Plot, new characters, new magical terms and abilities etc. are my intellectual property. If you want to borrow then please kindly ask. JK Rowling's characters and Wizarding Universe are all uniquely hers.

Summary: It is the height of the 1st War and Severus Snape is determined to survive it and carve out his own destiny with the one person who trusts him unreservedly. Alternate Universe.

Supernatural/Drama/Angst/Spiritual/Romance/Horror

This story is rated R/M. It is very intense and for mature readers only.

A Love Before Time

Chapter 001: Seeing The Light

The First War

21 year-old Severus Snape walked quickly as he dared to get out of the freezing February rain with his travelling cloak wrapped tightly around him. He was taking back roads to his destination. No portkeys, no floo powder and no using his own broomstick if it wasn't absolutely necessary in keeping up with his ruse. He couldn't take the chance that he was being tracked.

There was no loyalty or honour amongst thieves and the Death Eaters were an extreme version of that old adage.

It was all out war in the wizarding world now and Voldemort was growing more powerful by the day. Snape had always considered himself fortunate that all he was required to do was to work on extreme poisons and toxins rather than engage in the usual Death Eater carnage and destruction. However, he was not given room enough to breathe so that he could come up with the necessary antidotes. He had no idea how the potions were used or who the unsuspecting victims were that they were used on. The only thing he knew was that his was just as heavy a hand in the wholesale slaughter of innocents as any Death Eater who had wielded a wand and executed Unforgivable Curses.

With anyone else Potions would have been hit and miss. Lucius Malfoy, the second-in-command, had known exactly what he was doing when he targeted the young Potions Master. Snape never made a mistake. That most remarkable ability was the only thing keeping him alive other than being a skilled Occlumens and he was well aware of it. There were 12 predecessors who had served in this capacity. If Snape was what everyone believed him to be, he would be the last even if it was under the inauspicious cloud of being number 13.

However, it had taken so long for him to make his declaration to the Dark Lord that he was not entirely trusted. Then again, Voldemort was astute enough to not entirely trust anyone – anyone save Lucius Malfoy; something Snape was certain would contribute to the Dark Lord's eventual downfall. Malfoy was arrogant in his wielding his power and influence, especially within the ranks of Death Eaters.

Things were changing and very quickly. Too quickly for Snape's taste. He'd made a mistake in joining and other than death there was no way out off his own back. He had hoped against all hope that somehow he could break the curse upon his flesh that was the Dark Mark, the magical brand of a tattoo that bound him body and soul to Voldemort.

He was taking a grave risk working on solutions to this most insurmountable of problems whilst also catering to the whims of his master in the same laboratory. He'd been working non-stop for weeks and the Goddess must surely be smiling upon him because Malfoy informed him this morning that he was being granted some time off. The Potions work was on hold.

Snape was not told why.

And not being told why, he knew that something was being planned. It had to be quite important for him to be summarily dismissed. Still he was not entirely trusted and the torture tests he'd been subjected to were becoming 'tedious and boring' according to Malfoy.

Snape swore that one day he would get his revenge. Lucius had steadily increased the shit-stirring against him – especially when it seemed that the Potions Master was currying favour with the Dark Lord. Better to be in the good graces of the Dark Lord than at the top of his hit list, but trust a dunderhead like Malfoy to not have the common sense or intelligence to work that out for himself. To not curry favour with the Dark Lord would have been tantamount to signing his own death warrant. He had, in a way, when he took the Mark. But at least Snape's was a role which required skill, unlike Malfoy's. The subtle science and exact art that was Potions-making was a dying art form and no one else had ever really been up to the task. It had cost them their lives and he was determined that somehow he would get past this; that he would survive in spite of the odds against it.

Snape had his own ideas for after the war. His own ideas of the life he wanted after Voldemort was no longer a threat. He just had to bide his time and not get on the wrong side of the Dark Lord's wand, or Lucius Malfoy's, or some rogue Death Eater out to make a name for her- or him- self.

There was one thing he could do to get the lifeline he knew he needed – the one thing he had not allowed himself to do.

Not yet.

Malfoy was always one to take unnecessary and oftentimes reckless risks. He had his own agenda, after all. There were few amongst the Death Eaters who wouldn't like to see the reign of the Dark Lord come to an end. Snape was certain that Lucius had delusions of assuming the leadership in the seeming unlikely event of Voldemort's demise. So far the Dark Lord-In-Waiting had been blessed with more than a healthy dose of good luck which he took for granted, being the spoiled brat that he was. Sooner or later that luck was bound to run out.

