Disclaimer: Any person, place, prop, or plot you recognize from the wonderful world of Harry Potter does not belong to me as I am not J.K. Rowling.
A/N: This story is an entry into a challenge posted by the facebook group "Lovers of the Potion's Master." The prompt is as follows: "What if Fawkes wasn't just a Phoenix, but instead under a spell that could only be broken under the most extreme circumstances. Write a one-shot of Fawkes revealing herself to Severus to save his life etc. No less than one thousand words, no more than ten thousand words, free reign on any other details than listed above."
As always, I welcome your reviews... especially since this is my first foray into non-SS/HG waters. And thank you to my lovely friend, WaterbendingBabe, for telling me that it wasn't complete rubbish.
- When Love Burns Eternal -
"I take you my heart
At the rising of the moon
And the setting of the stars.
To love and to honour
Through all that may come.
Through all our lives together
In all our lives,
May we be reborn
That we may meet and know
And love again,
2 May 1998
The phoenix soared across the night sky, unseen by any of the combatants on the grounds below. She could hear death cries being issued by both sides, but she could not halt her search. It hurt her deeply to see all of the carnage unfold, but there had been bloodshed before and there would be again. The only one Master Dumbledore had ever instructed her to protect was the boy, and now she was even to let him be. He had to die to fulfill the prophecy.
There was one, however, she would not forsake – the one that could be her salvation; the one that bore his soul. He was the one she needed to find, and she would not rest until he was safe.
27 June 1628
A chord resonating from two violins signaled the end of one arrangement and the beginning of another. As dozens of magnificently dressed couples drew apart from each other and sought new partners, a young woman artfully spun out of the sweaty grasp of a portly wizard and maneuvered away from the dance floor. Reaching safety at the edge of the ballroom, she leaned against a stone pillar for moment while her blue eyes quickly scanned the room. When she decided that her absence would likely go undetected for at least a moment, she stole for the nearest archway and disappeared into the darkened stone corridor beyond it.
The red-headed witch then paused a moment, holding her breath as she listened for any signs of being followed. Hearing none, she exhaled in relief and smoothed her hands over the corseted bodice of her scarlet gown. As she continued walking toward the end of the hall, the rustle of her satin skirts and the clicking of her golden slippers upon the floor were all that accompanied her.
Stepping out onto a balcony, she closed her eyes for a moment and enjoyed the feeling of the night breeze on her bare shoulders. As clouds drifted across the sky, impeding the moonlight, the girl leaned over the stone railing and trained her eyes on the small iron gate at the other end of the courtyard.
"Aidan, where are you?" she whispered. As if in response to her question, the gate opened with a barely audible creak. A shadowy figure slipped into sight, and the bright-eyed witch ran as fast as she could down the shallow steps and onto the garden path. Pebbles slipped into her shoes and her delicate up-do loosened with every step, but she cared only about launching herself into the man's arms.
"I was so worried that you wouldn't come," she gasped breathlessly.
"I told you I would," the dark-haired wizard replied, setting her back upon her feet. "I shall always keep my word with you, Edana."
The young woman beamed as she grabbed hold of his hand and pulled him in the direction of the lesser courtyard. "Dance with me! The orchestra is seated in front of the window overlooking the fountain, so we can still hear the music from there, and the fire-roses are in bloom."
As the muted sounds of the ballroom spilled down from above, the pair moved together in the soft orange glow afforded by the flowers around them. With one hand clasping hers and the other setting gently upon her waist, Aidan whispered against the side of her head. "You are lovelier than ever I could have imagined."
A warm blush graced her cheeks as she tightened the hold on his shoulder. Resting her head against his chest, she listened to the sound of his heart beating for several seconds before sighing. "Father purchased the dress to impress the Minister, but I wore it for you."
"I would think you exquisite even if you were clothed in rags," he murmured, nuzzling his nose against her temple. When Edana raised her head and gazed at him with shining eyes, the wizard came to a gradual stop and released her hand in order to slip his beneath her jawline. Brushing his thumb across her cheek, he hesitantly dipped his head toward hers before capturing her lips in a gentle kiss.
Pulling back, Aidan held his breath as he carefully judged her reaction. He relaxed somewhat when her eyes fluttered open and a smile quickly found its way onto her face.
