Waking in a bed with three fully grown men, Hermione decided, did not lose its sense of peculiarity upon repetition. For the first time since the nightmarish charade had begun, however, she woke to the sound of voices.

"You still miss her," Severus said quietly, and Hermione held her breath, realizing that he was speaking to Lucius. She was listening in on a terribly private conversation, she knew, but she couldn't bring herself to alert the men to the fact that she was awake. Especially since she was quite certain that at least one of the hands resting lightly on her back did not belong to the only wizard in the bed who was actually still asleep.

"Always," Lucius replied, and one of the hands on her back moved to her hair. Whoever the hand belonged to, Hermione decided, was at least intelligent enough not to try to run his fingers through it. That would have ended badly for all concerned.

"I see," Severus replied, and Hermione thought that he rather did. "It has been less than two years," he continued.

"Nineteen months," Lucius interjected. "Nineteen months, eighteen days." He frowned. "Nineteen days now, I suppose."

"The pain will lessen," Severus said, his voice low and controlled. "Though it will never completely disappear."

Silence settled heavily over the bed. Hermione considered feigning waking, but decided against it. Despite the strangeness of being trapped in a ridiculous scenario with three men, the hand in her hair was comforting. As was the arm thrown over her back. And the leg over her feet. And the—

"Draco Malfoy!" Hermione shrieked, no longer caring that she was disturbing everyone on the bed and fairly broadcasting the fact that she hadn't been asleep. "You will remove your hand from my arse this instant!"

"I wondered when you would notice," Severus said, sounding much more amused than Hermione thought he had any right to.

"Five more minutes," Draco mumbled and squeezed the arse he was currently palming, but Hermione shoved him ruthlessly away from her. "Fine," he muttered, shifting gracelessly to a seated position. "But you can't have minded too much. You didn't even hex me."

"Oh, I'll hex you," Hermione threatened and brandished her wand.

"Children," Lucius chided, all evidence of his earlier conversation with Severus erased. "Draco, apologize to Miss Granger. Miss Granger, kindly lower your wand."

"It's a nice arse," Draco said, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and appearing completely unaffected by the presence of Hermione's wand only inches from his nose.

Shaking her head, Hermione tucked her wand away. "You're an arse," she muttered, but Draco merely grinned at her.

"Can't argue that," he said cheerfully, apparently fully awake. "Now. Any idea what's going on? Do you think it's possible we're finished?" His hopeful tone was infectious and even though she knew that they couldn't possibly be so lucky, Hermione threw back the covers on the bed in the hope that it was their first step to freedom.

Dumbledore appeared out of thin air and the four occupants of the bed groaned in unison.

"Oh, dear," Dumbledore said, his amusement evident. "I haven't had such a warm welcome since I instituted mandatory staff meetings in the teachers' bath."

Severus shuddered.

"We were hoping that, since you weren't present when we woke, perhaps we were finished with our adventure," Hermione explained.

"Ah," Dumbledore replied, settling himself on the edge of the bed and neatly arranging his chains. "No, I'm afraid we've a ways to go yet."

Hermione was not the only one to sigh.

"After all," he said, eyes twinkling. "I don’t believe we've encountered any of yours or Draco's memories. And we wouldn't want to miss out on those, would we?"

Draco grimaced. "It's bad enough I had to see my parents snog. I really, really have no interest in putting my private history on display."

"Completely understandable, my dear boy," Dumbledore said. "Unfortunately…"

Draco pressed his lips together. "Fine. But I really don't think—"

"Oh, hush, Draco," Lucius interrupted. "Severus and I have both lived through it, and I am certain that you will somehow muddle through as well."

"You didn't have to watch your parents befoul the Slytherin common room couch," Draco said petulantly, and Lucius was not quite quick enough to mask the look of utter longing on his face. She had never suspected that his wife's death during the Final Battle had affected him so deeply, Hermione realized with shame. Why had she never considered that he might have been strongly attached to her? No, she had painted him with the tar brush of evil, assuming that he was incapable of any tender emotion.

Which was utterly ridiculous. As awful as Lucius Malfoy had been during the war, it stood to reason that no one person was completely evil, and that he surely had some redeeming qualities. Love for his family appeared to be Lucius'.

Or at least love for Narcissa. She frowned as she sneaked a look at Draco, suddenly concerned about what she might witness of his childhood. Whether he loved his family or not, Lucius Malfoy was not an easy man.

