Disclaimer: I'm not, and never would claim to be J.K. Rowling. She is the queen, and I am but a pawn – now let's play some chess, shall we?

Rating is for language, violence, and my penchant for possible naughtiness. If it does head down that path, I will change the rating accordingly.

Reviews: I love them all – they keep me typing away at this fic. BTW – for those of you who are wondering, I will be reposting shortly stuff that was not proofed. I have limited online access as of late, so it's slow going!

A/N: The poem used in this chapter is Shakespeare's Sixtieth Sonnet. It is a beautiful piece and quite fitting for the last part of this scene. The majority of the magic text I quote in this chapter comes from "Le musee des sorciers, mages et alchemists" by Grillot de Givry. Oh, and the drinking age in England (and the HP universe) is lower than that of the US – please don't think I'm promoting underage drinking. I may be a deviant, but not of that sort.

Chapter Seven

The evening meal had been an awkward affair. With Draco's assistance, it had taken him twenty minutes to finish cooking the food and setting the table. It was a simple dish of chicken, rosemary and vegetables served over rice, something basic but comfortably filling on a cold Scottish evening. All three of them were hungry, and though she said nothing, her brown eyes followed his movements as he prepared her a plate.

The boy had been almost chatty, shifting the conversation through a host of topics from curse-breakers to modern-day Muggle appliances. The girl responded with polite but short replies as she worked hastily to finish her meal. Severus sat across from her, watching their exchange in silence while sipping his wine.

He was still thinking of their earlier encounter, still trying to come to terms with what exactly had happened with her and between them. From the way she had been intently avoiding all eye contact with him, he knew her thoughts were in the same realm.

It made no sense to him. He was a cold heartless bastard without feeling, without pleasures beyond that of his potions and brews; indeed, it was his lack of sentiment towards others that had probably kept him alive as a spy all of these years. He had no friends; Albus had been more of a master, and Draco was his ward, his godson, but not his friend. Severus had experience with women, but all of his past encounters were served to quench desire, not to entertain anything that remotely resembled affection or worse, love, the emotion reserved for fools and poets.

He had to admit she was bright, infuriatingly so at times. Though he had never dared to admit it in all of her years as his student, she had never ceased to amaze him with the amount of knowledge she possessed. The fact that she could excel at anything he threw her way at the same time helping that dunderhead Longbottom not blow up his classroom was a testament in itself. He had found that her essays were a joy to read; it bothered him at first that he couldn't scrawl across hers with corrections, but then he moved past that to a point where he actually yearned to assign her an extra foot of parchment just so he could read her take on different aspects of potions.

But she was Potter's best friend. She had stolen from him before, betrayed him to further whatever agenda the Boy-Who-Lived asked of her. She was Muggle-born, and while she possessed an astounding intellect, her heritage placed her in more danger than those witches whom at least had one pure-blood parent. And she was still a child…

He took another drink from the wine goblet, his revelations from earlier coming back to him. No, she was no longer the bushy-hair chit waving her arm wildly in the air, nearly bursting out of her seat with all of the answers. He hadn't thought of her that way since that night two years ago at Grimmauld Place, and after today could not deny that his unwilling guest was no longer a child, but a woman.

His black gaze was thoughtful as he stared across the table at her, watching her as she moved the rice around her plate, mumbling some short reply in response to Draco's assertion that blenders could be a benefit to wizarding society. She was staring down at her food, her voice low, the tone distracted. Whether he did not notice, or was too excited about the conversation to care, Draco continued on without inquiring about her lackluster response.

Severus still didn't know what possessed him to kiss her. Perhaps it was the faint shock of having another willingly touch him; it had been so long, and the softness of her hand against his cheek had nearly made him groan aloud with the simple pleasure. Her eyes had been dark, her frustration evident, but beneath that had been valiant determination. There was fire in her, a fierce strength that stirred a part of him he had long since thought dead.

