of her stomach that were no longer there. Her uncle saying “Albus, this is too much for her.” Sarah seeing a wand (a wand?!) and feeling like she was falling, sinking into quicksand. The jingle “WWTH, the best in magical and muggle soft rock!” sang from some distant radio. The feeling that she must be going insane. Then blissful, wonderful sleep.

Sarah was sitting in her childhood room, on her bed with the yellow canopy and crazy quilt, holding her Mrs. Beasley doll. Erwin was sitting across from her on the mattress. She was crying. She felt unsure and afraid.

But I don't want to go! They make the kids learn to ride unicycles and they make you eat things that you don't like at lunch and what if I want to come home and I can't?” she cried.

Sarah, it's only kindergarten. You will only be gone a few hours. And I will be sending your lunch with you . .”

Good,” she declared, pouting while looking down at Mrs. Beasley's smiling face.

And I will be right there to pick you up after you are let out. We've met your teacher, do you remember? She seems kind and you said she looked like a granny?”

She smelled like moth balls.”

She did not, Sarah! She smelled quite nice, as I recall.”

I don't want to go! You can teach me! You are a professor and I already know how to spell my name and all of Newton's laws and all about Bilbo Baggins and the dragon and how to count to 100,” she reasoned, looking at Erwin with pleading eyes.

Erwin sighed. “There is so much more for you to learn, Sarah. I can't teach it all to you, I have my own students to teach. And if we are ever to make you into a great healer like your mother you must know much more than how to count to 100.”

Sarah picked at the lace of Mrs Beasley's apron. She was afraid. This was her home. Friends were fine at the playground and church, but she liked it here best. “Unicycles scare me. I'm clumsy and I'll fall and skin my legs up and put holes in my tights and you'll have to buy me new ones all the way in Dayton.”

I will talk to the teacher about the unicycles and you have plenty of tights. It will be fine. I promise. I love you, my angel. I would never do anything to hurt you. I would never send you into harm. You know that, don't you?”

Sarah sniffed and nodded her head. She liked it when uncle called her his angel.

The mantel clock in the other room chimed 8 times. Erwin was standing up and holding her hand, pulling her up. “Now let's keep Mrs. Beasley here and we'll go to school. I have your lunch all packed. I made you peanut butter and jelly. And there's chocolate chip cookies, too.”

Extra peanut butter and grape jelly?” she asked, looking down at her brand new saddle shoes.

Is there any other way? It will be a great adventure, Sarah. Your father loved adventure and he loved school. I bet you'll love school too, if you just give it a chance?”

T he room dissolved around her. She was standing in a meadow filled with deep blue columbines and cow parsley that towered over her head. She was happy. She had dreamed about this meadow before, many times since her childhood. There was a light breeze and the sun was warming her shoulders. She flopped down in the flowers, giggling. She loved it here. It was her favorite place in the entire world.

She saw Erwin, the sun shining behind him. She reached for him, looking up into his face. She felt happy when she looked at him. Before he could pick her up, he turned his head to the side, looking into the distance. A loud bang that shook the earth beneath them startled her. She heard the muffled cries of her mummy. She was scared. Erwin was suddenly on top of her, holding her close, shielding her and shushing her. “We must be very quiet, Sarah. We must be brave and quiet.”

Sarah woke in a panic, bolting up, lashing out her arms, unsure of what had happened and where she was. She was overwhelmed with the smell of geranium and eucalyptus and felt an IV in her arm.

 “Sarah, Sarah. Calm down.” Arms came around her, she smelled Erwin's aftershave. Her head felt fuzzy, her ears were ringing (no, buzzing, she thought), her mouth was tacky and dry. “Sarah, it's alright. I'm here. Everything is fine. You mustn't thrash around; you'll rip out your IV.”

 “Why do I have an IV?” She couldn't contain her panic. Nothing was right. She was in a hospital that didn't smell right. It was too bright. She'd been drugged. What if she'd been raped? What the hell had happened to her? “He drugged me! I don't remember what happened after dinner except that he drugged me!”

 “He didn't drug you, Sarah. You're in the hospital because of all of the vomiting. You were dehydrated. Dangerously so, in fact.”

 “What hospital is this? It's not right. It's too bright and white and it smells like flowers. Hospitals smell like antiseptic.” She looked around her. The room looked like something out of the 1950s. White metal bed frame, white tiles halfway up the wall, black tile on the floor. Erwin sat at her left side on a plain white metal chair.  On the wall she faced was a whiteboard with the name of her nurse (Luella) and her most recent vitals.  Below it was a white metal wheeled hospital bed tray that would have looked more at home in an antique store and to the right of it was a large wreath of what looked like fresh herbs.  Behind her was a wall of windows framed in white curtains.  Light flooded the room, which made up for the lack of lighting (save an oil lamp on the small table to the right of her). 'What kind of hospital uses oil lamps? That has to be some sort of fire hazard or OSHA violation,' Sarah thought.

“What's with the wreath? Why is the equipment so old? I want to see the lab reports and I want them to run a test for rohypnol and GHB. What hospital is this?” she demanded of Erwin in a a growing panic.

The door opened. And in it stood a woman in a pilgrim costume. Or Sarah thought it must be a pilgrim costume but its dress was blue like her scrubs with a white apron. There was a white nurses cap on her head. “What the hell?” Sarah blurted out, her face a mix of panic, discomposure and suspicion.

“Well look who's awake!” exclaimed the pilgrim in a chirpy, much too happy voice with a slight Southern twang. “I'm Luella and I'll be your mediwitch. Healer Walters should be along any minute. It's time to check your vitals. Do you think you could drink some water? We had a time getting you to stop dry heaving when you got here. Had to give you your potions by IV.”

Sarah pushed herself toward Erwin and away from the pilgrim nurse (she really just called herself a mediwitch, didn't she?). “What the hell kind of hospital is this? You gave me potions? You really said potions!” As Luella continued advancing, Sarah put her arms out to shield herself and yelled, “You stay away from me! Just stay away!”

Luella stopped where she was standing and looked at Erwin. “Do I have your permission to use a tranquility spell on her? It won't make her drowsy and she'll be able to talk and ask questions but I think it will calm her down a lot.”

“Tranquility spell?!” Sarah shrieked, positive that she was insane. She was sweaty and her heart was racing and she had started hyperventilating. She felt dizzy and noticed that her hands were numb. She felt an ever increasing sense of dread, like she had no control. In the periphery of her vision she saw Erwin nod, heard him concede, “I think it would be best, she's nearly having a panic attack.”

Faster than she could process, Luella, the southern pilgrim witch, was pointing a wand at her. Sarah recognized that smile. It was the smile that she gave her patients that couldn't make decisions, the smile for shots and lancings and toenail removals and things that weren't very pleasant. Equal parts determination, regret, and compassion. In a flash, Luella intoned “Tranquillus requies!” Sarah was struck in the forehead with a glittery beam of light. She immediately slumped against Erwin, a feeling of serenity blooming throughout her entire body.

“There, there,” she heard Erwin say as he and Luella repositioned her in her bed. She watched as Luella waved her wand over her head, then her chest and arms in different shapes and patterns. She briefly thought that she should fight whatever it was that was happening to her, but decided that she was feeling much too nice, and why ruin that? She noticed the whiteboard on the wall by the sink and saw that it was magically recording her most recent vitals and thought, “Well, isn't that nifty?” quite against her better judgment. “Erwin,” she observed, “Leulla the pilgrim witch has a wand and the white board is magical.”

Her uncle chuckled. “Yes, Sarah, I had noticed that. Do you think you can talk now without attacking the next person that walks into the room?”

“I'm not being funny. And I didn't attack her, I defended myself. I'm insane, aren't I? This is an asylum and I am insane.”

“You are not insane, dear. I promise you. This is all just a bit of a shock and I'll explain it all, but first you should ask your lovely mediwitch all of those questions you were asking me.”

Luella sat down in the chair on the other side of Sarah's bed (there hadn't been a chair there a second ago; where had it come from?), looking at her expectantly. “You can ask me anything, Dr. Douglas. We don't have charts, per se, but I can get someone to bring your medical reports to you if you still have questions. We'll just have to get them transcribed, but that won't take too long.”

Sarah regarded the woman beside her. She looked to be in her forties, blond hair piled on top of her head with that ridiculous hat on top. She reminded Sarah of every floor nurse that she had ever met; knowing, a little tired, a lot no-nonsense. She was smiling, but in the caring, wear-worn way. Sarah had the overwhelming feeling that she was trustworthy, even if she was going along with this whole ludicrous situation. Luella exuded concern and a caring nature.

'What do I have to lose?' Sarah thought, shaking her head at the absurdity of it all.

“Where am I?” she started.

“You are in Silver Springs Hospital in Dayton, Ohio,” Luella answered matter-of-factly.

“Never heard of it. Grew up near Dayton. There is no such hospital.”

“We've been here since 1921. We've been ranked the number two hospital for witches and wizards in the United States by U.S. Wizarding Reports for over 50 years.”

The tranquility laser beam (or whatever the hell it was that Luella had pointed at her) was making it difficult for Sarah to concentrate.  She wanted to snuggle down into her bed and enjoy her present state of bliss.  She fought the urge, remembering Luella's last remark about a witch magazine and said, “There is no such thing as witch and wizard hospitals. Also, there is no such thing as witches and wizards or magic.”

“I assure you that there is, Sarah. Can I call you Sarah?”

Sarah nodded her head, her eyes narrowed, suspicious yet unable to shake the overwhelming feeling of contentment. Luella's glittery laser beam had made her feel, frankly, better than she had in a long time.  She wondered if she could get hold of one of those tranquility sticks.  Pressing her palms to her eyes to try and concentrate, she continued, “Okay, I'll play along with your witch world thing. Why am I here?”

Luella smiled a bit sadly at Sarah. “As I told you before, you were admitted for severe dehydration. You had postural hypotension and your labs were showing changes in your kidneys and cardiovascular system. We immediately started an IV of saline and admitted you for observation. Healer Walters isn't exactly sure what effect your travels will have on you, so he wants to keep watch over you for a few hours.”

At the mention of travels, Erwin shook his head at Luella. “We haven't gotten to that yet,” he told her.

Sarah looked suspiciously at her uncle, then turned back to Luella. “Did you test me for rohypnol and GHB?”

Luella instantly looked concerned. “Do you have reason to believe that you were drugged?”

“Yes, I do. I drank some alcohol and I don't remember much of what happened afterward.” She saw Erwin shaking his head in the negative, anger rising that he would deny what had clearly happened to her. “It's the most logical explanation, Erwin, and I want to be sure,” she snapped.

“I'll have someone along in just a moment to draw your blood,” Luella answered, then to Erwin, she inquired, “Why didn't you and Professor Dumbledore tell me this?”

Sarah looked disbelievingly between Luella and Erwin, who was holding a palm up to Sarah to keep her from talking. He addressed Luella first. “She was given a potion to prepare her for her journey. Albus assured me that it only contained herbs, and I have no reason to distrust him.” He turned to Sarah. “Yes?” he asked, indicating that it was her turn to talk.

“Albus Dumbledore. As in Harry Potter Albus Dumbledore. You both just said Albus Dumbledore,” she said in astonishment, then continued, mostly to herself, “I must be hallucinating, or I'm having one hell of a dream.”

“What do I have to do to prove to you that you aren't crazy or hallucinating and that you weren't drugged?” Erwin asked, genuine concern on his face.

“Well, you could start by telling me what the hell is going on,” Sarah stated as forcefully as she could, given the bliss that she was feeling.

At that moment, Albert Douglas drifted into her room. He was wearing turquoise robes with gold stitching and a matching floppy hat. “I see I've arrived at just the right moment,” he proclaimed quite cheerfully.

Sarah felt fuzzy and again noticed the loud buzzing in her ears. She started digging at her palms as they itched unlike anything she'd ever felt before. She started to feel nauseous. She was no longer quite so tranquil.  She was having trouble breathing and felt like there was something heavy on her chest.  Her whole body was tense, and she was unconsciously inching closer and closer to Erwin.

“She's feeling the effects of the magic, I think. Luella, could you get her another anti-nausea potion and something for itching?” he instructed.

Luella looked at Sarah and saw that the panicked look had returned to her eyes. “Professor Dumbledore, I think you should wait outside,” she said with authority. It was not a request .

He looked at Sarah, searching her face. “As you wish,” he replied, looking at Sarah with somber eyes, and left the room. Sarah thought he actually looked sad, but she honestly couldn't find it in herself to care.  Her state of bliss was gone as fast as it had come.

“I'll get someone down here immediately to run those tests, okay?” Luella said, indicating that she needed to leave the room. “If you feel threatened in any way, just say my name and I'll apperate back immediately with security.”

Sarah nodded and Luella left the room, noting that her nurse had told her that she could apperate. What the ever loving hell?

She turned to Erwin. For the first time in her life she wasn't sure that she could trust him, but she needed someone to explain what was happening to her. “Well?” she challenged.

Erwin sighed. “I know that this is all a shock. When Albus told me that it was time to return I knew that you wouldn't take it well. You never liked change, and this is, for lack of a better word, unbelievable.”

He paused and Sarah nodded her head for him to go on.

“All that talk last night about parallel universes happened for a reason. It was to get you ready for today. It's a long story, and I admit I'm not sure where I should begin.”

“I'm not going anywhere and starting at the beginning usually works,” she said, her voice clipped.

“Alright. Just promise me that you will try to believe what I am telling you and that you won't cut me off. You need to put your scientific mind away right now and just listen.”

“I'm not sure that I can do that, turn my scientific mind off. But I'll listen to what you have to say.”

“I've never lied to you, Sarah, except for one thing. One very big thing, actually. But please remember that I love you and I've always protected you. I left my life for you. That's how much you mean to me!” he looked down, wringing his hands, considering what to say.

“Alright, best to come out with it. Parallel universes are real, Sarah. You grew up in one. The world that you knew, that you know, is not the world that you were born into. In your world, magic and spells and Albus Dumbledore are just a story. A great story, and one you love, but a story nonetheless.”

At that moment a young man in what looked more like nursing scrubs came into the room. “Afternoon. I'm Augustus, your blood technician, and I'm here to do some labwork.” Sarah nodded and watched as he came over to the bed, wand in one hand and vial in the other. He waved the wand toward the inside of her elbow and she watched fascinated as the vial filled with blood. She hadn't felt a thing, and there was no puncture wound on her arm. “What the hell?” she murmured to herself. Augustus gave Sarah a small, amused smile then nodded at her and left the room.

“As I was saying,” Erwin continued, “your world, the world that you grew up in, isn't the world that you were born into. This is your world, and mine, and Albus's. Oh, yes, Albert's real name is Albus. He is an old friend of mine. We've known each other for so long now . . “ he looked off as if lost in his thoughts, then cleared his throat and began to speak again, looking at Sarah.

“You were born in Devon, in England. That is true. But your parents didn't die in an airplane crash. They were attacked and killed. Your family, your grandparents and great grandparents, were all killed in retaliation for something that your great uncle did. I knew your family, your parents, grandparents, all of them, because of my friendship with Albus. I didn't have anyone of my own and I guess you could say that they adopted me. They always called me uncle Erwin. So, in a way, I've always been your uncle Erwin, even though I'm not related to you by blood."

“Here, in this world, there is magic. Just like in the books. Albert is really Albus Dumbledore, headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Everything that happened in the books is happening now.”

“Wait.” Sarah put her hand up stopping him. “Even if what you are saying is true, it's 2005. Those books took place in the 90's.”

“Albus believes that time here moves more slowly, that magic interacts with time somehow. It is currently July 15, 1995. So we've done a bit of time travel as well, it seems.” Erwin paused and took a deep breath, steeling himself. “Your parent's full names were Ahearn Janek Percival Ballintin Dumbledore and Artemesia Leda Vega Ophelia Black. Your real name is Seraphina Flora Wilhelmina Maeve Dumbledore.”

Sarah's eyes darted to Erwin's, astonished. “You are telling me that my father is Albus Dumbledore's, what, son? And my mom is somehow related to Sirius Black? And my name – it's not Sarah?”

“Yes and no. What I'm telling you is that you are Aberforth Dumbledore's great granddaughter and your mother was one of Sirius Black's aunts. Her name was burned from the family tree as well. She was too good for that family. You actually would have been a few years behind Sirius at Hogwarts. And your name is Seraphina Dumbledore. It's a lovely name. It's why I call you my angel.”

Sarah simply stared at Erwin. In the last half hour, she had been told that she had traveled to another dimension and back in time, she had seen blood drawn and words written magically, had a spell cast on her with a sparkly laser, been told that she was related to Aberforth and Albus Dumbledore and Sirius Black (and by extension, she was realizing, Bellatrix Lestrange, Narcissa Malfoy, and Nymphadora Tonks), and that the name she had her entire life was not, in fact, her real name. This was either a very elaborate, very impressive prank, or what Erwin was telling her was sincere. Looking at Erwin, the only family she'd ever known, the only person that she'd ever irrefutably trusted and who had never given her reason to doubt him, she had to face the reality that everything he was telling her might be true.

It was crazy. Unbelievably, horribly crazy. She had read Harry Potter. In fact, she had devoured the books, had waited in line for the midnight release of a few of them. She had excitedly talked about them with Livvy, who didn't really get her enthusiasm, but was tickled by her zeal. She was known around Yellow Springs as a fantasy nerd, having embraced the resurgence of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as well (complete with a “one ring” tattoo down her left side). She owned all of the Harry Potter movies and had Harry Potter viewing weekends, sometimes with Erwin. She was a walking, talking encyclopedia of Harry Potter trivia. She even has a bloody Deathly Hallows tattoo on her shoulder and a set of Hogwarts robes for Halloween.  This, all of this, was something beyond her wildest imaginings.

If anybody had asked her if she wanted to be transported to the world of Harry Potter, she would have enthusiastically said yes, but now that she was here, transported into a hospital bed in a wizarding hospital in alternate reality Dayton, OH, a world totally foreign to her, she was reconsidering that desire. If Albus Dumbledore was outside of her door, that meant that there was a Voldemort and Death Eaters. Her family had been murdered - 'the Dumbledores!' she thought, shaking her head. And she didn't know magic, except for the spells that were in the Harry Potter books. Albus Dumbledore was a manipulative, calculating person, even if he was supposed to be a good guy, and if he was outside her door, that had to mean that she figured into all of this crazy Harry Potterness somehow.

Luella walked in the door, followed by a tall man with long, brown hair pulled back by a white ribbon. He was wearing robes like she had seen on Albus, though they were off white and much more simple than Albus's were. He walked over to her bed and held out his hand.

“Hello, I'm Healer Walters. You are Seraphina Dumbledore?”

“My name is Sarah Douglas.” she said, looking at, but not taking, his hand.

“I think she's in a bit of shock," Erwin said in apology.  "I've been telling her about her family. She never knew them. And we did some dimensional travel yesterday; she's from this world but left it when she was a baby. She wouldn't remember this one.”

“That's understandable,” Healer Walters replied, looking between Sarah and Erwin with sympathy.

Sarah snorted. “That's understandable?” she said incredulously. She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply through her nose, reached out and took hold of Erwin's hand, opened her eyes, and said, “I'm sorry. It's all a bit new. Go ahead; I'm all ears.”

Healer Walters nodded and looked down at a piece of yellowed paper ('Parchment,' Sarah thought). He began, “Well, first of all, I want to reassure you that you had no rohypnol or anything else in your system that would have caused you to lose consciousness. The elixir that Professor Dumbledore gave you has been examined by our lab and it contains a harmless mix of herbs. A complex mix, mind you, but truly harmless.”

“But what it did to me . . “ Sarah began, disbelievingly.

“Herbs. Flowers. And rather common ones at that. We've never seen this particular potion before, but whoever brewed it made a magnificent product. Professor Dumbledore actually requested that we do an analysis on it when you arrived here. He said that he wanted to reassure you that he meant you no harm.”

“We found no evidence on examination that you had been assaulted in any way,” he continued. “You were very dehydrated, and we were concerned because your lab results weren't reassuring, but they seem to have corrected themselves with the fluids.”

“My concern now is the interdimensional travel. To be honest, very few people have done it; it's highly controlled by the International Organization of Magical Regulation, and those that have done it haven't returned. We do know that one of the witches that left had seizures after travel, but we don't know if that was caused by the particular world that she traveled to, an undiagnosed but pre-existing seizure disorder on her part, or travel to a parallel universe. I'd like to keep you for observation for another 24 hours just to make sure that you, your uncle, and Professor Dumbledore don't develop any unforeseen problems before you undertake any further travel. We'll stop the fluids, but I'd like to leave in the port in case we need it.”

“No magical, needleless IV's here, then?” Erwin joked.

“It seems the muggles have us beat on fluid management. And it does help to administer potions more quickly, so when we have to start one, we keep it going.” He turned back to Sarah. “I'm going to put you on a bland diet and have anti-nausea potion available for you. I don't think you'll need it, though. And you are free to walk around and explore the grounds. I just ask that either your uncle, Professor Dumbledore or one of our staff accompany you in case you feel faint. Do you have any questions?”

Sarah chuckled sharply. “I don't even know where to begin. But you can't answer most of them anyway. I'm still trying to convince myself that this isn't a dream or some huge hoax.” She thought a moment, then said, “My ears have this constant buzzing and my hands are itchy. And when Albert – or Albus – came into the room I got really nauseated. Everything feels off somehow.”

“You've never experienced magic, am I right?” Healer Walters inquired. Sarah shook her head no. “Well, sometimes those that are highly magical but have lived away from it into adulthood can feel the symptoms you've described. We are directly over a ley line, and Professor Dumbledore is very powerful. The itching is your magic trying to be expressed. Your energies are building and trying to release themselves. Don't be surprised if you have moments of wild magic happen around you. The nausea, buzzing and odd feeling are your body adjusting to the magic around you. It should get better with some time. We can give you a calming draught and something for itching if it really bothers you.”

He turned toward the door. “Just write down any questions that come to you. Luella can get you some parchment and a dictoquill. I'll be back about this time tomorrow. Try to get some rest. You've had quite a shock and were quite ill.”

Sarah nodded and thanked him. He exited the room, Luella following him.

Erwin took Sarah's hand between his. “Albus could answer your questions, too. He would very much like to get to know you.”

Sarah frowned. “Regardless of the fact that he didn't drug me, he did kidnap me. He kidnapped me, Erwin, and you helped him!'

“When we went to Yellow Springs, it was never meant to be forever,” Erwin reasoned. “Aberforth wanted to protect you. You were all he had left and you were young enough to readjust to another world. You were already doing wild magic when you were two, moving things about and such, so we suspected that you would be quite strong. Aberfoth was worried that you couldn't be hidden well because you had such a strong magical signature. Grindelwald's men were still at large, you see.”

“Gellert Grindelwald? My parents were killed by his followers?”

“Yes. After Albus imprisoned Gellert, his followers went underground and strengthened. A lot like the death eaters now. They vowed to avenge his capture if he wasn't released. They struck without warning. When it happened quite a bit of time had passed and everyone thought they were no longer a threat. They killed your parents, grandparents, and great grandmother and anyone closely associated with them at the same time, though they were all in different locations. It was a well-planned, coordinated attack. Albus was at Hogwarts, so he was safe, and Aberforth had left the Hog's Head to run some last minute errands. If you and I hadn't been in the meadow, we most likely would have been killed as well.”

“We were in a meadow? With Queen Anne's Lace?”

“Yes! You remember it?”

“I've dreamed about it my whole life. Most of the time it's just you and me laying in the flowers. But there have been a few times where there was a loud noise that shook the earth. And I heard my mom crying. I knew it was my mom. And you shielded me and told me to be quiet. In fact, I just had that dream before I woke up.”

“You and your parents were visiting me. They came every summer for a few weeks. You loved the meadow and on that day Artemesia wanted you to stay indoors but you kept popping open the door and trying to run outside. When you actually vanished the door, your mum said that you could go out if I would go with you. We were far from the house; the meadow is large. You were only a wee one, just two, but you were fast and you kept running and running. When I saw the flashes I knew something was wrong and that I had to protect you. Your parents were strong and I thought that they could protect themselves. You couldn't have, though. So I fell down on top of you and hid in the meadow until the attack was over. I don't know how long it lasted or how long we were hiding, but when I looked up, Albus was standing there. I'll never forget the look on his face. I don't know if he will ever be able to truly forgive himself for the part he played in all of it.”

Erwin's hands, which were holding Sarah's, were shaking and his eyes were wet with tears. “You saved me. You left your life to protect me,” she said, awestruck by everything that Erwin had done for her.

He looked at her and nodded, tears falling. “You were all I had left, Sarah. You were my family. You were my angel. You were more important than anything. More important than magic.” He sniffed and said, “I wasn't much of a magician anyway. I was much more interested in physics and muggle science, though I did have an affinity for potions. I think I received the lowest scores on my OWLs in Ravenclaw's history.” His smile was sad and wistful.

Sarah pulled Erwin into a hug and held onto him tightly, possessively. She felt him stroking her hair, something which he often did when she was very upset. She felt him shaking in her arms, heard him trying to contain his tears. She has always felt thankful that she had Erwin as her uncle; he had been a wonderful parent to her, had been involved in everything she had ever done, supported her through her most difficult times. She had no idea how indebted she was to him until now; he'd left his home, given up magic, and had to start completely over with the responsibility of raising a toddler on top of it all. “I'll never be able to repay you for what you've done for me. I can't even imagine it,” she whispered to him.

“It's not about repayment, Sarah, it never has been. It's always been about love. It always comes back to love, doesn't it?”

Erwin let go of Sarah and took her face in his hands. He seemed to be searching her face, studying her. “You have turned into such a beautiful woman. I've been so proud of you. You have a fire within you and a brilliance I could have never predicted. And you know, I've had a pretty good life, too. I'll miss our little town and our house and all of our wonderful friends.”

He let go of her and straightened himself in his chair. “I know that we have a lot more to talk about, but I bet you'd like some water.”

Sarah enthusiastically nodded her head. Her mouth was still tacky and dry. “I think I'd like to try to eat some crackers, too.”

“Well,” he replied, standing up and stretching his back, “I think I'll wander down to the nurses station and order some up for you.” Looking toward the door, he stood still, appearing to be conflicted about what he wanted to say next. Steeling himself, he asserted, “Now, I know that you don't trust him, and I understand why. But Albus is your great uncle, and he really is a fine man. He has many things to tell you, and I'm sure that you have quite a few questions for him. May I bring him back with me?”

“I suppose I have to sometime, don't I,” she stated. She didn't really want to talk to the man. Didn't trust him in the slightest. But Albus Dumbledore was the mastermind, the man with the plan, and more importantly, a member of her family and someone who had planned her concealment in another world and her return.

She looked Erwin in the eye, and steeling herself said, “Alright. Bring the man in.”

 

Chapter Text

Erwin returned a few minutes later preceded by a levitating tray containing a small glass pitcher of ice water, a small glass, and some saltine crackers. He was accompanied by Albus Dumbledore. As Erwin busied himself with pouring water and unwrapping saltines, Albus sat down in the chair Erwin had vacated and said, “I suppose I hadn't truly considered how difficult this would be for you. I have very little experience with your world; I only received reports regarding you from Erwin.”

Sarah glared at Albus Dumbledore. She was probably going to have to start trusting him at some point, but she was not ready for that now. She was startled when he started chuckling at her.

“What?” she demanded.

“That scowl! You remind me of Aberforth. I've never seen someone who could look so intimidating just with a look as Aberforth until now.”

“I've always told her that if looks could kill she'd have a trail of bodies,” Erwin interjected. “Don't even ask me about her temper. It's Aberforth through and through.”

“I see that,” Albus said, smirking.

Sarah regarded Albus. He spoke with genuine affection for his brother, though Sarah knew that their relationship was bitter. It was a revelation to her that her facial expressions reminded Albus of his brother, her great-grandfather. “I never knew that I got my temper from a family member. Erwin never told me that. It can be bad at times,” she said softly.

“I can't fault you for your reaction to the events of the last few hours. You must understand that it was never my intention to frighten you. I apologize for that, I truly do. Magical travel can be difficult, even for those who do it every day. I had hoped that the potion I gave you would make it easier for you. Despite the vomiting, I believe it did.”

“You can't just go around drugging people, even if it is to transport them between universes. Even if you don't think they'd come. Especially if you don't think they'd come willingly. I have a life there! I have a house and friends and patients. What will they think?”

“I suppose they'll think that you disappeared,” Albus answered matter-of-factly. “If you had had a spouse or children, I would have been more hesitant to bring you here, but as you did not, and as the only family that you knew was actually from here, I found myself with no reasons to keep you there. Your friends and patients will be fine. Their lives will go on without you there. You are needed here.”

“Why? Why not just let me go on with my life?”

“As I said, you are needed here. This is your true home. You were meant to return, meant to fulfill your magical destiny.”

“My magical destiny?” Sarah scoffed. “That sounds like something out of a crappy fantasy novel.”

“Be that as it may, you, in fact, do have a magical destiny. This fact was revealed to me in the form of a prophecy spoken by our Divination professor. Many believe her teachings to be spurious, but every prophecy she has ever made has been true. I couldn't ignore what she said. The most imperative point being that if we didn't get you back quickly we would never be able to do so. Your portal was closing.”

Erwin started talking. “We didn't know that could happen. We thought that the portal could be maintained indefinitely. Apparently we were wrong.”

Sarah was silent while Erwin and Albus watched her expectantly. “This is all so much to process,” she said.

“It's difficult for me, too, and I came from here,” Erwin said to Sarah in sympathy. “I told you that we had always meant to bring you back; it seems we were forced on the matter.”

“How did we get here?” Sarah asked. “I know that the typewriter did something, but it looked like magic. There isn't magic in our world.”

“No, there isn't,” Albus answered. “Which is why your uncle engineered a virtually undetectable channel between our worlds. Without it we couldn't have gotten you back. The entire process is controlled from this side.”

“But when you typed it happened so quickly. . “

“I made arrangements with someone here to monitor the typewriter on this side and to open the portal further at my signal. When it did we brought you through.”

“There's another typewriter?” Sarah asked.

“It is the most ingenious thing if I do say so,” Erwin interrupted. “Mr Asimov is a communication device. Albus had charmed a matching typewriter to act as a conduit that could both send and receive messages from Mr Asimov. Opening the portal merely requires the proper magic; complicated magic, mind you, but just magic that was easy for Albus. We needed a way to communicate, and that was my contribution to the plan. There was always a minuscule tether between our two universes that tied the two typewriters together, otherwise Mr Asimov couldn't have worked. But the magic that Albus had performed in this universe kept the communication lines open.”

“I would wait for Erwin to contact me. I often didn't reply unless I happened to be near the typewriter when a message came in. I couldn't be sure that you wouldn't see the typewriter working or read any of the communication. He sent me reports as often as he could, at least one a month in his time. He kept me apprised of your life, your hopes and aspirations, your schooling. I have longed to meet you for such a long time.”

“Did you let Aberforth know what the reports said? Is it true that you don't get along with him?” Sarah inquired.

“I would owl all of the reports to Aberforth. And yes, it is true that we have a less than harmonious relationship. But he is your grandfather; he longed for information on you.”

“Do you know about the Harry Potter books?”

A small smile came to Albus's face. “In fact, I do. Erwin would summarize them for me, though I made him stop once the books caught up to actual events. I'm not sure that knowing the future is a good thing.”

“Are the books accurate? Has all of the stuff happened here that has happened in the books?”

“As far as I know, it has.”

“Who is the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?” Sarah asked to try to determine which book she was stepping in to.

“The school year hasn't started yet, but it will be Dolores Umbridge.” Albus noted that both Erwin and Sarah's eyes had widened, and Sarah looked horrified. “Is there a problem?” he inquired.

“I thought you knew everything. At least the books implied that. You've got everything so carefully mapped out that you must.” Sarah challenged.

“I am not omniscient, despite what the books would have you believe. I'd like an explanation for your reaction to Dolores's name, if you would be so kind.”

“She's a terrible person, Albus. People hate her more than He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” Erwin answered, the words rushing out of his mouth. “It is quite possible that I will mess up everything by telling you this . . .”

“She is the reason the DA is formed,” interrupted Sarah, looking pointedly at Erwin.

“Yes, but she tortures the students! And she teaches them nothing and turns the school into a military zone. She doesn't prepare them for what's ahead!” Erwin countered.

Albus looked surprised. “How, exactly, will she be torturing my students?”

“She's evil, Albus. She makes the students write lines with a blood quill during detentions. And you know teenagers. They think they have to solve their problems themselves and they don't want to bother with adults. Also, you seem to be absent much of the year, searching for horcruxes I presume, so they can't come to you to tell you. So somehow it never gets discovered until after she's run you out of Hogwarts. Some of the children are scarred permanently because of her.”

A look of fury came over Albus's eyes and disappeared as soon as Sarah had seen it. His eyes were steely and calculating. “Would there be a disadvantage to not having her at Hogwarts?”

“Well,” Sarah began, “she doesn't teach the students defensive spells, so Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny decide that they have to learn them themselves. They form a club that practices in secret in the Room of Requirement and Harry teaches the group defensive spells and how to cast a petronus. It creates a strong bond between everyone who signs up and gives a lot of them a huge boost of confidence. The students involved become excellent duelers.”

“That can be arranged without a professor who tortures students,” Albus stated.

“I agree, Albus,” Erwin avered, nodding his head, continuing, “Are you sure she's not a Death Eater? She is pure evil. Hates muggleborns, is all for blood purity.”

“I do not believe that she is. Her mother is muggleborn, so it is unlikely. With very few exceptions, Voldemort wants blood purity in his Death Eaters." He paused, then asked, "What's this about Hogwarts becoming a military zone? And me being run out of my own school?”

“She doesn't believe, or doesn't want the children to believe that He Who Must Not Be Named in back in corporeal form,” Erwin explained.

“Cornelius Fudge wants her in Hogwarts to enforce this belief.,” Sarah interrupted. “She and Fudge spearhead a media attack on you and Harry which leads everyone to question your ability to lead Hogwarts. Cornelius gives her the power to conduct reviews of all of the professor's performance. She starts making decrees against everything, and sets up an inquisitorial squad comprised of students . . .”

“Led by Draco Malfoy . .” Erwin interjected.

“that polices the school and informs her of any wrongdoings,” Sarah continued. “She uses veratiserum to question students and discovers Harry and his group going behind her back and learning defensive spells. You take the fall for the group and it gets you kicked out of Hogwarts and she is made Headmaster.”

Sarah and Erwin watch Albus expectantly as he stared at the opposite wall, stroking his beard. After a few seconds of this, he turned to Sarah and stated, “I am sorry to have diverted you from your questions. Please continue.”

Sarah looked at Albus in astonishment. “I've just told you that your DADA professor is a bigoted, torturous tyrant who gets you removed from Hogwarts and you're going to leave it at that?”

Albus sighed. “I fear that you've told me too much. Rest assured, my students will not be tortured and I will keep Dolores in check. I will personally see to it that the students are trained in defensive spells. I shall have to discuss the rest of what you have told me with The Order. I assume you know about The Order?”

Both Sarah and Erwin, who had sat down on the opposite side of the bed after giving Sarah some water and saltines, nodded their heads.

“What if she finds a more horrible way to torture students once you take her blood quills away?” Erwin asked, Sarah nodding her head in agreement with his question.

“I will have to make sure, with the support of the rest of the staff, that Dolores does not do that,” Albus affirmed.

Sarah and Erwin looked at each other as if unsure of how to respond to this. Albus quietly cleared his throat and once again said, “Sarah, what questions do you have?”

Erwin nodded, encouraging Sarah to start talking. “Okay,” she said, “where exactly do I begin? Okay. The beginning is good. So, Albus, what happened to my parents and why was I sent to another dimension? That seems like a good place to start.”

“Yes. Erwin told me that he explained your parent's deaths to you. It was discovered after the attacks that they had been planned for quite some time. A sonic blast was detonated at Erwin's cottage to confuse everyone there and mentally disarm them. The death curse was used to kill them. The attackers searched for a while for you and Erwin, but they had limited time before they had to flee. It took some time, but the aurors believe that they captured and imprisoned everyone involved with the attacks and any of Gellert's remaining supporters were closely monitored.”

“Aberforth was understandably concerned that the attackers would return and kill the rest of us. He wanted to protect you at all costs. Aberforth and I are quite adept at defending ourselves, and because that we knew that Gellert's supporters were active again we knew to keep our guards up. But we were concerned about you and Erwin.”

Erwin continued, “I'm not very good at magic, Sarah, I've already told you that. I'm actually quite weak. I knew that I would be very little help against them. So I made a proposal. I would take you to a world where you would be safe, where magic couldn't touch you. There were reports of worlds where magic didn't exist; Aberforth liked the idea that even if Gellert's followers found us that they wouldn't be able to use magic to harm us. I had already done the research and knew how to make the journey so I volunteered to take you away and hide you. And of course to raise you.”

“Aberforth was devastated at the idea of losing you, but he agreed that you had to be hidden,” Albus said. “He was more concerned with your safety than anything else. In one moment he had lost almost everyone that he loved. So he sent you with Erwin to a parallel universe. As Erwin has already said, I charmed the typewriters and Erwin set up the portal to keep them connected. We were quite pleased to see that magic could travel along the portal and that Aberforth and I could have regular updates on you and we could keep Erwin apprised of the goings on in this world.”

“When we were sure that Gellert's followers had been defeated we made plans to bring you back. You were in still young and we could have enrolled you in Hogwarts. But the First Wizarding War began and Voldemort and his followers were killing good witches and wizards, those that they considered to be unpure and blood traitors. Then Lily and James were killed and Neville Longbottom's parents tortured. Aberforth put a stop to bringing you back. He was adamant that you would stay where you were.”

“Slightly over a week ago someone came to me with the prophecy about you. There was simply no other way to interpret it. It clearly stated that if you weren't brought back that you would stuck in your reality forever. While it wouldn't have made any difference to you and Erwin as you were both doing well, the prophecy also stated that if you did return that you would prevent people from dying that were never meant to die. Aberforth was against your return. After considering what I knew, however, I went against his wishes and arranged your and Erwin's return.”

“So what happens now?” Sarah asked.

“Now we wait for the healers to release you after which we will be traveling by portkey to England. We have maintained your uncle's house; your parent's cottage was destroyed during the attacks, I'm afraid. You will need to learn magic; over the last few days I have been formulating an advanced curriculum designed to train you in the areas that you are strongest in and teach you to fight and defend yourself. I was hoping to focus on Herbology, Healing Arts, Arithmancy, Runes, and Potions, with rudimentary training in Charms and Defense.”

“Is that all? Sounds like a cinch,” Sarah said sarcastically.

“Like I said before, Sarah, we suspected early on that you were quite strong.,” Erwin interjected. “The magic that you were doing at two was impressive and controlled. It got you into quite a bit of mischief, but none of us could deny that we were impressed with your early wild magic. The Dumbledores tend to be quite formidable wizards, and the Blacks are nothing to contend with, so it really shouldn't have surprised us that you were showing such strong abilities at an early age. If you are anywhere near as strong as Aberforth or Albus you should pick up on the fundamentals quickly. You know all of the spells in the book, all you have to be shown is how to wield a wand. You have extensive training in herbs and medicine, so you need only to learn those things that are unique to the magical world. Potions should also come easily to you with your Organic Chemistry background, though there are a few new principles that you will have to learn.”

“You will be considered a graduate student,” Albus said. “You will have all of the rights and privileges of the Hogwarts professors as well as some of their responsibilities and have chambers made to suit you. We will try to make your transition as easy and painless as possible. Erwin has already agreed to reside in Hogsmeade during the school year to be close to you. And I, of course, will give you all of the support that I possibly can. I also believe that your presence will be good for Aberforth, after he gets over his anger at me for bringing you here.”

“Will anyone else know who I am? What do they know about Erwin and me already?” Sarah inquired. She was thinking of Harry Potter, how the entire wizarding world considered him a hero when he didn't even know there was a wizarding world. It didn't seem like it took very long for information to snake it's way into public knowledge.

“Erwin was becoming a man of note in the world of muggle science. Which caused no end of fascination among wizards, particularly those that had turned their back on the muggle world. The attack on our family was well publicized. It was assumed that you and Erwin also perished in the attacks. We did nothing to correct this assumption. As far as the wizarding world is concerned, you and Erwin have been dead for quite some time. Aberforth, of course, will know who you are; I will tell him. It's only fair that he get the chance to know his granddaughter. Erwin's appearance has not changed much so eventually someone will recognize him and I'm sure that the connection will be made when people learn that you are living with him and came back with him. As you may know, gossip travels quickly in our world. I would give it about a month into the school year before the connection is made. Until then we will continue calling you Sarah Douglas. You will be an American who came to be living in England who was an undiscovered and untrained witch. I found you and decided to train you at Hogwarts. It has happened before, Hogwarts training an errant adult, so hopefully the ministry will not look into your story too closely.”

“I have a feeling that they have a much larger pressing issue on their hands,” Sarah said.

“And what is that?”

“Covering up the fact that Voldemort has returned.”

“Ah, yes. Well, we shall see how well that goes.”

“If it's anything like the books, it will go pretty well, at least for a year. Then shit starts getting real.”

Albus laughed loud and with his whole body. “I can see Aberforth in you. 'Shit gets real.' He'll like that.”

Sarah was tired and she realized that her bladder needed emptying. “Sorry to stop here, but I really could use a bathroom break. Erwin, could you help me get to the toilet? A shower sounds nice, too. Maybe I should wait until they cap my IV.”

Albus stood up. “I'll see if I can get someone to attend to that. A shower always helps one to feel better I've found.”

Erwin helped her to the bathroom which was located to the left of the magical white board. After using the toilet, she washed her hands and took a moment to look at her reflection. She was startled when it started talking back to her.

“I'm sure you've looked better, sweetie. Being in here can take the blush out of anyone's cheeks.”

'You're talking to me!” she said back.

“Of course I am! Haven't you ever seen a magical mirror?”

“I have not, actually. We don't have them where I'm from.”

“Well, pleased to make your acquaintance. I'm your magical reflection. I look like you, sound like you, and respond like you would, and I also can tell you how you look. Which, in a hospital, isn't usually so good. You're a pretty one, though. A bit on the sallow side, but vomiting will do that. And no offense, but a shower couldn't hurt.”

Sarah stared at the mirror. She vaguely remembered magical mirrors mentioned in the books, but actually seeing one was another matter. “Do people actually like magic mirrors?” she asked, more to herself than the mirror.

“You'll find opinions divided. They love us when they look good. But first thing in the morning, not so much, really. And my job here really is thankless.”

Sarah found that she couldn't stop staring at the mirror. “Erwin,” she yelled out, “the mirror is talking to me. Come help!”

The door opened and Erwin rushed in. “They have magic mirrors here! I'd forgotten about them!” He moved Sarah toward the door and positioned himself in front of the mirror.

“Well hello, you handsome devil,” Erwin's reflection said to him. Erwin started preening and Sarah rolled her eyes, wheeling her IV back toward her bed. She settled herself back into the white sheets and watched with a grin as Erwin posed and blew kisses at the mirror, which seemed to think Erwin was a paragon of senior manliness.

She found that she was suddenly very tired. These few hours had been overwhelming. She decided that closing her eyes probably would be a good thing. She fell asleep listening to Erwin sing “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” to the mirror, a smile on her face.

Chapter Text

The room was dark when Sarah awoke. Looking around, she noticed that her saline bag was gone and her IV had been capped. There were no clocks to tell the time with and no light switches to turn off or on. She remembered that there was an oil lamp by her bed, thought, ‘What the heck,’ pointed toward the lamp and said, “Lumos,” but nothing happened. She looked to her left where Erwin was asleep on a rather comfortable looking cot, wearing cotton white and blue pinstriped pajamas, his breathing deep, whistling through his nose.

She noticed that the words on her white board were glowing and her nurse’s name was John. Remembering that Luella said that she would come if she just said her name, Sarah said, “John, I need you,” out loud. She wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen, but there was no instantaneous crack of apparition and no one opened her door.

Sarah felt restless and sore. She estimated that she had been in bed now for almost 24 hours and wanted badly to stretch her legs, eat something more than saltines, and explore this new world. She decided that is would be a good time to take a shower, as no one seemed to be coming to help her.

Entering the bathroom, Sarah heard the magic mirror yawn. “You’re up late,” her reflection said to her.

“I just woke up,” she said, then added, “You wouldn’t happen to know what time it is, would you?”

“No, dear, I don’t have a wand, which means you must not, either. It’s not wise to go around losing wands; could end up in the wrong hands.”

“I’ve never had one. I suppose I’ll need to get one. Do I need one to have a shower?”

“Shouldn’t, except you might have to shower in the dark. I’ll see what I can do on my end.” A golden glow shone out of the mirror, bathing the bathroom in a soft light. “There! That should help. All the toiletries you need are in the shower. Towels, too. Just call out if you need any help, though I’ll need to see you.”

“Thanks,” replied Sarah, thinking that magic mirrors might just be helpful after all.

The shower was a large, open affair with oblong white, subway tiles on the walls and small white and black hexagonal tiles on the floor ('very 1940s,' thought Sarah); a large white cotton curtain contained it. There were multiple chrome buttons, handles, and spigots on the wall, labeled with what they were meant to do. Sarah noticed that she had her choice of four different soaps, each with a different aroma, several different types of shampoos and conditioners, facial wash, and there was a button by the hot and cold faucets that said “moisture bath.”

Just as she was stepping into the shower there was a knock on the door. “You called for me?” said a male voice on the other side.

“Are you John?”

“Yeah, sorry it took a minute, but I was giving potions to another patient. Is there something I can do for you?”

Sarah peeked around the door, having wrapped a towel around her middle. On the other side was an attractive man, wearing the same nursing scrubs that Ulysses had worn earlier, who looked to be around her age with a full brown beard and mustache and untamed brunette hair. “Well, I’m hungry, and I don’t know what time it is so I don’t know if I can eat anything, and I was hoping I could walk around a bit? I don’t have a wand and don’t know how to light the lamp.”

“It’s a little after 11:30; I’ll see what I can do for you about the food. We have a nice sitting area just past the mediwitch station where you can eat; I’ll have the hospital elves make you a meal. And I’ll put out some pajamas and some underwear for you so you won’t feel so exposed. Oh, and I’ll get that lamp lit for you. I didn’t know that you didn’t have a wand, or I would have done it sooner.

“I’d appreciate all of that. I’ll be down as soon as I’m done showering.”

Sarah stepped into the shower and turned on the water until it was steaming hot. The water felt wonderful on her aching joints. She opted for lavender soap, which was silky and smelled amazing, and a moisturizing shampoo. She spent some time working the knots out of her hair, and then added a generous amount of conditioner. Curiosity about the “moisture bath” button got the better of her so she pushed it to be greeted with water that seemed to be mixed with a mild smelling lotion and left her skin feeling soft and not at all oily. She also noticed that the tiles in the shower weren’t slippery at all, which would surely have happened in her at home shower had she used conditioner and lotion in it.

She dried off quickly and wrapped her hair in another towel. She found that she didn’t have to struggle at all to keep it on her head; it seemed to stay put after she had wrapped it. Upon entering her room, Sarah saw that there was now a white curtain that separated her bed from where Erwin was still lying asleep. Laying on her bed, she found the clothing that John said that he would leave her along with a thin white robe. The white cotton underwear and off white cotton pajama bottom and top looked to be hospital issue, and while they were brand new, they were enormous. Seeing no choice but to wear it, she slipped on the panties, which quickly shrank until they fit her perfectly.

She was so surprised by her clothing shrinking that she looked around to see if anyone else had seen it happen. As there was no one other than her sleeping uncle in the room, she ran into the bathroom in just her panties and excitedly said to her reflection, “My panties shrank!”

Her reflection smiled and answered, “Of course they did; that’s how hospital clothing works. Do you often run around in just your underwear? You might want to finish dressing so you don’t give your uncle a show.”

Sarah looked down quickly, crossed her arms over her breasts, and ran back over to her bed to finish dressing. Just like the panties, the camisole, short sleeved pajama top, pajama pants, and robe all shrank to fit. She found a pair of enormous cotton footies beneath the pajamas and they, too, shrunk when she put them on. She took a minute to look down at her magical pajamas, marveling at how they were the best fitting pair of pajamas that she’d ever worn, and the softest, too.

Steeling herself for what awaited her outside of her room, she walked toward the door with determination and turned the handle. She was met with a hospital hallway that, like her room, looked like a relic from another time. It was wide with a ceiling that towered at least two floors up and was peaked in the middle. Along the apex of the peak there ran a dark strip of wood; she noticed flowers and wreathes vining to and fro in the plaster by the wooden strip. The white and black tile was continued on the floor and there was white tile halfway up the walls here as well. The walls were painted the same industrial shade of blue that seemed to be used in every hospital in the U.S. There were transom windows above most of the doors; these, too were surrounded by plaster flower wreathes. Looking down the hallway she spotted the nursing station a few doors down and to her left.

As she was walking down toward the nurse’s station she saw movement to her right. She turned and saw a poster instructing readers on the proper way to sneeze into their elbow to prevent the spread of germs. In the background was an older , balding man who looked miserably ill and apparently could not stop sneezing. Sarah stared wide-eyed at the moving poster. The sneezing man looked at her with forlorn, watering eyes and then let out a loud, full body sneeze. He managed to say, “You wouldn’t happen to have a tissue?” before he again started sneezing repeatedly.

“He’s a bit wretched, isn’t he?” said a dour faced, dark-skinned mediwitch wearing what Sarah would forever think of as the nursing pilgrim costume. Her long, jet black hair was pulled into a long braid that fell down her back and ended just above her knees. “Nothing we can do for him; posters don't respond to spells like people do.”

“I was supposed to go to the nurses’ station for some food,” Sarah said, unable to quit staring at her first moving picture.

“You’re Miss Douglas?” Sarah nodded. “Follow me down to the lounge; I think we have some food waiting for you. I’m Naoma; John is busy at the moment.”

When Sarah didn’t move, Naoma said a bit testily, “You’re going to have to quit staring at Norman if you want to eat.”

Sarah snapped her eyes away from the poster and followed Naoma, not wanting to upset the impatient medi-witch. “Busy night?” she asked conversationally.

“Just don’t like working nights,” Naoma answered as she stomped down the hall. She led Sarah past the nursing station to the most impressive hospital lounge that Sarah had ever seen. The floor here was made with gleaming hardwood which continued as paneling up the walls. In the rear of the lounge there stood three peaked, towering windows. On the floor were old, faded Persian rugs in various shades of red. Leather wingback chairs were interspersed with wooden rocking chairs arranged in conversational areas, each with a side table and oil lamp emitting a soft glow. In the middle of the room were three round tables, each surrounded with wooden armchairs; these, too, were decorated with the wreath and flower motif seen in the hallway. Sarah felt as if she had been transported to some exclusive men's club, not a hospital lounge in Ohio.

The side tables contained pamphlet holders, a few magazines, and what looked to be yesterday’s newspapers. Sarah could see that the headline photo was a picture of a man behind a podium who was smiling and waving. She realized that she was smiling and starting to feel almost giddy from the moving pictures on the wall and newspaper and the vintage beauty of the hospital.

Naoma cleared her throat, which caused Sarah to jump. She schooled her features to face the grumpy woman and turned to see that Naoma was standing by one of the tables that had a tray of food on it. Naoma waved her wand over the food which caused small ribbons of steam to rise from a bowl on the tray. Sarah quickly sat herself down to her tray which contained oatmeal, lemon Jello, water, dry toast, and a glass of orange liquid. She raised the glass to her nose, sniffed it, and found that it smelled like pumpkin pie. “Pumpkin juice!” she said in delight, which elicited a “Humph” from Naoma and a chuckle from behind her.

Sarah turned to see John walking toward her while Naoma was taking her leave. “May I sit with you?” John asked while pulling out a seat.

“Sure. Some company would be nice,” Sarah answered as she began to eat her oatmeal (possibly the best hospital oatmeal that she had ever eaten).

“So I hear that you grew up without magic,” John said while stretching out his legs.

“Yeah, in another dimension even.” Sarah replied.

“Wow. Don’t remember seeing that on your chart.” He took a moment to watch her eat, then smiling, noted, “You seem to be enjoying your oatmeal more than the average patient.”

“It’s amazing! All of this food is amazing. Where I work, a bland diet is just that: bland. This oatmeal is the best that I’ve ever had in a hospital.”

“The hospital elves are good cooks,” he remarked, this time stretching his back. He then continued, “So how’s this all been for you, all the magic?”

“Well, at first I couldn’t believe it, but after my mirror talked to me and I had blood drawn without a needle and my clothes shrunk to fit me, I don’t think I can deny it anymore. It’s actually all a little amazing.”

“Did you come straight here after you traveled to this universe? I’ve never actually heard of anyone doing that before.”

“I guess it’s rare; at least that’s what the doctor – I mean healer said. I don’t remember much of it because Albus gave me something that sort of knocked me out." Sarah scowled at the memory, then continued, "I know that I threw up a lot and so they brought me here. The healer wants to make sure that traveling between universes won’t harm us.”

“Well, you look fine to me. You’ll probably be out of here tomorrow. So what’s the plan then?”

Sarah took a tentative drink of the pumpkin juice, which tasted just like pumpkin pie. “Wow. Pumpkin juice is the bomb,” she said, which caused John to chuckle again. She drank a bit more and replied, “So we’re going to England or Scotland and I’m studying at Hogwarts. Albus is my great-uncle. I have to learn everything. It’s overwhelming, really.”

“I went to Ivermorny; all of us here did. Hogwarts is a big deal, though. Best wizarding school in the world. I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

“Ivermorney is a school in America?”

“Well, in Canada, but it’s where all North American kids go. You don’t know any of this, do you?”

“Not much. Some spells, but I don’t have a wand. I had no idea that there was a magical community in Dayton. I grew up in Yellow Springs.”

“You mean Silver Springs? We don’t have a Yellow Springs. Small wizarding village with a college?”

“Must be that same thing; Yellow Springs is stuck in the 60s and has Antioch college. There’s so much to learn!” said Sarah, trying to keep from being overwhelmed by everything she didn’t know.

“Yeah. Dayton has one of the largest wizarding communities in the midwest. We're actually hidden inside Wright Patterson Air Force Base. You know it?”

Sarah nodded her head, fascinated. John continued, “Well, there's this rumor among the muggles that there are UFOs here, but there's actually wizards. We let them think whatever they want. Works okay for us.”

“You mean Hanger 18?” Sarah asked incredulously.

“The very same. Maybe your world actually does have UFOs if they believe that there, but here it's an international portkey stop and the entrance to wizarding Dayton.”

“Dayton's not really a major city where I come from. It's big, but Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati are much larger.”

“It's not actually that large here, either; it just happens to be a major wizarding hub. There are wizards all over the midwest but they come here for their major business.”

Sarah stared down at her tray, trying to contain her state of apprehension about this new world. “You know there's a war starting in England and that's why they brought me back?” She said to John, wringing her hands. “I mean, they never said that, but I'm sure that's why I'm here. And it's gonna get bad and I don't know a thing! I don't know how to fight or defend myself and there's this prophesy about me saving people and I don't know how to do any of it. I don't know if I can do this.'

“Hey,” John said, putting his hand over hers. “Try not to get overwhelmed. Look. There's reports about something happening in England, but no one's sure what to believe. I'll see if I can find the article for you.”

John then raised his wand and said, “Accio U.S. Wizarding Reports,” causing a few magazines to come flying toward their table. They landed in front of John, who rifled through them until he found what he wanted.

He handed the magazine over to Sarah. “Here, read this,” he said, pointing to a short news item. “It might make you feel a little better; then you can read through the others. It'll get you caught up with what's going on.” He stood, stretched once again, and said, “I'd better get back to work. Just let me know if you need anything else. I'll get to you as soon as I can. And it'll be okay. It really will.”

Sarah smiled weakly at him and looked down at the open magazine in front of her.

She noticed that it was from a few months ago. The article was in the beginning of the magazine, on a page entitled “Around the Wizarding World.”

Death at the Tri-Wizard Tournament

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Hogsmeade, Scotland

Tragic news from Scotland: 17-year-old Cedric Diggory, one of Hogwart's Tri-Wizard competetors, has been killed with the death curse. According to headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Diggory was killed when the Tri-Wizard cup transported Diggory and Harry Potter, (15-years-old; see How Did underaged Harry Potter Compete?on the next page) into the presence of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, whom Dumbledore claims has been resurrected from the dead. Potter backs up this claim, stating that he witnessed the resurrection of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the presence of his Death Eater followers. Potter also claims that he dueled with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and witnessed Cedric Diggory's murder.

Cornelius Fudge, current British Minister of Magic, was quick to cast doubt on the story. “There is no evidence that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned. We at the ministry cannot confirm either Albus Dumbledore's or Harry Potter's stories. While is is clear that Cedric Diggory died due to the unforgivable death curse and that Harry Potter's wand did not cast the curse, we do not know how or when Mr. Diggory died. Rest assured, a full investigation into the matter is being conducted and the Ministry will not rest until this tragedy is explained,” said Fudge, in a briefing on the event held at The British Ministry of Magic.

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was killed after an attack on Harry Potter's parents on October 31, 1981. There have been only scattered reports of Death Eater activity since that day.

-Levinia Trout, Sr. Reporter, British Wizarding”

'It's already started,' thought Sarah, 'they already don't believe Albus.' She pushed the magazine away, suddenly overwhelmed by the world she'd been thrust into, lowering her face into her hands. She noticed the buzz in her ears again and her palms started to itch; despite trying to calm herself down, the buzzing and itching continued to amplify until Sarah could no longer tolerate them. In frustration, she slammed her fists onto the table in front of her, only to be stunned when all of the dishes on her tray shattered in front of her. Terrified, she leapt to her feet and backed away from the table, sending the chair she had been sitting on flying through the air backwards, into the hallway wall.

Both Naoma and John came running into the lounge to find Sarah frozen in place, standing in front of the table, shaking. John ran up to her, grabbing a chair and sitting her down, while Naoma surveyed the damage to Sarah's dishes, humming in disapproval.

“What just happened, Sarah?” John asked. He was kneeling in front of her, hands on her arms, looking into her eyes.

Sarah stared at John for a minute, then replied with a faltering voice. “I don't know. Everything started buzzing so loudly and I hit the table and that happened. And the chair went somewhere.”

As Noama went about waving her wand, repairing the dishes, John squeezed Sarah's arms lightly in reassurance. “It's okay, Sarah. I think you've just experienced your first episode of wild magic. A pretty dramatic one at that.”

Sarah was nodding her head, though she was still shaking, trying to understand what she had just done.

John continued. “I'm going to go get your uncle. Naoma will keep an eye on you until I get back.” He then turned to Naoma and said, “Be nice. You remember what it was like when you couldn't control your magic, don't you?”

Naoma glared at John, sighed sufferingly, and replied, “Yes, we all go through it. Some people just aren't so destructive when they do it.”

Sarah stared down at her hands, willing them to stop shaking and failing. Her ears were still buzzing; she was afraid that if she moved that something else would go flying or break. As she was staring at her feet, she saw what she thought to be an elf apperate in and away very quickly to collect her tray. She closed her eyes, breathing in and out slowly, wishing she were back in her comfy house in Yellow Springs.

After a few minutes, she heard Erwin and John walk up beside her. “I've heard you've had a bit of a scare.” Erwin said to her tenderly.

“I broke things and made a chair fly. I didn't mean to do it but everything was buzzing and I was frustrated and hit the table and it happened.”

She opened her eyes to look at Erwin who had pulled up a chair beside her. “I don't think I can do this, Erwin. It's too much! And it's already happening,” she cried, pointing to the magazine that still lay open on the table. “There's an article in there about Cedric Diggory's death and Cornelius Fudge is denying that he's back.”

Erwin took hold Sarah, hugging her tightly and stroking her hair. “I promise it will be alright, angel. It will all be fine. Albus will get you trained up and you'll be amazed at what you can do. And I'll be there the entire time. You've gotten through terrible things before; this is so much better than that, Sarah.”

“I don't want to be here. I want to go home,” she cried, tears freely falling.

“I'm afraid that isn't possible. The portal closed earlier today and Albus is unable to reopen it. We'll have to make the best of it here. Sarah, I've spent my life protecting you, what makes you think I'll be stopping now? If it all gets to be too much we'll go to my house in the country. We'll lay in the fields and look at the sky like we used to.”

Sarah sniffed. “Can we do that anyway?” she asked. “I want to see it again. I want to see the field in my dreams.”

“Just as soon as we get settled in Hogsmeade, we'll take a trip. You and me. Well, maybe someone else, my apparition skills might be a bit rusty.”

Sarah pulled back and looked at Erwin. “I love you, old man,” she said, placing her forehead against his.

“I love you, too, my angel,” he replied, stroking her hair. Sarah sighed and melted into her uncle, tears still falling, as Sarah realized that Erwin, too, was crying quietly. She found comfort in knowing that in this new world that she did not understand at least she had her uncle to hold fast to. Her Erwin would still be her rock and they could get through anything as long as they were together.

