Last Minute Crisis

by Quillusion

Chapter 4

The clock in the corner of the lab struck three o'clock, and Hermione jerked awake on the verge of falling off of her lab stool. With a hasty glance at the potion that was simmering on the flame- all looked fine in that quarter- she sat up and slowly unkinked the vertebrae of her lumbar spine in order.

She scrubbed at her face a bit to wake herself up, then got up and wandered over to the small sideboard on the far side of the lab, where food would not be dangerously close to active potions and their components. She poured herself a glass of water and drank it all down, setting the glass aside for her own reuse later. Massaging the tight muscles at the back of her neck, she contemplated the clock again.

Three hours. Not that long for a Death Eater gathering, but rather long given what she'd expected them to spend that meeting doing. She wondered how it was going; she hoped Severus was all right.

Moving back to her lab stool, Hermione dropped back onto it and sighed. Severus was more than all right- he was fantastic. Who would have guessed it possible to cloak such passion, even beneath a sartorial ode to Miles Standish? She smothered a giggle; the Potions master's sour reputation- and his ability to maintain discipline in his classroom- would never survive the leak of such information, for more than one reason.

She supposed that, to someone the age of his students, the notion of a man in his early forties still being a virgin would seem pathetic at first- to the men, at least. There would be much male imitation of swooning, high-pitched voices, and scorn, laced perhaps with derision and the natural adolescent male tendency to assume that no one-certainly not a man twenty-odd years their senior- could possibly be as skilled in the arts of love as they. There would likely be an insinuation that the lady had ulterior motives and a strong stomach for distasteful situations, rather than a true tendre for the Potions master.

But the female students were another matter altogether- as Hermione had every reason to know. No matter how loud her childish giggles and attestations of detestation between the dreaded Potions classes, a young woman's mind and intuition grew with the passage of even a few years, and it would not take long for the young girls in Severus's classes to pass into womanhood. And then they would feel the pull of his indefinable magnetism. As she had. And then they, too, would follow his movements out of the corner of their eye, half afraid, half fascinated- all too aware that at night, the sharp, wicked shadow of his presence would flicker among the darker things in their dreams as it now glided behind them and around them, silent but needing no sound to give away its presence and raise the hairs on the back of their necks. They would sit utterly still, paralyzed by the knowledge that a small corner of their mind was begging with equally silent intensity for his touch.

She had been careful her last year of school never to examine her feelings for the Potions master too closely, knowing it was inappropriate for her to do anything else and knowing too that there were more important things to be done. She had let the feelings sit undisturbed in a corner of her mind all through her university career, but when she returned to Hogwarts to work with Severus himself at Albus's request, she had found the thoughts and feelings shoved forward into the center of her mental desk again, and they were too large to remove without opening their box and examining them first.

She'd found them as shiny as the first day she put them away, as easily restored to their former brilliance and beauty as gold beneath dust: one sweep of that dark, intelligent gaze over hers had set them sparkling anew.

Hermione sighed again, this time in puzzlement. She'd hinted at her feelings for him before they'd settled on the bed in earnest- considering the subtlety of Slytherin minds, he must think she'd shouted it at him- but she didn't know what he really felt. He hadn't said, at least not in terms that she could decipher. She considered their discussion of his double entendre insult; she supposed the fact that he had made an effort- however hidden- not to truly insult her ought to mean something, but she wasn't sure what. The fact that she'd figured it out had definitely had an impact on him, and a good one- but further than that, she could not hazard a guess.

It would seem that Gryffindor impatience- or forthrightness- did indeed have its uses. She'd have to ask him outright.

Getting up from her chair, she went to give the potion another stir; it smelled faintly of sage, a nice smell that was quite soothing given her troubled ruminations. Her pride, and her heart, were rather endangered at the moment, but the warm swirling cloud of sage-scented steam permeated her mind and set her at ease a bit. Nothing ventured, nothing gained; and she knew Severus well enough to know that he was capable of working with someone for years on end without finding the need to make mention of even a glaringly obvious subject that intruded consistently on the situation. Her job, at least, would not be the more uncomfortable if her gamble did not pay off. Not on the surface, at least.

She adjusted the flame under the cauldron automatically, not really thinking about the task even as she backed it down to just the right height beneath the dully gleaming iron of the cauldron's bottom.

"Hermione!"

She spun around in startlement, her gaze coming to rest on Severus standing in the doorway through which he had left over three and a half hours ago. He was only slightly disheveled, and he carried the now-empty cauldron in one hand, his wand in the other. He stared at her for a long moment, his breathing not yet recovered from running up the long passage from the grounds, and she took a step toward him in concern.

