Prince of The Dark Triangle

Details, descriptions, items and characters of the Harry Potter series are the sole property of J. , et al and used only within the context of this story and my not be otherwise reprinted, sold, or used for any other purpose. Original characters and plot are mine and my not be used in any other {for profit} form without permission…

Chapter 14

As Hermione drifted off to sleep that evening the unconscious state did not last very long. She slowly found herself drifting in what could only be described as a sea of white mist.

As the mist slowly began to recede she realized she was sitting in an old rickety wooden ladder-backed chair. A room began to form starting at her feet, slowly spreading outward before her.

She could see shapes forming – A dilapidated bed to her immediate right – walls of exposed wooden slats with patches of plaster that still clung here and there – the floor of warped planks – a broken table toward the rear wall.

It was then she knew exactly where she was – the Shrieking Shack!

It was in that very room they had discovered the truth about Sirius Black and watched Harry's unwilling ally die at the hands of the vilest creatures to ever have drawn a breath in this world.

As she sat lost in an ocean of memories a dark figure materialized out of the mist in the far corner of the room. As the figure became more solid and substantial she recognized who it was at once, even in the gloomy dimness that filled the space.

Severus Snape stepped forward, arms folded and the ever-present pursed-lipped scowl on his face. He peered across the room at her saying nothing at first and then his eyes flicked about – his scowl deepened.

Before she even knew it she was on her feet not realizing she was dressed in what she usually wore to bed. For the second time she had been caught in her knickers.

This is getting to be a really disturbing habit Granger!

She was wearing nothing more than her usual thin half-tank top and tiny cotton shorts. She was suddenly glad she had not gone to bed naked as she did sometimes when the weather was hot.

As Snape took in her form she noticed one eyebrow rise. She could see his eyes were affixed in the vicinity of her breasts but Hermione Granger was no longer a blushing priggish little teenager. She just folded her arms beneath her practically unfettered mounds lifting them slightly and cocked her hip. She gave her old Potions Professor her own devious little smirk.

"Hello Professor Snape," she said, "Fancy meeting you here. How've you been?"

"Thoroughly deceased Ms. Granger," he replied, "but I'm certain one with your unfathomably brilliant mind can ascertain that for herself."

"Well," she shot back, "I see death hasn't improved your disposition any. You haven't changed a bit."

Professor Snape gave her what she assumed was his version of a smile. It was more like a cross between a look of pure loathing and a sneer.

"I could say the same of you but that would be an egregiously erroneous statement," he returned. His eyes were still locked on her breasts.

Hermione couldn't help but roll her eyes.

"Do you mind," she quipped, "It's not very polite to stare you know."

Professor Snape drew himself up, his face going completely unreadable.

"Ms. Granger," Snape said matter-of-factly, "While I may be deceased I'm not blind! I do retain my previous heterosexual tendencies and thus, when facing a very physically attractive, scantily clad young woman those afore-mentioned tendencies have a tendency to manifest themselves – visa vi – I'm still only human, even though I'm no longer in my corporeal form!"

"Oh for the love of…" Before Hermione realized what she was doing she reached down grabbing the hem of her shirt and pulled it up in the front completely exposing her breasts to Snape who was completely taken aback. She attempted to jiggle them, wiggling her body side to side but quickly realized they weren't quite large enough and much too firm for the effect she was after.

He was not expecting her to do something like that. She could see both eyebrows raised now.

"Happy now?" She huffed.

Snape just stood there for a long moment as she held her shirt up giving him a long look. She could not believe what she was doing.

I'm flashing my old Hogwarts Potions Professor – Gods! I've sunk to a new all-time low even for me!

She wanted to be embarrassed but for some reason she just couldn't manage it. She started thinking how silly it all was. It was just a bloody dream, after all.

"Exceedingly," Professor Snape replied, his expression had not changed one bit, his face still blank, "What do you want Ms. Granger?"

When she lowered her shirt and smoothed the thin fabric back in place she noticed her rather large nipples had hardened considerably. They were still perfectly visible through the thin material of her shirt. She groaned inwardly but then all she could do was chuckle.

She thought about his question for a moment then answered.

"Honestly, I was expecting Albus Dumbledore," she said with her sexy little crooked smirk, "but in this instance I will accept that Fate is much cleverer than I so there must be a reason you're here instead."

But as Hermione thought about it for a moment as she settled back into the chair watching her old Potions Professor glaring at her she realized her theories about what happened to Harry had to do with Horcruxes and Professor Snape is probably more qualified to answer her questions than anyone else.

