Please don't be too upset with me. I love this story and have neglected it for way too long. I have the ending in my mind and have for a long time. Getting it written, on paper and the events leading up is the most difficult thing I've done in a while. Since I started this story before Books 6 and 7 were released and it was based in a world of "What ifs" after book 4 through a game I played, this story has never been canon. Thank you for continuing to read and enjoying my world of "what ifs".

Many thanks,


Chapter 23

The storm that raged that morning would have made any good Caribbean hurricane proud. The wind blew and whipped the cloaks of several residents of Hogsmeade every-which-way. As well as the weather being blinding, the only way Aran could watch for Melinda and Auster Snape was to be inside the Three Broomsticks. That wasn't possible at all because Rosmerta made it painfully clear that morning that he was not welcome in her fine establishment. A hazard of making it clear he was after one of her patrons. Hind sight was always 20/20.

There was one good way to handle this however and it occurred to him just a moment before Aurora entered the empty shop. The old bell rang and dust fell from as it tinkled, allowing the wind to catch it and swirl the dust around the doorway. "Imperio!" The bell tinkled again and the door slammed closed.

Aurora Sinistra wavered where she stood. She blinked several times and then stared blankly. The internal fight was on, yet the magic always won. Aran smiled, "So glad you could come and visit me, Aurora, after I asked you to join me here. I'm sure this wasn't your intention. In fact, I know you were going to tell me which way to stick my wand up my ass, but as you can see, I beat you to the punch." He circled around her slowly, his hand running along her neck and scooping up her long black hair, letting it fall back in its place strand by strand. "I have a chore for you, sister. I want you to go into the Three Broomsticks. I want you to watch for a wizard couple. One, and older man with black lanky hair. The other, a woman just a bit older than you. Both have obsidian eyes and look much like Severus Snape. When they arrive, I want you to find out their room number and return to me here." Here being a deserted shop in Knockturn alley. "It's very simple. Do you understand?"

Aurora's eyes shifted slowly to Aran's, "Yes." She said shakily.

Then, to be extra cruel, stabbing the knife in a little further and twisting, Aran's grin turned wicked, "I'm going to kill your father, Aurora. Then your sister… and finally your dear brother, Severus Snape."

Tears welled up in the woman's eyes, but didn't fall. Aran smiled, very pleased with himself. "Go on now."

Aurora swallowed hard, blinked away the tears and tried like mad to fight the unforgivable curse. She nodded and turned away. Aran watched her open the door of the small shop and smiled to himself as he settled back and poured himself a fire whiskey. He was rather pleased with himself.

Sinistra walked straight to the Three Broomsticks through the stinging rain and wind. Her heart was beating fast and felt as though it might explode in her chest. Once inside the establishment, she casually hung her wet robe up near a fire and took a table in the corner. The waiter approached the table with a couple of long strides and she couldn't even look up at him. "Pumpkin juice. Add rum. Lots." She mumbled to him and kept her head bowed, pushing coin enough for more than one drink towards him. He nodded and went off, returning moments later with the concoction. The drink burned her throat and she closed her eyes. I deserve more pain than this, she thought, and let the rum burn.

Each time the door swung open, she jumped. She kept biting her lip until she tasted blood and then she held each sip of spiked juice in her mouth causing pain in the split of her lip. More pain, she needed more pain. Something had to break the Imperius. She felt the tears fill her eyes and took a deep breath, pushing back her emotions. Keep a clear head, she kept telling herself, but it was difficult.

Especially when she looked up and found the grey shadow produced was one of a couple she knew. She held back a cry and stood abruptly, the chair falling and causing attention to be drawn to her. She stared for a moment until their attention was on her as well.

Briskly, holding Hermione's hand, Snape walked over to Sinistra and narrowed his eyes. "What are you doing here?" His voice was dark with warning.

She swallowed, her eyes wide and her heart pounding even harder in her ears. "I…" She couldn't speak and shivered visibly.

"Severus…" Hermione touched Snape's shoulder and he looked at her. Sinistra could see the tenderness in their eyes as they exchanged looks. "She's scared."

Sinistra had barely time to process what was happening when she gasped, staring at Hermione as the young woman studied her in return. "You're no longer a virgin." She said to Hermione with the clearness of women's intuition in her eyes. "What's happened to the spell? Is it broken?"

Snape narrowed his eyes as he turned back. This realization wouldn't get the woman out of answering his question. "No, you will answer our question first." He reached out and clasped a hand over Sinistra's shoulder while Hermione picked up her chair from the floor courteously. Aurora swallowed and again her eyes widened in clear fear. She shook slightly and Snape's eyes narrowed even further. "Aurora...? Were you sent here?"

Sinistra winced and shook, her whole frame convulsing as she rocked her head back and forth. Snape immediately reached for his wand and Hermione gasped, clutching his arm, impeding him from casting. "What's happening? What's wrong?"

"Hermione, don't..."

It was too late as Sinistra pulled her wand. Her voice hot and unnerved. "Expelliarmus!" Snape's wand flew out of his hand and across the bar room, landing on the plate of a rather obese wizard. Hermione just caught the wizard's upset look as he slowly lifted his head from his meal. It distracted her enough that she was knocked down by the table hitting her back. She yelled in pain and went sprawling. Her eyes shut tight as she felt her arm twist under her and snap.

