Beta Love: The Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, Flyby Commander Shepard

Disclaimer: JKR's stuff is still JKR's stuff, and I'm still playing in her sandbox.

Now You See Me, Now You Don't

Chapter 2

"Headmaster Dumbledore, after reviewing the journals, memories, interviews, and traces of magic, the Wizengamot has decided that you are unfit to remain in your position as Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You are to be remanded to Azkaban until the full sentence is determined for your decision to deliberately place magic of an untested Dark nature into the hands of then-minor, the aiding and abetting of malicious magical mischief within the school, manipulation of the school's magical weave so such acts could occur, and causing untold amounts of danger to the students by depriving the castle of its natural protective magic and guardians."

"Do you have anything to say for yourself before you are taken away to Azkaban?"

"No! This isn't right! This is Albus Dumbledore! He protects Hogwarts! He protects our children!" Molly Weasley protested from the seating, even as Arthur tried in vain to get her to sit back down.

Just as the ruckus caused by Molly became even more shrill, the roof of the room shattered and tumbled down from the effect of a powerful, destructive spell. There was a flash of fire and wings and a fiery explosion, and when the dust settled, Dumbledore was gone.

Alastor Moody stood, his wand still raised, his eyes glassy, vacant and staring blankly.

Someone tackled Moody as the rest of the ceiling came crashing down and screams came from all around. The Wizengamot screamed as the upper wall gave way as well, disintegrating into rubble, as it was discovered that the spell that had carried away Dumbledore had also made it impossible for those within to Apparate to safety.




Energy arched in magical lines weaving together as two figures stood in the middle of the room, their bodies crafted of concentrated magic. Leylines flexed and moved out from them as a wizard and a witch fully materialised in the midst of total chaos.

Snape threw his hand out, his fingers twisting into complex gestures, the other clasped with Hermione's. Hermione used her free hand to gather threads of magic and weave them together and throw them out, one by one. The cords moved into place like the backbone of a basket, as Snape's magical lines wove between them, creating a fine mesh. The mesh pushed outward as a great, magical wyrm, its body like the great coils of Jörmungandr, wrapping around the sides of the room to keep it from caving in and killing all those trapped within.

Snape and Hermione stood like statues, their bodies frozen in place in the middle of the room.

"Run," Snape said, his voice a hiss.

The Wizengamot fled out the doors between the coils of the great magical serpent, even as eldritch vapours picked up the still bodies and carried them out of the room, shoving them out the doors of the courtroom. When all the bodies had been removed, Snape and Hermione exchanged nods, and they and the serpent vanished into thin air as the entire room collapsed in one great, thunderous boom.

As Hermione and Severus' hands touched each side of Alastor's face, the glassy, far-away look faded, and he began to look around.

"The hell?" he grunted. "What happened here?"

Amelia gave him a sad look. "You were hit with a powerful Imperius curse, my friend."

His craggy face twisted in anger. "Where is Dumbledore?"

"Gone," Amelia said. "You gave him back his wand, and when Molly Weasley caused a distraction, you brought the whole ceiling down upon us."

Alastor's hands trembled in barely restrained fury. "Did anyone die?"

Amelia shook her head. "No. Our friends here saved everyone— gave them just enough time to escape and pull the wounded out along with them."

Alastor slumped in clear relief. "Thank the gods for that."

Amelia sighed. "Are you feeling better, you two?"

Hermione and Severus nodded. "The leylines here were glad to provide an assist, fortunately." Their bodies were fading in and out of solidity, but they seemed to get a bit more solid as time went on. Flares of magic were traveling in and out of them, helping refresh them with each touch.

"You've been cleared of any involvement, Alastor. The Imperius was quite tenacious, and it didn't take much to realise it had been triggered rather than cast today."

Moody slammed his fist down angrily, but said nothing. "I should have—"

Amelia put a consoling hand on his shoulder. "No, old friend. I don't think you could have. "For all we know, that spell has been on you for years, just waiting for the trigger. For all we know, any member of the original Order you were in could be wired with the very same Imperius trigger."

Severus' expression darkened. "Minerva may be affected by it. She's worked with him the longest, and she has always been unusually trusting of him."

