The Lies You Tell Yourself by Shanastay



Summary: There are places you can never return to... and lies you tell yourself. A new player with nothing to lose enters the game. Will they turn the tide of the war and is there any hope for Severus Snape?
Rating: 0
Categories: None
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 28 February 2006
Updated: 16 April 2006


Index

Chapter 7844: Things Left Behind
Chapter 7845: Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
Chapter 7847: A Rock and a Hard Place
Chapter 7956: Base Jumping, Dark Lord Teasing and Other Dangerous Sports
Chapter 8026: A Titanic Endeavor
Chapter 8064: Open Mouth, Insert Foot Here
Chapter 1296790886: Fatal Attraction
Chapter 1296790912: Shadows of the Past
Chapter 1296790989: Hey, Mr. Sandman
Chapter 1296791015: Nocturnal Visitations


Chapter 7844: Things Left Behind

Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Shana: OW! Stop poking me in the back with that damn wand!

Snape: *prods woman with wand again* WRITE!

Shana: Maybe if you asked reeeeeally nicely…

Snape: *glowers* I could simply employ the Imperius Curse…

Shana: Ok OK! I get the point! *goes back to typing* I own nothing of JKRowling\'s. Any characters you don\'t recognize obviously belong to me. I make no monies, American or otherwise, from this.

Snape: WRITE!!

Shana: *types, muttering to herself*

Chapter 1: Things Left Behind

Shaluinn Callaway stood outside the gates of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry trying to talk her reluctant feet into taking those several steps that would bring her onto the school grounds. I can\'t believe I\'m actually here. All the years of running, of living as a Muggle, of trying to hide my true nature and here I am returning to a world I turned my back on long ago.

A burst of wind blew past the 5\'7\" woman, whipping her waist-length flaming red hair out behind her, the ankle-length black leather duster she wore billowing around her legs. The air carried with it the scent of incoming rain and the woman narrowed her deep emerald eyes behind the lenses of her wraparound Ray-Bans, her bowstring lips drawing together in a mild frown.

Naturally ivory skin had tanned to a warm chestnut hue from the long hours she had spent outdoors training. Her face was oval with distinct cheekbones and a high forehead. Wispy bangs fell to just above her eyebrows, softening the lines of her face that tended toward harsh with the intense concentration she devoted to everything in her life.

A black long-sleeved scoop-necked lycra bodysuit clung to the curves of her DD-cup breasts, the damned things being the bane of her competitive athlete\'s life. It didn\'t matter how hard she trained, that her chest arched down to a 28 inch waist and back out to 34 inch hips clad in black leather boot-cut pants in an almost perfect hourglass, no matter how much weight she lost the heavy breasts remained. Staunchly refusing the option of breast-reduction surgery she used the assets for what they were, an advantage that often disrupted her opponents\' attention.

Her feet were shod in chunky, high-heeled knee-high black leather boots, the added height bringing her to a solid 5\'10\". Small, long-fingered and dexterous hands clutched the handles of the two bags she carried with her, containing all her worldly possessions.

Releasing a breath she hadn\'t realized she\'d been holding Shaluinn took those two steps onto the grounds and towards the destiny she knew she could no longer turn away from. As she trudged up the hill to the front portal of the castle she let her mind drop to the letter safely tucked into the inside pocket of her coat.

My Dearest Miss Callaway,

With regret I find I can no longer forestall the request I spoke to you about in our last meeting. Your unique assistance is needed in the aid of our cause. I am aware of your reservations but as I have previously expressed this conflict does not merely involve the wizarding community of Europe but has the potential to encompass the whole of the planet including America and your beloved United States. It is only after serious and prolonged consideration that I have come to this conclusion.

Please make your way to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland as quickly as you are able where I will install you in the position we have discussed. I understand you have loose ends you must tie up but remember time is of the essence and make haste.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you at the school soon.

Your friend,
Albus Dumbledore


The redhead couldn\'t help shaking her head as she thought over the words of Albus\' missive. Friend? Uh huh. Manipulative bastard. Though I really shouldn\'t be surprised, the woman chided herself. She had seen more of Albus Dumbledore in the past year than she had in the preceding twenty. In fact she had almost entirely forgotten the aged wizard in the years intervening their last encounter.

That long-ago encounter had set her upon an unlikely path that had led her across the world and finally to this castle, an ocean and a continent separating her from her last home in Pacific Northwest.

Born to an unwed mother in Southern California she had been adopted by an older staunchly Roman Catholic Muggle couple. Overprotective to a fault, her formative years were spent closely monitored by the man that, to this day, was the only one she called, \"Father.\" A high-ranking member of the Intelligence community and chief of the West Coast region of the CIA and a Permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church, Aloysius Callaway kept Shaluinn on a very short leash, especially when strange occurrences began manifesting around the passionate child.

Despite the limitations he put on his adopted daughter Aloysius encouraged and instilled in her an addiction for learning. Forbidden to partake in the mind-numbing activities of TV watching and video games Shaluinn\'s growing intellect was directed toward books. These she devoured in copious amounts to the delight of her father, his daughter exhibiting the intelligence of a college student before even entering her teens.

That was, until that spotted owl arrived with that fateful letter.

Miss Callaway,

Congratulations on being accepted into the Pacific Branch of the American Institute of Magic and Mysteries! I\'m sure you have many questions that we will hopefully be able to answer in the coming years of your study. Enclosed is the book list for the upcoming semester as well as information on travel arrangements. We look forward to seeing you this fall.

Sincerely,

Maria Janevosa, Principal
Pacific Branch
American Institute of Magic and Mysteries


Shaluinn had read and reread the letter at least a dozen times by the time her father returned home from work, so many things in her life suddenly making sense and so many new questions swirling through her head. Buoyed by this newfound knowledge she rushed her father as soon as he walked through the door, jabbering excitedly and brandishing the letter.

Aloysius\' reaction was undeniably not what she expected.

The silver-haired man became visibly agitated, a red flush creeping up his neck from his chest as his blood pressure rose with his anger and he uncharacteristically cursed. Shaluinn\'s face fell as he muttered about practical jokes and the utter rubbish of the letter. He cut off every attempt the red-headed girl made at proving the validity of the missive. It quickly became clear to the girl that she most certainly would not be attending the school come fall.

And that was when things really went south…

Not a week later Shaluinn was approached by a petite woman with a shock of red hair the exact shade of her own while waiting to be picked up from gymnastics practice.

With a start the girl recognized the woman standing over her as the \"adopted older sister\" her parents had shown her pictures of over the years, but who she had never actually met.

The woman smiled as recognition shown on the girl\'s face and bent down to sit on the curb next to her. \"Hey Shaluinn. I can see from your expression you know who I am, but as courtesy dictates,\" she stuck out her hand, \"I\'m Jolena Anhel, your \'sister.\'\"

Shaluinn simply gaped, shocked into silence before finally shaking the woman\'s hand.

\"Close your mouth dear, before you swallow a fly.\"

The girl\'s mouth snapped shut with an audible click, her eyes still wide with surprise.

Never breaking eye contact, Jolena spoke quickly and carefully. \"You got the letter, correct?\"

Shaluinn didn\'t have to ask what she meant and simply nodded.

\"I\'m sure \'Dad\' took it as well as he took mine years ago.\"

The girl\'s eyes narrowed in confusion.

Clarifying, Jolena continued, \"He pitched an absolute fit and swore I wasn\'t going anywhere near some bullshit \'Magic School\' and how he\'d find the bastards who sent their sick idea of a joke, etc etc…\"

The girl blushed at the use of profanity but nodded again in confirmation.

Remembering just how small her window of opportunity was the older redhead plunged onward. \"Here\'s the deal. Dad\'s not gonna let you go to that school. No way, no how. But from what I\'ve been told you\'re already exhibiting more than a few indicators of high latent powers. As high as the ratings seem to be you simply can\'t NOT be trained. And if you\'re even half as smart as I was at your age you\'ll be able to handle a double course of study.\"

Proving she was every bit as astute as advertised, Shaluinn leapt to the correct conclusion. \"I\'m going to be studying regular subjects AND magic? But how…\"

Jolena waved a hand, cutting her off. \"Let me worry about the logistics. I\'ll be contacting you again soon.\" She stood quickly. \"It goes without saying…\"

\"…Don\'t tell Dad,\" Shaluinn finished for her. \"I get it.\" She spotted her parents\' car making the turn into the parking lot. \"You probably should go…\" she started to say as she looked back to find her \"sister\" gone. Just… gone. The girl spun in a circle, thinking she had missed the woman walking away only to realize Jolena had vanished into thin air. Curiouser and curiouser…

And so Shaluinn began her secret, double life that fall. Due to the extraordinary circumstances and situation Jolena had been granted the use of a time-turner. So Shaluinn found herself living two days for everyone else\'s one as well as having to be careful what she said or did around her parents.

Over the course of the following seven years the young witch pulled off and excelled at a double course of Muggle and Magical study that would have made Hermione Granger envious. She would have been unique had her \"sister\" not already done the same thing years prior.

Jolena kept a low profile and interacted with Shaluinn on a limited basis only to the extent necessary to restart the girl\'s days and deliver her to the Institute for classes. The younger redhead could not help but wonder at the snatches of overheard conversation she picked up over the years that gave her the impression that far from being the failure their parents had indicated Jolena was a smashing success as an Unspeakable in the American Magical world. But then again, to their parents that would be a failure.

It was not long before her graduations from high school and the \"Institute\" that she met a younger Headmaster Albus Dumbledore who was visiting the American school. The meeting would have been filed away and long forgotten had it not been for the events that immediately followed that meeting and caused the young woman to turn her back on the Magical world entirely for what she intended to be forever.

The redhead mounted the steps into the castle proper, deciding to meet her fate head-on, eyes wide open.

TBC…

Please. Please review! I know it\'s short, but the next 3 chapters are already written and I will be posting them shortly…

Back to index


Chapter 7845: Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?

Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Shana: *rubbing black and blue mark on lower back*

Snape: *prods* Enough rest. Get back to work.

Shana: Oh come on! That\'s 2 chapters in 3 hours!

Snape: *sneers* NOW!

Shana: *throws hands up in air* Alright! Alright!

Dobby: *sticks head around corner* Mistress Shanastay owns only her characters, nothing else. Dobby go now.

Chapter 2: Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?

Shaluinn entered the ancient edifice and could literally feel the weight of its history bearing down upon her. She shrugged off the strange sensation and looked about her, searching for a warm body that could direct her to the Headmaster\'s office. The woman jumped back several paces as a short wrinkled figure appeared before her clad in socks of various garish shades.

It had what appeared to be toe socks on each arm and a toga of sorts made from a number of clashing materials. Having not seen one in some twenty years it took the woman several beats to realize she was staring at a House Elf just as it stared back. It chose that moment to speak.

\"Dobby is not recognizing you, Miss. Miss looks like Professor Snape but your hair is on fire.\"

The elf took a step back as the woman\'s brows knitted together, her lips twisting into a frown.

Professor Snape? Shaluinn rifled through her conversations with Dumbledore. Snape. The Potions Master and current DADA instructor. The woman took a moment to consider the Headmaster\'s description of the Professor versus her current attire. I guess I would remind someone of him, dressed head to toe in black as I am.

Realizing she was scowling, the woman quickly smoothed her features and asked, \"Dobby, is that your name?\"

\"Yes Miss. Me is Dobby.\"

Shaluinn bent at the knees to drop her bags to the floor and stood up straight. She brought her hands together, palms flat, fingertips beneath her chin and bent from the waist until she was almost at eye level with the elf. \"I am pleased to make your acquaintance Dobby. I am Shaluinn Callaway.\"

The elf seemed taken aback at the redhead\'s strange manner of greeting and rushed forward, stopping just short of touching her. \"Do not bow to Dobby, Miss.\"

The woman straightened up and smiled gently at the earnest elf. \"I\'m sorry Dobby. I\'ve spent many years in Japan and bowing is a traditional manner of greeting. I didn\'t mean to upset you.\"

Obviously relieved that she\'d righted herself Dobby stepped back. \"Do not apologize to Dobby, Miss.\"

Shaluinn pushed her Ray-Bans up on her head before bending to retrieve her bags and asked, \"Dobby, could you direct me to the Headmaster\'s office? I\'m expected.\"

\"Headmistress McGongall? Dobby show you, Miss!\" All excited the elf turned and headed into the castle, trailed by the again frowning woman.

Headmistress McGongall? I thought she was the Transfigurations Professor? Deciding her questions could wait, she sped up to keep pace with the quick little elf.

The redhead soon found herself standing before a stone gargoyle as Dobby murmured something she could not hear and the state jumped aside to reveal what looked like an escalator. The diminutive figure stepped aside and motioned for the woman to proceed.

\"Headmistress\' office up here, Miss.\"

She flashed the elf a smile as she stepped onto the spiraling staircase. \"Thank you Dobby,\" she called back as she rose out of sight.

Tightly controlled confusion whirled through Shaluinn\'s mind as she stood before the door that she assumed led into the Headmaster\'s, Headmistress\' she corrected herself, office. The redhead took a deep breath before bringing her right hand up to rap solidly on the door.

\"Come in,\" a distinctly female voice with a light Scottish accent and a hint of impatience called.

Now or never and never isn\'t an option. Shaluinn opened the door and stepped through to the fate she had put off years ago.

A thin woman wearing a pointed hat looked up from the scroll she had laid out over her desk, taking in the strange appearance of the redhead entering her office. \"Can I help you?\"

Shaluinn dropped her bags for the second time and bent in the traditional Asian greeting. \"Mistress McGongall, I am Shaluinn…\"

\"Miss Callaway!\" a familiar voice called from behind the Headmistress.

Carefully controlling her expression, Shaluinn raised her down-turned eyes to the portrait hanging behind the Transfigurations Mistress. \"Master Dumbledore?\" She could not keep the question out of her voice.

\"Albus?\" the Headmistress questioned, turning from the woman before her to look at the former Headmaster\'s painting, \"What is going on?\"

\"Bastard!\" Shaluinn muttered under her breath as she realized the ramifications of that portrait\'s existence and dropped her gaze again, still bent at the waist.

Eyes widening at the sound of the explicative, the Headmistress practically shouted, \"What is going on here? Someone had better start explaining right now!\"

\"Now, now, Minerva,\" Dumbledore\'s painting admonished. \"No need to get all riled up.\" Looking past the Headmistress he spoke to the other occupant of the room. \"Do stand up young lady. There is no reason to prostrate yourself before either of us.\"

Shaluinn silently gritted her teeth, reminding herself that Asian mannerisms were very seldom understood by Western cultures. When in Rome… The woman did as she was bade, rising to her full height and interlacing her fingers in front of her, eyes looking past McGongall to the talking painting. \"So it is done.\"

Minerva\'s eyes narrowed again, suspicion clouding her face. \"What, exactly, is done?\" she asked, her question directed at the redhead.

The black-clad woman stood unmoving before the elder woman\'s direct stare, her eyes locked on the twinkling blue gaze of Hogwart\'s last Headmaster. She did not, could not, answer the question.

\"Minerva?\"

The Headmistress whirled on the portrait of her predecessor.

\"Could you please give us a few minutes? And take the others with you?\" he asked, motioning toward the other portraits who had been listening in rapt attention.

\"Oh for heaven\'s sake, Albus!\"

\"Please, Minerva. I\'m only asking for twenty minutes,\" the former Headmaster calmly requested.

Annoyance evident in her every movement, the elder woman looked from the statue-still redhead to the utterly serious wizard and back before throwing her hands up in defeat and standing. Addressing the paintings of the former Headmasters and mistresses of the famed wizarding school she spoke carefully, \"Ladies and gentlemen, if you would please…?\"

Various grumbling voices rose in the chamber as one by one the frames emptied of their occupants until only Shaluinn, Dumbledore and McGongall remained.

Standing and striding past the redhead to the entrance of her office Minerva turned back and raised her finger to point at Albus. \"We will have a chat about this later…\" she warned before making her own exit.

Alone before the former Headmaster Shaluinn\'s demeanor remained every bit as impassive as before. A million questions swirled through her mind, not that one could tell from her outward appearance.

\"Miss Callaway, Shaluinn,\" Dumbledore began and stopped, a bone-weary sigh escaping his painted lips.

The redhead decided to break the silence. \"So the bastard actually did it, rather than dropping dead.\"

TBC…

Back to index


Chapter 7847: A Rock and a Hard Place

Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Shana: *slumped over keyboard, drooling*

Snape: *prod* Enough sleep!

Shana: Wha…?

Snape: *harder prod* Write now!

Shana: *winces, rubs eyes* Huh?

Snape: *sneer* Keep writing!

Shana: *whirls on annoying wizard* Fuck you!

Snape: What did you say?

Shana: Fuck. You.

Snape: *eyebrow* Really, now.

Shana: *narrows eyes*

Snape: *prods* WRITE!

Shana: *tackles wizard*

Snape: Get off…!

Dobby: *spots Shana kissing Snape, runs away* Dobby is blind! Dobby is blind!

Painting of Dumbledore: Ahh… youth. Shanastay owns nothing other than her own original character. Everyone else belongs to JKRowling.

