author's note: This fiction is AU. It is a bit Dark, but not always. When I say Dark, I simply mean that some bad things happen. But it will be sweet as well. This is a love story after all. My characters are probably OOC as well, and for that I apologize to those of you that detest that. Still, I hope whomever does read this, will enjoy it.

Disclaimer: I do not in any way own part of the Harry Potter franchise, nor did I create any of these fantastic characters; Ms. JK Rowling did. There might be a few OC's, but hopefully they will only add to my storyline.

Hermione Granger sat on the edge of her bed and stared out the window at the tree across the street. She thought it might be an elm, but tree species weren't exactly where her strengths lay. It had happened again. She and her parents had been sitting at the dining room table, silent as usual, when her father began speaking in that quiet tone that always inspired fear.

The school had called. They told her mother that all of the lights in the auditorium had blown out at the same time. All of the students from Year Five at her Primary School had been in the huge room watching Schindler's List. Hermione had never seen it before and it was heartbreaking. So when all of the lights burst, the educators just automatically thought of her. These days they blamed every little thing on her. William Granger was furious to get that call. He was embarrassed that his child could do such destruction. He was embarrassed that once again her mother had been called, and Helen Granger's work day had been disrupted. William and Helen were dentists. Their clientele consisted of some of the elite of London. They didn't have TIME to constantly be interrupted for these things.

William Granger's voice never rose above that quiet rage. "We have tried everything Hermione; exorcism, rebirthing, seclusion… the leather strap. Nothing seems to be able to heal you… rid you of these demons that are causing so much misery to your mother and I."

Hermione felt that quiet fear inside her belly start to squirm. Normally he would be yelling by now. And her mother… Helen just sat, staring past Hermione. Hermione gulped, a harsh bubble of air traveling down her throat, feeling sharp and painful. In front of her, the crystal dinner goblet cracked. All three pairs of eyes focused in on the once beautiful glass.

"You will leave this table now," William was almost trembling, he was that angry. "You will go to your bedroom and remain there until I come and get you."

Hermione moved quickly, not wanting her father to strike out at her physically. So now she sat, waiting for her punishment. She didn't know why these things kept happening. It wasn't logical. People couldn't make things happen with their minds. Ridiculous. But her parents believed that she was doing it. Deep inside… she knew she was doing it. It was almost as if she could feel something fill her up and push outward; sometimes it leaked, sometimes it exploded.

They'd loved her once, she thought with a sigh, her thin shoulders folding with despair. Hermione could clearly remember how they would go to the park and play and laugh. She remembered them taking her to movies, and to the mall for new school clothing. When had it changed? She couldn't remember when. Was there a specific point in time that they had stopped loving her? It was obvious they had. The cold, empty eyes that stared at her constantly made it quite evident. Hermione wondered if she should pack some things and go stay at the shelter. She'd done that before, and normally everything calmed down after a couple of days. The night lady at the shelter liked her, and would let her in, even if it was after admissions hours. Suddenly, with some clarity, Hermione could pinpoint when her life had become this Hell.

It had been when they began going to The Harvest Church. Three years ago they'd begun attending the services that the 'non-denominational' Church that one of the Granger's friends had suggested going. They had let Reverend Anthony into their lives. Where at one time the little things that happened around her amused them, once the reverend found out he began twisting them. They began believing whatever the man told them about their daughter being infested with demons. Why was it so easy for William and Helen Granger to believe something so utterly foolish?

She heard the doorbell ring and thought that she might be spared, depending on who had arrived. They didn't hit her when people were around. Hermione felt the tension flooding back into her body as her father's voice began getting louder, and louder. He was furious. Then he called for her to come downstairs.

Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape apparated behind a small copse of trees and began walking to the home of one Miss Hermione Granger.

"Why are you so excited about this student, Albus?" the dour man asked. "Normally you would have Minerva doing this. I don't know why you expect me to do this task."

"Miss Granger is a very special student, Severus," Albus's tone was giddy. "I sense she will become very important to you; to all of us."

"And what makes this Muggleborn so special?" Severus rolled his eyes behind Albus's back. He was growing quite tired of being dragged along on any whim the Headmaster had. And if the man thought this child would become 'special' to Severus, then he was fooling himself.