It was the desire to seize that feeling, to possess her, that had him holding her wrist firmly as he pressed his mouth against the warm skin of her forearm. She still smelled faintly of the rose soap, but underneath that was a scent that was all her. She had gasped and the shocked sound pushed him further, his mouth opening to taste her flesh. Severus had moved past intellectual discourse, lost in the feeling. If not for her plea, the begging tone he had never heard from her before, he didn't know how far he would have taken it. As it was, the mixture of fear and desire in her voice caused reality to once again embrace him.

He was positive she was innocent. Unlike the majority of her classmates, she preferred the company of books than that of the opposite sex. He remembered her brief courtship with the Bulgarian brute from Durmstrang, and her hesitant affections with the Weasley boy, but he doubted either had placed higher in her heart than that of her love of knowledge. She was too concerned about learning more and her role in helping Harry bloody Potter save the world.

Severus scowled at the thought. It always came back to Potter. If not for him and the Dark Lord, the young woman across the table wouldn't have had to grow up so fast, and he wouldn't have sacrificed nearly two decades of his life as a spy. As it was, he was holed up in a dilapidated farmhouse in the bitter cold of Scotland with Lucius' son and a Muggle-born witch who hated him. If only the old man hadn't asked it of him, if only there had been another way…

But there wasn't, my boy. I trusted you to do what was right, as I trust you now. Severus' lean fingers tightened around the glass stem of the goblet as Albus' fatherly voice came to him. Even now, in death, the old man was still with him. Whatever conscience he still had, it now scolded him in the voice of Dumbledore. It was a fitting punishment, one that Severus had wondered on more than one occasion if the former headmaster had thought of himself.

He sighed exhaustedly, and Hermione's eyes caught his, her fork clattering against her plate. Her lips were parted, and the look on her face shifted from surprise to ill concealed panic. Malfoy stopped in mid-sentence, his cold gray-blue eyes moving between the other two occupants at the kitchen table.

"Dinner was," she stopped, moistening her lower lip hesitantly. She wiped her hands hurriedly on the cloth napkin on her lap before placing it to the right of her plate. "It was nice. Thank you for feeding me, sir."

He arched one black eyebrow and she pushed back in her chair, the wood screeching against the worn tiles. Hermione stood, unconsciously smoothing down the front of her velvet gown. Severus was silently staring, his obsidian gaze unblinking on her.

"It would have been worthless to save your life only to have you starve, Miss Granger," he spoke softly, his voice like black silk. Severus took another sip of the wine while ignoring the odd look Draco was giving him. His attention was on the young woman standing across from him, her breathing somewhat irregular as she stared back at him.

"Of course. If you'll excuse me," she whispered. Without waiting for a response from either of the men, she turned and walked hurriedly out of the kitchen.

Severus heard her in the living room, hastily pulling out a few books to undoubtedly read for the night. Then she banged up the stairs, her stealth from earlier ignored in her haste to get as far away from them as she could still confined within the walls of the farmhouse.

"How long?"

Severus turned to Draco. The platinum-haired wizard was absently twirling his glass, the wine swirling around in response to the fluid movement of his wrist. His pale lips were compressed thin and Severus regarded him for a long moment before answering.

"For however long it takes. You should know more than most that there are no set perimeters to war," Severus replied. He stood, pausing for a moment to stretch his back before picking up his plate. He stacked it with Hermione's before making his way to the sink.

"Does Lupin know?"

Severus' hand stilled on the faucet, his eyes open but unseeing on the patterned tile back-splash behind the metal basin. He knew since they had captured her that Draco would want to know all of the details, and who else was aware of them. Since that night nearly half a year earlier in the astronomy tower, his life depended on it.

"Not yet. The situation is…extremely fragile. Tomorrow I may see him if conditions allow for it."

Severus set the plates to the left of the sink and turned back around. Draco had since set the wine glass down on the tabletop, his fingers still curled loosely around the stem as he stared blankly at the red liquid.

"She could change everything," the boy whispered.

"That she could."

Draco glanced up from the wine glass to look intently across the kitchen at his godfather. "She already knows too much. It's dangerous."

