This is Book 3 of the Rachel Snow series. I strongly suggest you read Book 1 (Swiftly Falling Snow) and Book 2 (Snow Drift) first.

Content Notes: Kidnapping. Past child abuse and neglect (discussed), past sexual abuse (private message me if you want details in advance) (discussed).

A special thanks to my beta reader EmeraldSnakes who has spent the past nine months surviving me talking about this fic nonstop and has graciously edited this fic.

This fic updates on Saturdays and is cross-posted on AO3.

"Here's your trunk, let me know if you need anything," Professor Snape said as he set Rachel's trunk down at the foot of her bed and tapped it with his wand to return it to its usual size.

"Professor Snape, that's a different charm than the Shrinking charm we were taught in class, isn't it?" Rachel asked.

"Yes, it is. This charm is specifically for containers or packages, as it keeps everything within the container at its usual size and prevents any mishaps with potions ingredients or magical artifacts," Professor Snape said. "And, as I've mentioned before, in private you may call me Severus."

Rachel looked down at her feet. "That seems like I'm disrespecting you though."

"You're not, as I've given you permission to do so. As long as we're not in class or in front of other students, you should use my given name," he said. "Get settled in. I'll be downstairs."

Rachel nodded and watched as he left. It still seemed so weird that he wanted her to call him Severus. She wondered, if her parents had been alive, would they have wanted her to call them mom and dad, like Hermione and Millie did, or would she have called them mother and father, like Draco and Theo did? She hoped that it would have just been mom and dad, it seemed more informal.

She went to her trunk and started to unpack. Her stuffed bunny was on top and it went directly onto her pillow.

Her clothes all went in her wardrobe. She was going to need to have Professor Snape - Severus - do another tailoring charm on them. She was still the shortest in her class, but she had grown some over the school year. Hopefully she'd grow some more over the summer too - she was tired of being short.

Her new two-way book went on her bed so that she could check it after she'd unpacked. With seven of them writing in it there was almost always something new. The rest of her books she sorted through. Fiction went on her bookshelf, school books and her old two-way book stayed in her trunk until it was time to do her summer homework, and the pile of Lockhart books got shoved in the back of her wardrobe where she wouldn't have to look at them. She certainly had no intention of reading them again.

She put all of her quills on her desk along with the sheets of parchment she had left over - she'd have to buy more before classes started. She checked over her quills as well, deciding that she needed some more of the self-inking quills before school started again - she set aside two that were completely worn out to be thrown away.

The bottom of her trunk had a mess of her old assignments that had been graded and handed back. She stuffed those in her desk to be sorted out later. Some of the essays she could probably use later when it came time to revise for OWLs. She left her father's invisibility cloak inside her trunk. She knew Professor Snape - Severus - didn't like her to have it, so she kept it put away so he wouldn't think she was using it. Her father's copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard went on her bookshelf and she set her mother's jewelry box on top of her desk.

Rachel had already put her broom in the corner of her bedroom and she went to the window and looked out at the farmland behind the house. It was a beautiful summer day and she wanted to spend at least some of it in the air. She wondered if there was a way to make temporary goal posts in the yard that were low enough that they couldn't be seen by any passing muggles.

It was at least worth asking Severus.

She closed her trunk and sat down on her bed and said the password to open up her two-way book while holding the tip of her wand on the cover. Sure enough there were several new messages.

'Has anyone started their history essay yet?' was written in Hermione's handwriting.

'We've only been out of school for a week. Take a break. Really,' Theo had written back.

'But A History of Magic hardly has anything on medieval witch burnings. How does Binns expect us to write a two foot essay with just this?' Hermione had replied.

'I'll see if my father's library has anything and if so I'll write you down some quotes. Just promise me you'll take a break,' Theo had written back.

'I can ask Professor Snape if he has any book recommendations,' Rachel wrote. She waited for a moment and when no one immediately wrote back she closed her book.