"Prophecy, dear boy, prophecy."

Snape felt his stomach clinch. Damn Dumbledore for his secrets and machinations. He acted as though these children were pawns on a chessboard which he could move as desired. "You haven't shared this prophecy… certainly it's separate from the Potter boy's?" Severus couldn't help the disdain that colored his words when speaking of James Potters' child.

"The two prophecies are different." Dumbledore admitted. Then his eyes flashed. "However, they could interlock if we play this game correctly. They are tied together in a way; or should be. I feel that it would be best to put Miss Granger into Mr. Potters' path. Perhaps the Weasley boy as well. I do believe that their youngest son will be attending. I might try to have a word with the hat."

"Perhaps you should let the children determine with whom they will build friendships? We do not even know what House any of them will be sorted into. Are you so sure the hat will listen?" After a moment of silence Snape spoke again, "So," Severus snapped. "are you going to share this hereto unmentioned prophecy?"

"Of course, I trust you completely Severus!"

Severus was getting a headache. He so wanted to tell the man what a fool he was.

Albus chuckled. "Strong, her heart and soul, as pure as any Pureblood born. Her blood will bring her pain.

To our own society, a shining beacon of hope and brilliance. Though, for now she is still a fragile flame.

The girl will grow strong, in mind, body and magic abilities. All whether she stands with the fiery, reborn bird, or he who shall not be named."

Severus kept his face blank, and his mind closed. "You realize that this is ridiculous. You couldn't possibly be sure that she is girl mentioned. It could be any girl, Half-Blood OR Muggle-Born."

"I am simply telling you that this girl will have a large part in determining the ending of this war." Again the old man chuckled upon seeing his Potion Master's face. "Whichever side she chooses to support… which is why we must do all we can to lead her to The Order. We must make sure all goes according to plan."

"I thought it was to be determined between He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, or the Potter boy? I thought one would have to destroy the other?" Severus frowned.

Dumbledore shrugged. "Partly. This prophecy was foretold the same evening as the Potter prophecy, but I didn't share it for many reasons. The most important is that it is much easier for Voldemort to only believe ONE prophecy exists. We hide this one… groom Miss Granger into our Order… and Harry will defeat Voldemort, paving the way of the Light."

William and Helen Granger sat in their family room and contemplated their options. Really, they had already decided. To be honest, the only reason they hadn't done anything before was pride. It would be humiliating to admit that they couldn't even help their own daughter. William grimaced, he thought they were just going to have to admit defeat.

There had always been odd little occurrences around Hermione. When she was barely walking, if she wanted a toy or stuffed animal that was too high for her to reach, somehow she got it. When she got upset things would break. Once she got so upset that it began to storm; a perfectly sunny day gone with the first sob. That was probably when they realized there was something wrong with their child; something they didn't know how to correct, or even control.

"Will," Helen's voice was soft. When he met her eyes she continued, "Reverend Anthony told us if the rebirthing didn't work he didn't know what else for us to do. I was so certain… when she stopped breathing, and we had to give her CPR, I was sure that small death would destroy the evil inside of her; I was so sure she'd be well. Perhaps… perhaps we should consider admitting her to a ward for the mentally ill?"

"That won't cure her, Helen," William sighed. "I just can't keep doing this."

Helen moved closer. "I know," she whispered. "It's exhausting. I never know if it will be a good day, or a bad day. I just wish…. I wish she was gone, Will, does that make me horrible?" Helen sighed heavily.

"If it does, then I am also horrible."

"So, we're really going to do it?" her voice was a whisper.

"I'll take her to children's services tomorrow," he confirmed. "Did you want to say goodbye first?"

"No." she shook her head. "No, I'm done."

"I will let her know to pack… Don't worry, Helen. I'll call Reverend Anthony to come with me tomorrow."

Helen looked scared. "That takes a lot of worry away. I'm so scared you'll tell her, and she'll hurt you."

"Fortunately, she hasn't hurt anyone yet… best we do this before she does."

They both jumped slightly as their doorbell chimed.

Helen stood and made her way to the door. "I wonder who it could be? It's so late." She looked through the peephole, and her head jerked back. "Will?" shock colored her voice.