 

 

Chapter Text

Erwin and Sarah clung to each other, rocking back and forth, each considering their place in this new world. Sarah melted into Erwin as he stroked her hair, feeling like she did in elementary school after she had fallen and scraped her knee. Erwin was always able to calm her.

For his part, Erwin sat biting his lip to hold back the tears that were forming in his eyes. “I've cried more today than I have in quite a while. Your uncle is going soft.”

Sarah separated herself from her uncle, smiling lovingly. “Never, old man, never. Not my crazy intelligent, fashion plate, savior uncle. Besides, didn't you tell me that it's okay to cry sometimes?”

“I did, but it certainly doesn't feel very manly to do so.”

“You will always be held high above all other men in my book, whether you cry or not. How will I ever find anyone as wonderful as you?” Erwin batted his hand as Sarah, dismissing her admiration of him. She leaned in and quickly pecked him on the forehead, then said, “I can't sleep. I've been in bed for almost a day and I need to stretch my legs. Care for a walk?”

“That would be lovely, my dear.” Erwin and Sarah stood up and Erwin led her further down the hall. “There's a gift shop near the lobby. It's self serve and open all the time. Somehow it totals up what you've carried out and adds it to your bill. Quite convenient, really.”

Sarah turned to look at Erwin. “How are we going to pay the bill, Erwin? We don't have any money, do we?”

“Actually, Sarah, you and I will be quite comfortable. You inherited your parent's bank vault as well as all of the money in your grandparent's vault. Your father was well off when he met your mother; the Dumbledores are an old wizarding family with old wizarding money. They aren't the richest, mind you, but they get by just fine. Your mother made a good deal of money as a sought after healer and your father worked with magical horses: thestrals, pegasus and the like. He was the best in the field. All of the money in our vaults has been accumulating interest for 30 years, so I wouldn't worry if I were you.”

They had come to a long, sweeping stairway with marble risers over which stood a grand glass and oxidized copper cupola. Sarah imagined that it was magnificent during the day; currently she could see more stars in the sky than she had seen since she was a child.

“It really is wonderful, seeing the stars again. Too much light pollution where we came from. Wait until you see the stars over Hogwarts; the night sky is truly breathtaking there,” said Erwin, looking up at the stars with Sarah. He motioned down the stairs. “This way, dear.”

The stairs led to a large lobby area floored with marble and surrounded by towering multi-paned windows. It reminded Sarah more of a plant conservatory than a hospital lobby. To one side there was an imposing wooden reception desk that was currently unmanned; on either side of the desk were hallways lined with the same windows as seen in the lobby. To the other was a set of wooden double doors with inset windows, above which stood a sign that said “Gift Shop” in a fancy, scrolling script. The whole area was softly illuminated with reflective candle sconces located on every vertical surface.

Erwin went to the gift shop and held open a door for Sarah. She followed his lead and picked up a basket from a pile by the door to collect her purchases in. The shop was small but contained a myriad of products that Sarah had never seen. On the shelves to her left there were and assortment of wizarding drug and beauty products; she recognized Sleekeazy's Hair Potion as well as an assortment of non-magical looking combs and brushes. There were multiple bottles of potions to treat a variety of symptoms, self-brushing tooth brushes, Horntail Brand Mouthwash (“Tame your Dragon Breath!”) and something called Zog's Zit Cream, which claimed to clear outbreaks in a manner of minutes. She picked up a stick of Silky Witch Deodorant and a tube of lotion, also Silky Witch, that smelled like myrrh and wild roses. She noticed that even though she could see that the items had been placed in her basket there seemed to be an unlimited amount of room in it, reminding her of Hermione's magically enlarged handbag.

“Sarah, there's a People magazine here! Boys II Men are a thing! And TLC; we love TLC! Oh, and Magical Home has an article about Tori Amos. She's a witch!”

Sarah made her way over to Erwin, who was adding magazine after magazine to his shopping basket. On the cover of one magazine, titled The Wizard's Guide to Muggle Movies, Keanu Reeves was kissing Sandra Bullock while the word “SPEED” flashed in glaring neon orange. She picked up a newspaper (The Dayton Daily) which had a moving picture of Bill Clinton smiling and shaking the hand of a man she didn't recognize as flash bulbs went off. The caption said “Muggle President Bill Clinton meets with President of Magic Abraham Nettle.”

“I'm going to get a copy of every magazine they have. We have to get up to speed with 1995 again!” said Erwin excitedly as Sarah looked at the selection of wizarding candy. “Where are the Chocolate Frogs and Ice Mice?” she muttered, seeing boxes of Crunchy Crickets (that were chirping), Pop-a-Lot Zingers (maybe like Pop Rocks?), and a chocolate bar called Uncle Fundingus's Hot Chocolate Bar, which Sarah decided to buy.

“Maybe they don't have them outside of Britain?” Erwin remarked, still paging through magazines.

In the floral refrigerator were an assortment of roses in colors that swirled over the petals, as well as various varieties of potted herbs, all of which were common herbs that Sarah recognized. There was also several bouquets labeled “snappy dragons,” which looked like a larger flowered variety of snap dragons that snapped open and closed intermittently.

“I want some pajamas like these, Erwin. And I need something for my hair, to hold the curl.”

“I'll bet they'll let you keep the jammies. They have molded to you and I don't think they can be regrown. See if they have any hair gel and get a pot of Sleekeazy's. It will make your hair soft and shiny.”

Sarah went back to the beauty products picked up some Sleakezy's and found a bottle of something called “Hair Oobleck” which claimed to “spray on like water to solidify your tresses.” She wasn't sure if solid hair was what she was aiming for, but she couldn't resist buying it. She also located some silver bobby pins and a package of hair elastics and added them to her basket.

“I suppose Diagon Alley is going to be like this times 1,000,” remarked Sarah. “I've never seen most of these things. It's like some sort of dream.”

Sarah found Erwin waiting for her by the door with his basket of magazines (she would later find that he had bought one of every food product in the shop as well). She joined Erwin as they started back toward Sarah's room. They walked silently and slowly, paying more attention the the hospital's architectural features. Erwin noted that the plaster flowers were actually slowly moving, as if swaying in the breeze. Down a side hallway Sarah found a wall of oil paintings depicting past hospital chief healers, all of whom were asleep, some snoring softly. They occasionally walked by a healer or medi-witch hurrying along on their rounds but were alone for the most part as the hospital slept.

“Where is Albus?” Sarah asked Erwin, realizing that she hadn't seen him since she had woken up.

“He went to arrange our portkeys after you fell asleep and took a room in town. He also said something about checking in on Hogwarts. He'll be back tomorrow afternoon when you are hopefully discharged.”

“We'll be going straight to Scotland after that?”

“As long as Albus is able to get our travel arranged the plan is to portkey to London, take a trip to Daigon Alley to visit Gringotts and outfit you and me and then travel to Scotland. I believe we may be staying with Sirius at Grimmauld Place. You'll get to meet your cousin.”

“I'm going to meet Sirius Black? Really?”

“Well, Albus says that Order Headquarters are actually more comfortable than any inn we could stay in and he'd like for you to meet Sirius as well.”

“Erwin, you know there's a horcrux at Grimmauld Place, right? The locket should be there. If we tell Albus about the locket then he won't have to visit the cave and he won't be so weak when the Death Eaters break into Hogwarts. And I know where the ring is, too, and that Albus can't try to destroy it and curse himself. What if we could prevent his death?”

Erwin stopped walking, looked around, and pulled Sarah down a side hallway. He leaned in very close to her and spoke quietly and with gravity. “This is where things are going to get tricky, Sarah. If Draco doesn't disarm Albus in the tower, then the wand won't transfer to Draco and then to Harry. Harry needs that wand in the final battle. And if Albus isn't waiting for Harry on the other side, Harry might not know that he can come back after He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named kills him.”

“But Albus told me that part of the reason that I was brought here was to prevent deaths. I can prevent his, Erwin. There has to be some way to make things work out without him having to die.”

“I will think on it, Sarah. But it is vital that Harry comes back from the other side, is it not? He has to kill He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. It has to be him. He can't do that if he's dead.”

Sarah nodded at Erwin. She wasn't happy with the prospect of having to let Albus die. She quirked her head at Erwin and asked, “Why do you keep calling Voldemort He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? What was it that Albus said, that we shouldn't be afraid of a name?”

“Probably being a bit superstitious is all. You haven't lived in this world and have no understanding of what a truly evil wizard can do. I have. Everyone else calls him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, so that's what I'm going to call him.”

Sarah took a deep breath in and headed back toward the main hallway. She was starting to realize with increasing clarity that this was a world that she didn't understand even if she did know the books backwards and forwards. Knowing a story is one thing; actually living in that world was turning out to be quite another.

She would be leaving her hospital room tomorrow to begin this new life. One in which one false move could unravel Dumbledore's carefully constructed plan. A world where she didn't know her place, much less have a home. “Where am I going to live? Albus said that my parent's house was destroyed and school doesn't start for over a month. It seems silly to look for a flat or house when I'm only going to be there for a month.”

“You can stay with me; Albus has found me a nice cottage in Hogsmeade with two bedrooms. Fully furnished and ready to go. We can worry about your long term housing when you are feeling a bit more settled. And there's my place in the country; you are welcome there anytime. You can think of it as your house, too if you'd like. You might want to go to Hogwarts a bit early to meet the staff and arrange your quarters. Oh, and we can't forget that you have a great-grandfather to meet.”

“Albus said he'd be angry that I'm there.”

“He won't be angry with you, Sarah. He'll be angry with Albus for bringing you back. I actually agree with Albus that you being there might be good for him. He's been wallowing in self-pity for years; you'll give him something new and good to focus on. He isn't a bad man, he's just hurt. He used to be a great friend of mine. He had the most wonderful, ribald sense of humor before the attacks. I'm hoping we can get him back to a bit of his old self.”

Sarah and Erwin continued their slow walk to Sarah's room, Sarah thinking about what she knew of Aberforth Dumbledore. Sarah actually enjoyed cranky people. It was just one of her things. She found that she had the ability to get along with almost everyone and enjoyed the challenge of getting through difficult people's defenses. She had the feeling that she actually just might be a good thing for Aberforth Dumbledore.

They finally arrived back at Sarah's room, where Erwin's bed had been transformed into a ¾ sized wingback chair.

“They've made a chair for you.” Sarah remarked.

“Actually, dear, I did that myself. Albus gave me my wand when we arrived. I'll admit, I was hesitant to use it after so many years, but it seemed happy to be in my hand again. When they woke me up I transformed the bed. It was a bit of a thrill to see that I still had the old magic in me.”

“There's a wand right here in this room? Can I see it?”

“Hmm,” Erwin considered, then continued, “well, you see, a wand is an extension of the wizard . . .”

“I know that, Erwin. Harry Potter 101.”

“. . .and, if you hadn't have cut me off, my dear,” chided Erwin, “I would have said that trying to wield the incorrect wand can yield disastrous results. But I suppose there would be no harm in you taking a look at it. Mine especially.”

Erwin walked over to his ¾ sized armchair and started rifling through a well-worn leather doctor's case that Sarah hadn't noticed earlier.

“Have you had that case all along? I seem to not notice most of what's around me here.”

“Albus brought it. It was my case before we left. It's magically expanded on the inside so it can hold a lot more than it should be able to. It also lightens it's load, so it's good for an old man. I used to use it for my school books. Albus took the liberty of obtaining these pajamas for me and also brought me my traveling robes.” Erwin pulled out a heather grey robe, plain yet elegantly made, with a flourish. “I like to buy classics, as you know. Madame Malkin knew exactly what I liked. Maybe she'll still have my measurements. Ah! Here we are!”

Erwin was holding a short, dark, wooden wand with carved feathers overlapping each other running halfway up from the handle. “Common ivy root, pegasus feather core, 10 inches. Ollivander fashioned the wand to mirror the core. It will be small for you. I'm going to let you hold it, just resist the urge to wave it about.”

Sarah took the wand from her uncle, examining it, weighing it in her hand. It was light; it almost felt like Sarah wasn't really holding anything. The carving was intricate and beautiful, the handle was shiny and Sarah sensed that when Erwin held it, the wand balanced perfectly in his hand. She took it by the handle, careful not to intentionally point or wave it. She noticed a slight tingle, almost like an electrical current, when she held it.

Erwin watched Sarah as she placed the wand's handle in her hand, noticing the fractional widening of her eyes. “You feel the magic, do you?” he asked.

“I feel a tingle. It's barely there, though.”

“A wand takes a witch or wizards magic and channels it. That itching that you are feeling, it will be channeled through the wand. You will learn to use spells, incantations, and intention to do what you wish to do using your wand.”

“Intention?”

“Yes. It's something I'm not very good at. You decide what you'd like to do or accomplish and picture it. Your magic is then channeled to accomplish that goal. It's sort of an innate thing if you can do it. I suppose I could compare it to a cook who is able to throw together ingredients to form a dish versus a cook who must always follow a recipe. With intention you can improvise your magic.”

“Can I try to put out the light? That couldn't cause too much harm, could it?”

 

Erwin spent a moment studying Sarah's face. She had the look of a child in a candy store, but this child was shy and hesitant. “I supposed one Nox couldn't do too much damage,” he replied, a tenderhearted smile on his face.

Sarah turned toward the oil lamp that was casting a warm glow over the room. She turned to Erwin. “Am I supposed to swish and flick?” she asked.

Erwin chuckled. “No, dear. We do that for some spells, but pointing the wand and saying the words should be enough. Just believe that you can do it, picture it happening, and do it.”

Sarah pointed the wand toward the oil lamp, closed her eyes, and took a cleansing breath. She pictured the lamp going out. Opening her eyes, she re-aimed the wand and proclaimed, “Nox!” with as much authority as she could muster.

The flame flickered briefly and became smaller. The lamp did not, however, extinguish fully. Erwin seemed thrilled. “Well done, Sarah!” he affirmed, clapping his hands together with pride.

“But I didn't put the lamp out.” Sarah responded.

“But you decreased the flame!” Erwin countered with delight. “My wand it not a powerful wand, Sarah. Most people use it and can't accomplish anything with it. It responds to me because we are magically compatible. Those with a great deal of magic, however, are able to counteract it's weakness and perform spells, though generally not as well as they could with a more compatible wand.”

“So I really did do a good thing?” The fact that she had just performed magic, magic that wasn't unintentional and actually accomplished what she wanted to do was making her feel a bit overcome.

“What you did was Albus Dumbledore good,” Erwin replied, retrieving his wand from Sarah. “I don't want you to go getting a big head, though, young lady. There's a lot to learn, even if this does come naturally to you.”

“I'm a natural witch. A real, honest to goodness witch! I just did magic, Erwin.” Sarah was looking at Erwin in astonishment.

“That you did, Sarah. I had no doubt that you could. After all, you were doing it at two years old; it would stand to reason that you could do it now.”

“It's after 1:00 AM. We should probably be sleeping. But how am I supposed to sleep now? I'm humming all over! That was freakin' awesome!”

“Well, we are doing a bit of travel tomorrow. London is 5 hours ahead. It's already almost 7:00 AM there. It might make for a bit of a long day, but we could stay up reading magazines and seeing what 1995 has in store.”

Sarah didn't want to come down from her high just yet. She flounced over to Erwin and kissed him on the cheek. “I'll join you in a minute. I'm going to go share the fact that I'm a witch with John and Naoma.”

She danced from the room, Erwin chuckling behind her. On the way down the hall, she stopped at Norman, the sneezing poster, and said, “Hey Norman! I'm a witch! I just did magic on an oil lamp!”

Norman looked like he was trying to hold back a particularly big sneeze and smiled weakly at Sarah. “That's nice,” was all he was able to say before letting out a huge sneeze.

Sarah continued her dance down the hallway to the nurses station, where Naoma sat paging through a magazine. “Hey Naoma!” Sarah said cheerily.

Naoma looked up at Sarah, assessing her lively mood with a particularly sour face. “Yes?” she answered.

“I did magic. With a wand! I decreased a flame. It was amazing.” Sarah was smiling brightly at the medi-witch,

“Well, you are a witch.” Naoma replied flatly.

“Yep, I am! Where's John?”

“He's with patients. Likely will be a while.” Naoma clearly wanted Sarah out of her hair.

“Welp, make sure to tell him that I am awesome and did magic, k?”

Naoma rolled here eyes. “Can't wait to tell him,” she said drolly.

Sarah waved at Naoma as she left the nurses station, flouncing about the hallway on the way back to her room. When she entered, Erwin was sitting in his easy chair reading Magical Home. “Well, Naoma was thrilled beyond belief that I shared my magical skill with her,” Sarah said sarcastically.

“Yes, I'm sure she was blind with happiness,” Erwin replied, eyes not leaving his magazine.

“Is that the one with Tori Amos?” Sarah asked.

“Yes. But right now I'm learning different stain removing spells to use on laundry. Some of these are new. One even gets out iodine!”

“That is impressive,”Sarah conceded, looking through the pile of magazines. She came to one called Hott! and turned to her uncle. “Did you seriously buy a teen magazine?”

“What? It looked entertaining.” he said, waving his hand in dismissal toward Sarah.

Sarah looked at the cover. There was a teenaged brunette with hair that was wavy to the point of being out of control sitting at a table turning shyly toward the camera. He looked a bit irritated that his picture was being taken. He was slightly tanned with brilliant green eyes. “It can't be.” Sarah said out loud.

“What can't be?” Erwin asked, not looking up from his magazine.

“I think Harry Potter is on the cover of this magazine.” Sarah answered/

Erwin threw down his magazine and bolted out of his chair to Sarah's side. “Let me see,” he said, pulling the magazine down a bit so that he could get a better look. “Well, I'll be, Sarah, I think you're right. Looks like he's not happy about getting his picture taken.“

“He's cute. Actually, If I were a teenage girl I'd think he's sort of dreamy. Those eyes are brilliant.”

“In wizard years you aren't that much older, really. Not that I can see you mooning after a teenager. He is a good looking kid.” Erwin motioned toward the magazine. “So go on. Who else is in it?”

Sarah paged through the magazine, passing a few American wizard boys that she had never heard of. “Look at this one – Rolf Scamander. He's totally Dean from Gilmore Girls.”

“Yes, just a bit shaggier. He would have fit in at Antioch.”

Sarah stopped at the page that had a copy of the picture on the cover. She noticed that the caption for the picture ('Pensive Harry Potter, looking Hott! studying at Hogwarts”) was followed by “photo used with the permission of Colln Creevy.

“Erwin, Colin Creevy took this photo!”

“I've seen his name a few times already. That lad is going to be set for life by the time he graduates.”

Sarah's look turned instantly pensive. “Erwin, that boy isn't going to graduate from Hogwarts. He dies in the final battle.”

“Well, Sarah, maybe he's one of the ones that you can save. It's going to be difficult for you knowing the fate of all of these children, isn't it?”

Sarah nodded her head. “I'm not even sure how he dies. I just know that he does.”

Erwin took Sarah's hand and gave it a squeeze. “Try not to fret over it, Sarah. What is going to happen will happen. Your part is yet to be determined. Now lets see more of the students you'll be meeting.”

Sarah continued to turn pages, first past an article about some young boys in Durmstrang before turning to a page with another candid photo of an absolutely gorgeous dark skinned boy who was smoldering into the camera. The page was entitled “Sexy Slytherin Blaise Zabini: We'll take a bad boy any day!”

“A person shouldn't be allowed to be that beautiful,” Erwin commented as Blaise continued his smolder.

In a few more pages there was a two page spread titled “Red Hott! The Weasley Boys (and Ginny, too)!”

“Ginny Weasley is beautiful. Simply beautiful,” Erwin said, sounding a bit taken with the young witch looking back at them. Ginny had deep red hair and nearly translucent skin save the dusting of freckles that ran over her nose from cheekbone to cheekbone. Sarah could not take her eyes off of the photo of the windswept, bearded, rugged Charlie Weasley. “Wow. He's just – he's - wow,” muttered Sarah, at a loss for words, looking at a photo that had Charlie looking into the distance with the wind blowing through his hair.

“So do you think they make bad looking wizards? Because these people are insanely gorgeous. It's like an episode of The Hills. They are all too beautiful,” Sarah said, while continuing to peruse the teen magazine.

“They make me feel old,” was all Erwin had to say.

Sarah turned to Erwin. “And just how old are you? You've always told me that you were in your early 80s, but wizards live a long time, don't they?”

“I'm not much older than that, actually. I was born in 1901, so I'm 94. I've got a good 30 to 40 years left, maybe longer. And since we've been back, my joints have been looser and my arthritis seems to be gone. It's a wonder what being around magic can do for a wizard.”

“And am I really 32?”

“Yes, dear, you were just born in a different year. 1963. It was a good year. We left here in 65, and when we arrived in Yellow Springs, it was 1975. Time moves differently there, faster. Took me a bit of getting used to, but you took to it like there was no change at all.”

“So I would have gone to school a couple of years after the Mauraders and Severus Snape.” She turned to Erwin wide-eyed. “Do you think I'll be working with him, Severus Snape? Albus said he wanted me to take potions. Seriously, Erwin, you know I don't tolerate being treated poorly well. And he's supposed to be a snarky son of a bitch.”

“We won't know that until we meet him, will we. Anyhow, you tend to get on well with snarky sons of bitches. I am curious to see if his nose really is all that big,” Erwin said with a twinkle in his eye.

“Seems there's a lot to look forward to, doesn't it,” said Sarah, feeling more excited than dread for the first time since they had arrived.

Erwin beamed at her. “Now there's my Sarah, always ready for a new challenge. We will do it together Sarah. One foot in front of the other and all that.”

“One foot in front of the other,” echoed Sarah, mind racing in anticipation of the adventure before her.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

They spent the morning reading wizarding magazines and working through the wizarding food that Erwin had bought in the Gift Shop. Uncle Fundingus's Hot Chocolate bar actually steamed after being unwrapped and melted in Sarah's mouth almost immediately after being bitten into. Sarah couldn't suppress a moan at the delicious thick chocolate that tasted like a perfect cup of hot chocolate.

Erwin particularly liked the Crunchy Crickets, which were a bit difficult to eat as they kept trying to jump out of their container. Erwin compared their taste to chocolate with crispy rice and said that they reminded him of actual crickets he had eaten in the past, though much more chocolaty.

Sarah was amazed at all of the people in her old world that were actual wizards in this one. She had found that many musicians, actors and actresses hid that they were wizards in the muggle world to reach a wider audience. In addition to Tori Amos, she found out that Keanu Reeves, Celine Dion and, funnily enough, Richard Harris were all wizards hiding their magical identity from the muggle world.

She was in the middle of an article on a movement in wizarding America to reveal the magical world to muggles, thus further increasing wizard's freedoms when Healer Walters walked into the room followed by Albus Dumbledore.

“Good morning, Sarah, Erwin,” Healer Walters began, addressing each of them. Sarah and Erwin turned their attention to him. “It looks like you are doing much better. I see that you've been eating a normal diet and that there have been no further episodes of vomiting and that there have been no other issues while you've been here. I think at this point it's safe to assume that you won't be having any immediate problems from the travel across universes, so I can't see any reason to keep you here any longer.”

“How wonderful,” said Albus, smiling toward Sarah. “How long do you think it will be until we will be able to leave? I have to contact the portkey office to arrange our travel time.”

“Discharge is typically rather quick, I would say less than an hour. If you need to stay here until your travel time I'm sure the medi-witches wouldn't mind if you stayed in the lounge.”

“Oh, I'm sure Albus has that all arranged,” said Erwin.

“Sarah, do you have any questions?” asked Healer Walters

“I don't think so. Thank you for all that you've done.” In truth, her mind was reeling at the prospect of leaving her quiet room and becoming part of the larger world, but there was little she could do to avoid leaving.

“Alright. A nurse will come in shortly to go over your discharge with you. I wish you the best of luck, Sarah.”

As Healer Walters left the room, Albus brought a bag over to Sarah. “I brought you some clothing. I found your sizes on what you wore on the way in. Unfortunately, with your being sick, your old clothing needs a bit of a washing up. It's all been sent on and will be at your uncle's cottage.”

“Thank you, Albus.” Sarah opened the bag and pulled out a plain white fitted blouse and a pair of grey pin-striped pants. Like every container she had encountered here, the bag seemed bottomless, she seemed to keep pulling impossible amounts of clothing out of the bag. There were several bras and pairs of underwear, all white and modest, some hosiery and socks, two pairs of loafers, one brown and one black, and a few more changes of clothing.

“I must admit, I haven't bought many female undergarments. Or female clothing for that matter. I hope those will work well for you. You'll find that wizarding clothing has a way of fitting rather well regardless of the cut.”

“I do appreciate it, Albus. These pajamas are wonderful, but I probably should get dressed, shouldn't I?”

“Sarah,” Erwin chimed in, “you can pack all of that in my bag along with your jammies. I'll get to packing up the magazines as well.”

Albus pulled out his wand ('The Elder Wand,' Sarah thought in wonder) and conjured a changing screen in the corner of the room. “To give you a bit of privacy,” he said, then added, “Erwin told me that you accomplished a Nox on the oil lamp. You may be a bit easier to teach than even I anticipated.”

From behind the screen, Sarah answered, “I didn't put the flame all of the way out, but Erwin was impressed. He said his wand is difficult to use?”

“It is. Wands respond to each wizard differently. Erwin's is quite particular to him. It is impressive that you were able to accomplish anything with it.”

Sarah paused a bit. She had been plagued with her conversation with Erwin about saving Albus's life. She would have to tread her next set of questions carefully.

“So, Albus, you know that I know about some future events; that is, as long as things keep progressing as they did in the books. But I'm also supposed to be able to save people. I'm wondering how that's supposed to work. I know of a few people that are in danger of dying, but if I save them it could alter events.”

“Yes, it could,” Albus replied. “But that isn't all you wish to know, is it?”

“Erwin and I had a conversation earlier about a death. And if that person doesn't die, it could keep Harry from accomplishing his task. But it's difficult for me to reconcile the fact that I could save that person. Also, there are things that I know that could make Harry's task easier, but could also alter the events of that person's death. I don't really know what I'm supposed to do with information like that.”

“It is difficult,” Albus replied. “First of all, I want you to consider the fact that the deaths that you prevent may be different than the people that die in the books.  Perhaps your part lies in keeping those alive that do not die in the books either.  In instances like this, you must think of the greater good. If Harry does not kill Voldemort our entire world could be plunged into darkness. That cannot happen. Doubtless this person will be missed if you are so concerned with saving them, but how would they feel if they knew that their life was contingent on Voldemort winning the war?”

“I think they would never forgive me. But what of the other bits that I know that would help Harry?”

“If that knowledge alters this person's death in any way, it might be best to keep it to yourself.”

Erwin was watching the exchange gravely. “Albus, if you take this memory and preserve it for her, will she still remember this discussion? It is quite important that she does. The memory might help people understand her lack of action in the future.”

“She will remember everything. I will see if I can locate a phial and then we will extract and preserve it.”

Albus turned and left the room. Sarah emerged from behind the screen dressed and ready to depart. She looked sorrowfully at Erwin. “I'm going to have to let him die, aren't I?”

“Unless we can come up with a better way, I see no other option.”

“And the locket?”

“You and I will keep that knowledge to ourselves until the appropriate time. Perhaps if you locate it you could hide it so that it remains at Grimmauld place. It will save Harry from having to look for it later. After.”

“After," Sarah echoed, reflecting on everything defined in that word.

“He is prepared for it, Sarah. You know that. And the repercussions should he not – well I'd rather not think of a world where Harry doesn't prevail.”

Sarah sat on the bed and held Erwin's hand. They looked into each other's eyes, having a wordless conversation about the futility of the situation. Sarah knew that Albus was one of Erwin's closest friends; this could not be easy for him. But she also knew that what Albus had said was right, anything that prevented Harry from killing Voldemort could not be allowed to happen.

Erwin looked up at Albus as he re entered the room. “It's quite heavy in here,” Albus commented as he walked over to Sarah.

“I think I have to watch someone die. I have to carry the knowledge that I could prevent it and do nothing about it.”

“I suppose it's one of the prices of war. We must make very difficult decisions that we would not make if circumstances were different. We all must do what we can to help Harry win. That is our singular mission. One which we mustn't waver from.”

Albus placed his wand against Sarah's temple. “Think about what you would like me to preserve and I will extract it. I will give the memory to you for safe keeping. Erwin, I trust, will protect it from those who should not see it.”

Sarah thought of her earlier conversation with Erwin and this interaction with Albus. She thought about the grief that Harry felt at Albus's death, the loss to Hogwarts and the world. She felt a slight tugging at the side of her head as Albus extracted the silvery thread of memory and transferred it to the phial.

“Now,” he said, placing his hand on Sarah's shoulder, “I do not want this to dampen your day. You have so much ahead of you. So much that is wonderful, Sarah. Let us try to put this behind us and move on to happier things. Erwin, did I see candy on your table? You do know that I have a certain affinity for sweets, do you not?”

As Erwin handed over his candy cache to Albus, Sarah sighed. This world was wonderful. A bit frightening, certainly overwhelming at times, but also wildly, amazingly wonderful. As they sat enjoying Erwin's candy, Sarah dared to imagine all of the incredible things in her future, a future that would soon include Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

 

Chapter Text

Apparation to the international portkey office went much better than Sarah's first experience, most likely due to the fact that the healers gave her a case of anti-nausea draughts to use before any apparations or portkey travel (“So that you don't end up back here,” the discharging medi-witch had told her.) Sarah found that she liked the taste of anti-nausea potion as it reminded her of ginger ale, of which she was particularly fond.

They apparated into a large building with an ornate, round, towering lobby containing a large, marble statue of man in a coon-skin hat and early America settler attire holding a wand in one hand and leading a mule by the reins in the other.

“Artemis Culpepper,” said Albus to Sarah. “He was the original wizard settler to the Midwestern region of America. His settlement still stands protected under a Muggle-repellent charm not far from here. Had you grown up here you would know all about him.”

There were signs over the multiple doorways surrounding the lobby indicating different locations around the world. Albus steered them toward the “Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales” door, which was, interestingly enough, next to a door for Antarctica and Patagonia.

The door led them into a large waiting area at the back of which was a wooden counter that reminded Sarah of the counters that one walked up to when checking in to the airport. Seated and standing in different areas of the waiting room were witches and wizards who were presumably waiting for their departures to various parts of Britain. There was a small queue leading up to the check-in desk, which seemed to delight Erwin.

“Ah, queuing up is such an art in Britain, is it not, Albus?” Erwin asked, looking nostalgic.

“Yes, we do love our queues,” replied Albus wistfully.

“It's just a line,” remarked Sarah, not seeing what the charm was in standing in line.

“Ah, no, Sarah,” corrected Erwin. “This is a queue. You must learn your Queen's English. We do not stand in line, we queue up. And queuing etiquette is of utmost importance. One never jumps in line unless one wishes a stern dose of tutting. Always maintain the queue you are in, even if the other queue seems to be moving faster. Maintain stoicism and never appear to be in a hurry, no matter how slow the queue is moving. Even if there appears not to be a queue for something, even if the area in front of a shop appears entirely without a queue, there is a queue. Use your powers of observation to determine your place in the queue and do not take another person's place. Civilization is maintained in part due to proper queuing.”

“So, in other words, you just stand in line like you do everywhere in America.”

Erwin huffed and shook his head. “Americans never understand,” he said to Albus, who simply smiled.

Sarah patiently waited as the queue moved slowly. Erwin and Albus stood stock still, staring off into the distance. Sarah turned around to look at the people in line behind her and was met with a look of consternation by the woman behind her, who apparently did not want to be looked at while waiting stoically in line. It took all of Sarah's powers of etiquette not to roll her eyes.

Sarah leaned in to Erwin and whispered, “Am I allowed to talk to you?”

“Why, yes, of course,” Erwin answered. “But it is also always good to practice your disinterested stare into the distance for when you are queuing up alone. I always go to my happy place, which happens to be a beautiful beach in the Caribbean, with powder white sand, sandpipers, and crystal blue waters.”

Sarah noticed that Albus was smirking. She said to him, “And where's your happy place?”

“Hmm. Well, there is a bit of rocky coast in Pembrokeshire that I'm quite fond of. In the springtime, the lichens, moss, wild primrose and violets turn the land into a place of wonder and enchantment. And when the puffins are nesting, it is all the more magical. One cannot help but be taken with puffins.”

“You'll have to take me there sometime,” Sarah said.

Albus looked at Sarah with a warm smile. “Were we to get the opportunity, I would like that very much,” he told her.

In a few more minutes they found themselves standing before an very pink older gentleman who Sarah thought resembled an English bulldog, all jowls and no neck. He held his hand out to Albus, saying, “I'll need to see your identification and all documents for travel."

Albus turned to Sarah and handed her a driver's license that she had saved from 2006 and Erwin pulled out his wallet to retrieve his license. Albus then handed the man a large, thick folio.

The man began to page through the documents, stamping some and putting others aside. “You'll be traveling directly to London?” he said to Albus.

“Yes.”

“And these are your traveling companions, a Dr. Erwin Whitacre and a Dr. Sarah Douglas, who will both be repatriating to England?”

“Yes.”

He motioned to Sarah and Erwin. “Step forward please and present your wands.”

Erwin dug through his case and found his wand, handing it to the man, who was looking at Sarah with a mixture of expectation and annoyance.

“I don't have a wand.” she said, putting her driver's license in front of the man.

“No wand? Are you a no-maj?” Then turning toward Albus, “Are you attempting to travel with a no-maj via portkey?”

“No, sir,” Albus answered. “Sarah's magic has recently been discovered; she is untrained. She is originally from England and her parents, who died when she was quite young, were trained at Hogwarts where I intend to train her as well. After they died she was lost to us, you see. As Ollivander's does not exist here, she has not yet procured a wand.”

“Plenty of good wand shops here,” the man muttered to himself, then addressing Sarah, said, “We'll have to prick your finger, then.” He then left his chair and walked to a filing cabinet along the back wall to obtain more paperwork.

Erwin and Sarah both looked in alarm at Albus, who said, “They have to determine that she is who she says she is. Without a wand, they appear to need her blood.”

The man returned to the desk with a long sheet of parchment with a small circle at the top, which he positioned in front of Sarah. “Place your right index finger in the circle,” he instructed. She did so, and the man waved his wand over her finger. She felt a momentary prick, then watched fascinated as burnished brown script appeared to flow out of the circle and onto the paper, reading

 

“Seraphina Flora Wilhelmina Maeve Dumbledore

b. Nov 18, 1963

to Ahearn Janek Percival Ballintin Dumbledore

and

Artemesia Leda Vega Ophelia Dumbledore (nee Black)

Coldharbour, Dorking, Surrey”

The man regarded the paper and looked up at Sarah. “Says here that your name is Seraphina Dumbledore but your license says Sarah Douglas. Care to explain that?”

Albus cleared his throat, looked the man in the eyes and said, “She was in hiding for the majority of her life from homicidal followers of Gellart Grindelwald. She was placed under an assumed identity for her own protection. This information, is, of course, confidential, and you will not repeat it to anyone after this exchange.”

The man appeared frozen for a moment, then blinked, placed the parchment in the folio, and continued to look through the paperwork. He then waved his wand over Erwin's wand, made a few notes on a notepad, shuffled through more paperwork and stamped a few more places, closed the folio and handed it over to Albus.

“Everything appears to be in order; your portkey will be departing in just a few minutes. Please advance through the double doors to the right to queue up for travel to London,” he said brusquely, impatiently motioning them toward the indicated double doors.

“Well, that went better than expected,” said Albus as he led Sarah and Erwin through the next set of doors.

They found themselves in a smaller room with a small queue formed in front of a wooden capital, upon which rested a chintz teacup. Sarah watched as a woman nodded at the man at the front of the queue and the man touched the teacup then seemed to collapse upon and into himself and vanished.

“You'll be doing this on your own, I will go before you to make sure that you land well on the other side. Your potion should still be working well, so you needn't worry about being sick. It will feel the same as apparation, but might seem to take a bit longer as we are traveling further,” Albus said to her.

Sarah nodded and watched in fascination as the next witch touched the teacup and disappeared.

It didn't take long until Albus reached the front of the line and disappeared. Sarah watched the woman standing by the teacup, who nodded, indicating that it was her turn. Sarah took a deep breath, and, steeling herself, touched the teacup. She immediately felt a pull at her middle as if she were being sucked through a straw starting with her belly button. She thought she heard a “whoosh,” but as soon as the sound registered she found herself stumbling into Albus's arms in a large room with off white walls and worn orange carpeting. He moved her away from where she was standing toward a chair at the periphery of the room.

Sarah noticed a sign on the opposite wall that said “The Ministry Welcomes you to London, England. We Hope you Enjoy your Stay,” beside which was a picture of a rotund, balding man with a rather large, red nose who was waving and smiling, as if addressing everyone arriving.

“Ah,” Albus said, noticing Sarah looking at the picture. “That is our Minister Cornelius Fudge, and that is all I will say about that. Erwin should be along presently. Are you alright?” Albus asked.

Sarah nodded, still trying to process the changed location, the shift in the air, and the fact that in a flash, just like that, she was now in London looking at a moving picture of the Minister of Magic. She was starting to notice other witches and wizards milling about in a room off of the one they were waiting in when Erwin appeared gracefully where Sarah had landed.

“Beats muggle travel,” he remarked and walked over to Albus and Sarah. “Are you quite alright, dear?” he asked Sarah, his brow knitted with concern. In the time it had taken him to join them, Sarah's face and demeanor had shifted to something quite alarming to him. He knew this look in Sarah; save waking at the wizarding hospital when she was out of sorts, he hadn't seen it in a while. It was the look of rising panic, the look Sarah had when she felt she had lost all control. He knew that if he couldn't help her come down from it she would be lost to a severe anxiety attack.

“Sarah, you must look at me,” he said, holding her hand. Sarah, turned toward him, eyes wide with trepidation. He continued, “Are you quite sure you're alright?”

“Yeah – well, I don't know! I really don't know,” she answered, squeezing his hand hard. “It's just that I've never been to England. I've never even been out of the United States. And now I'm here and it took no time at all and there are witches and wizards over there and Cornelius Fudge is waving and I think I might start hyperventilating because this is all too much. It's just too much, Erwin!” Sarah felt her heart racing and a cold sweat breaking out over her body. She was struggling to keep her breath steady and noticed that even though she was holding Erwin's hand, she couldn't keep her hands still.

Erwin looked with concern at Albus. “I've told you about her panic attacks. If she keeps this up she'll be gone for the day. They take so much out of her, Albus.”

Albus crouched in front of Sarah and placed his hands gently on her cheeks. Looking her the eyes, he said with calm authority, “Sarah, you just need to breath in and out and I'll help you calm down. Can you do that for me?” Sarah nodded quickly and closed her eyes to focus on her breathing, to hopefully quiet her growing feeling of agitation and overwhelming dread. As she listened to her breaths, she heard Albus chanting very quietly, and beautifully, she thought. She focused on the beautiful sing-song of the words, which seemingly cut to her very soul. Starting at her head and moving down through her body and out through her limbs she began to feel a slight peace, and gradually her heart calmed and her world became more centered. When she opened her eyes she saw Albus looking at her, and his eyes seemed the clearest sapphire blue. “Did you do a tranquility spell on me?” she asked.

Albus took Sarah both of Sarah's hands in his and gently rubbed his thumbs over her pulse points. “Noting quite so drastic,” he answered, eyes so calm and clear. “It was just something to calm you down and help you focus. It's something I believe I will teach to Erwin and the people who are around you most.”

Erwin looked to Albus, “I would appreciate that, Albus. It breaks my heart when she goes into one of her attacks. I'm so sorry, that you are feeling this way, Sarah. All the changes are so much to take in.” He was sitting beside her, alternating between rubbing her back in small circles and stroking her hair.

Albus looked at Erwin.  I also centered her magic," he said. "It seemed to be in complete chaos, which I suppose is to be expected with magical travel from one center of magic to another. It doesn't know how to act yet, but in a bit of time I'm sure it will find it's center on it's own.”

Erwin was nodding, still comforting Sarah.

“You speak like magic is a living thing,” Sarah remarked, voice a bit shaky.

“Oh, make no mistake, it is. It is living and breathing and moves about just as you and I do. It is a part of our essence, our very souls, and it grows and changes with us. Your magic was stopped in its infancy and taken away. An older witch, one who's magic is as strong as yours, might not have survived having their magic taken away so swiftly. And now your magic has reawakened and it is restless and chaotic. It wants to roam and speak and make itself known, and it is overwhelming you. So when you feel overwhelmed, you must tell me, and I will help you. Will you do that, Sarah?”

Sarah nodded. “How long will this last? I feel so on edge, like there's an itch right beneath my skin that I can't get to and can't relieve. I hate it! And my head is thrumming. I feel like I'm outside of the world looking into something I don't understand.”

“I suspect that once you begin to use your magic that will decrease. I plan on getting you to Ollivander's as soon as possible to get you a wand so that your energies can be channeled. Until then, we will do all that we can to keep you comfortable. I believe Erwin has some calming draughts in his case?”

Erwin startled, remembering the potions that Albus had given him with his case. “Yes, you did give me some, didn't you?” He reached for and rifled through his case, withdrawing a small phial with a clear, green liquid contained within it. He unstoppered the phial and handed it to Sarah. “It will help,” he encouraged, “and it's quite good. Minty.”

Sarah took the phial and gave it a sniff. She smelled peppermint and ginger and unripened tomatoes. She didn't quite trust green, clear liquids, but she trusted Erwin. Bracing herself, she tipped the phial into her mouth and swallowed. This solution tasted different than the last, almost sickeningly sweet, like mint and ginger. There was no floating, disconnected feeling, just a deepening calm.

Sarah hated her anxiety attacks. Apart from the feelings of dread and an overwhelming sense of loss of control, she hated the unwanted attention, the overwhelming concern, the feeling it gave others of needing to help her. They embarrassed her and made her feel like she was on display. She could just imagine all of the other people in the room wondering what was happening in their little huddle, what was the matter with the poor girl in the chair. At her core, Sarah wanted to feel solid and fierce, like a sort of modern day Viking warrior. But more often than not she felt small and unsure, unsteady and lost. And to hide it, she had constructed a thick wall, a facade of lightness and confidence, one which she knew she would have to put up now.

She stood up, trying to appear steady and sure. “Thank you for your help. Really. But now, we are in London!” She smiled brightly, hoping to exude excitement rather than fright, at Erwin. “We're in London, Erwin! The city you love so much! We have people to see and places to go!”

Erwin quickly glanced at Albus, experience telling him to be suspicious of Sarah's rapid change of demeanor, hoping to convey this to his old friend. Almost imperceptively, Albus nodded at him, then stood to join Sarah.

“We need to stop at the money exchange. I have some American dollars I need to change over,” Albus said.

“Perhaps change over to pounds?” Erwin suggested, continuing, “Sarah's never been to London. I was thinking it would be nice if, rather than apparating, we could take a black cab? She could see a bit of the city.”

Sarah smiled eagerly at Albus and took his hand. “Could we? Obviously apparation in faster, but I'd love to see some of London.”

Albus began walking toward the door into the atrium that Sarah had seen earlier. “I've never ridden in a cab,” he said, seemingly weighing the option. “You are the authority on muggle transportation, Erwin. If you feel it will be safe, we will travel by cab.”

They entered the atrium and Sarah found herself thunderstruck. She realized at that moment that she was at the far end of the atrium of the Ministry of Magic. At the other end, farthest from them, were the inlaid fireplaces, with witches and wizards appearing and queuing to disappearing into them. The brilliant blue ceiling with it's moving golden symbols towered overhead. Between the curved windows which rose many stories above the ground floor was an enormous banner depicting a wizard that Sarah now recognized as Cornelius Fudge. The dark wood floors and paneled walls gleamed as if freshly polished and there was a golden glow shining down from the windows climbing toward the magnificent ceiling. And located in the center of the atrium was the Fountain of the Magical Brethren, the towering, palatial golden figures depicting a wizard, witch, centaur, goblin, and house elf, water cascading into a marble pool beneath them.

Erwin grabbed Sarah's hand and led her along as she gaped in awe at the sights around her. She began to notice the witches and wizards in diverse styles of robes, business suits, fashionable dresses and hats, hair in all colors and styles. She couldn't imagine anything being more fantastic than what she was seeing around her.

“It's quite a sight, isn't it?” Erwin commented to her. “It's meant to show the largess and power of Britain in the magical world.”

“I think they might have gotten their point across,” Sarah marveled, hearing Albus chuckle.

They had stopped in front of a kiosk constructed of the same dark, gleaming wood and inlays of the fireplaces. A sign floating overhead scrolled the exchange rates for various currencies around the world in a fancy, curling script. A scowling goblin stood at attention, assessing them.

“May I help you?” he inquired.

“Yes,” Albus answered. “I have American currency that I would like to exchange. You wouldn't know how much cab fare to Islington would be, would you?” Albus asked

“In galleons or pounds?”

“Is there a cab that takes galleons?”

“Of course there is. Have you never heard of the day cab?”

“Is that like the night bus?” Erwin interjected.

“Yes, yet not quite so – stimulating a ride,” answered the goblin with a slight sneer.

“Then galleons should do,” Albus told the goblin.

“From here to Islington should be 4 galleons, 2 to 4 sickles.”

“Well, then. If you would be so kind, I would like to convert this American currency to galleons, sickles, and knuts.”

From inside his robes Albus produced a small pouch which he overturned onto the desk in front of the goblin.  Sarah couldn't help gawking as a large wad of $20 bills fell from the pouch.  Behind her, Erwin whistled and said, "My old friend, Mr. Moneybags." Albus simply shrugged.

“Will you be transferring your money into your Gringott's account or will you be requiring currency today?”

Albus asked the goblin for 20 galleons and for the rest to be transferred, then handed the goblin his wand. The money vanished to be replaced with 20 large gold coins. “From the Dumbledore vault. Your first galleon,” he said, handing the golden coin to Sarah with a wink. Sarah examined the coin, about the size of a silver dollar, which weighed a bit more than it looked like it should, and featured a winged dragon on one side and a wizard in a strange, sausage-like hat on the other.

“Mr. Dumbledore, your account will be receiving 162 galleons, 3 sickles, 96 knuts. You will find the day cab waiting for you when you exit the lavatory. Have a pleasant day.”

Albus tipped his head to the goblin and answered, “And you as well.”

He began walking again toward the fireplaces. “We will be leaving the ministry by floo. When you exit you will find yourself in a toilet. Don't be dismayed, it is simply the other end of the floo. No powder is needed; it will sense when you step in. I will go before you again, and it will feel as if you are going through a short tube.” He stopped short, turned around and looked Sarah in the eyes, assessing her. “Do you think you will be alright?”

Sarah nodded and took a deep breath. “I think I'll be fine. The draught is really helping.” She stopped a moment, then quizzically said to Albus, “Did you say that you'd never ridden in a cab back there?”

“I did. There's not much use for cabs when one can apparate.”

“Ever ridden in a car before? A bus?”

“Oh, the night bus once or twice, but I'm told it's not like muggle transportation. We have a Ford Anglia wandering about the Forbidden Forest, but I've not had the opportunity to ride in it. It's gone wild, you see.”

They stood in the queue for one of the floos to depart the ministry (Erwin poked Sarah in the side, leaned in toward her, and said, “Queuing up, mm hmm,” with a sly grin,) and in just a moment, Sarah found herself stepping into the massive fireplace, being engulfed in green flames, squeezing momentarily (just momentarily, less than that, really), and standing in a toilet. She smiled to herself, shook her head, and exited the stall to join Albus, who was waiting for her just outside the door, with Erwin joining them just seconds later.

When they exited the lavatory, they were greeted by a black cab, it's tall, reedy, slightly disheveled driver holding the rear door open, tipping his hat. “Someone needin' the day cab?” he said with a strong Cockney accent, then, appearing surprised, bowed and said, “Professor Dumbledore, as I live an' breathe! I'll be driving you?”

“Yes, Howard, it's been a while, hasn't it?” Albus answered.

“Aye! Ma' boy Stanley graduated in '93; runnin' the night bus, he is. Never thought I'd 'ave you as a customer.”

“Well,” Albus replied, looking toward Sarah and Erwin, “my good friend Sarah has never seen London, and I believe it's been 30 years for Erwin.”

Erwin nodded in agreement and motioned for Sarah to step into the cab, which looked like the cabs Sarah had seen in movies and in television. “No beds or chandeliers, then,” Sarah commented.

Howard stepped in behind the wheel. “Nah. Don't need beds in the daytime, an' I've never been much for frills.”

Albus had entered the cab, the door closing on its own with a slam behind him. He adjusted himself and his robes and looked about the cabin. “Ah, so this is the interior of a car, then,” he commented. “It's quite plain, isn't it?"

“He's not much for frills, Albus,” Erwin supplied.

Howard cleared his throat. “Where to, then?”

“Number 15, Grimmauld Place, please.”

“Visitin some muggles, then? Well, I'll point out the sites, and we'll hurry over the less excitin' bits,” Howard said, then the car started forward as a normal speed. Sarah looked at Erwin, who was smiling out the window, then to Albus, who was pushing and pulling the door lock. She didn't know if she was happy or disappointed that the car hadn't taken off like a shot.

“Right, then,” Howard began. “To your left is Great Scotland Yard, they're like muggle aurors in there, ya' see.”

Then, almost imperceptively, the cab seemed to transport forward in the evening traffic. He pointed to the left. “That there is the Playhouse Theatre, muggle playhouse that,” he said of the white building at the left.

Once again, the cab transported, though this time Sarah could see the cars that they were passing as they blurred past. She realized that Howard was driving between the lanes when they bolted forward, though she felt no different and Albus and Erwin seemed to not even notice.

“This 'ere is the Victoria Embankment,” Howard supplied. “Nice bit o' road. To your left is the Thames. Lotsa parks an' greenery to the left 'til we get to,” - bolt forward, - “Somerset 'ouse, there on your left."

Sarah looked to the left at a large, impressive neoclassical building composed of limestone, with large windows and carved figures along it's length. “Designed by William Chambers an' Inigo Jones, twoa our famous wizard architects, Somerset 'ouse was the palace a' Edward Seymour, who 'ad 'is 'ead chopped off at the Tower. The muggle king claimed the house then, an' they've 'ad it ever since. It's now a arts center, containin' the Courtald Galleries with lotsa that muggle modern art an' the Royal Navy Rooms, and there's a muggle ice rink in the winter.”

They bolted ahead again and stopped just before a statue of a silver dragon standing on a stone plinth. The dragon was standing on one rear leg and held a shield with a red cross on a white background. His wings and tongue were accented in red. Sarah could have sworn that one of the wings flicked, as if trying to scare off a fly. “The dragons mark the old borders a' the City o' London. Muggles 'ave to pay a toll 'ere, but the dragon lets us wizards by. On the shield is the City o' London's coat of arms.”

Slight bolt ahead, then “If you look out to the right, across the Thames, you can see the tower a' the famous OXO building. Oxo beef stock cubes used to be made there, good things, those, but I 'ear there's a posh muggle restaurant just opened there now.”

Howard turned around, completely ignoring the traffic. Sarah grabbed Erwin's hand in alarm, but Erwin appeared completely at ease, mistily watching the London scenery go by.

“Now, we're gonna take a left on a road what's not too excitin', just yer typical muggle 'igh street, then it's muggle row 'ouses and trees 'til Grimmauld Place. So with yer permission, I'll just be scootin' along from 'ere.”

Sarah looked from Albus, who was now twirling the knob on the window lever, to Erwin, who was still looking out at the scenery. “Um, okay?” answered Sarah, grabbing onto Erwin's hand a little tighter.

And in a flash, the cab was again bolting between lanes, this time turning here and there. In just over a minute (though to Sarah, it felt like much longer), the cab came to a stop beside a row of posh looking row houses constructed with limestone with iron fences, long, large windows, and multiple stories.

Howard jumped out of the cab and ran over to Albus's door, opening it. “15 Grimmauld Place, Professor Dumbledore.”

Albus looked up from the window lever and said, “Ah, yes, Howard. That was very informative. Don't you agree, Sarah?”

“Yes,” Sarah said, nodding her head. “Quite informative.” She would, she thought, have to take in London some more later, as she hadn't really seen very much during their brief, slightly wild, ride.

Erwin stepped onto the sidewalk. Patting Howard's shoulder, he said, “Good to be back in London.”

Albus turned toward Howard, who was standing expectantly, with a huge smile on his face. “That'll be 4 galleons, 3 sickles, Professor sir.”

Albus counted out 5 galleons and handed them to Howard. “I'm only in possession of galleons at the moment, Howard, so five will do?”

“Yes, sir!” replied Howard in gratitude at what must have been a sizable tip.

“Very good, then. You'll need to leave, now, Howard. We can manage from here.”

Howard bowed and tipped his hat to all of them. “It's been a right honor transportin' you tonight. 'Ope to 'ave you all on the day cab again soon!” He then ran around and hopped in the cab, and, again in a flash, it disappeared.

Albus started to walk up the sidewalk until they were standing in between numbers 11 and 13. He then waved his wand and smiled toward Sarah, who watched in complete awe as the houses separated and number 12, Grimmauld Place appeared.

“The muggles don't see that?” she marveled.

“They don't seem to notice, no,” he replied, climbing the steps toward the ebony door.

Albus rapped on the door with a rather sinister appearing door knocker in the shape of two intertwining snakes. They waited a few minutes until the door opened, and they were met by an old, grizzled, sour-faced elf, who Sarah instantly recognized as Kreacher.

“Professor Dumbledore,” he sneered. “Please come in – nasty half-blood traitor and his unwelcome intruders entering the most noble house of Black,” he finished with a mumble.

“Yes, Kreacher. Could you locate Sirius for us, please? I have someone to introduce him to.”

Kreacher turned to walk away and Albus leaned toward Sarah and Erwin. “It's best you just ignore his 'pleasant' asides. He's been molded by blood purity for quite a long time.”

Sarah's attention was drawn to the rear of the dark, foreboding hallway, where a tall, elegant man ambled forward followed shortly by a slightly shorter, slightly rumpled man. The man in the rear said, “Is there someone at the door, Kreacher?”

As they came into the light, Sarah found herself entranced, as the man in front, was, quite frankly, gorgeous. His black hair flowed to just above his shoulders, the cut a bit shaggy. He had a bit of artful stubble, and he locked his piercing blue eyes on hers, his lips quirked into a slight, roguish grin. He was wearing a black leather jacket and white cotton shirt that molded to his torso, which was slim and solid. His long legs were shod in indecently tight black trousers, and he wore black motorcycle boots.

He walked directly, purposefully to her, and Sarah felt as if all of the air had been removed from the room. He took her hand and faintly brushed his lips over her knuckles, then quirked his eyes up toward hers, still sporting his smirk. Sarah couldn't speak.

“Siruis Black, forever at your service. And you are?” he asked, in a voice that Sarah could only think sounded like sin. Pure, unadulterated, sexy sin.

To her right, Albus cleared his throat. Sarah started at the sound, then looked behind Sirius ('sexy, sexy Sirius,' she thought, while she heard Erwin mutter, “So many damn gorgeous people.”) to see his bedraggled companion, who Sarah immediately knew was Remus Lupin.

Remus, who had been smirking in mock annoyance at Sirius, addressed Sarah. “And I am Remus Lupin, Sirius's most put-upon friend.” He took her hand and shook it gently and smiled rather bashfully ('and adorably.' Sarah's brain interjected). His sandy brown hair was a bit wavy and tousled, his brown eyes soulful and questioning. He looked a bit tired and slightly careworn, but that was overshadowed by his bright, kind, although slightly wolfish, Sarah though, smile. He stood slightly behind Sirius, who had crept close enough to Sarah that she could feel him breathing on her neck, sending chills down her spine.

“It will be nice getting to know this one, eh, Moony?” Sirius said, which caused Remus to lightly chuckle and roll his eyes.

“Well, Remus may do all the getting-to-know-her that he would like, Sirius, but I'm afraid you'll be a bit restricted.” Albus interjected. “Sirius, allow me to introduce you to your cousin, Seraphina Dumbledore.”

Siruis sighed dramatically and stepped away from Sarah and closer to Remus. “Forever cock-blocked by Albus Dumbledore,” he moaned, as Remus let out a huge, genuine belly laugh behind him.

 

 

Chapter Text

The drawing room in the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black had 18 foot ceilings, an old, golden, cobweb covered crystal chandelier with tapers leaning at random angles, some broken in two, intricate crown moldings featuring snakes and brambles, sagging, dark Victorian wall-paper darkened by years of wood smoke, a grand piano with keys in various states of disrepair, cobwebs littering it's strings, two cracking, lumpy leather couches set on dark wooden legs featuring frightful cobras with vicious fangs, and a large, white, marble fireplace whose interior was covered in soot. The ceiling high windows were covered in dark green, almost black, velvet curtains that trailed along the floor, their length showing the extraordinary amount of money that had gone into decorating the room. There was an overall sheen of dust and time about the place, the type of dust that settles with the years and seems to seep into the furniture. Albus, Sarah, and Erwin sat on one couch, Sirius and Remus on the other.

“So you're my cousin?” Sirius asked Sarah, still looking at her with those eyes of sex and mischief.

“That's what Albus tells me,” Sarah answered, enjoying the male attention, even if it was coming from a long-lost relative.

“Surely you're not one of Cygnus and Druella's? I can't imagine you being the sister of the ice queen and the psychotic bitch.”

“Language, Sirius,” Albus scolded. “Seraphina is the only daughter of Artemesia and Ahearn. They died when you were quite young.”

“Artemesia and Ahearn - I remember that!” Sirius exclaimed. “That was the first funeral I ever remember attending. Mother was horrifying, all blood traitor this and keeping familial obligations that. It was one of the first times that I really realized how terrible my parents really were.” His eyes widened, looking toward Sarah. “But you're supposed to be dead, then! You were supposed to have died in the attacks!”

Remus was appraising Erwin with narrowed eyes. “So that must make you Erwin Whitacre, who is also supposed to be dead.”

“Yes - a-hem,” Erwin answered, clearing his throat. “We actually survived. As I'm sure you've concluded.”

Sirius and Remus simultaneously turned to glare at Albus; Sarah was a bit tickled by the fact that they wore identical expressions of demanding an explanation – NOW.

Albus and Erwin took turns explaining the attacks and subsequent plan to hide Sarah from Grindelwald's men to Sirius and Remus. Throughout the conversation, Sarah kept quiet, watching Sirius and Remus. She was startled at how quickly Sirius had jumped to claim her as his own and thus seemed indignant at the fact that Sarah's survival had been hidden from him. Remus agreed completely with Sirius, and while his reaction was a bit more calculated and subdued, it was obvious that he supported Sirius's feelings. Occasionally Remus would place his hand on Sirius's to calm him, giving it a small squeeze. Albus seemed oblivious to the little gestures of support between Remus and Sirius which led Sarah to conclude that their casual comfort with each other was nothing new. Sirius and Remus were obviously very close.

At some point at the conclusion of the conversation, Sarah's stomach growled. It was nearing nightfall, yet with the time change, Sarah, Erwin, and Albus had eaten very little since they sat in the hospital and picked over Erwin's candy stash.

 

Remus smiled apologetically at Sarah and Erwin. “Now where are our manners, Sirius?” he said. “We haven't offered them anything to eat or drink. Why don't we move down to the kitchen to see what we can make for them?”

“You have a house elf, don't you? Why not let him prepare tea while we keep chatting? I've been so looking forward to properly prepared English tea,” Erwin said.

Sirius snorted. “Kreacher is not loyal to me in any way. He's been filled with so much bile from my mother that he looks at me with utter contempt. It's worthless asking him to do anything.”

Sarah took a deep breath, a plan forming in her head. “Call him,” she said, voice a bit steely. “He's your house elf. Perhaps he just needs a bit of straightening out.”

“You're the one that's going to have to deal with him,” Sirius scoffed. “I wipe my hands of the foul creature.”

“Just call him. He's a house elf. He lives to serve. And it pains me to have to point this out to you, but sometimes, to get what you want, you have to put on a bit of a performance.” Sarah answered.

Oh! We are in for a treat!” Erwin said, moving to sit on the end of his seat. “When Sarah wants something, she can be most persuasive. She is positively frightful at how well she can suss out what people need and use that. You should call the elf, you really should.”

Sirius looked skeptically at Sarah. “Alright, but it's your funeral – no offense to the newly risen dead. - Kreacher!”

Kreacher appeared with a pop between the two couches. “Nasty trespassers calling on poor, helpless Kreacher – you called, Master Black?”

Sarah rose from the couch to stand before the elf and put on the most haughty, snobbish face that she could muster. “Kreacher the house elf! Look upon my face,” she demanded imperiously.

Sarah felt the moment that Kreacher started at her tone, though he did not show it. He slowly looked up at her, craning his neck to look at her face.

“Am I to believe that you have served The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black since the time of Madam Walburga Black? Answer!”

Kreacher's eyes fractionally widened. “Yes, miss, Kreacher served Madam Walburga with utmost loyalty!”

“And am I to understand that as a loyal house elf these many years that you understand the laws governing house elves when serving an ancient, magical house? Answer!”