The redhead ran her hands along his chest and then clasped them at the nape of his neck. "They are playing too softly. I cannot quite hear them over the fountain."
"Perhaps you could sing for me, then," he suggested.
Edana wrinkled her nose before flicking her gaze to his lips. "I can think of a more preferable alternative."
His laugh was deep as he held her tightly about the waist and lowered his mouth to meet hers once more.
"Come away with me," he whispered, touching his forehead to hers when they finally separated. "We can leave tonight and be far from here by dawn."
The witch gave a mournful sigh as she dropped her eyes to his chest. "Aidan, it isn't yet time. We are not ready –"
"I'm not concerned about the money," the man exclaimed, grasping her arms. "We have enough on which to live comfortably for a year as it is, and I can seek work wherever it is we go."
"And what about your apprenticeship?" she countered, shaking her head. "No, we have to wait –"
"Until your father's wed you off to the Minister for Magic?" he snapped. "I am not a dullard, Edana – it is obvious that he intends to offer you to him tonight."
With a frustrated groan, the girl pulled away from him and ambled closer to the fountain. "And what if he does? Even if Minister Selwyn accepts, he is hardly rushing to be wed! Lady Selwyn has barely settled into her grave, and it wouldn't be proper for him not to observe a decent period of mourning before announcing another engagement. And I cannot leave father before – "
"He's using you, Edana!" Aidan protested. "Exploiting your beauty to serve his own purposes. He does not care about you – he would willingly sacrifice your well-being and happiness for the position he covets."
"He is still my father."
The wizard bore a sorrowed expression. "He has done nothing to deserve your loyalty."
Edana wiped away tears as she glanced up at the cheery light coming from the ballroom window. After a moment, she stepped toward him and touched his face. "My heart is yours, Aidan. I promise that we will be together, but it cannot be yet. We have time."
He sighed as he covered her hand with his and then kissed her palm. "I am sorry, my love. It was not my intention to upset you, but I do not wish to see you suffer at his hands."
"I know," she nodded, leaning into him and pressing her lips to his chin. "You will wait for me?"
"Always," he murmured.
"Edana, darling, are you out here?"
"Oh, gods," she whimpered, pushing off of the man's chest at the sound of her father's voice echoing from afar. "You have to go! He cannot find you here again."
Aidan nodded, quickly moving back to the main courtyard with the witch on his heels. Halfway to the gate, he paused to seize her hand. "I shall return."
"And I shall look for you," she promised as male voices began to shout in the background. "Now, go!"
He flashed her a grin before they separated ways. Edana had not managed more than a few steps before a bright green flash of light soared across the darkened lawn. Her heart plummeting into her stomach, she whirled back around in time to see her beloved crumple to the ground not far from the gate.
"No!" A high-pitched scream escaped her before she ran to his unmoving form. Collapsing to her knees beside him, she reached a shaking hand toward his back. "Aidan! Please, no!"
"Please, wake up! Come back to me!" She continued her desperate begging as she struggled to roll him over. When his lifeless eyes stared blankly up at her, she gave another agonized wail and pulled his torso against her. Tears streamed down her face as she clutched his head to her bosom.
"Edana, get away from him," a man snapped, grabbing hold of her arms and yanking her to her feet. As Aidan's body fell away from her, the girl sobbed loudly and struggled to break free of her captor.
"Brutus, release her," her father demanded as he arrived at the body with his wand drawn. Two other wizards appeared behind him with matching looks of disdain upon their faces.
As soon as she was free, the witch sank back onto her knees and covered her mouth with one hand. Raising her eyes to her father, her lower lip trembled as she hissed, "You killed him!"
The greying man looked at her with an uncomfortable expression, but the tall wizard standing behind her quickly jumped to his defense. "You were well within your rights, Cyril. You saw an unknown individual in the dark, having gained illegal entry onto your property and attempting to molest or abduct your only daughter, and so you acted as any concerned father might. Even had you known his identity, the boy had been warned on prior occasions to keep clear of this estate."
"Malfoy speaks the truth, Lord Hayes," one of the other men agreed. "And with the Minister in attendance – one could not have assumed that an assassination attempt was not at hand."
