October 31, 1981
Potter Cottage, Godric's Hollow
It was Halloween night and she was so nervous that she was afraid she might be sick. He was coming—she could feel him coming. She glanced at the baby, the beautiful black haired, green-eyed baby who was sleeping peacefully in his crib. It had been so easy to convince James and Lily to sneak out to visit Sirius, almost too easy. Sirius was hiding in the Fidelus Charmed house and he was slowly going mad with boredom. She had arranged for Remus, James and Lily to go and cheer him up. They had tried to convince her to come along, but they had allowed her stay and watch Harry. She wasn’t a part of their group—not really. They were polite to her and treated her nicely as Sirius’ girlfriend, but she would never be a part of that inner group. They didn’t even realize how much they excluded her with their little inside jokes and stories. One of them would tell the punch line of some story and the rest of them would start laughing hysterically. She would sit there and smile politely, but each time they did it was a reminder of how she did not belong—not here and not with them. She told her inner self that she didn’t mind. Really, it was for the best. It didn’t matter anyway since she was going to die tonight. She was going to die and Harry Potter and his family were going to live. She kissed his soft, silky cheek.
“Pretty baby,” she whispered and stroked the so soft baby skin with her knuckle.
The house rocked as the wards were blasted open viciously. She worried for a moment about the magical backlash. She hoped that James was all right since most of the wards were keyed to him. Her fingers tightened around her wand. He looked at her disdainfully and she could see Peter lurking in the shadows. Was that relief? Was he glad that his friends weren’t here? She shot him a look of confusion and was surprised at the misery in his face.
“Stand aside you foolish girl!” He commanded her in that cold, high voice. She tossed her head at him.
“Never,” she said flatly.
“Stand aside or be killed,” he snapped, losing his temper.
“No, you’ll just have to kill me,” she said with a strange sense of calm and peace. “You see, Tom, friendship and love really are worth dying for and I’m glad to give my life for the ones I love.”
“That has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Voldemort said cruelly. She smiled at him and her smile held pity.
“That’s too bad, Tom,” she said quietly. “You’ll never be half the wizard that Harry Potter will grow up to be. He has the greatest capacity for love of any person I’ve ever known. I’m proud to be his friend and I’m proud to die for him.”
“Lea, you don’t have to d-do this,” Peter said from his dark corner.
Oleandra was the name she’d used because it was a) god-awful and b) not linked to her real name in any way. Everyone had quickly christened her ‘Lea’ and she glared at Peter for daring to assume any kind of familiarity with her.
“I would just as readily die to save you, Peter,” she said gently. “That’s what love is, what friends do. It’s a shame you didn’t learn that.”
“Do you think they would have died for you?” Peter sneered suddenly. “You aren’t part of their special little group, are you? You’re on the outside and you’ll always be on the outside looking in. You’ll never really belong. You’ll only be there on sufferance.”
“Is that why you’ve done this? Betrayed your friends? Because you didn’t feel as though you were part of the group?” She asked curiously.
Voldemort was growing impatient and he bellowed at the both of them.
“Enough! If you won’t stand aside, girl, that’s your problem. Avada Kedavra!”
The body lay at an odd angle with the long blonde hair coating it almost in a curtain. The baby screamed in his crib, but his favorite baby-sitter never moved. His parents came within minutes alerted by the backlash into James. His mother scooped him up and clutched him to her chest crying with relief that he was okay. James caught his wife’s eye and they both exchanged a guilty glance. Neither of them had credited Oleandra Puckle as being more than Sirius’ latest flavor of the week. Her body’s position—planted firmly in front of Harry’s crib in a defensive maneuver spoke volumes. James felt shame fill him. He ought to have given the girl a chance at least.
Hermione woke, gasping for air. She sat up in bed, clutching her chest and looked wildly around her bedroom. She was alive. She was alive. Why was she alive? She was supposed to be dead. Why wasn’t she dead? The whole reason she’d gone back, the whole reason she’d said yes when Sirius had asked her out had been because she knew she was going to die. She couldn’t screw anything up because she was going to cease to exist. Had she bollixed it up that badly then? She lay back down and stared at the ceiling.
Memories were starting to flood her mind, her senses and she gasped in pain. She curled in on herself and whimpered as the new world she’d just created super-imposed itself on her old memories. Images flipped themselves over and over in her mind and she tried to pay attention. The Hermione Granger of this new world had been Sorted into Ravenclaw where her abrasiveness hadn’t won her any friends—just as it hadn’t in Gryffindor. However, without the annual risk to life and limb, and the friendship of Harry Potter, there was no way for this Hermione Granger to shine so she had ended up as just another face in the crowd. She’d been picked on and bullied and her only true friend had been another Ravenclaw who’d been bullied as well—Luna Lovegood.
This world’s Hermione was quiet, circumspect and a little mousy. Due to the fact that she’d never been friends with Harry Potter, she’d never attracted the enmity of Draco Malfoy or Severus Snape. In fact, she had helped Draco study for his OWLs and later his NEWTs. After school Draco had gotten her a job with Malfoy Industries where her brilliance was appreciated. This world’s Hermione counted him among her tiny circle of friends.
“Hermione?” Luna’s voice called to her. She tapped gently on the door. Hermione sat bolt upright. She’d forgotten that Luna was her roommate.
“Look, love, I’m sure she’s fine, come back to bed,” the deeper voice that she recognized instantly, her eyes widening in shock.
Harry. Harry Potter was Luna’s boyfriend of six months. They’d started dating after Luna graduated Hogwarts and the Hermione of this world had had very little contact with her friend’s boyfriend.
Hermione ran to the door and whipped it open, not caring that she was clad only in a tank top and a pair of shorts. Harry Potter blinked at her in surprise, his eyes dipping briefly to her full breasts and her rounded hips. He seemed shocked more than pervy. Perhaps he hadn’t realized that this Hermione was a girl? Luna was watching her with concern.
“I had a dream,” Luna said absently, her brow wrinkling. “Harry and I were locked in some sort of dungeon with his friend Ron and another Gryffindor...I don’t remember his name. Anyway, you were being tortured. I could hear you screaming and Ron was calling your name. He seemed really upset, which is sort of odd, isn’t it?”
“You had a dream about Malfoy Manor?” Hermione said without thinking and then clapped her hands over her mouth. Luna blinked at her.
“That was Malfoy Manor?” Luna asked curiously. Hermione rubbed at the inside of her arm and nodded. “And you dream about it as well?”
“Sometimes,” she admitted.
Luna grabbed her arm and turned it over, showing the smooth unblemished skin.
“It’s not there,” Luna said, almost as though she were trying to reassure herself.
“No,” Hermione agreed, staring at her arm.
“Er,” Harry looked confused and a little leery of the both of them. Hermione frowned at him for a moment. He looked very different from the Harry she’d known. He had an air about him that suggested that he’d been well-taken care of and well-loved. He was confident and perhaps a bit cocky.
“Harry dear, why don’t you go to bed,” Luna said suddenly, eyeing Hermione with interest. “I think Hermione and I need to talk.”
“Erm, I think I might,” Harry agreed. Hermione flashed him a warm smile.
“Good night, Harry,” she said automatically with fond affection. Then she grabbed Luna’s hand and dragged her into her room, shutting the door in his face.
He stared at the closed door for a moment before he shuffled down the hall to his girlfriend’s bedroom and her bed. Luna’s roommate had never spoken more than a word or two in front of him before, and she had always treated him like the Boy-Who-Lived, which he hated. The woman he’d just seen treated him like a friend. It was weird, and a little disturbing. He wondered what the two of them were talking about and then shook his head. It was best he didn’t know.
“What have you done, Hermione?” Luna asked with a strange intensity. Hermione blinked at her and blushed. She shrugged helplessly.
“Changed a few things?” She murmured with a small wave of her hand. Luna watched her for a moment, her head tilted.
“Now you belong nowhere,” Luna said absently. “You’ve given up so much, sacrificed your life in more ways than one.”
“It was supposed to be just the one sacrifice,” Hermione muttered in irritation, frowning to herself. “I wasn’t meant to come back at all.”
“Hmm,” Luna murmured, her eyes taking on a far off look while she thought.
“That is odd, isn’t it?” Luna said after a moment. Her eyes narrowed on Hermione. “My dreams…they were your world, weren’t they?”
“Maybe,” Hermione said carefully, tugging at the hem of her shorts. “Malfoy Manor definitely was.”
“You were an exceptionally brave woman,” Luna said admiringly. She smiled slightly. “Pity no one here will ever know.”
“It’s most likely for the best,” Hermione said absently. She bit her lip. “Luna, you aren’t going to, er, tell anyone about this. Are you?”
“No,” Luna said with a slight smile. “This is somewhat farfetched. Even for me.”
“Oh, excellent,” Hermione said with a genuine smile. She hugged Luna tightly. “Thank you.”
“You are my friend, Hermione,” Luna pointed out and Hermione nodded firmly.
“That I am,” she agreed. “No matter the world, I am your friend Luna Lovegood.”
“Hermione, dear, are you all right?” Luna called worriedly through the bathroom door. Harry was standing next to her cringing when he heard his girlfriend’s roommate throw up again.
“No, I’m not bloody all right,” Hermione yelled back in between bouts of retching. “I’m bloody well dying!”
“Maybe we should take you to St. Mungo’s,” Luna suggested anxiously. Hermione moaned in response.
A very reluctant Hermione was dragged to St. Mungo’s by a bossy Luna. They waited patiently while Harry stood near them awkwardly, looking horribly out of place. He looked like he wanted to crawl under a rock when a red-headed healer marched over to them looking very professional and competent. Hermione realized with a dawning sense of surrealistic horror that the healer was a much older-looking Lily Evans. Sweet Nimue’s toes, could this night get any worse? Hermione was leaning against Luna and moaning helplessly every few minutes.
“Granger, Hermione?” The redhead asked crisply.
“Unfortunately, yes,” Hermione said flatly. The redhead blinked at her.
“Come along then, let’s get you into exam room three,” the healer continued. She glanced at Harry for a moment. “Why are you here, Harry?”
“Er,” Harry mumble and flushed.
“He’s my boyfriend, Healer Potter,” Luna said cheerfully. “He sort of followed along once he realized that I wasn’t going to abandon Hermione to the toilet all night long.”
“I see,” Healer Potter said, with a formidable glint in her eye. Harry seemed to shrink under that gimlet stare. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, er, what is your name dear?”
“Luna Lovegood, ma’am,” Luna said cheerfully as she chivvied Hermione toward exam room three.
“Ah, I knew your mother in school,” Healer Potter said absently, sparing her a brief glance before she focused on Hermione. “What are her symptoms?”
“Severe nausea and abdominal pains,” Luna supplied immediately.
“Well, let’s get her in here. Harry, you can sit down and wait. I’m sure Miss Granger doesn’t care to have you privy to her private concerns,” Healer Potter said firmly. Harry sat obediently and Hermione stifled a slight smile.
She was most assuredly not smiling at the end of her healer visit.
“Pregnant?” Hermione squeaked in horror, her eyes wide. Healer Potter patted her gently.
“Yes dear, about eight weeks along, I’d say,” Healer Potter said gently.
“Merlin’s pants!” Hermione moaned. Luna patted her on the arm.
“There, there, Hermione,” Luna tried to console her. “I’ll be there for you.”
“What about the father, dear?” Healer Potter tried to suggest. That was apparently the wrong thing to say. Hermione started wailing hysterically.
“He…we…oh god, Luna! How can I? What the hell would I say? Excuse me, you don’t remember me because we’ve never met, but I’m carrying your child?” Hermione started laughing and crying until Luna administered two sharp slaps. Hermione hiccupped. “Thanks, Luna. I needed that.”
“Er, how about I just leave you two ladies alone for a few minutes? I’ll set up a follow-up appointment for you Miss Granger with a healer that specializes in obstetrics,” Healer Potter said in her firm, professional-sounding voice.
Hermione had a hard time contrasting this woman with the red-headed girl of her memories. She nodded, still sniffling slightly.