As it would for all of them in one way or another unless something drastic happened.

Despite eliminating a number of the Order of the Phoenix resistance movement and slaughtering Muggles and Wizards alike; regardless of the fact that no one in the wizarding world who knew to trust anymore, not even their own families – things weren't moving fast enough. The Dark Lord was impatient; very impatient. Malfoy was fanning the flames of that impatience and sooner or it was going to cost everyone in the rank and file of Voldemort's army. Despite whatever abomination to mankind it was that he had mutated into, there was at the heart a human being who had been known as Tom Riddle. A human being who had given his body, soul and spirit to the extremes of the Dark Arts; a human being determined to conquer Death and be the sole possessor of immortality. Lord Voldemort wanted nothing less.

That thought wasn't worth thinking about and Snape did his best to push the darkest of dark thoughts from his mind. He speeded up his walking, moving stealthily with ease. He might well have been levitating.

There was a gated wall ahead. He moved swiftly towards it and gave it yank. It didn't budge and he swore under his breath. He'd meant to repair it ages ago and just never had the time. The simple Reparo charm wasn't enough to fix whatever it was that was wrong.

Circumstances conspired against him and he pushed the problem with the gate to the back of his mind. It wasn't really a priority in the scheme of things.

Snape reached awkwardly between the thick wooden slats of the gate to the rear of the locking mechanism. It was difficult to not only get it undone, it was difficult to get it undone without ripping his hand open in the process. A minute or two of fumbling and he felt the lock give way. It was raining even harder and the wind had picked up.

He was now surrounded by high hedges. There was only one way to go – either forward on the dirt track or back. Having taken this route there was no point in doubling back. It would only mean that it would take twice as long for him to get home and the sun was already setting as it is.

Home.

No one knew that he had a home, a real home other than the old family home in North Wales. Thankfully he had mastered the skill of Occlumency which prevented his memories from being probed through the use of Legilimency. Using the Legilimens was a favourite technique of the Dark Lord's. In using it to access the memories of his followers and victims, he always knew when someone was lying to him. As far as Voldemort and anyone else knew, Snape had no one in the world. He could only get comfort if it involved a sack of galleons, which being from a working-class background the young Potions Master was in short supply of.

That was no truer now than it was when he had been at school.

There was someone who cared about him. There was comfort for him. As much as he hated the life he was being forced to live he had no regrets about her. He had kept telling himself that he couldn't have any semblance of a life until the Dark Lord was cast out. But it seemed more and more likely that a new era was on the verge of dawning and sooner or later he would have to adjust to a new world order along with everyone else.

People were still courting, getting Handfasted, settling down and starting families. There were still parties and trips to the pub. Social niceties had not disappeared, although perhaps there might be a certain edge to them now. Indeed, it seemed as though in some circles things had picked up from what he managed to overhear listening to the gossiping Death Eaters who guarded his lab.

And when circumstances conspired to bring them together after a life so far of being on the outside with no one of his own, he could not resist it thought common sense told him otherwise. The angel and devil on his shoulders were at war over this most delicate of situations. Once he'd become involved with the woman he loved – yes, loved – he was powerless to stop it.

Snape raced through the overgrowth and found himself a few yards from a small cottage. A few lights were already on and he could just make out a figure in the kitchen.

The Potions Master smiled to himself. A few quick strides and he was at the back door to the property. He didn't dare keep so much as a key on him and used his wand to let himself in.

BAM!

A gust of wind blew the door open as soon as he'd undone the old locks on it and there was a shriek from inside.

'It's only me,' he called out as he secured it.

'Oh – thank God for that!' came a voice. 'You scared me out of my wits!'

He hung up his wet things and kicked off his soaking shoes in the little wet room off the kitchen. He'd barely got them off when he was crushed in a tight hug.

'I have missed you so much….' she murmured softly as he returned it.

She smelt faintly of turpentine and oil paints. She loved arts and crafts, but especially painting. She also smelled off cinnamon and vanilla; essential oils. He was always reminded of her when he smelled those two scents – even in Potions work.

His mouth sought hers and he gave into the heat of passions that had known no release since he'd last seen her almost four months ago. After several minutes the girlfriend no one knew he had took his face into her small artist's hands with long tapered fingers and looked at him.

'You need to rest, love,' she said firmly.

He sighed.

'I will… Come. I just want to be with you…'

They never discussed his tasks for Voldemort. Nor did they discuss the loyalty tests or the punishments meted out. They didn't have to.

She always knew without him telling her.

She was gifted; an Empath. A true Seer.

