bethbethbeth: (HP Beholder (femmequixotic))
[personal profile] bethbethbeth posting in [community profile] hp_beholder
Recipient: Snapesgirl
Author/Artist: ???
Title: The Celestial Code
Rating: NC-17
Pairings: Severus Snape/Aurora Sinistra, Harry Potter/Remus Lupin (implied)
Word Count: 28, 800 (plus or minus a couple)
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *Chan implied - nothing overt*.
Summary: Some things are indelibly written in the stars and others are subject to change.
Author's/Artist's Notes: Thank you to my beta-reader who put in some serious hours on this, to my handholders (you know who you are), and to Beth, who showed incredible patience. Snapesgirl, your signup gave me some fabulous ideas, many of which I tried to incorporate in this story. I hope you enjoy this.




Aurora squared her shoulders, mentally preparing herself for the upcoming job interview. I’ve no reason to be nervous, I’m more than qualified for this position, after all. And I’m a Hogwarts graduate, so Dumbledore knows me.

She smiled to herself. Of course she could do it, she was Slytherin. She had no idea if she was the only applicant, however. Astronomy hadn’t been too popular when she’d attended Hogwarts, but there was just something about the night sky, the constellations and the movements of heavenly bodies that had always fascinated her. And of course, it had been a favourite subject of her father’s as well. The only other topic to interest her as much had been Arithmancy. And Vector’s taught that for decades and shows no signs of retiring, so Astronomy it is.

“Ms Sinistra. Do come in and sit down.” Dumbledore, looking slightly older than she recalled, emerged from his office and gestured her inside. “I was pleasantly surprised to get your application.”

“Thank you, Professor.” Aurora followed him, sitting down on the visitors’ side of the large desk before folding her hands in her lap.

Dumbledore settled into his chair, looking at her over the rim of his half-moon glasses. “So, what have you been doing for the past eleven years? And why are you applying for the Astronomy position? When you were in school I recall you were especially enamoured of Arithmancy.”

Nothing gets past him. She inclined her head. “I was. But I am equally devoted to the science of astronomy and this position would allow time for research as well as teaching.” She exhaled. “As for what I’ve been doing... I got my mastership in both Astronomy and Arithmancy and have been an assistant professor at Beauxbatons for the past five years.”

Nodding, Dumbledore inspected the parchment in front of him. “So I see. Very impressive. And your references are impeccable. Madame Gonoud at Beauxbatons was quite impressed with your performance there.” He smiled. “She says here that if we don’t accept your application she’s hopeful you’ll take over her position.”

Aurora smiled. “She was a good master, but she’s not even close to retiring. I was fortunate to be able to train with her, however. Still, England is my home and I missed living here. Plus, this is a wonderful opportunity to teach and do research.”

Dumbledore sat back in his chair. “And how does your family fare these days?” he asked.

She had expected the question. “I’m afraid not many of us survived the last war. We were not supporters of You Know Who, and as soon as I finished here, my father insisted I train abroad.” Much as I would have liked to have stayed and fought.

“He was a wise man,” Dumbledore said quietly. “It would not have been the place for someone so young.”

I wasn’t that young. Familiar with Legilimency, Aurora allowed him to see her awareness of what he was doing before allowing him limited access to her surface thoughts. “My father died during my last year of school, as you may remember. Since then, my mother hasn’t done well. She is being well cared for at our family estate but as she ages, I feel more comfortable being close in case anything should happen.” To her horror, her throat closed, and she blinked back several tears. She had missed so much time with her mother, but her training had been intense.

“Oh, my dear.” Snapping his fingers, Dumbledore requested tea from the house-elf that promptly appeared. By the time it arrived, Aurora was calmer, embarrassed by her outburst.

“Don’t be,” Dumbledore murmured. “One should never be ashamed to display genuine feeling.”

Carefully hiding her irritation at the fact that he was still reading her, she nodded. “Thank you. So, may I answer any other questions?”

What followed were fairly thorough questions regarding her proposed curriculum and teaching goals; Aurora was glad she’d gone the extra mile and prepared sample lesson plans.

“Well,” Dumbledore finally said. “You’re one of the best prepared candidates we’ve had in a long time, my dear. I do have to poll the rest of the faculty for their opinion, and inform the school governors, but that’s a mere formality.” He smiled. “Especially since the most difficult amongst them is sure to support a fellow Slytherin staff member. So, welcome to Hogwarts.”

Aurora allowed herself a small smile. “Thank you, Headmaster.”

“The term, as you undoubtedly know, starts in six weeks. I trust that since you have already considered your lesson plans and curriculum, you can provide a book and materials list in relatively short order. The letters to the students’ parents go out in less than a week--”

Bending down, she reaching into her bag and pulled out the list she’d prepared the day after finishing her mastery. “I have that right here,” she said, handing over the parchment.

“Ah, excellent. Obviously you’ve thought about it.” Dumbledore smiled, accepting the parchment. Rising, he said, “As Astronomy professor, your office will of course be in the Astronomy tower. You may have your quarters placed there as well, or you may opt to live elsewhere, it’s your choice. You have some time to make that decision. Now, if you come with me I can show you--”

Just then, the door opened and a tall, thin, pale man entered. He frowned at her as if surprised to find someone else there with Dumbledore. Aurora blinked in recognition.

“Ah, Severus,” Dumbledore greeted him. “I’m sure you remember Aurora Sinistra. I’ve just offered her the Astronomy position.” To Aurora’s surprise, Dumbledore’s eyes were actually twinkling. “As she’s a fellow Slytherin, I’m sure you’ll find you have much in common.”

Aurora met Severus’ eyes and smiled. She remembered him of course. Severus Snape been three years ahead of her in school and had gone on to become the youngest Potions master Hogwarts had seen in decades. She knew that since returning he had become Head of House for Slytherin, and that he was close to being a genius.

He had also been a Death Eater and would have been condemned to Azkaban after Voldemort’s death had Dumbledore not testified that he’d turned spy on behalf of the wizarding world, helping to defeat Voldemort. She’d been looking forward to seeing him again and had assumed he would remember her.

Apparently she’d been wrong. Severus stared at her for a long moment as if having difficulty recalling her. “Indeed,” he said, face expressionless. “Good day, Madam.”

“Professor Snape,” Aurora responded, suppressing an automatic shiver. Merlin. What a voice! Snape may not have been much to look at in school, but that voice had always made up for a lot. Although he’s not a weedy teen anymore either.

Dumbledore smiled. “Now that you’re here, Severus, I’d appreciate it if you could do me a favour. Would you show Aurora where her office will be in the Astronomy tower?”

Severus frowned. “Headmaster, I really do need to speak with you about some rather...sensitive issues.”

“Ah.” Dumbledore sighed. “This really isn’t the best time, my boy. I just remembered an emergency meeting with the board of governors and I do believe I’m late.”

Aurora raised an eyebrow. Dumbledore hadn’t said anything to her about another meeting, and she would have been willing to bet the Sinistra bonding rings that he would have chatted with her for another hour. Still, he certainly didn’t report to her, so she didn’t say a word. He’s plotting something, though, she thought.

Severus glared at Dumbledore. “Very well. But I shall need to speak with you later, Headmaster.”

“Of course, my boy, of course.” Dumbledore walked toward his fireplace. “Severus will give you a tour of the Astronomy tower, my dear. And again, welcome. I’m so pleased you’ll be joining us.”

Picking up her bag, Aurora turned towards Severus, who sighed and gestured at the door. “After you.”

Once outside, she looked up at him. “There’s really no need to show me the Astronomy tower, Professor. I was a student here, I’m familiar with the layout of the place.”

“No, I’ll show you.” Severus glanced up at the gargoyle that guarded Dumbledore’s office. “Albus has ways of knowing it when his instructions aren’t followed to the letter.”

Aurora smiled. “Then of course, I’d love a tour.”

The Astronomy tower looked much the same as it had eleven years prior. Of course, since she had been most accustomed to seeing it at night during classes, there could have been changes. At least the view’s still spectacular, she thought as they ascended the stairs and looked out over the panoramic view of the lake and Forbidden forest.

“Your office is located through here,” Severus said, leading her into a spacious room behind a door she couldn’t recall having seen before. He must have noticed her confused look because he continued, “When you move in you can set your password and the door will be invisible to all but you and the other staff.”

She nodded. She could definitely see the reason for that. No one wanted random students wandering into their office without permission.

The space was large enough for an office and a laboratory and she said so.

Severus nodded. “You are authorised to make it even larger if you require more space. I’ve expanded my Potions laboratory several times using wizard’s space.” He smirked. “It is considered good etiquette to inform the headmaster before you do so.”

“Yes, I imagine it is,” she murmured, already plotting the layout in her head.

“I’m sorry about your father,” Severus said, startling her.

Spinning to face him, Aurora blinked. “I...Thank you.” She narrowed her eyes, some instinct making her continue. “So you do remember me? I couldn’t tell earlier.”

Severus inclined his head. “Of course I remember you. You were often...kind to me when others were not. I always appreciated that.”

Aurora stared at him. “I’m not sure I recall--”

“I do and it’s enough.” Severus glanced out the window. “You’ll have quite the view here.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “My father would have loved this. He’d always hoped I would go into teaching.” She smiled. “He felt it an appropriate career for a woman, if she had to have one.”

“No arranged marriage?” Severus asked.

“No.” Aurora sighed. “He raised me to despise blood prejudice, and pure-blood families are the only ones who do such things anymore. I always knew he’d support my marriage to anyone as long as I loved them. In fact, I’m quite sure he was killed because he refused to compromise his principles. He believed that all people had worth, regardless of their magical abilities or their blood status.”

“Is that so?” Severus looked away as if upset. “Well. I had heard he was brave to the end.”

Aurora’s breath hitched, her mouth dropping open. “Do you mean to tell me that you were there when he died?”

“No. I was not.” Severus swallowed. “I do know someone who was, however and he may have...mentioned something.”

“Who?” Aurora snapped, moving forward, her hands clenched into fists. “Who was it?”

“It doesn’t matter since he’s dead.” Severus moved towards the door. “Shall we go?”

She shook her head. “Not until you tell me about--” But Severus was already out the door and heading down the stairs. Dashing after him, Aurora finally caught up at the bottom. “Snape! You will tell me what I want to know,” she hissed.

“Is that so?” Severus spun to face her, his expression unreadable. “And how do you believe you shall accomplish that, pray tell?”

Aurora’s hand tightened on her bag as she held on to her temper. “My parents sent me out of the country to protect me the year I finished school,” she said, tone so soft that Severus had to lean in to hear her. “My mother wouldn’t even allow me to return to England for my father’s funeral because she was so afraid I would get involved in the ‘unpleasantness’ as she called it.” She gritted her teeth. “So if you know something about his death, I would appreciate your sharing it with me. Even if it’s horrible. Even if you think I can’t bear it. Because I can.”

There was a long pause, then Severus nodded abruptly. “Regulus Black went on that raid,” he whispered. “He told me about it afterward. Your father duelled bravely and well. I imagine the Dark Lord would have liked to have made an example of him, but instead your father took several Death Eaters out before being overcome. He died courageously and quickly.” He stared at her. “And it seems you’ve inherited his passion and convictions.”

She tilted her chin up defiantly. “I like to think so.”

To her surprise, Severus smiled. “Good. Because you’ll require it to be an effective teacher.” Gesturing towards the front door, he said, “Would you like an escort to the gates?”

Aurora shook her head. Just then, she wanted time alone to think. “No thank you. I believe I know where the exit is located and I’m fully capable of seeing myself there.”

Severus nodded. “Then I’ll be on my way.” A tiny smile curved his lips. “And Ms Sinistra?”

“Yes?”

“Albus is correct about one thing. It will be a treat to have another Slytherin on staff here. Welcome.” And with that he spun, his robes swirling around him artistically as he strode away.

Aurora exhaled. What have I got myself in to?

***


Aurora’s first few months were quite busy. She was assigned first and fourth years for Astronomy and, since her classes were at midnight, she found her new schedule turned her life a bit upside down.

By nature a late night person, she adjusted quickly. Breakfast for her was just before noon, lunch was at six and supper at two a.m. And, because of her odd hours and the fact that her office and living quarters were located in the students’ most popular snogging spot, she got the last patrol of the night.

She found rousting snuggling couples to be rather amusing, and, taking her cues from McGonagall and not from Severus, she was even-handed with removing House points, although she was known to dismiss a Slytherin pair with merely a warning.

The first years looked ridiculously young to her. To her surprise, many even looked like their parents, with whom she’d attended school. Draco Malfoy was the spitting image of his father, right down to the superior attitude and sneer. Harry Potter, too, looked like what she remembered of James Potter, except with Evans’ eyes, yet on closer inspection seemed nothing like his braggart of a father, and Aurora found herself liking him.

She definitely liked his friends. Granger was bright and asked intelligent questions, Weasley, while not so bright, was cheerful and had an infectious laugh. And she never once caught them out of bed. Perhaps this Weasley won’t be like his mad brothers, she thought, shaking her head at the antics of the Weasley twins.

The other staff were welcoming, if a bit cliquish. She often encountered them whispering in the staff lounge, and as soon as she approached they would stop. She got the impression they were all involved in a project, but as a junior faculty member, she assumed she wouldn’t be let in on the secret until she proved herself, which she hoped would be soon.

After the completion of her fourth month of teaching, Dumbledore invited her into his office for a meeting. “Tea?” he offered as she took her seat.

“Please,” she responded. It was, after all, eight a.m. and the equivalent of the middle of the night for her.

“The students seem pleased,” he said after the initial pleasantries were over. “I overheard some Ravenclaw students talking about opting into Astronomy next year since the course has so clearly improved.”

Warmth suffused Aurora. “That’s...lovely to hear,” she said, taking a sip of her tea. “I’d hoped I was making the subject material interesting, but of course you never know--”

“That’s true.” Dumbledore smiled at her over his glasses. “And are you making friends amongst the staff?”

“Everyone has been very welcoming,” she replied.

“Good. That’s good.” Dumbledore pursed his lips. “With you and Severus being the youngest faculty members--” He paused and smiled. “Well, one never knows what will happen, does one? I only hope that any staff members who may become...involved in any way will be discreet.”

Aurora raised an eyebrow, holding his gaze until he looked away, his cheeks pink. “Naturally, Headmaster,” she finally answered, hoping he couldn’t see how flustered she was. “I have read the code of conduct.”

“Yes, of course.” He coughed. “Well, it sometimes bears repeating, although clearly not in your case. So, do you have any suggestions for changes to the course?”

The rest of the hour was spent with her outlining her suggested changes to the Astronomy curriculum, and with Dumbledore agreeing to most of them. Her ideas on ways to link some Arithmancy principles with Astronomy he suggested she discuss with Professor Vector.

As she rose to leave, Dumbledore walked her to the door. “Please remember that my door is always open to you, my dear,” he said. “No topic is too small, no detail too miniscule.”

She nodded. “Of course, Headmaster. Good day.”

Once outside, she started for the tower before changing her mind and moving towards the infirmary instead. She was tired but knew she wouldn’t sleep this close to her regular waking time.

Aurora had formed a fast friendship with Poppy Pomfrey and when she had time, she would often seek out the mediwitch to talk. Accustomed to walking into the infirmary without warning, Aurora froze upon realising that Poppy wasn’t alone. “Oh! I’m so sorr--” She blinked. “Severus?”

He was out of his standard robes, clad instead in black trousers and a white shirt with its sleeves rolled up. For a moment she found herself staring at his forearms, which had a smattering of fine, dark hair. As she watched, he decanted a potion from a small cauldron on a table, handing a phial to Poppy. “That’s the last of it, madam,” he said. “I trust that will keep you in stock for the month?”

“Yes, Severus, this will do quite well.” Smiling at Aurora, Poppy said, “Hello, dear. You’re up early.”

“I had a meeting this morning with the headmaster,” Aurora replied, tearing her gaze from Severus’ oddly mesmerising forearms. “I’d thought we could have some tea, but if you’re busy--”

“Not at all!” Poppy placed the phial on a shelf alongside about ten identical ones before wiping off her hands. “Severus was just helping me restock my Dreamless Sleep Potion.”

“Ah.” Aurora bit her lip as Severus quickly slipped on his standard black robes. “Do you need other things brewed? I’m not bad at certain potions and I’d love to help.”

“Indeed.” Severus raised an eyebrow. “That decision is Madam Pomfrey’s of course, as it’s her infirmary, but my brewing standards are rather high--”

“Honestly, Severus!” Poppy rolled her eyes.

Aurora smiled. “Then I should be happy to have you observe my brewing technique and test my results before I contribute anything to the infirmary's stores, Professor.”

To Aurora’s shock, Severus smiled. “I look forward to it. Good day, ladies.” And with that he swept from the room, empty cauldron tucked under one arm.

Aurora sighed. He always left as soon as she entered a room. “At this rate I’m going to get a complex,” she muttered.

Poppy pursed her lips. “About what?” she asked, tone speculative.

Shaking her head, Aurora said, “It’s nothing. Shall we order tea? And maybe some of those shortbread biscuits you so love?”

Poppy laughed. “All right, but not all of us are as petite as you are, dear.” She patted her stomach. “Some of us need to watch what we eat.”

Aurora laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re fine.”

“And you’re generous to say so.” Leading the way to the small sitting room she had tucked in the rear of the infirmary, Poppy summoned an elf and about two minutes later they were sipping tea and munching biscuits. “So what did Albus want?”

“We talked about how my classes are going, and I told him about some ideas I have for incorporating elements of Arithmancy into the Astronomy curriculum.”

“Oh, that sounds interesting. What did he think?”

Aurora sighed. “He wants me to talk to Vector.”

Poppy coughed. “Yes, I suppose he’s right, although you should know, Septima can be rather--”

“Stuck in the mud?” Aurora supplied dryly.

“Conventional,” Poppy corrected.

“I know.” Aurora shook her head. “If only I could prove to Dumbledore that my theories actually work! I really think this could be more reliable than Divination.”