“Yes, miss! Kreacher obeys all of the rules of the house elves. Kreacher is a most loyal servant!”

“Then why is it, Kreacher, that you mutter such foul obscenities toward the current master of the Most Noble House of Black?”

“Master Black is a vicious - “

SILENCE! I did not ask you to answer my question!” Kreacher startled at Sarah's tone. “You say that you follow the rules and you serve with loyalty, and yet you treat the current master of this noble, ancient house in a manner that you should only HOPE to be treated! Are you questioning the wisdom of Orion Black when he drew up his will stipulating the rightful heir to the house of Black upon his death? Answer!”

At Sarah's last question, Kreacher's eyes widened and he quickly bowed his head, shoulders slumped toward the ground. “Kreacher would NEVER question Master Orion! Kreacher is a most loyal house elf!”

“And yet I have heard you TWICE tonight muttering vulgarities while around the current Master of this noble house - and his guests! Tell me, Kreacher. if Madame Walburga had heard you speaking so foully in her presence, what would your punishment have been? You may speak.”

Sirius snorted at the mention of anyone speaking foully in the presence of his mother. Kreacher quickly looked up at Sarah with wide, frightened eyes before bowing his head again, though Sarah detected a frisson of excitement running through the elf.

“Madame Walburga would have used the manacles on Kreacher and beaten Kreacher for his insolence,” he answered.

“As she should have. Look up at me!” Kreacher looked up. “I am a descendant of this most noble house, and I am INSULTED by your disgusting behavior. When you insult Master Sirius, you insult this most noble house and all descendants of it. When you insult visitors to this house, you insult Master Sirius and you insult me, further insulting the house of Black. I should cast you out to the streets for your despicable behavior!” By this point, Kreacher was kneeling at Sarah's feet. She continued. “But I am not without compassion, so I will give you ONE chance to redeem yourself to this house. As your punishment for your insolence, you will not be allowed to look at the portrait of Madam Walburga Black.”

“NO!” the elf cried in despair.

“SILENCE!” Sarah took off her shoe. “I will not be interrupted! Take my shoe and beat yourself with it while I am speaking to you.”

Kreacher took her shoe and Sarah felt the excitement multiply, radiating off of the elf. He began to hit himself.

“From this point forward, you will serve everyone in this house with as much loyalty due to such a noble house. You will serve us the best tea that this house has to offer and supply us with light refreshments. When you are done with that, you will dust the mounted house elf heads and HOPE that you are worthy enough to be displayed with them. If you do your job well, I will allow you to beat yourself with my shoe again. You may put my shoe back on my foot.”

Kreacher deflated a bit and replaced Sarah's shoe.

“This house is a disgrace. Starting tonight you will clean and repair each room in this house to bring it to the standard that my aunt would expect. If you do your job well, I will allow you to gaze upon Madam Walburga's portrait for 30 seconds. Do I make myself clear? You may speak.”

“Yes, Mistress. Kreacher will bring tea and dust the heads. Mistress is most kind to Kreacher.”

“You are dismissed, Kreacher. Do not make me have to remind you of your duties again.”

Kreacher disappeared with a pop.

The room was completely silent. Sarah looked at Sirius, who was staring at her agape, eyes wide. Remus was assessing her, his eyes narrowed and brow quirked. Albus had the smallest smile on his face, and Erwin's expression mirrored that of Sirius.

“What the FUCK was that?” Sirius finally said.

“He's a house elf that grew up in a house where he was constantly abused. He's been languishing away with no purpose for a really long time because he didn't have anyone to serve. House elves want to work. It's part of their very nature. They want to serve well and honor their house. He knows that it doesn't matter that your mother considered you a blood traitor if you are the one who rightfully inherited the house, and with it, him. If the wards of this house recognize you as the owner, then you are, in fact, also in possession of him. He knows that the way that he has been behaving is wrong, and he actually wants to be punished for doing his job poorly. If you treat him properly, he'll want to serve you with every fiber of his being.”

“And treating him well means beating him?” Remus challenged.

“Of course not! It means giving him boundaries and making it known what is expected of him and giving appropriate rewards if he does his job well and punishments if he disobeys. That's why I told him he can't look at the portrait. He's just used to snobbery, so I used that as well.”

“And you had him beat himself with your shoe because . . ?”

“He wanted to. He liked it Remus, or I wouldn't have made him do it.”

Sirius was regarding Sarah with suspicion. “And how is it, exactly, that you knew the name of my mother and father if you've been exiled to another dimension for your entire life and just arrived here today? How could you possibly know details about them – and about my mother's portrait and Kreacher's obsessive devotion to her, about the elf heads - if you just discovered that you were a witch and grew up in a world with no magic? How could you know what house elves want? And all that shit about the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. What the hell was that?”

Sarah went to sit back between Albus and Erwin and looked toward Albus for permission to answer Sirius's question.

Albus shrugged. “He can't leave the house. He's your cousin and he and Remus are to be trusted.” He turned to Remus and Sirius. “What she is about to tell you cannot leave this room. I am still weighing whether I will even share this information with the Order. Do you understand?”

Sirius and Remus were still regarding Albus suspiciously, but nodded their heads in assent.

Albus turned back to Sarah. “Go on, then. Tell them how you know.”

“Are you sure? You don't even want to know some of the details,” Sarah asked of Albus.

“Yes, I trust that you will be careful with what you reveal.”

“Well, alright.” She closed her eyes for a minute, trying to gather her thoughts. When she opened them, she looked toward Sirius and said, “There wasn't magic in my world, but there were books. Very popular books. Books that were written for young teens but were popular with everyone at every age. They were about the life of a boy named Harry Potter.”

Sirius' and Remus's expressions turned to ones of complete shock. “And what was in these books, exactly?” asked Remus.

“Well, they start with Harry being left on his aunt and uncle's door step and they follow him though his education and, um, exploits at Hogwarts. And they explain the magical world and the fight between the light and the dark and Harry's role in it. They are incredibly complex and detailed. The reason they were so popular was because you literally felt like you were transported into his world. You got to know everyone in the books, everyone in Harry's life.” She paused a moment to gather her thoughts. “According to Albus, everything that happened in the books has actually happened here. The book that introduced both of you was called Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Sirius flinched at the mention of Azkaban and Remus once again placed his hand over Sirius's. At that moment, Kreacher popped into the room carrying a huge tea tray laden with tea, cups, various finger sandwiches and tea biscuits. Somehow he waved his wand to conjure up a coffee table and placed the tea tray on the table.

“Kreacher?” Remus asked, addressing the house elf, who bowed toward him at the mention of his name. “Could you bring us the firewhisky and some glasses as well?”

“Yes, Master Lupin, Kreacher will bring the firewhisky,” he replied, bowing even lower, then popped out of and back into the room with the whiskey and glasses. He turned toward Sirius as if awaiting orders, and Sirius distractedly said, “Well, she did tell you to dust those heads, didn't she?”

“Yes, Master Black, Mistress Seraphina did. Kreacher will dust and then come back to Mistress Seraphina for his punishment.” The elf then disappeared with a pop.

Erwin started to pour tea for everyone, while Remus reached to pour glasses of firewhisky for him and Sirius.

“Erwin summarized the books for me. There are some future events yet to occur, but I asked him not to reveal those to me and I am asking Sarah now to use utmost discretion with her knowledge of said events. Sarah and Erwin are to be trusted, but we must take care to not use their knowledge to start a chain of events that compromises our goal. Sarah understands that Harry must prevail.”

Sarah nodded her head in agreement. “There is so much that has to go right for Voldemort to be defeated. And it's all so intricately interwoven that I'm afraid that even my presence here will change things. But Albus knows what he's doing. Truly, in the history of literature, there are very few people who have planned a thing quite so complex with as much cunning. I can't believe that he would bring Erwin and me here if we compromised Harry in any way.”

Sarah paused to take a sip of the tea, which was the most perfect cup of tea that she had ever tasted. Erwin actually moaned when he tasted his cup. “Good Lord, how I missed a proper cuppa,” he said.

Sirius was pondering his glass of whiskey, rolling it back and forth in his fingers. “Every day is a surprise with you, isn't it, Albus?” he finally said with a sigh.

Albus chuckled. “I suppose it is, in a way. I likely would have never brought Sarah and Erwin back had there not been a prophecy about her. It was rather obvious to me that she had to return and has a part to play in all of this. Not so much to my brother, alas.”

Sirius quirked his eyebrow at Sarah. “So there's a prophecy about you, eh? You must be something pretty special then.” Sarah got the distinct feeling that he was subtly flirting with her again.

“You'll have to excuse him,” Remus said. “You are the first eligible woman that he's had prolonged exposure to in almost thirteen years. Cousin or not, he can't help himself.”

Sarah blushed. “Well, he is the first man in a long time to pay me any attention, so I'll let him off I suppose.” She then said to Sirius, teasingly, “But Sirius, inbreeding is a bad thing, it really is. That's why there's laws in place.”

Sirius smiled. “You're alright, Seraphina. You're a bit of a handful, though, aren't you? A girl like you should have the whole of England bowing at her feet.”

“Yeah, about that, I just found out that my name was Seraphina Dumbledore yesterday, so I'd prefer it if you called me Sarah. Also, that's what my name is going to be at Hogwarts until someone figures out who I really am, and I'm not so sure that I'll change it after that. Sarah Douglas has been my name for 30 years.”

“Well, alright. Sarah Douglas it is then.” He took a sip of whiskey. “You got me my house elf back, didn't you? That explanation of what you did was actually incredibly decent. I'm loathe to admit it, but I haven't given any thought to Kreacher's well being. He's always hated me, so I just tried to block him from my mind.” He smirked at her. “Also, I have to tell you, that tyrannical act of yours was incredibly hot. Having him beat himself with your shoe because he liked it? He's a kinky bastard, isn't he, Mistress Seraphina?”

Sarah couldn't help blushing, and she decided that it was a good time to really examine her teacup. Remus actually slapped Sirius on the back of the head. “She's your cousin, you pervert!” he said with a laugh. Erwin, with his off-color sense of humor, had dissolved into a fit of giggles.

Albus stood up. “And with that admission, I would like to retire to bed. When Erwin and Sarah have finished eating they will need to be shown to their rooms, Sirius. We've all had a long day, and Sarah has had a recent illness, so sleep is of the essence. I think Sarah in the room Molly and Arthur use, and Erwin in Minerva's room? When we have more in attendance we can rearrange rooms then, but those should do for now. Oh! And Sarah will be needing to visit Diagon Alley tomorrow. She needs a wand.” He then bowed to everyone in the room, said “Good night, all,” and left the room.

Sirius stood and bowed dramatically, gesticulating with his hand. “Yes, your majesty!” he said in mock subservience.

“I heard that!” came Albus's wry reply from the stairs, leaving the entire sitting room ringing with laughter.

______________________________________________________________

Sirius showed Sarah to a bedroom on the second floor (Sarah reminded herself that in England, it was actually the first floor) containing a large four poster bed with a dusty rose, watered-silk duvet and plump pillows. This room, compared with the sitting room, was actually a bit bright; the wallpaper was off white with gold dashes, the furniture had been polished to a high sheen. On the hardwood floor was an old, tattered, off white oriental rug. An assortment of paintings of flowers adorned the walls. There was an attached bath and toilet (the loo, Sarah thought) with a deep clawfoot tub and shower and hexagonal tiles like Sarah had seen at Silver Springs Hospital, the toilet was behind a door within the bathroom. The selection of spigots around the tub in this bathroom wasn't as diverse, but the chrome had also been cleaned and polished and the tile gleamed.

“This is the room Molly and Arthur Weasley usually stay in when they're here. Molly is rather particular about her living space and cleaned this room for days before she was happy with it. Used and entire can of Doxycide on the curtains,” Sirius said, smiling rather fondly.

He showed Sarah to a large wardrobe. “There's a lot of room in here. It's possible that Arthur and Molly left some clothes in here.” He opened the door, and much to Sarah's surprise, she found clothing and shoes from her home in Yellow Springs. “I don't recognize any of this,” he said quizzically.

“That's because they're my clothes! Somehow my clothes are in this wardrobe!” Sarah hadn't thought that she would ever see anything of hers ever again with the abrupt departure to this world. “Albus has to be behind this.”

She started pulling out clothing and twirling around with it in front of the free-standing, full length mirror in the corner.

Sirius put his head out into the hallway and shouted, “Remus, come here! Sarah has clothes!”

After a few minutes Remus joined them in the room. “What in the world are you talking about, Sirius?”

Sarah pulled out a red wrap dress and put it on over her clothes. “Albus brought my clothes! I didn't think I would have anything! I love this dress, it's one of my favorites.”

“Looks good,” remarked Sirius, earning a disapproving look from Remus. “I'm just complimenting her, Remus. It's all good-natured fun here.”

Sarah kept pulling out clothing and it appeared that most of her wardrobe, which was rather sizable, had been brought to London. She ran toward the dresser, looked in it, and found hosiery, lingere, tee shirts and her pajamas and night gowns. Atop the dresser was a large jewelry box. Opening it, she squealed when she saw that it contained all of her jewelry, most of which she has sentimental attachments to. She took out a ring and showed it to Remus and Sirius, who had sat down on the bed.

“This is all I have of my parents. It's my father's wedding ring,” she said. “I didn't think I'd ever see it again.” She handed it to Remus and ran back over to pick up the box, bringing it back over to the bed.

She pulled another ring out of the box and handed it to Sirius. “That is my high school ring,” she said of the dainty ring with a topaz set between two diamond chips. Seeing Sirius's confusion, she explained, “In the U.S., it's traditional for high school students to get a ring that signifies their high school with their birth stone in it. The pictures on the side represent something about the person.” Sarah pointed to the one side, which had a bulldog, her high school mascot, and the other, which showed the Key Club symbol and the year of her graduation. “Our high school mascot and the Key Club symbol, which is a club for honor students who have a certain g.p.a.” Seeing Sirius's further confusion, she explained “It stands for grade point average, and indicates how high or low your grades are. It's sort of like your OWLS or NEWTS, I guess. It helps colleges know how well you did in school.”

Sirius put the ring back and pulled out a necklace that was a small heart on a thin gold chain. “So what's the story with this one?” he asked, Remus looking on with interest.

“Oh,” replied Sarah with a nostalgic smile. “My first serious boyfriend gave me that when he asked me to go steady with him. It's like declaring that you are a serious couple, going steady.” She took it from him and stroked her finger over the chain. “His name was Tony Church and he played varsity basketball and had dreamy brown eyes and he gave me his letterman sweater to wear.”

Remus and Sirius were both looking at her like she was speaking a foreign language, which she supposed to them, she was. “Okay. So in basketball, you bounce this really bouncy orange ball, about maybe three times the size of a quaffle, down a wooden court. You throw the ball through horizontal hoops to make points. It's really popular in the U.S. And a letterman jacket is - okay, so when you play varsity sports you're kind of the best players in the school at that sport. And you get a letter made out of felt with your school initials to signify that you are varsity. And you can put that letter on a coat or cardigan and you wear it around. It used to be the cool thing to do. I wasn't in sports, I was the smart girl. So when Tony Church, the hot, star basketball player asked me out it was like something out of a teen fantasy. He was a great guy.”

Remus nodded in understanding.

“So how did the bastard break your heart?” Sirius asked, getting straight to the point.

“He didn't really. We went to different universities that were really far apart. It's not as easy to travel as it is with magic, so we didn't see each other much and we just drifted apart, I guess.”

“Hey, Moony, who do you think Sarah would have dated if she'd gone to Hogwarts? She seems to like the sporty boys.”

“Well, not always,” Sarah interjected. “Really, I tend to go for the dark horses. The silent, misunderstood ones. But I dated the ones that you take home to meet daddy. The good ones.”

“So you dated the good boys but wanted the tortured souls,” Sirius stated, thinking.

“She would have wanted Severus,” Remus stated bluntly.

“Merlin, Remus! Why would you subject the girl to Snivellus? For Merlin's sake, man, get it together!”

“She likes the brooding, misunderstood ones. No one fit that more than Snape.” Remus replied matter-of-factly.

Remus stood up and started pacing. “I refuse to let my cousin date that oily, miserable bat! It never would have happened. Never!”

“Okay,” Sarah interjected. “First of all, you would have had absolutely no say in who I did or did not date, even if he was someone that you despised. And second of all, what's so bad about him, anyway? I mean, for god's sake, you levitated the poor boy upside down into a tree and pants him in front of the whole school! Did anyone ever point out to you how much of a bully you were?”

Sirius had stopped dead in his tracks and was staring incredulously at Sarah while Remus gave Sirius an amused smirk. “First of all,” Sirius began, wagging his finger at Sarah, “he is a fucking Death Eater -”

Was a Death Eater,” Sarah interrupted. “Now he's a double agent for the light. And he realized the error of his ways a long time ago. He was a confused kid when he took the mark.”

“Doesn't excuse the fact that he got it, and how was I to know that he'd leave? And how the fuck can you know so much? Don't tell me that those books paint him out to be some sort of hero.”

“Actually, he's a sort of anti-hero. He's complex. He's a total asshole, but he's also terribly depressed and had been manipulated his whole life. He does the right thing and risks his life doing it, and I'm not going to tell you why, because I think you'd go into catalepsy if I even brought it up. People either love him or hate him.”

“And how do you feel about him?” Remus asked.

“Well, he's a character in a book, so my opinion really isn't all that informed. It will be different meeting him in real life, I suspect.”

“But as a character, how did you feel about him?” Sirius pushed.

Sarah looked down at her lap.

“Oh, fucking FUCK! She loves him. She fucking loves Snivellus! My cousin is a fucking traitor!” Sirius said dramatically.

“Well, he was played in the movies by Alan Rickman, and Alan Rickman is just light your panties on fire hot,” Sarah said.

“There were movies?” both Remus and Severus said simultaneously and incredulously, making Sarah laugh.

“Well, I told you that the books were incredibly popular. Yeah, there's movies, although they weren't all made when we came here.”

“Okay, so the important question about these movies – who is hotter: me, or the bloke who played me?”

Remus snorted and threw a pillow at Sirius. “Your movie isn't out yet, so I don't know. But I'm sure that whoever he is, you are by far the hotter man. You are dead sexy, Sirius. Dead sexy.”

“Alan Rickman played Hans Gruber, didn't he?” asked Remus.

“You go to the movies? I thought wizards didn't do that,” Sarah said.

“Oh, only the blood purists and the old families don't go to the cinema. They are entertaining.” Remus answered.

“Oh, and yes, he did play Hans Gruber.”

“I can see how you would find him attractive if you like the brooding type, and I suppose with the right makeup he would have made a fine Severus,” Remus reflected.

“For Merlin's sake, if we are going to talk about Snivellus again, I'll need the firewhisky,” Sirius said dramatically.

“You are such a drama queen,” Sarah fired at Sirius, causing Remus to let out a belly laugh.

“I like her, Sirius, I really do,” he said with a smile.

“You would,” Sirius retorted.

Stood up to start putting away her clothing. “Kreacher!” she demanded.

Kreacher appeared with a pop, completely prostrate on the floor. “Mistress Seraphina called for Kreacher?” he said, and Sirius wheezed to keep from laughing and mouthed 'Mistress' at Sarah suggestively, pretending to crack a whip.

“Bring us the firewhisky. And have you finished with the elf heads?”

“Kreacher has not completed the heads; Kreacher wants them to be perfect for Mistress. Kreacher hopes he can be included with the elves someday.”

“Yes, well, bring us the whiskey while I consider this.”

Kreacher disappeared with a pop.

“You know, Sirius,” Remus said, “if you want him to keep acting this way, you'll have to act like Sarah. I'm not sure you're up to the task.”

Kreacher reappeared with the firewhisky and three crystal glasses. Sarah picked up one of the glasses and inspected it. “Very good, I see no spots on this crystal.” She toed off her shoes and said, “Kreacher, you may take one of my shoes and when you finish with the elf heads I would like you to beat yourself for 30 seconds. You may also keep my shoe for further beatings. We may be otherwise occupied. Can I trust you with this?”

If Kreacher the house elf could have beamed with happiness he would have done so at the presentation of his beating shoe. “Yes, mistress! Kreacher will beat himself well for mistress!”

“You may be dismissed,” she said to the elf.

After he disappeared from the room, Sirius said, “It's not really fair that you are my cousin. That was fucking hot, Sarah.”

“You are a strange man,” Remus said, reaching for the whiskey. “A sick, twisted, strange man.”

“And yet you love me anyway,” Sirius said cheekily, which Sarah noticed caused just the slightest blush to appear on Remus's cheeks. Sirius seemed oblivious to Remus's blush as he reached for the whiskey bottle and poured himself a drink.

_________________________________________________________________

Remus, Sirius, and Sarah had found places to lounge on Sarah's bed while drinking firewhisky. Thus far, Sarah had told them about her childhood (they were quite impressed that she could ride a unicycle), her work as a naturopath, and what she knew of Albus's plans for her. It was close to midnight, and Sirius was laying on Sarah's bed, his feet in Remus's lap. Sarah was sitting at the foot of the bed leaning on a pillow that she had propped up against Remus's right side. Sarah was feeling more than a little tipsy from the alcohol, and Remus and Sirius appeared to be well on their way to being quite soused.

“Okay,” Sirius slurred slightly. “I think I know who the nice boy you would have dated would have been. I think you would have fallen hard for our Remus.” Sirius looked at Remus, suggestively raising his eyebrows, and Sarah could feel Remus straighten beside her.

Sarah turned to look at Remus. He was looking pensively down into his glass of whiskey. “Oh, I think Sarah could have done better than me,” he said quietly.

“And why is that, Remus? You are one hell of a catch. And maybe the reason that you didn't date was because our Sarah was wasting her time in another world with that Tony bloke.”

“The reason that I didn't date a Hogwarts was because I spent half of the month feeling more and more like I was losing control and the other half recovering from losing control. I'm sure the scars didn't help, either.”

Sarah got up on her knees and took Remus's face between her hands. “Remus Lupin, now I want you to pay attention to me. Are you paying attention to me?” Remus looked Sarah in the eyes and nodded. “The first thought that I noticed when I met you, after the hurricane that is Sirius attacked,” Sirius snorted, “was that you have the most wonderful smile. Actually, the word adorable came to mind, but I'm thinking adorable might not quite be it, because there's a bit of wolf behind that smile, isn't there?”

Sirius had sat up so that he was looking at both Remus and Sarah. Sarah continued. “You have beautiful eyes, and a gentle spirit, but there's also something wild and in there, and that, Remus, is enough to drive a girl to complete distraction. Plus, from what I hear, you're one hell of a wizard. That's pretty hot, too.”

She let go of his face when a blush appeared and he looked back down toward his drink. “Well, well, well,” Sirius said saucily. “Maybe the two of you should make a go of it. You could do much worse, Moony.”

It was Sarah's turn to blush. She put her arm around Remus. “Normally, I'd jump all over an offer that good.” Looking at Remus, she reiterated, “I really would, Remus, I would. But - I just got here. Two days ago my whole life was changed. I've had two panic attacks since I got here because everything is just so overwhelming. And my last experience with men was bad. Really, really bad. I don't think I'm really in a place to be dating anyone right now. I mean, I don't even have a permanent place to live or a job or any of the stuff an adult should have.”

“We don't have all of those things, either,” Sirius said, continuing, “so you're in good company. The best company.”

Remus looked at her and smiled. “Well, I understand what you're saying, Sarah, and it's alright. It was too much for Sirius to put on you anyway. I'm too much for Sirius to put on you.”

“Fucking stop that, Remus,” Sirius demanded, pointing his finger in Remus's face. “What makes you think that just because you turn into a werewolf one night a month that no one would want you? Sarah just told you that she's shag you in a minute if the timing were better. Your problem is that you sell yourself short. You are a catch, Remus Lupin, the complete package. Fucking stop tearing yourself down.”

Sarah laid her head on Remus's shoulder. “So what happened with your last relationship, Sarah? You said it was bad,” he asked her.

It was Sarah's turn to stiffen. She took a deep breath and a long drink of whiskey. “It's not something I really like to talk about,” she finally said.

“Come on, now. You know everything about us. Out with it,” Sirius pushed.

“He just hurt me really badly,” she took another deep breath and closed her eyes. “Okay. So the thing is, what happened was the worst thing that's ever happened to me. And it wasn't just something that happened and then it was over; it took years for me to work through it all. I mean, I'm still not over it and if I think too much about it or talk about it too much I have panic attacks. I trusted him and he did something awful and that's all I want to say.”

Remus put his arm around Sarah. “Sirius, I think we need to let this one go. Just know, Sarah, that if you ever need someone to talk to, we're here for you.”

Sarah nodded her head on Remus's shoulder and yawned. “You can't be tired, Sarah. We haven't even talked about sex yet!” Sirius insisted drunkenly.

“All you do it talk about sex,” answered Sarah, who had closed her eyes.

“It's because I haven't had any for 13 years. My only relationship is with my hand, and he's getting tired of me,” Sirius flopped his head down in Remus's lap.

“Sirius, all you have ever talked about for your whole entire life was sex,” Remus retorted. He was moving Sarah over to one side of the bed and placing her head in a pillow, her head still at the foot of the bed. Sirius then pulled Remus down so that Remus was laying between him and Sarah, and flung his arm around his middle.

“I am completely and totally pissed,” Sirius declared. “Sarah, you're going to have to get Kreacher to bring us a hangover potion tomorrow.”

Sarah blindly reached for Sirius's hand and patted it. “Don't worry, I'll take care of you, cuz. Also, someone's going to have to put out the lights because I don't have a wand.”

Remus sat up a bit, drawing an irritated moan out of Sirius, and used his wand to put out the lights. He then collapsed back down into the bed.

“'Night, Sirius,” he said.

“G'night, Remus,” Sirius replied.

At the same time, they both said, “Good night, Sarah.”

“Night, John Boy,” Sarah said.

“Who the hell is John Boy,” Sirius slurred. Sarah giggled. “No really, who is he?” he persisted.

Sarah patted his hand and said “Shhh, now, go to sleep,” and was met by a soft snore.

Sarah smiled to herself as she drifted away, snuggled into the family she never knew that she had.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Sometime in the early morning hours, Sarah woke with the need to use the toilet. She opened her eyes sleepily and gasped when she was met with a pair of deep brown eyes looking back into hers.

“Hi,” he whispered to her. He appeared to be trapped in place by Sirius, who now not only has his arm around his middle but his leg thrown over Remus’s.

“Hey,” she whispered back. They were close enough that she could feel his breath on her face. She couldn’t help but feel a bit enraptured by the intimacy of the moment. “How long have you been staring at me?”

“Not long. I sometimes have trouble sleeping,” he said by way of apology.

“That’s okay, I do, too.”

Remus shifted his eyes down and visibly swallowed. “Did you mean what you said earlier, what you said about being with me?”

Sarah was taken with how vulnerable he appeared. She put her hand gently on his cheek and traced her finger over the scar there. “I meant what I said,” she answered simply.

He put his hand over hers as she stroked his scars and closed his eyes. “But you’ve just met me,” he argued.

“I knew you long before I met you.” she whispered. “And sometimes you meet someone and you just know. I knew Sirius immediately and I knew you immediately. Erwin says I’m empathic.”

He opened his eyes and looked into hers again, his gaze intense. “I sensed that about you.” He continued to look into her eyes. “I wish you’d been at Hogwarts. I wish – I just wish it had been different.”

“Would it have made a difference if I weren’t a Gryffindor?” Sarah asked, and then said, “Because I’m not brave, far from it. I don’t think I would have been.”

“I don’t think it would have made a difference,” Remus answered.

“Even if I’d been a Slytherin?” she challenged.

Remus turned his head so that his lips were brushing Sarah’s palm, drawing a subtle gasp out of her. At that moment, Sirius shifted and snorted, and Sarah felt Remus smile into her palm.

“Because,” Sarah continued breathily, “I think I might have been. I’m kind and smart and care for others, but ultimately, every move I’ve ever made in my life boiled down to self preservation. It’s very Slytherin.”

Remus looked back into her eyes, not answering, continuing to his exploration of her palm. Sarah had to close her eyes and remind herself that the timing between them was bad, very, very bad. “Besides,” she said, with her eyes closed, “I don’t think I’m the only one in this bed that you want. And you’ve got a much longer history with him.”

Remus stiffened, and when Sarah opened her eyes, he was looking at her with a mixture of shock and sadness. He withdrew her hand from his face, intertwining their fingers between them. “He’s not interested in men,” he said quietly.

“But you love him, don’t you?”

At first, Sarah thought that Remus would deny his love for Sirius, or say that it didn’t matter, but he answered, “Yes. I do,” regret in his words.

“How long have you loved him?”

“Forever,” he replied with barely a whisper, looking down.

“Do you think he could ever love you back?”

“He does love me,” Remus answered, “just not in the way I want him to. And, no, I don’t believe he ever will.”

Sarah squeezed his hand. “I’m sorry, Remus.” She leaned in and kissed his forehead chastely, right where his scar started. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’ll be lonely for much longer.”

His eyes darted back to hers. “What do you know?” he whispered questioningly, need in his voice.

“I don’t think I should tell you that. I think it will be more magical if it just creeps up on you. But I will tell you this; you need to let it happen. You will never believe how much you deserve it.”

He disentangled his fingers from hers and put his fingers on her cheek, stroking softly. As if in slow motion, he wrapped his hand around the back of her head, tangling his fingers in her hair, and brought her to him so that his lips met hers. The kiss was soft, and while he never deepened it, it was intensely passionate. When he pulled away, leaving Sarah breathless, he said, “Just so that I can know that I did,” and smiled softly.

Sarah smiled back feeling completely taken, yet the moment was bitter-sweet. He belonged to Sirius and Tonks. She didn’t consider herself a noble person, but she also couldn’t imagine standing in the way of what he would find with Tonks. She realized that she cared for him too deeply (overwhelmingly so, as she had only just met him) to do that to him. Because she knew that deep down, no matter how desperate her want for him was in that moment, she wasn’t ready for what he needed. She loved him too much to deny him that.

He put his arm around her and pulled her into him, her head resting under his chin. “Remus, You are making it very difficult for me to be the noble person here,” she said into his chest, the smell of firewhiskey, wood smoke, and musk surrounding her.

“Maybe I want to,” he replied into her hair, his lips on her scalp.

“I just can't, Remus. I really can't. What's coming for you is so much better than anything I can give you.”

He let out a deep sigh and said, “Alright,” regretfully into her hair. “But I'm not letting you go.”

Sarah relaxed into him, letting herself become enfolded in all that was Remus, as he stroked her long, blond curls, lulling her back to sleep.

 

 

Chapter Text

Sarah awoke with a muzzy head and a mouth that she was sure was full of cotton wool. She opened her eyes and rapidly shut them from the sunlight that was streaming into the tall windows, their dusty rose curtains drawn back to let in the morning light. . She heard Sirius moan and realized that Remus was no longer in bed with them.

She heard a faint pop followed by the scratching, ancient voice of Kreacher. “Kreacher has brought Mistress Seraphina and Master Black water and Potions to help them recover from the firewhisky. Master Remus is showering. Kreacher can draw a bath or start the shower for Mistress Seraphina.”

Sarah squinted at Kreacher, who was wearing a fresh white tea towel and looking at her with expectant eyes. “Thank you, Kreacher. Can you hand Sirius and I the potions? And if you would like to help with my morning, I think I'll be showering – that is, when I can stand up.”

“Mistress should feel better soon. Kreacher obtained the potions from Professor Snape last night. Only the best potions for Mistress Seraphina.”

Sirius groaned again dramatically. “Potions by the great git himself. The barmy bat. The oily ogre.”

Sarah hit in the direction of Sirius and gingerly sat up. Kreacher had hopped up onto the bed between Sirius and Sarah to hand them their hangover potions. She was given a small vial of a clear, red solution that once again smelled faintly of ginger, possibly cayenne pepper, and a exotic mixture of foreign smells she could not identify. “Best to just toss it back,” Sirius instructed, then did just that, his face scowling against the taste. “Burns a little,” he explained

Sarah belted down the potion, which tasted like an exotic spice mix from some far off land. It burned a bit and was more than a little overwhelming initially, making her think she would have to make a mad dash to the toilet to empty her stomach. Then, just as quickly, her head started to clear, her stomach started to settle, and the stale taste of liquor disappeared from her mouth. She then realized that she did have to make a mad dash to the loo, as she had never made it there in the night after Remus kissed her.

She had reached the door of the toilet and stopped short as she remembered with startling clarity that Remus had kissed her. And she had like it. A lot. And he had held her while she slept. She had tried to let him down gently, but as she sat on the toilet, holding her head, she wondered how long she could hide in the lavatory before someone made her leave it.

She had kissed Remus Lupin. On her first night in magical London. She had gotten stinky drunk with Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, fell asleep with them on her bed, and in the quiet stillness of the night had caressed and been kissed by none other than Remus Lupin, Marauder, mentor to Harry Potter, DADA professor extraordinaire, and, as it turned out, a most deeply arousing, soulful creature, his deep brown eyes burning amber, his heart beating in her ear as he held her to him. His scent still clinging to her hair.

She took a deep cleansing breath, flushed the toilet and entered the bathroom to find Kreacher standing there, ringing his hands. The shower was running and a gentle steam was billowing out, filling the bathroom with damp warmth. “Kreacher does not know what Mistress Seraphina would like to wear today. Kreacher will punish himself for not knowing after Mistress Seraphina tells him what she likes to wear.”

“That won't be necessary Kreacher,” Sarah said offhandedly, and she could taste the disappointment at not being punished in Kreacher's expression. “That is, unless you would like to,” she quickly added, and Kreacher nearly jumped with joy, his arthritic knees squeaking in protest. “Why don't you lay out clothing for Remus and Sirius and the rest of us can dress ourselves. I'm sure you'll get me figured out soon enough.”

“Yes, Mistress. Kreacher will dress the Masters, and when he is done, Kreacher would like Mistress to come to the dining room for breakfast with Professor Dumbledore and Mistress's uncle Erwin. Kreacher has cleaned and repaired the dining room and the drawing room and has made mistress a full English breakfast. Kreacher has been working all night for Mistress.”

“Kreacher, I would like you to get some sleep after breakfast. Will you do that? You are serving well, but in order to be the best house elf you must also take care of yourself.”

Kreacher's eyes widened and filled with tears. He bowed at Sarah's feet, hands on her toes, sobbing. “Mistress would let Kreacher sleep?” he sobbed, continuing, “Mistress give Kreacher her shoe, which Kreacher will keep in his cupboard for beatings, and Mistress lets Kreacher sleep? You are a fine mistress, such a fine mistress. Kreacher will tell all of the elves what a wonderful human Mistress Seraphina is.”

Sarah stared frozen down at the elf, realizing that she was going to have to talk to him about transferring this devotion to Sirius. But first she needed a shower. And lots of water. And food.

She bent down and patted Kreacher on the head. “You may go, Kreacher. You are a fine elf when you behave. I am proud of how well you've been serving this house.”

Kreacher looked up at Sarah, watery eyes beaming, face basking in the praise Sarah gave him. He reminded Sarah of The Grinch when his heart grew, those big eyes and squiggly smile. He then popped away leaving Sarah staring at her feet, enveloped in the growing fog created by one very loyal elf.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Sarah had never seen the dining room at Grimmauld place but she did know that it wasn't a place spoken about much in the books, their inhabitants preferring to spend time in the basement kitchens which had been scrubbed and tidied by Molly Weasley. She wandered downstairs, noting that the walls in the stairwell no longer showed any signs of sagging wallpaper. There was not a cobweb in sight, and the banister and stair risers, their wood peeking out from a plush, black carpet runner, were polished and gleaming. The grisly house elf heads, which she had tried to ignore last night, had obviously been dusted with reverent hands.

She peeked into the sitting room and could not believe that she was in the same house as last night. The walls were perfect, the wallpaper a slightly subdued chartreuse pinstriped with minuscule, slithering, black garden snakes (“Quite the theme this house had going,” Sarah thought.). The marble fireplace was pristine, and Sarah could see subtle veining where before the marble was black with soot. The piano looked brand new, the ebony and ivory keys repaired and shining, begging to be touched. There was not a cobweb in sight; the chandelier's crystals gleamed, throwing prisms around the room, the candles white, straight, pristine. The couches, which must have been the same couches as they were the same burnished, worn leather, were no longer lumpy or cracked. The floor, which Sarah had not noticed last night, was highly polished marble squares of white, mirroring the mantle, and ebony black, possibly obsidian, that shone with a purple iridescence. The air of dust was gone, replaced with an elegance befitting a moneyed, ancient house.

She wondered down the sunlit, previously oppressively gloomy, hall toward the sound of voices, noticing a curtained portrait (which she really wanted to open, but forced herself to walk by). Just beyond the portrait was an open, double doorway whose thick, mahogany moldings gleamed, leaving with it the smell of lemon furniture oil. The cream white walls of the dining room featured a expansive pastoral scene on one wall, it's serfs working the fields and livestock wandered the surrounding meadows. The long table, which could be set for at least 20, was set with white linen, bone china with (again) swirling snakes and brambles, an Edwardian “B” featured at the top edge.

Albus and Erwin had found seats a bit removed from the door and were engrossed in a quiet conversation sipping coffee. Sirius was looking around the room in a state of mixed wonder and confusion. And Remus sat, two pieces of ignored toast in front of him, coffee cup held in front of his lips, staring at Sarah with cunning, lupine eyes. Sarah felt a blush rise to her cheeks and heard Erwin stand and pull out a chair to the right of Sirius, across the table from Remus, and start to pile food onto her plate.

Sarah felt herself swallow and willed herself to breathe, unable to shake the feeling of Remus's eyes following her as she sat. She was more than a little startled when she heard Sirius speak.

“This is not the same house we went to sleep in last night. I'm sure of it. Or maybe we've traveled back to 1975. That has to be it. Have we traveled through time, Remus?”

“ I don't believe that we have, Sirius. What I do think happened is that your house elf has developed quite a crush on Sarah.” Sarah could practically feel Remus growl when he said her name.

Erwin looked quizzically between Sarah and Remus, never one to miss an innuendo or even the subtle body language that two people who were more than friends shared. Albus was wearing his ever present, knowing smile as he regarded the unspoken interaction between Sarah and Remus. Sirius, for his part, remained completely clueless, rolling the newly polished cutlery under his fingers.

“Sarah,” Erwin asked, tentatively, “did you sleep well? I heard voices coming from your room rather late last night.”

Sarah looked up from her plate to Remus, who had just taken a sip of coffee and was slowly licking the lingering beverage off of his lips. She consciously controlled her breathing, willed herself to look normally at Remus, and lightly answered, “Well, the boys and I had a bit of a getting to know you slumber party.”

“All good, clean, inebriated fun,” Sirius added, poking at the mushrooms on his plate, as if testing them to see if they would hurt him.

“Yes, well,” Erwin remarked, in full investigative mode. “And Remus. How did you sleep?”

Remus tore his eyes from Sarah and regarded Erwin neutrally. “Quite well, actually. I typically have trouble sleeping, but Sarah's bed was quite comfortable.”

Sarah heard Albus choke on his coffee.

“No, no, Albus,” Sirius hurriedly said, “it was nothing like that! I was there, too.” Erwin sputtered, eyes wide. “No, Erwin! Really! As much as I would like to announce that the night turned into a pornographic three-way,” he turned to suggestively raise his eyebrows at Sarah, “we really only talked, got to know each other, got drunk on some premium firewhisky (which I must thank Kreacher for), and fell asleep on Sarah's bed, thoroughly tanked. We did not have our way with your Sarah, did we, Remus?”

Remus's eyes returned to Sarah's, full of meaning. “No, we did not,” he answered steadily.

The room was silent (Sirius suddenly aware that something was happening between Sarah and Remus, his head cocked to one side as he looked back and forth between them). “Remus, did I forget something that happened last night? Or perhaps sleep through something – which would be bloody brilliant, Remus – but did I?”

Sarah concentrated on playing it cool, as Remus looked at Sirius and answered, “Nothing happened, Sirius.”

“Then what the hell is with all of the eyes and,” Erwin was gesturing between Sarah and Remus, his voice rising, “whatever then hell else all of this is? There is sex being had. At. This. Table. Sex, Albus!”

Albus said nothing, coolly looking at Sarah, an eyebrow raised. Sarah cleared her throat and offered, “In the middle of the night, while Sirius was asleep Remus and I talked a little. It was a nice talk. That is all. We are attracted to each other but Remus knows that I am not looking for anything right now, don't you Remus?,” she challenged, which Remus answered with a congenial nod, never taking his eyes from hers. Sarah then started buttering her toast, declaring testily, “I am hungry, I want to eat this meal that Kreacher has prepared for us, and then I want to get a wand and point it a things and make things happen. With magic. Because I am a witch. Can we do that, Erwin? Are you done with your investigation?”

Erwin continued to glare at Sarah, eyes narrowed, and slowly answered, “Yes, we may do that.” He then looked pointedly and threateningly at Remus, fully intent on protecting his Sarah. Remus gave Erwin a small, consoling smile before returning his attention to Sarah. Sirius opened his mouth to make a snarky remark, which Sarah shut down with a look of unabridged murder, causing Sirius to open and close his mouth resembling a fish while simultaneously slouching down into his chair like a kicked puppy.

And then Remus smirked at Sarah, and his eyes flashed with wicked intent, and Sarah imagined the words “The better to eat you with, my dear,” coming out of Remus's mouth, which set off something positively primal in her, and it took every ounce of fortitude she could muster not to launch herself across the table, rip off her clothes, and have her way with Remus Lupin, right on top of the newly polished, lemony fresh, dining room table, while her family members looked on. Instead, she grabbed her plate and fled down the hallway to the set of stairs that she hoped led to the kitchen, a surge of power growing within her causing the doors to the dining room to slam shut and lock in her wake.

The voices in the dining room all erupted, which compelled Sarah to run even faster down into the basement. When she reached the bottom and went through the door, she thought that she must have stepped into the set of a movie, this being the servants kitchen, with copper pots hanging from the ceiling and open shelves of glassware, iron ware, pottery, china, and service ware lining the long walls. An museum-worthy antique AGA held pride of place next to a huge icebox and long counter top covered with kitchen appliances, crocks of cooking ware, several home canned glass jars of various vegetables and jams, and a blue enamel roasting pan. There was a battered, well worn, tremendously long farmhouse table running the length of the room surrounded by various styles of wooden chairs.

Kreacher was standing on a tall stool doing dishes at an enormous, double, ceramic sink, arms buried in bubbles. He seemed to be working his way through all of the dishes in the room, as there were stacks of dusty dishes to his right and more stacks of sudsy, just washed dishes to his left. He hopped onto the table in front of Sarah.

“Is Mistress Seraphina alright?” he asked, eyes wide.

“Kreacher, can you lock the door and make it so that we can't hear anyone knocking on it and just keep them out for a while? Can you do that?”

“Kreacher knows ancient magic that even Albus Dumbledore doesn't know. Elf magic. Kreacher will use it for Mistress Seraphina.” He then raised his hand toward the door and it slammed shut and locked. “They will not be able to enter until Kreacher lets them.”

Sarah sat soundly on the chair nearest Kreacher, who had produced cutlery for her food. He had also levitated a cup of hot coffee in front of her, along with cream and sugar. Sarah finally started to eat.

Kreacher stood on the table and watched Sarah eat her food. “Does mistress be liking Kreacher's cooking?” he asked.

Sarah nodded her head emphatically and answered, “I haven't eaten a proper meal in two, maybe three days. And this is one of the best breakfasts that I have ever eaten. You are a wonderful cook, Kreacher, and I grew up with an uncle who could put Julia Child to shame.”

Kreacher beamed. “Kreacher is happy mistress is liking Kreacher's cooking.” He started ringing his hands and looking down at his feet, as if conflicted.

“What is it, Kreacher?” Sarah asked.

“Kreacher does not want to be asking mistress a question Kreacher shouldn't be asking. Kreacher wants to be a good house elf again. Kreacher likes being a good house elf, even if Kreacher is old.”

“Kreacher, you can ask me anything. I promise not to get upset with you. You have shown me tremendous loyalty in a short amount of time, and I want to believe that you will continue that when I have to leave you alone here with Sirius. Will you do that? He is your true master, Kreacher.”

“Kreacher knows, and Kreacher will serve Master Sirius well, even though Madame Black calls him nasty names and Kreacher misses Madame Black.”

“You can serve your new master and still miss Madame Black. I know that you think pure bloods are the best, and that Sirius is letting all sorts of unsavory witches and wizards into his home, but if you serve them well, you might learn to like some of them. I'm sure they will learn to like you when they see this new side of you.”

“Mistress is most kind to Kreacher. Even though mistress is not a pure blood and mistress's mother is burned from the family tree, Kreacher can see that mistress is a powerful, great witch. And mistress has given Kreacher a house to serve again. Mistress is most, most kind.”

Kreacher was sitting cross legged on the table watching Sarah eat. Sarah was relatively sure that house elves were not supposed to sit on the table and watch their mistresses eat, but she was enjoying her conversation with the craggy, ancient elf.

“You said you wanted to ask me a question.” Sarah said.

“Yes, Kreacher has a question for mistress. Kreacher hears everything that happens in the house,” he started, then quickly added, “it is so he can serve well, not so that he can spy. Kreacher used to spy, but Kreacher didn't have anything else to do, so Kreacher spied, but Kreacher never told anyone what he heard.” He paused, as if regathering his thoughts, and continued, “Kreacher hears everyone calling you Sarah, but your name is Seraphina. You are Seraphina Flora Wilhelmina Maeve Dumbledore, daughter of Artemesia Leda Vega Ophelia Black, lost daughter of this most noble house. Kreacher does not understand why you do not use your given name.”

“Well,” answered Sarah, while cutting into a sausage, “it's just that I was hidden until now and everyone called me Sarah Douglas. I didn't know that my name wasn't Sarah until yesterday. Seraphina doesn't feel right to me. I don't know it. And I didn't know anything about any of this, about being a witch, or magic; I didn't know it was real. If you heard everything, then you know about the books, and you know that I didn't grow up here. So Seraphina doesn't feel like me.”

“Kreacher thinks mistress needs to know that her name is important to her. There is magic in a name. Mistress is: Seraphina, the highest of all of the angels, beings of love who proclaim: “Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh Adonai Tz'vaot M'lo Khol Ha'aretz K'vodo!”, Flora, goddess of nature, youth, flowers, and springtime, giver of fertility and life, Wilhelmina, resolute protector, name borne by queens and consorts, Maeve, great warrior queen of Connacht who intoxicates all who surround her, Dumbledore, house of most powerful, shrewd, and fearsome magic. Her name contains strong, ancient magic, magic that is tied to the earth itself, magic that her parents knew and whispered over her. She was named with intention, to be a powerful warrior, to be a protector, to be one with the plants, to bring renewal and to have the power to intoxicate and rule over all those around her with her magic. But if mistress does not claim her name, her magic will never be as powerful as it could be. She will lose her most powerful magical gift, given to her by her parents at the time of her birth.”

Kreacher was staring at Sarah with fierce intensity, trembling as he imparted this piece of knowledge to her, making Sarah feel more strong and powerful and extraordinary with each declaration of her name. She felt as if she could climb mountains and birth planets and defend all the undefended. She had done great things with her life, studied hard, graduated in the top of her classes at Princeton and Duke, had literally saved lives as a physician, but with the declaration of the power of her name from Kreacher, the diminutive, ancient, wise house elf, she felt larger and more invincible than she had ever felt in her life.

“Kreacher, are they at the door?” she asked, standing up.

“Yes, mistress, they is trying to listen in but Kreacher is not letting them.”

“Kreacher, you can open the door.”

Kreacher nodded his head once and raised his hand to the door. It opened slowly, Sirius the first to come through the door, followed by all of the other current house guests.

Sarah stood in front of them, back straight and head held high. “Before you say anything, I have something very important to tell all of you.” They looked at her, faces a mix of expectancy (Erwin), timidity (Sirius), fire (Remus), and that ever present, slightly frustrating omnipotence (Albus). She continued, “Kreacher and I have had a talk, and Kreacher has taught me something very important, something vital and strong and, well, something magical.” She felt Kreacher walk across the table to stand behind her, his small hand resting on the small of her back, both in excitation and to give her support. “From this day forward, I am no longer, Sarah Douglas, physician from Ohio. I am now Seraphina Flora Wilhelmina Maeve Dumbledore, highest of the angels, warrior queen, enchantress, protector, and life giver. I am the goddess of spring and one with the earth herself.” She felt herself crackle with magic, felt her hairs standing on end, felt as if every pore on her body was emitting light and power.

The room was silent, save the sad creak of Kreacher's legs as he tried (and failed) to jump with glee. All at once, she was crushed into a hug by Erwin, and she heard Sirius say, “That was so fucking hot Remus. You should have shagged her rotten and let me watch. Why the ever loving FUCK does my COUSIN have to be so fucking hot?' He then said, casually and offhandedly, “I think I might have a wank,” as he left the room, Remus nodding determinedly in her peripheral vision and following Sirius.

“Well, you've sent two men off to cold showers,” Albus said.

“Or warm hands,” Erwin added.

In the past, Sarah would have blushed, but she didn't feel the need to just then. She was intoxicating. Of course she sent men off to wank. That's what she did, apparently.

“And on that note,” Albus declared, “let's go get you a wand.”

“I wish you could see yourself, Sarah – er, Seraphina,” Erwin corrected himself. “You are incandescent. Let's get this girl a wand, Albus!”

Incandescent. Seraphina Dumbledore, warrior enchantress of all, was thoroughly, bewitchingly incandescent.

 

Chapter Text

Seraphina, Albus, and Erwin flooed into a large fireplace at the rear of the Leaky Cauldron.  She surveyed the room, which, at this time of day was rather empty save a few at the bar and one or two reading in a corner, and felt immediately at home amongst the high, ancient timbered ceilings, plaster lathe walls, dark wood pub furniture, and the quiet, calm aura of the place  Wandering about the room with Erwin and Albus, she found tucked away stalls of booths for quieter, private conversations, spied graffiti littering the tables with dates ranging back to the 1300s, and took in the smells of ale, rich foods, and butterscotch.  She would have to remember, she told herself, to try butterbeer sometime today.

Albus led them to the bar, where he bade hello to a bar maid and wizard smoking a pipe and sporting a deerstalker and trench coat (who Erwin was quick to point out was NOT, in fact, Sherlock Holmes to a doubtful Seraphina), then led them through a hallway to a timeworn, wooden door decorated with medallions of oxidized copper.  Walking through the door led to a small, outdoor, enclosed alley area with an overflowing trash can and a few casks labeled “Chesswitch Butterbeer.”  Seraphina held on to Erwin’s hand and willed herself to keep still in giddy anticipation as Albus tapped three times on a brick located near the trash can.  She stared in wonder at the scritch scratch of the bricks, which rearranged themselves until they formed an arched entryway, over which was placed a capstone etched with the words “Diagon Alley, WC2, City of Westminster” in old English lettering.

“Shall we proceed?” Erwin asked Seraphina, a look of mischief in his eyes.

“Yes, uncle,” Seraphina answered, making no effort to keep the years of Harry Potter love and excitement out of her voice, “let us proceed.”

Albus chuckled, took hold of Seraphina’s other hand, and led them into the heart of Wizarding London.

Seraphina was immediately assailed with so many new sights and smells that she wasn’t sure where to look.  To the right was a tiny cauldron shop, filled to overflowing with all sizes and varieties of cauldrons, rods, and, Seraphina was surprised to find, tables of the spatulas, flasks, vials, glass stirrers and stands that she had become intimate with during her study of Organic Chemistry.  Looking across the street was a larger store selling parchment, quills, and all colors of inks.  Looking ahead she saw witches and wizards engaged in conversations and walking this way and that going about their shopping.  They wore all variety of clothing, ranging from robes and pointy hats, to the flannel and torn clothing of the grunge scene, to the more conservative muggle clothing that Seraphina and Erwin wore.

Erwin squeezed Seraphina’s hand and pointed out Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, where the flavor of the day was candied lacewing and honey, then Madam Primpernelle’s Beatifying Potions, where one of the shop windows had a beautiful display of philaenopsis orchids behind a line of cosmetics called “Orchid of the Orient” promising to rid the body of all variety of warts, spots, blemishes, and cellulite.

Seraphina’s eye was drawn next to Second Hand Brooms, where a man in square wire rimmed glasses was leaving with a distinctly broom-shaped package wrapped in brown paper.

And then, there is was.  A store that Seraphina had spent hours imagining, wishing to lose herself in its aisles of books full of magical arcane knowledge, a store in which the windows, Seraphina was delighted to find, displayed a collection of the adventures of one Gilderoy Lockheart, whose self-important visage smiled and waved from a poster tucked to the side (and who looked more like Pierce Brosnan with blond hair than Kenneth Brannaugh, Seraphina thought).  There was Flourish and Blotts, in front of which Seraphina stood with a look of reverent love and longing.

“She’s quite the reader, Albus,” Erwin said, thought Seraphina barely registered it, so enchanted was she with the stall of books in the street with names like How to Tame your Grindelow and Magical Weeds? The Unsung Heroes of the Potion Master’s Cupboard.  Though subtle, she could feel the magic in the books; feel the pulse of power as she ran her fingers down the spines of the volumes.  Each book felt different.  Some felt of healing and strength, some confusion, and one, she was startled to find, felt like unbridled lust (and was named 50 Positions for the Adventurous Wizard).

“Now that shouldn’t really be out here, should it?” remarked Albus as he waved his wand at it, causing it to disappear to someplace unknown (and to yet another place Seraphina had decided that she Must Explore thoroughly) within the book store.

Albus squeezed Seraphina’s hand.  “Now, I know that Flourish and Blotts is singing its siren song to you, but I believe getting you a wand and access to your vault is of greater importance.  Books will be here in a few hours.”

And so they began walking again.  Diagon Alley turned out to be rather crooked, with multiple little lanes and alleys heading off of it in different directions.  Seraphina tried to read all of the street signs as they walked past them hoping to identify Knockturn Alley, but before she had they came to a stop in front of a rather small, narrow, shabby looking shop.

“Look at the sign, Sarah,” Erwin said in a bit of a conspiratorial whisper.

There, above the shop window was a small, slightly faded sign that read “Ollivander’s: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.”  Seraphina turned wide-eyed to Erwin, and the Albus.  They were here, actually standing in front of Ollivander’s.  At that moment, with crushing clarity (and with a bit of shock, as if everything that she had seen before had merely been a prequel), Seraphina realized that it was all real.  She wasn’t in a dream and this wasn’t some sort of amazing trick; she was standing in Diagon Alley as a witch with Albus fricking Dumbledore (her great-great-uncle to boot) about to buy a wand.  She would be learning magic at Hogwarts in order to aid in the fight against the darkest wizard ever known.  She was an ever-loving, honest-to-god witch.  She took a moment to muse over the fact that in the past two days she had taken a magical cab ride after teleporting, really, within seconds to London from Ohio, she’d had blood drawn painlessly and needlessly, she’d been drugged more times than she could count with amazing potions she could have never imagined, she’d bonded with a fucking elf; hell, she’d wanted to have sex with Remus Lupin, who, prior to that day, had been a character in a book.  But it was standing here, in front of a shabby shop - in bad need of a paint job - that sold wands that everything had clicked, that she really finally believed that the world of Harry Potter was real and she was in it.

She came out of her reverie looking into Albus Dumbledore’s face, his hands on her temples, calm blooming throughout her body.  He was smiling at her, though she felt hesitancy and concern as she looked into his eyes.

“We lost you there for a moment,” he said softly.

“Yeah,” she answered. “Um, it all just sort of became real just now.  I mean, really real.  I realized that I’m really here and I think I started to think about what was coming.”

“Yes.  It can do that, the weight of this world,” he remarked, his voice tinged with sadness. “It can overtake us at times.  I suppose we all lose ourselves in it occasionally.”

Seraphina heard the tinkle of a shop bell.  She and Albus looked toward the door to find a slight older, wiry wizard with a shock of wild white hair, both on top of his head and sprouting from his hears.  He was wearing wireless spectacles and a tailor’s apron and had a bemused expression on his face.

“Seraphina Dumbledore?” he asked, then hurriedly continued “Yes, of course!  You aren’t dead at all, and neither is my good friend, Professor Erwin Whitacre!”

“Garrick!” Erwin said, embracing the man fiercely. “It is much better than I can ever express to see you again.”

Erwin stepped back and turned toward Seraphina. “We will wait here for you.  It’s better you go in alone.  It’s a rite of passage, this, and you don’t want anyone influencing your choice,” he explained.

“As if anyone could,” remarked the wizard Seraphina now knew was Garrick Ollivander, who then ushered her into the shop saying, “Come on, then.  Don’t be shy.  They don’t bite, you know.”

Seraphina found herself in a narrow shop lined floor to ceiling with shelves packed with small, oblong boxes in many different colors.  Most of the boxes were cardboard, but she saw some carved from stone, others made of various types of wood, and others here and there lines in different types of leather.

Mr. Ollivander motioned for her to stand before him.  He stood in front of a small counter, behind which stood even more shelves of boxes and a metal spiral staircase, also stacked tall with box upon box.  To the right of the counter was a pile of boxes that must have been forty tall that leaned precariously toward the floor.  Seraphina knew that magic was keeping the pile from toppling over.

She watched as she put on a different pair of glasses that had various colored lenses which could be flipped into place.  He peered at her through them while muttering, then reached into his apron pocket and extracted a dressmaker’s tape.

“Hands down at your sides, stand still, and hold this please,” he instructed, as the measuring tape unfurled on its own, measuring her height, the length of her arms and legs, and, interestingly enough her head circumference.

“Yes, I see,” remarked Mr. Ollivander, who then slowly walked around her while studying something about her, pinching his chin, and then standing before her again. 

“You are very, very interesting,” Mr. Ollivander mused. “You have seen death, but renew life.  You are shrewd and self-serving, yet kind and caring.  You draw people in, and then hold them at a distance.  The only thing I’m sure of about you is that you aren’t a Gryffindor,” He then walked over to a shelf and climbed a rolling ladder that had flown into his hand from somewhere deeper within the store.

He pulled out a long, black cardboard box, then climbed down the ladder and disappeared into the back of the store.  In a few minutes, he returned with two more boxes.  One was deep blue and made of what looked like ostrich skin, and the other was in a red, faded box with a white label on one end and the date 1956.

“There is one more that I think might work, but it is upstairs, and I might have misplaced it,” he said, placing the boxes on his counter. He then disappeared up the spiral staircase to rummage around for the final wand.

Sarah looked at the boxes on the counter, then, as if pulled toward them, ran her fingers along the tops of them.  She felt a jolt of magic when she touched the black box, but also felt something vague and unpleasant.  The ostrich case was supple and soft, and the magic she felt was soft, also, and caused a warmth to bloom throughout her body.

It was the red box, though, that she was most drawn to.  If you had asked her, she couldn’t have told you why she was drawn to it, just that she felt a pull, like the box was willing her to open it.  She did, and was greeted by a wand of exquisite beauty.  The wand was made of a warm, reddened wood with subtle veining running along it like a vine.  At the slightly flared handle were roses that had been inlaid into the wood made of a white iridescent material, possibly abalone shell, that Sarah could have sworn swirled and shimmered.  The base was capped with a rounded piece of red jasper.  The wand was straight and tapered to the point.

Sarah ran her fingers over the wand and immediately felt as if she had been infused with power and light.  She picked it up and realized that the wand felt like coming home; there were no other words for what she felt.  She studied the beautifully polished surface and thought she saw tiny, ivy like flowers emerging from the vine-like wood veins, as if they were sprouting as she held it. 

She closed her eyes and realized that she didn’t so much feel the wand in her hand as she felt as if a part of her that had been missing had been reattached, as if she had been extended in some way.  Focusing on the feeling of the wand, she felt power, that crackle that made the hairs on her arms and neck stand, she felt wholeness, completion.  But there was also an undercurrent of something melancholy, something bittersweet.  She felt as if the wand had exposed parts of herself that she had carefully kept buried away.  As she opened her eyes to look at the wand again she realized, looking through teary eyes, that she was crying.

She heard a slight “ahem” behind her, and turned to find Mr. Ollivander looking at her with a soft fondness. “It can be a bit overwhelming when our wands choose us,” he said knowingly.

“It’s not that, really,” Seraphina answered, not exactly sure what it was she was feeling. “It’s maybe that - how could a piece of wood rip into my soul like this?  How could it make me feel so complete and yet also like I’ve been missing something essential for so long?  It feels like a part of me and it makes me feel alive, more alive than I’ve ever known.”

“Yes, well, when we are united with our wands, we come to a sort of completion.  They channel us.  They understand us.  And, as you well know, that is no mere piece of wood that you hold in your hand,” he said, as he walked closer to her, running his fingers reverently over the wand. “What you hold is mahogany inlaid with ash, with a jasper finial and thestral hair core – rare, those, and very special. 13-3/4 inches, rather long for a woman, but you are rather tall, aren’t you? The thestral hair core seeks those unafraid to face death, yet the ash absorbs illness and heals.  Ash is the father wood; it helps us seek out knowledge and aids in strength of purpose.  And while the ash and thestral hair may seem contradictory, they are actually remarkably compatible; after all, there would be no death without life, and death is simply the start of a new, unknown life, it is not?”

