In Loving Memory:

A/N: This fic is dedicated to all the fanfic writers out there. You've kept me sane while going through some tough times (fanfic is my anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and drug of choice)

I must post the obligatory disclaimer…. I own nothing, not even the toys in this wonderful sandbox are mine, I'm just playing with them and am certainly not making any money on this endeavor.

I could us a Britpicker! I'm an American from the North East and we have our own dialect and confuse fellow American's as it is, so would love the help with not only the British dialect, but also British spelling (I'm told American's are overly fond of z's).

***In order to read this story, you should be able to at least tolerate both SS/HG and DM/HG. Just when you think your man has lost the girl…. Keep reading… you just never know.

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I started this the day my Aunt died. My heart was breaking, and so is Hermione's…

It was the end of her 5th year at Hogwarts and Hermione Granger stepped off the train and onto platform 9 ¾, immediately scanning the area for her parents. Not seeing them she mentally shrugged and hugged a somber Harry and Ron, promising to write over the summer and visit the Burrow, possibly even Little Whinging if she could catch Harry at the park for a few hours.

Not seeing her parents at platform 9 ¾ was nothing new, sometimes they were able to cross with the Weasley's but other times they had shown up a little late and missed their magical ticket through the brick support. So, she shrank her trunk and crossed into the Muggle World.

Looking around the King's Cross station she couldn't find her parents. They had always been there to greet her after a long school year before. 'Maybe they had gotten caught up at the office? Was there a rugby match today? ' Those tended to bring in a few emergency cases to the dental office. Teen boys running on adrenalin and hormones, plus a sport high in physical contact usually kept the local emergency and dental practices busy for a day or two, especially this close to local championships. Perhaps her parents were held up and felt she was old enough to take care of herself. She was after all 16 in the Muggle world, possibly 17 in the wizarding world due to liberal use of a time turner; she'd have to look into that. Plus she was a witch; surely the Ministry would make an exception for underage magic in the event she had to defend her life or her honor. With this thought, she left Kings Cross and headed for the tube to make her way home.

It was nearly dark when she arrived at her street; the lamps that lit the walk already glowed softly in the twilight. She approached her house and noticed that the garage door was open and her parent's car inside. 'They must have just gotten home,' she thought with a slight smile. She couldn't wait to see them, to talk endlessly over dinner over the years accomplishments, to try and take her mind off of the events at the ministry just a month before. Hermione may have sported a new scar on her chest, but it was the mental scars she would like to forget. Her smile faded at that. Sirius had died; the Dark Lord had returned to the public eye, the fate of both worlds was in constant peril. Her skin prickled as she bypassed the main entrance and entered the garage. The thought that as a Muggleborn witch, and Harry Potter's best friend, making her and her parents prime targets, entering her mind. Hermione's chest tightened painfully at the thought of her parents coming to harm. With a sudden spark of alarm racing through her, she dashed up the three steps leading from the garage bay to the entrance to the house.

Hermione raced through the kitchen mentally calling out to her parents, her voice having been cut off by the tightening in her chest and throat. 'They are fine, I'm panicking for no reason,' she chanted to herself. As she rounded the corner into the sitting room she noted briefly that her father lay sprawled on the floor, her mother was on her knees shaking with wild eyes. Hermione froze in her spot in the doorway. Her mother's eyes met hers just before there was a flash of green light and her mother slumped to the floor.

Hermione's mind was blank for once in her life. No thought entered, yet she vaguely registered her body acting. She felt the wood of her wand in her hand, her arm and lips moving with barely audible words as she fired off her patronus. Later, she would thank Harry for caving to her demands to teach the DA. While she knew her patronus could be used as a messenger, she had yet to master that aspect. She didn't even register to whom she sent it, hopefully they'd understand the message.

The cloaked and masked figure standing next to her parent's bodies turned, and she sent a whispered expelliamus in his direction. The cloaked figured blocked it and successfully disarmed her. Someone screamed an agonizing and terrifying scream. Hermione couldn't identify who was screaming for all she could feel was pain, blinding, searing pain, everywhere; then all she knew was blue.

Severus Snape stood in the Headmaster's office talking to the slightly kinder puppeteer that pulled at his strings, for a marionette he surely was. For nearly twenty years he had been pushed and pulled between two rivals fighting over the same toy, each laying claim to him, each manipulating him to hurt the other in their own twisted ways. Oh how he longed for release, for the sweet death that would surely greet him once the Brat-who-lived-to-annoy-him fulfilled the prophesy and took out at least one of his masters. The debacle at the ministry was still forefront of his mind. The dark Lord did not take to failure kindly, the fact that a contingents of his best Death Eaters being bested by mere children, ranging from an incompetent cauldron hazard and a flighty odd Ravenclaw, to the Weasley brood, the Brat-Who-Lived and a Muggleborn witch did not go over well at all. The Death Eaters felt the fruits of their failure under the wand of a madman. In return, they wanted blood. Snape was trying to convince the Old Man that Tom was the least of his immediate worries, but Dumbledore was convinced the Death Eaters wouldn't dare move without so much as a 'by your leave' from the Dark Lord.

