Waking in a strange bed, Hermione found, was even less ideal than it sounded. Especially considering the fact that, once again, she was not alone. This time, however, she was not the first to wake. Severus Snape snapped to meet her gaze, ceasing what she assumed to be a thorough cataloguing of the room, or rather, what could be seen of the room from between the curtains of the lavish bed.

"Quickly," he hissed. "Explain what you know of this fiasco."

"Oh!" She blinked, her dry and burning eyes telling her that they most likely had not been granted any measure of real sleep.

"Before Dumbledore returns to snatch us away again," Severus prompted.

"Right." Clearing her throat delicately, she deliberately avoided looking at Lucius and Draco, quite certain that both were snuggling a good deal closer to her than they had any right to. "Have you read any Dickens?" she asked, tugging at the constricting collar of her… nightdress? She looked down, momentarily distracted, and discovered that she was wearing a heavy white nightgown, complete with lace yoke. Grimacing, she debated undoing the top button, but Severus claimed her attention again before she could accomplish it.

"Yes, yes," he said dismissively. "David Copperfield was moderately entertaining."

She waited for the dawning of recognition, but Severus' expression remained expectant.

"You've never read A Christmas Carol?" she asked. "Or seen the movie?" It was fairly obvious that he hadn't, but given that he had grown up in a Muggle household, she found it hard to believe that he could have escaped the way the story had trickled into almost every form of media.

"I should think it obvious that I have not," he hissed. Lucius stirred, flinging an arm over Severus' leg and causing the dark wizard to scowl prodigiously before displacing him.

"It seems to be a little different than what's happening here," Hermione said, thinking out loud. "In the story, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited first by the ghost of his deceased business partner, and then by the spirits of the past, present, and future."

Severus paled at the notion.

"But Dumbledore said something about budget cuts," she continued, frowning. "I think he's the only ghost we'll be seeing. He did, after all, escort us on our journey into Lucius' past."

"And what, pray tell, is the point of this absurdity?" Severus asked, shifting on the bed and lazily aiming his wand at Lucius as the blond man once again attempted to invade his personal space.

"To show Ebenezer the error of his ways," Hermione responded promptly. "And to give him hope for a changed future."

His face puckered in an expression of loathing, Severus settled back against the headboard. "Of course," he muttered darkly. "How very Gryffindor."

"Well, it wasn't my idea," Hermione snapped. "I'd just as soon give this experience a pass too, you know."

"Yes. No doubt you were intended to be celebrating the season in the bosom of your—" He stopped abruptly. "My apologies, Miss Granger," he finished stiffly.

Lips pressed together, she smiled tightly and then looked away. Draco chose that moment to make a queer sort of sound, low in the back of the throat, and she gratefully turned her attention away from her former Potions professor to stare at the younger Malfoy, who somehow managed to look aloof even in slumber.

"Oh, Merlin," Severus said, raising his wand once again. "I think it's time we woke the little prince."

"Why?" Hermione asked, frowning. "Shouldn't we just let him rest? I mean, he's certainly less trouble this way…"

Severus' lips twitched slightly as he looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "I must assume that you have not often woken in the company of a young man," he said, and waved his wand. Before she could react to his statement, Draco was jolted awake, once again coughing and spluttering. He glared balefully at his fellow bedmates. "I'll have you know I was having a most delightful dream—"

"Yes," Severus interrupted. "I assure you, we are quite aware of that, Draco."

She hadn't thought to see a Malfoy blush, but Draco came suspiciously close.

"Ah. Right," he said, straightening his… night shirt? Hermione's eyes widened as she realized that Draco, too, had been outfitted with different attire as they slept. And so, for that matter, had Severus and Lucius. The three men were each wearing an old-fashioned night shirt, and judging by the expression on Draco's face, it was not his usual attire.

"What in Merlin's name," Draco began, struggling to cover his knees (which were surprisingly bony, Hermione noted) and inadvertently driving his foot against his father.

