For the first time in her life, Hermione wished that the Apparition had taken longer. The nausea and sense of being completely bereft of time and space had to be preferable to landing in another location like Spinner's End. When they were on solid ground again, however, and she could no longer put off opening her eyes, she discovered that she was in one of her very favourite places.

"Hogwarts!" she exclaimed, smiling happily at the bustling Great Hall.

Disregarding the throngs of students, she focused on the architecture of the room, the placement of tables, the decorations, and the portraits. She'd spent months working to restore Hogwarts, but sometimes she wondered about the end result. They'd wanted to keep to the original as much as possible, but it hadn't always been practical, or even possible. Sometimes she even wondered if they were remembering the original Great Hall accurately—time had a way of playing tricks with how the past was perceived. Had they glorified the destroyed Great Hall in their minds, desperate to hang on to the more carefree pre-war memories?

No, she thought, staring at the red, green, blue, and yellow House banners lining the outer walls of the room. The Great Hall had been majestic, and it still was.

"Is that you, Father?" Draco asked, drawing Hermione's attention to the fact that the room was, indeed, filled with students.

"Yes," Lucius said thoughtfully. "Seventh year, I believe. And your mother is beside me."

They all turned to watch as Lucius and Narcissa held court at the Slytherin table. Their fellow House members were grouped  around them, and though none were so gauche as to hang on their every word, it was obvious that it was the future power couple that they all looked to in order to set the tone of the meal and to direct the flow of conversation.

Hermione glanced down the table, wondering if she would be able to recognize anyone else. Harry's parents, perhaps? Neville's? The Marauders? The figure that caught her eye, however, was a familiar, sallow-skinned, lanky boy. He was older than he had been in the scene they had just left, but the boy at the end of the table, farthest from Lucius and Narcissa, seemingly ignored by his peers, was most certainly Severus Snape. Head bent over a book, he occasionally lifted a forkful of food to his mouth, but the majority of the food on his plate went untouched as he turned page after page. The students seated closest to him only rarely looked at him, and when they did, it was with amused scorn. Severus appeared not to notice, and Hermione wondered if his book really was so interesting that he was able to block out everything around him, or if he was merely pretending so that he didn't have to acknowledge his fellow House members.

She had just decided to move closer in the hope of reading over his shoulder when Severus pushed his plate aside, closed his book, and slipped it inside his satchel. The bag was old, the leather cracked, and the strap worn. It was obvious that he hadn't yet learned undetectable expansion spells (and really, how could he? He didn’t look to be any older than a second-year) when he winced at the weight as he slung the bag onto his shoulder. Without sparing a glance for anyone at his table, he hurried out of the Great Hall as if he were late for his next class.

Hermione followed, curious about what class they might get to attend. Would she have the privilege of observing a young Professor Snape in the Potions classroom? Would his talent have manifested already, or would he merely be another student endeavoring to make it through class without singeing his own eyebrows? Or perhaps Transfiguration! Surely Professor McGonagall had been his professor—it would be lovely to see her as a younger woman!

Instead, Hermione found herself trailing after a young Severus up to a second floor boys' lavatory. She stopped short, unwilling to enter the room even if she wasn't exactly corporeal at the moment.

"Gracious," Lucius drawled, folding his arms over his chest. "I'd have stayed in the Great Hall if—"

"Hush!" Hermione scolded, watching a group of students come down the corridor towards them. She squinted, almost certain that she recognized the cocky strut of—

"The Marauders!" she breathed, and her heart thumped painfully in her chest. As the group drew nearer, she easily recognized Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, and James Potter. Having met three of the four in real life, she fixed her attention on Harry's father, transfixed by the similarities in their appearances.

"I can't even go on a bloody out-of-reality experience without running into a Potter," Draco muttered under his breath, but it was Severus' tightly clenched fists and furious expression that drew Hermione's attention away from the Marauders.

"What is it?" she asked with a sense of dread. "They're about to do something horrible to you, aren't they?" she demanded.

Severus was staring at the four boys, and if looks could kill, she had no doubt that they'd be six feet under, and happy to be there.

