Author's Notes:

1) Please understand updates to my fics are sporadic. This is because while, admittedly, I do have a lot of fanfictions, I am a published author irl & currently need to divide what time I am able to devote to writing between fanfictions & original fiction works.

Since I was updating sporadically as it was, I realized it was more fair to put the opening chapters of all waiting fics out for readers to sample, so that you can decide which stories merit the investment of waiting for updates, and which you simply are not interested in reading any further as they continue.

2) The fancast for Sirius is one I've used previously, even so, I must say I picked up the idea from my dear friend (and rabid fangirl) ShayaLonnie. As some people really take to this particular choice, I would be remiss in not giving credit where it is due.

Content Warnings: smut, violence, possessive behavior, possible dark themes.

FANCAST: Tom Hiddleston (specific to his role as Thomas Sharpe in Crimson Peak) as Severus Snape; Jared Leto as Sirius Black; Alexander Skarsgard as Lucius Malfoy.

* If you do not agree with my fancast choices, feel free to imagine whomever you like in these roles.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter, or any affiliated characters, and make no profit from this work.

Chapter One

All Hermione Granger could think as she saw the antiquated, leather-bound tome sailing straight for her was, Huh . . . Harry was right.

It was the morning after her nineteenth birthday, there might've been some sneaked Fire Whiskey being passed about Gryffindor Tower last night in celebration, and Harry had said, "I know you've got plans to help Madam Pince in the library tomorrow, but maybe rescheduling might be a good idea."

When Hermione started seeing two of everything, no matter how she blinked or wiped at her eyes between giggles, she had agreed. But then, this morning when she awoke tired, but blessedly hang-over free, she thought she was fine, and that perhaps a little activity would shake the exhaustion.

Until just now . . . . Until, in her tired state, she sent the tome now flying at her into the wrong place on the shelf. The shelves were very temperamental these days, and they just as quickly spat the book—and a few others—back out at her.

It was in her attempt to dodge the other volumes raining down on her that she noticed the weightiest one of all coming straight at her.

She managed to whisper a rushed, "Bollocks," before the spine of the tome hit her square in the head.

As she felt herself being carried, she recalled just the faintest flashes of opening her eyes to the sight of dark, unfamiliar stone ceilings above her. Where the hell was she? Deciding she'd been hit in the head harder than she thought—especially if she was being carried to the hospital wing—she closed her eyes and just waited for the seemingly ceaseless motion around her to stop.

Hermione must've drifted back into unconsciousness, she realized, because the next thing she knew, she felt the press of a warm hand against her forehead, then each side of her throat and the nauseating movement jostling her had stopped. She was aware of hushed snippets of conversation going on, but didn't dare believe she recognized the male voice so very close to her.

Yet, as she slowly blinked open her eyes to squint at the bright surroundings of the school hospital wing, she did, in fact, meet the gaze of one Lucius Malfoy.

And . . . more startling than his mere presence there was the gentle smile curving his lips as he looked down at her. "Ah, Miss Granger, welcome back. You've got a rather nasty bump on the head, but do not appear to have a concussion. Are you experiencing any pain or discomfort anywhere?"

Hermione forced several rapid blinks as she tried to process what she was seeing. Yes, this was Lucius Malfoy before her, but that smile reached his grey eyes, and though his long, pale hair and high-end robes were as impeccable as she recalled from before he'd lost Voldemort's favor, he looked . . . younger? Or perhaps just less world-weary? Yes, that seemed it.

None of that answered the question of what the bloody hell he was doing there!

"Um . . ." was all she could force out, her brow furrowing as she tried to sit up. "I don't think so?"

Clamping his large hands over her shoulders, he was delicate, but firm as he pushed her back down and tutted at her. "I have not yet cleared you to leave this bed," he said, his voice stern.

Well, his bedside manner left something to be desired, didn't it?

He certainly did seem to be in authority here, however, and she did spy the white band around his upper arm, designating him as a Healer. Oh, dear God, whatwas happening?

"I'm very confused," she confided in a low tumble of words.

"What is the last thing you remember?"

"Before being carried in here?" She watched as he withdrew his wand and waved it over her in a brief scan. He held out his left hand as he did so, fingers splayed, and she noticed his hand was bare . . . . where was Mr. Malfoy's wedding band?

The notion stuck out to her because he was a pure-blood wizard, married to a pure-blood witch. While it would be perfectly logical for Narcissa Malfoy to have divorced him following the War's end were they Muggles, the concept of divorce was still wildly unconventional among Wizarding society.

"Yes," he said, unaware of her scrutiny.

"I recall . . . getting hit in the head, I think?" She frowned, scrambling to remember how this turn of events she'd awoken to had come about.

"Do you remember what you were doing in the tunnels beneath the dungeons?"

Her chestnut eyes shot wide as she shook her head—only to wince at the momentary dizzying effect that resulted from the movement. "I was where?"

Lucius' brows drew upward as he lowered his wand and met her gaze. "I will take that as a no, then."

Hermione frowned harder. This was all wrong . . . wasn't it? Perhaps she was going mad, or had hit her head harder than she'd thought and couldn't remember correctly?