"I believe we were paid a visit from the clothing fairy whilst we slept," Hermione informed him, watching Lucius' expression change from vaguely sleepy to tightly controlled in an instant. "I can only hope that we were dressed using magic," she added, grimacing at the notion of Dumbledore removing her clothes and dressing her in the nightgown.

The three wizards looked slightly ill.

"Ah!" Dumbledore's cheerful voice wafted through the curtains of the bed, giving them only a split second of warning before said curtains were magically thrust apart. "I see you're ready for the next leg of our journey."

Draco, apparently no longer concerned with keeping his bits and pieces covered, flopped back to bed and tucked his head under a pillow. "Can't make me," he muttered into the mattress, but Dumbledore merely pointed his wand and the bed covers pulled away and folded themselves neatly at the foot of the bed. Grateful for the coverage afforded by her ankle-length nightgown, Hermione smirked as the three males tugged down their noticeably shorter night shirts. From the frantic nature of their movements, she had to assume that Dumbledore had not provided them with pants. Of course, she was also sans knickers, but she was trying hard not to think about that in any detail.

"Don't you all look lovely," Dumbledore continued, smiling benevolently at the group lounged on the bed. "I've always found night shirts most comfortable. So very freeing." Before either Severus or Lucius could translate their glowers into curses (Draco was still wiping the sleep from his eyes), Dumbledore once again beckoned for them to join him.

"Many more places to visit before the night is over," he informed them. "Come along quickly."

"I fail to see why this little adventure requires the sacrifice of our sleep," Lucius muttered, rising from the bed with grace. Severus followed immediately, glaring at the room, Dumbledore, and his fellow adventurers equally. Hermione rose with less grace, managing to tangle herself in the sheets that had not been folded and placed at the foot of the bed, but Draco merely sighed and offered her his arm as she fought her way out of the bed.

"Who's next?" Hermione asked. She positioned herself close to Dumbledore, but didn't reach to touch his robes. Draco stood beside her, arms crossed defiantly across his chest. "I mean," she continued when Dumbledore didn't answer, "We've been to Malfoy Manor and observed Mr Malfoy's childhood. I assume that we're finished with him, then?" Without waiting for an answer, she barrelled on. "And I imagine that we would have just stayed there if we were scheduled to do Draco's past next. So I can only infer that either Severus or I am next. Who is it?"

"Always such a mind for logic," Dumbledore said, sounding both proud and amused. "But you mustn't assume that we're finished with Mr Malfoy's past. It's possible that he's entirely too complex a person to limit to a single excursion."

"All that to say that you really have no idea where we will be travelling next or whose past we will invade," Severus sneered. "You know scarcely more of the agenda than we do."

Dumbledore's gaze sharpened momentarily, but rapidly smoothed to his normal expression of disinterested benevolence. "As you say, Severus," he said mildly. "In any case, none of us will be free until we complete the journey we have begun."

"Sometimes," Hermione muttered, taking her place next to Draco, "I really hate magic." At the surprised expressions of the men surrounding her, she explained, "If we were in the Muggle world, we could overpower Dumbledore, escape, and report him to the police. Simple. But we, of course, have no escape and are magically bound to complete this journey." She used Dumbledore's term with contempt, preferring her own word choice of "farce". "Not to mention the fact that I'd be reporting a ghost," she added belatedly. "Infuriating magical creatures…"

"Yes," Dumbledore said, looking both thoughtful and displeased at the same time. "Magic is a curious thing, isn't it?"

"Yes, yes. Exceedingly curious. Now could we please proceed?" Lucius snapped, his impatience seeming to increase by the second. As well it might, Hermione reasoned, seeing as how he was the only one who had fairly good odds that his life wasn't about to be put on display for all to inspect. If she were Lucius, she'd be eager to have the rest of the evening over and done with as soon as possible, herself.

Dumbledore clapped his hands together in anticipation, setting the chains rattling loudly enough to cause Hermione to wince.

"Now, then. If you're all quite ready?"