"I assume you are on a quest for information regarding what has happened to your…blithering dunderhead Potter?" He asked clasping his hands behind his back looking down at her along the length of his nose.

"I would appreciate it if you would not refer to Harry in such a manner," she huffed indignantly.

Although she was well aware of the hypocrisy in that statement it still grated against her nerves. She had called her former best friend much, much worse over the last several years. To her it was like disciplining a child…it's one thing to spank your own for misbehaving but quite another when someone else does.

"What ever," Snape retorted, flinging a hand out toward her irritably, "If you would be so kind?"

Snape gestured to the empty space behind him and Hermione realized what he was asking. She closed her eyes for a moment and when she opened them she saw the Professor lowering himself into an over-stuffed easy chair. He shifted his robe and crossed one knee over the other as he settled.

"Lovely," he smirked, "Thank you. Now, since this is your little reunion of sorts, what is it you think I may be able to assist you with Ms. Granger or are you secretly dreaming of being a topless dancer and you were in need of an audience?"

Hermione sneered at him for a moment but then sat back thinking as all her theories pushed toward the front of her brain at once. She calmly brushed them all aside and began picking through them by importance.

"I'm going to assume you know what has been going on the last several years Professor," she asked.

"Yes," he nodded, "While I am not as well connected to the world of the living as our illustrious former Headmaster he does see fit to keep me abreast of the comings and goings in your world for the most part. I am aware of the passing of many of your…former friends, family and associates Ms. Granger."

It was then the usually disdainful and reproving Potions Professor's face changed to a look of what Hermione could only describe as genuine sorrow touched with a hint of real grief.

"My sincere condolences for those you have lost," he said with a slight bow to his head.

Her first reaction to his declaration was a wave of defensive anger but as she sat regarding him she could not detect a single hint of self-effacing smugness or flippancy in him at that moment and she was seeing a side of him she never even realized existed. She thought it may be the fact that he was dead himself that had something to do with it. It was a bit disconcerting for her but she was not about to belittle what he had said.

"Thank you Professor," she replied softly, "That's very kind of you."

"You have questions," He said looking much like his old self once again.

"Yes," Hermione replied taking a deep breath, "Specifically about the Horcrux Professor, which is why I think you're here by the way."

"That is a fair assumption," he said, "What is it you would like to know?"

"Well," Hermione began getting to her feet, "Erm, Professor, you don't mind if I pace do you? I think better moving about. An annoying habit, I must confess but there's no help for it I'm afraid."

"By all means Ms. Granger," he smirked again, "Whatever helps."

When she glanced at him his eyes were glued to her tight athletic and perfectly shaped bum and lean muscular legs but she really didn't care. There were more important things than worrying about being ogled by a pervy former Potions Professor.

"I think the reason Harry Potter has descended into this dark state is directly connected to the unintended Horcrux Voldemort placed in Harry's head."

"If memory serves me Ms. Granger, I believe the Dark Lord destroyed that particular Horcrux himself, did he not?"

"Yes," she replied holding up a finger, "Indeed he did professor but I believe it's not the Horcrux itself…but the vessel that was left behind that is the item in question."

For a moment Snape's face was a mask of surprise. He, himself had not regarded the vessel as separate from the Horcrux either. He was now completely intrigued.

"You have a theory I presume?" He asked.

"Several actually but the one that seems most significant to this particular situation is that when we found and destroyed all of Voldemort's little items that contained the fragments of his soul there was one similarity to all of them…"

"The fact that the vessel containing each soul fragment was either badly damaged or destroyed along with it," Snape finished for her, "I'm beginning to see where you're going with this," he placed his spindly fingers on his chin.

Suddenly Snape, himself, was on his feet pacing the other side of the room in front of his chair.

"Do you think there is a possibility that some sort of…I don't know…essence of Dark Lord remained in some form or another and came back to inhabit Harry's scar? It was a Horcrux vessel and in my theory I see it as a place still prepared to accept and contain a soul fragment if one wished to use it. Is that sort of thing even feasible Professor?"

"When Voldemort tried to kill Harry that night in the Forbidden Forest Harry told me he had gone to what he had called an in-between place. He said it was a rendition of Kings Cross Station. I thought it rather peculiar. Did something like that happen when you crossed Professor?"

"There are some things I am not at liberty to discuss with you Ms. Granger," Snape said evenly, "Nothing personal…just the rules."

"Ah, of course," Hermione replied feeling a bit scolded but she let it go, "Sorry."

