The Ring Part 1

The metallic scent of blood assailed Hermione's nostrils as she darted, from pillar to pillar, occasionally firing blasts back at her pursers. A large chunk of stone exploded from the column she'd just ducked away from, bits of shattered stone stinging her arms and legs as she ran. The cries and howls of fighting wizards filled the air, some suddenly silenced mid-scream. Hermione zipped into a cloud of smoke, tripped and stumbled over something soft. She caught herself on her hands and looked back to see her trainer was covered in blood. The gray mist cleared somewhat and she saw what she had fallen over, the upper torso of a dead deatheater, cut in half and lying in a pool of congealed blood. The bottom half was nowhere to be seen.

"She went this way!" she heard a rough voice cry out to her left. Desperately she pushed off the ground, running low, trying to lose the deatheaters in the swirling smoke and ash. She could hear the sounds of their feet closing in and fired a blast over her shoulder. She was rewarded with a scream and a thud.

"The blast came from over there!" shrieked a female voice. Hermione dodged just as a stream of blasts flew in her direction, passing harmlessly behind her. Suddenly she hit a solid wall, almost knocking herself senseless. The witch ran along the length of it, frantically running her hands along its surface, seeking a door, window anything. The region she was in now was clear, there was no smoke to hide her.

"Shit, I'm going to die," she thought as the shouts of deatheaters echoed behind her as they spotted their prey. Her heart pounding Hermione ran as fast as she could, hearing the deatheaters drawing closer, their footfalls right behind her. She was winded, her lungs burning. A pain ripped through her shoulder, blood flying as one of the hexes hit her and she cried out, gripping her arm…it was useless and her wand fell. She didn't have time to pick it up as she fled.

"Here, she's dropped her wand. No need to kill her from a distance now. We can have some fun," a male voice said, laughing cruelly. A round of agreeing shouts went up, and Hermione hoped she would come to the edge of a precipice, where she could fling herself off to an easy death, rather than fall into the hands of the dark wizards that pursued her.

She fled, her steps slowing. They were going to catch her. They were going to rape and torture her, and not be merciful enough to kill her outright but open her veins let her die slow as they tormented her. She knew what they did to young witches. Even moreso what they would do to a muggle-born witch. She stumbled forward and met a hard body.

"Come with me," a voice hissed, grabbing her hand and dragging her along. She looked up and saw that it was Snape. He was covered in blood, but it didn't appear to be his own. He had a wicked looking short sword in his other hand.

"Look, Snape's got her! He's helping her! Traitor! He's a traitor!" a male voice called out behind them. Blasts erupted all around the fleeing pair.

Snape sheathed his weapon, halted, turned and released Hermione's hand before thrusting both hands forward in the direction of the pursuing deatheaters. A powerful blast shot from his palms and for a moment she could see the silhouettes of five bodies encased in light. They screamed and writhed as the light hit them, then disintegrated, only their clothing remaining to fall to the ground. Snape grasped Hermione's hand again and took off running, his robes billowing as he dragged the witch behind him.

"Run!" he hissed at her, pulling her along. A shout went up to the right of them, and Snape halted just as a hex passed in front of them, and again he thrust out his palm in the direction the blast came from, and sent a great burst of power that melted the attacker away with a howling shriek.

Hermione had never seen such a display of power before. Not even Albus melted the enemy away, leaving nothing but their clothing. Professor Snape was a very powerful wizard, more powerful than she had ever imagined. They came to a tall pile of rubble and Snape flung her behind it, then himself. She fell, and Snape knelt next to her, feeling about in his pocket. He pulled his hand out and pushed something small and hard into her hand.

"Keep this with you at all times," he said softly. "It will protect you."

He then placed his hand on her wound and muttered something. The pain instantly vanished and she was able to move her arm again. She looked at him in wonder, and Snape's black eyes met hers. He looked frightening and dangerous, his face covered in streaks of blood. Suddenly Snape cupped her face and drew her to him, kissing her hard. Hermione was shocked, but quickly responded, feeling his tongue snake into her mouth and explore it hungrily before he pulled back, releasing her, his eyes hot. Hermione looked at him, trying to catch her breath. That had been one hell of a kiss.

"One of the things I've always wanted to do to you, Miss Granger," he said silkily, "Portis"

The object in her hand glowed blue. Hermione felt a tug at her navel, then she was pulled between space, blurred concentric circles of light washing over her as she was drawn through a pulsating void. It was freezing. Suddenly she stopped, space bending around her, then pulsing, forming a room full of wall-to-wall books. Disoriented, she staggered a bit. She looked down at her hand. In her palm was a silver ring formed of twisted serpents, mouths to tails. A large letter "S" carved from onyx graced it. Snape's ring. It was a port key. And this must be his study. He had sent her back to Hogwarts, to the safety of his rooms.

Hermione placed the ring on her finger, and felt it magically tighten to fit her. The Professor had saved her life. And from what he said to her, and the way he kissed her, it was plain he believed he was never coming back.

"Miss Granger, so good of you to come on such short notice. I only received the missive from Professor Snape's solicitor this morning. It is a letter concerning his last wishes. He left instructions that if he were not to return in six months, that we could rightfully assume he would never return at all. I'm afraid, as far as we know, Severus Snape is dead, killed at the Final Battle," Albus said, his eyes sad.

Hermione felt her heart plummet. She had been hoping beyond hope that the Professor would return. After their final parting, she had so many questions she needed answered. It was obvious that the wizard harbored feeling for her she had never known about. She would have liked to have explored the possibilities with him. She had known him since a child, and he had served as teacher and protector her entire time at Hogwarts, and when she returned to the staff as a Spells Mistress three years later, he surprisingly treated her with courtesy, and as an equal. His dismissive and derisive treatment of her younger years had all disappeared. She had never suspected he felt anything else for her. If she had known, she would probably have returned his interest. But now he was gone, and she would never know what could have been between them.

The ring on Hermione's finger seemed to pulse and grow warm. She looked down at it, and felt strangely comforted. She traced the small serpents. Snape left her something with which to remember him, and with his kiss, let her know that he felt something more for her than the respect of a fellow teacher. She looked up at Albus.

"What were his wishes, Albus?" she asked him.

Albus cocked his head and looked at her strangely.

It appears that he had a last request concerning you, Miss Granger. He would like you to deliver something to his ancestral home. Something rather precious and lay it to rest in his family vault.

"Me? Why me?" Hermione asked.

"According to his missive, only one pure of heart and purpose may deliver it. And there is another requirement…though I hesitate to ask about such a delicate personal matter. These times are much more…er…free than in my time, Miss Granger and you are now twenty-three, correct?" he asked her gently.

"Yes sir," Hermione replied, "but please Headmaster, tell me the other requirement."

Albus looked at her. "The deliverer of this item must be pure of body as well. A virgin."

Hermione blushed. She qualified. She just never had time for a relationship, with school and then her position at Hogwarts. And she had never found anyone who struck her fancy, besides the dark Potions Master. And he never knew of her interest. Well, at least she thought he didn't. Perhaps he had.

"Where is his ancestral home?" she asked the Headmaster.

"Well, that is the strange part of this, Miss Granger. He doesn't say. He only says that you have something in your possession that will lead you there. He doesn't identify what that is. Do you have anything that fits that description?" the Headmaster asked.

"I have his ring," Hermione said, holding her hand out to show the Headmaster. He examined it closely, then looked up at her, his brow furrowed.

"Where did you get this ring, Miss Granger?" he asked her.

"The Professor gave it to me at the Final Battle, the last time I saw him. He saved my life with it. It is a port key," she said, "He said to keep it with me."

She said nothing about how he said it would protect her. For some reason she didn't want the Headmaster or anyone else to know.

"It is much more than that, Miss Granger. This ring is many centuries years old, a Snape family heirloom said to contain powerful magic. It has not been off the hand of a Snape in over two thousand years. I am amazed he gave it to you as there are other Snapes to whom it could pass," the Headmaster said, frowning. "If they knew you had it, they would come to claim it, despite Severus' wishes that you have it. They are a dark group. Very dark. Severus would have nothing to do with them."

Hermione always assumed Professor Snape was alone in the world, without family. Knowing he had relatives was quite a revelation. But he had meant for her to have the ring, and she would keep it. Relatives notwithstanding.

"There is more about this, Miss Granger," Albus said. "You would be required to travel alone, and be wandless. You would in essence be traveling as a muggle."

Hermione considered this. She was muggle-born so would not be put out by such a requirement. She knew how to survive non-magically. A pureblood wizard would be lost as a kitten if placed in such a situation. Hermione thought about this. The Professor was certainly asking a lot of her. Why her? His relatives could probably take the item. But then again, he didn't deal with them. There was probably bad blood between them.

"Headmaster, if I took this journey, how would I survive? I have no idea how long it would take, and I don't have much money."

"The missive says that all you need will be provided for you. And as for money, that is no longer a problem for you. It seems the Potions Master has transferred his residuals to you, as well as given you his library and all his research on potions he was developing. Obviously he hoped you would continue his work at some time. You did minor in potions, did you not?"

"Yes sir," Hermione said in a small voice. This was unreal.

"His solicitor has set up an account into which the residuals are deposited monthly. You already have quite a bit of money. Enough that you do not have to work if you don't want to," Albus said, handing her a piece of parchment. Hermione read it. It was an account statement from Gringott's with her name on it. Her eyes went wide when she read the amount of galleons the account contained.

"All this in six months?" she breathed. Albus nodded. Hermione felt as if she would faint. Albus looked at her, alarmed.

"Are you all right, Miss Granger?" he asked her.

The room stopped spinning. Hermione looked at the Headmaster dazedly.

"I'm fine, sir," she said as her head cleared.

"Where is the item I would have to deliver?" she asked Albus.

"Apparently, somewhere in his private rooms. I imagine the ring would help you locate it, if you choose to fulfill the Potions Master's last wishes. It is quite a tall order. It would be understandable if you declined. After all, you have no idea where you are going, and you will be relatively defenseless without your magic. It seems a daunting task," he said softly, looking at her soberly over his half-moon glasses.

