Disclaimer: All Harry Potter people, places, things, and ideas (all Harry Potter nouns) belong to J. K. Rowlings. All Elf-related topics, the Elvish language, references to staff magic, and any other Lord of the Rings nouns belong to J. R. R. Tolkien and the Elvish dictionary at Nevrast. The titles of the chapters were inspired by "Once Upon a December" from the cartoon movie Anastasia.

Dancing with Memories

Chapter 1: The approaching storm.

Smoke surrounded him completely like gauze around a lamp being shipped somewhere. The acrid smell of death was in the air and he found himself sitting on soggy grass. He held her in his arms and knew instinctively that she was dying. Bleeding wounds appeared on her stomach, neck, and shoulders. He felt her warm blood ooze onto him from where he held her. "Help me, my Severus," was her dying request that he knew he could not comply with.

Severus Snape woke in a cold sweat, sitting up in his bed and looking around the room. Bathed in only comfortable darkness, he noted that he was still alone and glanced at his digital clock. The red numbers told him that it was only 5:00, but he decided to make himself a cup of tea, not wanting to deal with the nightmare again.

As he sat in his bathrobe, waiting for the tea to cool, he allowed himself to ponder the nightmare. I haven't had that one in five years. I wonder what brought it on. It would have been better if we had learned what had happened to her, but it is time I finally put the episode behind me, he thought to himself. He finished the tea and realized upon walking around the room a bit that something did not feel right. Harry Potter had defeated Voldemort over the summer and a new school term had begun. However, something was amiss, as if time itself were holding its breath. He quickly shrugged off the thought and stepped into his shower.

Later that afternoon, Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore sat playing chess. "I cannot believe that the new term has already begun. It is most refreshing to be teaching without the threat of Voldemort looming over our heads. Rook to h4," Minerva commented.

"Quite right, my dear. This should be one of our best years. Knight to c6," Albus added.

She looked at the board and sighed heavily. "That is the problem. Pawn to f3."

"Bishop to b5. What troubles you?" he inquired.

"This all seems far too easy. Perhaps I've been talking with Severus too much. I have this feeling that we are waiting for the next disaster. Rook to h5," she expressed.

She had not noticed where Albus' bishop was in correspondence to hers. "I'm certain that you are only being cynical. My dear, your worries are affecting your game; I haven't come this close to beating you in nearly thirty years. Bishop to f1."

Sighing again, she folded her hands in her lap. "I'm sorry, Albus. I just wish that this feeling of dread would go away."

He stood and walked over to her. "Much has happened over the last year and I believe your paranoia will dissipate in time. But you must…" he trailed off when he reached out to touch her cheek. "Minerva, you're flushed. Are you feeling alright?

She smiled softly and kissed his hand. "Yes, I'm just tired. Certain things take a while to heal."

"My dear, are you certain that you're up to teaching this year?" he asked with concern. She nodded adamantly.

"I most definitely am. Those students are what has kept me going half of the time," she answered with a confident smile.

"And what about the other half of the time?" he probed with a kind smirk.

She raised an eyebrow. I wonder what he could be hinting at. No, it's not possible that he could see me in such a light, as much as I might wish it. "You, of course," she told him in a reserved tone.

He was about to reply when he notice a large grey owl at the window. "Albus, doesn't that owl belong to the Ministry of Magic?" she inquired.

"I do believe it does," he stated as he let the owl into his office and untied the parchment attached to its leg. His eyes widened in surprise as he read the note. Then he handed it to Minerva and she read it aloud.

"Dear Headmaster Dumbledore and Deputy Headmistress McGonagall, the Ministry of Magic has decided to inform you both of an unfortunate event. An ancient, hidden storage room was broken into four days ago and certain items from the older days of magic were stole. The items include, but are not limited to the staff of Saruman the many-coloured and all-seeing orb. Because the items have a connection to the Middle Earth period, we are sending you our best expert on the subject. She will be coming form Wales by floo network shortly after you have received this letter," Minerva finished.

"It is a pity that the letter does not tell us how Hogwarts is connected to Middle Earth," Albus remarked.

Minerva's brow furrowed. "I don't even recall reading about Middle Earth in any history books, considering that our only knowledge of it came from that Elvish professor we had all those years ago. Someone has a great deal of explaining to do."

Suddenly a rush of air and soot came from the fireplace and a woman stood in front of them. Both of them stared at her, open-mouthed, not expecting to ever see that particular woman again. "Perhaps I can clarify a few matters," the woman said. As they continued to stare at her, she spoke again. "You two look as though you've seen a ghost."

After an hour of intense conversation, Albus and Minerva decided to owl Severus. Minerva spoke after the owl was on its way. "Do you think we should have told him in the letter? As it is, he will be quite shocked at this development," she inquired.

"It is better that he finds out by seeing her himself. He would not likely believe anything we could possibly tell him about all this," Albus responded.

Severus had just distributed a quiz to his last class of the day. His second-year Potions students looked as terrified as ever, knowing that they only had ten minutes until the class would end. As the Potions Master sat down, he glanced at a well-read slip of paper that he had laminated. Remember, Severus, it doesn't matter which teaching methods you use. The important thing is to see that they learn the material sufficiently, this you must stick to. It had been a gift from someone who chose to see his potential. As the bell rang, he looked up to see an owl fly into the room and landed on his floor.

"Well, what do we have here?" he asked the Headmaster's barn owl, untying the parchment.

Severus,

It is crucial that you come to Albus' study immediately. There is a matter of personal safety for the school, and a personal matter pertaining to you.

Always watchful,

Minerva

She had a habit of ending her letters that way, but he appreciated the concern both she and Albus shared for him, though he had tried on several occasions to deter them from caring so much. He hastily left the classroom and sauntered toward the Headmaster's study.