She could see it.

She could feel it.

She lived it as much as he did.

It killed him to know that she had such intimate knowledge and understanding of what he was forced to endure. But she was gifted. That gift had been a curse as much as it had been a blessing.

And that gift was something Voldemort wanted for himself.

There was a very specific reason Voldemort wanted to initiate her – Why he still was unable to ascertain. One of his first loyalty tests was to have involved killing her if he couldn't 'persuade' her to join Voldemort's ranks. He and Rowan had been students together at The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. No one even known that they had been on what would be construed as friendly terms let alone knew each other.

Rowan had been a Ravenclaw and he was in Slytherin, the house that was the most maligned and hated in the school. She'd never humiliated or bullied him like the others. And she never joined in with the laughter at his expense nor had she turned a blind eye to what was going on right under her nose.

She did have her group of friends that she socialised with, including Remus Lupin, a Gryffindor and one of a group of four who called themselves The Marauders. The Marauders had tormented him to no end and made his life hell. Lupin was one of the few subjects that they agreed to disagree on. Severus knew better than to push her about her dubious taste in friends and she knew better than to try and make him see sense where her friends were concerned.

Rowan was one of less than a handful of people Snape had tolerated without having to make to much effort. But with the abusive childhood he had survived, no one could get close to him and he would not allow himself to care about or feel anything for anyone else.

No one, until her.

Theirs had started out as a begrudging sort of friendship. Then it evolved and they would quietly seek each other out in the Library hidden away in one of the small quiet rooms where no one could see or disturb them. One rainy afternoon in such a quiet room their relationship turned intimate, much to their surprise. Neither had thought the other would be interested in taking it so far. Their intimacy "just happened", or so they told themselves blaming it on hormones, loneliness and all manner of other things.

He hadn't been her first, much to his disappointment. When pressed she refused to discuss it. It didn't matter, she had said. Snape wasn't at the point yet where he would commit himself fully to her, no more than the other guy had been able to apparently. And so they kept on with meeting in the library, behind the greenhouses and in the old graveyard and abbey ruins on the far side of the grounds, refusing to see the situation for what it was.

Finally they had to face the truth.

Each was all the other ever really had, even Rowan with her circle of friends and interests in art and music. If he was he was the question, then she was the answer to that question.

Then came that fateful night of his forced initiation into the Death Eaters. Soon after was the loyalty test. Only later did he find out that it was set not by Voldemort. It was set by none other than Lucius Malfoy. Rowan wasn't a mark on anyone's chalkboard until Malfoy decided she had something worth getting their hands on.

But the question still lingered – what was it that had transpired such that they were keen to make use of her?

The young Potions Master couldn't bring himself to hurt Rowan or even consider luring her into Darkness. Instead he hid her away. He did what he could to look after her even though he had nearly died and almost lost his mind from having the Cruciatus Curse applied to him for what felt like an eternity. It was no small miracle that he was still alive.

It was the same for her experiencing it through him.

Rowan had been beyond consolation when she realised what he had risked and suffered in order to save her life. But Snape never blamed her. As far as he was concerned the Goddess had to be looking out for them for him to have been assigned the task rather than someone else, especially Malfoy. So far they had been lucky, but it always felt like they were surviving on borrowed time. They were, but there was no concrete way of knowing that.

Not yet.

'They almost killed you, Severus. That man – Malfoy – he is nothing less than a sadist…'

Snape huffed darkly.

'A bored sadist apparently – that is why I am here. Something is going on; something that doesn't require my services. Rather than keep me locked away I have been dismissed – for the time being.'

He frowned, and as he did so his brows knit together in frustration. For such a young man he was already beginning to age, including acquiring a vertical line between his brows that would deepen over the years along with lines on either side of his mouth. Having to live his life in the shadow of Voldemort as he did was starting to take its toll.

Rowan leaned forward, slumped to the floor and stared into the fire crackling in the fireplace.

'There is one to come when the world next grows dark at midday – the one Dark Lord believes will threaten his existence,' she said in a quiet whisper of her normal husky speaking voice. 'A prophecy in a place unknown and incomplete to him reveals it. The one who wields great power and fear unto He Who Will Not Be Named witnessed the revealing from the charlatan who knows not.

Three innocents will come on that day, one will be chosen and it is he that will be set against him – the enmity mutual from the giving of a mark. The reign of Darkness will come to an end but only for a time. The peace will be but an illusion…the second war to come more terrifying than the first should he be allowed to rise to full power…'

She took shallow breaths…and then passed out cold.