Seraphina watched Mr. Ollivander, enthralled as he explained the wand’s – her wand’s – properties.  He continued, still watching the wand in her hands, “Mahogany is a hard wood, very unyielding, good for those who are set in their ways.  It also helps in the absorption of knowledge, good for those with an insatiable thirst for learning.  And the jasper finial was a suggestion by the wizard who brought me the hair. Red jasper is a stone of physical strength and energy, stimulates gently and steadily, enhancing stamina and endurance.  It increases the amount of chi in one’s aura, which you could see would be useful in a wand with a thestral hair core. It is a stone of health and passion, and brings the courage to face unpleasant tasks and to rectify unjust situations.  And I see the vines have leafed out in your hand; this wand is drawing life from you and in turn sending you vitality.  It has become alive in your hands.”

Sarah was astonished.  She had been excited about wand shopping, thought it would be cool to get her magic stick.  She had no idea that she would be finding a piece of herself, something that has a pulse, something so alive, so whole.  Holding her wand was like a baptism into the world of magic; her old life was gone and the new had emerged.  She looked up at Mr. Ollivander again with watery eyes and cradled it to her heart.

“Who was the wizard that gave you the thestral hair?  Was he a wand maker?  He helped you make the wand, you said.”

“Yes, I was going to get to that.  You see, I don’t believe in coincidences.  When I saw you outside, even before I opened the door, I knew that this particular wand would be a strong contender.  I was actually hoping it would choose you.”

“Why?”

“Because you are connected to it.  Your father gave me that thestral hair.  It came from one of his favorite animals.  He called him Styx, said he was the most gentle animal he had ever worked with.  They don’t lose their hair often – they have so little of it – so when Styx shed the one in your wand your father brought it to me knowing its value.  He didn’t want anything in return, just suggested the jasper finial and asked that I make absolutely certain that it went to the right witch or wizard.  Thestral hair is fickle and difficult to create a bond with.  It often has to be won over, but you already know that, don’t you, judging from the tattoo on your shoulder.”

“The tattoo – how do you know about that?” she asked of the Deathly Hallows symbol on her shoulder.  “It’s covered!  No one knows about it but Erwin!”

“One can always spot a fellow believer,” Mr. Ollivander replied airily. “That reminds me.  You must be very careful with your knowledge of a certain other wand.  Might I suggest Occulomency lessons?  Your mind is an open book.  You shield memories away from yourself, but they are right there for others to see.”

Seraphina stood there stunned.  On the one hand, it explained how Mr. Ollivander knew so much about her so immediately, and she supposed legilimency would be a good skill in his profession, but she suddenly felt completely exposed.  And if he could see into her so easily, what would happen when she met Snape, or even worse, if she met Voldemort?

“I wouldn’t worry so much, Seraphina,” Mr. Ollivander said, answering her thoughts. “Severus Snape is all bark and no bite. Don’t get me wrong; one should never cross him – he holds grudges, that one – but his gruff exterior hides a very fragile, tender interior.  He has a tragic past as well; your tragedy might soften his attitude toward you.  But he has a tendency to ignore the hurts of others, he has so many of his own, you see.  He just looks in to glean what he needs, and then moves away.  He’s a most polite legilimens, much more polite than I am, really.  And as for Voldemort, well, let's just hope that he keeps quiet until you are a bit stronger.”

Behind her, the bell for the door tinkled.  She turned around to see Erwin standing in the door.

“It’s alright to come in.  Her wand has found her,” Mr. Ollivander said to him.

Erwin grinned and walked up to Seraphina, eyeing the wand. “She’s a beautiful wand, isn’t she?” he remarked, reaching out to touch it. When he did, he drew back his hand with a frown. “Don’t think you’ll have to worry about anyone stealing it; she seems to only want you.”

“Mr. Ollivander said that my father helped him make it.”

“Is that right?” he said, eyes aglow.

“Yes, he supplied the thestral hair core,” Mr. Ollivander smiled lovingly, as a parent does for a child.

“Well, now, that is special, isn’t it? And a thestral core!  You know, they often don’t care about who owns them.  They aren’t known for showing allegiance to anyone.  Perhaps it recognizes your father in you. Very rare indeed, and quite special is the wizard that wins one over,” he turned to Garrick. “What do we owe you, old friend?”

“Well, normally I would charge 10 galleons for a wand of this rarity; however, as the core was supplied by her father at no cost, I think 7 galleons would be sufficient.”

Erwin pulled a coin purse out of his pocket and counted out 7 coins. “I took a quick trip to Gringotts.  Turns out if you just want money and you’ve been there before they can magic up a coin purse for you.  Avoids the carts.  But I suspect we’ll be taking one of those next stop.”

Mr. Ollivander handed Sarah a dark, leather belt that had a small, circular opening attached to it. “It’s a wand holster.  It can be shrunk to fit around your arm or leg, if you so desire.  And it’s charmed to offer easy release of your wand, helpful in combat situations. Only a galleon more . . .”

Erwin chuckled and pulled out another galleon. “Happy to see that your money making spirit has not died, Garrick.  Can’t have her shoving a wand that lovely into her pockets, can we?”

Mr. Ollivander tiled his head to the side and winked.  He handed Seraphina a bag, in which he had placed the wand box, wrapped meticulously in tissue paper. He then came around the counter gave her the wand holster, then waved his wand, which sent the holster wrapping around Seraphina’s waist.  Reluctantly she placed her wand in the holder, and was pleased to find that she still felt as if she were holding the wand, that it was a part of her.

“I’ll owl you, Garrick,” said Erwin before they left. “We must catch up.  Of course, I’ll need to obtain an owl first, Eeylops seems to be in our future.”

“Until then,” Garrick answered as a goodbye, then turned and disappeared into the back of the shop.

Erwin opened the door and held it for Seraphina.  The day had become brighter and quite a bit warmer, and the streets had filled with more shoppers while Seraphina had been buying her wand.  She saw pre-teens and teenagers darting between the shops as they started their back to school shopping.  She didn’t recognize any of them, but that didn’t stop her curiosity of them, these students who she would be meeting in just a month.

“Albus had something come up, and he told me to tell you that Order members will be arriving today, so he’s switched you to another room so that Molly and Arthur can have theirs.  He assured me that Kreacher had cleaned it thoroughly.  It seems your little elf has been quite busy since we arrived.”

“He’s not my elf, Erwin.  I just put him to work.  He’s assured me that he will obey Sirius.”

“Yes, well, he was quite foul in the books; I’ll be surprised if his newfound attitude extends to everyone who visits.”

Erwin was leading the way down the street.  As they turned by another curve in the road, Seraphina was met by a huge, imposing marble building that gleamed in the sunlight.  It had massive Corinthian columns lining its front and a gleaming copper dome that Seraphina could barely see, such was the height of the building.  It was perfectly symmetrical, with oblong windows along its front and a plaque beside the imposing, bronze, double doors that read “Gringotts Wizarding Bank, est. 1474.”

They walked up to the doors and past a goblin guard, who seemed not to notice their presence.  Erwin opened them, and they entered a gleaming marble entryway, in which stood two more guards flanking an enormous pair of silver doors engraved with the words:

Enter, stranger, but take heed

Of what awaits the sin of greed

For those who take, but do not earn,

Must pay most dearly in their turn.

So if you seek beneath our floors

A treasure that was never yours,

Thief, you have been warned, beware

Of finding more than treasure there.”

 

Seraphina poked Erwin in the ribs and squealed as she pointed out the word on the door, that were just as they were in the books.  As they stepped toward the doors, the goblins moved into place and opened them, revealing the banking hall within.

And it was just as Seraphina imagined: grand, large, imposing, made of gleaming marble and bronze, lined with goblins seated at high desks behind screens, helping patrons with a sneer.  Erwin fished around in his pocket and gave Sarah a folded piece of parchment. “Albus told me to take this to the Head Goblin.  You are to hand it to him.”

They walked to the end of the hall and came to the highest desk, behind which sat a goblin with the sourest look on his face that Sarah had ever seen.  He glared at them for what seemed an eternity, then leaned forward and said, “State your business.”

Seraphina quickly handed the goblin the parchment, which was promptly unfolded and scrutinized.  While reading the parchment, the goblin looked over top of it at Seraphina, then back at the note several times, his expression never wavering.  He put the paper down, pointed at it, causing it to burst into flames and then completely disappear.

“You are and are not Sarah Douglas,” he stated, eyes narrowed.

“Um, yes, that’s correct,” Seraphina answered.

“Wand, please,” he demanded, hand opened to receive.  He grimaced slightly when he held it.  He handed it back to her, then said, “Just one moment while I retrieve your key,” then headed through a door behind him.

“He’s the second person to react negatively to my wand,” Sarah noted.

“Well, it’s made its choice.  It doesn’t seem to play well with others, which is a good thing.  You don’t want others to covet it; you know what happens when a wand is coveted . . .”

Sarah nodded her head in understanding.  She wondered where Mr. Sour Goblin had wandered off to, and then decided to ask him his name, as Mr. Sour Goblin wasn’t very respectful, and goblins seemed to demand respect.

Just as she had finished that thought, the door reopened and the goblin emerged, holding an old-fashioned, small, silver key. He held it out for her to take.  When she did, he motioned for her to follow him, stating, “This way, please.”

They were headed toward the vaults.  Erwin clapped his hands excitedly beside Seraphina, who smirked, which the goblin growled in disapproval in front of them.

“Sir,” Seraphina asked, “I was wondering what your name was.”

The goblin stopped walking and turned around. “No one asks us our names,” was his answer.

“Is it wrong to ask your name?  I’m sorry if it is; I don’t mean any disrespect.”

“No, no so much wrong, as not so much done.  People don’t seem to want to know our names.”

“Well, perhaps it’s because you come across as quite stern,” Seraphina observed.

“That is simply our nature,” the goblin answered shortly, then continued, “my name is Garnaff Earrigg.” He then turned on his heal and continued to lead them to the vault.

They were led through a nondescript wooden door into the cave structure of the vaults.  Garnaff bowed to another goblin standing in front of vault 1; that goblin pulled forward a mine cart and opened the door for all of them.  Garnaff situated himself in the front and turned to watch as Seraphina and Erwin sat in the back.  The new goblin said in a monotone, “Keep your hands in the cart, stay seated.  If at any time you feel that you may get sick, please inform your driver.  We hope to bring you safety and service.  Have a nice day.”

The cart took off like a shot.  Seraphina grabbed onto Erwin’s hand as there was nothing to hold onto in the mine cart.  Erwin watched placidly as they sped by vault after vault, and then smiled when Seraphina started at a roar that came from somewhere deeper in the vaults.  To the front of them, the rails seemed to drop off into a bottomless abyss; just as they approached the drop off they veered sharply to the right then dropped several stories.  The rail split again; this time they were sent to on a downward spiral through a tight cylinder of doors that sped by too quickly for Seraphina to see their numbers.  Seraphina tightened her grip on Erwin, who was laughing, clearly enjoying this trip through the vaults. They leveled out, then started to gradually slow down as they reached one quick dip then stopped suddenly, so suddenly that Sarah was sure that she had whiplash.  Just as she thought they had come to a stop, the cart whipped to the left on a circular track and took off again, fell down another story, and finally came to a stop in front of a row of vaults with large, peaked doors traversed by iron straps.  The wood on the doors was smooth and darkened with age and the flagstones in front of a few of the vaults had been worn away to dip at the entrances.  Garnaff climbed out of the mine cart and led Seraphina and Erwin to one such door (the floor was not quite so worn away) with a small bronze plaque that said “No. 544.”

Seraphina took the key (which she had clutched so tightly during the ride that it had left an indentation on her hand) and placed it into the lock.  When she turned it, she heard gears turning and mechanisms falling into place.  This stopped, and the door opened just a fraction.

Sarah took the wrought iron handle and pushed open the door.  As she did, torches that lined the walls of the vault flared to life.  At once she was met with piles of silver and gold, furniture, paintings, and various other objects that must have held some sort of significance.  The ceiling of the vault was arched, reminding Seraphina of an ancient wine cellar.  The walls were cobblestone and spotted with rust and mustard colored lichens.

Garnaff stood sentry in the hall as Sarah entered her vault.  She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do at this point.  Erwin followed her in and walked over to a large china hutch.  Sarah followed.

“This is your parent’s wedding china. It’s Wedgewood, the Imari Claw Pattern.  Antique and quite rare, but your mother saw it and had to have it.  She always knew what she wanted, much like her daughter.” He continued to look at the items in the cabinet and stopped on a small locket.  He opened the cabinet, took it out, opened it, and gave it to Sarah.

Inside was a small picture of a stunningly beautiful, tall, slim woman in old fashioned swimwear.  Her brown hair was done up in sleek siderolls and the back was drawn up into a curly ponytail.  She was posing and winking playfully at the camera.

“That is your grandmother Evelyn.  Your father’s mother.  Evelyn Crouch.  She gave that to Albion, your grandfather, Aberforth and Rosaleen’s son, before he went off with Albus to track down Grindelwald and stop him for good.  You should take it.”

She put it in her pocket after snapping it shut.  “There’s so much in here.  If we go through all of it we’ll be here all day.”

“I’m sure they can give you a manifest of the contents if you’d like.  It might help you to know what you have.  One should always have a firm handle on one's finances.  Now I suppose we should get you some money,” he said, pulling a moneybag out of his doctor’s bag. “You can charge all of your supplies and books, anything that you buy here on Diagon Alley and in Hogsmeade.  The money will automatically be deducted and paid to the merchants.  But it’s nice to have a bit of spending cash, and there are a few merchants like Garrick who haven’t converted to charging.  So I think 100 galleons should get you started nicely.  It possibly will take you through the school year, what with your salary at Hogwarts and the free meals and board.”  He waved his wand and Seraphina watched as coins flew into the money bag.  He waved his wand at the bag again; “To lighten it up,” he explained.

“I thought you weren’t any good at magic,” Seraphina remarked. “You seem to be able to do a lot with that wand.”

“Oh, these spells are pretty basic, first year stuff.  It’s the combat and defense that I’m bullocks at.” He stood scanning the room, then walked to the rear of the vault and opened a small silver box.  He turned around and walked behind Seraphina. “Hold your hair up, I’ve a necklace to give you,” he said. Sarah did so, and he placed what looked to be a garden variety crystal around her neck that was held on a long chain, long enough to hide under her clothing. As she tucked it in, it fell directly over her heart, and she felt a strong feeling of love flood through her body.

“That necklace was made by your mother and father.  It was to be given to you when you went to Hogwarts, so that you would always remember that they loved you.  So that you would never feel alone.”

Sarah felt her eyes filling with tears for the parents that she could not remember.  She touched the crystal through her shirt hoping that it would tell her more about her parents.  She got nothing more than the overwhelming feeling that they had loved her with all of their hearts.  That, she supposed, was more than enough.

“Well, let’s ask Garnaff for that manifest when we leave.  It will give you something to study tonight,” Erwin said smiling, then took her hand to lead her back to Gringott’s lobby.

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Seraphina and Erwin were back again on Diagon alley when Sarah’s eye was drawn to Eeylops Owl Emporium.  “We need owls, don’t we?” she asked Erwin.

“Yes, owls would be very convenient.  And you could get a crup or kneazle, too, to take with you to Hogwarts,” he answered as he led her into Eeylops.  They were immediately accosted with the rancid scent of bird droppings and the shrill screech of the smaller owls.

A shop person scurried up to them wearing leather gloves and a leather apron, under which he wore off-white, rather soiled robes. “May I help you?” he asked.

“Yes, we’d like to buy some owls,” Seraphina answered.

The shop keeper eyed Seraphina and Erwin as if trying to place them, then said “American, eh?  I have something that just might interest you.  He led them into the store into a circular owlery that was lined with straw and the walls of which were streaked white with bird droppings.  He walked up to a nook and held out his arm, bringing over to Seraphina the most magnificent great horned owl she had ever seen. “She’s a bit heavier than she looks – now just put your arm out, then.”

Seraphina held out her arm and watched as the owl tilted its head slightly, appraising her.  She then screeched, hooted a few times, and flew over to Seraphina’s arm.  As she landed, she scooted in toward Seraphina’s body and cuddled her head into the side of her neck, her wings outstretched.

“She likes you; look at her giving you a hug and a snuggle,” the shop keeper remarked delightedly.  She was enormous, 2 feet tall, her wings completely surrounding Seraphina, and she must have been at least 2 or 3 pounds.  Seraphina noted that she smelled like the pine trees in Ohio, and new instantly that this was her owl.

“I’ll take her,” she said, “and everything that goes with her. Stock me up.”

Erwin was at her side with a small barn owl standing on his shoulder. “I’m going to call him Cletus, He reminds me of home,” he said to Sarah, the turned to kiss at his new companion.

The shop keeper looked at the two of them, obviously delighted that he was selling two owls with all of the accessories.  He walked out of the owlery and set about the shop collecting everything that Seraphina and Erwin would need for their birds.  He then walked to the front counter where Seraphina, Erwin and their owls stood waiting for him.  He was carrying a small handled bag which he set down on the counter.

“I’ve taken the liberty of shrinking everything down.  Now Cletus is a little fellow and doesn’t need much, but your owl,” he said, looking at Sarah, “she has rather different requirements.  She needs a large cage to move about freely and quite a bit in the way of pellets and treats.  You’ll also want to make sure that you let her out to hunt every night as she has a large appetite for the rodents.  If you can’t, I’m told the muggle pet shops sell frozen mice, but you’ll want to give her a few of them and thaw them out before you feed her.”  After working through some beads on an abacus, he said, “That will be 20 galleons, 6 knuts.”

“That’s rather a lot, isn’t it?” Erwin asked.

“Well, both of your owls were imported and her’s,” he motioned toward Seraphina, “is a rather wonderful specimen.  And as I’ve already said, she eats a lot.”

“It’s okay, Erwin,” Sarah said, “Can you charge it to my Gringott’s account?”

“I’ll just need to touch your wand.”

Seraphina presented her hip and the shopkeeper touched her wand and shuddered as he did. “Tetchy wand you’ve got there,” he remarked.

“That seems to be the general consensus,” Seraphina answered.

The shopkeeper handed the bag over to Erwin and said, “You’ll just want to tell the owls where to go to, and they can fly to your home.  Saves you carrying them around as you do your shopping.”

Erwin thanked the shopkeeper and they walked back outside.  He led Sarah down a side alley and looked around, then waved his wand about in a figure eight. “I have to make sure no one is watching or listening,” he explained, then turned to Cletus and said “Number 12 Grimmauld Place.” Sarah did the same and marveled at her yet-unnamed owl as she unfurled her enormous wings, which spanned 5 feet, and flew off.

Erwin led Sarah back onto the main road. “Well, I think Fortescue’s, then books, then home,” he proposed, walking back toward the ice cream shop.

“Just as long as I don’t have to eat any candied lacewings,” Sarah answered, scrunching up her nose.

“They are quite good, just so you know.  They have other flavors, though, ones you’ll like.  I’m quite fond of the caraway, but that might be a bit exotic for you.”

“Well, then, lead the way,” Seraphina said, and took Erwin’s hand as they continued their exploration of Diagon Alley.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Flourish and Blotts was more of a wonderland than Seraphina could have ever dreamed.  Books crowded the shelves and were piled on ever counter and in every corner.  The staircase leading to the second floor could barely be traversed due to the huge piles of books on every riser.  There was a thrum of magic in the air that made Seraphina’s skin crackle.

Erwin produced yet another parchment from his bag and handed it to the shop keeper at the front counter. “Could you pull these books and send them to Hogwarts, care of Sarah Douglas?  She has an account at Gringotts to be charged against,” he inquired.  The shopkeeper nodded his head, waved his wand, and books flew from all directions into a pile on the counter.  Seraphina recognized
Advanced Potion-Making and The Standard Book of Spells (years 1 through 7!).  These were joined by thick books on magical botany, medicine, runes, and arithmancy.  The shopkeeper then shrunk the books, wrapped them in a small package, and took them to the back to presumably be sent to Hogwarts.

“Now,” Erwin said, “let’s introduce you to Flourish and Blotts.”  He led Seraphina back into the book shelves and pointed out sections on different areas of magic, pulling a book here and there, saying it would be useful to either Seraphina or him.  Seraphina learned that the store was comprised of multiple rooms and corridors, and the layout seemed to have absolutely no rhyme or reason.  They wandered into a section of Magical Fiction, from which Erwin pulled a few more books for Seraphina (“Magical classics,” he said), walked through another section of muggle fiction and non-fiction (that held an assortment of telephone books from American and Canadian cities dated in the late 1980s and multiple technical manuals to everyday muggle appliances, among other odd choices).  Then came a room of records and cassette tapes from both wizard and muggle artists, then a corridor of art and crafting books (Seraphina looked briefly at the books about runic embroidery and charmed knitting).

They came to a doorway with a sign that stated “Restricted Section: No One Under 17 Permitted,” which immediately peaked Seraphina’s curiosity.

“Ah, my favorite room – The Restricted Section,” grinned Erwin, grabbing Seraphina by the hand and leading her in.

There was another shopkeeper and counter at the entrance to the room, and behind the counter was a wood and glass bookshelf filled with ancient books.  Seraphina noticed that the glass looked as if it was rippling.

“Those are the most Restricted Books, really rare or dark or expensive; they typically require a very advanced understanding of magic to even be read,” explained Erwin. “The shelves are warded and only the shopkeeper has access to them.”

As she wandered the shelves, she saw sections for The Darkest of Artes and Paranormal Magical Studies, and walked aisles that felt too sinister to continue down, too overwhelmingly addictive, and one or two that seemed to call to her (and, at the same time, terrified her).  Then she heard Erwin shout “Here it is!” and walked to find him thumbing through a book entitled Kama Sutra the Magical Way.

“Of course,” she smirked at her uncle. “You’ve probably been itching to get here since we landed in The Leaky Cauldron.”

“Well, dear, you can’t tell me that you didn’t want to explore a bit when you found that sex book earlier today.  You know, I may be an aging wizard, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a certain drive,” he didn’t look up at her, preferring to study the undulating couples performing acrobatic sexual acts that Seraphina doubted were even possible. “Now you go explore.  I know that this is a touchy subject for you, but it’s been a long time.  Some night time reading material might do you some good.”

Seraphina sighed, and then looked at the titles on the shelves.  The titles mirrored those in muggle stores and covered all areas of sex.  She picked up Magical Sex and opened it and was met by a very hairy man and ample bosomed woman standing naked holding hands, the man’s penis becoming engorged and the woman’s nipples becoming more rosy and peaked.  They looked like the hairy hippie couple from the original Joy of Sex, and seemed to be just as into each other.  In a few pages, there was a graphic, moving picture of them engaged in missionary sex and an accompanying description.  She paged back to the table of contents and looked at the sections: Sexual Positions, Magical Intimacy, Sex Magic (which Seraphina thought could be interesting), and then was stopped short as a chapter title jumped out at her. Sexual Intimacy After Assault.

She shut the book quickly and closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing.  She could feel Erwin’s eyes on her, so she quickly opened them and looked at him reassuringly.  She put the book under her arm to hold it and said, “Maybe I’ll get this.”

“It might be a good thing, if you’re ready,” he answered, then held out a book, saying, “this might help, too.”

The book was entitled Survivor: Getting on with Life After Sexual Assault.  Sarah swallowed thickly and quickly took the book, adding it to the one under her arm.

“Are you alright?” Erwin asked.

“I guess so.  It’s just hard, you know?”  Erwin nodded.  Sarah continued. “You know the thing I hate the most?  It’s that before it happened, I really loved sex.  I mean really, really loved it.  I was up for anything, you know, wanted to try it all.  And then it happened and it felt wrong to want it anymore.  I mean, for a while, I didn’t, for a long while, but recently, I’ll see someone, and I have the dirtiest thoughts.  Like, it’s not that I want to have loving sex, I want to be fucked.  Really fucked, and it feels so wrong to want that.  And I can’t even tell you about my issues with trust.”  She shook her head while looking at her feet.

“Get down here,” Erwin said, pointing at the floor.  He only demanded this when he wanted to make an important point, when he wanted to make sure he was getting through to Seraphina.  She knelt in front of him and looked him in the eyes.  He set down his books on the floor and took both of her hands in his.

“You want Remus, don’t you?” Erwin asked gently, then touched Sarah’s upper arm and looked her in the eye. “You know it’s perfectly normal to have urges, don’t you?  And it’s okay. Even if all you want is a good fucking.”

Seraphina laughed derisively and looked down.

“No Seraphina, look at me and listen to me,” Seraphina complied. “You are a human being with human urges.  You are a vibrant, beautiful woman who is allowed to have sexual urges and thoughts.  You did nothing wrong before, and there is nothing wrong with what you want now.  You know that there is no pressure to act on those urges and that trust is earned with time.  You are still healing and you are allowed to take all of the time that you need to heal.  And when you are ready, you are allowed to have sex.  You are allowed to read books about it and talk about it.  You are allowed your fantasies and your crushes and you are allowed to date and more than that, you are allowed to love.  You are allowed to love, Seraphina, it is my greatest wish for you, that you allow yourself to love. I am always here.  You know that, yes?”

Seraphina nodded.

“Alright.  Good.  You can stand up.  I think I’ve said all that there is to say on the matter.  But I will always, always be here for a talk, even if what you want to say seems crude or too much.  Even if you’ve had that good fucking that wasn’t making love and you need someone to help you process it.  I am no prude and I love you unconditionally.”

Erwin continued to hold Seraphina’s hand until she stood.  He then hugged her tightly, stood back and regarded her, his hands holding hers.

“Well, then.  I believe we’ve had quite a day, wouldn’t you say?  I think butterbeer, or perhaps something a mite stronger, is in order.  What say you, dear?”

“I’ve always wondered about butterbeer,” Seraphina answered quietly.

“Well, then, butterbeer it is.”

Chapter Text

When Seraphina and Erwin stepped out of the fireplace into Grimmauld Place they entered into a world of unadulterated chaos.  In the sitting room was a sea of ginger heads, two of which were apperating from one couch to another in rapid succession, the other two laughing uproariously.  Madame Black’s portrait must have been woken up, as Seraphina heard someone screeching, “Filthy bloodtraitors, scum of humanity, besmirching the House of Black!” and other pleasant asides.  There were multiple footsteps tramping about overhead, a from deep in the basement a woman yelled, “Ronald Bilius Weasley!  I said GET DOWN HERE!”

“It seems the Weasleys have entered the building,” Erwin whispered to Seraphina.

Just as she and Erwin stepped out of the fireplace, Remus came running into the parlour, looking more than a bit frazzled. “Oh, good!  There you are!” he said breathlessly, grabbing Seraphina by the hand.  “Kreacher has gone on revolt and there are two mystery owls in your room that won’t leave.”  He then thrust her into the hallway (leaving Erwin behind in the room of Weasleys), where Kreacher was perched on a sideboard kneeling and rending his tea towel in front of a now bellowing Walburga Black.

“How dare the half-breed stand before me with another intruder in MY house!” she demanded of Kreacher.

“Madame Black, Mistress Seraphina is a Black.  She has been most kind to Kreacher,” he replied in explanation, eyes wide and head bowed.

“So YOU are the soiled offspring of my treasonous sister?” she said icily to Seraphina, eyeing her with pinched forehead and mouth. “A disgrace to this house, and you stand here, as if you BELONG?  Vile, wretched bitch WHORE, muddying my floors, stealing my elf, how DARE you – “

Seraphina froze. “What did you call me?” she asked coldly, turning steely eyes on the portrait, an burning ire forming in her belly.

“I called you a BITCH  and a WHORE!  Just like your blood traitor mother, marrying that disgusting half-blood, besmirching our parents . . .”

“That will be QUITE enough!” Seraphina bellowed back at Walburga, who had not ceased her tirade, and whose curtains were resisting being pulled closed by both Remus and Kreacher, who was looking back and forth between Seraphina and the portrait with fear.

At this point, all of the Weasleys and Erwin had crowded into the hallway and Sirius was looking on disgustedly from the stairs.  Though she could not place them, Seraphina felt eyes watching from elsewhere, but she was more concerned with the loathsome woman in front of her than her unidentifiable watcher.

Without realizing that she had done so, she grabbed her wand and pointed it toward the portrait, still screaming obscenities at her.  By this point, her father, mother, Sirius, Aberforth, and Albus had been insulted, and Seraphina felt her temper (which had burst forth before at words far less loathsome than Madame Black’s) reach a fever pitch, filling her with a fury that she could not contain.

“I said ENOUGH!” she yelled, pointing her wand directly between her aunt’s eyes.  “You are nothing more than a horrible, vicious portrait and you will NOT speak about me or ANYONE ELSE that way EVER again!  SHUT YOUR MOUTH!”

Seraphina felt power flow from her core, from the center of her rage, out of the wand and watched as a nearly blinding white jet engulfed the picture.  A second later, the flash of light cleared, and Walburga Black sat pounding the arms of the chair that she was sitting in, and then clawing at her lips, which apparently had been fixed shut.

Seraphina stared in mixed astonishment and pride at the portrait, realizing what she had done, though not really knowing how.  She heard mutterings of “Wicked!” and “Whoa” from the Weasley children, wails from Kreacher, and, before she could comprehend what was happening, was grabbed soundly by the upper arms and forcefully pulled down the steps into the kitchen by a large man with a fierce, gnarled face, false leg, and roaming, magical eye.

He shoved her unceremoniously into a chair, his face inches from her, a frown deeply set on his mouth and his magical eye roaming over her entire face and body.  She also felt what she thought was the tip of a wand pressing firmly into her carotid artery.

She felt others in the room, but dared not look around in fear of her life at the hands of one Alastor Moody.

“Easy there, Alastor,” she heard Remus slowly say, “she’s one of us.  Why don’t you lower the wand?”

“How did you do that?” Alastor Moody asked gruffly, demanding an answer.

“I – I don’t know.  I just got angry and it happened.” Seraphina answered warily.

“Alastor, you need to listen to me,” Remus was saying in soothing tones. “She is safe, Albus brought her here last night, Sirius and I spent a good deal of time with her. I’m not sure what Albus wants you to know about her, so perhaps back off a bit and lower the wand?”  Remus had placed his hand gently on the back of Seraphina’s neck and was gently squeezing and releasing, squeeze and release, which served to both calm her and send pings of desire through her core.  Remus Lupine was good with his hands, it seemed.

Moody was staring into Seraphina’s eyes with both of his, a fierce expression on his face. “That magic you performed, it was wild? You are untrained?”

Seraphina fractionally nodded her head.

“Remarkable,” he muttered to himself, lowering his wand. “We’ve all tried to quiet that portrait – wretched, vile woman.  We’ve used every spell, incantation, potion – even some dark magic (we’ll keep that between you and me), and your wild magic did the trick,” he kept talking, as if to himself. “You’ll need training – a lot of it, don’t kid yourself, wild magic is unpredictable at best, deadly at its worst – you’ll need discipline, direction - but I think we can turn you into a fighter.  Yes, a great fighter at that.”

“And we have plans for that.” Albus’s voice came from the direction of the kitchen floo, to the right and behind Seraphina. “As I have told you, Alastor, she will be going with me to Hogwarts to prepare her for what’s to come.”  He looked at Alastor’s hand, which was tightly clutching his wand. “I hope that you did not hold Seraphina at wand point, Alastor.”

Moody huffed, as if the question were ridiculous. “Only for a moment, Albus.  She silenced Walburga Black.  What sort of witch does something that complicated with wild magic?  I wasn’t going to take any chances.”

Albus looked as Seraphina, his brow creased in thought. “You silenced the portrait?”

“Got angry, pointed her wand, and sealed the bitch’s lips shut.  Just like that,” Moody said bluntly.

No one spoke for a moment.  Sirius broke the silence with, “Well, I, for one, am happy that someone was able to shut up the old bat,” which was met with nervous laughter.

‘You mean to tell me,” came a sonorous voice from behind her, “that you just waved your wand and you did that?  That portrait is heavily charmed Albus; it has wards around it the likes of which I’ve never seen.”

Seraphina turned in her chair to find a tall, handsome man, skin the darkest ebony, in royal purple robes staring at her with a mix of confusion and admiration.  To his left was a shorter, plump red-headed woman wearing an apron and yellow rubber gloves, staring open mouthed at her.  Seated beside her was a thinner, red-headed man in a slightly thread bare brown, tweed suit with kind eyes and a bewildered smile.  Across from him, on the same side of the table as Seraphina, sat a younger witch with a sleek purple bob and lovely purple eyes who was looking between her and Remus with barely disguised jealousy.

“Yes?” Seraphina answered, and then looked back at Albus, who was looking at her still in his maddeningly unreadable way.

“Wicked,” a redhead said from the door, and for the first time since returning to Grimmauld Place, Seraphina smiled at a tall, ruddy, rugged looking boy flanked by twin gingers that were smirking at Seraphina.  A gorgeous, pale girl, also ginger, stood on her tiptoes behind them in the doorway trying to see what the commotion was about.

Molly Weasley rushed around the table to push the children out of the kitchen to a chorus of protests, and then waved her wand at the door, locking it.  She looked up and down Erwin, who was standing to the side of the door near Albus, then went back to her place behind Arthur Weasley.

Albus took a deep breath, looked around the room, and then said, “Everyone, please take a seat.  I would like to call this meeting of the Order of the Phoenix to order; we are being joined today by Seraphina and Erwin, whose presence will be explained shortly. Severus and Minerva will be joining us as soon as they can get away from their duties at Hogwarts.  Mundingus has sent his regrets but will not be able to join us today.”

“Do you really think that’s wise, Albus, inviting strangers into the meeting?“ Kingsley Shacklebolt began, adjusting himself in a seat that was much too small for him.

“I assure you, Kingsley, having Sarah and Erwin present poses no threat.  I have known Erwin for longer than I can remember and Seraphina, well, I’ve known her for her entire life. They are part of the Light and I trust them implicitly,” Albus answered.  He then turned to Moody, who had not taken a seat, and said, “There was a reason I told you in particular not to hold Seraphina at wand point, Alastor.  I would ask you in the future to follow my orders.  One slip and you could have killed my brother’s only other living relative.”

A loud murmur had broken out around the table.  Seraphina felt Sirius, who had taken a seat to her left with Remus to her right, take her hand and squeeze it.

Another whoosh sounded from the fireplace, and Seraphina found herself stunned as she took in the man who stood in front of the fireplace. Dressed from head to toe in black, head held high, eyeing everyone down his hooked nose with slightly disdainful, deep brown, almost black, eyes, was a towering man whom Seraphina thought could have walked directly out of a novel on Regency England. His knee-length tailored coat flared about him, numerous ebony buttons lining its sleeves and placket; Seraphina just knew that there was an impeccable white shirt and waistcoat beneath it. His jet black hair was pulled back with a black ribbon; his skin was exquisitely pale and unblemished.  His nose came to a hook, and while it appeared large in relation to the rest of his features, it wasn’t nearly the largest nose that Seraphina had ever seen.  This man couldn’t be Severus Snape.  This man was gorgeous.

The fireplace flared again and out stepped a smaller, older woman, face wrinkled, grey hair pulled back severely into a bun.  On her nose rested a pair of rectangular, wire spectacles; her mouth was slightly pinched.  She wore a tartan grey robe with a scarlet ribbon tied at the neck, a thistle pin on her breast, and a matching grey tam on her head.

“Albus, sorry to keep you waiting,” she said to him in a thick Scottish brogue.  She then addressed the rest of the room, pausing a moment to size up Seraphina and Erwin (was that a hint of a smile when she looked at him?). “A large order arrived from Flourish and Blotts, and Severus had his potions ingredients come in; preparing for the students and such.” She then sat down stiffly beside Kingsley Shacklebolt and nodded a hello to him.

Seraphina felt Sirius kick her shin under the table at the same time she noticed that Severus was looking at her, appraising her, and then Erwin, before he withdrew the closest seat to him and sat down, not saying a word to anyone and turning his attention to Albus.  To her left, she felt the possession of Remus intensify as he placed a hand on her thigh, which she quickly and politely removed while looking at him with stern, disapproving eyes.  A bit further down the table, Tonks was looking at her with a death glare; Seraphina wondered how Remus hadn’t figured out that Tonks had a wild crush on him.

Seraphina looked down as a small, folded piece of parchment was placed in front of her.  Unfolding it, she read, “I thought he was supposed to be ugly?!!” in Erwin’s handwriting.  She looked at him and gave him an “I know!” look in reply, which resulted in a restrained smile on Erwin’s face.  Sirius grabbed the paper and read it, then let out a disgusted huff, incinerating the paper with his wand, causing Erwin to chuckle out loud and every head to swivel in his direction.  He raised his hand and waved hello meekly.

“Now that everyone has arrived that will be arriving,” Albus said, nodding at Severus and Minerva, who both nodded back, “I believe introductions are in order.” He paused, and then continued. “As you all know, a number of years ago, Aberforth’s family was murdered in an ambush by Gellart Gridelwald’s followers.  What you don’t know is that there were two survivors.” Low murmurs rose around the room as Albus continued. “Before you sit Seraphina Dumbledore, Aberforth’s great-granddaughter and Erwin Whitacre, professor of physics, who I’m sure at least one of you recognize.” he said, looking at Minerva.

Seraphina looked down the table toward Minerva and was startled to find Severus Snape staring at her from under a darkened brow, his gaze burning, appraising, and intense.  She looked down at her hands quickly, a bit embarrassed to be studied so closely.

Albus did not pause as questions started to be fired at him; he simply raised his voice and continued, explaining Aberforth’s and his decision to send Erwin and her into hiding, neglecting to mention that “hiding” was a parallel universe.  He did explain that Sarah was in need of magical education as she had been raised without magic (though had demonstrated rather remarkable wild magic), his plans for her education at Hogwarts (which led to more unrestrained examination by Severus and Minerva), that until her real identity was discovered she would go by her previous name to preserve some of her privacy as she settled in, and that Erwin and Seraphina were in possession of some knowledge about their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Delores Umbridge.

Erwin set about explaining Professor Umbridge’s plans to the Order.  He also threw in a few slick lies about how he’d come to possess the knowledge (Albus and he must have been doing some proper scheming to pull the lies off so flawlessly) and told the Order that he’d asked Seraphina what could be done about such a situation on a purely theoretical basis.  Sort of a thought exercise, something he had actually done with her often.  Occasionally Albus would throw in a thought here or there; otherwise, the Order members listened intently.

As Erwin talked, Seraphina worked up her courage and looked at Severus again.  He was still looking at her, though not quite so severely; it was as if something about her had clicked in his mind and he was trying to process it.  As soon as she met his gaze it was his turn to look quickly away, turning his attention to Albus.

Sirius leaned in toward Seraphina’s ear, “Quite playing eye-footsies with the git,” he said in barely concealed annoyance. “Remus is likely to turn and rip his throat out.”

“Remus is not allowed to rip his throat out, and I am not doing whatever you said I was doing.  He was staring at me.  So I looked back.” Seraphina whispered in frustration.  “I don’t need the two of you protecting me from him. For Christ’s sake, Sirius, you and Remus need to stop!”

Albus had begun speaking again. “If any of you have any suggestions as to how we can deal with this incursion of the ministry, I would like to hear them,” he said, opening the floor to comments.

“Can’t you stop her entering the school?” Molly Weasley asked in alarm.

“I’m afraid the Ministry is rather insistent that Delores join our staff,” Albus answered.  He then looked at Seraphina. “Perhaps Seraphina has a few suggestions? She has had more time to focus on the matter,” he said, a slight smile on his lips.

The entire table was now staring at her.  Remus and Sirius both squeezed her hands, encouraging her to talk. Before she could open her mouth to speak, however, Severus interrupted.

“I fail to see how someone who is new to magic and who has been in hiding for her entire life would have any advice on this matter.  ‘Thought exercises’ can hardly address an incursion by the Ministry. Surely she would be better sitting there between her obvious paramours preening and fluttering as she has been this entire time.”

Seraphina was aghast.  Eyes widened in shock, she leered at Severus and said, “I didn’t just hear you say that I’ve been preening and fluttering just now, did I?  Because that’s what I thought I heard you say.” 

Severus sneered. “Yes, In fact, I did say those exact words.  It is nauseating sitting here, watching your,” he paused for effect, “admirers – paw at you.  Is it really necessary, Remus, to broadcast your perversions so clearly to me?  I knew you were twisted, but really, Remus. At least wait until we’ve all left; we are all able to read minds, and yours is so,” another pause, “open.”

Remus leapt out of his chair, pointing his finger at Severus, face red with rage. “Don’t you ever talk that way to her, you miserable excuse for a man!  I’ve tried, Severus, I’ve tried for years to be kind to you, to understand you, but you’ve gone too far this time!”

Severus remained seated, hands folded on the table, bemused expression on his face, “Defending your property, are you Remus?”

At this, Seraphina jumped up. “I have had ENOUGH!” she shouted at both of them. “Enough of you, Remus, smothering me like I belong to you, when I’ve told you that I can’t – I’ve been reasonable.  So now, now I am TELLING you to BACK. The FUCK. OFF and put your wolf dick AWAY!” And then, turning toward Severus, voice quieter and deadly cold, she pointed at him and said, “I may not be trained, but I’ve done magic in the last 24 hours that I’ve been told is without precedent; namely, just an hour ago I waved my wand and plastered Walburga Black’s lips together for an eternity.  And I don’t even know how I did it, just that I wanted to.  So try me; go on. It’d be interesting to see what I can do to that sneer.” She paused, stared hard into his eyes, and continued, “I’m beginning to understand why they say the things they do about you.  You don’t even fucking know me and you talk to me like that?  Who the fuck do you think you are?” she stopped and stared into his eyes, willing him to say more.  His hard expression did not change, but he kept his mouth shut.

Finally, it was Sirius’s turn to face Seraphina’s wrath. She was a bit less cold, but no less stern. “Sirius, you are the family I never knew I wanted and I’ve grown to love you for it.  But this thing between you and the bloody goth across the table – it has got to stop!  You are a grown man, so start acting like it.  Grow the fuck up.” She sat down and roughly pulled her chair in, still fuming.

The room was silent and once again, Seraphina was met with looks of undisguised shock and awe.  She turned her fiery eyes on Albus.

“Well,” he said after a moment, “I was warned about Seraphina’s temper, and I believe we’ve all been witness to a demonstration of it.  I believe that may be all the proof we need to see that Seraphina is, in fact, my brother’s grand-daughter.” A few people at the table genuinely laughed; Albus continued, “Perhaps a quick break while I speak to her, and I’d ask Sirius, Remus and Severus to stay as well.”

No one moved for a moment, and then Kingsley stood and announced, “I hear Kreacher’s been doing some repairs; perhaps we should adjourn to the sitting room and admire them?”  One by one they all nodded and, after a bit of chairs scratching and a jumble of people trying to fit through the basement door, the room was quiet.

 

_________________________________________

 

Severus Snape sat statue-like in his chair, feeling cowed and slightly ashamed and yet trying desperately not to show it.  He had spent his life hiding his feelings from everyone, from his abusive father, who missed no opportunity to mock and beat him for even the least alleged offense, to Lucius, his so called best friend, who took every confidence and used it, however subtly, against him, to Lily, who he had loved desperately while she fell in love with his sworn enemy, his bully, the vile James Potter.  And now he sat across from Sirius and Remus, the remaining Marauders (how he hated their little name, as if they were part of some exclusive club), who loved to hate him, and who he couldn’t help but to hate back.  And this woman!  As if watching Lily be taken by James wasn’t enough, he now had to sit and watch Remus and Sirius preening about like peacocks over this woman who had obviously laughed at him when he had sat down.  They all had, even the little old man, passing notes like a child. He closed his eyes and willed himself not to hate the world as he waited on what was surely to be another scolding from Albus Dumbledore.

The day had started with so much promise.  The July weather had warmed the dungeon; with the recessed windows to his lab opened a warm breeze blew in and the smell of summer in the highlands filled his corner of the castle.  He had a new shipment of potions ingredients to catalogue and store, a task which he had loved since his earliest days at Hogwarts.  He cranked up “Back in Black” on his turntable and spent the morning blissfully alone in his lab.

Then Albus had sent the note about the Order meeting, and he had replied that he would arrive as soon as he was able to store the more volatile ingredients, hoping to buy himself some time away from that miserable townhouse and its more miserable owner.  He might have been able to ignore the meeting entirely had Minerva not come to the dungeons to make sure that he preceeded her, thus assuring his appearance at the meeting.

Upon stepping out of the floo he noticed that the kitchens had been cleaned, the pots polished, and then, there she was.  Honey hair, curling fully and wildly down her back, falling into her deep blue eyes.  Clear, pale pink skin, lips the softest rose.  Full, ample breasts under a thin cotton dress, a dark blue dress with tiny flowers (“were they daisies?” he wondered), buttoned chastely enough to leave everything to the imagination.

And she was looking at him, sizing him up as well – was that the slightest blush on her cheeks?  It couldn’t be; women didn’t react to him with blushes.  It was then that he noticed who she was sandwiched between – the wolf, who was pawing at her as if he owned her, and the dog, who was holding her hand and leaning in to whisper this and that to her.  And had she just removed Remus’s hand from her thigh?  He could practically smell the testosterone leaching out of Remus’s pores as he staked his claim. 

And then the little man, why hadn’t he noticed him before?  Had he just passed her a note?  Where were they, Hogwarts?  And Sirius, in his usual state of theatrics, had he actually set the note on fire?

The more he watched the scene across from him, the more irritated he became.  Why did they always have to act like such children?  He was surrounded by children 9 months of the year and hated them; couldn’t he have one day without the foolish dramatics?  He looked at Remus, who quickly looked at him with nothing less than feral eyes, and was flooded with a vision of Remus and the woman naked, the woman tied – yes, tied – bent over the back of the chair that she currently resided in, limp in ecstasy, while Remus, somewhere between wolf and man, mounted her and roughly fucked her into oblivion.  He had figured Remus for the kinky one long ago, but for Merlin’s sake, did he have to broadcast it to him? And then she looked at him and blushed again as she quickly looked away.

He heard Albus explaining that the woman in front of him was none other than the mysterious Seraphina, great granddaughter of Aberforth.  So Albus had gone against Aberforth’s explicit wishes and brought her here anyhow.  He wondered if Aberforth knew yet. He doubted it; just a bit over two weeks had passed since Sybil had jumped him in his lab. 

She was looking at him, again, her deep blue eyes questioning his, as if she was trying to understand something, and this time it was his turn to look away quickly, like some adolescent with a crush, some bloody teenager, not a hardened, jaded man in his thirties who sneered his lip at the world.

So he did what he always did to cover his tracks, he came up with the first insult he could, something about preening and fluttering, which even he knew was low; he could see – anyone could see - that she was feeling harassed at the hands of Remus. How could she not, when he was practically draping himself over her is some display of lupine dominance.

What he had not anticipated was her.  The comment about Remus’s dick was priceless, as was her telling Sirius to get over his childhood hatred and grow up.  But it was her cold fury toward him, her righteous anger; her daring him to give her a reason to attack that had thrown him off guard.  People backed away when he went on the attack, they shrunk away; they simply didn’t want to deal with him.  He’d spent years honing his talent to drive people away, to have them give up without a fight.  But this one hadn’t.  She had come at him full stop, a shield maiden unafraid of battle.  It was all he could do not to give away his surprise and maintain his icy composure as the Order members filed out of the room and he sat awaiting his tongue lashing.

He glared at Sirius, who was scowling at Seraphina, trying dumbly to come up with one of his biting comebacks and failing.  Remus had gone to stand at the opposite end of the table, looking equal parts embarrassed for his behavior and ready to strike at anyone who dare say a word to him.  And Seraphina had her eyes closed, breathing deeply, visibly counting to control her anger.

“Well, then,” Albus began, “THAT was a bit of a show, wasn’t it?”  When no one said anything, he continued.  “Despite Seraphina’s rather crude choice of words, she did make a few valid points.  Do I need to enumerate them?”

Heads shook in the negative, and Remus muttered a “Not necessary.” They were again silent.

“I don’t think that I need to remind all of you that despite any clashes of personality, we all have a common goal,” he continued. “I realize that there are years of unresolved conflict in this room,” – Severus laughed derisively, “and I’m not sure that the three of you will ever get along well. You will be working together, however, and it is of paramount importance that some level of trust develops between the three of you.  It will be up to you – three intelligent, capable adults – to determine how that will happen.  That said there will be no further outbursts or insults between the three of you while you sit at this table.”

He paused and looked at each one of them as if willing them to talk.  Seraphina, who had been staring at the table, tentatively looked at Remus and said, “I’m sorry that I snapped at you like that.  I shouldn’t have.  You were defending me and I suppose I should have at least been grateful for that.” She paused, considering her words carefully. “I meant everything that I said last night, Remus.  I’m not ready.  I don’t know when I will be.  So I would appreciate it if you would direct your tendency toward possessiveness elsewhere. You know, if you’d just open your eyes, you’d see that you don’t need me anyway, not the way you think you do.”

Sirius laughed, and addresses Remus’s bewildered expression with, “After the meeting, Remus, you and I need to have a talk about a certain witch with purple hair.”

Remus startled, his eyes wide. “Purple hair – No, that can’t - you can’t mean – she’s at least ten years younger than me!” he exclaimed as his look of bewilderment turned to absolute shock.

“Just do that back of the neck thing with her,” Seraphina said.  “You’ll have her forever.”

Remus blushed, fractionally smiling as he looked down at his feet.

Severus fought the urge to roll his eyes; of course Nymphadora fancied Remus.  He was a fool not to have noticed.  He smiled to himself, hoping for Tonk’s sake that she was into bondage.

Seraphina had turned her attention to him. “I’m not in the least bit sorry for anything I’ve said to you. I don’t react well when people who don’t know me act like absolute assholes toward me. This was not how I’d hoped our first meeting would go, though . . .”

“Our first meeting?” he asked, eyes narrowed. “You knew of me?”

“Albus told me a bit about you, as I’m to learn potions, and Sirius put in his two cents . . .”

“I’m sure,” he said, with more than a hint of derision.

“And you should know that never having met you I defended you. Don’t make me regret that.”

She had defended him to Sirius? Why would she do that?  What possible reason could she have for defending someone she had never met, someone her cousin, whom she claimed to love, despised?

Severus quickly slipped into her thoughts and was even more perplexed by the little he had gleaned before she turned to Sirius.  For someone who had been raised as a muggle she knew a stunning amount about magic.  Someone untrained should not know the spells she knew, nor should she have near encyclopedic knowledge of Hogwarts.  Who was this Seraphina Dumbledore?

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

The Order members were reassembled and had taken their original places at the table.  Remus still sat at Seraphina’s side; Severus was pleased to see, for the benefit of all at the table, that Remus had backed away and was no longer dominating Seraphina.

Seraphina had apologized to all of the Order members for her outburst, citing the stress of her new life as one cause.  She acknowledged that it didn’t set her in the best light and that she hoped, with time, they would all come to find that she was actually a kind person, albeit one with a rather legendary temper.  Severus watched as Molly and Arthur visibly softened toward her; he knew that Kingsley, Tonks, Moody, and Minerva would be a bit harder to win over.

“I’ve had a bit of time to think about what could be done about Delores Umbridge while still placating the powers that be,” Seraphina began. “I was raised by someone whose whole life revolved around academia, so I know a bit about education and dealing with administrations.  I also think some techniques that are used in American muggle schools – I’m not sure if they’re used in the U.K., though I wouldn’t be surprised if they were – would work here.  To start off, it might be best to fight fire with fire, to head the Ministry off at the pass.  They want educational reform as a way to diminish Albus’s power; to stay one step ahead of them Albus could suggest an evaluation of Hogwarts – you know, to keep up with modern educational methods and such - to be conducted by Ministry officials that the Order trusts and that the Minister can find no reason to object to.  People of strong moral character who also understand wizarding education. You might even think about bringing in someone from another wizarding school to have an outside opinion.  This way Delores won’t be the one conducting the evaluations and any changes that are suggested will be done so with less bias.”

She paused and looked around the table.  Severus noted that everyone seemed to be interested in what she had to say and were, for the most part, open to her suggestions.  She must have seemed bolstered by this, as she smiled and started talking again.

“She wants to take the practicum away from Defense Against the Dark Arts because there apparently is no one to fight.  To lull the students and parents into a false sense of security.  So Albus will agree to this, but at the same time Albus or another faculty member will announce the formation of a club for upper level students where they can practice defending themselves, maybe something like a dueling club. It will be led by students who’ve shown exemplary work in defensive magic and a faculty or ministry member who is supportive of the work of the Order.  Ministry might be best as it again plays into their hand.”

Albus was smiling, clearly in favor of all that Seraphina was saying.  Kingsley had leaned in to Minerva and was discussing something that had come to him as Minerva nodded her head in the affirmative.  Even Tonks seems to have softened toward Seraphina, following everything that she had to say closely.

“She wants students who police other students and, from what we know of her, will most likely choose students who have pure-blood leanings.  As I’m sure you all know, this can only serve to pit students against each other.  Going into what could turn into a war, it seems that the closer we get the students to one another (and also to the Light) the better. To get them to see eye-to-eye, the pure-blood leaning students and other students who, again, lean towards the side of the Order can come together and set up a school government of sorts, or something that will force both sides to work together for the good of the school.  It gets their minds off of the tension between them and gives them something different to focus on.  And as a result, they get to know one another, not as house rivals, but as students at the best wizarding school in the world. They can create a legacy for future students and start to feel like an important part of their own education. The focus is then uniting the school under Albus’s leadership, cutting the ministry off at the pass.”

“In addition, this school government could handle disciplinary issues, and with faculty oversight, come up with appropriate consequences for student’s actions.  Sort of a student court.  We might even institute an honor code, something that the students sign at the beginning of term that states that they won’t cheat, fight, etc, and will conduct themselves honorably.  When the students break that code, they report to the court to receive a punishment determined by their peers. You’ll find, I think, that students are remarkably good at creating consequences that fit actions well, and can be quite creative about it. Students may still have to serve detentions but the terms of those detentions would be decided on by the court effectively denying Delores the opportunity to pull out her blood quills.  And while we’re on that subject, it might be nice if, during evaluations, those blood quills were somehow discovered and this information leaked to the public.  Parents will be livid if they hear that their children could have potentially been tortured by a Ministry appointed teacher.”

Seraphina stopped for a moment, looked at Albus, and said, “That’s all I’ve got.”

“Comments or questions?” Albus asked.

Severus looked around the table.  The majority of the Order members appeared a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information, and the potential change at Hogwarts, that had been presented.  Still, they seemed open to considering all that Seraphina had proposed, and Severus had to admit to himself that her ideas not only had merit, they were well thought out, subtle in their push back against the Ministry, and thoroughly shrewd.  Seraphina Dumbledore was shrewd, and this intrigued Severus all the more.

Minerva was the first to speak. “Well, I think the first question is whether, as headmaster, you are prepared for and willing to make these changes at Hogwarts.  It’s a lot, Albus.”

“It is a lot, I agree,” Albus answered, “however, as you know, we have a large number of remarkably driven students at Hogwarts, and I can think of more than a few that could fill each role that needs filling.  For example, we know that Harry can perform outstanding defensive magic, and I’ve seen the same from Blaise Zabini and Ginny Weasley.  Hermione Granger would be a natural for a student court.  We can approach the plan in a step-wise fashion; I believe the first move we should make is to establish to the Ministry and public at large that we will be doing a school-wide evaluation and work on a proposal for a student run government. If we find that this is too much or won’t work or even won’t be viable, we will re-evaluate our strategy. And as always, I am open to any objections or additions that any of you would voice.”

“Actually, Albus,” Minerva said, “I’ve had a bit of an interest in writing an Honor Code; Iwouldn’t mind working on that.”

“If there is a dueling club,” Kingsley said, “I would like to suggest Tonks as a Ministry advisor.”

Tonks beamed at this, and said, “I’d love that, Albus.  And I think Filius as a faculty advisor, if he would agree to it. I can nitpick the details with you if you’d like.”

“Amelia Bones would be outstanding for the evaluations committee,” Arthur said, adding, “I have a few contacts in the Department of Underage Magic and Education that might be interested as well.  I can keep an eye open and send you a few suggestions.”

“There are benefits to all of the suggestions, regardless of Delores’s plans,” Minerva mused. “If it would help unify the students, so much the better. The trick will be getting the students to think that they’ve come together on their own.”

“And protecting anyone who might turn against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” Tonks said.

“You leave that to Severus, Albus, and me,” Minerva stated.

Severus had finally decided that it was time to play devil’s advocate.  He was good at that, after all. “I think you all are forgetting one important point,” he said, and everyone looked at him, waiting for him to continue. “We have a board of governors who are very keen on tradition.  Nothing of this sort has ever been done at Hogwarts, and regardless of how well this has worked at other institutions, any change in school structure will be met with backlash. Pure-blooded parents will not react well to hearing that their children are being punished by muggle-borns like Granger – especially Granger.”

“Which is why the court is run as a committee,” Seraphina said. “It won’t just be muggle-borns, and for it to be egalitarian there has to be equal representation from pure-blooded students, those with mixed blood heritages, and also from all of the houses.  That way one student doesn’t shoulder the blame for an unpopular decision.  It will have been agreed upon by the entire court. And of course, anything particularly troublesome will be handled by Albus directly.  This court wouldn’t be handing out expulsions; it would deal with minor infractions.”

Severus regarded her.  She seemed to have a good grasp on wizarding society; again, something that she should have little, if any, knowledge about.  He wondered what sort of background had created someone so confident in herself; someone who seemed so self-assured in a room full of rather intimidating people that she had never met.  Moody, though silent, seemed impressed with her, which was not an easy feat. She was obviously cunning, and quite intelligent. Yet she was also hiding quite a bit of herself; she had constructed mental walls that he was sure even she didn’t know existed.  What sort of life had she led that necessitated that and what had she hidden behind them?  How had she developed such a calculating nature when raised by one who seemed so utterly devoid of guile? Around him, the Order continued to deconstruct, evaluate, and adopt Seraphina’s suggestions; he found, however, he was much more interested in the enigma that sat across the table from him.

In the years since Lily’s death he had thrown himself into his role as professor, potioneer, and spy.  Life at Hogwarts had left him surrounded by children, barely mature adolescents, and women much too old or addled for him to take an interest in.  What little social life he had was engineered by Lucius, who had given up on getting him married or even shagged long ago, when he had declared all of Lucius’s prospects “vapid, repugnant windbags.”  And while Voldemort had organized debauched orgies for his followers as a sort of reward, the Dark Lord also admired what he believed to be Severus’s self-imposed celibacy as a form of the highest order of self-control, leaving Severus free to observe (and often drunkenly wank off) from the sidelines.  It was rare that a woman caught his interest; even then, he usually found something lacking.  It would be interesting having one around who he might actually be able to have an intelligent conversation with.

Albus had told them that she was a muggle physician with a talent in herbology.  She had studied Organic Chemistry at one of the finest institutions in America.  Teaching her the fundamentals of potion making should be easy; he might even have a competent assistant for once, giving him more time for his potions experiments.

He looked at her with promise, then immediately began berating himself.  Why was he getting his hopes up about even having a friendship with her?  He didn’t have friends, and certainly couldn’t expect a captivating, beautiful woman (who Remus may have already had) to want to spend time with him.  No woman wanted him, and not just because he drove them off.  He was a pale, disgusting man who hadn’t been touched by a woman with any intimacy since the last time Lily Potter had held his hand (and that hadn’t gone well, had it?). 

By the time Severus had turned his focus back on the meeting, chairs were being pulled out, coffee was being poured (Sirius had the firewhiskey – which was no surprise), and Seraphina was laughing over something he had said.  He rose from the table, turned with a swish, and disappeared, unnoticed, into the green flames of the fire into the sanctuary of his rooms.

Chapter Text

Seraphina found Kreacher still kneeling, head bowed, ears sagging, in front of Walburga Black’s portrait.  Erwin had joined her, clearly affected by Kreacher’s dejected appearance.  The other Order members had left the house, with the Weasley's taking up semi-permanent residence tomorrow, leaving Seraphina and Erwin alone with Sirius and Remus, who were still drinking firewhiskey in the kitchen.

“Kreacher?” she said tentatively.

“Yes?” he croaked, not looking up.

“I’m sorry.  I know she meant a lot to you.  I truly didn’t mean for that to happen.”

Kreacher looked up at her, his eyes shining with unshed tears. “Mistress Seraphina should never apologize to Kreacher.  Kreacher knows Mistress Seraphina does not know her power.  Madame Black said cruel things to Mistress Seraphina . . .” He looked down again.  “Kreacher has tried to heal Madame Black, but she cannot speak.  Kreacher cannot heal her.”

“I really am sorry.  It wasn’t my intention to hurt you, Kreacher.  You’ve been so good to me.”

She paused, knowing that she was about to take a huge risk with the elf.  It was possible with the change in Madame Black’s portrait that Kreacher would be angry at Seraphina and would want to take it out on her. He was, after all, pretty foul in the books. What she was considering would give Kreacher considerable power.  She sat down beside him and he looked at her with sad eyes.  She placed her hand on his back and he arched into the touch and did not draw away when she began to stroke his back in comfort.  She could feel sadness, but no animosity.  She also felt an elf starved for affection. She sensed that his loyalty to her had not changed. She decided to take the risk.

