Author's Note: This chapter's song is Helter Skelter by The Beatles.

July 18 – August 27, 1996

Danielle shifted in her seat, nerves jangling with anticipation. She hoped her decision was the right one. For sitting next to her at Mulligan's was Poppy Pomfrey and Albus Dumbledore.

Danielle felt it was the only way she would be able to spend time with Severus there. There was no way she could lie to a Legilmens about why she was going out into the wee hours every Thursday night. She also felt the music would be good for Dumbledore, as she had read that things that took a cancer patient's mind off of their illness were good things. Plus knowing Dumbledore, he already knew or had suspicions about what Severus was doing with his spare time every Thursday.

Still, there had been no way to convey this to Severus. When Sirius, Remus, and Tonks stumbled into Mulligan's earlier in the year, it hadn't been Danielle's fault. He had been upset, but not at her. He had even picked up a copy of Time Out that had reviewed Mulligan's and enjoyed the fact that they said the best act was his. But now, by willfully telling others about his gig, Danielle was possibly betraying his trust. She had a terrible feeling that he would be very upset with her about Poppy and Dumbledore knowing about Mulligan's. But it was a problem she would rather face than not seeing him for a bulk of the summer.

"Danielle, are you alright?" Poppy asked, concerned since Danielle had seemed nervous and jumpy since they had arrived ten minutes earlier.

"Just anxious for the music to begin. The guy who plays here is really good," she said, thinking how surprised they would be when they saw Severus playing the piano.

It was only a few minutes later that Rick announced "Seth Prince" and Poppy gasped as she saw Severus sit down at the piano.

"Albus, is that?" she began.

"It is," Dumbledore confirmed.

Severus began to play the fast opening notes of "Angry Young Man," and soon everyone was caught up in the music. Dumbledore watched the whole thing quite calmly, simply smiling as Severus played, while Poppy quickly went from shock to enjoyment.

Severus, meanwhile, was unaware that he had some familiar faces in the audience, at least until he began "Your Song," by Elton John midway through his set. He of course turned to look at Danielle, and was shocked to see Dumbledore and Poppy sitting there, carefully dressed in the Muggle clothing Danielle had obviously picked out for him. Severus was a pro at this point, so he was able to continue on with his performance without missing a note, but Danielle could see from his eyes that he was seriously pissed off at her. So she cautiously approached him during his break between sets.

"Care to explain?" he spat as he shuffled through his sheet music, refusing to look at her.

"It was the only way I could figure out how to come here without them asking me a million questions. Unlike you, I can't lie to a Legilmens and get away with it," Danielle said as calmly as she could manage, praying Severus wasn't going to dump her on the spot for betraying him like this. She wasn't surprised when he looked up and glared at her.

"I would have preferred you to discuss this with me before handing out invitations," he said with a sneer.

"Well I don't exactly have any way to contact you. Wormtail could intercept messages from owls or through the Floo," Danielle protested.

"You could have come here and asked me tonight," Severus.

"What would you have said if I had asked?" Danielle questioned him.

"I guess I would have said it was alright," Severus sighed, finally looking less angry, but still less than pleased with Danielle.

"Look, why not come out and say hello to them?" Danielle asked.

"Next set. I just need a moment to sort myself out," Severus said.

"Okay," Danielle said as she started to leave, only to be grabbed and roughly thrust up against the wall in the small backstage area. Severus had her pinned.

"I didn't say you could go, did I?" Severus purred.

"No, you didn't," she whispered a second before his mouth claimed hers in a searing kiss. Relief coursed through her, for despite the fact that she had made him angry, he obviously still loved her. Danielle spent the remainder of his break with him, and he returned to the stage looking a little ruffled. Danielle, who returned to the table looking equally ruffled, ignored the smug smiles Poppy and Dumbledore offered her, and simply pulled out her lipstick and redid it.

Severus was on fire that night and had the crowd eating out of his hand as he always did. When his next break came, he sauntered over to the table Danielle and the others were seated at.