“Well my goodness, almost anything would be,” Poppy replied.

“True.” Aurora laughed. “But we offer Divination classes. If we all know it’s rubbish then--”

Poppy pursed her lips. “Don’t repeat this, but I think Albus hired Sybill for...other reasons.”

“What?” Aurora’s eyes went wide as she absorbed the implications of that. “You mean he’s not gay?”

Poppy choked on her tea and it took her a moment to recover. “Oh my goodness!” she chuckled. “Yes, of course he is. I didn’t mean that. Dear me, no!”

Aurora, embarrassed, began fanning her heated cheeks, in that moment pleased that her skin colour didn’t readily show blushes. “What did you mean, then?” she finally asked once Poppy was calmer.

“I have no evidence of course,” Poppy said, snagging a biscuit. “But I just have that feeling.” She shrugged. “Not that I have a divining bone in my body.”

Smiling, Aurora said, “Thank goodness or I don’t think we’d be such good friends! I don’t believe in fortune telling and prophecies and the like.”

Poppy laughed. “Yes, I suppose we’re both too scientific and prosaic to swallow such hogwash. Still, Albus had a reason, I’m convinced of it.” She smirked. “What I’d like to know is what you think of Severus.”

Aurora almost choked on her tea. “What do you mean? I don’t...think anything of him.”

“Um hm.” Poppy smiled. “That’s what I thought.”

“There’s nothing to think!” Aurora insisted, realising too late that her vehement protests were unlikely to fool her friend. She sighed. “Not that there couldn’t be something to...think if he ever remained in the same room long enough for me to talk to him. But since that appears unlikely to ever happen--”

Poppy nodded, suddenly serious. “There are things you should know about Severus, my dear. He’s a good man, but quite unforgiving of himself. He holds himself to a very high standard, I think because of his costly past mistakes, but as a result I believe that makes him feel undeserving of...attention.”

Aurora nodded, senses on high alert. “Was there...someone else?” she asked. “I mean, when we were in school he had a huge crush on Lily Evans--”

Poppy smiled sadly. “I’m not sure he ever got over her marrying James Potter.” She cleared her throat. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but the night of her tragic death I saw Severus. He came here and he looked--” She shivered. “He looked haunted. I think her death broke something in him.”

“Is he...irrevocably broken do you think?” Aurora whispered.

“I don’t know.” Poppy patted Aurora’s hand. “I think not. I believe that the right woman will come along and break through that stony exterior.” She smiled. “I also think it would help if you...encountered one another more often. What with him residing and teaching in the dungeons and you in the tower, and with your odd teaching schedule--”

Aurora nodded. “You’re right, of course.” She sighed. “Maybe I should try to take my meals at the regular times.”

“And not get any sleep? No, that won’t work.” Poppy set down her teacup and dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. “I think you need to help me brew some potions.”

“I do?” A slow smile crossed Aurora’s face. “Oh! You’re right, I do.”

“Leave it to me,” Poppy said. “I’ll arrange everything.”

Sadly, the proximity to the holidays made coordinating a brewing session with both Severus and Aurora difficult, and all too soon, Aurora was going home to spend Christmas with her mother, who seemed delighted to see her.

Their celebrations were quiet, partly because their family was small and because the world seemed to be growing darker by the moment. The Gringotts robbery, when it was publicised, definitely made Aurora sit up and take notice. Who would try to rob Gringotts? she thought as she read about it in the paper.

The holidays also gave Aurora a chance to finally go through some of her father’s things, and as she did so she found his Arithmancy notes. Oh, Papa. You were so brilliant-- Blinking back tears, she gathered his notes and parchments to take back to school. Perhaps I can pull these into something publishable that can be dedicated to him. She smiled. He’d have liked that.

It was a pensive Aurora who returned to Hogwarts in January. The day she got back, she went to Dumbledore’s office to report in, and found the door open and Severus there. He looked...upset and she overheard a bit of the conversation before Dumbledore spotted her.

“...not painful, exactly, but I felt a twinge and it looks a bit darker. I’m concerned that Darkness may again be returning, and what with the item we’re concealing here in the school--”

Dumbledore’s eyes met hers and he held up a hand, stopping Severus. “Aurora, my dear, you’ve returned. Welcome back.”

Severus dropped his left arm, which had been extended towards Dumbledore, and turned, holding that arm behind his back. “Professor Sinistra.”

Aurora swallowed hard. Merlin, that voice. “Hello. I’m so sorry to interrupt. I just wanted to report in.”

“You’re not interrupting,” Dumbledore said, walking in front of Severus and grasping Aurora’s elbow to steer her towards the door. “Severus and I can continue our conversation another time. How was your holiday?”

Shooting a look back over her shoulder, Aurora saw Severus had turned away and seemed to be fiddling with something. Swallowing hard, she looked at Dumbledore. “It was enjoyable, thank you. My mother seems to be doing well.”

“Good. That’s wonderful to hear.” Dumbledore was watching her carefully.

Aurora exhaled. “I’ve been considering moving her out of the country, actually,” she said, voice pitched loud enough for Severus to hear. “Our family has a small villa in France and Father’d planned to send her there the last time people started talking about Darkness returning.”

Dumbledore paused, then smiled. “You must do what you feel is best, of course, but that’s not a bad idea.”

She nodded. “Thank you.” She moved towards the door, then stopped and turned to look at both of them. “And, Headmaster?”

“Yes?”

“If there is anything I can do to assist with keeping any potential...Darkness at bay, I am at your disposal.”

Dumbledore smiled. “Thank you, my dear. I believe our current precautions are sufficient, but I shall keep that under advisement.”

She inclined her head. “Please do.” Glancing at Severus, she said, “Goodnight, Professor.”

Once ensconced in her rooms, she owled her mother, instructing her that she thought it best she make plans to move to France. As she watched the owl wind through the sky, Aurora sighed. She’d somehow known that monster wasn’t completely gone. But this time, I’ll play my part.

By paying attention to Dumbledore’s coming and goings, Aurora soon realised that there was something hidden in the third floor corridor. Why else would Dumbledore ban students from the area yet spend so much time there? So one evening, she explored.

As faculty, she easily bypassed the safeguards, finding herself in a cavernous room. In the corner was a large object that stretched to the ceiling. It was covered with a cloth.

Without hesitation she pulled it off, looking up at the inscription. “‘Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi,’” she read aloud, her whisper echoing around the room. “Oh. Of course.”

She’d heard of the Mirror of Erised of course. Who hadn’t? But why would Dumbledore be keeping it here, amongst children?

Unable to resist, she dropped her eyes, looking straight into the mirror despite the danger. At first it was just here, but as the image blurred, shifted, she leaned forward, eyes tearing up when she saw who was standing there. “Father,” she said.

Her father, alive and well, stood arm in arm with her mother, who looked healthier than Aurora had seen her look in years. They were smiling at her indulgently. Aurora sniffed. They looked so pleased and proud of her.

Aurora began to turn away, but a blurred figure formed beside her, and, curious, she kept watching. When she saw who it became, however, her eyes widened. “Merlin,” she gasped.

Severus Snape, looking more carefree than she’d ever seen him, was beside her. As she watched, he slid an arm about her waist, turning her towards him. Dipping his head, he covered her mouth with his, seeming to all but devour her as her parents looked on smiling.

The kiss lasted for ages and Aurora could see she was enjoying it, her body straining closer to Severus’. We’re clearly married or my parents wouldn’t be so pleased.

Confronted with her secret desire that she had not even consciously admitted to herself, Aurora stepped back from the mirror. “Impossible,” she hissed. “This cannot be. Father is dead, mother is...ill. Severus would never--”

She paused. But would he? He liked her, she knew. He often watched her when he thought she wasn’t looking. I could have something approximating this future. Perhaps. If I try hard--

A distant noise broke her concentration and she looked away, her mind suddenly clear. With an oath, she scuttled back from the mirror. Now I know the danger. I can’t look in that mirror again. Ever.

The temptation was immense. She knew that if she did, she might see more of the possible future she and Severus could have. A home, children, a contented life. But not unless I make it happen, which I can’t do if I waste away staring into a magical mirror. So, in what was probably one of the most difficult acts of her life, she drew her wand, levitating the cloth back over the mirror, concealing it. It wouldn’t be enough; the temptation would always be there now that she knew its location. Yet she would have to stay away. Such a future can only be if I make it.

It was difficult, however. Over the ensuing months the desire to check her image was hard to fight. One night after a difficult class with the Gryffindors and Slytherins, she walked past the room on her patrol and, trembling, she opened the door. Upon seeing the mirror was gone, Aurora sagged in relief. The temptation was gone, she had to rely on he own hopes and dreams.

Dumbledore was still acting suspiciously, however. Aurora quickly came to the conclusion that there was something else he was hiding, with help of other faculty. Sadly, her attempts to discover what that was were frustratingly fruitless. No staff members seemed to be talking about anything! She would delicately try to broach the topic to hidden puzzles or the Gringotts’ break-in, only to be immediately shut down, and so, helpless, she watched as Hagrid got suspended for being caught with a baby dragon, as Dumbledore got called away on what seemed a specious errand, and as Ron Weasley ended up in the infirmary as a result of an injury no one would discuss.

“He looks like a building fell on him,” Aurora remarked to Poppy the evening Weasley was brought in. She’d happened to be paying chess with Poppy.

Poppy pursed her lips. “He does, doesn’t he?” she said as she cast diagnostic spells. “Curious.”

And, when the news that the Philosopher’s Stone had been hidden at Hogwarts got out, she clapped politely as Gryffindor won the House Cup, excusing herself from the leaving feast the moment Dumbledore, accompanied by Severus, slipped out of the Great Hall.

“Headmaster!”

Both men paused, Dumbledore turning towards her. “Yes, my dear?”

“Have I done anything that makes you think I would not have been willing to assist in the defence of the Philosopher's Stone?” she snapped, hands fisted at her sides.

A strange look crossed Severus’ face, but Aurora had no time to analyse it, concentrating as she was on Dumbledore, who sighed. “Oh no, not at all. Those arrangements had all been put into place before you were hired.” Glancing about the empty hallway, he said, “And perhaps my office is a better place to discuss this further.”

Aurora shook her head. “That’s not necessary, Headmaster. I understand that you used the resources at your disposal at the time. I would just like it known where my loyalties lie and that I stand ready to contribute should such circumstances arise again.”

Dumbledore’s blue eyes focussed on hers for a long moment before he smiled. “Thank you, Aurora. I understand.”

She nodded. “I hope so.” Glancing towards Severus, she said, “Good night.”

Once back to her tower, Aurora took down her wards and, determined to prove her worth, pulled out her father’s charts. While she didn’t believe in divination or fortune telling, she did know that there were ways of predicting the future. Surveying the materials spread out in front of her, she smiled. Time to put Father’s research to some good use.

Aurora spent the summer moving her mother to southern France. It was a bigger job than she’d anticipated so it was almost a surprise when autumn arrived.

Rushing to Diagon Alley for new teaching robes, she saw a crowd at Flourish and Blotts and, curious, she craned her neck to see what all the fuss was about. Her short stature made it difficult, however.

“I didn’t think I would find you here, Professor,” came a whisky-smooth voice from behind her. “Don’t tell me you’ve fallen for him, too.”

Spinning, Aurora came face to face with Severus, who was looking at the gathered people with something akin to disgust. “Fallen for whom?” she asked. “I couldn’t tell what was going on so I came to investigate.”

“Ah.” Severus rolled his eyes. “It’s another Lockhart public appearance.”

“Oh.” She made a face. Gilderoy Lockhart was a handsome enough man, but there was something about him that was...smarmy and off-putting. Plus, no woman appreciates a man who pays more attention to his clothes than she does. Narcissa Malfoy notwithstanding.

A smirk crossed Severus’ face. “I take it you’re not a fan?” he asked.

“Merlin, no.” She started to move away, sighing as a matron quickly manoeuvred to take her spot. “Did he write another book?”

“Fortunately, no.” Aurora shivered as Severus clasped her elbow to guide her through the crowd. He was so tall that he navigated with ease, and soon they were beyond the crush. “Unfortunately, however, I understand Albus invited him to teach Defence this year.”

Aurora froze mid-step. “Oh Circe and Morgana,” she whispered. “Surely not.”

Severus snorted. “Interesting. That was my reaction, too,” he said, tone dry. “But yes. Lockhart is joining the faculty.”

“Those poor children,” Aurora said. “Someone’s going to have to teach them to defend themselves.” She paused, then decided to continue. “After all, it’s clear something is coming.”

“Indeed.” Severus didn’t even pretend surprise at her words. “You always have been perceptive, Aurora.”

Her name sounded like a caress in his mouth. Eyes wide, she stared up at him. Dark eyes intent on her face, he swallowed, opening his mouth to say something when--

“Severus!” Lucius Malfoy, looking even more arrogant than Aurora recalled, was swishing towards them. Severus’ expression immediately closed.

“Hello, Lucius.” Releasing her arm, Severus bowed. “Good day, Professor.”

It was a clear dismissal and, disoriented by Severus’ hot and cold behaviour, Aurora blinked. “Ah. Yes. G-good day, gentlemen.” Straightening her shoulders, she smiled coolly at both of them before pivoting on her heel and walking briskly away. Stopping to look into a shop window, she pretended to inspect the cauldrons but instead focussed on the reflection that displayed Severus and Malfoy.

Severus’ expression remained aloof and after a moment, Lucius sneered, pushing his way through the crowd and into the bookshop. Turning on his heel, Severus strode away.

Interesting, Aurora thought as she walked to the Apparation point. She didn’t trust Malfoy any further than she could throw him, but it seemed clear to her that Severus didn’t either. And when did I get so adept at reading his expressions?

The new class of Hogwarts first years looked even younger than the previous year’s had. Aurora feared she was becoming like her mother, who thought of anyone under sixty as a baby. I’m not yet forty, but Circe, I feel ancient compared to them, she thought as she watched yet another Weasley, a girl this time, get sorted into Gryffindor.

Lockhart, as she’d expected, was an unmitigated disaster as a teacher. Poppy, finally having managed to keep her promise and find a way to get Severus and Aurora into the same room at the same time by asking them both to brew for her, continually ranted about him while she helped them decant their weekly brewing.

“The idiot Banished poor Potter’s bones, forcing me to make him regrow them!” She shook her head. “Why Albus even allowed that moron in the school is beyond me--”

Severus, who had been steadily decanting, sighed. “Believe me, Madam, I have asked him.” He rolled his eyes. “From what I can tell, his goal is to have the students be able to recognise a charlatan when next they meet one.”

Aurora bit back a smile. “Mission accomplished, then,” she murmured. “Surely everyone must realise by now that no one person could have done all that he’s claimed.”

“In my experience, students are not particularly perceptive.” His cauldron empty, Severus flicked his wand, scouring it clean with a charm before reaching for his robes.

“Won’t you stay for tea, Severus?” Poppy asked, studiously avoiding Aurora’s gaze. “We’d love to have you.”

Aurora held her breath, exhaling when Severus shook his head. “I’m afraid I have a meeting with Albus this evening.”

Poppy snorted. “You know, you spend far too much time closeted in his office with him, Severus. All plotting and no play makes for a dull man.”

Severus raised an eyebrow. “Ah, but as you both no doubt know, I am a dull man.”

“I would call you many things, Severus,” Aurora said, catching his eye, “but dull is not one of them.”

Clearly shocked, Severus stared at her, while Poppy sniggered. “She’s got you there, Severus. I daresay no one would ever describe you as dull.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Tea, you say? Very well, but only if the elves bring some of those chocolate biscuits--”

In that moment there was a shriek, followed by shouting.

All three of them stared at each other for a split second before Poppy and Severus dashed for the door, Aurora only a step behind. Poppy turned, casting a Stasis Charm over her still full cauldron before locking the door.

The hallway was crowded with students, and as Aurora pushed through them she froze upon seeing Mrs Norris, Filch’s cat, lying stiff on the floor, directly above her blood-red writing on a stone wall. The Chamber of Secrets? Merlin! she thought as students whispered around her.

“It was ’im,” Mr Filch cried, pointing a trembling finger at Harry Potter. “’E’s killed ’er!”

Potter shrunk back, pressing himself between Granger and Weasley. “I didn’t do anything!” he protested.

Filch took a threatening step forward and it was then that Dumbledore appeared, his presence immediately calming everyone, except perhaps Filch.

As Dumbledore took charge and began questioning everyone, Aurora scanned the hallway. The floor was wet, which she found curious. Glancing over at Severus, she could tell he did as well, his brow furrowed, eyes assessing as he surveyed the students present. His gaze lingered for a moment on Draco Malfoy before moving on. How curious, Aurora thought.

“...just Petrified, thank goodness,” Dumbledore said, interrupting her thoughts. “We’ll move Mrs Norris to the infirmary for treatment, Argus.” He looked at the gathered students. “Back to your dormitories, children. We’ll handle this.” Gesturing towards Severus, Dumbledore smiled at Aurora. “My dear, would you help Poppy with Mrs Norris?”

Nodding, she turned away. Before she left, however, she glanced back over her shoulder, seeing Severus deep in discussion with Dumbledore. As if he’d sensed her regard, he looked over at her. Their eyes caught and held for a long moment.

“It seems you’d rather stay here,” Poppy murmured.

Shivering, Aurora tore her gaze from Severus’. “Of course not. Come, let’s go. Filch’s head will explode if you don’t start working out how to revive his cat.”

Poppy chuckled. “True. Although I can handle this if you’d rather help Severus...”

“It’s fine,” Aurora said, shaking her head. “There will be other opportunities.”

But sadly, there weren’t. The Chamber of Secrets had been opened and the students and staff spent their days and nights worried about what the Heir of Slytherin would do next. Aurora found student performance suffered a lot, except perhaps for Granger and a few select Ravenclaws.

In her spare time, she studied her father’s journals, at first to see if they could be pulled into manuscript form but, as she continued, she began to get caught up in his theories themselves. He really was brilliant, she thought as she perused them in the evenings before her midnight classes.