And then he laughed. An honest laugh, light and sincere, and she'd never heard anything like it from him before. He dropped the cauldron onto the carpet with a metallic clang, kicking the door shut behind him with a practiced move, and started across the room as he unfastened his Death Eater robe. Hermione belatedly realized that the clanging sound the cauldron had made was the result of the Death Eater mask rattling in its bottom. Severus wrestled for a moment as the slick fabric surprisingly resisted removal; he gave a grunt of frustration and yanked, and it slithered free at last.

"You're very much like your maker," he told it as he dropped it to the floor with a distasteful curl of his lip. He turned and met Hermione's gaze, and she was glad to see he did not have the pale, drawn look of repressed horror she had so often seen him wear as he returned from a meeting.

"Call Albus," he said, his tone uncharacteristically buoyant. "Have him meet us in the Potions lab off the classroom." And then he was gone in a swirl of robes, leaving the tunnel to the castle hallway open behind him.

She jogged back up the tunnel, now inky dark in the blackness of night, her wand held in front of her to provide light. When she got to the classroom, Severus was nowhere in sight, and she tossed a pinch of Floo powder into the fireplace and called Albus's name.

It took the Headmaster a few minutes to appear, and he looked worried.

"Severus?" he questioned when he saw Hermione.

"I think he's fine, Albus. He seems... well, happy, or maybe just excited. He wants you to meet us down here in the Potions lab beside the classroom."

Albus studied her for a long moment. "I shall come through now, Miss Granger, if you don't mind," he said, and when she moved back in acceptance, he came through the fireplace, unbending his tall frame easily as he stepped into the room. He was in a robe and nightshirt, and his feet were slippered. She peeked at his feet, expecting pink bunnies, but his slippers were ordinary blue terrycloth.

"You were expecting something else?" he asked with a twinkle, and she nodded with a blush.

"Most people, when seen in private, are not what they seem to the world at large," he said. "Don't you agree?"

She met his gaze readily, acknowledging his wit with a small smile. Here was another Gryffindor who'd spent much time among Slytherins- or perhaps the division between Houses and their prized qualities was more severe now than once they had been. It was a question worthy of later consideration. "I do indeed," she replied archly. "It's easy to miss the finer things in life if you forget that."

"You were never one to miss much, Miss Granger," said Albus fondly, and then the sound of footsteps drew both their eyes to the door.

"Albus," said the Potions master by way of greeting as he moved to his desk along the far wall.

"Did everything go well?" asked the Headmaster, and Severus nodded impatiently.

"Fine, fine. The potion did its job- rather too well for Voldemort's comfort, I think. I got the very strong impression that he found more unrest in his followers than he had expected; while the potion wouldn't let him discover its cause, it would reveal to him that it existed. Which may have been part of why he asked for the potion . I must not be the only one with questionable leanings, but I was the only one who had warning and was able to prepare for the meeting." He opened a desk drawer and rifled in it for a roll of fresh parchment, quills, and ink, his voice muffled somewhat by the rustling of the drawer's contents as he worked .

"Lucius Malfoy had foreknowledge of the potion's use tonight, but he has consistently underestimated the power of potions in general. It is the one mistake I have seen him make- more than once, to his discredit and disadvantage- and yet he does not correct it. I do not think he prepared for this, and so even he was caught unawares." Severus turned and laid the writing supplies on a clean benchtop in the center of the lab before going on.

"I think there were two important consequences of tonight's meeting. First of all, Voldemort kept us for hours, questioning us individually and making everyone nervous. I think his followers will likely be uneasy for a few weeks, which gives us a little time. He damaged their trust by using this potion on them unannounced, which will shake their loyalty a bit. He will need to resolidify that loyalty before moving." He paused, as if considering, then spoke again, his tone diffident.

"Second of all, due to a slight quirk in the potion's composition and the fact that I was the one who brewed it and brought it to the meeting, I got a look into Voldemort's mind when he was questioning me. And I don't think he realized it."

Albus gaped, his eyes open wide with shock. "Severus! What did you see?"

The younger wizard smiled slowly. "Everything."

It took nearly two hours to jot down everything Severus could remember, and another ten minutes after that to look it all over and realize that this could indeed mean the end of the war. The headmaster's hands trembled a little as he spread the roll of parchment out and looked at it for another long moment. In essence, it was a four foot essay on how to destroy the Dark Lord in any of a dozen ways. He gave a good impression of invulnerability, but he had more weaknesses than they could ever have expected.

