It had been two days since Godric went back to his own time. Sorka already missed him – but she knew that if she ever saw the Founder again, his heir would be in danger once more – and still wondered about his parting words to Sage.
Sage… the young witch thought sadly, gnawing at her lower lip as she was brushing her hair. For most of the people who ever knew of his return, Grindelwald was no more than a bad memory now. But even if the idea he'd been a part in the monster's demise helped him a little, Sage still grieved – which made sense – and still felt guilty – which didn't make any sense. Revenge was but one step towards healing. And since the destruction of the Horcrux, Sage had been hiding when he was not teaching.
Sorka had let him avoid her, giving him some time to mourn his young friend. But now she knew she had to do something. Whatever something is…
Sighing, she was about to leave her room when a note appeared out of nowhere. She caught it in mid-air and read it.
I would like you to come to my office as soon as you get this letter, dear.
I need to talk to you.
Well, she couldn't keep the Headmistress waiting. Intrigued, she headed towards her office, and the gargoyle leapt aside when it saw her approach. A memory flitted through her head – Albus and the strange passwords he was so fond of. Correction: he was fond of Muggles candies, she smiled to herself. And she had been too, when she was a child.
Sorka knocked on the door and it opened to let her in.
"Good morning, Aquilla."
"Ah, Sorka. Good morning," the Headmistress answered, looking up briefly from a parchment. She wrote something down with her quill at the bottom of the sheet. "Do you still wish to teach Transfiguration?" she asked the young witch without preamble.
Sorka was almost taken aback. But she had to admit she wasn't really qualified for the job of Herbology Teacher – while she did her best, she knew she was not as talented as her own professor, Madam Sprouts, had been. "Well, yes," she answered. "But I guess you will still be short one teacher. Who will teach Herbology?"
Aquilla waved her free hand, dismissing her concern. "Animagi tend to be better Transfiguration teachers, so I told her she would be welcomed here as our new Herbology Teacher and she was overjoyed. She should be here soon…" She was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Well, I guess she's just arrived," the Headmistress amended.
The door opened on Hermione Weasley. "Surprise," she said, grinning, when she saw Sorka's stunned expression.
"I thought…" the redhead began. "You said…"
"Yes, I know," Hermione sighed. "I changed my mind when Ron said he would take care of our youngest. And that job can't be more stressful than working for the Ministry."
"Wait till you met some of the kids," Sorka half-joked, making a face.
"Don't scare off my new teacher," Aquilla warned Sorka with a mock glare, before smiling at Hermione.
The young women laughed, and the Headmistress joined in.
"Well, the first class of the day begins in exactly an hour," Aquilla reminded them, her expression businesslike again. "You won't be living here with us, Hermione, but you'll still need an office inside the school. Sorka, would you be so kind as to show her the one Godric vacated a couple of days ago?"
When Sorka nodded, Aquilla shooed them off with a "Welcome back to Hogwarts, Professor Weasley."
When they were out of the Headmistress Office, Hermione said, feigning a casualness she obviously didn’t feel: "I heard you already had some adventures here. You helped Godric Gryffindor find Grindelwald's Horcrux and destroy it."
"Well, only the first part is true. Aquilla, Sage and I helped Godric find the vessel…" She stopped and looked at her friend, raising an eyebrow. "Is that because of the adventures you're here?"
"Oh, Merlin, no! I’ve had enough for a lifetime!" Hermione exclaimed. Then she added: "Sage, you said? Sage like in Sage Solon ? He was here?"
"Yes… and he's still here, in fact."
Hermione smiled. "Ron will be happy to see him again… How can we have all gone our separate ways like that? I mean, when was the last time you and I saw each other?"
"Almost a year ago," Sorka admitted.
Hermione was still shaking her dead in dismay when they reached a door. "Tell me, you and Sage…"
"We're… friends," Sorka answered, hoping Hermione wouldn’t catch on her slight hesitation.
"Good." Hermione's face brightened. "I've always told Ron he wasn't a guy for you."
"What?" That was the first time Sorka ever heard about that. "What do you mean?"
But Hermione wasn't finished. "I know who would be the right guy for you though."
"Oh, no…" Sorka shook her head. She didn't like it when Hermione took that tone of hers.
"But you would do Molly a favour, dear – she's desperate, I can tell you. Charlie must have another interest in life than dragons!"
Sorka was backing away. "I'm not listening, Hermione. Have a good day," she added, turning her back to her friend.
"I'll suggest to Molly to invite you at the Burrow next time Charlie has a leave and comes back home."
Sorka made a show of putting her hands over her ears. "I can't hear you!"