Snape paused, looking off into the dusty shadowy corner of the room searching his memories for something that might lend some credibility to her idea.

"I must confess, Ms. Granger, when I was tasked with developing, creating and administering the ritualistic elements of the Horcruxes for Voldemort I had little understanding of the process in the beginning. I was relying on texts and what knowledge the Dark Lord himself possessed on the subject."

"What I learned about the process was that it required three specific elements. The first is the subject, of course. One could also consider the subject the primary vessel which is the one whishing to fragment the soul."

"The next is a catalyst. That is where the potions portion of the incantation is required to facilitate the chemical inductance necessary to prepare the vessel to contain the fragment of the soul. This is the most difficult part of the process because it requires exacting potions preparations and that takes the skill of what most in our world consider a necromancer…Not that I consider myself one, of course. I was merely operating from a set of instructions, notes and tomes."

The look he gave Hermione suggested he not only considered his potion making skills on the same level as a Necromancer – He also thought himself quite clever as well.

"The last is the conductor. The negative energy created by a violent death acts as a conduit to pull the torn soul from the primary vessel. The specific spells are then used to capture and bind the soul fragment to the containing vessel."

"The lack of the ability to…test the magical theory before implementing it hampered my time table immensely. I also found that this particular area of dark magic was specific to the individual and not something that could be generalized such as a spell or curse therefore it would not work for anyone else unless specifically designed for that person."

"You mean the whole process was designed around Voldemort?" Hermione asked.

"In this particular instance…yes," Severus replied, "he was adamant about overseeing the entire process so as to be certain each step was followed correctly. He did not trust me," with that statement Snape's face crumpled into a vile-looking frown, "but I suppose that was to be expected."

"But the incantations and potions worked flawlessly didn't they," Hermione commented.

"Indeed," Snape replied but then gave his former student a rather significant look, "You know something of the Horcrux ritual Ms. Granger?"

"Yes, I do Professor. As a matter of fact I possess the very same books which you used to create the incantations and the potions."

Snape was again taken aback. He looked at Hermione for a long moment then something seemed to occur to him – a memory that he recalled all of a sudden. A wry grin broke out across his face.

"I often wondered what had happened to those tomes. I was well aware Albus had removed them from the restricted section just after I had completed the ritual and the Dark Lord had killed his first victim. So you confiscated them? No wonder why I couldn't find them when I became Headmaster. Clever of you."

"I thought they might help us discover a way to destroy them but they didn't." She said a bit glumly.

"No," Severus added, "A Horcrux is not designed to be…undone, for the lack of a better term. It is a permanent rift that cannot be repaired. Once the soul is mutilated in such a manner it can not be made whole again."

"Hang on," Hermione stated stopping in her tracks, "Then what was the point in Voldemort making seven…erm… eight, if you count the one he didn't intend to make."

"The answer to that is very simple. He was hedging his bets as the saying goes. He wanted to be certain at least one or two fragments would always be available. They would be his insurance to anchor his soul to the living world."

"Anchor," Hermione looked up at him a bit confused, "I'm not sure I understand what you're saying Professor."

Snape looked at her for a long moment then gestured toward her chair. He settled into his and resumed his previous relaxed posture. Hermione turned and sat back down as well.

"I'm not certain you understand as much as you think you do about the Horcrux Ms. Granger. What do you know of the process itself?"

Hermione thought for a moment then recited what she thought she knew.

"Not much different then you previously described. The fragment of the soul is placed in the vessel once the ritual is complete. The potions are consumed and a human life is taken to initiate the process by creating the negative energy necessary to separate a portion of that person's soul and is kept within the Horcrux vessel until it's needed by the one who created it. Isn't that the same thing you just told me?"

"Not precisely," Snape replied holding up a long thin finger, "The step you suggested about the initiation of the negative energy after committing murder is correct however if you recall I stated that the Horcrux can not be undone. The fragment of the soul contained in the vessel can not be removed without its destruction."

"Then how does one retrieve it if it's needed?" She asked looking perplexed.

"One doesn't retrieve it Ms .Granger. It acts as a tether to hold ones life force to the living world. The one who creates a Horcrux retains a fragment of the soul inside the body. If that particular soul fragment is damaged or destroyed the life force is held in place as an incorporeal form until a ritual can be performed to create a new living body or find an existing one to inhabit."

"Oh!" Hermione said abruptly, "I see now. You were right Professor. I completely misunderstood much of the entire process."

Professor Snape held his hand to his heart with a look of affected shock on his face.