"What do you recall, Miss Granger?" he asked as he sat back down.

"I remember you, but . . ." she said with a slow shake of her head. Maybe it was best she keep exactly how differently she recalled things to herself until she understood her circumstances a bit better. "And the school, obviously. We're . . . we are still rebuilding, aren't we?"

"Of course we are, but then it turned out having the school closed since just after Halloween wasn't quite enough time to fix all the damage those blasted dragons did, as we'd hoped."

She could not hide the look of shock on her face. "Dragons?"

"The colony they attempted to host under school sponsorship that got . . . shall we say out of hand?"

He explained so matter-of-factly that Hermione's dread at well and truly having not the foggiest notion of what was going on only increased. A dragon colony? Here? Oh, that was madness on the face of it!

But if that was the cause of the school's need for reparation, then . . . . There'd been no Second Wizarding War?

Lucius pursed his lips in thought as he watched her fret in silence. "You may have amnesia from that blow to your head. However, the memory loss could pass on its own. The easiest way to tell is to have you go about your normal routine. If this is not serious, then in a few days, everything should come back to you."

Hermione nodded as he called out to Madam Pomfrey, seated to one side of the long front desk. "Poppy, dear? Could you possibly fetch Miss Granger's schedule? It seems she's having a bit of trouble with her memory due to her head trauma."

"Certainly," the Medi-witch said with a nod as she stood and excused herself from the room.

Hermione pulled herself to sit up, then, despite the displeased look the Healer shot her. She narrowed her eyes in challenge, daring him to tell her to lay back.

Arching a brow, he gave her a quizzical once-over.

That look. Did she not often challenge people, she wondered? Funny, she'd always considered herself a smidgen feisty. "But I remember things that contradict what you're telling me . . . ."

He shrugged as he leaned forward a bit. "Sometimes, after suffering even a minor head injury, we can imagine things, and when we wake, those imaginings can become mixed up with our actual memories. As I said, maintaining your normal routine should help clear your head, and set things to rights."

Madam Pomfrey returned then, handing a small scroll over to Lucius.

"Thank you, Poppy," he said, turning to playfully swat her on the bum as she walked away.

Hermione's jaw fell. She expected the elder witch to spin around and swat him on the back of his skull in return. Instead, Madam Pomfrey uttered a scandalized giggle and went on her way.

Noticing the young woman's shock, Lucius shrugged. "She is still recovering from the loss of her husband. A little teasing every now and again to distract her from her grief is good for her. Reminds her she is still alive."

"I—I see." She forced a nod, wondering what in the world she'd stumbled into, even as he handed over her class schedule.

"If, by the end of this week, you are still feeling out of sorts, please return. We will conduct another examination and determine what can be done about your memory loss. More immediately, however, if you feel ill or faint, in the slightest, I want you to return here that very instant. Preferably have someone escort you." He helped her up and tucked her arm around his, walking her across the wing. "Poppy, I will see Miss Granger to her class, so that I may explain the circumstances to her professor in-person."

Madam Pomfrey nodded and went about some filing work she was tending.

As they passed the front desk, he grabbed her bag with his free hand from what Hermione gathered was his side of the work station. She spotted a framed photograph—Lucius Malfoy and Draco. Yet, the younger wizard was clad in Durmstang robes? And Narcissa Malfoy was nowhere to be seen.

Hermione didn't dare ask what happened to the other witch. After all, what if she already knew, but simply couldn't recall just now? The very question could stir up painful memories for no good reason.

Oh, dear God! Had she really just made a decision for the sake of Lucius Malfoy's feelings? What the bloody hell was that about?

Lucius noticed the direction of her gaze as they continued through the hospital wing and out into the corridor. "Draco sends his regards, by the way, and an apology that he will not be able to attend this year's Halloween festivities. I trust you'll send the message along to Harry, as well?"

Blinking rapidly a few times, she nodded. She and Harry were friends with Draco Malfoy?

"Is, um, is escorting me to class really necessary?" She was rather certain she could manage the feat of walking just fine.

"I normally would not if you are so insistent that you can see yourself there, but Severus will want to know that I did not keep his prize pupil from class any longer than strictly needed."

Hermione stumbled over her own two feet at that—okay, so perhaps she couldn't manage walking just fine. Lucius slid his arm around her shoulders, steadying her before they continued along. She tried to ignore that the warmth of him as he pulled her into his side was actually quite pleasant.

"Careful, there, Miss Granger. That could've been a rather nasty spill."

She nodded, but remained silent as she mulled over what she'd just heard. Of course it made sense that if there'd been no war, then Professor Snape would still be alive. But . . . his prize pupil? Her? And Lucius Malfoy treating her kindly?

For the umpteenth time in the space of approximately twenty minutes, she wondered what the bloody hell was happening.

"Still think an escort is unwarranted?"

Hermione glanced up at him from the corner of her eye. Though his gaze was straight ahead, trained on the stairwell he was guiding her to, she could see the slip of a grin lighting his features.

Dear God, no! He was joking with her!