Severus pushed away from the sink and walked back over to the kitchen table, sitting down in the chair previously occupied by Hermione. He observed the younger wizard silently, still amazed that as the years passed the boy had become a near visual replica of his father. It was disconcerting at times; the boy looked so much like Lucius. But he wasn't consumed by hate. He had a chance. Narcissa knew this. Albus knew this. So now Draco's future was in his hands, intrinsically tied with Severus' next move.

"Do you trust me, Draco?"

He blinked, focusing back on Severus, somewhat startled by the question. "Of course. You saved me, Severus. If not for you…"

"Then don't lose hope. Everything I do has a purpose." Severus leaned forward slightly in the chair. "I want you to treat the girl as a guest, do you understand? She is here with us now for a reason."

"I don't hate her, not really," Draco replied quietly. "I understand better, I don't feel the way I once did about…you know, about Muggles. And for everything that I ever did or said to her, she doesn't hate me. I was expecting her to want me dead."

He stared at the younger wizard, his vision blurring slightly as he imagined the familiar pressure of Dumbledore's hand on his shoulder. Severus was unused to being touched, but Albus was one of very few people he was able to stand limited contact with. It had been the old man's dream, his wish for their kind. How many times had he said that to him, and Minerva repeated it verbatim to the staff?

The future of our people depends on the children, Severus. No pure-blood is born hating Muggles and Muggle-borns. Hatred is taught to them, bred into their minds well before the time they pass the gates of Hogwarts as first years. Hatred is what brought Riddle into power, hatred is what killed Harry's parents, and hatred is what will bring our children to destroy each other. Knowledge and love can change this. If we cultivate it, it will grow in the children. They will know a future without war, without hate.

"Maybe she could go with me." Draco's voice was so soft it took a moment for Severus, still lost with the voice of Albus in his head, to comprehend what the boy had just said. One black eyebrow arched as he stared at him.

"She knows their world. She could help me fit in. Perhaps…" Draco stopped, laughing shortly. "I know, it's silly. But maybe she could come to like me. We could be flat mates, go to the same university. Be together, at least until the war ends."

Severus sighed, suddenly feeling every minute of his near forty years. He pushed back up to his feet, starting to move towards the entrance of the kitchen but pausing next to the younger wizard who was still sitting at the table, his gray-blue gaze on the wine glass.

"The war may last for decades," he said quietly. He left the rest unspoken; both knew that it was possible Draco would never be able to return to the wizarding world. As for the girl, he was troubled by the younger wizard's admission, but did not feel like questioning him at the moment. Draco was in a dark place right now, and for lack of other options had latched onto the girl. It was fairly disquieting, and Severus knew he would have to address the issue at a later date.

"It's late, Draco. No more heavy thoughts. Gather up your dishes and then get to bed."

Severus had left Draco alone in the kitchen immersed in contemplation. It had been almost thirty minutes later that he heard the stairs creak under weight as the boy made his way up to the second floor, walking past Severus' closed door to his own bedroom. He was faintly surprised that the younger wizard hadn't checked in on Hermione, though he was certain she would have ignored him anyway. The young woman had locked herself in the bathroom, probably curled up in the bathtub reading the books by the moonlight from the lone window.

Many hours had passed and Severus still hadn't found sleep. He was propped up in a sitting position against several pillows at the head of the rusted, wrought iron bed. Earlier he had changed into black silk pajama bottoms, his chest and feet bare but comfortably warmed by the fire crackling in the small, ancient fireplace in the corner of the decent sized room. To his left on the coverlet were several old, leather-bound books; in his lap was the same book the girl had tried to translate from earlier, Advances in Wandless Magic Throughout the 19th Century. But he did not have the same problem as the witch; the book was charmed to recognize its owner, the text shifting when his eyes made contact with the parchment, translating effortlessly to English.

Severus slid his fingertips down the leather of the front cover, feeling the enchantment of the text before opening it to the first chapter, the English swirling on the page, illuminated by the lone gas lamp on his bed stand.

Rhabdomancy, or the Art of Using the Diving-Rod. It was inherent within each magical person, witch or wizard. A wizard would find the appropriate magical instrument to give his magic guidance, focus and power. It was stated in antiquity, that of the time of Merlin. The Prophet Hosea had even mentioned it, Populus meus in ligno suo interrogavit et baculus ejus annuntiavit ei.