Rachel resettled her bunny on her pillow and went downstairs.

Severus was sitting at the kitchen table with the Daily Prophet and a cup of tea.

"Gladys," Rachel said, recognizing the barn owl sitting on a perch near the window. Gladys had stayed with them last summer as well. She went and offered Gladys her fingers and then gave her head a soft scratch.

"She arrived not long after we did. I suspect Albus sent her our way," Severus said. "By the way, there's something you might want to see in the paper."

Rachel was flooded with dread. "What are they saying about me now?" She was growing to hate the Daily Prophet.

"You are only briefly mentioned, and it's not written by Rita Skeeter. Here," Severus said, handing her the paper.

The headline on the bottom of the first page read 'Gilderoy Lockhart: Fired and a Fraud, by Abacus Turner'.

She quickly read through the article, which detailed Lockhart being fired from Hogwarts and stated that two Hogwarts students, Hermione Granger and Rachel Snow, had investigated his works and discovered numerous inconsistencies. It then went on to list some of the major inconsistencies. "They used our notes! Professor Dumbledore must have shown them to the reporter."

"I hope that's alright with you," Severus said, looking at Rachel as she handed him the paper.

"It is. I'm glad they did it this way and didn't make a big deal over who I am. They didn't even write the girl-who-lived once," Rachel said. "It's just like I was any other student."

"I was glad of that as well," he said.

"Oh. I wanted to ask you, do you know any good books that talk about medieval witch burnings?" Rachel asked.

"Not off the top of my head. Why?" he asked.

"It's one of our homework topics. Apparently A History of Magic doesn't cover it very in depth," Rachel said.

"It likely does an adequate job if you're supposed to write your homework from it. However, if you'd like, we can ask one of the clerks at Flourish and Blotts what book they might recommend on the subject," Severus said. "You do realize that you can take a break and have a few weeks without homework?"

"I know," Rachel said. She'd planned to take at least another week without doing any of it. "Should I wait until after lunch to go flying?"

"That seems wise, we need to go to the shop to pick up the basics for food. Why don't you go get your shoes on and we can make a quick trip to the grocers," Severus said.

"Alright," Rachel agreed. She'd have to wait to tell Hermione about the newspaper article and Severus' suggestion for getting a book until after lunch.

Rachel was just finishing her breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast when a large eagle-owl flew through the open window and came directly over to her.

"Thank you," she told it as she accepted the envelope it was carrying.

The eagle-owl turned and immediately flew back out the window, upsetting Gladys a bit as he clipped her with one of his wings.

"From Draco Malfoy, I imagine," Severus said, looking at the wax seal on the envelope.

Rachel looked at it more closely and saw that in the black wax there was a stylized M on a shield with dragons surrounding it. "At least I'm getting mail that's addressed to me now," she said. For whatever reason last year she hadn't been able to receive mail while at Severus' house.

"That is odd, yes," Severus agreed.

She opened the envelope and found a stiff card inside inviting her to Draco Malfoy's birthday party on Saturday, July 10th. "It's for Draco's birthday," she said, offering the card to Severus.

Severus took the card and examined it. "I suggest that we attend, unless you are adverse to the idea."

"I don't mind going," Rachel said. Draco was sort of her friend and they were teammates on the Slytherin Quidditch team.

"Much the same as last year, there are caveats. Do not go anywhere alone with another adult. If one of them asks you to, tell them you can't and that you need to speak with me. Then come find me. Same thing if one of the children asks you to go with them. Try to stay with the group. If anyone does something odd or if you feel uncomfortable, come find me. I'll make certain I'm available to you," Severus said, his gaze intense.

Rachel nodded. "I remember. They're Death Eaters."

"Precisely," he said. "Do you need assistance in getting a gift for Draco?"

"No, I have some ideas," Rachel said.

"Let me know if you would like me to pay for it or order it for you," Severus offered.