Lockhart made socialising in the staff room intolerable, so Aurora spent more and more time either closeted in her rooms, in the library or with Poppy in the infirmary.

Severus rarely joined them anymore, so she and Poppy spent hours speculating about who could be responsible for the increasingly terrifying events.

The day they brought Granger into the infirmary, Aurora happened to be there. “This has got to stop,” she said, shaking her head as Poppy helplessly did scans.

“It does,” Poppy agreed with a sigh. “But what can we do? No one knows who’s responsible.”

“Someone does,” Aurora said, pacing. “Someone must.”

“Well yes, I suppose so,” Poppy said, distracted. “But they’re not saying, and since Sybill’s abilities as a Seer seem to not be working at the moment--”

“We don’t need a Seer,” Aurora muttered. “What we need is science--” She paused, eyes going wide.

Poppy, wand still moving over Granger’s Petrified body, looked up at her. “What is it?”

Aurora, mind racing, started for the door. “I’m not sure. I have to go. I’ll be back later, all right.”

“Of course, my de--”

Closing the door on Poppy, Aurora walked quickly to her tower. Fortunately, she did not have class that evening because of anticipated cloud cover, so she pulled out her father’s notes, scanning for a section she recalled reading several evening before.

Thirty minutes later, she smiled. There it is. Reading carefully, her eyes widened. I was right. This could work--

Sitting back, she pondered all she knew of stellar and galactic astronomy. Like all astronomers, she knew that what she studied in the night sky, she was studying what had happened in the past. Some of the stars that were still visible were no longer there. In essence, she was looking into the past.

I can’t believe Father found an Arithmancy formula to turn that around, to look at our planet and see what an observer from space would. With only minor manipulation, I can see what will happen in our future since it’s really the universe’s past! She shivered. With such a discovery would come some awesome responsibility. Was she prepared?

Then, she thought of how Dark everything seemed. Something was coming, she knew it. Someone needs to prepare. So, squaring her shoulders, she set to work.

The following weeks Aurora withdrew from almost everyone. Everyone except Poppy. She didn’t tell her everything, just enough so that she knew Aurora was working on a theory of her father’s.

It was the night Ginevra Weasley disappeared, taken by the Heir of Slytherin into the Chamber of Secrets, that Aurora made her breakthrough. After watching Gilderoy Lockhart, who had been boasting that he’d known the Chamber’s location all along, be trapped into promising to rescue her, Aurora, disbelieving, shook her head, hurrying to her tower to get away from him and work on her formula.

Later she would hear about Harry Potter deep underground battling a Basilisk, but in that moment all Aurora could think of was how very frightened the Weasley girl would be. If she’s not dead.

Surprisingly, when she saw the solution it was a small, simple tweak to the formula. Biting her lip, she wrote out the new formula, substituting light as her constant instead of time, and she gasped. That’s it!

Deciding to test it, she pointed her telescope at a distant star and jotting down the coordinates, plugged in her formula.

It was overwhelming trying to hone in on one small part of what was going to happen in the world, but she was meticulous and painstaking and determined. And soon a pattern emerged.

It took her a while to discern it clearly, and several more hours to decipher even a small percentage of her calculations, but when she was finished, she sat staring at her parchment, her heart pounding

Some things were immutable, she knew. The sun would rise in the morning, and set in the evening. And Voldemort will return. Merlin. The pattern was murky, but she could see that Harry Potter was a key part of what would happen. As was Severus, who everyone would think had died. She shook her head. No. I want the future I saw in that mirror and I can have it, I know I can. She narrowed her eyes. Just because people think he dies doesn’t mean he actually does.

It took several hours to write down even a small portion of what she could see and at the end of it, she knew deciphering what would happen would take months, if not years.

“Well,” she whispered into the empty room. “I did say I wanted to do important research.”

Just then, an elf popped into the room. “Madam Poppy requests Professor Aurora!” it squeaked.

“What is it?” Aurora asked, rising to her feet, parchments forgotten. “What’s happened?”

“Madam needs good brewers! Students need potions!”

By the time Aurora got to the infirmary it was quite crowded. Every professor who knew anything about potions was present. Her eyes immediately flew to the corner where Severus was elbows deep in brewing. She had to tear her eyes away from his bare arms before hurrying over to Poppy to ask what was going on and find out where she was needed.

“Perhaps you could brew some Calming Draught for him,” Poppy said, pointing over to the corner where Lockhart was sitting, rocking back and forth and mumbling to himself.

Aurora nodded slowly. “Of course. But what happened to him?”

Poppy smirked. “According to young Potter and Weasley, he tried to Obliviate them, but it backfired. Apparently he was going to try to claim that he opened the Chamber and killed the Basilisk. It’s apparently a trick he’s used successfully before.”

“Memory Charms?” Shaking her head, Aurora got to work and as she brewed, the other staff filled her in. “You mean to tell me all those books he wrote were lies?”

“No. They just weren’t his stories to tell,” said Minerva, decanting Mandrake Draught. “You can’t be surprised. We’ve always known the man was a charlatan.”

“Indeed,” agreed Severus, wiping his hands and slipping back into his robes. “Although attempting to hex children, even children as vexing as Potter and Weasley, may have been taking things a bit too far.”

“Yes, we all know how you feel about them,” Minerva said, tone dry. “And yet they did save the day and everyone involved.”

Aurora hid a smile at Severus’ scowl. “Not Lockhart, though.”

“No,” Minerva agreed, satisfaction clear in her voice. “Not him.”

It was hours until they finished patching everyone up and, exhausted, Aurora sought her bed. As she walked past Dumbledore’s office, however, she heard raised voices and, curious, she ducked out of sight to watch.

Lucius Malfoy, looking very disgruntled, was storming away from Dumbledore’s office, a cowed house-elf at his heels. As she stared, Harry Potter emerged from Dumbledore’s office to chase Malfoy.

“Mr Malfoy! You forgot this,” Potter said, holding out an old, battered book.

Malfoy sneered. “What on earth are you talking about, Potter?”

Potter’s eyes narrowed and in that moment Aurora saw clearly the fierce man he would become. “I think you slipped this book into Ginny Weasley’s cauldron so that she would open the Chamber.”

“Is that so?” Malfoy smirked unpleasantly, grabbing the book from Potter. “Well why don’t you prove it?”

Turning away, he started for the exit, thrusting the book at the elf. Potter began gesticulating to the elf, miming opening the book, which the elf did after a moment of hesitation.

“Master!” the elf squeaked, holding up a sock. “You have freed Dobby by presenting him with clothes!”

Potter’s pleased smirk was surprising and made Aurora smile. Well, well. He does have a brain after all, she thought, amazed at the skilful way Potter manipulated Malfoy into freeing his elf.

When Malfoy raised his wand, Aurora’s eyes widened and she readied her wand, but it wasn’t necessary. With a flash, the elf cast a shield that threw Malfoy several feet back. “You will not harm Harry Potter!” it cried, crossing its arms and staring at Malfoy’s crumpled form.

After climbing to his feet, Malfoy glared at Potter and hissed, “Meddlesome boy! You’re just like your wretched parents and something tells me you’ll come to the same, sticky end!”

And as Malfoy stormed away and the elf and Potter returned to Dumbledore’s office, Aurora pondered all she'd seen. She knew people like Malfoy. He would not forgive that humiliation lightly. I’ll need to watch the stars carefully.

That summer Aurora’s research was on hold while she moved all her mother’s things to the house in France. And, following her instincts, she left just enough behind in their family house so it didn’t appear completely abandoned.

Word of Sirius Black’s escape from Azkaban reached her even in France and, after hugging her mother goodbye and promising that she would write, Aurora hurried back to England and then Scotland.

Hogwarts seemed besieged, surrounded by a pall of depression cast by the presence of the Dementors patrolling the school.

Dumbledore called a staff meeting before the students arrived, explaining that the Ministry had ordered the Dementors be sent to watch for Black, who they thought would be trying to get in. After the meeting had been adjourned, Dumbledore pulled Severus aside to speak privately with him, and at the end of the conversation, Severus looked furious.

“Severus,” Aurora called before he could leave the room. “How are you? Bad summer?” she asked.

“Indeed. And a bad year ahead,” Severus snapped, bowing curtly before leaving.

The Dementors turned up everywhere, including the Hogwarts Express, and Aurora wasn’t surprised when, their first day back, several children, including Harry Potter, were brought into the infirmary to treat Dementor-induced shock.

That was the day she met Charity Burbage, the new Muggle Studies teacher who’d been chaperoning on the train along with Remus Lupin, the new Defence professor. She recalled Lupin from school, since he’d been the same year as Severus.

Charity quickly became a regular member of Aurora and Poppy’s tea club and proved a bubbly and charming friend. Severus did not join them that year, however.

It quickly became clear to Aurora that Severus did not like Remus Lupin, but Severus’ hostility seemed more than just simple House rivalry.

“What do you have against Lupin?” she asked him one day as they sat together in the stands to watch the first Quidditch match of the year. It was overcast, the roiling clouds milling about overhead, the shape of floating Dementors barely visible in the distance.

“Other than the fact that he and his friends terrorised me in school?” Severus asked, tone dry.

She shook her head. “That was years ago. This seems...more personal.”

Severus remained silent.

Aurora sighed, wrapping her arms about herself as the air turned chill. “Fine, don’t tell me. Just--Be careful.”

Severus looked at her. “Why do you say that?”

Aurora hesitated. While she had spent some time deciphering what she’d read from the stars, she was still wary about telling people that she could see the future. Severus was a man of science. Would he even believe her? “As part of my research I’ve been...analysing trends and I sense something’s coming. Just a feeling I get,” she finally said, feeling deflated. Merlin, he’ll think I’m mad.

He raised an eyebrow, his expression intrigued. “Then you have good instincts.” Placing a hand on her arm, he said softly, “Please trust me and stay away from him.”

Startled at his touch, she blinked. “But why--?”

Around them the crowd gasped, several people screaming and, startled, Aurora tore her gaze from Severus’ only to see Potter falling without a broom.

Arresto Momentum”! shouted Dumbledore and Potter’s fall was slowed but not stopped.

Potter still hit the ground with a sickening thud and as people started running towards him, Aurora realised Severus had slipped away. She sighed. Merlin but he’s a hard man to read.

Potter recovered, of course, and Aurora buried herself in her research, taking breaks only to have tea with Poppy and Charity a couple of times a week.

One evening, on her way down to the library, Aurora heard voices coming from the Defence classroom and, wondering what was going on, she cracked open the door, only to see Lupin and Harry Potter.

“...don’t know why they affect me so, Professor,” Potter was saying. “I mean more than most people.”

Lupin sighed, patting Potter’s shoulder. “I can’t say, Harry. All I know is that I can try to give you the tools to defeat them. Are you ready?”

Potter nodded.

“Now remember what I said before,” Lupin said. “Use a strong, happy thought. Keep that in your mind and do not let it go. Channel the energy you get from that into the spell. The incantation is ‘Expecto Patronum’.”

When Potter had his wand up, Lupin opened a trunk. At first there was a blur and the flash of what looked like a full moon. A moment later what appeared to be a Dementor floated out. Potter took one look at it and went pale. Trembling, he whispered, “Expecto...Expecto--

Swooning, Potter almost crumpled and would have hit the floor if Lupin hadn’t caught him. Aurora’s eyes widened as Lupin, tenderly cradling Potter, settled him on a chair, running a hand through his hair.

“Oh, Harry, my love,” Lupin whispered, pained. “So determined and brave. You’re like your father. Would that you knew what you mean to me.”

Aurora blinked, her mind racing. Lupin’s words and the tender note in his voice bespoke much more than merely a teacher’s concern for a student. Merlin, I think he’s in love with Potter!

Just then Potter stirred and Lupin withdrew his hand, and by the time Potter opened his eyes, Lupin had once again retreated into the role of concerned professor. “You fainted,” he said, helping Potter to sit up. “Here, have some chocolate.”

“I need to try again,” Potter said once he’d eaten and some colour had returned to his cheeks. “This is so embarrassing.”

“Not at all,” Lupin reassured him. “I didn’t expect you to get it the first time. That would have been truly extraordinary. Now try again. And remember, you need a strong memory.”

Aurora stepped back from her unseen position at the door as they continued. Should I tell someone? Lupin made no improper advances--

Glancing back inside, she saw the lesson continuing, Potter finally managing to produce a non-corporeal Patronus. Deciding Potter was safe enough, she bypassed the library, going instead to Poppy’s quarters.

Poppy took one look at Aurora’s face and ordered tea. “Now tell me what’s wrong.”

To Aurora’s shock, once she finished, Poppy was smiling. “Remus found his mate and it’s Harry Potter?” she said. “Dear Merlin. I mean I’m pleased for him but-- Dear me.”

“His...mate?” Aurora blinked. “You make it almost sounds like he’s some sort of animal.”

Poppy coughed. “I really can’t say any more, my dear. This isn’t my secret to tell. Just be assured that measures have been taken that the students will be kept safe. Though perhaps I shall have to speak with the headmaster about this latest development. Still, Potter’s probably quite safe.”

Aurora shook her head. “Safe? Safe from what?”

With a sigh, Poppy patted her hand. “I’ve been sworn to secrecy, my dear. But trust me, if I didn’t have assurances from everyone involved I would never have agreed.” Her expression hardened. “And without my approval it wouldn’t have been allowed.”

“You’re not telling me anything,” Aurora said, eyes narrowing. “Will you please explain?”

“I can’t.” Poppy rose. “I have been sworn to secrecy. Just be assured that the situation is being...handled.”

“What situation?” Aurora asked, exasperated. “You haven’t told me anything!”

But Poppy wouldn’t say more and, even more curious than she had been previously, Aurora walked back to her tower to prepare for class. She was distracted as she lectured and when she caught herself going off on tangents, she dismissed class early and retired to her office to consult her charts.

Deciding to go to the source, Aurora began seeking out Lupin. He proved a charming, kind man, who had a good sense of humour and who was quite gallant. For the life of her, she couldn’t figure out what had Poppy and Severus so worried.

On her one evening off, she patrolled late then retired to get some more of her charts translated. She had barely started when someone knocked. Puzzled, since she rarely got visitors so late, she rose, walking to the door. Her visitor came as a surprise. “Severus?”

He nodded. “Do you have a moment, Professor?”

She smiled, stepping aside. “It’s after midnight. I definitely have time. Come in. Shall I send for tea? Sandwiches?”

“That won’t be necessary,” said Severus striding past her and into her office. “I only came to warn you.”

“Oh?” Closing the door, Aurora walked past him towards her work table that was covered with parchment and star charts. “About what?”

“About whom,” Severus corrected, staring down at her table. “Is this your current project?”

“Yes it is. And about whom are you warning me, then?”

“Lupin,” Severus said. “I am not at liberty to give details, but he’s quite dangerous, so you should stay away from him. I’ve noticed the two of you becoming quite...cosy recently.”

Aurora raised an eyebrow. “You realise I’m hardly going to change my behaviour without some sort of an explanation.”

He frowned. “I’m not at liberty to--”

“Enough!” Aurora snapped. “First Poppy and now you? Where is all this coming from? Am I or am I not a member of the staff? If so, I think I should be privy to what is clearly important information about another colleague! Especially since that colleague has been nothing but charming towards me.”

“Think about it, Aurora,” Severus replied sharply. “Why wouldn’t we be able to discuss it? We’re both your friends; wouldn’t we normally tell you?” His gaze challenged her. “You have a superb brain, use it.”

The shock of Severus paying her such a compliment brought Aurora up short. She blinked, then narrowed her eyes. “You’ve both taken Unbreakable Vows. That’s the only explanation.”

Severus inclined his head. “I knew you’d work it out eventually.”

“But I still don’t understand,” Aurora said, thinking rapidly. “What could Lupin possibly do that’s so dangerous? I’ve spoken with him and he’s quite--”

“Charming.” Severus snorted. “Yes. You’ve said.”

Aurora blinked. If it weren’t so preposterous she would almost think him jealous... “What don’t I understand, Severus?” she whispered, daring to clasp his arm. “I realise you’ve taken an Unbreakable Vow, but tell me what you can.”

Severus sighed. “Aurora, do you consider us to be friends?” he asked.

Startled by the seeming change in topic, she swallowed hard. Merlin but I love the way my name sounds on his lips. “Yes,” she finally said. “I do. Good friends in fact.”

His cheeks flushed. “Then please trust me.” Leaning in, he continued, “Lupin is not what he seems. Just...stay away from him.”

Aurora exhaled, releasing his arm. “Is that all you came here to say?” she asked, looking away. “You want me to avoid Lupin but you can’t tell me why.”

“I--” Severus seemed to be struggling and some perverse instinct made Aurora continue.

“I’m afraid that’s not good enough,” she said, turning away. “He has a good mind, can hold up his end of a conversation and is an engaging companion. Without more to go on I don’t see why I should forgo his company--”

“Bloody hell, woman!” Severus growled, grabbing her shoulders and spinning her about to face him. “Do what I say and stay away from him! I don’t want you hurt, I couldn’t bear it!”

Utterly shocked at such a display of emotion from Severus, Aurora gazed up at him, mouth open. Their faces were so close she could clearly see the flashing anger in his eyes, which dropped to stare at her mouth.

With a muttered curse, Severus gathered her close and slammed his mouth down on hers.

Aurora froze for a split second before her instincts took over. Winding her arms around his neck, she kissed him back with every bit of the three years of stored-up passion she’d suppressed.

The kiss, which had started out as punishing, quickly morphed into simmering, sensual heat. Severus’ tongue stroked against hers, making her moan as she arched closer, and when his hands lightly skimmed along her sides, one coming up to edge along the curve of her breast, she shuddered in approval.

Severus kissed the way he did everything, with fierce intensity and complete concentration, and by the time he pulled back, Aurora was trembling and aching for more.

