The Lies You Tell Yourself by Shanastay
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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.