He'd said he'd been drinking alone in the Crooked Wand, a dive of a pub just off Knockturn Alley. His birthday. Twenty years old.

"Pissed off. Bitter. So bitter, Miss Granger."

The portrait let out a long sigh and a pale and slender finger drew a line across the bow of his upper lip. His endlessly dark eyes stared out from canvas and a plain, gold frame. Bleak. Lost.

Hermione's heart squeezed. Such a wasted life. Brilliance and power, twisted and corrupted, shunned and hated.

"That moment…"

His rich voice was velvet soft, the prick of old pain forcing her to bite her cheek to deny tears.

"They sought me out—drunk and belligerent—to tell me." His eyes closed, the fan of his dark lashes a curve against his sharp cheekbones. "To drive in the spike…and I…idiot!" He lashed out the word and swept up from his painted chair in a billow of black wool. He turned, pacing before the library of his books.


The word was a raw whisper now.

"I took the dark mark that night, thick with drink and anger and pain." Another long breath escaped him. "If I could make it right." He shook his head. "What would the world we have now be like? Who would still be with us…?" A twitch of a smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. "And perhaps I…I would not be looking out onto this new world with painted eyes."

Had Severus Snape known she still had a time-turner? Why else would such a notoriously private man share his past with her, a returning Eighth Year Hogwarts' pupil? Oil and canvas he might have been, but he was still the ultimate Slytherin.

The sneaky git.

Hermione bit her lip, fighting a smile of surprising affection and pushed open the heavy door to the Crooked Wand.

Guess who's having a stab at playing with time...?