Panting harshly, he said, “I’m sorr--”

“Don’t you dare apologise for that,” she hissed, placing her hand over his before he could move it away from her breast. “Especially not since I’ve wanted you to do that for ages.” She swallowed hard. “If you don’t want me then say so.”

Severus’ eyes flashed again, but not with anger. “It’s never been a question of not wanting you, Aurora,” he murmured, his voice a caress. “It’s simply not safe for you to--”

Placing a finger over his mouth, she shook her head. “You don’t get to tell me what choices I make with my life, Severus. I want you, I have for a long time. Now, either you want me or you don’t and if you don’t, then--”

Her words were cut off by his mouth covering hers once more in another merciless kiss. That time Aurora responded immediately, her lips parting to welcome his tongue, her body melting into his.

That time when they pulled apart Severus didn’t seem inclined to leave. Wordlessly, Aurora drew him towards her private quarters, silently thanking the stars that she was a naturally neat person and that she’d changed her sheets that morning.

Upon entering her bedroom Severus seemed to have second thoughts. “Are you sure--?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “I’m more than sure. Now are we going to do this or not?”

“Is there some hurry?” Severus murmured, sitting on the edge of her bed and pulling her to stand between his legs. “Do you have an early class tomorrow?”

She raised an eyebrow. “I teach Astronomy. My classes are all at night, as you well know.” Placing her hands on his shoulders to steady herself, she asked, “Do you have early classes tomorrow?”

He smiled. “Indeed not. It appears we have all the time in the world.”

“Enough, anyway,” she whispered, leaning down to kiss him. She moaned into his mouth as he unbuttoned her robes, pushing them off her shoulders and onto the floor. He made quick work of her blouse and when she was bared to him, he lightly traced the curve of her breasts.

It occurred to her that it would have been easier to simply Banish their clothes, but the anticipation of unwrapping him as he was unwrapping her made her set aside her wand in favour of using her hands. As he shrugged out of his teaching robes and shirt, the arms she’d admired for years were bared to her. Sliding her hands up his strong arms, she squeezed them, gasping as he dragged her closer and cupped her arse beneath her skirt.

Twisting, he tumbled her onto the bed, crawling on top of her and straddling her hips. “Let’s get rid of the rest of our clothes, shall we?” he murmured.

A moment later their clothes vanished and Aurora, relieved, arched up against him. “Oh, Severus--”

“So beautiful,” he whispered, staring down at her with burning eyes. “You’re still sure about this?”

“Will you stop asking me that and get on with it?” she said, smiling to take the sting out of her words as she looped her arms around his neck and drew his face closer.

Bending his head, he sucked a kiss into the sensitive skin of her shoulder before moving slowly down her body. Cupping her breasts, he thumbed her nipple before sucking it into his mouth. Aurora gasped, arching towards him.

He traced a hand lightly over her stomach before slipping a finger between her legs and inside her. She was already aroused, wet, and she bit her lip as wondered what he’d think of her.

“Yes,” he murmured again against her skin. “That’s it. Open for me, Aurora. So gorgeous.”

His voice was like warm honey, Aurora slowly melting under the onslaught of his words and his touch. “Please,” she whispered, writhing against his finger, whimpering as he slipped a second in. Clutching his shoulders, she hung on.

She thought he would mount her quickly, but he continued his patient movements, his black eyes watching her reactions carefully. When his thumb slid slowly over her clit, she closed her eyes and shivered as pleasure shot up her spine.

He took his time, stroking her thoroughly, working his fingers in and out in an intoxicating rhythm, and when she was trembling on the edge he whispered, voice dark, “Come for me, Aurora.”

Her orgasm swept over her, blurring her vision for a moment as her muscles contracted around his fingers, trying to pull them deeper. Digging her nails into his shoulders, she bucked under him several times before collapsing back onto the bed with a sigh.

When next she opened her eyes he was staring at her as if amazed. “I can go if you like,” he offered.

She narrowed her eyes. “What are you talking about? You haven’t--”

“We don’t have to,” Severus said, shifting as if to move away.

“What? No!” Moving suddenly, she shoved him onto his back before straddling him. “Don’t be ridiculous. We’re doing this properly!”

“Aurora, you’re under no obligation to--Merlin!”

Positioning herself, Aurora sat down, taking him inside herself. She was wet and relaxed after her orgasm but it still took some effort because of his size. Once he was sheathed inside her, Severus closed his eyes and moaned. “You feel--”

“Good?” she teased, shifting experimentally.

“Try unbelievable,” he gasped, settling his hands on her hips.

She smiled, leaning down to kiss him. “Just wait until I start to move,” she whispered against his lips before snogging him deeply. Drawing back, she began to slide up and down. He felt huge inside her and, with the edge off, she could take her time, enjoy him.

And enjoy him she did, her hips moving in slow circles as he tried thrusting up in tandem. Soon she sped up, riding him hard, grinding down on him, bracing her hands against his chest.

Severus’ hands were busy, too, sliding over the curve of her hips up to her breasts to thumb her nipples even as his own hips bucked beneath her. He started to lose his rough rhythm and she knew he was getting close.

Grinning mischievously, she purred, “Your turn to come for me, Severus.”

He howled, his hips shuddering, and in that moment Aurora leaned in, kissing him fiercely as he pulsed several times inside her.

Collapsing atop him, she tucked her face in his neck, smiling. She felt fabulous. “Took us long enough to get to this point,” she whispered.

His arms came around her, cradling her. “In my wildest dreams I never thought we would--” He paused. “Not that I regret--”

Raising her head, she smiled down at him. “Good, because I don’t regret it either,” she assured him. “In fact, I hope we can continue this.”

“Aurora.” Severus sat up, still holding her close. “Things are...happening in the world. Dark times are coming. I want you to remain safe. I--”

“Shh. I can take care of myself,” she reminded him, staring intently into his troubled face. “I have for a long time, you know. And I know some of what’s coming.”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

She sighed. “My research. I call it the celestial code and I suppose it’s time I told someone about it--”

It took several minutes to explain what she’d done with her father’s theories. Luckily, Severus’ clever and intuitive brain caught on immediately and by the time she finished they were sitting cross-legged on her bed, facing each other, pillows piled up around them. “You’re saying that you can see the future?” he asked.

Aurora nodded. “In a sense. I’m working on narrowing it down so that I can see more details.”

“That’s--” He shook his head. “Have you told anyone else?”

“Just you so far.” She sighed. “I thought I’d work out more of the kinks before talking to the headmaster.”

Severus sighed, leaning forward and clasping her hands. “I would think long and hard before sharing this information with Albus or anyone.”

“But why?” Aurora asked. “Perhaps it could give him some edge, some advantage to help stop what’s clearly coming.”

“Stop it?” Severus said. “It seems to me that by your own theory, what will happen has already happened. How can you stop it?”

Dear me, he’s quick. Aurora bit her lip. “The celestial code shows the whole picture but not all the little things. I suspect tiny details can be changed such that the eventual outcome will remain constant.”

“What ‘tiny details’?” he asked, eyes narrowed.

Yes, far too quick. “Small things that shouldn’t alter the overall outcome of things.”

“Like who lives and who dies?” Holding out his left arm, he said, “This Mark determined my fate a long time ago.” He looked away. “I doubt I’d survive another such conflict.”

Twisting her wrists, she grabbed his hands, squeezing them. “You’ll survive if you want to, if you have a good reason.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And you believe you can give me one?”

Moving up onto her knees, she kissed him. “I believe so, yes,” she whispered against his mouth.

“Merlin, woman,” he groaned. “You don’t play fair.”

She smiled. “Have you forgotten I’m Slytherin? My dear, I play to win.”

Pulling her close, he twisted, lowering her onto the bed before settling on top of her. “Indeed. Then so shall I.”

It was very early morning when Severus left. Aurora sat up, watching him dress. When he turned to look at her, his eyes kindled. “Venus in the morning,” he whispered.

She smiled. “I’m alone no more.”

After a long, lingering kiss, which had made Aurora wish they had more time, he’d slipped out the door. Collapsing back into her bed, she closed her eyes, relieving the previous night in all its glory. Then, her eyes sprang open. “Damn, I can’t sleep now. I must find out what’s wrong with Lupin!”

With a great sigh, she pushed away the bedclothes, sitting up. As soon as she stood, however, she winced as infrequently used muscles reminded her of her strenuous night. A shower first, she decided. And perhaps a Pain Potion. She smiled. And then I discover Lupin’s secrets.

It was not to be, however. As soon as she’d stepped out of the shower she was met by an elf, its hands twisting in distress. “Professor is summoned! The Headmaster needs all staff at once.”

Aurora sighed. “Lovely. All right, I’ll be there as soon as I can, but I’ll require a large cup of tea on my arrival.”

The elf bobbed its head and disappeared.

By the time Aurora arrived most of the other staff, including Severus, were there.

What would I do without elves? Aurora thought, spotting her tea waiting at her customary seat between Poppy and Charity. Again thanking Merlin that her dark skin colour easily hid blushes, she slipped into her seat before taking a sip and humming softly. Perfect.

“Good morning,” Charity said. “You look tired.”

Aurora smiled at her. “’Morning. And yes, it’s a bit early for me. I only went to bed a few hours ago. My hours aren’t conducive to such morning staff meetings I’m afraid.”

Charity nodded before turning away to speak with Hooch. Aurora’s explanation didn’t seem to fool Poppy, though, who took one look at her and whispered, “Well, don’t you look like the Kneazle that ate the canary. Did you have a good night?”

Aurora glared at her but Poppy only winked. Aurora sighed. “I’ll tell you later,” she murmured.

“Yes you will,” Poppy agreed, grinning.

No one was grinning by the time Dumbledore told them the reason for the impromptu staff meeting, however. “Sirius Black has been spotted in Hogsmeade,” he said, holding up his hand as about ten people all tried to say something. “The Ministry has promised increased security but, as you all know, there are ways to get into the castle. I must ask you to be extremely vigilant.”

Looking around, Aurora saw various expressions on her colleagues’ faces. Severus appeared impassive, what she’d come to think of as his ‘I’m thinking deeply’ look. Flitwick, Hooch and Minerva all looked fierce as if daring Black to show up. And Lupin--

Aurora narrowed her eyes. Lupin simply looked thoughtful. As if he’d sensed someone’s regard, he lifted his gaze, staring at her for a moment before looking away.

Oddly shaken, Aurora listened as Dumbledore proposed a new patrol schedule. Damn, there goes my research time, she thought as he informed her she would need to patrol until four in the morning.

Glancing over towards Severus, she caught his eye, relieved to see no signs of regret there. She smiled and he inclined his head infinitesimally.

“...Professor Snape shall take Professor Lupin’s shifts and classes for the next few nights while he is away on personal business,” Dumbledore concluded. “Now, unless there are questions we shall adjourn. Please do not discuss these most recent developments within hearing of the students. The last thing we need to deal with is panicked children.”

Everyone rose to leave but before Aurora could move, short fingers clasped her wrist. “You look hungry, dear,” Poppy said. “Why don’t we get some breakfast?”

“I--” But Severus was already leaving the room with Dumbledore. As she watched, however, Severus glanced back at her over his shoulder and the look he sent her made her warm all over.

“Oh yes,” Poppy said firmly. “It’s definitely time for breakfast.”

Poppy extracted the entire story over eggs, sausages, toast, beans and tomatoes, save a few personal details that Aurora wasn’t about to share with anyone. “So apparently we now have a...thing,” she concluded. “Although I can’t assume anything.” She looked down at her hands. “This may just have been a casual one-off for him.”

“Oh pish!” Poppy exclaimed. “Does Severus honestly strike you as the casual sort?”

Aurora cleared her throat. “Not especially, no,” she admitted.

“Hm. Well it sounds like rather more than just a mere thing to me,” Poppy said, sipping her tea. “I think it’s clear he cares for you. He’s certainly possessive.”

Aurora smiled. That had been rather encouraging. And while she hadn’t told Poppy about her research project, she had told her about Severus’ reaction to the idea that she found Lupin ‘charming’. “Possessive is...acceptable, as long as he doesn’t think that means I’m going to stay out of the thick of things.”

“What things?”

Aurora smiled. “Any things.”

Poppy smirked, raising her teacup as if in a toast. “Good for you, my dear. I must say, I’m looking forward to this.”

So am I, thought Aurora, smirking.

By the time she returned to her quarters, though, Aurora was very tired and her mind was racing. The combination of not having got much sleep the night before and Dumbledore’s early meeting had meant no time to do more translating of the celestial patterns and she was beginning to wonder if Severus was already tired of her.

Casting a Tempus Charm, she sighed. She had just enough time to get some sleep before classes started. Refusing to consider whether or not Severus would return to her that night, she undressed, slipping into bed where, despite her expectations, she fell asleep immediately.

When she woke, her customary light dinner had been delivered so she got up and, after eating, got ready for her first class.

Once the lessons were done, she went on her patrols, being extra careful to scan the corners for trysting students and for unauthorised personnel. Dumbledore’s warnings about Black fresh in her mind, she checked the school wards very carefully before finally retiring.

As she neared her tower, her footsteps slowed and for a moment she pondered marching down to the dungeons to find Severus. Then, she sighed. We made no promises to each other. If he doesn’t want anything more to do with me I can’t force him--

“There you are.” Emerging from the shadows, Severus startled her and she pointed her wand at him. For a moment he had an almost hesitant expression on his face before it was replaced with his usual impassivity. “I see that you’ve returned safely. Good evening, then.”

As he turned away, Aurora lowered her wand and exhaled. He came! “Severus. Wait, please. I’m...glad you’re here.”

He paused but didn’t turn around. “Indeed.”

She smiled. “Yes. It saved me having to go looking for you.”

At that he spun, staring at her. “You mean you want--”

“Oh yes,” she said, opening her door and gesturing. “I definitely want. Won’t you join me?”

“Very well,” he murmured, sweeping past her. “After all, we have more...discussions to conduct.”

She laughed, following him inside. “Most definitely.”

Severus returned every night that week and Aurora soon discovered an intensely sensual side to her new lover. He was quite tactile, in fact, and he loved touching her, carding his fingers through her unbound hair, stroking her bare back as they talked.

Outside her quarters their behaviour towards each other didn’t change and Aurora was fine with that. Severus maintained that if Dumbledore found out about them he would use their relationship to his own ends and, thinking about it, she had to agree. She knew Poppy would be discreet and she hadn’t shared anything with Charity, so all was well for a time.

Aurora still worried about Lupin, though. While he made no inappropriate moves toward Potter that she could see, and all her investigations didn’t reveal the secret everyone seemed determined to keep from her, she was still suspicious.

It took until early spring for all the dots to connect. “I’ll need you to take Professor Lupin’s patrol this evening as he is indisposed,” Dumbledore said to Aurora one night. “Normally I would ask Severus, but he’s involved in brewing something rather laborious.”

She’d agreed of course, and, as she’d patrolled she realised it was the first clear night of the year, the full moon shining brightly in the sky above. Walking back up to her tower, it occurred to her that Lupin had been ‘indisposed’ the previous month, too. At around the same time, in fact.

Glancing once more out towards the grounds, she froze. Dear Merlin. It’s always at the full moon! Of course!

By the time she arrived at her quarters, Severus was waiting. She inclined her head. “All done brewing Wolfsbane?” she asked.

Severus closed his eyes. “I knew you’d figure it out eventually.”

Aurora sighed. “Right, let’s go inside and talk. Something tells me this isn’t a conversation for the open hallway.” Once inside, she turned on him. “What is Dumbledore thinking?”

“He needed a Defence professor and, as evidenced by his hiring Lockhart last year, he’s not too choosy about who he gets for the position.”

Severus sounded exhausted and Aurora, concerned, grasped his arm. “He’s an idiot,” she said, leading him towards her bedroom. “Come on, you look like you could use a massage.”

He shook his head. “All I need right now is you,” he said baldly.

She smiled, moved by the naked need in his face. “Then you shall have me,” she whispered, standing up on her tiptoes to kiss him. “Come.”

After that, Aurora kept close track of the moon and read everything she could get on the topic of werewolves. Between that research, her own translations of the celestial code and her affair with Severus, she was quite busy.

Sirius Black’s foray into the castle did not occur on her watch, for which she thanked Merlin. No one but her and Severus seemed suspicious that Lupin had been the one on duty that night, however. Everyone was terrified, even the portraits, and no amount of coaxing would persuade the Fat Lady to return to her Gryffindor common room guard duties after having her portrait slashed.

Aurora helped get the students settled to sleep under guard in the Great Hall, after which she sought her own bed. Severus didn’t join her, and really, she hadn’t expected him to. She presumed he was too busy conferring with Dumbledore about school security. To her surprise, Aurora found it difficult to sleep without him. She tossed and turned for hours before finally giving up and going to translate more of the celestial code.

By that morning she had translated enough of it to see that a very critical day was approaching. Perhaps it’s even tonight, she thought, eyes blurry with lack of sleep. I need to redo these calculations to be sure--

Still awake despite her exhaustion, Aurora decided to go to breakfast with Poppy. It would also allow her a chance to check on the students, specifically Potter, who she still worried about.

Everyone seemed more hopeful in the daylight and she enjoyed a good meal with Poppy before helping to get everyone resettled in their regular dormitory.

That evening Aurora prepared for her lessons and, having got some rest, decided to once again tackle her celestial translating. As she worked she spotted an area she’d missed and, concentrating, she decoded a bit that made her blink. But Peter Pettigrew is dead. I read all about it--

According to the code she had very little time. Black and Lupin are involved, too. Damn, they used to all hang about together in school, how could I have forgotten?

Setting aside her parchments, she pulled on her cloak, hurrying to the dungeons to find Severus. When he wasn’t there, she slipped into his Potions classroom. There were no clues there and, desperate, she checked his private laboratory, where she found the remnants of his last potion.

Wolfsbane, she thought, sniffing. Of course. He went to find Lupin. Merlin, I have to warn him.

Lupin’s classroom was empty and she didn’t feel comfortable seeking out his quarters, it being a full moon, so she exited the castle, looking around into the gloomy dusk, her wand drawn. Casting a Point-Me Spell, she followed the direction it provided, arriving at the Shrieking Shack just in time to see the moon rise and Lupin transform into a slavering werewolf.

