Severus Snape was in his office grading papers, liberally meting out the red ink to his less than competent students, and applying more to those he thought could go far in this field. So busy was he that he almost failed to notice the Headmaster of Hogwarts enter his office. Only almost.

"Headmaster, please, have a seat."

"Thank you Severus, but I can't stay long. I only came by to remind you she's coming back tomorrow."

"Tomorrow? Albus you told me I had two more days to prepare."

"There's been an accident. Nothing serious, I assure you," Dumbledore said holding up a hand, for Severus had almost come out of his seat. "It seems Lucius Malfoy has taken notice of her again. Therefore, I was informed that the family had no more wish to watch her, and would be sending her along tomorrow."

"When did this happen?"

"I recieved the letter this morning. She is fine, Severus. She sends her love, if I interpret her handwriting correctly." Dumbledore handed Severus the letter.

"Thank you for telling me. I will have to rearrange my room again."

"Then I leave you to your redecorating. And please, Severus, don't blame her for being found. She'll know." With that last warning, Albus Dumbledore left Severus Snape alone to read the letter.

"Dear Daddy,
Please don't be mad. I know I wasn't supposed to come early, but Jeanelle said I should. I think she was scared of Malfoy. He was being nasty when we saw him. Ami says she'd like to 'knock his block off.' I don't think that's very nice, but he wasn't being very nice either. Jeanelle says he gives her the shivers.
And she's calling me to dinner. All my love Daddy. I miss you.

"Great," Snape muttered. Lucius had done the only thing that could frighten him. Found his child and tormented her. Millicent never wrote an extra letter unless she was upset.

Shoving the stack of papers to one side of his desk, Snape prepared to meet his first class of the day. Double potions with Gryffindor and Slytherin. If there was one class he did not need to be in a bad mood for, it was that one.

Firstly there was Harry Potter, celebrated defeator of Voldemort on three separate occasions. Normally such a feat would please Snape, however Harry had a irritating habit of breaking rules to do it. Potter had no regard for his own safety. Nor, for the safety of his friends.

Then there was Ronald "Ron" Weasley. Second youngest child of the largest wizarding family at Hogwarts, Ron felt the need to get attention for himself, as any child of a large family might. Weasley also had a hot temper. It got him into trouble because he could not keep his mouth shut when he was angry.

Lastly, and perhaps the one person Snape hated to see, there was Draco Malfoy. Son of Snape's second greatest enemy, Draco had a habit of forcing Snape to pretend he was his favorite student. Malfoy Jr. was, as Malfoy Senior, an idiot.

On the other end of that spectrum was Hermione Granger. Mudblood, or not, Granger was his best student, without question. The only annoying habit she possessed was a tendency to answer for others. There was only so far genius could take a person before they became know-it-alls.

The reason Snape dreaded having a class with such a brilliant student was simply because Snape had discovered something last year. Hermione was becoming more and more attractive, and, as a man, Snape could not deny the truth. He, the "meanest bastard in England," had fallen for one of his students.

To top it all off, Millicent would be here tomorrow. Snape had hoped to have one more day to prepare to hide this from her. Having to stare at the reminder of a stupid crush that had brought him more trouble than any person could stand, and his new crush in the same glance; this was going to be more than he could take. Worse, it was only the first week of the school year. From the looks of things, Millicent would be there all year.

"Potter!" he snapped, as Potter raced into the classroom. "You will walk to class like everyone else, or-"

"Professor, Hermione's hurt! Malfoy was trying to start something with Ron, and Hermione stepped in the middle."

Snape needed to hear no more. He rushed out of the classroom into the cold hallway. Hermione was lying curled up on the floor, with Ron glaring daggers at Malfoy. Malfoy started to speak as soon as he saw Snape, but Snape silenced him with a gaze that could burn holes in solid steel.

"Miss Granger, can you hear me?" he asked, kneeling over her still form.

"Yes," she managed to gasp.

"I need to take you to the infirmary. Can you walk?"

"Maybe," she told him, but she seemed uncertain. Deciding any further wait would only hurt her, Snape swept Hermione up in his arms.

"Potter, go and fetch McGonagall. And neither of you," he said, looking at Malfoy and Ron, "Had better disappear. Or I will set you up with the most grueling detention you can imagine."