'Rowan!' Snape rasped not understanding what could be wrong.

She had never passed out before.

He picked her up and lay her gently on the old sofa. After a few moments she slowly regained consciousness.

'Mmm Severus,' Rowan moaned quietly as her eyes took in his worried face.

She tried to sit up and sank back down under a wave of nausea, placing a hand over her mouth.

'Rowan – what's going on? What's wrong?'

Uncharacteristically the Potions Master was panicked though it did not show on the cool exterior that was his countenance. It was more to do with her condition than with what he'd just heard.

'Just the morning sickness…except it seems to be afternoon and night sickness too…' she replied feebly.

Snape was shell-shocked.

'Morning sickness?' he intoned slowly with wide eyes.

Rowan gave a slight smile and her eyes welled up with tears.

'I'm pregnant, Severus. About four months along…' she mumbled in a choked whisper.

She'd agonised over telling him. With everything going on, with the dangers they both faced – this was not the time to bring new life into the world. Not when everything was so uncertain and they were forced to be apart and their relationship a secret.

'I'm going to be a father…' Snape whispered incredulously.

Rowan sniffed as hot tears ran down her cheeks.

'Yes…' she croaked. 'I'm past the danger zone now apparently…16 weeks…'

She burst into tears and Snape pulled her into his arms. She'd had one miscarriage before this – the night he was tortured to the brink of death for failing to hand her over to Voldemort. She'd been at 14 weeks then.

'Don't you want our baby?' he asked allowing just a hint of worry to creep into his voice.

'Yes! I want him so much, Severus. I want us to be a proper family…'

'Him?'

'I just know… it's a boy…' she sniffed as she touched a cheek. 'A beautiful black haired boy just like you…with green eyes like mine…'

'A son...' Snape replied softly.

He never knew what to think about the way that Rowan saw him and experienced him. She saw and felt things he would never acknowledge in himself.

'Mmm hmm…'

Rowan nodded and tears streamed down her face. In the face of so much uncertainty, hidden from the world, she was frightened.

'I could do with heaps of that legendary Gryffindor bravery,' she thought to herself.

Things were now greatly complicated and she just didn't know how they would get around the problems to come from such a blessing as this.

Severus thought for a moment. This changed everything. He couldn't go back to Voldemort. He just couldn't. But to not go was suicide. It did not matter where he went, the Dark Lord would always find him. She couldn't go back to her parents, and especially not in her condition. Being Muggles, they had rejected their magical child out of fear borne of ignorance. Like many before her, she found herself unceremoniously dumped on the Headmaster's doorstep after her first year.

They were damned no matter what he did…or didn't do.

'Damn it to hell!' he roared out loud.

Rowan shrank bank and the tears fell even harder.

'I'm sorry! I'm so sorry – it's all my fault!' she shouted.

'No – no it isn't and there is NOTHING to be sorry for! I want this child, Rowan! Our child!' Severus said taking her face into his large hands and kissing her through her salty tears.

'It's OK,' she sniffed breathlessly. 'It's ok if you don't want it. I'll…I'll…do whatever you want…'

She impulsively placed a protective hand over her small pot of a belly hidden by the painter's smock she was wearing. She wanted their baby so much.

'Don't you even think it!' he hissed pulling her into his arms once more. 'I could never…I would never want that…not ever! Don't you ever dare say such a thing ever again!'

Rowan clung to him, burying her head in his chest. Snape stroked her long bright red hair and did his best to comfort her.

'What are we going to do? He'll call you back…we both know he will. And there is no telling how long you'll have to be gone…or if you'll come back…' her voice trailed off.

Both were thinking the same thing.

With things as they were and her pregnant, she couldn't remain here on her own. It was too dangerous. Being as empathic as she was there was the ever present danger of miscarrying. Rowan needed access to the best medical care the wizarding world offered. It was either the St. Mungos-St. Swithins Family Clinic or Madam Pomfrey, the Mediwitch on staff at Hogwarts. She couldn't go to the former – teeming with spies for the Dark Lord as it was.

'Let's have dinner and then sleep on it,' Snape said gently not wanting to upset her.

But he already knew what needed to be done.

And he had both the courage and inspiration to finally do it.

xXxXxXx…

Their lovemaking that night and the following morning had been heated, intense and emotional.

So emotional.

And comforting.

So, so comforting.

As it always was.

As it always had been.

Despite outward appearances to the contrary he did feel, and very deeply at that. Never before had he known such bliss such as when they were in each other's arms. Loving, being in love and being loved had made him reckless, many would have thought. They should have been more careful. He, of all people, should definitely have been more careful. A very important "should" that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Or so it seemed.