Alastor grunted. "Bring her in, but— make it seem like all tea and crumpets, Amelia. It needs to seem— perfectly normal. Get her here and seal her in a place we can strip her of any spells. I'm sure the Wizengamot will have no problem with giving us the authorisation, especially after what just happened."

"No, they will not," Amelia agreed.



"Have Potter tell his elf to watch over that place he knows about."

Amelia narrowed her eyes, but then seemed to put the pieces together. "As you wish, Alastor. Rest a bit, and I mean it. Here, with these two. If anything else triggers, I want them here to remove it immediately."

Alastor nodded in assent. "Aye. I'll stay put."

A gargoyle pup lay his head on Alastor's knee and whuffed.

The old Auror lay his hand on the pup's head and rubbed his hears. "Just my pride, laddie," he said to the pup. "Nothing some wrinkled old wizard on a plate won't fix. Preferably with the Dark Lord served up right next to him."


The little pup crawled into his lap, his stubby tail wagging like mad.

"When did we get gargoyles at the Ministry?" Alastor asked.

Snape pointed at Hermione. "They love her."

"Not you?"

"Do I look like the gargoyle pup-loving kind of person?"

Moody snorted. "Well, I like this one," he muttered.

The pup licked his hands and tail wagged like a loyal hound.

"Probably good, since he's kinda attached to you," Hermione said with amusement.

"Proudfoot will be so jealous," Alastor said. "And Kingsley will just steal him."

"Kingsley already has one," Snape said, curling his lip. "They are disgustingly happy to make new friends and guard you and your belongings."

"Well then, you're going to be my Eunan, eh?" Moody said, giving the pup a good pat.


The pup crowed joyfully, his back leg pumping in happy agreement. There was a rush of warm magic, and Alastor blinked in surprise.

"Well, I'll be damned."

Hermione grinned at Severus who scowled back at her. "Told ya!"

"Fine, you win. No one can resist gargoyle pup insufferable cuteness."

Hermione kissed him on the nose.

Severus gave her a seriously heated look as they "vanished" to assist the Ministry with its deplorable lack of ley lines problem.

"We think we have managed to get all of the spells off her, but she's still stuck in her Animagus form," the one healer said, wringing her hands. She pointed to the silver tabby surrounded by gargoyle pups and one gargoyle adult female.

The tabby was curled on the larger gargoyle's back, showing no inclination to return to human form.

Alastor shuffled in. "It's not a spell, lass. She's having a bit of a brood. Let me in there."

"But sir, if it's a spell—"

"It's not."


"I had my head kicked in a few days ago, lass, but I'm still thinkin' upstairs."

The healer made a face and then nodded, waving him in.

Alastor shuffled in, Eunan bouncing in with him. He pounced, wiggled, and greeted the other pups before snuggle-greeting the gargoyle female. She gave him a few affectionate slurps, pinning him down with her paw to groom him over, upside and down.

"Ah, Minerva, lass," he grunted, sitting down on the floor with a grunt and a bit of a stumble due to his leg. "I'm sure you're none too happy to have been tricked by that miserable old coot, but you're probably more unhappy for the reason, I'm bettin'."

Moody rubbed his hair and stretched where his wild eye was whirling around. "No one likes being deceived, and you know me— me the least of all. But, I got somethin' to show ya' lass. I think you'll be wantin' tae see this. Maybe not as much as ye would like tae see auld Albus transfigured intae a plump catnip mouse for you to play with, I suppose."

Minerva looked up at him, hissing lowly.

"Yeah, Ahm reit thaur wi' ye, lass. I am." Alastor sighed. He thumped his head into his hands and raked his fingers through his hair. "Ye ken tell it's bad when mah damn brogue seeps out mah ears laik ice-culd treacle."

Now there was a silver tabby in his lap, and she kneaded a little too close to his privates for comfort, her claws ticking away at the leather of his coat before she sat there in a slump.

Alastor ran his hand over her fur. "We'll find 'im, lass. I promise ye 'hat. You'll hae first dibs oan 'is misrable hide. Ah swear ta ye."