Hermione took a deep breath and grasped the sleeve of Dumbledore's robe. Chancing to look up at the spectre's face, she found him staring at Severus, his expression calculating, bordering on… eager? She frowned, wondering if she was misinterpreting the expression, but before she could decide they were swirling away to their next location, and her attention was focused on the sound of Draco's valiant attempting to avoid retching.

"Draco," Lucius scolded as they arrived in what appeared to be a parlour. "Do control yourself. A Malfoy does not arrive at any destination covered in sick." He paused, taking in the room. A frown momentarily crossed his forehead at the sight of shabby furniture, a well-worn floor, and the distinct aroma of cramped impoverishment.

"Feel free to disregard your father," Severus instructed, lips pressed in a line so tightly that they almost disappeared from view. "You may soil any part of this establishment at your leisure."

Dumbledore's eyes lit up. "Capital!" he exclaimed. "I had hoped that this would be our next stop," he said, gazing around the room curiously. Hermione had no doubt that he was cataloguing every detail with his sharp eyes and sharper mind. What he expected to find in such a dreary room, however, was beyond her.

"Spinner's End," Severus said shortly, confirming her suspicions. "My childhood…" He paused. "Home."

Lucius shifted, revulsion stamped across his every feature. "Charming," he said drily. "I begin to see why you went home so infrequently during your Hogwarts—"

He stopped abruptly as a man of medium height but substantial girth stumbled into the room. His dark hair was a greasy mass of tangles, and his face was flushed from drink. Walking a straight line was obviously outside his current repertoire of skills. He wove unsteadily past a scarred end table and eventually clung to the back of a sofa that at one point might have been a colour, but was now the dingy drear of years and stains.

"Boy!" he bellowed, laboriously making his way to the front of the sofa. He collapsed in a mass of limbs and stomach, causing both the couch and the floor to groan in protest. Hermione shuddered, wishing that she were anywhere but trapped in the presence of the toxic man.

"Boy!" he repeated, pausing to rub at his chest as he belched wetly. "Here! Now!" he demanded.

Hermione's heart leapt to her throat at an unexpected flash of movement in the shadowed corner of the room. A boy, no more than nine years old, carefully extricated himself from a narrow patch of space between a cabinet and a wall. He had a book tucked under his arm, but Hermione couldn't understand how he'd been able to read it; the windows of the room were bare, but so filthy as to let in only the smallest measure of light from the setting sun.

"Boy!" the man repeated, startling the child into dropping the book he carried, and alerting the man to his presence. "There you are," he said, glaring at him through unfocused eyes. "Took you long enough."

The boy, as dark as his father but tall and thin as a rail, took halting steps until he stood, hands clenched into fists, in front of the couch. Hermione couldn't say exactly why this disturbed her so, but it did. Between the stench of alcohol and that of fear, though, she had a sickening feeling that she knew what was coming. A quick glance at Severus confirmed her fears—he was standing rigidly, his face utterly devoid of colour. He'd always been pale, but this was something else, Hermione knew. And she rather thought that anything that caused the formidable Severus Snape so much discomfort was something that she would be content to avoid for the remainder of her natural life.

"You've been reading again," the man accused, his head swivelling with difficulty to face his son. "More of that," he paused, and grew even more ugly as he sneered in distaste, "magical nonsense?"

Hermione cringed as Young Severus' spine stiffened. No, she wanted to plead. Don't talk back to him!

But Young Severus had more control that she'd credited him with.

Instead of defending himself, he merely met his father's glare with stony silence.

"Well?" Mr Snape demanded. "Answer me, boy!"

"Yes, Father. I was reading." The words were polite, but spoken between clenched teeth. The tension in the room grew, becoming an almost tangible force. "I was reading a magical book," he said, and something in his eyes flickered. As if he had reached a decision, the aura of fear that shrouded the young boy fell away, and in its place Hermione saw someone who had been pushed too far, and who was ready to stand up for himself.

If anything, this terrified her even more.