"Okay," Rachel agreed, though she thought she had it well in hand. She stuffed the last of her toast in her mouth and then went to the sink to wash her plate and silverware. At some point she was going to remember to look up a dish washing charm, though she didn't mind doing it by hand.

After she dried and put her plate and silverware away she went upstairs and got a sheet of parchment and a quill and went to her bed, intending on writing a letter to Flourish and Blotts. She opened her two-way book and found a slightly splattered message from Ginny.

'My dad won the Daily Prophet Grand Prize Galleon Draw! 700 Galleons, can you believe it? My mom and dad are making quick arrangements for us to take a portkey to Egypt to visit my older brother Bill. We're going to stay for a month!'

Rachel smiled. She knew Ginny's family was quite poor so it was good that they were going to get to go on a trip.

'That's great! I'm sure you'll have a good time,' Rachel wrote.

'That's wonderful. My parents are taking me to France. We'll have to compare notes about our trips, which is really easy to do with our books,' Hermione wrote a moment later.

'You'll both have to tell us all about it. I'm sure it's more exciting than staying here,' Theo wrote.

Rachel hesitated and then decided it was really the only place she could ask. 'Theo, did you get invited to Draco's birthday party too?'

'Yes. I got my invitation yesterday,' Theo wrote.

'What are you planning to get him? I was thinking something about the Falmouth Falcons.' The Falcons were Draco's favorite Quidditch team in the league.

'I don't know. My father usually picks Draco's gift. It's as much of a surprise to me as it is to Draco. We wouldn't want to offend Lucius Malfoy,' Theo wrote back.

Rachel frowned as she puzzled over that. 'What sort of gifts would offend him?'

'I have no idea, but that's what my father said when I tried to pick out a Sneakoscope to give him when we were seven years old. After that, I just let him handle the gifts.'

'Weird. Hopefully he doesn't find Quidditch offensive. I think it wouldn't be, because they have a Quidditch pitch in their yard, right?' Rachel wrote.

'I'm sure Quidditch stuff is fine. Draco will like it at least,' Theo wrote.

Deciding that she'd check with Severus before she bought anything, Rachel began her letter to Flourish and Blotts, asking what books they had about the Falmouth Falcons and what books they'd recommend that detailed the witch burnings in the fourteenth century.

She rolled up the letter and grabbed her broom and her practice Snitch. Marcus had told them to stay in shape and in practice over the summer and she wasn't about to risk her spot on the team by not practicing.

"What's that?" she asked when she went into the kitchen.

Severus had a drawing spread out in front of him and was making annotations with a quill. "The final design for the cellar. I believe this will provide an adequate work space," he said.

"Do you think I'll be able to develop photos down there too?" Rachel asked. She hadn't yet had the opportunity to develop the roll of film she'd taken over the past few months and she was eager to give it a try.

"I don't see why not, once the setup is complete. However, you're only to brew with supervision," Severus said.

"Okay," Rachel said. That was easy enough. "Can I use Gladys?"

"Go ahead," Severus said, his attention on his drawing.

Rachel scratched Gladys near where she thought her ears were and then tied the letter to her ankle. "Flourish and Blotts, please."

Gladys took off through the window.

"I'm going outside to fly," Rachel said, picking up her broom from where she'd propped it up against the kitchen counter.

"That's fine, just be in for lunch," Severus said.

Rachel smiled and went out the front door. She released the Snitch and then took off after it. Sometimes it was nice to take a break from studying.

Rachel opened her eyes to see sunlight streaming in through her window. It was a little odd to wake up that way since she was used to waking up in the dungeons. She wondered if she could convince Severus to get curtains for her bedroom.

She yawned and rolled over, not wanting to get out of bed just yet, when she felt something wet in her bed. She hadn't wet the bed since she'd been a toddler, surely she wouldn't have done so now. She pulled back her covers and stared in shock at the blood stain on her sheets.

A quick look revealed blood on her underwear and on her nightgown as well.