Cyril Hayes straightened to his full height and nodded. "Thank you, gentlemen. Edana, gather yourself together and return to the manor."
"No!" she gasped. "I'm not leaving him!"
"You will do as you are told!" he shouted, grabbing onto her arm.
"Let go of me!" The witch tried to break his hold on her and snarled angrily, "You murdered him, and I will make certain that everyone knows it! Especially Minister Selwyn!"
As her father struck her across the face, she cried out and tried to pull away from him. "There will be a scandal, and you will never be appointed to the Wizengamot after this!"
When Cyril raised his wand hand, Brutus Malfoy rushed toward him and seized his elbow. "Before you act hastily, my friend, consider the fact that our esteemed Minister has been told to expect a gift from the House of Hayes. Unless you have something else to offer him, you must consider your actions with care."
Edana squawked as she was thrown to the ground.
"Arthur, Vincent – return to the party and ascertain that everyone is still enjoying themselves," Lord Hayes instructed without removing his fiery gaze from his daughter as she struggled to her feet. "Inform the Minister that although there is a slight delay I will meet with him shortly."
As the two wizards disappeared into the darkness of the night, the young witch swallowed back a sob, fully expecting an Obliviate to leave her father's lips. "It shan't matter what you do to me, I will never agree to marry him! I would rather die than allow another man to touch me."
"It can easily be arranged –"
"Then do so!" she spat. "I am not afraid to die. There is nothing for me here. My soul is meant to be with his!"
Cyril's expression became dangerous as he advanced on her. "You betray your blood! You are a descendant of Merlin himself, and yet you have betrayed all of that for un-bred filth? Death would be a leniency for this level of treachery, Edana, and I shall not approach the Minister empty-handed!"
Fearful of his tone, the witch pulled out her oak wand and shakily extended it toward him.
"Pathetic wench!" he shouted, blasting it out of her hand. "You believe his soul to belong with yours, then so be it! No other man will touch you? You'll raise no argument from me! Roam the world alone, waiting for his soul to beckon yours, for all I care. Until that moment, however, you will know nothing but loyalty and suffering. You will serve your masters without question; your tears will bring others joy; and you shall never be granted the reprieve of Death."
Edana stumbled backwards, bracing her fall with her hands. She quivered in alarm as he trained his wand on her and began muttering a line of words beneath his breath.
"I písti ki i ypotéleia as se kapsoun vathia os tis fléves sas. Oi álloi na therapevontai méso tis thlípsis sou…"
Uncertain of what he was saying, she flicked her gaze toward her father's friend and noticed with trepidation that Malfoy bore an intrigued expression.
"…Aiónia zoí chorís zoí, se desmévo, Edana Onora Hayes, sti morfí tou Foínika."
When his chanting died away, the witch screamed as the hem of her gown erupted into flames. She beat at her skirts, trying to extinguish it, but the fire spread quickly, engulfing her entire body in less than a minute. As the fire continued to burn, her cries dissolved into beastly, high-pitched shrieking.
Lord Hayes dropped his arm to his side, and the two wizards watched as the flames died away into embers and ash. The girl's body was gone, and in her place was a small, birdlike creature with feathers of mottled crimson. Stepping forward, the caster scooped up the being into his hand and stared down at it in astonishment. "I daresay, Edana, your value now exceeds what I could have imagined otherwise. I should have considered this from the beginning."
Brutus snorted under his breath as he glanced at the manor in the distance. "I should think the Minister would be highly appreciative of his new pet."
"Indeed," his friend nodded, tucking the newly crafted phoenix against his chest, and then gestured to the body of his daughter's lover. "Will you see to it that this mess is properly disposed of?"
"Of course," the blonde smiled.
"Join us in my study when you're through," Hayes stated as he stepped away. "And perhaps you should bring your eldest daughter with you. She should be of marriageable age by the time he has completed the required grieving."
"Indeed she would, my friend."
2 May 1998
Fawkes pierced through a tree top, scattering leaves in all directions as she narrowly avoided a stray Killing Curse. She could not afford to spend the time it took be reborn. Severus would need her before the dawn, and she would have to be ready to answer his call.