"Would you like to see what I've learned, Father?" Severus asked. With a flick of his wrist, a wand that had been secreted in his sleeve slid smoothly into his hand, and Hermione had to wonder how many times he'd practiced the movement. And where had the wand come from? He wasn't yet old enough to be attending Hogwarts… Oh. Of course. Seeing that the wand looked nothing like the one he now carried, she realized that he must have appropriated his mother's wand.

Tobias Snape squinted at the slender piece of wood in his son's hand. "You put that away, boy," he hissed, speaking over top of Severus' voice. "There will be no waving of wands in my house!" He lunged toward Severus, but the boy finished what he was saying and stepped nimbly aside, watching his father sprawl to the floor.

"That was a Jelly Legs Jinx," Severus informed him, grasping the wand so tightly that his knuckles were white. "Shall I show you a Stinging Hex, Father? Professor Dumbledore brought me the most fascinating reading material the last time he visited. I've loads of other spells to show you."

Hermione watched with wide eyes as Severus began the incantation and wand movements of the Stinging Hex. He performed it flawlessly, and Tobias let out a bellow of pain and outrage as his face erupted in painful sores. Accurate as his spells had been, Severus was still only nine years old. The Jelly Legs Jinx evaporated as he concentrated on the Stinging Hex, and Tobias was able to pull himself to his knees.

"I'll get you for this, boy," he wheezed, pawing at his face and ripping open the sores. Blood trickled down his face and splattered his already soiled clothing. He struggled to get to his feet, but his murderous intent was obvious.

"Dumbledore sent an extra book this time," Severus said, training his wand on his father. "With spells to be used only if my life or Mother's life is in danger."

Hermione's heart sank.

"Are you threatening me, Father?" Severus asked quietly.

"A man don't need threats when he has fists," Tobias sneered, and lunged.

"Cruc—" Severus began the curse, but didn't have time to finish it before his father was upon him, literally. Tobias tackled him to the floor, where they both landed heavily. Severus struggled to breathe, the weight of his father crushing him.

"Not so brave now, boy, are you?" Tobias taunted. He raised himself up just high enough to land a blow. Hermione heard a sickening crack and saw blood spurt from Severus' nose. She stared in horror at the familiar, sickening angle it adopted. Severus grunted, but didn't betray any other acknowledgement of the pain he had to be feeling, and she wondered how many times this had happened in the past.


Every head in the room turned to the new voice. In the doorway stood a woman aged beyond her years, her dress faded and worn, her hair matted and unkempt.

"Quiet, woman!" Tobias bellowed, but stopped raining blows on his son. Hermione thought that Young Severus would be relieved by this turn of events, but one glance at the boy's terrified face informed her that she was very wrong. Clumsily, slowly, Tobias drew his bulk off Severus and regained his feet.

"You know better than to interfere when I'm teaching the boy his lessons," he said softly, walking slowly until he was face to face with his wife. She shrank back into the doorway and turned as if to leave, but Tobias snaked out a hand surprisingly quickly for a drunk man and hauled her back into the room. "You know better than that, don't you?" he asked.

Staring at the floor, Eileen nodded. "I just didn't want the neighbours to hear," she whispered. "You know you don't like it when they call the police."

"The police," Tobias spat. "The police have better things to do than worry about a father teaching his son respect."

She nodded miserably. "Yes, of course."

"Do you know what the boy did?" Tobias continued, his grip on Eileen's arm strengthening. She winced but didn't struggle.

"No," she whispered. "No, I don't know."

With one forceful tug, he sent Eileen sprawling into the room. She landed hard on her hands and knees, the force of her fall causing the floor to groan. Severus lunged toward her, but Tobias sent him sprawling to the floor as well with one backhanded strike.

"He stole your wand!" Tobias yelled, his face turning an ugly shade of purple. "He stole your wand and turned it on me!"

