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Sorka and Sage passed through a magical barrier, however they found themselves in the middle of the same nine circles of standing stones bathed in the moonlight, exactly where they were standing a couple of seconds before.

"What happened?" Sage asked, looking around him in the eerie silence, searching for their foes.

"I don’t know," Sorka answered, her voice taut and her heart beating fast. It should have worked!
"Shit!" he swore in a loud whisper as they were instinctively taking a defensive position, back to back. "Where are they?"

She shrugged, though he couldn’t see her. "I dunno…"

"Do I have to remind you that you are the one who can sense magic, Sorka?" Sage said through gritted teeth.

Those might not be Death Eaters – there were all sorts of dark wizards in the world – but the thought of a green flash of light and of her lifeless body falling to the ground was nagging at his mind again. He banished it the best he could to focus on the situation at hand.

His words made her realize she couldn’t sense any dark magic. There was magic, but pure and untainted. Almost too much of it. "We aren't there anymore!" Sorka exclaimed, her eyes scanning the landscape.

"What? What do you mean, we aren't there?"

"Look around you, Sage! Look more closely, I mean."

He did, and his eyes widen in wonder. "The stones… they are like new, as if they were erected yesterday!"

"Exactly," Sorka smiled. "Time and weather have no power here."

"So we went through… but where are we?" Sage inquired, frowning. He was still on his guard.

"In the place where Albus left… whatever it is he left for me." The young woman started to walk away from the stone, her companion on her heels. When they reached the first circle, the inner one, the megalith suddenly disappeared and a cozy little cottage with a thatched roof appeared… in the sunlight.

"What did the runes said? How do we go back once we’ve find it?" Sage asked.

"They said: ‘The pure at heart will always find a safe haven in the place where time stands still and the lovers lie in each other's arms’," Sorka answered.

"For all eternity?" Sage tried to deny his urge to ask this woman to do just that, and erected a stone facade.

Ah, yes, of course – that's the problem: spending all eternity here with me, came the bitter thought. Has he even stopped to think and ask himself if I'd want to spend all eternity with him?

"I didn't ask you to come with me – you were the one who wanted to!" Sorka hissed, glaring at him. Why did I promise him I would let him help me? What if in trying to protect me, he…

"I didn't mean it that way," Sage interrupted her thoughts. "I was merely quoting Albus's message. And speaking of him, he came and went back to our world, so there is obviously a way." Now that the initial awe had started to fade, she was tensing up, and he couldn't explain her reaction – they were safe, she had just said so herself. "What's wrong, Sorka?"

"The magic of this place takes time getting used to when you are sensitive to it," said a woman's voice. "Right now, it's… overwhelming."

They turned towards her, Sage stepping protectively in front of Sorka. Seeing that, the woman smiled. She was neither young, nor old. She was ageless, and beautiful. Her golden hair fell freely on her back, past her slender waist. She was thin, but curvy in all the right places. Her face was flawless and her eyes were the color of the eastern sky before nightfall.

"Are you… are you Vivian?" Sorka asked, coming at Sage's side.

The woman smiled again. "Yes, and I guess you are Sorka?" It was a rhetorical question. Seeing them start, she added: "Albus told us you would come." She gave an appraising look to Sage. "Of course, we knew you wouldn’t be alone."

"My name is Sage…"

"I know," she cut him in a tone a teacher would use with a rather slow student. Then she added: "Welcome to Avalon, Sorka, and you, Sage."

"Avalon? The island where King Arthur was buried?" the young man said.

"And that drifted out of time, yes," Vivian nodded her head, visibly pleased now. "Come with me."

They followed the enchantress inside the cottage. It looked deceptively small from the outside. And yet the room in which she ushered them was cluttered – but tastefully so. Its furniture was like its occupants: ageless and from all ages.

"Please, take a seat" Vivian told them.

They sat side by side on a couch and were almost surprised at how comfortable it was.

