"I can't do this," The girl declared, silently cursing the wavering of her voice as she said the words, while one hand gripped the back of the chair she stood behind so tightly that the skin of her knuckles turned white in protest, "I really can't."

"Actually, my dear, I do believe you can."

Whirling to face the man in response to the unwelcome words, and fixing the speaker with a glare that was normally reserved solely for her brothers, Aurora found herself rendered speechless in spite of her rather fervent desire to say something—anything—that might contradict the utter certainty that was so apparent in her companion's expression. But no matter how fiercely that desire gripped her, she found herself only capable of opening her mouth, closing it, and opening it once again, her entire body trembling with suppressed rage as she was forced to simply listen while the man stood near the fireplace spoke once again.

"Oftentimes, I have found that the moments in which I am least convinced of my ability to do a thing are in fact the very moments where I stand the highest chance of success."

"Not this time," The young woman protested, her fingers curling into fists and digging little half-crescent shapes in the soft skin of her palm as she struggled to maintain as much decorum as she could, given the company she kept, "I've—we have all lost too much, already."

"And we will lose far more if we do not act now," The old man persisted, aware of the dim flash of fire in his younger companion's eyes, though he chose to ignore it in favor of going on, "I know you are hurting, Aurora."

"Do you?"

"I do."

"You have a bloody terrible way of showing it," Aurora spat, somehow even more upset in light of the fact that her retort appeared to have next to no impact upon the man she was seeking to dissuade. Everyone she cared for—practically everyone she knew, for that matter, was either dead, on the run, or imprisoned. And although the mere thought of such a reality had a lump forming in her throat, the young woman did what she could to squash it down, a sharp breath escaping through her nose as she realized the man standing before her had now deigned to approach, one slow, measured step at a time.

"Have you ever once considered that it is precisely because of your pain that I am giving you this chance?"

"What chance? The Dark Lord is dead—"

"And yet, the threat to the boy still grows," Her companion informed, his tone taking on a gentler cast as he drew nearer to her still trembling frame, and fixed her with familiar, dazzling blue eyes that held both empathy, and a strange sense of determination in equal measure, "He will need protection. Who better to provide it, than you?"

"I can think of any number of likely persons."

"And I, by contrast, cannot."

"Why?" Aurora demanded, flinching against the bitterness in her own voice, and wetting her lips with her tongue before going on, "Why can't you see anyone else far better suited for this task than I?"

"Because you are a magnificently gifted witch. A dedicated Auror, and perhaps the only one with enough connection to the boy to render your devotion to this task absolute."

"Is this how I am to pay for my family's sins, then? By protecting the boy when the rest of them betrayed him, and his parents as well?"

"I would never hold you responsible for the actions of your relatives, Aurora. I only seek to give you a measure of peace after all that you have endured," The man assured, knowing that his words could do nothing to calm the woman now, and yet still holding onto the hope that eventually, she would see that this was the only way, "The boy will need a friend, as well as a protector, where he is going—"

"And I am to function as both."

"If you consent, yes. You will function as both. And I daresay that both you, and your young charge will benefit greatly as a result."

Remaining silent in lieu of yet another acidic reply, Aurora opted instead for actually giving the suggestion at hand some thought, her lips pursing into a frown as she stowed both hands inside her pants pockets to alleviate the stinging pain her fingernails had left in her palms. She wanted to scream—to cry—to blast everything nearby into smithereens to give evidence to the nearly crippling grief that threatened to paralyze her, even now, where she stood. But regardless of all of that, she also knew that doing so would only delay the inevitable acceptance of all of that pain and sorrow, rather than do her any good—

Her companion was right. She needed something that would aid her in pulling herself together in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, and inasmuch as she did not want to admit it, perhaps some time away from everything that was familiar was the first step she would require to do exactly that.

"If I do this—if I give you my consent—do I have your word that you will keep me appraised of anything of importance in our world, as well?" Aurora began, surprised at the sudden determination that had become so apparent in her tone, where only moments before, it had been laced with anger and despair, "If you need me elsewhere, I want to be of aid. I don't want to—to be—"

"You will not be left out, Aurora. You have my word," The man promised, pleased that his assurance appeared to have allowed for a slight relaxation in the young woman's stance, her entire body seeming to sag just a bit in relief that she would, in fact, be called upon if the situation required, "But I encourage you to use this time apart for healing, as well as ensuring the boy's safety. And I trust you will enlighten me of your progress, along the way."

Only able to manage a nod in response to the sudden request, Aurora found herself once again rendered speechless in the wake of her companion's enigmatic smile, his blue eyes twinkling once more as he retreated from her a few paces before disapparating on the spot. It was clear that he had taken her agreement as reason enough to be on his way, without hope of further explanation or instruction. And, in spite of the fact that her grief was by no means assuaged, Aurora found that she was completely incapable of resisting the slight tug of a smile at the corners of her lips, a sigh escaping as she took the liberty of moving towards the fireplace, herself, her eyes almost eagerly seeking out the flickering of the flames as she did her best to settle her thoughts towards the upcoming task at hand.

It appeared she would be venturing from her home on the morrow, and travelling to Little Whinging to begin life anew…

She could only hope that she would prove up to the task.

I know, I know! My Black Sails story was supposed to be my last new endeavor, for a while! But after binging Harry Potter this past weekend, yet another muse attacked, and I, having little to no self-control whatsoever, was powerless to resist. I solemnly swear that I am up to no good? Lol. I promise (really and truly) that I have absolutely no intention of abandoning any of my other work that I have posted, and in fact, I am going to make a concentrated effort to continue straying back to other stories that have not been updated in a while as I already have endeavored to do this past week off from work. So I truly do hope that you can all bear with me through this process, because I still have ideas for each and every single story I have posted to date!

As always, my heartfelt thanks go out to each and every one of you that has stayed with me through all of my insane bouts of writing mayhem! I appreciate each and every one of you more than you can ever know, and it is my sincerest hope that you all enjoy this little exposition chapter in Aurora's tale as much as I enjoyed writing it! I would, like usual, love to hear what you think!

Until next time, my angels (and I swear on all that is holy this is the LAST new story for a good long while)!

MOMM