"All right," Dumbledore said, standing up and allowing his chains to rattle and clink as they landed on the floor. "Shall we embark on our next great adventure?"

Hermione's stomach churned with nervous anticipation. She had a gut feeling that Draco would be the next subject, but Dumbledore hadn't actually said so. There was a fifty-fifty chance that they would be hurtling into her own past the moment they touched Dumbledore's robes.

Surprisingly, it was Draco who set her at ease. "Come on, Granger," he said, standing at the side of the bed and reaching for her hand. "How bad can it be?" As he pulled her up and off the bed, he whispered in her ear, "And if it gets nasty, I'll allow you recompense for earlier and you can fondle my arse. As it will distract both of us, I'm willing to take one for the team," he informed her solemnly.

"Perv," she muttered, and shoved him away, though she was laughing as she did so. "As if I'd want to!"

Draco shrugged. "Keep lying to yourself, Granger."

Hermione's retort was lost as the group was caught up in the sensation of Apparition once again.

"Sweet Merlin on a thestral," were the first words Hermione heard when the swirl of spectre Apparition faded and her feet were once again solid beneath her. The fact that it was Draco speaking so crudely was not the surprise; the fact that he was doing anything other than struggling to settle his stomach so soon after arrival was the notable aspect.

"Honestly," he griped. "Another loo? Are we at least in a girls' lav this time? I'm really not in the mood to potentially be scarred by seeing—" He stopped abruptly, the colour draining from his already pale face.

"Drakey!" a familiar voice cried, and Hermione cringed. She'd never been particularly comfortable in the presence of Moaning Myrtle—not since she'd commandeered the ghost's deserted loo to brew an illicit potion. She whirled, expecting to see another Draco. Because surely Myrtle couldn't see them…?

Yet the lavatory appeared to be deserted, and Myrtle was drifting ever closer to the young man at Hermione's side.

"What about my childhood?" Draco grumbled under his breath. "We saw Father and his tree house. We saw Severus before he went to Hogwarts—" He stopped abruptly, obviously remembering the awful glimpse into Severus Snape's early years. "But no, we skip right through my childhood to this," he finished angrily, gesturing to the room around them. Hermione frowned in confusion. How could Draco possibly know what they were observing when there was no one in the room?

"Aren't you happy to see me, Drakey?" Myrtle pouted, stopping directly in front of him and extending a spectral hand to touch his cheek. "You've not been by for days. I was beginning to think you didn't care," she said, her sickeningly sweet voice causing Hermione's skin to crawl.

A few days? Was Draco in the habit of visiting Moaning Myrtle regularly? Or perhaps Myrtle's sense of time was shoddy; it was a common occurrence with ghosts. After a certain number of years, the days seemed to merge together for them. Or so she understood.

"We're not actually here," Hermione said crisply. "In fact, I don't understand how you can see us at all." She tilted her head to the side. "Unless it's because you're a ghost, yourself? We haven't interacted with any other ghosts at Hogwarts, though…"

"Oh," Myrtle said, not bothering to spare a glance toward Hermione, but practically wrapping herself around Draco. "I wondered why you looked so strange." Her eyes lit up. "Are you all ghosts now? Will you be staying in the loo with me?"

"Merlin, I should hope not," Lucius shuddered. He fidgeted with his robe, taking care that the hem did not drag on the cold tile floor. The loo wasn't as disgusting as the one the Marauders had flooded, but Hermione couldn't find fault with his actions—the room was off-putting, and she wasn't eager to make contact with it herself.

Myrtle glanced at Lucius, ready to take offence at his words, and caught sight of Dumbledore. "Oh," she said, her tone dull. "You're here."

Dumbledore smiled genially. "So I am."

Everyone in the room stared at him expectantly, but the three words were apparently the extent of what he planned to say.

"Yes," Hermione said drily. "Unfortunately, he is here. And for some reason, he's taken to dragging us around to various events in our pasts."

"I see," Myrtle said, her eyes narrowing as she studied the former Headmaster of Hogwarts. He hadn't been Headmaster when she'd been in school, but he'd been a professor. Apparently, not one that she'd cared for. "How very interesting," she said, her tone the most thoughtful Hermione had ever heard it. Before Hermione could ask any more questions, however, they were interrupted by the sound of the door swinging open and banging against the wall. Draco groaned, but Myrtle squealed in delight and drifted away from them, toward the newcomer.