"I cannot be certain, of course, without a more specific knowledge of the date," he said through clenched teeth, "but I believe you are correct."

Potter, Black, Lupin, and Pettigrew exchanged meaningful glances and then followed Severus into the lavatory, pushing and shoving good-naturedly. Hermione wrinkled her nose, both at the thought of what might be transpiring on the other side of the door, and the thought of having to witness it.

"Come, come," Dumbledore said cheerfully, giving Draco a gentle push. "In you go now."

"Hey!" he protested, fighting the spectre's nudge. "I really don't think—"

"Oh, very well," Severus snapped, pushing Draco aside and striding through the door. "We'll have no peace until we witness whatever contemptible actions they have in mind."

With a shrug, Lucius followed and Draco and Hermione were left standing awkwardly in the corridor.

"Scared?" Draco asked, looking amused at Hermione's reluctance to enter the boys' loo and seeming to forget his own. "I never took you for a prude. Not after living on the run with Potter and Weasley for a year."

She bristled, as she suspected was his goal. "I am not a prude," she insisted. "I just… Arg!" With a growl of frustration, she thrust open the door, resigned to watching whatever drama was transpiring to play out. She wasn't certain why she was so reluctant to enter the room. It couldn't possibly be worse than Spinner's End. Still, she couldn't repress a shudder as she took up a position close to the door beside the bank of sinks.


She felt dirty, and it wasn't because pubescent boys were not generally known for their hygiene.

No, she thought, watching the Marauders as they crowded around the sinks, smirking at each other and making curious hand signals while they pretended to wash up, she felt dirty knowing that she was about to witness a cruel act of bullying.

And guilty.

Because instead of remembering the many times she'd borne the brunt of her classmates' teasing, she heard every catty remark she'd ever made about Lavender Brown and Fleur Delacour run through her head. Oh, she'd never treated them maliciously, not like how she suspected the Marauders were about to treat Severus, but she'd been intimidated by their natural beauty and ease with men, and had therefore scorned them, needing to consider herself better than them in some way.

Much like Potter, Black, Lupin, and Pettigrew treated Severus.

It was a sobering revelation.

Taking a deep breath, she moved farther into the room and stood directly beside Severus, being careful not to actually touch him. She wanted to show support, not irritate him.

"Ah," said Severus, watching his younger self emerge from a stall and carefully hoist his book bag over his shoulder. "Yes, I remember this particular exchange."

Young Severus slinked toward the sinks, his head down, as if trying to become invisible. He chose a sink as far as possible from the Marauders, who gave up the pretence of washing their hands and slowly moved to surround him. Severus dried his hands meticulously, refusing to look at the boys. Another student started to enter the room, but turned and left immediately after stammering an excuse when he saw the situation unfolding.

No one paid him any attention.

"Nice book bag, Snivellus," Black sneered. "But if that's what you're going to use, shouldn't you be in the girls' lav? I hear Moaning Myrtle's loo is usually free." The Marauders all chuckled when spots of colour appeared on Severus' cheeks.

Hermione frowned in confusion. What was Black on about? Severus' book bag was perfectly normal. A little worn and tattered, certainly, but she could say the same of her own. In fact, she noticed, examining the bag in more detail, her bag had the same latch system as Severus'. It was a well-built bag—the straps wrapped completely around the base of the bag, providing extra strength. And the elegant buckles were heavily reinforced to ensure longer wear. Her book bag was one of the few items she'd spent money on in preparation for entering Hogwarts. In fact, she fondly remembered her mother taking her into the luxurious leather department at Harrods and teaching her how to select a bag that would last for years. She'd wanted the biggest bag possible, and her mother had guided her through the maze of options to find a serviceable, yet feminine bag. It was all in the lines, she remembered.

The same lines that she recognized in Severus' bag.

Oh, bugger. Severus was using a woman's book bag, and Black was enough of a fashion snob to both notice and comment on it.

"Maybe I should carry it for you," Potter taunted, and reached to grab the bag. "Isn't that what girls like?"