Chapter 3: A Rock and a Hard Place

The redhead decided to break the silence. \"So the bastard actually did it, rather than dropping dead.\"

The twinkle left the old man\'s eyes, his face taking on a hardened look. \"Enough!\" he admonished. \"This topic has already been exhausted between us.\"

Annoyance washed over the woman\'s face, as she broke her stance. \"Since you are dead, you clearly no longer require my services.\" Shaluinn turned to retrieve her bags and leave.

\"Stop!\" the command in the silver-haired wizard\'s voice brooked no argument. \"Face me, young lady.\"

Tension clearly visible in her back, the redhead twisted, to look over her shoulder, fixing the painting with a baleful glare. A silent war of wills went on for several beats, before Shaluinn gave in and turned to face the former Headmaster.

His expression softening, Dumbledore looked down on the angry woman with compassion. \"If anything, your help is needed now, more than ever.\" He paused for emphasis, \"And you have nothing, and no one, to return to in America.\"

Shaluinn\'s eyes closed, her face taking on a pained, pinched look, as she dropped her chin to her chest, silently acknowledging the truth in the wizard\'s words. She had spent the last twenty-plus years living as a Muggle, forsaking magic, only to be thwarted, again and again, in her efforts to be successful. She knew Dumbledore had been all too aware that this time, when things had collapsed around her ears, she would finally be willing to embrace the world, and the life, she had left behind so long ago.

She wasn\'t a Squib. No, it wasn\'t a lack of ability, or talent that had turned her from the path of Magic. Quite to the contrary, she had proven herself able in every subject, every aspect of magic, she chose to pursue. She had been described by classmates as, \"one of those extremely annoying people who could do anything they put their mind to.\" Some subjects she took to, more than others, Arithmancy being her most difficult subject, with Potions as her best. On the Muggle side, she had struggled with Calculus, and excelled at Chemistry. The parallels had proven interesting.

It was as she was preparing to graduate, that she had met Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. It was he, who told her he looked forward to following her career, as she had such a bright future ahead of her, that she had a specific purpose to fulfill, in the course of things.

The compliment had been cryptic, at best, and she still did not believe, or understand it.

It was mere days later that events unfolded to turn her away from the magic world and firmly on the course of a Muggle life. She hadn\'t even bothered to take the American equivalent of the NEWTs, attempting to put all thoughts, and memories, of anything magical out of her mind.

And so, she had followed her father\'s dreams for her, entering the United States Air Force Academy and serving her country. It took only two and a half years, for that to fall apart. The following two years spent repaying the \"debts\" she\'d incurred at the Academy, as an enlisted Airman, had been nothing short of pure misery. Those two years had their start marked by the violent death of her beloved father, and the revelation that Jolena, her sister, was in fact her biological mother. As much sense as that made, in the context of everything else, Shaluinn chose simply to not deal with any of it.

Her military commitment completed, she\'d run to her best friend in Japan, immersing herself in the culture, seeking to learn everything she could, in the way of martial arts, becoming the second Western woman, behind her friend, to be accepted to the famed schools. Like everything she put her mind to, she excelled, until she was, quite literally, the best in the world, at her disciplines. It was the longest she was able to maintain a Muggle life, lasting over a decade. Then a car wreck robbed her of her abilities. So she ran again.

Back to Southern California, to attend a Muggle University and complete a Bachelor\'s degree. Two and a half years later, everything fell apart, again. She received the degree, but was forced to flee California, for Washington State, and the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, where her real mother, Jolena, lived.

Yet again, she tried to build a stable, Muggle life for herself, under the watchful eye of her mother, who she was finally getting to know. It only took two years, this time, for that carefully crafted world to dissolve. It was toward the end of this last phase, that she received an unexpected visit, from the last person she ever expected to see again. Albus Dumbledore.

The wizard had aged considerably, since the last time they had met, and one of his hands was visibly withered. Over the course of the ensuing months, the Headmaster had come to visit her, over and over, appraising her in detail, of what was going on in the world of magic, specifically in England and Europe.

It was at his behest, that she had acquired new wands, the first she had wielded since before. It was at his urging that she took back all the texts her mother had saved for her, years before, and began brushing up on her old skills. His request came on the heels of her mother\'s untimely demise at the hands of an errant Death Eater and her unwarranted dismissal from her Muggle job.

The former Headmaster, curse him to hell and back, was right. She had nothing left there, nothing left to lose, or return to. There was nothing left to tie her to the Muggle world, and so upon receiving the letter, she had settled her affairs in the States, and headed out on one, final journey. It was a journey, and a destiny, she fully expected never to return from.

Her spirit and mind held together by copious amounts of Duct tape, the fiery, reluctant witch stood before her new master, her last remaining hope that she could accomplish in death, what she believed she had failed to in life… to make a difference.

Her resolve solidified, Shaluinn lifted her head to meet the portrait\'s direct gaze. \"So the plan will continue, as previously decided?\"

Relief was more than evident on the painting\'s face. For just the barest moment, the former Headmaster had been afraid he had lost her. In answer, he nodded silently.

\"How much does Mistress McGongall know?\"

\"Nothing, though we will be remedying that shortly, I do believe,\" the mischievous twinkle had returned to the painted blue eyes.

\"Bastard,\" she muttered harshly, again, disgust written clearly on her face.

\"Do not be so hasty to judge, Miss Callaway,\" he admonished, slipping into his professorial persona.

\"I would have chosen death,\" the redhead spat back.

\"Be that as it may, the choice was not yours to make,\" the painting gently reminded her.

The woman carefully schooled her features back to neutrality, as she caught sight of movement in one of the many empty frames. The other former Headmasters and Headmistresses were returning, and Shaluinn could hear the approaching sounds of footfalls.

\"Let me handle Minerva,\" Dumbledore advised, as the Headmistress entered her office.

Barely sparing the redhead a glance, Minerva McGongall strode past her to stand before her predecessor, arms crossed over her chest, aggravation easily readable on her face. \"Yes Albus, please \'handle\' me.\"

Shaluinn closed her eyes for a bare second, as Minerva\'s unintended double entendre slapped her upside the head. Her mirth contained, she turned her gaze to the visibly agitated Headmistress.

Albus\' eyes danced as he caught the joke, but kept silent on it, instead diving right into the subject at hand. \"Minerva, I would like to introduce Shaluinn Callaway, the new Unwanded Defense Professor.\"

\"The new what?\" McGongall\'s right hand came to rest on her forehead, pressing gently, before dropping to her side, left fist braced against her hip, exasperation clear in her movements. \"I feel another migraine brewing…\"

\"Unarmed combat, Mistress McGongall,\" Shaluinn supplied, now standing in a modified \"parade rest\" position, hands still clasped before her.

\"Please, stop with the \'Mistress\' nonsense, dear,\" the Headmistress turned back to the redhead and waved vaguely toward a chair before her desk. \"If we are to be colleagues it\'s \'Minerva.\' Please, sit down.\" The elder woman proceeded to drop into her chair with a soft \"plop.\"

\"Thank you, Ma\'am, but I prefer to stand,\" Shaluinn answered, face impassive.

The disciplinarian in her shining through as she pointed at the chair in question, the elder woman ordered, \"It\'s Minerva. Now sit!\"

Wincing inwardly, the redhead answered, \"Yes… Minerva,\" as she complied, looking stiff, and a bit out of place, in the soft wing-back chair.

The elder witch turned her chair so she could address both the young woman before her and her predecessor. Motioning with one hand and in that same tone of voice, \"Well Albus, out with it!\"

For just the smallest fraction of a second, Shaluinn actually felt sorry for the old wizard, until she remembered he was dead, and beyond the reach of the woman before her.

Dumbledore cleared his throat, obviously enjoying the discomfort the newest addition to the faculty was experiencing, at the hands of his successor. At Minerva\'s pointed look, he decided to finally \"put out,\" as it was. He turned his attention to the youngest member of the group. \"Professor Callaway, if you would please, give us a general overview of your relevant credentials?\"

If he hadn\'t already been dead, the redhead would have happily strangled the daft, old man. Instead, she answered the question. \"I hold fourth degree black-belts in ten martial arts disciplines, including both armed, and unarmed, variants.\"

At the look of clear confusion plastered on the Headmistress\' face, and amusement on Albus\', Shaluinn rephrased her statement, in layman\'s terms. \"I have achieved the highest levels of expertise in ten different combat disciplines. Both unarmed, or hand to hand, if you prefer, and with katanas and shurikan, for example. I mean swords and throwing stars.\"

\"Oh my…\" Minerva murmured, one hand fluttering towards her throat.

The look Dumbledore was giving the redhead was as effective as him elbowing her in the ribs.

The woman sighed audibly, before adding, \"I learned the hard way, a long time ago, about the necessity of being able to defend yourself without your wand.\"

The former Headmaster took up the conversation again, McGongall turning toward him, her hand still at her throat. \"Shaluinn will be teaching every year level, come fall, but right now, Harry, Ron and Hermione are in most need of her tutelage. They are the most vulnerable of all. Harry can\'t face Voldemort with his wand without \'Priori Incantatem\' occurring. He needs another way of getting rid of the Dark Lord. Not to mention, the simple value of being able to defend oneself, when unarmed.\"

Minerva couldn\'t help but wonder, at the darkness shifting in the younger woman\'s eyes, as Albus spoke. But that was a question for another time. The elder woman turned her attention back to the painting. \"So if I am to understand you correctly, you wish me to have Shaluinn settled into new quarters, as soon as possible, and then take her to the Burrow to train my trio of Gryffindors?\"

Albus considered her question for a moment, before nodding. \"Yes, that\'s about right. I believe you know the perfect place to put her,\" he winked.

Minerva released a long-suffering sigh, as she returned her attention to the young witch seated before her. \"Well, my dear, there\'s no time like the present, and frankly,\" she waved a hand over the scrolls stacked on her desk, \"I find myself no longer in the right frame of mind to deal with these.\"

Shaluinn raised one brow in a look that mirrored one of Snape\'s trademark expressions a little too closely for the Headmistress\' comfort. It was like the former Potions and DADA professor was mocking her from a distance, by proxy. Minerva repressed a shudder, as a chill ghosted through her.

\"Well,\" the elder witch stood from her chair and moved to lead the way out of her office, the younger redhead quickly moving to follow. Just as she reached the office door, Minerva turned back. Shaking her finger once again, she stated firmly, \"We will have that discussion when I return, Albus!\" before turning on her heel and stalking out.

\"As you wish, Minerva.\"

Shaluinn kept silent, but couldn\'t keep her shoulders from shaking in mirth, at the way the Headmistress took Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore to task.

\"That\'s quite enough from you, Miss Callaway,\" the painting admonished, taking on an expression of mock horror as the redhead, unabashedly, flipped him \"the bird\" and left.

--------------------------------------------------------

Severus Snape wanted to die. If suicide had been a real and viable option, he would have happily transfigured his wand into a sword and fallen upon it. Not that anyone would rue his passing.

With his murder of Albus Dumbledore, arguably the greatest wizard to have ever lived, besides Merlin himself, Snape found himself first among He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named\'s followers. With that one curse, the Potions master had dispelled all of the Dark Lord\'s suspicions about his allegiances. There is a reason why they call it \"Unforgiveable.\"

He was untouchable, and had been granted broad latitude, including the punishment of Draco Malfoy, for the boy\'s inability to complete his assigned task. The raven-haired man took no joy in administering the Cruciatus Curse, repeatedly, to the boy. He only did it to the minimum necessary, to satisfy the Basilisk-Snogger\'s sensibilities.

Severus snorted. Like he actually has any sensibilities.

Despite this new position of power, the Dark Lord had placed him in, the Potions master found his figurative leash had been severely shortened. Being held in such esteem, Voldemort wanted to keep him close, and consulted him on his opinion about the most absurd and mundane of topics.

One conversation in particular came to mind, the worst part of it, being the fact that Moldimort had been serious.

\"...do these robes make me look fat?...\"

Severus was losing his mind. No ands, ifs, or buts about it.

He was in an unprecedented position, to be privy to the details of every major move the Dark Lord made, yet had no way to convey, even a small portion of, that knowledge to the Order. And of what use was he really, if only he knew what was going on?

There was one option open to him, assuming he could somehow extricate himself from the Slit-Nosed-Bastard\'s side. But that option also hinged on Albus having been successful in his mission. The question was how would Severus find out if that most unlikely of missions had succeeded?

TBC…

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Chapter 7956: Base Jumping, Dark Lord Teasing and Other Dangerous Sports

Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Shana: *trussed up to chair in magical ropes*

Snape: *gargling with Listerine* Gah!

Shana: You know, there is a small problem with this situation…

Snape: *spitting* And what is that?

Shana: *shifts in chair, attempts to wiggle fingers* Kinda hard to type trussed up like this.

Snape: Hmmm… *waves wand*

Shana: *ropes shift so hands can reach keyboard* Well, damn.

Snape: *prods* Back to work!

Shana: *mutters* Alright, alright! I own only Shaluinn. Everything else belongs to Rowling. And a special thank you goes out to my dear friend Kim whose assistance has been invaluable in making sure my terminology and timelines are accurate as well as helping me keep canon characters in character, though her spell-checking leaves something to be desired.

Chapter 4: Base Jumping, Dark Lord Teasing and Other Dangerous Sports

Shaluinn hurried to catch up with the deceptively fast-moving Minerva. Falling into step with the elder woman the redhead asked the question that had been nagging at the back of her mind since the house elf Dobby had told her McGonagall was Headmistress. \"How long ago…?

Minerva looked up at the somewhat taller, heavier woman beside her for a moment, before turning her attention forward again. \"Just over a week ago now.\"

The redhead nodded silently. I received Albus\' letter after he was already dead. He may very well have sent it the day he was killed. Damn wizarding post takes forever to go cross-continent let alone overseas.

Sooner than anticipated, Minerva stopped before a large, arched mahogany door. Pulling her wand from her sleeve, the Headmistress waved it as she murmured, \"Lemon drops,\" so Shaluinn could hear. \"You may set your own wards and password now.\"

Turning in a circle in the hallway, the redhead voiced the obvious question, \"At the risk of sounding seriously stupid Mist-, Minerva,\" she caught herself, \"where, exactly, are we?\"

\"The Sixth Floor.\" Returning the wand to her sleeve, the elder woman preceded Shaluinn into the room beyond.

The younger woman followed quickly, entering a medium-sized room that was clearly meant to be her office. There were little in the way of furnishings other than a simple desk, several chairs, a couch and the requisite fireplace; the particulars of decorating clearly being left to her. Shaluinn dropped her bags as she gave the room the once-over.

Her gaze veiled, Minerva silently observed the younger witch taking in her surroundings. The question that had been prodding her since meeting the redhead rose to her lips as she watched Shaluinn turn her attention, apparently, toward the fireplace. The words died on her lips, eyes widening as the redhead strode straight toward the wall to the right of the hearth, the black-clad figure\'s right hand sweeping up before she smoothly walked straight through the solid stone.

A frown marring her features, the Headmistress stepped up to the span of stones, tapping five in succession with her wand, pulling back as the wall opened up into an archway. She proceeded through the portal, the way automatically closing behind her. Eyes narrowed, she swept the room beyond with her gaze, finding the figure she sought, kneeling, legs folded beneath her, before a bank of floor to ceiling windows. She frowned again in confusion as she caught Shaluinn\'s whispered words.

\"I am so going base jumping!\"

\"Merlin\'s beard! How did you do that? And what is \'base jumping?\'\"

Shaluinn turned her head sideways to acknowledge the Headmistress, before turning her attention back to the incredible view. The redhead\'s new quarters overlooked the cliff and displayed a commanding view of the surrounding area. She had every intention of taking a flying leap out one of those windows, at some point, with a parachute strapped to her back. Gods, I am such an adrenaline junkie.

Tearing herself away from the view, the redhead rose to her feet with a grace and fluidity that her frame belied. She noted the various pains and protestations of muscles with the movement but staunchly refused to acknowledge them. Turning her back to the windows, Shaluinn addressed her new employer.

\"Do you know what parachuting is?\"

\"Of course. Muggles jumping out of planes with tents of fabric billowing above them to retard their fall,\" Minerva snapped impatiently, wanting her other question answered more.

\"Base jumping is the same thing, except instead of jumping out of a plane, they jump off a cliff, or a tall building, or,\" she hooked a thumb over her shoulder, \"out one of those windows.\"

\"Oh dear,\" that hand fluttered up toward McGongall\'s throat again.

\"Don\'t worry Minerva, I have a bit of reconnaissance to do before I throw myself out any windows,\" she soothed the woman. \"As to your other question, how did I do what?\"

The Headmistress blinked several times as she collected her thoughts, having been effectively derailed by the other woman. She crossed her arms in front of her, hands tucked up her sleeves, before responding.

\"How did you know where the portal to these rooms was, and more importantly, how did you enter without tapping out the stone sequence? I have yet to see you wield a wand,\" she spoke carefully, a hint of suspicion coloring her tone.

Instantly realizing her mistake, Shaluinn reacted instinctively, as she would had she offended one of her Masters, years of living within the Japanese martial arts culture, and the resultant conditioning, taking over. Without preamble, the redhead fell to her knees, folding her body down on itself, prostrating herself before the Headmistress. As she dropped, her back remained straight as a board, her hands, pressed together, slid forward on the floor, the touching index and thumbs forming a circle where her forehead pressed to the floor, fingers together but splayed flat against the hard wood.

\"I cry your pardon, Mistress. I did not mean to bring shame or dishonor upon your House.\" It was something that she hastily remembered not to make the statements in Japanese.