"Do you want something to drink? We have the most refreshing spring water…"

"Vivian!" said a male voice in a chiding tone ringing with laughter.

Sage and Sorka turned their heads and saw a man standing in the doorway. He was tall, almost as tall as Sage, and broad-shouldered. But those were his only constant features. The rest was apparently subject to constant changes. His hair had been brown when they first saw him, but it was blonde when he crossed the room to them and red when he stopped at a few feet.

"Never drink any water that witch can offer you," Merlin told them, his now blue eyes crinkling at the corners with barely suppressed mirth.

Vivian rolled her eyes, then shrugged. "Well, I’ll be right back," she humphed. And she disappeared in a room in the back.

Sorka paled. "She wouldn’t have dared, right?" she breathed.

Frowning slightly, Sage gave her a sideway glance. I wouldn’t want to be forced into a relationship but… he thought. But he couldn’t stop himself to wonder if it was the idea of drinking the enchanted water with him that frightened her so.

Merlin shrugged. "Who knows? You’re the first couple we've ever seen here." He lowered his voice and added: "Don't tell her, but I'm not sure her spells work. I mean, I was already in love with her, so they were unnecessary."

The place was peaceful, and yet it deeply disturbed Sorka. It's too peaceful, she told herself. The magic she sensed was powerful. If she had surrendered to it, it would have lulled her doubts and her fears and filled her with serenity and happiness. She had to resist it with all her might. Impulsively, she took Sage's hand, as though to cling to her reality.

Sage started slightly. Regretting her gesture, afraid that he would pull away, Sorka almost did it first. But instead she felt him hold onto her hand tighter. Closing her eyes briefly, she exhaled a breath she didn’t remember holding and swallowed. The strength she could feel emanating from him made her feel instantly better.

Vivian came back with a small package. She handed it to Sorka, who took it with her free hand and slipped it in her pocket. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," the enchantress answered, smiling.

"It's nice to have visitors sometimes," Merlin added.

Vivian glared at him. "Female visitors, maybe?"

"I'm terribly thirsty, all of a sudden," he said. "I'd love some cool spring water."

Unexpectedly, Vivian burst into laughter. Apparently, it was a private joke between the two.

Sage cleared his throat. "How can we go back to our world?"

"Just step out the door," Merlin said. "Then through the stone again."

Sage stood up and Sorka followed suit. As they were almost at the door, Sorka turned around and say: "Again, thank you, thank you very much."

"Goodbye," Sage added.

"You chose a dangerous path," Vivian said as they were leaving, reminding them all that she was also a Seer. "But it will lead you to your love of many years."

"Farewell!" Merlin added.

Sorka wanted to ask her what she had meant, but they had already crossed the threshold and the cottage had disappeared. In its stead, there was the megalith again. She let out a sigh of frustration and mumbled: "Seer!"

Next to her, Sage remained silent a moment, the words of the enchantress echoing in his mind. Then he shook his head, reminding himself that Sorka didn’t believe in fate, but in choices.

"Are you ready?" he finally asked her. "They are probably searching for us, on the other side."

The young woman nodded. "Whenever you are."

They crossed the magical barrier together and found themselves at the same place and time they had left. A second hooded figure cast a spell and a purple bolt crackled past them, much too close to their liking. Sage riposted, sending a binding spell in the dark wizard's direction. With a few well placed knives he managed to open up a small break in their encirclement.

"Come on!" he whispered intently, as Sorka was petrifying one of their foe.

They had to leave the circles of stones to disapparate, and in order to do that, they would have to force their way through the rest of the dark wizards.

"What are they doing here?" Sage wondered aloud.

"And tonight of all nights?" Sorka added.

Then the clouds parted and the full moon appeared. As soon as the light broke through the clouds, howls emanated from the distance. There was an entire pack of werewolves and approaching fast. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sage and Sorka took turn covering their retreat and casting offensive spells. They got separated for a time though, and Sage fought his way back to Sorka. He eliminated one of her enemies, and she could finally get rid of the other. Then she took him by the arm and they disapparated as the sound of howls echoed on the outskirts of the dark wizards’ line.