She had kept an eye on the dark-eyed wizard for more than two decades, ever since she had first felt the connection. It had pained her to witness how her master treated him throughout the years, and when Dumbledore had gambled with his soul – Aidan's soul – she had been absolutely devastated. However, since disloyalty to the one she served had never been an option, there was nothing to do but watch and worry. The stress had become so great that she had burst into flames with much higher frequency than ever before.
When the fateful night had finally arrived, she had felt the injury inflicted upon his soul. As it had burned through her heart, the phoenix had done the one thing that could help heal him – she had sung. She knew he would hear her and so she sang as loud and with as much emotion as she could and did not stop until the pain had faded from her chest. As soon as the bonds of servitude had fallen away after Dumbledore had been honored in Death – the old wizard had promised her freedom as a reward for her dedication – she had fled the grounds to find Severus.
Once she had, she had never strayed very far from his side. Fawkes had known enough to keep herself hidden during his time on the run, and once he had been posted at Hogwarts, she concealed herself within the Forbidden Forest. She would rest during the day, and when his window grew dark at night – many times well after midnight – she would perch upon his window sill, standing sentry until the sun began to rise.
But tonight, she had lost sight of him. He had been swallowed up by the chaos reigning over the early-morning conflict, and she had been desperately searching for him for the past two hours. With every moment that passed, the need to find him increased until she had entered her current frenzied state of panic.
Soaring past the Whomping Willow, the phoenix noticeably faltered in flight when a burning sensation tore across her chest. A mournful cry escaped her as she recognized that his soul was calling out to her. Severus urgently needed her, and thankfully she now knew exactly where he was.
Swooping down from the clouds, she streaked over the heads of the boy and his two friends as they ran from the Shrieking Shack. Without slowing her momentum, Fawkes slammed through one of the windows, spraying tiny shards of glass across the floor. Instinct overwhelmed active thought as she grabbed hold of his bloodied body with her golden talons and disappeared in a flash of light.
Fire raged through his nerve endings as the snake venom tore through his bloodstream. With his eyes closed, Severus pleaded with the deities to finally let peace come to him. He had done everything that he could to atone for his sins and to bring about the Dark Lord's downfall – the rest of it was up to Potter. He only hoped that it had been enough to earn him relief from the agonizing hell that had been his life.
Unable to move, he could feel himself steadily weakening as the blood continued to ooze from his throat. His mental clarity was waning until the sound of an explosion invaded his hearing. Whether it was inside or outside of his head, he could not tell – either someone had come to finish the job, or the effects of the venom had just blown all of the blood vessels in his brain to smithereens. In any case, it could only mean that the end was finally near.
A flare of comforting heat suddenly flooded through him and a light beyond his closed eyelids turned his vision orange. So it actually was a bright white light that accompanied one on the journey to the afterlife. How disgustingly poetic it had all turned out to be, Severus thought as he felt his muscles relax and a sense of calm soothed away the venom's burning. Within quick succession he realized that all of his aches had vanished, tranquility had settled into his mind, and he was reasonably wet.
Wet? At the distinct feeling of water droplets splashing onto his face, he furled his eyebrows in confusion. Was it possible that there were rainstorms in the Great Beyond, or were the angels simply weeping over him? If that were the case, could one hex an angel without immediately earning a one-way ticket to eternal damnation?
Groaning quietly, the wizard slowly blinked open his eyes and then raised his hand to shield himself from the light. His first realization was that it was not a white light greeting him, but a soft orange glow. His second was that the form drenching him in tears was not that of an angel, but of Dumbledore's long-absent phoenix.
"Fawkes?" he whispered, shocked by the ease in which his voice sounded. The sensation of gravel being ground into his throat that had occurred when he gasped his final communication to Potter was gone. Moving his hand down to his neck, he was equally bewildered to note that his fingertips encountered smooth flesh instead of a gaping wound. When looking at his hand, however, he could still see the evidence of his blood having been splattered and smeared.
There was also the matter of the immortal, birdlike creature perched upon his chest. It was weeping with an intensity he had never before seen, continuing even as its black eyes met his dark ones. As an odd sentiment washed over him, Snape hesitantly extended his hand toward the being's head and slowly stroked his palm across the warm feathers. He blinked in astonishment when the phoenix's long eyelashes fluttered shut and it lightly nuzzled its head against his hand.
