Author's Notes - Hi there! Well, I'm definitely better at writing drama than the day to day life of Severus Snape. I've rewritten this chapter three times, and I'm still not completely happy with it. Unfortunately, not every chapter can end on a cliffhanger as much as I'd like them to. Don't worry, the next update should have more action. Thanks to everyone who took time to review the last chapter. I appreciate the feedback!

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A pajama clad Rose stood in the open doorway. Barefoot, glasses askew, her hair a fright, her entire body shook as she threw herself into his arms.

"He was so angry! He told Pettigrew that it all made sense. That you wouldn't have asked for the life of a mudblood otherwise. He believes it, Dad. He believes it. Voldemort's going to kill you!"

It was too much. The irony of the situation briefly overtook him, and he threw back his head and laughed.

"Dad? Dad? Professor? PROFESSOR SNAPE!"

Severus abruptly stopped laughing. Nothing seemed remotely funny anymore.

"Oh, Rose. I apologize. I did not mean to make light of your nightmare. But, the Dark Lord will try to kill me regardless of your parentage. I accepted that the night I found you in Surrey. I'm afraid my days of being a spy are over."

Leading her to the couch, he added with a wryly, "Besides, I find it quite ironic that the he of all wizards would believe such lies. He's manipulated the Daily Prophet more than once."

She hugged herself as she sat in his cramped living quarters. Perhaps the cold of the dungeons had merely permeated her bare feet, but he rather suspected his ill-conceived laughter had deeply troubled her. He didn't know how to make amends save to apologize, and he had already done that. Silently, he Summoned a blanket to wrap around her.

"Thanks."

"Your nightmare, was it like the one this summer?"

She spoke haltingly to the floor. "Yeah, it felt like I was right there with them, in that same old house. I saw Pettigrew over the newspaper—you know, the one with that horrid story. And, then I . . . he . . . he Crucioed Peter, told him as Potter's friend, he should have known. After . . . Wormtail, he . . . he was on the ground, begging and pleading and telling Vol-Voldemort that you and Mum had been friends in school, that you must have patched things up, and he believed him."

Voldemort, the insufferable, arrogant, paranoid megalomaniac, believed that cowering rat-faced traitor Pettigrew. Why? Had he played his part so well that even the Dark Lord thought him incapable of kindness unless it came chained to familial obligations? Or had the old man been right all along? Perhaps the Dark Lord didn't understand the concept of love at all. Though how that could prove the key to defeating him, Snape would never know.

"Remind me never to subsist on a diet of snake venom. It obviously impairs one's reasoning."

Stealing a glance, her lips twitched into an almost smile. "Probably tastes bad, too."

"No doubt."

They sat together on the sofa for quite a while, too engrossed in their own thoughts to make conversation. After a while, though, Severus realized he had forgotten something very important.

"Rose."

"Yeah?"

"Thank you for confiding in me. I did not mean to ridicule your warning."

He received a shrug in reply. "I suppose it does seem a bit silly. I just . . . I don't know what I would do if something happened to you."

"You would carry on." Turning towards her, he gazed straight into those green eyes that reminded him so much of his childhood friend. She had to understand, had to accept this one truth, for Lily's sake if not for his. "You might not think it fair. You might not believe you could. But that is what you would do; you would carry on. No histrionics, no rash acts, no futile grand gestures. If I am killed, the Dark Lord will expect such foolishness. You will not allow my death to be in vain."

"Dad . . . ."

"Promise me, Rose. If something happens to me, you will not throw your life away in some suicidal act of retribution. You will run to fight another day. Am I understood?"

"Dad, please—"

Though it pained him to do it, he refused to let her whine, refused to let her beg that he not die at all. He would not make promises he could not keep. Interrupting, he repeated coldly, "Am I understood?"

A solitary tear spilled from the corner of her eye. As it trailed down her cheek, his resolve crumbled. Gently, he wiped it away. "It's alright, Rose. I know. I feel the same. It's alright."

Sniffing back tears, she nodded, her hands clenched around the blanket as if it might be ripped away. "Just . . . don't talk about it, alright? I'm not thick. I know, I know there's a chance that . . . that you could . . . . Just, don't."

"I won't mention it again," he promised quietly before transfiguring the small couch into a cozy bed. Tucked under several blankets, she smiled tiredly.

"Thanks."

Sitting down beside her, Severus pushed a stray tangle away from her eyes. "Well, it was either this, or assign you detention for roaming the halls in the middle of the night."

