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*
Snape: *looks up* Are you addressing me, madam?
Kim: You\'re damn straight I\'m talkin\' to you!
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!
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.
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.
\"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!\"
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.
\"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.
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.
The Lies You Tell Yourself by Shanastay