A moment later, the creature threw open its eyes and launched off of his chest as a horrible cry erupted from its golden beak. Snatching his hand back, the wizard scrambled backwards and stared at the phoenix in absolute shock. As flames shot toward the sky, he slowly rose to his feet and then widened his eyes when a feminine scream sounded. Withdrawing his wand from where it was still faithfully sheathed within his sleeve, he glanced concernedly about at what appeared to be the ruins of an ancient garden. He saw no signs of another human presence with him in the dark, yet still the screaming persisted.
Wand still extended, he swept his gaze back to the roaring fire. An augamenti was on the tip of his tongue when the flames inexplicably started to descend, eventually revealing the form of a young female. Her face was contorted in an expression of pain, and her bare arms were raised in the air in a fashion similar to the phoenix's wings. Her long scarlet tresses, unkempt with golden highlights, were eerily reminiscent of the bird's long feathers as they undulated wildly in response to wind and flame.
The woman's awful cries quieted as the fire continued to burn lower, exposing a slim form housed in voluminous, corseted dress of crimson satin. As her anguished countenance faded into something less severe, her eyelashes slowly rose to reveal eyes of the deepest sapphire blue, which immediately locked onto his form. Flames licked at the hem of her skirt for a moment longer before disappearing into naught but glowing embers beneath her feet.
Awed by both the manner of her arrival and her striking appearance, Severus felt a slight chill ripple through him when she dropped her gaze from him long enough to study the fingers on one of her delicate hands. Her arms then gracefully fell to her sides, and relieved tears spilled down her cheeks as she breathlessly exclaimed, "It was you. I knew it was you!"
She moved to step toward him, but immediately wavered on her feet. Seeing that her legs were about to give out on her, the wizard rushed forward to catch her by the elbow. His breath caught in the back of his throat when she stared up at his face, and he swallowed in hesitation.
Using him for support, the redhead pulled herself into an upright position. She then ran her hands across his chest, whispering, "Aidan."
For a few seconds, he stared, befuddled by the warmth of her fingers upon his body and concerned at seeing traces of his blood mar her ivory skin. Finally registering what she had said, he cleared his throat. "I'm not…"
His voice trailed off when he noticed the moonlight reflecting in her tears and experienced an odd tightening in his chest. Tentatively, he touched her face, using his thumb to wipe moisture from her warm cheek. When her hand covered his, he drew in a surprised breath.
"You're taller this time," she smiled; her eyes sparkling.
Severus narrowed his brow in bewilderment and then withdrew his hand from her. "I don't… I'm not who you clearly seem to think I am."
"You are," the witch murmured, slipping her arms about his torso and tucking her head against his chest. While listening to his heartbeat, she eagerly inhaled his scent. "I feel it."
Regaining control of his senses, he shook his head and tried to loosen her grip. "What you are feeling may be delusion, but I, madam, am highly confused. Miss… Fawkes?"
"Edana," she corrected, raising her head to meet his eyes.
He tilted his head, wincing at the dark smudges that had been transferred from his bloody robes to her otherwise flawless cheek. "Miss Edana –"
"No," she interrupted, shaking her head. "Please, just Edana. I've missed hearing you say my name."
The wizard exhaled in frustration – with her for being so obviously mentally muddled, and with himself for the sudden temptation to play into her confusion by pretending to be the man she wanted – and then spoke curtly. "Whoever you are, I do not know you, nor do I understand why you find it necessary to assault my person in such a manner, but I assure you that I am neither impressed nor amused. Now, if you would be so kind as to explain just where the fuck we are and whether or not I am actually dead, I would be eternally grateful. For if I am alive, there is still a bloody tyrant in need of deposing."
Her lower lip trembling, the redhead yanked away from him and stumbled over to the remnants of a stone fountain, narrowly avoiding collapse. Sinking into a seat upon the edge of it, she covered her mouth with one hand as she fought to stifle a sob. After a moment, she inhaled loudly and dropped her hand into her lap. "Conamara, in the County Galway… near the southwestern coast."