He pushed the thoughts of her and feelings for her so deep inside even he would have a problem accessing them. He'd adopted a Dark Glamour for this most perilous of journeys. There was no doubt he was doing the right thing. He'd managed to acquire a broomstick so as to not have to use his own. It had killed him to leave her alone, but had no choice. He couldn't take the usual transport to Scotland. The Hogwarts Express took about 6 hours to get to Hogsmead Station from King's Cross, but it didn't matter. It was not only too time-consuming; it would have looked highly suspicious to see a man not already affiliated with the school on the train used by staff and students. The only parents to have ever been seen at the school were those on its Board of Governors.

He knew that if he ventured up to London he would get a result. Some fool was likely to have left their broom in the courtyard to the rear of the Leaky Cauldron, the pub that was the gateway to the commercial hub of the wizarding world. He hit pay dirt, for there were several fools that day and he got himself a decent Clean Sweep Three. He took the broom that was neither the best nor the worst. Just an average broom for someone who most decidedly was not. He jinxed the others just to prove a lesson to the dunderheads who owned them.

Snape emptied his mind as much as he seemed to have emptied his heart the moment he left her. Although one needed eye direct contact to access memories he was not about to take a chance that there was one amongst the populace who didn't. There was many an ambitious wizard who sought to hone and redefine established techniques.

Voldemort was but one.

And he had spies everywhere.

Every place save one, he hoped.

xXxXxXx…

He never thought he would ever set foot in these grounds again and certainly not under these circumstances.

Snape looked up at the old castle that was the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

There was a Crack!

Before him stood Albus Dumbledore, the latest in a long line of Headmasters in a tradition that was thousands of years old. Snape was now standing in the Headmaster's office. How he got there was anyone's guess as it was widely known – and accepted fact – that you could not Apparate or Disapparate in or out of the castle and its grounds.

It was such an innocuous little trick, but one that had the desired effect of reaffirming the power the Headmaster most definitely had.

Dumbledore.

The only person that Lord Voldemort feared.

Dumbledore.

The Greatest Wizard of the Age.

'Hogwarts is always here for those in need of it, Severus. As am I.'

Such was the opening salvo in what Snape had expected to be a volley of verbal hexing. He told Dumbledore about having been somewhat reluctant to commit himself entirely to Voldemort and then being forced to join or die. He named names and told what he knew. The Headmaster had no doubts that Snape was finally admitting he was in over his head.

And desperate to get out of the mess he'd created.

The young Potions Master let out a deep breath he didn't know he was holding in.

'I am also here because of Rowan Morgause, Sir.'

Dumbledore's countenance was one of contemplation.

'If I am not mistaken, she has not been seen in over two years,' he said evenly. 'There is speculation that she is one of "The Disappeared". A tragedy for one so vibrant and full of life; one so extraordinarily gifted.'

The Disappeared were those unfortunate souls that just vanished into thin air. Snatched for the Dark Lord by his Death Eater minions. No one dared speak about it publicly. Still, there wasn't a person alive in the wizarding world that did not know of at least one person who had simply gone to work, gone to the market, or gone off to meet up with friends and who had never returned. It was commonly believed, and rightly so, that those souls would not be coming back. There was no returning from the dead.

'Not quite, Professor.'

Dumbledore leaned forward and blue eyes met black.

Snape hesitated.

'I want to help you…and whomever I can, Severus. I cannot do that unless you are ready to help yourself…and them…'

The young Potions Master swallowed and let out another deep breath.

'I can't…I just…' he mumbled as his voice trailed away.

'I know it is not in your nature to ask for help any more than it is to receive it. You are here at great personal risk, the likes of which I know all too well. For you to have taken such a grave step – it is not an idle matter.'

'I am not going to portray myself as being so altruistic in your eyes, Headmaster. There is too much at stake here and a good part of my reason for being here is personal. Very personal.'

Dumbledore nodded as he idly stroked a red and gold glass bowl on his desk.

'Rowan Morgause is not quite one of The Disappeared. She was meant to be – but…'

'What, Severus?' the old wizard asked gently.

Snape took a deep breath.

'I…I…couldn't do it, Sir. I couldn't do that to her! Rape! Torture – torturing her until she died or agreed to be initiated! I am not like that wizarding trash – that SCUM that follows him so blindly! I was a fool and made a grave mistake in joining him. I accept that. I will pay for that mistake for the rest of whatever I have left of my miserable life! But I have not, nor will I ever indulge in such barbarity!'