Utterly unprepared for this response, McGonagall\'s mouth dropped open in an \"O\" of shock. Quickly regaining her wits, Minerva closed her mouth with an audible click, eyes fixed on the still-prostrate form before her. \"Oh, for Merlin\'s sake, girl!\" She strode forward to bend at the waist and tug on the younger witch\'s shoulder.

Responding to the touch more than the voice, Shaluinn lifted her head and turned her face to look up at the elder witch, concern etched across her features. \"Mistress?\"

McGonagall tugged again, visibly keeping her irritation at bay. \"Enough!\" she snapped a bit more harshly than intended, stepping back as the redhead slowly rose to her feet. \"You are my colleague, not my servant, Shaluinn,\" Minerva chided gently. \"You have neither shamed nor dishonored my House or this school. I am simply curious how you found the portal and gained entrance.\"

\"I apologize. The mistake was mine,\" the redhead responded as she bowed deeply to the elder witch. Anticipating the forthcoming protest, Shaluinn cut it off. \"Bowing is the traditional manner of greeting and showing respect in Japan. The deeper the bow, the greater the other\'s position and the respect due. There are only so many of my mannerisms I can change in a short time. I tend to fall back on old habits when thrust into new, and somewhat alien, surroundings. I did not intend to upset you.\"

\"It\'s alright, my dear. You took me by surprise is all,\" Minerva admitted.

Righting herself, the redhead looked past the Headmistress to the solid-appearing wall beyond. \"You are wondering about my use of wandless magic.\" Shaluinn turned her attention to the elder witch as Minerva nodded. \"The full explanation would be a bit long and drawn out so I will give you the short and sweet version.\"

Turning to face Minerva fully, the redhead continued, \"For the past twenty-plus years I have been living as a Muggle. Up until six months ago I did not even own a wand. Over the years of being without, I\'ve acquired some ability for wandless magic.\" At the elder witch\'s quirked eyebrow she elaborated.

\"Apparently, even if you try to deny magical heritage, if you have enough latent power, it will manifest unless you learn to control it, as I did, minus the focal point of a wand.\" Shaluinn snapped her hands down at her sides, fingers spread, as identical ebony wands dropped from her sleeves into her waiting hands. Heading off the next question, she smiled ruefully, \"I\'m ambidextrous, at least with a wand.\"

The redhead brought her hands around, palms up, and opened them, offering the wands for Minerva\'s perusal. Again sensing the next query, as the Headmistress lifted the one from her left palm, she continued. \"They are identical, 13-inch ebony shafts made from a single branch with a core of \'Yamata no Orochi\' heartstring. I suspect Albus\' gave them to the wandmaker with me in mind, and already paid for, as they are simply priceless and I could never have afforded them otherwise.\"

The Headmistress spared the redhead a sideways glance as she turned the deceptively simple, undecorated shaft in her hands before returning it to its owner.

Shaluinn brought her arms down parallel to her sides, palms facing in. With a flex of her wrists outward, and fingers spread, the wands snapped back into her sleeves. \"The best part, is that you can\'t \'Accio\' these wands without knowing their names.\"

\"Indeed,\" the elder witch agreed. \"That is a handy trait.\"

\"Minerva…\" the redhead started and faltered, suddenly fumbling with her words, her cheeks growing pink with repressed embarrassment.

\"Oh, stop pussy-footing around and have out with it!\"

The taller woman let out a light chuckle at the Headmistress\' tone. \"Would you tutor me in Transfigurations?\"

McGonagall was visibly taken aback by the question. \"Whatsoever for? I don\'t understand.\"

Shaluinn ducked her head as she answered, looking a bit sheepish, the expression strangely out of place on the younger witch\'s face.

\"Like I said, I\'ve only had these wands for about six months now and, frankly, that\'s not enough time to become proficient again, even with Albus Dumbledore as your tutor. The wandless stuff I\'ve been doing without really thinking for a long time, but this,\" she gestured like she was waving a wand, \"no longer comes naturally to me.\"

Minerva reached out to place a comforting hand on the redhead\'s arm. \"Of course, my dear. I would be delighted. I\'m sure you will prove a quick study.\"

Shaluinn just barely reigned in the flinch that came in response to the unwanted and unexpected touch, covering the slight movement by smiling brightly back at Minerva. \"Thank you.\"

With the younger woman\'s admission, the question that had been nagging at McGonagall came back to the forefront. When she spoke, it came out as more of a statement. \"Albus\' \'trips\' this past year… He was visiting you!\"

Shaluinn simply nodded in answer, not correcting the woman, who was only partially right.

\"Well! That does explain quite a bit.\" The elder witch let that revelation settle over her for a moment before literally shaking herself. \"Oh dear me, I\'m forgetting myself. These are your quarters,\" she made a sweeping gesture to take in the suite of rooms, \"and your classroom is right next door. There are also both boys\' and girls\' bathrooms on this floor.\"

\"Would it be possible to add changing rooms to those facilities?\" the redhead asked, already thinking ahead to the coming school year.

\"Of course! We will make that one of your Transfigurations projects,\" Minerva answered with a firm nod.

Shaluinn couldn\'t help but smile as the elder witch\'s enthusiasm was infectious. \"Now that that\'s settled, where is this, \'Burrow?\'\"

\"Ah, yes, that.\" Minerva considered the taller woman for a moment. \"I\'m still not so sure about this, but if Albus believes the skills you can impart are necessary…\" she did not finish the thought, her tacit approval evident. \"We should go, as the day is drawing on.\"

The elder witch let Shaluinn lead, again slighty unsettled at the way the redhead simply made a gesture and walked through the wall. She tapped out the opening sequence and followed.

They paused outside the newest professor\'s office, long enough for Shaluinn to drop a wand into her left hand and silently weave several layers of wards, as well as changing the password.

\"You don\'t seem to have lost your skill at that,\" Minerva observed, as she began to move away.

\"The past six months I\'ve spent primarily on relearning that,\" Shaluinn answered. \"I thought they were the most relevant aspect of my education that needed work.\"

Minerva did not answer, merely nodding as she led the way back to the Headmistress\' office, allowing the younger witch a chance to take in her surroundings. When they reached the stone gargoyle she spoke, \"Panthera Leo,\" loud enough for the new professor to hear.

Once back in her office, McGonagall shot Dumbledore\'s portrait her own variant of the \"evil eye,\" before stepping up to the fireplace.

\"Oh, good.\"

Minerva turned back, \"What was that?\"

Shaluinn spread her hands out toward her sides, \"I\'m glad we\'re obviously taking the Floo Network. My Apparating and Disapparating skills are, shall we say, a bit rusty?\"

\"We shall have to work on that as well then.\"

As Minerva reached up to the jar on the mantle, threw a pinch of Floo Powder into the flames, called, \"The Burrow!\" and stepped into the green flames to spin out of sight, Shaluinn turned to stick her now visibly pierced tongue out at Albus Dumbledore\'s painting. The redhead laughed at his answering rude gesture and threw her own pinch of powder in, shouting clearly, \"The Burrow,\" stepped in and spun away.
A/N: Yamata no Orochi (八岐大蛇; often called Orochi in English) is a monster in Japanese mythology. Orochi is alternately described as an eight-headed snake, dragon, or even a Japanese version of the Lernaean Hydra. It is one of the most well-known monsters in Japanese myth. It was slain by the god Susanoo after he was cast out of Heaven.

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Chapter 8026: A Titanic Endeavor

Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Shana: *screaming* HELP!

Kim: *walks in, fingers in ears* Chica, you need to chill!

Shana: You haven\'t seen Snape have you?

Kim: Severus? No. Why?

Shana: *rocking back and forth in chair* Get me out of these, quick!

Kim: *frowning* Why\'re you tied up?

Shana: Stop asking questions and untie me!

Snape: *struts in, brandishes wand at Kim* I strongly suggest you stand aside.

Shana: Awww, shit!

Snape: *prods* That is enough from you. Keep writing.

Kim: *wide-eyed*

Shana: *hissing* Bite me.

Snape: Really. *prods*

Shana: Bite. Me.

Snape: Very well. *bends over and bites woman on neck*

Shana: *whimpers*

Kim: *waves hand in air* Can I get in on this?

Snape: Did I not indicate it would be in your best interests to leave or suffer the consequences?

Kim: If \"consequences\" involve me getting trussed up naked to a bed and ravished by you I say, BRING IT ON!

Snape: Oh my.

Shana: *typing furiously* Hey you brought it on yourself dude. I\'m kinda \"tied up\" at the moment, so you\'re on your own.

Kim: *leers*

Snape: Perhaps a strategic retreat is in order.

Shana: Better run.

Snape: *Disapparates*

Kim: Damn. Shanastay is solely responsible for the mayhem caused by Shaluinn. Everyone else belongs to Rowling.

Chapter 5: A \"Titanic\" Endeavor

Shaluinn fought down the wave of nausea that threatened to overwhelm her as she spun round and round and finally popped out of the fireplace, into the living room of the Weasley clan\'s humble abode, the Burrow.

Professor McGonagall sidestepped, just in time for the hearth to disgorge the taller woman, the redhead dropping to her hands and knees, her eyes squeezed shut and twisted in a painful, ugly expression, soot flying all around her.

Molly walked into the room, wiping her hands on a towel, a tight smile gracing her lips as she caught sight of the Headmistress. \"Minerva, to what do we owe…\" She froze, eyes locked on the crumpled form on her living room floor.

Disheveled and motion-sick from her trip through the Floo, Shaluinn was quite the sight. Her unbound hair had flown every which way and, bent over as she was, and staving off dry-heaves, formed a flaming curtain that hid her green-cast features.

\"Professor Callaway…\" Minerva started to say, only to be cut off by the redhead lifting one arm and making a sweeping, violent gesture that clearly meant, Leave me be!

The two women waited in silence as the figure on the floor shook twice in succession and stilled. With an audible intake of breath, Shaluinn rose from her prone position, flipping her hair back behind her as she attempted to draw her fingers through the now snarled length and only succeeded in making herself grimace in pain. She quickly took in the two women watching her before turning to the one on her left. \"Minerva…?\"

McGonagall already had her wand out and ready.

Callaway snapped her right wrist and that wand dropped into her waiting hand.

With one eyebrow carefully arched, the Headmistress precisely performed the Cleansing Charm on the redhead. Once done, the new UD Professor performed it on her employer, mimicking her exactly.

\"Thank you, Minerva.\"

\"You\'re quite welcome, my dear. You are indeed, a quick study.\" The elder witch turned her attention to the now impatiently waiting matriarch of the Weasley clan. \"I apologize for the sudden intrusion. Molly Weasley, may I present you with Shaluinn Callaway, Hogwarts\' new Unwanded Defense Professor.\"

Shaluinn snapped her wrist, returning her wand to her sleeve, placed her hands together beneath her chin and bowed to the other redhead. \"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Madam.\"

Molly\'s smile was strained, at best, taking in the new arrival\'s strange appearance and manner. \"A pleasure, I\'m sure.\" The mother turned her attention back to the Headmistress. \"Minerva?\"

\"I\'ll try to explain everything, Molly,\" McGonagall said, as she moved to usher the woman back into her kitchen. The Transfigurations Mistress spared Shaluinn a glance, nodding her head towards a door off to the side. \"Harry and the others are most likely outside,\" she advised, as she disappeared into the other room.

Finding herself suddenly alone, Shaluinn decided to follow Minerva\'s advice and went out the indicated door, gathering her hair at the back of her head and beginning to plait it into a single, thick braid as she went.

The American stepped out into the waning late afternoon sunlight, nudging her Ray-Bans back down onto her face with a forearm as she surveyed the area. Finding no one in sight, she took the time to finish the braid, fishing a hair-tie out of a pocket to hold it together. That accomplished, she made her way around the side of the house to find an open area with several picnic tables in it.

Sitting huddled over a book at one of the tables, the woman spotted three distinctive bent heads, one sporting a tangle of unruly black hair, the second having a mane of long, curly chestnut hue and the last sprouting a shock of red that matched that of the woman she had briefly met inside. Almost as one, the trio lifted their heads and turned to look at her with open mistrust and suspicion.

Something that should have occurred to her before that moment flashed through the American witch\'s mind. Exactly how am I supposed to convince these three I\'m here to help them?

An impromptu staring contest, of sorts, ensued as neither party wanted to be the one to make the first move.

Shaluinn was once again forced to consider the potential ramifications of her choice in attire. I must look like a fucking wanna-be Death Eater in all this black, but there was no way I\'d show up in pastels. Steeling herself against the potential confrontation ahead, the woman decided to show her hand first. When in doubt, the direct approach is usually best. Gods, I hope Hermione is even half as smart and level-headed as Albus has led me to believe.

Striding forward, the newest addition to the Hogwarts teaching staff made it a point of pulling off her sunglasses, so the trio before her could see her eyes and, hopefully, the truth in her words. Just like in Jump school, she wasted no time and flung herself headfirst into the ether.

\"Hi, I\'m Shaluinn Callaway. You three must be Harry, Hermione and Ron. Dumbledore sent me. I understand you have some Horcruxes to find and destroy, and a Dark Lord to depose. I\'m here to help you.\"

TBC…

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Chapter 8064: Open Mouth, Insert Foot Here

Disclaimer: (In the Spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Shana: *screaming again*

Snape: Why do you insist on making such an infernal racket?

Shana: Actually, I was kinda hoping you\'d bite me again.

Snape: Really.

Shana: Or you could kiss me. I think that would have better results than biting or prodding. *smiles innocently*

Snape: Hmmm…

Shana: Oh, come ON, you ruddy bastard! You know it\'s been a while since you got to snog a willing woman.

Snape: Hmmm…

Shana: Okay, fine. Do it the hard way. *opens mouth to start screaming again*

Snape: *shuts her up*

Kim: *walks in on Snape snogging Shana* Goddamnit! She has ALL the luck! Shanastay claims ownership of Miss Callaway. All others belong to Rowling. She makes no compensation from this. Unless you count *that*! *points at lip-locked pair*

Chapter 6: Open Mouth, Insert Foot Here

Dead silence greeted the UD professor\'s bald declaration. The three youths before her sat slack-jawed, blinking up at her initially smiling, and now grimacing countenance.

\"That\'s not quite how I envisioned that coming out,\" she declared, throwing up her hands in defeat. \"Well, fuck!\"

The trio before her seemed surprised and somewhat shocked at the sudden, unexpected profanity. Apparently they weren\'t used to \"adults\" cursing around them. I\'m gonna hafta start watching my language, especially come fall. Fuckin-A!

Jamming her Ray-Bans back on her head, Shaluinn spread her now empty hands in entreaty. \"Look, Dumbledore dragged me here all the way from the Pacific Northwest of the USA to help you. If you like, you can ask him, well, his portrait anyway, yourselves.\"

Dubious looks met her latest outburst.

\"Crap. How \'bout I leave you alone to decide for yourselves, and you let me know, eh?\" She pointed toward the other end of the yard. \"I\'ll be over there whenever you\'re ready, or whatever.\" The visibly agitated American stalked away, muttering to herself, \"Brilliant. Just fucking brilliant. Way to go, Shaluinn. That was a great way to gain their confidence…\"

As soon as she made it to the other end of the yard, the woman looked back to see the youths conversing, at least one of them throwing a glance her way at any given time. Letting out a pent-up breath, she shook her head at herself. Diplomacy never was your strong suit.

What to do while I wait? Might as well get some form practice in. Shaluinn proceeded to fish around in her pockets before coming up with the items she needed. Marking off a spot ten paces away and parallel to the trio, she placed one of the items in the grass and stepped back.

Shifting everything over to her left hand, she flexed her right wrist, catching her wand as it dropped out of her sleeve. Concentrating carefully, she practiced the necessary wand movements several times as she recalled the appropriate incantation. Satisfied she was doing it right, Shaluinn focused her mind and performed the spell that would return the piece of shrunken equipment to its original size.

The witch couldn\'t repress the small smirk that graced her lips as a full-size archery target round, resting on its stand, grew up out of the grass. From the corner of her eye, she saw she had a rapt audience. Stepping back the ten paces she\'d mentally marked off, she placed the rest of the items from her left hand in the grass.

Flexing her right wrist and then left, alternately, she switched wands, now performing the enlarging spell with her left hand. A full-size black compound bow with red cams and a hip-quiver filled with red-fletched arrows, that matched the fire-engine shade of the owner\'s hair, rose out of the grass. If there had been any doubt about having the attention of the group on the other end of the yard, it was wiped away as the trio now stared openly.

Positive she would have a little while before they came to a definitive decision Shaluinn returned her wand to her sleeve before shrugging out of her ankle-length, black leather coat and casting it to the side. The doffing of her coat revealed the skin-hugging nature of the attire beneath. The matte black color of the stretchy black top and curve-gripping leather pants went a long way toward hiding the details of her figure, but nothing could disguise its hourglass shape.

The reluctant witch reached up to drop the Ray-Bans back over her eyes before bending to first retrieve the black quiver, with a small red, white and blue banner attached to it, and fasten it about her hips. The red-fletched arrows sat in the forward-facing sleeve, resting against her right side. She removed a black canvas visor with an American flag emblazoned across the brim from the belt, situating it on her head with her bangs settled over the top.