"I will have to think about it," Hermione said, her brow furrowed.

"Of course," Albus said. "Severus' private rooms have been attuned to your magical signature, Miss Granger. Since we hoped he would return, nothing in it has been touched. It remains as it was before he left us," Albus said. The old wizard's eyes glistened. He missed the Potions Master greatly.

"You can enter them at will," the Headmaster continued, "but preferably after class hours. Our substitute Potions Mistress utilizes the office then, and you must use it to access Severus' rooms."

"Yes sir," she said, "Is there anything else?"

"No, that is about it, Miss Granger," Albus said, duplicating the solicitor's parchment and handing her a copy. Then he started as if remembering something.

"Oh, there is one more thing, Miss Granger. It seems Severus has also left you his familiar. A raven. His name is Raucous."

Oh no. Not that bloody bird. Hermione wondered if Raucous knew he now belonged to her. He was a smart bird…if irritating. If he did, he probably laid an egg while having birdy conniptions. Hermione and the raven never got along. Whenever Hermione was in his presence and distracted, the bird would swoop at her and shit on her shoulder, then fly to the highest ceiling joist and caw in raucous birdy laughter. He had remarkable aim. Well, that little hobby would definitely stop. Now she could hex him. She grinned a bit wickedly.

She rose and said good-bye to the Headmaster and headed for her lab, looking over the missive thoughtfully.

In another part of the world, far from Hogwarts and Hermione's situation, a pale, dark-haired young man sat in a luxurious sitting room, his head bent to a lyre, plucking each string and tightening it. His black eyes closed in concentration as he listened, trying to find the perfect pitch of each note. Finally, he strummed it, and gave a slight smile of satisfaction. He sat up straight and began to play a beautiful, if melancholy tune.

As he played, a beautiful woman swept into the room gracefully, and walked behind the chair in which the young man was playing, her ebony eyes focused on his pale hands as they plucked the strings almost lovingly. She was tall, and willowy, with silken raven locks that fell to her hips. Her alabaster skin was flawless, her lips full and sensual. Her nose was slightly aquiline. She had the bearing of royalty. She was dressed in a black gown, her long fingers tapped the back of the chair idly as she listened to the last dying strains of the song. Silence fell. She clapped.

"Very nice, Vivaldi," she said as the young man turned in the chair to look up at her

"Sister, I didn't know you were standing there," he said, "You heard my new composition then?"

"Yes, and it is quite lovely, brother," she said, walking around the chair and running her finger over his cheek then under his chin slowly. The young wizard's eyes went abnormally hot at her touch.

"Thank you, Venoma," he breathed.

She kissed him lightly on the mouth, then walked over to the sofa and sat down, crossing her long legs.

Her brother looked at her, his black eyes sweeping over her form. He looked appreciative.

"Vivaldi, it's rumored that Severus is dead," she said.

"Our cousin?" the young wizard asked, interested.

"Yes. The one who was a teacher of some type at that wizarding school. How degrading to the name of Snape," she sneered. "Teaching peons and mudbloods."

Venoma shuddered with distaste.

"Do you think it's true, sister?" Vivaldi asked, idly caressing his lyre as he looked at her.

The witch looked consideringly. "I don't know, Vivaldi. No body has been found, and no attempt has been made to deliver what must be delivered.

"And what of the ring?" the wizard asked, his black eyes glittering, "where do you suppose that is? We should have it now, if he is dead. We are family, after all."

"You'd never know it by the way he treated us. No doubt that blackguard has placed it in another's care for safekeeping. But the delivery cannot be made without the ring. We must watch for strangers. Watch the tomb. Try to waylay them and claim what is rightfully ours before his or her mission is completed," she said, her eyes narrowed.

"But the ring…the ring may not…" he said nervously.

The witch turned dark, dangerous eyes on the wizard, who blanched.

"Don't worry about that, brother. The ring will not work at full power for anyone outside of the Snape family. Nor will it work for a wearer…that is dead," she replied.

There. Hermione was out of danger. The ring would watch over her until all this madness was over. And it had what Snape needed. He only hoped this would work. If not, his final act would still be worth the sacrifice.

Taking a deep breath, Snape dashed from behind the rubble, back through the screams, hexes, smoke and flame, running low, his short sword in hand. Potter would never find Voldemort in time. He was too well hidden. The death and violence erupting from the battle would swell the Dark Lord's power to epic proportions. He would be unstoppable, then it all would be truly over. The only one who had access to the Dark Lord's hiding place was a high-ranking deatheater. Him.

Snape swerved around and leaped over the many bodies and body parts that littered the grounds, and ran unhindered to the point where he could apparate into the Dark Lord's presence. There was no other way to end this. He stopped by a toppled statue, and disapparated.

Suddenly it was quiet. The screams, cries and blasts of battle were far from this place of respite.

"How goes the battle, Severus?" a high pitch voice addressed him from the center of the room. Snape bowed low.

"It is a terrible thing, my Lord. Bodies and blood. You can smell death in the air," Snape replied, approaching the Dark Lord's golden throne.

It was the only object in the large circular throne room. Voldemort sat upon the seat, his wand clutched in his scaly hand. The wizard was dressed in seamless golden robes, the Morsmordre symbol embroidered down the front, diamond trim on the sleeves. His red eyes locked to Snape and the lipless mouth turned up in a snake-like smile. His tongue flickered out.

"Excssssssselent!" he hissed, "I can feel my power growing, Severus. Soon I will make my appearance and slay all living. It's a shame about my deatheaters, but their sacrifice will ensure my victory."

"Yes, my Lord," Snape said moving closer to the throne. "Sacrifice can insure victory, this is true. One man's sacrifice can save an entire world."

"But the sacrifice of many can conquer a world, Severus," said the Dark Lord, "Are you prepared to sacrifice your life for me?"

The Potions Master looked at the Dark Lord, his black eyes beginning to glitter.

"I am prepared to sacrifice my life if I must, my Lord, but not for you. To destroy you!" Snape said, charging the throne and hitting it and the wizard so hard, the great chair toppled, taking both wizards done with it.

"How dare you! How dare you touch me!" Voldemort screamed, rolling away from the Potions Master and leaping to his feet with surprising quickness. He pointed his wand at Snape.

"You'll die a traitor!" he screamed at the pale wizard.

"Maybe I won't die at all," Snape replied, apparating to the Dark Lord instantly and wrapping his arms around the wizard arms, and trapping them and his wand at his side. Snape almost vomited at the putrid scent of Voldemort. He smelled like death and decay, the things he fed upon for strength.

"You cannot hold me," Voldemort hissed, his tongue flickering across Snape's cheek. Voldemort began to radiate power. Snape crushed the wizard closer to him and began to chant an incantation.

"What…what are you doing! That incantation…it will destroy us! Both of us! Where did you learn that?" the Dark Lord screamed in horror, his power receding as Snape continued to chant, a golden glow forming around his body and spreading to the Dark Lord.

His black eyes locked to Voldemort's.

"You were right to fear me, my Lord. But for the wrong reasons. I never wanted to move up in ranks and become you. I wanted only your death. You underestimated me. My power. If you had stopped your little egocentric ravings to look around you, you would have found it strange I survived so many Cruciatus curses," Snape said softly, as the glow increased in brightness. The two wizards began to shudder, Snape never relinquishing his hold on the Dark Lord.

"I bided my time, Voldemort. Albus wanted to do things his way, and I let him. He wanted to follow the Prophecy, and I sat back and watched everything boil towards this conclusion. You would have won, Voldemort. I can't let that happen, even if I have to walk into that final darkness with you," Snape breathed, clinging to the wizard as the glow around them became a great consuming flame.

"Severus! Severus! Wait. Wait! I will share my kingdom with you! We will rule side by side!" Voldemort cried, trying to break free as the flames intensified.

"A kingdom of suffering? A monarchy of corpses? An empire of death? No, my Lord, I have no desire to be a king in the kind of world you would create. I would rather serve as your attendant, your conductor, your guide…"

The flames flared dangerously. Severus grimaced, then continued, his black eyes victorious.

"and escort you back to the Hell that spawned you!" Snape cried as the flame erupted, boiling over and turning them both to steaming ash, the flame extinguishing itself immediately.

Two small, flaky mounds sat piled on the floor in the exact positions occupied by the two wizards, one black, one gray. Voldemort and Snape were no more. Snape had made the ultimate sacrifice for the wizarding world's freedom, killing the Dark Lord and himself. And like the other services he'd selflessly rendered to protect a world that rejected him, no one would ever know.

Then a strange thing occurred. A slight stirring of magic rifled the still air. It whirled and grew in power. The pile of gray ash began to pile upon itself, forming a column, which then condensed, crushing itself into a short, thick, solid cylinder. A bright glow filled the throne room, then the pile of ash formerly known as Severus Snape, Potions Master…was gone.

Two days later, Hermione stood outside the Potions office. It was eight o'clock in the evening. She was staring at the door, torn. She had considered the last wishes of Professor Snape and the part he had hoped she would play in fulfilling them. It would be a great imposition on her, but then again, Snape had sacrificed so much for the wizarding world in his service to the Order. He never received a reward for spying on Voldemort all those years. Things would have been so much worse without the information he provided about the Dark Lord's planned activities. Snape had saved many lives.

No one knew what happened to the Dark Lord. Albus simply said that all signatures of his dark magic were gone, which suggested the Dark Lord was dead. But how he died was a great mystery. A number of books were available promoting different theories, but not one was a certainty. At least he was gone, however. Thank the gods for that.

Hermione stared at the door for a bit longer, then pulled out her wand.

"Alohamora," she said, and heard the door unlock. She turned the handle and pushed it open. She entered the Potions office. It seemed the substitution Potions Mistress had already begun making changes. Most of the horrible pickled creatures Snape had kept in jars on the shelving behind his desk, were gone. He wouldn't have liked that. Snape thought first impressions were important, and the backdrop of hideous dead things helped soften up students and visitors quite nicely as far as he was concerned. Most thought he used the creepy corpses in his potions and brews, but he didn't. He simply liked to let people think so. It made him appear even darker and wickeder. He really worked on that image. It helped keep the idiots away.