Severus tumbled out of the Shack, stalking towards Potter and his friends, but when he saw the wolf he gasped, pushing them behind him and shielding them from attack. The wolf reared up, striking Severus, who fell to the ground.

Aurora was readying a spell when, out of nowhere, came a large black dog. It attacked the wolf, which, after shaking it off, loped towards the forest, leaving Severus and the others behind. The dog looked back towards them seeming to grin before chasing after the wolf.
“Remus!” cried Potter, taking off after them.

“Oh for--Potter! Stop!” Aurora shouted, rushing forward, but ignoring her, he disappeared into the foliage. “Melin save me from Gryffindors.” Spinning about, she looked at everyone. “Is everyone all right?” she asked, lowering her wand. “Sev-Professor Snape? Children?”

Severus pulled himself to his feet just as she approached. “Dammit,” he muttered.

Weasley was whimpering, clutching his leg; Granger was hovering over him, pulling herself together once she saw Aurora. “Professor!” she cried. “Oh, it was horrible!”

“I saw what occurred, Miss Granger,” Aurora said crisply. “And I think it’s time we got inside, don’t you?” Turning towards Severus, who was standing, glaring into the woods, she said, “Professor Snape, are you all right?”

“I’m fine, thank you, Professor Sinistra.” Severus lowered his wand, turning back to glare at Granger. Expression cold, he continued, “And I shall be quite interested to see what explanation you shall give for hexing a professor, Ms Granger.”

As Granger quailed, Aurora raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps it was all a misunderstanding, Professor?” She nodded towards the forest where they could all still hear the werewolf thrashing about. “I think we should get everyone inside before we discuss this further. And someone will need to locate Potter.”

“Indeed.” Gesturing, Severus said, “After you. I’ll bring up the rear and ensure we don’t get attacked again.”

Granger flushed before helping Weasley back to the castle. Behind them, Aurora and Severus walked together, wands drawn, on alert.

“That was good timing on your part,” Severus said once they’d delivered the students to the infirmary. As Poppy fussed over them, placing a cast on Weasley’s leg, Severus leaned in to whispered in Aurora’s ear. “How shall I reward you?”

Aurora shivered at the promise in his words. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll think of something,” she murmured.

“Indeed. In the meantime, however, I must speak with the headmaster.” Severus’ expression hardened. “Clearly Lupin was in cahoots with Black all this time, they both need to be apprehended. I trust you can keep an eye on these...miscreants, Madam Pomfrey.”

Poppy waved a hand, not looking up. “Of course I can. Now off with you. The headmaster will need to know what’s happening.”

Severus nodded curtly before starting for the door. Casting one last look towards Aurora, he left. “I should probably go, too,” Aurora said to Poppy.

“Professor,” Granger said, approaching Aurora as Poppy worked on Weasley’s broken leg. “You saw Peter Pettigrew, didn’t you? If so, you know that Sirius Black is innocent. Can’t you tell the headmaster?”

Aurora blinked. “Pettigrew? I’m afraid not, Miss Granger,” she finally said. “I saw the wolf, and the black dog that saved you all from being mauled. As for Black’s innocence...” She sighed. “I simply don’t know enough about it. We’ll have to see what the headmaster says.”

Poppy tutted. “Indeed we shall. Now let me take a look at you, Hermione. Come over here.”

With a sigh, Granger dragged herself over to Poppy to be looked over. Pondering Granger’s words, Aurora left the infirmary, going to Dumbledore’s office. There, she found Severus and Dumbledore in a discussion. “...Aurors right away to capture and arrest him,” Severus was saying.

“We’ll do that soon enough, my boy,” Dumbledore said. “I shall go and speak with the children first. Make sure they’re all right.” He smiled upon seeing Aurora. “Ah, hello, Professor Sinistra. You’re the perfect person to keep Severus...company while I go to the infirmary. Good evening.”

Leaving Aurora blinking, he swept out. She raised an eyebrow at Severus. “Do you think he knows about us?”

Severus sighed. “I haven’t told him but I still wouldn’t be surprised if he discovered somehow. That man has an uncanny way of knowing things.”

“Would it be so bad if he knew?” Aurora asked.

“He would find a way to use the knowledge,” Severus said, steering her out of the headmaster’s office and towards her tower. “He can’t help but use everything to suit his ends.”

She nodded. Years of observation had led her to the same conclusion. “What did he say about Black?”

“The Aurors will soon arrive to track him.” Severus snorted. “He can’t be caught too soon for me.”

“Hm. What if Granger’s right, though?” Aurora asked, remembering the girl’s earnest plea as she’d left her in the infirmary. “What if Black’s innocent?”

“You seem awfully concerned about Black,” Severus said, his tone proprietary. “First Lupin, now Black--”

She laughed. “Please. I’ve no use for them.” She smirked. “Not with a Slytherin in my bed.” She sighed. “That doesn’t mean I want to see an innocent man go to Azkaban, though.”

Severus snorted. “Black hasn’t been innocent since he was eleven, and probably not even then.”

They’d reached her tower and, tired of the topic, she turned to him. “Well, guilty or innocent, he’s not here right now. Come, I’ll make you feel better.”

The next morning, when they heard how Potter had almost died from exposure to Dementors and how Black had been captured, then freed, Aurora shook her head. “How do these things happen?”

Severus, sitting half-dressed in her quarters, sighed. “Such occurrences follow Potter like the plague. I’m sure he was involved somehow.”

“What about Lupin?” she asked.

Severus smirked. “I can take care of that,” he said.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

“What I should have a long time ago,” Severus said, reaching for the rest of his clothing. Kissing her briefly, he started for the door. “Have a good day, Aurora.”

Later that morning, unable to sleep, Aurora walked past the Defence classroom and, hearing voices inside, craned her head around the door only to see Potter and Lupin facing each other, the items in the room packing themselves into trunks. “I can’t believe you’re leaving. Were you sacked?” Potter asked.

“Oh no, Harry,” Lupin replied, tone soft. “I’m leaving of my own volition.”

“But why?” cried Harry, looking distressed. “You’re the best Defence teacher we’ve ever had.”

Lupin sighed. “Thank you for saying so, but someone’s let it slip about my...condition. By tomorrow Albus will be getting Howlers from upset parents who don’t want my sort teaching their children. No, it’s better this way.”

“Not better for me. Not better for us,” Potter whispered, stepping close to Lupin.

Biting his lip, Lupin turned away. “I shouldn’t have told you about my feelings for you,” he confessed. “Even though my wolf has chosen you as its mate, that was wrong of me, Harry.”

“No it wasn’t,” Potter insisted, clasping Lupin’s arm and pulling him around to face him once more. “I’m glad you told me. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I...I love you, Remus.”

“Oh, Harry--” Lupin closed his eyes as Potter’s arms closed around him. “It’s impossible.”

“Why?” asked Harry, his face buried in Lupin’s chest.

“You’re too young.” Lupin, tried to move away but Potter clung. “When you’re an adult we can discuss it, but nothing will happen while you’re a minor. Now you should go before you’re seen. Let go of me, Harry.”

Potter shook his head, reaching up and pulling Lupin’s mouth down to his. They kissed for a long moment until Lupin dragged himself away from Potter, moving behind the desk to put some distance between them. “No, Harry. We simply can’t.”

Sighing, Potter licked his lips. “I know you think I’m too young to know what I want, but I do want you, Remus. One day you’ll see that.”

“Perhaps,” Lupin said after a moment. “In the meantime, however, you’re too young to know what you want.” Reaching into his pocket, he said, “Now, I’m giving you back this Map I confiscated from you earlier. Use it well and I’ll see you later.”

As Lupin Summoned his packed trunks and started for the door, Aurora drew back, moving away from the classroom. At least one of them has some self control.

Before she got too far, however, Lupin said from behind her, “I meant what I told him, Aurora. Nothing shall happen while he’s a minor.”

Turning around to face him, she inclined her head. “I’m glad to hear that, Remus. Good luck to you.”

He smiled. “And you.”

After that, Aurora never could find it in her heart to hate Lupin, creature or no. Even after Severus finally told her about the almost fatal incident he’d had with Lupin in school.

The following year, the year of the Triwizard Tournament, saw Alastor Moody arrive as the new Defence professor. He was a brash man, brusque, but he was an effective teacher.

The students liked him, most of them, and although his teaching methods were harsh, they were memorable. Even Severus couldn’t say he wasn’t effective.

“I dunno, I think he’s rather attractive in a craggy sort of way,” Charity said at breakfast with Aurora and Poppy.

Poppy raised an eyebrow. “Craggy? Yes, I suppose so. Moody seems pretty straightforward as well, though, and there’s something to be said for that.” She shot a look at Aurora. “Not all of us like our men...complicated.”

Charity wanted to know more but Aurora successfully changed the topic. After, when she was alone with Poppy, she’d sworn her to secrecy. “We’re trying to be discreet.”

Poppy pursed her lips. “All right, but it’s time he made an honest woman of you, dear. You deserve that.”

Aurora smiled. “Who knows, maybe I’ll make an honest man of him one day, if I’m so inclined.”

The Triwizard champions’ names surprised no one. Cedric Diggory was a gifted wizard who had excelled in all his years at Hogwarts, and Aurora imagined the others were no less talented. When Potter’s name emerged from the Goblet of Fire, however, she knew it had to have been tampered with. Consulting her celestial code, she could see it was meant to happen, and the outcome of the competition was murky. Of most concern, however, was that the Darkness was coming closer.

Her relationship with Severus had ceased through the summer hols but resumed once they returned to Hogwarts in the autumn, though things were strained, mainly because he remained reluctant to let anyone know about them.

She was also uneasy because she didn’t approve of the tournament. She thought it too harsh for students, although hers was an unpopular opinion, so she kept it to herself.

The challenges were intense and by the time the holidays arrived, the entire school needed a reason to celebrate. The Yule Ball, however, did not work out quite that way for her.

“I don’t care if people know we’re together, Severus,” she said when he informed her he would not be acting as her escort that night.

“I care,” Severus replied, his facade cracking for a moment. Pointing to his left arm, to the Mark that appeared more prominent, he continued, “He’s returning, Aurora. I don’t know how but I can feel it, his power grows. And he cannot find out about you, about us. If he did he would...use that. I can’t risk it. Please understand, I cannot ask you to the Ball with me. I can’t give you more than...this.”

Aurora sighed. She understood, she really did, but it still felt like a rejection. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten before opening them again. “Then I shall have to make my own arrangements,” she said.

Severus stared at her. “That would probably be best.”

She bit her lip. “And our...relationship? What about that?”

“We shall have to be even more discreet.” He moved closer, eyeing her carefully. “I...care deeply for you, Aurora. I don’t want what we have to end. That’s entirely selfish of me I know, but--”

“I feel the same way, Severus,” Aurora whispered, walking into his arms and feeling relieved. She smiled. “So who should I go with?”

He sighed. “Must you go at all?”

“I’m afraid so.” She smiled mischievously. “I’ve already been asked, actually. I told him I would let him know.”

“Oh?” Drawing back, Severus glared down at her. “Who was it?”

“Are you worried?” she teased. Reaching up, she kissed him. “Don’t be. It’s just Moody. And I guarantee I’m not interested in him.”

Severus huffed. “I suppose he’s acceptable. But if he touches you--”

“Unlikely.” She smirked. “He strikes me as the type who likes to play with his own...wand rather than have to try and use someone else’s.”

Severus chuckled. “One never knows. People can sometimes not be who they appear to be. As he would say, ‘constant vigilance’.”

The Ball was a success, although by the end, Aurora needed a break from having her feet trod upon by Moody, so she excused herself, going outside for air.

It was chilly and, being Scotland, the snow was deep on the ground. After casting a Warming Charm, Aurora strolled slowly around the grounds, occasionally rousting some of the more blatant student couples.

Coming around a corner, she paused upon seeing Severus and Igor Karkaroff, their heads bent together in an intense conversation. Something made her stay and draw back behind a taller rose bush to listen.

“...put your arm away, Igor,” Severus was saying. “I have no wish to see.”

“Your Mark is getting darker, too! I know it is,” Karkaroff insisted. “He is returning, Severus! What are we to do?”

Severus seemed to be trying to ignore Karkaroff, yanking open parked carriages and giving anyone he found detentions. When Karkaroff wouldn’t leave him alone, however, he spun, snarling. “What are we to do? Who says I need to do anything? I have served my master faithfully. Can you say the same?”

Karkaroff paled and, without a word, hurried off.

Aurora bit her lip. Even knowing that Severus had probably just been exercising caution and not giving himself away to a possible spy, hearing him say such words had been alarming. She waited until Severus passed and then emerged in time to see Potter staring after Severus. “Potter!” she exclaimed more sharply than she’d intended.

He jumped. “Professor!”

“Return to the Ball,” she said. “The grounds are off limits this evening, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

Potter looked down. “Yes, Professor.”

As he scurried away, Aurora hugged herself, chilled despite her Warming Charm. Hearing Karkaroff confirm that Darkness was once again approaching chilled her to the bone. I’ve been neglecting translating the code but I have got to return to it. I must know what’s coming.

A noise that sounded like a cross between a growl and purr made her frown and stare into the bushes where she thought she saw glowing eyes. “Hello?” Drawing her wand, she moved forward, gasping as Lupin came emerged. “Lupin? What are you doing here?”

He stared at her. “Watching over Harry.”

Swallowing hard, Aurora looked up at the sky, which was clear. The moon was almost full.

Lupin smiled. “It’s not the full moon yet. I would never come here during the actual full moon. I just had to know he was all right.”

She nodded. “Do you come often?” she asked, putting away her wand.

He shrugged. “Often enough. I’d appreciate it if you don’t mention it to anyone.”

“Very well. As long as you promise to continue to stay away during the full moon.”

“Of course.” Lupin glanced towards the castle. “I must be going. Goodnight, Professor.”

Aurora stood there for several minutes after he’d left, deep in thought.

“Is everything all right?” asked Moody, coming up behind her, startling her.

She turned to face him, smiling. “Of course. I just needed some fresh air. Let’s go back in, shall we?”

Over the ensuing weeks she could feel Severus withdrawing and she didn’t know what to do. I doubt he’s doing it consciously, she thought one day, watching him sleep. He’s clearly fretting over what’s coming, too.

When she did have a chance to translate more of the code it made her even more worried. From her calculations it appeared Voldemort’s return would require Potter’s cooperation somehow. Knowing what she did of Potter and his stubborn streak, she doubted it would be that easy and so she decided not to tell anyone. Who could I tell anyway? Severus is too distracted and showing Dumbledore that I may have some foreknowledge of upcoming events was just what Severus warned me against.

And so she waited and watched. She saw Potter pull ahead in the competition against all odds and she watched anxiously as they all went into the maze.

They took ages to emerge and when Potter appeared, Cedric Diggory in tow, she jumped to her feet like everyone else. But it became immediately apparent that something was wrong. Potter was weeping and Diggory-- Aurora’s eyes widened. Diggory wasn’t moving. Clutching Poppy’s arm, she hissed, “Let’s get down there, something’s wrong!”

Something was indeed wrong. Potter, sobbing and swearing that Voldemort was back, was dragged away by Moody, while Poppy checked over Cedric Diggory. “Death by Killing Curse,” she proclaimed sadly to the assembled Ministry officials and professors. “Dear Merlin rest his soul.”

Charity, clutching at Aurora’s arm, shivered. “That was his favourite method, you know,” she whispered. “He Who Must Not Be Named. He loved the Killing Curse.”

Aurora nodded. “I know.” Glancing over to where Severus was standing, she saw him clutch his left arm, a pained look on his face. Her heart sunk. “I know.”

Later, when it was discovered that Moody was actually Barty Crouch Junior under Polyjuice, Aurora couldn’t even find it in herself to be surprised. “He used an old Dark potion to make himself a new body,” Severus explained after he showed up in her quarters exhausted at two in the morning. “Potter told Dumbledore the entire story in my presence. It was something he’d made me research years ago.” He put his head in his hands. “I never thought he’d actually use it.”

“So he’s truly back?” Aurora asked, hovering behind him. “Voldemort’s back?”

Severus nodded. “He is, and Merlin help us.”

Unfortunately, no one believed Potter, and the Daily Prophet seemed determined to deliberately discredit him. Over the summer Aurora took regular delivery of the paper in France, finally tossing it aside in disgust when it began implying that Harry Potter was a ‘sad boy seeking attention’.

Her correspondences with Severus were few and far between and the one time she’d tried Floo calling, their conversation had been stilted, she suspected because of a visitor she glimpsed briefly in the background who he didn’t identify.

By the time she returned for the start of term, she was unsure of her standing with Severus and wholly sick of the Voldemort deniers.

As it turned out, so were her friends. “Rita Skeeter should be ashamed to call herself a journalist,” Poppy declared, tossing aside the paper. “And Fudge is an idiot.”

Charity sighed. “There are rumours that the Ministry is insisting that they pick the next Defence professor.”

“Oh?” Aurora raised an eyebrow. “And who will they assign?”

“Let’s hope it’s an Auror,” Charity said. She grinned. “A handsome one.”

“And this time perhaps we should test him for Polyjuice,” Aurora suggested dryly.

Dolores Umbridge reminded Aurora of a toad. A very pink toad, but a toad nonetheless, she thought as Dumbledore introduced her at the welcome feast. Looking out over the students, she noted that Potter and his gang were whispering amongst themselves, shooting Umbridge particularly hostile looks, and she pursed her lips. I wonder what they have against her. Or how they even know her.

Glancing towards Severus, she sighed. He hadn’t spoken to her nor sought her out since her arrival the evening before. Are we over? Catching his eye she held his gaze for a long moment until he looked away. Biting back a smile, she turned her attention to her meal and mentally prepared herself for his visit that night. Definitely not over.