“Thank you, Healer Potter, we would appreciate that,” Luna said in calm voice. As soon as the healer left she regarded the young woman on the bed. “Hermione, are you going to be okay?”
“I don’t know,” Hermione said, hiccupping slightly. Luna paused and snuck a peek at the door.
“Whose baby are you having?” Luna whispered. Hermione bit her lip.
“The dreams you have, they are of another life—you know that bit, right?” Hermione whispered back. Luna nodded.
“You were my friend in both lives,” Luna said with a fond smile for Hermione, who smiled back weakly.
“Well, the reason you’ve got this life, where your mum is alive and you’re dating Harry is because I went back to fix things,” Hermione whispered. Luna stared at her for several moments, her protuberant eyes bulging even more.
“You were Oleandra Puckle, weren’t you?” Luna whispered fiercely. “You said it, after I mentioned sacrifice you said you weren’t meant to come back at all.”
“Yes,” Hermione whispered quietly, glancing nervously at the door.
“Merlin’s beard!” Luna whispered her eyes huge in her face. “That means that your baby…this baby…it's Sirius Black’s, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Hermione said sadly, her shoulders slumping in defeat.
“Oh, Hermione,” Luna whispered, staring at her in fascinated horror. “What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Hermione whispered back.
Chapter 2: Unexpected Complications
Castor and Pollux Granger make their grand entrance. Think all the cleverness of Hermione Granger mixed with the wild impetuosity of Sirius Black, and then double it.
Five Years Later
“Mummy! Castor hit me with his broomstick!”
“It was an accident! Pollux totally walked in front of me!”
There were days where it did not pay to get out of bed. Hermione sighed and closed her eyes. She loved her sons—she did. They were incredible boys. She was a little frightened about the future because her sons were a combination of her and Sirius—she imagined a strange amalgam of the Weasley twins, her brains, and Sirius’ fearless nature and she usually had to lie down and wait for her heart to stop racing. Thinking about all of them was always a bad idea. Hermione’s heart always clenched a little too tightly when she thought about everyone she’d lost. They were alive—they just didn’t know that she was alive, or they didn’t care and that was the same difference.
Later that afternoon they were shopping at the supermarket. Castor and Pollux loved shopping with their mother. Hermione suspected it was because everything was so Muggle. They were fascinated by the automatic doors and always insisted on going in and out several times. Hermione always gave the people staring at them pained smiles. After an unusually embarrassing shopping trip where Castor and Pollux stared at the cashier as he rang up their items Hermione was pathetically grateful to be headed home.
As soon as they made it through the door, the phone rang. Hermione tried to dump her bags on the kitchen table and ran for the phone.
“Hello?” She said breathlessly, hoping that her irritation wasn’t leaking through.
“Is this a bad time, Granger?” Amusement was rich in Malfoy’s tone.
Hermione closed her eyes and took a deep breath. One of the most surprising things about this new and improved world was that she was sort-of-friends with Draco Malfoy. Before all of this if she had known that the closest people she would have to friends would be Luna Lovegood and Draco Malfoy—she might have seriously reconsidered the whole thing. No, that was a lie. She would have done it all anyway because Luna and Draco weren’t that bad. Really, they weren’t.
“Draco, I’m a single mum. Every time is a bad time. Castor! Put that down, right now! Sorry. What do you want?” Hermione sighed and rubbed at her temple.
“Right, so here’s the thing. You know that Luna’s been dating Potter, yeah?” Malfoy’s voice had gotten low and soothing.
It was incredibly annoying how sympathetic Draco could be to anything he thought would upset Hermione. He wasn’t sure why certain things upset her, he just knew that they did. Unfortunately, Draco was far too perceptive for Hermione’s peace of mind and she knew that he suspected that ‘one of Potter’s set’ was her boys’ father. She snorted in amusement. If only Draco knew the truth. He’d have an absolute hissy fit.
“No! When did that happen?” Hermione gasped in fake surprise.
“Prat,” Draco muttered at her. “Moving along, Potter’s throwing our Luna a birthday party and he expects us to show.”
“I can’t, I’ve got Castor and Pollux,” Hermione said automatically.
“Yeah, I tried that and Potter wasn’t having it. He’s becoming suspicious. Actually, I’m becoming a bit suspicious. Why the hell do you always avoid Potter’s little soirées? I try to because I can’t stand the git, but you didn’t grow up with him. I don’t think you said more than three words to him in the entire seven years you attended Hogwarts,” Draco pointed out.
“I just… I don’t like hanging out with all of those purebloods?” Hermione tried.
“You…wait, what? Your two best friends are purebloods! You’re my mother’s favorite shopping partner and I think my father was honestly disappointed that Castor and Pollux weren’t mine,” Draco said drily. “We aren’t going to even touch the fact that Blaise and his mother made you come visit them in Italy for the past four summers.”
“Castor and Pollux love the villa,” Hermione replied sullenly.
“Uh huh. I’m sure the fact that Chiara spoils them rotten and pretends she’s their grandmother has nothing to do with it.” Draco argued.
“Mummy! Pollux is stuck to the ceiling and he can’t get down!” Castor’s frantic voice drifted down the hall.
Hermione closed her eyes and sighed.
“I’ll come pick you up this Saturday,” Draco said firmly.
“Yes, sure,” Hermione muttered distractedly and hung up the phone.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny. Hermione glared out the window and muttered darkly under her breath. Castor and Pollux were absolutely thrilled with the idea of being unleashed on an unsuspecting public and were plotting quietly in a corner with one another. Hermione glanced at them nervously every few minutes and had flashbacks to the Weasley twins that made her knees go a bit wobbly. They were only five… right? How much damage could they possibly do? Hermione bit her lower lip and wondered if she could fake a medical emergency. She sighed dejectedly. There were times that Draco being a healer at St. Mungo’s only made her life more difficult—now being chief among them.
“All right? Who’s ready to go make Harry Potter’s life a living hell?” Draco boomed cheerfully.
The twins squealed in excitement and climbed their Uncle Draco like he was their own personal jungle gym.
“Draco! Don’t encourage them!” Hermione wailed as she wrung her hands together.
“Don’t worry, Mia,” Draco said with a smirk.
Hermione glared at him. For some strange reason known only to Luna after Hermione had returned she had suddenly started calling Hermione ‘Mia’. It sounded far too much like ‘Lea’ and Hermione had discouraged it with glares and stony silences. This of course had the awful side effect of making it the only name that Draco and Blaise used. She hated the both of them—the bastards. If their mothers weren’t so wonderful she’d get rid of the both of them.
“We’ll be good Mummy,” Castor and Pollux chorused with angelic expressions.
Why Harry had decided that he needed to throw Luna an epic birthday bash was a little beyond Hermione. Then again, a lot of what this world’s Harry did and said was a little beyond Hermione. This Harry was so carefree, so relaxed that it made Hermione a little jumpy to be near him. She’d almost bitten through her lips numerous times to avoid saying the wrong thing to him. Half the time she was overwhelmed with the way he was still Harry. Automatic responses trembled on her lips and shared stories were stilled on her tongue. The stories weren’t shared… not here.
The Floo network spat them out into the Potter drawing room. Draco was holding tightly to Castor and Hermione was clutching Pollux in her arms. He wondered if Hermione knew how telling her behavior was. He didn’t mind having a muggleborn as a close friend, but Hermione had always been tentative and unsure of herself until five years ago when everything changed. Right now she was moving quickly until they were back to back and she had Pollux shifted in her arms so that her body shielded his. She scanned the room quickly for possible threats and Draco felt her relax against his back.
Hogwarts hadn’t taught dueling because they didn’t really feel there was a need. Some sanctimonious toad maundered on about how teaching dueling would incite violence or something. That didn’t stop the purebloods from making sure that their children had dueling instructors. Draco was fairly confident in his dueling skills. The only people that ever offered him competition were Blaise and that git Potter.
Pregnancy changed a witch Draco’s mother intoned in a lofty voice, but Draco didn’t think that pregnancy gave a witch hair trigger wand reflexes. He could be wrong never having been pregnant himself and as a wizard never likely to be barring bizarre accident or obscure curse. However, the truth was that Hermione was different. She was a little bit harder, a little bit more cynical and a whole lot more confident in herself and her abilities.
“Look, they’ve got a little area set up for the kids,” Draco said gently and gestured toward a little fenced in area on the side of the lawn.
“I don’t know, Draco,” Hermione said anxiously.
“Mia, you know they don’t get to see other wizarding kids their age all that often,” Draco admonished.
Hermione sighed. “Yeah… okay.”
It took only a few moments to secure Castor and Pollux and introduce them to some of the other children. Then Draco was dragging her across the lawn in search of Luna.
“Mia! Draco!” Luna called cheerfully and waved at them.
“Weasleys as far as the eye can see,” Draco muttered darkly. “Why did we come to this stupid affair again?”
“I believe you were the one who browbeat me into submission,” Hermione hissed out of the side of her mouth. She eyed the assembled group and ignored the clenching of her treacherous heart. “None of these people ever talked to me or Luna at Hogwarts. Hell, half of them are the ones that teased us.”
“You look incredible love,” Draco said dismissively. “They’re just jealous.”
Hermione snorted in amusement. “Oh, yes. That must be it.”
“Happy birthday darling,” Draco purred and kissed Luna enthusiastically on both cheeks because he knew it irritated the hell out of Potter.
“Happy birthday Luna,” Hermione echoed and hugged her best friend.
“Where are the boys?” Luna asked curiously.
“Minimum security,” Hermione explained and waved a hand toward the kiddie pen.
“It’s nice to see you again Hermione,” Harry said with a pointed little look that her Harry would never have dreamed of leveling at her.
“I wasn’t given much choice,” Hermione bit out with a tight little smile.
Draco put a hand to the small of her back and she glanced up at him gratefully. She glanced over the party and kept scanning the kiddie pen, looking for her boys. Every time she saw them happily playing with the other kids she relaxed a little more. She tried to listen to Ginny’s story about the Holyhead Harpies, but it was difficult. Ginny was still Ginny and it hurt to not be in on all of the jokes.
Hermione turned automatically toward Blaise and smiled warmly at him, tilting her face up for her cheek kisses. Blaise slung an arm around her and quirked a brow at Draco.
“Happy birthday Luna,” Blaise said with a flash of ultra-white teeth. He glanced around and frowned. “Where are your demons?”
“They’re just over there,” Hermione waved toward the kiddie pen with one hand.
“Where?” Blaise asked curiously.
“Right next to the little boy with blue hair and the Weasley twins,” Luna offered.
All of the blood drained from Hermione’s face and she turned quickly toward the kiddie pen. Luna was right. Little Teddy Lupin was chattering animatedly with the Weasley twins and Castor and Pollux were standing next to them listening intently.
“Sweet Mother of Merlin,” Hermione whispered horror-stricken. “Marauder blood and the Weasley twins? Stop them now before they blow the damn house sky high! Castor! Pollux! NO!”
Hermione slipped out of her heels and took off across the lawn, but it was too late. Castor and Pollux were loose.
Chapter 3: Damage Control
Chasing down Castor and Pollux.
“How long has Harry been dating this girl?” Sirius asked curiously.
“Five years,” Lily answered absently.
“But he was in a snit because her best friend couldn’t come?” Sirius pressed.
“It’s not what you’re thinking Padfoot,” James said firmly.
“I bloody well hope not,” Sirius said with a snort.
“Mummy says cursing is something that stupid people do because their vocabulary is as limited as their intellect,” intoned a miniature version of Sirius.
“He doesn’t look particularly stupid. Perhaps he’s just lazy. That’s what Mummy says Uncle Draco’s problem is,” a perfect copy of the first miniature suggested.
“Do you lot see what I see?” Sirius asked slowly.
“Oh my,” Lily whispered staring at the two little boys who were eyeing them curiously.
“And just who are you?” James asked in what he hoped was a non-threatening voice.
The twins’ eyes narrowed on James and they looked him over suspiciously.
“We’re not supposed to talk to strangers,” one of the twins said coldly. He glanced at his brother. “C’mon, Cas.”
