Chiara Zabini had wrestled her boys into wizarding dress robes, and they stood next to her father who was tugging at his tuxedo jacket in the hall. All three of them stared at her with wide eyes.
“Mummy,” Castor whispered, and he reached out to touch the skirt of her robes. “You look so pretty.”
“You look beautiful, sweetheart,” her dad managed to choke out. He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped at his eyes. He cleared his throat and tucked the handkerchief back into his pocket. “Ready?”
“Yes,” Hermione said and smiled.
Potter Manor wasn’t as familiar to Hermione as Grimmauld Place, or even Malfoy Manor, but she knew that they were headed out to the gardens. The doors were open, and as she stepped out onto the clearly marked path, the opening strains of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Black Dog’ came from somewhere. Of course. Hermione’s fingers tightened on her father’s arm.
“An interesting choice,” her dad murmured.
“You have no idea, Daddy,” Hermione huffed back at him.
“This… man… wizard, he seems to love you, rather a lot,” her dad continued.
“He really does,” Hermione agreed.
“I want you to be happy, sweetheart. I know that I… I haven’t been… I’m sorry,” he continued.
Hermione swallowed hard as they continued toward the small group of chairs in front of a truly incredible gazebo that appeared to be made entirely of flowers. Once she neared the gazebo, she could see him, waiting for her. His grey eyes were wide and completely focused on her. Having Sirius Black completely focused on you was not something that one could forget. His gaze burned and it enflamed. Hermione took a deep breath and let her feet carry her to him.
“Hey,” he breathed at her. “Wanna ditch this place and grab a cup of coffee?”
Hermione’s laugh was distinctly watery. That was the first thing he had ever said to Oleandra Puckle. He had caught sight of her in apothecary, scowling at ground knotgrass, and had sidled up next to her, leaning against a display of crystal mortars and pestles.
“Sirius, no,” Harry protested, obviously thinking that his godfather had deviated wildly from the script.
“With you?” Hermione recited from memory, quirking one brow, and curling her lip, just as she had back then.
“Never had any complaints yet, love,” he whispered.
“Please tell me that line doesn’t actually work on anyone,” Hermione recited.
Sirius leaned forward and kissed her—just the merest brush of his lips against hers. Harry cleared his throat loudly and frowned at them. Hermione blushed and tried to focus on him.
When Sirius had first pitched the idea of Harry presiding over her bonding ceremony to Sirius it had been shocking and disturbing. One more symbol of everything that she had lost and could never regain. She had agreed to make Sirius happy, but it had weighed heavily on her heart.
Now, standing in front of this world’s Harry—blindingly bright and happy and gregarious—she allowed herself to not wince away from him. This was what she had wanted for him, all along. That he be loved and surrounded by family. That he would grow up never knowing hunger or want or fear. That this Harry would never bear the weight of the world or be required to sacrifice everything up to the wizarding world. Hermione blinked away the tears that filled her eyes and focused on what Harry was saying.
“We’re here today to celebrate the bonding of two people that we all love and consider family,” Harry read from the book he was holding haltingly.
Sirius held her hands in his and when Harry stumbled over his speech, again, he winked at her. Hermione could feel the blush spread over her cheeks and down her chest. Oleandra Puckle never blushed. It had been one of Hermione’s favourite things about her. Hermione, on the other hand, blushed with regularity. Sirius’ eyes widened in surprise, and then a slow, dirty smirk spread over his face.
“Do you take this wizard to your heart and to your hearth?” Harry asked her, an expectant expression on his face.
“Yes,” Hermione said clearly.
“Do you take this witch?” Harry asked Sirius. “Will you cover her with your cloak and defend her with your wand?”
“Yes.” Sirius’ voice broke, but their small audience didn’t even murmur.
“With love, I bind thee,” Harry murmured as he slowly wound cord over their joined hands. “With faith, I bind thee. With my words, I bind thee. With my magic, I bind thee.”
Harry tapped their joined hands with his wand and murmured the bonding spell. The cord wrapped around their hands began to glow and then sank into their skin. Hermione’s wrists tingled and her fingers tightened on Sirius’.
“You can kiss her now you old dog,” Harry huffed at Sirius.
That was all the invitation Sirius needed. Hermione shrieked as he wrapped an arm around her waist and bent her backward before he proceeded to snog her breathless. When he finally released her lips, she was gasping for air and clinging to his shoulders.
“You alright there, Hermione?” Harry asked her worriedly.
“Yes,” Hermione panted. “I’m fine.”
“If you say so,” Harry muttered. He turned to their small audience and cast Sonorous on himself. “Join me in greeting the newly bonded!”
“Hail and well met, Hermione and Sirius,” chorused the audience.
“Now if everything has gone the way it’s supposed to, there’s food in the giant white tent on the lawn,” Harry continued. “Go eat something, and our newlyweds will join us in a minute.”
The audience rose and moved toward the tent. Narcissa had a hold of one of the twins and her mother had the other. Hermione turned to face Harry who was cancelling the Sonorous charm on himself.