A Draco only a few years younger than the one beside Hermione slunk into the room, glancing over his shoulder once before the door swung closed behind him. Sixth year, Hermione guessed, judging by the boy's sharp, prominent cheekbones and rumpled appearance. His clothes appeared to hang off him, and the normally fastidious dresser's shirt was untucked and his sweater askew.

Young Draco ignored the spectre and made straight for the bank of sinks. With a shaking hand he wrenched a tap until a thick stream of cold water burst forth, splashing the tap and counters. He gripped the sides of the sink for a long minute, and then his body began to shake with what Hermione was startled to realize were wracking, silent sobs. When the first choked sound escaped his lips, Draco plunged his hands, then his face, under the stream of water.

She'd witnessed the anger of the men in her life often, but she'd not often seen them cry. Not like this. It did no good to tell herself that Draco wasn't yet a man in this memory, that he was barely a man now. What they had all seen, what they had all dealt with, had made adults of them long before their time, and the figure before her was no child.

Hermione felt her face flame. This was an intensely private moment that she had no business observing, and for once, her natural curiosity was dormant. There were things she didn't need to know. Things she didn't want to know.

"Draco?" Moaning Myrtle's voice was neither the childish pout nor the sickeningly sweet voice that Hermione associated with the ghost. Instead it was timid, and a little curious.

"Not now," Draco choked, his voice still clogged with tears. He stuck his head under the water again, emerging only when he needed to breathe. He was no longer openly crying, but the contortions of his face made it clear that he was not yet out of the woods. When he'd patted his face dry and applied a charm to fix his hair, he slumped on the floor of the loo and closed his eyes. Myrtle drifted to sit directly beside him, her body angled to face him.

"What is it this time?" she asked softly, and placed her hand over his. To Hermione's surprise, Draco didn't recoil. Instead, he groaned.

"Nothing's worked," he said desperately. "Nothing! I don't know how I'm supposed to kill him. Or even if I really am expected to." Eyes still closed, he tilted his head back until it landed with a solid clunk against the wall. "He expects me to fail," he concluded miserably. "And then he'll be free to punish the Malfoys in any way he likes."

Myrtle was silent for a long moment. "What do you think he'll do to you?" she finally asked, her glasses glinting as she shifted, the better to see his face.

Draco shook his head miserably. "If we're lucky, he'll kill us."

Hermione expected Myrtle's usual tirade in reaction to how sensitive she was to the topic of death, but she merely moved again, this time shifting until she was lying on the cold tile floor, her head resting in Draco's lap. Hermione started, remembering the day on the Hogwarts Express when she'd seen Draco in the same position, his head in Pansy Parkinson's lap as she carded her fingers through his hair.

"Being dead isn't so bad," she said eventually.

Draco froze.

"No, really," she said, wriggling a little. Hermione wondered how Draco could stand it—wasn't Myrtle cold? Yet he allowed the contact without a word or flinch, even going so far as to graze her hair once she had settled. "It wasn't as if I were terribly happy when I was alive," she continued, muttering something about that "awful Olive Hornby" and how she couldn't help having acne or glasses. "And maybe you could come visit me," she added shyly. "We could have lots of fun messing with the other students if we're both ghosts!"

Draco's hand stilled as he held it a mere inch above her hair. "No," he said softly. "I don't suppose death would be so terrible."

She nodded encouragingly, and then squirmed until Draco was touching her hair again. It was strange, Hermione thought. Moaning Myrtle hadn't been particularly attractive in life, and dying hadn't changed that. She was Muggle-born. She died specifically because she was Muggle-born. And yet Draco Malfoy was sitting with her, touching her, confiding in her.

It was passing strange.

"I tried to kill myself once," she said dreamily a little later. Draco's hand stilled for a moment and then resumed its movement. "It didn't work, of course, seeing as how I'm already dead, but it really wasn't that difficult. I'm sure it would have worked if I'd been alive. And it wouldn't even have hurt." She paused. "How do you think the Dark Lord will punish you?" she asked, and Hermione could have killed the girl, ghost though she was. How dare she encourage Draco to commit suicide! Just because she died when she was still in the boy-crazy phase of her development and was desperate for companionship was no reason to talk someone into joining her in haunting a girls' loo! Burning with rage, Hermione had already taken a step toward the pair seated on the floor when she saw Lucius flinch. His eyes were fixed on the younger version of Draco, and if Hermione had any remaining doubt that he loved his son, it was erased. Lucius did not have the look of a patriarch who was working out how he would have replaced his heir, but the expression of a man who was watching his life crumble in front of him.

