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a/n: lyrics are from Cheap Trick "Flames". Thanks to Tiffers for finding the song. This is dedicated to you. Enjoy your trip and Happy Birthday!!


~~**~~
Another night slowly closes in,
And I feel so lonely.
Touching heat freezing on my skin,
I pretend you still hold me.
Im going crazy, Im losing sleep.
Im in too far, Im in way too deep over you.
I cant believe youre gone.
You were the first, youll be the last.

Wherever you go, Ill be with you.
Whatever you want, Ill give it to you.
Whenever you need someone to lay your heart and head upon.
Remember: after the fire, after all the rain,
I will be the flame.

~~*~~



Severus Snape stood in the doorway, looking at them with unfathomable eyes. Hermione backed slowly up, further into Draco and his arms slide around her encouragingly.

“Hello Dad,” Draco said, “Want to join us in some sandwiches and pumpkin juice?”

Severus thought for a moment before silently nodding his agreement. He slowly twisted the small platinum ring on his pinky finger as he sat down. He was jealous of how close they were, the ease Draco showed in comforting the witch he, Severus Snape, loved with all his heart.

The three of them sat in an uncomfortable silence around the table, Draco smiling at them both as he munched his sandwich. Hermione just sipped on her cola, wanting to sink deeper into her chair till it swallowed her up. Severus stared unseeingly at his plate, his hands clasping the ring until the setting bit into his palm.

Severus coughed to clear his throat, breaking the uneasy silence. “Madam I think you dropped something earlier in your haste to leave Grimmauld Place.” He set the ring on the table between them, the gems gleaming in the candle's light.

Hermione looked at the ring. “Be right back,” She said. “I need to-- powder my nose. That's it!” She said. almost running for the door. Severus stood as if to follow her, but Draco waved him down.

“The doors and windows are warded this late at night, and apparition out is blocked inside the manor. She isn't going anywhere.” Draco grinned widely as Severus sat back down, a look of despair on his pale face. “I advise you to eat that sandwich, it's going to be a long night.”

“No kidding,” Severus said, shifting in his chair uncomfortably to wait, his sandwich still sitting untouched on his plate.


~*~



Hermione stood in the guest bathroom gazing unseeingly into the mirror, “Powder my nose? What a dumb excuse!” She said to herself. “He acts as if nothing happened, so bloody normal for Severus Snape!” She flung the lid down on the toilet and took a seat on it. “It's going to be a long night.” She sighed, crossing her legs and resting her head on one hand. She restlessly stood up, paced for a few moments and then sat back down.

“This is getting no where!” She yelled at her reflection in the mirror, then walking out of the small room.


~*~



“How long does it take for one small witch to powder her nose?” Severus asked Draco in irritation, before standing to walk out of the room.

“Sit down.” Draco ordered his adopted father. “Twinky!” he called for his house elf.

“Yes Master, sir. What's youz be needing Twinky for?” The small elf appeared before them.

“Where is Miss Hermione and what has she been doing?” Draco asked the elf.

“Missy be in the sitting room talking to Mistress's portrait. She's tried all the doors in the manor, but couldn't get out. Missy has a real bad temper, Master. Snarky Master is to blame.” Twinky looked at Severus, calling him by the name Draco's mother had used to call him.

“I told you elf not to call me that.” Severus glared down at Twinky with dark eyes.

“Mistress ordered Twinky to always call youz Snarky Master. He not be disobeying Mistress ever!” The elf said, disappearing with a wink.

“Your staff has abysmal manners, Draco.” Snape said stiffly as he walked towards the sitting room. “And when did you animate your mother's painting?” He asked.

“Hermione asked me to years ago, when she was in University and living here.” Draco answered, a twinkle in his eye.

“Hermione lived here?” Severus asked, stopping his tracks.

“Yes, she and Cissa still have a suite here. You may as well know, Cissa is my heir. She's a very rich little witch.” Draco told him, enjoying the look of discomfort Severus wore at that moment.

“Hm,” Severus uttered lowly.

“I offered to marry Hermione after you left. Almost did too, but for some reason she couldn't get your snarky ass out of her head.” Draco grabbed Severus by the arm, turning the black haired wizard to look at him, suddenly serious. “I am telling you right now, you ever hurt her again; ever walk away from her again; I'll use every Dark magic lesson you ever taught me on you. I may fail, but it will hurt you till I fall.” Draco's pale gray eyes held the threat as he spoke.

“Your words are noted, my boy.” Severus said, feeling the shock deeply that Draco's words had given him.

“I grew up while you were gone, Dad. Hopefully you did also.” Draco said, opening the sitting room door.

~~*~~
Watching shadows move across the wall,
I feel so frightened.
I wanna run to you, I wanna call,
But Ive been hit by lightening.
Just cant stand up for fallin apart.
Cant see through this veil across my heart, over you.
Youll always be the one.
You were the first, youll be the last.

Wherever you go, Ill be with you.
Whatever you want, Ill give it to you.
Whenever you need someone to lay your heart and head upon.
Remember: after the fire, after all the rain,
I will be the flame.
~~*~~



“Oh, um, hello.” Hermione said, turning from the portrait to them as they entered.