Severus' patience was rapidly waning when a burst of light came hurtling through the Headmaster's window knocking the dark professor out of his chair before swimming in the air above him. After he was able to pull back in the air that had made a hastily made an escape from his lungs, Severus stood to see a brilliant blue otter bound and silently chitter about him. "Whose patronus is this?" He demanded of the Headmaster.

"I do not know," Dumbledore replied scowling over his half moon glasses. As the otter started to head butt and shove his Potions Master toward the door, he stood and approached it reaching out an aged hand to touch it.

Severus glared at the otter as he received another sharp nudge toward the door. "Whomever it belongs to needs to teach it some manners."

"Yes, dreadfully bossy." Dumbledore said with more than a little amusement in his voice as Snape tried to swat the offending patronus away. His voice serious once more he said, "The magic feels familiar though."

"Well if it's someone you know, why is it shoving me around?" Severus bit out as he pulled his wand with the intention of banishing it.

Dumbledore laid a hand on Snape's wand hand until he lowered it. "Concentrate on it Severus, what can you tell me about the feel of its magic?"

Mentally sighing at the old man's incessant riddles, he stowed his wand and reached out to the otter who rubbed its head on the palm of his hand. Severus closed his eyes and concentrated solely on the feel of the magic that had produced this patronus. It was strong, and familiar… So familiar in fact that it felt a lot like his own, and Dumbledore's, and the Dark Lord. There was one thing the three had in common, in fact they were the only three in Great Britian with this type of magic, or so he thought.

Severus' eyes snapped open and widened. "An affinity for fire," he said with a note of wonder in his otherwise smooth voice.

"That's what I thought." Dumbledore confirmed. "However, Tom has been unable to produce a patronus since he was a teenager, and it's not mine or yours, so the question remains, whose patronus is it? And who is this mystery person with the rare affinity for fire?"

Severus would have pondered the question but the blasted otter started hastily and forcefully shoving him toward the door once more. "Knock it off!" he bellowed. "You're worse than that hand-waving, obnoxious know-it-all! Too eager for attention!" The words had no longer left his mouth when his eyes widened again and he reached out and touched the otter once more. "Granger!" he said in disbelief. "I've always passed the sensation off as general annoyance, rather than the feel of the affinity." His voiced changed to one of annoyance. "The annoying, bossy, hyperactive otter makes sense now as well."

"Yes," replied Dumbledore stroking his beard. "But why did she send it, and to you of all people?"

"I have no idea." Severus drawled. Then it hit him, the Muggleborn best friend of Harry Potter would make a nice gift for any Death Eater trying to get back into the Dark Lord's graces. Giving Dumbledore a frantic look he demanded. "Lower the wards!"

As soon as Dumbledore closed his eyes and said "done" he apparated, letting the feel of the affinity, of her magic, pull his like a beacon.

….

Snape apperated into a scene of absolute mayhem. He appeared on the front lawn of a respectable yet modest home in a nice neighborhood in Muggle England. The house before him was billowing with smoke and flames, swirling in a howling wind. A familiar looking lump of black robes and white-blonde hair lay motionless on the grass. As much as he was loath to save the life of any Death Eater, those in such places on influence among the Dark Lord's followers he really would rather leave to expire on the Granger's lawn. However, it would look rather bad if he didn't at least stick an emergency portkey on one or two of them. With that thought he pulled a charmed knut from his pocket, activated it and tossed it in Malfoy's direction. A moment later Malfoy was gone.

Snape pulled his wand and blasted in the front door, then passed through the wall of fire with nary a singe. That was the beauty of having an affinity with fire, it greeted you as an old friend, as a loyal lap dog of sorts, eager to please and allow him passage unharmed. If only people were as loyal and accommodating.