The room crackled with magic as the lights abruptly dimmed and brightened in random patterns. The lanterns seemed to both flicker to go out and to spring back to life. Magic arched around the room, and their hair stood on end as the power intensified, concentrated, and then formed into a distinctive humanoid shape.

With a flutter of black wool, Severus stepped out of "nothingness" as Hermione followed in his wake, his pale hand clasped to hers as she looked around as if surprised at where she was.

There was a blur of silver fur as one tabby cat launched herself at the dark-eyed wizard and landed in his arms. He tilted as he caught her with his free hand. "Ahh— Minerva. I only have one arm available at the moment." He used his one arm to hold her close to him, his eyes closed as he felt her purring like crazy.

Severus sighed, letting out a soft whuff of air. "I fear we were unable to manifest to you at Hogwarts, Minerva. Even now, we much be in physical contact to be tangible for most people. There are certain exceptions, but alas, you were not one of them."

Minerva didn't seem to be listening as she was too busy shedding all her fur on Severus' black, black wool.

Severus gave Hermione a rather abused expression, but Hermione just shrugged. "I would give you time alone, but I fear I would drop your hand," she said sympathetically.

Suddenly, the fur-blur attached itself to Hermione, rubbing, purring, and shedding even more of her stress-shed silver fur all over her. Hermione clasped the tabby to her with a gentle smile, her magic rippling down her arm as she pressed her face into the feline's warm fur.

There were no words, nor did there have to be as both Severus and Hermione held the tabby between them, soothing her soul with their touch to her fur, easing the terrible ache of grief she thought that she had borne alone.

Eunan plopped his head down on Moody's lap and lay on his side, begging for a belly rub. Alastor obliged with a grunt. "Auch, it'll be okay now, lad. We all just need a positive to take our lumps."

The pup panted and crawled all the way into his lap, weighing him down with a flop.

Alastor sighed. "You're going to be a right pain in the arse when you're bigger," he muttered. He rustled the pup's ears as she watched the stress that had bristled Minerva's fur into a spikes slowly drain away. "Merlin help that sodding manipulative son-of-an-unnamed goat. If the magic itself doesn't fry him, that fiesty old Scotswoman is going to tear him to bloody, screaming shreds— starting with his wrinkly todger."

Headmistress Minerva McGonagall Appointed By Board of Governors

Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall was promoted to Headmistress during an emergency meeting of the Board of Governors this weekend, immediately taking the place of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore after he was found guilty of a number of very serious offenses that have not been released to the general public. As the safety of the school was paramount, McGonagall was promoted to Headmaster in his stead, and Filius Flitwick was appointed the new Deputy Headmaster.

After the murders of Hogwarts student Hermione Jean Granger and Professor Severus Tobias Snape via Dark magic by student Gregory Goyle, Goyle was sentenced to twenty years in Azkaban. The sentence was increased to life when, upon Goyle's arrest, it was discovered that he wore the Dark Mark, attesting to his allegiance to You-Know-Who. When Goyle realised he was well and truly caught, he named off a number of accomplices including his best mate, Vincent Crabbe, and Ronald Bilius Weasley. Both were immediately arrested, brought in for an Auror interview under caution and checked over for the Dark Mark. Vincent Crabbe also has been remanded to Azkaban for bearing the Mark, and Ronald Weasley is awaiting trial once the extent of his involvement in the two murders has been determined and the appropriate charges have been filed.

While we can only speculate if these events are related to the secret charges against Dumbledore, it seems all-too-convenient that Mr Dumbledore would be accused of anything serious enough to warrant him being removed from his post shortly after the murders of a Hogwarts professor and student.

The current whereabouts of Mr Dumbledore are unknown at this time, as an explosion during his trial left the Wizengamot in shambles and Mr Dumbledore in the wind. Anyone who believes they may have information that could lead to the capture of Albus Dumbledore is requested to contact Senior Auror Alastor Moody immediately.

As the Aurors gathered at the foot of the giant squid, who was apparently nomming on the remains of a giant snake, they couldn't help but stare at the broken, dragon-crushed body of someone or something with barely a human face.

"Bloody hell," Savage said, staring down at the bloody and broken corpses littering the grass and the rocky shore around Black Lake. "What the hell happened here?"