"Where are we?" Sage asked, looking around, when they apparated.

There was a cottage, quite similar to the one they visited earlier but not thatched-roofed.

"That's the place where I grew up," Sorka answered.

"Wait!" He could see a light at one of the windows.

She shrugged. "Severus lives here now."

"So why…?"

"The fireplace of Albus's study here is connected to the one in his secret office at Hogwarts. We could have gone back directly to the castle, but I don't fancy walking through the grounds on a full moon, especially after tonight's encounter."

"Good point."

They headed for the door and knocked. But they got no answer.

"Maybe he's asleep?" Sage suggested.

At that very moment, they heard something that sounded like glass breaking, and a man swearing profusely.

"I don't think ‘asleep’ is the right word," Sorka observed tartly, before waving her wand at the door. "Alohomora!"

It opened, and she stepped inside, followed by Sage. She went straight to the sitting room, were they found Severus Snape in a sorry state. When he saw them, he sneered drunkenly. "So nice to visit."

"Stay right here," Sorka told Sage. "I'll get the key."

It was hidden in the kitchen, inside a painting representing a dish of fruits. She knew she had to tickle the peach thrice to retrieve it.

While she was gone, Severus narrowed his eyes and watched Sage. "The boy toy," he slurred. "Want a drink?" He held out the bottle of whisky he was drinking from.

"No, thank you," the young man answered.

"Ah, yes," Severus chuckled. "You think she wants some?" He tried to stand up and failed. "Might help her… you know. How do you make that cold-hearted bitch thaw a bit?"

"You don't. There is nothing wrong with that woman that needs fixing by the likes of you," he said quietly, but protectively.

"Oh ho, so the young buck does have some feelings for the young Ms. Dumbledore," he said with a sneer. "It's too easy to read you. I don't need Legilimency to see that she is your weakness."

"You touch her and I will get creative with your greasy headed ass," Sage responded drawing his wands. "I will enjoy watching you die."

The drunk bat began laughing loudly at the threat.

When Sorka came back, things were rather tense. "Come on, Sage. Let's go back to Hogwarts." Before she left the room, she told the ex-Potions professor in a disapproving tone: "I'm sorry I ever see you like that, Severus."

His laughter followed them in the corridor, quickly replaced by a ringing silence. Sorka sighed and cast a look above her shoulder.

"Do you want me to go and see if he's hurt or anything?" Sage offered. "Because if he isn't I'll certainly help him along his way to pain and anguish."

Looking at him quizzically she chirped: "I don't even want to know what you two said to each other back there." She shook her head. "No, I will – at least, I know he won't hex me and I don't trust him or you not to hex each other. I'll be right back."

But when Sorka retraced her steps, Sage did too. She gave him a questioning look; he shrugged.

Severus was snoring on the couch. Sorka magically made the bottle of Muggle whisky disappeared from his grasp and conjured a blanket.

"Goodnight, Severus."

They headed together towards the study, for good this time.

"I think he… likes you, in his own way," Sage observed cautiously.

Instead of denying it, Sorka answered: "As much as he hates me for saving his life."

She opened the door, and locked it again behind them. The room was much like the one they had visited at Hogwarts. Sorka picked up the Floo powder box on the mantle piece, took a pinch of the powder inside and handed it to Sage.

"Are you sure they are still connected?" he asked her.

Sorka shrugged. "Well, if not, nothing will happen… and we'll have to get out of here, probably hear an aging man snore drunkenly on our way out and cross the Hogwarts grounds under the full moon."

"I'll go first," Sage said.

"Sage, we're going to Hogwarts!" she protested.

The young man shrugged. "So I can go first."

Sorka rolled her eyes, but she was smiling as she told him: "Ah, yes, you're my knight in shining armor. Lead the way!"