Hermione walked through the office to a wall and looked at its bareness. Her eyes fell on a torch that seemed to have a slight glow other than its flame. She pulled on it, noticing the glow faded the moment she did so and did not return. The glow must have been meant to attract her initial attention since the rooms were attuned to her. Now that she knew the torch was the way in, it wouldn't glow again. The wall slid back, then to the side, revealing Snape's study. She had been here before. The torches ignited immediately upon her entrance, as did the fireplace. It was so quiet and still here. Like a shrine or tomb. Hermione walked over to a wall of books and looked at some of the titles, gasping at the rarity of some of the tomes. They were all hers now. Her eyes glistened when she thought of the wizard's generosity to her. In the missive he said that she would probably be the only one who would not liquidate the library and sell its contents. He was right. The library was worth far more than money to the witch. She would have to ask Madam Pince, the Hogwarts librarian to help her catalogue them all, so she knew what she had.

Albus said the books could remain in the private rooms. She would spell them so they could not be removed without her express permission. Not even by the new occupant, which would probably be the current Potions Mistress, who was currently domiciled elsewhere. Hermione strolled through the study. There was a bottle of firewhiskey on the small table between two armchairs facing the fire. An empty glass sat next to it. Snape's final drink. Hermione picked the glass up and held it for a moment, knowing it was probably the last thing he touched before heading out to battle. Her eyes welled up, and she sat it down.

She walked into his bedroom. It was quite austere, having only a bed, a wardrobe, an end table, a dresser and a chair. The walls were bare. Snape never kept portraits anywhere in his rooms. He said they were spies for Albus. He was right too. That was the secret of the Headmaster's seeming omniscience. Tattling pictures. People had a tendency not to notice them and spoke freely in front of the portraits, which would then inform Albus of the latest happenings about the castle.

After Snape told her this, Hermione removed several portraits from her own rooms. Initially, she had left a painting she liked of a river, surrounded by a copse of trees, but one night out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a slight movement in the painting. She walked over to it, peering at it. There was another tiny motion in the copse of trees. She saw someone hiding behind an oak tree.

"Come out of there!" she said, "Or I swear I will cast a paint removing spell on this painting!"

A small painted wizard with curly brown hair and a large mustache stepped out of the forest, looking sheepish. He cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted something at her, but was too far away for Hermione to hear him. It was a landscape painting after all.

"You get out of this painting. If I catch you spying on me again, I will spot clean you," Hermione hissed at the image, which immediately took off running and disappeared past the edge of the scene. Hermione never felt comfortable with the painted scene again, and so took the painting down.

Hermione walked over to Snape's bed. The green and silver sheets were rumpled, and the pillow still held the indentation of the Professor's head. Hermione stared at the pillow, then climbed into the bed and lay on her back, resting her head in the depression. She lay there quietly in the bed, where the Professor had last lain, looking up at the ceiling, sadness in her amber eyes. Snape had been a great wizard, and, she suspected, a lonely one despite his snarkiness. She could have helped allay that loneliness, if only he had confided in her what he felt. She rolled over, her face pressing into the pillow. She could smell the faint scent of sandalwood.

There should be more to remember of Severus Snape than an indentation on a pillow, an empty glass and the faint smell of his favorite scent. He was a hero. He had not even received a memorial service. Not many people would have attended anyway. Hermione sat up in the bed and made her decision. She would fulfill Snape's last wishes. He deserved that much. Maybe it wouldn't be a difficult journey. The missive had said she would be provided for. She had not yet replaced her lost wand, and was getting by with one of the school wands that were provided for the less affluent students, those whose parents could barely afford tuition. So she was used to being wandless at this point. Traveling without magic would not be difficult for her.

Hermione rolled out of the bed, and smoothed the silk sheets with her hand before walking back into the study. She looked around. Albus had said that the thing she was to deliver to Snape's ancestral home was hidden someplace in his rooms, and that the ring would help her find it. She looked down at the ring. It sat there on her finger like any other piece of jewelry would. She held her hand up and examined the ring, turning her hand back and forth.

"Show me where the item is I need to take to the Professor's ancestral home," she intoned.

The ring sat on her finger and did nothing. Hermione tried again.

"Show me, O ring, your Master's secrets!" she said, thinking she hadn't sounded dramatic enough for the ring to respond. Still nothing. Hermione dropped her hand, scowling.

"Drat. I wish I would show me where the damn thing was," she griped. Suddenly the ring grew warm, very warm. Hermione looked at it. The "S" flashed a blue light slowly, then stopped. Hermione shook her hand to try and get it to light up again. Nothing happened.

Aggravated, she walked forward, and the ring flashed again, and began to blink very slowly. Hermione walked backward, and the blinking slowed. She cocked her head at it.

"What are you about?" she asked the ring, which of course did not answer her.

She walked forward again, and the blinking became a bit faster. Insight came to her. Holding her hand in front of her, she began to walk around the study. When the ring blinked faster, she continued in the direction she was going until it slowed again, then turned to another direction which made it blink faster.

"I see!" She said to the ring. "You blink faster when I am getting closer to what I am looking for!" She had discovered the secret. She followed the blinking ring until she came to the fireplace. It was blinking so fast, the light seemed a steady glow now. The item was in the fireplace somewhere. Hermione ran her hands over the stones slowly. Close to the bottom, her hand passed through a stone, and touched something small and cold. She felt around again, and felt a small bag with something hard inside. She drew out both items. The cold item was a small, black, seamless box, made of onyx, like the "S" on her ring. The other item was a small, black velvet bag with a gold drawstring and an "S" embroidered on it. The ring suddenly grew very warm on her finger, then cooled and ceased to glow. She had found what she needed.

Hermione walked over to Snape's small writing desk and set the box and bag down on top of it. She drew out the chair and sat. down, just looking at the items for a moment. Then she picked up the box and turned it over and over in her hands. She could find no way to open it. She looked at it closer and noticed the image of a serpent was etched into the surface of the box. When she shifted the box in the light, the serpent seemed to move, the coils undulating, and the eyes flashing up at her. Extraordinary!

"What are you?" Hermione whispered. "Are you what I am to take on my journey?"

Hermione started and almost dropped the box. It seemed to pulse in her hand at her question. She carefully put it down and picked up the velvet bag. She felt it gingerly. It felt like there were coins inside. She opened the bag and dumped the contents into her hand. A galleon and some sickles dropped out. She put the bag down on the desk, and looked at the money. It wasn't much. She picked up the bag and was about to put the coins back in it, when she heard clinking. She turned the bag over again, and three more galleons dropped out of it. Her mouth fell open. She shook the bag, making sure it was empty and put it back down on the desktop. After a moment she picked it up. There were more coins inside.

"Wow," she breathed, "A moneybag."

Moneybags were extremely rare. They provided the exact amount of coinage needed to make a purchase. Supposedly a moneybag was magically linked to a large hidden cache of money, and was connected in some way to Gringott's bank. Just why the money was provided was a mystery that only the goblins who ran the bank knew the answer to, and they weren't telling. How did Snape have one? Hermione looked at the bag. Well, now she knew how she would be provided for on her journey. With the moneybag she could pay for food, lodging and transportation without carrying a large sum. She would have to be careful with it, however. She couldn't let anyone know the source of her wealth.

Hermione gathered the box and bag together, and put them in her robes pocket. She started to exit Snape's private rooms. She would have to inform the Headmaster of her decision to fulfill Snape's last wishes, let her parents know she would be doing some traveling, and close down her labs. Just as she was about to leave the room, there was a loud, raucous caw from the rafters above her. She looked up and saw two points of light gleaming down at her. Suddenly, Raucous dropped down from the ceiling, landing neatly on the floor and looking up at her.

Birds don't have a great many facial expressions, but the raven tilted its head at her slowly, and seemed to radiate a distinct feeling of great sadness.

"Hello Raucous," Hermione said quietly. She and the bird did not get along, but she felt sympathy for the familiar. It had lost its Master and probably was grieving for him.

"I'm so sorry about the Professor, Raucous," she said to the bird, who let out a small, keening cry in response and fluttered its wings. "You belong to me now. That's what he wanted."

The bird ducked its head and fluttered its wings some more, as if to say it understood. It seemed resigned to its fate. Hermione looked at it.

"If you behave yourself, you'll find I'm not so bad. I won't work you too hard. You'll have a lot of freedom until I get back from my journey," she said. The bird looked up at her excitedly and began to hop about cawing. He made quite a racket.

"Raucous! What in the world is wrong with you?" she said. The bird hopped about wildly, then flew up and perched on her shoulder, preening her hair frantically. Hermione hunched her shoulder a bit. The bird was rather large and had a good grip on her shoulder with its clawed feet. It didn't hurt however. Raucous continued preening her hair, combing the strands from root to end. Hermione understood.

"You want to go with me?" she asked. Raucous let out a deafening caw. She turned her face toward the bird a bit. Having a familiar along to deliver inquiries might be a good idea. The missive said she would have to journey alone, but she was sure that meant human companions. She raised an eyebrow at the bird.

"All right, Raucous. I'll take you. But you'd better behave yourself or I'll turn you into a feather duster," Hermione said with a slight scowl.

The bird cawed, then clipped its beak at her. If ravens could smile, Raucous would be all teeth.

Hermione walked to the study exit, Raucous still clinging to her shoulder.

"You're coming with me now?" she asked the bird. It nodded. Raucous was really very bright. Hermione realized that the bird must have been lonely without the Potions Master, and needed company. He belonged to her now anyway. It made sense that he would now stay with her.

"All right, Raucous. I'll fix you up a perch in my room, and set the floo so you can come and go at will."

The raven cawed and preened her hair again. He did a very good job of removing snarls. Maybe he'd be useful in other ways as well. Familiar and witch left the Potions Master's room.

They had an adventure to prepare for.