Albus stood up and drew his wand, casting a concealment spell on the parchment before them. Reaching into his pocket with a murmured enlargement charm, he produced a scroll case of the sort one would expect to find in the British Museum's Egyptian collection. It had delicate- looking sides of some luminous white-gold material- alabaster, or something similar- and the finials on the rods for the scroll were gold with inlaid enamel detailing. It was beautiful. Albus carefully fed the parchment onto the rods and wound it up neatly, setting it inside the case with a soft click. When he turned it over, Hermione saw the little gold eye projecting from one end of the case- and when Albus Reduced the entire thing with a word, she understood what it was for. A fine gold chain passed through the eye, and it was this which Albus now held out to her.

"Hermione, perhaps we could trust you to wear this and keep it safe for us? I don't need to tell you how disastrous it would be for anyone to find it."

She took the chain from him without hesitating, but didn't slip it over her head yet. "I don't suppose you thought to charm the paper to read like a love letter unless two of the three of us are here to decrypt it?" she asked casually, and he chuckled.

"No." He flicked his wand to do as she suggested, and then shook his head as she settled the fine chain around her neck under her clothing. "You've picked up a few things in your time working with a Slytherin archetype," he observed mildly. "I wonder if he's learned anything from you."

Albus moved to the fireplace again without giving her- or Severus- time to answer. "I shall be back for breakfast," he said. "I will go set the Order in motion." He paused, turning to look back at the Head of Slytherin. "The debt which the world already owes you is enormous, Severus Snape. What you have done tonight, I do not think it will ever be able to repay."

The dark-haired wizard looked up from his desk, where he was replacing parchment and quill. His expression was solemn as he replied.

"I've never had the impression that the universe much cared about payment, or balance," he said slowly. "Nor do I think we ever fully appreciate what is owed, and to whom."

"I can assure you, Severus, that there are many in this world who are fully cognizant of both of those things- at least where you are concerned." Albus frowned just a little.

"I know," Severus replied softly, and though his words were for Albus, his gaze rested on Hermione.

When the smoke from the Headmaster's Floo trip had cleared, Hermione went to set the kettle on the fire to make tea. Severus turned toward his storeroom and vanished inside for a moment, the sound of softly clinking glass vials soothing in its normalcy. The whistle of steam called Severus back out of his storeroom, a small tin of cranberry-elderflower tea in hand. When the tea was ready, they went to sit in the small chairs by the chess set, sipping from their cups with sighs of relief. Tea: the universal solvent, in which all manner of ills are soluble- and solvable.

"Well," said Hermione, conscious of the degree of understatement she was making. "What an eventful evening this has been."

"Indeed," Severus replied dryly. "I doubt the coming week will be dull, either. Now that we know where the Dark Lord is hiding- and how he's protected- it won't take long for Albus to put together a strike team. I suspect the harder task will be to round up his followers, although from what I learned tonight, they won't be likely to follow in his footsteps. It was rather comforting to learn I'm not the only one nervous around him."

This, thought Hermione, was as close as a Slytherin would ever come to saying Ask me how I did it! She smiled inwardly and said, "I meant to ask you about that. How exactly is it that you were able to read Voldemort's mind?" She paid no heed to his faint flinch as she said the name, even though he had said it himself a scant quarter of an hour before. "I thought we'd taken care of any possible risk in that department."

Severus set down his teacup and smiled, and the expression was both amused and sly. "Funny you should mention that," he said, and drew the ingredient list from his pocket. He handed it to her for her perusal, as she'd not had the chance to see it when he and Albus had gone over it.

"You already know that the addition of virgin's blood to this potion would have made a powerful telepathogenic. Clearly we eliminated that particular danger-" his mouth curved in a satisfied smile- "and even before that, I was careful not to cut myself in the process of preparing the potion. It also happens that I already had most of the potion ingredients prepared in the storeroom anyway; I have checked those supplies with every charm I can think of, and there is no trace of blood in any of them. I did not accidentally contaminate any of them when I prepared them months ago, in all ignorance of their future use. And yet something odd must have occurred to give me the chance to read the Dark Lord's mind without giving him the same chance to read me."

His dark eyes glittered, and Hermione saw that he knew perfectly well what had happened, and was just enjoying telling her the story. She leaned forward in interest.