"What's wrong, Love," he approached his wife.

"There are two men at the door wearing strange dresses," she hissed, the alarm evident.

"Wonder what they are selling?" William said scornfully. "Open the door, Helen. I'll speak with them."

She opened the door, and stood behind it, out of sight.

William sneered. Freaks. Two men stood on the porch. The elderly man had long gray hair, with an equally long, gray beard. This man stood slightly in front of the other, and looked at William with twinkling blue eyes, and a friendly smile on his wrinkled face. Small round spectacles perched on his nose. He wore a lime-green… bathrobe? Housecoat? Dress? William wasn't quite sure.

The other man was tall, pale and dark. He had a large, hooked nose, and beady black eyes. The man's hair hung black and limp to his shoulders. This man wore all black, and if he'd had the white collar, William would have thought him a priest.

"Good evening," the older of the two spoke in an especially friendly manner.

"What?" William snapped, causing the dark man to lift an eyebrow at him.

The old man spoke again. "Mr. and Mrs. Granger, isn't it?" his blue eyes sparkled as he spoke.

"Yes," William drew out the word, now suspicious. What did these two want?

"We've come to talk to you about your daughter, Hermione…"

Before he'd even finished speaking, both Grangers were scowling. "What did she do now?" Helen asked waspishly.

William sighed, "What did she destroy, and how much is it going to cost to replace it?" The man turned to look at his wife. "Just something else to show us we've made the right decision."

"Oh, no, I apologize, she hasn't done anything wrong. Let me introduce myself. My name is Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. I am Headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…"

William's face started turning red. "Is this some type of sick joke?" he spoke through gritted teeth.

Finally, the dark man spoke. "No, no joke," he emphasized the 'k'. "I am Professor Severus Snape, Professor of Potions, and we've come to offer your daughter an opportunity to attend our school."

Just as the elderly man, Dumbledore, looked to begin speaking again William interrupted him. "Witchcraft and wizardry?"

Helen crossed herself, but William had already moved to the stairs, and shouted. "Get down here now!"

Albus and Severus frowned, and were surprised by the way the Muggles were reacting. Not that they weren't used to shock, or even fear, goodness sometimes parents even fainted, but these people were radiating rage. Albus took a moment to use Legilimens on the Muggle. What he found in the man's mind filled him with dread. "We'll be taking her tonight," he muttered so that only Severus could hear him.

A small girl, with large teeth and bushy, brown hair came down the stairs as quickly, and silently as possible. The very definition of petite, she was small boned, with delicate facial features; which was probably what made her teeth look too big. A lovely, if awkward, girl, Hermione Granger wore brown corduroy pants which hung loosely on her too thin waist, and a blue t-shirt. Her eyes were wide with fright; dark circles smudging underneath them.

Snape scowled. The girl was too pale, too thin, too bruised, and too bloody scared. She stood, trembling slightly, with her hands clasped in front of her. "Yes, Father?" she whispered.

William grabbed her arm, and jerked her forward none too gently. "These men are here for you, Daughter. They just told me the funniest thing…" he let out a dark chuckle. "They say you're a witch."

Hermione's face went slack with shock. "What? N-n-no, Father! There's no such thing as a witch. I'm not a witch."

Helen stood and stared blankly at her only child. "It explains everything. All those things you make happen. All of the things you destroy. You're a child of the Devil. Reverend Anthony was right. You'll destroy this house."

"I've had enough of this," William's voice was hard. "You would know this tomorrow anyway, but you're no longer welcome in our home. I, along with Reverend Anthony, will drop you off at children's services tomorrow. I would suggest taking this time to pack the remainder of your belongings, and then stay in the bedroom until I come for you tomorrow morning."

Dumbledore and Snape looked at each other. "Am I correct in assuming you're giving up custody of Miss. Granger?"

Snape wanted to sigh. How perfectly it seemed things were working out for Dumbledore's plans.

"Not that it's any of your business, but yes. We will no longer have a child."

So many thoughts whirled through Hermione's mind. Fear of being on her own. Hurt that they didn't want her. Hope that her life would get better. "There's no need for you to take me tomorrow. I can go to the shelter tonight… on my own."