Snape turned in an instant grunted, clenching his left arm and hissing. "Damn it!" he said between his teeth. He turned and watched Sinistra dash across the room and reached down, pulling Hermione's wand from her robes. "Stupefy!" he shouted a moment before she reached the door. The red bolt seemed to almost knock Sinistra forward. She hit the door face first and slid down it. Her blood-red robes drifting down like a cloud around her as the Astronomy professor hit the floor.

The chaos in the tavern erupted. Madam Rosmerta nearly hopped over the bar before she remembered herself and stomped around it towards the mess. "Professor Snape! What is the meaning of this! Why are you stunning other Hogwarts faculty in my establishment?"

She started walking towards Sinistra and Snape stepped forward, grasping the barmaid's arm, "She under the Imperious. Please, step back." He murmured and Rosmerta's eyes widened. "Please, take care of Miss Granger, her arm is broken." He told the tavern owner and her, with half an eye on the potions master, did so.

He bent carefully, narrowing his eyes and pushed Sinistra over. Her robes covering her face, he used Hermione's wand to lift the cloth and then studied her for other damage he may have caused besides that of the stupefy and fall. He tried to be gentle, knowing the harm the professor caused was not of her own doing. He found a bruise forming over her right eye as well as a sheet of paper tucked inside her robes as he pulled them off. "Is there some place we can put Professor Sinistra until she awakens?" he asked without looking up and kneeled next to the other professor.

A hand rested on his shoulder and a voice softly confirmed, "Our room, Severus."

Hermione felt herself lifted and she groaned as the movement jostled her broken arm. "It's okay," the deep comforting voice murmured and she lifted her eyes.

"Severus? I'm sorry, I must have passed out." She frowned, "I can walk." She wiggled her legs, but Snape would have none of it.

"For the moment, you'll be carried."

"Should I call for a healer, Severus?" Hermione recognized Rosmerta's compassionate voice.

"No, it's just a break. I can handle it. A room, please, Madam?" Hermione tried to look over his shoulder, but her vision was blocked by his dark robes.

"Of course, this way." She circled around Snape and led them up the stairs. Hermione noted the wizards and witches with their drinks eyeing the couple as they ascended and she blushed deeply, the heat coming to her cheeks from the uncomfortable stares.

Her eyes quickly returned to Snape's face. "Professor Sinistra…?" She whispered and he pursed his lips, tersely shaking his head. The indication was clear she should wait to ask her question. Hermione caught the hint and delayed her curiosity until she was lying down on a bed and they were left alone, the door secured. "Well?"

"She's in another room, I stupefied her. She is under the Imperious. It was a well performed Imperious, but one that was left too open for interpretation. She had to run from us or else be found out." He knelt next to the bed and lifted her arm gently, turning it as he held Hermione's wand in his right hand. He pointed it at her injury, pausing a moment, "The Bellulus Soporo isn't broken yet," he said without looking at her. His dark eyes instead studied her arm, "Episkey."

Hermione hissed as her arm suddenly became hot, then chillingly cold. She laid her right hand over the spot of the break as Snape pulled away and rubbed the same spot on his arm. As the Potion's Master stood he shook his left arm vigorously as if to work blood into it. "What's wrong?" She asked, frowning at his behavior.

"Oh, nothing! Absolutely, bloody nothing!" He tested his hand and looked down at it, shaking it again. "Damn, bloody, frigging curse!" He sat down on the bed, opening and closing his left hand repeatedly. "I felt you break your arm. I've had enough bones broken to know." He finally looked up and met her eyes. "Now, it appears, we're connected on a more intimate level." He sighed in exasperated angry. "I'm not willing to test separation, but I bet it would kill us both if one of us were to walk out of a room."

Hermione's eyes stayed level with his, "I'm not willing to test it." She assured him. "Don't worry."

The last bit was enough for Snape to snort, "Thank you." He paused and looked up at the door, studying it hard. "Sinistra is in my sister and father's room. We didn't even say hello before they took her there."

Hermione glanced towards the door. She sensed something in Snape's voice and knew enough of him now to sense he was uneasy. Who wouldn't be? She reached forward and touched his arm. The gesture he knew was to be reassuring. He tried to take comfort in it as he looked down at her small hand on his black robes and reached up to lay his right hand over hers. "I know I won't be alone, but that doesn't make it any easier." He murmured.

Hermione's lips quirked, "If I could make it easier, I would. I know I can't so I'll simply stand by you."

Snape turned and his dark eyes considered her, studied her face while a million questions drifted across his own. As if he had an answer, he leaned forward and touched his lips to hers. He would take his time to taste her before he had to face the inevitable. He was gentle and needy all at the same time and caused a familiar fire to stir in Hermione's belly. She almost had the nerve to suggest they stay in the room and enjoy it while they had the chance, but knew she was being cowardly on his behalf.

As if sensing it, Snape pulled away, "Make me stay here, Hermione."

"You know I would if it was best for you."

Snape slowly nodded and stood, pulling on her hand and helping her to stand as well. "Do you feel disoriented?" He asked, all business now.

She shook her head, "No, I'm fine." Her voice was too steady.

"Let's go." He pulled her the rest of the way up and towards the door.