Only then did she pick up the bow, removing and tucking the oversized clothes-pin-looking stand into the back of her belt, and wrapping the red and black braided retaining strap around her left wrist. Eyes on the blank bale before her, she retrieved her release aid from a zippered pocket on the side of the quiver by touch alone. Slipping her right hand through the loop attached to the release, she pulled an arrow and nocked it between the points of the D-loop, the body of the arrow set against the rest. With a flip of her wrist, her release was in hand, the back end of the D-loop caught in its hook.

Taking a stance perpendicular to the target, left side out, focusing totally on form and not worrying about aiming, Shaluinn brought the bow up. Left arm and elbow locked-out, she pulled the string back in one smooth motion, right hand twisting at the end of the draw, so the backs of her knuckles rested against the side of her jaw. With a minute flex of her right shoulder and press of the thumb-button on the release, she let the string and arrow go, left hand relaxing its grip, as the bow dropped forward several degrees in a smooth follow-through.

Without conscious thought, the American dropped her hand to retrieve arrow after arrow, repeating the shot, feeling her way through it. The woman had been shooting for so many long years that the motions no longer required conscious effort on her part. Even aiming, unless it was a live and moving target, took only a minimum of thought. That was why this had become her favorite, and preferred method of relaxation, even as it won her a gold medal at the World Championships, years prior.

The witch hadn\'t been sure what to think of the reaction she garnered from the then Headmaster Dumbledore after he had spent an hour watching her shoot. He told her that the entire time, the only thoughts he could read off her were, \"Nock. Clip. Pull. Snap,\" or some variant of those. He claimed he\'d never encountered a more effective block against Legilimency, not even in those individuals highly skilled in Occlumency.

He even tested his theory further, having her merely sit and think about shooting archery, with the same, supposedly, impressive results. Even with various distractions, her focus was so total that the shell she had created around her mind never broke. Shaluinn knew that, to a certain extent, she lost awareness of the outside world, and frankly, she wasn\'t sure that was a good thing.

But right here and now, in the Weasleys\' backyard, Shaluinn allowed that totality of focus to fall around her until the entirety of the world consisted of her, her bow and arrows, and the blank bale. It wasn\'t until she\'d emptied her quiver of target arrows that she registered the fact that someone was calling her name, and probably had been for some time.

The UD professor turned to her right to see that Molly and Minerva had joined the three youths, and it was the Headmistress who had been calling her. Deciding to have a spot of fun at the lot\'s expense, Shaluinn retrieved a broadhead arrow from the quiver and nocked it. Looking past the group, she zoomed in on her intended target, reaching over to adjust her sight with a twist of a knob. She snapped the release onto the D-loop and drew, aiming (or so it looked) right at the openly staring group, tracking her quarry for a half-second before popping the release.

Molly Weasley didn\'t even have time to gasp, as the broadhead arrow neatly skewered one of her forever annoying garden gnomes, dropping it to the ground.

Minerva, on the other hand, looked rather irritated at her newest employee\'s blatantly inflammatory antics.

Harry, Ron and Hermione were once again staring at her open-mouthed, though with Molly present that didn\'t last long, and they quickly schooled their features.

Shaluinn pulled the bow stand from the back of her belt and clipped it to the bottom limb of her bow before settling the weapon on the ground. She then strode to stand before McGonagall, quiver slapping against her thigh as she walked. The woman brought her hands up before her chest, palms together, and waited.

Staunchly refusing to appear surprised, or unnerved, by the strange woman before her, Minerva McGonagall mustered up every bit of dignity she had as she spoke. \"I\'m returning to Hogwarts now. When you are through here, Floo back to my office and apprise me of your status. I will also have some \'homework\' waiting for you.\" Her eyes twinkled, and the corners of her mouth turned up at that last. \"Now, do behave yourself.\"

She then turned her attention to the three sitting at the picnic table. \"Harry, Ron, Hermione, do take care of yourselves.\" She turned. \"Molly, always lovely to see you.\" With that, the Headmistress turned on her heel and marched back toward the house.

Shaluinn turned her attention to a slowly simmering Molly.

\"Please, put those things away. I don\'t need dangerous things like that lying around.\"

\"But Mom…\" a male voice whined off to Shaluinn\'s right.

The much taller redhead decided to break in, \"Of course, Madam,\" and made a small bow before maneuvering past to collect the broadhead arrow.

On her way back, Shaluinn paused as she passed Molly, reading a question written on the other woman\'s face.

\"How old are you, dear?\"

The American smiled, \"Thirty-eight,\" she turned her gaze to the three at the table and winked, \"though I\'m regularly accused of being much younger.\"

That set off a series of whispers and elbows nudged into ribs, as the tall redhead carefully retrieved and shrank her equipment while Molly returned to the house and preparing dinner. As Callaway replaced the last item in her pockets, she caught sight of Harry approaching, a determined look fixed on his face.

\"Accio wands!\"

Shaluinn\'s head snapped up and around at the sharply verbalized command, her eyes narrowing at the young man, now standing several feet away from her, wand drawn. She left her coat on the ground and rose to her feet, her heeled boots giving her an inch or so over the young man with the lightning scar.

Confusion and disbelief warred on Harry\'s face, as Ron and Hermione simultaneously cried, \"Accio wands!\" from behind him.

Again, nothing happened.

The American witch paled as she realized what was probably coming next, dismayed that she\'d fucked things up bad enough for the three youths to come at her like this.

\"Expelliarmus!\" all three cried together. Three dazzling flashes of light flew at the UD professor, the American diving and rolling on the ground, just narrowly missed by the spells.

Rolling to her knees, she raised both hands and snapped her wrists, wands dropping. \"Accio wands!\" The trio\'s wands flew out of their hands and into hers. She swiftly tucked the wooden shafts into the back of her waistband. The woman concentrated, lifted both wands and waved them silently in the air, Hermione and Harry both locking up and falling over in Full Body Bind Curses, followed by Ron.

Callaway walked to stand over Harry so she could meet his very torqued gaze. \"Might as well calm yourself, Mr. Potter. You chose to approach me in such a manner, so you only have yourself to blame.\" She let him search her gaze, to see for himself that she was totally calm, and deadly serious.

So all three could hear her, she continued, \"Lesson the First: I am not your enemy, nor should you make one of me. I picked up a great deal during the decade I lived in Japan, which, by the way, is where my wands are from. Lesson the Second: You have got to shut your mouths when spell-casting in combat. The split-second advantage it gives you literally means the difference between life and death. I can\'t teach you that. It will come only with concentration and practice.\"

The American moved away from Harry and over toward Hermione, bending her wrists to re-seat her wands out of the way. As she neared the younger witch, she waved her hands, ending the incantation and purposely turning her back on the most dangerous side of the triangle. Callaway was impressed that the brunette did not immediately rush her, considering first. The end result was the same, either way.

Predictably, Hermione went for their wands. Anticipating this, the American spun to the right as she sidestepped, using the centrifugal force, plus the younger witch\'s forward momentum, against her. Callaway caught Hermione\'s right wrist in her right hand, her left hand coming up to push against the brunette\'s right shoulder, taking her to the ground, arm twisted and bent up at an awkward angle, the professor\'s left knee in the small of Hermione\'s back.

Ron tried to swoop in to the rescue, only to be tripped by Callaway\'s right leg, the American\'s right foot swinging back to pin his prone form painfully, by the neck, partially cutting off his airway. Thankfully, Harry stood back, actually paying attention.

\"Lesson the Third: And this is the most important one. You may at some point find yourself wandless that does NOT mean you are defenseless!\" With that, she released her two captives. Standing swiftly, she offered a hand up each to Ron and Hermione.

Ron eyed it for a second before waving it off.

Hermione had her left knee up and reached for the proffered hand with her left across her body. Recognizing what was about to happen, Callaway resisted only enough to make it \"real\" and let the younger witch pull her left arm across her body as she stood, left hand pinned to the brunette\'s left hip, Hermione\'s right hand sliding around and over the American\'s upper arm until the blade of the younger witch\'s hand pressed in painfully, forcing Callaway to bend at the waist.

Already knowing what came next, the American was able to cushion her descent, as Hermione then took a step to the left and pivoted with her hips, falling to her right knee, dropping the professor to the ground in a textbook, balance-disruption and take-down technique.

Callaway twisted her head to look up at the brunette as she felt the wands tucked in her waistband being removed. \"Excellent, Miss Granger! This is exactly what I\'m talking about!\" She then easily twisted out of Hermione\'s grip, rolling back to her feet. \"You perceived weak positioning and sought to use it to your advantage. Flawless arm-bar take-down by the way. Of the three of you, I had hoped you had received some self-defense training. This will make my job that much easier.\"

Harry was the one who blurted out what was evidently on all three youths\' minds.

\"Who the ruddy hell are you?\"

TBC…

A/N: A HUGE thank you to everyone who has reviewed! I adore feedback and the more encouragement I get, the more I tend to write. I already have a total of 11 chapters written! Please, continue to feed the authoress!

A compound bow is a modern bow that has pulleys or cams at the end of each limb through which the bow string passes. As the bow is pulled back (drawn) the pulleys or cams turn which, in turn, reduce the amount of force needed to completely draw the bow. The archer usually uses a release aid to hold the string steadily and release it precisely. This attaches to the bowstring at a point and permits the archer to release the string with a pull of a trigger. With less force required to hold a compound bow at draw, the muscles take longer to fatigue, thus giving a compound archer more time to aim.

An arrow consists of a long and thin shaft made from aluminum or carbon fiber composite. It is pointed or armed with an arrowhead at one end and with a nock or notch in the other. Arrowheads (specifically multi-blade broadheads) fit hunting and military purpose better than a mere point, which is mostly useful for target-shooting. Near the notch end are vanes, which keep the arrow pointed in the direction of travel by strongly damping down any tendency to pitch or yaw. There are often three vanes, but many fletchings have four or even more. They are now often made of plastic bound to the arrow\'s shaft.
Check out this link if you have any other questions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archery

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Chapter 1296790886: Fatal Attraction

Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Shana: *sitting in chair, staring off into space, a goofy look on her face*

Kim: *poke* Hon?

Shana: *heavy sigh*

Kim: *blink* What the hell? *notices wizard lurking in dark corner*

Snape: *innocently inspecting fingernails*

Kim: YOU!

Snape: *looks up* Are you addressing me, madam?

Kim: You\'re damn straight I\'m talkin\' to you!

Snape: *eyebrow*

Kim: Oh, no you don\'t! That look will not work on me!

Snape: *drops first brow, lifts opposite one* Really?

Kim: *melts* Okay, I give!

Snape: *smirks*

Kim: Shanastay owns only Shaluinn. All others belong to the genius of JK Rowling. No monies are made on this. But *points* can I keep him?

Shana: *still in a daze* No.

Kim: Damn.

Chapter 7: Fatal Attraction

It had been just over a week since Dumbledore\'s death, and Severus found himself pacing back and forth like a caged animal. He could take about half a dozen steps before hitting a wall. The Potions master was quickly wearing a rut in the carpet.

Voldemort had appropriated an abandoned Muggle estate in the countryside as the Death Eaters\' base of operations. The manor house was a sprawling conglomeration of old architecture and modern additions. The last owner had gone bankrupt with all the work done on the house, and the bank had repossessed it several years prior. The estate had lain empty until the wizards had moved in. The realtor and bank handling the property had subsequently, and rather conveniently, \"forgotten\" about it.

Snape\'s suite was second in size only to the Dark Lord\'s, befitting the man who had taken out one of the greatest wizards in history.

Disgust, shame, and self-loathing warred for supremacy within the tightly-controlled former professor. It was all making him ill. More than half the food he managed to choke down came back up later. If possible, his skin had become even more sallow and his hair greasier. He couldn\'t feel, not really, not where he currently stood.

In the middle of Death Eater Ground Zero he could not afford to show even the tiniest bit of emotion contrary to the cause. He could not drop his guard for a moment. He could not get drunk. He could not let himself go. He could not grieve. He couldn\'t even place adequate wards on his rooms to keep others out without arousing suspicion.

The tall, thin man ceased his pacing before one of the two wing-back chairs, the only furniture that occupied the sitting room. Turning slightly, Severus lifted both hands to run his fingers through his hair as he dropped into the chair behind him. Snape let his left hand fall to the arm of the chair, his right elbow against the armrest. His right index and thumb came up to pinch the bridge of his nose, his brow furrowed against the now-constant migraine he was nursing.

He had no other options. He had to get out of there. The question was, how?

Lost in thought and concentration, Severus somehow missed the presence that invaded his rooms. That is, until two slender, pale arms slid up and over the back of the chair he was seated in, to grasp his tensed shoulders.

Snape\'s reaction was immediate. He flew up, out of the chair, spinning to face the unwelcome visitor, wand drawn, robes flaring out around him. His eyes narrowed further as he perceived the long, wavy, black hair and the black eyes lit by insanity peering at him over the back of the chair.

\"Bellatrix.\"

\"Ssssseverussss…\" the unquestionably loyal Death Eater hissed back.

Wand still at the ready, Snape let his irritation show through in his voice. \"I do not have time for your games, Bellatrix. What do you want? Does our Lord require my presence?\" he snapped.

The woman cocked her head to the side, seeming to consider the questions. She slid around the chair toward the Potions master as she answered. \"Noooo… Sssseverussss… I came to ssssseeeeee how you were doing,\" she drawled in a manner that was meant to be seductive.

Snape narrowed his eyes, his suspicions aroused. Voldemort is sure of my loyalties now. She must be here on her own. I shouldn\'t be surprised. Even after being the Bonder at my taking of the Unbreakable Vow, and its subsequent fulfillment, she does not trust me. Sadly, she is right. \"I am fine, as you can see,\" he sneered, tucking his wand away and crossing his arms over his chest as he glared down his prominent nose at the woman.

He smoothly sidestepped as she approached, carefully keeping the dangerous woman in front of him and himself from being cornered. Had there been music playing, they almost would have looked like they were dancing with the way they circled each other.

Snape knew better than to trust Bellatrix Lestrange. Beyond the obvious fact that she was nuttier than a bag of mixed nuts, the witch was entirely too perceptive. Trying to put an end to this game, the dark wizard asked again, \"What do you want?\"

The woman again tried to approach the Potions master, who dodged her advances. Bellatrix tried on a pouting expression, purring, \"Severus, why do you keep avoiding me? I know you haven\'t really celebrated your triumph over that old fool. I thought I might help you…\" she offered.

It was hard for Snape to keep his face impassive at Lestrange\'s denigration of Dumbledore. Voice smooth as silk, he sneered, \"You are only partially right, Mrs. Lestrange. I have not, and have no desire to celebrate with you.\"

Bellatrix\'s eyes flashed as she struck, wand out. \"How dare you! Crucio!\"

Snape deflected the curse with a wave of his hand. \"Really, Bella, I expected more from you,\" he sniped nastily, clearly baiting the woman.

Predictably, the insane Death Eater rose to the insult. Face twisted horribly, the black-haired witch screamed, \"Avad…\"

Severus already had his wand out and countered, \"Petrificus Totalus!\" He allowed the sneer that threatened to rise to his lips as he strode to stand over the woman where she had fallen. Snape stared into the baleful eyes glaring up at him. \"Bella, Bella, Bella. What shall I do with you?\"

Snape swiftly turned away, not wanting Lestrange to see anything that his expression might let slip. Could this be it? Could it be this simple? Bellatrix Lestrange has unintentionally handed me my way out of this quasi-house arrest. Carefully wiping any traces of the sudden elation he was feeling from his face, Severus turned back to the witch on the floor. \"I do believe I have found a solution to the impasse we are in.\"

Severus waved a hand as he muttered, \"Finite Incantatum.\" As soon as Lestrange started to move he waved his wand and cried, \"Imperio!\" The Potions master nodded as Bellatrix took on the compliant, lethargic look of one under the Imperius curse. \"Now, Mrs. Lestrange, we are going to have a little chat with our Dark Lord about your recent behavior. Follow me.\" He swept out of the room, followed by the now obedient woman.

-----------------------------------------------------

\"Who the ruddy hell are you?\"

\"Yeah! Start talking, lady!\" Ron demanded, crossing his arms over his chest.

Like his words were some sort of strange cue, white fire lanced up Shaluinn\'s right thigh to settle in her right hip. Oh, fuckin\' A! Perfect timing! Valiantly trying to suppress a reactionary grimace, every muscle in her face tensed and her lips pursed, a vein throbbing visibly at her left temple. The woman unobtrusively shifted her weight to her left leg, her right hand rising, palm flat, to press firmly against her afflicted hip.

Realizing how her stance must look, she chose to let them think it was arrogance, confidence, whatever, consciously subverting the throbbing pain to the back of her mind. And so I pay the price for actually pulling off those moves. Gods, I wish being out of practice was all there was to this. For just a moment, she let doubt creep in. Did Albus even try to take into account how far along I would be? Will I actually be able to complete the tasks he set before me?

Brows furrowed in what she hoped would pass for concern or seriousness, Callaway looked from Harry, to Ron, to Hermione\'s face. Miss Granger was the only one clearly considering events up to that point. Shaluinn focused on the young brunette, knowing she was the key to the new UD professor\'s success at this point. \"I do believe Miss Granger has something to add.\"

Hermione met the redhead\'s gaze. Shaluinn could practically hear the gears working in the young woman\'s head. Please GOD make a decision so I can either leave or sit down. As it is, I don\'t know if I\'ll be able to even take a step without collapsing.