Severus finished his last sip of tea before going on. "The Dark Lord is rather untrusting- as you have seen- and he bade me drink the potion first, before he would have any. He had me do this before anyone else added the blood, of course, because he wouldn't have wanted me to have the experience he intended solely for himself. So I produced ladle and glass and proceeded to take a sip of the base. Once he was satisfied, he drew a drop of blood from each of our left index fingers with a silver needle, added it to the potion, and then drank the potion from his own glass, dipping it out with his own ladle. He then destroyed the remainder of the potion to prevent anyone else from having the same chance to see what he was about to see.

"But I still had a small amount of the potion in my glass. And when he used that silver needle on me, I noticed he had scratched the side of his hand when drawing it out of his pocket. He wouldn't have been worried about it, for no one was going to drink the potion but him, and when he had my hand by the wrist to prick my index finger, I was able to get a small amount of his blood on my middle finger. I decided to chance it, and managed to get the blood from my finger into the potion in my glass and take a sip when no one was looking."

Hermione was on the edge of her seat, fascinated by the quickness of Severus's mind to think of all of this while maintaining a calm facade. Her raised eyebrow encouraged him to go on.

"This," said Severus with a smug smile, "is where it all got decidedly strange. I had expected to have a vague impression of knowledge and how things stood, as the Eye of Sarudai's maker had originally intended. But suddenly I was seeing everything from two perspectives- one my own, the other Lord Voldemort's." Hermione noticed he said the Dark Lord's name without flinching this time. "And I could grasp his thoughts, as clearly as if they were my own. The potion was letting me read his mind fully and completely. I held back for a moment, afraid he'd feel me in his mind or know from the limited powers his version of the potion gave him that I was reading him, but he didn't seem to notice. When it looked as though he wasn't going to catch on at all, I started exploring, and found the things we've already discussed.

"I looked into his mind as much as I dared- it's not a human mind any longer, and it's easy to get lost- and then I started looking at the other Death Eaters. Lucius Malfoy is a tough nut to crack, but he's got a lot of problems behind that perfect facade. Most of them have nothing to do with us or our fight, so I left them alone- but he's as afraid of Voldemort as I am. So is Rosier, and so are the Lestranges. The Dark Lord has taken things a bit further than I think they expected. That means they might be willing to ally with us, at least long enough to kill Voldemort."

Severus poured himself a little more tea and took a sip; his throat was dry with talking. Hermione shook her head. "This is almost unbelievable," she said. "You're sure this isn't just a trap Voldemort placed before you?"

"Quite certain," said Severus. "I could see everything he intended a moment before he did it, and saw him control several impulses which were definitely in need of restraint. From what I know of him, he would never be so calm if he found me prying into his thoughts; he'd have lost his temper immediately, and I'd likely be dead. Even if he had the notion to lay a trap for me, he would not have done it by making himself look vulnerable to attack; he'd have shown me images of power, done all he could to make himself look invincible. He would want to extinguish any thoughts I might have had of resisting him, of turning aside from his plans, and he would do it by making me think that his was going to be the winning side and there was no point in jumping ship. His ego cannot handle even the idea of vulnerability; he has not fully acknowledged his own weaknesses sufficiently to defend against them, and that will be to our advantage."

"Incredible," said Hermione softly. "That's quite an accomplishment, thinking all of that through on the spur of the moment. "

He arched a brow at her. "I am a Slytherin," he reminded her.

"The archetypal Slytherin, according to Albus," she said dryly. "I suppose we shouldn't have expected less than a thorough and silent infiltration of the enemy's defenses, in the long run."

"I had it in mind," he admitted. "I just wasn't sure how I was going to work it all out. This little whim of the Dark Lord's just made it easier."

"But it still doesn't explain the most pressing question of all," Hermione reminded him. "Even with Voldemort's blood in the potion, you should only have had vague impressions. Not full telepathic ability. How did that come about?"

Severus rose from his chair and took Hermione's teacup from her, setting it beside his on the end of the chessboard that was vacant. "Ah," he said. "And now we come to the crux of the matter."

He knelt down before her and held his left hand in front of him, palm up. "Here is the needle prick Voldemort made." The small dot of dried blood marked the spot. "This finger-" his middle- " caught his blood in turn to put it in the potion. I daresay you recall what else this hand has done tonight."

She blushed and looked away, but he would not let her.

"I'm left-handed, so I used this same hand to cast the cleansing charm before I departed at midnight. Which means, as you no doubt have already surmised, that this hand was not entirely clean, having been missed by the charm.