“Wait!” Sirius called out.
It was too late—the twins were gone. The room was completely silent so the three adults were easily able to listen in on the heated conversation that seemed to be moving closer to them.
“I have never discussed your private family business with Hermione,” Luna’s normally airy voice sounded stiff and insulted.
“Luna, I’m not mad at you—really I’m not—I just don’t understand why you can’t admit it,” Harry was saying just as stiffly.
“Harry, don’t be an ass,” Luna snapped irritably. She poked her head into the room. She smiled brightly at Lily. “Castor and Pollux didn’t come this way, did they?”
“Castor and Pollux?” Sirius repeated in a strangely high-pitched voice his eyebrows lifting.
“Yes. Twin little boys. Dark curly hair, grey eyes. A bit of the devil in them?” Luna elaborated.
“That doesn’t sound familiar at all,” Lily muttered under her breath.
James shot his wife a look. “Erm, we did actually. Just a few minutes ago.”
“Oh dear,” Luna said worriedly. “I do hope Mia is wrong just this once.”
“What did Mia say?” Lily asked curiously.
Luna grimaced slightly and glanced at Harry. “It doesn’t matter, really. I should go find them. Perhaps now you’ll see that Mia wasn’t avoiding you.”
Luna slipped out of the room by herself leaving Harry standing there looking irritated. Lily automatically moved toward Harry, but James stopped her with a strong arm that wrapped around her waist and held her against the warmth of his body.
“Son? What’s going on?” James asked gently.
Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair distractedly in unconscious imitation of his father.
“It’s just something that Hermione said,” he muttered flatly.
“Harry?” James’ voice was firm this time.
“She saw her kids standing with Teddy and the Weasley twins and she said something about Marauder blood,” Harry confessed finally, looking miserably unhappy.
“And you accused Luna of spilling your secrets,” Lily stated.
“Mum really, Marauder blood?” Harry protested.
Lily snorted. “Have you ever looked at her boys?”
“Not really,” Harry said with a little frown. “She usually avoids anything to do with me.”
“Merlin’s staff, Harry, they’re dead ringers for Sirius when he was a boy,” Lily burst out and then flushed when James and Sirius looked at her.
“I swear to you, I have never even met, er… what’s the girl’s name?” Sirius turned to Harry to ask the last bit.
“Hermione Granger,” Harry supplied helpfully.
“Right. I’ve never met anyone named Hermione Granger,” Sirius said firmly.
“What about Castor and Pollux?” Lily asked softly.
“I don’t know, Lily,” Sirius muttered.
“How can you be sure that they aren’t yours?” Lily pressed.
Sirius’ face closed off and Harry felt his gut clench. His Uncle Sirius was one of the most friendly, open, cheerful people that he knew, but there were certain things that made him moody and withdrawn. Every year like clockwork Uncle Sirius got sullen and depressed around Halloween. Whenever anybody was stupid enough to mention the woman who had saved Harry’s life when he was a baby, Sirius got angry. It had taken Harry years before he asked his mum why and the answer didn’t really surprise him. His mum figured that Sirius had loved Oleandra Puckle and still grieved for her. Harry suspected that was why Sirius was so sure he didn’t have kids.
“Lily,” James muttered and his voice was tight.
“No, listen to me,” Lily said firmly. She looked at her hands and then bit her lip. “I think it might be possible.”
“How?” Sirius growled.
Lily flushed and whispered. “I can’t tell you.”
“Are you kidding me? You tell me that those boys could be mine, but you can’t tell me how?” Sirius voice had risen until he was yelling.
“Healer’s Oath,” Lily whispered. She shrugged helplessly. “I’m magically bound Sirius. I can’t tell you how I know and I’m not saying I do know. I’m just saying I think it might be possible.”
“What do you know about the girl?” James demanded, looking intently at Harry.
“In school she was quiet, kept her head down. She was scary smart and not afraid to tell people when they were wrong. She got a lot of flak for that. I didn’t really notice her in school—I know all of that because Luna told me. When I met her she blushed and stammered and couldn’t look me in the eye. That changed about six months later,” Harry told his father quietly.
“What happened?” Lily asked softly.
“It was a weird night… Luna was having a nightmare and she kept whimpering and saying ‘not Hermione… please not Hermione’. She woke up really upset and she insisted we go check on Hermione. They both looked at her arm and then they shut the door in my face,” Harry said slowly. “After that night, Hermione treated me normally. In fact, sometimes she would treat me as though she were as close to me as Ron and Neville are. Then she’d pause and kind of pull back a little. It was sort of weird. Then she found out she was pregnant and she practically refused to be in the same room as me.”
“That is strange,” James said carefully.
Harry nodded. “The only other weird thing is that ever since the night where she had the nightmare Luna has insisted on calling Hermione ‘Mia’. Hermione hates it and glares at Luna every time she uses it, but Luna does it anyway.”
“Mia,” Lily murmured to herself. Then her eyes widened and she sucked in a breath. “Oh.”
Voices could be heard outside the room and the four occupants froze and stared at one another.
“Mia love, I don’t understand why you’re so upset. This is ridiculous,” a deep voice was saying in a soothing manner.
A loud snort was heard.
“Draco, remember the time you thought it would be a good idea to bring the boys to my lab?” Hermione’s voice sounded anxious.
“Yeah… not my proudest moment,” Draco agreed.
“Right. Putting Castor and Pollux anywhere in the same five mile radius as Teddy and Fred and George is asking for trouble,” Hermione snapped. “I haven’t bothered to have them tested, but I was as a child and my IQ was well… it was off the charts, Draco.”
“And Daddy Dearest?” Draco asked slyly.
“I have no idea, but I know that he was diabolically clever. I suspect it was easier for him to hide his intellect behind the horseplay,” Hermione said calmly.
“You’re never going to tell me who he is, are you?” Draco demanded as they moved further down the hall.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I did,” Hermione said drily. “Come on, before they find a way to destroy Potter Manor. How long has this place been around, anyway?”
“Dunno, few hundred years, I guess,” Draco replied his voice sounding distant as he moved away from them.
“Well, it’s definitely cheerier than number 12,” Hermione muttered absently. “At least Harry had this much.”
The four occupants of the room were still frozen, but James and Sirius were staring at one another and seemed to be having a whole conversation with just their eyes. James finally spoke.
“Never?” James asked curiously.
Sirius snorted. “Merlin’s balls, Prongs—would you?”
“I guess not,” James replied quietly and ducked his head.
“Who is she?” Lily asked slowly.
“I don’t know,” Sirius said with a slight frown.
The magical explosion that rocked the foundation of Potter Manor made James stumble slightly and all of them ran in the direction of origin. They stumbled into the manor’s ballroom to see Hermione Granger with her wand out and flicking as she calmly started repairing the damage her sons had caused. Even they could tell that the tight line of her jaw and the angry spark in her eyes didn’t bode well for the two little boys who were sitting on a small loveseat under the watchful eyes of both Draco and Luna.
“There,” Hermione said firmly. “I think that’s all of it.”
“I believe so,” Draco said thoughtfully.
“We’re leaving,” Hermione announced coldly as she turned to eye her sons. “We shall discuss, in detail, the dangers of using spells with which one is not familiar at home.”
“Yes, Mummy,” both boys said quietly with their eyes firmly fixed on their feet.
“You don’t need to leave,” James said quickly after a glance at Sirius. “Stay please.”
“I’m very sorry, but we really do need to go,” Hermione said tightly. She glanced toward Draco. “Help me?”
“Of course, Mia,” he replied quickly.
He held out his arms and one of the boys jumped into them and wrapped his small arms around Draco’s neck. The other boy shuffled closer to his mother and she scooped him up and held him close.
“Mummy’s very angry with us, isn’t she Uncle Draco,” the little boy in his arms whispered as his mother swept out of the room, his brother clutched tightly in her arms.
“Your mum was terrified. You two are her whole world, Pollux,” Draco said somberly and nodded politely to Harry and Luna.
“We just wanted to see what would happen,” Pollux offered in a subdued voice.
“I believe that was exactly what your mum was afraid of,” Draco replied mildly.
The sight of the two of them disappearing through the ballroom’s double doors made Sirius’ heart stutter in his chest. He couldn’t say that they were his, but for the first time in twenty-five years he wished that they were. How hard could it be to get close to this Hermione Granger—get to know her? If he could only figure her out he would be able to figure out the rest of it. That ought not to be terribly difficult. He had always been too smart for his own good, it was about time that he was just smart enough for his own good.
Chapter 4: Hidden Memories
Sirius Black channels his inner Nancy Drew. Unfortunately, that means he'll need to go to the last place on earth he wants to be, and talk to the last person on earth he wants to see.
It could be said that Oleandra Puckle destroyed the relationship between Regulus and Sirius. However, it would be more accurate to say that it had been her death that came between them. During the year and a half that she had been Sirius’ girlfriend she had slowly but surely encouraged him to mend his fences with his brother. Both men had loved Oleandra albeit in completely different ways. When she died each blamed the other for her death. Regulus was convinced that if Sirius’ moronic friends had actually accepted her as a part of their circle she never would have died. Sirius blamed Regulus indirectly for being a Death Eater and supporting Voldemort. Regulus had told Sirius to bugger himself and it had gone downhill from there.
Therefore it was with no small amount of surprise that Sirius found himself standing uncertainly on the stoop of his childhood home. He’d come alone because he figured that bringing James along was just asking for trouble. He sighed and knocked on the door. Sirius managed to control himself and not sneer when Severus Snape answered the door.
“Is Regulus in?” Sirius asked tightly.
“Yes,” Severus replied drawing the word out slowly.
He blinked at Sirius as though he couldn’t quite believe that the other man was there. To be honest, Sirius couldn’t quite believe that he was here either.
“Would it be possible to speak with him?” Sirius demanded a little impatiently.
“Of course.” Severus seemed to shake himself to attention and moved out of the doorway so that Sirius could enter.
“Master Severus should have allowed Kreacher to get the door,” muttered Kreacher darkly.
“You were helping Regulus,” Severus replied with a shrug. “His project is more important than answering the door. Inform him that Sirius is here.”
Kreacher slouched toward one of the small parlors muttering under his breath about Sirius who had an unpleasant flashback to his youth. It wouldn’t surprise him at all to have his mother pop suddenly descend the stairs and start screaming at him.
“Sirius,” Regulus said flatly. He gave a short bow Kreacher lurking slightly behind him.
“Regulus,” Sirius tipped his head in acknowledgement.
Technically, Sirius was the Head of the Black family and Regulus’ gesture was the barest possible level without being offensive.
“I assume you have a reason for arriving unannounced?” Regulus inquired curiously one black brow sweeping upward.
“Yes.” Sirius stared at his brother for a moment. Finally he sighed and lifted one hand in a helpless gesture. “Did you get rid of… do you still have…”
It was stupid that he couldn’t even say it. Sirius flushed with self-recrimination. Understanding flickered in Regulus’ eyes and the hard lines of his mouth softened immediately.
“Yes,” Regulus said softly. He glanced at Kreacher. “Bring the trunk with Miss Ollie’s things.”
Everything was exactly as it had been when it had been placed in the trunk. Lily had packed it for Sirius thinking he would want them later. He couldn’t bear to look at any of it so Regulus had kept it for him. There was a fine layer of dust over everything and Sirius coughed as he pulled everything out slowly. Lily and James crowded around him and peered into the trunk curiously. Harry was sitting next to Lily and he was looking at the trunk with an expression of wonder. Sirius knew that the tangible connections between Harry and his protector were almost non-existent, but he still felt a selfish desire to keep the contents of this trunk to himself. This was all he had left of Lea. Pushing into his consciousness were the faces of Castor and Pollux and he swallowed.
“So… where shall we begin?” Lily asked gently.
“With this,” Sirius said firmly. He pulled out a small box made of intricately carved wood. “I never could open the damn thing so it has to have something important in it.”
“Okay then.” Lily looked at him sympathetically. “Shall we take turns?”
Three hours later they were sweatier and crankier, but still no closer to the contents of the box.