Clearly, something was very, very wrong. She wanted to push him away and run as fast and as far as her legs could carry her, but hadn't her legs just proven they weren't very capable just now? And with the mildly aching bump on her head, she doubted her equilibrium would fare much better for at least the next several minutes. Fat lot of good trying to run would do her, she finally—reluctantly—decided.

As they climbed the familiar grey stone steps, she busied herself with checking over her schedule. Unfurling the scroll in her hands, she nearly tripped, again, at the first words her gaze landed upon. Advanced Transfiguration . . . . Professor Sirius Black.

Sirius? He was alive?

Forcing a gulp down her throat, Hermione counted her blessings that she'd not stumbled again. She closed the scroll as they reached the landing and started down the second floor corridor.

Okay, Hermione, this . . . this makes sense. Just calm down and think it through. Yes, of course it made sense. If . . . if there was no Second Wizarding War, then Voldemort had not risen. If Voldemort had not risen, the Death Eaters locked away in Azkaban had never broken out. There'd been no battle in the Department of Mysteries. Bellatrix Lestrange hadn't been roaming free to cast the hex that knocked him into the Arch.

She was so happy tears blurred her vision before she managed to blink them away.

But wait. If there'd been no battle in the DoM, then did she no longer bear the scar from Antonin Dolohov's mysterious curse?

The motion was involuntary as she raised her arm to press her fingers just below her collarbone, where the scar started. It ran across her body to the opposite hip. She'd become quite accustomed to the sight; the mere notion of checking to see if it was still there when she had some privacy felt strange.

Lucius noticed the movement and turned his head to look down at her. "Miss Granger?"

She dropped her arm back to her side and lifted her gaze to meet his. "Hmm?"

"Something wrong?"

"Oh, no."

He tipped his head to one side, rather eloquently conveying his disbelief.

Hermione did not elaborate, but was aware of her brows drawing up her forehead in slow, pained increments as they stared at one another.

He uttered a small hmph as he smirked and shook his head. "Have it your way."

Just when she thought she could take no more of his unbearable kindness, and the even more unbearable pleasantness of being pressed to his side, he turned toward a classroom door. Hermione hadn't even stopped to consider that he'd been leading her upstairs rather than down to the potions room in the dungeons.

But hadn't he said he was taking her to Professor Snape's class? This . . . this was . . . .

He opened the door and ushered her inside.

A tall, slender figure with longish jet hair—yes, that she quite recognized—was turned away from the class, scribbling madly on the blackboard. She read the information as it flew from his hand, but . . . this was Defense Against the Dark Arts?

Snape was the DADA professor?

At the sound of Lucius closing the door behind him, not only did the class turn toward the sound, but Severus Snape whirled on his heel in an impatient gesture to face the interruption.

Hermione was so startled by what she saw she was surprised she managed to remain rooted to the spot where she was. Instinct screamed at her about how wrong this was—but then, what was new today?—and that she should backpedal. When she didn't, and her second option became hiding behind Lucius, she dug her fingernails into her palm to ground herself.

Definitely, she had definitely gone mad.

The man standing at the front of the classroom, writing in Professor Snape's hand, wearing Professor Snape's typical black robes, with Professor Snape's lank and mussed black hair hanging in his eyes . . . was not a man she recognized. Unlike the mostly unchanged faces of Lucius Malfoy and Madam Pomfrey, he was a stranger to her.

Yet, the way his eyes—blue, she could see from here, not the dark eyes she remembered, at all—darted from Lucius, to her as his face twisted into an unpleasant expression was painfully familiar. But that face, itself, simply was not.

"Lucius, explain this interruption, and my student's tardiness."

"That would be why I'm here, Severus."

By some miracle, Hermione managed to keep her eyes from widening at the acknowledgement as Lucius led her to the empty seat beside Harry. Lucius leaned across her—apparently not one to care about invading personal space, now—to whisper something to Harry. She could only assume he was filling in the younger wizard about her head trauma.

Giving her a parting nod, Lucius straightened and walked to the front of the room to engage Professor Snape in a similarly hushed discussion.

"What happened to Professor Snape?" she asked Harry in a whisper before she could stop herself. "Why does he look different?"

Harry flicked a glance toward the front of the classroom before whispering back. "Now I know you hit your head. Charm backfire?"

She only blinked, her expression blank.

"Reconfigured his face?"

Still, nothing.

Harry let out a quiet sigh. "Took him weeks to recover, and then he was more intolerable than usual for a few more weeks on top of that because he couldn't recognize himself. You really don't remember this, do you?"

"Sorry, it's . . . ." Swallowing hard, she shook her head. "It's all a bit fuzzy." A charm backfire that took such a toll sounded awful. What he looked like now was probably the end result of a very painful process. How unfortunate for him.

Although . . . .

She could not take her eyes off that unfamiliar face, even as Harry tugged at her sleeve in an attempt to regain her attention. She'd always considered Severus Snape strangely distinguished looking. Yet, now, the man standing there, his gaze leaping to her every few seconds as he spoke with this bizarrely kind Lucius Malfoy . . . .

Well, he was really rather dashing, wasn't he? She felt the faintest tingling of warmth flood her cheeks and had to remind herself to breathe.

Oh, bollocks.