Neither of them heard the door closing farther down the hall.
Sage closed the door quietly as he exited his office. Neither of the ladies realized that he heard the entire conversation about Charlie Weasley. Sage knew that Sorka was not attracted to the dragon handler, he could tell by her demeanor; however, part of him wondered if she would be better off with the red head than with him.
This thought put him in a right and foul mood as he entered his class. In his anger he slammed the door as he entered and breezed through the center aisle. The students went mum as their dueling professor strode to the front of the class. With a wave of his wand all the desks, dueling theory books and mats moved to the walls. The Sixth Years all looked at each other in quiet fear. They had never seen their professor in such a mood.
"All right class, time for a real life pop quiz." Sage saw the class instantly react. Some stood straighter, others tried to melt into the background. Smiling inside at the fear on their faces, he tried to keep from laughing. By his second step into the classroom he had already gained control of his emotions, but seeing the kids reactions he decided to use this as a teaching moment.
"If you want to take the easy way out and do the essay on what you are about to witness step behind the blue line." With a wave a blue line appeared parrallel with the west wall. "I warn you, that if you go there, the best you can hope to get is a P."
Four of the people who faded to the background quickly jumped at the chance. The rest stayed.
"Fine. Now for the rest of you. The rules are simple. No mats. No nets. It will be a street fight. I will only use spells, charms, and such that you have learned up to this point. You may use any that you know." With a wave of his wand the class turned into Knockturn Alley. "Here is the situation: You are a band of Aurors sent to catch little ole me. I'm a dark wizard who has killed several hundred muggles." Counting all the heads he smiled and said, "Twenty five against one... I like the odds. Now let's play!"
Later that day, Sorka waited for Sage to appear at dinner, but he never did. She went back to her quarters, really worried about her friend. Maybe she should have asked Hermione?
No, she doesn't know Sage the way I do. The thought surprised her, but she knew it was the truth. Well, she would talk to him tonight.
Sorka entered her quarters and her heart sank when she saw the owl waiting for her. For she recognized the bird. He belonged to Nymphadora Lupin. It was probably Order business – if she could have ignored him, she would have, gladly. But she just wasn't that kind of girl.
The young witch took the note and gave a treat to the barn owl - of course, Aurors used inconspicuous birds. He accepted it and flew away. Seeing that, Sorka understood Tonks wasn’t expecting a reply. I hate it when they take it for granted that I will accept to do whatever they want me to. Sighing, she opened the letter and read it.
I would gladly kicked their serpents' arses myself, but I'm on an undercover mission for the Ministry.
So put on your best dress and come to Miss Puddifoot's Nightclub.
What? Then Sorka understood. Tonks was talking about Sofia and Draco. I can't babysit those two their whole life! she thought, enraged. Because she had better things to do. She needed to talk to…
That gave her an idea. Sorka smiled. Like Tonks had suggested, she dressed carefully, then she headed towards Sage’s quarters.
Later, Sage sat in his room thinking about his options. The light fight with the Sixth Years helped release a bit of his pent up anger, and the kids learned a lot in that one class, but he was still struggling with his choice. If he shut out Sorka now, she may turn to Charlie.
He sat there and leaned back in his favorite chair until he heard a knock.
Sorka knocked and waited. When Sage didn’t answer, she sighed and flicked her wand at the doorknob. The door opened, and she walked in. He sat in front of a bottle of firewhiskey. But it was still full. He looked up at her. Sorka’s gaze swept over the bottle, then met the young man’s squarely.
"I need your help, Sage," she said. "Please, tell me you’re going to put on your best clothes and come with me."
One look at him had made her anger at Sofia and Draco’s stupid behaviour melt like snow near a fire. She had to coax him out of that room before he gave in to the temptation.
Sage stood up. He was surprised by her intrusion and by her attire. "Why? What for?" he asked her, frowning slightly.
"You told me you wanted to protect me, right?" Sorka said, answering his question with another.
Sage nodded. "But maybe I’m not the best qualified – I’m not Charlie Weasley, after all," he observed.
Sorka started back. He had clearly overheard she and Hermione talking in the morning, or at least a part of their conversation – and not the best one. Then she narrowed her eyes. "No, you are not," she retorted, torn between hurt and anger. But just for a second. Then her empathy kicked in and she understood how he felt. Guilt is eating him alive. He'd failed to protect Spartan, so why wouldn't she feel safer with another man at her side? But I don't want…
Sorka shook her head to throw the thought aside before it was fully formed. "Please, Sage…" She hold out her hand and brushed his forearm with her fingertips. Then she quickly lowered her arm when he looked at her. "I need you to protect me… from myself," she swallowed.