"Oh, James," Pettigrew cooed in a falsetto voice and fluttered his eyelashes. "You're so big and strong! Won't you carry my books for me?" He giggled and pressed his arms together to mimic a woman displaying her cleavage.

Severus gripped the strap of the bag tightly, but Potter was bigger and stronger. After a brief struggle and a particularly vicious tug, both Severus and the bag were sprawled on the cold tile floor of the lavatory. The buckle tore free and several books spilled from the bag and skidded across the floor.

"Tsk, tsk," James said, clucking his tongue. "You're not showing proper respect for your possessions, Snivellus." Crossing his arms over his chest, he stared down at Severus. "Aren't you going to pick them up?"

Severus glared at him. After a standoff that became fraught with more and more tension, he reached for a book, his eyes still trained on his tormentor.

"Oops," Black said, kicking the book out of reach. "My foot must have slipped." His foot hovered over Severus' outstretched hand, and Hermione held her breath, waiting to see if he would stomp on it. Clutching the book bag to his chest, Severus scrambled out of reach of Black's foot, only to be met with derisive laughter.

"Slithering around on the cold, hard floor," Pettigrew taunted. "That's perfect for you."

Severus ignored him, retrieving his scattered books as quickly as possible and jamming them into his bag.

"Oh, look at that," Potter said with a tone of practiced innocence. "I think I hear the drains rattling. Maybe Myrtle's coming up through the pipes, lads. Think she'll create a mess?"

Black, Lupin, and Pettigrew began making poor imitations of water rushing through pipes while Potter pointed his wand at the nearest stall. "Augmenti!" he cried, and a burst of water shot forth from the toilet. A little flick of Potter's wrist, and the water landed on Severus, soaking both him and his books.

Hermione gasped at the wanton destruction of books. When a tightly bound scroll of parchment was carried away by the still streaming gush of water, she winced, knowing that a homework assignment had likely been destroyed.

Severus lunged for the parchment, but slipped on the slick floor. With the water still gushing from the toilet, he was unable to regain his balance and skidded directly into Potter, causing both of them to crash to the floor. Potter's book bag went flying, and Hermione couldn't suppress a tight smile when she observed his books landing in the disgusting mixture of murky water and detritus on the slimy floor.

Rejoicing in the misfortune of others wasn't something she was necessarily proud of, but it seemed a shame not to enjoy Potter's revulsion, at least a little.

"Snape!" he spat. "How dare you—"

"What, may I ask, is going on in here?" a familiar voice demanded, and Hermione's wish to see a younger Professor McGonagall was fulfilled. At first glance, however, the only difference Hermione could discern between the two was that the McGonagall of Severus' day possessed rather few gray hairs. With a flick of her wand, the flow of water from the toilet ceased, leaving only the sound of the occasional drip.

"Snape knocked into me!" Potter exclaimed, glaring at the young man who was still scrambling to pick up his books.

"And the water?" she pressed, tapping a foot impatiently. "I hardly think a minor collision between two students could produce such a mess."

"The water came out of the stall Sni, er, Snape was just in," Pettigrew offered, his beady eyes gleaming.

Hermione fumed at the Marauders' recap of events. They were telling the truth, strictly speaking. Just not nearly all of it.

"Is this true?" Professor McGonagall asked, her eyes drifting from Lupin to Severus, and then back to Lupin.

Lupin, looking uncomfortable, nodded. "Yes, Professor."

Severus merely scowled. Hermione waited for him to defend himself and explain the true order of events, but he continued to repack his bag, ignoring everyone else in the room.

"Very well." Professor McGonagall eyed each of the young men sternly. "Five points from each of you for roughhousing in the lavatory. Mr Snape, you will assist Mr Filch in clearing away this mess. Without the use of magic. Since this must be seen to immediately, you will miss your afternoon classes and be responsible for asking your professors for any homework they may have assigned."

"Yes, Professor," Severus said, still staring at his book bag. He shifted its weight awkwardly, attempting to hold the broken strap together.

"Mr Potter, Mr Black, Mr Lupin, Mr Pettigrew, I suggest that you hurry to your classes before anyone else knocks into you."