William nodded once, "That does sound better. You have fifteen minutes to get your belongings and never come back. I can't take your last name away, your Grandmother Granger made that impossible. And she left you quite wealthy with your trust, so I know you'll survive." Then he looked at the two men who'd interrupted their evening. "Get out of our house."

It took Hermione less than the allotted fifteen minutes to get her meager belongings. She didn't understand what had happened. She was only eleven. How was she supposed to live? Certainly, she had the money from her Grandmother, her paternal grandmother, but she couldn't live on her own. Couldn't, well couldn't her parents get into trouble for this? She was certain this was some form of abuse… neglect… something. Not that she wasn't used to that. Hermione couldn't comprehend that her parents were giving her up… she was not wanted any longer. That burned deep in her belly.

She stood on the porch, the front door swinging shut. Hermione felt lost. It felt like that door had just shut on her life. Well, she was intelligent, wasn't she? Sometimes too intelligent really. Hermione had no friends at school because of her intelligence. It made her angry. Hermione really wanted to get away from the house before her anger got the better of her. Sometimes when she was in a temper… things happened. She would just have to figure this whole thing out. For this night though, she would have to go to the shelter which lay six blocks away.

With that destination in mind, Hermione barely noticed as she walked past the two flabbergasted men in bathrobes.

This had never happened to them before. Never had they approached a Muggle family and had this sort of reaction, and certainly, none had ever disowned their child in such a way; in front of strangers no less. Now they found themselves staring at her back as she moved away from them.

It was almost a flashback for Severus Snape. His parents had never thrown him onto the streets, but the abuse… Merlin the abuse this child had suffered. Severus's eyes narrowed, he knew Albus would use this opportunity to mold the girl. The girl was young, probably impressionable. The old man would have her wrapped around his finger in no time. "I will take her on, Albus."

It was easy to see the girl was in shock. "Miss Granger," Albus called out as she walked. His mind was filled with the possibilities. As sad as it was, her parents tossing her away, this would put him in a good position to have total access to the girl.

She stopped and turned back to look at the strange man.

"Miss Granger, my name is Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, and we came here to offer you a place with the other students matriculating in September at our school."

Hermione's head tilted to the side. "School?"

"It's a very special school," he told her, moving closer. "For people with your special abilities."

Hermione knew, she just knew he was talking about the things that happened around her. "We aren't supposed to talk about the incidents," she whispered.

"There, there child," Albus put his hand on the young girl's shoulder. "You are not evil, nor are you the spawn of some devil. You are a Witch… a prestigious title, my dear. And at our school, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, we shall teach you everything you need to know."

"There are more people who can do those… things?" she asked, a glimmer of excitement showing. Hermione wasn't sure she liked the man putting his hand on her, but she'd managed to create a mask so that none of her feelings would show. Well, unless she wanted them to.

"Oh yes," he told her with a pleased smile. "We teach children from first to seventh years."

Hermione's eyes flickered to the dark man, "What does this school teach?" He looked extremely grouchy; no twinkling eyes for him. However, Hermione thought that she liked him better for it. Honesty. He was honest with his unhappiness.

Snape quirked an eyebrow at the girl. Odd, he'd been sure she'd pay him no heed. Life was beginning to shine in the girl's amber eyes. "I am Professor Snape, I am a Potions Master," he told her. "I teach Potions. There are many other classes to take. Perhaps we should return to the school? You could become acquainted with it."

Her excited smile dropped. "Oh, I'm on my way to the shelter…"

"Shelter?" he inquired.

"Yes," she nodded. "I've stayed there a few times. Sometimes, when they're angry," her eyes flickered back to the home she'd lived in for eleven years. "Well, sometimes it's just best to find somewhere else to be." The small girl gave a huge sigh, her thin shoulders raising and dropping with it.

"Miss Granger," Albus spoke gently. "There is no need for you to go to a shelter. You can return to the Castle with us, and stay there until the new term starts. We'll make sure you are able to collect your supplies, and whatever else you might need."