“Kreacher, I have something very, very important that I need you to do for me.  I really think that you would be the best person for this task, but it will come with considerable risk. Would you be willing to help me with something vitally important?  Something that would require an unbreakable vow?”

“Mistress Seraphina called me a person,” Kreacher whispered to himself with wide eyes. “Mistress Seraphina thinks Kreacher is a person.”

Both Erwin and Kreacher looked at Seraphina.  Gradually, Erwin’s eyes showed a dawning understanding of what Seraphina was about to ask of Kreacher.  He smiled at Seraphina and nodded to her, as if he agreed with what she was about to do.  He knelt down a bit to look into Kreacher’s eyes.

“Seraphina is going to ask something of you that could be deadly and will declare that you fully support her.  Do you accept that risk and responsibility?”

“Kreacher has never been asked to take an unbreakable vow.  Does Mistress not trust Kreacher?”

Seraphina knelt down in front of Kreacher. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that this thing that I am going to trust you with is so important that I can’t risk anything happening to it.  It is vital that you succeed in this.”

Kreacher seemed to ponder this for a bit and then looked at Seraphina. “Kreacher will take the vow for Mistress if it is so important to her.”

“It is, Kreacher.”  She turned to Erwin and said, “Can you get the memory from the hospital and then find us? I think the room we are looking for is on the first floor.”

“What room would Mistress Seraphina be needing?” Kreacher asked.

“There is a room in this house with display cases and dark artifacts.  In one of these cases is a locket that cannot be opened.  It is decorated with an “S”.”

Kreacher’s eyes lit with understanding. “Yes, Mistress.  Kreacher knows of the locket. It is in the library on the first floor.  Kreacher has been cleaning the library for Mistress.  Kreacher will take you there.”

Erwin left for his room and Seraphina followed Kreacher up the steps to a door right off of the landing.  He led her through the door and stood still for a bit, looking around with reverence.

The room felt dark and oppressive with and aura of dark magic in the air.  The curtains, which were again dark velvet, had not been opened. There were two lumpy, blood red, upholstered horsehair couches and two leather wingback chairs in front of a small fireplace.  The wall directly across from the door was lined ceiling to floor with bookshelves that were packed with ancient books.  To the left, across from the windows, was a wall of glassed in display cases containing esoterica the likes of which Seraphina had never seen.  To their immediate left was a roll top desk that would shake and bump intermittently.

“Does that desk have a boggart in it?” she asked Kreacher, remembering something about this in the books.

“Kreacher believes so.  Kreacher leaves the boggarts to the humans. Kreacher has the magic, but boggarts is nasty creatures.”  He walked toward a display case and with a wave of his hand opened it.  He pulled over the desk chair and hopped up on it, moving aside a fierce looking monkey’s head, teeth bared, with eyes that followed Kreacher and Seraphina.  From behind it he pulled a heavy locket covered in amber inset with an “S” in diamonds. He held it out in front of him, cupped in both of his hands.

“It was Master Regulus’s,” Kreacher said.  “He never told Kreacher, but Kreacher knew it was important.  It is very powerful and very dark.”

Erwin had entered the room and was eyeing the locket with trepidation.  Sarah ran her finger over it and was immediately hit with crushing hatred, anger, and revulsion.  She knew immediately that she was looking at a horcrux.

She looked at Kreacher gravely. “Kreacher, is there any way that you can call another elf here?  I want elf magic to perform the vow.”

Kreacher widened his eyes again, looked at the locket, then said, “Winky, come here.”

In a matter of moments, a small house elf popped into the room.  She looked around with frightened eyes. “Kreacher called for Winky?”

“Yes.  Kreacher needs your magic.  Mistress is doing the Unbreakable Vow with Kreacher and Mistress wants elf magic.”

“Kreacher has been asked to take the Unbreakable Vow?” Winky asked in bewilderment.  When Kreacher nodded, Winky said, “Winky will perform the vow,” eyes full of fear.

Seraphina looked at Erwin.  He nodded at her to continue.

She turned to Kreacher. “Kreacher the house elf, do you vow to protect this locket with your life?”

Kreacher nodded his head.

“You are to tell no one of this conversation or this vow until the day that Harry Potter comes looking for and claims the locket.  At some point during his upcoming stay, Harry should be able to touch and see the locket, but it should stay here.  When he comes looking for it again, he will ask specifically for it.  You will give the locket to no one except Harry Potter.  You will tell no one about the existence of the locket or that you have been given a special task by anyone.  At no time will you try to determine why this locket is special or why you are guarding it. At the time that Harry claims the locket you will give him this vial of memories.”  Erwin handed the memories to Seraphina, who handed them to Kreacher.  “This vial will be given to no one else.  No one is to know of its existence and you may not look at the memories or help anyone look at them, except if that person is Harry Potter.  You will tell Harry not to wear the locket and that it can be destroyed with the Sword of Gryffindor.”

Kreacher looked shocked.  “Harry Potter will destroy Master Regulus’s locket?” he asked, aghast.

“That is not your concern.  Your concern is to protect it until it can be given to him.  You should never wear it and, after Harry sees it for the first time, keep it somewhere only you can access, but somewhere that cannot affect you.  Do you understand?”

Kreacher again nodded his head, face grave and serious.

“Do you agree to everything that I have told you?”

Kreacher looked between the locket and Seraphina and nodded his head.

Erwin stepped forward. “Winky will need the two of you to hold each other’s right wrists.”

Kreacher opened his hand and placed it against Seraphina’s wrist as his hand was too small to encircle it and Seraphina wrapped her hand gently around Kreacher’s lower arm which was scarcely bigger than a twig.  Winky drew her wand and conjured a golden chain that linked the two of them together.

Erwin spoke again. “Seraphina, you need to ask Kreacher if he agrees to all that you’ve asked on condition of death and Kreacher, you must agree.”

“Kreacher, do you agree to everything that I have asked of you on the condition of your death?”

Kreacher looked into Seraphina’s eyes.  They were filled with so many things – bewilderment, caution, purpose, devotion. “I agree on the condition of my death to do all that Mistress Seraphina has asked of me,” he answered.

Seraphina felt the chain tighten to the point that it was painfully cutting into their skin.  It then vanished.  She then felt something like liquid fire pulsing through her arteries, filling her whole body.  The feeling was almost overwhelming, and for a fraction of a second she felt as if she were living in Kreacher’s skin and thinking his thoughts. 

“If Kreacher does anything in violation of the vow, you will feel it,” Erwin said.  “You will also know when the vow has reached completion.”

Winky stood looking at Kreacher. “Can Kreacher let Winky leave?” he asked.

“Winky may leave after she vows never to repeat what she has witnessed today,” Seraphina said, extending her hand to Winky, who freely offered hers.  Seraphina looked at Kreacher, who nodded his head and wove his wand, solidifying the vow between Winky and Seraphina. 

Seraphina kneeled in front of Winky. “I’ll be coming to Hogwarts and I’ll need an elf I can trust.  Perhaps you will be that elf.” Winky smiled and looked at the ground. “You may go,” Seraphina said, and Winky vanished.

She turned to Kreacher. “Are you alright?  The vow was a bit overwhelming.”

Kreacher was holding the vial and locket tightly. “Kreacher is fine.  Kreacher has been given an important assignment by Mistress Seraphina and Kreacher does not deserve such an honor.”  He paused, then whispered, “Mistress called Kreacher a person.”  He seemed at a loss for more words.

“So at this point, I suppose we put the locket front and center in the cabinet.  I can make sure that Harry sees it. Do you have someplace that no one will find the locket afterwards, known only to you?” Seraphina asked, and Kreacher nodded.

“Once the locket is hidden, it will be a while before Harry Potter asks for it.  Mundingus Fletcher is a known thief and has been walking these halls, so make sure you hide it well.  It might be best to hide the memories now.”

Kreacher nodded, placed the locket in the display case, and then popped out of the room. Almost instantaneously, he reappeared without the vial. “Kreacher has hidden the memories.  They will be safe for Mistress Seraphina and Master Potter.”  He then fell to his knees and held her feet, mumbling, “Kreacher does not deserve this, Kreacher will be good for his Mistress.”  Seraphina felt her feet becoming wet and realized that Kreacher was crying.  She looked at Erwin at a loss for what to do.

Erwin knelt down beside Kreacher. “Kreacher,” he said, tentatively putting his hand on the elf’s back, “I know that you are a servant, and you have been doing your job very well these last few days.  This house is a wonder and it’s all your doing.” 

Kreacher sniffed and looked up at Erwin, his head still bowed, ears drooping.

“Kreacher,” Erwin continued, “just because you are an elf does not mean that you don’t deserve dignity and kindness.  Do you know that?”

Kreacher put his hands on his eyes and shook his head violently. “House elves are to be neither seen nor heard,” he said in rote monotone.  “House elves are to do their duties without question.  House elves are below all humans.  House elves are no better than slaves.  House elves should submit to their masters in all things.  House elves should thank their masters for their beatings.  House elves would be nothing without their masters.”

Erwin turned a concerned eye to Seraphina, who had also knelt in front of Kreacher. “Sirius is your master now, and I think that you will find that the people he lets into this house do not share those views.  You are a living, breathing, thinking being and simply because of that you deserve dignity. You deserve dignity simply because you are alive, Kreacher! From what you know of me, do you think I would beat a kneazle or a crup?”

“Mistress Seraphina is kind.  Mistress Seraphina would not do that to an innocent animal,” Kreacher answered.

“Then why would I beat you?  Why should you deserve it if an animal, which is less intelligent than you and helps me far less than you, doesn’t?”

Kreacher was shaking his head violently again, “Kreacher is a house elf!  House elves deserve nothing!”

Erwin shook his head sadly and looked again at Seraphina, who felt lost.  She had never dealt with anyone who had shown such clear signs of being battered and had no training in dealing with such an issue.  She supposed that she would just have to tackle this one with kindness, and resolved to speak with Remus and Sirius about it before she left.

“Well, Kreacher, things are going to be different from here on out,” she finally said.  “You’ve been given a house to serve again and you may be punished, but only if you deserve it.  But there is no reason to beat you just because we can.  You’ll find, I think, that your life might be a bit more comfortable than it was in the past, and at your age, you deserve a bit of comfort.”

Kreacher still looked very confused, so she decided to give him something to do. “Kreacher, there seems to be a boggart in this room.  As you don’t deal with them and I haven’t ever even seen one and Erwin doesn’t seem to want to take care of it,” Erwin was nodding his head that in fact, he wanted nothing to do with it, “perhaps you should fetch Masters Black and Lupin.  And after that, could you attend to our new owls?  I’ll need you to show me how to take care of mine later if you have the time.”

Kreacher stood up as straight as he could and said, “Kreacher would be most happy to do anything Mistress Seraphina asks.  Kreacher will get the masters.” Then, with a pop, he left the room.

Seraphina and Erwin sat down on one of the couches, feeling quite dejected.  Erwin took hold of Seraphina’s hand. “That is one very broken elf,” he said.

Seraphina sighed and squeezed Erwin’s hand.  Suddenly, the room felt overwhelmingly oppressive and much too dark.  Seraphina stood up, went over to the curtains, and grabbing both of them, threw them open.  Immediately she was assaulted with what seemed like hundreds of little winged creatures, scarcely bigger than a beetle, that looked like little brown moths with human hands.  They also had mouths full of sharp teeth, Seraphina was unhappy to find out, which they were intent on using on her.

She batted her arms around her and ran away from the curtains.  They followed her, only to be swatted by Erwin, who obviously had more experience with doxies than Seraphina did.  At the same time, Remus entered the room, followed by a slightly off-balance Sirius.

“Damn doxies!” Remus said, and then called for Kreacher.  When he popped into the room, Remus informed him that Seraphina had been bitten and that they needed the doxy bite antidote.  By the time Kreacher returned, Seraphina was starting to feel a bit woozy and the bites itched like hell.

Erwin emptied a dram of a very bitter solution into Seraphina’s mouth and held her mouth shut, telling her to drink it.  She felt Kreacher dabbing some sort of smelly, cooling cream in her bites and, as the wooziness gradually began to dissipate, felt a glass of water shoved into her hand.

“Drink it up, then,” Erwin encouraged Seraphina.  “That was quite an attack.  That many bites – well, it’s never a good thing, is it?”

“It might take a few days until the effects of the bites totally leave your system,” Remus said.  He had joined Kreacher in dabbing cream on her bites. “The cream will help with the itching; it draws residual venom out as well.  Doesn’t smell the best, but we do what we must.”  Seraphina also noticed that the cream was fuchsia and made her look like she had a terrible case of the measles.

As Kreacher and Remus continued to attend to her bites, Seraphina heard Sirius, who had observed the entire attack propped up on the door frame, slur, “Time to banish a boggart,” then heard the roll top desk being opened.

The room was immediately colder and Seraphina felt as if all of the joy in the world was gone, that it had never even existed.  She looked over toward the desk and saw Sirius cowering in front of a large, hovering creature, tattered black robes flowing in a non-existent breeze, with nothing but two hollow eyes and a large mouth, opened into an oval, for a face.  Remus had frozen momentarily and Kreacher had jumped into Erwin’s arms.

Sarah ran over and put her arms around Sirius. “It’s not real, Sirius,” she said to him.

The room immediately became warmer and the sense of oppression was gone.  Sarah turned to where the dementor-boggart had been and was startled to find a television on the desk, a grainy video playing on it.  She stood and walked to the television as if in a trance, unable to believe what she was looking at.  There, in front of her, was the video of her attack.

She watched she lay on the floor and Miles raped her limp, lifeless body.  She heard Spencer and Allan cheering and wolf whistling in the background, the sound increasing and surrounding her.  She felt her whole body shaking and tears running down her face.  She vaguely knew that there was something that she was supposed to be doing with her wand, but felt as if the ability to act had been taken away from her.

And then, there was Erwin in front of her.  Telling her that it was a boggart.  Telling her that none of it was real and it would be okay.  She collapsed on the floor beside Sirius and started sobbing.  She felt as if she would never stop shaking, felt herself collapse into Erwin’s arms.  Heard Remus shout “Riddikulus!”  Felt Remus fall down beside her and put his arms around her, too, and smelled him surrounding her.

“It’s alright,” he was murmuring. “It’s been chased off.  I’m so sorry, so, so sorry Seraphina.”

She felt Erwin let go of her and stand, felt him walk around to stand in front of Sirius, and heard something that she rarely heard.  Erwin was on the attack.

“What were you thinking, opening that desk in your state!” he yelled, shaking with fury. “You are drunk out of your mind, I could smell you when you walked into the room!  Surely you can’t have forgotten what a boggart can do; how could you think you could face it when you could barely stand?”

Seraphina looked over at Sirius.  He stumbled to his feet, his face full of indignation. “Fuck you!” he yelled back at Erwin, as he tripped over his feet, stumbling into the hallway. “’Was only tryin’ ta help – how dare I try to help - fuck you, you old gnome!” He then stumbled on to another room.

Erwin was still standing, fuming behind Remus, who continued to hold Seraphina, whispering words of reassurance into her hair. 

“Why would he do that?” Erwin asked incredulously, a bit of the edge gone from his voice.

Remus sighed.  “He has a bit of a drinking problem.  Does things without thinking.  He’s always been impetuous, but since he’s gotten out of Azkaban . . .”

Erwin huffed. “A drinking problem.  You think? Christ, Remus, there was a dementor in this room!”

“His greatest fear,” Seraphina muttered.

Remus loosed his grip on her and looked down at her. “I didn’t see much, but I saw enough.  Did that  happen to you?”

Seraphina had stopped sobbing, but her tears continued to fall.  Remus had removed a handkerchief from his coat and was dabbing at her cheeks. “My greatest fear is that I’ll have to live through that again.  That more people I care about will see it.”

He tenderly kissed her head again. “I’m so sorry, love.  I’m just so sorry.”

They sat on the floor, Remus holding Seraphina, Seraphina willing herself to calm down, for quite a while.  By the time Seraphina raised her head and looked at Remus, the sun had gone down and the room was dark.  Erwin was sitting in the desk chair quietly keeping vigil.

“Remus?” she asked quietly.

“Yes, love?”

“I think I want to tell you about it.  I want you to understand what I went through, what I’m trying to heal from.”

“It’s not necessary, Seraphina,” he whispered.

“But I want to.  Just not here.  This room – it’s too heavy, too dark.”

“I’ll make you some tea in the kitchen, something soothing.  If you don’t want to talk when we get there, it’s fine.  It’s been another long day for you; you should get some rest.”

Seraphina nodded. Remus had stood and offered his hand to her.  She took it.

“Should we check on Sirius?” she asked.

“He’ll be out by now. Probably went to his room for a sulk and passed out.  He’ll be fine in the morning,” Remus answered.

“Until he picks up the bottle again,” Erwin remarked.

They walked quietly to the kitchen where Remus set about making tea.  Erwin sat down beside Seraphina and held her hand in silence.  Eventually Remus joined them at the table with tea and a plate of Molly’s ginger biscuits.

They drank their tea in silence, waiting for Seraphina to talk.  She had told this story more times than she cared to remember, but it was never easy.  It was a shock to people, that someone they had thought seemed to have it all together had such a past.  They were uneasy, because it wasn’t easy to listen to, to hear that someone that you care about had been through something so terrible and was still hurting from it.  And perhaps the worst part was that it made her relive it again and again.

She put down her cup and looked at Remus, who had never taken his eyes off of her since he had sat down across from her.  He reached across the table and took her hand, giving her a small smile. She began.

“Tony was the first person I was ever with.  I loved him, or I thought I did, and he was good to me.  I lost my virginity to him and in the process I found out that I liked sex. A lot.  But he was a good guy.  He never told his friends much, he wanted everyone to look at me as the smart girl, didn’t want me to get a reputation.  Because girls do when they have sex.  They just do.

He got a basketball scholarship to Indiana U and I went to Princeton and eventually we realized that we were too far apart to make our relationship last.  So we broke up. It wasn’t really that difficult.  We’d been apart long enough that we were used to being without each other. My friends encouraged me to jump right back into dating, and so I did.  But to be honest, I didn’t really want a relationship, it just wanted sex.  I started to get a reputation for being easy but I really didn’t care.  I was pretty easy, really; it didn’t take much to get me into bed.  My academic life was difficult and I used it as an outlet.  Might not have been the best choice of outlets, but that’s what I did.

I went to Duke for medical school.  It was quite a coup; it’s one of the best med schools in the U.S.   What you have to understand about schools like Duke and Princeton is that they are filled with rich kids who are accustomed to getting what they want.  They don’t like being told no.

I had decided that I didn’t want the reputation that I’d gotten at Princeton, but it followed me there.  I buckled down, I studied, I partied a little, but I didn’t jump into beds like I had before, and I thought I was getting away from being the easy girl.  I started to go out with Miles, a guy in my class who was really well liked.  He was smart, attractive, rich, popular, had very influential parents. He got what he wanted. 

So we started sleeping together.  One day he told me that he had this fantasy where he filmed me while I got passed around to different guys.”

Seraphina stopped.  Tears were forming in her eyes. Remus gave her hand a squeeze and said, “You don’t have to tell me; you can stop.”

She shook her head no and took a deep breath and continued, tears now freely falling. “I told him I didn’t want that.  That I didn’t want to be with different men, that I didn’t want to be filmed, but he wouldn’t let it go.  He brought it up all the time, picking out the guys he’d like to share me with. I always told him no.

We went to this med school party one night in someone’s house.  I got pretty drunk, and when I woke up the next morning in my bed I thought that I had blacked out.  I felt like I’d had sex and just assumed that it had been with Miles.

So about a week later a guy that I was friends with came to me and told me that he had something that I needed to see.  He gave me a video tape and we went to a private room at the school to watch it.  He warned me that it was bad and that I should brace myself.  I had no clue . . .  Anyhow, he starts the tape, and there I am, passed out on the floor of some room, and Miles starts having sex with me.  I’m totally unresponsive.  I suspect he’d put something in my drink, but I don’t really know.  When he’s done, two other guys from the school take their turns.  And they hit me and call me degrading names while the other two cheer and holler and egg them on in the background.  The tape had apparently made the rounds through the school; almost all of the guys had seen it and a few of the girls.

So of course I’m shocked.  I sort of go blank.  My friend is telling me that I’ve been raped and I need to report it and he’ll go with me and I just sort of numbly follow along as we go to the Dean’s office and he hands him the tape.  The Dean watches it, you could tell that he found it disturbing, and he tells us that this is a serious offense and I was obviously unresponsive and he’s going to take this to the higher ups and it will be taken very seriously.  Then he sends us on our way.

Miles comes to me the next day saying that I wanted it; everyone knew I was a slut, his father will get him out of any trouble.  I shut down.  I quit going to class. The school sends me to a psychologist but it’s all too fresh and raw and I have trouble even processing it.  Then there's an academic hearing with Miles and the other two, and they have lawyers present, and I’m just too much of a mess to deal with any of it, and it is decided that since I had been dating Miles that he really hadn’t done anything wrong and there was my reputation at Princeton and anyway, did the university really want to ruin three men’s lives?  They have to go to some classes on consent that the university does for underclassmen as a punishment and it just gets swept under the rug.”

“Jesus,” Remus whispered. “So no consideration to how your life was ruined then.”

“Nope, and it gets even worse.  The school psychologist really was a joke, talking to me about how I’m sending off signals to men, all that shit – you know, basically blaming me for all of it.  I’m totally passed out and drugged, but you know, I was a slut, so there you go.  Erwin finds out about all of this and comes to the school screaming, says he’s taking the boys to court and the university, too, but I just wanted it all to go away.  So I withdraw from school – they kept my spot open for me – and he takes be back to Yellow Springs and finds me a better psychologist.  But I just keep falling, keep closing myself off until I’m totally numb. I stopped eating, stopped doing everything, stopped caring. I start cutting myself just so that I can feel something.  And then one day I decide it’s all too much, so I get in the bath tub with one of Erwin’s really good knives and I slit my wrists.”

There was a gasp from Remus. He turned her hand over and looked at her inner wrist.  There, running vertically, are three crude, faded scars.  He traced them with his finger.

“I had gone uptown to get a coffee and just chat a bit, but it was cold so I decided to go home early,” Erwin said. “I knew something was wrong as soon as I opened the door.  I found her in the bathtub – there was so much blood.  He pulse was very weak – she’d done a good job on her wrists, knew just how to cut them – but the ambulance got there in time.  I thought I’d lost her . . .”

“I ended up in the psychiatric hospital.  I was there longer than patients usually stay, and then I was in a day program for a few months.  I started dealing with the rape and my feelings. Got stronger bit by bit.  I was able to go back to school in a year and a half, but I kept myself separated from everyone and academically I didn’t do as well, but I passed, and that was that mattered.  By that time Miles was in the hospital doing his clerkships so I never had to see him.  A sympathetic preceptor made sure our paths never crossed when it was my turn to start my clerkships.  And then I got a residency and fellowship in California in alternative medicine and went there to study.  Kept up my counseling there, just got on with it – you know, I bucked up and all that - albeit heavily medicated for depression and anxiety.  I graduated and went back to Yellow Springs to practice so I could be near Erwin. It felt safe there, you know? I lived a quiet life.  Had panic attacks, but they got less and less in no small part because of my meds.  My MA, Livvy, started dragging me out for ladies night at a local bar and I started singing – and winning – in karaoke contests.  I helped build me up again; bolstered my self-esteem.  And that was my life until Albus brought us here. But I’m still not really over it.  It’s a part of me, even though I try to tamp it down. So now you see.”

The room was quiet.  Remus was staring at Seraphina’s wrist as if trying to understand all of it.  His expression was stormy – sad one second, dangerously angry the next.

“You know, you don’t really have to say anything,” Seraphina said. “I mean, what is there really to say?  It’s something that happened to me.  People go through shit.  You were savaged by a werewolf when you were young, Erwin watched the only family he had die, Sirius spent 13 years in a more awful place than I could ever imagine because of something he didn’t do.  The world is a shitty place.  But we go on, because what else can we do? At least now I’m in a place where I can help kids that are going through their shit.”

Remus sat for a minute, then huffed out a breath and got up.  He went over to a cabinet and came back to the table with a bottle full of purple liquid. “It’s dreamless sleep,” he said. “It will help put you to sleep and keep away the bad dreams.  You need rest.”

They all rose, and Remus walked her to her new bedroom where she was greeted by a beautiful owl perched in a huge cage.  There was newspaper lining the cage and a dead mouse was in the food bowl.  She hooted softly when Seraphina entered.

“I had almost forgotten about them!” Remus remarked.  “They showed up when you were gone.”

“We bought owls on Diagon Alley.  She’s mine.  She’s gorgeous, isn’t she?” she said and walked over to pet the owl through the bars of the cage.

“Does she have a name?”

“Erwin is calling his Cletus – sort of an Appalachian thing. I hadn’t really figured her’s out.”

“Perhaps name her after someone important to you.  Or maybe a flower.  You like flowers, yes?”

“Yeah, I do.  I love daisies.  And I love “The Great Gatsby.”” She turned to the owl and said, “Do you like Daisy?”

The owl crooked its head to one side as if considering.  She then straightened up, puffed her feathers out a bit, and Seraphina could have sworn that she nodded “yes” when she chirped softly.

“Welcome to Grimmauld Place, Daisy,” Remus said. “You’ll need to take care of her for me – she’s a special one.”

Seraphina went over to Remus and hugged him. “Thank you,” she said, not really even sure what she was thanking him for.

He huffed and kissed the top of her head, keeping his face buried in her hair. “So Tonks . . ?” he said.

Seraphina chuckled. “She fancies you.  Looked like she wanted to kill me earlier, what with all your wolfy machoness.”

“Is she the one you told me about?”

“Maybe; why don’t you ask her on a date and find out.  Can’t let all of this manly passion go to waste.”

Remus laughed. “Goodnight, Seraphina.  Take the potion.  Get some rest.”

“Night, Remus,” she said as he left her room, a bittersweet smile on her lips.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Seraphina woke to the sound of something repeatedly hitting her window. Through bleary eyes, she saw a small brown speckled owl bearing a large envelope. She went to the window and opened it. The owl flew in and placed the envelope in her bed and waited.

“You must want a treat,” she said tiredly to the owl. She then found the owl treats and gave one to Daisy and one the messenger owl, who then flew away.

Daisy was looking restless, so she opened her cage and told her to go hunt. “But try to be inconspicuous,” she said. “We don’t need the muggles to wonder why there are unusual owls flying around in the day.” To Seraphina’s wonderment, the owl seemed to understand her and disappeared into the tallest trees as soon as it was outside.

The envelope on the bed was addressed

“Miss Sarah Douglas

Currently 12 Grimmauld Place

Second Floor Right Back Bedroom

London, England”

She tore open the envelope and pulled out several pieces of parchment. She could not contain her smile and excitement when she read what was held within.

"Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore (Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Miss Douglas,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as an Adult Fellow in Magical Studies. Following is a letter from Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster, regarding your duties, responsibilities, salary, and benefits. Please also find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall Deputy Headmistress

Seraphina ran her fingers over the words of the letter that, in her wildest dreams, she never thought she would receive. She looked at the second page.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Office of Albus Dumbledore

Headmaster

Dearest Sarah,

It is with great pleasure and no small amount of pride that I offer you a position as a Teaching Assistant during your studies at Hogwarts. Your duties will include activities as assigned by the professors under which you are studying; these may include grading assignments, laboratory preparation, and teaching in areas in which you are competent. During our first staff meeting of the year, to take place August 30, I will assign scheduled rounds.  Your salary is set at 125 galleons per week. While at Hogwarts you will receive all housing, medical care, and meals free of charge and 50% of all necessary books, supplies, and clothing will be refunded to your Gringotts account.

It is my hope that you will join me today at 3 PM in my office for tea. I have also invited all professors who are currently in residence. At this time, we will determine your Hogwarts house and you may tour your quarters. You may move into Hogwarts at any time following your house assignment. Please send an RSVP or regrets by owl or floo at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

Seraphina read this letter a few times over. She wondered how she would be a competent teaching assistant when she knew very little magic. She had no idea if her salary was comparable to a normal teaching assistant’s salary as the exchange rates of wizarding money were so complicated. She was excited, though, to have the sorting hat placed on her head and see where she would live for the next few years. She was to be sorted today!

The next piece of paper contained a list of supplies and books that she would need.

Suggested Clothing:

Three sets of work robes (Any color)

One Pair Protective Gloves (dragon hide or similar)

One Winter Cloak (Any color)

One set of dress robes

Books (for study and reference):

The Standard Book of Spells, Grades 1-7 by Miranda Goshawk

A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch

Intermediate Transfiguration by Emeric Switch

A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration by Emeric Switch

One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore

Flesh-Eating Trees of the World

Herbologists Guide to the Care and Keeping of Magical Flora by Edwina Miller

Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger

Advanced Potion-Making by Libatius Borage

Theory and Practice in Potion-Making by Libatius Borage

The Essential Defense Againt the Dark Arts by Arsenius Jigger

Spellman’s Syllabary

Advanced Rune Translation

Numerology and Grammatica

Essentials of Magical Medicine, 10th ed. by Thophilus Still, Healer, 1st Order

Herbs and Potions for Healing by Celestina Sharpe, Healer, 1st Order

Other Equipment:

1 Wand

1 Cauldron, Pewter

1 Cauldron, Stainless Steel

1 Standard set volumetric flasks, graduated sizes

1 Standard set Erlenmeyer Flasks, graduated sizes

1 Standard set Retorts, graduated sizes

1 Buchner flask

1 Buchner funnel

1 glass funnel

1 glass stirrer

1 wooden stirrer (elm)

1 stainless steel stirrer

1 set of brass scales with weights

1 set of glass phials

1 phial stand

You may bring and owl and the familiar of your choice

Seraphina leapt from her bed and went to find Erwin, who was drinking coffee in the dining room, accompanied by Sirius and Remus. The table had been set with oatmeal, cream and sugar, berries, muesli, and raisins. The mood was a bit frosty, and Sirius has a permanent scowl on his face. Remus and Erwin were sharing the paper, ignoring Sirius’s foul mood.

Remus and Erwin both looked up from their papers as Seraphina walked in while Remus stared into his oatmeal. Seraphina decided to ignore Sirius and walked up to Erwin, slapping the envelope down onto the table.

“Erwin, I got my Hogwarts letter! A real, actual Hogwarts acceptance letter!” she said, resisting the urge to jump up and down.

Erwin took the letter, opened it up, and began to read it.

Remus was smiling and looking quizzically at Seraphina. She explained, “Where I grew up, every Harry Potter fan dreamed of getting an acceptance letter to Hogwarts and finding out that it was real. And I got one!”

“Well, then, congratulations,” Remus said, smiling.

“You’re to have tea with Albus and the professors at 3. I’ll help you with an RSVP,” said Erwin, bustling out of the room to get paper and a pen.

She looked at Remus and nodded her head toward Sirius as if asking why he was in such a bad mood. Remus rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders.

“You know, I see everything that you are doing,” Sirius growled.

“So what’s with the mood, then?” Seraphina asked.

“I'd think you’d know. I don’t fancy getting scolded by old men like some sort of child,” he sulked.

“Sirius, you really weren’t in the sort of shape to fact a boggart,” Remus said.

“You think I don’t know that now? I fucking know that, Remus,” Sirius barked.

“Look, Sirius. What happened was not the best – it was really awful. You called my favorite person in the whole world a fucking gnome. If there is anyone – anyone – in the whole world that I would consider killing for, it's Erwin Whitacre. So not your most shining moments. And your decision making capacity was a bit hindered – you know that. But I forgive you. Remus took care of the problem. You just have to know that Erwin is very protective of me. He always has been. He was there when I was at my worst and I think somewhere inside he’s afraid that I’ll go there again.”

Sirius didn’t answer; he simply continued to stir at his oatmeal. Remus gave Seraphina a meloncholy smile and resumed reading his paper.

Erwin bustled back into the room with a piece of parchment, a quill, and some ink. He put it in front of Seraphina.

“I really have to use a quill to write?” Seraphina asked, looking dubiously at the ink bottle. “Do you remember the fiasco with the fountain pen?”

“Yes, I do, but you’ll get used to it. All wizards use quills,” Erwin answered.

“You’d think they’d have discovered ballpoint pens by now,” Seraphina mumbled, and dipped the quill into the ink. There were drops of ink in a trail to where she started writing. The quill didn’t write for more than a word before it had to be dipped into the ink again. She eventually finished the note, stating that she would be delighted to join Albus for tea. She vowed to stock up on refills for the Mont Blanc pen that Erwin had gotten her for her medical school graduation before term began.

Erwin took the note and bustled off again to send it.

“Any tips for tea with Albus and the other professors?” she asked Remus.

“Well, now,” he said while tapping at his chin, “you’ll do well to let Albus or Minerva guide the conversation. Poppy, Sybill, and Pomona and possibly Argus will most likely be there as they live at Hogwarts year round. Hagrid is off with the giants, so he’s won’t be there, and the rest of the staff usually doesn’t return until right before term starts. Then there’s Severus, and you’ve already been subject to his sparkling personality. With any luck he’ll be in Cokeworth or hiding in his lab. Nothing to worry about, really; with the exception of Severus you’re bound to get along well with the rest of the staff. Oh, and don’t pass on crumpets with clotted cream. They’re amazing.”

Seraphina ate her oatmeal ruminating on all that had occurred in her short time in the magical world. It was all about to take off at high speed, she realized, as soon as she went to Hogwarts.

And she was going to Hogwarts, actual Hogwarts, this afternoon! She would see Albus’s office and the moving stairways and the gallery of talking pictures and the great hall. She could wander the halls and see if she could find the Room of Requirement. She would meet Moaning Myrtle and the Bloody Baron, Peeves, Nearly Headless Nick, and maybe Rowena Ravenclaw. She could see the whomping willow and the giant squid and the merpeople and Hagrid’s Hut! She shook her head in amazement that this was actually happening to her.

Beside her, Sirius cleared his throat. Seraphina and Remus looked at him and he said, “Seraphina, Remus, I - I’m sorry for the trouble that I caused last night. I wasn’t in my right mind and I should have known better than to think I could take on a boggart.”

Seraphina took Sirius’s hand. “It’s okay, Sirius. . . You know what? You and I faced our greatest fears yesterday. And we’re okay today. Maybe a bit shaken, but okay, yeah?”

Sirius nodded and smiled at Seraphina, and then said, “I have an idea to kill the time until you go to Hogwarts. You go get that wand of yours and Remus and I will teach you how to use it. We can teach you some of the easier spells and charms and maybe take a crack at some transfigurations. What do you say, Remus?”

“I think that is a fine idea,” Remus answered.

“If I’m really good, do you think you could turn into a dog for me?” Seraphina asked.

Sirius laughed, and then answered with a gleam in his eye, “I might be able to do that, but only if you are particularly good, Miss Dumbledore.”

“Well, then, let’s do it!” Seraphina exclaimed, jumping out of her chair to get her wand.

_________________________________________________

They started in the great room. Remus explained that magic flowed as a current through the body’s seven chakras, and depending on which spell you were to perform, you should access the chakra responsible. The earth chakra kept the magic safe and grounded, so in the vast majority of circumstances it should always be utilized. To do this, one should begin by thinking magic originated at the soles of the feet in connection with the ground. The solar plexus was where the magic was intensified, so when she had felt the buildup of tension in her belly it had been the intensification of her magical powers. The chi of this chakra could lead a witch or wizard down a light or dark path, as it is the center of emotional life and power. Therefore it is important to keep this center free and healthy, and, in fact, many magical healing spells focused on repairing this chakra. The third eye promotes intuition and spirituality and is important in the perception of magical ability. It should be channeled to the solar plexus to combine with the earth chakra for the majority of all spells.

The other chakras were utilized when the specific magic called for it. The crown chakra was used in gathering information and would make learning easier; psychological illnesses were bound up here. The heart chakra was used in spells that dealt with love and emotion – protection spells generally came from here. The throat chakra was used in communication and drawing information out of people – blocking this and the crown chakra aided in Occulomency. The sacral chakra was used in sex magic and spells of creativity. Couple who were having trouble conceiving and other gynecologic problems were related to this chakra.

Remus then had Seraphina sit cross legged in the floor and taught her how to feel her individual chakras – how to feel them separately and together, how to channel them through the solar plexus, how to focus on the aura and energy flow of each of them. He was surprised at how quickly Seraphina felt each one and told her that this was a skill that students took years to master; in fact, it could be argued that most witches and wizards never completely master their chakras. Eventually, each chakra would be used without thinking about it – it became automatic, like a heart beat or breathing.

He then had her stand and pointed to a side table. He instructed her to focus on her creativity chakra, picture a chair, and then channel the magic through her solar plexus and out through her wand. She was to clear her mind of anything else and really focus on the feel of the chair, the details of it – what sort of wood was it constructed with, what style was the chair? If it was upholstered, think of that upholstery at an almost microscopic level, think of the fibers weaving together and forming the fabric. As he talked to her, she pictured the egg chair in Erwin’s living room, being a child and hiding in it, twirling around and sharing secrets in it with her friends. She felt the black leather lining beneath her fingers and the buttons in the leather that left indentations on her legs in the summertime. She felt the magic coalescing in her solar plexus and when she felt that it was right she mentally released it that chakra, through her arm and fingers, and out of her wand. There was no stream of light, just a sort of whoosh, and before her, she watched in awe as the side table transformed into her favorite chair.

As she approached it to look it over, Sirius whistled in appreciation and Remus looked at Seraphina with barely contained awe. Erwin shouted,” Bravo! I knew that you would be good at this!”

Before her, the chair was nearly perfect. She sat in it, not believing that she had so easily done this. Maybe transforming animals into inanimate objects or the other way round was trickier than turning a piece of furniture into another piece of furniture. Still, she didn’t see the need to transform a rat into a pincushion any time soon.

Remus walked over to her and held out his hand. “That was remarkable,” he said. “I was expecting something much less – well, complete, but this is simply remarkable.”

“She was doing this sort of thing innately without a wand when she was a toddler. I think it’s just part of her makeup,” Erwin offered.

“I don't remember that,” Seraphina said, mostly to herself.

“Well, dear, you were. I already told you about the vanished doors. Your parents were always losing things that you had turned into dollies or unicorn cuddlies. You've always been a tranfiguration genius, you just didn't know it.”

Remus shook his head with determination and said, “Right, then. I want you to shrink the chair so that it is small enough that you could carry it around in a handbag. The incantation is reducio and you will move your wand as if to press the object and make it smaller. Picture how large it needs to be, focus the correct chakras, and do it.”

Seraphina squinted her eyes and focused her body. This time she held out both of her hands and held them in space as if they were framing the chair. She said “Reducio!” and pressed her hands together, watching as the chair shrunk within her hands. When she dropped them, the chair had shrunken to the size of dollhouse furniture. She walked over to it and to pick it up, but found that it was much too heavy for her to manage.

“Ah, when you reduced the size you did not reduce the weight. You must consciously do them simultaneously to lighten the object. Use the counterspell engorgio to bring it back to proper size and then reduce it again so that this time you can pick it up,” Remus instructed.

Seraphina did as she was told. After a few moments, she walked over to the chair and picked it up. It was extremely light with the heft of a piece of doll’s furniture.

Remus and Sirius regarded each other for a moment having a silent conversation with their eyes. Seraphina sensed a bit of shock and disbelief on their parts, though their faces did not reveal this. Erwin was smiling and muttering “I knew it. Just as strong as her parents. Maybe more so!”

Sirius came to her side and said, took the chair in his hand and examined it. He then said, “You should keep the chair and use it at Hogwarts. When you look at it, remember that I told you that you are amazing, remarkable; you have the potential to be among the most powerful witches and wizards. When you have trouble in your studies, think of this chair and know that if this transfiguration is any indication, you are a spectacular witch.”

Remus thought for a moment and then said, “So now what we are going to do is walk around the house and see what we can come up with for you to point your wand at.” He held his hand out for Seraphina to take and lead the way.

They spent the morning and afternoon moving objects around, fixing furniture, and performing various spells and charms. Seraphina came face to face with a Hippogriff in Sirius’s mother’s old bedroom, which startled her so much that she backed away into the hall as it eyed her suspiciously. Sirius spent some time petting and reassuring it before they continued their way around.

She found that lifting, transforming, and fixing objects came naturally to her; materializing objects, however, was a struggle. Her aguamenti produced a few drops of water from the tip of her want and when she lit the fire with an inflamare it weakly sputtered a bit before it went out again. It took a few tries and a lot of prompting from Remus and Erwin before she was able to keep the blaze going and she wasn’t able to extinguish the fire on her own, though it did diminish a bit.

After a bit of this, Remus instructed her to sit in a chair across from him. He told her he was going to read her mind and she was to try to keep him out. “I won’t push in too much, but it will be good to see how strong you are able to shield. Remember to guard your throat chakra – this is of vital importance.” Without warning, he said “Legillemens!” and Seraphina felt the niggling sensation that her mind was being invaded. The sensation was difficult to describe; it was as if a pinpoint area in her brain were being stimulated, and from that area, she could feel the neurons firing out, growing that pinpoint into a larger area. Then the pinpoint moved and the enlarging happened again. Each time, she relived a memory from her past, as if she were watching a movie of her life. It was all a bit overwhelming.

“I’m not as strong as Severus, but what I can tell you is that in some parts of your memories there are actual physical walls – brick walls, specifically - that bar me from seeing more. It’s as if you’ve walled up what you don’t want to remember and locked it away. When I look in again, I want you to focus on the sensation and will yourself to see what I see. Then try to stop me by any means necessary. If you must, build a wall.”

She felt the pinpoint again and this time focused on it trying to draw out the memory that was there. She was taken back a few months to a ladies night where she was getting ready to sing for the crowd. In her memory, she tried to physically push what she felt out, but that didn’t work. Then she wrapped her arms around herself as of to protect her body and shut down like she had when she was seriously depressed. She stopped her thoughts and forced her sensations to dull. As she did this, the memory flickered. She had decided to imagine a wall in front of the memory, but before she could do that she was back in the room staring at Remus, who was marginally smiling.

“That wasn’t bad. As you practice, do whatever you did there. Focus on strengthening it and blocking it from view. When start to get that, substitute false memories for the true ones. But make sure that you tell yourself that they are false or you may find your true memories a bit confused after a while.” He stood, ran his hand over her head, and whispered, “Good job, Seraphina.”

_______________________________________________

2:45 came much too quickly. Before she went to Hogwarts, she ran to her room and changed into her red wrap dress, a pair of matching flats, put on a bit of understated jewelry and a bit of blush and lip gloss and fluffed up her hair with her fingers before deciding to pull it back into a ponytail with a barrette. Deciding that she looked as good as she ever would, she ran back downstairs to the sitting room fireplace.

Erwin was waiting for her there. He fussed over her dress (just as he had on all of her first days of school), gave her a small hug, and told her to say hello to Albus and Minerva for him. He then held the urn of floo powder out toward her. She stepped into the fireplace, threw down the powder, and said, “Albus Dumbledore’s Office.”

The floo ride was much shorter than she was anticipating – she was, after all, traveling to Scotland. She hadn’t prepared herself for the landing; when she entered Albus’s office she promptly fell onto her side, landing right at the feet of none other than Severus Snape.

Severus looked down imperiously at her, not even a hint of a smirk or smile. In fact, Seraphina thought, he appeared a bit annoyed at the fact that she had fallen and sullied the hem of his robe. He silently huffed and extended his hand to her to help her up. Once she was standing, he turned toward one of the portraits on the wall and completely ignored her. She watched in a bit of shock at his total lack of social skills as he started a conversation with a portrait who, she soon realized listening to him, was Phineas Black, another one of her long lost relatives.

“Hello, Sarah,” Albus said, taking her right hand in both of her own and squeezing them warmly. “I'm so happy that you could join us.” His attention then turned to Headmaster Black's portrait. “It's funny that Severus would choose to speak to Phineas, your great-great grandfather. I suppose introductions are in order.”

He led her over to the portrait and said, “Severus, if I may take a moment of Phineas's time.” Severus nodded his head fractionally and stepped back but regarded Albus and Seraphina.

“Phineas,” he said to the portrait, “ I would like to introduce you to your great-great granddaughter, Seraphina Dumbledore.” He then turned to Seraphina and said, “Seraphina, your grandfather, Phineas Nigellus Black.”

“Who are your parents then?” the portrait asked. He seemed a bit curmudgeonly, but not entirely unpleasant.

“My mother was Artemesia Black and my father was Ahearn Dumbledore, though I don't remember them. They died when I was two.”

“Hmm – yes, Grindelwald's Army's last hurrah. You were taken into hiding and now you are back?”

“Yes, sir. This is my first time at Hogwarts. And I'm to be sorted today. It's all a bit astounding, really.”

“You have the look of a Slytherin. We Black's have a great tradition in Slytherin house, as we should. We are all resourceful in getting what we want, wouldn't you agree, Albus?”

“You are, indeed, Phineas, as is Seraphina, though she has a bit of Gryffindor blood in her as well.”

“Shame, that,” Phineas said, then continued, “not that I have an issue with Gryffindors per se; I simply desire to see my progeny in Slytherin where they will get the proper instruction and incentive to reach their ambitions.” He turned to Seraphina and said, “If you will excuse me, all of this socializing has left me a bit nackered. I could do with a bit of a lie down.” He then stood and wandered out of the picture.

Albus took Seraphina by the arm and started to lead her to a room off of his office. She stopped him and look in the office that surrounded her.

“This is amazing, Albus. It's your office! And look at it!” She wandered a bit, looking into the glassed in book cases that lined the curved walls. They contained books, of course, but also beautiful brass objects, pieces of stone, fossils, and potions. She walked toward his desk and there was Fawkes, in all of his beautiful glory, feathers puffed as if he knew that he was beautiful.

“That is my phoenix, Fawkes. He's just in the middle of this life cycle, so he's at his peak. He gets a bit pompous at this point – I'm afraid that he is aware of his beauty.” Albus said lovingly, speaking more to Fawkes than Seraphina.

“You are a beauty, aren't you?” cooed Seraphina, extending her palm slowly to Fawkes, who regarded it, puffed up a bit more, and then leaned in and bumped it with his head. She then gently stroked his head, eliciting a low vibratory growl from the bird.

After a few moments Albus took her by the arm again. “We should join the others. They get testy when they are made to wait for their tea. It's the clotted cream – so delicious no one wants to wait for it!” They then walked into the adjoining room followed by Severus.

_________________________________________________________

Severus had been ordered earlier in the day that he was to participate in tea in Albus's office. While tea in itself was tolerable, a tea party was another thing entirely. He hated any opportunity where he was surrounded by a crowd. Even though he had perfected his conversational skills years ago and could hold his end of the conversation, he much preferred being alone with his books or mulling over a potion. Even lesson planning or grading essays was preferable to a tea party, but when Albus Dumbledore orders, one obeys.

It wasn't until he arrived at Albus's office and heard Minerva and Poppy tittering away that he realized that they were to be joined by Seraphina Dumbledore. Who most likely hated him. And what a joy that would be.

Minerva, Poppy, Sybill, and Pomona had wandered into Albus's private chambers, leaving Albus and him alone in Albus's office. Albus knew better than to engage Severus in idle chit chat, and Severus was grateful for the moment of silence to steel himself for tea with his collegues. He had a moment to gather his thoughts when the floo roared and Seraphina Dumbledore tripped ungracefully out of it, spilling herself at his feet. She was wearing a knee length muggle dress that flattered all of her curves and, unlike yesterday's dress, showed a bit of her cleavage – her healthy, pink, lovely cleavage, Severus told himself. It was then that he noticed a tiny freckle on her right breast, just peeking out of her dress. Severus doubted that the freckle was usually visible; in her disheveled condition, however, he was given the opportunity to see more of her than he could have ever wished for. Her dress had opened on the bottom as well, showing the long length of her left leg – her toned, bare leg, which she was, at that moment, hurriedly covering up with her skirt.

Without thinking, he offered her his hand, and when she took it, he was startled by how small her hand was in comparison to his. Her nails were polished and neatly filed and her skin was soft and smooth, so much different than his hands, which had been dried and hardened by years stirring and preparing potions. He found himself alarmed at his reaction to her; he had done nothing more than helped her stand and already he was letting his mind wander to unnecessary places. Once she was standing, he turned hurriedly around and finding Phineas awake, walked over to his portrait.

“Good afternoon, Severus,” Phineas said, then, in his characteristic lecherous way, said, “The best day of my life was when women stopped wearing hosiery and started showing their tits again. That one needs a good poking; she's ripe for the plucking, Severus.”

Severus was (blessedly) pushed aside at that moment by Albus, who (much to Severus's delight) informed Phineas that Seraphina was his great-great granddaughter. Phineus didn't even flinch, and went directly into his gentleman act, showing off to Seraphina that he knew her story, that she was his progeny and therefore destined for a great house like Slytherin, that he was the consummate grandfather, come sit on my knee and all that. Severus snorted to himself at the temerity of Phineus, who very shortly said his goodbyes feigning fatigue. More likely to head off to the sirens on the fifth floor to play a game of pinch and tickle, Severus thought.

He stood silently and watched as Seraphina took in Albus's office. She seemed riveted by the books, looked as if her fingers itched to touch them, much like Severus's had the first time he had entered this office. He wondered what her reaction would be to the library, where all manner of book that she had never seen existed, just waiting to be explored. She made comments here and there about an artifact or instrument that she was looking at, but by and large she was silent, eyes full of wonder at the magic that surrounded her. At the same time, she exuded an aura of slightly chaotic but strongly coursing magical energy; magic, he realized, that he would be instrumental in shaping.

Then she caught sight of Fawkes. The same bird that had nearly bitten his finger off the first time that he had tried to touch him. He'd needed to be flood directly to the infirmary, the bleeding had been so bad (and he had sworn that Fawkes had been smug about how much damage he had done with his well timed bite). He smiled to himself as Fawkes put on his act, puffing up his feathers for the pretty girl, showing off his feathers and finery. He held his breath as she moved her hand to touch the bird. And he watched in amazement as Fawkes let her stroke his head and back while she crooned about how beautiful he was. And, in a bit of shock, watched as Albus took her arm to lead her into tea, not even remarking (as he usually did on the rare opportunities that Fawkes behaved himself) about Fawkes's tendency to bite.

He shook himself out of his momentary shock, realizing that he was mindlessly following Albus and Seraphina into tea. He was entering tea without his teeth gritted, without his muscles tensed. He was actually looking forward to observing Seraphina, who, unlike 99% of people that he met, seemed to surprise him at every turn. There was nothing predictable about Seraphina Dumbledore.

Severus Snape was excited, genuinely excited, to be in someone's company for the first time in years. He found himself miraculously looking forward to being able to teach someone his own age, someone who could possibly turn out to be his equal in intellect and magical power. And yet, he reminded himself, he would hold that excitement close to him, lest his relations with her go the direction of most of his social interactions. He maintained his stoic calm, kept his expression neutral and blank, hiding the tingle of anticipation that he felt, and followed Albus and Seraphina as they took their places at tea.

 

Chapter Text

The tea party went well. As Remus had told her, Albus and Minerva led the conversation, which was focused mostly on Seraphina. Where she had grown up, what Ohio was like, where she had gone to school, her hobbies (herbs – which delighted Pomona, needlework – which Albus and Minerva raised an eyebrow to, singing, specifically karaoke – which everyone, except of course, Severus, found interesting, and a bit of baking and cooking – which finally got a bit of Severus’s attention). They, too, were impressed with the unicycles (making her even more grateful for Erwin, how he had helped her overcome her fears about riding them, how he had helped her through everything in her life). They talked about magic with her, and asked how she was adjusting to her new world (better as each day went on, it turned out), and she told them about Daisy, and how she smelled like the woods that she grew up wandering around in. And the crumpets and clotted cream were amazing.

Pomona was a delight. Round and bubbly, full of kindness and laughter, quick with a smile and a hug. Excited to have someone to talk plants and growing them with and to introduce magical herbology to. She brought up her young pupil Neville Longbottom (Severus rolled his eyes, Pomona waved her hands at him and shushed him good-naturedly), who she had taken under her wing and would most likely be taking on in an apprenticeship upon his graduation. She was excited to introduce Neville to Seraphina, she said. She also loved to bake and was excited to exchange recipes with Seraphina and volunteered to help her convert her American recipes to metric. Before tea was finished, they had vowed to meet so that Seraphina could make her chocolate chip cookies and American style biscuits.

Poppy was a bit more guarded, and initially actually seemed a bit unsettled around Seraphina. She was a very petite and rather stunning woman with an efficient, serious demeanor who appeared to be around the same age as Minerva. She quickly warmed toward her, though, and spoke of working with Seraphina in the infirmary, teaching her about magical healing and learning a bit of muggle medicine. She was an artist – watercolors and acrylics, and invited Seraphina to her quarters to see some of her work, most of which were studies of various decorative flowers and herbs. She seemed particularly interested in what Erwin had been doing in the years that they had gone into hiding, and asked quite a few questions about his life, how he had been as a father figure, and if he had any romantic involvements (Minerva looked fractionally surprised that she had asked that, and Poppy looked relieved when Seraphina told her that Erwin was a confirmed bachelor and had been for most of his life).

Seraphina loved Minerva with every fiber of her being. She was whip smart, quick with a comeback, and did not miss a thing. She had a sly sense of humor, which Seraphina learned during the course of tea could turn quite bawdy after a bit of Ogdens. She could talk about anything and genuinely was interested in Seraphina and her life. She admitted having been friends with Erwin and emptying a bottle or two of spirits with him in their day.

Severus was the silent observer. His attention was absolute, his gaze heavy and penetrating; Seraphina could almost watch the gears in his head turning and see him filing away information for further thought. She sensed that he was not as guarded with her as he had been at Grimmauld Place; that didn't mean that he was any kinder. It simply meant that he occasionally agreed with a bit of conversation and had nothing negative to say to any of Seraphina's observations. All in all, Severus Snape seemed to be on his best behavior.

After the last dregs of tea were served and the serving plates were cleared of the last of their morsels, Albus stood and gestured for everyone to follow him back into his office. Positioned directly in the center of the floor in front of his desk was a small stool - and on it stood the Sorting Hat. It was as dirty, frayed, and rumpled looking as Seraphina believed it would be; it was so darkened with use that no hint of its original color could be divined. It had been patched so thoroughly that Seraphina would have been amazed if any of its original material remained. Looking at it, she felt that she was in the presence of a sage elderly person rather than a hat.

“I’m to be sorted now?” Seraphina asked, the excitement showing in her voice.

“Yes, that was the plan,” Albus answered, amused at her excitement.

Seraphina looked around at the other professors in attendance and noticed that all of the former headmasters were looking on as well. Minerva walked over to the stool and conferred a bit with the hat, and then came to stand beside Seraphina.

The hat moved around a bit, as if stretching out, and then began to speak. “Ahem,” it began, “yes. Well, the students usually want a bit of a song and dance; however, I understand that I’ll be sorting an adult today, so I’ll spare you the theatrics. Let’s get on with the sorting, yes?”

“You could sing and dance if you’d like,” Seraphina said, a bit disappointed that she wouldn’t be getting the whole show.

“I’m an old hat, young lady; some would call me ancient. One performance a year is quite enough for me. But,” he offered, “I promise you a bit of conversation while we get you sorted. Adults are a bit tricky. Takes a bit longer; there are questions to ask, a lifetime to examine. So many layers develop with age.”

With that, Minerva picked up the hat and motioned for Seraphina to sit. She smiled at Seraphina, and then placed the hat upon her head.

“Yes, many, many layers,” Seraphina heard the hat say in her head.

“So I just think and you can hear me?” Seraphina asked with her mind.

“That is correct. I know all of your secrets, everything that you have hidden away. Rest assured, our conversation will go no further than this moment; Godric gave me principles, after all. Now, what would you like me to know about you – hmm?” the hat asked, more to himself than Seraphina. He then said, “I know that you know about Hogwarts, that you’ve given it extensive thought. That you aren't from here, exactly, and you were brought here quite unexpectedly. And yet - you’ve longed to be here, you have dreamed about it, dreamed of being a witch. It's all very interesting, really. Only Albus knows everything about you, or at least he thinks he does. But we both know that with the exception of your uncle, no one has even come close to seeing the whole depth of you.”

The hat paused, and Seraphina thought that it would make a great therapist.

“You're not the first to think that. I've looked into the minds of some very - dark souls; it's enough to keep me up at night, the things I've seen in their heads. You aren't dark, and yet you're not going to be sacrificing yourself for anyone anytime soon, are you? You protect yourself; some would think you do so because of rather recent events, but you've always held a bit back, always felt out your surroundings, even as a child.”

“There's a great deal of kindness here. You genuinely care for those around you. You feel no malice, regardless of the hand that the past has dealt you. You love people – love to puzzle them out, love to analyze them, figure out what makes them tick. And the knowledge in your head! Your brain is like a sponge, isn't it? You want to understand everything, you thirst for wisdom – science, philosophy, art, religion – it's all here and you are fascinated by it. So many overlapping bits and pieces to suss out . . .”

The hat paused, as if considering all that it had learned, and then asked Seraphina, “Well, then, you must have some idea of which house you should be sorted into, yes? I know it's something that you've given a great deal of thought to.”

“I have a suspicion, but I’m not sure,” Seraphina thought. “The kindness and caring points toward Hufflepuff, and I do love to learn, love the puzzle and the great mysteries of life, which is Ravenclaw. But I’m guarded and suspicious and I plan everything meticulously. Erwin has always said I’m the most cunning person he knows, which would seem to point toward Slytherin and directly away from Gryffindor.”

“Most students seem to want to be placed in Gryffindor, especially those whose relatives have been house members.” the hat observed. “It’s interesting that you have no interest in it -why is that, then?”

“Well, not everyone is made for Gryffindor, are they? You know, I'm not sure where I belong but what I can tell you that I want to be in the house in which I can do the most good. Where I can help the students the most – the house that would benefit the most from having me. I mean, it wasn't really my choice to be here, so I figure while I'm here I need to be the place where I can be the most useful, or at least help out the most.”

“Which is exceedingly brave, and very much Gryffindor,” the hat said. “I could put you in the house least suited to you with that sort of request. Every house has its needs – the Hufflepuffs could use a bit of backbone, they have a tendency to just roll over so as not to create a fuss. The Ravenclaws could use a bit of humility – I suppose the Gryffindors and Slytherins could as well. As you can see, I could put you anywhere, because each house could benefit from what I see in you. But I don’t think I’ll have to do that. Because I think that you belong in the house that needs you the most. It won't be the easiest house to belong to; I believe that you will benefit from being there, though, and the students will benefit from having you. The house that you belong in is . . . SLYTHERIN!”

Seraphina felt the hat being removed. She hadn't realized until that moment that she had closed her eyes.

Phineas Black was delighted with the sorting, shouting “Hear, hear! Another Black in Slytherin! And you will be treated well there, my child, you will become great - you'll see,” which was answered by nodes and emphatic grunts of agreement from a few of the portraits and disagreement from the others.

“Well,” Albus said, “Erwin did warn me that we might lose you to Slytherin. He was hoping for Ravenclaw, but the hat knows best . . .”

Minerva, Poppy, and Pomona looked a bit disappointed; Pomona looked almost as if she had lost her best friend. Minerva had her familiar closed off, appraising look, her face pinched, as if she were trying to suss out what it was, exactly, about Seraphina that had placed her in Slytherin house.

And then there was Severus, who, if Seraphina was correct (and Seraphina always read people correctly) was completely shocked. It was obvious that the last thing he had expected was for Seraphina to join him in his house. She supposed that it meant that she would be caring for the Slytherin children with him, becoming another role model for them. It also meant that she would most likely live in close proximity with him and perhaps be spending more time with him than he had anticipated. She would, in essence, be invading his private, carefully constructed, closed off world. Seraphina smiled to herself at the silent uproar that her unexpected sorting was causing.

She decided to break the silence. “So Slytherin it is, then. Perhaps you could all tell me why you all look as if I've been thrown into a pit of vipers,” knowing full well what all the fuss was about; after all, she had to keep up the ruse that she knew nothing about Hogwarts.

Severus laughed acerbically and said, “Because you have. The Slytherin crest has a snake on it because our founder, Salazar Slytherin had a certain – affinity for snakes. The other houses think us evil and choose to look past the fact that the characteristics that get one sorted into Slytherin are cunning and ambition; we tend to put self-preservation above almost all other things. I find our line of thinking practical, ordered – rather businesslike, if you will – but the other houses see us as being uncaring, unyielding and full of fanatical blood purists . . .”

“To be fair, Severus, the majority of blood purists are in Slytherin, and Salazar was vehement in his belief in blood purity,” Pomona interjected.