As Hermione prepared for her journey, she was concerned with just how she was to get started. She had no idea where the Professor's ancestral home was, or what direction she should start in. Hopefully the ring would reveal this to her when she began.

Hermione was an experienced hiker and camper thanks to her father's love of the outdoors. She wasn't sure if she were going to always be where she could get a room for the night, or transportation so she prepared for her excursion with that in mind. She had a well-worn pair of comfortable walking shoes with ridged bottoms that should suit her well throughout the journey. Since she was traveling as a muggle, she figured she'd dress like one, and took only one set of robes. She had three pairs of loose fitting cotton pants and a couple of t-shirts, three long sleeved shirts, a change of socks, several knickers and two bras. These items were all charmed to be self-cleaning by Professor Flitwick, who blushed when he had to handle Hermione's unmentionables. She was not to use magic on the journey herself, but imagined charmed items would not count if they did not have to be invoked.

She also packed a rain poncho, a small pop-up tent for one that folded neatly into a tiny case, a small flashlight that could be shaken to generate light, a small lightweight sleeping bag, a muggle lighter, matches, a Swiss army knife her father gave her, a self-refilling water bottle, a couple of rolls of tissue and a warming stone. She packed some trail mix and jerky too. If she needed other supplies she could pick them up during her travels. Flitwick also gave her a translation charm to wear around her neck. It would make her able to understand and respond to foreign languages. She thanked him for that. She needed to be able to communicate.

Minerva McGonagal was extremely worried about Hermione taking this journey alone. She, Albus and Hermione stood in the Headmaster's office the day before Hermione was to set out to deliver the small black box to Severus' ancestral home. Minerva was in a right state.

"What was Severus thinking asking you to travel alone with some mysterious box and no magic to who knows where? Even from beyond the grave the man is insufferable!" she said, scowling at Hermione, who faced her with a determined look on her face.

"Minerva!" Albus said disapprovingly, "It's not nice to speak ill of the dead, my dear."

Professor McGonagal crossed her arms.

"Hmph. I'm not even sure he's dead, Albus. He could be somewhere lurking, waiting for Hermione to turn up and then…pow…he's got her. You know how he used to look at her when he thought no one was looking. I saw the lechery in his black eyes!" she said, her voice high.

Minerva's eyes started to glisten, and she covered her mouth with her hand.

Albus walked over and put his arm around the distraught witch. Minerva had liked Severus very much, but she was sick with worry at Hermione leaving on such a potential dangerous journey and was lashing out unthinkingly.

"Minerva," Hermione said, her mouth twitching at the Professor's comment, "A wizard being attracted to a twenty-three year old witch is not lechery. It's nature. And I highly doubt Professor Snape faked his own death simply to have at me. There are simpler methods. Kidnapping for example." Hermione smiled wickedly at the Transfiguration Professor. From the black look on Minerva's face, she didn't find Hermione's attempt at levity funny at all.

"This is close to kidnapping. Having you traveling out and about in the world all alone, with no one knowing where you are or what you are doing. Severus only made that request because you're a Gryffindor, and he knew you'd be moved to honor it. Bet he wouldn't have asked one of his Slytherins to take some magicless journey. They would have said no in the flick of a hippogriff's tail," Minerva said, stamping her foot.

Hermione frowned at the Professor.

"I am not doing this because I'm a Gryffindor or because I feel obligated. I am doing this because Professor Snape served the wizarding world selflessly, and gave his life for it. He was never thanked or honored for that. He obviously believed that I could fulfill his last wishes, and has entrusted me with something precious to lay to rest for him. It is the least I can do for a man who sacrificed himself for so many. Not only did he give his life, but he arranged for my life to be one where I can pursue anything I wish when we were nothing more than associates. It is a small thing he asked of me, and it wasn't even a condition of receiving his legacy. I could have said no and kept everything he left me just the same. No one has ever shown me such kindness, Professor, or been as selfless as Professor Snape. I want to honor his memory, and I will by fulfilling his last request, whether you approve or not."

Minerva just looked at Hermione for a moment. Then sighed and dropped her head.

"Of course, Hermione," she said, sounding chastened, "Severus was a good and selfless wizard. He did deserve more than what he received from all of us. I understand what you are doing and why…I just wish…" she began.

"I will be fine, Minerva," Hermione said walking up to the witch and embracing her. "And I'll be back in no time, I'm sure."

Minerva held on to Hermione as if she were the last child leaving the nest. Hermione had to gently remove the woman's arms from about her. She turned to Albus, who was looking at her soberly.

"Headmaster, I've closed up the labs, and will do the same to my rooms when I leave tomorrow morning. Is there anything else you want me to do?" she asked the tall wizard.

"Yes," he replied, "Be careful my child. Exercise caution with whomever you meet on this journey. Be slow to trust and quick to withdraw."

"Yes sir," Hermione said. She walked up to the tall, thin wizard, stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek. Then she walked to the floo.

"Goodbye Headmaster, Minerva," she said smiling, "I'm off."

She stepped through the floo. Minerva looked after her a moment, then turned to Albus.

"Do you think she'll be all right, Albus?" Minerva asked the Headmaster with a tremor in her voice.

Albus patted her on the shoulder reassuringly.

"I think she'll be just fine, Minerva. Remember, she is a muggle-born so can function without magic. She is also one of the most intelligent witches of the age. Severus would not have asked her to do this if he did not have full faith that she could accomplish it. And she has his ring. So don't worry. We will have her back before long," he said.

But his blue eyes were worried.

Early the next morning, Hermione had a light breakfast in her rooms with Raucous, who had his own plate of bacon and scrambled eggs. Hermione spoiled the raven, and he loved it. Severus had been a good master, but always too busy. Raucous was left to find his own food. Hermione fed him three times a day and sat and talked to him every night before she went to bed. The bird was quickly forming a fierce attachment to the witch. He would watch over her during this journey.

Hermione covered the furniture in her study with sheets, then checked to see if she left anything undone. No, she hadn't. She hoisted her backpack on her back. Flitwick had also charmed it to be lightweight, no matter how much she packed in it. Raucous flew over and landed on her shoulder. He tried to preen her hair, but it was drawn back in a ponytail and he only succeeded in pulling a strand out of the tie.

Hermione extinguished the torches, took one last look at the study and exited her rooms. She walked up the dungeon corridor, getting strange looks from the students, who were not used to seeing the Spells Mistress dressed in muggle clothing, wearing a backpack and carrying a raven on her shoulder. She walked into the main hall and exited out the main doors.

Hermione walked across the school grounds at a good clip. Hagrid was out and about and waved at her. She waved back at the half-giant. When she reached the main gates, she realized she didn't have a wand to drop the wards. But she pushed on the gate and it opened. Obviously the Headmaster had thought of this before she did. Hermione closed the gate and felt magic stir. She pushed it again, and it was locked and warded.

Hermione stood in the middle of the road, unsure of what do to or which direction to start out in. She looked down at the ring.

"I could use a little help here," she said to the piece of jewelry wrapped around her finger.

The ring just sat there on her hand, doing what rings do. Nothing. She sighed.

"What am I supposed to do?" she said out loud. Raucous cawed, trying to be helpful.

Suddenly she thought she heard someone speak. The voice was low, and rather silky.


A shudder ran through Hermione. That voice sounded familiar. Very familiar.

"Professor?" she said, looking around. There was no answer. But she was sure she clearly heard the word "Portis" whispered to her. She didn't imagine it. At least she didn't think she did

Hermione looked down at the ring. It had transported her once before.

"Portis," she said.

The ring glowed blue and suddenly the witch and Raucous were gone.

Snape stirred, awareness returning to him. His first reaction was puzzlement. Hadn't the incantation worked? How could he still be conscious? He should be dead.

He opened his eyes and looked on the personage of Voldemort. The wizard was floating in front of him, apparently unconscious. Snape looked around him. He was drifting in a dark space, speckled with lights reminiscent of stars. He felt weightless, and the silence around him was so thick, it was deafening. Was this death? He heard a groan and looked over at the Dark Lord.

The red eyes opened, and immediately narrowed when they fell on Snape. Then the wizard looked about him.

"Where are we? What is this place?" Voldemort demanded in his high-pitched voice. He struggled in place, but continued to drift. He had no purchase with which to move in any direction. He frowned at Snape and thrust out a scaly finger at him.

"You did this!" he cried, "You traitorous scum. You killed us!" the Dark Lord screamed at him.

"Yes. It seems I was successful, though I never imagined death would be like this," Snape said, looking around. Actually, it was very beautiful, very peaceful.

"We will be trapped here forever!" Voldemort hissed, his forked tongue flicking toward Snape.

The Potions Master looked at him. "Trapped for eternity with you. Yes, that's my idea of Hell," Snape replied.

Voldemort made a choking noise and desperately tried to grab Snape, whirling his arms as if attempting to swim towards him. The Potions Master smirked as the Dark Lord let out a string of obscenities at him.

"I'll kill you!" the Dark Lord spat.

"A little late for that, my Lord," Snape said. Voldemort fell silent, but glared at him hatefully

Both wizards floated gently in the strange void for what seemed like hours.

"Is this all there is?" Voldemort said, his voice cracking, "Endless drifting among the stars? There must be more. There must be a reward!"

Snape looked at him. "If I were you, my Lord, I wouldn't be hoping for any reward for the kind of life you lived. I'm sure you are on the 'naughty" list."

"Fuck you!" the Dark Lord spat, "I lived for glory!"

"You slaughtered and tortured thousands of innocents. Men, women…even children. There is no glory is that. If you had lived, you would have made the world one great ocean of blood," Snape said, his black eyes glittering.

"It would have been my great ocean of blood," Voldemort retorted, "And I would have swam in the agony of all who opposed me."

"That's exactly why you're here now. Your evil is taken from the world, Voldemort. It was well worth my life to remove you," Snape said.

"Yessss," Voldemort hissed, "but you have condemned yourself as well. You are with me."

Snape looked thoughtful. "I was already condemned, Voldemort, just by being in your service and providing the elixir that kept you alive until you began to feed on death and destruction. I enabled you to do your evil, even as I worked against you. I accept my fate. It is also my redemption."

