Severus had visited some of the darkest recesses of the Earth in his time as a Death Eater, but he had to admit that the muggle dive he now had the misfortune of finding himself in was, quite possibly, the lowest place he'd ever known. Granted, he'd never actually been in a werewolf den, but he imagined that this place might count as a pretty close muggle equivalent. Surreptitiously glancing around, he suddenly had the somewhat ridiculous notion that— even in his suitably tattered overcoat and grungy old work boots— he might've been overdressed...

Scattered around the room were some of the most unfortunate creatures he'd ever laid eyes on: toothless, skeletal muggles with grey skin and wiry, matted hair; obese, foul-smelling muggles in filthy t-shirts clinging to slimy, sweaty skin; muggles covered in tattoos and piercings, looking even less human than goblins... in the sweltering summer heat, most were stripped down to their stained undershirts (if they wore a shirt at all), though even for the sake of blending in, Severus would not deign to sink so low. Instead, he opted for a psychological deflection charm, which had prevented anyone from serving him a much needed cold drink - though from the look of the establishment, he figured that even touching his lips to a freshly opened bottle would be risking his health.

A few hours later, the heat started becoming unbearable. The sun had long since sunk below the horizon, but the night air brought no relief. Severus had witnessed several fights erupt throughout the evening, and had successfully dodged all the objects that had flown in his direction, with the exception of one wayward pint of lager that had shattered against the wall behind him. Despite muttering a thorough cleansing charm over himself and his immediate area, Severus was irritated that he could still smell the noxious brew festering around him, clashing odiously with the increasingly pungent smell of the overheated muggle bodies thrashing about. His lips curled in distaste as a bloodied tooth suddenly skittered toward him on the ground after someone's fist collided with some man's face.

Just as he was considering stepping out for some fresh air, Severus noticed movement occurring at the side of the empty stage. He took a deep breath and watched intently for what would come next. Though his anticipation was grave, his eyes held the sadness and exhaustion of one who had experienced too many disappointments to allow any hope to color this tense moment. He was certain this would be another let down, and indeed, he nearly wanted it to be so: Merlin forbid that this actually were the moment he'd spent over a year anticipating— that this place, of all places, were the place he'd find her in.

Though it was hard to make him out in the dim light, Severus could see a fiendishly large, bald man hunched in the doorway beside the stage, seemingly directing others in the hidden passage alongside it. If he didn't know any better, he would've assumed the man were half giant. With a tired grunt, the large man finally turned around and made his way onto the platform, looking out over the rowdy crowd under a heavy brow that made his unhappy eyes look disarmingly angry. The sight of his looming figure alone was enough to suppress the din to some degree, but it was his bellowing voice that suddenly caused the entire room to pay attention.

"SHUT UP!" he shouted, hunched over and morose, his voice croaking like a frog's, "SHUT THE HELL UP."

The crowd grumbled and turned toward the stage, some slumping into their seats while others tottered drunkenly on their heels.


The crowd broke out in cheers and lewd exclamations, while Severus braced himself for the unpleasantness to follow. Despite his exhaustive efforts to find her, in the back of his mind he silently prayed that he wouldn't get lucky tonight.


With that, the man made his way off the platform just as unceremoniously as he'd appeared, as several men hollered in excitement while others hissed and spat at the warning.

Severus took another deep breath and stared resignedly at the stage. He watched the hulking shape of the man disappear into the doorway again, then shuffle violently as he dragged a diminutive form out from the shadows. The crowd became impatient, hollering louder as the hulking man lurched forward suddenly at the retreating figure, then swat a heavy hand against an unseen face.

"Don't be shy, lass!" chuckled a man from the front of the room, who had a better view than Severus of the goings-on, "Come on out, let's have a look at you!"

"Slap 'er again," slurred another, "git 'er arse up 'ere."

"Let's see some pussy!" someone called out in a gruff voice, prompting laughter while several others chanted in similarly gruff voices, "Let's see some pussy! Let's see some pussy!"