"How would you do it?" Draco asked softly, his voice sounding horrifically empty as it bounced off the tile.

Myrtle's face lit up. "Oh! It's easy!" she said. "You just have to—"

Her explanation was interrupted by the door of the loo bursting open. Hermione watched with wide eyes as Harry Potter skidded to a halt and Draco leapt to his feet. With a sigh, Myrtle floated into a stall, peeking over the top of the door to observe.

The Draco beside Hermione tensed visibly, but no more than Severus Snape did. With growing horror, Hermione realized what she was about to witness. The next moments were a blur of curses, hexes, and jinxes that rattled the walls of the lavatory, burst pipes, and in general terrified Hermione, even though she'd seen worse and she knew how the incident would end. Beside her, Draco, Lucius, and Severus watched the action play out with her. Severus was completely impassive, his face the mask she'd come to expect during her years in his classroom. Draco was tense, keeping his eyes firmly trained on Harry, as if he were a threat to them. And Lucius… Lucius had dropped his haughty veneer to watch the unfolding drama with pride.

Until Harry threw his final curse.

From the moment Hermione had seen the word "Sectumsempra" in Harry's pilfered Potions textbook, she'd known it was dangerous. Her skin had crawled when she'd read the word, and it positively tingled now when she saw its effects. Draco lay in a pool of blood and water, his body slashed beyond from what it could realistically recover.

Beside her, Draco was stiff as a board, his tension rolling off him in waves.

Lucius was wide-eyed, his face pale as he helplessly watched his son bleed.

And Severus was vibrating with the effort of controlling his body.

"I can still feel it," he said through gritted teeth. "Do Unbreakable Vows transcend time? What fresh hell is this?"

Dumbledore, who had tucked himself into a corner of the lavatory immediately upon their arrival, graced them with an enigmatic smile. Before Hermione could berate him for his smug and callous attitude (Honestly! Being dead was no excuse for being rude!), the outer door of the lavatory swung open again, this time admitting a panicked Severus Snape. The scathing glare he directed at Potter before kneeling in the water and blood next to Draco was enough to make Hermione's cheeks flush with shame.

"He didn't know what it would do," she whispered.

On the floor, Draco writhed, and she had to turn away.

"He didn't know!" she protested, louder. She had a feeling, though, that her words would be more convincing if they weren't spoken around the sobs wracking her body. She felt a tentative hand on her shoulder and before she could stop herself, she threw herself into the arms of the man who had been brave enough to offer her comfort. She didn't know who he was, as she refused to open her eyes and risk seeing a bloody Draco and a terrified Harry, but she knew that the scratchy linen of the nightclothes he'd been dressed in absorbed her tears quite well, and that the arms wrapped around her were strong and gentle.

"But I did," Severus said grimly. "I designed the spell knowing full-well what it would accomplish. What I hoped it would accomplish."

"You designed it?" Lucius asked, his voice sounding as if it came from far away. "I'm certain I read about a similar spell. It was in an old and dark tome, mind you. It's long since gone. The original was taken from the Manor when I was little more than a child…"

"Spells With Intent," Severus said, sounding surprised. "Yes, I recall it now. I must have read it as a child—" He stopped abruptly. "You gave me a confiscated dark text?" he growled, and Hermione didn't have to look up to know that the question was directed at Dumbledore. The former headmaster arranged the folds of his robes, the chains clinking against the tile floor. She frowned as she looked at the chains. Was one of them shaped like a book? She hadn't noticed before…

But Professor Snape was singing Draco's healing incantation, and she felt some of the tension drain from her body. She'd always enjoyed listening to Snape lecture. She'd even found guilty pleasure in listening to him berate her fellow students. But his singing voice was in another category all together. She breathed deeply, still not moving from her position in Draco's arms, but moving her head so that she could see the wounds on the younger Draco begin to heal.