'Easy, easy,' the Headmaster said gently. 'Tell me everything. No matter how innocuous it may seem.'

'Voldemort has put a high price on her head. There are bounty hunters all over the British Isles in search of her.'

'Since when has Tom needed to resort to such drastic measures?'

Snape looked his saviour in the eyes. He had never heard the Dark Lord referred to in terms that revealed his humanity. He had the fleeting thought that anything that was human could be killed. In the Dark Lord's case that was most definitely easier said than done.

'It is because I failed, Sir! There has only ever been one assignment I was given which did not involve the Potions & Charms development programmes I told you about. I was ordered to bring Rowan Morgause in. The Dark Lord sees her as being invaluable to the cause no thanks to Lucius Malfoy. I failed to deliver her and he exacted a "fitting punishment" that nearly killed me. And her as well in the process…all that I experience so to does she.'

Dumbledore nodded incredulously and poked his wand in the potion-filled bowl. He only allowed himself to speak after a moment of meditation.

'You are bound, child?'

Snape blinked and gave a slight nod of confirmation. There was no sense in denying the most peculiar relationship that he had with the woman he loved and adored. They were not only soul mates, they were something even more rare, more precious. They were Twin Flames, or Twin Souls; each completed the other in a way that was not possible with anyone else.

'Such a bond can only be created by a love that is strong, pure and very true,' the Headmaster said gently. 'It is the mark of Twin Souls. It is eternal…and unbreakable. And given Rowan's special gift – it is no wonder your "fitting punishment" almost killed her.'

'Yes…' Snape whispered softly after digesting this astonishing and overwhelming news. 'I would do anything, anything, to save her and our child.'

Dumbledore's blue eyes glittered strangely.

'A child did you say?'

'Not yet born, I have kept Rowan in hiding for just over two years now and done all I can to keep her safe. Our friendship, our relationship, began in our Fourth Year here. For the first time in my life I allowed myself to love and be loved. In our Sixth Year she fell pregnant with our first child. She miscarried the night I was forced to take the Dark Mark. She lived it as I experienced it. It has been that way with us ever since. And now once again she is with child, 16 weeks to be exact. I fear for her, and for our child. The loyalty tests and punishments…could be fatal to either or both of them. So too could my death.'

It was Dumbledore's turn to let out a breath he didn't know he was holding in. All of this had been going on under his very nose and he'd been none the wiser.

Snape looked into the bowl.

There was the image of a little boy with black hair who looked like him, but had bright green almond-shaped eyes just like his mother.

'Exactly as Rowan said he would be…' he muttered in wonderment.

'16 weeks you said…'

'Yes,' Snape said idly as he stared at the image of his son. He looked closer. The child seemed to have something on his forehead.

The young Potions Master dismissed it as a trick of the now rippling water.

'Her due date is around the end of July...' he added.

There was something about the way Dumbledore was looking at him.

'Rowan is a gifted seer. A being quite rare and very valuable in our world,' said the Headmaster deliberately changing the subject.

'There is something else. She has revealed something to me I think is crucial to the outcome of this war; just last night.'

Dumbledore tapped the bowl with great purpose and waited. Snape was dismayed to see the image of his son disappear in a flash of flames and smoke.

Was it just his imagination or had the child looked at him sadly and shook his head 'no'.

The Headmaster said nothing about this.

'Continue, Severus.'

Snape repeated the message Rowan had given him, word for word.

'There is one to come when the world next grows dark at midday – the one Dark Lord believes will threaten his existence. A prophecy in a place unknown and incomplete to him reveals it. The one who wields great power and fear unto He Who Will Not Be Named witnessed the revealing from the charlatan who knows not. Three innocents come on that day, one will be chosen and it is he that will be set against him – the enmity mutual from the giving of a mark. The reign will come to an end but only for a time. The peace will be but an illusion…the second war to come more terrifying than the first should he be allowed to rise to full power…'

Professor Dumbledore's glittered strangely yet again. He prodded a silvery orb and watched intensely as it let off great puffs of ectoplasm.

'We must do all that we can to protect Rowan,' he said quietly. 'The Fidelus…'

'The Fidelus?'

'Is achievable… Tom could be outside the sitting room window and would be none the wiser that there is even so much as a house there. I have seen for myself that it does work.'

Severus let out a thin sigh of relief. His countenance returned to its usual dour disposition.

'I am prepared to do whatever it will take rid our world of that abomination to wizard and human kind.'