"Did I just hear correctly Ms. Granger?" He said with a slight smirk, "Did you just admit that you were wrong?"

Hermione gave him such a look of contempt it made Snape grin. She just folded her arms tightly giving him an audible "Humph!"

"It's not like I go round creating Horcruxes on a daily basis for Merlin's sake," she huffed, "and just for your information I've admitted to being wrong plenty of times thank you very much!"

"Name one single instance Ms. Granger," Snape asked placing his hands beneath his pointed chin in a steeple.

"Well there was the time that…erm…it was when…Oh I just can't think of any right…WAIT!" She practically shouted throwing her hands up, "I was wrong about Draco! I didn't believe Harry when he told me he thought Draco was up to something the day he let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts. So there…" She stuck her tongue out at him.

Snape's face was the blank mask again.

"I stand corrected," he murmured, "So you think the Dark Lord has found a way back to the living world through Harry by way of the Horcrux vessel that still resides in his scar and you believe he is controlling Harry in this manner?"

"It's the only thing that makes sense Professor," Hermione replied, all frivolity gone now, "You know Harry almost as well as the rest of us. Do you really think he would have just fallen over the edge of darkness without someone pushing?"

"No, I suppose I must agree with your assessment on that point. So if he is being controlled by Voldemort what you want to know is…can he be saved? Can the Dark Lord's essence be removed from Harry without killing him?"

"Yes, Professor," Hermione replied darkly, "That's precisely what I'm asking."

Professor Snape rose to his feet once again and began pacing the floor in front of his chair. He said nothing for a long moment as he held his hands clasped behind him. He was lost deep in thought.

Part of Hermione hoped and prayed for an answer that could help her save her old friend but she wasn't going to get her hopes up. Her job – the job she had taken upon herself – was to rid the world of the threat of darkness and that meant no matter what the cost. Influenced by Voldemort or not Harry Potter had perpetrated some of the most despicable and heinous crimes ever seen in the Wizard world and she knew the Ministry would be hard pressed to separate him from the deeds, no mater what the circumstances.

Hermione knew she would need some serious concrete evidence to get him exonerated and even then he would still be an outcast for the rest of his life. Public opinion was hard to change once the damage had been done and there was a lot of damage Harry had to account for.

Finally Professor Snape came to a standstill. He looked up, then glanced at Hermione. His expression looked grim.

"The trouble with this whole scenario is that when Voldemort created the Horcrux inside Harry he had no intention of doing so. In fact, his intention was to murder him when he was a child…"

The look that crossed the Professor's face was that of a man who had suddenly burst into flames and was burning to death. Hermione knew he was remembering Lilly, Harry's mother. For just a fraction of a second Hermione could see the decades of unshed tears for the only woman Snape had ever cared for because she had been nice to him. There were no boundaries between them when they were younger. At least not until Tom Riddle came into the picture.

"You loved her didn't you Professor," Hermione asked softly, "Have you at least been able to see her now that you're…erm…together again?"

Severus Snape said nothing for a moment, his face crumpled in his usual hateful sneer and Hermione thought she had crossed over an invisible line she should not have crossed but then his features smoothed out to an almost serene look of peace.

"Yes," he replied, turning to look at her with a very genuine smile, "I've seen her. I have missed her company for so very long."

"I'm happy for you Professor," Hermione replied honestly.

"Yes, well," He turned and began pacing again, "as I was saying, the problem with this particular situation is that we are in one of those areas of magic that isn't something that you can create by an incantation or spell or charm. It was something that happened quite by circumstance. I think it was a combination of the Killing Curse that impacted the magic wards Lilly put on Harry before the Dark Lord arrived. It's the very same magic that protected him at his Aunts while he was living in Little Winging. I don't even pretend to understand how it might have all transpired and would be almost impossible to recreate."

"What's even more confusing is that when Harry faced the Dark Lord in the woods the night of the battle at Hogwarts he again hit Harry with the same Killing Curse only to have it rebound again but with dissimilar effects. It destroyed the Horcrux inside Harry's scar but did not destroy Voldemort in the same manner it had previously. I suspect it was the absence of Lilly's wards that made the difference on that occasion or perhaps the fact that Voldemort used Harry's blood to reanimate himself but I simply can't understand how or why."

"Why that's…" Hermione was gaping at her old Potions Professor, "That's a brilliant assessment Professor! I had not even thought along those lines and didn't even see the discrepancies." She slumped in her chair slightly a bit annoyed with herself.