"I don't remember any of this," Draco murmured, his breath just touching the top of her head. "I was told Snape healed me, but I didn't realize…"

"Thank you," Lucius said, staring at Draco's bloody body. "Thank you."

Snape acknowledged the statement with a brief, sharp nod.

"Your wife was responsible for Severus' timely arrival. You are aware that the Unbreakable Oath—" Dumbledore said, only to be cut off.

"Fool," Lucius hissed. "Do you not recognize Sacrificial Magic when you see it? Severus healed Draco, but it was by taking a measure of Draco's pain into his own body. Or did you not read the texts with which you gifted Young Severus?"

Dumbledore looked as surprised as Hermione could ever recall seeing him. "I see," he finally said, his attempt at sounding thoughtful and wise falling flat.

"I didn't know that, either," Draco said. He shifted so that he could look at Severus, but kept his arms around Hermione, as if he needed the human contact as much as she did. "I didn't realize…"

"You were not meant to," Severus said briskly. "And I believe we have quite exhausted our stay here."

Hermione watched as Professor McGonagall and Headmaster Dumbledore swept into the lavatory. Harry's light reprimand and Severus' subsequent irritation suddenly made much more sense.

"It's a wonder that Harry grew up to have any sense of personal responsibility at all," Hermione muttered. "Honestly! Even Professor McGonagall was in favour of a strong punishment!" She frowned in Dumbledore's direction, but he pretended to busy himself by drifting closer to where Draco still lay on the floor, Professor Snape labouring over him.

"Sacrificial Magic, you say," Dumbledore said thoughtfully. "I've not much experience—"

Hermione was not the only one to snort.

"It's rarely practiced," he continued, ignoring them. "In fact, I can't recall—"

"You should," Hermione bit. "You should recall. If I'm not mistaken, Professor Snape also used it when he healed me from Dolohov's attack in the Ministry of Magic." She glanced to Snape for confirmation, but he merely tapped his foot impatiently.

"Ah." Dumbledore stopped his pacing long enough to narrow his eyes at Snape. "I did suspect—"

"You suspected nothing," Snape said dismissively. "I used Sacrificial Magic several times during my tenure as Head of Slytherin. Had you suspected I was proficient with it I have no doubt I would have been in greater demand than I already was."

"Using the magic was a substantial risk," Lucius said, moving to stand shoulder to shoulder with his son. Draco stood taller under his father's attention, but kept his arms about Hermione. "There is a reason it is only written about in Dark texts."

"A calculated risk," he said dismissively. "Nothing more. Now, I do believe we have seen all that there is to be seen here. If we could please move on?"

All eyes turned to Dumbledore, who was following the progress of Professor Snape as he carried Draco out of the lavatory and toward the infirmary. "Yes," he said, sounding distracted. "Yes, I suppose—"

"You're not going!" Myrtle wailed, sailing over the top of the door of the stall she'd hidden in. "You can't go! The castle's been empty for so long, and no one comes to talk to me. No, no one cares about Moaning Myrtle! Not when there are boring staircases to mend and silly walls to repair! Well, you'll all find time to visit me when I flood the entire—"

"Myrtle," Draco said, and Hermione was shocked to see that he was smiling. Well, the Malfoy version of a smile, at least. The lines on his face had smoothed, and he looked far more relaxed than Hermione thought he should, considering that he had just been forced to relive an uncomfortably close brush with death.

"I'll be back," Draco continued, very carefully not meeting the eyes of anyone else in the room. "I am living at the castle again, you know."

Myrtle regarded him solemnly, as if trying to determine whether or not his promise could be trusted. "Okay," she finally said, indulging in a swooping flight about the room that made Hermione want to duck and cover her head in the hopes that the ghost wouldn't pass through her. "You've kept your word," she said, halting her flight abruptly and hovering mere inches from his face. "Unlike some others I could mention."

Hermione flushed, even though she was quite certain that it had been Harry, and not herself, that Myrtle had tried to convince to return for more visits.

"I'll be back," Draco repeated. "If we ever escape from this nightmare, that is," he added, turning to glare at Dumbledore.

The former headmaster merely shrugged in an expansive gesture that implied he was above concerning himself with such mundane details. As if by mutual agreement, Hermione, Draco, Severus, and Lucius took hold of his robes. The incident they'd witnessed had been unpleasant and there was no hope that the next would be any better, but Hermione couldn't help but to want to hurry it along, whatever it was.



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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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