"I hope you're all enjoying yourselves," he said in a way that could be interpreted in a number of ways.

"Severus, that was simply marvelous," Poppy gushed. "I had no idea you played."

"Since he was quite young," Dumbledore said, causing Severus to do a bit of a double take at the old man, who was sipping a Shirley Temple (as alcohol was forbidden because it would interfere with his medication).

"You knew?" asked a totally shocked Severus.

"I apologize. I stumbled upon you practicing once in your third year. I heard a piano being played in a classroom I knew no instrument existed in and I found you playing on the most ingenious paper keyboard. You were so wonderful and involved with your music, you never even noticed I was there. It seemed a shame to disturb you, so I listened for a while, than left without disturbing you," Dumbledore explained.

"I see," was all Severus said, as he struggled to decide whether to be embarrassed about being caught practicing in secret or proud that Dumbledore complimented his playing. The old man seemed to sense this, because he patted the younger man on his shoulder.

"If I thought you played well then, it is nothing compared to how you play now," he said with a warm smile spreading across his face.

"And your singing! Severus, I had no idea you could sing like that," Poppy interjected.

Danielle smiled as she watched her boyfriend blush as the two of them complimented and question him. Unfortunately, Severus' break wasn't long, and he had to return. Severus spent his breaks with them and played until closing. Dumbledore sang along with "Piano Man," even though he didn't know the words and made up his own, causing Danielle and Poppy to laugh.

Afterwards, they all cabbed back to Danielle's apartment. There, Severus answered questions and explained his musical career to Poppy and Dumbledore until they retired for the night. Severus remained much later, making love to Danielle until shortly before sunrise. Then, he reluctantly left to return to Spinners End, full of terrible childhood memories and the odious presence of Wormtail. The rat noticed Severus returning especially late, but thought nothing of it and failed to report it to his master, as Wormtail knew Severus stayed very late into the night when he met with Dumbledore.

So for the remainder of the summer, Danielle brought Dumbledore and Poppy to enjoy Severus' performances. Tonks also came along frequently as well, and Danielle also spent more time with her during the days Dumbledore didn't need her to accompany him to his various appointments at the hospitals and doctor's offices.

Tonks was down in the dumps. Remus had broken up with her not long after she recovered from her injuries from the Department of Mysteries fiasco. He had shown up at the door to her flat one night and gave a very noble sounding speech about why he and Tonks shouldn't be together. Tonks had fought him tooth and nail, but he refused to listen to either reason or his heart. Then, to top it off, he had gone undercover with one of the werewolf packs that roamed England and no one had heard from him in ages. Although Danielle was sure he would be okay, Tonks had a hard time being positive about either his chances for survival or their relationship.

So Danielle found herself working to raise Tonks' spirits. Around Dumbledore's schedule for care, the two girls spent time going to movies, having coffee, and taking long walks down the streets of London. And thankfully, all that helped. While Tonks' Patronus did indeed change to a werewolf , her ability to Metamorphize remained intact. Danielle suspected this was because she lacked a girlfriend her own age to hang out with in the books, and by being there she lifted some of the burden from Tonks' shoulders.

Dumbledore continued to struggle with his chemotherapy. Some days, he coped quite well and was able to putter about the flat or take long walks with either Danielle or Poppy through the streets of London. Other days he was so weak from the poisons pumping through his bloodstream that he would lay in bed, barely able to read a book or have a conversation. And although some of the tumors in his lungs shrank a bit, others remained stubborn, meaning he would have to continue treatments into the school year. To make sure he would be able to travel to and from London, he wrote a very clever teaching schedule where one day a week for each of them, Danielle and Severus would have no classes so they could escort him to and from the hospital. This was discussed during one of Severus' breaks at Mulligan's, and the younger wizard readily agreed to help his mentor and friend.