“Thank you,” Hermione said quietly. “That was perfect.”
“What was that bit at the beginning?” Harry asked curiously. Hermione blushed again, and Sirius wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
“It’s what I said to her the first time I ever saw her,” Sirius explained with a shrug. He grinned down at Hermione, joy radiating from him. “She was scowling at ground knotgrass, of all things, and she looked adorable.”
“And you had to pretend like you didn’t even know him,” Harry guessed with a frown. He tilted his head at Hermione. “That must have been really hard for you.”
“Not really,” Hermione protested with a shake of her head. “I didn’t know him. I knew the other Sirius, but he… he was not the same wizard at all.” She glanced up at this Sirius, her Sirius, and smiled.
“Thank you,” Harry said quietly. His smile was uncertain and lop-sided, and it looked so much like her Harry that her breath caught in her throat. “For… for everything. I know that I’m not… I’m not him, but it’s pretty clear that you… I mean you di—erm,” Harry broke off at the look on Sirius’ face. “Right.” He stuck out his hand. “The name’s Potter. Harry Potter. I’d really like to be your friend.”
Slowly, Hermione slid her hand into Harry’s, a soft sob escaping her.
“I’m Hermione Granger,” she whispered. “I’d… I’d really like that, too.”
“Let’s go eat cake,” Harry said cheerfully.
Once Harry exited the gazebo, Sirius handed Hermione his handkerchief. She wiped her cheeks and when she went to hand it back to him, he shook his head.
“I have a feeling you’re going to need it,” Sirius teased her.
“Fine,” Hermione agreed and stuffed the handkerchief down the front of her dress. “You just wanted to go to the Ministry. Are you alright with all of this?”
“That witch would have found a way to stop us, and I would have had to figure out some way to prank her,” Sirius grumbled. “This is better, I think. You’ll have a chance to say goodbye to everyone before we leave.”
“What?” Hermione asked, raising an eyebrow at him for good measure. Sirius’ eyes narrowed and he stared at her for several long moments. His nostrils flared and he huffed at her.
“Narcissa told you,” he realized with a scowl. “She promised to keep it a surprise!”
“It slipped out,” Hermione said with a shrug. “Now what on earth are you planning? I have a job, Sirius!”
“Lucius agreed to let you have a couple of weeks.” Sirius pouted at her. “It was his idea, really. He thought it would be a good way for us to bond as a family.”
“Lucius suggested that I take two weeks off of work,” Hermione said incredulously. Sirius shrugged.
“It’s possible that Narcissa suggested it to him first,” Sirius allowed.
“Your entire family is ridiculous,” Hermione groaned.
“This Hermione, the Ravenclaw one, was already hanging out with them,” Sirius reminded her. “This is not my fault. It’s hers.”
Laughter bubbled up in Hermione’s throat. “Are you trying to get her in trouble? Ravenclaw Hermione? Is that what you’re calling her now? What am I then? Gryffindor Hermione?”
“You are that” Sirius agreed as he wound his arms around her waist and tugged her close. He grinned as her eyes widened in surprise. “You’re also mine.”
Another kiss that left her gasping for breath and dizzy. She clung to Sirius and pressed her face against his throat. There was a put-upon sigh and loud throat clearing. Hermione tried to jump away from Sirius but ended up hitting his chin with her head. Sirius bit off a curse as Hermione rubbed at her head. They both turned to frown at James Potter who was standing uncertainly at the entrance to the gazebo.
“Erm, Lils sent me after you,” James explained and shuffled his feet. “Sorry.”
“Why does Lily hate me, Prongs?” Sirius pouted at his best friend. “Wasn’t I a great best man? Didn’t I accidentally lock you into the chapel so that you could spend some quality time with your bride?”
“Actually, I think that’s why Lily suggested the gazebo,” James muttered. He rubbed the back of his head. “Sorry about that.”
“We should go,” Hermione suggested. “I’m sure they want us to cut the cake.”
“I believe the cake was mentioned,” James agreed.
The cake was a towering recreation of the apothecary that they had met in. Hermione could feel her eyes water, and she pulled out the handkerchief from her décolletage and sniffled into it. The pastry chef must have been magical, because you could peer in through the sugar pane windows and see tiny bins filled with miniscule potions ingredients.
“How?” Hermione croaked.
“A Penseive and a brilliant baker,” Lily said with a smug smile. The smile faltered slightly as she glanced at the cake. “Do you really like it?”
“I do.” Hermione nodded her head. “It’s perfect.”
Together, Sirius and Hermione used a huge knife to cut the cake into small portions. Sirius lifted piece of cake in his hand with a speculative gleam in his eyes.
“Don’t,” Hermione snapped.
“Spoilsport,” Sirius muttered. He held out the cake and she ate it.
“If you want a food fight, the boys will accommodate you any time,” Hermione said drily. She fed him his small piece of cake, and then they both stepped back from the table to allow the wait staff to begin to hand out cake.