Umbridge’s presence cast a pall over the entire school. She conducted interviews which, in Aurora’s assessment, were only for the purpose of discrediting and unnerving the staff. When it was time for her interview, Aurora remained calm and answered all questions in as clear and simple a manner as possible.

“Don’t you think Astronomy is a rather...impractical topic for young students?” Umbridge finally tittered, pink quill poised over her parchment.

Aurora didn’t flinch. “I think all knowledge is practical for children, actually,” she said. “Especially subjects that utilise maths and hone observational skills.”

Umbridge went a dull red. It clashed with her pink outfit. Aurora somehow managed not to laugh. “That will be all,” she said, her lips pursed. “I may be back for more information, Professor Sinistra.”

Aurora smiled. “I look forward to it,” she lied.

Fortunately Umbridge left Aurora more or less alone after that. Less happily, Severus had to deal with her quite often. “She’s consumed all of my Veritaserum,” he complained one night after his patrol. “If she got her way I’d be brewing all day and night.”

Sighing, Aurora laid her head on his shoulder. “Just tell her your evenings are already taken.”

Severus’ arms tightened around her. “Something tells me she’s the last person who should be made aware of our relationship.”

“Agreed.” Aurora raised her head, resting her chin on his chest. “What is she up to, Severus?”

He shook his head. “Something devious. Of that I think we can be sure.”

When Umbridge began issuing educational decrees, backed with all the power of the Ministry, the rest of the staff began to complain. “What gives her the right?” Charity asked one week in the infirmary over breakfast.

“Cornelius bloody Fudge,” snapped Poppy. “With how far that pink toad’s head’s stuck up his arse I’m surprised she can breathe!”

Aurora choked on her toast, reaching for tea to stop coughing. Charity, giggling, clapped her on the back. “You have to admit she has a way with words,” she said once they’d both stopped laughing.

“She always has,” Aurora said, smiling fondly at Poppy. “Still, I’d be careful. Something tells me the toad keeps her eyes and ears open and I wouldn’t put it past her to appoint spies.”

Umbridge’s appointment of the Inquisitorial Squad was met with little enthusiasm amongst the students and staff, with the possible exception of Filch. Aurora was conflicted since the appointees were all Slytherin and she liked seeing members of her own House get ahead, yet she knew they were being taken advantage of.

Sybill’s sacking demoralised many of the staff, who silently watched Umbridge publicly humiliate her. Only Minerva and Dumbledore stepped forward to confront Umbridge, and since it had happened during Aurora’s resting hours, by the time she heard about it, Sybill was back in her quarters and was inconsolable, refusing visitors.

“It was awful,” Charity said in hushed tones outside Sybill’s door. “Umbridge looked like she was enjoying it.” She sighed. “She’s the sort who likes hurting people I think.”

Aurora nodded. The thought had occurred to her, especially given the new scars all the students seemed to be sporting on the backs of their hands.

Going to Severus with her concerns did nothing since he, too, was powerless. He tried to subtly to restrain the Slytherins at least, but despite his high standing amongst them, they scarcely listened, drunk with the power given them by Umbridge’s decrees. This is what happens when previously mistrusted students are given power, she reflected when she saw Malfoy and his gang repeatedly harassing some Ravenclaws.

As all clubs and non-academic activities were curtailed, she continued to watch the students, noting how withdrawn several of them became. Of particular concern was Potter, who kept mostly to himself and his small group of friends. She suspected he was plotting something and in her heart of hearts she wished him luck.

Having reached a particularly troublesome spot in the celestial code, she wasn’t making headway with that either, and there were many nights that she went to bed frustrated from lack of progress on her research and from the lack of Severus’ ever dwindling presence in her bed.

The night she spotted the Weasley twins, one of the Creevey boys, and Potter loitering about in a hallway, she hid herself and listened, hoping for insight into student morale.

“...be all right,” Creevey sobbed, cradling his hand. Potter was standing over him, looking on helplessly.

“It’s bloody wrong is what it is,” Fred said, sounding uncharacteristically serious. “We’re big but to do it to the ickle ones? That old bat’s evil, Georgie.”

George nodded. “That she is, Freddie.”

“If you can take it, I can, too, Harry,” Creevey said, looking up at Potter who had grabbed his hand to look at it.

“We researched blood quills,” Fred offered softly. “Tried to see if we could come up with a way reverse the effect, maybe.” He grinned. “Make the bat feel what we do.”

“No luck, though,” George said. “Ruddy awful things they are.”

Blood quills. Aurora’s eyes widened. That barbaric cow--

The students fell silent as footsteps echoed. As Umbridge came around the corner, Potter placed a hand on Creevey’s shoulder and the Weasleys moved in protectively. Umbridge took in the scene and smirked. “As I’ve told you before, Mr Potter. Naughty children must be punished. And do remember you have a curfew.” And, with a “hem, hem,” she was off.

“You know, Fred, I’ve long thought our talents are wasted on this place,” George said.

“George, you read my mind,” Fred replied, clapping his brother’s shoulder.

As they started towards the Gryffindor common, Aurora moved away, heading back to her tower, deep in thought. Blood quills. Damn. Something really needs to be done about that troll.

She visited with Dumbledore about her concerns the next morning, but the headmaster seemed distracted by his own concerns. “I’m afraid there’s little I can do about Dolores Umbridge. She has been directly assigned to Hogwarts by the Minister himself.” Eyeing her over the top of his glasses, he sighed. “I would appreciate it if you would stay out of her line of fire, my dear. I need people here who care about the fate of the students should I be ousted, as it appears is her goal.”

Unsettled, Aurora left his office and went straight to the infirmary where Poppy and Charity were sipping tea. When she told them what Dumbledore had said, they put their heads together but couldn’t come up with any ideas.

“If she hadn’t conscripted the Slytherins I could report her to the parents since I know most of them,” Aurora said. “But they won’t get involved now.”

“No, I suppose they won’t.” Poppy sighed. “I can try to contact some of the Ravenclaw parents, I suppose--”

“Or I the Hufflepuffs,” chimed in Charity.

“No.” Aurora shook her head. “Dumbledore’s right about one thing. The students need a few staff members on their side. We need to keep an eye on Umbridge, and being sacked won’t allow us to do that.”

And so they waited and watched.

The day Potter was caught in the Room of Requirement, Aurora was in her tower, examining her parchment. Half asleep, she yawned, her eyes blurring as they wandered the parchment. The symbols wavered before her and for a moment she thought she saw a pattern. Gasping, she leaned forward, suddenly alert, but the parchment was back to being a mystery.

Recalling something in her father’s notes, she went searching, finding it after a few minutes. Here it is.

Locating the passage, she read then re-read it, her heart beating faster. Of course. “The mind must be open, preferably in a light state of trance, to fully grasp the language of the galaxy,” she whispered aloud.

Sitting back, she sighed. She knew nothing of trance states. More research. Naturally. Oh well, there’s not time like the present.

On her way to the library, she passed Dumbledore’s office in time to see Umbridge manhandling Potter inside. She was accompanied by Minister Fudge and two Aurors.

Curious, Aurora crept close. Fortunately, they had left the door open so she could hear.

“...Dumbledore’s Army,” screeched Umbridge. “You see, Minister! Dumbledore has been plotting against you all along.”

“But that’s just what we called it,” Potter said. “It was just because you wouldn’t teach us anything--”

“Silence!” shouted Umbridge.

“Ah, Harry,” came Dumbledore’s mild voice. “Thank you for trying to protect me, but, as you said, it is my army.”

“You see, Minister!” Umbridge hissed. “He admits it! Take him!”

“Sadly, I cannot allow myself to be taken,” Dumbledore murmured.

Something in his tone made Aurora step back from the door. And it was just in time as there was a soundless explosion of golden light behind the door. She blinked, blinded for a moment, and when her vision cleared the door began to open. “He must be here somewhere,” Umbridge shrieked. “Find him.”

Ducking into an alcove, she watched Fudge and Umbridge hurry out, followed by the oddly unconcerned Aurors. One of them, a tall, handsome black man, spotted her and winked before sauntering away.

Without Dumbledore, Umbridge had no one to stop her. She quickly instituted draconian practices, administering her torturous punishments with Fudge’s full approval. She was careful not to touch anyone from an influential family and so no one complained.

Potter and many other students lost the light they’d had in their eyes earlier in the year, walking around like automatons. Aurora tried her best to encourage the students when they were in her class, but most seemed utterly demoralised.

To their credit, the Weasley twins managed to energise the entire school with their spectacular exit from academic life, of which Aurora had a prime view from her tower. She heard distant explosions and by the time she dashed to her window it was in time to see them on their brooms, explosives going off around them.

Their leaving whilst blowing up every educational decree that had been hung, apparently shook Umbridge to her core. She stepped up her interviews with the students, continuing to look for plots.

“She’s utterly mad,” Severus proclaimed one afternoon, stalking into her quarters.

“What? Who?” Aurora looked up from her perusal of the evening’s star charts.

“Umbridge, of course.” He rolled his eyes. “Though I suppose I understand her desire to poison Potter. He’s a trying child at the best of times.”

Aurora sighed. “Severus.”

He smirked. “What? A man can have fantasies.”

“I suppose.” She pursed her lips. “I thought I starred in your fantasies.”

“You know you do.” Severus took a step towards her before pausing. “But I’ve no time to demonstrate now. I must contact....someone.”

“Someone?” She raised an eyebrow.

Severus smiled. “I suppose you’re trustworthy enough. Sirius Black. He’s...one of Dumbledore’s men. I must get a message to him.”

“And you wish to use my Floo?”

“May I?”

She gestured, watching as he made the call. The antagonism hasn’t improved, she thought, noting how curt the interaction was. “Not your best friend I take it.”

Rolling his eyes, Severus walked away from the Floo. “Definitely not.”

“And yet you’re collaborating with him,” she said, tone thoughtful.

Severus shrugged. “Only because of the circumstances. And Albus.”

She smiled. “So you’re his man, too.”

“I suppose so.” Severus started for the door. “I must go, I’m afraid.”

Aurora nodded. “I know. Perhaps I’ll see you later?”

Severus smiled, bending his head and kissing her. “Indeed.”

Later Aurora heard about Potter escaping Umbridge to go to the Ministry to save Black. Umbridge’s sojourn with the centaurs was glossed over in the press, but the dazed and shell-shocked look on her face as she was finally recovered from them made Aurora almost sorry for her. Almost.

“Will she be all right?” she whispered to Poppy as the Healers from St Mungo’s arrived to take her away.

Poppy shrugged. “Perhaps.” Her expression hardened. “And while I don’t condone assault, maybe this will serve as a lesson to her. This is essentially what she’s been doing to the students all term.”

Aurora nodded. “Sadly, I don’t think she’ll see it as anything but sheer misfortune.”

Charity, standing behind them, sighed. “I fear you’re right.”

Upon retiring to her quarters, Severus was waiting with news. As he told her of the doings at the Ministry, she undressed him slowly, leading him to bed, not speaking, just listening. “Was Lupin there?” she asked finally, once they were curled together naked.

He nodded. “Yes.” Raising an eyebrow, he drew back to look down into her face. “Still interested in him?”

She smiled. “Don’t be ridiculous.” I wonder how Potter reacted to seeing him, though.

“Well he was there,” Severus confirmed, drawing her close once more. “Along with Black, of course.”

Aurora ran her mouth along the line of Severus’ neck. “You mentioned that Black died?” she asked softly.

Severus stiffened. “Indeed.”

Something told her to tread carefully. “You seem upset about it.”

Severus snorted. “Not...upset.” He exhaled. “When we were youngsters I wished him dead many times, but now all I feel is...nothing. I didn’t like him, but he didn’t deserve to die at the hands of his mad cousin either.”

Aurora nodded. “And Voldemort?”

He shuddered. “You shouldn’t say that name. He’s planning to recast that spell you know.”

Her eyes widened. “He told you?”

Severus’ lips tightened. “I cannot say.”

She nodded. “Tell me what else happened at the Ministry.”

After he told her about Voldemort’s appearance, about how Potter had faced him down, and about the duel with Dumbledore, he said, “I do wish I’d actually seen it first hand. Dumbledore is a first-class duellist.” He sighed. “Still, I suppose viewing his Pensieve memories are almost as good.”

“I think you’re a decent duellist, too,” Aurora teased, arching against him. “Depending on the wand you use.”

He groaned, though he did give her a rather thorough demonstration of his ‘wand’ skills.

The news of Voldemort’s return was all over the newspapers the following day, with reporters falling over themselves to get a statement from Harry Potter. Aurora had to laugh when Xenophilius Lovegood sold his previously ignored interview with Potter for a tidy profit.

Severus’ advice as she prepared to leave for the summer was no laughing matter, however. “Are you returning next year?” he asked as he prepared to leave her rooms.

“Don’t I always?” she asked, smiling.

He closed his eyes, drawing her close. “Next year shall be...trying. I want you to be prepared.”

She nodded. “I know.” Drawing back to look up at him, she said, “Even without the hints the celestial code has been dropping I could have guessed that.” She bit her lips. “You’re...welcome at my home, you know. Mother would love you. And perhaps some time in the south of France--”

“I have been assigned to stay at my ancestral home,” Severus said, tone dry. “I am to...supervise the activities of a certain rat.”

Aurora blinked. “Pettigrew?”

“Indeed.” Severus rolled his eyes. “He is to be my...summer companion.”

“Well,” Aurora replied, striving for levity. “I shall try not to be jealous.”

Severus snorted, dipping his head to kiss her fiercely. “As shall I, although if I hear word that Lupin was spotted in France--”

She laughed. “If he shows up I’d probably hex first and talk later.”

His eyes shone with satisfaction. “Good.”

Aurora spent the summer slowly piecing together what she could of the celestial code. Her father’s library, all of which she’d transferred to France, contained many book on how to effectively meditate and by the end of July she’d made real inroads.

What she was seeing written in the stars frightened her, however. She’d expected that the world would get Darker, but what she could see coming made her blood run cold. In preparation, she set her elves to work and she began preparing.

“There’s a curse on the Defence position, you know,” she said to Severus their first night back at Hogwarts, after the announcement that he was the new Defence professor.

Sliding his hand down her flank to cup her bottom, he sighed. “I’m aware. How did you find out?”

“The code.” She nuzzled his neck, drawing strength from his scent. “I wondered why there seemed to be such difficulty retaining anyone in the position and it was right there when I looked.”

“Dumbledore believes Riddle placed a curse on it when he applied for the position.” Severus sighed. “I don’t expect to last longer than a year.”

Aurora raised her head. “Then why--?”

“Because Albus asked me.” Severus stared up at her. “I couldn’t say no. I’ve trusted him all this time, Aurora. I cannot give up now.”

“So Slughorn--”

“Slughorn has information Albus needs.” Severus huffed. “He believes Potter can extract it from him.”

“Information?” Aurora’s senses went on high alert. “What sort of information?”

“Albus is being his usual secretive self about that, I’m afraid.” Severus closed his eyes. “Merlin, but I’m already exhausted. Between the summer with Wormtail, visits from the Black sisters, and having to watch Draco Malfoy, I need a holiday and it’s not even one full day into term!”

“I’ll just have to see what I can do to relax you then, shan’t I?” Aurora straddled him, smirking down at him.

Severus smirked back, his hands settling on her hips. “Then I await your attempts, madam.”

The year started out quietly enough, with the exception of the way Draco Malfoy began skulking about. He seemed to haunt the seventh floor corridor, to what purpose Aurora didn’t know. Severus appeared worried, and although he wouldn’t discuss it with her, she knew he was concerned about Draco.

When Potter began to show up in the same corridor, Aurora pondered interfering, but decided to stay out of it.

Slughorn’s supper club made Aurora shake her head, though. “Why would the students even want to have anything to do with him?” she muttered one day during a late breakfast with her friends. “And does anyone find him a bit...dodgy?”

Charity chuckled. “He seems nice enough to me. A bit eccentric, I suppose. And that shelf of his is...odd.”

“He’s quite proud of all the people he’s ‘collected’,” Poppy said. “I imagine he’s told the students that he’s the way to a successful career in their chosen field.” She snorted.

Aurora thought of the students in his ‘club’. “I just can’t see Granger falling for such rubbish.”

Poppy shrugged. “She’s Muggle-born. Perhaps she thought it an honour. Who can tell why students do what they do?”

“Then what’s Ginevra Weasley’s excuse?” Aurora said, tone dry.

Charity smirked. “Wherever Potter goes, so does Ginevra. Haven’t you noticed?”

“Oh?” Alarm bells went off in Aurora’s head. “Does he seem interested in her?”

“Interested enough, I suppose.” Charity sipped her tea. “She’s his best friend’s sister, after all, so who knows what the relationship dynamics are?” She raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Oh, no reason.” Aurora wondered if Lupin was still periodically visiting the school to check on Potter. She hadn’t sensed or seen him in a while, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still watching his mate.

“With all the rampant hormones floating about, I’m surprised we can keep track of anyone,” Poppy muttered.

Charity and Aurora laughed. “True enough,” said Charity. “Now, on to other, better topics. Have you seen the latest Witch Weekly?”

Strange incidents began happening. Katie Bell’s run-in with a cursed necklace, Ron Weasley’s poisoning by wine originally intended for Dumbledore...Aurora knew it was all part of a larger plan, but even the code wasn’t forthcoming on the ultimate end point.

“Draco’s at the heart of it,” Severus said, clearly frustrated. “But he won’t tell me anything so I cannot help him. Even Potter’s guessed, and if he can tell--”

“But why go after Dumbledore?” Aurora handed Severus a glass of his favourite wine.

“The Dark Lord fears Albus like no other.” Severus sighed. “He was the one who confined him before, after all. With Albus gone, who would stop him?”

Aurora raised an eyebrow. “And he’s assigned this task to a boy?”

Severus smiled darkly. “Why not? After all, if he succeeds the Dark Lord is rid of his enemy and if he fails Draco’s family is in disgrace, which is already the case.”

“I don’t see the advantage to Draco.”