Rhabdomancy was an antique term for wand magic. Severus was familiar with it due to his endless research and studies, but it wasn't something taught at Hogwarts. Then again, neither was wandless magic.

For each sorcerer has the ability to execute a spell without the assistance of a wand. This is basic and unquestionable. But there are those who possess a heightened power, an instinctive grasp of magic. With control, this type of sorcerer can manipulate magic without the aid of anything beyond his own being.

Severus skipped the next few paragraphs after the introduction, his index finger pausing at the bottom of the parchment.

Regrettably, there are several who are sanctified with this innate magic that cannot find power over it. Other than the destruction he may bring to his fellow sorcerers, this wizard may find himself in the companionship of harm or death, having pulled the magic he proposed to use back into his own being. There have been a dozen documented cases of such fatalities over the past three centuries, a comprehensive inventory which is sited in Le Dragon gouge, ou l'art de commander les spirits celestes, aeriens, terrestres, infernaux by Offray (pub. 1522).

He sighed, leaning back heavily into the pillows as his eyes closed. He rubbed his eyelids with his free hand, trying to concentrate. This book dealt mostly with wandless magic for those who usually performed magic with a wand, simple spells a wizard with a sixth year education could accomplish without much trouble. But it made several interesting conclusions and referenced books outside of what he had been able to salvage from the fire at Spinner's End, that which he would now make a point of acquiring.

When he had rescued, or as she probably saw it, kidnapped the girl, he hadn't imagined this would be one of his concerns. The possibilities were staggering, but the danger she could bring to herself, and to him and the boy could not be ignored. It was all about control, and her ability to understand something that wasn't outlined point for point in a book.

On an intellectual level, her uncovered ability was utterly astounding to him, but in their current situation it was simply terrifying. She could kill them all before the Dark Lord had his chance.

Her scream echoed through the walls of the farmhouse, the sharp, piercing sound causing his body to jerk upwards in surprise, the heavy book sliding from his lap to rest haphazardly on top of the others to his left. Without forethought, he pushed off the thin coverlet and swung his legs over the edge of the old, low-lying bed. He stood hastily, only pausing to grab his wand where it lay next to the gas lamp on his bedside table before walking over to his closed door.

Severus whispered the unwarding charms to cautiously open the door, instinctively gauging all other smells, sights and sounds before stepping out into the dark hallway.

"Severus?"

He glanced to his left. Draco stood in front of the door to his bedroom dressed in his green thermal pajamas, his platinum hair mused and his eyes heavy with sleep. Careful of the wand in his hand, he covered his mouth on a yawn as his gaze shifted between the older wizard and the door-less entry to Hermione's room.

"Go back into your room and ward the door," Severus hissed, his voice low. "Stay there until I let you know it's safe."

Draco's eyes widened a fraction, but he said nothing, turning abruptly to go back into his bedroom, closing the door silently behind him. Satisfied the boy was secure, his grip tightened on his wand as he made his way furtively to the entryway of the girl's room.

He heard her before he saw her, her breathing heavy and the slats of the bed frame creaking as she tossed about on the mattress. Cautiously he slid up against the entryway, her small, moonlit room coming into view.

His black gaze flittered across the entirety of the dark room before settling on her. She was no longer wearing the velvet gown but had replaced it with some sort of knee length, cream-colored slip. The fabric was damp in places; he noticed sweat on her face, locks of her unruly hair pressed against her forehead and neck. She had since tossed the coverlet from her body; upon closer inspection he noticed the muscles of her exposed arms and legs were strained, her hands pulled into tight fists. She was in the midst of another nightmare.

Severus stood silently in the entryway, weighing the options. The afternoon's debacle was still fresh in his mind; if the girl could cause stacks of his books to explode into the air, he abhorred to experience the damage she could do to him. Above all else, he couldn't scare her. That had seemed to trigger it.