"Ms. Granger," Severus said, "I think you've had quite a bit on your mind over the last several years yes. Conversely, I've an eternity to work through things such as this. Not precisely the same is it?"

"Well said Professor," she replied, "You're absolutely right of course. So where does that leave Harry? Am I going to have to kill him? It seems to me once Voldemort got into Professor Quirrill there was only one way to get him out. Harry said he turned to dust and Voldemort's essence flew off into space."

"The most honest answer I can give you Ms. Granger, is that I simply cannot answer that question. I simply don't know."

"What seems strange to me," Hermione countered, "is that the night we went to the Ministry to rescue Sirius I seem to recall Voldemort had tried to inhabit Harry's body at one point but could not remain. Harry later told me that Dumbledore told him that Voldemort could never possess Harry because of the goodness in him. If that's true then it seems to me maybe this isn't all due to Voldemort's obsession – or would it be considered a possession?"

"That's just it Ms. Granger," Snape replied looking a bit perplexed himself, "Neither description seems to fit very well to this particular situation does it?"

Hermione thought hard for a moment but then shook her head.

"Could Voldemort take Harry over completely and simply use Harry's body to remain even though he has no Horcruxes left?"

"Again Ms. Granger, we are entering into a dark realm of magic that I have little experience with." Snape replied, "If a similar ritual was performed such as the one Pettigrew did the night the Dark Lord returned to his corporeal form, with slight modifications of course, I would think it not only possible but it could be the very thing the Dark Lord is planning. In fact," Severus shifted in his chair suddenly looking like he was a bit constipated, "if the ritual was performed correctly Harry's entire soul could be literally stuffed inside the Horcrux and effectively kept prisoner for the rest of his days!"

"Merlin's ghost," Hermione blanched, "Are you serious?"

"No, Ms. Granger," Snape quipped, "I'm Severus. Sirius is a wretched cad and I'll thank you not to get us confused if you please."

"Oh hardy har!" Hermione scoffed, "I'll just bet you've been waiting to use that little joke for years haven't you?"

"Guilty as charged," Severus smirked.

Severus regarded Hermione for a long moment as she sat lost inside her own head.

"I take it the outcome of our conversation has not set well with you Ms. Granger? I'm sorry I could not provide you with the answers you were seeking."

Hermione glanced up at Severus sadly.

"It's not your fault Professor and speaking of that, I never properly thanked you for what you did for Harry all those years ago. I know it wasn't easy for you the way you were treated…"

Snape simply held up his hand to stop her.

"Time passes and death has a tendency to heal even the deepest of wounds and scars Ms. Granger." He replied with a sigh.

She nodded.

"I do have another theory Professor but I'm not sure if it makes any difference at this point," Hermione added sadly, "but I think it might be important to Voldemort."

"And what theory is that Ms. Granger?" Snape enquired.

"What do you know about the Deathly Hallows Professor?"

Severus leaned back in his chair and regarded her evenly for a long silent moment.

"Virtually nothing while I was still living," he replied with a slight sneer as if he were quite peeved with that lack of knowledge, "I believe it was information Albus was keeping held close to his vest, as the saying goes. It is my opinion he was apprehensive of letting the truth of such powerful magical objects escape into the world at large…for reasons I think both of us can now understand."

"It wasn't until I had passed on that the Headmaster saw fit to enlighten me that such things actually existed however, like many who grew up in the wizard world I was well versed in the tales of Beedle the Bard – even though I did think those children's stories utterly ridiculous in my youth. Such is my folly I suppose."

"Well," Hermione quipped, "Don't feel too put out Professor. I didn't know about them either until Headmaster Dumbledore saw fit to leave me a copy of the book. Even then it took some further education from one Zeno Lovegood to help me understand what it all meant and then it was Harry who actually began to make the connections of the Elder wand and his invisibility cloak to the tale of the Three Brothers. I mean really," she huffed, "how was I supposed to know a children's fairy tale would contain any sort of facts that would lead to something as heinously dangerous as the Deathly Hallows for Merlin's sake!"

"It does sound rather…ridiculous when you put it that way," Snape replied, "so what is this theory you have regarding the Hallows?"

"Well," Hermione rose to her feet once again and began pacing as before, tugging gently on her bottom lip as she gazed off into the shadows of the musty old room, "if we look at the Hallows themselves as individual items of power the Elder Wand seems to represent the ability of the possessor to have power over others, meaning it gives the wielder the ability to attack and prevail over any opponent…"

"Conversely, the one who possesses the Invisibility Cloak, an item that renders the wearer completely and utterly invisible and immune to any curse or spell, even from the Elder Wand – it imbibes the one who possesses it the ability to defend one's self against any and all harm that might befall them… Is that a fair assessment so far Professor?"