"I should have brought the cloak."

"When you couldn't remember your slippers?" Seeing the beginnings of a frown, he quickly added, "Don't judge yourself too harshly, Rose. You were understandably distraught. Next time, though, send your Patronus. Hogwarts is not always as safe as it should be."

"Do you think they'll be a next time?"

He pinched the bridge of his nose. Thinking about her visions gave him a headache. "Since I cannot tell you why there was a first time, we must consider the possibility. Perhaps you have some seer in you after all."

"Ugh, I hope not. You're not going to make me take Divination again, are you?"

"Absolutely not."

"Oh. Good." She covered her mouth as a huge yawn overtook her. Taking it as his cue to leave, he carefully removed her glasses and placed them on the nearby table.

"Sleep well, Rose."

She murmured something too soft for him to hear. Dousing the light, he retreated to his bedroom. The fact that she had dreamed of the Dark Lord again disturbed him greatly. He did not understand the connection she seemed to share with her would be murderer.

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Severus escorted Rose to the Gryffindor Common Room before dawn the next morning. The teen looked no worse for wear after her vivid nightmare, and mentioned more than once that she hardly needed an escort to find her dormitory. Her protests reassured him like nothing else that she suffered no lingering effects from the disturbing vision.

He walked into the Great Hall hours later knowing breakfast would likely be a strained, awkward affair. A brief glance at the Gryffindor table showed Rose to be sitting between the Weasley twins. The three were involved in an animated discussion with Ronald Weasley and Katie Bell, who sat across from the trio. By the hand gestures and Hermione Granger's lack of interest, he deduced that the topic could only be Quidditch.

Studying the Slytherin table, Snape caught Draco's eye. The cheeky boy held up the newspaper and had the gall to smirk, but then resumed his breakfast before Severus could shoot him a proper glare. No one else dared meet his gaze, even Pansy Parkinson.

"Severus, stop scowling at the students. You'll ruin their breakfast."

Without looking up from the Daily Prophet, McGonagall ended her remarks by patting the empty chair next to her. Since the only other available spot sat him next to Sybil Trelawny, the Potions Master docilely obeyed. Until the day before, he'd never been on the receiving end of the witch's legendary temper. This morning, he would do almost anything to avoid a repeat.

Thankfully, Minerva seemed to be in good spirits. She peered intently at him from behind her square spectacles. "I must say, Severus, your coloring has improved remarkably. Rebellion must agree with you."

Well aware that all the other teachers on their end of the table had stopped eating to eavesdrop, he arched his eyebrow. "If that is an inquiry into my health, Minerva, then, yes, I am feeling much more like my old self this morning. "

"Not so much," she replied with a disdainful sniff. "The Severus Snape I knew wouldn't kidnap one of my students without informing me. I think the Phoenix Flu went to your head."

His lips twitched involuntarily at her complaint. After helping himself to some toast, he gave into the strange, reckless feeling that had temporarily taken hold. "The next time I kidnap a student, I shall definitely notify you beforehand."

For a fleeting instant, she smiled, but quickly schooled her expression to one of prim propriety. "See that you do."

Sitting on his other side, the diminutive Charms Professor chuckled. "Minerva won't admit it, Severus, but she was beside herself with worry yesterday. She was afraid you'd taken Rose out of the country, and she'd never see the two of you again. When Albus announced at the staff meeting that you'd taken her to Godric's Hollow, she was the first one to come to your defense."

The stern witch beside him certainly hadn't mentioned that little tidbit the evening before. No, she'd mercilessly harangued him until he'd apologized for taking one of her Gryffindors out of the castle without her knowledge. Then, he'd been subjected to a blistering tirade against the Daily Prophet. He'd let her rant for quarter of an hour before he'd interrupted a particularly vicious diatribe against Rita Skeeter to agree with her wholeheartedly. After that, he'd walked away without another word. Frankly, he'd been pleasantly surprised by her banter that morning and refused to say anything that might ruin her good humor. He therefore addressed his grievance to Flitwick instead.

"Tell me, Filius, did I miss anything of import at yesterday's staff meeting? Or was my personal life the only topic of discussion?"

The older wizard colored at his acerbic tone. "Let me see . . . . Dumbledore has suggested October 29th for the first Dueling Club competition. He believes it would give the older students a realistic assessment of their skills."