Voldemort hissed at him. Suddenly there was a thunderous noise that appeared to come from everywhere at once.

"What is that?" Voldemort cried, terrified.

Snape didn't answer him. He looked around, then below them. He saw an orange light approaching. It was just a small dot, but was getting increasingly large. Voldemort saw where he was looking and looked down also.

"What is that!" he repeated, the fear in his voice making it even more high-pitched.

As the orange light drew closer, Snape could see that it was not a light at all, but a kind of funnel, made of churning, roaring fire. On either side of it were two small masses of flame also approaching. The two wizards were bathed in firelight as the mouth of the twisting, turning inferno drew closer. Then it stopped several hundred meters away. The two masses of fire continued toward the two wizards.

Voldemort was stiff with horror. Snape was resigned. Whatever was going to happen would happen. The two flaming masses stopped very close to Voldemort, and changed into two fiery beings made of flame. They looked like naked men encased in fire. Their eyes and mouths were simply darker flame. They looked at the two wizards.

"Aye, there they are," said one flame being to the other, who nodded. "We've come to get you. Got a nice hot place waiting. Seems you made the "naughty" list." The being grinned wickedly.

"NOOOO!" screamed Voldemort. The being looked at the other.

"I tell you, George, it's the ones that really deserve it that makes the most noise about it," he observed.

"Where are you taking us?" Snape asked calmly. The flame being looked at the wizard.

"Not 'us'. Just him," he said, nodding towards Voldemort, who was moving his mouth silently, his tongue lashing about in terror. "You was supposed to go, but you managed a 'save'. You ain't one of ours no more. Ought to be glad about that," the being said, latching on to Voldemort's arm. The Dark Lord screamed in agony.

"You think you're screaming now. I'm a low-temp. You've got folks waiting on you that makes the sun seem like an ice cube. Come on now. Gotta go."

The other being latched on to Voldemort, who screamed again. His robes were smoking and his red-eyes bulged out in pain.

"Severus! Severus help me!" Voldemort screamed as he struggled between the two beings who carried him to the churning mouth of the funnel.

Snape looked at the screaming wizard, his black eyes cold.

"You wanted reward, my Lord. It seems you have it," he said.

The two beings swung the wizard back and forth between them.

"One…two…threeeeee!" George said as they flung Voldemort into the fire. The wizard slid down until he was lost to view. Both beings dusted off their hands, and turned to Snape.

"The others ought to be along soon for you. So hang around a bit," George said laughingly. Then the tunnel began to recede, and the two beings flew alongside it. Snape watched them until they were mere specks, then they were gone. Silence fell again.

The Others?

Snape drifted in the black, starlit space for what seemed like months. His consciousness seemed to come and go. Then he heard something. It sounded like music. It began to fill the void. Sweet, tinkling sounds, like chimes in the wind. Snape stirred himself to full wakefulness and looked around. Above him, a white light was fast approaching. Two smaller specks flew alongside it. Snape figured these were the good guys, finally coming to collect him. A great funnel of light stopped a distance from him and the two beings of light flew toward him. Their eyes and mouths were also made of darker light. Both beings smiled at him.

"We've come for you. We would have been here sooner, but you were a late addition. Seems like you pulled a 'save'," the closest being said to the Potions Master.

"So I've been told," Snape replied dryly. "So where are you two taking me?"

"Oh, to your Just Rewards. A lovely place really. Full of light and love," the being replied.

Snape scowled a bit.

"Any dungeons there?" he asked. The beings looked at each other.

"No, but if you need one, it can be provided," the being said, looking rather puzzled.

"Thank the gods," Snape thought. The land of light and love sounded nauseating.

"Well, let's go," the being said, reaching for Snape. Then it stopped and looked at him. Then he reached for the Potions Master's arm again, then stopped.

"Hey. You're grounded. Can't take you," the being said. "You aren't properly dead yet. Sorry."

Snape let out a sigh of relief. It had worked.

"So what happens now?" Snape asked. The being shrugged.

"You just stay here until the situation rectifies itself. You did plan this, didn't you?"

Snape nodded. "Yes I did. I wasn't sure if it took though."

"Oh it took all right. You're just going to have to float here until something happens," the being said, withdrawing. Then it hesitated. "You'll have some entertainment at least. You'll be able to watch your loved ones that are still alive while you wait. It's something to do. It ought to start in a bit. See you."

Both beings and the tunnel of light receded very quickly. In a moment they were gone, and Snape was once again left alone, drifting. Hm. He'd be able to see his loved ones. Well, he didn't have any loved ones, so it would probably be a blank screen.

Suddenly the space in front of him grew cloudy, and a mist formed. Snape looked at it as static flew across its surface. Then he saw her. Hermione. She had a pack on her back and Raucous was sitting on her shoulder. Her hair was drawn back in a ponytail. Snape looked at her pack and was able to see past the fabric, to the contents. He saw the onyx box wrapped in a piece of cloth.

"Yes! Good girl!" he said to the image of the witch pushing the main gates of Hogwarts open. She stood in the middle of the road.

I could use some help here.

Snape started. Was that her voice? No, he hadn't heard it. It was more like he felt it. She was trying to get to his ancestral home and didn't know how to start. She needed to activate the ring as a port key.

"Activate the ring, Hermione. Say 'Portis,'" Snape said to the image.

Suddenly the witch and Raucous disappeared.

"Yes," Snape said, "I knew I chose well."

It wasn't lost on the Potions Master that the image showed Hermione Granger. His feelings must be stronger for the witch than he wanted to admit to himself. Yet, he couldn't deny it. His ability to see her was unmistakable evidence that Hermione Granger was indeed a Loved One.

Hermione gasped as she came to a stop. Raucous took to the air the minute he felt them hit solid ground. The raven had never traveled by port key and was completely thrown. The only flying he liked was the self-propelled type. He flew in great circles above Hermione's head, attempting to get his bearings again.

Hermione was aware of gulls crying and the crash of surf. The briny scent of the ocean surrounded her. She looked around. She stood a few meters from a white sand covered beach, standing in some tall, coarse grasses beyond rows of sand dunes. The surf crashed rhythmically on the shore, rolling and white-crested. She looked out across the water and saw a number of large, wicked rocks that stretched the entire expanse. There were people too. Fishermen it seemed. Gulls circled them as they appeared to fold a huge net. The weather was temperate, not too hot and not too cold. A few thin clouds drifted lazily through the azure sky. A breeze was coming off the ocean, and rifled the grasses.

Hermione turned and gasped. Behind her stood a huge mountain that rose up as high as the clouds. She could make out a large village at its base, made up of small simple houses and some fields. There seemed to be shops as well. She could make out small people walking about. She looked up at the huge mountain. It seemed strange, to have such level land and then the mountain jutting out of it. It kind of looked as if it had been dropped there from someplace else. The witch could make out varying densities of trees and brush speckling its slope. She looked back at the shore and saw Raucous sifting through the sand, hopping about. He picked something up, tilted his head to the sky and gulped it down. Merlin only knew what the bird was eating. But he looked delighted as he scratched in the sand.

"Hey, where'd you come from?" piped a young voice, "I've never seen you before."

Hermione turned to see a young boy of maybe seven, peering up at her, a scowl on his face. He had brown hair and brown eyes and wore a coarse gray tunic shirt and coarse brown trousers. His mouth was pursed as he looked Hermione over.

"No, you wouldn't have seen me before. I'm a visitor. My name is Hermione," the witch said, smiling down at her.

"Hermione?" the boy repeated, "That's a weird sounding name." He looked at her clothes. "Where'd you get your clothes? They are weird too."

Hermione looked down at herself and back at the precocious little boy.

"These are the kind of clothes we wear where I come from," she replied, "Can you tell me where I am?"

The boy looked up at her with narrowed eyes as if that was the silliest question in the world.

"Where are you? Why you're here of course," he answered her. Then Raucous returned, obviously having had his fill of whatever he was eating on the beach and landed neatly on Hermione's shoulder, cocking his head at the little boy with interest.

The boy's eyes went wide as he pointed at the raven.

"What kind of bird is that?" he asked staring at Raucous with such admiration, the bird began to preen himself, turning so the sun caught his glossy black feathers just right.

"He is a raven. His name is Raucous. He's my familiar," Hermione said.

"He's pretty," the boy replied. Raucous let out a caw of approval at the little boy's acuteness. "I'll trade you for him."

Raucous froze.

"Trade me for him?" Hermione repeated.

"Yes. I'll give you Runty for him. Runty's my pig. He's small now but he'll get bigger. Then you can eat him," the boy said, his brown eyes on Raucous.

Hermione gave a little shudder.

"As delicious as your pig sounds, I'm afraid I can't trade Raucous. He kind of belongs to himself. He just stays with me," Hermione said, looking at the bird on her shoulder.

Raucous cawed stiffly in agreement, casting a beady eye on the boy and clipping his beak at him. Trade him for a pig? How dare he suggest it?

The little boy looked crestfallen for a moment, but recovered nicely.

"Where are you going?" the boy asked, looking at her backpack.

"I'm delivering something for a friend," Hermione replied, "I'm going to his ancestral home."

The boy looked confused.

"The place where his family comes from," Hermione explained, "I think his home might be here"

"What is his name?" the boy asked.

"His name was Severus Snape," Hermione replied.

Suddenly the little boy went pale, and his eyes widened in fright. He began to back away from Hermione as if she had turned into some kind of monster.

"Wait!" Hermione said, walking forward and extending her hand as if to catch his arm.

The little boy bolted toward the village, his little legs flying. Then suddenly mid-stride, he disapparated. Hermione was shocked as the residual thunder sounded. A seven-year-old boy who could apparate? It was known to happen to children accidentally in England, but usually they had to be much older in order to do it properly. That's why you had to wait until you were seventeen to get a license. She looked around. Where was this place? And why had the boy run when she said the Professor's name? Suddenly, this journey was taking on darker connotations. Children tended to reflect the fears of their parents. This was not good.