The brunette looked between her two best friends before looking back to the American. \"It\'s okay, guys. I think we can trust her, for now.\"

Callaway released the breath she\'d been holding, her chin dropping to her chest. Taking a deep breath to steady her, the redhead looked back up, smiling. \"Thank you, Miss Granger. Professor Dumbledore advised me to look to you when a matter involved logical reasoning.\"

The new UD professor made to walk past the trio to stand by the picnic table they had vacated. Despite her best efforts, her right leg nearly crumpled as she put weight on it, an audible breath forced from her chest. She just managed to catch herself, teeth clenched, and moving stiffly. Luckily her back was to them so they couldn\'t see her expression. Still trying to salvage the situation, she offered, \"Just a cramp. I wasn\'t anticipating that sort of physical activity.\" You bloody wish it was just a cramp. She waved them over. \"Perhaps we should sit down to discuss this.\"

\"\'Mione?\" Ron asked his friend incredulously.

Her impatience showing through, Hermione watched the American\'s stilted movements very carefully before snapping, \"Ron, shut up and sit down. It can\'t hurt for us to hear what she has to say.\" The brunette then took a seat on the side opposite the woman, closing the book that had lain open on the tabletop.

Ron made a sound of disgust but relented, moving to sit beside his friend, his hand coming to rest against the small of her back.

Callaway didn\'t fail to notice the gesture, filing it away for further consideration.

Harry waited until the redheads both took seats before joining the group.

Ron decided to pipe up again. \"You know we\'re going to check this out with Dumbledore\'s portrait, right?\"

\"Of course. By all means. But I believe I may have something with me that will help convince you.\" The woman flexed her left wrist to drop her wand and murmured, \"Accio coat!\" Garment in hand, she pulled Dumbledore\'s letter from an inside pocket and dropped the folded piece of parchment on top of the thick book sitting in the center of the table.

Hermione immediately snatched up the parchment, unfolding and laying it out for all three to see.

Twisting his head so he could read it better, Harry\'s brows furrowed as he looked from the parchment to the woman sitting beside him and back again. Finished, he turned his full attention to the American.

\"So, what does your \'unique assistance\' involve, and what is this \'position\' Professor Dumbledore was going to give you?\" Potter questioned, suspicion still coloring his tone, arms crossed over his chest, eyes narrowed.

\"Both perfectly reasonable and valid questions, Mr. Potter. I will answer the second one first,\" Callaway replied. \"The \'position\' I have been given at Hogwarts is that of \'Unwanded Defense Professor.\' Basically, I will be teaching the wizarding equivalent of self-defense/unarmed combat.\"

\"Martial arts,\" Hermione murmured, understanding crossing her face. \"You\'ll be teaching hand-to-hand tactics.\"

The woman nodded. \"Exactly, Miss Granger.\"

Ron piped up then. \"So what about this \'unique assistance\' you\'re supposed to provide?\"

\"Professor Dumbledore charged me with teaching you, all of you, any and all skills I thought you would need or find useful in your \'quest.\'\" The American turned toward Harry. \"Speaking of which, I know you destroyed the diary and Dumbledore, the ring. Before he was killed, were you and he able to retrieve and destroy a third Horcrux?\"

Ron interjected, \"What do you know of Horcruxes?\" as both Harry and Hermione nodded in agreement.

Callaway kept her attention on Harry, instinctively knowing he was the one she really had to convince now. \"There are, were, at least seven pieces of the Snake-Snogger\'s soul contained in various objects. Riddle\'s diary was one. Marvolo\'s ring was two. Slytherin\'s locket would be three. Hufflepuff\'s cup makes four. Nagini, the snake, is perhaps number five, which leaves something of Gryffindor\'s and Ravenclaw\'s as numbers six and seven. Have I sufficiently covered all of them?\"

The three youths were staring at the woman with dazed expressions, apparently shocked that someone other than their trio had been privy to this tremendous secret.

Taking advantage of the silence, the American added, \"I am entirely at your disposal. Anything within my power that I can do for you, I will. The only information I have is that which Dumbledore chose to share with me. And being as I am not from around here - yes, I realize that may be the understatement of the year - I can only help you so much with the search for the Horcruxes. I can cover your backs and assist you, but other than giving you a complete outsider\'s perspective, in that area I will probably be of little help.\"

Again, Ron was the one to open his mouth. \"So of what use are you to us, then?\"

\"The Restricted Section!\"

\"What?\"
\"Huh?\"

Callaway and Ron both responded to Hermione\'s words with confusion.

The brunette looked pleadingly at both Ron and Harry before returning her excited gaze to the American. \"The Restricted Section. As a professor at Hogwarts you can grant us access to the library\'s Restricted Books Section!\" The young witch\'s caramel colored eyes were alight with eagerness.

\"Only you would be thinking about getting at those books at a time like this, Hermione,\" Ron huffed in annoyance.

The redhead received an elbow to the ribs for his trouble as the witch admonished, \"Do you have any better ideas about where to start tracking down the Horcruxes?\"

\"No,\" he admitted, rubbing his offended side.

Bemused, but more than willing to go along, the professor offered, \"Whatever you need. Do I write you some kind of pass?\"

\"Yes!\" The brunette conjured a quill and parchment, sliding them across the tabletop to Callaway who, one manicured eyebrow arched, began writing. Practically bouncing in her seat, Hermione looked across at her messy-haired best friend. \"Harry, this makes our research so much easier! We don\'t have to explain anything to Professor McGonagall to get into the Restricted Section. This is what Professor Dumbledore must have intended.\"

The American nodded as she slid the parchment and quill back. \"I\'ll do whatever I can, no questions asked.\" The woman decided to be blunt. \"Frankly, I don\'t feel qualified to teach you anything magical, as I\'m two decades worth of rusty on some of the simplest of spells and charms. I guarantee you know more than I\'ve managed to forget over twenty years of living as a Muggle. That\'s the reason for Professor McGonagall\'s mention of \'homework\' waiting for me when I return. I\'ve spent the past six months refreshing my memory, as it were, in areas I deemed of most import, mainly warding and shields, with a few hexes thrown in for good measure. The Headmistress has kindly agreed to continue the private tutoring Professor Dumbledore started so that I might get up to speed as quickly as possible.\"

Callaway smiled wryly at the confusion and annoyance visibly warring on the other redhead\'s face. \"Professor Dumbledore believed that the skills I can impart to you will help you. Remember, not all of my skills are magically-based. Or have you already forgotten how I skewered that gnome a little while ago?\"

\"Of course!\" Hermione exclaimed. At her compatriots\' confused looks she elaborated, \"We\'re in the middle of a magical war. The last thing He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named would expect would be for us to employ Muggle tactics.\"

\"I can see why Dumbledore referred to you as \'The brightest witch of our time,\'\" the American acknowledged.

\"Thank you.\" The brunette blushed lightly at the unexpected compliment.

\"Soooo…\" The Professor looked back at Harry.

In answer, Harry drew out of his pocket the locket he and Dumbledore had retrieved that fateful night and set it on the tabletop.

Callaway drew in an audible breath, her eyes widening. \"Is that…?\"

\"No,\" Harry cut her off. \"It\'s a fake.\" He pulled out the fragment of parchment that had been inside, handing it to the redhead.

Shaluinn looked from the fragment, to Harry\'s very serious face and back to the parchment, before unfolding and reading it.

\"To the Dark Lord
I know I will be dead long before you read this
but I want you to know it was I who discovered your secret.
I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.
I face death in the hope that when you meet your match,
you will be mortal once more.
R.A.B.\" 1


\"Shit!\" A grim expression grew on the woman\'s face as she read. Folding the parchment back up, she handed it to Harry before lifting the decoy locket off the table and examining it with disgust. \"Lovely, someone else is out there playing hero. Unfortunately, we cannot assume the real Horcrux has actually been destroyed.\" She dropped the piece of cheap jewelry into Harry\'s outstretched hand. \"Any leads on who this, \'R.A.B.\' is?\"

\"None that fit,\" Hermione admitted. \"It has to be someone the Dark Lord knew and would recognize by their initials.\"

\"I\'m sure you\'re right,\" Callaway acknowledged. \"Now, am I correct in my summation that you three will not be returning to Hogwarts come fall?\"

Shock, once again, was written all over the trio\'s faces.

\"How could you possibly…\" Ron started.

\"…know?\" Callaway finished for him.

\"We haven\'t told anyone yet,\" Harry protested.

\"Look, it only makes sense, to me anyway, what with my convoluted \'American logic\' and all. It\'s what I would do,\" the woman explained. \"No one is safe, and this war will not end until that bastard is killed. For that to happen, all the fragmented pieces of Voldemort\'s sick soul must be neutralized. From what I\'ve been told about you, Mr. Potter, I assumed you\'d make it your first priority to find these Horcruxes and take out Whats-His-Face. And wherever you go, it\'s my understanding Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley are sure to follow.\" The redhead smiled ruefully. \"In America, you\'d probably be referred to as \'The Dream Team.\'\"

\"How could you possibly know all this?\" Hermione asked, still somewhat incredulous.

\"I know a lot more than I can say, and before you ask, don\'t ask. I will share with you all that I am able.\" Callaway tried for a reassuring expression. \"What I know either Dumbledore told me, or I surmised it from what he told me. Oh, and I do know about the \'Prophecy.\'\"

Looking at the three silent, serious youths before her, Shaluinn threw out her final question. \"So, do I pass your little \'interrogation\'?\"

\"I still want to talk to Dumbledore\'s portrait, but for the time being, you\'re in,\" Harry answered for the group.

\"Excellent!\" Callaway exclaimed, clapping her hands together and standing, albeit stiffly. \"Please advise me of when and where you would like to start your training and what you actually want to learn. I was a master of kata - sorry, swordplay - as well as hand-to-hand tactics. I am now residing at Hogwarts. If I am not there, Headmistress McGonagall will know where to find me. It has been a pleasure meeting you.\"

After bowing respectfully, the woman gathered her coat and strode back toward the house. Grimacing and gritting her teeth against the renewed pain, she forced her stride to remain smooth, followed by the bemused stares of the trio at the table. At least my glamour is still solidly in place. Had that dropped, I would have lost everything.

\"I\'m not sure what to make of that woman, but for some reason I feel we can trust her,\" Hermione admitted amid concurring nods from Ron and Harry.

\"Did you get a look at the size of her…?\" Ron started to blurt out, only to be cut off by Hermione smacking him on the back of the head.

Harry laughed out loud, his head thrown back, as Ron proceeded to rub his head and pout, while Hermione glared openly at the youngest male Weasley.

Callaway allowed herself to smile as she heard the WHAP! followed by Harry laughing. Doesn\'t matter how young or old they are, guys just seem to fixate on my breasts. Good thing too as I\'m not exactly supermodel material in the looks department. Turning the corner of the house and out of the group\'s line of sight, Shaluinn let out the breath she was holding. Desperate to take pressure off her screaming right hip, she slumped against the side of the edifice for support, breathing shallowly until the pain receded to a tolerable level. Again centered, she pushed away from the wall.

Hoping to avoid a confrontation, the redheaded archer snuck into the house proper and silently made her way to the fireplace. Taking a pinch of powder from the jar beside it, she murmured, \"Hogwarts Headmistress\' office, Panthera Leo,\" as she stepped into the green flames and spun away.

The American missed the openly suspicious gaze of Molly Weasley from around the corner. Something about this just isn\'t right, and I\'m going to get to the bottom of it.

TBC…


1 Excerpt from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince p. 609

A/N: Some major alterations have been made to Chapter 6 in response to some discrepancies pointed out by a reviewer (to whom I issue a heart-felt thank you). You may wish to re-read that chapter as it does change things. In response to a comment about the OFC\'s looks here is a basic explanation. Shaluinn is based on a very real-life person. Callaway is 5\'7\" with ass-length flaming red hair, emerald green eyes, and an hourglass figure with hips balancing out her sizeable chest. Her facial features, other than her eyes, are pretty much average and unremarkable. Her high level of physical fitness has allowed her to pass for someone much younger than her age, but she is sporting a glamour that adds to this illusion. The exact nature and purpose of this glamour (which isn\'t to draw attention or make herself more attractive) will be revealed in an upcoming chapter. Perhaps the fact that I have withheld certain pertinent particulars has added to the \"unreality\" of the character. For this I apologize. I hope you will bear with me and continue to read. A great deal will be revealed in the next several chapters as things pick up. Callaway is not invincible or infallible. Her wands are special and unique, which will be explained later as well. I\'d like to keep up some pretense of mystery.

Thank you to everyone who has read and/or reviewed. Your feedback and support mean more to me than I can express.

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Chapter 1296790912: Shadows of the Past

Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Snape: *prod*

Shana: *whips around, snags wand* ENOUGH with the prodding!

Snape: *smirking*

Shana: *waving wrong end of wand* What are you smirking at? I have your wand!

Snape: *still smirking*

Shana: *stops waving wand* This can\'t be good.

Snape: *grinning evilly*

Shana: Ok, this really can\'t be good. *turns toward computer*

Snape: *snaps authoress\' bra strap*

Shana: YIPE! *flies out of seat, dropping wand*

Snape: *retrieves wand, points it threateningly*

Shana: Ow! *rubs back* Good lord, man!

Snape: Wizard.

Shana: *throws up hands* Whatever. Didn\'t anyone ever tell you, \"You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?\"

Snape: Yes, and you do not own me or any character other than Shaluinn and those related to her. We are the intellectual property of JK Rowling.

Shana: We will have a chat about this later.

Snape: I\'m sure. *prod*

Chapter 8: Shadows of the Past

Bellatrix Lestrange was a very strong-willed witch. Snape had to reapply the Imperius Curse multiple times before they reached Voldemort\'s suite. Standing outside the heavy oak door, Severus lifted his hand to knock, only to be preempted by a hissed, \"Enter!\"

The Potions master opened the door, followed by Bellatrix. He strode purposely forward to where the Dark Lord was seated, dropping to one knee as he bent to kiss the hem of Voldemort\'s robe. He remained bent, waiting for the serpent\'s acknowledgement.

\"Rise, Severus. I\'m sure you have a good reason for coming to see me, as well as to why you have put my dear Bella under the Imperius,\" the slit-nosed bastard hissed.

Snape stood, meeting Voldemort\'s gaze squarely. Purposefully placing the altercation with Bellatrix at the forefront of his mind, he answered carefully. \"My liege, Mrs. Lestrange entered my rooms without leave and attempted to assault me.\"

The Dark Lord\'s nonexistent eyebrows rose. \"Really, now.\"

Snape turned his head slightly toward his captive. \"Bellatrix, tell our Lord what you were doing in my rooms.\"

Lestrange\'s face screwed up as she visibly fought the Imperius.

\"NOW!\" Severus snarled.

\"I...­ I...­ I\'M GOING TO KILL YOU, YOU TRAITOR!\" the witch screamed as she broke free of the curse and flung herself at Snape, eyes wild and hands curled into claws.

Severus jerked back and away as he drew his wand, lips forming a curse as he heard a calmly hissed, \"Crucio!\" and watched the witch drop to the ground, writhing in pain.

\"Severus, it would seem you have a problem,\" Voldemort spoke over the sounds of his follower\'s cries.

Understatement! Snape dropped back to one knee, his head bent. \"Milord, what do I need to do to prove my loyalty to you?\"

\"Severus, please, as much as I appreciate your eagerness to serve me, it is unnecessary.\"

Snape lifted his head as he felt the tap on his shoulder. He stood slowly, keeping his eyes on Voldemort\'s, wondering in the back of his mind if this was a trap. Behind him, Bellatrix\'s cries dropped to moans as the Dark Lord lifted the curse.

\"My Lord?\"

\"Severus, I have no issue with you. You have proven your worth to me beyond my greatest expectations. But it would seem you have a bit of a problem with my dear Bella here. How do you propose I handle this? Hmmm?\" Voldemort asked as he sat back in his plush \"throne.\"

\"Milord, Mrs. Lestrange is quite adamant in her belief that I am a traitor. I wonder if, perhaps, removing the source of her ire might alleviate some of her frustration,\" Snape offered.

\"Leave us!\" Voldemort ordered the witch who had begun to rise behind the Potions master.

Bellatrix quickly complied, but not before throwing a look filled with utter contempt and vile promise at Snape\'s back, a look that Voldemort did not fail to notice.

\"Severus, as much as I\'m sure Bellatrix loved hearing the suggestion that killing you is the answer, I find that I\'m more than a bit fond of you and enjoy your continued existence.\"

Snape dipped his head in deference, \"Thank you, Milord.\"

\"I believe I have a better alternative you may consider,\" the serpent teased his servant.

\"What do you suggest?\" Severus rose to the bait, hoping the Dark Lord had arrived at the conclusion he had been pointed toward.

\"I believe I have been unduly monopolizing your time, my dear boy. I know this estate is more than a little lacking in the way of reading materials, and I do remember how voraciously you devour books. I\'m surprised you haven\'t succumbed to \'cabin fever\' already.\" He winked at the Potions master.

Now that was disturbing. \"My Lord, I live to serve you!\" Snape protested.

Voldemort made a dismissive gesture. \"Yes, yes, and you\'ve done a more than admirable job of indulging my whims. I was very impressed at how you maintained your composure during our discussion of my choice in robes.\" Red eyes gleamed with mirth.