He searched her eyes and decided she was telling the truth. "From yourself?"
"I need to go to Miss Puddifoot's Nightclub and…"
"Well, have fun!"
"I'm not going there to have fun…" She sighed. "Sofia and Drake are there. I've been told they are…"
"Attracting too much attention?" Sage supplied. He had seen the two lovebirds at a couple of his haunts and wanted to say something. But he saw it as none of his business.
Sorka eyed him suspiciously for a second and wondered how much he knew, but at least he was thinking now. "Yes."
"So what? You're afraid you're going to hex them?" he asked, raising an eyebrow questioningly.
"Yes," she answered again. Seeing he was a bit taken aback – he clearly didn’t expect that answer – she added: "Or at least I could try to hex one of them… But I'm supposed to be a good girl."
"Will you come with me? I'll need a friend at my side… Please."
He sighed and said: "Wait for me here. I'll be ready in a couple of minutes."
And true to his word, he walked out of his bedroom two minutes later.
"You cleaned up rather nicely," she observed, giving him an appraising look.
"Thank you," Sage replied. And he looked her over from head to foot.
Sorka felt herself blushing, suddenly self-conscious, knowing her dress was clinging to her curves like a second skin.
They left Hogwarts and apparated in the alley next to the nightclub. A witch with bright orange hair bumped into Sorka – in all appearance, she was too drunk to walk in a straight line. Sage helped her keep her balance, and she winked at Sorka.
"Hello, Tonks," the young witch said.
"Wotcher!" the Auror answered with a deep wheezing exclamation.
Sage looked down at the Auror and had to keep from throwing up at the site of her hideously brown and rotted teeth.
The hand that was still on his arm felt his muscles.
"You found yourself a nice friend, girly," she added, raising her eyebrows suggestively at Sorka.
"Hands off," Sorka said with a mock glare. "Or I’ll tell Remus, Nymphadora."
Tonks cringed. "No need to be mean, girl."
Sorka said: "Sage, may I introduce you to Nymphadora Lupin, known as Tonks. Tonks, Sage Solon."
"Nice to meet you, N…" Seeing her frown, he quickly amended: "Tonks."
"Nice to meet you too!" Then the Auror added, her face growing serious: "They are in there. I would have taken care of the situation myself, but I can't blow my cover."
"It's all right," Sorka sighed. "It's all my fault, after all."
"Well, see ya!" Tonks walked towards the door, then added above her shoulder. "Have some fun too!"
"Yeah, right,"Sorka mumbled.
"You have some… uh… interesting friends," Sage observed.
She chuckled and glaced sideways at him. "You can say that."
Sorka felt Sage's hand in the small of her back as they were walking in and had to tell herself to focus. Because they clearly had a situation. Sorka sucked in a breath. Draco and Sofia weren’t just dancing. One look at them, and it was clear they had not met the day or the week before.
Sage cleared his throat. "Remember: Don't hex them."
Sorka pulled out her wand and gave it to him. "Better safe than sorry," she said through clenched teeth.
"But, Sorka, you know..."
"Sage, we aren't going to be hexed here at Puddifoot's. Don't be so damn paranoid!" Realizing she was letting her babysitting duties affect her emotions she apologized. "Sorry, Sage."
Then she took a deep breath, plastered a fake smile on her face and walked towards the two lovers as they were passing by. "Look, honey, who is there!" she said brightly to Sage. "I'm so glad to see you!" she added, turning to Sofia and Draco.
They had stopped dancing and were looking at her. Sorka stepped between them and told Draco, taking his hand and putting her free arm around his neck: "When was the last time we danced?"
He opened his mouth, but she forced him to move away from Sofia.
"We never danced," he stated, clearly angry.
Sorka smiled suavely at him, but her eyes betrayed her true feelings. "I know, you git," she whispered.
"What are you doing here?" His hand was almost bruising hers.
She squeezed back. "That's my line, Drake," she hissed, still smiling. "What do you think you are doing here?"
"I thought you wanted me to have a life."
"Yes, I do… but you're throwing it away!"
"I don't understand…"
"No, clearly you don't," Sorka said, exasperated. And he's supposed to be one of the brightest wizards of his generation! "Clearly, you didn't stop to think."
Seeing him about to retort, she added: "What do you think people see when they behold you and Sofia dancing like two people who have known each other all their life?"
"Couldn't you put up an act for a time, and pretend you'd just met and were trying to get to know each other?"
Draco paled and swallowed hard. "I guess we could have done that." It clearly galled him to admit she was right.
