Learning of the Mark

"Lemon drop, Miss Granger?"

As expected, the girl declined his offer, sitting rigidly in her chair. Popping a candy into his mouth, he savored the burst of tartness, then turned back to the child in front of him.

"H-Harry said you found my drawings."

"Yes, child; tell me, what does it mean? Even Madame Pince has been mystified by its meaning."

He watched her body stiffen even more, her arms wrap tightly around herself.

"There are things you need to know, Professor," she murmured, sitting quietly in her chair. He watched her patiently.

"I-I was taken on Halloween," she whispered, eyes distant in memory, "But over the summer, at Grimmauld Place, Harry, R-Ron, and I researched possible methods to help Harry protect his mind from-from Voldemort. We found a very old manuscript, a scroll rolled away at the back of the shelves. It was written in Latin, but we were able to translate the title.

"It was called Libri di Alerion, the book of Alerion. There were drawings on it that made it look like something we wanted. Ron copied the scroll, and we read on our own, taking notes. After a few hours, I found a ritual called the Evincio Tria."

"'The Binding of the Three'," he said softly, stroking his beard, then asked, "Would you care to explain this ritual? Does it use a spell?"

She drew in a deep breath.

"In a way; it uses a primitive kind of magic, the most binding, I think. I mean, if you join something together at its most basic form, it will remain joined as it grows more complex."

He noted she had reverted to reciting information; a habit born of her no-doubt desperate need to keep the past at bay.

"The Evincio Tria requires three willing individuals to bind, a Watcher to speak for them, and a fusion of several herbs at precisely the right time," she recited absently:

"Under the light of the full moon, mix and burn the herbs, while performing the incantation. The spell itself has to be repeated by each individual while cutting a symbol into each palm."

"What kind of symbol, Miss Granger?"

Numbly, she disentangled an arm from her robes and thrust it toward him. Surprising her, he stood from his chair behind his desk, took a seat in the chair beside her and gently unwrapped the bandages from around her palm.

The pure, pristine color of the wrappings gradually darkened as each layer was uncovered, until at last her entire palm was exposed to the air. Sickened and fascinated by her wound, he examined the hole in her hand, turning her arm to see that it had indeed pierced entirely through her skin on both sides. Shaken, he raised his eyes to hers.

"In Harry's notes, the ritual would bond the three forces of the individuals," she whispered, "First the mind, second the body, and third the spirit. The spell would in effect bind the essences of the three people: three within three."

"What kind of symbol, Miss Granger?" he repeated in a soft voice.

"It-it...it would be easier to show you," she stammered.

Perplexed, Albus raised a hand and a quill appeared immediately, followed by a bottle of ink and a piece of parchment. Hermione raised her bandaged hand to him, placing it on his arm, shaking her head.

"No, Professor. I mean, show it to you."

In his eyes she could still see his confusion; she sighed, and closed her eyes, turning her body from him, brow set in concentration. Such it was that she did not see her Potions Professor standing still in the Headmaster's doorway.

Whatever it was he expected from the old man, Severus hadn't expected Hermione to be there. /Hermione, damn you!/ spoke that little voice, /And just when did you begin to call a student by her given name? She's Granger, the buck-toothed Gryffindor know-it-all, one of Potter's sidekicks. Well,/ the voice amended, /His only sidekick now./

As his internal battle raged, he watched as she removed the last of her bandages and squared her shoulders, facing directly away from his position. Placing her hands above her legs, she remained still for long moments, completely oblivious to his presence.

To Albus' mounting astonishment, after a few moments, a slight outline began to make itself known on her palms. This wasn't like the horrific branding he had witnessed earlier; this was far less gruesome, more...beautiful was the only word sufficient.

As if her palms were whole, a circle only just surpassed the width of each wound with a large triangle intersected at its center. After the triangle was complete, another one, smaller, inverted crossed at its center. The entire design was silver in color, shining brightly in the light of his office, its own brilliance magnified by its reflection off the various objects in the room.

Astounded, he nevertheless tenderly took the hand nearest him, and placed a light finger upon the outside of the wound. As he looked up, he saw her eyes had opened and were looking down at the designs on her palms. A single tear dropped from those eyes and fell onto her left hand. He cut short his examination and placed her small hand in both of his.

Wide-eyed, she looked at him, and again he felt the absolute intensity of her pain, even as it ripped his heart in two, causing him to weep inside at the fate of this young girl.

"You have done nothing wrong, Miss Granger. It is no mean feat to have found and employed perhaps the only remaining means to block Voldemort from entering young Harry's mind."

He lowered his voice, though the figure still standing in the doorway could still hear him; somehow, his chair found itself next to hers as he gently held her injured hands.

"It was a remarkable thing you did, Miss Granger, at no small cost to yourself, I imagine."

She shook her head, her breath coming ragged through her mouth.

"Am I right to understand that this link between yourself, Mister Potter, and Mister Weasley allowed you to witness, in effect, experience Mister Weasley's death?"

A sob tore from the girl's throat as she nodded, one hand breaking from his hold to press against her mouth, her shoulders beginning to shudder. At last, Albus looked up, and motioned for Severus to enter. Unsure as to his purpose, the Potions Master came to a halt just behind and between the two chairs, his hands clasped behind his back.

"Miss Granger, Professor Snape is here to escort you back to your rooms in the Hospital Wing. I believe rest is the best medicine for you right now."

The girl nodded, getting to her feet and turning towards the door, unmindful of Severus stepping out of her way.

"Miss Granger?"

She turned back to him. Her bandages were snapped back around her wounds, as bright and pristine as ever; nodding to him, she exited the room without a backward glance. Shocked, Severus looked to the Headmaster; at the look of pity there, he steeled his shoulders and swooped out of the room, intent on dealing with the insufferable chit that had the audacity to play with his heart this way.

"Three within three," Albus mused to himself, stroking his familiar's fire-bright plumage, "Three within three."



Evincio Tria = "Binding of the Three"

Libri = Book

Alerion = means "eagle" in L.