Proudfoot shook his head. "Students reported a bunch of screaming and yelling, but by the time the teachers and staff came running out to see what was going on , we had— well, all this."

Multiple bodies of broken, bloodied, half-chewed, beheaded, and partially-eaten Death Eaters lay sprawled about on the Hogwarts' green.

There was a cry from above the school, and a giant Hebridean Black dragon was tearing off the leg of someone and feeding it to its dragonlings. The dragonlings were enthusiastically tearing into the body and making it quickly disappear.

One of the younger Aurors promptly lost his lunch all over his boots.

Savage sighed rubbed the back of his head.

"Sir, there are no wands on any of them."

Savage jerked his head up. "What?"

"None of these, erm, victims, had a wand."

"Um— I think those were the wands," Auror Greengrass said, pointing to a flaming bonfire.

"Merlin's fungus-encrusted toenails," Savage cursed.

Proudfoot groaned. "How are we even going to report this, boss?"

As another dragon soared over, carrying the partial remains of at least three different corpses between its talons as it flew back to the nest, Savage opened his mouth, closed it, opened again, and then just decided it wasn't worth trying to say anything profound. "Fuck if I know."

He sighed. "Put your memories off all this in vials, everyone. No one back at the office is going believe it otherwise. And— uh—" he looked up to the dragon nest above Hogwarts. "Smithers, I want you and Preston to go see if you can do make any identification on the, erm, victims up there. Just try not to piss off the dragons. We don't need to deal with that on top of everything else, okay?"

"I really hate you, sir," Smithers muttered as he stormed off to fetch his broom.

Preston sighed. "Of course I'd be the one who took those 'tracing magical signatures in fetid remains' courses," he grumbled, slinking off.

"When we're all done here, we're all going for drinks at the Three Broomsticks. I'm buying," Savage said decisively.

"Well, we should probably try to get the rest of these bodies back to holding before they, uh— get eaten, sir."

Proudfoot shook his head. "I'd thought I'd seen it all. I was wrong."

"When the hell did Hogwarts get a sodding dragon?" One of the younger Aurors blurted out.

Savage frowned. "I think, Auror Wagnall, that we should all be asking ourselves, 'when did Hogwarts stop having proper magical guardians and why are they back now'?"

"This is not a safe place for children!" one man protested after he finished hurling onto an unfortunate rose bush.

Savage shrugged. "You'll notice that not one of these beasts are attacking us, Petersburg. I think this is the safest place our children could be right now. The guardians of Hogwarts just maimed, chewed, and partially devoured the Dark Lord's whole sodding army— and him as well."

"Why would the Dark Lord care about a bunch of children?"

Proudfoot just shook his head at the younger Auror. "If you are going to terrorise the adults, you hit them where they'll be hurt the most. For most people, that is their children, something we don't exactly have a lot of in comparison to, say— the Muggles."

"And the Prophet was all too happy to announce the Dumbledore was gone from Hogwarts," Savage speculated. "The one person that Voldemort was said to fear." He wrinkled his nose. "Let's get moving. Move out the bodies, examine each one before you ship them out, and make a vial of memories for each one. Label them all. I don't want any cock-ups to get back to Moody or Shacklebolt— or Scrimgeour. Move it. I'll be sure Rosmerta has the best stuff waiting for us when we're done. Now get to it, everyone."

The Aurors swarmed around to do as they were told as Savage sent out a number of Patroni, steeling himself for the chaos he knew would come in their wake. As he watched the giant squid pull the corpse of the equally giant snake down into the depths of the lake, he wondered if the war, at long last, was finally over.

Albus found that living amongst the Muggles wasn't so bad, after all. He'd had to set aside his wand so he couldn't be traced, but it wasn't as though he didn't know enough wandless magic.