Finally, the end of August arrived and Danielle, Poppy, and Dumbledore packed up their things and moved back from Danielle's flat to Hogwarts. There was no official teacher prep week, as Slughorn was the only new teacher and he was more than familiar with life at Hogwarts. Still, the same day the occupants of Danielle's flat returned, so did Severus and Minerva. Hagrid and Argus had come back early, and were delighted to have their colleagues back. Over a jolly dinner the first night they returned, Poppy commented to Danielle in the difference in Argus Filch.

"I swear, Danielle, you have the ability to turn even the rudest and most taciturn man into a gentleman. I would never thought it possible with either Severus or Argus, and just look at them," she whispered, gesturing to the two men who were laughing at a joke Dumbledore had told them.

"I'm pretty good, but my record wasn't perfect. I couldn't make Umbridge into a more pleasant person," Danielle said modestly.

"Dolores Umbridge was an insufferable bitch, and nothing could make her into a decent human being. But other than completely lost causes, you're good," Poppy told Danielle.

That night, Severus slept through the night for the first time since the previous term had ended, as he had both of his arms wrapped around Danielle. When he awoke the following morning, he gazed down at the still sleeping form of his girlfriend. Girlfriend, he thought with a mental sneer. That word in no way adequately described what Danielle was to him. She was his best friend, his lover, his most trusted confidant. She was also a coworker and one of the behind the scenes movers and shakers who was responsible for a large number of lives being saved. She was a Muggle and she came from another world but none of that mattered a bit to him. She was beyond special to him, and she was his. Girlfriend just sounded so juvenile and incomplete to describe what Danielle Katz was to him.

He wished the war were over, so he could spend his life enjoying moments like this and not worry about plots and counter plots. Life with Danielle could be so sweet, but The Dark Lord was a blight on the entirety of it. Severus longed for a quiet, simple life with Mulligan's and Danielle being his chief sources of excitement, and even according to Danielle's timeline, things never seemed further off. A summer spent in his father's house with the rat by his side the entire time left Severus embittered.

There was also the increased brutality amongst the Death Eaters. Severus was relieved his position as a spy kept him out of most actual raids. But he sometimes had to help torture prisoners, and it left him feeling weak and nauseated from the things he was forced to do. He couldn't go easy on the prisoners, it would arouse too much suspicion, so he was forced to be as brutal and terrible as the other Death Eaters. Granted, he wasn't known for his viciousness and violence, like say Bellatrix Lestrange, but no one other than her seemed to suspect how much he despised what he was doing.

She still taunted and accused him of not being true to their cause, but while others occasionally mumbled about his loyalties, the Dark Lord was still pleased with him. The Dark Lord never once sensed the seething hatred and contempt for him that Severus buried in the deepest places inside himself. Severus' ability as an Occlumens was truly unmatched and he managed to bury everything, even his passionate and all consuming love for Danielle. He never suspected the man he considered his loyal servant was totally aligned against him.

Which brought Severus back to his bed lying beside Danielle. She looked so peaceful and beautiful, he wouldn't dream of disturbing her. He just wished he could have life with only moments like this. At the same time, he also worried his Dark activities would somehow contaminate her. She had no idea some of the things he had to do, and he feared she would leave him if she ever learned. And the thought of losing her made him want to die. Life without Lily had been miserable. Life without Danielle would be completely unlivable and he would have no way of going on.

AN: I'm back! It's been a rougher time health wise than I had ever anticipated. The time lost to the flesh eating bacteria meant some of my cancer grew back. I just went through a three week course of intensive radiation that left me barely able to sit up I was so exhausted. Worse, it was five days a week. I also began chemo, which is very different than what poor Dumbledore is going through. I actually get a slow eight hour infusion and take naps and read during it. Consider the Potter series was set in 1991-1998. That's over a decade ago and the advances they've made in controlling nausea and other side effects are wonderful. I'm not saying it's all roses or anything, because most days I feel crappy. But I have made lots of progress, and my mother (who has been here since April to take care of me) sees it far better than I do. But I am heading in the right direction and wanted to return. My writing schedule will not be daily, as I am not well enough to work at the blistering pace I once set, but be patient with me and I will write as much as I can. Next chapter, the students return.