Leaning over McGonagall, Pomona Sprout said knowingly, "More like discourage the losers from putting their names into the Goblet. I think the Headmaster plans to use the tournament as a means to discover Hogwarts' champion."

"Now, Pomona," McGonagall gently chided, "the Goblet will choose the Hogwarts champion, not Albus. I believe he merely wishes to let the children vent some nervous energy before welcoming the delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang the next day."

Severus nearly choked on a bite of toast. If only she knew! For a split second, he considered confiding in her, but too many were privy to Albus' plan already. Instead, he nodded in agreement. "The students should be familiar with proper dueling forms by the end of next month. I've no objection to the date."

When Filius offered to post the notice in the Entrance Hall, Severus picked up another piece of toast and concentrated on his breakfast once more. His fellow professors were going to great lengths not to ask about Rita Skeeter's allegations, but the unspoken questions hung over his head like a dismal fog. While he appreciated their forbearance, he had no desire to linger.

Unfortunately, his desire for a second cup of coffee proved disastrous. As he sipped the dark, bitter roast, owls began to swoop through the Great Hall to deliver the post, as they did every weekday morning. Ordinarily, Severus received one to two deliveries a week. Colleagues sent him questions about Potions research; he subscribed to several Potions journals; occasionally, he even received a personal letter. Today, however, a mass of owls blackened the artificial sky, all swooping down to approach the Head Table, dive-bombing the space in front of him with scores of red envelopes. As he watched the first one open with ill-concealed unease, the angry pile continued to multiply.

"SEVERUS SNAPE!" The first one raved, and he recognized the unmistakable voice of Molly Weasley. The very idea that he had received a Howler from the mollycoddling Weasley matriarch glued him to his seat. "How could you not tell us? I thought you trusted us! How could you just leave your daughter for all those years with those horrid Muggles? Lily would be ashamed! Why would you tell that Skeeter woman and not us? The nerve of that woman! She couldn't even get my name right! It's Molly, not Millie!"

Multiple Howlers drowned out the rest of Molly's overemotional rants. The pile had grown so large that they opened in cacophonous groups rather than one at a time. The individual vitriol combined into a red swarm of hate, and soon drowned out the loudest shouts.

". . . . Despicable bastard . . . . Death Eater . . . . Rapist . . . . Absolutely no right to raise . . . . How can you live with . . . ? Defiler! You and that whore . . . . Potter should have . . . . Deserved . . . . Sacked . . . . Death Eater scum . . . . Not fit . . . . Sins of the . . . . Why would she . . . ? Nothing but a . . . Harlot . . . . Cad . . . . Negligent . . . Abuse . . . . Coerced . . . . How could you—?"

"REDUCTO!"

The horde exploded into a mass of red confetti, leaving the Great Hall eerily silent. Snape turned slowly in his seat to find Alastor Moody holstering his wand.

"Too much damn noise," he explained with an unrepentant scowl. Severus thought he might be trying to smile, but with his scars, it was difficult to tell.

"My apologies," he replied with an arched eyebrow. This time, he knew the retired Auror smiled in response, though it did not enhance his overall appearance. "I shall request that my correspondence be screened from now on."

"Should have done that already." At odds with his friendly demeanor, Moody's gruff growl carried throughout the cavernous room. "Been more than one curse delivered by owl. Dumbledore should think about that before allowing this ridiculous correspondence into the school. Constant vigilance, is what I say, Snape! Constant vigilance!"

Moody immediately took the open seat near Sybil Trelawny and began to pile his plate with food. Low murmurs again filled the dining area as students realized the drama had ended, at least temporarily. The shaken Potions Master looked to the Gryffindor table, but Rose had fled with Granger. The two youngest Weasley children stared at him with something akin to horror, while the twins looked on with amused sympathy. Finding nothing amusing about any of it, he excused himself to retreat into his classroom.

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As Severus picked up his quill to add some final notes to his lesson plan, he tried his best to focus on that day's lessons, but it proved impossible. There were simply too many demanding issues competing for his attention, and his class that morning suffered for it. He stuck to the same lecture on the safe brewing of potions that he'd given for the last thirteen years. The first year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws usually took meticulous notes, but the longer he lectured, the less they wrote. Finally, even in his preoccupied state, he noticed that several had begun to doodle on their parchment and something in him snapped. He dropped a heavy Potions textbook on the floor. Half the students startled; a rather excitable young witch from Hufflepuff yelped in surprise.