“Yes, he was, Pomona, which leads one to wonder how I ended up in Slytherin, or even Sarah – you are going by Sarah, yes?” to which Seraphina nodded. “Neither one of us are pure bloods, and yet, here we are. How does someone as kind as Daphne Greengrass or Tracie Davis end up in Slytherin, if we are all cold hearted monsters? The one thing that we all have in common is enterprise, a zeal to succeed, and the ability to do so. Pure blooded society raises their children using a very Slytherin model – look before you act, always keep your head about you, be practical, succeed. Therefore, many pure blooded children end up in Slytherin.”

The truth was that Seraphina had suspected that she was a Slytherin. She had never bought into the whole “Slytherins are all evil” belief – she had known all along that Slytherin was the house for the ambitious, those who looked out for themselves. That didn't mean, however, that people placed in Slytherin didn't care about those around them or that they were entirely selfish, or she wouldn't have belonged there like the hat had told her. In Seraphina's mind, it simply meant that Slytherins were careful, not as apt to rush into the unknown, which seemed entirely reasonable. “Sounds about right for me,” Seraphina said to everyone, looking then at Severus and continuing, “I look forward to talking to you about what to expect.”

To this, Severus, marginally – fractionally – smiled and bowed is head and said, “I look forward to it, as well.”

Seraphina and Severus spent a moment studying each other. Seraphina was expecting Severus to use the opportunity to sneak a peek into her mind and had braced herself for the strange sensation. When it didn't come she was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps being sorted into Slytherin had better categorized Seraphina for Severus and he didn't feel the need to look into her thoughts. Or maybe he was just a polite legilemens as Mr. Ollivander had said. At any rate, it felt as if something had become easier when it came to Severus Snape, and Seraphina was going to take anything that she could get when it came to getting in Severus's good graces.

Albus took Seraphina by the arm, pulling her out of her thoughts. “I have a bit of a soft spot for this room, but this is a large castle full of amazing things. I promised you a tour of your rooms, which we now know will be in the dungeons. Perhaps Severus and I can escort you there? I'll spare Minerva, Poppy, and Pomona another tour of the castle.” At this he nodded at the other women in the room excusing them to the rest of their day.

He led Seraphina to the door to his office. “You will want to hold onto the railing until you get used to the stairs. They move, which is rather convenient as my office is seven stories up. We will be exiting on the ground floor. The password to my office is currently 'Licorice Allsorts'.”

When they reached the ground floor, Albus said, “The castle is divided into two buildings. I will make sure that you receive our literature for new students that explains, among other things, how to find your way around. Even with this, Hogwarts is magical and tends to change on a whim. One year we had an entire wing go missing, though that was long before your time.

We are currently in the west building, which contains all of the classrooms, save Potions and Runes, which we will see when we go to the dungeons. Through that door (he pointed to a door to their right) is one of our courtyards – you can use it as a shortcut to the west greenhouses and the Forbidden Forest – our grounds keeper's hut is in that direction as well.”

Seraphina opened the door walked out into magnificent, ancient, peaked stone cloisters which ran around the perimeter of a large manicured courtyard with a lavish stone fountain in the middle. There were box hedges with various fragrant herbs growing abundantly in the four green sections of the courtyard and several smaller trees with benches underneath. Seraphina closed her eyes and took in the gorgeous smells; lavender, geranium, mint, and rose were just a few of the smells that wafted through the stone walkway with the summer breeze. In the cloisters were multiple alcoves and benches that looked like perfect places to study or sit with friends.

“This is like something out of a fairy tale. It's beautiful,” she said to herself.

“Pomona considers it an extension of her greenhouses. It is quite popular with the students,” Albus stated, while leading Seraphina back into the building and toward a long hallway on the opposite wall.

The hallway was lined on either side with ancient, wavy, leaded glass that shone brightly, casting rainbow prisms on the ancient flagstone floor and walls. The walls were punctuated with large stone sconces with low flames that gently illuminated the hallway.

“This is the main walkway that connects the west building to the east building. I'm told that when the castle was originally built this hallway connected only the ground floors to each other. The castle has added stories through the years so that now each story in the east and west buildings are connected.”

Through the windows, Seraphina could see a large stream below and, when she looked to her right, the Black Lake and the green hills beyond. It was a stunning sight, unlike anything that Seraphina had ever seen. The sky was a brilliant blue, filled with fluffy, cotton ball clouds. She walked over toward the bank of windows and looked out. Albus and Severus stood on either side of her.

“I just realized that I'm in Scotland. I'm standing in a castle looking over the hills of Scotland. They're so beautiful that it's a wonder that people have come up with words to describe them. And Erwin tells me that at night time the stars are breathtaking. Where we lived in Ohio is was difficult to see the stars at night. I've never been outside of the United States, and now I'm standing in Scotland, just like that . . .” She stopped and stared for a bit. She could feel Severus looking at her, while Albus looked at the scenery in companionable silence.

After a few minutes, Albus said, “I remember coming to Hogwarts for the first time. When the first years arrive they are led to Hogwarts in boats over the Black Lake – the lake we are looking at now. It is night time, and the lights from the castle shine off of the water while the stars blaze in the sky above. To this day I have yet to come up with a more beautiful sight. It's rather a shame that you missed out on that.”

He started walking again, taking Seraphina's arm and leading her on. Severus followed in silence.

“We will be entering the Great Gallery next,” he said, giving Seraphina's arm a friendly squeeze. “Some people consider it one of the great spaces of the wizarding world. I am inclined to agree.”

As they walked out of the long hallway Seraphina found that all logic and thought and words had left her. She had never seen a room more fantastic than the one they were standing in. In front of her, climbing to a ceiling seven stories up, was the Grand Staircase (“The moving stairs!” Seraphina thought in amazement). And along the walls were hundreds of portraits and oil paintings of every style and every subject. She couldn't imagine any art gallery in the world that would rival the collection before her.

“There is a Vermeer on the third floor; most of the paintings in the Grand Gallery date prior to the 1700s. Throughout the halls of Hogwarts you'll find tapestries and paintings that date into the pre-Raphaelite period. I'm fond of the Caravaggio on the sixth floor,” said Severus nonchalantly.

“Vermeers and Caravaggios! Where's the Michelangelo?” mocked Seraphina.

“Which one?” asked Albus, totally serious. “We have several. If you're interested, I believe we have a catalog of our artwork in the library, which I'm afraid won't be on the tour today. It is located in the West building on the third floor. I imagine, as a book lover, you will be quite impressed with it.”

He stood facing the stairs and continued. “These stairs were charmed to move by Rowena Ravenclaw. Rowena loved a good puzzle and thought that creating moving stairs would challenge the students – make them think spatially I believe. They are quite safe, however; once they begin to move and until they reach their final position it is impossible for a student to step off of the top or bottom stair of that flight. Admittedly, moving stairs can hold one up but they have their charms as well. They may be stopped using the incantation arresto momentum.”

“On the first floor is our infirmary. I'll not take you there today; however, I'd like you to stop by in the near future and speak with Poppy about working with her. Hopefully before you are done here we will have you well on your way to being a Healer.”

“The entrances to Gryffindor and Ravenclaw towers are on the 5th floor. At our initial staff meeting I'll be handing out the passwords for each house.”

He turned to the left and stopped in front of a doorway flanked by two small stone gargoyles. “This is the staff room. We have all of our staff gatherings here. There is a weekly staff meeting at half seven each Monday night– attendance is required. The gargoyles recognize all staff; students, however, have a rather difficult time getting past them. Professors need a space where they can come together free from disturbance.”

They walked forward through a large arched doorway into another large vestibule. To the right were a large set of wooden, steepled doors.

“Through these doors is the Great Hall.” He wove his wand and one of the doors opened softly. He wove his wand again, and what seemed like thousands of floating candles illuminated, casting a glow on the enchanted ceiling, which was the same brilliant blue as the outside. The walls of the hall were three stories high; the same ancient, clear leaded glass Seraphina had seen in the hallway were broken up by thick stone walls from which hung massive flaming sconces that added further light to the room. And of course, down the center of the hall were four long wooden tables flanked by low benches for each of Hogwarts four houses to eat at.

“The Slytherin table is to the far right, followed by Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Gryffindor,” said Albus, pointing out each table as they walked toward the head table.

The windows behind the head table stood in a peaked triptych and were again clear glass. The effect of the light streaming through the massive ancient glass was brilliant flooding the stage and head table with light and the same scattered rainbows that she had seen earlier.

“As you can see, the ceiling is charmed to reflect the sky. At night, the stars shine down onto the hall and through the windows – the effect is quite romantic. It sometimes snows in winter, though the snowflakes disappear before they reach the students. You will find students in the hall at all hours studying, eating, what have you. It is only after curfew that the hall is silent.”

“We like our professors to join the students at lunch and dinner during the week if they are available. Breakfast is optional, though many professors will be here at that time as well. You will sit with Severus at the far end of the table near Slytherin House; I think I'll place you between him and Pomona.” He looked at her sideways, with a slight twinkle in his eye and said, “No need to place you next to Delores; I believe I'll keep her close by for now.”

“If I need to address the students I will do so at our evening meal. If you have any dietary wishes, the elves will learn them; you'll find the food to be quite good.”

They turned around and went back into the vestibule off of the great hall. He pointed toward a large set of doors to their far right. “Those doors lead to a walkway that crosses in front of the Black Lake and further on to the greenhouses. When we have school visits to Hogsmeade we will depart from here. The door next to it,” he pointed to the a smaller wooden door to the left of the exit doors, “leads to the cellar where the kitchens and entrance to Hufflepuff House are located. And here,” he said, pointing to four large, empty, glass containers on stone pedestals, behind which stood banners with each house crest on them, “are where the students may view the house points. You should feel free to award or subtract points from each house accordingly; our staff manual – quite dry reading, actually, though you should attempt to read it – contains some guidelines for our points system.”

He then started walking toward a door to their far left. Walking through, he said, “you'll want to watch your step. We'll be going down to the dungeons now. The steps are quite old, though anti-slip and skid charms were placed on them years ago to prevent mishaps.”

He led Seraphina and Severus down a wide set of stone spiral stairs. Seraphina noticed that the further down they went to colder the air became. She made a mental note to get her teaching robes and some thick wool sweaters as soon as possible because if it was this could in the summer, she couldn't imagine how cold it would get in the Scottish winter.

At the bottom of the steps he pointed out the potions store room, took her a bit further down a hallway to the Ancient Runes classroom, and then turned around and turned left down a rather low ceilinged, bleak corridor. Stone sconces flared to life as they walked down the hall casting an orange glow on the walls.

Severus stepped to Albus's side. They had entered his domain. He opened the first door that they came to on their right. The wall of the hall to the left of them was hung with enormous, colorful, ancient tapestries – Seraphina would have to look at them more closely when she was exploring. She found that she had to almost jog to keep up with Severus now that he had taken over the tour.

They entered a spare, stark classroom outfitted with wooden tables and chairs which were placed to face an enormous chalkboard at the front of the room. To the right of the board was an imposing desk which was bare except for a cup of quills and an ink pot. “This is the potions classroom,” he said, his voice echoing in the empty, stone walled room. “I like my spaces to be neat and spare. I demand the full attention of my students and keep my classroom clear of distractions.” He then turned on his heal, his robes swishing, and led the way out of the room. They stopped in front of the next door. “This is my office. I have strict office hours and will not be disturbed outside of them.”

They continued down the hall to the next door, which Severus opened and entered. They had entered the potions lab.

“This isn't what I expected at all!” Seraphina exclaimed, delighted at feeling right at home in the rather modern looking laboratory that contained long work stations laden with Bunsen burners and various stands. At the front and sides of the room were floor to ceiling shelves overflowing with laboratory glassware, cauldrons, and bottles containing all manner of plant, powder, and in many cases, body part. Seraphina found herself drawn to the shelves, captivated by their contents, recognizing bottles for Asphodel root, Arnica, Borage, beetle eyes and beetle wings. There were chemicals that she recognized (a large brown glass bottle of acetone, another clear container of ammonia, and bismuth salts, among many others) interspersed with the foreign ingredients. “The students use antimony?” she said to herself, jumping when Severus's hand reached out to touch the bottle containing it. “It's an ingredient in a flame resistance potion that the Advanced students learn.” He turned his head to look at her. “We have a very comprehensive store; this is only a fraction of the ingredients that I've accumulated through the years. I keep the more rare and valuable ingredients in my private laboratory through that door.” He pointed to a small hallway to their right, at the rear of the classroom, and then, looking in that direction, squinted, a puzzled expression on his face.

“There wasn't a hall there before,” he exclaimed, walking toward the hallway that Seraphina had assumed he was pointing out. She followed, excited at the prospect of discovering a new area in the castle; Albus followed a short distance behind them.

They found that the hall was actually a small alcove. Directly in front of them was a door with a small brass plaque on it that read “Professor Snape” and to the right of that, along the back wall, was a door that said “Sarah Douglas.”

“It seems you have been given a room by the castle,” Severus said, sounding slightly annoyed. He then turned to his door, said “Lycosidae acrulomantus,” and opened it. “My laboratory is intact. I would assume, then, that you have been given a laboratory as well, Miss Douglas.” He stared at her for a moment, and then impatiently huffed, “Perhaps you should open the door?”

Seraphina turned the handle and walked into a small, even more modern looking chemistry lab. A lab that would not have looked at all out of place at Princeton. There was a substantial area for preparation of her materials, an enclosed hood, and another bench for experimentation with shelves above and below. At the front of the space was a metal desk and chair that looked exactly like one something that would have been used in a 1950s newsroom. She opened the desk drawer, and to her absolute delight she found a substantial supply of Parker ballpoint pens, some pencils, a few spiral notebooks and bound lab books. Above the desk was a large periodic table, a framed photo of Elizabeth Blackwell reading a book, and another photo of Marie Curie holding a flask in her laboratory. On a small shelf to the side were several reference books on chemistry, potions ingredients, medicine and medical potion making. There was even a small boombox with a tape deck, although it appeared that it didn't need to be plugged in as there was no cord. It was absolutely perfect.

“I take it from the look on your face that you approve of what appears to be your office?” Albus asked, a smile on his face.

“It's wonderful. I couldn't have imagined something more wonderful. I can work on my herbal remedies – it feels like I'm back in chem lab, except that it's all mine. It's brilliant, just brilliant.”

“Wonderful,” Albus said, smiling as Severus and her. “Perhaps we should move on. There's still your quarters to see, which I imagine will be further down the corridor, and the Slytherin common room. Perhaps you could lead the way, Severus?”

Severus started walking without acknowledging or talking to either one of them. Seraphina and Albus followed. The reentered the hallway and then came to a dead end with a corridor to the left and right. Severus turned down the right one and pointed to a door. “Those are my chambers,” he said not stopping. They continued walking and stopped in front of the next door. “Well,” he said, voice a bit pinched, “this door is also new. I suspect this is the door to your rooms. Albus?”

Albus came forward and made some complicated wand movements in front of the door. Seraphina could see faint glowing lines cross-crossing in front of the door, some symbols that she didn't recognize at the edges of the door, and right where a name plate would have been was her given name, Seraphina Dumbledore.

“It appears that Severus is correct. If you touch the door handle it will recognize you and open.”

Seraphina stepped forward and touched the handle, which seemed to vibrate in her hand. The door then cracked open.

They walked through the door. Seraphina wasn't exactly sure what to expect; Erwin had told her that the castle would sense her likes and dislikes and create her rooms around them. What stood in front of her was something that she could never have imagined. They had entered into a sumptuous sitting room that looked like it had been designed by William Morris himself. The overstuffed love seat, chair, and small ottoman were upholstered in beautiful floral art nouveau textiles in saturated reds, greens, and blues. There were large and small embroidered pillows scattered about haphazardly, and candles burning on every available surface. The room smelled of vetiver and myrrh, which added to the overall luxuriant aura.

A tapestry of a beautiful naked woman speaking to a satyr hung above the fireplace – Seraphina realized that it was a scene of Pan comforting Psyche after her attempted suicide (not only one of her favorite Greek stories, but a rather personal scene as well). A large set of bookshelves ran floor to ceiling; the books that they had bought in Diagon Alley had been placed there; there was also a large sewing basket at the base of the shelves that contained embroidery floss, canvases, and several small, antique books with embroidery themes in them. On the other side of the room was a small, serviceable kitchen and rather plain shaker dining table with two chairs, on top of which was a crystal vase weighed down with enormous pink peonies. And to the side of it was something that Seraphina thought could not possibly be real. Because there on the wall was one of her favorite pieces of art, John William Waterhouse's portrait of The Lady of Shalott sitting at her loom.

“That's a reproduction, right? Because I cannot possibly have The Lady of Shalott on my wall. That is not an actual Waterhouse,” she said incredulously.

“She was previously on the 6th floor in a disused corridor I believe. I'm surprised you know her – perhaps she was in a muggle book on art?” Severus said as Albus nodded to himself, pleased with Severus's thought, and continued, “John Waterhouse was a Ravenclaw, pre-Raphaelite as I assume you know. I've always found his work to be a bit – indulgent; one can, however, recognize his considerable talent.”

Albus smiled at Severus. “Severus and Poppy are our resident experts on art. They know every painting, tapestry, and sculpture in this building.” He regarded the painting, saying, “I'm sure the Lady will be happy to have a bit of company after all this time,” Albus answered.

At that, the Lady looked away from her loom and over at Albus, quite forlorn. “I'm half sick of shadows,” she sighed, and then looked back at her loom and started weaving.

“She's half sick of shadows, Albus - the Lady of Shalott is on my wall!” Seraphina said in awe as she grabbed Albus by the arm. She turned to Severus and exclaimed “My wall, Severus, has a John William fricking Waterhouse on it, who painted beautiful, sensual, striking art. I just – I mean, there's probably going to be a Monet over my toilet, right, because why the hell not?”

“Perhaps we should find out,” answered Albus, chuckling, as he went to open the door to her bedroom.

The bedroom was another study in exquisite William Morris textiles and fabrics, from the dark indigo Night Garden duvet cover, to the green and red Lancaster Rose curtains on her rather large, and again Shaker, canopy bed. The tapestry here was a tree of life surrounded by Celtic knotwork in ochres, reds, and olive greens that looked like it belonged in a grand baronial mansion, not her bedroom. There was simple dresser on one wall, but on the other was an exquisite red lacquer Chinoiserie armoire decorated with hand drawn, gold-leaf butterflies and honeysuckle vines, intricate carvings decorating its underside. The butterflies fluttered about, sampling the nectar of the honeysuckle flowers. Seraphina had never seen a more beautiful piece of furniture. The room smelled of lavender and musk; overall, the effect was amazingly sensual and decadent. Seraphina imagined herself ensconced in her delicious bed being fed chocolates and champagne by Fabio and then snorted out loud at the ridiculous thought, earning quizzical looks by Albus and Severus. She simply smirked and looked through the next door, which contained her bathroom, and the largest, longest clawfoot tub that she had ever seen. She assumed most wizarding bathrooms followed the same general scheme, as the same octagonal tiles and chrome spigots decorated it – there was a medicine chest above her pedestal sink and a simple cabinet which contained fluffy towels and bath clothes as well. There was no Monet above her toilet, though Seraphina found absolutely no reason to complain. Everything was beyond her wildest imagination; she would have never decorated her own home so sumptuously, though now she couldn't imagine living in any other space.

“It's amazing,” she sighed. “It's like something from my wildest imaginings – it's so beautiful and plush. I just wouldn't have even thought I would live somewhere so beautiful.”

“The castle has outdone herself,” Albus commented, taking in little details around the room. Severus stood in the doorway to her bedroom looking slightly ill and out of place, stick straight and clearly uncomfortable.

“Not like your rooms, then, Severus?” Seraphina asked, teasing him just a little.

This time Severus snorted. “Hardly. It looks as if William Morris himself threw up all over your room. All the flowers and candles and stuffing – my rooms are much more ordered. I prefer clean lines, leather furniture, and wool.” He looked around, waving his hand in front of him, “And not so many – smells. I shall wait for you in the hallway.” He turned again on his heel, his coat flaring dramatically around him.

Albus chuckled. “It is a bit much, I suppose, though I like it. Comfortable, warm, inviting. One can hardly tell they are in a dungeon, can they?” Seraphina smiled in agreement. “I shall be visiting often - unless you find yourself being fed chocolates by large, muscular men.” He gave her a knowing smile and Seraphina sputtered and looked bashfully at the floor, which she found covered in a beautiful red oriental rug. Her rooms kept giving and giving.

“Let's not keep Severus waiting,” Albus said, taking her by the arm. As he started walking, he said, “We should charm your room with a password. Put your hand on the door and when I tell you, think of what you would like it to be. It won't set until you are sure.”

Seraphina did as Albus said, feeling the magic of the castle as she felt the wood beneath her fingers. Albus made a series of wand movements and said something in a sing song Latin, then nodded at her.

Seraphina was drawing a blank. And then, just like that, the most inane thing popped in her head and she couldn't help but have it as her password. 'Cherry Garcia' she thought with a smile at her distinctly American password.

She turned around and looked at her glorious living space, not quite believing (yet again) that this was actually her world. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the vetiver and myrrh scented air and then turned to rejoin Albus and Severus as they led the way to their final stop – the common room and dormitories of her new house, Slytherin.

 

Chapter Text

Tea was – tea. Seraphina was polite, witty and able to talk about every subject, sparkling. She obviously had been trained in the social niceties; she reminded him of Narcissa as she held court – gracious and seemingly open, yet careful in how she presented herself. It would be interesting to watch the two of them – Seraphina and Narcissa – in a social volley, should that ever come to pass now that the Dark Lord was ensconced in Malfoy Manor. The difference between the two of them was that while Narcissa used her icy beauty to charm and leverage herself, Seraphina seemed to be oblivious to the fact that she was, in fact beautiful; she acted more like a foal who hadn’t gotten their legs under them than a swanning woman of Wizarding society.

She was fascinated with everything. While Narcissa would turn her nose up at subjects as being beneath her or too gauche to even bother with, Seraphina was delighted with all topics of conversation and absorbed everything. She talked recipes with Pomona, bourbon with Minerva, watercolors with Poppy, and each topic held the same fascination, as if she were learning something marvelous with each new sentence.

She seemed to have let bygones be bygones as far as he was concerned. It was almost as if her exchange with him yesterday had never happened; or perhaps she was letting him start over again. She was pleasant, though distantly so, and seemed to hold no guile toward him. Through the course of the conversation he had determined that while Sirius and Remus (though Remus much less so, if he were forced to admit it) found it difficult to let go of a grudge and formed opinions off of first impressions, Seraphina was much more forgiving and, well, adult in her interaction with him. She didn’t seem at all put off by his insociable nature, at times trying to draw him out with a question or an encouraging look; it was almost as if she enjoyed his standoffishness, as if she found it a bit of a challenge.

She offered up bits and pieces of her life – her childhood in a small American college town, her love of gardening and herbs (why did Pomona always have to bring up the destructive force that was Neville Longbottom?), her medical practice, that she could sing, that there was no one special in her life and up until last week had thought her only family to be Erwin Whitacre. And yet – and yet – Severus had the distinct feeling that there was something significant, something dangerous, that she was holding back. And that, as always, Albus was in on it.

What could he say about the sorting? Was he surprised that she would be joining him in Slytherin house? Not entirely, really; his earlier interactions with her and her composure during tea showed her to be sly, a student of human interaction, able to win over and manipulate a crowd easily. What was a bit of a shock was the thought of a Dumbledore, all of whom had been sorted to Gryffindor, as a member of his house. He was sure that would raise interest, especially from the Dark Lord, who was always looking for an opportunity to best Albus in some way. There would doubtless be questions about her at a Deatheater meeting as soon as her true identity was widely known.

He hadn’t had another adult in the dungeons with him in quite some time. When he had first taken the Potions position Horace had helped him in his transition from student to teacher for a year (little good that did; Horace had spent too much time collecting star pupils to take much interest in Severus during that year). Since that time, Severus had thought of his dungeon rooms as his sanctuary, a place of quiet contemplation and solitude, where Deatheater business rarely touched him; he could retire there in the evening with a glass of brandy and a book and not be bothered until morning.

He suspected that Seraphina was a bit more social than he was used to. Her rooms were directly next to his, and the castle had irritatingly found it necessary to locate her laboratory/office next to his inner sanctum. If she were scheduled office hours, there could be children walking back and forth in front of his laboratory all hours of the day! He decided that he would simply have to be firm in enforcing his desire for quiet and solitude. It would not do to have someone blathering on about who knows what while he worked on his potions. It simply would not do.

And yet – when she walked through the castle her eyes shone in a way that he hadn’t seen in another adult in ages. Her wonder was contagious; at times, he found himself staring at her without knowing how long he had been doing so. She had loved the Potions classroom, looking at home amongst the benches and cauldrons running her eyes over the numerous ingredients. He couldn’t lie and say that it hadn’t thrilled him; while there were students who loved Potions and showed great potential, it had been a long time since someone his age showed the same enthusiasm.

He felt sure that if they had taken her into the Forbidden Forest little woodland creatures would have found her and flitted about her festooning her with flower boughs while the unicorns lay at her feet – he wouldn’t have been at all surprised if she had burst out into song while dancing about the halls with the house elves. Which he should have found nauseating, yet in her case, it wasn’t, really; it was just another piece of the puzzle, another part of the enigma.

And then there were her rooms. The castle sensed one’s likes when furnishing a room; but more than that, the décor of a room often reflected the personality of the one who resided there. The castle had offered him comfortable furniture and warmth that he hadn’t received at Spinner’s End, yet his rooms remained orderly, some would say almost spartan, save his massive collection of books. Albus’s rooms were a bit of a jumble, full of bits and bobs to assuage his never-ending curiosity and sense of play, and the most impressive display of magical instrumentation, both common and arcane, that Severus had ever seen. Seraphina’s were rich, with layer upon layer of color and texture and pattern and smell. It spoke to a certain sensuality, a desire to be surrounded by beautiful things (and a lack of guilt in that desire). Her bedroom might as well have been an Edwardian bordello with all of its reds and musk and the huge, plush bed; Severus decided that it was best not to dwell on the implications of that. And the castle had entrusted her with two of its treasures in the Waterhouse and chinasoiree cabinet, though he was sure that she was unaware of the significance of such a thing, even in her evident appreciation of them; it took quite a bit to earn the trust of Hogwarts (yet another piece of her ever growing puzzle).

He realized that he was captivated by her. There he was, in the presence of an intelligent, articulate, beautiful woman, one that loved many of the same things he did. Who would be living in his space, in those musky, voluptuous rooms; who didn’t seem the least bit repulsed by him. In fact, she seemed to find him as fascinating as everything else she had encountered, though she didn’t say as much. He could read it in the glances, the questions, she open smiles she gave him; he could feel it like he could feel the heat from the summer sun. He, Severus Snape, bat of the dungeons, might possibly have developed something of a crush on Seraphina Dumbledore. And, of course, she could know nothing of it.

______________________________________

Albus and Severus had led Seraphina to the Slytherin common room, demonstrating how to find the door (there was a slightly chipped stone adjacent to one with a miniscule coiled snake where one was to stand and say the password). Albus had told Seraphina the password before they reached the entrance; she again seemed delighted when a wooden door materialized as she said “Sacred 28.” Upon entering the common room that look of delight and wonder had reappeared as Seraphina slowly toured the room, running her hands over the horsehair sofas and leather armchairs, stopping to have a conversation with the wizarding chess pieces, and flirting with a coquettish merchild who was looking in through one of the floor to ceiling windows (he could not recall a time that he had ever seen someone flirt with one of the merpeople successfully, though Seraphina seemed to be a natural at this as well).

Salazar Slytherin’s portrait watched the proceedings with distant interest. Severus knew that Salazar was storing away Seraphina’s every comment and action, forming opinions that would possibly be used against her at any time in the future. Salazar was a taciturn overseer and expected his house members to exhibit well-bred, pureblooded behavior. When they did not he did not keep quiet.

“Who is this woman that you bring into my common room, Severus?” he asked, ignoring Albus altogether.

“Begging your pardon, Headmaster Slytherin, this is Sarah Douglas. She was identified by Albus as an untrained witch and is to be educated here. She was sorted into Slytherin,” he answered, as Seraphina joined Albus and him in front of the portrait.

Do not lie to me, Severus. I have already been informed by Phineas that his granddaughter Seraphina would be joining us. Normally, I would frown upon an American raised witch, but this one has impeccable lineage, ignoring Albus Dumbledore’s mudblood mother.”

“I would thank you, Salazar, not to use that word when speaking of my mother,” Albus glared sternly at the portrait, which appeared to ignore him.

“I will keep your secret safe,” Salazar said to Seraphina, who had turned to regard the portrait. “Phineas explained your background to me. I understand that you did not receive a proper upbringing as it applies to wizarding society; there are books on wizarding etiquette that will help you integrate yourself more completely. I expect proper decorum in this house and will not hesitate to correct you if your behavior approaches that of our more common, impure staff.” At that remark, he glanced quickly at Albus with a sneer.

“I believe we have seen enough here,” Albus said dismissively. He then turned to Severus and said, “If you would, a tour of the dormitories and facilities for Seraphina?”

Severus led the tour as efficiently as possible. He guessed that a tour by any of the other heads of house would take much more time – they were more inclined to blather on about unimportant details and wax philosophically or affectionately about their charges. While Severus viewed his Slytherin students with much more affection than most of the other students in the castle, he saw little use wasting his time on them when they weren’t even in attendance. As for the décor, Seraphina could come to her own conclusions about it; he couldn’t be arsed to care. Owing to his efficiency, he was able to conclude his tour in 15 minutes, leaving him a bit of time before dinner to disappear to his rooms.

As they reentered the dungeon corridors, Albus and Seraphina were having a conversation about her schedule over the next few days. She would return to Grimmauld Place tonight and go to Hogsmeade tomorrow to help her uncle settle into his new cottage. They were almost to the Potions classroom when the searing pain began in his arm, causing him to flinch. He noticed as Albus’s back became a little straighter; he didn’t know how Albus knew he was being summoned, but he always did.

“I just remembered, I have something a bit delicate that I need to discuss with Severus,” Albus said to Seraphina. “Perhaps I could join you by the Black Lake in a few moments? We have our own giant squid; he hasn’t gotten the attention this summer that he is used to. We could walk round to the green houses before I take you to the apparition point.”

Seraphina turned toward Severus and gave him a small smile. “Perhaps we could have lunch or dinner in a few days? Our initial meeting could have been better; perhaps a chance to get to know each other on different terms?”

Severus fractionally bowed his head to her, struggling to hold in a wince as the pain in his arm intensified, moving up into his shoulder and neck. “If you would be so good at to owl me when you are available I’m sure we would arrange something,” he replied, trying to sound debonair while fighting to keep the pain out of his voice.

Seraphina’s smile grew a bit larger. She then bounded forward and took his left hand, the hand of the arm bearing the mark, into both of hers, squeezing it. “I will be sure to do just that,” she said. Then, as if distracted by something she could not understand, looked down at their joined hands. He watched as she frowned quizzically while tightening her grip. At that moment the pain in his arm decreased, though only by a small degree. She looked into his eyes, seemingly asking him a question which he could not help but say yes to as the searing pain continued to be leeched from his body. He watched in shock as she ran her right hand lightly up his arm and placed her palm directly over his dark mark. From beneath her palm came the faintest golden glow, which continued until it seemed she could not hold her hand in place any longer. She stumbled away to be caught by Albus, short of breath and covered in a light sheen of sweat.

She looked into Severus’s eyes; hers were filled with a mix of fear and astonishment. “How is it?” she asked tentatively, her voice shaking. It was obvious that whatever magic she had just done was new to her.

“The pain has diminished,” he said, not knowing exactly what else to say, staring at the mark.

Albus spoke, as if breaking some sort of spell between Severus and Seraphina. “You should leave, Severus. It would most likely benefit your position to tell Tom about Seraphina. Narcissa should know as well; we can then count on Draco to spread the word as to her identity when an opportunity suitable to his purposes arises.”

It took all that Severus had to focus on Albus’s words. His mind was struggling to catch up with everything. He still felt Seraphina’s hand on his arm, was still in shock over what she had just done to him. He had never seen magic used in the way Seraphina had just used it. His mind reeled trying to understand the implications of such unusual magic. He quickly pulled himself together, making a note to speak with Albus about the interaction.

He tore his eyes from Seraphina’s, which were seeking his for some sort of answer which he could not give her. He turned to Albus and regarded him. The man was always plotting, and now, even in the face of something remarkable, he was no different. He held back his ire at the idea of Draco being pulled into Albus’s maneuverings. He hadn’t involved his godson up to this point, however; he had hoped to protect Draco from the old man’s scheming for a while longer, at least until he was forced by Lucius to take the Mark. It seemed, though, that Draco was to become a player despite his best intentions.

He closed his eyes and steadied his breath. “As you wish,” he said to Albus, before looking again at Seraphina, who was fighting to regain a bit of her composure. “Thank you,” he said quietly to her, bowing his head before he turned and hurried down the corridor, out toward the Northern Gates to apperate away to Malfoy Manor.

__________________________________________

He was greeted at the manor gates by one of their many house elves, who motioned for him to quickly follow.

“His Dark Lord be’s jumpy tonight. You must hurry. Twinkle does not wish for Professor Snape to be hurt by His Dark Lord.”

Narcissa was waiting in the foyer wringing a handkerchief in her hands. She took Severus by the arm and leaned in to him, pulling him toward the ballroom where Lord Voldemort met with his followers, sitting on a throne like some malevolent dictator.

“He seems excited. He told Lucius that he has just come from an important meeting,” she whispered. “Lucius was unable to get more from him; he said he wanted his followers around him to hear the news.”

Severus nodded and gave her arm a small, comforting squeeze. Though Narcissa was ever the scheming Slytherin, she was also small and fragile. She could verbally spar with even the most skilled speaker, but having Voldemort in her house had been uncommonly difficult for her. She did not do well with overt displays of violence and considered sex something that should happen quietly behind closed doors. The arrival of the Dark Lord had subverted her carefully constructed world. The second night of his arrival was celebrated with an orgy that rivaled anything that Caligula could have conceived, and despite Narcissa’s opposition, Lucius had been expected to participate (though he did not have to be pushed all that much, truth be told). The following night Voldemort presented the group with a lineup of street vagrants and prostitutes to use in any manner that they pleased. Nowhere in the manor that Narcissa (or Draco for that matter) could have escaped to would have drowned out the screams from the rape and slaughter that took place in the ballroom that evening. And that was just the beginning. It seemed Voldemort spent his free time coming up with more and more ways to fill his Deatheater’s days with violence and vice. He had quite a lot of years to make up for, Severus thought bitterly.

Severus was sure that Narcissa was abusing anti-anxiety potions (the signs were all there) though he couldn’t find it in his heart to confront her about it. She had never been a person inclined to violence and while she knew of Lucius’s involvement with the Dark Lord before their marriage, Severus knew that Lucius had downplayed the level of bloodshed and depravity that was expected of anyone who followed him. It wasn’t as if Narcissa had any say in the matter; her betrothal to Lucius had been arranged when she was all of five years old. Regardless of her feelings for him or any of his activities, she was expected to marry him, support him in the manner of any well-bred, moneyed witch, and keep her mouth shut when she didn’t agree with his decisions. She had grown to love him; loving his extracurricular activities was another matter entirely.

They stopped in front of the doors to the ballroom to compose themselves. Severus gave Narcissa’s hand another reassuring squeeze and they parted, Severus opening the doors with a commanding flourish and entering the room before Narcissa.

He walked straight toward Voldemort until he stood before him and then dropped to one knee, his head bowed. He was often the last Deatheater to arrive after a summons; it took some time to cease what he was doing at Hogwarts, dash through the castle and out of Hogwarts’ wards to an apparition point. Thankfully Voldemort seemed understanding in a way that he rarely demonstrated to other Deatheaters who were tardy as Voldemort believed him to be an invaluable source of inside information.

“At last you have arrived, Severus. You may stand and join the others. I have exciting news,” Voldemort hissed. Severus found his voice repulsive and had long ago learned how to act as if he were captivated by it. He feared the repercussions should Voldemort learn just how vile Severus thought him to be.

He stood tall, striking a dignified, strong pose and went to stand beside Lucius. Narcissa was standing behind Lucius, against the wall of the ballroom, hands still worrying at her handkerchief. She glanced quickly at Severus before turning her attention to Voldemort.

Voldemort looked over his followers slowly, menacingly. A chill ran through the room. No one moved; all stood at attention anticipating the Dark Lord’s words. Their Dark Messiah was about to relay something and his disciples stood rapt.

“I have just returned from a most interesting meeting with Merihem, the current alpha dementor. Many of you know that before the attacks of October 1980 I had forged an alliance with Balel, his predecessor. I am pleased to announce that our alliance lives on. Merihem has assured me that the dementors will assist us in our endeavors; in fact, we have two upcoming events planned that should significantly help us further our cause.

In just a few days, two dementors will be sent to Little Whinging in a surprise attack on Harry Potter. After they have claimed his soul they will bring him to me so that I may finish him for good. Not long after that the dementors will assist in an attack on Azkaban which will allow our currently held brethren to rejoin us. While we have been able to extract Bella,” he looked to his left at Bellatrix, who was looking back with uncontained passion, “and the guards have not determined that there is a golem in her cell, there are still considerable numbers of our guard held within its walls. By this time next month they will be free.” He stood, raising his hands in victory, shouting (or coming as near to a shout as his sibilant hiss would allow), “It will then only be a matter of time until we claim Hogwarts and with it the wizarding world!”

Lucius began to applaud and the other Deatheaters quickly followed. Severus put on his most “I am pleased yet unaffected” face and tipped his head toward Voldemort, who relished in the adoration. He wondered if Voldemort knew of Potter’s mastery of the Patronus charm; if he did, he was most likely counting on Potter’s fear of the decree for the restriction of underage sorcery to keep him from fighting back. Which wasn’t very likely – Potter held no compunction about defending himself and Severus was sure that if he did, even in the presence of muggles, that he would face no consequences. Potter was simply charmed that way.

When the applause and adoration died down he took the opportunity to step forward fractionally, his head bowed.

“What is it, Severus?” the Dark Lord asked. “Have you news from Hogwarts?”

“I do, in fact, my Lord. Quite interesting news indeed.” He paused here for effect, then continued. “You all may remember that quite a few years ago Aberforth Dumbledore’s family was murdered in an attack by Gellart Grindelwald’s followers. It seems there was a survivor. Aberforth’s great granddaughter Seraphina Dumbledore has resurfaced.” He heard a sharp intake of breath from Narcissa behind him. He continued, “She was hidden away until last week – even she had no knowledge of her identity. Until this week she has known herself as Sarah Douglas and has resided in America. She is trained in muggle chemistry and is a muggle physician. She is untrained in magic and has been brought to Hogwarts to be educated. Until word is leaked, she will continue to use the pseudonym Sarah Douglas to preserve her privacy. And perhaps most interestingly, just this afternoon she was sorted into Slytherin.”

Scattered murmurs arose around the room as they digested this information. Everyone in the room would likely remember the attack – quite a few were in attendance at the funeral.

“Very interesting, indeed, Severus. Have you had the opportunity to make form an impression of this woman?” Voldemort asked.

“I have indeed. Prior to the sorting she was invited to tea with the headmaster and other professors in attendance. I, of course, was there. As I mentioned earlier, she is untrained, though she has demonstrated remarkable instances of wild magic. She is intelligent, cunning, and able to charm almost everyone she encounters. She would be quite a worthy adversary should she find herself in an argument with Narcissa – which I believe we all know says a great deal. She seems to have Albus Dumbledore’s trust and got on quite well with the other professors in attendance. And she is – she is quite beautiful. Very similar in appearance to Bella, excepting her blond hair and slightly darker complexion.”

That last comment was specifically designed to ingratiate him to Bellatrix, who, in her day, had been perhaps the most beautiful woman Severus had ever laid eyes on. The years in Azkaban had not been kind to her, however. Her once shiny ebony hair was dull and brittle, her skin sallow with a jaundiced undertone. She had gained a bit of weight since her arrival at the manor though she still appeared skeletal, her black eyes sunken and bloodshot, clothing hanging from her tiny frame. And all of this spoke nothing to her deranged mind. She had been bloodthirsty and sadistic before her imprisonment; now her grasp on reality seemed to have slipped away only to be replaced with a messianic adoration of her Dark Lord. Severus was sure that they were fucking (there was no lovemaking where each of them were concerned); during the first orgy he had seen her knelt between Voldemort’s legs while he pulled her tangled hair, continually gagged her as she blew him. It was all Severus could do to keep from vomiting from the sheer vileness of it.

“What will your involvement with her be?” Voldemort inquired. Severus could see the plans forming in his head, plans which he was sure would be as far from reality as the thoughts flowing through Bella’s head. They really were suited for each other, in a grotesque sort of way.

“She will be learning potions. As I said before, she is a physician and studied advanced muggle chemistry. I am inclined to believe that she will be spending a great deal of time under my – tutelage.” The more suggestive he could make his plans for Seraphina sound the better.

“Excellent, Severus. Having influence over one of Albus’s only relatives could be most beneficial indeed. You will, of course, keep me apprised of any further developments in her education.”

“Of course, my Lord.”

Voldemort nodded and turned to Lucius. “Any news of the prophecy, Lucius?”

“My Lord, we believe the prophecy to be located in the Ministry, most likely in the Department of Mysteries. Members of the Order,” Lucius showed his contempt both in his face and with the sneer in his voice, “have been searching for it as well and will most likely guard it once it has been located. We are keeping a close watch on them through our contacts within the Ministry. Of course, my Lord, once Harry Potter is neutralized the prophecy may be of little consequence. Once you have destroyed him there will be nothing standing in your way.”

“You believe a child stands in my way, Lucius?” Voldemort hissed, eyes blazing.

“No, of course not my Lord! It is simply . . . “

“It is simply what? Did you not just imply that we simply need to remove Harry Potter to achieve our goals?”

“Of course not, my Lord! You are the most powerful wizard to have ever lived. A mere child could not hold you back,” Lucius groveled. Severus could feel him brace himself for the inevitable punishment that was headed his way (Severus had told him more times than he could count that it was better to go into the curse relaxed yet Lucius never listened).

“See that you solidify that belief in your head, Lucius,” Voldemort said, then, with a disaffected wave of his wand, Lucius had fallen to the floor mouth foaming, seizing from the Crucio curse.

Voldemort continued questioning various Deatheaters around the circle over Lucius’ progressively fainter cries of agony. The air had become fetid with the smell of urine, feces, and blood and Severus felt the pool of bodily fluids as they ran under his boots. The most menacing thing about the Crucio curse was that it would never kill its target, ensuring that the one affected could be in agony for hours if necessary. Neville Longbottom’s parents had reportedly withstood the curse over a period of three days, with scattered breaks during which Bella performed weak healing spells, mending broken bones, lacerations, and collapsed lungs to prolong the torture. Severus had heard at least one bone crack during Lucius’s torture; he would be at the manor for a few days tending to Lucius’s injuries.

He wondered when the attack on Potter was to occur. Would he have time to inform Albus? There was no way to relay a message once he was inside the walls of the manor; his Patronus would be detected within moments of its casting and he was not willing to put the house elves in danger (or compromise his cover) to use them to relay a message. He would have to hope that the attack was delayed until he was able to leave; otherwise Potter would be on his own and while Severus didn’t doubt the boys ability to defend himself he did doubt the Ministries ability to handle the aftermath in an intelligent manner.

Finally the meeting was over and Voldemort released the curse on Lucius. He then stood and strolled lazily from the room followed by Bellatrix. The gathered Deatheaters disbanded quickly, careful to look anywhere but toward Lucius’s broken figure on the floor. Once they had all left the room, Narcissa rushed quickly and knelt beside Lucius chanting healing spells to stabilize him. After rapidly cleaning the floor of Lucius’s fluids, Severus joined Narcissa, diagnosing any emergent injuries, quickly mending a subdural hematoma, broken rib and the collapsed right lower lobe of his lung. His left lower arm and femur were also broken, but they could wait until Lucius was relocated to his room.

He looked at Narcissa, giving her the unspoken look that they were about to apperate Lucius to his room. Since Voldemort’s return, Narcissa and he had mended Lucius often enough to have developed a sort of non-verbal communication. Once Lucius was lying on his bed, Narcissa vanished his clothing, stopping a sob when she saw the extent of bruising and scarring littering Lucius’s skin. Severus called a house elf to fetch a number of potions to aid in the healing and began to sing incantations to mend together his remaining broken bones and a torn biceps tendon. In the meantime, Narcissa had fetched a pan of water and several flannels to aid in the application of the external potions. Severus momentarily thought about how coordinated they had become over the last few months (the three of them, actually, for the opportunities that Severus was cursed and on the rare opportunity that Narcissa faced Voldemort or Bella’s wrath).

They worked together into the night until they were certain that Lucius was as comfortable as they could make him. The next few days would consist of numerous doses of Skelgrow and healing potions, nutritive broths and blood replenishers. When they were both satisfied, Severus stood and stretched his back, and then entered Lucius’s bathroom to look for a headache solution for his pounding migraine.

When he returned to the bedroom he found Narcissa sitting at vigil on a chair beside Lucius’s sleeping form. As her upbringing dictated, she sat stiff and unemotional, though Severus could see the fatigue and worry that boiled just beneath the surface.

“I most likely will need to return to Hogwarts to gather a few items. It seems I will be needed here for a few days,” he said, his voice weary. He could update Albus on Voldemort’s plans and alliance with the Deatheaters while he gathered a few personal effects.

“Yes, I imagined so, though you know that we can obtain anything that you need,” Narcissa answered. She the called for Bitsy, her personal house elf. “Severus, would you like tea or something a bit stronger?” she asked him. It has become part of the healing ritual, this taking of refreshments after the initial work was done.

“I think I should stick to tea for the time being. Perhaps something for pain.”

“Yes, that would be good. I’m sure this has not helped your head. I think I’ll have a bit of sherry,” she said to the house elf, who popped away to gather their drinks.

Narcissa looked down. Her handkerchief had been replaced by the satin duvet. Her hands were always wringing something these days. She looked back up at Severus and said, “So she’s really alive – Seraphina – and she’s here?”

“Yes, Narcissa, she is most alive. I spent the afternoon with her and Albus. Her rooms at Hogwarts are located next to mine.”

“She’s my cousin, you know,” She looked at Severus, who nodded. “Of course you know. You know everything, don’t you? I was nine when she died. Her mother Artemesia was trying to maintain relations with my parents so I spent quite a bit of time with Seraphina. Bella wanted nothing to do with her and Andromeda decided to let me have her, so to speak. We developed quite a bond. She was a beautiful child, always happy and giggling. And she was strong, even when she was little. She turned everything into unicorns – she loved them. Little unicorn dolls and figurines what whinnied and galloped; I still have one of them in my rooms; I’ll have to show it to you sometime. Now that I’m older I realize just how remarkable it is that a two-year-old could accomplish such intricate magic. I often wondered what she could have become if she had survived.”

Bitsy returned and set up Severus’s tea and Narcissa’s sherry. The tea was strong and black and slightly bitter. It was one of Narcissa’s blends that contained white willow bark and considerable amounts of caffeine. While it wouldn’t make his headache go away it would take the edge off of his pain.

“I suppose it will be difficult to see her. She most likely doesn’t remember me; she was only two when the attacks happened and must have been hidden quite quickly. You said that she lived in America?”

“Yes, in Ohio. Erwin Whitacre raised her. Did you know him?”

“I did meet him once or twice. He was a close friend of the Dumbledore family. How did they survive?”

“They were apparently away from the house when the attacks happened, in a field. They hid there until they were found by Albus. Aberforth sent them into hiding.”

Narcissa nodded, running over this information as she took a sip of her sherry.

“What sort of wild magic has she performed?”

Severus hesitated. The magic that he knew of had happened at Grimmauld Place, which he could not mention to Narcissa. And then there was the Mark. Best not to mention that – it would not do to have Voldemort discover that his Mark was delivering less than optimal torture. “I’ve only heard of it. She changed an enchanted portrait and broke some dish wear inadvertently when she was angry. The portrait had been charmed to be unchangeable. Attempts had been made by quite talented wizards to alter it to no avail. She simply thought of what she wanted done and it happened through all of the wards and complex charms. Albus cannot explain it.”

“She would have been operating that way as a child as well,” Narcissa observed. “Instinctual magic my mother called it. Ahearn, her father, could do it with his horses. He trained magical horses - he could communicate with them using it. Mother often told me that it was dangerous and that the Blacks were happy not to be saddled with its curse. I often was secretly jealous.” A small smile appeared on Narcissa’s face.

Severus continued to sip his tea, waiting for Narcissa to speak more. People often talked to fill the silence; he had no difficulty remaining quiet. After a bit of time and a few more sips of sherry Narcissa spoke again.

“It’s no surprise that she’s beautiful. She had a halo of blond curls as a child. My mother had shown me the resemblance to one of Bella’s baby pictures. Of course, she took after her father’s side as well; she had the bluest eyes and you could see her father in them. And you say that her rooms are next to yours? She can’t be more than a few years younger than you, Severus.”

“I see where this is going and I think you are being a bit presumptuous, Narcissa.”

“One can never know, Severus. You deserve some happiness. And you are much more of a catch than you have ever given yourself credit for. She sounds intelligent. You need an intelligent woman and it’s not as if she will be spoilt for choice in that regard.”

“She could have someone in the U.S. I find it doubtful that a woman like her is unattached.” He could not mention his suspicions about Seraphina and Remus.

“Perhaps just leave it open as an option. You are in an optimal position to court her. Just promise me that you will consider it an option.”

“Yes, mother,” Severus replied drolly, earning a smile from Narcissa. “Which reminds me. Do you not have a child that you should be checking on?” Narcissa always checked up on Draco after each Deatheater meeting. He suspected that she was afraid that one of the Deatheaters would attack or molest Draco, which actually wouldn’t be outside of the realm of reason.

Narcissa nodded and rose. “Yes, I do. It gets tiresome explaining these attacks on his father to him. And keeping him convinced that his allegiance should remain with the Dark Lord.” Severus knew that Narcissa fought with that concept as well.

Narcissa breezed from the room, holding herself as if she had not just spent the last hour keeping her husband from death once again. He had laid the seeds of Seraphina’s presence with Narcissa, it would only be a matter of time until she confided in Draco. His most current mission had been accomplished. He sighed deeply and closed his weary eyes for a moment before gathering himself up to return to Hogwarts to report to Albus.

 

Chapter Text

Seraphina and Albus walked silently toward the Black Lake. After a time, Albus led Seraphina through a dense crop of tall grass which opened to a small pebbled area surrounded by cattails; the surface of the water was covered in lily pads and lilies in various stages of bloom. It was a quiet, beautiful area.

“This is my favorite spot on the lake,” Albus said. “Do you see that large rock? I often come here to sit. Most years this little area goes undiscovered by the students. I've decided to share it with you.”

“Thank you, Albus,” Seraphina said, “It's beautiful.”

“Yes. I've often thought it could use a bench. Perhaps you could help me with that?”

“Remus taught me how to transfigure this morning. Could I try?” Seraphina asked.

Albus smiled slightly and nodded toward the rock. “Please do,” he answered.

Seraphina took her wand from it's holster and envisioned a curved stone bench with scrolled legs and rounded edges. She pointed her wand and hoped for the best. Moments later, the bench that she had imagined stood before them.

“Very good,” Albus said with a slight smile, moving to sit on the bench. “Perhaps you would join me?”

Seraphina sat beside Albus. He was looking at the lake.

“I would like you to tell me what you did to Severus.” Albus said, turning his gaze toward her.

What had she done? Like every bit of magic that she had performed since her arrival, her actions with Severus had resulted from a feeling. She felt that she needed to heal him, to take some of his agony away. She had known from the look on Severus's face that what she had done was unusual, maybe even frightening. For her to have caused Severus Snape to look at her that way – what she had done must have been monumental. And now Albus wanted her to explain what she herself didn't understand?

“Ever since I arrived here, I've been doing things that I know I shouldn't be able to do.” She started, looking for words. “You know how Erwin told you that I'm empathic? My whole life I've just known how people felt. I could walk into a room and just tell if people were angry or happy or sick or bored without them giving me any indication of how they were feeling. . . it's a lot stronger here. You cover it, and Severus does, too, but when I took his hand I felt his pain. It was terrible. And the thought came to my mind that I could take it from him. Why I thought that, I don't know, because why should I be able to do that? And then I could feel it being drawn from him and going away – like it was dissipating into the air. And then I felt like if I could get to its source I could take more, so I followed it to his mark and, well, all I can tell you is that I felt a surge of something and it was coming into me and being released. But it wasn't easy; it took everything I had to hold on and it drained me so I did all that I could until it was like I was pushed off of him.” She paused, and then said, “When I was taking his pain, it was like the whole world was under my hand, it was just him and me. It totally took over me. It was a little frightening.”

“Mmm,” Albus nodded, as if considering all that he had heard. Finally, he said, “You are a Dumbledore, and there are some things that you should know about your family, things that I'm sure Abeforth won't think to tell you. I was the Transfiguration professor here before Minerva. I am particularly gifted in it, as you seem to be. My father also had the gift. In his research on our ancestry he found that throughout our line, in addition to being excellent duelists, we have a strong history of those gifted in transfiguration.”

“You see, some witches and wizards have innate abilities – Pomona can make any plant thrive, Severus has a head for potions and the Dark Arts. The Dumbledores can transfigure. We are known for it. And you have that ability as well.”

He paused a moment, looking into the distance. The scent of lilies wafted over them on the summer breeze.

“My mother was a muggle. There was never any magic in her line. But my father loved her a great deal. She had a sort of sense, a way of knowing things about others. Erwin calls it being empathic, my mother called it “the eye.” It's not magic per se; I realized that finally when Erwin told me that you were showing the signs in your world – a world where there is no magic. It's not something that every witch or wizard posesses and, as you well know, there are muggles that have it as well. All of us – Abeforth, Ariana, and I – we all developed it. Ariana was particularly gifted with it.”

“People often make remarks that I know things that I shouldn't – that I'm onmiscient or all knowing – but I actually can sense things as they happen, as I believe you can. Earlier, when Severus received his summons I sensed his pain. As you did when you touched him. Often, when I sense something my magic reacts to it and I am able to perform in ways that I never have, which I believe you did when you drew away Severus's pain. We can do magic that we haven't been taught, magic that no one has ever seen, simply because we are in touch with something much greater than we understand, something that other wizards do not have. It is a mix of our muggle and magic heritage.”

“Ariana never learned to control her magic. It would come out in great bursts at any moment. One day a group of muggle boys saw one of her bursts and attacked her – they did unspeakable things to her. She was six years old. My father retaliated and was sent to Azkaban for it; my mother moved us to Godric's Hollow and hid Ariana away from others. Her magic grew as she aged, but she held less and less control over it and when she was 14 years old she had a fit and killed our mother.”

“I'm sorry,” Seraphina said. She knew about these events from the books, but it was much more tragic hearing it from Albus, who had lived through it, who had seen it happen.

“What's done is done,” Albus replied sadly. “I only tell you this because I want you to understand that it is vitally important that you learn to control your magic. As you and I seem to experience magic similarly, I would like to give you private lessons and begin them as soon as possible. You are quite busy tomorrow; I was hoping that you would move into the castle after that so that we can begin. I can have Kreacher bring your belongings from Grimmauld Place; the Weasleys will be there when you get back and they can be quite – rambunctious to say the least. You can visit Sirius and Remus whenever you'd like outside of training; you seem to have developed a strong bond with them.”

“I think I'd like that, moving in. My rooms felt like my own space – and the lab, too. Everyone has been wonderful and welcoming, but I miss having a place of my own.” Seraphina answered, then continued, “Thank you for telling me all of that. I feel like some untamed magical hurricane. It's like I never know when the next thing will happen. Fortunately I haven't been too destructive but I feel like that's only one bad mood away.”

“The truth of it is, Seraphina, that you could be correct. Our family is well known for its moods. They've gotten us into quite a bit of trouble in the past. I've learned some measure of control over mine and I'd like to help you learn that as well. I don't mean to brag,” Albus said with a slight smile, “but I am quite the magician and I'm sure that our unique heritage has everything to do with that.”

“You're quite the magician? You don't say,” Seraphina teased, “I thought they let just any old schmuck run the best wizarding school in the world.”

“Contrary to popular belief, Hogwarts does have its standards,” Albus replied with a chuckle.

He stood and extended his hand to Seraphina. “It is getting near dinner time and Molly Weasley is a wonderful cook. We can't have you missing your first Weasley meal. I shall walk you to the apparition point and accompany you to Grimmauld Place. I'll have to remember to speak with Filius about getting you trained in apparition as soon as possible as well.”

“Destination, Deliberation, Determination, right?”

“Did you learn that from those books in your world as well? I'm beginning to believe that you really do know entirely too much; we'll have to address that in the near future as well.” Albus said, as if forming a plan in his head.

They were walking down a path that went past the greenhouses (which were gorgeous, built of ancient glass, oxidized copper, and more massive that Seraphina could have ever imagined – what brilliant, unbelievable plants must be contained in their walls, she wondered) and curved to the north to a large gate over which was placed a sign which read “To Hogsmeade”.

“I've been meaning to ask you,” Seraphina said, looking at Albus, “you seem to have this unbelievable ability to keep track of all of the things that are on your agenda. I mean, here you are, running a school and planning a war and protecting all of these children and adults and all of the other things in your life. How do you do it? You seem to be exactly where you need to be when you need to be there and I've got no other explanation for it but magic. You're nearly a mythic figure in the books, like the White Wizard of Hogwarts, but I'm walking with you and you seem human to me.”

Albus laughed. “It's part of my mystique, or that's what I let everyone think. But between you and me,” he said, reaching into the folds of his robes and extracting a small leather book, “there's this wonderful muggle invention called a Day Planner. You can buy delightful little colored tabs for it and write in all sorts of colors with muggle pens; I've even seen stickers for them and I hear that there are electronic ones, too, with all sorts of bells and whistles! It's easily charmed and it helps me remember everything. I'll get you one if you'd like.”

Seraphina linked her arm with Albus's and smiled. If the secret of Albus Dumbledore's mystique was a day planner, then she might just be able to survive this crazy new world. “I think I'd like that,” she said.

_____________________________________________________________________________ 

Seraphina and Albus were rushed by the inhabitants of Number 12 Grimmauld Place upon their arrival. Erwin took Seraphina by the arm and led her to the sitting room followed by Albus, Sirius, Remus, and Kreacher. Ron and Arthur Weasley were already sitting comfortably in the room; Ron was absorbed in Quidditch Weekly and Arthur The Daily Prophet, a slight scowl on his face. Erwin place Seraphina on the couch next to Ron and took the place on the other side of her. Sirius and Remus settled themselves across from her, next to Arthur. Kreacher situated himself on the coffee table looking rapturously at Seraphina.

“Well, then, tell us about your visit,” Erwin said, excitation clear in his voice.

“It was amazing, Erwin. Like something out of a fairy tale. The castle is beautiful. And the Great Gallery – Albus and Severus told me that there are a few Michelangelos and a Caravaggio in the building. Oh! And there is an actual Waterhouse in my room, Erwin! The Lady of Shallot at her loom!”

“That is your favorite! Imagine that,” Erwin exclaimed in wonder.

“And you should see my rooms, Erwin. It’s like they found the best of William Morris’s textiles and filled my room with them. And there’s all of these bookshelves, and embroidery materials . . .”

“She does love her needlework – she’s brilliant at is, really,” Erwin chimed.

“And, oh! In the bedroom, there is the most beautiful Chinese lacquer cabinet that I have ever seen. It’s red, and inlayed with golden vines and butterflies that actually flutter and fly around. You all have to come see it – my rooms, I mean,” Seraphina said, addressing Remus and Sirius. Seeing Sirius’s scowl, she added, “There has to be some way of sneaking a huge black dog into Hogwarts, don’t you think?”

At this, a glint appeared in Sirius’s eye. “That would be brilliant. Just like old times, Moony, don’t you think?”

“You’ve got to, Sirius!” Ron exclaimed. “Harry would love it, getting a surprise visit from you during the school year.”

“We’ll talk about it,” Remus said, cutting off the thought, which brought a scowl back to his face.

“Tell us about tea,” Erwin prompted.

“Well, it was lovely. You were right about the clotted cream! Anyhow, it was Albus,” she smiled at Dumbledore, who smiled back, “Poppy, Pomona, Minerva, and Severus.” Seraphina waited for a reaction from Sirius but didn’t get one. “We talked about a lot if things – Erwin, Poppy had some questions about you. Did you know her well?”

Seraphina was slightly startled when Erwin blushed. She had never seen him blush in all of her growing years, not even when she was a raunchy as she could possibly be (in an attempt to get a rise out of him). And yet there he was, pink cheeks and flustered eyes. “Umm, yes. We were acquainted,” was all he would offer.

“Yeah. Don’t think you are getting out of this conversation that easily,” Seraphina remarked, and Erwin grew even pinker.

With her eyes still on Erwin, she continued, “So I’m to train with her in the infirmary. And Pomona invited me to help her in her gardens which are gorgeous. What is it about Britain that makes flowers to lush? Anyhow, it seems I’ll be rather busy, with lessons with Poppy and Pomona and – oh! How could I forget! I have my own chemistry lab! It’s in the back of the Potions classroom and it’s just amazing! I suppose it’s my office, too.”