He made his way cautiously through the house, wand held at the ready. When he entered the sitting room, he was met with a scene that would haunt his dreams for weeks to come. The room itself was eerily calm, like the eye of a storm. The room remained virtually untouched by flame. Mr. Granger lay in a grotesque and bloodied heap near the floo. Mrs. Granger lay crumpled with a glassy-eyed vacant stare a few feet from her husband. These scenes were nothing new to Severus Snape, he had been among the Death Eaters at too many raids, too many revels and 'information gathering' sessions to be phased by such. No, it was not that. It wasn't even the screams of Belatrix LeStrange as her skin blistered and peeled from her body as he tossed another portkey in her direction (she was the Dark Lord's favorite pet after all, with any luck she'll still die or at least be incapacitated for the remainder of the war), it was the wild-eyed girl kneeling in tattered clothes on the floor, irises dancing with flames, blue tendrils of fire licked up her body in an almost sensual display. Her left arm was outstretched toward a group of Death Eaters screaming and consumed by fire near the stairwell. Her right hand was wrapped around the throat of Dolohov who lay writhing and convulsing on the floor as he burned inside out. The look on Granger's face was one of pure vengeance and hatred. And the smell, the smell of burning flesh, bone and timber would cling to him and cloy his nose seemingly for days to come. In that moment she was the most terrifying and vengefully beautiful creature he had ever seen.

Snape took another step into the room. The other Death Eaters could stay there and burn for all he cared. He had already sent the two that mattered to the Dark Lord back to Malfoy manor, the rest were on their own. He crept cautiously toward the girl. She looked positively feral; the last thing he wanted was to become part of this Death Eater barbeque. He reached toward her to lay a hand on her shoulder moments before Dolohov gave his last dying spasm, choking on his own boiling blood. His hand passed through her protective cocoon of blue flame, noting in the back of his mind how they were almost cool to the touch. When his hand made contact with her shoulder, her eyes snapped to his. Snape was immediately overwhelmed with strong emotions as her eyes drew him in, confusion, fear, hatred, grief and an overwhelming sense of loss that made his chest tighten to the point where he could barely draw breath. He tried desperately to break that connection, he hadn't felt such crushing heartbreak for nearly 17 years. Not since he held Lilly's lifeless body to his own as he wailed in despair.

After what seemed like an eternity, Hermione grabbed his arm, pulled him off balance and launched herself into his arms, clutching his hair and the back of his robes as hoarse screams and choked sobs wracked her body. He lifted her awkwardly, stood and turned dispparating with a crack.

….

The front gates of Hogwarts parted before him. Still clutching the frantic girl awkwardly, Snape made his way up the long drive to the main doors where he was met by Dumbledore, Poppy and Minerva; the later clasping a hand over her mouth and the other clutching at the front of her tartan robes at the sight of the inconsolable girl still surrounded by cool blue flames in his arms. All three trailed silently behind him as he made his way to the infirmary.

"Sweet Merlin! Is she on fire?" Poppy asked aghast.

"In a way." Dumbledore replied. "They'll do her no harm as they are of her own creation, though I suggest that only Severus or I touch her until she is able to get them under control or is knocked unconscious since fire will not harm either of us."

The brisk walk to the infirmary felt like miles.

Once there, Poppy ran a few preliminary diagnostics before handing a potion to Snape, who with some difficulty, managed to pry the girl off him enough to tilt her head back and pour the contents down her throat causing her to choke and sputter, but none the less getting the strong calming draught into her system. Within moments Hermione slumped motionless against her Potions Professor, the flames surrounding her body winked out of existence as Snape gently laid her on the cot for a closer examination by Poppy.

"What is Nimue's name happened Severus?" Minerva demanded. She looked more shaken than he had ever seen her before. But then again, it's not every day when the resident Potions Master/Death Eater spy shows up with a bloodied, bruised, flaming student in his arms.

"A half dozen Death Eaters decided to throw Ms. Granger a welcome home party" Snape said with thinly veiled sarcasm and disgust. "The group from the ministry fiasco were most embarrassed to be beaten by a bunch of children and a few ragtag order members showing up at the last. I assume they were out for a little revenge and Ms. Granger and her family were the easiest targets." His voice softened as he added, "Her parents and her home are gone." He shook his head and Minerva let out a strangled gasp. Dumbledore implored him to continue with sad, weary eyes. "Ms. Granger looked to have been ambushed, she was without her wand and employing some pretty impressive wandless and wild magic. I'd be surprised if any of the Death Eater's survived, including Lucius and Belatrix, whom I portkey'd back to Malfoy manor."

Poppy approached with a sober look. "The poor thing went through a round or two of cruiciatus, but she is otherwise physically well, no burns and a few minor scrapes and bruises. But I did overhear that she likely witnessed her parents' death." At Snape's nod she continued, "I'm worried more for her mental health. I suggest someone she trusts and can look to for comfort stays until she wakes. Though I don't think Mr. Potter nor Mr. Weasley would be a good choice. They may be more than she could handle at the moment."

"I agree." Minerva said. "I'll stay with her, in fact, not much could pull me away at the moment. Poor little lamb."

"Headmaster, I suggest we continue this debriefing in your office, it might be best to debrief by pensive." Snape suggested.

Dumbledore nodded in agreement and with a last look at the girl on the cot, turned and exited the infirmary.