Snape wished he was a medi-wizard. Just for a moment. He wanted to treat Hermione himself, hear her thank him, see her smile at him. Telling himself to stop being ridiculous, Snape hurried up to the medical wing. With a word, the doors to the Hospital Wing opened. He almost dropped Hermione in his surprise.

Standing there, being inspected closely, was his seven-year-old daughter. He stood stock still, staring at her. Millicent had her back to him, yet he was certain she was aware of him. Her black hair was pulled back in a messy braid, that fell to the band of her skirt. It was an American hippie skirt, painted red over black, giving it an orange-ish look. She was wearing a black velvet shirt with bell sleeves, and at the ends he could see her tiny hands clenched into fists.

A little groan from Hermione reminded Snape of the precious burden he carried. He swiftly placed her in a bed. How much he wanted to assure her she would be all right, yet that would not fit with her perception of him, and only confuse her. Turning back, he watched Madam Pomfrey applying something to Millicent's face. Finally he coughed politely.

"Madam Pomfrey, Miss Granger requires your attention."

"Is she dying Severus?" Madam Pomfrey asked, looking up. Millicent turned her little face to her father. She gave him a little smile, and Severus could see nothing wrong with her.


"Then she can wait for another minute. Millicent, look at me, please."

Severus watched as Madam Pomfrey smeared some white cream on Millicent's face. He saw her flinch, and listened to Madam Pomfrey's gentle apology. When Madam Pomfrey finished and wiped her hands on her apron, Severus stepped forward to speak with his child. Millicent turned to look up at him.

"Millicent, how. . ?" Severus stared down at his daughter's face. It looked as if she had been stuck across the face with a cane.

"Leave the glamour off for now, Millicent," Madam Pomfrey admonished Millicent before turning to inspect Hermione.

"How did this happen?" Severus asked, running his fingers lightly along the edges of the bruise.

Millicent did not answer, but rolled up her left sleeve. A vicious looking burn ran along the top of her lower arm. When he looked in her eyes, he did not have to ask where Jeanelle and Ami were. The answer was obvious. Painfully so.

"He found you." It was not a question. Millicent blinked away tears and nodded slowly.

"Severus, can you take her? I have enough to do with Miss Granger."

"I can not take her. I have a class."

"She won't cause any trouble," Madam Pomfrey said. Severus leaned in to Madam Pomfrey and whispered in her ear,

"I have Malfoy in my class. He would cause trouble for me if he sees her."

"All right," Madam Pomfrey grumbled. "Millicent, please sit here with Hermione. It will be nice for her to see a friendly face."

Severus swept out. Millicent watched him go, even as she sat down in the chair the nurse had pulled out for her. It felt so strange to be here, but not with him. He always wanted her to stay close. This time, however, he seemed to be afraid to keep her close to him.

"Millicent dear, please talk with Hermione to keep her calm. She is in a lot of pain."

"Hello," Millicent said uncertainly. It had been years since she said very much to anyone.

"Hello," Hermione said through clenched teeth. Millicent relaxed out of pity.

"My name is Millicent, Hermione. I got hurt too, but Madam Pomfrey made it all better. Don't be scared, she'll take good care of you too."

"I'm not scared," Hermione said stubbornly. Millicent smiled.

"Of course you aren't. You're a big kid. Big people don't get scared of silly things. You're awful smart, aren't you? Ami said smart people are pretty, and you're pretty."

Hermione was at a loss for words. No one had ever called her pretty. Okay, maybe her mother and father, but they were parents; obligated to say so. It felt good to be complimented on her looks and her knowledge at the same time.

"Do you like books?" Millicent continued, "I like reading things. I'm not so good yet, but Ami said that I'll be really good soon. I hope so. I want Daddy to hear me read. Maybe we can do that tonight."

"Who's your dad?" Hermione asked. She was discovering she liked listening to this little girl, stranger though she might be.

"He's a teacher," Millicent said. She was looking at Madam Pomfrey, as if seeking permission.

"Oh? Which teacher?"

"Professor Snape," Madam Pomfrey told Hermione, gently lifting her to a sitting position. Hermione tried not to stare.

"I know, he acts mean lots. He told me lots of kids don't like him. Do you?" Millicent asked, blinking her aqua colored eyes at Hermione.

"Er, well, he's a good teacher."