“Why couldn’t it be as simple as ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good’?” James demanded irritably.
The box made an audible click noise and the lid popped open. James and Sirius’ mouths dropped open and they stared at the box.
“How could she know?” James demanded.
“I have no idea,” Sirius said in a hushed voice staring at the box.
Sirius lifted the lid all the way and peered in cautiously. The contents of the box appeared unassuming. One was a small, battered leather bound book. The other was larger. Sirius pulled out the larger book and opened the first page. It was a photo album. The first picture was still and stiff the way that only Muggle photographs could be. It was a happy, grinning very young Hermione standing in front of the Hogwarts Express. Her first year he would guess. He turned the page and all four of them gasped together. This picture was wizarding because the three children were waving wildly at the camera with their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. Sirius tugged the picture out of the little tabs and flipped it over.
The Golden Trio—1st year
“The Golden Trio?” Harry read aloud and frowned.
“Look,” Lily whispered. “She’s wearing Gryffindor robes. You said that she was a Ravenclaw.”
“She was… she is,” Harry agreed.
The next few pages were filled with pictures of Harry, Hermione and Ron. The four of them huddle around the album, turning each page carefully. In each one, Hermione was wearing a Gryffindor robe. Sirius turned a page and there was a neatly folded piece of paper tucked between the pages. He unfolded it carefully and stared at a picture of himself. “Escape From Azkaban” blared out at them from the newspaper clipping. Sirius felt all the blood drain from his face and he heard the others gasp in surprise.
“Look what she wrote,” Lily whispered.
An utter load of crap, but I kept it anyway. –HG
In the next few pages, there were several news clippings tucked in between. Apparently there had been a Triwizard Tournament and Harry had been selected as a fourth competitor. Hermione had made careful notes in the margins. The article that showed her clinging to Harry received short shrift: Harry as a boyfriend! What a thought! There was a picture in the album of Hermione dressed beautifully next to a tall, formidable-looking young man. Sirius frowned and flipped that picture over to read: Me and the Bulgarian Bon-Bon. Yum! Sirius’ frown grew deeper.
“I think that’s Viktor Krum. He’s dressed in Durmstrang dress robes and it said he was the Durmstrang champion,” Lily said thoughtfully.
The next couple pages were disturbing to everyone. There were several pictures that were very obviously taken at number 12. Hermione curled up in one of the chairs in the library. Harry and Ron stuffing their faces in the kitchen with Molly Weasley standing behind them. Hermione leaning toward Remus, a look of intense concentration on her face. Ron and Sirius playing chess.
“Where are we?” Lily asked softly.
“I don’t know,” Sirius said quietly.
“Where is that place?” Harry asked curiously.
“It’s where I grew up.” Sirius said quietly. “I can’t imagine dragging you there for any reason.”
“Now we know how she knew about it,” James offered quietly. “It looks like she stayed there.”
“I don’t understand any of this,” Harry said with a frown. “It’s me… but it’s not me. I’m not that boy.”
“No,” Lily agreed. “He’s thinner and his eyes… they look sort of sad even when he’s smiling.”
The next few pictures were taken at the Burrow. Harry recognized the interior of the home of his best friend almost instantly. There were pictures of Hermione and Harry and the entire Weasley family. There was one of Fred and George tickling Hermione mercilessly and her laughing silently between them. There was another of Hermione curled up in Harry’s lap, the two of them laughing and smiling at the camera.
“He looks happy there,” James observed quietly.
“Yes, but still sad somehow,” Lily countered after peering closely at the picture.
“Why are there all these pictures? What does it mean?” Harry asked cautiously.
“I think… I think it means that Oleandra Puckle was Hermione Granger,” James replied. “But a Hermione that was a Gryffindor and your best friend.”
“Why?” Lily asked with a frown. “Why would she do that?”
“Let’s check the other book,” James said quietly.
For several long moments they all stared at the small leather-bound book, but finally Lily reached out and picked it up. She opened it carefully and flipped a couple pages, pausing on one. She blinked rapidly and cleared her throat.
“I think I know why,” Lily said finally and her voice cracked slightly. She took a deep shuddering breath and began to read:
“My dearest Harry,
I buried you today. The moment you were gone I knew—one of the side effects of our bond. It would be so much easier if I could hate you for leaving me behind. Why can’t I hate you? When Ron was killed it was easier. We knew that Death Eaters were responsible; it was easy to hate them for taking Ron from us. I am the last of the Golden Trio now.
How can I go on without you two? I made the mistake of saying that in front of George. He was so angry… he shook me and told me not to speak like that. I think he’s afraid that I’ll leave, too. You, Ron, Fred, Remus, Sirius… all of the others. It’s too much. Some days I feel as though I could suffocate just from the grief.
I suppose I could waffle on about how you get to be with your parents again, but I’m selfish enough to not care. I want you here. You promised to stay with me, you git.
I miss you.
“Bond?” Harry squeaked, his eyes wide.
“Hmm,” Lily murmured thoughtfully. She flipped to the inside cover and frowned for a moment. “Sibling bond. It’s written here on the inside cover. There’s a small note that indicates that all three of them –the Golden Trio—performed the bond together.”
“So we’re all dead?” James demanded. “What a crap world!”
“Exactly!” Lily crowed triumphantly.
The three men stared at her as though she’d gone stark raving mad. She gesticulated impatiently.
“Don’t you get it? Time travel is incredibly dangerous. The only reason a person would risk it would be desperation. That Hermione had nothing left to lose,” Lily said with conviction.
“But she still died… to protect me,” Harry muttered. He frowned darkly at the book.
“I don’t think that’s the whole of it,” James argued. He gave Harry a smile. “I don’t doubt she cared for you—but I think there’s more to it. I remember Lea and she had several little projects.”
“I wonder if that journal explains why,” Sirius murmured.
“There’s only one way to find out,” Lily said cheerfully.
Chapter 5: Parsing the Truth
Startling revelations overturn everything that Sirius Black thought he knew about his girlfriend from the war, Oleandra Puckle. A hidden journal reveals things that are too fantastical to believe. Or are they?
Once Sirius had gone on a date with a Muggle woman to a movie—he couldn’t remember the name of the woman or the movie now—but there was a pivotal scene where one of the characters had screamed “You can’t handle the truth!” At the time, he had scoffed at the notion. Now though, he couldn’t help but agree with the character. He wasn’t sure he could handle the truth. He had dated Lea for just over a year, and he had loved her. He had never actually said the words to her and he had contributed that to the stupidity of youth and the arrogance of his younger self. He had been Sirius Black after all. Deep within himself he had always thought that he would have time to tell Lea everything.
A strange sensation had filled him when he’d opened the photo album and seen Hermione’s face. He had known the truth as soon as he saw her picture. Oleandra Puckle was Hermione Granger. He was in shock as they flipped through the photo album. Picture after picture of a Hermione who was very close to his godson and the Weasley family flipped passed him. He could only stare at the pictures of a Hermione who was friends with Remus if he judged by the rather intense conversation they appeared to be having. He couldn’t credit the pictures of a Hermione who seemed familiar and comfortable at number 12. How could anyone be happy there? In fact, he couldn’t wrap his mind around the whole concept. It was ridiculous and impossible. It was laughable. He frowned at the pictures of Hermione peeking out from behind a tree with Ginny Weasley and laughing.
“Sirius?” James’ was using the voice he usually used if he were afraid of Sirius flying off the handle.
“Yeah?” Sirius was still in shock and he tried to focus on James and failed.
After an indeterminate length of time, James shoved a tumbler of Ogden’s into his hand. Sirius was cognizant enough to grasp the glass and bring it to his lips. The burn of firewhiskey as it went down was familiar, comforting.
“Sirius… do you mind if I read more of the journal?” Lily asked uncertainly.
“Read it aloud?” Sirius countered.
Lily nodded quickly. “Of course Sirius.” That was her soothing tone.
He frowned at James and Lily, but they just patted him and Lily began to read again:
“My Dearest Harry,
I’ve found something in the library. It looks promising. I daren’t talk about this with anyone, but I’m prepared to tell you. What if…what if I could go back? It would have to be far enough back to prevent your parents’ deaths and Sirius’ wrongful arrest and incarceration. I wonder if I could go far enough back to save Regulus? Sirius never learned the truth—never learned that Regulus was trying to take Voldemort down from the inside when he was killed—and I think he would have been proud of his brother.”
“What?” Sirius stood abruptly and stared at Lily who was gaping at the journal in her hands.
“Merlins’ balls, Regulus was dead too?” James demanded in a disgusted voice. “What a crap world!”
“You said that already, dear,” Lily said gently.
“I know I did and I meant it,” James snapped. “Really Lily, just who was left alive?”
“If you let me continue perhaps we might find out,” Lily replied tartly.
“Right. Sorry. Carry on,” James muttered.
“I’m not sure if I could prevent the Prewett brothers’ deaths or the McKinnons’ and Bones’ murders—“
“Morgana’s tits!” James exclaimed.
“James, really!” Lily glared at him.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “Shutting up now.”
“It isn’t that they aren’t worthy of being saved, but I feel that Lily’s and James’ murders were the beginning of so much tragedy. Pettigrew’s betrayal almost guaranteed that Sirius would go completely spare. If only he’d kept his head you might not have been sent to live with the Dursleys.”
“WHAT!” This time it was Lily who made an emotional outburst. Her hands were shaking and James took the journal from her.
He frowned at the page and his face turned dark with rage. He swallowed several times before he opened his mouth to read and when he did his voice shook with suppressed anger:
“I know you never told me everything, Harry, but I’m not stupid. The little information you have let slip over the years has made it clear that they systematically abused you mentally, verbally and to a small degree physically. If I could figure out how to mask my magical signature, I would murder all three of them cheerfully. Perhaps not Dudley. You did say he sort of came around in the end.
If one is able to discount that, and I am not; then one is still faced with Sirius’ 13 years in Azkaban. Thank Merlin he had his animagus form or he would have been driven mad. Last but not least is Remus. I believe that James was helping support him due to the restrictions placed on werewolves. To lose his friends and his support network… to be left utterly bereft and alone… I cannot even imagine his suffering.”
“Who are the Dursleys?” Harry asked quietly when his dad paused.
“My sister and her husband,” Lily whispered in a tight voice. “They hated magic. They considered freakish and abnormal. Tuney and I did not get along after I got my letter. Who would put you with them? Why wouldn’t they just put you with some of our friends? Anyone would have been better than Tuney and her awful husband.”
“So I grew up an abused orphan,” Harry said slowly trying the words out on his tongue. He shook his head. It was so far from what he knew that he couldn’t even credit it.
“I can read now,” Lily said calmly and took the journal back from James. She scanned the page. “She’s starting to think about coming back to change things. I can’t really say that I blame her. If that was her world—I’d want to change it too.”
“Skip ahead just a bit,” James suggested. “When did she actually go?”
“Let’s see,” Lily murmured and flipped a couple of pages. “Here!”
“My Dearest Harry,
One of the sticking points of this whole scenario is that it will be a one-way trip. If my figures are correct then I can’t come back. With that in mind, I’ve decided that when Voldemort comes to kill you—I’ll be the one who stands between you and him. That way, Dumbledore won’t be able to make you stay at the Dursleys’ home. My sacrifice will provide the same blood protection that your mother gave you, but your parents will still be there to protect you.”
“So she made the trip thinking that she would die,” Sirius muttered and stared at his hands. It sounded like something he would do. It was stupid and crazy and impossibly brave. It was his Lea to a tee. He snorted and shook his head.
“I’ve even crafted an alias for myself: Oleandra Puckle. Isn’t that the most godawful name you’ve ever heard of? Anyhow, no one should ever be able to trace it to the Hermione Granger that the alternate timeline will create so she should be safe. That girl won’t be me and I’d hate for her to suffer under any possible backlash. I’ve even found a spell to completely alter my appearance. It’s supposed to be permanent, which is good. Merlin knows I won’t be able to carry a hipflask of polyjuice about and I wouldn’t dare to pretend to be anyone from that time period.