“That’d make it by Snape’s personal potions lab. Best of luck with that,” Ron said dismissively.

“Ronald, he is Professor Snape to you,” Arthur said. “I’ll not have you disrespecting your professors, no matter how disagreeable they are.”

“He’s not that bad, really,” Seraphina offered. “Maybe a bit gruff and blunt, but he was perfectly fine during tea and the tour,” she turned to Ron, who was looking very much like he completely disagreed that Severus could ever be decent, and extended her hand, saying ‘By the way, we haven’t been formally introduced. I’m Seraphina Dumbledore, and I’ll tell you the whole story later. Or maybe you’ve already heard it. I’m Abeforth’s great granddaughter. Anyhow, I guess people will be interested in me so Albus wants me to go by Sarah Douglas until word gets out. I’m going to be a teaching assistant. So I suppose I’ll be Miss Douglas to the students. I have it on good authority, though, that you are a person who knows things and is good at keeping a secret, so I’ll let you in on who I really am.” She finished with a wink.

Ron smiled and shook her hand heartily. “Pleasure to meet you. I’m Ronald Bilius Weasley. I’ll be a fifth year this school year. You’ll meet Harry and Hermione later; Hermione is coming tomorrow. My brothers and sister are around here somewhere; they’ve got all kinds of theories about you.”

“It’s not often that Ronald gets a leg up on Fred and George,” remarked Arthur from behind his paper. “You’ll have to keep an eye out for those two this year; they’ve been known to be tricksters.”

“My ears are burning, Gred,” came a voice from the door, where the twins were leaning like mirror images on each side of the doorway, arms crossed, smirks on their face.

“Mine are, too, Forge. It seems we are being discussed.”

“Aren’t we always? What better topic is there?”

“There is none, brother, dear. Except that our Ronnikins seems to be speaking to the mystery woman of Grimmauld Place, and we have not had that pleasure,” said one of the redheads, whom Seraphina assumed was George from the conversation, before swooping in on her and offering her his hand. “George Weasley, and this is my brother –“

“Fred Weasley,” said the other, swooping in and offering his hand, continuing, “and you are the woman of the hour.”

“The Slayer of Disagreeable Portraits. . .”

“The Object of Much Conjecture. . .”

Ron leaned in to Seraphina and said, “George has a birthmark over his right eye. See it? Why mum has never figured that out . . .”

“And there Ron goes, giving away our secrets,” said the twin whom Seraphina now knew was Fred. “How will we blame the other for our misdeeds with you around, Ron?”

“Yes, how indeed,” chuckled Albus, who then turned to Ron and said, “Thank you, Ronald, for that piece of information. I am sure it will be put to good use.”

Both Fred and George turned to glare at Ron, who was shielding himself with his arms.

“No attacks, boys,” said Arthur, again from behind his newspaper.

Seraphina extended her hand to Fred and said, “I’m Sarah Douglas. Newly discovered witch. Training at Hogwarts.” Ron smirked, and Seraphina smirked back at their shared inside knowledge.

The boys both shook her hand, and George said, “More lovely sights coming to Hogwarts this year, eh, Gred?”

From the doorway, a young female, shouted, “Oy, you two! What did I tell you about speaking to women that way?” Ginny Weasley advanced on George quickly and soundly whacked him in the arm. “Besides, she’s an adult! She’s got better things to be interested in you two stringy excuses for boys.”

“I’m hurt, Gred,” said George, holding his arm.

“Dismayed even, Forge,” replied Fred.

“You see what we have to put up with?” said Ron, earning a chuckle from behind The Daily Prophet.

Remus shifted around in his seat a bit and smiling, said, “As amusing as all of this is, we’ve neglected to hear one very important detail of Sarah’s day. You were sorted, were you not?”

All eyes turned on Seraphina, and her stomach sank. There she was, sitting amongst a den of Gryffindors, many of whom were teenagers with very negative views of her house, and one of which was her cousin who she knew had it out for one Slytherin in particular. ‘Here goes nothing,’ she thought, her stomach becoming more leaden. “I was,” was her answer.

“And?” asked Sirius, leaning forward in his seat.

“Well, I’m not a Gryffindor . . .” Seraphina offered, drawing a few disappointed sighs from the room; Remus looked at her with dawning realization of what that meant (and made Seraphina once again relive their midnight conversation).

“Ravenclaw!” shouted Erwin, grabbing her hand in triumph.

“No, not Ravenclaw.”

“So – Hufflepuff?” said Ron hesitantly, and looking like he knew the answer before he asked it.

“While I would have been quite happy in Hufflepuff, I was not placed in Hufflepuff,” she answered.

Kreacher leapt up on the coffee table. “The tradition of Slytherins in this noble house has been restored! Mistress is a Slytherin!”

Despite Kreacher’s enthusiasm, the rest of the room sat in shocked silence. Even Arthur had come out from behind his newspaper to examine the snake in the room. It was broken after a few moments when Ron said, “But you seem so nice!”

“Decent, even,” supplied Fred, Geroge nodding in agreement.

“I am, both of those things!” insisted Seraphina, Erwin backing this up with nods of his own. “And I’m good and I like people and I think all of you are amazing!”

Sirius sighed heavily, “Erwin warned us, Moody. I just didn’t want to accept it.”

“Actually, Sarah warned me, when you were asleep,” Remus said offhandedly.

“You mean during your night of burning passion?” Sirius smirked while Remus turned bright red.

“Sirius, there are children here! And nothing happened!” Seraphina insisted through the excited chatter and leers of the Weasleys.

“Which is exactly what a Slytherin would say,” challenged Sirius

The room erupted into chaos as people shouted “Yes, it is!” and the twins turned their attention to Remus asking, “So, did you shag her, Professor Moody?” and Ginny was looking rather dreamily between Seraphina and Remus and Erwin, much to Seraphina’s irritation, was sitting smug and rotten, with a huge smile on his face. Thankfully, Albus stepped forward and cleared his throat, which instantly quieted the whole room.

“What has happened between Miss Douglas and Professor Moody is no one’s concern but their own. Furthermore, this matter is really entirely uninteresting and beneath a truly honorable and trustworthy Gryffindor, as I’m sure all of you agree. As for Miss Douglas’s house placement, she was placed in Slytherin due to her truly ambitious nature, which I have witnessed and have great admiration for, and her tendency towards self-preservation, which anyone should agree is a prudent trait. It is my belief that she will be a very positive influence on the house and its students.”

Ron sighed dramatically, saying, “They need all of the positive influence they can get. Malfoy is an absolute git and Crabbe and Goyle have about as much sense as a pair of baboons.”

“Don’t even get us started on Parkinson and Bulstrode,” George exclaimed.

“Flint and Biggs have literally tried to kill me during quidditch,” Fred provided, as George nodded in agreement.

“Blaise Zabini isn’t so bad,” Ginny said, “he’s really quiet but he’s always been respectful to me.”

Both of the twins surrounded Ginny, “Ohhh!” they both teased, making kissy noises, “Ginny love Blaise! How can she resist the ebony charmer? Maybe she can marry Blaise and Harry!” and on and on.

Ginny turned bright red, shouted, “Shut it!” and began to throttle both of them as they continued to tease and giggle.

Ron leaned toward Seraphina. “He really isn’t so bad. Good looking, if you go for boys; I don’t, really, I don’t, but you can’t deny that he’s handsome.”

Seraphina looked around and she realized that she loved these people, each and every one of them. She wanted to know everything about them and was excited to live her life with them. And she would do anything that she could to protect them, self-preservation be damned. For the first time in her life, she was surrounded by a family, her family, even if they didn’t know that was what they were. Hogwarts was becoming her home.

_______________________________________________

Dinner with Molly Weasley at the helm was everything that she could have imagined. There was more food than she had ever seen at one meal and she was so full that she was afraid to move for fear of bursting. She had tried spotted dick (and don’t you know that the twins couldn’t let that one go) and loved it and had eaten some of the best chicken that she had ever tasted. Molly Weasley really was magical in the kitchen.

During dinner, Erwin briefed her a bit on their plans for tomorrow and Molly and Arthur threw in their observations of Abeforth. It seemed that everyone viewed him as a cranky, difficult person but no one saw this as a negative. It was just Abeforth. The children threw so much information about Hogwarts and Hogsmeade at her that she had trouble keeping it all straight; there were so many people offering up so much information that Seraphina hadn’t had to speak at all. They talked fondly about Harry and Hermoine and with regret about Cedric Diggory. They welcomed her with open arms and left her feeling overfull, sleepy, muzzy, and loved.

After dinner, Kreacher informed her that he had finished with the library and with it, the rest of first floor and he wanted to show her so that he might get the opportunity to beat himself with his shoe. The rooms were completely restored and spotless, though the library still felt oppressive and Seraphina had a difficult time looking at the desk by the door. She praised Kreacher and broke to him that Albus wanted her to move to Hogwarts as soon as possible but that she would miss him and he was welcome to visit her at any time. He actually helped her change her clothing into her pajamas and tucked her into bed.

The following morning Seraphina was awoken by running feet and a new female voice shouting “Ron!” and Ron excitedly answering, “’Mione!” When she looked out into the hallway, she was greeted with Ronald Weasley fiercely hugging Hermione Granger while a huge orange tabby circled their legs. As soon as they saw her, they both blushed bright red and separated immediately. Hermione Granger was a beautiful, dark skinned girl with a mass of dark, frizzy, untamed hair surrounding her face. She was rather small but emitted a large presence and a rather astounding amount of confidence. She looked quizzically at Seraphina.

“Oh! ‘Moine, this is Seraphina Dumbledore – she’s Abeforth’s great granddaughter, but mind you, that’s all under wraps. Even the twins and Ginny don’t really know who she is. We’re supposed to call her Miss Douglas for now.”

Hermoine extended her hand, “I read about you. So you survived the attack, obviously. How lovely to get to meet you!”

“What attack?” Ron asked.

“Honestly, Ron, do you know nothing of your own society?” Her Hermione huffed, “It’s in quite a few books on modern Wizarding history. I’ll fill you in later.” She turned to Seraphina. “If it’s not quidditch it’s not interesting,” she exclaimed about Ron.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Hermione. Ron has mentioned you and everyone has nothing but wonderful things to say about you,” Seraphina said.

“She’s rather decent for a Slytherin,” Ron said of Seraphina, then grabbed Hermione by the hand and led her to the stairs. “Can’t let breakfast get cold!”

Hermione waved goodbye to Seraphina and said to Ron, “You really should learn to think with something more than your stomach, Ronald,” while being pulled down the stairs.

The kitchen was aroar with voices. Sirius looked angry and was shouting, “I have to protect him, Remus! He’s my godson!” to which Remus and Molly replied that Mrs. Figg was keeping an eye on him. It was then that Seraphina remembered that this was the year that Harry and Dudley were to be attacked by dementors.

“She’s a squib, Remus! She can’t protect him!” Sirius shouted.

“You know as well as I that Harry can defend himself. If he held off all of those dementors from the two of you he will be fine,” Remus replied.

“But the statute! He isn’t old enough to use magic outside of Hogwarts. They’ll break his wand!” Hermione fretted.

“If this attack comes to pass we will make the ministry see reason, don’t you worry, Hermione,” Arthur reassured.

“Shouldn’t we just go get him?” Ron said. “They can’t attack him if they can’t find him.”

“Albus wants him to stay there,” Molly said.

“And that’s another thing!” Sirius barked. “Why does he make Harry stay with those horrible people? He hates them. They treat him like dirt! I second that we go get him. Why do we follow Albus like little sheep?”

“He always knows what’s best, you know that Sirius,” Remus reasoned.

“Well, in this case he’s fucking wrong! We need to go get him! What if he can’t fight them off? They’ll kill him while we sit around and wait. This is fucking ridiculous, Remus! What would James and Lily think if they heard that we knew that Harry was going to be attacked and we did nothing?”

This seemed to get all of the adult’s attention. “I think he’s right, Remus,” Arthur said. “It is our job to make sure that Harry is safe. I’ll arrange his transport for later in the day. The poor boy; first his friend dies and the Ministry seems to accuse him of it, then Albus staying away from him this summer. We can’t let this happen, too. He’s been cut off and we need to let him know that we care. And we need to remember that he lives with muggles that will have no way to fight back against dementors.”

Ron leaned over toward Seraphina as the table continued to debate whether to rescue Harry from the Dursleys. “Snape told Professor Dumbledore that Voldemort plans to attack Harry with a pair of dementors sometime soon. He’s brilliant at the patronus charm, but we can’t do magic out of school until we’re 17. I say we go get him.” He then stuffed a whole piece of bacon into his mouth.

“Can a dementor detect unplottable locations?” Seraphina asked the table.

“There’s not much research into that,” Hermione offered, “but they believe that they can’t. They are rather elusive and it’s difficult to get close to them, so study of them has been difficult to say the least.”

“Well, then, what would be the harm in rescuing him?” Seraphina asked. “I mean, as Harry’s godfather, isn’t Sirius supposed to be the one raising him, especially if his other relatives don’t treat him well? Are they going to miss him?”

“Not at all,” Ron emphasized, “they’re right tossers, the lot of them. Made him sleep in a broom closet until his first year at Hogwarts.”

“Remus, they’re abusing him!” Seraphina exclaimed. “You can’t keep him there. Albus might not like it, but morally it’s what should be done. He shouldn’t be expected to live in an abusive environment when he has a way out.”

“That settles it, then. Arthur and I will go get him today,” Sirius said.

“You are going nowhere,” Remus emphasized. “You are a wanted man, Sirius. You have to stay here. I’ll go with Arthur. You can see him when he gets here.”

Sirius slammed his fists into the table and then stood up and stalked out of the kitchen. Seraphina jumped up and followed him. He climbed up to the top floor of the house and went into a bedroom – a bedroom that must have been his as it was filled with red and gold and posters of Farrah Fawcett and Led Zeppelin. His leather jacket was tossed into the corner along with his motorcycle boots. When he entered the room, he punched a hole into the wall.

“Holy fuck that hurt!” he yelled as Seraphina rushed to check his fist. “I feel like a fucking caged animal. I’m going mad in this house.”

“At least it’s not Azkaban,” Seraphina said while determining that he hadn’t done any damage to his fist. The wall was another story. “You’re going to have to fix that,” she said to Sirius while pointing toward the hole.

“Fuck the hole. There’s been so many holes in these walls I doubt there’s any original wall left. Growing up here was shit. Complete and utter shit. And now I’m back and I can’t leave.” He walked over to his armoire and pulled a bottle of whiskey out of it.

“Sirius, I think you drink too much,” Seraphina said.

“Don’t you fucking start on me, too. I can drink whatever the fuck I want, whenever the fuck I want. I’ve got to have some fun being stuck here.”

“Sirius, you nearly got us killed the other day with the dementors and it’s 9:00 in the morning and you’re already drinking. And you’re fucking mean when you’re drunk.”

“I haven’t got a god damned problem, Seraphina! How could you know anyway; you just fucking met me! The dementors were an accident. I suppose you’re going to hold that over my head forever?”

“No, I’m not, but I want you to think about Harry. How are you going to protect him if you’re drunk all of the time? I know that your life feels shitty right now, but there’s got to be another way that you can cope.”

Sirius turned his back to her and defiantly took a swig out of the whiskey bottle. Seraphina said, “Whatever, Sirius. But don’t you ever accuse me of not caring about you. Do you think I think I wanted to confront you about your drinking when I know that you’re a fucking asshole when you do it? But whatever.” She left the room.

She ran into Erwin as she passed her bedroom. He was carrying his valise and looked natty in one of his suits and bowler hats. “I’ve taken the liberty of packing your things,” he said, indicating the bag. “You can show me this amazing room after we visit Hogsmeade.” He then stood back and looked at her face. “Why the scowl, petal?”

Seraphina smiled as Erwin used another one of his pet names for her, the one he used when she was obviously angry. She told him about the events of the morning, about forgetting about the dementor attack and how Sirius had blown up at her when she’d confronted him.

“Well you know as well as I do that an addict’s first inclination is to defend themselves. They are selfish and stubborn and they think they can handle it themselves. But maybe you’ve planted a seed. Try not to let it ruin your day. And Harry will be fine, as you know.”

Seraphina sighed and held hands with Erwin. “There’s never a dull moment here, is there?” she said, and, as they were walking toward the floo, proceeded to tell Erwin about healing Severus and what Albus had told her about the Dumbledores and how he wanted her to start her training immediately. “I guess we’re super wizards or something, but we blow up if we’re not careful,” she said, making Erwin chuckle.

“That’s one way to say it,” he said, adding, “With that temper of yours it could turn into a regular Krakatoa if you don’t learn to control it. I’m sure Albus will help you get it under control. He has some experience with this, as you know. He’s probably got plans for you tonight if you aren’t too tired. It would be just like him.”

They were to floo into Hogwarts Station and from there find Erwin’s cottage. After that there would be time for lunch at the Three Broomsticks and shopping for Seraphina’s school wardrobe. She assumed that at some point she would be meeting Abeforth. And then her life and training at Hogwarts would begin.

Remus was waiting for them by the floo. He smiled fractionally at Seraphina. “I suppose this is it then. You’ll be moving into Hogwarts today. If you’re available, you should join us for dinner tonight. We should have Harry here by then. You should meet him.”

Seraphina took Remus’s hand. “I’ll see if I can do that. I’m not sure what Albus has in store for me.” She squeezed his hand and said, “I won’t be a stranger, Remus. And you are welcome to visit me whenever you’d like. Whenever you can.”

Remus looked at the floor and nodded his head. He let go of her hand and took a deep breath. “You two should be off. You have another long day. I fear we’ll tire you out before too long.”

She nodded at Remus and watched at Erwin disappeared into the floo. The Seraphina Dumbledore stepped into the floo and watched as Remus Lupin disappeared, swirling behind green embers.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Hogsmeade was about as different from Diagon Alley as New York City was from Yellow Springs, Ohio (or Silver Springs, Seraphina had to remind herself). Where Diagon Alley was busy and full of people bustling about their daily errands, Hogsmeade was slow, meandering, and quiet. It was much smaller than Seraphina had imagined – a longish, crooked main street with three full blocks of shops, maybe a few random establishments here and there down a side street, and at the most 200 or so full-time residents. None of the shops stood more than two stores tall; the buildings appeared to have been built as early as the medieval period, built of stone and lathe and plaster, looking delightfully crooked and homey. The owl post had overflowing boxes of flowers in the windows, Madame Puddifoots had adorably askew pink shutters and a doorway that seemed a little too small (also painted pink). The Three Broomsticks, which Erwin told Seraphina had the best fish and chips in all of Britain, took up half a block and looked like the sort of place that Walt Disney would design a Disney World pub after. In other words, Hogsmeade was the quintessential, medieval, fairy tale Scottish village.

Erwin walked down a side street and after passing a few houses stopped in front of the most enchanting cottage that Seraphina could have ever imagined. The front yard was overflowing with what had to have been the most cottagey of cottage gardens; hollyhocks stuck out of drifts of verbena and salvia, daisies competed for space with marigolds and pinks, lavender and catmint lined the stone walkway which had wooley thyme springing up from between the flagstones. The front of the cottage was covered in a lush rose vine; in between the canes of the rose a while clematis wove it's tendrils. As if that weren't wonderful enough, the cottage had a beautiful thatched roof and there was even a brown tabby sunning itself on the front step.

“This is the place,” Erwin declared and walked up to the front door. The cat rose up to meet him, circling around his ankles and purring as if Erwin were his most favorite person in the world.

Erwin bent down and gave the cat a pat. “You must be my new friend,” he said, and the cat meowed in the affirmative. He then straightened up and said to Seraphina, “Albus told me that the cat came with the house. Assured me that she was most delightful and according to the neighbors was left behind by the last inhabitants, poor dear.” When he opened the front door with his wand the cat padded in and took up residence on the window sill.

The house was tastefully furnished with cozy, comfortable furniture. The walls were whitewashed, ceiling beams were exposed. The rooms were small but comfortable; the house was completely different from the mid-century ranch that Erwin had brought Seraphina up in but felt like Erwin just the same. Perhaps it was because it felt like the most idyllic British place that Seraphina could imagine, and there was nothing about Erwin that didn't scream Britian.

She followed Erwin through a door which opened to a small dining room and through another door into an impressively large cook's kitchen. “Now this will do!” Erwin exclaimed, as he ran his hands over the stainless steel modern AGA, the marble counters and double sided subzero refrigerator. The room had ample space for several people to work, a large center butcher top island and a long table that could easily sit eight people.

The back door led to a small patio off of which was a gorgeous vegetable and herb garden with edible and ornamental flowers situated throughout. To the rear was a planting shed that was outfitted with everything that Erwin would need to tend to the garden. All in all, it was a perfect space.

“Is there nothing that Albus doesn't do well?” Seraphina wondered. “This is the most perfect cottage that I have ever seen. I feel like Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny are going to pop out at any minute with Mr. McGregor at his heels. And Jane Austen is going to pop over for tea. Could this be more enchanting?”

“Well, just between you and me, Albus is bullocks at family relations, but maybe you and I can help with that. But he did pick out a nice house, didn't he?” Erwin answered.

Upstairs there were two modest bedrooms and a nice bathroom. The landing was large enough to contain a few bookshelves and a small overstuffed chair and ottoman. In the front bedroom Erwin found a wardrobe that could have been the inspiration for the entrance to Narnia; Seraphina watched him step into it and disappear. She followed him in and found a luxurious closet that contained all of Erwin's considerable wardrobe. “It's the TARDIS of wardrobes!,” Seraphina exclaimed.

After a thorough perusal of the house, Erwin suggested that they stock up on Hogwarts appropriate clothing for Seraphina. It really was just an excuse to wander around Hogsmeade and it's wonderful shops – Erwin loaded up on candy at Honeydukes and Seraphina couldn't help but buy her first chocolate frog, they both stocked up on warm jumpers and socks at Gladrags; Seraphina left with a nice selection of teaching and everyday robes in a variety of colors, and Erwin helped Seraphina select her glassware and other equipment for her potions lab at Dervish & Bangs. They spent quite a bit of time at The Three Broomsticks (which had incredible fish and chips) while Erwin flirted with Madame Rosmerta, who kept insisting that she knew Erwin from somewhere, though she couldn't put her finger on it. By the time they left it was well into the afternoon and they were both feeling sated and a bit tipsy.

It was during their walk back to the cottage that Erwin turned abruptly down a shabby looking side street and Seraphina heard the bleating of goats. “You're taking me to see Abeforth, aren't you?” she asked.

“Yes,” Erwin answered. “I think it will be best if you let me so the initial talking. He's difficult at best, downright terrifying at worst. Just remember that he's a good man underneath it all.”

Seraphina didn't know how to feel. In a few short moments she would be meeting her closest living relative. In momentary washed of feeling she was excited, nervous, a bit panicked, positively overwhelmed. This was her great grandfather, who throughout the books was painted as rather unyielding and severe. Before long they were standing in front of a rundown house in what must have been the bad section of Hogsmeade. Over the door hung a small sign written in Old English, golden letters that said “The Hogs Head.”

Erwin stopped Seraphina before she opened the door and pulled her to the side of the house, out of sight of any passersby. “The Hogs Head attracts a rather – distinct set of clientele. It is unusual, if not unthought of, for a lovely, young, well dressed woman to walk through these doors. Think of it as a magical biker bar and you're a bit of the way there. I think you ought to cloak up. That dark grey one with the hood ought to do the trick.” He reached in to her Gladrags bag and found what he was looking for, unshrunk the cloak, and placed it around Seraphina's shoulders, hiding her face inside the hood. He then took her hand and led her out of the shadows and through the door of The Hogs Head.

The room was dark and dingy. The floor was covered in straw and dirt beneath. The air was pungent with ale and pipesmoke; the mood was somber, almost depressed. The clientele, what little there was of it, didn't strike Seraphina as all that hostile, though she had to admit this wouldn't have been her first choice of a hang out. No one looked up when they walked in; they simply continued their murmured] conversations, or, in the case of a few at the bar, drowning in their drink.

Behind the bar stood a slight, thin, twitchy, young female. She seemed to shrink into herself when they approached.

“Excuse me, dear,” Erwin said to the frail woman, “we are here to see Abeforth. Could you tell him that Erwin is here to see him?”

The small woman nodded quickly and disappeared into a door behind the bar.

“Well, that girl was high as a kite,” Erwin muttered to himself, as Seraphina nodded in agreement.

They stood in uncomfortable silence. Seraphina realized that they had drawn the attention of a few of the patrons when Erwin had asked for Abeforth. At least one of the patrons, a rather sinister looking man, was examining Erwin and Seraphina (who was very happy to have her cloak to hide behind) quite thoroughly.

A gruff voice came from the voice behind the door. “You. Back here,” the man ordered.

Seraphina followed Erwin silently. They were led through a disused kitchen and storeroom and into a small, comfy sitting room. “You might as well sit,” said the tall, gruff man. Seraphina swelled as she realized that she was looking at her grandfather, Abeforth Dumbledore. She lowered the hood of her cloak, which drew a gasp from the gnarled man.

“You look like your father. And my Gwendolyn,” he said with a bit of wonder. Seraphina sat on a small wooden chair beside Erwin.

“Do I?” she asked. She’d never seen photos of either of them.

“Aye, you do. I suppose you’ve never seen pictures of them. They were all magical, the pictures.” He then stood and left the room, signaling for them to follow him. He led them in to a room with a wooden table and two benches on either side. On the wall was a large painting of a lovely, young, honey blond haired girl. Goats bleated outside the door. “Stay here. Make yourselves at home. I’ve something to fetch.” He left them, climbing a set of stairs to first floor.

Seraphina walked to stand before Ariana’s portrait. She had the same eyes and curly hair as Seraphina, and she was smiling pleasantly at her. “Hello, I’m Seraphina,” she said to the portrait.

“I’m Ariana,” the portrait replied. “I’ve heard so much about you. How lovely to finally meet you. You look like Gwendolyn. It’s bound to be a shock for Abeforth.”

“You’re beautiful,” Seraphina said, then not knowing what else to say to the portrait, continued with, “I’m sorry about what happened to you. You were much too young . . .”

“It was no one’s fault,” Ariana replied. “Gellart lost his temper. Though Abeforth is quite cross at Albus for it. I fear he’ll never forgive him.”

“Maybe I’ll try to help him with that,” Seraphina said.

Ariana nodded and smiled. She must have been happy with the exchange as her portrait went still with her smile still on her face.

Just moments afterwards, Abeforth came stomping back into the room and placed a large book onto the table. “Sit beside me,” he said to Seraphina, “I’ve got something to show you.”

Seraphina sat beside Abeforth, who felt warm, strong, and kind. There was no bitterness, no anger. A bit of sadness, though. He appraised her with clear, deep blue eyes. His face was mostly hidden behind a large, bushy white beard and mustache that made him look a little like Santa Claus. He wore plain brown robes that reminded Seraphina of the sort of thing medieval serfs would have worn.

He opened the book. On the first page was a sepia photo of a toddler sitting in a high backed, upholstered chair holding a baby tightly. The toddler wore breeches with white knee socks and a tailored coat. The baby wore a long white gown. “Albus and me,” he said, running his finger over the portrait. “Albus was three and I was 6 months old.” The baby shifted in his dress as Albus tightened his hold, smiling down at Abeforth with uncontained joy.

He turned another page. The photo was again sepia and had a seated man and woman in Edwardian dress, two boys and a young girl no more than two around them. “This is my parents, Kendra and Percival. There’s Albus and Ariana and me. We went to London to have that photo taken. Not a lot of photographers in those days, magical or muggle.”

The next photo was of Albus, Ariana, and Abeforth. They were older. It must have been taken shortly before Ariana was killed, as the girl in the picture looked like the girl in the portrait on the wall. Abeforth glanced with concern at Ariana as Albus smiled toward the camera and winked. Seraphina felt the smallest swell of fondness wash over Abeforth.

The next photo was of a young Abeforth in school robes with a woman that looked exactly like Seraphina. In fact, if Seraphina hadn’t known that she had never had this photo taken she would have been convinced that this was one of those posed vintage photos of her. “Is that Gwendolyn?” she asked.

“Mmm,” Abeforth grunted in reply. “You’re her twin, separated by a few years, of course. We were at Hogwarts here. Sixth year. I hadn’t asked her to marry me yet. She was a Hufflepuff. Kindest woman you ever met. Always with a smile. She was right intelligent as well. Was at the top of our class. Heard you got a bit of that.”

Seraphina nodded and smiled in reply. “School always came easy to me,” she replied.

Abeforth nodded in acknowledgment of the statement, turning his attention to Gwendolyn and his wedding photo. He was wearing a smart robe, his beard had begun to flesh out. Gwendolyn had on a gorgeous dress of delicate lace and a full flower crown under a lace veil. There were butterflies flittering about them. They were beaming. “Gwendolyn loved butterflies. Her dress had them sewn in. Albus charmed the butterflies to fly around us during the ceremony and pictures. Couldn’t figure out how to get the damned things to go away,” he said with a slight smile.

More photos followed. Candid photos of children running around playing. A picture of Abeforth and Gwendolyn behind the bar, Gwendolyn wiping it down with a rag, a smile on her face. A black and white picture of a baby in the white gown. A photo of Abeforth holding a small boy who was wiggling to get away, who he told her was Albion, her grandfather, his son. Then a picture of a young boy with a wild tangle of blond curls feeding meat to a monstrous, black, gaunt pony with a beak. Her father feeding a thestral. “Ahearn means ‘lord of the horses.’ He used to go down to Hogwarts even as a child to help feed the thestral; he grew up here in Hogsmeade. He’d seen a friend die when he was very young. It had quite an effect on him, but the first time he saw a thestral was like the first time he performed magic.” He then paused and looked at Seraphina. “You can see the thestral?” he asked.

“Yes. It’s strange, isn’t it, to think that there are people that can’t. There’s a sort of strange beauty to it.” She ran her finger over her father’s face, a face with her eyes and nose. A face scrunched in determination as he fed the thestral. Her father.

“He was a good child. A bit rambunctious, bit of a rascal, but also gentle with the animals. Spent quite a bit of time on this lap reading me stories. He was a smart one, too. And your mother! That witch must have had a photographic memory. Mind like an encyclopedia. She was a great healer, she was.” He turned the page to another wedding photo. Her father and mother grinning at each other and back at the camera. Her mom wore a gorgeous satin dress with a sweetheart neckline and full, ballerina length skirt. She wore white gloves and held a small bouquet of wildflowers and lavender. Her black hair was short, with curled bangs and a small flip at the end. “She was a good mother to you. You were a handful, vanishing walls and turning everything into unicorns. Got my temper, you did.”

He turned to the next photo. Her mother was holding a toddler with that same thatch of wild, blond curls; her father had his arm around her mother. “There is am,” she said in wonder, watching the girl in the pale yellow pin-tucked dress holding a little unicorn rag doll. Beside this photo was another picture of her as a newborn in a long white dress. “Is that the same dress from the photo of you and Albus?” she asked, looking at the tinted photo, at her sparse pale curls and searching blue eyes. She’d had a small angel’s kiss above her nose. She hadn’t known that until now.

“I suppose it’s a tradition. All of the babies have had their first picture in that gown. My mother stitched it when she was expecting Albus. He never had any children, though. I’ll have to give it to you for your children.”

There were a few more photos of her and her parents. One had a younger Erwin in it, with Seraphina pulling at his pants leg. The last picture was of her as a toddler. She was wearing a pink dress, white ankle socks, and white shoes. Her legs were impossibly chubby. She was giggling and pointing at the camera, or the person taking the picture. Behind her was a field of Queen Anne’s Lace and cornflowers.

“I took that one,” Erwin said affectionately. “That was the same summer – it wasn’t but a few weeks after that we left England. That we left this world.”

“There are more photos in an envelope in the back. I never got to putting them in the book. I’d always meant for you to have it, but then you were gone,” said Abeforth, looking at the picture of her. “That little girl was the light of my life. I can still hear her laugh. I was damned if anything was going to happen to her. I hope that one day you can understand that.”

Seraphina looked at Abeforth. She had gotten this man all wrong. She had been afraid of meeting a cantankerous, mean man with a grudge and beside her sat a lonesome, brittle man with a broken heart. She took his hand. “You’re my grandfather,” she said with a note of awe in her voice.

“Aye, that I am. And you’re my Seraphina, come back from another world,” he replied, searching her eyes.

Seraphina threw herself at Abeforth and was engulfed in a pair of strong, kind arms. She felt overwhelmed with love. She smelled wood smoke and ale and lye soap. She realized that she was crying freely, and the arms holding her had tightened their embrace. Somewhere Erwin sniffed and quietly blew his nose.

Seraphina closed her eyes and melted into her grandfather. She had finally come home.

 

Chapter Text

 

It was quiet on Privet Drive at this time of night.  Severus heard a dog bark in the distance, crickets were buzzing all about him, but there was not a person in sight, not a house light glowing through the dark.  Even the ever vigilant Mrs. Figg had stopped her watch and retired for the night.  Severus stood on the sidewalk staring at number 4, trying to convince himself that this was an unfortunate eventuality of war, that his actions had not led to this moment. He took a deep breath and touched the tip of his wand to his dark mark and almost immediately the dark mist of Death Eaters surrounded him.  As they started taking form, Severus closed his mind and fixed his steely gaze. For in a moment he would assist Cassius Parkinson and Xavier Bulstrode in slaughtering what remained of Harry Potter’s family.

It had started earlier that afternoon.  Voldemort had called them to the ballroom and announced that the dementors had a gift for them.  Severus stiffened his posture hoping against hope that Harry had been moved to safety, ready to play the part of the victorious Death Eater if he had not.

The room became cold, and then was filled with a bone piercing chill.  A feeling of hopelessness washed over Severus and he noted in his peripheral vision that some of the newer recruits were having a difficult time maintaining their stoicism, tears escaping their eyes and a sob sounding here or there.  Two dementors entered the room, hovering overhead, and approached Voldemort’s throne.  A sickly thud sounded as a body hit the ground.  All held their breath.

Voldemort stepped forward and toed the body with his foot, a look of utter contempt on his face.  Severus could see confusion mixed with fury marring his features. “Severus, I require your assistance,” he said with a deathly calm.

Severus approached the body.  He could tell immediately that this person was entirely too large to be Harry.  He held back his relief and looked impassively at Voldemort. “Yes, my lord?” he asked.

“Severus, is this Harry Potter?”  The contempt was coming through in his voice.  Also, the impression that he already knew the answer.

“No, my lord,  this boy – is far too fat to be Harry Potter.”  He used his wand to turn over the body so that he could get a good look at the boy’s face.  The boy’s eyes were opened and staring into nothing.  His mouth hung slack.  He was completely devoid of all feeling or expression.  He had clearly been relieved of his soul.  And then he saw it.  There was something about this boy that reminded him of Lily.  Through the obesity, he saw a nose and eyes the same shape as that of his lost love.  He struggled against the growing nausea, the feeling of helplessness that surrounded anyone (except, it seemed, Voldemort) in this close of a proximity to two dementors. “I believe, my lord, that this is Harry’s cousin Dudley,” he said.

Still steely calm, Voldemort looked at the dementors.  “It is a pity that I cannot kill you.  You have failed me.  Get out of my sight,” he spit at the two wraiths hovering in front of him.  A collective sigh of relief left many mouths as they left the room; a few vomited, a few fainted.

Voldemort waved his wand and Nagini slithered out from under his throne.  He idly brushed the beast with his fingertips as he slithered by and hissed out a few words in parseltounge.  Severus focused on his breathing and his mental wall as he watched Nagini start to slowly devour Dudley Dursley.

“As least Nagini will be well fed.  She shouldn’t need another meal for a month,” Voldemort said to himself; Severus heard a few snickers from the collected death eaters. “Severus and Lucius, join me.  The rest of you can find a suitable way to occupy yourselves.  I wouldn’t stray far.”

Lucius came to stand beside Severus, shooting a look of disgust at the torso of Dudley Dursley. “What an absolute abomination. The gluttony of muggles revolts me,” he said in his haughty, scornful voice.

“Yes, Lucius,” Voldemort agreed. “It is quite atrocious indeed.” He paused and looked toward the ceiling as if forming a thought. “I am not happy,” he finally said.

“No, my lord, nor am I,” Lucius sniveled.  Severus sniffed in contemptuous false agreement.

“I would like the Dursley family to die.  I want them to suffer.  Severus, you will lead a group tonight to ensure their demise,” Voldemort said.

Severus struggled to hide his inner panic.  He could see no way out of this.  If he refused or failed to ensure the murder of Petunia and Vernon he would certainly be killed.  He sought his brain for a way to prevent this and could come up with none.  Perhaps he could talk Voldemort out of such a rash move.

“If I may, my lord,” Severus bowed his head in deference and Voldemort magnanimously nodded in deference. “Are we not still keeping a low profile?  As of this moment the Ministry does not believe that you have been resurrected.  An act against such a well known muggle family could raise their suspicions.”

“Yes, Severus, I agree with that.  You will have to make it look like an accident, wont you?” Voldemort answered.  His attention was now fully on Nagini who continued to slowly swallow the Dursley boy.

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Lucius said, fractionally bowing to Voldemort.

Voldemort idly waved his hand at the two of them, dismissing them. “You may go,” he said, and then added, “I want this done tonight. I will be awaiting your report.”

Severus and Lucius bowed and left the room.  Once they were out of Voldemort’s sight, Lucius collapsed against Severus, who quickly took hold of his waist and uttered a charm to keep him upright and help him walk.  Severus then led Lucius to his study.  He placed Lucius in a chair and poured him a few fingers of bourbon.  After Lucius had taken a few drinks and regained his composure he looked at Severus, who was sitting in a chair opposite him.

“You are familiar with muggle ways,” he started, and Severus nodded. “How do we make this look like a muggle accident?”

Severus took a moment to compose his thoughts.  He was plotting the murder of Lily’s sister and could see no way out.  The woman was truly wretched and no words were adequate to describe the absolute contempt he felt for her husband.  Still – this was Lily’s sister and the only family that Harry had left.  He knew that there was no way out of this, that they would have to die lest he ruin his cover and die himself.  There was still too much work to be done for the Order, so much to do for Harry. He did not want Petunia to suffer.  He felt that he owed her that, at least.

“Carbon monoxide,” Severus said.  Lucius stared blankly at him.  Severus let out an irritated sigh. “Carbon monoxide is a gas that leaches out of the ground or can be released by muggle space heaters or automoblies.  It can build up to toxic levels in muggle homes where it suffocates the inhabitants.  It is not entirely unusual for muggles to die of carbon monoxide poisoning in their sleep.  We will simply have to ensure that the concentrations are high enough that they never wake up.”

“Brilliant, Severus, brilliant indeed,” Lucius said with a sadistic smile. “The Dark Lord did say that he wanted them to suffer, however.”

“Faulty wiring leads to a house fire,” Severus offered up, and Lucius’s leer intensified. “If we poison them first, they won’t wake up when the house is set alight.  And yet to Lord Voldemort it will look as if they died a horrible fiery death.  When the muggle authorities investigate, however, they will find the source of the fire to be faulty electrical wiring and, if they are able to perform an autopsy on the bodies, they will find evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning.  It will look like an unfortunate coincidence and completely accidental.”

Lucius took a long draw of bourbon and meditated on the conversation. “As sorry as I am to say this, I am not sure that I will be able to attend this raid.  My level of endurance has still not entirely recovered.”

Severus had anticipated this.  Lucius's recovery was still progressing.  On top of that, he may have a sadistic streak, but Lucius didn’t like to get his hands dirty. “I will use Parkinson and Bulstrode.  They have proven to be able to keep their wits about them.  You should rest.” He stood and Lucius bowed his head as a goodbye.

The next several hours were spent with Cassius and Xavier, teaching them about muggle electricity and formulating a plan that would look cut and dried to the muggle authorities.  They both leaned toward less violent methods of killing making it easy for Severus to sell them on the plan.  Nevertheless, they were both inordinately excited to participate in what was to be the first official raid after the return of their dark master.

At number 4 Privet Drive, three disillusioned Death Eaters stalked up the front walk and slipped into the house unnoticed.  Severus cast a bubblehead charm on the three of them and then Cassius set out in search of the cook top while he and Xavier searched out the sleeping forms of Petunia and Vernon.  When they were found, Severus nodded at Xavier, who held his wand over the bed and cast a charm to release the carbon monoxide into the room.  They had decided to deluge the room with the gas to quickly incapacitate and suffocate its inhabitants.  In less than a minute a bluish cast formed on Petunia and Vernon’s faces, in just a minute more that cast had been replaced by rosy red cheeks and the absence of a heart beat and breathing.  Xavier smiled viciously and then he and Severus went back downstairs to give Cassius the signal to start the fire.  Cassius waved his wand to fray the wires leading to the electrical box that powered the cook top and cast an incendio.  They left the house as stealthily as they came.  The whole raid took less than ten minutes.

After reporting the raids success to Voldemort Severus spent the entire night drinking himself into a stupor.  Cissy had looked in on him a few times but left without saying anything.  She was good at knowing when her words were not wanted.  As the morning light peeked through the curtains of his room at Malfoy Manor he hissed at the pain in his head and rushed to the toilet before he lost the contents of his stomach.  He looked at himself in the mirror (the blessedly non-magical mirror) and decided that he did not deserve a hangover cure.  He had killed Lily’s sister.  He did not deserve anything.  He began to think through the stock of potions that he had at his disposal that would lead to a painful, protracted, yet incurable death and became overwhelmingly tired as he realized that without the Dursleys, Harry had no one except Sirius, who was an immature, emotionally stunted, raging alcoholic, to look after him.  He would have to stay alive.  For now.

There was a soft knock at the door.  It then quietly opened and Cissy timidly entered.  She came to the entrance to the loo and gasped as she looked at Severus. “You look terrible,” she said.  Severus did not reply and stalked past her to open the curtains. “Severus!” Narcissa cried, “Surely the light cannot be good for your present condition.  I’ll fetch you a potion.”

“Don’t bother,” Severus said, adding, “I want the pain.”

Narcissa looked thoughtfully at Severus. “One would think, Severus, that you feel remorse for your actions last night.”  Severus said nothing. “One would be wise to hide those feelings,” she continued, a disapproving edge to her voice.

He looked back at her and was happy to find her mind unguarded.  While she appeared disapproving he found pity and sadness for him behind her gaze.  She understood his remorse; she was always perceptive.

“She was Lily’s sister,” he finally said, his eyes still boring into hers.

“Yes, I know.  And she was a muggle who, for the last fifteen years, has been harboring your lord’s greatest enemy.  We show no compassion to muggles, Severus; they are beneath us. Had you not followed his orders you wouldn’t be alive this morning.”

Severus let out a bitter laugh.  If only he had not woken up.  His dreams never had come true.

Narcissa threw a newspaper on his bed. “I’ll send an elf up with some food,” she said, then nodding toward the paper, said, “It’s on the second page.”  She left the room.

It was a muggle newspaper, The Surrey Mirror. He opened the paper and found the news article, House Fire Kills Couple in Little Whinging.

Little Whinging residents Vernon and Petunia Dursley were killed overnight in a house fire that left their home in rubble.  By the time the Fire Marshall arrived the house was fully engulfed in flames; Fire Marshall David Whitby stated that “there was no way we could have rescued anyone from the home safely.”  According to Whitby, investigators believe that the fire was caused by faulty wiring originating in the kitchen.  The home’s residents, Vernon and Petunia Dursley, were found in their bed; they appeared to have perished while asleep, raising concerns of foul play.

According to neighbors, Vernon and Petunia have a son, Dudley, and a nephew, Harry Potter, who were not found in the fire and appear to have gone missing. Neighbor Arabella Figg told Police Inspector Wilton that Mr. Potter was visiting school mates and had been picked up two days prior; she did not know the current location of Dudley Dursley. “He is not the most agreeable child; still, I do hope that he is found,” she stated.

Fortunately, no surrounding houses were affected by the fire though residents are understandably shaken by the tragedy.

Autopsies will be performed on Vernon and Petunia Dursley to determine cause of death.  We will keep you updated on the investigation.

Severus refolded the newspaper carefully so that it appeared to have been untouched.  He rose and reentered the bathroom and turned the shower on until the room was full of steam.  He cast a silencio on the room, carefully undressed, stepped into the shower, and promptly slid down the wall until he was sitting, face in his hands, uncontrollable sobs quaking through his body.

Chapter Text

 

It had been several weeks since the death of the Dursleys.  The deaths were ruled accidental due to carbon monoxide poisoning; the fire was an unfortunate coincidence.  The police were continuing their search for Dudley Dursley but were growing more and more sure that Dudley had met with foul play and that there was little hope that he would be found alive.

There, of course, had been no trial to expel Harry Potter from Hogwarts and break his wand.  There was appropriate shock over the Dursley’s death among the members of the Order; Harry had been quickly adopted by both Molly and Arthur Weasley and Sirius Black.  Reports revealed that he was dealing as expected with confused grief but was surrounded by friends that loved and cared for him.  Had it not been for Severus’s report to Dumbledore that the deaths were at the hands of the Death Eaters, Seraphina was sure that the Dursley’s fate would have been looked at as an unfortunate accident as well.  Whoever had planned and carried out the attacks had done their job well.

Seraphina had spent those last couple of weeks in a state of shocked disconnection.  She could not help but blame herself for the deaths and had no one to talk to about it save Erwin, who was just as shocked as she was.  Somehow her presence had led to an unspeakable tragedy; what other ripples in this world’s reality would her existence cause?

Fortunately, her move to Hogwarts had kept her away from the middle of the chaos surrounding the event.  She had been able to throw herself into her new life of training and learning to keep her mind off of the tragedy.  Albus had spent considerable time with her helping her become acquainted with her magical core; her lessons felt more like yogic meditations than anything she was expecting.  Every day she could feel her power growing, seemingly infusing every nerve ending and cell in her body until she seemingly crackled with the intensity of magic in her body, until she felt more in control of her power, until it became tamed under her command.  She marveled as she began to perform spells that only a few weeks earlier had seemed too difficult and out of her grasp; occasionally she was able to manufacture magic of her own, based on her own feelings and desires, though those incidences were rare.  This is not to say that magic came easily to her.  She ended each training session exhausted and was hesitant to perform magic on her own for fear that she would horribly botch a spell when no one was around to correct it. Consequently, she had become close with Winky, whom she had called upon to perform the activities of daily living that required magical intervention.

She was eating with Erwin (and sometimes Aberforth) every night.  Despite being a new setting, Erwin’s kitchen made her feel as if her old life was still with her.  Moving around in the kitchen with him as they prepared their meal was a feeling of familiarity that helped calm her anxieties and ground her.  The nights when Aberforth ate with them were the best.  He would arrive and watch them as they moved about the kitchen with a look of mixed wonder and wistfulness on his face; she studied Seraphina as if she were the answers to the most vexing problems in the world.  The dinner conversation always included a new story about her mother or father; it was wonderful when Seraphina learned that one of her many quirks was shared by one of her parents.  She was learning about her father’s compassion for his magical creatures, her mother’s unending fire and wit, and both of her parent’s endless quests for more knowledge, their never ending zeal for learning.  On those occasions the amulet that her parents had made for her (which she hadn’t taken off since that day on Gringott’s vaults) seemed to glow on her breast, as if they were there pouring their love out over her.

She had also started legilimency and occulomecy lessons with Severus. Albus believed these lessons to be of utmost importance because of her knowledge of the future.  Prior to beginning the lessons he had performed a spell on her which supposedly hid any dangerous knowledge in the deepest, most inaccessible parts of her mind and had placed a spell on her that forbade her from speaking of anything that she knew to anyone except Erwin (who was placed under a similar spell).  Thus, Severus would not happen upon information that was dangerous to him or the wizarding world at large and Seraphina would be prevented from sharing such knowledge, even under threat of death.

The few lessons that Severus had conducted had not gone well. Any progress that Seraphina believed had been made in her relationship with the man had apparently gone away, as he was distant, short, and, at times, downright cruel to her.  He was obviously suspicious of her and it was also evident that he kept almost everyone at arm’s length.  As had been the case with Harry’s (future) occulomency lessons, he simply expected her to know how to block his mental attacks (thank God for the lesson that Remus had given her) and was relentless in the force that he placed behind his legilimency.  She left the lessons feeling raw and naked, not knowing if she was improving as Severus couldn’t be bothered with actually giving her any constructive feedback.  By the end of her first lesson she completely understood why Severus was as despised as he was; it took everything in her to continue (and Severus had momentarily appeared surprised when she showed up for her second lesson, as if he had believed that he has scared her off).

Hogwarts was huge and life in the empty castle was lonely.  The few times that she had run into Severus in the dungeons she found that she had no desire to spend any time with him, such were the feelings of displeasure with her that he threw off.  She had made fast friends with Pomona and spent long hours tending the castle gardens with her; Professor Sprout had begun giving her rudimentary training in magical plants when she observed the delight and fascination that Seraphina showed every time she encountered a new specimen that she had never seen.  Pomona, ever the kind Hufflepuff, had decided that she would use potion ingredients to break down Severus’s walls toward Seraphina, using Seraphina to deliver the choicest and rarest specimens from the greenhouse.  Thus far, Severus had shown more interest in the plants than he had in being civil to Seraphina. The one time Seraphina suggested that she help him prepare and store one of her deliveries he gave her such a disdainful laugh and look that she decided that nothing short of a miracle would bring Severus Snape to actually consider her someone worthy of helping him.

Severus Snape was a miserable, cold, cruel man.  She may have initially found him good looking, but that was all deleted by his completely despicable personality.  Severus Snape may have been that most awful person that Seraphina Dumbledore had ever met, and, as the days wore on, her patience with his vile demeanor was growing thinner and thinner.  No amount of past hurt or broken childhood could justify the amount of spite and cruelty Severus Snape threw out toward her. Seraphina Dumbledore was on the edge of an explosion, and she found that she had no desire to stop it.

___________________________________________________________

Severus Snape was growing tired of being entirely puzzled by Seraphina Dumbledore.  His current attitude began the day that she learned that the Dursleys were dead.  While she did not show it, Severus could read the guilt that consumed her over the event.  She felt guilty for the deaths of people that she had never met and the sheer unintelligible nature of this exasperated him to the point of complete annoyance.  After all, he was the one that shouldered the guilt for the event; where did she get off feeling it as well?

He had gone so far as to ask her about it as politely and with as much tact as he possibly could muster, only to be told that it was something that Albus had made impossible for her to talk about.  Even if she had wanted to explain it, she would not have been physically able to do so.  This further infuriated him and confirmed his suspicions that she was hiding something, something big, and Albus was definitely in on it.

Albus had directed Severus to train her in occulomency and legillemency, which, of course, he had all the time in the world for.  Still, it would give him an opportunity to plumb the depths of her mind and solve the mysteries that vexed him.  So he was not at all happy when she willingly let him into her mind and he found completely blank spaces where memories should have been; Albus had hidden the information that he had deemed too threatening.  He was further infuriated when she actually knew how to block him, though her attempts were sloppy and feeble at best.  Add to that the fact that despite his acerbic personality she continued to be kind to him (though he could see her patience wearing thin), bringing him uncommonly brilliant specimens from the greenhouses with a smile (and actually volunteering to help him store them!), and her eyes were the most unfathomable shade of blue, clearer than the cloudless sky on a Scottish winter morning, and she smelled like lavender and honey and everything that was a woman, and every time he saw her he had to suppress the urge to just throw it all to hell and wank right there in front of her (how he wanted those lush pink lips around his long neglected cock) that he had decided that Seraphina Dumbledore was the most infuriating and intolerable woman to have ever been born. An infuriating and intolerable woman that he wanted with every cell in his body, who invaded his thoughts at the most inopportune times, and wouldn’t even leave him alone in his sleep, appearing in his dreams with increasing frequency and leaving him hard and wanting in the mornings, further amplifying his crushing loneliness.

He was startled out of his current reverie by a knock (her knock) on his laboratory door.  He was currently stripping the leaves off of Athenian thyme (thymus athenimus sp.), a chore that was so ingrained in him that he could do it instinctually.  He both looked forward to and dreaded her daily deliveries (which he suspected were orchestrated by Pomona; Seraphina seemed as uncomfortable to be around him, despite her smiles, as he was around her).  On the one hand she was bringing him ingredients that any potion maker would spend a month’s wages on, such were their rarity and quality. On the other hand, it was her, and she made him feel unsteady in his own territory; every response was something that he hadn’t expected which left him flailing, something any Slytherin worth his skin could not be seen doing, much less a hardened, cynical spy in the middle of a dangerous war.

He took in a calming breath and let it out slowly.  He then barked, “Come in,” hoping to gain the upper hand before she even stepped into the room.

She was different today.  While her manner was far from hostile, there was no smile.  She walked over to him with a large basket and stood for a moment looking at him.  She then said, “Pomona put a charm on these to protect anything from interacting with them. There’s also a stasis charm on them. She told me that you would know what to do with them, but that it would take two people to properly store them.”

Severus frowned.  Leave it to Pomona to continue to push Seraphina at him.  At least Seraphina looked as put out by the situation as he was.  Taking another deep breath, he said, “Very well.  What do you have?”

She walked a little closer to him to let him look into the basket.  What he saw in the basket took his breath away.  Giant viridian forget-me-nots only bloomed once every seven years and even then one was lucky to collect them while their pollen was still viable.  The petals began to wilt within 6 hours of their bloom, making them virtually unusable, and their stems began to harden an hour after that, making them highly toxic to even handle. In another hour they simply crumbled away not to be seen again for another seven years.  To say that the flowers were valuable was an understatement.  Severus could probably buy his entire housing block for the price of what lay in the basket before him. As Pomona always did, these cuttings had been collected at the peak of their efficacy and were without flaw. Severus’s mind was swimming with the possibilities that were presented to him in this (obscenely valuable) load of flowers.

“Pomona told me not to put them down anywhere until you saw them.  She said that they were one of the more rare potions ingredients that she propagated.  They were under some sort of concealment charm in her private greenhouse - I find I can’t picture what they looked like or even where they were now that I think back on it.” Seraphina said; Severus had momentarily forgotten that she was there while he looked into the basket.

“You may place them over there,” Severus said to Seraphina without looking at her, pointing to a cleared table to the side. “Tell Pomona that I will contact her when I have time to dissect them.”  He then turned his attention back to the thyme.

She continued to stand there, staring at him.  After a moment, he barked, “Is there something more?”

“Pomona told me that I should be capable of helping you store the forget-me-nots,” she stated matter-of-fact and confidently.

Severus snorted with disdain. “I am well aware that I do not have a full understanding of all that you are capable of.  I understand that you have a background in herbology and chemistry and other areas which require a great deal of training. However, with ingredients whose cost could put a wing on this castle I prefer to go with someone that I know can accomplish what I desire.”

Seraphina stood stock still staring at Severus.  It was unnerving having her stare at him with this blank expression; he stood up to Voldemort, for fuck’s sake, this woman shouldn’t be shaking his confidence.

After a bit of time, Seraphina said, “I see,” and then stood considering Severus’s statement for a moment longer, and then said, “In my training I performed quite difficult experiments in which even a slight slip of the hand could destroy or invalidate any results that I hoped to produce. In analytical chemistry, differences of micrograms could lead to the success or failure of an experiment and the equipment had to be kept spotlessly clean to get the correct results.  I’m used to working under pressure.  One can’t exactly lose their head while running a code in the emergency department.”

“Be that as it may,” Severus said, still not looking at Seraphina, “I would prefer Pomona for this.”  The conversation was closed.  He heard a small huff leave Seraphina and she turned to leave.

She stopped as she reached the door.  She stood there for a moment longer looking at the floor and then said, “You are an incredibly rude person.  It couldn’t kill you to look at me and, you know, acknowledge my presence while I am here.  Even in our lessons, it’s just you barking spells and getting angry with me when I can’t hold you back.  You don’t actually help me at all and I have no idea how to hold someone as strong as you back.”

“What about me, Miss Dumbledore, gave you the impression that we would be friends?  I believe I made it clear that I prefer solitude and wish no messy - entanglements.  Furthermore, I never claimed to be a good teacher.  Given the choice I would not be teaching you Occulomency.  Given the choice I would not have to interact with you at all.” Severus stated this with as much finality as he could and was not pleased when Seraphina spun around on her heal facing him, eyes full of barely contained rage.

“Why?” she said with deadly calm.

“Why what?”

“Why don’t you want to interact with me?  Besides that night in London, which, I should point out, you deserved, what have I ever done to you?  I could tell from the beginning that you didn’t want people close to you, but that doesn’t excuse you acting like an ass to me every time you come in contact with me.”

“Why?!” Severus said, his voice growing louder, “Why?  Because you are intolerable, Miss Dumbledore, that is why.  You flounce in here as if you’ve always been here.  You have men, one of whom is related to you, I’ll point out, pawing over you within a day of arriving here. What does that say about you, I wonder. Your mind has obvious holes in it, and you’ve as much as told me that you are hiding something from me. And you cannot just leave me alone! You insist on bringing these baskets every day, as if they would ingratiate you to me.”  He didn’t know when it had happened, but he was now standing, leaning in her direction, hands gripping the side of his workbench.

“Okay,” Seraphina answered, her voice becoming even softer, and icier. “So the fact that Remus kissed me makes me what, some sort of slut?  And the fact that my cousin actually likes me is so abhorrent to you?  God forbid my new found family, the family that I never knew that I had, actually like me - why that’s just fucking going too far!  And Pomona makes me bring the baskets.  After the first delivery you can be sure that I didn’t volunteer to do it.  Why the fuck would I volunteer for my daily dose of chastisement and castigation?”  Her iciness had grown to a small roar with each fuck that came out of her mouth, her face was red with rage, and she was standing her ground.

“Just a kiss?  If the things he was thinking were any indication of what happened between the two of you – well – there was more than a kiss!  And Sirius is an immature, bullying waste of flesh, so if he is any indication of the type of people that you are friends with . . .”

“I’m fucking friends with everyone, Severus!  I’m a god damned nice fucking person, but you probably can’t understand the logistics of such a thing, so whatever.  And was Remus thinking about fucking me Severus?  Was he?  Well, if he was, good!  You know, people actually fantasize about sex, Severus, or maybe you’ve missed that stage of your maturation.  I suppose you’re just some sort of magical fucking monk that never feels anything as base as lust.  Just a pillar of puritanical holiness! – And I’m intolerable!  Fuck that, Severus Snape, you are the most miserable, insufferable misery chick that I have ever met in my life!  I’m surprised that you don’t paint your nails black and wear black eyeliner to add to your whole sad goth vibe.  Fuck you, Severus Snape!”

And with that, she stalked out of his lab, entered hers, and slammed the door.

Severus found he was staring at his door, mouth open, unable to move. The temerity of her!  Barging into his lab and insulting him like that! Calling him a misery chick!  And what the hell was a goth?  Whatever it was, he was certain he was not one.

It was then that the music started.  Loud music, Pink Floyd from the sound of it, nearly shaking the walls of his laboratory.  This would not do. 

“Turn the music down!” he yelled.  The music continued no change in its volume, the guitar chords of We Don’t Need No Education blaring through her door.  He cast a sonorous charm and shouted, “I said turn the music down!”

No change.  ‘It’s like having a sullen teenager as a next door neighbor,’ he thought, shaking his head in frustration.  He stood, huffed out of his lab and over to her door, pounded on it and again shouted, “Turn down the music, Miss Dumbledore!” There was still no change.  ‘Didn’t muggles still use headphones anymore?’, he wondered, staring with righteous indignation at her door.  He tried to open it, but the handle would not budge. 

Steeling himself, he stated with as much authority as he could muster, “Miss Dumbledore, if you do not turn down that music at once I will be forced to break down this door!”  Of course there was no change. He pointed his wand and cast Alohamora, but the door did not unlock.  The fucking castle was protecting her, it seemed. He then shouted Colloportus, throwing an inappropriately strong amount of force into the spell, and the door burst open.

He stalked into the room. “I will not have you blaring your music like some sort of ridiculous child, Miss Dumbledore.  The work done here requires too much finesse for your tantrums.”  He located the radio to the right of her desk and turned off the music.

When he did, he thought he heard sniffling.  Looking in the direction of the sound he was greeted with the back of a white egg chair.  The front was turned to the wall. “Are you crying?” he sneered.  He could not believe how irritating this woman was!

When the sniffling continued and she did not respond to him, he stalked over to the egg chair and turned it around.  Seraphina had huddled herself into a little ball and looked absolutely defeated.  She was now sobbing and Severus, never having been good with emotion, found himself frozen with no idea what to say or do.

She continued crying for a few more minutes with Severus staring at her.  Her face was red and blotchy and there was mucus running out of her nose.  It was not a pretty sight. She didn’t seem to care.

“You know,” she said suddenly, voice shaky, “I didn’t ask to come here. Albus pretty much just kidnapped me to get me here.  I had a life and friends and a cat that I fed on my back porch.  I had a new business and a great practice with patients that I loved.  I lived in the coolest little town in Ohio.  I was finally feeling happy, and he had to go and bring me here.  And nothing is going right.  He brought me here and I’ve already fucked up which means I’m probably going to keep fucking up and eventually destroy the wizarding world.”