“Can we talk to you, for just a minute?” Lily asked cautiously.
“Sure,” Hermione agreed after glancing at Sirius who nodded and headed toward Castor and Pollux.
“Thank you,” James blurted out once they were alone. “You risked everything to come here, and… well… we weren’t that nice, yeah? But you… just… thank you.”
“I didn’t do it for you,” Hermione admitted and then flushed.
“We know you didn’t,” Lily offered with a strained smile. A slight flush stained her cheeks. “We… we looked through your things. I suppose we should apologize for that, but I saw him, in your photo album. That boy…,” she broke off and swallowed hard. She shook her head and turned to James, burying her face in his chest.
“He was our Harry, but he wasn’t,” James continued softly. His hazel eyes were bleak, and he blew out a harsh breath. “Thank you, for saving him from… from all of it.”
“I loved him,” Hermione whispered. “He was my family. I would have done anything for Harry.”
“And you did,” Lily choked out. “I can never… thank you. Thank you for loving him when I couldn’t. Thank you for being there for him. Thank you for making sure that our Harry never knew what that was like.”
“Oh,” Hermione breathed. “Don’t, please.” She wiped at her face with Sirius’ handkerchief again. “Of course, I would. It was Harry.”
“I know that we weren’t…,” Lily took a deep breath and stared at the ceiling of the tent. “I was a bit of a bitch. And I’m sorry. And I would really love it if you would come to Potter Manor with Sirius. Or without Sirius.”
“I would love to come to Potter Manor,” Hermione said with a slight smile.
“I’m going to hug you now, if that’s okay,” Lily announced and then tensed as if waiting for Hermione to tell her no.
Instead, Hermione moved forward and hugged Lily tightly before she stepped back. As soon as she did, James swooped in and hugged her so tightly that her back popped. He let go of her immediately and stared at her with horror in his eyes.
“Are you alright?” He asked nervously. “If I’ve broken Sirius’ wife on his wedding day… he’ll never let me live it down.”
“I’m fine,” she promised him. “I actually feel even better, now that you’ve adjusted my spine.”
“I didn’t mean to,” James blurted out. He glanced at Lily who was biting her lip to keep from laughing at him. “It’s not funny, Lils!”
“I should probably go check on the twins,” Hermione murmured and smiled at Lily and James before making her escape.
In a corner, Regulus and Severus were sipping at flutes of champagne and scowling at everyone. She made her way toward them and once she reached them, Regulus handed over a flute of champagne to her.
“Saw you talking to the Potters,” Regulus muttered. “Figured you might need a glass of something after that.”
“It wasn’t bad,” Hermione protested. Severus shot her an incredulous look. “Lily… kind of apologized? And… and thanked me?”
“For dying?” Severus hissed at her. Hermione rolled her eyes at him.
“When you put it like that, it sounds awful,” she muttered.
“So that would be a yes,” Regulus muttered. He shook his head.
“They want to… they’re trying,” Hermione stumbled over the right words.
“Do you want them to?” Severus asked hesitantly.
“For Sirius’ sake, yes,” Hermione replied. She glanced around the tent and spotted her bridegroom lifting a twin in each arm and laughing. Her lips curved into a soft smile.
“Don’t put up with their bullshit just to make my brother happy,” Regulus warned her. “If they do anything to upset you, Sirius will lose his temper.”
“It’s James and Lily,” Hermione protested.
“And you were dead for twenty years,” Regulus snapped. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Trust me, I know my brother. He won’t stand for anyone or anything that makes you unhappy.”
“I don’t think they’re going to try and do anything to make me unhappy. They seem genuinely… I think they’d like to try and get to know me,” Hermione ventured with a hopeful smile.
Regulus and Severus both glared suspiciously at Lily and James.
“I suppose we’ll see,” Severus muttered.
“You two are ridiculous,” Hermione sighed. She leaned up on her toes and kissed each wizard on the cheek. “You’re lucky that I adore you both.”
“We are your friends,” Regulus grumbled. “We were your friends way before Potter.”
“Oh my god, you’re jealous,” Hermione breathed. Severus scowled at her.
“We are not,” he huffed indignantly.
“You are,” Hermione countered. She hugged Regulus tightly. “You are never, ever getting rid of me again. Tea every Saturday and dinners on Wednesday nights.”
“Your place or ours?” Severus asked with a frown.
“We’ll switch it up, I’d hate for Kreacher to get jealous, too,” Hermione teased them.
“We are not jealous,” Regulus growled.
“Whatever you say, Reggie. I’m off to dance with my husband before he whisks me away to his secret island getaway,” Hermione sang as she made her way across the floor.
Silently, Regulus and Severus watched Sirius’ face light up as Hermione reached him. He handed her a twin, and they began to dance in a strange, hopping, twirling manner that made them, and the twins laugh.
“I’m so glad we found her again,” Severus whispered.
“Me too,” Regulus replied, and he twined his fingers with his husband’s.