'I cannot ask you to do any more than you have already done…'

'Your Order of the Phoenix is preyed upon like foxes during a hunt, it seems much too easy,' Snape said sharply, ignoring that last comment which he knew to be a blatant untruth. 'There is a scorpion in your midst, Headmaster. There must be.'

Dumbledore nodded.

'I see our troubles reaches even your ears. Tom's followers always did talk too much, especially where prudence was required. There is a growing suspicion amongst the old-timers that are left that one amongst us has been turned. We need to know for certain and sooner rather than later. An abundance of time is something we have not have. Tom is on the verge of assuming full powers, I have no doubt of that.'

'A connection to the Dark Lord's inner circle is something you also have not had. Until now.'

Dumbledore thought carefully before committing himself to what he knew was being suggested. It was just as well his former student had volunteered himself. If he hadn't he would have been volunteered by his former Headmaster. Snape was no fool. He was well aware of what the Headmaster would have had him do and knew how to play the game.

'There is one thing still to be done, Severus. I'm sure that you can understand why.'

Snape nodded as the headmaster emptied the clear contents of a small glass vial into his cup of tea. He drank it down is several gulps. His head felt heavy and his tongue thickened. Dumbledore questioned him on all that had been revealed so that he could be absolutely certain the young Potions Master was telling the truth. And also to be certain that he wasn't withholding any further information.

Once completed Professor Dumbledore gave him another drink containing the antidote to the Veritaserum-laced tea.

'How are you feeling?' the Headmaster asked.

'Fine.'

'Good. I need to make the necessary arrangements, particularly with regards to the Fidelus. A great deal of care must go into selecting the Secret-Keeper – but I believe we have someone reliable.'

The Fidelus Charm was a very intricate and complicated spell involving the magical concealment of a secret inside a single, living soul. The information is hidden inside the chosen person, otherwise known as the Secret-Keeper, and going forward it would impossible to find unless the Secret-Keeper chose to divulge it. As long as the Secret-Keeper refused to speak, the area where Rowan lived could be searched for all eternity and she would never be found, not even if a searcher's nose was pressed against their kitchen window.

'And that is?'

'You know I cannot reveal that information, Severus. And it would serve no interest for you to know it.'

'The lives of my wife and my son are in danger! I have EVERY RIGHT to know who it is that is being entrusted with their lives!'

'Your wife?'

'She will be,' Snape said evenly. 'She might as well be already…'

'Still ambitious as ever,' Dumbledore said with a smile. 'If you are serious, a simple Handfasting can be arranged.'

Snape blinked.

'Well, I think it only fitting that I meet with your intended don't you? If she re-affirms her acceptance of your proposal then I will be happy to officiate, unofficially of course.'

Professor Dumbledore knew that Severus Snape was a proud and honourable man. Had circumstances permitted it he would have opted for a traditional courtship and Grand Handfasting. The Greasy Git of Hogwarts would have wanted to show the wizarding world that he both loved and was worth loving. He still had everything to prove personally as much as he did professionally. Rowan Morgause had to be an exceptional woman to see the beauty and goodness inside the menacing ugliness and irascibility that was the Potions Master.

It was an exceptional thing indeed that the Potions Master loved. Something not lost even on him.

'That would be acceptable,' Snape said crisply.

Dumbledore sighed. Once again the look on his face was nothing less than grave.

'There are arrangements to be made and all of this will take time, Severus. It goes without saying that you should take no greater risk than absolutely necessary. Especially in light of the change in your circumstances.'

'Indeed it does. I will report as soon as I can should anything change or new information comes to light.'

Dumbledore raised his hands.

FLASH!

Severus Snape was gone.

There was no sign that there had even been a visitor.

xXxXxXx…

Snape walked quickly as he dared to get out of the freezing February rain with his travelling cloak wrapped tightly around him. Once again he was taking back roads to his destination. No Apparating or Disapparating, no portkeys, no floo powder and no using the broomstick he had stolen.

He still wouldn't take the chance that he was somehow being tracked.

Thankfully Dumbledore had left him about a five-minute walk from the gated wall. It didn't take him long to get home once he struggled with the broken lock on the gate. It vexed him to no end that there wasn't a magical solution to permanently repair it and once again he put it from his mind.

He had more important things to think about.

xXxXxXx…

Rowan was wound tighter than a toy top; she practically pounced on him the minute he set foot in the house.

Snape hadn't explained where he was going or what he intended to do when he got there. The most he would say was that he was not going back to the Dark Lord; that he would wait it out until he was called. To go back voluntarily was like pouring oil on a fire, he'd said ruefully. Only if he failed to return to her within 24 hours should she do as they had planned some time ago.