"Yes, Professor McGonagall," they chorused, smirking as they left Severus standing in the inch deep water.

Of course they were smirking, Hermione thought bitterly. They'd managed to torment Severus and force him to clean up the mess. And lost only five points each. A veritable bargain.

The bathroom cleared and Severus was left staring at the handiwork of the Gryffindor bullies. By the time he had carefully set his bag on a shelf, out of reach of the water, Argus Filch was careening into the lavatory, moaning at the sight of the trashed room.

"Worse than Moaning Myrtle when she's had a bad day," he groaned, and then fixed a beady glare on Severus. "You'll clean every inch of this room to my satisfaction," he informed him, and Severus nodded dutifully, accepting the mop that the caretaker handed him.

"Ah, well," Dumbledore said brightly. "A little hard work never hurt anyone, did it, Severus?"

Hermione felt the Severus beside her stiffen, and she reflexively put her hand on his arm. Belatedly, she realized that it was his left arm that she'd grasped, and that she was most likely directly over top of his Dark Mark. Which would explain why he was staring at her, rather than at Dumbledore. She swallowed hard but didn't remove her hand. When Severus took a long breath through his nose, she relaxed a little.

"I believe we've seen all that is necessary here," Dumbledore said, seeming to talk to them and ignore them at the same time with the way he refused to acknowledge the events they were witnessing. "Or almost all." He swirled his robe and the same strange sensation that she'd felt when they'd been at Malfoy Manor and it had changed from afternoon to night washed over her. When her stomach settled, she noted that the bathroom was clean and that Severus was gathering his book bag from the shelf he'd placed it on.

It was ruined.

The leather, which had at one point been rather fine, she was sure, was now warped and discoloured in places. The strap was broken, the buckles bent so as to be useless.

"It was my mother's bag," Severus said, and without thinking, Hermione squeezed his arm. "It was from her own days at Hogwarts. A present from her parents, I believe. I was always ashamed to carry a lady's bag, but I couldn't afford anything else."

Young Severus exited the bathroom wearily, book bag clutched in his arms. They followed him through the castle, all the way to the Slytherin dorms, where he attempted to slink through the common room without drawing attention to himself.

Several hours must have passed, Hermione realized, because the common room was largely deserted. In fact, the only two people in the room were Lucius Malfoy and Narcissa Black. They were occupying the sofa closest to the fireplace, and Hermione half-expected to see them in a clinch of some sort. Instead, though they were sitting close to each other, their only other contact was Narcissa's hand on Lucius' forearm. It was a delicate gesture and matched the young lady perfectly. It was Lucius who surprised her, however. Hermione had known him as an adult and hated him. She'd seen his childhood memories and understood that he'd once been an innocent child. But this version of Lucius…

He was obviously in his seventh year at Hogwarts, judging by his mature physique and strong jaw. He was like the adult Lucius she had known. Except not. The expression on his face when she'd seen him in the Great Hall had been calculating and confident. The face he wore now, when he was alone with Narcissa, was entirely different.

Innocent was pushing it, but Lucius definitely appeared softer that she expected. Not exactly tender, but something akin to it.

She had never stopped to think that it would be possible for him to feel that way.

"Lucius," Narcissa started to say, turning her face to look up into his, but Young Severus' appearance in the common room was marked by the contents unceremoniously ejecting themselves from the ruined book bag.

"Sorry," Severus mumbled, his face flaming as, once again, he scrambled to collect his belongings. "I didn't mean to—"

"It's fine," Lucius said mildly, and flicked his wand so that the books neatly arranged themselves and flew into the bag.

The kindness seemed to undo the last of Severus' control, and Hermione saw his lower lip begin to tremble.

"Your bag has seen better days," Lucius commented, and Severus was forced to bite his lower lip to control the trembling. "You know," he continued, "Narcissa gave me a new book bag for my birthday recently. Perhaps you would like to use my old one for the time being?"

Severus finally met the older boy's eyes. "I don't need charity," he whispered, and Hermione wondered how long he would be able to hide his tears.