Hermione knew she was taking a risk. She had grown up being told to never wander off with strangers, and she could go to the shelter. But… it sounded so much like an adventure, and she had always wanted an adventure. She was on her own now. "Will you tell me more about other Witches and Wizards?"

"Of course," Albus Dumbledore told her affably. "Severus, take care of the Muggles' memories, would you?"

Snape nodded sharply. It took him less than five minutes to modify the Grangers' memory with an Obliviate.

Hermione had to admit, the castle was beautiful. She had never seen anything like it. When leaving her neighborhood, Headmaster Dumbledore had told her they were going to travel by apparating. She wasn't sure she liked it. Landing had been difficult, she'd lost her balance, and she felt slightly nauseous. Currently, she stood against the bars of the wrought iron fence, her small hands wrapped around the bars, and stared in awe. "I want to know more," she whispered.

"We'll make sure to get you to the library. I would suggest starting out with Hogwarts: A History," Dumbledore twinkled at her. "Severus, would you show Miss Granger her chambers, and then perhaps after breakfast we can show her the library? Oh, and make sure to introduce her to Shinny."

Severus wanted to refuse, however, he knew he must not. Albus would be displeased, and he had told Dumbledore that he would be her magical Guardian. So he did as he was told, took the girl to a guest suite, and introduced her to Shinny, the house elf.

1 Wk later

Severus came through the floo at Malfoy Manor, and was immediately greeted by Narcissa Malfoy.

"Severus! I'm so glad you managed to come this evening. Draco was just talking about how excited he is to start attending Hogwarts, and your Potions class."

"Draco is already on his way to becoming a fine young potioneer," Severus smiled at the blonde woman slightly, but his eyes were tired and bleak.

Narcissa frowned, "Severus, what's wrong?" She placed her hand on his arm. He looked so tense, like a wire stretched until it finally snapped. And there was that something in his eyes. "Has something happened?"

"I have much to tell you all," he told her softly.

Just then Lucius Malfoy came into the room. "Severus, my dear friend, when did you get here?"

Snape looked at the man who had been his best friend from almost the beginning of his education at Hogwarts, and induction into Slytherin. "Only moments ago."

Narcissa moved over to her husband. "Darling, something has upset Severus."

Before his friend could question him, Snape lifted a hand, "I have already told your lovely wife that I will speak at supper."

Lucius looked worried. He just knew this had something to do with that manipulative old fool. "Should I have Draco eat upstairs in his rooms this evening?"

Snape shook his head in the negative. "No, this will eventually affect him. And my Godson knows how to keep his own counsel."

It wasn't long before a house elf came to inform them that their meal was ready.

Draco, smiled and greeted his Uncle before taking a seat. His Godfather looked troubled. Draco figured that meant he should eat quietly, unless spoken to. They were obviously going to speak in his presence, otherwise he would have been relegated to his rooms. That he was being allowed to attend made him feel a sense of pride.

"I went with Albus to speak to a Muggle-born family about their daughter attending Hogwarts in the coming year."

"Doesn't Minerva normally handle those situations?" Narcissa asked.

"Yes, indeed she does," his voice was quiet. "We got to the girl's home and… it was truly like nothing we'd ever seen before. We were there but moments, and the girl's parents disowned her. It seems that for a while now the parents have fallen to some outside influence; they've been abusing the child."

Draco's mouth dropped open. While he had no love for muggle-borns, he couldn't imagine how that would feel. He shuddered at the thought.

"They… beat her? Disowned her?" Narcissa was aghast. There were many reasons for children to be disowned by their parents, but the child was eleven. What could she have done? And being beaten? The only time a child was struck in their society was when a serious misdeed had occurred. Even then it wasn't truly a physical beating, more like something to startle the child into realizing what they'd done wrong.

Severus rubbed his forehead. "The home was filled with abuse. It was like attending a reenactment of the Witch Trials. They've been made to believe she is possessed by evil, and that her accidental magic is caused by this evil. They have tried many methods to exorcise these demons. The girl is so thin, her bones press against her flesh, and that flesh looks paper thin. Looking into their thoughts... they've whipped her with a strap until she passed out, tried an exorcism," at his words Narcissa gasped. "Once she stopped breathing during some 'treatment' of making her try to crawl through blankets held tightly closed. The girl had to fight her way through it. They were vile acts. Worse than anything I ever saw the Dark Lord perform."