Rachel stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom, shutting the door hard behind herself and rushing over to the toilet. She sat down and braced herself to examine the problem more closely. Sure enough, she was bleeding from in between her legs.

Madam Pomfrey had told them this would happen. At the start of the year she'd gathered all the second year girls and told them about menstruating and pregnancies. It had been extremely embarrassing and no one had looked at each other during the lecture. Afterward she'd given each of them two pairs of special underwear that would vanish the blood while you wore them. Rachel still had them tucked away in her trunk.

Somehow when Madam Pomfrey had explained it, it had all seemed very distant, like something that would happen to someone else. Rachel knew that Pansy had already started menstruating, because she complained of cramping and would go to Madam Pomfrey for a potion to help with it. She didn't know if any of her other friends had started. It wasn't really something they talked about.

Rachel supposed she'd have to go back into her room and put on her charmed underwear, but that didn't answer what to do about the things already stained with blood. She wished there had been some warning that this had been about to happen.

She startled at a knock on the door.

"Rachel, are you ill?" Severus asked through the door.

"No, I'm fine," Rachel called back.

There was a long pause. "Are you certain? Is there anything you need help with?" he asked.

She did not want to tell Severus that she was having her period, but it didn't seem like she had a lot of choice in the matter. "I'm having...girl issues."

There was another pause. "I see. Is there anything you need that I can get you?"

"No. I have everything. I just need a few minutes," Rachel called back.

"Alright. I will be downstairs. Join me for breakfast when you're ready," Severus said.

Rachel sighed. It was time to deal with this. She waited until she heard Severus' footsteps on the staircase and then slipped back into her room. She dug in her trunk until she found where she'd put the underwear and then quickly changed into her clothes. She left her bloody clothes on her bed and left her bed unmade - she'd have to ask Severus how to use magic to get the blood out, since washing them in the bathroom would probably make the situation worse.

"Is cereal alright, or would you like something else for breakfast?" Severus asked when she came into the kitchen.

"Cereal's fine," Rachel said, going to the cupboard where they kept it.

"Would you like me to brew you a Pain Reliever Potion?" Severus asked.

Rachel shook her head. "I feel fine."

"Just let me know in the future if you would like some. I could also brew you some so that you can have them on hand, as long as you only use them for cramping and not for any other injury or illness," Severus offered.

"Thanks," Rachel said. She was hoping she wouldn't get cramps. Wasn't this already bad enough? "Um, do you know a spell that gets blood out of fabric?"

"Yes. The incantation is abdere macula. It's a laundry charm for stain removal. Point your wand at the stain and then move it in a counterclockwise motion when you say the incantation," Severus explained.

"Thanks," Rachel said again and busied herself with her cereal. At least she had magic to deal with this sort of thing. It would have been much worse if this had happened while she was living with the Dursleys.

"Do you remember what we talked about?" Severus asked.

"Don't go anywhere with Death Eaters and come to you if there's a problem," Rachel answered, holding Draco's present under one arm.

"I have been lax to allow you to casually refer to them as Death Eaters. Do not do so in their company, or in anyone else's. It would be a grave offense," Severus said.

Rachel shifted uncomfortably. She hadn't meant to offend Severus. "Okay, I won't."

"Pure-blood traditions are rather formal and old fashioned. If any of the adults address you, use sir or ma'am when you reply and err on the side of being polite," Severus said.

"Okay," Rachel said. She was hoping that none of the adults would pay much attention to her. Knowing Draco, she expected they'd be playing Quidditch as they had at his last birthday party, and the adults would gather elsewhere.

"Take my arm and we'll be off," Severus said.

Rachel held on tight to Severus' arm and closed her eyes. There was the brief churning and squeezing sensation of apparating and then she realized she was getting wet.

"Parapluvium," Severus said, holding his wand up. "I didn't realize it would be storming in Wiltshire."

Rachel looked up and realized that Severus had made a sort of transparent umbrella with his spell.

"Let's go," Severus said. "Stay close."