\"I...­ do not understand,\" Snape admitted.

Voldemort laughed harshly, his head thrown back as the Potions master allowed confusion to show on his face.

\"Bellatrix won\'t leave my side, and I can\'t have you both here without a potential conflagration. Severus, I believe the best course in handling her is, \'Out of sight, out of mind.\' Wouldn\'t you agree?\"

\"As always, Milord is most wise,\" Snape demurred.

The Dark Lord made shooing motions with both hands. \"Go, Severus. I realize how much like a barren cage this place is for someone like you. I\'m sure you will take all necessary precautions not to be caught since you are now the second most notorious wizard in the world.\" The disfigured Lord shook one finger at Snape. \"But mind me should I summon you.\"

The Potions master could not believe his good fortune and bent to kiss the Dark Lord\'s hem again. \"Of course, my Master. I live by your whim.\"

\"That you do, Severus. That you do,\" Voldemort agreed, nodding. \"Oh, send Bella in, would you?\"

Not wanting to chance ol\' Moldibutt changing his mind, Snape quickly left, pausing outside the suite\'s door to sneer openly at Bellatrix and hold the portal open as the visibly enraged witch swept past him and inside.

It was with a very satisfied smirk that Snape made his way out of the manor and to the edge of the property. Like Hogwarts, anti-Apparition wards had been placed around the estate, besides it being under the Fidelius Charm. Severus allowed a rare smile to grace his face as he Apparated directly into his study at Spinner\'s End.

Once there, he waved a hand at the hearth, lighting a fire, before sinking down into his favorite chair. He still had to figure out if Albus\' mission had succeeded. But for the moment, he finally had the time and the privacy to grieve.

Slumping forward in his chair, elbows on his knees, hands covering his face, he did something he would never allow anyone, other than Albus on that one occasion, to witness. He broke down. The dam that had been holding back all his pent-up emotions burst, and they came pouring forth. The tall, thin man\'s frame shook as it was wracked by great, shuddering sobs.

Knowing the Silencing Spells and wards would easily hold, with fists clenched so tight his short-trimmed nails drew blood, Severus lifted his tear-streaked face to the invisible heavens, howling his rage and frustration until his throat was so raw, no sound emerged. Overwrought and utterly drained, he dropped back into the chair and passed out, exhaustion finally overtaking him.

The only light in the windowless room was that of the dying fire. The flames revealed the planes and angles of the face of a man prematurely aged by violent circumstances. At least in sleep, for the moment, he found some peace.

------------------------------------------------

Shaluinn staggered out of the hearth in Minerva\'s office, this time catching her balance after several steps, instead of falling down on all fours. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply for several beats, waiting for the nausea and pain to pass and then turned her attention to the expectant Headmistress.

\"Well?\" McGonagall peered over her reading glasses at Callaway.

\"Well, I think that went better than I expected. They will be coming to speak to you,\" she directed her statement at Dumbledore\'s portrait, \"probably in the next few days.\" Shaluinn looked back to Minerva. \"In the meantime, I do believe I shall get settled in and get a feel for my new home.\"

\"That\'s fine, dear. Your \'homework\' will be to get as much accomplished on your suite as possible. I will come by tomorrow then, and see what we can do in the way of transfiguring anything you are unable to today. We\'ll see then what aspects you need remediation in.\"

\"Thank you, Minerva,\" Shaluinn answered, bowing before turning to go.

Just as she reached the door, McGonagall called out, \"I almost forgot. The day after tomorrow is Bill and Fleur\'s wedding at the Burrow. So, if you notice there is virtually no one around, that is where we will be. I do hope that won\'t be a problem.\"

The redhead smiled back at the elder witch. \"Minerva, if there\'s one thing I\'ve gotten very good at over the years, it\'s being able to find ways to entertain myself. Don\'t worry about me.\"

\"Of course not, my dear. Run along, now,\" the Headmistress made a shooing gesture.

Shaluinn just barely repressed the urge to stick her tongue out as she turned away and exited the office. Once out of the room, her good humor faded as she was reminded of the persistent bolts shooting through her hip and thigh. Carefully making her way to the bottom of the staircase, she stepped out into the corridor and fell back against the nearest wall, sliding down it until she was sitting.

The woman remained in this prone position, her head resting against the wall, eyes idly scanning the cracks and crevices in the ceiling. God damnit. I\'m going to need either a Healing or Pain Relief Potion before I\'ll be able to make it back to my rooms. Where are the ultra-strength analgesic liquid-gels when you need them? She found herself suddenly at a loss.

With a sudden flash of insight, she called out, \"Dobby? Could you help me?\"

The house-elf in question appeared before her with a light pop! \"How can Dobby help, Miss?\" Taking in her crumpled form, the house-elf became wide-eyed and pulled on his ears, visibly distraught. \"Miss is hurt! Dobby must get Madam Pomfrey!\"

Shit! The American snaked out a hand to catch the edge of Dobby\'s \"toga.\" \"NO! No, Dobby, I\'m alright.\" She waited while the creature relented. \"I seem to have a cramp in my hip that doesn\'t want to go away. I wonder if you might retrieve a Pain Relief Potion from the Infirmary for me?\"

\"Yes, Miss!\" he nodded vehemently, snapped his fingers and was gone.

Several minutes later he returned with a familiar-looking sapphire blue bottle. \"Here, Miss.\"

Shaluinn welcomed the phial, removing the stopper and downing the bitter fluid in one practiced swallow. She handed it back and slowly stood, relief flowing through her as the pain receded. \"Thank you, Dobby. Do you know where my rooms are?\"

\"Yes, Miss!\"

The redhead smiled at his eagerness. \"Would you show me how to get there, from here, and, perhaps point out some reference markers so I\'ll be able to find my own way next time?\"

\"Of course, Miss! Follow Dobby!\" he grinned as he turned to lead her away, pointing out various things and adding his own observations in a rather random, rambling way.

Shaluinn couldn\'t help but smile at the creature\'s exuberance. When Dobby stopped and turned to face her, she realized they had reached the entrance to her office. She squatted down to his level. \"Thank you again, Dobby. If it\'s alright, there\'s one more thing I\'d ask of you.\" She waited as he nodded and then continued. \"Could you bring some food up? Something for me to snack on while I get settled in.\"

\"Of course, Miss! Dobby will go right away!\" He snapped his fingers and vanished.

The redhead just shook her head, having forgotten what it was like to deal with house-elves. She stood and spoke her new password as she turned the doorknob, \"Glorfindel of Gondolin.\"

Entering her office, she decided to leave that room for another day. Retrieving her bags from where she had dropped them, she shifted both to her left side. Like before, she strode straight at the seemingly solid wall, waving her right hand before she hit it and instead passing straight through to the rooms beyond.

Once inside, she dropped her bags again and made her way to the bank of floor to ceiling windows. She stepped up to the transparent glass, absentmindedly patting her coat pockets until she found what she was looking for.

She dropped the three thumbnail-sized black squares on the floor. Flexing her right wrist, she caught her wand as it fell. Waving it over the squares, she watched them return to their original size. Shaluinn picked up the first of the three CD books and began flipping through it.

The first thing she\'d done when she\'d made the decision to come to Hogwarts was to figure out how to charm her Muggle Discman to play in an area where Muggle electronics notoriously didn\'t work. She found it was a common problem that the American magical community, who embraced modern technology a bit more readily than the European community, had already solved. With a deceptively simple incantation, her compact Discman played CDs without speakers and with the kind of encompassing sound quality that you\'d expect in a concert hall.

Here was one thing the American simply refused to do without: her Muggle music. Retrieving the charmed player from the front flap pocket of the book she\'d been leafing through, she laid it on the floor in front of the window, taking the disc she\'d chosen and snapping it into the Discman. She closed the lid and tapped it twice, flicking her wand until the disc got to the song she wanted. Making a circle in the air with the wand tip, she set the song on repeat.

Flexing her wrist, Shaluinn put the wand away, crossing her arms over her chest. She leaned her left shoulder against the pane as the sound of Madonna\'s I\'ll Remember filled the room and wrapped around her. The music was one of the few things she knew she\'d be able to keep in this new place, this new, old world she\'d been thrust back into.

Mmmm, mmmm

The redhead lifted her head to look out. The view was breathtaking, the sun setting over the lake and the mountains. It reminded her of her last home.

Say good-bye
To not knowing when
The truth in my whole life begin

She caught sight of her reflection in the glass, reaching up with her right hand to pull the elastic from the end of her braid, her fingers sliding through the length to release the plait, her hair falling around her in red cascades.

Say good-bye
To not knowing how
To cry
You taught me that

Shaluinn looked at herself, taking in her appearance. The long, screaming red hair and solid black attire were nothing new. At 14, with make-up and the right hairstyle, she had been able to pass for 28. Now at 38, without make-up and sporting attire indicative of a much younger generation, she was often mistaken for being 22. At least up until about six months ago. Her mother had been the same way, the pair being often taken for sisters. It was almost like she had been aging backwards.

It had been then that her advancing condition had been diagnosed, terminal with no cure in sight, and no hope for recovery. Around that same time had been when Albus Dumbledore had become more insistent that she embrace her heritage, taking her to be re-outfitted for the magical world and pulling her old textbooks out of mothballs.

And I\'ll remember
The strength that you gave me
Now that I\'m standing
On my own

Even with the disheartening news, Jolena had encouraged her to do everything, work and archery, as well as the additional refreshers in magic. Shaluinn couldn\'t understand why her mother had been so adamant, so determined about pushing her. Looking back, it was all so clear and obvious. I should have known. Her mother certainly had.

It was the only explanation that made any sense. Jolena\'s strongest talent had always been Divination. The elder witch had known what was coming and had taken what steps she could to prepare her daughter for what was ahead. When everything had fallen apart, all at once, Shaluinn had known, as surely as if the woman had spoken herself, that her mother had known about most of what came to pass. The specifics had been lost with the woman herself.

I\'ll remember
The way that you saved me
I\'ll remember

Along with wards and shields and various hexes, Callaway had invested a good portion of time into perfecting both simple and elaborate glamours. The now former Headmaster had initially protested the effort, insisting that appearances did not matter. He had brandished his withered hand like a badge of honor.

But Shaluinn had persisted, arguing that for him to display something that might be perceived as a sign of weakness in front of his charges was an entirely different matter from hers. The \"Golden Trio\" had known him for years and trusted him no matter what. She, on the flip side, was a total stranger, an unknown variable, expected to be trusted based on his word alone. She protested that it wasn\'t enough. If he wanted her to be able to accomplish what he\'d set out for her, she would have to look the part, as well as act it.

Inside
I was a child
That could not mend a broken wing

She was supposed to be an asset to the cause, not another liability. She couldn\'t very well teach martial arts looking haggard and worn, as if she\'d been put through the proverbial meat grinder. No, the Golden Trio needed to see a strong, healthy, confident individual, not a sick, deteriorating witch held together by potions and sheer force of will. Simply put, she refused to be a liability, perceptually or actually, hence the decision to hide it.

The reflection that stared back at her now was no longer real. Passing a hand over her face, she removed the carefully crafted glamour she\'d placed. She wasn\'t surprised by the progressively more pronounced signs of the advancing illness. It was the haunted look in her eyes that gave her pause.

She\'d known violence most of her life. It always had a way of finding her, despite her best efforts. But recently, she\'d come to know violent death, witness to the murders of her biological mother and best friend at the hands of a random Death Eater.

Outside
I looked for a way
To teach my heart to sing

Apparently he had been sent out on a broad and vague mission to take out the most powerful witches he could find across the globe. Jolena Anhel had been, undeniably, the most talented active witch in the Pacific Northwest.

Shaluinn blinked repeatedly, heedless of the tracks of tears making their way down her face. It should have been me. Everyone swore that if I hadn\'t turned my back on magic I would have surpassed her abilities years ago. He would have come for me.

Callaway had been walking back from her daily round of archery practice in the field behind her parents\' property when the attack occurred. Taken by surprise, her mother and Cathy had no chance of defense, bolts of green light snaking through the twilight air to strike each in rapid succession. Having never seen the Killing Curse before, Shaluinn didn\'t recognize it. She didn\'t need to, her mother\'s and friend\'s crumpled, unmoving bodies telling her all she needed to know.

Reacting instinctively, overtaken by the need to fight back, and without her wands, she struck out in the only manner available to her. Stopping in her tracks, she instantly gauged the distance to her target, spinning the dial on her scope. She whipped a multi-blade compression broadhead arrow out of her quiver, nocked it and lifted her compound bow, ignoring the pain that lanced through her pinched fingers and drawing bare, releasing with the speed that had earned her a gold medal.

No sooner had the first broadhead left the string then Shaluinn had another out and nocked. She missed, the first arrow impacting the upper left quadrant of the attacker\'s chest as she brought the second to full draw. Howling to shame a Banshee, she adjusted and released the second one to nail the murderer square between where the eyes would be on his mask. Still not finished, she\'d nocked a third arrow and sent it flying, to lodge through his neck as he dropped in a pile to the ground.

And I\'ll remember
The love that you gave me
Now that I\'m standing
On my own

A fourth arrow nocked and drawn, she held it, striding forward to the pin-cushioned body. After kicking it twice with her steel-toed boots and receiving no reaction, she let up on the bowstring, leaving the arrow nocked, and bent down to check for a pulse at his wrist. There was nothing.

Snatching up his wand from where it had dropped, she tucked it into a back pocket as she stood. Moving mechanically, she removed the arrow from the string and returned it to her quiver as she strode toward the porch. Pulling the clothespin-looking stand from the back of her belt, she clipped it to the bottom limb of her bow and set her bow by the gate.

She ran forward, leaping the two steps to the porch. She dropped to her knees between the crumpled women, reaching out with the index and middle fingers of both hands to press against the sides of their throats at the carotid artery. There was nothing. There were no marks on the bodies. They were simply...­ lifeless.

I\'ll remember
The way that you changed me
I\'ll remember

Fighting down her rising panic, she turned to her mother, centering herself as she started CPR, somehow knowing the futility of her actions, but unable to sit there and do nothing. \"Come on, Mom. Come on, Mom,\" she chanted with every set of chest compressions, oblivious to the tears now streaming down her face.

She was so involved in trying to bring Jolena back that she failed to notice the huge, black, 4x4, pickup truck that came sliding sideways into the driveway in a shower of loose gravel. A tall, thin, long-brown-haired, half Blackfoot Indian man, clad in faded, stained Levis and a black, custom-made \"Government Authorized Marijuana Dealer\" t-shirt flew out of the cab. He sprinted toward her crying, \"Shaluinn! Shaluinn! What happened?\"

I learned
To let go
Of the illusion
That we can possess

Rich\'s arrival drove home the reality that her efforts were having no effect. With a choked sob, she stopped and dropped back onto her heels, managing to gasp, \"Death...­ Eater.\" The war, a world away, had come home to her doorstep.

Utterly impotent, Shaluinn rocked back and rose to her feet, getting out of the way. Her stepfather cradled his wife\'s body in his arms, wailing openly as he realized she was gone. The younger redhead leapt off the porch and strode to where the felled Death Eater lay. A howl so loud it echoed down the street rose from her chest as she again kicked the corpse.

Staring down at the red-fletched stalks that stood out from the body, the woman\'s mind suddenly comprehended just what it was she had done. She had taken a human life. Regardless of the justification or reasoning behind her actions, he was dead by her hand. He had taken two lives, and she had taken his in turn. No matter how worthless, how base, how sub-human he had been, it did not change the fact. She had taken a human life.

Shaluinn dropped to her hands and knees and spewed the contents of her stomach across the blood-stained ground. She coughed until there was nothing but dry-heaves left. Eyes screwed shut, she very nearly lashed out at the arms that wrapped around her and pulled her up. Turning in his embrace, she buried her face against her stepfather\'s chest, shaking uncontrollably.

I learned
To let go
I travel in stillness
And I\'ll remember

Rich died from a broken heart three days later. He had been a Squib, but her mother hadn\'t cared. They had loved each other so much. Without Jolena, he had nothing to live for. The witch had been his entire world.

Already having lost her job and now her last friend to the Death Eater, Shaluinn had nothing left when she buried her parents. Dumbledore put in an appearance at the double funereal, along with more witches and wizards than the redhead had ever seen in one place. She couldn\'t help but feel that the aged wizard\'s presence was a visual \"I told you so.\" And so, once again, her life had gone straight to shit.

Anticipating Dumbledore\'s coming request, she began setting her affairs in order, clearing out her home and the house her parents\' had bought across the street, holding tightly only to cherished memories.

Happiness
I\'ll remember
(I\'ll remember)

And I\'ll remember
The love that you gave me
Now that I\'m standing
On my own
I\'ll remember
The way that you changed me
I\'ll remember
(I\'ll remember)

She sold the houses, the furniture, everything but those items she could not bear to part with and planned to take with her. She left nothing to return to, as this was a journey she somehow knew she would not be coming back from.

No I\'ve never been afraid to cry
Now I finally have a reason why

Did I make the right decision coming here? How did I get here? In the last two decades, how did my decisions go so wrong, to lead me to the point where I had nothing left? I was willing to walk away from my home, my country, my entire life.

I\'ll remember
(I\'ll remember)

Is it all circumstance, coincidence?