“You left us waiting too long, dear.” Draco said walking over to her. “I hate competing with my own Mum for your attention.” He placed a hand on her waist, running his other along the portrait's frame. Hermione looked at Draco with a puzzled look.

“What are you doing?” She whispered to him, his bizarre actions making her wonder what he had added to his pumpkin juice.

“Giving ole Sev something to think about.” He winked at her, a sly look on his face.

“He isn't even looking at us.” She nodded her head towards the doorway.

Sure enough, Severus Snape stood in the doorway, his eyes transfixed on the portrait's occupant. It had been fourteen years since he had last stepped into Malfoy Manor. This room was were Lucius had fulfilled his orders from Voldemort. The night he had killed Narcissa for Draco's failures in Sixth year. The same night he himself had fulfilled his Vows to Narcissa and Dumbledore and murdered his closest friend.

Hermione felt her first twinges of jealously as she watched him walk slowly past them to gaze into the painting. The blonde haired witch looked down from her frame and smiled, identical eyes to Draco's gazing out.

“Hello, Snarky.” Narcissa Black Malfoy said.

“Cissa,” Severus said. “You've been filling Hermione's head with things about me?”

“Why of course! She's a wonderful addition to the family. Your daughter also brings an unaccustomed but welcome laughter to these walls. She's as beautiful as her mother.” The painting replied.

“I miss you,” Severus said, the others in the room forgotten. “You died way before your time. I made Lucius pay for that.” His eyes travelled to the spot where he had found her cold and lifeless, as the thoughts of his last encounter with his old friend filled his mind. Lucius's snake headed cane was all that was left to identify him when Severus had been done.

“Let go of your fears, Severus. Look through your own eyes now.” Cissa Malfoy smiled, “Let go of the past before the future passes you by. Voldemort is gone now I have been told. So are Lucius and Bella, so let yourself live.” With those words, Narcissa's painting emptied. Severus bowed his head, silent in his memories.

Hermione gently pulled away from Draco and slipped her hand through Severus's; reaching a hand to wipe a tear that slide down his cheek. “She was a good mother, Severus. She left you her most valued treasure.” Her hand tilted his face to look at her. “Draco was the son you both should have had.”

“Some days, no most days I feel too old for you, Hermione. I'm at the end of my days while you are just at the beginning of yours. I've lived a miserable life of my own making. I've made a lot of wrong choices, Voldemort's service being the worst. I did things before I joined the Order that I can never undo. You really want my black heart?” Severus looked at Hermione, his eyes an opening to his soul. She placed a hand on his heart, its beat erratic beneath it.

“You're black heart is what draws me to you. All that you have faced would have brought a normal wizard to his knees, broken and bent. Instead you stood unwavering as the wind blew, trying to sway you from the path. You saved Harry so many times I can't even count them on my two hands, you influenced Draco off the path his father set for him; and most importantly you helped create the most adorable Slytherin, our daughter.”

Hermione's forehead laid upon his chest and his arms wrapped around her. “We fell in love, Severus. Amidst an evil ridden world. It saved us both.” Her face lifted to look at his, eyes shining with tears. “I love everything about you. The scars that criss-cross your body show me the strength you have in your conviction to do what was right. Your hands so gentle in touch but so skilled in potion making. It's like making love watching you prepare a potion.” He felt her shudder with longing.

“Again you forgive me?” Severus asked in wonderment, Where did the Gods find such a woman? He thought. How in Merlin's name do I deserve her?

“You'll always be the one, my first and my last. Without you Severus Tobias Snape, I am not complete.” Hermione said softly. “But never ever question again what I've done the past twelve years while you hid out, licking your wounds.” She warned him. “Ginny's not the only one good with a hex.” Severus shuddered in the memory of his last meeting with Ginny Potter.

“I just want that Potions master's name. I fear I owe the old boy a visit, some kind words of encouragement.” Severus's voice became hard, the thought of anyone that slimy making improper suggestions towards his witch.

“Harry and Draco took good care of him. But it's your job in the future. Who's going to protect me from you?” She laughed throatily. “I hear you can be quite the taskmaster.” Severus's eyebrow arched, and he smirked.

“When I'm done with you madam, you'll be worthy of being my partner; in potions and in bed.” He pulled her lips to his and kissed her, his hands running up and down her body. He pulled her tight to hid hardened body as her hands reached up to the tie in his hair, tugging it loose. His hair fell in a curtain around their faces as Hermione's fingers ran through it.

Draco coughed to remind them of his presence. “While I am happy you both are together again, watching my father kiss his fiancée senseless in front of me is kind of ickle.” The three of them laughed as Severus held her close.

“Speaking of ickle,” Hermione said, “I owe Fred and George a nice prank when next we meet.”

“Ginny did that for you, bat-bogey times three.” Draco laughed. “She didn't leave Severus out.”

~~*~~
Im going crazy, Im losing sleep.
Im in too far, Im in way too deep over you.
Youll always be the one.
You were the first, youll be the last.

Wherever you go, Ill be with you.
Whatever you want, Ill give it to you.
Whenever you need someone to lay your heart and head upon.
Remember: after the fire, after all the rain,
I will be the flame.

Whatever you want, Ill give it to you.
Wherever you go, Ill be with you.
And whatever you want, Ill give it to you.
~~*~~


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