“There’s little advantage, that’s true.” Severus finished the wine and stood. “Although I imagine he was offered other incentives, such as the lives of his parents. That is how the Dark Lord operates.”

Aurora shivered. “Severus, how can you--?” She closed her eyes.

“How can I align myself with him?” Severus started for the door. “That choice was made many years ago. And one does not readily leave the Dark Lord’s service.”

As things grew darker, everyone was more on edge. “Maybe I should look for another position,” Charity said one day during tea in the infirmary. “My cousin has an opening in her shop.”

“You’d hate that,” said Poppy. “No, we all need to stay exactly where we are. We’re well protected here, the wards on this place are the best I’ve ever seen anywhere.”

“Plus, we still have Dumbledore,” chimed in Aurora. For a moment she wondered if she should mention that he was in danger then she brushed that thought aside. When had he not been in danger? “With him here we’re doubly safe.”

Charity nodded. “He’s the only reason I’m still here,” she admitted. Then, smiling, she reached out to clasp Poppy’s and Aurora’s hands. “And you, my friends. I’m here because of you, too.”

Aurora continued her research, but it was still slow. She got better at entering a meditative state but even then, translating more of the code proved time-consuming.

The night Severus came storming into her office, Aurora had translated another large chunk of the code and was jotting notes. “That idiot!” he was growling. “I knew it!”

Rising, Aurora went to him, notes forgotten. “What is it? What’s happened?”

“I know I’ve said this before, but Potter really is an idiot,” Severus gritted out from between clenched teeth. “He somehow found my old Potions book and used a spell from it. A spell I created when I was...younger and quite vindictive.”

“What sort of spell?” she asked, leading him over to a chair.

“It’s like a Slicing Hex but worse.” Severus sat, resting his head in his hands. “He opened Draco from stem to stern. Fortunately, because I’ve been watching Draco closely, I was nearby. If I’d arrived any later--”

Aurora’s eyes widened. “Where’s Draco now?”

“Poppy is taking care of him. I had to get him stabilised before taking him to the infirmary.” Severus was shaking and Aurora, concerned, rested his hands on his shoulders.

“Tell me,” she said.

Severus, voice muffled by his hands, said, “I took an Unbreakable Vow to protect and aid Draco, Aurora. If he had died tonight--”

“Then you would have died along with him,” she gasped. “Oh, Severus!”

He moved his hands, looking at her. “He was entrusted with the task of killing Albus, as I’ve told you. What I didn’t tell you was that Narcissa came to me over the summer holidays. Bellatrix was with her. She begged me to...help him.”

“And you agreed.”

“I had little choice. Bellatrix was already suspicious that I was working against the Dark Lord’s interests. She suggested an Unbreakable Vow, which she cast herself.”

Aurora’s eyes widened. “So if Draco dies before he fulfils his task...”

Severus nodded. “I die, too.” He looked away. “Which, to be honest, I am beginning to think is inevitable.”

“No.” Kneeling beside his chair, Aurora looked up into his face. “That’s not acceptable, do you hear me? We’ve been together for years, Severus, and I know you don’t think it’s possible for us to have a life together, but I do.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And how shall you accomplish that?”

She smiled. “Let me worry about that.” She sighed. “Should I go to the infirmary?”

“Poppy seems to have everything in hand.” Severus grasped her shoulders, staring into her eyes. “Right now, I need you.”

She smiled, clasping his wrists in her hands. “Then have me,” she whispered.

In the end, Potter was reprimanded but Severus wasn’t satisfied with that. Aurora couldn’t blame him given how close he’d come to death because of Potter’s reckless actions.

Dumbledore began spending a lot of time with Potter. Severus was convinced it was some pet project related to the upcoming inevitable war, and Aurora wondered if it was to prevent him from any more potentially murderous mistakes.

Since afternoons on the Astronomy tower were generally quiet, Aurora was rather surprised to hear voices outside her door one day. Casting a Sound Amplification Charm, she listened.

“...glad you could join me, Harry my boy.”

“Of course, Professor.” Potter sounded winded. Aurora wondered f he’d run all the way up the stairs.

“I’m taking you somewhere, but I need you to agree to do whatever I tell you once we get there. Are we clear?”

“Sir?” Potter sounded doubtful.

Aurora could hear the smile in Dumbledore’s voice. “You’ll understand more when we arrive. Hold onto my arm.”

“But I thought you couldn’t Apparate within Hogwarts.”

“That’s normally true, Harry, but, being me has its privileges.”

The Apparation crack made Aurora wince and she cancelled the charm. Opening the door she saw they were gone and she frowned. How curious.

The evening was overcast, dark, as if an ominous storm was coming. Busy planning her lesson since she assumed wouldn’t be able to include stargazing that night, Aurora jumped when she heard another Apparation crack. They must have returned from wherever it was they went. Casting another Sound Amplification Charm, she approached the door and peered out using the hidden peephole.

“Professor, I have to get you to the infirmary,” said Potter, looking upset as he clutched Dumbledore’s arm.

“No.” Dumbledore’s voice was weak and Aurora blinked, concerned. “Just Severus. Get me Severus.”

Potter bit his lip. “But Madam Pomfrey--”

“Severus,” Dumbledore whispered. “Only him. Tell no one else.”

Potter opened his mouth, face set as if to argue, but a moment later there were footsteps on the stairs.

Busy night, Aurora thought.

Gesturing towards the corner, Dumbledore said, “Stay hidden, Harry. And no matter what you see, do not move.”

Potter shook his head. “But--”

“You promised,” Dumbledore reminded him. Then, staring straight at Aurora’s peephole as if he knew she was listening and watching, he continued, “In fact, it’s best if no one interferes with what is to come.”

“Sir?” Potter looked confused.

“Never mind,” said Dumbledore, looking away from Aurora. “Just stay hidden.”

With a sigh, Potter pulled a gossamer scrap of fabric out of his pocket and, stepping over to a corner that Aurora could still see, vanished beneath it.

Invisibility cloak. Interesting. And it also explains many things.

Dumbledore straightened up, calling on some inner reserves and when the person emerged from hiding on the stairs, he looked like his usual self, out for nothing more than an evening stroll.

To Aurora’s surprise it was Draco Malfoy who emerged from the shadowy stairs. He looked terrified and for a moment Aurora wondered why, until she saw who was behind him. Bellatrix Lestrange and friends. All Death Eaters, no doubt. Damn. Suddenly the evening had taken a bad turn. But he knows I’m here, and he told me not to interfere.

Drawing her wand as a precaution, Aurora watched the unfolding scene.

Expelliarmus!” cried Draco, a waver in his voice and Dumbledore’s wand flew from his hand, skittering on the stone floor.

“Ah, hello, Draco,” said Dumbledore, looking unconcerned to be wandless. “Nice evening for a stroll, isn’t it?”

“Who were you talking to?” Draco asked nervously, his eyes darting to and fro. “I heard someone else.”

Dumbledore shrugged. “No one else is here, as you can see. I often talk to myself when alone, Draco. I find it clears the mind.” Focussing over Draco’s shoulder, he continued, “And you’ve brought guests. Care to introduce us?”

Bellatrix, clearly nonplussed, hissed, “Sorry, Albus. No time for pleasantries. We’re on a bit of a tight schedule.” Placing her hand on Draco’s shoulder, she murmured, “Come on, Draco. Kill him! He’s right here, defenceless.”

“Are you sure about this, Draco?” Dumbledore asked, tone gentle.

Draco swallowed roughly, his wand hand shaking as he kept it pointed at Dumbledore. He looked conflicted and for a moment, Aurora felt sorry for him. “I--” He lowered his wand slightly.

“He’s not going to do it,” one of the shrouded figures behind Bellatrix said, tone contemptuous. “He’s a bloody coward, just like his father. Move away, I’ll do it--”

“No!” snapped Bellatrix. Leaning once more into Draco, she crooned, “You can do it, Draco. Do it for your mother, your father.”

Draco’s mouth worked. “I have to do this,” he whispered to Dumbledore. “If I don’t, he’ll kill my family.”

Dumbledore remained focussed on Draco. “I can help you.”

“I--” Draco lowered his wand a bit more. “I can’t--”

“Draco!” Bellatrix shrieked. “Kill him now!”

“No!” came a familiar voice and Aurora, knowing who it was, closed her eyes.

Oh, Severus.

Severus, face stony, emerged from the shadows. Pushing past the Death Eaters, he stalked around Bellatrix and Draco. “No,” he repeated, his voice cold. “I shall do it.”

“Severus,” Dumbledore whispered. “Please.”

Raising his wand without hesitation, Severus flicked it. “Avada Kedavra.”

Horrified, Aurora watched Dumbledore fly up into the air and off the balustrade. Struggling with the door, she found it wouldn’t open and so she could only watch as Severus spun on his heel as if unconcerned and shoved Draco and the Death Eaters towards the stairs.

Bellatrix was capering, shrieking her dreadful laugh. Pointing her wand at the sky, she shouted, “Morsmordre!” as she went, and yet Aurora still couldn’t open her door.

Frantic, she rushed to the window, peering down to the courtyard. There she could just see Dumbledore’s crumpled body as it lay broken on the ground.

Outside she heard footsteps. “Snape!” roared Potter. “Come back you coward! He trusted you!”

By the time she got to the door, that time managing to open it, Potter was gone; she could hear him clattering down the stairs. She chased him, never catching up and when she arrived at the courtyard, she darted instead for the headmaster.

Already people began gathering around his body. Filch looked stunned, and Hagrid began to cry. Drawing her wand, Aurora conjured her Patronus, sending a quick message to Poppy.

Unable to bring herself to send away the students who filtered into the courtyard, Aurora knelt beside Dumbledore’s body until she was shouldered aside by Minerva. “Albus?” Minerva whispered, her voice cracking.

Standing up, Aurora moved back to give her room.

When Poppy arrived she took one look and shook her head. She did walk over to him and close his eyes, though, before stepping back, dabbing at her eyes.

By the time Potter arrived, looking dishevelled, almost every student was present. There were occasional sniffs and sobs from some, but more were silent, clearly stunned. Running into the courtyard, Potter fell to his knees beside Dumbledore’s body as he wept. Immediately, Weasley and Granger came up behind him, each placing a hand on his shoulder.

In the distance Aurora could hear muffled explosions and in the sky above them, the obscene Dark Mark still writhed. Face set, she pulled her wand. “Lumos,” she said, holding the lit tip skyward.

Everyone followed suit until the pure white light they created dissipated the dreadful mark. As she lowered her wand, Aurora closed her eyes. Oh, Severus. Could it be possible that I didn’t really know you?

“You’re sure it was Severus?” Poppy asked later, once the Aurors had come and gone, having taken statements. Aurora had not spoken up when they’d asked for witnesses.

Aurora nodded. “It happened right outside my door and I was watching the entire time.” She sighed. “He must have had a reason. He must.”

“Severus does nothing without a reason,” Poppy agreed. She leaned forward, staring Aurora in the eye. “Do you think it’s possible that his reason is because he really is devoted to that monster’s cause?”

The thought had crossed Aurora’s mind, of course it had. She shook her head emphatically. “No. I can’t accept that. He wouldn’t.”

Poppy sighed. “Then I suppose we must all wait for an explanation.” She looked around the empty infirmary. “Given the carnage Bellatrix Lestrange wrought here last night, I’m surprised there weren’t any student casualties.”

Aurora nodded. “As am I. Although I find myself worrying for them for next year.”

Poppy nodded. “Grave times we live in, my dear. Grave times indeed.”

Dumbledore’s funeral took place a week later and was a morose affair. Not that Aurora had expected anything less, given the circumstances. He was buried in a tomb overlooking the lake and several people spoke including Minerva, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Harry Potter. Many times during the ceremony Aurora thought she spotted someone in the woods but could never see them clearly.

I don’t know what I would even say to Severus if I did see him right now, she thought as the ceremony wrapped up.

Yet she lingered afterward, waving off Charity. Drifting close to the woods, she decided, would give whoever was there, if anyone was, a chance to talk to her.

“Professor Sinistra.”

Startled, Aurora spun to see Harry Potter approaching. “Yes, Mr Potter?”

“Madam Pomfrey asked me to tell you that she needs to see you.”

“Thank you for letting me know.” Casting one last look at the woods, she started for the castle. There probably wasn’t anyone there anyway. When she turned to look back once more, however, it was just in time to see Remus Lupin pull Potter into a hug. She almost smiled. Ah, he’s who I sensed, then. And at least someone is being comforted by their lover today.

That summer was the first where Aurora left her research alone. Instead she sat with her mother, overlooking the lavender farms that bordered their property, sipping wine, and wondering if she should even bother to return to Hogwarts.

“Of course you should.” Poppy, who was visiting for a week, quickly nixed the idea of leaving. “You love Hogwarts as much as the rest of us. And those children need reasonable teachers, not just whoever the Ministry decides should take over.”

Aurora nodded. Poppy was right, of course. She usually was. “Any word on who the new headmaster will be?” Aurora asked.

Poppy’s lips thinned. “No and I should have thought the choice would be clear. Minerva has been deputy head for decades.”

“Any news about...Severus?”

Visibly softening, Poppy shook her head. “Not a word. Although I do know he’s not been arrested. The Ministry’s reportedly still investigating Albus’ death but something tells me nothing will come of that.”

Nothing did, at least not then. About a week after Poppy left, Aurora received an official letter informing her that Severus Snape had been appointed headmaster of Hogwarts. Shocked, she Floo called several people including Poppy and Minerva, both of whom were as surprised as she was. Minerva was especially acerbic in her comments and by the time she ended that call, Aurora felt almost sorry for Severus. His welcome back to Hogwarts will be cool at best.

Oddly, she couldn’t seem to contact Charity.

Aurora got a letter about a week before she was scheduled to return. It was unsigned, but she recognised the handwriting nonetheless.

‘As you may have heard, there are to be changes at Hogwarts. I am contacting you only because of our previous collegial relationship.’ Is that what we’re going to call it? Aurora thought, eyes narrowed. ‘Given current circumstances, it may be best if you do not return to your teaching position this year.’

He’s still trying to protect me. Aurora pursed her lips. Perhaps all wasn’t lost.

Hogwarts was...changed. Gone was the festive atmosphere she’d grown accustomed to associating with the arrival of the first years. The students looked cowed, frightened. There was hardly any noise in the Great Hall. Many were missing, most noticeably Potter, Granger and Ron Weasley.

It took Aurora a while to notice something else. “Why are there are no Muggle-borns?” she whispered to Poppy as they sat at the head table waiting for Severus’ arrival.

“Haven’t you heard?” Poppy replied quietly. “Muggle-borns are no longer allowed. In fact, they’re being hunted like animals.”

“Dear Merlin.” Aurora looked around. There were several new faces, many she recognised, some she didn’t.

When Severus finally walked in he was flanked by two people who looked familiar to Aurora, though it took her a moment to place them. When she did, she gasped, concealing it in a cough.

“What’s wrong?” hissed Poppy as Severus began his introductory remarks and the two Death Eaters sat at the head table.

“Those two were with Bellatrix on the tower the night Dumbledore was killed,” Aurora murmured. “Merlin help us all.”

“...introduce some new members of our staff. Alecto and Amycus Carrow have agreed to join us this year. Amycus shall be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts and his sister, Alecto, shall teach Muggle Studies since our previous Muggle Studies professor’s unfortunate...disappearance.”

Poppy and Aurora exchanged concerned looks.

“You shall treat our new members of staff with all due respect and follow their instructions to the letter, as if they came from me.” Severus paused, looking around at the silent students, and Aurora suppressed a shiver. “One more item of business. As you may have noticed, several of your classmates are missing. It is the law, fully supported by Minister Pius Thicknesse, that the whereabouts of any students not in school be reported immediately. Thus, if any of you are aware of the location of absent students, step forward at once.”

No one moved and Aurora’s shoulders relaxed.

Severus looked unsurprised. “Very well. Let us proceed with the Sorting.”

By the time she returned to her tower, Aurora was vibrating with tension. Severus hadn’t glanced in her direction once during the Welcome Feast, although she’d seen the looks Amycus Carrow had been shooting her way.

Deciding to fortify her shields, Aurora spent the rest of the night well into the morning doing just that. Right, she thought when she finished at about four in the morning. It’ll take a small army to get through that.

When Charity’s half-eaten remains were found, Aurora and Poppy wept together. They attended the funeral. Aurora spotted Severus behind a column and the look of guilt she saw briefly on his face made her heart ache.

She didn’t see much of Severus at Hogwarts in the ensuing weeks. The Carrows certainly made their presence felt, however. Aurora often found herself in the role of protector. Neville Longbottom especially seemed to the end up on the wrong end of the Carrows, frequently limping into her class sporting bruises.

The night Alecto barged into her class to demand Longbottom for detention, Aurora decided enough was enough. “He’s serving detention with me,” she informed the troll-like creature.

“For how long?” Alecto demanded.

“Every night for a week.” Aurora didn’t look at Longbottom or any of the students in the class as she spoke, afraid she would give herself away.

Alecto’s eyes narrowed. “All right.” She smirked. “Make it good, yeah?”

Drawing herself up to her full height, Aurora smiled loftily. “Be assured he shan’t forget the lesson I teach him.”

Apparently satisfied, Alecto left and Aurora exhaled. “Report to my office every night this week at eight, Longbottom,” she said, moving past him towards her telescope.

“Thank you, Professor,” Longbottom whispered.

She couldn’t protect all the students of course. “They’re going to end up killing them!” Poppy cried one day over tea. “I can’t believe how much nerve damage I’m having to treat as a result of prolonged Cruciatus Curse exposure. They’re only children, for Merlin’s sake!”

Aurora sighed. “Have you gone to Severus? Told him?”

“Of course.” Poppy snorted. “His answer was that ‘the number of students being exposed to Unforgivables would decline once their rebellious tendencies had been eradicated by proper punishment’.” She rolled her eyes.

“Circe and Morgana,” Aurora whispered. “But what else can we do? I give as many detention with me as I safely can.”