The spell worked! I’m a bit taller and I have perfectly straight blonde hair. I look just a bit like Fleur, but mostly in that I’m slender and have blonde hair and blue eyes. It’s not bad, but it’s so odd. I keep expecting to see me and there’s another girl in the mirror. What’s even more odd? All of my scars are gone. The one I got from Dolohov, the few I had from various fights—even those I got when Bellatrix tortured me—they’re all gone.”
“I beg your pardon, but I must have misheard you,” Sirius said stiffly.
“The dream,” Harry whispered his eyes wide and unseeing.
“What dream?” James asked urgently.
“Luna… she dreamed that Hermione was being tortured and that Ron was screaming her name,” Harry whispered. “Luna grabbed her arm and turned it over and she said that it wasn’t there.”
“What wasn’t there?” Sirius demanded.
“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “Maybe a scar? What was weird—what really stuck with me was that Hermione seemed to know exactly what she was talking about. She agreed that it wasn’t there.”
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Sirius said faintly.
“You’re still in shock, Sirius,” Lily said firmly. “Put your head between your knees and breathe deeply.”
“Lea—Hermione—whoever she is--,” Sirius sputtered helplessly.
Lily pushed on his head until it was between his knees. “Breathe.”
Sirius breathed. Finally, Lily allowed him to sit up and James shoved another tumbler of Ogden’s into his hand. He nodded gratefully at James and took a deep swallow. This was going to be a long, long day.
“Oh, she did it!” Lily said excitedly and bounced in her seat.
“Well of course she did it, Mum, or I’d be an abused orphan and you lot would be dead,” Harry said with exasperation.
“Don’t speak to your mother like that,” James said firmly. “Besides, you’d be dead, too.”
“No! Listen,” Lily said tartly.
“I made it. Just to be clear—I do not recommend time travel. It is incredibly uncomfortable. To be honest, I’d rather fly a dragon again and you know how much that terrified me.”
“Did she say a dragon?” James asked curiously.
“Yes, see right here. Dragon,” Lily pointed to the word in the journal.
“Now to find the Marauders and try to befriend them so I can save them all. And save Regulus. Piece of cake!
Okay, remember when I said piece of cake? I was obviously delusional. I think your mother is jealous of me. I cannot imagine why. I was having the most fascinating conversation with Remus about Arithmancy and Ancient Runes and she interrupted us both to tell Remus she was leaving the bookstore. He left with her, of course. He was probably under strict instructions from your Dad to guard her. She’s very pregnant and these are dangerous times.
Right… I don’t know why I even bother. Your dad and his buddies? They seem like such kids. I can’t help but compare them to what we lived through and they fall short. You were more mature at twelve than they are at nineteen. Then again, I doubt your dad was killing basilisks at age twelve. I suppose you were just precocious.”
“Killing basilisks?” James and Sirius echoed one another and turned to stare at Harry who shrugged helplessly.
“I’m sort of interested in Mum being jealous of Hermione,” Harry said with an evil grin.
“I don’t know what she means,” Lily said stiffly.
James and Sirius snorted in amusement and Lily glared at them.
“Lea was beautiful,” Sirius said quietly with a soft smile, “but she was so much more than that. She was incredibly intelligent, brave and kind. She was an amazing woman.”
“You really did love her, didn’t you Sirius,” Harry asked softly.
“Yeah.” Sirius agreed and took another deep swallow of Ogden’s.
Chapter 6: Lost Love Found
With the secrets that have been revealed, Sirius is left to wonder if anything about his relationship with Oleandra Puckle was real. Did she ever love him? Or was he a convenient way to access the Potter family, and by extension, Harry?
It had been easy to slip the journal in his pocket when Lily and James were distracted by the House Elves. Harry was busy pouring over the photo album filled with pictures of another world. Sirius slunk toward a side door and snuck out. Once outside the parlour he hurried to the public apparition point and his own flat. Had Lea ever loved him? Had she ever cared for him, or had it all been part of her plan to save Harry? He had to know, and he couldn’t bear for James, or Lily, or Harry for that matter, to be privy to his pain if it had all been a lie.
Once Sirius arrived back at his flat he barricaded himself in his room and locked his door with all the charms he knew. He sat down in a large wingback by his bed and opened the journal with shaking fingers afraid of what he might find.
My dearest Harry,
Being here is so strange. I have to hold myself back from smacking Pettigrew.
Seeing James Potter is almost surreal. I half expect him to turn around and have your eyes. Every time I see hazel instead of green I feel... disappointment. Everyone says that you have your mother’s eyes. I knew that it gave you a small measure of comfort to hear that, but I regret to inform you that it isn’t exactly true. Lily Potter’s eyes are a lovely green, and the color is the same shade as yours, but they are not your eyes. Her eyes are too open, too guileless.
It is difficult for me to be near Remus and Sirius. They are so different from the way they were--the Remus and Sirius that we knew. It is almost as though they are completely different men who happen to share the same names.
Sirius frowned at the page in front of him. He was different... so different that Lea... Hermione considered him a stranger. He scowled at the journal and continued to read. Frustrated with Lea-Hermione’s slow progress he flipped a couple of pages. A small flower was pressed between the pages. He stroked it gently. He remembered the day he had given it to Lea. It was just a wildflower that he tucked into her hair, but the smile that she had bestowed on him had made him feel like a god.
My dearest Harry,
I have a confession to make to you. I daren’t tell anyone else for a number of reasons. The first would be that no one would believe me. Apparently, dating Sirius Black makes one a jumped-up tart who is no better than she ought to be. (Whatever that means.) The second reason I wouldn’t tell anyone else is that they most likely wouldn’t believe me. Apparently, any girl that dates Sirius is dating him for the size of his vaults or the size of his cock, but never because of the man himself.
We both knew the man he was, and I have to tell you that this man, this Sirius, was so much more than that. He is brave in heart, noble in spirit, and quick of mind. He’s intelligent and clever. I can’t explain all of it--if I tried you would laugh at me.
I love him, Harry. I know I shouldn’t. I know that it’s wrong to get emotionally involved. I’ve lectured myself over and over, but I can’t help it. Merlin help me, I love him.
A tear splashed on the page, blurring the ink. Sirius rubbed at his cheeks with the sleeve of his robe. She had loved him. The tightness that had been in his chest all day eased and he took several deep, shuddering breaths. She had loved him--just as he had loved her.
Someone began to pound on his door. “Padfoot?” James’ muffled bellow came through clearly enough. “Padfoot, are you all right?” Wearily, Sirius flicked his hand and the charms came off of the door. James burst through and fell on the floor. He glared up at Sirius. “Prat,” he growled.
“How did you know?” Sirius asked with a sigh.
James just rolled his eyes. “I know you.”
Sirius made a rude gesture.
Lily swept into the room and just sighed. “Really, Sirius.”
“She loved me, Prongs.” Sirius cradled the journal in his hands and stared at it with unseeing eyes.
James moved to stand next to him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “She must have loved you,” James agreed. “She put up with Lily, didn’t she?”
“Hey!” Lily glared at both men.
“Lily-flower, you have to admit that you weren’t very nice to Lea, especially in the beginning,” James reminded her.
Lily blushed. “Perhaps not,” she muttered. She smiled fondly at Sirius. “I think that’s how I knew that Sirius loved her. He brought her around Harry, and he yelled at me when I was rude to her. He’d never done that before with any of the others.”
“What am I supposed to do, Prongs?” Sirius asked. He stared up at his best friend with a lost expression in his grey eyes.
James shrugged helplessly. “Merlin, Sirius, I don’t know. This isn’t exactly a normal situation.”
“Perhaps we could try inviting her over?” Lily suggested.
Sirius snorted. “You heard Harry. She avoids all of us like the plague.”
“Well, she’d have to, wouldn’t she?” Lily flushed when both men looked at her as though she were mad. “She knows all of us, but at the same time she does not. She’s bound to slip up at some point and she’ll have no way of explaining herself,” Lily explained.
“That’s true,” James admitted reluctantly.
“But she’s my...,” Sirius paused in frustration because there was no word that conveyed Hermione’s status in his life. She wasn’t his wife or his girlfriend. Hermione Granger wasn’t even his lover--he’d never met the girl before Luna’s birthday party. Last month she’d been a complete stranger. He could have passed her on the street and never known. Still, she was Lea, and Castor and Pollux were his sons.
“We’ll figure out something,” Lily soothed. She twisted her hands together anxiously. “What about Remus? We’ll have to let him know what’s going on, or he’ll think we’ve all gone mad.”
“We have to tell Remus,” James agreed.
“Luna, what in Merlin’s name is going on?” Hermione demanded with her hands on her hips.
Luna looked at Hermione with an open, innocent expression. “Castor and Pollux are experimenting with duct tape.”
“Never mind about that,” Hermione protested. She waved a piece of parchment in Luna’s face. “I’ve received no less than six invitations to Potter Manor in the last month. I’m running out of excuses!”
“They’re very big on family,” Luna replied with an airy wave of her hand.
“I’m not family,” Hermione retorted with a scowl. “I’m their son’s girlfriend’s friend. That’s hardly family.”
“The Potters are very inclusive,” Luna countered with a smile.
“What am I supposed to do, Luna?” Hermione demanded.
“Accept the invitation,” Luna suggested. She stroked Hermione’s cheek with her fingers. “This might be good for you, Mia.”
“I doubt that,” Hermione muttered.
“Please?” Hermione begged.
Draco scowled at her. “You want me to voluntarily spend time with Potter and his entire insufferable family?”
“Draco, I need you,” Hermione wheedled shamelessly.
It disturbed Draco that he knew exactly what she meant. This new and improved Hermione usually dragged Draco along with her into any situation that she deemed ‘dangerous’. He supposed that he ought to be flattered that she thought so highly of his wand arm, but that didn’t mean he wanted to hang out with Potter. He sighed heavily.
“Hermione, love, normally I would be willing to suffer through an evening with Potters for you, but I have a date,” Draco admitted. He rubbed his jaw. “I think Blaise is free. I’ll Floo call him.”
Hermione nodded reluctantly. “Thank you, Draco,” she murmured.
The changes that had taken place in Hermione when she found out she was pregnant and later when the boys were born had not escaped Blaise either. Admittedly, he hadn’t been as close to Hermione as Draco or Luna during school, but he’d become her friend after they all graduated. She and Luna were among the very small circle of people that he considered family. He had been disturbed at the sudden changes, and what they all revealed. During his dealings for the Zabini family he had met people who moved as Hermione now did and all of them were dangerous individuals.
Therefore he wasn’t surprised at all that Hermione insisted that he hold Castor and Floo with the boy in his arms. It was a protective measure, and it made sense to him. She picked up Pollux and cuddled him against her chest.
“Ready?” She asked.
Blaise grinned at her. “You have no idea, Mia,” he purred at her. He usually wasn’t invited to Potter Manor, and he planned on making the most of it.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Right. I need all three of you to behave, please.”
Flooing into Potter Manor was... interesting. Blaise Flooed in first, and he shifted his stance the way he had been taught by his dueling instructors. It was a conscious effort, but one that he had been warned could save his life. He blinked in surprise when he realized that The Patriarch and Matriarch of the Potter family were standing nearby with their son, Harry, to welcome them, and standing with them was the Patriarch of the Black family. The Patriarch of the Black family was currently watching him with a narrowed, suspicious gaze.
Following on his heels was Hermione, and her entrance was a revelation. She stumbled through the Floo, but immediately compensated by twisting to the side and moving so that her back was to his. Blaise watched her shift Pollux in her arms protectively and scan the room for possible threats. He struggled to hide his surprise. Everything he had been painstakingly taught to do--everything that he still had to consciously remember to do--she did without even thinking. That was... curious. He wondered if Draco had noticed.
What was more than clear to Blaise was that the Potters had definitely noticed. The Patriarch of the Black Family was staring at Hermione as though he’d just been smacked in the face with a beater’s bat.
“Hermione, welcome,” Lily Potter told her in a warm, friendly voice. She nodded toward Blaise. “And Mr. Zabini. Thank you for coming.”