Mentally admonishing his lack of foresight to administer to her the Dreamless Sleep Draught, he walked quietly into the room, his black gaze steady on her restless form. She gasped, the sound strangled, and he stood still, his heartbeat rapid as he stared at her, waiting for her to wake. But the nightmare raged on.

He paused at the edge of the small bed, the faint smell of mothballs tickling his senses. He realized with a start that she had been through the weathered chifferobe to find a replacement for the gown he had Transfigured for her. Whether it was due to the fact that the gown was slightly soiled from the grime of the window she had cleaned on her shirtsleeve earlier, or that Severus had been the one to create the dress for her, he didn't know, and at this moment, didn't really care.

Cautiously, he sat down on the edge of the bed, his gaze still focused sharply on her. The moonlight streaming through the single window caressed her features, the lush sheen to her face and brevity of her slip reminding him once again that it was a woman that laid before him, not a girl. If he had the decency Dumbledore had been convinced he possessed, he would leave the room without turning back.

Then again, there was a possibility the chit could burn the house down around them.

He frowned, setting his wand silently on the bedside table. Hesitantly, he reached for her, his calloused hand pausing a fraction from the damp flesh of her right cheek. Steeling his nerves, he smoothed his palm against her, his fingers trailing across her temple and sliding into her hair. She cried out, the sound stifled, her eyes still squeezed shut.

"Shhh. It's all right," he whispered soothingly. Hermione shuddered, her breathing still rushed. His fingertips massaged gently through her thick hair to her scalp. "I won't let them hurt you, love."

She gasped, her eyes suddenly open but unfocused. She bolted upright, her arms around him as she pressed herself tightly against his bare chest before he could pull away. She was sobbing, her face wet against his neck. With uncertainty, he embraced her, one hand still in her hair, his other arm around her waist as she wept against him.

"Merlin, it was horrible!" She was trembling, and he instinctively shifted his hold, turning slightly on the bed to cradle her against him. "I thought…I thought I was dying. And Malfoy…and Snape…gods, Snape…"

Her voice faded, and he felt her tense against him before the sudden cessation of her tears. Her breathing, which had been heavy as her body fought for air as she cried, had now become quite shallow.

It had been the dream again. She had been back in Hogsmeade with Lavender at her feet, the injured girl holding her tightly around the calves. The Death Eater, Lavender dead, and the slicing hex. And Snape and Malfoy. But it hadn't ended there. The books had exploded, and parchment was falling around her in a steady stream. Malfoy was laughing somewhere in the distance and Snape was on his knees in front of her, kissing her wrist. When he had looked up at her, his mouth was red with her blood, and he was whispering, but his voice was that of Dumbledore's. Learn from history.

Hermione was stiff, her eyes squeezed shut as reality stabbed painfully into her gut. It was Snape. She could smell him, the mixture of cloves and sage. She felt warm, rough flesh under her palm and realized with a start she was touching his battle-scarred chest. He was holding her much too close, in a bed no less. He had called her love.

She was terrified, her emotions seemingly stripped raw as her body trembled helplessly within the confines of his embrace. Everything within her was screaming at her to move, to push him away, and to run…but she couldn't.

"Miss Granger."

The young woman in his arms didn't stir, her breathing still labored. He waited for a moment and then moved his hand that was buried in her hair, his fingers sliding around to her jaw. She made a small startled noise, the sound smothered against his neck.

"You were having a nightmare. It wasn't my intent to frighten you, but I would rather avoid a repeat of last time," he spoke dryly. When she didn't move, he shifted against her, attempting to give her space in his arms when she moaned, a tremor rippling through her.

She didn't understand. She hated him. Severus Snape was a turncoat; he had killed a man that had been like a father to her. But everything had gone horribly wrong. She was supposed to be the rational one, but her emotions were spiraling out of control. It was if part of her that had lain dormant for nearly two decades was awakening into some sort of blissful awareness, her senses racing in a headlong, pleasurable response to a man she was convinced she despised more than anyone else.

He stared over her head into the moonlit room, his arm still tight at her waist. Severus had thought she was terrified, but the sound she had made, the way her body trembled against his, was oddly similar to that of desire. Not trusting himself to speak, he pressed gently up on her jaw, tilting her face upwards so he could look at her.