Severus didn’t know what to say.  He still was frustrated at her blaming herself for the Dursleys and it didn’t seem to be letting up.  And she truly looked small and defeated and he hadn’t meant to do that to her.  He just wanted to scare her away a little, wanted her to give him some space. He took a breath and said, “How have you fucked things up?”  He didn’t think that it had come out particularly caring, but at least he tried.

She snorted, “You know I can’t tell you that, Severus.  Even if I wanted to let you in on my big secret Albus has made it impossible.  I can’t hardly even form the thoughts in my head, I just know them and that is fucked up, too.  Everything is fucked up.”

Severus stared at the floor as if willing it to tell him how to proceed.  It didn’t help him at all.  At least Seraphina seemed to be calming down; instead of actively sobbing she was teary, taking little breaths as if to calm herself.

“And you’ve got nothing to say,” she said accusingly, eyes showing her disgust.  “I bring you precious flowers, I volunteer to help you, and it turns into you yelling at me about how much of a slut I am, of accusing me of just jumping into the sack with someone I barely know, and insulting my cousin.  And you’ve got nothing.  Turn on the music on your way out.”

He continued to stand there.  He wanted this woman so of course he was pushing her as far away as he could.  It was almost a reflex with him; someone shows him some interest or kindness and he goes on the attack to drive them away, to not get hurt.  He knew that she didn’t deserve his scorn but he genuinely did not know if he could change.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, still staring at his feet.  “You don’t deserve this.”

She looked fixedly at him.  She didn’t say anything.

“I am bad with people, with relationships.  My impulse is to drive them away.  I don’t like for people to get close to me. And you have – completely invaded my space.”

“Didn’t really get a choice in that,” she said shortly.

“I know that.  The most important thing that you can know about me is that I’m a bastard. I don’t like people.”

“You are a bastard,” she said. “A huge, arrogant bastard.  But we have to work together and it will be easier if you could try to not be a bastard to me.”

“I will take that under advisement.  I cannot, however, promise anything.”

“Okay,” Seraphina said softly. “Could you turn back on the music?  It doesn’t have to be as loud.  I just want to wallow in my pain for a little longer.”

Severus slightly smiled, though she did not see it.  He turned to go, stopped over by the radio and turned the music back on.  Stopping at the doorway, he said, “I prefer Dark Side of the Moon. It’s much more concrete than their earlier, more psychedelic work. I will also require help with the forget-me-nots in an hour.  We shall consider it a test.”  He then swept out of the door back into his laboratory, shutting its door behind him.

Seraphina couldn’t help but smile.

Chapter Text

Storing the forget-me-nots went surprisingly well, considering the altercation that preceded it.  After that Severus was more willing to let Seraphina help him store ingredients and even went so far as to teach her a thing or two about each of them as they were processing them.  They had also begun organizing the classroom and student laboratory, as the year was set to begin.  During those times, Severus would discuss how he would approach teaching potions to Seraphina; he planned on using graduate level materials as they focused more on the chemical aspects of potion making.  If any gaps were found in her knowledge (and he was prepared for many), they would be addressed during her individual assignments.  He also expected her to attend and proctor potions labs as they fit into her schedule, giving her an opportunity to learn as she worked with the students.

Seraphina wouldn’t call the relationship between them anything close to friendship, but at least they were learning to work with each other.  He was often frosty and pushed back when she tried to get any closer to him; at the same time he was making an effort to be professional and not quite so abrasive.  During her occulomency lessons he would throw out a terse suggestion or two between his fast volleys of legillimency and afterward would give her a summary of his impressions.  While Severus was as forceful as ever in his explorations of her mind Seraphina felt that she was gaining strength in holding him back.

She had started reading through her textbooks and found them endlessly fascinating.  With Winky’s help, she had become familiar with all of the charms and spells that she needed to use to get through the day; she was now able to light the fire, cook in her kitchenette, clean efficiently, and perform simple wards on items that she wanted to keep safe.  It seemed the more that she learned the more her power flared; this, convexly, made it easier for her to learn new charms and spells.

She had also started spending time with Poppy in the infirmary.  Poppy was a rather no nonsense person who went about her duties with the efficiency of someone who had been in her position for a very long time.  She had told Seraphina that while she rarely got the opportunity to teach, it was one of the things that she loved most of all and she was excited to have Seraphina as a pupil.  She was fascinated with muggle medicine and quite proficient in it; Seraphina found, really, that there was little about medicine, both magical and muggle, which Poppy didn’t know.

Poppy was also quite an accomplished watercolorist.  The walls of her private quarters were covered with her botanical paintings.  She was obviously proud of her work and delighted in any opportunity when she could discuss it.  One thing that she was quite hesitant to speak about (despite her earlier questioning) was Erwin Whitacre.  Seraphina had tried to bring him into the conversation on multiple occasions but Poppy often guided the conversation in another direction as soon as she could.

Erwin was also tight lipped about Poppy Pomfrey.  All that Seraphina had learned from him was that at one time they had been friends.  Any conversation about the infirmary or any time spent with Poppy was quickly dismissed for another item of conversation.  It seemed that Erwin was going out of his way to NOT talk about Poppy, which Seraphina found endlessly interesting.

It was during an excursion to the library (the most beautiful library in the entire world, as far as Seraphina was concerned) that Seraphina finally cracked the mystery of Erwin Whitacre and Poppy Pomfrey. She had found a cache of newspapers from the 1960s  and was randomly looking through them when she came across one of her favorite columns, Tasty Tattles.  And in it, a blind item about her very own Erwin Whitacre.

Which quirky muggle loving Ravenclaw was seen about with a much younger medi-witch in training?  Perhaps this Ravenclaw’s love of physics will help propel him into his flower’s arms and their love will burn as red as our favorite healer’s name.

It HAD to be about them.  Who else could fit the description?  Having found this tantalizing bit of gossip, Seraphina began to tear through the newspapers searching for more information.  And it was everywhere.  Physics professor in training takes our favorite medi-witch to the Hogwarts TriWizard ball.  Love blossoms between Erwin Whitacre and Poppy Pomfrey, with a sweet picture of the two of them in what could be Fortescues, sharing a bowl of ice cream.  Another picture of the two of them, taken from behind a bush, of Erwin and Poppy sitting on a bench, Poppy looking shyly at her lap as Erwin gazes adoringly at her, with the caption “Do we hear wedding bells?”  Another photo of the two of them dressed in finery, Erwin’s arm around Poppy as they laugh at something. 

And then Seraphina found a newspaper dated July 21, 1968.  On the front was an idyllic English cottage, a corner of it lying in rubble.  People in official looking robes milled around the building.  The article’s title was Terror in the Cotswalds.

Tragedy has struck in the Cotswolds.  At present, aurors and healers are milling about the rubble at the home of Professor Erwin Whitacre, prominent instructor of muggle physics at University of Oxford and nominee for the Nobel Prize for his work in the muggle scientific field of particle physics.  At this time, it has been announced that Ahearn and Artemesia Dumbledore have perished in what is thought to be an attack by followers of Gellart Grindelwald.  Professor Whitacre and Seraphina Dumbledore, daughter of Ahearn and Artemesia Dumbledore, have not been found but are believed to be dead.

“A blast of this magnitude would kill anyone within a 100 meter radius,” said Chief Auror Perival Trunchen. “It is conceivable that there would be nothing left of [Professor Whitacre and Serpahina Dumbledore] had they been close enough to the detonation.”

It has also been reported that Gwendolyn Dumbledore, wife of Hogs Head proprietor Aberforth Dumbledore, was killed today in Hogsmeade, Scotland.  Tavern goers looked on in horror as a professed devotee of Grindelwald hit Mrs. Dumbledore with the death curse before disapperating from the scene. 

A message left at both scenes declared the attacks an act of vengeance against Albus Dumbledore.  Furthermore, directly after the attacks, Minister of Magic Elias Phineas Sweeny received a letter demanding that Gellart Grindelwald be released from Nuremburg Prison immediately lest the attacks continue.  States Sweeny, “I have placed our best aurors and trackers on this case.  We will not allow these attacks to go unpunished; it is my goal to locate all remaining followers of Grindelwald and place them somewhere that they will cause no further harm.”

Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore and Poppy Pomfrey, fiancé of Erwin Whitacre, are, understandably, unavailable for questions. The Daily Prophet will update this story as more evidence is uncovered.

In the days that followed were articles about followers of Grindelwald that had been caught and their subsequent imprisonment in Nurmengard, announcements and then articles about the funerals (one with a picture of a young Sirius Black at the graveside, his forearm being pulled roughly by a large, frightening looking man as a woman Seraphina recognized as Walburga Black looked at the coffins with distaste), letters to the editor decrying the immediate imprisonment without trial of Gellart’s men as unconscionable with other letters supporting this move, and heart string pieces about those who had survived the attacks, an inordinate amount of them focusing on heartbroken bride-to-be Poppy Pomfrey.

At the next dinner that Seraphina had with Erwin, she brought the newspaper with the article about the attack.  She sat Erwin down and placed it in front of him and asked him to read the last paragraph.  As he did his voice wavered as if he was fighting back profound sadness. He then looked up at Seraphina for a few moments and then quietly said, “It broke me to leave her.  To not let her know that I was alive. I begged Albus to tell her; he finally did when, after half a year of mourning she showed no signs of improving.  He didn’t allow communication between the two of us, however; he said it would have been too risky.”

Seraphina moved to sit next to Erwin and took his hand in hers.  He was shaking.  He looked back at the article and said nothing.  Seraphina felt waves of sorrow and loss radiating from Erwin; he looked small and broken.  “She’s the reason that you never dated,” she finally said.

Erwin shook his head in the affirmative.  “I tried.  It would have been good for you to have a woman around and I was lonely.  But none of them were her.  None of them even held a candle to her.  It felt wrong to continue with them when I knew that it would never go anywhere.”

Seraphina folded the newspaper and put it to the side. “She’s here now.  She’s alone, too.  She doesn’t ask about you, but she seems lonely when I bring you up.  She misses you.”

Erwin shook his head as if he understood. He sighed and said, “In my mind I’ve built up what would happen if I ever saw her again.  I’ve made it too big.  Honestly, Sarah, seeing her again terrifies me.   I’ve built up this dream, and what if it doesn’t come true?  What if we’ve changed too much?”  He laughed quietly. “I loved her, Sarah - no, it was more than that.  There is no word for what I felt for her. It was all-consuming.  When I was with her I felt whole and when I wasn’t with her she was all I thought about.  There was never enough time with her; I couldn’t imagine not having her in my life.  It was almost overwhelming and it was all I cared about. The thought of spending my life with her . . . it was the greatest thing I could imagine.”

“And then you had to live without her.”

“Yes, I did.  I went through a period after we left – it was very bad.  I felt completely lost.  I even looked to see if there was a Poppy Pomfrey in our world, just so that I could look at her again, so that I could just know that she was out there.  There wasn’t; at least I couldn’t find her.  I most likely needed therapy, but in those days a man just got on with it, so that’s what I did.  I got on with life.  I threw myself into it.  But that longing for her never left me.”

Seraphina thought for a moment, and then said, “What if I suggested that she have dinner with the two of us.  Or I could invite her and someone else, maybe Albus.  Or Pomona.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with her – I could do the cooking, we could meet in my quarters at the school?”

Erwin said nothing for a moment.  He seemed to be warring with his thoughts. “I suppose that would be fine,” he finally allowed.

Seraphina gave his hand a squeeze. “Try not to worry about it.  I’ll make it as informal as possible. It will be fine.  She loved you before. At the very least you can renew a friendship.”

“A friendship,” Erwin echoed. He squeezed her had back. “A friendship would be nice.”

And so that was how Seraphina found herself hosting a dinner party for Erwin and Poppy, Pomona and Minerva, Albus and Severus, Charity Burbage, Bathsheda Babbling, Aurora Sinestra, Argus Filtch, Sybill Trelawney, and Filius Flitwick.  She had woken the day of the dinner party to an enlarged sitting room/dining room, which Winky had explained the castle had done when it sensed that she would be needing more room.  The ceiling appeared higher and was decorated with fairy lights and white, Chinese, floating balloons which, despite the rooms larger size, created a rather intimate and romantic atmosphere.  There were additional overstuffed chairs set about the room to allow easy conversation and when Seraphina opened her refrigerator she found bottle upon bottle of champagne and wine chilling.  Winky also told her that as soon as the elves heard that there would be a dinner party they had begun to prepare the meal, which would consist of smoked salmon and onion tartlets, pate on sesame crostini, cold mint pea soup, roasted wild boar with a chestnut stuffing and ginger carrots, and wine poached pears a la mode.  Seraphina simply needed to show up to her own party.

Erwin arrived early (to help out, he said, though he spent the entire time sitting in an armchair wringing his hands). Then, about an hour later, the guests began to slowly trickle in.  There were a few surprises.  Remus arrived arm in arm with Tonks (he’d been invited by Albus, he’d said), both of whom threw huge smiles at Seraphina and seemed to glow with newfound affection for each other.  Remus led Tonks around the room, fetched her drinks, never left her side.  Tonks reveled in Remus’s affections.  Even Severus begrudgingly admitted that they looked blissfully happy, though that pronouncement was made with a look of disgust on his face.

Directly before dinner was set to begin a short, froggish woman in a pink suit appeared in the door.  Delores Umbridge had decided to crash the party. After Seraphina led her into the room and polite handshakes were exchanged, she sniffed, “My quarters are not far from yours.  I heard a commotion and found your little soiree. Far be it for me to stay somewhere that I have not been invited. . .”

Albus stepped in quickly, saying, “You may blame that on me, Delores.  Seraphina invited everyone in the castle.  We simply didn’t realize that you would be arriving this evening.  I’m sure that I speak for Seraphina in saying that we would be delighted if you joined us.”  He then gave a subtle, conspiratorial look to Seraphina.

“Yes, yes!” she rushed to say. “I would be honored to have you at my table, Professor Umbridge.”

Delores sniffed again, as if trying to assess the party by smell, and looked down her nose at the attendees, pausing a bit longer when she looked at Argus, Remus, and Erwin. She then declared, “What better opportunity to get to know ones colleagues than a dinner party,” and made a beeline to the wine.

No one, save Seraphina and Erwin, noticed the moment that Poppy arrived.  She walked into the room quietly, quickly scanned the room, and stopped short when she met Erwin’s eyes.  Seraphina, who was sitting on the arm of Erwin’s chair, actually felt a charge pulse out of Erwin in Poppy’s direction.  She was momentarily overcome with longing, grief, affection, and desire. She looked at Erwin who appeared terrified and impassioned and whispered to him to breathe.  She then hopped up and welcomed Poppy to the party.

After saying hello to each other, Seraphina led Poppy into a corner and said, “Just so you’re aware, I know what happened between you and Erwin.  I’ve just found out.  Erwin has been heartbroken about it, well, for as long as I’ve known him.  He’s terrified about seeing you again, and I imagine that this is difficult for you, so just know that he’s come into this with no expectations.”

Poppy looked Seraphina in the eye and asked, “Was this entire party a way to get the two of us into a room together?”

Seraphina smiled sheepishly. “Maybe?,” she admitted.

Poppy smiled softly and took Seraphina by the hand. “Thank you.  You no longer have to worry about me; it was always Erwin that needed help when it came to dating.  He’s not as suave as he lets on, you know.”  She then squeezed Seraphina’s hand and set about saying hello to everyone in attendance.

She turned around to be met by a wall of black fabric and the smell of sandalwood, clove, and vetiver.  Severus Snape (who smelled amazing – did he always smell like this?) looked down at her and said, “All of this just to play matchmaker?” It was the first time that Seraphina had seen him look amused, though as immediately as he did his features changed back to a look of superior indifference.

“They were once engaged.  He still loves her.  I’d do just about anything for him.”

“I never took you for a bleeding heart, Miss Dumbledore,” he said.

“How often does someone find the person that makes them feel complete?” she asked Severus, and noticed that, just momentarily, his face faltered. “If I can do anything to help them find each other again, why wouldn’t I do that?  Doesn’t everyone deserve a chance at that happiness?”

He looked away from her, his eyes focused on nothing, and said, “It is not something that I spend time considering. It is a foolish thing to waste one’s time on such fantasies.”

“It’s not foolish to want someone to come home to at night, Severus, to want someone who is yours and yours alone. To want to know what it feels like to be loved and desired by someone. It’s human nature; we don’t want to be alone.  I don’t want to be alone, and I haven’t met very many people who do.”

Severus sniffed. “I am perfectly content on my own.”  He then paused, a strange look passing over his face.  He almost looked pained to say, “Why are you single? I would imagine that you could have anyone of your choosing. You are – you are attractive and kind, Seraphina.”

Seraphina was shocked.  Had Severus just complimented her?  Had he just admitted – out loud! – that he found her attractive? Could it be that Severus Snape was actually interested in her?  She must have let her shock show as Severus quickly said, “I’m sorry.  I’ve overstepped my bounds and I should not have said that,” and started to turn to walk away.

Seraphina grabbed his arm stopping his retreat. He looked at the ground as she said, “No, Severus, it is just that you’ve never actually complimented me before.  You’re not prone to throwing compliments around and it was just a bit of a shock.  Please don’t walk away from me.  Maybe you could sit by me at dinner?  If you want to, that is.”

Severus looked back at her completely flabbergasted. He opened his mouth but no sound came out. He then angrily swore under his breath and said quietly, “I would like that,” while he intently examined a button on his lapel.

Seraphina stared at the button that Severus seemed to be so transfixed with as it occurred to her that she had kind of asked Severus to be her escort.  And he had agreed.  In the past, when she was just looking for a quick hook-up, she wouldn’t have given what she had done a second thought.  But this was Severus Snape, who had been hurt in the past and had seemingly never moved on from it.  This was a man that she couldn’t honestly say that she particularly liked, but, nonetheless, someone who fascinated her.  Someone who was whip smart, had a voice that could melt butter, and, she was afraid to admit, was slowly becoming more tolerable to be around.  Someone who was actually trying to be a better person when she was around.  She would have to tread carefully.  She never wanted to hurt Severus Snape more than he already had been hurt.

So Seraphina held on to Severus’s elbow and took a deep breath, positioned herself in his field of vision and smiled warmly at him.  And he – fractionally, but he still did it – smiled back.  And just like that, her heart flipped – just a little, because he was still a bastard, but still her heart flipped.  And at that moment, something shifted between them – something barely perceptible – but still.

Seraphina then took another cleansing breath, held onto Severus, straightened her back, walked to the center of the room and announced that dinner was served.

Chapter Text

Did it even need to be said that Severus Snape hated dinner parties?  They were all spectacle and useless prattle and he was perfectly capable of eating a nice meal on his own, thank you very much.  And yet when he received a note that Seraphina was hosting a dinner party for everyone in residence at the castle (along with Erwin Whitacre) a small frisson of excitement went through him. 

He hid it carefully, but it was possible that he might actually be enjoying his time with Seraphina.  She had wiggled her way into his potions laboratory and was proving to be a more than capable assistant.  She always caught on quickly to his instructions regarding preparing and storing ingredients; she had even decided to teach herself how to make a few of the basic potion base solutions and they were always perfectly prepared.  He always felt a small thrill when he caught her exclaiming over how beautiful the color of a solution was or how amazing the reactions were; it reminded him of his early days of potions making (and realizing that he just might have found his place in the world).  She carried a small composition book with her to make notes and record questions about reactions or potion magic that she wanted to study later, scribbling with a frantic excitement that would put even Hermione Granger or any one of the Ravenclaws to shame. The insights that she came in with after her studies, the sheer excitement at learning something new, made him count down the minutes until her she came knocking at his door (to think that just a few days before he had dreaded that sound!). She had the most endearing quirks; for instance, she always had a muggle pen clipped somewhere along the neckline of whatever she was wearing that day and invariably, throughout the day, her neck and décolletage became marked up with little dashes of ink from forgetting to retract the pen’s nib after she used it.  He found himself thanking the castle for supplying her with pens; if she were relying on quills he wouldn’t have those little sprinkles of blue and black to sneak peeks at throughout the day.

She was a strong witch, almost frighteningly so.  He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised at her strength; after all, she was a relative of Albus Dumbledore (he had heard stories that before his descent into almost constant inebriation, Aberforth Dumbledore was not a wizard to be trifled with, either).  She was learning spells at an unprecedented rate – even Albus seemed impressed with her ability to pick up and perform new spells – and her transfiguration abilities were like nothing he had ever seen in an untrained witch (which Minerva had stated on more than a few occasions to Albus and him).  She, however, didn’t seem to think much of her magical abilities.  He supposed that she had no one to compare herself to; still, it was an unspoken agreement amongst everyone in the castle that they not let on how remarkable her abilities were lest she develop a sort of Slytherin superiority complex (and Severus wondered just who the professors thought Seraphina was, exactly, as he could never picture her lording her intelligence or power over anyone – she was simply too decent).

The more he got to know her, the less sure he was that Seraphina had been placed in the correct house.  She was uncommonly kind, honest, and generous.  She was filled with an empathy that he found staggering.  She found moments of exceptional joy and sorrow in her dealings with others; it was almost as if she felt with others, not for them.  But then – she never jumped into a new situation without a great deal of trepidation; even exploring the castle (which had been quite clear that it wanted to protect Seraphina Dumbledore, that it more than accepted her) was done with apprehension.  She sought approval (and recognition, even if she wouldn’t admit it) with every cell in her body.  It was clear to Severus that every move that she made, no matter how selfless in appearance, was weighed against an overwhelming tendency toward self-protection.  She might appear to others as open and carefree, but Severus had sensed almost from the time that he had first laid eyes on her that she was extremely guarded and rather tightly wound; Albus had told him that she was prone to fits of anxiety after he had witnessed Albus magically grounding and centering her on more than one occasion.  He suspected that her past had been difficult - no, that she had experienced a deep trauma that had changed and shaped her in some way.

He found he cared about her, not only in a sexual sense, but that he wanted to protect her and be there for her in a way that he hadn’t felt since Lily.  And that terrified him beyond all reasoning.

She invaded his thoughts constantly.  One day as she was reaching overhead for a bottle he had gotten a glimpse of her stomach, just a small sliver of pink skin, and for the rest of the day he found himself imagining what that skin would feel like under his fingers.  He imagined the dip of her belly button, the softness of her flesh, the goose pimples that would form if he ran his fingers over her torso just so, barely touching her; the heat that would come from her body.  Shortly thereafter he had seen a bra strap with a tiny ruffle of white lace and was flooded with visions of Seraphina clad in only lingerie standing before him in anticipation; her breath sped with arousal, her honeyed curls cascading down her back and over her shoulders, her chest red with want, her nipples erect and straining against the satin of her bra.  Pink lacquered fingertips led to a furious wank where he imagined her lying naked before him as he licked and suckled on pink lacquered toes, her long legs open and inviting, her hands between her legs as she worked her sex, her back arching as pleasure overtook her.  It took everything in him to remain indifferent when she entered his lab and the smell of lavender and vanilla overtook him; he wondered if she tasted like vanilla.  He wanted to lick it from her skin.

He had dressed with care for her dinner party.  His day to day attire didn’t vary much, but he had one or two nicer pieces that he wore when he wanted to impress.  The smaller buttons of his waistcoat made him dress more slowly – he often used magic when preparing himself for the day but this time he did them up by hand, making sure button each laid perfectly.  He opted for a coat that could be worn open to show off the pristine starch of his white collar and included the emerald tie pin and cufflinks that Lucius and Narcissa had given him when he’d received his potions mastery.  He might not be a stunningly handsome as Lucius Malfoy, but he took pride in his appearance, such as it was, just the same.  At the last moment he decided to apply some French cologne that Narcissa had given him for Christmas.  He rarely wore it, but he figured he needed all the help he could get, even if he never spoke to the evening’s hostess.

He calculated his arrival so that the room would be relatively full when he entered her rooms, offering him the opportunity to watch Seraphina without her noticing. She wore a simple red, short sleeved sweater and a fitted, grey, pinstriped skirt that fell to the top of her knees.  Her legs were bare and she wore a pair of sling back kitten heals with a dainty bow on each side.  Her hair was pulled into a low bun with wild tendrils escaping everywhere.  She was speaking with Minerva and toying unknowingly at a delicate heart around her neck.  She was smiling when Erwin Whitacre joined them and said something that caused her to throw her head back in laughter, showing off the long curve of her neck.  She followed Erwin and sat daintily on the arm of his chair, looking every bit the 40s pin-up girl as she crossed her ankles and arched her back to stay perched at Dr. Whitacre’s side.

Poppy entered the room, looked around, and locked eyes with Erwin Whitacre, who instantaneously looked as if he might get sick.  Seraphina squeezed his shoulder, arose, and walked – no, she sashayed, though Severus was sure she hadn’t intended to look so provocative – over to Poppy and proceeded to pull her close, leaning in to speak quietly, which also happened to place them within earshot of Severus.  He started to move silently away from them but stopped, standing directly behind Seraphina, when he heard her admit that she had planned this entire dinner party to get Poppy and Erwin together in the same room.  Yet another indication that though she was thoughtful, she was indeed a Slytherin, scheming and cunning, he thought to himself.  Then, without any warning whatsoever, he was startled out of his reverie when Seraphina ran, full stop, into his chest.

She looked up at him, a little stunned and quite a bit embarrassed, delicate pink color staining her cheeks (her lips were stained red and so plump and he thought briefly about sucking on maraschino cherries, wondered what her lips tasted like).  He lightly said something about her being a bleeding heart to which she replied, “How often does someone find the person that makes them feel complete? If I can do anything to help them find each other again, why wouldn’t I do that?  Doesn’t everyone deserve a chance at that happiness?”

He froze.  He had found that, or at least he thought he had, and then he had lost it, horribly and violently.  He had spent his entire life in absolution for Lily’s death, and, up until the moment Seraphina Dumbledore had barreled into his life, he had spent nearly every day thinking about her.  He could still feel Lily’s lifeless body in his arms, could still hear Harry’s cries as he bitterly wept, clinging to her as if he could somehow bring her back.  He had hated himself, trying to kill himself on more than one occasion, had bated Voldemort’s anger, wanting the pain and hoping for an end that had never come.  He had learned not to feel, to push anyone who could potentially hurt him away.  And then Harry had arrived at Hogwarts and he found himself staring into Lily’s eyes day after day, rending his heart further apart, and reminding him of emotions that he had so carefully tucked away.  He became downright malicious to Harry and his friends while at the same time hating himself for it.  So he convinced himself that his cruelty was some sort of act made to protect Harry, all the while knowing it was so much more than that.

He found that he did not want to push Seraphina away.  So of course he said something about preferring to be alone, which was the largest lie of all.  He was achingly lonely.  He hated his life, hated who he had become.  He hated that he was so good at being a convincing Deatheater, that Voldemort trusted his counsel, that Lucius Malfoy considered him his closest friend. He looked in the mirror and loathed the man who stared back at him.  When he had been a boy, all that he had ever wanted was warmth, peace and security, and possibly a nice person to spend his life with.  A young Severus Snape would be disgusted by what he had become. He didn’t understand the good people who could tolerate him, couldn’t fathom how Albus and Minerva and Filius – and Hagrid, who couldn’t hurt a doxy – could be kind to him, could trust him.  He should feel lucky to have them as allies; instead he felt like a traitor, a deplorable, sickening imposter to all that was good.

For a moment, he looked at Seraphina and felt as if he had lost all control.  He asked her why she was single.  He called her lovely and kind. And then fear gripped him with its icy claw and he panicked, apologizing, desperate to flee from her.  But she stopped him.  She grabbed his arm, the warmth of her hand leaving an imprint on his skin, much like that time she had taken his pain.  When was the last time that he had even been touched by someone that he truly wanted?  His entire world narrowed for a moment to her hand on his arm.  He found that he couldn’t look at her, he felt wild and unbalanced, his careful indifference crumbling from just a touch.

When she asked him to sit with her at dinner he was sure that he had misheard her.  Why would someone so exquisite want him by her side?  But when he looked at her face and saw the expectancy and gentleness in it.  He found that he couldn’t speak; she looked at him with fondness, the way someone looked at another that they truly cared for.  He said that he would like that and she took his elbow, as if he was her escort, and she announced that dinner was served as he stood beside her, as if this were his dinner party, too. 

And they all noticed. 

Remus, who, even though he was sickeningly happy with Nymphadora, still obviously cared for Seraphina, looked at him in bewilderment and seemed to be holding himself back from pouncing.  Nymphadora held Remus’s hand and positively beamed relief, one less obstacle in her way. Minerva and Albus looked at each other knowingly.  Filius bounced.  Poppy winked – she winked! – at him while Pomona giggled.  He felt as if he were in a dream.

The entire dinner was a surreal experience.  They never spoke directly, though on occasion she would look at him and smile in a way that meant something.  She seemed to be frightened, too, and he could practically feel the nervous energy radiating from her body.  He couldn’t escape the feeling that he was on display, though he knew logically that he was not.  And when he felt that he couldn’t contain his growing feeling of panic any longer, when he was just about to excuse himself to just breathe, she took his left hand under the table and gave it a gentle squeeze. He looked at her in shock and she whispered, “It’s alright, Severus, it will be over soon.”  Which, of course, led to him ramming his other hand into his plate, knocking his Bordeaux over onto the table.  The Bordeaux that splashed onto Delores Umbridge (whom, up to that point, he had not even registered was beside him), who jumped up in indignation (did she not know that she was a witch and that a simple stain removal spell would remove all hints of his blunder?) causing everyone at the table to look at him.

It went without saying that Severus Snape hated dinner parties, but this was a new level of horrific. He fought to maintain his composure.  He chanted, ‘disaffected indifference’ in his head. Filius offered to help Delores, who sniffed at him as if he were beneath her then waved her wand stiffly vanishing the stain and then sat with a pinched-yet-desperate-to-look-proper stance, and then the moment passed.  He was no longer the center of attention.  Seraphina squeezed his hand again, yet, at the same time, continued an animated conversation she was having with Bethsheda about Nordic runes.  Seraphina did not let go of his hand, and gradually he realized that she was grounding him, bringing him back to his present reality.  

He realized that the roast was delicious.  He loved pork roast.

He took a deep breath and turned his attention to the table.  He realized that, even though Seraphina continued to hold his hand, this was simply a normal dinner party.  He felt Delores stiffen beside him when he heard Albus and Minerva telling the table about the upcoming Ministry approved school evaluations, the new honor code, and their preparations for what Filius and Tonks were calling Auror Club (smart of him to take the emphasis off of defense and on to the student’s futures).  Albus asked Seraphina if she would be willing to be an advisor for the student court and she said that she was honored but would have to think about it, that she wasn’t sure that she was the correct person for the position; that perhaps someone with more gravitas in the school should advise.  The whole time Delores’s face became more pinched and red, her back became straighter.  Seraphina and Erwin had been correct about Delores Umbridge and the Ministry incursion.  And they were taking it apart at its core.  Delores radiated barely controlled fury but said nothing, no doubt scheming and dissecting.  He sneered inwardly as he thought about the firecall that Delores would place to her Ministry contact that night.  He realized he felt like himself again.

He also understood, once and for all, why the sorting hat had placed Seraphina in Slytherin.  She was brilliant beyond measure, having constructed this plan to thwart the Ministry, and yet no one at the table (who was not involved with the Order) would have had any idea that she, in fact, was the one behind it.  She held place at the head of her table with as much grace as Narcissa Black, leveraging her way into the good graces of nearly everyone in attendance.  Even Filtch seemed taken with her.  Even though Delores had been an unexpected addition to the party, she seamlessly followed Albus’s lead when he casually dismantled all of the Ministry’s plans; she spoke to Delores as if they would be the greatest of friends.  Shrewd was not the word for her.  She was elemental, dexterous cunning, fiery and beautiful, graceful and sensuous, articulate and quick with a comeback.  She was breathtaking. She cut him to his very core.

Though she was kind to him, though she sat throughout the meal holding his hand with casual reassurance, he was sure that her feelings for him were not nearly as all-consuming.  He wasn’t even sure if she liked him, why would she?

As he poked at dessert, trying to seem involved in the dinner discussion, he made two very momentous decisions.  His first decision was to at least make an effort to not be such a contemptible person to Seraphina.  It would take work, he might even have to enlist the counsel of Minerva, but surely he was capable of some level of decency. And at that moment, gathering more fortitude than he had felt in years, through fear and self-loathing and every cell in his body screaming at him to run the other direction, he resolved that he would do whatever he could to win the affections of Seraphina Dumbledore.

Chapter Text

 

Severus hung back as the party began to dwindle.  He thought that it would be a good idea to acknowledge the help that Seraphina had been to him during the dinner party and express his gratitude. That was when the sharp pain came.  The summons of the Dark Lord.  The fucking inconvenient Dark Lord would of course pick this opportunity to call a meeting. 

He glanced at Seraphina, who, of course, was looking at him with that same peculiar look that she had given at his first summons in front of her.  Even from across the room, even while speaking with Erwin Whitacre, she somehow knew that he was experiencing pain.  He couldn’t help but think that her connection to his pain had to have some sort of meaning.  He wouldn’t, couldn’t allow himself to speculate on what it meant.  Trying to be unnoticed, he hurried out of the room to begin his journey to Malfoy manor.

It was when he was in front of the potions classroom that he heard her call to him.

“Severus,” she called; she seemed to have that anxious edge in her voice again, “it’s happening again, isn’t it?  That pain in your arm . . .”

He stopped walking but didn’t turn around to her.  She was running after him – Seraphina Dumbledore was chasing after him.  And she cared about his pain.  She was chasing him and she cared.  He didn’t think he had ever been chased like this before.

He cleared his throat and said, “Yes.  It is, however, not quite as painful as the last time when you –“

She had reached him and had placed a hand on his shoulder.  He found that he physically ached for her, that he had to remember how to breathe.  After clearing his throat again, he managed to say, “when you did – whatever magic you performed before. It has improved.”

She was now standing in front of him, holding his left hand.  He had to will himself to look into her eyes - it seemed the most difficult task ever accomplished.

“Do you need me to do take the pain again?  I think I understand it a little better, what I did.  I could probably do it quite a bit better now. . .” She was looking at him with a tenderness that completely disarmed him.  She truly cared about him.

Seraphina Dumbledore looked at him in a way no one ever had.  Not even Lily.  Lily, in all of her gentleness and kindness had never looked at him with such utter feeling.

He began speaking, but he was not sure how the words were leaving his mouth.  “I don’t think that would be wise,” he answered. “If it suddenly ceased causing me pain, I would not be able to explain it.  There is a certain expectation that it cause me – that cause all who have it – pain.” He wanted to tell her everything, why he had the Mark, who had given it to him, all that he must endure because of it, because of his past decisions.  He wanted to keep her as far away from the repugnance of it all as possible.   

He would not – under any circumstances – allow Voldemort access to her.  If anything were to happen to her . . .

He pulled his hand away from hers, leaving her hand momentarily hovering in the air.  She clenched it into a fist, and then drew it back to her slowly.  He felt her eyes on him, felt her disappointment, her worry for him.  He also noticed a complete lack of distaste and pity.

He felt as if there were a string between the two of them that was drawing each of them to one another. 

There was a hearty laugh further down the corridor – Pomona from the sound of it – that startled him (both of them, he realized when Seraphina jumped).  “I must go,” he said with as little emotion as he could possibly muster.

She smiled at him again while she looked even deeper into his eyes (‘how deep would this woman go,’ he wondered, ‘and how deep could he afford to let her go?’) and said, “If you have a headache when you get back – yes, Severus, I’ve seen you pinching your nose and I know what it means – but if you do, come find me.  I can help.  At least I could help with that.”

He gave her a quick nod before sweeping his coat and continuing toward the apparition point.  He had never mentioned his headaches to her and, to his knowledge, had never taken any potions around her.  He was exceedingly careful to hide them from all but a few people.  He had always, from the youngest age, hidden any signs of weakness from everyone around him.  Weakness was a trait that, in his current occupation as spy and Deatheater, could be used very insidiously against him.  And yet Seraphina had noticed the headaches.  How had she done that?

As he sped up his steps he started to berate himself.  He could not enter Voldemort’s presence in his current state.  He would have to get his shit together, and fast.  How did she do that to him, how could one woman be so utterly, overwhelmingly bewitching? 

As he approached the apparition point he occluded his thoughts, bringing those to the front that would serve his and the Dark Lord’s purposes.  He then took a steeling breath and disapperated to Malfoy Manor.

He was ushered by one of Lucius’s increasingly twitchy elves into the drawing room. Narcissa hadn’t joined him for a briefing, which assuredly meant that Narcissa had most likely been called into action by Lucius or Voldemort.

He entered the drawing room with his bespoke air of superiority and looked down his nose at all that were assembled.  Voldemort was seated nearest the fire in Lucius’s 18th century lambing chair, the closest thing in the room to a throne.  To his left sat Bellatrix, then Narcissa, Lucius – and finally Draco, who should not be there, who was too young to be there, and looked like a lamb being led to slaughter despite his attempt at a sort of cool indifference.  There was a seat open for Severus between Lucius and Draco.

Lucius rose to greet Severus. “We hope that it was not an inconvenience to call you out at this late hour, Severus.  Brandy?” he offered, extending his hand to his cocktail bar.

Severus shook his head. “Thank you, Lucius, but I will pass.  As for the hour, it is never inconvenient to be called into our Lord’s presence.”

“Please sit, Severus,” Voldemort hissed. “We have something we would like to discuss with you.”

Severus indicated his deference to Voldemort with a bow of his head and sat in the open seat.  He saw Narcissa wringing a handkerchief in his peripheral vision.  Bellatrix looked him up and down, leering at him as if she were mentally undressing him and was intrigued by what she saw.  Draco was gripping the arms of his chair so tightly that his knuckles were white while he wore a sneer of cool indifference on his face.

“It has come to our attention that Seraphina Dumbledore possesses remarkable magical abilities.  Would you say that this is true, Severus?” the Dark Lord asked.

Severus mentally closed off his brain further; he did, however, allow a slip of a potions conversation with Seraphina slip through to assuage the Dark Lord’s curiosity. He also made a mental note to find out who was feeding Voldemort information about Seraphina; she had been kept almost cloistered at Hogwarts and her uncle’s house, how had anyone been able to gather information oh her?

“She is proving to be a most formidable witch; she, however, has no idea of the extent of her powers. Her innocence could prove to be most – beneficial in the future,” Severus answered. There.  He sounded suitably lecherous and conniving while giving very little away.

Voldemort, Bellatrix, and Lucius beamed at this information. Narcissa twisted her handkerchief so hard that Severus was sure it would rip.

“As I had mentioned at our last meeting, it would be quite a coup if we were able to persuade her to join our cause, as I’m sure you agree,” Voldemort continued. 

Severus felt the slight invasion into his thoughts and decided to offer up a vision of Seraphina as the vision of all that was good. He nodded in the affirmative and said, “Indeed, it would be a coup if she were to join us.  She is, however, exceedingly – almost cloyingly – decent.  I’m not sure that it would be possible to persuade her to join our fight.  You must also keep in mind that she has been in contact with alleged Order members from the first day of her arrival in England; one cannot begin to imagine the sentiments they have poisoned her mind with.”

“From what you have shown me she is quite beautiful, perhaps even more so than Bella in her prime,” Voldemort observed while Bellatrix’s obvious anger at being dethroned as the most beautiful Black woman flared.

“Yes, my Lord, she is quite beautiful,” Severus agreed as noncommittally as possible. She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman who had ever lived; the sun and the moon and the stars could not measure up, but they didn’t have to know that.

“Severus,” Lucius smirked at some private thought, then continued, “what have you been able to determine about her – attachments.” When Severus looked at him with mock misunderstanding, Lucius continued, “You are forcing me to say it, aren’t you, Severus - something so base?” he teased, and then said, “Has she a lover, Severus?”  Severus saw Bellatrix lick her lips in his peripheral vision.

Fuck.  Did Lucius want his chance at her?  Was it possible that Voldemort wanted to somehow woo her?  He affected looking slightly affronted by Lucius’s question, and then twisted his mouth into a wry smile. “With the amount of training that Dumbledore has been putting her through I do not see how it would be at all possible for her to keep a – what did you call it, Lucius – ah, yes, a lover.  She is rarely allowed to leave the castle and when she does she is to go immediately to her uncle’s cottage in Hogsmeade.  It is wonder that you’ve heard any word on her at all.” Perhaps that would yield some answers? He acted as if he were caught in a though and then said, “Such the pity, that she isn’t attached.  I dare say she would be quite the prize.”

Voldemort beamed even more, his features contorted into his twisted version of glee. Bellatrix was looking between Voldemort and him, becoming more and more maniacal by the second.  Whatever they had devised must be twisted indeed.

Voldemort stood and walked over to Severus and placed his icy hand on Severus’s shoulder.  Voldemort had never touched him.  He relaxed his body for a possible Crucio curse; often there was no rhyme or reason to the Dark Lord’s use of them. And then Voldemort leaned closer to Severus’s face and with the most sickeningly benevolent expression Severus had ever seen, the Dark Lord said, “I have decided, Severus, that you, in your unwavering loyalty to me, have earned that prize.”

“I’m sorry?”  It was all Severus could manage.  The Dark Lord couldn’t possibly believe that he had the right to assign lovers to Seraphina, did he?  Voldemort hadn’t even met her and, to Severus’s knowledge, had never even laid eyes on her.  How could he possibly believe that it was within his rights to give her to Severus?

Voldemort smiled as magnanimously as his icy heart would allow. “You have always been a most faithful servant, Severus.  The information that you supply to me regarding Albus Dumbledore has proven to be quite beneficial to our cause.  You serve with unwavering loyalty.  We would like you to bed Seraphina Dumbledore and, as she becomes closer to you, sway her opinions to blood purity.  If she is, as you say, remarkably powerful – even in her raw, unrefined state – imagine how powerful she will be when she comes to full knowledge!”

Lucius leaned toward Severus and Voldemort, cleared his throat, and interjected, “If I may, my Lord?”  After Voldemort graciously nodded his head, Lucius continued, “When we take the ministry and Hogwarts, it will help to sway the public opinion if we have a Dumbledore within our ranks.  After all, Albus has held the highest position in the Wizengamot.  Furthermore, when we have control of Hogwarts, she can act as a sort of figurehead – not as Headmaster, not at all, she is far too, shall we say, green – perhaps as more as a media contact. She will, after all, become a constant figure in The Daily Prophet once news of her survival becomes public. I imagine she will prove to be quite famous in the coming months. If we can keep the Dumbledore name in front of the people, while at the same time establishing the Dark Lord’s supreme power, it will help establish a sense of normalcy within the ranks fo the wizarding public.”

Bellatrix rose and shimmied unsteadily to stand just behind Voldemort.  She peeked at Severus coyly and twisted her lips into a crazed smile. “That is, of course, assuming that you are up to the task, Sevvie Wevvie. There has been talk amongst us all – you aren’t a fairy, are you, Severus?  Do you even know how to use that cock of yours?”

Severus could feel his face getting red despite his best efforts. He glared in disdain and ferocity at Bellatrix and said, “I assure you, there are no issues with my manhood, and no, Bellatrix, I cannot imagine – buggery.” He sneered to assure all of them that he found such talk truly distasteful.

“Perhaps I could test him out, my Lord?” Bellatrix insinuated into Voldemort’s ear with a sneer. “I could see if there’s something worth touching under all of those buttons. After all, we don’t even know if he has the skill to fuck my dear old cousin into submission.” She ran her finger down the buttons of Severus’s waistcoat and further still, until her bony finger found the outline of his penis. 

“That will be enough, Bellatrix,” Voldemort said quite harshly. She jerked back her hand as if it has been burnt and seemed to shrink away from Voldemort’s side in reproach. “I am sure that Severus is more than capable of completing the task.  I have seen how his body reacts during our celebrations.  I am sure that Miss Dumbledore will be more than pleased with his attributes.” He gave Severus a lecherous, sickly smile. Lucius huffed out a laugh.

Severus felt sick, vile.  He felt as if he needed a blistering shower to strip the filth of The Dark Lord off of his skin. How could he protect Seraphina from The Dark Lord if he were supposed to be wooing her into the ranks of the Deatheaters? This advanced everything, all of the carefully (though hastily) plotted plans for winning her over would have to be thrown out of the window.  How could she ever have feelings for him if she knew that everything that could potentially happen between them was all for show? Forget the fact that Voldemort was essentially acting as Severus’s pimp; treating Seraphina in such a way was simply out of the question.  And yet, what could he do?

“Your gift is more generous than I could ever imagine, my Lord,” Severus said, that much was true. “I will begin immediately.  She and I have formed a bit of a – kinship, if you will.  I will engender to make it much more.” Also true, and enough for these purposes.

“Excellent.” Voldemort grinned, and then turned to return to his seat. Severus took the opportunity to check on Draco, Draco who was too young to be in these meetings, Draco whom Narcissa had shielded from Voldemort up to this point, and saw that he looked almost green.  His eyes were shining, as if he had fought back tears. His face was set into his ever present sneer, though, which would work in his favor.  One needed hard features when in Voldemort’s presence. Severus hoped that Lucius’s attention was on Voldemort; if he were to see Draco’s tears the heavens only knew the abuse that Draco would suffer. 

All at once the inhabitants of the room began to ignore Severus.  It was as if he weren’t even there, such was their dismissal of him.  He stood slowly to give Voldemort the opportunity to stop him, waited for a lull in the conversation to ask permission to leave, and, when granted, walked swiftly to the apparition point and directly to Albus Dumbledore’s office.

__________________________________________

Seraphina had been having a dream.  It was fuzzy and faded in and out, but she knew that she had been sitting in a field of blue cornflowers and Queen Anne’s lace.  She was an adult.  She was blindingly happy.  The sun shone down on her shoulders warming them, her skimpy spaghetti strap dress barely covered her. A tall, dark figure was walking toward her to join her. She was eager, she wanted him.  The earth started to shake . .

She was awoken by Winky jumping on her bed.  She really should be getting used to elves jumping on her to wake her up, she thought, as Winky seemed to enjoy doing so more than most tasks she was given.  Once Winky realized that Seraphina was awake, she got right up in her face and said, “Headmaster Dumbledore sent Winky to fetch Mistress Seraphina.  He says it is most urgent.  He tells Winky to bring him Mistress.”

Seraphina fished around for her wand, cast a Tempus and found that it was 1:25 am.  She had never been called out of bed like this by Albus.  As she swung her legs wearily out of the bed she mused that she felt like she was back in her medical residency, and about as awake as she had been during her night time calls back then.  She had never been good at being called in the middle of the night.

She heard Winky clucking as her, shaking her head at the pink camisole and bikini underwear that Seraphina had on. “Mistress will catch cold!” she said and then blinked her eyes, leaving Seraphina in a long white, cotton dressing gown with long sleeves.  As Seraphina blearily stood there, she felt her feet being forced into slippers and a gaudy chenille robe being slipped onto her. And then Winky was in her bedroom doorway, insisting, “Mistress needs to be following Winky!  Headmaster needs Mistress!”

Seraphina started gradually waking up by the time they were climbing the stairway out of the dungeons. The portraits in the great hall were all sleeping as the candles flared to light, leading their way.  There was an eerie glow coming off of the Black Lake.  Hogwarts really was quite spooky in the quiet of night.  And then, directly in front of them, was a beautiful young woman, tears in her eyes, wearing a grey shift; a woman whom Seraphina realized that she could see through.  She looked determined to block their path.

“Mistress Helena,” Winky said with a waver in her voice, “Winky needs to be getting Mistress Seraphina to Headmaster Dumbledore.  We needs to be getting by.  Winky does not like walking through yous ghosties.”

So this was Seraphina’s first Hogwarts ghost, and the elusive Helena Ravenclaw at that.  She suddenly was much more awake.  As she stood there, a little frightened – Helena was, after all, a ghost– and unsure of what to do, she felt a chill crawl up her back.  She looked over her shoulder to see a short, round man in a monk’s habit, also transparent, making his way toward them.

“Hello, Helena,” the apparition said in a very cheery voice. “What brings you out of your tower?”

“Phineas has told me that they mean to do grave harm to this young woman, Benedict.  I cannot allow it.”

“Grave harm, you say?  Surely Albus would not allow such a thing –“

“And yet, he does.  He means to go along with Tom’s plans. I cannot allow her my fate. I will not allow it.”

“Um, excuse me,” Seraphina tentatively said to Helena (realizing that, despite knowing all about these ghosts, they frightened her just the same).  Helena turned her tear stained yet steely eyes on to Seraphina to consider her. Seraphina continued, “Yes, um – okay, sorry, but I’ve never seen a ghost before –“

“We are simply on a different ethereal plane, young lady,” Benedict – the Fat Friar? – encouraged. “Do not fear us. We mean you no harm at all.”

Helena was staring at Seraphina.  She looked as if she were just holding back an intense and poorly contained rage. An icy shiver ran through Seraphina, who continued, “Right. Okay.  So then, who means me harm?”

“The Dark Lord means to use you.  He will reach you through a seduction. You must not fold to his Dark powers.”

Seraphina froze.  The Dark Lord meant to seduce her? She felt her heart flip in her chest and her stomach cramped.  She was not supposed to be on Voldemort’s radar yet.  She had just gotten here; she didn’t want a maniac to be hatching plans for her.  Truth be told, even the thought of Voldemort terrified her.

“Tom can be very persuasive.” Benedict interjected. “He was quite beautiful in his youth, and very dynamic indeed. He was at no loss for female attention. It is no mistake that so many are drawn to him.”

“He does not know what love is.” Helena stated. “He was conceived under a lie and thus cursed for an eternity.  His methods may feel real, but they are all for his gain. You must not fall to his enticements.”

Winky jumped up and down. “Mistress Seraphina is good!  Mistress will not listen to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!  Winky will protect Mistress!”

“She has already changed what was to occur, little one,” Benedict soothed, “and I fear that Tom’s power far outweighs your own.  You must not put yourself at risk; you are too important to this new future.”

“You will become a brave and powerful elf, but it is not yet your time.” Helena said as she bowed to Winky, who was now standing stock-still and completely mute.  If there was one thing that Seraphina was sure of with elves, it was that they fully believed that they had no worth and were expendable. Helena then looked back at Seraphina, her expression softened. “Severus Snape means you no harm.  He has been caught in a web that he helped create but that has grown much larger than he could have ever imagined. He is trustworthy and there is kindness in his heart. He is a protector and will be your champion when you have no one else to turn to.”

“Helena, we cannot prevent her from speaking with Albus.  He will come find her if you do not let her by. I’m sure he has her best interests at heart,” Benedict said.

“Does he?” Helena challenged. “A chess master must eventually sacrifice his pawns to triumph.”

And then she was gone. “I wouldn’t worry, my dear,” Benedict said to Seraphina, who was now feeling that dizzy draw of anxiety beginning.  She had never been good at fighting when it felt like a panic attack was setting in.  A ghost who had been killed by a jilted lover had said that she would suffer her same fate.  A ghost who didn’t want Seraphina to suffer death at the hands of a psychopath had come out of hiding to warn her about Albus's - the chess master's - plans for her.  What did Voldemort want from her?  Would she have to spy like Severus?  Would she have to pretend that she was on his side?  Was Albus willing to sacrifice her for the greater good? Was she even capable of all of everything that they has planned for her?

She felt the Fat Friar come stand in front of her, as she had closed her eyes to try to focus on her breathing.  She heard Winky begin to panic at Seraphina’s rapidly deteriorating state, and then registered Winky pounding her head into the floor while wailing something about failing her mistress.  Then she felt the most pleasant, though icy, sensation wash over her, heard the words, “benedicat tibi Dominus et custodiat te, ostendat Dominus faciem suam tibi et mistereatur tui . . .” and then she was gone.

______________________________________________

She woke up to find Poppy, Albus, and Severus gathered around her.  She must have been carried to the infirmary, as she was laying on one of its spare iron beds.  She smelled sage burning somewhere, and the delicious smell of sandalwood and something else, something gorgeous, that came from Severus; Severus who was sitting at her side as if he were keeping vigil over her. The room was dark; there was a large portrait to her left of a kindly looking medieval nurse smiling down at her who announced, “Albus, she’s come back to us . . .”

Albus turned quickly from some conversation with Poppy and came to the foot of her bed. “The Fat Friar came to us and told us to fetch you,” Albus began. “He told us you’d had a fit of the vapours.  I assume it was another panic attack, though you’ve never fainted . . .”

She was smiling.  Why was she smiling? She felt ridiculous and a bit giddy, which was not the way she should be feeling after being told that she was to be seduced by Voldemort to the dark side by two ghosts and subsequently losing consciousness. Maybe Poppy has used a tranquility spell on her - she really had liked that, hadn't she. It was all too insane, really, that she should be waking in a wizarding hospital bed again, the smell of herbs in the air, and that Albus Dumbledore and now Voldemort seemed to want to use her for their own purposes.

“Albus, she’s smiling,” Severus observed.  He had a quizzical look on her face, like Seraphina were a scientific specimen.

“She’s had a scare, that’s all,” Poppy said while waving her wand around in one of her complex diagnostic combinations. “She’s perfectly fine.  Everyone reacts differently the first time that they see an apparition.  She’s quite lucky Benedict was there to alert you that she needed help.”

“Helena Ravenclaw was there, too,” she managed, still reveling in the simply delicious aroma that was Severus Snape. “She said I was in grave danger and that Voldemort is going to seduce me. That he wanted me to suffer her fate. As if he could seduce me,” she ended with a snort of disbelief. She was beginning to feel a bit more with it, and she noticed that she wasn’t completely surrounded by the essence of Severus anymore, which was a shame, really.  He smelled beautiful and so like a man.

“Helena was there?” Albus sounded genuinely surprised. “She rarely leaves Ravenclaw tower. . .” He seemed lost in his thoughts of a few moments and then said, “She was not incorrect.  Tom does mean to seduce you to his cause.  He does not, however, mean to do it himself.  Severus?”

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose.  Seraphina found his hand and held it, which caused Severus to look at her with a startled but also defeated expression. But then he gave her hand a little squeeze in return, followed by a kind of somber smile.  Well that was new, thought Seraphina.

“As you know, I was called away earlier.  When I get the pain in my arm, the pain that you took before, it is a summons from Voldemort.” He was studied her face, she remembered that she wasn’t supposed to know any of this, so she put on her best expression of shock and concern. It seemed to work as he hurriedly said, “I cannot get into the details of how it happened, but when I was younger, I made the terrible decision to join his ranks.  Needless to say, it was a poor decision indeed.”

Poppy let out a huff as she worked busily on something in the corner of the room that they were in.  Albus returned Severus’s rueful smile.  Severus continued, “I went to Albus after he – after Voldemort killed someone who meant a great deal to me, someone who he had assured me would be safe.” His changed to a look of far-off sadness momentarily before he shifted back to his neutral guise.  He then said, “Again that is a story for another time. Since that time I have been acting as a double agent on the side of the light.”

He continued to study Seraphina’s face.  Just as when Albus had told her about Ariana, she found it so heartbreaking to see the sorrow in Severus’s eyes over Lily’s death. She sat up so that she was facing him and took his other hand in hers to encourage him to continue.

“Very few people know this, Seraphina.  It is something that doubtless could get me tortured and killed.  I cannot emphasize enough to you that it is vital no one find out that I am a spy or that I have been marked by Voldemort – that is what causes the pain, The Dark Mark.  It is not only my life that is at risk but those of others as well. Those I have vowed my life to protect.”

“Who knows about this?” Seraphina asked.

“The Order members and Poppy.  I often need her when I return from the Dark Lord’s presence.  He is - sadistic.  And now you.  After the events of tonight it was necessary to include you.” Severus said.

“What happened tonight?”

“I was called into his presence.  He, your cousin Bellatrix LeStrange – who has completely lost her grip on reality and worships Voldemort with an unmatched passion – and Lucius Malfoy have come up with a plan in which I seduce you and turn your sentiments toward theirs.  Narcissa and Draco Malfoy –,“ he and Albus exchanged a quick look of worry at the mention of Draco’s name,"they were also there, though I believe that they were there to simply observe. It seems that Voldemort wishes to recruit you to the Deatheaters, which you must never think of. You musn't even consider it.”

Seraphina did not know what to say.  When she had thought that is was Voldemort that was going to try to lure her into his bed she had known that there would be no issue.  She would resist.  Why in the world wouldn’t she?  This was something else entirely.  Voldemort wanted her as a Deatheater?  How could she even pretend to have those sentiments?  If she didn’t, did that put Severus’s life further at risk?

She had to admit that she felt an attraction toward Severus.  Most times he was a difficult asshole, but she had always had a soft pot for difficult people and their relationship had progressed toward pleasant intellectual conversations and the odd non-potions related comment here and there.  She knew his true intentions. He was turning out to not be the worst thing ever - he was, truth be told, incredibly intelligent, fascinating, and fucking hot. She just might have thought about him lying in her bed a night or two . . .

She didn’t know if she was ready for a relationship, even a pretend one.  Though the thought of sex excited her, it also shook her to the core.  On the rare occasions that she had tried to touch herself she had to stop when she felt that niggle of panic setting in and thoughts of Miles came rushing back to her.  When it came to fantasies, Miles seemed to creep into all of them, no matter how hard that she tried to block him.  Her therapists had told her that having a sexual relationship could be difficult; that she was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and that sexual activity could trigger panic attacks.  But the truth was, if she were to enter into anything with anyone, she’d want to try.  She’d loved it before and she missed the rush of it, that feeling of intimacy. She needed someone who could understand what they were getting themselves into.  Severus didn’t know the half of it.

“What did you say to that?” she managed to say. She knew that he had been given an order, that he really didn’t have a choice, but what more was there to say?

He looked away from her at the wall above her head. “I told them that I would engender to progress our relationship.  That seemed the best thing to say.  It does not ensnare you in any way and it pleased them.”

“But just getting to know you better won’t be enough,” Albus interjected.

“Albus, we have been through this!” Severus said, his voice raised in obvious anger.  “It is one thing for Voldemort to use me as his whore; it is quite another for you to use your niece in a similar manner!”

“And, as I have assured you, Severus, I mean no such thing for Seraphina!”

“You best not, Albus Dumbledore,” Poppy interjected.

Albus looked over at Poppy in annoyance and continued, “I merely meant that it is obvious that the two of you have a certain - chemistry.  There is an obvious energy between the two of you – it is undeniable, Severus – from the moment that you first laid eyes on her I could feel it. As you know, Tom will expect results on your end.  If we can affect the appearance of a growing attraction between the two of you it will go quite far in appeasing him.”

Severus was now looking at the floor.  He appeared uncharacteristically reticent. “He did say that he wanted me to – to bed you, Seraphina.  I did not agree to it, but then again, he never gives one the opportunity to deny him an order.”

Well now, wasn’t that the end all.  Voldemort had actually ordered Severus to sleep with Seraphina.  Before she could process this, Severus continued, his voice full of malice, “He actually insinuated that he was giving you to me as a sort of prize for my loyalty!”

“He fucking did not!” Seraphina exclaimed as fury built within her. Severus looked back at her and smiled sullenly. “I mean, I know that he’s supposed to be the embodiment of evil and all that, but how dare he give me away!  How dare he even think it!  What the fuck!”

“What the fuck, indeed,” Albus said quite gravely.

The room grew quiet as its inhabitants thought over all that had been revealed.  Albus appeared somber, Severus looked downright frightened (he could face the Dark Lord as an equal but grew frightened when he revealed that he was supposed to woo a woman, which Seraphina found very endearing indeed), Poppy was clucking in distaste in the corner.  After a few minutes, Seraphina said, “So now what?”

Both she and Severus looked at Albus.  He gave a thin smile and then said, “Severus, I think it behooves you to ask Seraphina out on a date. The children will be returning on Friday and I would think that you would like to do such a thing with a bit of privacy.  That gives you four days.”

Seraphina looked at Severus, who was looking at his lap.  There was a slight tint to his cheeks – was Severus Snape actually blushing?  He seemed to be at a loss for what to say or do.

Seraphina shifted closer to Severus and spoke. “Severus, I hear that you are an expert on the art in this castle.  Perhaps you could take me on a tour of it tomorrow evening?  There’s still quite a bit of the castle that I don’t know and should probably see before term starts . . .”

Severus looked gratefully at her and said, “Yes, that sounds like a fine idea.  Perhaps after dinner? I still have quite a bit to do before the students arrive.”

“That sounds lovely, Severus.  You’ll have to show me that Caravaggio.  Try as I might, I haven’t located it.”

Severus gave her a slight but genuine smile. “Yes, I think I can manage that,” he said, looking into her eyes.  There was that draw again, that shift she had felt earlier at the dinner party. She felt goose bumps rise all over her body and had to remind herself to breathe.

Over in the corner, unseen by Seraphina and Severus, Poppy Pomfrey winked at Albus Dumbledore, who smiled back fully in return while the kindly nurse in the portrait hurried out of the frame. Dark Lord or not, and despite being nearly a hermit and difficult to say the least, it seemed that their Severus had finally found himself a girl.