Blaise set down Castor, but kept hold of his hand as he bowed politely. “It is my privilege, Ma’am.”
Lily’s gaze shifted to the two small boys. “Welcome, er, Castor and Pollux, was it?” She smiled politely at Hermione. “What unusual names. However did you choose them?”
Hermione smiled back, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “It seemed appropriate,” she replied lightly. She looked down at Castor, reached out and brushed a hand through his curls so that she was touching both of her boys at the same time. She missed the meaningful glances exchanged by the Potters and the Black Patriarch.
“Down, Mummy,” Pollux commanded.
Hermione sighed and set Pollux down. “Remember,” she began only to be interrupted by the twins.
“We remember, Mummy. No plotting, no planning, no pranking, no colluding, no collaborating, and no wandering off,” they chorused at her angelically.
She grimaced slightly. “Just try to behave,” she admonished them.
“Do they even know that those words mean?” Harry asked in surprise.
Hermione sighed. “Unfortunately, yes. Castor and Pollux are too smart for their own good, or anyone else’s,” she added absently. Her eyes were following her sons around the room automatically.
Chapter 7: Rebuilding Bridges
The Potters try to act as an intermediary for Sirius. Can they find a way to maneuver through the secrets they shouldn't know? Will the pressure cause one of them to break?
It was impossible for Hermione to be on her guard all the time; too many details overlapped all of her lives. In addition, it was a struggle to remember all of the things that Hermione Granger, Ravenclaw and friend of Luna and Draco, should not know. There was always the look of confusion or surprise, and then Hermione would have to remember what she had said, and figure out a way to laugh it off. I was exhausting. That didn’t even factor in trying to keep one eye on Castor and the other eye on Pollux at all times. Hermione hadn’t slept properly in five years. She always had an ear out for her boys... just in case.
“Mia!” Luna attacked her, giving her a huge hug. “You came!”
“Luna.” Hermione sighed and hugged her friend back. “Did I have a choice?” She muttered in her friend’s ear.
“None at all,” Luna said happily. She took Hermione’s hand and dragged her across the room.
Automatically, Hermione’s eyes slid toward her sons who were exploring the room curiously, but hadn’t touched anything... yet. When she turned back around she realized that Luna had dragged her to the quiet corner where Remus was sitting with Tonks. Remus. With his sharper senses and his ability to discern falsehoods and everything else that could potentially out her as... as... well, she wasn’t sure since everyone knew that Oleandra Puckle was dead. She could feel her heart start to race in her chest, and she knew that he could probably hear it.
“This is Harry’s Uncle Remus,” Luna introduced him, “And this is his wife who likes to be called by her maiden name. Remus, Tonks, this is my best friend, Hermione Granger.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Granger,” Remus murmured quietly.
Hermione’s eyes slid away from the intense focus of Remus’ gaze and she spotted Castor and Pollux squatting in a corner, watching something.
“Oh Merlin,” she muttered. She turned back to them and gave a weak smile. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Professor Lupin, Tonks, I have to... I’ll be back.”
Quickly, Hermione moved across the room to intercept her boys. By the time she got there, Sirius was squatting on the floor with them, talking to them quietly. It was like countless dreams that she’d had over the years—three curly heads bent together as Sirius played with his sons. She froze, unwilling to break the tableau that all three of them made together.
“Look at this, Mummy” Castor called imperiously. “Do it again,” he ordered Sirius.
Sirius looked up at her with a half-defiant, half-guilty expression that made her skin prickle. She nodded at him and then he performed the charm again, making little figures fight a mock-duel.
“That’s very clever,” Hermione observed with a slight tilt to her head as she considered the charm he had used. “Did you create that one yourself?”
“Yeah, I—it was for Harry, when he was small,” Sirius admitted.
Hermione blinked at that. “I’ve never seen that—I mean, I’ve never seen one like that before.”
Sirius shrugged. “I made it when he was about their age,” he waved at Castor and Pollux. “He was always getting into everything and he was driving Lily spare.”
“Well, I’ll... I’ll leave you boys to play then,” she said quietly. She looked at Castor and Pollux and gave them what Draco liked to call her ‘Stare of Death’. “Don’t hurt him,” she warned them.
Castor and Pollux gave her matching angelic smiles that made Hermione suppress a shiver of fear.
“We won’t, Mummy,” Pollux promised her.
“Well?” James demanded when Remus made his way over to stand next to him and Lily.
“She called me Professor,” Remus muttered with a frown.
Lily frowned. “Professor?”
“Yes, it was odd... she was so distracted that I think it was an accident,” Remus observed quietly.
“It’s killing her to watch Pads with those boys,” James added.
The three of them tried to sneak casual glances at Hermione who was practically hiding behind the tall, lithe form of Blaise Zabini while the wizard spoke to Harry. She kept staring at Sirius playing on the floor with Castor and Pollux, and you could almost see the internal argument she was having with herself.
“So, it isn’t as though she actually wants to keep them away from him,” Lily offered with a hopeful look up at James and Remus. “She probably just thought it was too dangerous.”
“Well, that and he would assume that she was just some money-grubbing tart,” Remus stated baldly. When James and Lily glared at him he shrugged. “You know it’s true—it’s happened before.”
The three of them then turned and watched Sirius with Castor and Pollux. There was a hesitancy there that Sirius hadn’t had with Harry or with Teddy, and James knew that Sirius was afraid. The fear that he would become like his own parents... that he could be anything like them had dogged him for years, but Sirius, Gryffindor that he was, threw himself into it headfirst anyway. James felt a rush of pride for his best friend.
Castor and Pollux were curious little boys, and you could hear them grilling Sirius about the charms he had used and why he had used them. James was surprised by the twins’ intelligent, pointed questions, especially since they were so young. These two were frighteningly intelligent, and they were curious about everything. James shook his head, and watched Sirius interact with his sons.
“So, er, do you like Quidditch?” Harry asked curiously.
Ever since the discovery that Luna’s friend was also his friend—had been his best friend, and had even gone back in time to save his life—Harry had been fascinated. What sort of a woman had she been, his friend? What sort of a woman traveled back in time to save their friend’s life—to save everyone if her journal was to be believed?
Blaise laughed and slipped an arm about Hermione’s waist. “Our Mia loathes Quidditch,” he said fondly.
“I don’t loathe it,” Hermione retorted. “I went to every single one of Draco’s games, and I still go to see Marcus play.”
“You don’t enjoy it,” Blaise countered with a smirk.
“I can’t help but worry about what might happen,” Hermione muttered, defending herself. “What if somebody were to get hurt?”
“Marcus?” Blaise snorted. “He’s built like a Hungarian Horntail.”
“So... you don’t really care for Quidditch, but you like to go and support your friends when they play.” Harry observed.
Hermione nodded and flashed a bright smile at him. “That’s about the size of it,” she agreed.
“Hermione also goes to see Ginevra Weasley play for the Holyhead Harpies,” Luna added.
“You do?” Harry pounced on that tidbit.
The Hermione he had grown up with—the shy, quiet Ravenclaw—had hated Ginny Weasley. She would never have gone to any of her games. She had cheered the one time that Draco had accidentally knocked Ginny off of her broom. Harry had only seen that because he was trying to sneak a glimpse of Luna in the stands, and the two friends had been sitting together.
Hermione flushed. “It was just the one time,” she muttered with a glare in Luna’s direction.
“Draco had a fit when he heard about it,” Blaise drawled, laughing again.
Harry frowned, confused. “Why would Draco have a fit about that?”
“Your Ginevra was a bit of a bitch at Hogwarts,” Blaise told him with a shrug. “Draco doesn’t like it when people mess with his things.”
Hermione rolled her eyes at that, but she didn’t argue with him.
The hyper-acute hearing of the Marauders meant that James, Sirius, and Remus all looked at one another and exchanged frowns.
“You’re not one of Harry’s regular crowd, are you?” Tonks asked sometime during lunch.
Hermione looked up from watching Castor poking his vegetables suspiciously.
“Erm... no,” Hermione admitted. “I’m Luna’s friend.”
Tonks glanced at Luna who was sitting at the other end of the table trying to convince Pollux to eat his potatoes.
“Your sons... Castor and Pollux?” Tonks watched the boys with a small frown.
“Yes,” Hermione murmured.
“An interesting name choice,” Tonks pressed.
“Is it?” Hermione asked mildly. She blinked and gave Tonks an innocent smile. “I had no idea.”
Blaise had a sudden coughing fit, and Hermione glared at him.
“They... they have the Black colouring,” Tonks added with another frown.
Hermione gave her a tight smile. “I never really thought about it,” she bit out between clenched teeth.
Sirius automatically looked to Remus who shook his head almost imperceptibly. It was a lie, then. Which meant that Hermione had thought about the fact that her sons had the Black colouring... which meant that Hermione had thought about him.
Castor and Pollux pulled at his attention, but his senses were attuned to her. Hermione, Lea, whoever she was. He kept searching for signs of the woman he had known—the woman that he had fallen in love with decades ago. The idea that his Lea had been here, so close and yet so out of reach, was enough to drive him mad.
“—don’t you think so, Sirius?” Harry asked loudly.
Sirius blinked and turned toward his godson. “What?”
“Is Draco the father?” Tonks asked with a frown.
“Dora!” Remus hissed from his place further down the table.
Hermione rose in one fluid motion and looked down her nose at Tonks.
“I’m so sorry, I’ve just remembered an urgent appointment,” Hermione said in a cool drawl that reminded everyone at the table of Narcissa Malfoy. She turned to her sons who were already sliding down off their seats.
“A pleasure as always,” Blaise murmured and bowed to the table in general. He caught one of the twins and swung the boy up in his arms. “Make your bow, Pol.”
“I’m not Pol, I’m Cas,” the boy scoffed at him.
“Pol,” Hermione’s voice held a warning note that made the twins exchange a look.
Pol sighed. “Sorry, Mummy.”
Panic swamped Sirius. If she left now he had a horrible feeling that he’d never see her or the twins again. He knew Lea, and she would have done anything to protect her friends and family—she had done everything. He stood abruptly and moved to block her escape.
“Wait. Please.” Sirius had never begged anyone for anything, but he couldn’t let her disappear. He honestly didn’t think he could handle it again.
Hermione’s eyes widened in shocked surprise at his display of emotion. Even though she looked nothing like Lea, Sirius knew that expression. She was stunned.
“Don’t leave,” he entreated her.
“Sirius,” Tonks protested.
“Stay out of it, Nymphadora,” Sirius snapped without looking at his cousin.
“Mr. Black,” Hermione said slowly.
“Sirius,” he growled at her.
“Sirius,” she whispered.
Something in his chest shifted when she spoke. Lea had always said his name a certain way... the same way that Hermione had just said it. The wary, cautious look in her eyes... Lea had that look when he’d first met her.
“Please,” he said again.
Uncertainty flickered in her eyes and she turned to look at Luna who nodded at her and gave her a smile. With a sigh Hermione turned back round to him again.
“Very well,” she murmured.
Sirius hurried to pull out her chair, ignoring the confusion of several of the people in the room. The others, the ones who knew what was going on, exchanged smug smirks with one another.
“We aren’t leaving, Mummy?” One of the twins asked curiously.
“No, Cas, not just yet,” Hermione explained.
“Can we play with Mr. Black after lunch?” Pol asked as Blaise lowered him back into his seat.
Hermione flinched and Sirius grimaced at his plate.
“If Sirius wants to, that’s fine,” Hermione said in a strained voice.
“I want to,” he swore fervently.
The twins grinned at one another in a way that was slightly terrifying.
“Don’t hurt him,” Hermione reminded them firmly.
“We won’t, Mummy,” they chorused and smiled at her angelically.
Chapter 8: A House of Cards
Hermione knows that it's a matter of time before she says the wrong thing in front of the wrong person. Exposing herself to the Marauders is possibly the worst idea she's ever heard, but no one is giving her any choice in the matter.
Against all previous evidence to the contrary, Castor and Pollux did not break Sirius.