He'd shaved off his trademark beard, cut his hair, and even sported a tan. He'd traded in his spectacles for more "modern" Muggle-style glasses, and he'd given up his robes in favour of jeans and t-shirts. The villagers just thought him an eccentric, doddering old man who liked to spend time tending to his vegetable garden and watching the sea. He had more access to his beloved lemon sherbets as well, which he wasn't exactly complaining about. He'd long since siphoned away money into Muggle banks, ready in case he had to do what he did. He hadn't expected it to happen quite so soon— and he certainly hadn't expected the Potter boy to lose the book to Gregory Goyle and get his fellow student and teacher killed—

Losing the Granger girl almost guaranteed that Harry would have more hardships ahead. Losing Severus, however, was a terrifying hit when it came to knowing the ongoing movements of Tom Riddle. He wondered what Tom was doing now that he had left Hogwarts.

No Prophet reached him way out here, and he didn't attempt to make an alias to get one.

All that work and careful planning had pretty much fallen to pieces. Maybe he should have known after Harry gave up on his Occlumency lessons with Severus that things were not going to go the way he wished them to. The boy was just too willful and full of hatred for Snape— and that had admittedly been Dumbledore's own fault. He had stirred up his mistrust to anyone but him, thinking if he told him to trust Snape that he would, but he had built up that intense distrust so well that the boy managed to thoroughly muck up the lessons he needed to keep his mind closed to Tom Riddle.

Dumbledore sighed. What a nuisance.

He hadn't heard anything about Muggle murders with unknown causes— or strange and unexplained causes— so he wondered what Riddle was up to. The reinforcement of the Hogwarts wards had been unexpected, to say the least. For hundreds of years those guardians had been missing, with each Headmaster tapping into the school's magic to maintain control over the school. Headmaster Dippet had shown him how to wrestle the magic to his command before he left, and the Headmaster before him had shown him— when it had started, however, Dumbledore didn't know.

Phineas had always complained that having only one gargoyle watching Hogwarts was unnatural, and some of the older portraits had wondered why Dumbledore kept the gargoyles out of the headmaster's office, as if they should be there and more than one. Phineas always was a complainer, so it was hard to find the fact between the muttering and the whinging.

And the older portraits… they just moaned about how Headmasters used to have to learn to become one with Hogwarts not just wrestle it around like some kind of errant child. But Dumbledore just did what all the other Headmasters had done… hadn't he?

Albus sucked on a lemon sherbet. He wondered who they were going to try and convince to be the next headmaster. Hrm— Minerva, perhaps, he considered after a few moments of thought. She wouldn't know how to bend the energy to Hogwarts though. Especially after that mess with all the magic surging back into Hogwarts just before he had to leave… Minerva was probably going to be pretty frustrated with the situation, the poor old witch. Ah, well, it wasn't his problem any more, now was it?

A ominous-looking storm was rolling in, and Albus sighed, closing up his porch umbrella and taking it in. The wind was picking up enough to rattle the shutters, and the sky was rapidly growing dark as night as the storm clouds quickly moved in. Thunder rumbled loudly, and the flashes of lighting were not spaced very far apart.



The shutters rattled as the rain poured down so thick that it was hard to see the beach that was only a hundred or so yards away. He reached out the window to grab and pull them closed.


The light was horribly bright, and the sound was utterly deafening. He recoiled instinctively as a dark shape caught the corner of his eye.

A black silhouette of a man in wizard robes stood just outside the window.

The shutters got away from him, and they blew open with a resounding CRACK, but when Albus looked there was no one there. He frowned, pulling them shut and latching them securely.


There was a swirl of black behind him, and Albus whirled.

What the?

Nothing. The room itself was dimly lit, so he lit a lantern using a match, closing the door after setting the lantern on the table to cast some light in the dark room. He flipped on the light switch, but nothing happened, but that was no real surprise. The electric always flickered and went out during the really bad storms.

Patter. Patter. Patter.

The tromping of claws on floor and the distinct thump of paws caused Albus to look around some more.


Behind him, the great ley serpent appeared, its massive fangs glistening, and venom dripping pure magic from its wide open maw.

Albus whirled.

Still nothing.

Albus muttered uneasily to himself, rubbing his short hair with his fingers as he tried to calm his strangely frazzled nerves.

A dragon-shaped shadow blew out his lantern.

Albus turned and stumbled over a hassock. He stood stood, feeling around for the matchbox, and pulled out a match, striking it on the box to find the candle.

The flame flared up with a blaze of orange light as he saw a candle sitting on a tongue surrounded by multiple rows of razor sharp, draconic teeth.