Eileen's eyes widened and landed on her son. Young Severus' expression was a horrid combination of guilt and impotent fury, but Eileen only gave him a miniscule nod. "I'm sure he didn't mean to," she said in what Hermione could see would be a futile attempt to placate her husband. "Young wizards don't know their own strength. I've told you of accidental magic…" Her voice trailed off as she realized that neither Tobias or Severus would welcome her words.

"I won't have him practicing his spells on me," Tobias spat. "Filthy magic." He made a lunge for the stick of wood that Severus still held, but overbalanced and landed in a heap on the floor. Quick as a whip, Eileen snatched the wand from her son and cast a Sleeping charm on the fallen man. When she had finished, she collapsed on the couch, her hand pressed to her chest.

"Oh, Severus," she said, her voice watery. "Why? You know what he's like! Why must you keep—" Burying her face in her hands, she wept.

Young Severus scowled at the floor, blood dripping from his nose. When Eileen extended one of her tear-soaked hands, however, he took it, kneeling in front of her as she sat on the couch.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "But…"

"I know," she said, blotting her tears with a fraying lace-trimmed handkerchief. "I know." After checking to make sure that Tobias really was still sleeping, she leaned closer to Severus. "What spell did you use?" she asked, showing what Hermione suspected was a rare display of animation.

Severus' lips twitched. "Jelly Legs Jinx," he said, his eyes darting to his father's prone form. "And a Stinging Hex."

Eileen had looked amused by the first spell, but slightly uncomfortable with the second. "Oh, dear," she said. "That does explain his face, I suppose…"

Hermione bit her lip, waiting for Young Severus to admit that he had attempted an Unforgivable Curse, but the moment passed without further confession.

"Well," Eileen said, holding out her hand. "We don't want him remembering any of this, do we?"

Severus handed her the wand, and she performed a smart memory charm ensuring that Tobias would wake without memories of Severus cursing him. The lack of commentary and facial expression from both Eileen and Severus indicated that this was not a first-time event, and Hermione was suddenly incredibly weary. She'd seen the darker side of human nature more times than she could count, but it had never been quite like this.

"You had to have known."

Severus, the "real" Severus, startled her. Having almost forgotten that she was not alone watching the scene before her play out, she whipped around to face the present version of the young man she'd just seen traumatized. To her shame and relief, though, he was not addressing her. Severus Snape was pale beyond what she thought humanly possible, and obviously hanging on to his control by a thread.

Dumbledore stared back at him for a long moment, as if calculating what to say. "I did what I thought was best," he finally volunteered, and Hermione wanted to snort. That was the best he could come up with? Perhaps death had affected him more than she thought.

"You knew that I would use every spell in my arsenal," Severus continued. "And you deliberately gave a nine-year-old child a book containing Dark spells. You had to know that I would use them! Everyone always wondered how I arrived at Hogwarts knowing so many Dark spells. It was all thanks to you, and not my predisposition to the field. You knew that my father was an abusive wretch, yet you did nothing to remove me or my mother from his presence. You knew." He punctuated the last statement by stepping directly in front of Dumbledore. "You did what you thought was best? Did you really think that arming me with Dark spells would help my relationship with my magic-hating Muggle father?"

Dumbledore shifted uncomfortably, causing his chains to rattle. "I may have miscalculated," he admitted.

"Miscalculated!" Severus shook with rage. "Miscalculated? With a child's life!" He threw his hands up in disgust and turned away. "I assume we can leave this godsforsaken hell hole now that we've all witnessed my horror of a childhood?"

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes. Yes, of course. I feel it only fair to warn you, however, that we are not entirely finished with—"

"Of course we're not," Severus bit. "Just do it, then," he said, grasping Dumbledore's robe. "This night cannot end soon enough."

Silently and without making eye contact, Hermione, Lucius, and Draco took their places around Dumbledore. She was hardly in the position of agreeing with Severus on a regular basis, but couldn't help but to fervently echo his sentiment that the night could not end soon enough.



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Author's Notes

Characters from the Harry Potter series are the property of J.K. Rowling. They are used without permission and not for profit.

Thanks, as always, to The Above and Beyond Team of Miss M and Miss B.

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