"But he's mean to you," Millicent said, startling Hermione. "I understand. He's mean to me some times too. He said he doesn't mean it, 'cause he just gets upset."

"That shirt has to come off so I can bandage your chest. The bra too," Madam Pomfrey instructed Hermione.

"How did you know he was mean to me?" Hermione asked as she complied. Millicent did not even glance away.

"Daddy says he's mean to everyone. Even Dumbledore and Lupin," Millicent added with wide eyes.

"You know Lupin?" Hermione raised her arms so Madam Pomfrey could bandage her chest.

"He's my mommy's friend. He's my friend too, but we didn't get to see each other much when I hadda go to America."

"You were in America?" Hermione asked incredulously. Madam Pomfrey was almost finished bandaging her chest.

"Mmhmm," Millicent replied. She blinked, and her eyes got wide. She spun around in the chair and cried, "Daddy!"

Standing in the doorway, his eyes wide, Severus Snape was staring right at Hermione. Or rather, Hermione's bare chest. Hermione went beet red, and Snape tore his eyes away. Millicent was in front of him in an instant, scolding him rather loudly.

"Daddy, you musn't look! Boys aren't supposed to see those things! Out out out!" She pushed him towards the door. He allowed himself to be pushed, mostly because he was still trying to recollect his thoughts.

"Stop pushing me," he muttered. Millicent looked right up at him, her little face scrunched up stubbornly.

"You shouldn't have looked! You hafta 'pologize when she gets dressed again."

"And you're the boss?"

"Mmhmm. You were thinkin' bad things 'gain, Daddy. I heard you."

"Wonderful," Snape muttered. Remembering the purpose of his visit, he knelt down to embrace her, after a quick glance to be sure the hall was empty.

"I'm not gonna go easy on ya, just 'cause you're bein' nice ta me," Millicent said softly.

"That sounds like Jeanelle talking," Snape said with a smile. He patted his daughter's black hair.

"She usta say that. Daddy, I'm sorry I didn't save her. I tried, honest!"

"Oh, baby, I know you did. Dumbledore told me all about it. You don't have to worry about that. It wasn't your fault."

"But he was tryin' ta get me, not them! Why'd he hurt them?" Millicent's eyes were quickly filling with tears. The last thing Severus wanted was a melt down in the hallway, where they could easily be spotted.

"Because he is an evil man. Let's go to my quarters. We can talk more there."

"But shouldn't I come after you? So no one can see us together?" Severus cursed himself for not remembering her abilities.

"I don't want you-"

"Walking alone," Millicent finished for him. She looked down. "Can I hold your hand?"

"Millicent," he began, but it was too late. She kept her eyes on the ground and started walking.

"I understand, Daddy." Severus wanted to swear. She knew how important this was for their safety.

"I'm sorry, Millicent. I truly am."

"I know." The rest of the walk was passed in silence; even mentally Millicent was wordless.

When they arrived at his quarters, Snape opened the door for her. She entered ahead of him. After shutting the door behind him, Severus swept her up into a tender embrace. Millicent cried quietly into his shirt.

"I'm sorry, love. I'm so sorry. You know I love you."

"I know, Daddy," Millicent managed around her sobs. "I just want to be with you."

"I know, love. I know. I just have to keep you safe. And the only way to keep you safe is to stay detached from you where they can see."

"But. . ." Millicent became quiet, silent tears leaking out of her eyes. Severus found a seat in the high-backed black chair by his fireplace.

"But what?" he asked Millicent gently when they were settled.

"I just wish I could be close to you always, like the other kids can." Severus sucked in a sharp breath. He held very close and whispered in her ear,

"I promise you the moment we are free from this, I will take you and give you the biggest hug in front of as many people as we can find."

"You're silly sometimes, Daddy," Millicent laughed. Severus breathed a sigh of relief. He hated to see her cry. It scared him; scared him more than Voldemort.

"Daddy?" Millicent asked, her voice soft. She had laid her head against his chest.

"Yes, love?"

"Do you love Hermione too?" Severus started up, dropping her on the floor in his shock.

"What gives you that idea?' he demanded.

"You thought it. In the hospital wing. . . right before you thought those dirty things." Millicent said from her new seat on the floor.

"Damn it! Don't you dare tell anyone about that!" Snape snapped at her. Millicent tucked her legs under her, not looking at him.

"I won't. They're /i thoughts."