The maw snapped shut and the room was cast back into total darkness.

Albus saw a light, and he stumbled towards it. It looked like a window or a door, but it went to the outside, and the outside, even in a storm, seemed a vastly better option than what he had just been subjected to.

He rushed forward with a burst of energy, dashing out into the bright light to find himself…

He was standing in an open field, slightly west of an old white house. The front door of the house was boarded up, and there was a small mailbox in front of him.

Albus looked around. There was no storm— no ocean. Just a single house in the middle of a field.

He opened the mailbox, and it revealed a leaflet.

Frowning, he picked up the leaflet and read it.

You're likely to be eaten by a grue. **

He stared at the plain letter-set writing, flipping the leaflet over to see if there was anything on the other side. The reverse side of the leaflet had a picture of a brilliantly lit lantern and a glowing sword on it with the tagline: Don't get eaten by a grue! written in bold letters.

Albus dropped the leaflet, and it fluttered down into the somewhat overgrown grass.

Albus decided to see if there was another way into the house, and went south, but there was no door, and all of the windows were also boarded up. He frowned, and went east, finding himself at the back of the house. A stone path led temptingly into a dense forest to the east, but one corner of he house had a window that was just slightly ajar.

He decided to open the window, and the window creaked and strained before loudly screeching open with a strange, almost tearing sound. He moved into the window and found himself in a sterile kitchen. A nearby table had bits of food on it as if someone had been preparing food fairly recently. A corridor lead off to the west of him and a dark, gloomy staircase seemed to lead up to a equally dark second floor. A deep blue glass bottle contained some sort of liquid inside, but if it was water, it was hard to say for sure.

On the counter was a brass lantern and the familiar bejeweled sword of Godric Gryffindor.

He took the brass lantern and saw a switch, and it turned on radiantly. A small tarnished label on the lantern stated: Frobozz Magic Lantern Company.

He tried to take the sword, but his hand seemed to pass right through it.

Albus frowned, grasped the lantern more tightly, and went into the next room.

He found himself in a living room with a great set of wooden doors nailed shut to his west, a large glass trophy case in front of him, and a huge oriental rug in the center of the room. In the center of the rug was a small silver tabby cat.

He peered into the trophy case to see his wand, the locket of Salazar Slytherin, the ring he had found at the Gaunt shack, the supposedly lost diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw, the goblet of Helga Hufflepuff, the destroyed diary of Tom Riddle, a strange piece of dried, flesh-coloured— was that skin?- with a jagged lightning slash on it, and the shrunken and dried head from a massive serpent of some kind— sans the rest of the body.

Albus stepped away slowly, getting the feeling that something was more than a little amiss. Yet even as he did so, he found himself face-to-face with the silver tabby in the middle of the rug.

The feline stood, but even as she did, her body seemed to expand like an Occamy to fit the room, her furry body growing huge in a manner of seconds.

Mrowlll… Albus.


The large feline was licking her muzzle, and her mouth was full of impossibly large, needle-sharp teeth.

I have a bone to pick with you, Albus.

Dumbledore's eyes widened. "Now, Minerva—"

Why couldn't he Apparate?

The feline slowly stalked towards him, the heat of her moist breath getting ever closer. You put spells on me. The Imperius on me. Confundus on me. You repeatedly Obliviated me. You put false memories in my head.

The cat's muzzle wrinkled in clear feline displeasure as she let out a low, threatening hiss.

Allow me to show you just how… grateful I am, Albus. For the massive sodding cockup you left for me in your wake.

The tabby crouched, growling, her rear wriggling in warning just before she pounced.

"Minerva! You don't understand! Min— MINERVA!"

Albus tore out of the room at top speed, running like crazy. He ran towards the open window, but the window was missing. He saw an open stairway going down and bolted down it. Just as he got down the stairs, his lantern went out, and the huge feline's muzzle twisted into a Cheshire cat smile before the cat and her eerily white teeth disappeared in a wisp of smoke.