Rachel hurried to keep up with Severus' stride and the iron gates in front of Malfoy Manor turned into black smoke as they stepped through. The hedges loomed high on either side of the gravel path and Rachel wondered briefly what it was like for Draco to live here. Everything seemed so daunting and formal.

The front door opened before they could knock and a House Elf bowed and let them inside. "This way, sirs and miss," he said as he bowed.

The House Elf led them into a nearby sitting room where a number of adults were gathered.

"Severus, so nice of you to join us for Draco's little party," Lucius Malfoy said as he approached them.

"Lucius, good to see you as well," Severus said, inclining his head. "As you may recall, this is my ward, Rachel Snow."

"Miss Snow, it is a pleasure to see you again," Lucius said, peering down at Rachel.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, sir," Rachel said, hoping that was respectful enough.

"Tell me, how was your year at Hogwarts?" Lucius asked.

"I learned a lot, sir," Rachel said. She couldn't help but wonder if he was referring to the article Rita Skeeter had written about her after Leander's trial.

"I'm sure you did. Go join Draco and the other children, they're about to play a game," Lucius said. "Just follow the House Elf, he'll lead you to them."

Rachel looked at Severus for permission.

"Go ahead. I'll be here if you need anything," Severus said.

"This way, miss," the House Elf said.

Rachel followed the House Elf out of the room and down the hall.

"There you are," Draco said when Rachel entered the room. "I was starting to wonder if you'd show up."

"Happy birthday," Rachel said, handing him his present. She had gotten him a Falmouth Falcons playbook that had been published and signed. She hoped he liked it.

"Thanks," Draco said, putting it on a table with a group of other presents.

Rachel saw Theo standing to the side, Pansy sitting in an armchair, and Crabbe and Goyle sitting on the couch.

"Draco's been pouting because we can't play Quidditch," Pansy said.

"I haven't been pouting. Besides, now that Rachel is here we can start the treasure hunt," Draco said. "My father had the House Elves arrange it for us."

"Treasure hunt?" Rachel asked.

"You know, there are clues and you follow them until you find the treasure? Anyway, three teams since there are three prizes. Crabbe and Goyle will go together, Pansy and Theo will go together, and Rachel and I will go together," Draco said. "Dobby, we need the clues."

Rachel exchanged a brief glance with Theo but she didn't dare do more than that while Theo's father was nearby.

"Here, Master Draco, sir," a House Elf appeared with three sheets of parchment.

Draco took them and passed one to Theo and one to Goyle. "Well, see you in a bit. If you get lost, just call for Dobby and he'll help you. Come on, Rachel."

Rachel followed Draco back out into the hallway, wondering if this was what Severus had meant when he said she wasn't supposed to go off with anyone alone. "What's the clue?" she asked.

"Doesn't really matter," Draco said as they climbed up a flight of stairs. "I know where the treasure is."

"Then what's the point of the game?" she asked.

Draco shrugged. "My father thought it was a good idea to pass the time since he didn't want us to get wet playing Quidditch. The others will figure it out soon enough. Have you been practicing over break?"

"Yes, every day," Rachel said, following Draco into a large room with marble floors and a dining table that could seat at least two dozen people. "Do you actually eat in here?"

"Not usually. This is for when my father has dinner parties," Draco said, coming to a stop in front of a fireplace. "The clues lead us here to the Malfoy crest."

There was a bright silver shield on the mantle with the letter M engraved in it, along with serpents and dragons. There were metal cups with similar engravings sitting on the mantle to either side.

Draco reached behind the shield and pulled out two golden coins. He handed one to Rachel. "There, the prize."

Rachel examined it. It was larger than a Galleon, though it had the words Unum Galleon printed on it, along with a dragon on one side and a wizard on the other.

"Galleons from pre-1800s, when they restandardized the size and printing. That's Merlin on the back," Draco explained.

"I can keep it?" Rachel asked.