"Good," Lucius said crisply. "Because I am not in the habit of giving it. The bag is merely occupying space in my trunk. If you happen to replace your bag, you may return mine. It makes no difference to me." When Severus didn't reply, Lucius flicked his wand. "Accio Lucius' book bag."

A fine leather bag flew into the room, landing smoothly at Severus' feet. He eyed it mistrustfully.

"You are a Slytherin," Lucius said softly. "When something is offered you, grasp it with both hands and hold on."

Severus nodded, still staring at the bag. It was a handsome bag, Hermione thought. Butter-soft black leather. Fine detail work. Sturdy construction. Unmistakably masculine.

"Well, go on," Lucius drawled. "It's past curfew, and I'd hate to have to take points from a fellow Slytherin."

His movements jerky, Severus seized the bag and bolted for the stairs leading to the boys' dormitory. When he was safely out of earshot, Narcissa leaned close to Lucius, the tip of her nose tracing the line of his ear.

"Very crafty," she complimented him, and though she was whispering, Hermione found that she could hear her plainly. "At least now I know what to get you for your birthday."

Lucius' smile was smug, even if he did squirm a little as Narcissa followed the path her nose had taken with her tongue. "Yes, well, I had to do something, didn't I? Otherwise you might have gotten me a broom cleaning kit, and I rather believe that is what Father has in mind for me."

"That wouldn't do at all," Narcissa conceded. She shifted her body slightly, and Lucius responded immediately, as if they had been in this position many times before and he knew exactly what she wanted. Spreading his legs and leaning against the backrest, he pulled Narcissa onto his lap, facing him.

"I've learned something new tonight," she told him, her voice low and throaty. "Seeing you combine manipulation with kindness is actually quite arousing." She murmured a spell that Hermione couldn't quite make out, and Lucius' robes disappeared, and his shirt unbuttoned. "That's better," she said, and Lucius groaned as she explored his body with mouth and hands.

"Merciful Merlin," Hermione breathed, her face flaming as she watched the scene unfolding with wide eyes. As a prefect she'd interrupted plenty of snogging sessions, but she'd never come across anything even close to as erotic as what she was currently witnessing.

"I'm going to throw up," Draco announced loudly, and Hermione was suddenly reminded that she was not the only voyeur witnessing the personal moment between seventh-year Lucius and Narcissa.

"Yes," Severus said. "Rather." Arms crossed over his chest, he frowned at Lucius. "I can't believe you lied to me about that bag. What were you thinking? You barely even knew me."

Hermione expected a sardonic remark from the quintessential Slytherin in reply, but he was still staring at the couple on the couch. To Hermione's relief, they had not advanced their state of undress any further than when she'd looked away, but from the pleased noises coming from both, she was certain it was only a matter of time.

"What?" Lucius said, still not turning away from the couple. "Oh. You were soaking wet and in tears. It was obvious that you'd been bullied by those miscreants again. Also, I'm not made of stone."

Severus smirked. "Narcissa seems to think you are," he said. "Or at least, that part of you is."

"That's it," Draco snapped. "Can we leave now? I'm hardly interested in watching my parents—" he gestured wildly with flapping hands toward the couple, "doing that."

"Yes, I do believe it's time we moved on," Dumbledore said. "Don't you agree, Lucius?"

"What?" Lucius asked. He turned away with reluctance, and then looked back again, as if he couldn't stand to look away. "No," he said. "No. Couldn't we stay here, just for a little longer?"

Hermione had seen Lucius Malfoy on his worst behaviour, and also on his best, but she had never heard him plead.

She hoped never to hear it again. It was wrong, somehow, as if he were broken beyond repair.

"I'm afraid not," Dumbledore said gently. Instead of waiting for the others to approach him as had been his wont, the former headmaster of Hogwarts placed his arm around Lucius' shoulders and waited for the others to join him.

"I still use that bag, you know," Severus said, just before they were caught up in the swirl of Dumbledore's unique brand of Apparition.

"As do I," Lucius replied, and if his voice sounded a trifle scratchy, no one commented on it.



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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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