Disclaimer: Own nothing and never will. Thanks for JK Rowling for creating such a wonderful universe to play in!

Find A Gem
By Jasmine_

Chapter Two: Last Days of Freedom

Hermione stretched out on her bed. Her door was open as well as the nursery and she could hear the soft cooing of a baby. She smiled and got up. Walking towards the nursery, she thought happily about how big her little boy has gotten. She's spent the entire summer getting to know him again and was very pleased with all the surpises little Austin was showing her.

"Hey, baby boy," she said, "Up so soon?" The baby smiled to see her face. She lifted him out from the crib and noticed he need a change of diapers. Placing him on the changing table, she went on with the messy job.

Hermione was very thankful for her loving family. Because she had to get some more spending money of her own, her mother had decided to work part time at the dentist office in the mornings. Mrs. Granger would come home at three and then Hermione would leave for her job at the bookstore at 5. Working 30 hours a week helped Hermione's income greatly and she knew she would be able to use that money to spend on Austin.

It was already 3:30 in the afternoon so Hermione headed downstairs to wait for her mother. Placing Austin on the baby mat, she went to his toy box to retrieve a picture book. At that moment, she saw a brown owl carrying a envelope sitting outside the window. She went outside and took the envelope. "Thank you. Would you like something to eat?" she asked the owl. It hooted twice and took off. I guess not, then, she thought.

The envelope contained two letters. One was a letter from the Deputy Headmistress and listed the books and supplies she would need for the upcoming school year. The second letter was from Headmaster Dumbledore and simply stated that he expected her to be at Hogwarts two weeks before school began.

Hermione sighed. "Well, Austin. It looks like our last days of freedom are drawing to a close," she said to the baby. "I'm going to have to take you out shopping tomorrow to get some supplies."

The next morning, Hermione got dressed in her robes and took Austin out in his stroller. They walked along a small little road in london until they got to a bar called The Leaky Cauldron. Upon entering, she headed straight towards the back door and exited to Diagon Alley. They shopped until lunch for Hermione's school supplies without being recognized. It was still too early for the rest of Hogwarts to be getting supplies.

Returning home, Hermione put her school supplies and clothes in one trunk. She was going to pack Austin's things on the weekend. Her mother arrived home and Hermione left to her work soon after.

"Hermione! I told you I would visit!" a sugar sweet voice of Lavender Brown said.
"Lavender! You look fabulous! New hair style?" Hermione replied.
"Yes, I'm glad you noticed. How's everything going?"
"Rather well, really. Today's my last day here though. I need to start getting ready for school, you know."
"Right, but we have two weeks to get ready..," Lavender begain, "Oh wait. I'm forgetting who I'm talking to. You probably want to read all our books for a refresher course, don't you?"
"That's it," Hermione laughed.
"Well, I must get going now. I could only stop in for a few seconds. Maybe I'll see you in Diagon Alley sometime?"
"Of course. Goodbye. I'll see you soon."

Meanwhile, Severus Snape was walking along a garden path with his longtime friend. He wore all black, as usual, but his white linen shirt could be seen from his collar. His hands were clasped behind his back and he stared straight on.

"You know, Lucius," Severus began, "These are my last days of freedom."
"Hogwarts can hardly compare to a Azkaban, Severus," Lucius Malfoy responded.
"No, you're right. I can get out any time I want but this year is different. I'm going to be under constant supervision."
"How so?"
"Dumbledore offered my guest quarters to a student who has a child. I'll be living with her for the rest of the year."
"This doesn't have anything to do with me, does it?"
"I don't think so. I think it's more about me. I'm not sure if he really does trust me."
"If he doesn't trust you, it's because of me then. You are a friend to a longtime Death Eater who got off scot-free."
"He does hate you for getting off.."
"Many people do," Lucius said with a smirk, "It's good to have friends and money in high places." Severus smiled sadly.
"You know, I knew all along you were spying on the Dark Lord. I was actually happy you were doing it," Lucius confessed.
"Happy? Happy because you were seeing a traitor get his punishment?"
"No, no. Of course not. I was glad because I knew you would teach the Slytherins well about the truth. God knows I couldn't have. I don't think I ever thanked you for steering Draco in the right path."
"Well, you're welcome. Although, I'm pretty sure Draco would have made the right decision himself."
"Perhaps," Lucius paused. He studied the dark haired man's stoic face. Breaking the silence, he asked, "Why didn't you get any recognition for helping the Order?"
"Do you really think they'll give any recognition to a Death Eater?"
"You helped so much, though! That Pot-Boy couldn't do half the things he did without you."
"Ah, but he's the damned Boy-Who-Wouldn't-Die. He has to get all the recognition."
"So they just forgot the fact that it was your potion that made Potter's magical strength stronger," Lucius pushed.
"It was Dark Magic. Of course they forgot."
"And they forgot about all the Death Eaters you .. um, liberated?"
"They sent them to Azkaban, anyway," Severus replied. He wanted to change the subject. "I'm getting rather hungry. Is it dinnertime yet?"
"Yes, I forgot. Come, we'll go in now. When do you have to leave?"
"Tomorrow morning. I need to get back to Hogwarts to prepare the rooms. Can't have the little chit finding anything incriminating.."

The next morning, Severus departed from the Malfoy Manor to the Gates of Hogwarts. Upon his arrival, he found that the only occupants were the house elves and the caretake, Mr. Filch. He headed towards his dungeons and into his quarters. He began by taking volatile potions ingredients and storing them in his "towel" closet. He glanced over the Dark Arts book he had in his library. He didn't think that the Granger girl would do anything with those books. He had taken his Death Eater robes and masked to be framed. It may have seemed sadistic to some but that era was a part of his life. He wanted a reminder to tell him not to go down the wrong path again. He took the robes down from its place on the wall and put it in his bedroom. Looking around once again, he felt satisfied with the results. He would fetch Misty next week from his manor.

AN: Thanks for all the reviews. I really appreciate them. Chapter Three should be coming around very soon!