The healers tutted as they brought in the drooling, catatonic form of the man who had once been lauded as the greatest wizard of all time, defeater of Grindelwald and the shining Leader of the Light, one Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

"Yes, that's my brother Albus, alright," Aberforth said with a slight frown. "I can't say I've ever seem him quite like that, but— well, I'm not saying that the ruddy old bastard didn't get exactly what was coming to him— let's just say I won't be crying over it."

"Thanks for the verification, Aberforth," Moody said, scribbling down the details in a notebook. "You know I know who he is, but we have to be sure this time considering everything that happened this past month."

"Aye," Aberforth said, stroking his beard. "And the tan, short hair, and lack of substantial beard does tend throw one off a bit."

Moody grunted. "Anything you need from us, Aberforth?"

Aberforth shook his head. "Just make sure he's not fakin' it, Alastor. If anyone could fake a coma, it'd be my not-so-dear brother."

The healers were already placing soft restraints on the bed to keep their patient securely tethered "just in case" even as the lead healer came in to check Albus's eyes and his latest vitals.

Savage came up and nodded to Moody. "I know you don't believe in karma, boss, but I think you have to in this case."

Moody wrinkled his nose, absently petting Eunan's ears. The gargoyle pup wuffed, tail wagging happily.

"No, lad. I don't believe in karma, but I do believe in magic." Moody narrowed his eyes. "And sometimes, magic even believes in us."

As Severus moved in behind Hermione, she squeaked and then purred as his arms went around her and pulled her close. She looked up at him, giggling as his mouth descended upon hers from above before. He handed her a glass of Minerva's extra special lemonade that she made sure to send them for every "beautiful sunset" they watched from the very top of the Hogwarts roof. As the sun dipped down, they materialised back in the Chamber of Secrets— their new home deep beneath the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

The leys would dip in and out to greet them, and their ley "children" would zip in and out to rub up against them before zinging off to other areas of the castle. The gargoyles would pop in often to visit them and enjoy their underground paradise made real.

An expansive hot spring spanned under the arching serpent sculptures, and phosphorescent plants grew all around. Severus' careful tending grew hundreds of rare species of plants that made for the jealousy of apothecaries everywhere— not to mention Pomona Sprout.

Minerva's work on the Board of Governors had them practically grovelling to do whatever she wanted to make things "not like they were under bloody Albus", and she had all of Severus' things moved down into the "new chambers" below: the Chamber of the Guardians of Magic.

Now a permanent part of Hogwarts, the old Chamber of Secrets was the central core where all the leys intersected, and their eternal guardians would always remain to ensure that magic was never again tampered with as it had been in previous generations.

Amelia helped install a permanent wierheid glass in a formal "sitting room" outside the chamber for entertaining any formal guests that needed to talk to the couple, but everyone who knew them knew their secret if Hermione and Severus really wanted to manifest, they could. They didn't tell anyone else that, though.

With the magic stabilised all around England, Severus and Hermione allowed themselves to settle, and practice materialising so they could have guests they actually wanted without having to constantly hold hands the entire time— though Severus admitted that sometimes he liked holding Hermione's hand just to make Harry twitch.

With a library that made even Madam Pince jealous, a potions lab that Slug and Jiggers would have killed for, and a massive, yet cozy bedroom suite that neither Severus and Hermione were complaining about, the couple were set for sending their ley children out to the many corners of the world to reinforce the areas that were sorely lacking in magic.

Orva, dutiful house-elf that had arrived and announced she was there to serve the Magic Guardians, refused to take "no" for an answer or clothes. She did, however, compromise in weaving together some beautiful doilies into something less like she was wearing a pillowcase, much to Hermione's relief.

Severus still brewed potions for Poppy, but began to deliver them via gargoyle pup. However, the poor mediwitch had to bribe the pups with tasty snacks to get them to stop wiggling enough to let her get the potions out of the carry bags. Sometimes the pair would patrol the halls together after hours and sic a team of eager gargoyle pups and baby dragons on the post-curfew lollygagging snoggers, much to Filch's amusement and delight and the guilty students' dismay.

Hermione became a bit of a poltergeist to a certain Sybill Trelawney, zapping the crystal balls and making them float around and then chase the screaming witch around the tower. Of course whenever Minerva came to see the alleged damage, everything was back in perfect order.