Hermione looked at Raucous, who was staring at the place the boy disappeared from with his beak open, as if he too were amazed.

"I have the feeling the family name of Snape is not too popular around here, Raucous," she said. The raven cawed in agreement. Hermione looked toward the village.

"Well, I guess we'd better go to the village and at least find out where we are," she said, beginning to walk through the tall grass in the direction of the houses. Raucous took to the air again, flying before her.

The little boy ran gasping into the inn. He slid to a stop in front of a rather stout woman, with brown hair and brown eyes just like his. She was wiping off tables. She stopped and looked at the boy, who was panting.

"Peter! What have I told you about running in the inn?" she scolded.

"Mama, I'm sorry but there's a lady on the beach I've never seen before, with a black bird, who says she is here for the Snapes. Her name is Hermione and she said she is delivering something," he said in the quick voice children use when they are trying to get a comment past their parents. The woman straightened and her eyes narrowed.

"The Snapes? What did she look like?" Petra asked the boy.

"Her hair is like a light brown, and her eyes are kind of goldy," Peter said.

"Did she do magic?" his mother asked.

"I think so, mama. She just was there and the beach was empty before," Peter replied. "I didn't see where she came from, and she didn't make the noise either."

Petra put her hands on her hips for a moment. No noise meant the stranger hadn't apparated to their island. So some other magic was at work. Petra walked to the inn door and peered out down the main road toward the beach. She couldn't see anyone approaching.

"Well, more than likely she'll be stopping through here, Peter. We'll get to the bottom of this, don't you worry," she said, ruffling the frightened boy's hair reassuringly.

"But why would she want to go there? Nobody goes there," Peter said, holding his mother's dress between his small fingers for comfort.

"I don't know, Peter. Perhaps she doesn't know that," Petra said, "She's a stranger. She wouldn't know."

Peter turned his face up to his mother, his eyes shining.

"She seems nice, mama. We'll tell her, won't we? Tell her not to go…tell her there are things on the mountain? Bad people and things," he said to his mother. Peter had a kind heart, like most children do who are dearly loved.

Petra wasn't sure she wanted to get involved with a stranger. Especially one that had business with the Snapes. It could be dangerous to interfere. She looked down at her son.

"We'll have to wait and see, dearest," she said, pressing his head to her hip comfortingly. Then she turned and walked back into the inn. Freshly washed glasses sat on the counter of the bar. Petra wriggled her fingers at them and they neatly flew to their proper places. Then she noticed a stray glass on a far table.

"Clean that glass for me, Peter," she said to her son pointed to the table.

"Yes, mama," the boy said turning his eyes to the distant glass.

Peter wriggled his fingers in the direction of the table. The glass floated over to the bar and set itself in the soapy water. A brush scrubbed it out, then the spigot came on and rinsed it. A towel rose from under the counter, dried it and the glass floated to its proper place on the shelf.

"How's that, mama?" Peter asked, his little chest poked out at having done so many things with so few wriggles.

Petra patted his head. "Very good. Very good, Peter. Come now and have something to eat," she said, walking back to the kitchen. Peter followed her, his mind on the pretty stranger he met at the beach. He hoped she wouldn't go up the mountain.

She might not come back.

Hermione walked through the tall grasses until they fell away to lower brush and grasses, then a rough dirt road. She headed for the village, Raucous flying ahead, alighting on the ground now and then to pick up and/or swallow something interesting. The witch had to walk some distance before the dirt road turned to cobblestones and the first small houses were seen. People stood on porches watching her pass with suspicious, narrow-eyed curiosity. Hermione waved but no one returned her greeting, they just watched her pass silently and whispered among themselves about the strangely dressed stranger with the black bird.

They seemed like simple folk, dressed in coarse clothing for the most part, their yards neat and clean, animals penned in the back yards, and large gardens. Clothing hung on clotheslines, flapping in the breeze. Hermione walked in silence under their gaze, trudging toward the main part of the village. She stopped and took off her pack. She took out her water bottle and took a nice long drink. It was refreshingly cold, part of the charm. Raucous flapped up and Hermione poured some water in her cupped hand several times to allow him to drink as well. Then she returned the bottle to her pack, hoisted it on her back and took off walking again.

She came to the town. It had several shops. A fishing supply shop, a furniture shop, a kind of open food market, a fabric shop, a second hand store, a bank, and an inn were the ones she could identify. She couldn't read the language on the roughly painted signs so she figured her translation charm was in effect. She was very glad Professor Flitwick had thought to give it to her. The citizens of the town walked past her slowly, looking at her curiously, though no one approached her. Hermione looked about. Her amber eyes fell on the inn. That was as good a place to start as any. Innkeepers usually provided information to their guests. Hermione would get a room and hopefully glean some details about where she was.

She walked towards the inn, up the three short steps and through the door. She saw a bar and a room full of tables and chairs for the patrons. She smelled something wonderful that made her mouth water. There was also a counter with an open book lying on it. She walked up to it and peered down at the book. There was writing in it but she couldn't understand it. Most likely the book was a guest log. A metal triangle hung over the book, and a striker lay beside the tome. Hermione looked at the striker and the triangle for a moment, then picked up the striker and tapped the triangle. It rang rather loudly. It had to be magically amplified.

"I'm coming!" a voice called from the back of the inn.

Petra wiped her face with a cloth, then smoothed her brown hair and removed her apron. She took a deep breath, put on her innkeeper smile and walked from the kitchen to the front where Hermione stood by the counter.

"Good afternoon," Petra said, walking past Hermione and turning, then sliding behind the counter. "I am Petra, the innkeeper here."

Afternoon? It was just morning at Hogwarts little more than an hour ago. She must be in another time zone.

"Good afternoon, Petra. My name is Hermione," Hermione said, "I'd like a room please."

"Fine, Miss. How long will you be staying?" Petra asked, trying not to stare at Hermione. She didn't look like anyone from the island.

Hermione's brow wrinkled. She didn't know how long she would be…where ever she was.

"A week," she told Petra. The innkeeper smiled and pushed the book toward her. Hermione signed her name. The innkeeper squinted at her signature, perplexed.

"You're not from these parts," Petra said, her smile fading a little.

"No, I'm not," Hermione said.

Petra looked at her.

"That will be twenty Croupkas, in advance. Sorry but you are a stranger, so I must insist on full payment."

Croupkas? What the hell were Croupkas?

"You don't take galleons?" Hermione asked.

"What are galleons?" Petra asked, her brow furrowed as Hermione took off her pack and drew out her moneybag. She opened it and shook out the contents into her hand without looking at the coins, then held them out to Petra.

"These are galleons," Hermione said, thinking she would not be able to get a room after all.

"Hm. Around here, we call these Croupkas," Petra said, taking the money out of her hand. Hermione looked at the strange fluted coins the moneybag had provided. Amazing. Obviously the moneybag produced not only the right amount of coins, but also the right type. It could be the moneybag was set to this exchange because of the purpose it was to be used for. Whatever the reason for the right coinage, Hermione was intensely grateful.

Petra handed Hermione a great rusty key on a large ring. It had strange markings on it.

"You have room seven on the second floor," Petra said, looking at Hermione curiously.

"Thank you," Hermione said, looking at the markings with a furrowed brow. "Um, Petra, I don't read your language."

The innkeeper looked at her, her brown eyes narrowing a bit.

"How is it you can speak out language, yet not read it?" Petra asked her.

"I have a translator charm. It translates what I hear and what I say," Hermione replied.

By the look on Petra's face, Hermione could tell the woman didn't know what she was talking about. Hermione removed the necklace and set it down on the counter.

"Can you understand me?" she asked Petra.

The woman's eyes grew wide when Hermione spoke. She said something in a heavy accent that Hermione could not begin to understand. Hermione gestured for Petra to put the necklace on. The innkeeper looked at it for a moment, then dropped it on her neck.

"Now can you understand me?" Hermione asked her.

Petra looked startled. "Yes, yes I can. What a strange thing! It does magic! We have no things that do magic here on the island. Only we do magic."

Petra removed the necklace and handed it back to Hermione, who put it back on.

"Surely you have wands, don't you?" Hermione asked the innkeeper.

"Wands? What are wands?" Petra asked her. This stranger was strange. Magical items? She had never heard of such a thing.

Hermione fast understood she was far, far from home.

"A wand is a wooden stick that has a magical core, made of a dragon heartstring, a phoenix feather or some other magical item. It is used to make magic work. Focus it," she explained.

"No. We have no wands here. We do magic ourselves," she said. To show Hermione what she meant, she pointed to the closest table to them and wriggled her fingers. The table rose off the floor, turned over and settled back into place.

Hermione watched with her mouth open. The woman had said no spell. Or the witch rather.

"Amazing. Wandless magic." Hermione breathed.

"You cannot do this?" Petra asked her.

Hermione shook her head.

"Without a wand, I can't do any magic. There are some who can, but I'm not one of them," Hermione replied.

"May I see this wand?" Petra asked curious. A stick that did magic sounded fascinating.

"No. I don't have a wand with me. I am traveling without magic," Hermione replied.

Petra furrowed her brow at Hermione. She was going to see the Snapes and had no magic to protect herself? This sounded like a very foolish thing to the witch. She wanted to know more about the stranger. She seemed very nice, despite her oddness.

"Why don't I have Peter show you to your room, you can put your things away, and come down to have some fish stew and a cold drink. I can tell you about our island and our people," Petra said to the witch with a smile.

"That sounds wonderful," Hermione smiled back.

"Peter! Peter, come out here. You are needed!" Petra called to the back of the inn. The boy walked out rather shyly. Hermione recognized him immediately.

"So your name is Peter," Hermione said, smiling at him. "You left kind of quickly."

Peter looked at his mother, who shook her head slightly.

"I…I had to go," Peter said, looking at the ground, "I..I had chores to do."

Hermione knew the little boy wasn't telling the truth, but she would find out what was really going on from his mother. She was sure.

"That's all right. I'm glad to see you again. You can show me Runty," Hermione said smiling at the boy.