No I\'ve never been afraid to cry
Now I finally have a reason why

Or was Albus right, and I have some \"destiny\" to fulfill, and all roads, inevitably, led to here?

I\'ll remember
(I\'ll remember)

First Daddy was taken from me. Then my friends and finally the last of my family are gone. Then I arrive here to find my Master, Albus, slain by his servant. I am finally, truly, ronin.

No I\'ve never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why

I am without a master, adrift in the world. And now, somehow, I am expected to become another\'s master, their guiding force. Set aside for the moment the fact that I totally despise his actions that brought us here. How the hell am I to accomplish that, when I have proven so thoroughly that I am a failure at being my own master?

I\'ll remember
(I\'ll remember)

How do I prove my mastery over one who has lived their entire life in this world that I have only recently reentered? This is one who apparently is just as much, if not more willful than I, and will not give over easily, not without seeing I am worthy. Again with the acting, the dancing, the subterfuge.

No I\'ve never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why

Albus has set me to an impossible task. Yet, he had to know I would not give this any less than all my effort. Shaluinn brought her hands up to her face, wiping away the moisture and rubbing her eyes, before running her fingers through her hair. What have I gotten myself into?

Remember
(I\'ll remember)

TBC...­

A/N: In archery, \"drawing bare\" on a compound bow means using your fingers instead of a mechanical release aid. A \"bare bow\" is the common term given any bow (compound, recurve or longbow) that has no sights, or only very simple low-tech sights.

A ronin (Japanese: literally, wave man - one who is tossed about, like a wave in the sea) was a masterless samurai during the feudal period of Japan that lasted from 1185 to 1868. A samurai became masterless from the ruin or fall of his master, or after the loss of his master\'s favor or privilege.

A multi-blade compression broadhead is a nasty piece of work. It is an arrowhead composed of multiple, triangular blades set around the point. What makes these particularly nasty is they are spring-loaded and compress upon impact, spreading the cutting blades out further to increase the penetration and area of damage. Trust me when I say you do NOT want to get hit by one of these.

No, I\'m not coughing up the name of the Death Eater who killed Jolena. This is on purpose. I mean for him to remain nameless and faceless, one among many.

Back to index


Chapter 1296790989: Hey, Mr. Sandman

Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Shana: *fuming, arms crossed over chest*

Snape: Why are you not typing?

Shana: Time for that chat.

Snape: *innocently* Oh?

Shana: Oh, yeah.

Snape: *eyebrow, waiting*

Shana: You know that was mean, not to mention exceedingly juvenile.

Snape: To what are you referring, madam?

Shana: *incredulous look* Duh? The bra snapping?

Snape: Oh, that.

Shana: Well?

Snape: Well, what?

Shana: *throws up hands* You do realize that was a stunt worthy of Ron Weasley?

Snape: *narrows eyes*

Shana: Sexy looks are not getting you out of this. *crosses arms over chest again*

Kim: Insert standard disclaimer here.

Snape: *annoyed* Well, there went that idea.

Shana: You\'re still on the hook.

Chapter 9: Hey, Mr. Sandman

Shaluinn lost track of time as she stared out the window, while the world turned dark beyond the glass. She repressed a shiver as a chill ran through her, the cold seeping through her clothes from the pane. She turned her gaze back to her darkened rooms, absentmindedly wiping the wet trails off her face.

She finally noticed the hearth on the opposite wall, only because someone had lit a fire there. In the flickering light, she saw a small table set with various snacks and several bottles and a chair set beside it, all next to the fireplace. Dobby, bless your heart.

Bending down, she made a swirling gesture with her index finger over the Discman, setting it to random play. She stood back up and didn\'t move for several beats, trying to remember the light spell. It came back to her, and she lifted both hands, waving them as she called out, \"Incendio!\" Several sconces holding candles on each wall burst to life, driving back the encroaching darkness.

The redhead finally, really took a look at her rooms for the first time. The main entrance was opposite the bank of windows. The hearth was to the right of the entrance from where she stood, its mate in the office obviously right on the other side of the wall. The room itself was rather large and rectangular, the windows and entrance forming the short sides. The ceiling was vaulted, going up at least ten meters.

The woman noticed doors opposite each other, about two meters in from the windows. Wonder where those go? Making a snap decision to do reconnaissance first, eat second, she executed a \"right-face\" and walked to that door.

Opening the portal, she murmured \"Incendio!\" again, lighting the sconces in this room. Unlike the main room, this one was furnished and obviously meant to be the bedroom. Directly opposite her was yet another door that, she assumed, led to a bathroom.

Standing in the doorway, taking in the positively opulent room, Shaluinn was awed. To the left of the bathroom door was another, smaller hearth with an already banked fire going, the room warm, but not overpoweringly so. To her right were more floor-to-ceiling windows, these covered by heavy, velvet curtains to keep both light and cold out. To her left, along the wall next to her was a massive wardrobe and two long, matching dressers made of a rich mahogany.

But the most stand-out feature was the positively huge four-poster canopy bed that dominated the room. It was centered with the head along the wall opposite the curtained windows. Heavy velvet drapes were tied back from the sides and foot of the bed. The entire décor of the room was in shades of deep, dark blue and black, accented with silver.

Albus, you presumptuous bastard, this smacks of your meddling. What the hell do I need such sumptuous furnishings for? And of what use can I make of a bed that big? I can probably lay totally spread-eagle on it and not come near the edges. This is too much!

The American stepped forward to go toward the bathroom, for the first time registering the way her boots were sinking into the carpet. Good lord! What next? This also reminded her of something she should have remembered before. Turning around, she returned to the bedroom entrance.

Balancing on first one foot and then the other, she pulled up her pant legs, pulling down the zippers set against the insides of her calves on her knee-high boots. She left the matching set of 13-inch blade ebony-handled long knives where they were, inside sheaths strapped to the outsides of her calves. Her boots she set next to the doorway. This was her home now, and she would not forget again.

Padding back into the bedroom in her thick socks, she could feel the thick, soft carpet sinking with her every step. The feeling was both delightful and unnerving. She had never lived in such luxurious surroundings. Her own house back in the Pacific Northwest had been furnished modestly, items chosen for high functionality, not necessarily looks. Everything had been quality, well-made and durable, but very simple.

The only area where that had not held true had been her study. She had spared no expense with the tall, rich with scrollwork, dark cherry bookcases. She took a deep pride in her library and its display. The same held true of her sword \"collection.\" Every sword and dagger had its place, whether in the locked glass wall case or set on table-top racks. The running joke among family and friends had been that her study was a cross between a library and an armory. It was an apt description.

Walking quickly through the bedroom that was becoming increasingly unnerving, she entered the room beyond, correct in her assumption that it was a bathroom. She was once again thunderstruck as she took the sight in. There was the usual toilet and sink, with more than enough counter space.

But what had caught her attention was the large, glass-encased shower with two steps leading up to it. The door was closed and she had a sneaking suspicion she knew what lay behind it. Goddess, Albus has set me up like I\'m royalty or something. I can\'t believe that every professor\'s suite looks like this. Needing to satisfy her curiosity, Shaluinn stepped up to the shower and pulled the door open, her mouth dropping open in shock.

She\'d been close with her guess. It was a shower/bath combination. It was a dual-head shower, and the bathtub itself was sunken and large enough to easily hold three people! Looking closer, she noticed holes at regular intervals along the sides and bottom. Oh. My. God. It\'s a whirlpool tub! Oh, gods! This alone is too much!

Shaluinn stopped herself. I am so NOT changing this. Considering how sore and in pain I\'m gonna be from teaching unarmed combat again, this baby\'s gonna get a LOT of use. I have always wanted one of these! Albus, for this alone, I could kiss you. She wrinkled her nose at that thought. OK, I take that back. Suffice to say, I\'m more than a little appreciative of the amount of effort and thought put into these rooms.

Mother Nature chose that moment to remind the American that it had been more than a few hours since she\'d last used the facilities. Taking care of necessary business, she gave the bathtub another longing look and left, heading through the bedroom and across the main parlor to the other door that still bore investigating.

Casting \"Incendio!\" again she found a moderate-sized room, cabinets and visibly stocked shelves lining three of the walls, the fourth holding the expected floor-to-ceiling windows. The center was dominated by several large work benches with cauldrons stacked beneath and piles of boxes scattered haphazardly everywhere. Stepping inside, she realized the floor was made of unmarked, bare stone.

Shaluinn was confused. Glancing into the boxes, she found a mishmash of texts, jars, and odds and ends. Brows furrowed, she made a circuit of the room, returning back to the entrance. It was obvious that this room was meant to be a very well-stocked Potions lab.

The room clearly had not been completed. Oooookay. I wonder what Albus was thinking when he set up this room. Then it hit her, why the room wasn\'t done. He didn\'t get to finish before he died. That sobering thought in mind, with a flick of her hand and a call of \"Exstinguio!\" she put out the lights, closing the door.

Back in the main room, she once again caught sight of the food Dobby had set out for her. She stepped around her bags, still lying where she\'d dropped them, and made her way to the fireplace. She looked down at the food assortment on the table, selecting a thick slice of herb-crusted salami, a slice of cheddar cheese, and putting them together, took a big bite. As she chewed, she considered the chair and decided to try her hand at a bit of Transfiguring.

Switching her food to her left hand, she licked her fingers before flexing her wrist to retrieve her wand. She thought for several moments about what she wanted, trying various wand movements before she was reasonably sure she had it right. The American finished off her morsel and turned her full attention to the chair.

Concentrating carefully, she made her first really serious attempt at Transfiguration in two decades. The simple, straight-backed wooden chair vanished, only to be replaced by a pile of \"Firewood?\" The redhead stomped her foot and cursed. \"That is NOT what I was going for!\"

She caught up one of the bottles from the table and, pulling the cork out with her teeth, spit it into the fireplace. She then took a long swallow, delighted it was some kind of mango-flavored beverage. Gods, what I wouldn\'t give for a diet pop right now. Me and my stupid cravings.

OK, let\'s try this again. At least I don\'t have to worry about setting up my sleeping quarters, so if I can\'t get this right, not that big a deal. Concentrating again, Shaluinn waved her wand, trying a different series of movements. The pile of firewood morphed into a large, gaudily-upholstered, wing-backed chair. Closer, but still not quite.

Heartened by having made some progress in the right direction, Shaluinn decided to try one final time. This time, the chair morphed into a micro-suede-upholstered rocking recliner. \"YES!\" The American clenched her fists and lifted them in the air over her head. Now if I can just remember how I did that.

Turning, she dropped down into the cushy chair. Drawing her feet up to her side, she ignored the mild discomfort caused by the knife sheaths pressing against her shins. Surveying the room and mentally debating what she would put where, she ate and drank her fill from the spread Dobby had left her. Satisfied, the redhead leaned back in the chair, closing her eyes as it rocked gently.

In less than a minute, her overtaxed mind and body made the decision for her, and she dropped into a sound sleep. Her face relaxed, and the soft candlelight took years off her damaged countenance, her posture adding to the appearance that she was in her teens. Unlike others, the hard years didn\'t show specifically on her face. The last six months had left their mark though. Instead, the American bore scars and pain that were not nearly as visible or as tangible.

Dobby returned a short while later to check on the food he\'d left. Finding Miss Callaway asleep, the house-elf conjured a light blanket and placed it over the woman. Seeing that less than half of what he\'d brought had been eaten, he decided to leave it, placing a preservative charm on the tray along with a sapphire blue phial. Dobby then went from room to room, extinguishing the lights and setting more wood on the fires before whispering, \"Good-night, Miss Callaway,\" and leaving.

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Severus woke several hours later to his muscles protesting the crick in his neck. Wincing, he rubbed his neck as he stood and exited his study into the parlor. Comfortable in the familiar surroundings, he didn\'t need a light to find his way to the bookcase and release the latch. The panel swung forward, and he stepped through, closing it behind him before mounting the stairs to the bathroom and his bedroom.

He made swift use of the facilities to the right of the landing, erasing all evidence of his \"breakdown,\" and then crossed over to the simple bedroom. It contained very little: a small dresser, a closet, and a straight-backed wooden chair set next to a full-size bed. It would have been a single, but those were too small for his tall frame. By sleeping at an angle on the bed, he just fit.

Ever meticulous, the Potions master neatly folded his clothes and placed them on the chair as he disrobed. He stripped down to his boxer shorts and, after a second\'s thought, doffed those as well. Contrary to popular belief, they were not silk, but rather an ultra-soft sueded cotton. Severus hated wearing silk boxers. The damn things had a way of creeping up your ass and getting wedged there. Cotton was a much more comfortable, as well as forgiving fabric.

Finally having the opportunity to sleep in a \"safe\" location, he wasted no time taking advantage of it, climbing under the covers and stretching out on his stomach. Once settled, it was less than a minute before soft snores began emanating from the prone man.

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Several hours later, Shaluinn woke with a start, nearly overturning her chair as she untangled herself from the blanket someone had placed over her. The room was silent, other than the crackling emanating from the hearth, the CD player having whirred to a stop after playing all the songs on the disc. Blinking several times to get used to the firelight, she realized Dobby must have come back at some point, covering her and putting out the lights.

The woman took several deep, calming breaths, willing her heart rate down. That accomplished, she unfolded her legs and stood, gritting her teeth against the pain that shot up from her shins through her hips. Now her shoulders and back ached too. Catching sight of the familiar phial, she immediately downed the Pain Relief potion, again silently blessing a certain attentive house-elf. She took several more breaths while the pain subsided to a manageable level. She padded to the bedroom, only to trip and stumble over one of her bags.

Muttering curses, she made her way to the bathroom, making use of the facilities before stopping in front of the shower, debating if she had enough energy left to hop in before retiring for the night. Remembering just how \"yucky\" she\'d feel come morning without a shower, she peeled her leather pants off, tossing them into an untidy pile in the corner. She next removed the knives strapped to her calves, laying them on the counter.

Her socks joined her pants in the pile while she reached between her legs to unsnap the bottom of her bodysuit. That was quickly pulled off, and along with her molded-cup bra and low-rise cotton panties, joined the growing pile. With the removal of her bra, she could feel the weight of her heavy breasts pulling on the muscles of her shoulders and back. She refused to slump her posture in response to the discomfort. Catching sight of her reflection and resolutely ignoring the expanses of bruised skin revealed, she stood still. She was mildly surprised that Albus had put Muggle mirrors in her bathroom, the image only changing when she moved.

She was just about to reach in to turn the knobs for the shower when she realized something. Dobby must have left the candles burning in here, because I did not relight them when I came in. Or are they automatic? That\'s an interesting thought.

Deciding to test her theory, she backed out of the room, leaving the door open. She was three steps away before the illumination winked out. Very interesting indeed. Stepping forward again, the candles burst to life as she broke the plane of the doorway. That is a damn handy trick. I need to learn that.

Satisfied with the results of her little \"test,\" Shaluinn leaned into the shower, turning the handle for the hot water. Putting her hand under the faucet, she pulled it back fast, hissing. She\'d forgotten the perks of magic, not having to wait for hot water to travel from a heater being one. Turning the other knob with one hand and sticking one finger into the stream, she adjusted the temperature to her liking.

Climbing into the tub, she closed the stall door and yanked on the knob atop the faucet, switching on the showerheads. Her hands immediately flew to the wall, bracing her body as pulsing spray hit her from two directions, the sensation intense and not entirely expected. The redhead let her head droop, her hair hanging in wet curtains around her face as the water poured over her form. Gods, who knew two showerheads could feel this good? OK, duh. That was obvious.

The American tilted her head back, the spray pushing her red locks off her face. She opened her eyes to look at her arms, watching the rivulets of water running off her, distorting the designs etched under the skin of the insides of her forearms. Still braced against the shower wall, she rotated her arms so the undersides were fully visible.

The cascading liquid made the winding green, red and blue tribal tattoos appear to writhe on her arms. Removing her right hand from the wall, she traced the central, thick, black coiling line as it rose from her wrist to the inside of her left elbow. Letting her head drop again, she let her right arm hang down, droplets gathering and dripping from her lashes as she twisted her arm back and forth, playing with the rushing water.

As suddenly as she started, she stilled, watching her right forearm carefully as she flexed her wrist and observed the black line instantly detach from her skin, her hand catching her wand as it dropped. She repeated the move, noticing how the wand seamlessly reintegrated with the rest of the tattoo. Risky as she knew it was, the choice to undergo the still-experimental procedure had been a \"no-brainer\" for the American. She fully didn\'t expect to outlive the current conflict, which had made the decision moot in her mind.

Switching bracing arms, she repeated her actions with her left arm, her expression every bit as impassive as before. Having had enough of the little exercise, the redhead pushed away from the wall, standing free beneath the pounding dual sprays. She cast her gaze down to a small recessed ledge in the wall, spotting what she was looking for.

Reaching down, she caught the first bottle, upending it to pour a generous amount into her opposite hand and taking a deep breath. Mmmm… Vanilla. She returned the bottle and stepped slightly out of the spray, using her free hand to pull her hair up, now using both hands to massage the shampoo into the length. She stepped back under, rinsing the lather from her locks.

Retrieving a second bottle she grimaced, realizing she didn\'t have her usual metal clip to hold her hair on her head while the conditioner set. Swiftly applying the crème, she twisted and looped her red locks onto the top of her head. Holding the sodden mass with one hand, she managed to maneuver around the sprays to find the final bottle.