"Yes, of course, that's the whole point of a prize. Come on, I want to show you my room," Draco said.

Rachel put the coin in her robe pocket and followed Draco up another flight of stairs and down a hallway. He opened a door and stepped inside. Rachel followed, though she was wondering if she should.

The room was larger than Severus' sitting room. Draco had an enormous bed that was covered in what looked like dark green velvet and had a pile of pillows at the top. He had a sitting area with a couch and an armchair by a fireplace, a number of bookshelves with books and various items on them, and a large wardrobe. His window overlooked the grounds, including the Quidditch pitch they'd played on last year, and had a desk in front of it with a plush chair.

"Come sit, I suspect the others will be a while," Draco said as he flopped down into the armchair. "I told my father that we should have simply rescheduled until next Saturday, but he said it was too late. What is your room like with Professor Snape?"

Rachel sat down on the couch. "Smaller than this. I have a bed and a desk and a bookcase and a wardrobe."

"Well, I suppose you can't expect Professor Snape to have a manor, he's a teacher after all," Draco said. "You should visit more often. In the summer. We could go flying together."

Rachel abruptly realized that Draco was lonely. He probably didn't keep a two-way book with anyone. "We could ask your father and Professor Snape if that's okay."

"I'm sure my father would be fine with it. He was just saying how he doesn't see Professor Snape much these days. My father thinks he's gone soft being a parent to you," Draco said, nodding.

Rachel filed that away as something Severus probably needed to know.

"Is he all strict, giving you homework during the summer?" Draco asked.

"No," Rachel said. "I just have the same homework as everyone else."

"Does he make you practice brewing potions?"

"No. Mostly I just fly and read," Rachel said, wondering what Draco's fascination with Severus was about.

"I wish my father would let me do that. I have tutors," Draco said. "Not that it's a bad thing. It means I get to do magic over the summer when most people can't. See. Incendio."

Draco's spell lit a fire in the fireplace.

Rachel decided not to tell Draco that she had a tutor's exemption as well. "Do we want to go find the others and see how they're doing?"

"Yeah. We should, otherwise Crabbe and Goyle will never come back," Draco said as he got to his feet. "Let's go."

Rachel shook her head to herself as she followed Draco out of his room. He was an odd boy.

Severus picked up a glass of red wine as he discreetly looked around the room. Everyone he anticipated would be invited was present. Ambrosia and Wardell Parkinson were standing together by the fireplace, their heads bowed in discussion with Ignatius Nott and Narcissa Malfoy. Marxius Goyle was standing by the table of food with Francis Crabbe. Lucius would have other gatherings of Death Eaters, Severus had been invited to a handful of them, but these were the people with whom Lucius was closest.

"It's been too long, Severus," Lucius said, a glass of wine in his own hand.

"As usual, the demands of Hogwarts keep me from socializing," Severus said. It was an old excuse, but had the benefit of being true.

"And your guardianship of the Snow girl, of course," Lucius continued. "Draco says you're quite fond of the girl."

Severus wondered where Draco had gotten that impression - at Hogwarts Severus rarely spoke to Rachel unless it was in his classroom or in his quarters. "She's more work than I anticipated," he said, still wanting to give the impression that this was something Albus had foisted on him.

"I understand. Children often are. I see that she speaks now," Lucius said.

"It took some effort, but she now speaks when spoken to and casts spells appropriate for her age group," Severus said. He wasn't entirely sure where Lucius was going with this.

"I'm sure you wouldn't settle for less. Speaking of which, I haven't yet received Draco's grade report," Lucius said.

"I believe they will be sent out soon. I can assure you that Draco performed respectably. He was seventh in his year," Severus said. He had actually been quite pleased with his Slytherin second years - they'd taken five of the top ten spots.

"Barely adequate, given how much I have spent on tutoring for him. I will have a talk with him about applying himself. When he arrives at Hogwarts in September, I suggest you do the same," Lucius said, a frown briefly creasing his features.