"So when I used this hand to add Voldemort's blood to the potion, I was also adding your blood, Hermione. Wasn't I?" His voice was soft now, a bare murmur vibrating in the air between them, and she shivered. She knew what he was really asking, and she owed him the answer. She nodded once.

He smiled with something between tenderness and triumph, and nodded back. "So the potion I drank contained something more powerful than virgin's blood. It contained first blood, the innocence of the girl combined with the knowledge of the woman. And so you have given me not only my own salvation, but the entire world's." He laughed a little.

"Ironically, even if you'd been there, I would not have been able to read your mind- for it was your blood that conferred the powers on the potion, and that would have rendered you immune. And so it is that I must ask you now, Hermione, what I will never know unless you tell me. Can you have been moved by anything other than the world's need last night?"

Hermione stared at him, the simple honesty of his question beyond what she would ever have expected from him. Reaching slowly out, she took his left hand in her right, and her courage in both.

"It was not the world's need that moved me, Severus. It was your need." She swallowed. "And mine."

The curve of his mouth softened just a little, and there was a warmth in his dark eyes that only someone who knew him as she did would notice. He tightened his fingers on hers in silent answer.

"You know," he murmured softly, "it's rather apropos, I think- you've been disturbingly subtle for a Gryffindor, and I've been shockingly blunt for a Slytherin. I suppose Albus would say we bring out the best in each other."

She laughed then, seeing the irony of the compliment, and leaned over to kiss the back of his hand in hers. "I don't suppose he'll be surprised," she said, and Severus chuckled.

"I wouldn't expect so. Tonight is the first occasion on which I've ever genuinely surprised that man. I'll have to remember his expression and savor it, for I'm not likely to get a second showing."

The faint rays of dawn were beginning to filter in through the lab's windows, and Severus turned to consider the day starting outside the castle.

"It's a new day," he commented. "There have been few dawns indeed which brought me such hope."

"Yes," Hermione said contemplatively. "This could really be Voldemort's end."

He tilted his head, looked at her for the space of a heartbeat.

"That's not what I meant," he murmured, and with gentle hands caught her face in his hands and held her still for his kiss.

Albus made his way slowly down the stairs to the dungeons, sighing with pleasure over the delightful quiche which had formed part of his breakfast. He had always adored the morning meal, and on many occasions had been known to have it three times a day. It was a shame Severus and Hermione had missed today's particular repast, as the House Elves had outdone themselves. And one of the quiches had been onion- something Albus felt certain Severus would have found to his liking.

Arriving at his destination, he knocked politely on the lab door, pausing to listen for the sounds of industry- but all was silent. He pushed the door open on well-oiled hinges, and found an empty room.

The cauldrons over their flames were simmering gently, Noverboil charms placed with Hermione's typical neatness, the benchtop clean and ingredients stowed as they ought to be. The bookshelves and high workbench were also tidy, no stray volumes or notebooks left out. The only mess was around Severus's desk, which looked as though it had been the victim of a thorough mugging. Desk drawers hung open, papers were strewn beside it, and its blotter was crooked.

"Hmm," Albus mused, and turned to look back at the door. "I suppose they've turned in. They were up half the night, after all."

His chess set caught his attention. He supposed he might as well leave it for them; they did use it quite a bit, and heaven knew the work to remove the Dark Mark was still worth completing. Even if the Order's attack tonight was successful, he doubted Severus was the overly sentimental type who would want to keep such a reminder of his past. He sat down in the chair beside the chess set, absently flipping up the lid of the mahogany storage box.

The pieces didn't need more of an opening than that, metaphorical or literal. They poured out of the box, chittering and clattering as they found their squares, and Albus chuckled at the sight. They'd never cared for idleness.

"And did you enjoy the match with Severus and Hermione last night?" he asked his pieces.

The resounding miniature cheer surprised him. "Really?" he asked. "That good?"

The black king gestured excitedly, and Albus raised both eyebrows. "Do tell," he said.

The black queen scowled at him, and he shushed her. "I'm no gossip. But I have a reputation for omniscience which needs regular upkeep." He turned to the black king again. "You were saying?"

Dragging his queen by the hand, the black king made his way to the center of the board. Bowing to the white queen and king across from him, he then turned and proceeded to re-enact the entire evening's events, haranguing the black queen into playing Hermione's role. She warmed to the pantomime after a few moments, and the heated kiss at the end of the evening's discussion produced decidedly pink tinges on the faces of the white pawns in the front row of the little 'audience'. If the black pawns blushed, no one could tell.