Severus rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, equally impatient, though for much different reasons. If he never encountered another drunken muggle again, it would still be too soon.

Just then the diminutive figure was thrown forward by the hulking one, clattering roughly against the stairs to the stage platform. Severus stiffened in his seat, lifting his gaze in a vain attempt to see the small body sprawled on the stairs, shielded by the predatory crowd of jeering drunks. Slowly she pushed herself up, wincing as her scraped palms pulled away from their grip on the top step. Her face still hidden beneath a generous head of honey brown hair, the girl grimaced as she crossed her arms tightly around herself and made her way up the stairs while the crowd cheered and whistled.

Severus could see her well enough now as she moved to the center of the stage, though her face was still concealed behind her long, wavy locks. He swallowed hard and tried to convince himself that this girl's hair was much lighter and less frizzy than the head of hair his eyes had sought for so long; that her legs were too long, her breasts were too full, her hips too well-defined... but then, it had been over a year; could a 16 year-old's body change so much in that time?

Her face was still turned away, her body teetering on the high heels strapped to her feet and her legs shifting in the tight red satin tap shorts that rose to just beneath her navel. The men were growing increasingly impatient, shouting at her to give them a better look, to "do something!", to "show us your titties!"

When she refused to even look up, the towering presence of the bald man rose to the side of the stage, hands on his hips, prompting her to startle slightly as he stomped his foot loudly and scowled in frustration.

Slowly she let her arms drop to her sides, eliciting wild shouts of appreciation as she revealed her bare chest to the ravenous onlookers. Even Severus was momentarily taken aback at the sight of the lovely young woman before him, though his eyes still darted anxiously over her hidden face. As she stood straighter, her hair shifted slightly to reveal a tightly pursed mouth, and Severus' heart skipped a beat.

"No..." he muttered to himself, "it can't be..."

The girl raised a limp wrist to her face, and in one fell swoop her hair was tossed back defiantly as she looked out with accusing eyes at the men before her. Severus stopped breathing. The appreciative hollering of the crowd rang out in a din that rivaled the ringing of his own ears as his head filled with an unbearable pressure.

Somewhere from the other side of the stage, loud music broke out in a sleazy burlesque tune and the girl suddenly raised herself into a well practiced pose, her arms lifted languidly above her as her hips trust forward gratuitously, one leg raised and bent slightly to rest on her toes. The crowd applauded eagerly, and her face, once defiant and accusing, slipped easily into a look of perfect seduction and allure. Her mouth took on an exaggerated pout, opened slightly and wanton, while her eyelids became heavy and her lashes fanned at the audience. As the music swelled, her body swelled with it and her face morphed into an image of complete rapture as her back arched and her hips started swaying in rhythm. The crowd became insatiable, demanding more as glasses broke and men yelped out in erotic agony.

Severus choked out a breath, gasping uselessly as his chest threatened to cave in on him. He struggled to contain his shock, knowing that he would find her sooner or later, and knowing the circumstances he found her in would be unsavory. Still, he was not prepared for the sight of her like this, in this place, and for a moment he was at a loss of what to do. With another shuddering breath, he forced himself to start formulating a plan, considering the unforeseen delicacy of the situation.

Though he wanted to apparate them both out of that place right then and there, he knew he had to take certain precautions. He would have to be discreet, make it look like she'd been abducted by a muggle... she wouldn't recognize him, and he might frighten her, so he'd probably have to stun her... and he'd have to put some clothes on her...

As his mind worked rapidly in response to the alarming situation he suddenly found himself in, he tried to choke down the nagging remorse that kept working its way into his thoughts.

"It's your fault she's here," his conscience berated, "look what you've done to her."

Unwillingly his eyes moved back to the seductively dancing waif on the stage in front of him. His eyes filled with pain, but he couldn't look away.

"I'm so sorry," he thought, his gaze fixated on the sultry figure that had once been the brightest student he'd ever encountered in all his years of teaching.

As he watched her, a lump rose in his throat until he choked out a single word, so quiet amid the thronging bedlam that he hardly heard it himself as it escaped his lips,