Snape raised an eyebrow at the realization that he had to be nearly six hundred miles away from the battle over Hogwarts… and from the Shrieking Shack.
"And you are alive," Edana added, wrapping one arm around her waist as she bent forward. "I was capable of saving you this time."
Taking in a deep breath, he closed his eyes in contemplation. He had never attempted an apparition of that distance before, much less one that included a stretch over open water. Considering he had – for all intents and purposes – been dead not thirty minutes ago, he did not feel exceptionally confident in the ability to do so now. He would have to make multiple jumps: the first, perhaps to Cliodna's Dale, the mostly-wizarding village in Northern Ireland; the second, somewhere north of Glasgow; and then finally into the Forbidden Forest.
"If you must return, I shall not stop you," the woman stated quietly as she looked to the ground, "but please do so with care. You are the bearer of his soul – the one I have sought for so long – and if it is again lost, so shall I be, for I can no longer be reborn."
The wizard stared at her in disbelief, until he decided that he was only wasting time that Potter did not have to spare. When he realized, however, a minute later that he was still standing there, ogling her like a halfwit, he sighed and re-sheathed his wand. Rubbing his hand over his face, he mentally cursed whatever it was that was holding him back. The fate of the entire Wizarding World was at stake, and yet for some reason he was more concerned with the antics of a crying girl.
A crying girl that had appeared out of the middle of a massive fireball, rambling on about his soul after apparently having saved him while masquerading as Albus's phoenix. Grumbling beneath his breath, Severus stalked over to the crumbling fountain and perched on a large piece of stone beside her sniveling form.
"Please… do not torment me," she whimpered, turning her body away from him. "I promise I shall inflict no further assault upon your person."
The man grimaced as the sound of his own words caused an ache in his chest. Conjuring up a handkerchief, he held it out in front of her. "I apologize for my tone. It was not my intention to upset you."
Edana flicked her gaze to him and then gingerly accepted the cloth. After dabbing at her eyes, she continued staring at the earth and cleared her throat. "I hold no delusions, except perhaps in thinking that you could have in some manner retained any memory of me."
Inhaling deeply, he folded his arms to his chest and looked up at the stars. It was impossible to think that such a peaceful sky could exist while hundreds of people fought for their lives on the other end of the British Isles. Shifting slightly in his seat, the spy lowered his gaze to the mysterious woman. "Alright, then perhaps you might tell me why it is you thought I would have."
With a sniffle, she straightened her spine, fiddling with the handkerchief as she responded. "It's rather difficult to explain without sounding completely mad."
"I must admit I'm starting to believe that I now qualify for that descriptor," Snape sighed. "In the interest of addressing the lunacy, however…"
The witch narrowed her eyes slightly before shaking her head. "I do not know where even to begin."
"Might I suggest beginning with who you are?"
The hint of a smile briefly appeared at the corner of her mouth as she gathered her long hair over one shoulder. After a moment, she turned her head towards him. "I am certain it will be of little significance to you, but my name is Edana Hayes. My father was Lord Cyril Hayes of Connacht, and this was his estate."
As he glanced about at the ruins, his eyes tightened somewhat in recognition of the name. While he scoured his mind for the memory that accompanied it, he enquired, "What caused it to fall into such disrepair?"
She sighed quietly and shrugged her shoulders. "He trusted a Malfoy not to exploit his private affairs for personal gain."
The man snorted softly, and then raised both eyebrows in disbelief when he found the recollection he desired buried deep within his History of Magic lessons. "Lord Cyril Hayes, Chief Warlock of the first organized Wizengamot? But that was in –"
"January of the year sixteen hundred and twenty-nine," Edana finished with a sad smirk. "I am aware. I was there to witness it."
Severus tilted his head and turned toward her. "You were there?"
She nodded slowly and wrapped her arms about her waist. "I was what secured his appointment, when he gifted me to the Minister."
"Gifted?" he queried.
The witch took in a pained breath and ducked her head as tears began to sting her eyes. "I was meant to… My father intended for me to be wed to the Minister after his first wife passed, but I… I loved another. I loved Aidan, but he…"
The professor swallowed uncomfortably when she covered her face with her hands. A sudden desire to hold her overwhelmed him, and, in spite of his more logical side, he shifted close enough to slip his arm across her back. At his touch, she instinctually turned into him and buried her face against his neck.