Being invited to Potter Manor became a semi-regular thing that Hermione was fairly certain was going to drive her mad. Castor and Pollux were so intelligent and so full of energy that Hermione had constantly felt as though she were running flat out only to still fall behind. Her friends had all done the best that they could to support her. Somehow, Hermione had ended up with a Slytherin network of support that helped her out with childcare and appointments, but they had their own lives and they weren’t able to be around every hour of every day. Often, Hermione was on her own with two curious boys that never seemed to grow tired.
Watching Sirius play with his sons—watching Castor and Pollux respond so positively to their father—and being unable to tell any of them the truth was slowly killing her. Sirius was just as energetic as the twins were, and he kept up with Castor and Pollux physically, which was something few could do. Padfoot easily chased them across the lawn for hours until they collapsed in an exhausted pile, giggling and climbing over the giant Grim.
There were times that the Potters would watch her with careful, cautious smiles pasted on their faces, and Hermione wondered if there was something more going on, but she automatically dismissed that as paranoia; it wasn’t as if anyone knew who she was or who she had been. No one held the secrets of her previous lives, except Luna, and no one really understood half of what Luna said.
Occasionally, Sirius would try to speak with her about something other than Castor and Pollux, but she discouraged that as best as she could without being rude. She still loved Sirius... she’d never stopped. It was just… how could she compete with herself? Oleandra Puckle was a national heroine. To her utter horror, some people had even named innocent children after her.
There had been a couple of times that Harry had made several off-hand comments that made it clear that Sirius still grieved for Oleandra Puckle, all these years later. What would happen when Hermione said the wrong thing at the wrong time? Would he think she was mocking him? How could she ever explain the truth without Sirius thinking she was either crazy or trying to manipulate him?
Halloween became the unintended catalyst. In the past, Luna had been invited to Potter Manor for a small, intimate get together. The Potters, while they publicly acknowledged Oleandra Puckle’s sacrifice, had always spent the day quietly at home surrounded by their cobbled-together family.
“You should come to Potter Manor next week,” Lily Potter suggested with a hopeful expression.
It had been intended as a kindness, but Hermione couldn’t control her visceral reaction.
“No,” Hermione had blurted out without even thinking.
While Halloween had been difficult for the Remus and Sirius Hermione had originally known, and she knew that this Sirius grieved for different reasons, it had become an odd day for Hermione. Halloween was the anniversary of her death. She remembered dying. It had been… unpleasant. Halloween usually gave her nightmares.
“Mummy doesn’t like Halloween,” Pollux had told Lily with a stern frown on his small face.
Castor’s hand had slipped into Hermione’s and he had added his own stern frown in Lily’s direction.
“I’m not overly fond of it myself,” Sirius offered with a tight smile.
Guilt rippled through Hermione at Sirius’ words. Should she visit with the Potters on Halloween? Could she? Of all the days that she might accidentally say the wrong thing… Halloween would be the worst.
“I appreciate the offer,” Hermione finally said in a stiff, prim voice. “I understand how difficult it must be to invite an outsider into your home on the anniversary of… on that day, but I think it would be best if you kept it to… to family.”
What Hermione did not expect was for Sirius Black to spin on his heel and leave room in a swirl of his robes, his boot heels ringing out as they struck the parquet flooring. Neither did she expect the immediate protestations from Lily and James Potter. Her nerves frayed until she begged off from the rest of the day and fled home with Castor and Pollux.
There was so much about this new life that was confusing and odd. This Hermione had been Sorted as a Ravenclaw, and had gotten top marks in everything—breaking school records right and left, but no school rules. This Hermione had been mercilessly teased by her own House, and by several Gryffindors for being a prig and a swot. At least after Fifth Year, she could count a small handful of Slytherins as her friend.
Once Hermione had returned to herself, as she liked to think of it, it had been decidedly strange to have people that had sneered at her and called her a Mudblood smile at her and ask if she wanted to go out for coffee. If Oleandra Puckle hadn’t made friends with a few Slytherins of her own, Hermione probably would have made a scene. Instead, she had smiled and agreed to coffee.
There had been a moment or two of panic—wondering if this Hermione had managed an acquaintanceship with Oleandra Puckle’s Slytherin friends.
She had not.
Therefore, when Narcissa had invited her to a small garden party, and had encouraged her to bring Castor and Pollux… Hermione had thought nothing of it. Narcissa adored the twins, and often made up the most ridiculous excuses for them to visit, Hermione half-expected that there wouldn’t actually be a garden party at all. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
“Auntie Narcissa!” The twins screeched and took off across the lawn as soon as Hermione made it through the gate.
Unease spread through Hermione as she stared at an elaborate lawn marquee. Small groups of people milled about, dodging white peacocks and sipping champagne.
“Mia!” Draco was striding gracefully toward her, a smile on his face.
Once Draco got close enough, it was easy to see that his smile did not reach his eyes. Hermione tensed and palmed her wand. She watched Draco’s eyes track her movements.
“Draco,” Hermione said in a careful, calm voice. “Why did you ask me to help you study for your OWLs?”
Draco paused and his gaze sharpened on her face. “Because I’d gotten into a fight with Theo and he refused to help me.” He tilted his head and frowned. “What did you say to my mother when you were introduced?”
Hermione flushed and glared at Draco. “I curtseyed and called her your ladyship, but mostly because your awful friends gave me that stupid etiquette book from the 19th century.”
Both of them relaxed slightly, but they were still alert. Draco moved closer so that he wouldn’t have to speak up.
“Hermione, do you know my cousin Regulus?”
It was impossible to hide the fact that Hermione automatically stiffened. Frantically, she tried to think of a way to explain her stupid body’s traitorous reaction.
“I… I’ve heard of him, of course,” Hermione lied wildly. “He’s… he’s brilliant, Draco, a prodigy in Transfiguration.” She faked a gasp of excitement and clutched at Draco’s arm. “Your father didn’t convince him to come to Malfoy Industries, did he? Draco, that would be absolutely incredible!”
“No,” Draco said with a shake of his head. “Father’s tried in the past, but cousin Regulus prefers to experiment.”
“That’s too bad,” Hermione murmured and tried to pout realistically.
Slytherins always made Hermione nervous, no matter which life. They were too observant… too good at picking up on subtle clues. Even Draco, for all his laziness and lack of drive, was too Slytherin by half.
“Let’s go see Mother. She’s probably promised to buy your spawn an island or something,” Draco muttered.
Hermione snorted at that. “Didn’t she do the very same for you?” She asked drily as he towed her across the lawn.
“That’s exactly what I’m worried about,” Draco retorted.
Across the lawn, Castor and Pollux were standing next to Narcissa who was holding court among a group of older witches and wizards. Hermione recognized some of them from her previous life, and some of them from Oleandra’s brief stay in the past. They were slightly older, but they were the same witches and wizards she’d known then. Hermione swallowed nervously.
“Narcissa,” Hermione greeted Draco’s mum with a nod.
“Hermione darling.” Narcissa stood so that she could kiss Hermione on each cheek. “How are you?”
“I’m well,” Hermione assured her. “And you?”
“Never better,” Narcissa replied with a bright smile. Her gaze slid over Hermione’s shoulder. “Have you ever met my cousin Regulus?”
“Erm…,” Hermione’s mind went completely blank and her mouth went dry. She turned on autopilot to meet Regulus Black’s assessing gaze. “Master Black,” she whispered. “It’s an honour to meet you.”
“Please, Mistress Granger,” Regulus Black replied smoothly. “You are one of the up-and-coming witches in spell development. Lucius was very lucky to have snagged you when he did.”
“Luck had nothing to do with it,” Draco countered. He slid an arm around Hermione’s waist and tugged her to his side. “Mia’s absolutely brilliant. Father knew that if he didn’t make her an offer, some other company would.”
“Mia?” Regulus’ gaze intensified.
Hermione smiled woodenly and tried to subtly elbow Draco in the ribs. “I’ve asked Draco not to call me that, but he never listens.”
“Mummy! Look at what Auntie Narcissa got us,” Pollux crowed.
The moment that Regulus turned to stare at her sons, Hermione could feel her world tightening around her, choking her like a noose. In a rare display of surprise, Regulus’ mouth dropped open and he stared at the two little boys standing next to Narcissa.
“See Mummy?” Castor waved his toy in the air, trying to get her attention.
“Yes, sweetheart, Mummy sees,” Hermione replied. “Did you thank Narcissa?”
“Yes Mummy!” Both boys replied and beamed at her angelically.
“What charming children,” Regulus murmured. “What are their names?”
Hermione closed her eyes.
“Castor and Pollux,” Draco replied.
Hermione opened her eyes to catch the glance that Regulus shot Narcissa, and Narcissa’s very slight shake of her head. Regulus’ intense, assessing gaze turned back to Hermione who swallowed.
“What made you choose those names?” Regulus asked.
“I’ve always loved mythology,” Hermione replied. It wasn’t a lie—Hermione had been a voracious reader. “And the names seemed appropriate.”
“Indeed,” Regulus murmured, his gaze resting on the boys briefly before turning back to Narcissa. He bowed politely over his cousin’s hand. “I must go find Severus before Lucius’ peacocks attack him again.”
“It was only the once, Regulus,” Narcissa protested as her cousin headed toward the gardens.
“Severus would say that it was once too often,” Regulus tossed over his shoulder.
The rest of the afternoon passed stiltedly, and a strange sense of foreboding crept over Hermione. She kept looking over her shoulder, but she didn’t see Regulus or Severus for the rest of the afternoon. Hermione wanted to count that as a win, but she had a sinking feeling that Regulus had seen far too much.
Chapter 9: The Widening Gyre
Although it pains Regulus to admit it, his older brother is obviously an idiot. If Sirius Black isn't willing to wizard up and be the Patriarch the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black needs... well then. Regulus will just have to take matters into his own hands.
“Why the hell were you in such a hurry?” Severus demanded as soon as they’d stepped through the Floo at Grimmauld Place.
“He would have told me,” Regulus muttered to himself, already turning away from Severus.
“Regulus!” Severus growled. Regulus froze in the doorway and spun on his heel to glare at Severus.
“What?” He snapped, his dark eyes flashing.
“What the bloody hell is going on?” Severus demanded. “You insisted that we go to that gods-be-damned lawn party—you hate those things, but you insisted. Then we’re there for all of a half hour when you’re dragging me backwards through the Floo.” He paused, his chest heaving and he stared at Regulus. “What the hell happened in a half hour, Regulus?”
At those words, Regulus’ ever-perfect posture seemed to falter, and his shoulders slumped. A confused, pained look flashed across his face.
“I… I’m not sure,” Regulus admitted. “That’s why I came home.”
“Regulus…” Severus was at a loss. He wasn’t sure how to comfort Regulus because he wasn’t quite sure what had happened.
“I need to know,” Regulus muttered. “I must be sure.”
Then he turned on his heel, again, and strode from the room. Instead of calling after Regulus, Severus followed him as he made his way through the house—heading for a room that both wizards usually avoided. Severus chewed on his lower lip, but he forbore to say anything aloud. If whatever had happened was making Regulus go into that room… he wasn’t quite sure what that meant.
Silently, Severus followed Regulus into an unused parlour—a room that Regulus hadn’t stepped foot into for over 20 years. Without pausing, Regulus moved to the far wall where Walburga Black had affixed the Black family tapestry with a permanent sticking charm. Severus watched as he leaned forward, seemingly searching for something. Alarm jolted through him as Regulus dropped to his knees in front of the tapestry. With shaking hands, he traced something on its surface.
“Bloody, buggering fuck.” Regulus’ harsh whisper rang out in the stillness of the parlour.
“Regulus?” Severus scowled at the subdued tone of his own voice but ignored it in favour of worrying about Regulus. “Love… won’t you please tell me what’s going on?”
“My idiot brother has sired bastards,” Regulus ground out between clenched teeth. “Twins. They are the spitting image of either of us at that age. Anyone with half a brain will look at them and know exactly who they are.”