"Yes!" he agreed brightly. Hermione picked up her pack, and showed Peter her key.

"Can you take me to my room?" she asked him.

Peter looked at the key studiously.

"Yes. That is room number seven. Follow me…" he looked at his mother who raised an eyebrow. "Please," he added. His mother smiled at him.

"Such a gentleman," she grinned at him. He grinned back and walked to the stairwell, Hermione following. Just then something black streaked through the inn and landed on Hermione's shoulder. Petra let out a little shriek as she looked at the black raven.

"It's all right, mama, that's Raucous. The bird I told you about," Peter said, smiling up at the bird. Raucous cawed a greeting at the stout woman.

"He is very large. Does he bite?" Petra asked, not sure if she wanted Raucous staying at the inn.

Raucous was about to clip his beak at Petra nastily for effect when Hermione said "Raucous," in a tone that clearly said don't do it. So he fluttered his wings at the innkeeper politely.

"No. Raucous is very well behaved. He lives with me, and is housebroken," Hermione said. "He won't be any trouble."

Petra nodded.

"I'll go prepare you a bowl of fish stew," Petra said, "If you need anything, let me know"

"Thank you," Hermione said, following the strutting Peter up the stairs. He felt important taking their guest to her room. He had a responsibility. They walked down a hallway of doors until they came to a room with the same marking on the door that was on the key.

"Here it is, Hermione," Peter piped.

Hermione inserted the key, jiggled it, and the door opened. The room was dark.

"Where is the light switch, Peter?" Hermione asked.

"Light switch? What is that?" Peter asked, wriggling his fingers. Two hurricane-type lamps lit up the room. Hermione looked at him astonished.

"Did you learn to do that at magic school?" she asked him.

"Do what?" he asked her, walking into the room, followed by Hermione.

"Magic. Learned to turn on the lamps," she responded.

"That's silly. Why would I have to go to school for that. I go for writing and numbers, but not magic. I've always had magic. You can't learn it," he said, turning the lamps higher manually.

"Well, where I come from, we have magic too, but we have to be taught how to use it. We have to learn spells," she said, putting her backpack on the bed.

"Spells? What are they?" Peter asked, frowning a little.

"Words that make the magic work," she replied.

Peter laughed. "Magic doesn't work with words. It just works," he said.

"It's a little different where I come from," Hermione said.

"I think I like it better here," Peter said sagely, "sounds like too much work where you come from."

Hermione looked at him.

"It does, doesn't it?" she replied thoughtfully.

"Yes," Peter agreed.

Hermione looked around the room. It was rather small. It had a full sized bed, a closet, a dresser and a dressing table. There was a loo, a basin and a small shower. There were two windows that opened on to the street outside. It was fine for her needs. She drew the shades open on the window and the room brightened. She turned down the lamps.

"Be sure you close the shades at night," Peter said, his eyes wide.

"Why?" Hermione asked him. The boy looked uncomfortable. His mother said not to tell too much.

"It's just better if you do," Peter said, heading for the door. "I'll be downstairs with mama."

He left.

That was odd. Hermione looked out the window at the people walking in and out of shops. They all looked rather similar. Dark brown hair, ruddy complexions and brown eyes. Most were on the stock side. A good solidly built people, probably from years of hard work. This was plainly an agricultural society. She would have never imagined the Professor's family originating in a place like this. Her amber eyes traveled up the mountain. Unless…hm.

She looked at Raucous, who was perched on the other windowsill, looking down into the street.

"Come on, Raucous, let's find out about this place," she said to the bird, who flew over and landed on her shoulder. He cawed.

"Yes, you can have some of my stew," Hermione said, smiling. Raucous fluttered his wings and held on as Hermione headed back downstairs.

Across the street from the inn, a local wizard with a patch over one eye watched with interest as the stranger walked into Petra's establishment. His name was Ketri. He had lost his eye in a fishing accident, but his other eye was sharp as a hawk's. He missed very little.

His clothing was made of finer, softer fabric than most of the other citizens, though still cut the same. He could afford finer fabric. He had a generous employer.

Ketri had been told to watch for strangers, and had been doing so for the past three months, loitering around the village, and down by the beach day after day from morning till evening. His vigilance had finally paid off. Ketri looked around to make sure no one was watching him, then strolled over to the inn and stood just outside the door, listening to Petra talk to the woman. Hm. Her name was Hermione and she was a witch traveling without magic. That was a stupid thing if she was who he thought she was. The witch didn't say why she was here though. Still, she was a stranger. The Mistress would reward him for this information.

The man walked swiftly away from the inn and toward the mountain. He had news to share.

Venoma sat in the window seat staring out in the expanse of blue sullenly. There was no news of the ring, or the person Severus chose to travel to the tomb of the ancestors. Her black eyes drifted up to the thin clouds, then down to the mists. She hoped there would be word soon.

Ketri strode to the base of the mountain and eyed the spiral path. He had never attempted the journey, and it was well he didn't. He wouldn't have made it. He stared at the expanse of sky for a moment, then let out a sharp cry. He listened a moment, his one good eye searching the skyline again, before he let out another call. This time it was answered. A large shadow swooped past him, and he shuddered. Then he heard the great wings flapping as the great bird landed in front of him. The bird had copper feathers, a white crest, a wicked hooked beak, sharp curved talons and cold, golden eyes. Its wingspan was at least nine meters. The bird squawked at him. Ketri bowed to the creature.

"Tell Mistress a stranger has arrived. A woman, a witch from another place. She travels without magic and her name is Hermione. She is staying at Petra's inn," the wizard said as the bird twisted its head, absorbing the message. Ketri bowed again.

"Shall I wait?" Ketri asked the bird. It squawked sharply.

"Very well," Ketri said, walking over to a stone and settling down as the bird took off in a spiral, soaring towards the top of the mountain.

"I hope he doesn't take as long as last time," Ketri said, looking about him sharply, and starting when a small stone rolled down the mountain trail. "I hate this place."

Venoma was just about to leave her window seat when she spotted a small speck zooming toward her. She sat up straighter and opened the window, the cool mountain air rushing in. The speck grew larger and larger. She could see the great wings flapping.

"Ozmadias!" she exclaimed as her familiar landed on the windowsill, his great size filling it. The bird lowered its head, and Venoma reached out a thin pale hand and caressed the bird's white crest.

"I haven't seen you for weeks, my pet. I trust the hunting has been good?" she asked the bird, who clipped his vicious beak in a satisfactory manner and sent her an image of a fleeing unicorn foal, that screamed in terror as it was taken.

"Ah, very good hunting. I imagine Sewall is furious," she said a nasty grin flitting across her face. "He will be patrolling the mountain searching for intruders with his herd. This is good. None shall get past him."

The bird gave a small nod, his expressionless golden eyes glinting. It looked at Venoma and sent another image.

"Ketri!" Venoma exclaimed pleased. She received the one-eyed spy's message with glee.

"Yes. Yes," she said rising and walking to a wall and making a pass over it. A small vault appeared. She pulled it open and took out a small bag of coins. She brought it over to Ozmadias, who took it gently from her hand in his beak. She caressed him again.

"Take this to Ketri for his service, Ozmadias, and tell him to look to see if the stranger wears the family ring. If this is the one my cousin has sent, his ring will be on her finger," Venoma said. She sent her familiar an image of the ring to pass on to Ketri. "Tell him if she wears it, and he can get it from her, he will be greatly rewarded. I am not particular how he gets it," she added, her black eyes glittering with malice. "He can bring it with the finger for all I care."

Ozmadias made a sound that was reminiscent of laughter, hunching his feathered shoulders.

"Now go, my sweet pet, and deliver this to Ketri. Come back and I will give you a goat," Venoma said to the great bird, who squawked appreciatively, then fell back out the window, righted himself and spiraled downward toward the waiting Ketri.

Ketri sat on the stone, looking around uneasily and jumping at every sound. He heard Ozmadias' cry and breathed a sigh of relief. The bird had been quick this time. The great shadow passed over him, then the bird dropped to the ground heavily behind him, startling the wizard. Ketri saw the pouch, and his one eye glittered. Ozmadias placed it on the ground, then looked at the wizard with his cold eyes. Ketri stared back, receiving Venoma's message. He bowed to the bird and picked up the pouch. He opened it, poured the coins into his hands and smiled. He replaced them in the bag and tied it to his trousers securely.

"I will see if she wears the ring. If she does, I will take it, even if I have to strip it from her dead hand," the wizard said.

Ozmadias nodded his approval, then leapt into the air, flying strongly back to the top of the mountain and his waiting meal. Ketri patted the bag on his waist. It clinked and he smiled evilly. Venoma was generous. If he delivered that ring, most likely she would make him a very wealthy man.

Vivaldi walked into the setting room and saw Venoma sitting in the window seat, her silky black hair cascading down her back and pooling around her hips. His black eyes raked over her and he swallowed. His half-sister was so beautiful. Venoma was ten years his senior, their father, Adolfo Snape, taking a long break between producing children. Venoma had been a disappointment to him, he had wanted a son, an heir, and her mother disappeared mysteriously three years after Venoma's birth. The witch's womb had closed and she could produce no more children.

After several years alone, Adolfo procured a young cousin for marriage, who gave birth to Vivaldi. He had been a difficult birth, and when his father was given a choice whether to save the mother or the child, he chose the child. But Aldofo did not get to see his son reach adulthood. He was killed by a unicorn while hunting, the long horn driven through his heart and his body tossed from the mountainside. Vivaldi had been six years old.

Venoma had taken over the household, although everything went to Vivaldi, who adored her. She made sure the boy did, using her beauty and sexuality to keep him close. He was of marrying age now, but exhibited no interest in finding a wife. He lusted after Venoma greatly. And when she mentioned he must look for a wife, he would state plainly, "I love no one but you, Venoma" and she would kiss him on the lips, and caress his hair and tell him he was silly as she pressed her slim body against him, thus always giving him hope. It was a cruel game she played with the randy young wizard, but she had to keep her position secure. Yet, if she could get the ring, Vivaldi would be dispensable.