"I will encourage him to spend more time on his studies," Severus agreed reluctantly. He did know Draco could perform better if he was pushed, but he didn't see the need when Draco had achieved Os and EEs in his classes. "Draco was instrumental to the Quidditch team's success this year."

Lucius nodded as Narcissa joined them. "I'm glad. However, I hope Draco amounts to something more than a Quidditch player."

"I'm sure he will," Severus said.

"I understand Rachel plays for the team as well. Seeker, I believe?" Narcissa asked.

"Yes, she does," Severus said, giving Narcissa a brief smile.

"It's good that Rachel and Draco have become friends. He writes of her quite often in his letters to me," Narcissa said, returning the smile.

This was news to Severus, he hadn't believed Rachel was friends with Draco outside of the Quidditch team. He suspected that Lucius had instructed Draco to write home with any news about Rachel.

"It is good that they are friends, as long as neither of them get any ideas about anything else," Lucius said.

"They're just barely thirteen. At this age I can assure you they're far more interested in Quidditch than in the opposite sex," Severus said, though he wasn't sure if it was the fact that Rachel was a half-blood that bothered Lucius, or if it was that she was the girl-who-lived.

"Regardless, Draco knows my expectations and I'm sure Rachel knows yours," Lucius said.

"She does," Severus lied. He had yet to have a conversation with Rachel about dating and he wasn't looking forward to it. He planned to wait until Rachel at least showed an interest in dating before he spoke to her. It would take at least that long for him to figure out what to say.

"Lucius, Ambrosia wished to speak with you," Narcissa said.

"If you'll excuse us, Severus," Lucius said, inclining his head slightly.

"Of course," Severus said. He moved to the side of the room where he could see out the doorway into the main hall. He hadn't heard or seen any of the children and assumed they must be being entertained somewhere within the manor.

"Severus," Ignatius said as he approached.

"Ignatius," Severus said, nodding once. "Theodore did very well again this year. Second in his class and all Outstandings. I'm pleased to have him in my House."

"Good," Ignatius said, his eyes narrowing as he looked at Severus. "How much is he around Rachel Snow?"

"They are in the same study group. All of the students in the group are excellent students who place a strong value on their education. It's a good place for him to be," Severus said. He could try to understate their friendship as much as possible, but at the end of the day he knew Ignatius would listen to rumors before he'd trust Severus' word.

"I mean no offense against you, Severus. I understand that you do what you're told to do," Ignatius said with a stiff nod. "I just want my son to be around the right type of people. I want him to make connections for his future."

"I'm sure he is. As far as I know he's quite close with Draco and the other boys in his year. They're all from good families," Severus said. "However, I'd recommend you let Theodore continue with his study group. His academic achievements will also help him in whatever field he chooses to go into."

"As long as Theodore understands where the line is, I don't care who he studies with. However, once that line is crossed, there will be a problem," Ignatius said.

"I understand completely," Severus did. And he did. He needed to have another conversation with Rachel about how close she appeared with Theo to other students.

Ignatius nodded and walked away.

Severus sighed and wondered how long he could keep up the act of being a loyal Death Eater while raising Rachel. How long would they believe that he was simply doing as Albus ordered?

"The House Elves here make really good cake. I wish they would teach the recipe to the House Elves at Hogwarts," Rachel said as they left the Malfoy Manor.

"Perhaps you could write a letter to Draco and ask him to have the House Elves write it down," Severus suggested.

"Maybe. Draco wants me to come again so that we can play Quidditch when it's not raining," Rachel said. "I told him I'd check with you."

"I'll see if I can arrange something with Lucius," Severus said. Under no circumstance was he going to leave Rachel alone at the Malfoy Manor, so he'd have to arrange a visit for himself as well.

"I think Draco liked his gift. I was surprised that other people didn't get him Quidditch stuff too, I was worried that I would get him the same thing as someone else," Rachel said.