She tried to make it sound like a joke, but she realized it was the naked truth. They had known each other for mere weeks, however he had made her promise him she would let him help her – all right, protect her. One minute she thought he was attracted to her, the next he was indifferent. But she could count on him, always. Men! she thought, shaking her head.

Less than a minute later, she joined Sage in Albus's secret office at Hogwarts. They tiptoed towards the door and Sorka opened it with her ‘key’. Fortunately, Aquilla wasn't there. As they were heading towards the stairs, Sorka could have sworn she saw Albus open one eye behind his half-moon spectacles and smile, before pretending to slumber again.

When they reached her quarters, Sage cleared his throat and said: "Goodnight, Sorka."

"Are you tired?" Seeing him look at her inquiringly, she shook her head. "Never mind."

"Don't 'never mind' me," he answered. "I'm not. Not yet. Why?"

Sorka opened the door and invited him to come in. "I want you to be here when I find out what Albus hid for me."

Sage nodded and followed her inside.

The house-elves had left food and drinks for them since they were absent at dinner. Sorka took out the package Vivian gave her from her pocket and put it down on the table. Sage poured them some pumpkin juice, then he pushed her gently towards a chair. "Sit down and eat."

When she obeyed, he sat down too. Then, sighing because she was staring at the parcel, he took it, put it in his pocket and pushed the plate of sandwiches towards her.

"You eat first," he said before she could protest. "Don't you think dragon handlers like their women with some flesh on their bones?"

Sorka glared at him, but took a bite of the sandwich he put in her hand. When she finished her second, Sage handed her the package. Her right hand darted, but stopped short of it.

"Is there something wrong?" he asked her.

Sorka took a deep breath and said: "No, nothing's wrong, but… could you open it for me ?" She didn’t want him to see that her hands were trembling. She had waited for so long…

"Sure," he nodded.

Sorka trying not to fidget at his side, Sage untied the knot and unpacked the mysterious item. When it was finally revealed, they both sucked in a breath.

It was a Time Turner… or it would be, once they had put all the pieces back together.

Her elbows propped on the table, Sorka buried her face in her hands. How could you do this to me, Albus?

Sage took her by the wrists, his warm hands wrapping around them to take hers away from her face. "Look at me, Sorka," he said softly. When she finally did – his touch had some undeniable power on her –, he added: "We can do it, you and I." His light brown eyes searched hers. Then he added, with a grin: "You know I'm not totally useless with my hands."

The way he said that… An image of what she imagined those hands doing to her the night before sprang unbidden to the young woman’s mind, and she averted her eyes. Down, girl! she admonished herself. What's wrong with you?

"You know I am, don't you?" Sage insisted, his face closer to hers.

Sorka looked up, and his gaze caught hers again. "Yes," she breathed. Then, a little louder, shaking herself out of her ‘trance’, she continued in an exasperated tone: "I just wonder what Albus thought I could do with that."

Sage watched her a moment, than said decisively: "Let's get to work."

"Now?"

"Why not? Are you sleepy?"

Sorka shook her head. "No, but…" She let her voice trailed off, then she asked: "Have you ever assembled a Time Turner?"

"No," Sage stated, shrugging. "But it should be a piece of cake!"

"Admit it," she ironized, more confident now. "You can't resist the challenge."

Two hours later, Sorka had fallen asleep her head on her arms.

Sage was so wrapped up in his work he never realized she was asleep until nearly an hour after she fell silent. Smiling at how beautiful she was, he teetered on whether or not to wake her. He tried but was disastrously unsuccessful. Instead of waking up she put her arms around him and pulled him closer. He was very glad she did not see him blush. So, he picked her up in his arms and carried her into her bedroom.

He flicked a wand that turned back the sheets then placed her on her mattress. He gently pulled the covers up to her shoulders and stood up. He was about to leave but her lips were silently calling out to him. Swallowing hard at his desire to slide in the bed with her, he simply bent back down and whispered something that only he and God would ever know and gently kissed her on the cheek. Turning back to his work he cast one longing look towards Sorka.