Curiously, a fresh-baked tin of Scottish shortbread biscuits would always find its way below ground shortly after.

Lost first-years would find that a bushy-haired woman with colourful sparks in her hair would escort them to their towers at night. Bullies would find themselves hung upside down by their ankles from the ceiling for the patrolling professors. Those who dared attempt any sort of Dark magic outside the DADA classroom would find quickly themselves hounded by a "spectre of black" whose very countenance send them fleeing to the Headmistress' office to hastily babble out a detailed confession of their shameful deeds and accept their punishment without complaint.

Minerva would often have tea in the lower chambers, commenting on Severus' propensity to send her students into paroxysms of terror. Severus, of course, gave her the ever steeply angled eyebrow as his all-purpose response to any and all accusations of unholy mischief.

Harry was, perhaps, the most common visitor after Minerva, and he spent most of his remaining seventh year studying and preparing for his N.E.W.T.s without the influence of his former best mate to distract him. Hermione seemed to enjoy his company entirely too much for Severus to make much of a fuss over it, but "we're not picking out curtains" did come up a few times. He visited frequently even after his graduation, and he made a personal project out of studying the relationship between magic and the old schools, and why Hogwarts had changed over the years before finally regaining the power it should have had all along.

His published work had a rather touching dedication to Hermione and Severus Snape, whom he said "gave the ultimate sacrifice in bringing magic back to the places it should have been all along". Hermione had burst into tears of happiness, touched beyond belief. Severus calmly sipped his tea and said nothing, save for a tiny twitch of his lips that curved upward for the briefest second before disappearing altogether.

Hermione told Harry that they were both very proud of him— even Severus— despite the scowl on Severus' face 98.999999 percent of the time when Harry was around.

As for Harry's old mate, Ron Weasley, he was sentenced to ten years hard labour working for the goblins and had to take night classes at the Ministry to scrape the few N.E. he was capable of. He ended up working for his brothers due to many places not wanting to hire someone as notorious as him.

His mother, Molly, never truly recovered from the shocking betrayal of one Albus Dumbledore. And when it was rumoured that Ron was considering moving to the States to make a new life for himself, Molly suffered a serious breakdown, forcing him to stay in Britain to help care for her. It was hardly an ideal situation, but there were some who said, when they happened to meet him in passing, that Ron had grown up quite a bit and taken far more responsibility for his situation than certain others that had found themselves in similar circumstances.

As for Hermione and Severus— they found they had let a lot of things go in order to embrace other things head on. Their love for each other became the kind of thing ballads and fairy tales (not those written by Grimm brothers) were based on. They may have ended one chapter of their lives as teacher and student, but they had moved on as true caretakers of both the magic they had become a part of and each other.

Severus pressed his nose into Hermione's curls and pulled her close to him, savouring her distinctive imprint on his life. "My love, I have a belated wedding present for you," he rumbled.

Hermione turned and looked at him with a curious smile. "As surprising as the ring your proposed to me with in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle?"

"Quite possibly," Severus mused, the tug of a smile on his lips.

"Whatever could it be?" she asked, kissing his nose.

He gestured his hand, and a bookshelf slid away to expose a previously-hidden room.

Hermione frowned, suspicious, and walked toward it, cautiously peeking inside.

As she stepped through the doorway, she found herself in her parents' living room, her parents bursting into happy tears at the sight of her.

"Hermione!" Her parents ran to her, hugging her tight. "Severus has been working on that bookcase for the last year, he told us when everything was perfect, we'd know! We never believed it when we got that letter saying that you were dead!"

Her parents attempted to do their very best to squeeze the life out of her, and Hermione could only hug them back. She looked up to where her husband was leaning against the bookshelf, a smug smile of satisfaction on his face.

"I love you," she mouthed silently, tears coming down her cheeks.

"I love you always," Severus replied, just before an eager gargoyle pup zoomed out of the portal door and jumped onto the Grangers' couch, promptly making himself at home.

The End.

A/N: Hope you liked the story! For those of you who got the **Infocom game reference, you're my kind of people, and I love you for it!

This story was written for The Dragon and the Rose, who had to beta her own story-gift. Oops? Damn I hope she liked it. I'm a horrible gift-giver!