"Now that I have your attention," he sneered. "You may turn to page fifteen of your textbooks to begin copying the safety procedures necessary for proper brewing. Hand in your parchments at the end of class, and do not ever, ever make the mistake of ignoring one of my lessons again. Tedious as you might find me, I am not Professor Binns. I do not drone on because I like the sound of my voice. Potions is a dangerous subject, and I will teach you to respect it, one way or the other."

The nervous students quickly obeyed, and he spent the rest of the class brooding. As the first years turned in their work, he overheard two Ravenclaw girls whispering that they didn't understand how someone as nice as Rose Potter could have the likes of him as a father. With malicious glee, he assigned them both detentions with Mr. Filch for talking during class.

Convinced he would end up hexing one of his colleagues if he ate lunch in the Great Hall, Severus retreated to the privacy of his office. Before he could call for a house-elf to order a sandwich from the kitchens, he was interrupted by a knock at his door.

"Come in."

He answered pleasantly, hoping Rose stood outside his door. For once, he was not disappointed, although she seemed to radiate fury. She stormed towards his desk with an imposing scowl on her face.

"Have you seen this?" Slapping a copy of the Daily Prophet onto his desk, she sat into the chair across from him, her arms crossed over her chest.

He'd taken great pains not to see that day's version of the libelous rag, but something had obviously upset her. He reluctantly picked up the newspaper to read the headline on the front page.

Where has all the Money Gone?

With No Heir, Potter Fortune Vanishes

It took him only a few minutes to read the latest pack of lies. Looking up, he grinned nastily. "I imagine Percy Weasley will be receiving one of his mother's Howlers soon. And, Rita Skeeter showed her ignorance by repeating that tripe about the Potter mansion. Most of the old houses are entailed through the male line. However, as you are the last Potter, your son would inherit the ancestral home."

"But what about the rest of it? Were the Potters truly as wealthy as the Blacks?"

"No one's as wealthy as the Blacks," he answered coolly. Leaning back, he thoughtfully considered the question. It had not occurred to him to think about it before. Last year, he'd bought Rose's clothing and school supplies as well as providing her with pocket money. He considered that to be part of his duties as her guardian. Perhaps he should have asked for her key from Albus as soon as Petunia had signed the papers.

"How many galleons would you say you have in your vault?"

She shrugged. "A good-sized pile. More money than I've ever seen, at any rate."

"Taller than you?"

She appeared startled by the question. "No. I mean, it's plenty enough to get me through school with some left over, but it's not nearly as big as that. Why? Should it be?"

"What types of items were on the shelves?"

Her brow furrowed while her mouth partially opened. It was not an attractive sight, but he wisely held his tongue.

"The vault only contained money and I don't remember shelves. Why? Should there be other things?"

He reread a few sentences from Skeeter's latest fantasy before answering. "Vaults like the Potters generally contain family heirlooms as well as money. James was the sole Potter heir, so those heirlooms should now belong to you. The fact that there were none in the vault is somewhat perplexing."

"I do have the Invisibility Cloak."

"You found that in the vault?"

"No, Professor Dumbledore gave it to me for Christmas my first year here, although I didn't know that until later. He said that he'd been studying it when they died and kept it for me."

Snape couldn't believe what he'd just heard. Although he'd suspected Albus had given Rose the cloak, he had assumed he'd taken it from Godric's Hollow after Lily and James had died. Why would the Headmaster borrow James' Invisibility Cloak knowing the family had been targeted by the Dark Lord? It might have provided a means of escape on that horrible Halloween night. Rose, however, did not appear to have made the same connection.

"I'll speak to Black. As your godfather, he might have information about the Potter finances that I do not. In the meantime, I suggest you ignore this article and all questions relating to it. As in the Muggle world, one's personal finances are not considered a topic for polite conversation. It is entirely appropriate to rebuff all such inquiries."

"I received a letter from him this morning."

"Oh? I can only hope that he reacted better than the wolf."

For the first time since entering his office, she smiled. "He was really nice about it. He said that James and my mum loved me and would want me to be happy. He also said that if he ever sees Rita Skeeter he'll hex her hands off. I guess I should be glad he's taken a holiday."

"It's a shame the Severing Charm has a counter-spell. The idea has merit."

"Dad!"

"I said it had merit, Rose, not that I would use it."

"Well, we could sic Dobby on her like we did Uncle Vernon."