"I believe the other parents are responsible for the gifts given," Severus said. He had been glad to see Draco get at least one gift that he'd actually enjoyed. The rest, fine robes and expensive accessories, had hardly been appropriate for a boy of Draco's age.

"Oh, we did a treasure hunt, well, kind of, and were given prizes," Rachel said.

Severus came to a stop just outside the Malfoy Manor gates. "What was the prize?"

"It's an old Galleon. It looks different than the regular ones we have," Rachel said, digging into her robe pockets and producing the coin.

"May I see it?" Severus asked.

Rachel handed the coin over without complaint.

"Hold onto my arm," Severus said, holding the coin in one hand and offering Rachel his other arm.

Rachel took his arm and Severus apparated them directly into the sitting room at Spinner's End.

Rachel opened her mouth to say something and Severus held his finger up against his lips to indicate that she should be quiet. Rachel nodded.

Severus set the coin down on the end table and drew his wand. He began casting detection spells and was unsurprised to find that the coin had both a locator spell and an eavesdropping charm on it. He dispelled both and checked again and was glad to find nothing more sinister had been interlaced with the other spells. "You can speak now," he said.

"What was wrong with the coin?" Rachel asked.

"Lucius charmed it so that he would be able to know the location of the coin and that he would be able to hear what was said around it. I removed the spells, it's safe now," Severus said, picking up the coin and offering it to Rachel. "You can keep it. You did well to tell me about it before we went home."

"I didn't mean to. I mean, I wouldn't have thought to tell you about it, I was just telling you what we did," Rachel said, looking worried.

"You wouldn't have known to, as I failed to specify that you should be careful with anything that the Malfoys gave to you," Severus said. He hadn't expected Lucius to try to eavesdrop on him, and yet he wasn't surprised either. "It's simply better that we found out now rather than later."

"Won't he know you figured it out when the coin doesn't work?" Rachel asked.

"Likely he will simply think that the wards at our residence are preventing the coin from working. I don't believe he had begun to eavesdrop on us while he still had guests in the manor," Severus said.

"What was he trying to find out?" she asked, still looking worried.

"Your location, for one. It was likely also a test of my loyalty and to see how I interacted with you," Severus explained. It was incredibly lucky that Rachel had told him about the coin before they'd apparated back to Fallow Farm.

"Can you teach me how you figured out what spells were on it?" Rachel asked. "Like you taught me the spell for detecting curses."

"This is more advanced, and the spell I taught you will only detect some curses. But yes, I can attempt to teach you some more detection spells. However, if you do find something that is cursed or has suspicious spells on it, leave it alone and come find me," Severus said. He was frustrated that it was even necessary to teach her these things. "Also, if an item comes from someone who has a family member who is a Death Eater, it should be brought to me."

"What if it's from Theo, and he gave it to me while we were at school?" she asked.

Severus grimaced slightly. Theo was going to have to be a separate discussion. "If he ordered it for you while he was at school and it hasn't been to his father's house, it should be fine. However, if it's even slightly possible that his father had contact with it, you should show it to me."

Rachel nodded. "Oh. Draco says that his father says he thinks you've gone soft because you're parenting me."

Severus exhaled through his nose at the thought and couldn't stop the corners of his mouth from curling up. Lucius thought he was soft? If anything, being a parent had given him more conviction than he'd had before. It would be a poor day for Lucius if they crossed paths after Severus was allowed to publicly declare his allegiances.

"I don't think you're soft," Rachel said, seeming to want to reassure him.

"I'm not worried about being soft, though I wonder what was said to him to make him think so," Severus said.

"Maybe Draco told him that you're nice," Rachel suggested. "Though he kept asking me if you assigned me extra homework over the holidays. I told him you didn't and that you are nice."

This smile was more genuine. He was relieved that Rachel thought he was nice. It wasn't something many students would think about him. "I'm gratified, though you needn't defend me. Let's go home," he said, offering Rachel his arm.

Rachel took it and Severus apparated them back to Fallow Farm.