Pouring a small amount onto the sponge next to it, she lifted it and attempted to wash one-handed. With every movement, she could feel the twinge of muscles and old injuries that had never, truly, healed, her body mottled with bruises that never seemed to go away. But they were familiar pains that she had learned to ignore for the most part and live with. She finally had to switch hands to get everything before releasing her hair, soaping up her face, and finishing rinsing.

She bent to turn off the taps and caught herself on the lip of the tub, white-heat again flaring through her right hip and into her thigh before subsiding. Teeth gritted, she panted for several beats, lifting herself and completing the task she\'d started. Standing, she squeezed the excess water from the length of her hair and climbed out of the stall, reaching to her left to retrieve a medium towel from the rack on the wall. Drying her locks, she wrapped them up and twisted the mass onto her head, then reached for a large towel to dry her body off.

Pulling open various drawers beneath the counters, she came up with what she needed: a hair-tie and a comb. Padding out into the bedroom, she made her way over to the bed, sitting on the bench she had noticed by the foot. Releasing her hair from the towel, she carefully separated it into sections, combing out the tangles. That accomplished, she swiftly twined it into a loose plait, tying it off so it wouldn\'t become snarled while she slept.

Tossing the long braid over her shoulder, she walked around the side of the bed and sat on the edge, sinking deeply into the mattress. Her suspicion had been correct. The damn thing was so big it easily dwarfed her. Exhaustion looming to claim her, the redhead thought hazily, I can\'t sleep on this thing. I… just can\'t. I know I won\'t be able to. Something else also struck the woman. I don\'t have anything to sleep in. I am so NOT hunting for anything in my bags at this point. Fuck it!

Standing, her feet sinking into the thick carpet pile, the American came to a fast decision. Striding over to the bathroom, she doffed the towel she wore, adding it and its mate to the growing pile in the corner. She retrieved her sheathed knives, returning to the bedroom. Passing by the hearth, she set the weapons on the floor, continuing on to the bed.

Grabbing two pillows, she threw them over by the hearth. Using both hands, she grabbed hold of the thick comforter on the bed, and putting her weight behind it, pulled. After several jerks, she managed to dislodge the coverlet, dragging it over in front of the fireplace. Folding the comforter in half, Shaluinn swiftly made up a makeshift kind of sleeping bag. She placed one knife under her pillow, the other on the edge of the hearth\'s stone drape within easy reach.

Enfolding her nude form in the voluminous folds, she laid on her left side, left leg straight, right bent up at an angle so her foot rested against the other knee. Her arms were wrapped around the second pillow, embracing it. She stared hazily into the fire as sleep rose up to claim her again, strangely comfortable on the thickly carpeted floor.

TBC…

A/N: A HUGE thank you to everyone who has kept reading and to those who have reviewed. The feedback has been both encouraging and productive.

In Japan, shoes are not work indoors in homes. They are removed at the entrance and soft slippers or stocking feet are acceptable inside.

Spell origins:

Exstinguio This is the \"put out the lights spell.\" \"Exstinguo\" is Latin for \"to extinguish.\" (Nox goes with Lumos in only applying to wand tips, so it is inapplicable.)

Thanks go to my impromptu beta Kim for double-checking me and making sure I stick to canon as well as making spell suggestions. Thanks to NotSoSaintly for correcting both of us on a mistake about lamp-lighting spells and being one of my favorite comma-fairies.

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Chapter 1296791015: Nocturnal Visitations

Disclaimer: (In the spirit of Crimson Starlight)

Snape: *prod*

Shana: *grabs wand, snaps it*

Snape: *fumes*

Shana: How\'s it feel?

Snape: *barely controlled* What is that?

Shana: You break something of mine, I break something of yours.

Snape: *not getting it* What have I broken of yours?

Shana: The bra strap?

Snape: *confused*

Shana: *exasperated* You snapped my bra so damn hard you broke the elastic and gave me a big welt on my back!

Snape: Oh.

Shana: *nasty smirk* Yeah.

Snape: *to reader* Shanastay owns neither myself nor any characters created by Rowling. The plot, Shaluinn and those related characters belong to her. *leaves quickly*

Kim: Damn. Don\'t see that every day.

Shana: I think that\'s the closest to an apology I\'m gonna get from him. *gestures dismissively* He\'s probably off to get himself another wand.

Kim: *still staring off in direction wizard went*

Shana: *waves hand in front of Kim\'s face* Helloooooooo?

Chapter 10: Nocturnal Visitations

Shrouded in the unbroken pitch-black of the room, Severus tightened his hold on the body whose back he was spooned against with the arm he had wrapped around her waist. She wriggled a bit in response, the curves of her buttocks pressing back to rub enticingly against his burgeoning arousal. He barely suppressed a moan as his hips reflexively rocked forward, increasing the skin-on-skin contact. The arm around her waist slid upward, one long-fingered hand cupping and hefting a heavy mound.

Severus twisted her erect nipple between two fingers, as he ground his swiftly hardening length against her backside. She arched into his touch, encouraging more, a soft moan escaping her lips. Growling softly, he dipped his head forward, teeth and lips nipping lightly at the curve of her neck, exposed as she arched back into him. Her free hand came up to tangle in his locks, the tensing of her fingers and increasing gasps encouraging his ministrations.

He alternately caressed her heavy breasts, tweaking her nipples somewhat roughly, reveling in the way she writhed wantonly against him. He brought his lips to the juncture of her neck and shoulder, latching onto the spot and sucking hard to raise a distinctive mark on her skin. He couldn\'t see it in the unwavering, unbroken darkness, but that fact didn\'t change his reaction. MINE! His semi-coherent thoughts were of a definitely possessive nature.

Releasing her breasts, he slid his hands down over the slight curve of her abdomen to dip between her legs, delving into the damp warmth at the apex of her thighs. One hand twisting in the sheets, the other clutching at the back of his head, she opened her legs to him. He accepted the invitation, long, dexterous fingers trailing lightly over her inner thighs, before drifting to trace the contours of her soft, clean-shaven folds.

Feeling the woman trembling in his arms, Severus granted her a reprieve. Sliding the palm of his hand firmly over her mound, he slipped first one, then two digits into her sodden depths. Pumping slowly, the heel of his hand rubbing her sensitive nub, he added a third finger, God, so tight! twisting them side to side, as a small tremor shuddered through her body, radiating outward from her abdomen. He continued to circle her clit gently, extending her pleasure. The wizard then removed his hand, bringing it to his mouth, as he lifted his head from her shoulder.

In the complete darkness, his other senses had kicked into overdrive, magnifying every sound, every sensation, every smell. He took a deep, audible breath as he brought his slick fingers to his lips. He took in the heady, musky aroma of her obvious arousal. All for me. He then slipped the digits into his mouth, making a production of licking and sucking them clean, his enjoyment very evident. Can you hear how much I enjoy your flavor? She held herself incredibly still, clearly absorbing every sound, every movement he made.

Having licked his palm clean, he brought his hand down to her upper thigh. Exerting subtle pressure, he directed her to lift her leg up and back, to curl around his thigh. Shifting back and down, his length sprang free to prod at her wet entrance, eliciting a loud gasp from her. With a subtle rocking of his hips, he drew the head of his arousal through her sodden folds, coating it thoroughly.

He gripped her hip firmly, his control tightly reined in as he flexed his hips forward, burying just the first couple of inches of his length inside her. He withdrew and returned with agonizing slowness. The woman twisted in his arms, turning her head to capture his lips. A feral growl resonating between them, he snapped his hips forward, burying himself to the hilt. Her gasp at his size and girth was caught by his devouring mouth.

So tight, so ruddy, bloody, fucking tight! He held still for a moment, ravishing her mouth as he reasserted control over his need. Assured that release was not imminent, he continued delving the recesses of her mouth as he began slowly thrusting into her depths. After several beats, he released her lips, focusing his attention lower.

With every upstroke, he rotated his hips, grinding into her, stimulating her cervix. She writhed in his embrace, reaching back to clutch at his arse, fingers digging into his skin, urging him to increase his maddening pace. He stalwartly refused to be egged on, keeping his movements slow and languid. He had every intention of drawing this out.

About the time she had cum under the ministrations of his deft fingers, he had belatedly realized that this was a dream. It was a blessedly erotic, stimulating dream, wholly unlike the ragged and broken nightmares he\'d fallen into every time he made any attempt to sleep since that night. He was determined to draw this dream out, to make it last, perhaps even the entire night, if possible. So he focused his energies totally on pleasuring the unknown woman in his arms. He would find his release later.

Her unseen body was soft and generous, curved and rounded in all the right places. Yet he could feel taut steel under the smooth skin encasing her thigh. His wandering hand had felt the ripple of muscles beneath the layers of softness forming her figure. The pressure where her fingers dug into his hip and buttock made him wonder idly, if this were real, would he have had bruises in the shape of handprints there come morning.

She clearly had the physical strength to hold her own against an opponent, yet still retained her femininity. And she was letting him ravish her. If anything, the idea that she could potentially fight him off and wasn\'t, was actually encouraging him, was a greater turn-on. Ah, but this is my dream, so how could it be any less? If only this were real, he silently wished before immersing himself once more in the sensations washing over him.

Severus took his time, bringing the faceless, nameless woman cresting through several more tremblers, before maneuvering her onto her stomach. He rolled to his knees behind her, pulling her up onto all fours. Aiming by touch, he slammed home into her hot, clutching depths. He angled his strokes so with every thrust, he hit her g-spot, the sounds of her increasingly loud cries melding with the meaty slaps of flesh on flesh.

It was the antithesis of their previous position. That had been all about slow, sensual and intimate. This was straight-up, animalistic fucking. It didn\'t take long for the woman to come completely undone, the long tail of her hair swishing over her back to flick at his abdomen. He ignored the tickle, the rhythmic convulsions of her slick, tight passage proving Severus\' undoing. The squeezing pressure pulled him over the precipice after her.

A howl and several thrusts later, he collapsed across her back. The added weight caused her trembling limbs to give way, the pair falling to the mattress in a crumpled tangle. The wizard twisted off her, onto his side, pulling her back against the curve of his body. Arms securely enfolding her torso, one hand cupping a breast, the other hovering near the apex of her thighs, he buried his face in the curve of her neck. Breathing deeply of her vanilla-tinged scent, and thoroughly satiated, Severus allowed his dream-self to drop into the abyss of true unconsciousness.

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Shaluinn lay awake in the unbroken darkness, encased in the embrace of a man she could not identify, who had just very soundly fucked her. The slow, deep breaths ghosting across the bare skin of her shoulder told her that he was asleep.

This is a dream. It has to be a dream. But if this is a dream, and I know it\'s a dream, why couldn\'t I really control any aspect of it? I mean, this can\'t possibly be real. I am asleep on the floor of my new bedroom, in front of the hearth, wrapped in a very thick comforter right now. Aren\'t I? The American closed her dream-eyes and went back over the happenings of the last couple of hours. At least it seemed to have lasted a couple of hours. Time dilation was such a bitch.

Shaluinn had \"awoken\" to an utterly black room, not a sliver of light visible anywhere, and the sensation of being pulled back against a long, lean, hard, and definitely male body. She\'d wriggled against the restraining arm, immediately realizing this had to be a dream, and that a certain something was growing at her back. The faint masculine moan, and the feeling of a swiftly filling erection being rubbed between her cheeks, dispelled any doubts that might have remained in her mind.

The long-fingered hand that wrapped itself around her breast, lifting, kneading, and then twisting her nipple sent a bolt of electricity straight to her core. She couldn\'t help but arch into the stimulating touch, moaning softly. She cried out as she felt teeth and lips attacking her neck, her hand sliding back over the side of his face to tangle in his apparently shoulder-length locks. From the fleeting touch and sensations against her neck, she could tell he had a prominent nose, bordering on a beak even. He was lean, just this side of skinny, but the way he held her belied the strength in his limbs.

She bit her lip against the howl that threatened to emerge as he latched onto her neck. The blatant marking and groping of her breasts had more than a hint of possessiveness embedded in the actions and caused a flood of warmth between her thighs. Why do I feel like I should belong to him? This is wrong, all wrong. Her left hand twisted in the sheets, the right tugging insistently at his scalp.

Wanting more of the exquisite sensations he was eliciting, and utterly unable to deny her impulses, she opened her legs to him as she felt his fingers delving lower. She shuddered at the feather-light caresses he trailed across her heated flesh. He played her form like an expert; like he was a master harpist and her body his instrument.

Before she knew it, she found her body humming with barely restrained tension, releasing in a rolling tremor through her limbs, under the deft motions of the undeniably talented man\'s fingers. She could barely refrain from flinching, as he kept her on the edge of the crest, not allowing her to truly crash from that small pinnacle of pleasure.

What caught her by surprise was when he\'d lifted his musk-coated fingers to his mouth and began sucking on them, clearly making a show of relishing the taste. She lay as still as humanly possible, overwhelmed by her disbelief. He can\'t like that. There\'s no way. I taste disgusting. Well, truthfully, not to myself, but enough have told me how nauseating that, and I, am. He\'s acting. He has to be, but for all the dark chocolate in the world, I can\'t fathom why.

Shamed and distracted, she offered him no resistance when he urged her leg back, settling it to wrap back around his thigh, exposing her to his attentions. He shifted behind her, eliciting a sharp gasp from her mouth as she felt the head of his turgid length questing between her sodden nether-lips. Each brush of that swollen head against her sensitized nub sent jolts through her, shiver after shiver eating away at her coherent thoughts.

She barely had time to think, Oh God! when he caught her hip and began to press into her. For the barest moment, she dared to think she\'d been granted a reprieve when he withdrew, only to delve again to that maddeningly shallow depth. All thought fled her mind as he teased and taunted her so gloriously, so deliciously.

All restraint left her as Shaluinn twisted in his embrace, turning her head to capture his mouth in a passionate, demanding kiss. She tasted herself on his lips, and it drove her quite literally insane with need. Without words, she was begging for release, for completion, for him to just get on with it!

Wait! No! Oh, God, it\'s been too long…! Her sudden mental protests were silenced, as he sheathed himself inside her, all the way to his balls. Oh, it burns! I\'m too tight! He\'s too large! It wasn\'t that he was exceedingly large either. It had just been that long since she\'d done this with another, and comparatively speaking, he was a bit better than average size-wise.

He caught her cries with his mouth, keeping his hips still while he ground his mouth against hers, lips, teeth and tongues tangling almost violently. Whether he was searching for control, or giving her narrowed passage a chance to adjust to his invasion, she couldn\'t tell.

Finally, blessedly, he began to move, but slowly. As he released her lips and made no effort to increase his pace, it dawned on her that he intended to draw this out as long as he could. Frustrated, being driven wild with need, Shaluinn writhed in his embrace, trying to get him to move faster. But he staunchly refused to be goaded, even as her hand groped back to dig her fingers into his hip and butt. He had her half-sprawled over him, his thrusts slow and controlled. His other hand had insinuated its way around to the juncture of their joined bodies, where he massaged her most sensitive spot.

She lost it, again and again, as he insistently coaxed her body into climax after climax. She no longer cared whether it was all a dream, or something else. Her out-of-practice body was protesting all the stimulation, and she wasn\'t sure she could handle much more without passing out. To be sure, this mystery man was a generous lover, but good lord!

Just as Shaluinn was about to go utterly limp in his arms, he withdrew. Gently pushed onto her stomach, she could feel him moving behind her, repositioning himself between her spread knees. She barely had time to register what was about to happen when she was pulled by the hips up to her hands and knees. Bare seconds later, he drove into her from behind. A scream tore loose from her chest as he hit that spot inside her with his very first thrust.

He had clearly relinquished his incredible control, as he slammed into her with reckless abandon. She could barely hear the harsh sounds of his loins slapping her buttocks over the noise of her own cries. She felt like an animal, primal, getting fucked thoroughly and mercilessly.

Shaluinn came hard, tossing her head and long braid as he continued to pound into her, finally following her with his own howling release. The additional weight of his limp body was more than her taxed limbs could take, and they crumpled to the bed, tangled haphazardly together.

Neither one moved for several moments. He was first, rolling off her, to the side, immediately pulling her to him. He was apparently unwilling to relinquish his hold on her, wrapping his body around hers in a protective, possessive cocoon. It was both endearing and disturbing.

Which brought her right back to where she\'d started this reflection session. Where had it gotten her? Nowhere. Nowhere, but where she\'d been before. The thing is she had never been one to have dreams of this nature. Granted, this was much better than the vague and disturbing ones that had been plaguing her of late.

Resigned to the fact that she clearly wasn\'t going anywhere, Shaluinn tried to settle her overactive mind, closing her eyes and willing her dream-self into the blessed nothingness of sleep. She would deal with all the questions and concerns this raised later. For now, she let herself enjoy the feeling of being safe and protected.

TBC…

A/N: I just couldn\'t wait to put in some naughty stuff. The actual relationship between Shaluinn and Severus will have a slower progression than this dream encounter. What can I say? I like some plot with my smut. I know the dream sharing thing has been done before, but I\'m hoping to put my own twist on it.

Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, and stuck with me through all the bumps and hiccups this story has endured. Sticking to canon is a LOT harder than I realized.

Additional thank-you goes to Kim, for stepping up as my primary beta. I couldn\'t have gotten this far without you!

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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

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