“Have you tried talking to Severus?” asked Poppy.

Aurora shook her head.

Poppy bit her lip. “Have you tried...anything else with him?”

“Definitely not.” Aurora glared at her. “I’m more likely to hex him than kiss him at this point.”

Poppy nodded. “Perhaps that’s what he needs,” she suggested. “A swift kick in the arse. Who better to administer it?”

Who, indeed? Aurora thought as she climbed the stairs to the headmaster’s office.

Severus barely looked up when she walked in. “What can I do for you, Professor?” he asked, tone bored.

Inhaling sharply, Aurora crossed her arms and glared at him. “What are you doing?”

Looking up at her, he raised an eyebrow. “At this moment I am meeting with you, at your request I might add. Was there something specific you wished to discuss?”

Stalking over to his desk, Aurora leaned over it. “Yes, Headmaster,” she spat. “I was hoping to discuss why you have allowed what’s been happening in this school to continue unabated for months. How can you stand by and watch the students be tortured, hexed? How can you condone by your inaction the systematic destruction of their lives?”

Eyes narrowed, Severus rose, walking around the desk to face her. “You, madam, know nothing of what is happening. I advise you to leave before you say something you truly regret.”

“My only regret is that I may have wasted years of my life caring for a man capable of this sort of behaviour,” Aurora snapped back.

“Caring for?” Severus sneered. “Don’t you mean fucking? That is all we did, after all. That you assumed it was more is your own problem.”

Aurora moved faster than she could ever recall. Drawing back her hand, she smacked him across the face, grasping his robes in her other hand. “Honest fucking I would have been fine with,” she growled. “What we had was far more and you know it.”

“Honest fucking?” Severus smirked, grabbing her arm and hauling her close. “Is that why you’re really here?”

Her mouth fell open but nothing emerged.

His smirk widened. “I thought so.”

When his mouth landed on hers, Aurora melted. Fisting her hands in his hair, she held him in place, opening her mouth to the onslaught of his tongue.

Neither of them took care. Years of sex made them very familiar with each other’s bodies. As Severus Banished their robes to his chair, Aurora hopped up on the desk, leaning back as he bent over her to suck her nipple into his mouth.

Arching her back, she pushed it deeper into his mouth, tugging his hair harder. His moan made her smile. At least that hasn’t changed.

He moved down her body until his hot breath was gusting against her cunt. “Spread your legs, Aurora,” he whispered, and Merlin help her, Aurora did, exposing herself to his greedy gaze.

The first touch of his tongue on her folds made her sob and buck up. Using one hand, he held her hip down and with the other he pushed her thighs wider. “Beautiful.”

“Severus,” she groaned, her blurry eyes on the ceiling as his head moved rhythmically between her legs.

She came quickly, her body clenching, and still he licked her through it, only lifting his head once her trembling stopped. Moving over her, eyes blazing, he kissed her with his glistening mouth, making her taste herself on his tongue as he thrust hard and deep into her with his cock.

Aurora met him thrust for thrust, arching closer, wrapping her legs about his waist as she dug her fingernails into his shoulders. He fucked her thoroughly, panting as he moved sensually inside her.

She could feel parchment stuck to her back, there was a quill digging into her shoulder, yet she wouldn’t have changed a thing. Urging him on, she whimpered as she felt another orgasm rising inside. “Harder,” she whispered. “Come on. Fuck me!”

Severus growled as he came, closing his eyes and burying his face in her neck as he emptied himself inside her clenching cunt. Collapsing on top of her, he breathed hard.

“Headmaster, I have news of them. They’re in the Forest of Dean-- Oh my!”

Raising his head, Severus murmured a Disillusionment Spell. “Bloody portraits,” he said, drawing back.

Aurora suppressed a shiver as he slipped out of her. He looked down at her for a moment, his face unreadable, before he drew her into a sitting position. “We probably should not have done that.”

“Maybe not,” Aurora agreed, her arms looping around his neck. “But it was fun.”

Severus’ lips quirked. “Perhaps. But things are...complicated.”

“Who’s in the Forest of Dean?” Aurora asked, eyes trained on his.

His eyes shuttered within seconds. “Legilimency, Aurora? I’m shocked.”

She smiled. “It was worth a try.” Sighing, she Summoned her clothes. “I suppose I should go.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You don’t want to...talk?”

She glanced towards the wall of portraits, several of which were watching their position avidly. “This isn’t the time or place, is it?”

He inclined his head. “Where and when do you suggest, then?”

“My quarters.” Aurora licked her lips, gratified to see his gaze follow the movement. “When you have a...spare moment.”

“Very well.” Moving away, he Summoned his own clothes and turned his back to allow her to dress. Once they were both clothed he dismantled the barrier, bowing to her. “Good day, Professor.”

Aurora nodded. “Headmaster.”

Heart lighter, Aurora returned to her tower, careful not to allow anything she was thinking slip. Once there, she relaxed, rubbing her swollen lips with her fingers. He’s helping Potter! I saw it in his mind. Thank Merlin.

Marching over to her calculations, which she had abandoned since returning to school, she picked them up. Time to get back to work. I must save him and the future I want.

Aurora was busy in the ensuing weeks. The celestial code was getting more and more complicated to interpret, but she kept at it, managing to decipher a few more things. What she discovered worried her even more, so one evening, deciding it was time, she summoned an elf and, after giving very precise instructions, began making preparations for what was coming.

Severus visited her infrequently and their couplings were fast, fiery. Neither one discussed politics and, while he was careful with her and never too rough unless she demanded it, the open tenderness she remember was gone.

Amycus Carrow made his move about six week after she resumed her relationship with Severus. She was returning to her tower late one evening when he stepped out of the shadows, startling her. “Professor.”

“Merlin!” Aurora gasped, stepping back, wand in hand. “Oh. It’s you.”

Carrow smiled, but it didn’t go to his eyes. “You’re not very friendly, are you?”

Keeping her wand trained on him, she raised an eyebrow. “Why do you say that, Professor?”

“Well I’ve been trying to get you alone for ages but you’re always with someone.” He moved closer. “Lately it’s been our headmaster.”

A chill spread through Aurora, but she kept her Occlumency shields tight and her expression blank. “Is that so? I hadn’t noticed.”

“I have.” Carrow lunged for her and Aurora, shocked, nevertheless managed to shoot off a hex before he grabbed her wrist, disarming her. “You bitch!” he snapped. Shaking out his fingers, he squeezed her wrist. “You should be nice to me.”

“Is everything all right here?” came a voice and Carrow dropped her wrist, stepping back.

As Severus looked back and forth between them, Aurora stooped, retrieving her wand. “It is now,” she gasped, not putting it away.

Carrow smiled nastily. “Headmaster. How...convenient of you to show up.”

“Is that so.” Severus stared into Carrow’s eyes for a long moment. “Why don’t you go to bed, Amycus. You look tired.”

To Aurora’s surprise, Carrow nodded, his face slack. “I’m tired,” he intoned. “I’m going to bed.”

“And I think it would be best if you stayed away from Professor Sinistra in future,” Severus added. “She makes you uncomfortable.”

“Stay away from Professor Sinistra,” Carrow agreed, spinning to walk away. “Uncomfortable.”

“What did you do?” asked Aurora once Carrow was gone.

Taking her elbow, Severus walked her to her door. “Wandless Imperio,” he murmured. “It doesn’t work if the subject is especially intelligent, but that’s hardly a worry with him.” Turning to her, he released her elbow. “He won’t recall what happened. Still, we should be more careful. Maintain a less predictable schedule.”

She nodded. “How did you know he would do that tonight?”

Severus stared at her, face expressionless. “I didn’t. I follow you home every night.” And with that he spun on his heel, sweeping away.

Aurora smiled, letting herself into her quarters. Perhaps the romance isn’t dead.

The night of the Battle of Hogwarts, Aurora knew something was in the air. She’d spent the previous two weeks struggling with a bit of the code that she’d finally cracked the day before and, realising the import of what she’d discovered, she put several safeguards into place.

“What do you mean, be extra careful today?” Poppy asked over tea that afternoon.

“I think some rather important things are going to happen tonight.” Aurora clasped Poppy’s hands. “Please don’t ask questions. Just believe me.”

After searching her eyes, Poppy finally nodded. “All right, dear. But we’ll be having a talk about this soon.”

Before leaving the infirmary, Aurora collected some medical supplies. Poppy raised an eyebrow but didn’t ask. After all, Aurora had been treating students’ injuries at the hands of the Carrows for months. And, if Aurora took a bit more than usual, Poppy didn’t comment.

Aurora was busy when she heard a ruckus on the stairs. Grabbing her wand, she started for the door. Here we go.

Racing downstairs, she ran into a hallway and was just in time to see Severus face off with a dishevelled-looking Minerva. Aurora glanced around, sensing that someone else was there, but she couldn’t see anyone.

“...must insist that if you know Potter’s whereabouts, you tell me immediately--”

Minerva hexed first, with Severus parrying. Aurora noted that while Severus returned her every spell, he didn’t initiate any. When Minerva, eyes narrowed, advanced, Severus flicked his wand once and then was out the window, flying away in a dark cloud.

“What’s happening?” Aurora asked, emerging from the shadows.

Minerva kept her wand up. “The school is being attacked. Whose side are you on, Aurora?”

Aurora’s eyes widened. “The same side I have always been on,” she said, holding Minerva’s gaze. “The school’s. The students.” Severus’.

“What about He Who Should Not Be Named?” Minerva asked.

“He is a monster who needs to die,” Aurora said clearly.

Minerva inclined her head. “Poppy said I could trust you. Can you shore up the defences in the back of the castle?”

“I’m on it,” Aurora said. “And, Minerva?”

“Yes?”

“His name is Voldemort.” Aurora smiled thinly. “After all, he’s prepared to kill us no matter what we call him.”

Minerva laughed. “Indeed he is.”

After redoubling the wards on the foundations and the rear of the school, Aurora ran to the Great Hall only to find all the students gathered there, Filch in a lather. She’d heard Voldemort’s threats, of course, and she’d had to suppress her instinctive need to retch.

“...please escort the Slytherin students to the dungeons, Mr Filch,” snapped Minerva.

“What did they do?” Aurora asked Poppy.

“Miss Parkinson suggested we turn Potter over to He Who--Voldemort.” Poppy sighed. “She’s just frightened. Still, I suppose it’s best to be safe.”

Aurora shook her head. That’s going to haunt her in the future. She’s going to regret having said that when Potter wins.

Reinforcements arrived; apparently Longbottom had been organising an underground movement all year long. Aurora felt better when she saw experienced Aurors like Kingsley and Tonks appear. When she saw Lupin, however, she paused.

He smiled at her. “How could I stay away?” he said by way of greeting.

She inclined her head. “I don’t blame you.”

“Remus!” Potter, eyes bright, ran towards them. “You’re here!”

“Of course,” Lupin replied. And, heedless of the people around them, the two embraced, Potter burying his face in Lupin’s neck.

Excusing herself, Aurora walked outside to the courtyard. Minerva had already mobilised the statues and armour of Hogwarts to defend the boundaries and as they marched past, Aurora said, “What else can we do?”

Minerva pointed her wand to the sky. “Protego horribilis!”

Taking her cue from that, Aurora, too, cast her favourite protection spell. “Protego totalum.”

All around her the other professors and no few parents were doing the same. The shield they built shimmered in the night sky, but Aurora knew it wouldn’t be enough. And Severus is out there.

Hurrying away, she ducked behind a column to cast a Point-Me Spell. The Shrieking Shack!

The foundations shuddered, making Aurora cling to the column to keep her balance.

“Giants!” someone shrieked and sure enough, Aurora peered out from behind the column in time to see them approaching. Above their heads, she could see the shield they’d put up being hammered by spells.

People were crying, hexing, shouting, running. In the confusion, Aurora darted out, determined to find Severus. Dodging hexes and firing some of her own, she made it onto the grounds, running towards the Whomping Willow. She could see several figures ahead of her and it took her a moment to recognise Potter, Granger and Weasley.

She waited several minutes before following, not wanting to be seen. By the time she slipped inside and located the Shack, it was in time to see Potter and his friends leaving, with Severus lying still on the filthy floor.

“Severus!” Kneeling beside him, heedless of the blood, she rested her head against his chest. “Still alive. Stay with me,” she whispered. “Bippy!”

There was only a momentary pause before the elf appeared, its eyes wide when it saw Severus.

“I thought I told you to watch and protect him?” Aurora snapped.

Bippy squeaked in distress and began pulling its ears.

“No time for that now, transport us to my tower immediately,” Aurora ordered.

Seconds later they landed in her warded tower. There had evidently been some damage since her desk had overturned, her parchments with the celestial code on it, spread all over the floor.

Bippy landed Severus on the floor in the centre of the room and as she watched, Severus’ wounds oozed all over her parchments, obliterating years of work. Aurora didn’t care, however, worried only about Severus. She eyed his neck. “Looks like a bite,” she said. “Get him onto the bed and I’ll fetch what I need.”

She used every bit of her pilfered infirmary stores on Severus that night. Unconcerned with the rest of the battle, which she knew Potter would win, Aurora stayed with Severus, closing his wounds, feeding him a bezoar, Blood-Replenishing Potion and Pain Potion.

Just before the sun came over the horizon, she stood, stretching her legs and back by walking over to her window. It had a perfect view of the courtyard, which was how she saw Potter battle Voldemort, and saw him win by Disarming the creature.

As Voldemort dissolved, his body dissipating into the air, Severus groaned behind her.

Battle forgotten, Aurora hurried to his side. “Severus?”

He looked up at her, expression confused. “What...happened?” he croaked.

She smiled. “You tried to die on me.” Sitting beside him on the bed, she clasped his hand. “Didn’t I tell you your death was not acceptable?”

Severus coughed, his face spasming in pain. After she fed him more Pain Potion, he settled. “We all have to die sometime you know,” he whispered.

Aurora nodded. “True. But not before our appointed time.”

It took several days for Severus to recover, during which they talked, Severus baring himself to her. The hardest thing to discuss was Dumbledore’s death.

“I had to do it,” Severus said to her when speaking came more easily. “Albus was already dying, so the plan was to use his death to save Draco and cement my position in the Dark Lord’s inner circle.” He sighed. “It worked only too well.”

She nodded. “I knew it had to be something like that.” Clasping his hand, she continued, “No more secrets now, though.”

He eyed her. “Stubborn.”

Grinning, she leaned over, kissing him gently. “I think you knew that going in.”

“Indeed.”

Eventually Aurora felt that she could leave him alone. When she emerged from her tower, it was to find Hogwarts being rebuilt. She already knew she would need to smuggle Severus out of the castle. For that she needed help.

“He’s alive?” Poppy grinned, pulling Aurora into a hug. “Oh, my dear! I’m so happy for you.”

“So you’ll help us?”

“Of course.” Poppy winked. “On one condition.”

“What is it?”

“That you invite me to the wedding.”

Aurora’s cheeks grew hot and, once again glad her skin made it hard for blushes to be seen, she said, “Of course! After all, what girl gets married without her best friend being there?”

Despite Potter’s assertions of Severus’ heroism, Aurora knew it wouldn’t take much for the world to turn on him. She considered carefully who she else she would inform. Finally she decided Minerva needed to know.

Minerva took it well. “I knew something was wrong,” she said, glancing up at the empty portrait which bore Severus’ name. “When will you leave?”

“Before they get to testing the foundation of my tower.” Aurora smiled. “And, Headmistress? Please consider this my resignation.”

Nodding, Minerva clasped her hand. “Thank you for your service to Hogwarts.”

Aurora smiled. “Actually, I think Hogwarts has given me much more in return.”

It took months for Severus to truly regain his full strength and he retained the scars on his neck, but Aurora, grateful to have him, didn’t mind.

Months of recuperative time in France did him a lot of good and soon he was healthier than she could remember seeing him.

Their wedding was small and attended by her mother, Poppy, and Minerva. Poppy cried outright, Minerva dabbed at her eyes a couple of times.

One day a package arrived by owl addressed to Aurora. After opening it, her eyes widened and she called Severus, who came immediately. “What is it?”

Wordlessly she handed him the package. When he saw what was in it, his hands began shaking. “How--?”

She held up a note which she read.

“‘Dear Professor Sinistra. I understand congratulations are in order. I, too, am getting married, although it probably won’t be until next year since Remus is being stubborn and wants me to be a bit older before we tie the knot.

I imagine you’re surprised to hear from me, but Remus suggested that you’d take good care of this and I’ve come to trust his judgement.

I did my best to get Professor Snape acknowledged as a war hero and I think it’s going to happen, but it may take some time. In the meantime, however, the Wizengamot has awarded him the Order of Merlin, First Class. With it comes a cash award. I’ve enclosed both the medal and the money since Remus says Snape would have wanted you to have them.

Anyway, thanks again for being one of the best professors I ever had and thanks for all you did for my friends last year. Neville is especially grateful.

Yours sincerely, Harry Potter.’”

“An Order of Merlin.” Severus sounded shocked.

Aurora smiled. “And money.”

Severus smirked. “Enough to start that potion shop we’ve been contemplating.”

“True. And I suppose I could resume my research.”

“You don’t have to,” Severus said. “After all, some things should remain a mystery.”

“True.” Standing up, Aurora embraced him. “Although some things are universal. Like you being a hero. Congratulations, my love.”

Dipping her, Severus kissed her, devouring her mouth. Raising his head, he whispered, “You’re the real hero.”

“Ah, there you are, children.” Aurora’s mother walked in, beaming at them. Her mental state had improved significantly when Aurora had brought Severus home with her. “It’s such a beautiful day, I had the elves make you up a picnic basket. I thought while you’re out, you could...pick some lavender.”

“Is that what they call it here?” Severus murmured.

Aurora laughed and in that moment recalled her vision in the Mirror of Erised. It came true, she realised as Severus clasped her arm to lead her outside into the warm sunshine. I have my love, I have my family and all is well. Perhaps I don’t need to know any more than this.





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