"I should never have asked you to come," she moaned a minute later, "but I just wanted to see you –"
His brows furled in uncertainty.
"—and I should have said yes when you offered to take me away. I was so stupid to have asked you to wait when I only ever wanted to be with you."
Snape sighed gently, realizing that she was again referring to someone else. "Edana, I'm –"
"No," she whimpered, raising her head and shakily placing her hands on either side of his face. "Please, listen. He murdered you because of me. You were right. I never wanted to believe you because he was my father, but you were so very right. He killed you and never cared that I loved you – he only ever cared about himself, about impressing the Minister. I wanted him to kill me as well so that I could be with you, but he wouldn't because he had nothing else to give away."
"Edana, stop," he instructed forcefully, pulling her hands down. "It pains me to hear that you have suffered – I cannot quite understand why it does to such an extent – but you must see that I am not the man you are grieving."
"No, please – you have to listen. I'm trying to tell you," the witch protested. "Father cursed me to an eternal life of servitude and loyalty in the form of the phoenix. He mocked my love for you by allowing my release to be only at your hand – so you see, it has to be you!"
At his disbelieving expression, she sighed and slipped out of his grasp. When the breeze blew hair into her face, she pushed it over her shoulder and then ran her hands over the cool satin of her skirt. "I promised I would look for you, and I did. For nearly three hundred and fifty years, I was passed from master to master, but I never stopped searching. And when you first came to Hogwarts – you were so young, but I knew that you had returned to me just as you said you would.
"I know you don't believe me, but it is the truth." Edana took in a shuddering breath and fixed him with a pleading gaze as she placed one hand over his. "It tore at my heart to watch how my master treated you, and when he asked you to end his life I wanted so badly to be able to take you away from him."
Snape closed his eyes and turned his head away from her.
Seeing the pain on his face, the redhead gave a small squawk and pushed off of the stone fountain. She immediately knelt at his feet and pulled his hands to her face. "Please… Severus."
His gaze suddenly snapped to her eyes at the sound of his own name.
"I know exactly who you are," she stated softly. "I have watched over you for twenty-seven years. I have shared your pain and outrage, and when your soul was hurting, I sang for you."
The wizard pinched his lips together as the memory of the phoenix's lament came to mind. As if it had only been the day before, he vividly remembered taking refuge in a small cave with Draco while awaiting the Dark Lord's summons. When the notes of mourning had floated in from far off in the distance, they had both sunk to the ground and wept. As sorrowful as it been, it was remarkably the most beautiful thing he had ever heard. He had known at the time that the creature had been grieving the loss of its master, but it still had felt as though he was meant to hear it. It had lessened the agony ripping through his chest – almost as if it had touched and healed his very soul – and had given him the strength to face the Dark Lord and ask for the young Malfoy's continued safety.
"I have served a dozen masters," Edana explained, "all of whom have died – several of them by others' hands. A few, I cared for more than I did Master Dumbledore, but even for them I did not sing. I have only ever sung for you."
His eyes thoroughly scrutinized her face, looking for any minute trace of falsity.
Discouraged by his continued silence, the fiery-haired witch launched to her feet and pulled him up to meet her. Placing his arms around her waist, she pressed herself against his body and slipped her hands behind his neck. She gently tugged his head lower and ran her fingers through the soft hair at the base of his skull as she pleaded with him. "Please remember something, anything at all. If you could just remember that night – how you held me as we danced together in the moonlight, how you claimed that I was more exquisite than you could have imagined, how you begged me to run away with you, or how you kissed me for the first time in this very spot."
Severus looked down at her with an injured expression on his face. He would never be able to explain why, but he was angry with himself for not recognizing anything she described. As she touched her lips to his jaw, continuing to beg him, he wanted nothing more than to be able to end her suffering and to tell her that he remembered her, so he did the only thing he could think of to comfort her: he kissed her.