Snape nodded.

"I cannot disagree Ms. Granger but what is your point?"

She gave him a flat look…

"I'm getting there," she hissed flailing her hands out toward him, "Don't be so pushy!"

Snape just frowned and settled back deeper into his chair crossing his arms tightly across his chest.

"What puzzles me," she continued, "is how the Resurrection Stone fits into the picture. I mean, it's not like you can actually bring the dead back to life. The stone only creates a phantasmal image of the dead – more substantial than a ghost but not a solid physical presence either…"

As soon as those words left her mouth Severus Snape was on his feet once again standing rigid staring at Hermione with eyes wide in utter shock. It surprised Hermione so much she took a step back in response.

"Ms. Granger," Snape said in almost a whisper, "I think you just might be as brilliant and clever as everyone thinks you are."

That comment made her blanch and gape up at him for a moment.

"Erm…" she mumbled.

"I believe I can see the thread of your line of thinking on this particular issue. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think you believe that since the Dark Lord found a way to inhabit Harry's mind it would stand to reason he would have learned all that Harry knows about the Hallows and what each item was and what powers they possessed. Suffice it to say that the Dark Lord would have also discovered the idea that the one who possesses all three items would be – as Albus has since told me – the master of death!"

"Yes, that's true," Hermione admitted, "but I also think it goes farther than that. I believe Voldemort wants the Resurrection Stone for something else. Right now he's merely inhabiting Harry's corporeal form and I think, just like last time, he wants to reanimate himself but since he has no Horcruxes remaining he may have found another way – through the Resurrection Stone. I have no idea how it could be possible…"

"Ah yes," Snape interrupted holding up a finger, "but if you recall Ms. Granger, for our illustrious, superior Dark Sorcerer facts mean little in his twisted mind. The fact that he believes it's possible is enough. I think he plans to use the Hallows to bring himself back from the dead once again. Weather it is actually possible or not remains to be seen but if I were you," he looked at Hermione with a dark and serious gaze, "I would find that stone as quickly as possible and destroy it! You must not let him possess all three Hallows."

Hermione nodded mutely as she stood there thinking of the possibilities of what might happen if Harry and Voldemort did get their hands on the Resurrection Stone. She didn't want to believe it was possible for Voldemort to pull himself from the depths of great beyond but she had also come to believe – in the world of magic – almost anything was possible. It made her shudder to think of it.

"Our time grows short and I must pass on a message Albus has pressed upon me to deliver without fail," he continued, the same serious look on his countenance, "His message is as follows…"

Severus took a deep breath and began – looking at Hermione directly in her eyes.

"I will not lie and give false hope that all will work out in the end but you must try and understand," Severus leaned forward, "You possess strength and power beyond even your ability to comprehend at present Ms. Granger. The key to that power lies within one you would least expect but are slowly coming to value above all others."

"To be able to discover and harness this power you must look inward and if you are as clever as I believe you to be then you will know it when you find it and what you must do with that power in the end."

"The road that lies before you is a difficult one and you must make the right choices to succeed in your endeavors. Your decision to shoulder the burden of seeking out and ridding the living world of a terrible evil will not be without great cost. It has cost much already but I am afraid it may require an even greater sacrifice on your part Ms. Granger. Are you prepared to do what must be done for the good of the Wizarding world young lady?"

Hermione stood completely still gazing at Severus for a pregnant length of time. She let his words sink deep into her subconscious mind to lock them there in her memory. She then gave her former Potions Professor what could only be described as a dark, dangerous and predatory look of pure conviction.

"I'll do what needs to be done," she said in a low raspy whisper through tightly clenched teeth, "I'm not afraid to make any sacrifice necessary to see this through to the end – Do you believe that Professor?"

Severus Snape's right eyebrow rose again as he sat back down, his fingers laced together under his pointed chin.

As the same white mist began to swirl around her engulfing the room of the Shrieking Shack once again she heard his voice coming to her out of the quickly expanding void.

"We all believe in you Ms. Granger," the echoing reply said, "and that is precisely why I chose to come…Albus sends his regards. Courage, Ms. Granger. I'm certain we shall meet again and please feel free to wear what you have on…or less if it suits you." She could hear him chuckle as he faded away.

Ugh!

She suddenly felt very sleepy…