"I never knew he was such a romantic!" exclaimed Albus with delight. The black king gestured wildly, as if to remind him that the story went on. He then borrowed a bishop to play the role of Albus, and they quickly covered the morning's discussion. Albus's leaving was communicated with a quick shove to the bishop's backside, which sent him sliding back to his usual square, mitre askew.

"What happened after I left?" Albus dutifully prompted, and the black king's response was his complete undoing.

The little chess piece pantomimed a discussion with his queen, ending with a tender kiss-

-at which point the black queen, having fully embraced her role, launched herself at the king and kissed him long and lustily, knocking him to the floor. Regaining their feet- albeit with difficulty- they stumbled their way across the board, knocking pawns over (several of them flung themselves about or leapt in the air and fell with great gusto, doing their best to imitate falling furniture) and causing mayhem as they moved through each square, until they reached the mahogany box lid. The black queen hastily made as if to shove everything off the lid, and then her mate lifted her up onto it, their combined actions conveying the fullest possible degree of frantic desire. They were so enthusiastic in their portrayal that they actually fell off the other side of the box lid, and reappeared with sheepish smiles a moment later to mimic the waving of wands to repair the room and the hasty departure of the protagonists to points more private.

"You don't say," Albus said, wiping tears from his face with his beard and holding his sides. "Oh, Circe's girdle, I don't think I'll be able to look either of them in the eye for days without laughing. No wonder the room is too neat." He laughed again. "Well, good for them. I don't suppose they'll reappear for lunch- I'll just have the house elves bring something up to them with my compliments." His eyes twinkled. "Oysters, perhaps."

He left the chesspieces as they stood, bowing to them in thanks for the performance and retrieving one stray pawn whose fall had carried it over the edge of the table. "Well done, my friends. Thank you again for your intelligence, and for your entertainment." He paused. "And if they reappear later... do let me know how it goes, hmm?"

Albus vanished up the stairs, muttering to himself. "I can hardly wait to tell Dippet- he never gave Severus enough credit! Perhaps I oughtn't to say anything to him, though- he can never keep a secret. Every painting at Hogwarts would know the whole story by nightfall...."

But if there were rumors in the hallways, and if the portraits in the castle had much to whisper in the next few days, Hermione and Severus were scarcely aware of it. For the underwater bedroom was warmed by a Flooproof brazier... and its walls were bare of portraits.

Fin

A/N: Ah- just the right size for a snack.... I do hope you enjoyed this short piece! I could have made this chapter a bit more lemony, but the little black king just stole his moment and I hadn't the heart to take it from him. He amused me too much, even if he does steal scenes. Please let me know what you think of the piece, now that it's done! It so encourages me to write more. :-P

Speaking of writing more, here's a shameless plug for a story I'm starting: it's tentatively titled The Kindest Curse, although that's liable to change, and its first two or three chapters are going to be posted on AFF.net and FF.net at the same time this last chapter of LMC is posted. I'm branching out a little bit; this is a story inspired by (but almost entirely unrelated to) the Marriage Law challenge on WIKTT. I know, I know, that makes no sense. It will eventually. It stars Hermione (how can I leave her out?) as a curse-breaker hired by an unlikely client for an even more unlikely job.

This new one will probably be a good-length story, and Lucius Malfoy has a major role in it. (Jason Isaacs would be happy- after all, he jokingly suggested that Book 5 could be all about Lucius. Well, Mr. Isaacs, here's to the fascinating Lucius Malfoy and his worthiness of a greater share of the plotline.) Severus, however, has asked for a vacation. He tells me I've worn him out- I think his exact words were "worse slave driver than Dumbledore and Voldemort combined, and the Granger girl is going to be the death of me if I can't find a way to stay dressed in her presence for five minutes", or something like that. But he will be back- he's already threatened to hex me if I permanently reassign any roles opposite his favorite leading lady. And I think he may have been bluffing about 'finding a way to stay dressed'- he gave Hermione the address of his hotel and a few safe Apparation spots before he left. And he has agreed to a cameo if I request it.

I think he's going to miss us while he's away.

Anyway, I'd really love feedback and support as I venture out into a new arena with a new character, especially if you enjoy my writing and wouldn't mind letting me know how I do. I'm having a ball writing the first few chapters, and the work has gotten the muse awake and asking for food. That's usually a good sign- although it could just be the effects of being on a diet...everything asks for food... even my hair wants food, and I can't figure that one out. ;-P

Cheers!

Email questions or comments to quillusion@yahoo.com