"Yes, you could have done that," she said. "I thought you two understood the situation, but Severus was right."
Draco winced at that. "Are you going to tell him?"
Sorka laughed. "No, I won't. But if you get Sofia killed, I'll kill you myself, is that clear? If you don't know the risk, I'm afraid she's even more clueless than you are."
From the corner of her eyes, she saw Sage and Sofia approached. The Dueling Professor was doing his best, but Sofia was obviously distracted by the sight of Sorka and Draco dancing together – and by the fact that the redhead looked like she was enjoying herself. Sorka pulled away from Draco and they changed partners. Draco took Sofia away.
"Good job," Sage remarked, his arm circling her slender waist. It didn't show, but he could feel her tension.
"I want to get out of here," Sorka breathed.
"In a minute," he answered. "We must play the act till the end." He gave her ear a playful nibble that surprised her and sent shivers down her spine. "Come along, my love." he said loudly as he pulled her into a booth and pulled the curtains, leaving a crack so that they could watch Draco and Sofia.
Sorka had to keep reminding herself that he was playing a part when he nibbled her ear, but it was hard not to realize how perfect it felt.
Two minutes later, Draco and Sofia were gone, and they walked back to the castle. Sorka stopped on the shore of the lake and tried to gather her thoughts.
"Are you all right?" Sage asked her.
She nodded her head.
"He's Draco Malfoy, right?"
Unexpectedly, Sorka answered: "Yes."
"I thought so... Uh, I sort of ran into the two of them in Sofia's room the other day when I was looking for you."
"What?" Sorka asked.
"Yeah, he and Sofia were two mating snakes." Mistaking the look of fury on Sorka's face for jealousy, he paused for a moment and tested the waters to find out what her problem was, "Were you and him… lovers?" She turned her head to look at him, and Sage added quickly: "I’m sorry. It’s none of my business."
"Never," she said, shaking her head. "I never was attracted to him."
She shivered slightly, and Sage must have noticed, because he said: "Come on, Sorka. Let’s get back inside."
They climbed up to the castle in silence. Then, as they were entering the Hall, Sorka said: "Thank you, Sage."
"You’re welcome," he answered. "You really needed someone at your side."
Not just someone. A friend I trust. "It's so frustrating. They should have more sense than that!"
"Yes, but you can't babysit them all their life. You can't hold their hand and take the responsibility for their actions."
Since it was exactly what she had told herself earlier, she nodded.
Once back in his room, Sorka sighed and seemed to relax a bit. Then her eyes fell on the bottle of firewhiskey. "I think I need a drink," she said, and her eyes clearly dared him to say it wasn't a good idea.
Sage looked at her for a second, but said nothing. Instead, he opened the bottle and poured some of its content in two glasses. Then he gave one to her and picked up the last one for himself.
Sorka downed her firewhiskey in one gulp and felt her eyes tearing and her cheeks starting to burn. Sage followed suit as she was putting down her glass, taking a deep breath. Then she looked at him and their eyes met. And in that instant, she was overwhelmed by the urge to feel his arms around her. She'd never needed to be held so much.
But he didn't move.
"Do you remember the first time I came into your room?"
"How could I forget, it was one of the most humiliating moments of my life!" he laughed. "I never knew a woman could move so fast out of a man's room."
They stopped for a second until Sorka cleared her throat. "Do you think we could dance again?"
Sage's heart leaped. He could feel his legs go numb as his mouth answered: "Are you sure?"
"Yes." She nodded her head to emphasize her answer.
He flicked his wand. Music began playing, and they took each other's hands. She could feel his strong arm support her back as they wheeled and spun through the room. After several dances they kicked back and took a few more shots of firewhiskey.
Sorka looked over to Sage and stood up. She walked up to him and pulled him by the hands. He stood up too and they looked into each other's eyes. She wanted him to make the first move. She wanted him to throw his arms around her neck and press his lips to hers.
He never did. She could feel his struggle. He was still reigning in his emotions. He was not going to do anything that would make her more vulnerable.
Of course not, he's not interested in me that way anymore. I made sure of that earlier this year. That was a sobering thought. Breaking eye contact, she stammered. "It's late. Goodnight, Sage"
And she all but ran from his room once again.
Laughing at the torture he faced, Sage slammed back another shot and tried to remember if he ever sent the same girl running from his room twice before.
Authors's Note: This chapter took an unexpected turn as we were writing it - all for the best. Things should be far more interesting from now on... lol.
Aren't Draco and Sofia cute together? lol. Do you think Sage should have kissed Sorka? And what did you think of Hermione's meddling?
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