The exchange was hesitant at first, as he was not entirely certain of her response, but soon became more heated. As she opened her mouth to him, he breathed deeply through his nose and pulled her slender form even tighter to his body. He had kissed other women in his life, but never before had it felt like this – not even when Lily had caught him under the mistletoe at Slughorn's Christmas party in fifth year. He was like a drowning man seeking air –or a sinner desperately seeking salvation – and she was the only one capable of providing it for him. As he seemed to delve deeper and deeper into her essence, he felt so much more than the peace he had desired for so long. He felt hope; he felt acceptance; and as they finally drew apart and he met her glittering sapphire gaze, he unmistakably felt love.
A soft giggle escaped her lips as she light-headedly wobbled into his chest. "You even taste like him."
With a noticeable grin, the dark-haired man lowered his mouth to hers once more and tenderly seized her lips. Needing even more of her, he slid his hands down from her waist and lifted her from the ground. After realizing that he had miscalculated the weight of her gown, however, he pulled his head away from her and extended one hand behind him to cushion their fall.
Edana gasped as she collapsed hard against his chest and narrowly avoided knocking her head into his teeth. Pushing herself up, her silky hair formed a curtain around his head as she asked, "Are you alright?"
With a rumbling laugh, he slowly nodded and reached out to touch her face. As he attempted to remove the traces of her tears and his blood from her cheek, he took in a heavy breath. "You are indeed the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I am sorry that I could not remember you."
"It does not matter," she smiled, rubbing her nose against his, "as long as you promise to kiss me like that again."
"Always," he murmured, catching her lips.
At the sound of birds chirping and leaves rustling in the breeze, Severus refused to open his eyes for fear of discovering that everything had been an extravagant hallucination and that he was still lying in his own blood in the Shrieking Shack, waiting to be put out of his misery. When he finally found the courage to do so, he raised one eyelid and let out a small breath of relief at finding open sky above him.
Lifting his head, he looked down to see that the beautiful woman in the crimson dress was still curled up against his side. As he watched her sleep in the low light just before dawn, he could not help but be filled with an overwhelming sense of happiness. While he drew an errant strand of hair away from her face, he realized that he had been wrong in his initial assessment of his miraculous recovery. It had not just been Dumbledore's phoenix weeping over him; it had been an angel after all – his angel.
"Mmm—Severus?" she whispered, keeping her eyes closed.
A sleepy smile spread across her face as she finally blinked open her eyes. "I just wanted to make certain you were real."
"As far as anyone can be certain," the wizard replied, propping himself up on one elbow and turning his body toward her.
Edana ran her hand along his chest and rested her forehead against his chin. "I missed you so much."
"I was not aware of it until now," he responded quietly, "but I missed you as well."
Placing a kiss to her forehead, he nodded. "I have never before felt so complete."
As the fiery rays of dawn broke through the treetops and bathed them in an orange glow, the witch rolled onto her back and guided him over her. They were in the midst of another passionate lip-lock when a strangled cry escaped his lips. Rearing back onto his knees, the wizard clutched his left forearm as a searing pain rippled through it.
"Severus?" she cried in concern, immediately pushing up from the ground. "What's wrong?"
Her eyes were wide as she watched him tear back his sleeve, and they both stared in shock at his arm as the Dark Mark angrily wriggled before fading away into a painless, pink scar.
"He's gone," Snape whispered in disbelief. "Potter actually managed it."
Happy tears welled up in her eyes when he raised his own moistened gaze to her face. Pushing forward onto her knees, she slipped her arms around his neck and then pressed her forehead against his. As he wrapped his arms about her waist, he slowly sank back against the dewy grass and gently pulled her atop his body.
As the sun gradually rose higher into the sky, there was no talk of what would happen next or where they would go. There was no joyous laughter echoing off of the stone ruins or frantic tearing off of clothes in celebratory consummation. Instead, the pair simply clung to each other in silent bliss, basking in the radiance of their new-found freedom, in the place where the dreams of their past would become their hopes for the future.
A/N: The quote at the beginning is a traditional Celtic 'Giving of Rings' Vow.
The written incantation of the curse is the phonetic translation of Greek for: "Let faith and servitude burn through your veins. Let others be healed through your grief. Eternal life without life, thee bind, Edana Onora Hayes, in the form of Phoenix." (Thank you, notyetanotheralias for fixing my flawed attempt).
The name Edana Onora is Gaelic for "fiery honour."