Lucius looked at his knew that Severus's childhood had been wretched, and he supposed that was what was upsetting Severus. He knew he had to let his friend finish speaking. But he did have to wonder why Albus would personally go and retrieve this girl. Albus Dumbledore rarely did anything without having a plan of action.

"She is a highly intelligent child. She's been at the castle for a week, and spends most of her free time in the library." Snape grimaced. "When we first arrived at the child's home, I asked Albus why we were doing the job that Minerva normally carries out. There is a prophecy."

All three Malfoy's leaned back with a gasp. It would have been amusing, if not for the reason.

"I thought the only prophecy was dealing with the Potter boy," Lucius hissed.

"As did I my friend, as did I," Severus sneered. "He informed me ten feet from the girl's door. He stated that it was better for the Dark Lord to only know of one prophecy. It's taken me the better part of this week, but I have located the prophecy… without having to go to the bloody Ministry." He rubbed his face with both hands. "He said that she would help determine the way in which the war ends. Who will rule." He held out a small sheet of parchment to Lucius.

Lucius opened the folded paper, and read out loud.

"Strong; her heart and soul, as pure as any Pureblood born. Her blood will bring her pain.

To our own society, a shining beacon of hope and brilliance. Though, for now she is still a fragile flame.

The girl, powerful, in mind, body and abilities. All whether she stands with the bird born of fire, or he who shall not be named."

"He's planning on using her as a chess piece in his little games then?" Lucius muttered.

"Yes. He has already begun the whispers of blood purity, the hatred between the different houses. He's filling her with fear of Purebloods and Slytherins. He talks of the Dark Lord, and how the Dark Lord wishes all Muggle-Born dead. And he wishes to put her in the path of Potter, and the youngest Weasley boy. He wants to mold her into the perfect little Order member. I wouldn't be surprised if he's already planning a betrothal for her."

"How is the girl taking to these machinations?" Narcissa asked softly.

"I do not know. I have only seen her at meals," he sighed. "He is going to try to cajole the hat into putting her into Gryffindor."

Draco wanted to gag. Gryffindors… stupid sods. He thought the Headmaster was supposed to be all honest; the supposed leader of the light. Besides, why did the old man think he needed to talk the hat into anything? She was a muggle-born, it's not like it would put her in Slytherin.

"Will someone be named her Guardian?" Narcissa questioned. Her mind was already spinning and planning with all of the possibilities. She met her husband's eyes for but a moment, but had a feeling he too was considering all.

"Dumbledore wishes for me to be the girl's Guardian. I expect he thinks that will pull me more into the Order, perhaps he thinks he can use her as a spy for him to make sure I follow his rules."

Now Lucius looked concerned. "Do you think he suspects that you are not truly loyal to his cause?"

Snape waved this away. "No. I am protected from him. I simply believe that anything he has that can draw the Order of the Phoenix closer, anything that will give him the upper-hand, that is what he looks for. He probably believes that the Dark Lord will banish me if I am raising the child, instead of killing her."

"That's ridiculous. He really does not know our Lord at all, does he? You are far too valued by our Lord for him to care whether or not you are guiding a child of any birth. The Dark Lord himself initiated three Muggle-borns before he passed. The man simply had high standards." Narcissa said, and then motioned the elves to deliver dessert. "So, he wishes for you to watch over the little Muggle-born…" Suddenly Narcissa gave a bright smile, she knew he would do so. As soon as he'd described the girl's suffering she'd known. "Well, I think that as your closest, and dearest friends, you should introduce us to the little love."

Snape raised one eyebrow.

"Oh, come now, Severus, if that man has been filling the girl's head with horror stories of Purebloods hating Muggle-borns, don't you think it would be wise to let her meet some of these 'monsters'?" the elegant blonde woman smiled smugly.

Albus had informed Severus that the Potions Master would be taking the little chit to get her school supplies. The Headmaster had not looked happy at the time, and had not even given the Potions Professor time to decline before moving away at an agitated pace. Now, Severus had to locate the girl. He had a feeling she was in the Library.