His lips twitched at her suggestion. Come to think of it, the protective house-elf hadn't reported back to him since taking it upon himself to punish that lumping brute of a Muggle. Later, when the gossip had settled a bit, he would consult Rose's strange ally. Perhaps the two of them could come up with appropriate retribution for the infuriating journalist.

"Unfortunately, I don't think the same strategy would work with a witch of Skeeter's cunning. Dobby might very well find himself in trouble with the Ministry."

"Yeah, you're probably right."

Growing pensive, she stared at the shelves which lined the back wall. Slowly, her expression clouded until she wore the same scowl that had marred her features when she had first entered his office.

The shelves contained preserved specimens in jars and a few antique Potions ingredients valued solely as curiosities. He also had a smattering of books relating to the history of Potions, but he kept the more interesting titles in his quarters, as she well knew. Nothing should hold her interest for such a long time.

"Rose?"

Giving her head a little shake, her eyes focused on him. "Sorry, just thinking about Percy. I don't understand why he said all those horrid things. Not to be impolite, but he saw my vault the summer after my first year. He knows I've loads more money than his parents. Why make it sound like I'm a pauper? I mean, what's the point?"

"I can't say." When her eyes would have wandered back to his shelves, he added gently, "I am certain the rest of the Weasley clan does not share his resentfulness. Molly and Arthur consider you a part of their family."

Letting out a sigh, the troubled teen fiddled with her charm bracelet. "Yeah, even if Mrs. Weasley thinks I'm a Snape now." She gave him a wan smile. "I reckon my Christmas sweater will be green again this year to match yours."

He widened his eyes in mock horror. "Surely you jest."

Grinning, she drew an imaginary 'S' in the air. "With a big silver 'S' on the front for Severus. I wonder if I could convince her to do a red and gold one for Sirius? Now, that would be a picture for the Daily Prophet."

"I shudder at the thought."

More than eager to change the subject, he invited her to eat lunch in his quarters. Agreeing, she spent most of her time talking about the blast-ended skrewts Hagrid had introduced to her Care of Magical Creatures class. Severus had to choke back an expletive when she explained that the skrewts were a cross between a manticore and fire-crab, especially when she assured him that they were quite small and relatively harmless. With such a fierce pedigree, he doubted they would stay that way for long.

"Of course, Draco had to be a git about them. He put on those snotty airs of his and asked who wouldn't want pets that can burn, sting and bite all at once. If Hermione hadn't held me back, I would have jinxed him. I don't know why he insists on being so rotten to Hagrid. That hippogriff barely scratched him last year and you would have thought he'd been mortally wounded."

Considering all he'd heard about the skrewts, Snape sympathized with Draco. But he wasn't about to say anything of the sort to Rose. Instead, he made a noncommittal noise which she took for agreement and turned the topic of conversation.

"What are your plans for the afternoon? I would prefer you didn't wander the halls while the rest of your schoolmates are in class."

At this, she rolled her eyes. "Don't worry, Dad. Professor McGonagall's already told me that I'm to stay in my dorm or the Common Room unless I clear it with her first. I thought I'd write some letters, actually."

The words spat out of his mouth before he could think. "I forbid you to write to that coward."

She responded just as predictably. Her chin jutted out in defiance while her eyes flashed with fury. "Yeah? Well, thanks for that. If I weren't so angry at Remus I'd write him out of spite. I thought I'd thank Sirius and Mrs. Weasley. Would you like to read my letters beforehand? Or do you trust me enough to not embarrass you?"

"Embarrass me? I'm simply trying to protect you, Rose. That monster doesn't deserve your apologies. Contrary to his opinion, you did nothing wrong."

"He's not a monster!"

Biting his tongue, Severus remained silent, though it pained him to do so. For several long seconds, she did nothing but glare at him. When he finally blinked, she took a deep breath. Her temper seemed to deflate as she let it out.

"Okay, yeah. I know this time it wasn't my fault." Shoving an apple into her book sack, she continued, "But I will forgive Remus if he asks. And, you can't stop me, Dad. You can't lock me up in Gryffindor Tower and pretend I'm Rapunzel. You can't protect me from everything and you know it.

"I know nothing of the sort."

She gripped him in a brief hug. "Yes you do. You simply don't like it. I'd better go. I promised Ron I'd take a look at his Divination homework before he turns it in."

She left before he could think of anything to say. While his N.E.W.T. level students attempted to brew Amortentia that afternoon, his thoughts strayed to Rose time and again. She had been absolutely correct. He knew he couldn't protect her from everything. And, no, he did not like it—not one little bit.