Venoma felt Vivaldi's eyes on her and smiled. She turned to him and beckoned him over. The wizard almost ran to her side. She embraced him close and kissed his mouth, her dark eyes meeting his before she released him. Vivaldi dropped to the window seat and took her hand, his eyes burning.

"Oh, my sister," he breathed, kissing it ardently.

"Dear brother," she replied, lifting her hand to his cheek and caressing it, "There is news. The wearer of the ring may be in the village. I have sent Ketri to acquire it, if it is so."

Vivaldi's eyes went wide.

"The ring!" he said excitedly, "Then the power will be mine, and I shall be recognized as the head of our family," the young wizard said. Venoma's eyes clouded at this statement, but she kept a frozen smile on her face.

"Yes, dear brother," she responded, "and you will not let the ring's power lie fallow like that fool Severus. He never used it. He had no desire for power."

Vivaldi looked at Venoma, his eyes liquid with longing.

"I will use the ring, sister. For you," he declared.

She caressed his face again.

"You are sweet, Vivaldi," she purred, "Now, go get your lyre and play me something beautiful."

"Yes, sister," Vivaldi replied, rising and exiting the room quickly.

Venoma watched him go, her eyes dark. She loved her half-brother, but she loved herself more.

The ring would be hers.

Hermione and Raucous walked down the steps and were waved over to a table by Petra, who had two bowls of steaming fish stew and fresh bread waiting for them. Hermione hurried over, took a seat and sniffed appreciatively. Petra eyed Raucous.

"This is your bowl, Raucous," she said. "It's mostly fish and vegetables."

Raucous fluttered from Hermione's shoulder and landed on Petra's. The witch froze up as Raucous preened her hair for a moment, then hopped down on the table and plucked a bit of fish out of the bowl. He gulped it down and looked up at Petra with a beady black eye.

"He likes it," Hermione said. Petra smiled. Hermione spooned up a bit of the stew and ate it. A look of bliss crossed her face.

"It's delicious, Petra," she said, spooning up some more.

The innkeeper drew up a chair and watched both her guests eat. Her eyes idly drifted to Hermione's hand, and the ring. She froze. She knew that ring. It was legend.

"Hermione, where did you get that ring?" the witch asked, her brown eyes wide.

"A friend gave it to me," she said.

"A Snape?" Petra asked her excitedly.

"Yes. He was a fellow teacher at Hogwarts," Hermione replied, "He's dead now, but left me his ring."

Petra looked Hermione over appraisingly. There must be something to this witch for the ring to be in her possessions. Only Snapes were to wear that ring. But she was definitely not a Snape.

"You aren't supposed to return it are you?" Petra asked, her brow furrowed.

"No," Hermione said, "I was told to keep it."

Petra breathed a sigh of relief. But if she were not going to the Snapes home to return the ring, why was she going?

"Petra, what is the name of this island?" Hermione asked her.

"Mu," Petra replied. "It's said that we are the last of the Lemurians, and this island is a remnant of Lemuria. It was destroyed many thousands of years ago."

"But I heard that Lemuria was a very technically advanced society. You are, if you beg my pardon, farmers and fisherman," Hermione said.

"Every society has its workers. Our ancestors did the labor, provided the food for Lemuria and exported to Atlantis as well. When Lemuria sank, it was the mostly the technical areas that the ocean swallowed, though much farmland was taken too. Many millions of lives were lost. For some reason this small portion remained and the people survived. But we are isolated, and prefer to be so. We live simple lives here and are satisfied."

"And the Snapes? Were they part of your community?" Hermione asked.

"No. They were supposed to be our overseers, but were more like our Masters. They oversaw production and shipping of the goods we produced. Our ancestors were little more than slaves and the Snapes ruled with an iron hand. They punished and killed many whenever we tried to assert ourselves and live freely."

Raucous finished his stew, and with a squawk of thanks, flew out of the door to go exploring. Petra continued.

"The Snapes always ruled over us from the mountaintop. Their magic was much greater than ours. They had powerful, violent magic whereas our magic is only helpful and task-related. But when the ring was taken from the island, their magical powers were diminished, and we were able to live our lives freely, without fear and without oppression."

"And your magic? It was always like this?" Hermione asked, finishing the last bit of stew and pushing the bowl aside.

"Yes, we are born with our magic. It is part of us and manifests when our children turn about three years old. Some have better powers than others, can do more. But we all have it," Petra said.

Hermione thought about it. They were an old race, and isolated. Their magical powers did not develop like those in the rest of the world. That the workers would not have destructive magic made sense, or they could overthrow the leaders. So, Professor Snape was descended from tyrants. Hermione smirked. That was completely believable.

"If you are not here to return the ring, Hermione, why are you here?" Petra asked. Peter had already told the witch Hermione was going to deliver something.

Hermione decided to be honest with Petra. Maybe the witch could help her in some way.

"The wizard who gave me this ring is dead. He died serving the greater good. We never found his body. He was a very brave man who was never honored for his service. His last request was that an item be returned to his ancestral home, the tomb of his ancestors. He asked me to do it, and I am fulfilling his last wish to honor him," Hermione said.

"A Snape serving the greater good?" Petra said disbelievingly. "Snapes only work toward their own ends."

"Not this one," Hermione said, "This Snape lived a very perilous and pain-filled life in order to protect others. He was a very selfless and courageous man." Hermione felt a tightening in her chest as she said this. Petra looked at the witch, and suspected she had felt more for this Snape than she was letting on.

"The ancestral tomb is on top of the mountain. And the protections the Snapes placed on it years ago, still function. It is impossible to travel to the top. There are creatures and traps that will prevent you. Your Snape has given you an impossible task. Better that you go home and bury what he has given you to place in the tomb," Petra said.

Hermione scowled.

"I don't believe the Professor would send me on a quest he didn't believe I could complete. There must be a way that I can do it. I have to try. I'm not even sure if I can leave here until I do," the witch said.

"How did you get here? The old magic of the Lemurians prevents visitors from apparating. Visitors had to come through a sentry gate. No one can just pop in," Petra said. "And it is almost impossible to come by sea because the water dashes ships upon the rocks surrounding the island. Those rocks are what's left of the continent."

"The ring brought me," Hermione said, "At first I thought it was a port key, but it can't be, because a port key only takes you between two places. There is some other power working here." She looked at the ring, which sat there doing the ring thing. Looking pretty.

Petra didn't know what a port key was, so she kept silent.

Hermione looked thoughtful.

"No one has ever tried to reach your island by broom?" Hermione asked Petra.

The stout witch dissolved into laughter.

"Brooms? Oh my no. How would they get here by brooms? Brooms don't fly," the witch said, gasping for breath.

"Where I'm from they do," Hermione replied smiling. Petra stopped laughing.

"What a wondrous place you must come from. Magical items and flying brooms. Amazing," Petra said.

"No more amazing than Mu. Where the people do wandless, spell-less magic, and children apparate without splinching," Hermione said.

"What is splinching?" Petra asked

"When you apparated and part of you is left behind," Hermione said.

Petra looked at her in disbelief.

"They die?" she asked.

"No, but someone has to go get the parts and put them back together," Hermione said, not exactly sure how it was done.

"A very strange world you come from indeed," Petra said.

The two witches sat talking for hours, with Petra getting up only when a customer came in for a bite to eat. She welcomed the man and escorted him to a table. He nodded at Hermione when he passed and sat down several tables away. Hermione thought he looked like a pirate with that patch over his eye.

Ketri looked at Hermione with interest, and nodded as he passed. He looked down at her hands. Yes! She wore the ring! He took a table at some distance from her and studied her as he waited for Petra to bring him some fish stew.

She did not look like the women of the island. Her hair was a bright, light brown where as everyone's hair, with the exception of the Snapes, was dark brown. Her eyes were very light also, almost gold. She was rather slim too, but curvy still. Ketri stroked his beard as he looked at her. She was different, and that made her attractive. Ketri liked attractive. Maybe the ring wasn't the only thing he'd take from her tonight.

Petra brought him his stew. He sniffed it appreciatively.

"No one makes fish stew like you do, Petra," Ketri said, smiling up at her.

Petra slapped him on the shoulder playfully.

"Ketri, you always try to charm me. Still full price," she said saucily, then turned and went to rejoin Hermione.

"Interesting looking wizard," Hermione commented when Petra sat down. "What happened to his eye?"

"Fishing accident. A hook got him," Petra said.

"The patch makes him look a little wicked," Hermione observed, looking at the man as he ate.

Petra grinned. "He is wicked. Ask any of the younger women on Mu."

Hermione smirked, then said "Petra, what can you tell me about the mountain?"

Petra looked at her thoughtfully. The witch was very brave but very foolish to want to make the journey. No one who tried ever came back.

"Well, all of what I know is legend except this, the mountain path spirals around the mountain and leads to the mansion on top where the Snapes live. They never come down. Deliveries are taken to the foot of the mountain and a large bird carries them to the top, then returns with payment." Petra said in a low voice.

"What about the protections?" Hermione asked.

"I don't know what they are, but it is said that the rocks and trees move, and there are creatures that roam the path to stop intruders. You are traveling without magic. How do you think to protect yourself? It would take almost two days to reach the top of the mountain unhindered. There is no telling how long it will take even if you can get by the protections. I wish you would think about this, Hermione," Petra said.

"I am thinking about it," Hermione said, looking at the ring. "The Professor said it would protect me," Hermione thought. Maybe the ring would help her past the protections.

"I'm thinking that I will start the journey tomorrow morning. The sooner I get started, the sooner I can get back home," she said.

Petra looked at the witch with sad eyes.

"I see you are a stubborn one," Petra said, "May the gods have mercy on you if you take this journey."

Hermione looked at the Lemurian.

"Maybe they will," she replied.

A/N: So, Hermione's on the island of Mu, remnant of Lemuria. Cool beans. Ketri isn't very savory is he? Likes what he sees. Snape descended from tyrants. Lol Yep, really believable. Some Snape coming up next chapter. Should be interesting. Please review.