Sorka woke up and stretched slowly. Then her eyes snapped open – she didn’t remember going to bed. She quickly took a peek under the sheet and let out a sigh of relief. She was still fully dressed.

Of course, you silly, she told herself.

Rolling her eyes, she threw the bedclothes aside, got up and crept to the door, her bare feet making no noise on the wooden floor. For a moment, her hand on the doorknob, she wondered if Sage spent the whole night assembling the pieces of the Time Turner. He should have woken me – shook me if need be, she thought, annoyed with herself – and with him because he had let her sleep. I should have been there to help him.

Silently, Sorka half-opened the door and stuck her head out to take a look in the sitting room. Sage was still there, at the small round table, but he was asleep. Smiling now, she tiptoed towards him. His head had rolled backward against the high-back of the armchair. He looked younger with his face more relaxed, but not peaceful. There was a shadow that shouldn't have been there. The same that haunted his eyes, even when he laughed. She held out her hand as if to banish it, but she stopped before she could touch him, her fingertips caressing the air at less than an inch from his skin.

"My knight in shining armor," she whispered, with no hint of irony this time, and swallowed hard.

They had both lost someone dear, they had both failed. Life had left her as scarred inside as he was – she just hid hers working for the Order, denying herself a life of her own… till they met and he showed her she was still alive.

I'm not the woman you think I am, Sage. And now that you have started to understand that, you don't… She let her thought unfinished. It didn't matter.

Sorka quickly went back to her bedroom and silently closed the door behind her.

She went to the bathroom to take a shower and got dressed. Then she knelt near her trunk and opened it. Once again, she took the letters and the diary she hid at the bottom – Ginny's letters, her diary – and sat on the floor, holding them.

She didn't turned her head when there was a discreet knock on her door.

"Come on in," she said, barely loud enough.

Sage opened the door, but didn’t come in. Sorka's back was to him. Her brow was resting on her knees, exposing the vulnerable curve of her neck. He cleared his throat. "Are you all right?"

"Yes." Sorka took a deep breath and finally looked at him. "Come in, please. I have something to show you." She patted the floor.

Sage sat down beside her.

"I found this in Hagrid's cabin the day… you went missing." And Spartan died. But she didn't need to tell him that. "Severus hid it there, on Albus's instructions." She opened the wooden box and handed him the note inside.

He read it, but didn't ask any questions.

"Yes?"

"I told you I wouldn't…" he began.

"But you have the right to know, Sage. You deserve to know."

He nodded his head. "How many years?"

"Almost ten," Sorka stated flatly.

Sage sucked in a breath. "You know that no Time Turner can go that far back, don't you?"

"This one should." She looked at him. Then she added, her expression sorrowful: "I promised her nothing bad would happen. She knew who I was and she trusted me to find a way. But I wasn’t strong enough, I wasn’t good enough, and I failed her."

He simply said: "I'm sure you know no regular Time Turner can bring you back." When she nodded, he continued. "I'm going to tinker with it and see if there is any way I can fix that. We will have to probably get out of there quickly so they don't throw us in Azkaban."

"Us?" Sorka frowned and started to shake her head.

Taking her by the hands Sage forced her to look into his face. He turned so that he was directly in front of her and said quietly: "I'm with you until the end, Sorka." Then he slowly bent his head down and let his lips pass over her hands lightly. She closed her eyes as she imagined the kisses coming closer to her lips. Sage leaned forward and to the side, whispered something into her ear that only he and Sorka would ever know then slipped back into the sitting area to begin the tedious work on the Time Turner.




Authors's Note: We hope you enjoyed reading that chapter. Things are now a bit more explicit, aren't they?
And could you feel the love? Were the scenes in which they watch each other sleep romantic or annoying because neither act on their feelings?

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