Do whatever it took to contact Albus Dumbledore and get herself to Hogwarts.

The young Potions Master had collapsed on the soft and stretched out. He was tired, bone tired and it showed. Rowan brought him hot tea, a bowl of beef stew and warm slices of bread. She sat it down on the coffee table in their small sitting room.

'I could have gotten that for myself,' he said admonishingly.

'It gives me something to do – besides being such a thorn in your side…'

She got up to leave and he pulled her back down gently.

'Where is all this coming from?' he asked gently turning her face to his.

'Your life would be a lot better off without me, Severus. You should have just left me to my fate…'

The young Potions Master was hurt, deeply hurt, and made no attempt to hide it.

'No! It wouldn't! You know what it was like for me, Rowan! You are the only one who knows, and who has ever really cared to find things out for yourself. I don't know what I would do without you! You are the only thing – you and now our son – that keeps me going; that makes me want to live. You give me a reason to endure! You were meant to live – you were! The things that have happened…are the things that were meant to happen. We will get through this…'

His onyx-black eyes grew moist and glittered with unshed tears. He closed his eyes and inwardly admonished himself to get it together. He took a few minutes to calm himself. Rowan was the only person alive that could ever make him feel.

'I could say the say thing to you, lmy ove,' he said softly opening them again. 'Surely this is not the life you would have chosen for yourself? It was forced upon you…I should have done something…anything…!' his voice trailed off.

Rowan felt horrible for being in such a negative mood and laying her troubles squarely at his feet.

'I'm sorry, my darling, I shouldn't have said that…'

He took a drink of his tea and wiped his eyes.

'Come here,' he whispered.

Rowan still didn't look convinced. He knew that she was worried that she would end up being the reason he died at the hands of the Dark Lord and his followers. His girlfriend stretched out next to him, his dinner was forgotten. He held her in his arms and kissed her. Slow, deep kisses that revealed more about his feelings for her than words ever could.

Snape pulled back and looked into her eyes; those beautiful vibrant green eyes that had enraptured him for as long as he could remember.

'Everything will be alright,' he said quietly. 'I did something today – something to safeguard your future and the baby's I hope….'

Rowan didn't have to think.

'You – you went to Dumbledore didn't you?'

Snape nodded.

'Severus, are you mad? Have you lost your mind? Out of the frying pan and into the fire… If anyone finds out about you!'

'Where there is the Headmaster there is hope; for all of us. It will take some time, but everything is going to be alright. No one is going to find out anything…' Snape said trying to convince himself as much as the woman he loved.

'How?'

He then explained all that had happened that day and what the Headmaster was proposing to do. He left out only one set of details; those surrounding the scrying Dumbledore had done in the glass bowl. The images revealed still disturbed him. The images of his son who looked so much like himself but with his mother's eyes. A son that shook his head 'no' amidst fire and smoke.

'The Fidelus? There aren't too many wizards up to the task…' Rowan said cautiously.

'Dumbledore is...'

'Right,' Rowan sighed. 'The Greatest Wizard of the Age…'

'The Headmaster is the only one the Dark Lord has ever feared. We have to have faith that he knows what he is doing.'

'Even though his people are getting picked off left and right?'

'There are losses on both sides, Rowan. The Dark Lord's arrogance exceeds his abilities in crucial ways – and the same can be said of his most trusted inner circle. Malfoy is cut from the same cloth and Goddess willing one day it will cost him. I aim to be well out of it when that happens.'

'Well – I'm sure he will take great care then, especially in selecting the Secret-Keeper for us…' Rowan said quietly.

She and Severus tended to think alike in many ways, she thought to herself. No doubt he had already thought of all of this himself.

She reached a hand up and stroked his face.

'I am really lucky, you know…'

'Why is that?' Snape asked softly.

'Because I have you…'

He smiled ruefully.

'Everyone else would believe it a curse…'

'Their problem and their loss…not mine…'

The young Potions Master took a deep breath.

'There is something else...isn't there?' Rowan asked quietly.

'The incident last night; it wasn't just a simple matter of sickness. You relayed a message, one that you did not recall when you came to.'

Snape told her what she'd revealed the night before.

'Hmm it sounds as though something will give – and soon…' Rowan said hoping that she sounded more optimistic than she felt.

'Your assessment seems correct. I think it meant something to the Headmaster, which of course he kept to himself. It does not matter, we will get through this…'

But deep down both knew that no matter how positive a spin they tried putting on things, something didn't feel quite right.