In the half-light he could see the tears in her wide eyes, her lips still parted on her shallow breathing. Her hand pressed hesitantly against his chest as she bit her lower lip, trying to stem the tears.

"Please let me go," she begged, the plea nearly inaudible. He black gaze shifted over her features, sympathy bleeding into a heart he had long since thought had gone cold. Unfortunately for them all, it wasn't that simple.

"I can't," he whispered. Her eyelids closed and she stifled a sob. She tried to push away then, but he didn't relinquish his hold at her waist.

"Why?" Her eyes were open again, and the tears were falling freely down her face. "If you don't wish to kill me or give me to your master, then what use am I? I'm nothing but a Muggle-born girl…"

"I no more believe that than you do, child," he cut her off, his voice hard. She blinked, her tears forgotten for the moment as she stared up at him.

"Then why?"

He grunted. "Not everything is so simple. Life is not black and white, light and dark. For the most part, we live between the two parallels." His fingertips were tracing her cheek lightly as he stared down at her face. How could he explain it to her? She had been his best pupil, but this was a lesson he couldn't teach.

She closed her eyes on an exhausted sigh, nuzzling gently into his palm. He stiffened at her unexpected response.

"You should go back to sleep," he spoke softly. "If you like, I can bring you a vial of Dreamless Sleep."

Her eyes flickered back open, and she bit her lip, contemplating his offer. She shook her head then, and he moved his hand away from her face. He slid his arm somewhat reluctantly back from her waist, shifting on the mattress so she could lie back down. Severus retrieved the crumpled blanket and straightened it across her petite form.

"Sir?"

He glanced at her again from his spot at the edge of the bed. She was fiddling with the edge of the coverlet, but her dark eyes were intent on him.

"Would you…I mean…"

"I'm afraid I don't know any bedtime stories, Miss Granger," he drawled, the corner of his mouth pulling up into a smirk. In the moonlight, he could see the small smile she tried to hide.

"Of course not. But Draco mentioned this lullaby…"

Severus snorted, shaking his head. He laughed then, and her stomach fluttered at the sound. She couldn't remember ever hearing her former professor laugh, a true sound of humor and not something laced with malice.

"The boy talks too much," he said, smiling down at her in the half-light. He regarded her silently for a few moments, studying her soft features.

"Perhaps something a touch more…cerebral?" he mused. She nodded wordlessly, watching as he closed his eyes. When he looked at her again, there was something distant about him, and he was frowning thoughtfully.

"Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their end; each changing place with that which goes before, in sequent toil all forwards do contend." He paused, his black gaze tracing her face, memorizing the lines of her youth that were expressed so poetically in the couplet.

"Nativity, once in the main of light, crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd, crooked ellipses 'gainst his glory fight, and time that gave doth now his gift confound. Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth and delves the parallels in beauty's brow, feeds on the rarities of natures truth, and nothing stands but for his scythe to mow; and yet to times in hope my verse shall stand, praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand."

He recited the sonnet to her in his low, silky voice, and she barely breathed as he spoke, her heart beating with the rhythm of the poem.

"You know Shakespeare, sir?"

"A man who wrote not in black and white, but with life," Severus replied. He sighed then, the sound betraying his fatigue. "We only grow by attempting to learn things we do not understand. It is why, ultimately, the Dark will never win."

She watched as he pushed up to a standing position, pausing for a moment to regard her before he picked up his wand and started to walk towards the door.

"Severus?"

His name on her lips stilled him, and he felt something stir in response to it, something he had thought lost, something he wondered secretly had ever actually existed within him in the first place. There is always hope, my boy. If not for hope, there would be no love. Without love, there would be no Light.

"Thank you," she whispered.

It was so simple, yet meant everything. He remembered his words to Draco, to not lose hope. He remembered his mother, her voice clear, gentle, telling him to not give up. And then Albus, repeating once again, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Learn from history.

He nodded shortly, not daring to look back at her one more time before he walked out of her bedroom.