“Forgive me, love, but… I don’t understand,” Severus admitted. “Why are you so upset?”
“He should have formally recognized them,” Regulus snapped. “Named him as his heirs. It’s obvious the fathead is never going to marry anyone. We should have started on their instruction already!”
“Okay…” Severus said slowly. “What can we do about that?”
Regulus stared up at Severus from his place on the floor in front of the tapestry. A slow smile spread over Regulus’ face. A smile that made a little shiver go down Severus’ spine. Regulus held out a hand imperiously, and Severus helped him up. Once Regulus had regained his feet, he leaned forward and pressed a hard, swift kiss against Severus’ mouth.
“You are brilliant, Severus,” Regulus whispered against his lips, his breath ghosting across Severus’ skin. “Absolutely brilliant.”
The heavy weight of expensive vellum parchment was not unknown to Hermione. Most pureblood families seemed to have a never-ending supply of the stuff, and they used it for all manner of invitation. Once, Blaise had sent her an invitation that had been sealed with wax that bore the impression of his signet ring. She’d opened it cautiously to see—scrawled in emerald ink—Coffee?
This particular letter did not look like an invitation. There were no cunning illustrations that chased around the border picked out in green and silver. There was no family seal, or anything else she recognized. It was a solemn piece of stationery, as was the owl that delivered it. Hermione turned it over and frowned at it.
Beautiful script flowed across the vellum parchment: Prewett & Fawley. One slender brow rose of its own accord as she stared at the missive in her hands. Why had she received mail from a snooty, pureblood solicitor’s office? Carefully, she broke the seal.
“Bloody, buggering fuck,” she muttered as she scanned the letter’s contents.
Going to that stupid lawn party had been a disastrous choice. She had known that before she’d gone. Meeting Regulus had been the most unfortunate thing that could have happened. But this. This was beyond the bloody, fucking pale. If Reggie wanted to play, then he had chosen the wrong witch.
Standing sharply, she pushed away from her desk and marched to Lucius’ office. His secretary looked up from her desk in surprise as Hermione marched toward her.
“Is he free?” Hermione demanded.
The secretary blinked at Hermione in confusion, and normally Hermione would have been more patient, or more polite, or more something, but at the moment all she could feel was a blinding rage toward the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black and their solicitors.
“Yes, Miss Granger,” the secretary managed to get out. “Do you want me to—” she faltered into silence as Hermione barrelled past her desk and burst into Lucius Malfoy’s office.
“I need the week off,” Hermione snapped with no preamble whatsoever. She could feel her hair shift about her and she heard the crackle of her magic as it sparked among her curls.
Lucius sat back in his chair and stared at her for a moment. Then he steepled his fingers below his chin.
“Your eyes are glowing,” he told her calmly. “Did you know?”
“They do that sometimes,” Hermione retorted. “Can I take the week, or not, Lucius?”
“That all depends,” Lucius continued in that same, calm voice.
“On what?” Hermione growled.
“If I give you the week, am I going to lose the best researcher I’ve ever had to Azkaban?” Lucius asked pointedly.
A smirk twisted Hermione’s lips.
“Oh, Lucius,” she sighed and shook her head at him. “It hurts my soul that you assume I would be caught.”
Lucius blinked at her. “You know, I’ve heard Draco and Blaise arguing about the way you had changed since Castor and Pollux, but I never saw it.”
“You weren’t meant to,” Hermione countered impatiently. “Can I get the week, Lucius?”
“Take the week,” Lucius agreed after a moment. He narrowed his silver-grey eyes at her. “And do make sure that you don’t caught, Miss Granger.”
Hermione snorted at that and rolled her eyes at him. Then she turned on her heel and marched out of his office.
The offices of Prewett & Fawley had existed in some form since 1540. Hermione had read up on them as much as she could before her scheduled appointment. She tugged at the formal witches’ robes that normally hung in the back of her closet, unworn except for the most ridiculous affairs that Narcissa had insisted she attend. A quick glance at Castor and Pollux showed that both boys were still wearing their formal robes and had managed not to smear mud or worse all over each other.
“Remember what I said?” Hermione’s voice was sharper than she had meant it to be, and she winced as soon as the words left her mouth.
“Best behaviour,” Castor offered solemnly.
Both little wizards watched her unblinkingly. They had been unusually quiet, and it only made her nerves wind tighter as she waited for them to become impatient and cranky.
“Right,” Hermione agreed. She took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. No matter what Regulus thought was going to happen today, no one was taking her boys from her. No one. “Let’s get this over with,” she muttered as she opened the ridiculous door with its over-the-top, ornate knocker.
“Can I help you?” An elderly witch sat at a desk in an empty waiting room.
“Hermione Granger,” she informed the woman stiffly. “I have a 10 o’ clock appointment with Marius Prewett?”
“Ah yes,” the witch murmured as she peered at the appointment book in front of her. “Go on in. They’re expecting you. It’s the green door on the left.”
Of course, it was the green door. Hermione huffed under her breath and marched over to it. She took another deep breath, letting her spine stiffen and her face smooth out into a calm, collected mask. She rapped on the door with her knuckles and then turned the knob when she heard a muffled voice acknowledge her.
Smoothly, she swept into the room, pausing so that Castor and Pollux could flank her. She had taken the time to treat her hair so that it fell into perfect, thick curls—highlighting the similarity to her sons’ hair. She allowed one, slender brow to arch elegantly as she looked down her nose at the solicitor. She assumed that was who he was since Regulus was the only other person in the room.
“Marius Prewett?” She asked in an icy voice that she had perfected after hearing Narcissa use it on some cow who had insulted Hermione at a party.
“Miss… Granger… I presume,” Marius Prewett replied. He blinked and then squinted at her. “Is that an alias?” He asked. He turned to frown at Regulus. “I thought that you said the girl was Muggleborn.”
“That was what Narcissa told me,” Regulus muttered. He frowned at Hermione and then frowned at the two little wizards that stood perfectly still on each side of her. They frowned back at him.
Meanwhile, Hermione turned and sat down stiffly on the settee. Castor and Pollux followed her and crawled up next to her, one boy sitting on each side.
“What, exactly, was the purpose of this… this meeting?” Hermione asked in that same cold voice. “If you think that because I’m listed somewhere as a Muggleborn, that you can just swan in and take my sons, then you have another—”
“Wait!” Regulus protested and held up his hands. “Please. I have absolutely no plans to take your sons. I just… I want to have them formally recognized. Obviously, Sirius has made no move to do so, and they are… what… five years old? I want to make sure that they are educated properly so that they know their place in wizarding society.”
Hermione fought against the urge to slump in her seat. She wanted to put her head in her hands and groan, but she’d never seen Narcissa Malfoy do anything like that—not even when Draco got caught in a fountain in Paris with some model.
“Does your Patriarch know what you’ve done?” She asked. She rather doubted it, but she needed to know.
“Of course not,” Regulus scoffed, confirming her suspicions. “He would have tried to stop me.”
“Mr. Black,” Hermione sighed.
Both boys tilted their heads at that and narrowed their eyes on the man who was seated across the room.
“Miss Granger,” he countered in a strained voice. “At least let me recognize them.”
Hermione shook her head. “You should really speak to your Patriarch, Mr. Black.”
“Do you already have some sort of arrangement?” Regulus demanded. He waved a hand at the boys. “How can he not recognize his own sons?”
“Mr. Black, I met your Patriarch for the first time roughly six months ago,” Hermione informed him coolly.
“No.” Regulus shook his head.
“Yes,” Hermione insisted. She raised her wand in the air. “I can swear an oath on the matter if that would ease your mind.”
“That is not necessary, Miss Granger,” Regulus protested. He ran a hand through his own thick curls, staring at the three of them seated on the settee. “I don’t understand.”
“I admit that the resemblance is… startling,” Hermione agreed cautiously. Her lips twisted in a ghastly facsimile of a smile. “If I weren’t their mother, I might suspect as well.”
What she might suspect, she very carefully did not say.
“Who is their father?” Regulus demanded.
“Their father?” Hermione’s voice rose an octave.
“Yes, their father,” Regulus continued with a deep frown. “Where is the man?”
“He is… not available,” Hermione said cautiously. Mostly because he thinks I’m dead.
Regulus turned to Marius Prewett and raised an eyebrow at the solicitor.
“Well, Marius?” Regulus asked. Marius shrugged in his chair.
“It’s unorthodox, but…,” here he paused and waved a hand at the boys. “No one would question it.”
Regulus turned back to Hermione and leaned forward with a determined look on his face. Hermione remembered that look rather well. It had resulted in singed eyebrows for her and a nasty burn on Severus’ forearm. Reflexively, she leaned back in her seat, trying to put more distance between them.
“Let me recognize them as Blacks,” he demanded.
“Mr. Black, as I’ve already told you,” Hermione huffed at him, irritation colouring her tone.
All of them startled wildly when the door burst open, slamming against the wall. Hermione had moved automatically, positioning herself in front of her sons. Her wand was in her hand, and she had cast a spell she’d crafted herself that would stun her victim before she even realized it. She stared at the slumped form of Sirius Black, sprawled on the floor of Marius’ office floor, and then lifted her gaze to see Severus Black still standing in the doorway, watching her with a calculating expression.
“Oh, bugger,” she muttered.
“Mummy,” Both Castor and Pollux cried and stared up at her in surprise.
"I know," she muttered at them.
“Ollie,” Severus whispered in surprise. His glittering eyes swept the room and settled back on her. “Ollie… what the hell have you done?”
Hermione sank back down on to the settee as her legs were no longer willing to support her. She glanced at Regulus who was staring at her with an expression of shock. Hurt shone from his eyes.
“Ollie?” Regulus’ voice was incredulous. He frowned at Severus and then turned to stare at Hermione. “No. You… you didn’t. Not even you were that… that stupid, that Gryffindorish.”
Automatically, Hermione’s spine stiffened, and she lifted her chin.
“My name,” she bit out between clenched teeth, “is Hermione Granger.”
Chapter 10: Closing In
The truth is closing in on Hermione. She'll have to face Oleandra Puckle's closest friends, but can they forgive her for the choices she made over 20 years ago?
Okay, my darlings. I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. I've signed up for the Rough Trade challenge (Slytherin, obvs.) and I'm going dark for the next month. So you guys get this to tide you over. My long-timers are probably in a daze right now. Five long years and then they suddenly get TWO new chapters within a week or so.
“I don’t care what you call yourself,” Severus retorted. “I helped create the spell you just used, and there’s only one other person in the world that knew that spell.” He paused and looked pointedly at Castor and Pollux. “And with children that look like that, I’m guessing you’re her.”
“How?” Regulus asked. “It’s been over 20 years. You… you don’t even look the same.”
“It’s a long story,” Hermione muttered and avoided eye contact with both Severus and Regulus. A bitter laugh escaped her. “It’s not like you’d believe me, anyway.”
A thousand different times Hermione had considered running to the three wizards who would remember her as a person and confessing everything. Once, just after Castor and Pollux had been born, she had pushed their pram passed the townhouse she’d shared with Sirius—wondering if he still lived there.
When she had been pregnant and hormonal, she had even taken the tube to Grimmauld Place, but she had ended up sitting at the park and crying for hours. Far too soon, her logical brain had kicked in, and she had given up the vague dream of regaining even a sliver of what she had lost. How could she have explained what had happened without sounding as though she had escaped from St. Mungo’s?
“So Sirius gets to know, but I don’t?” Regulus’ voice was soft and the hurt that shone in his eyes made Hermione wince.
The relationship between the Black brothers had always been a prickly one, and navigating between the two of them was fraught with emotional landmines created from a history of Walburga’s horrific parenting. Emotional abuse and manipulative behaviour had been the tip of that iceberg, and Hermione had despaired of repairing the rift between them.
“Sirius doesn’t know,” Hermione admitted after a long moment of silence. “I…”
A low, pained groan rose up from the floor, and all of them turned to look at Sirius as he began to stir. He struggled to his knees and scowled up at Hermione.
“Really?” He demanded.
“I’m sorry, Sirius,” Hermione sighed. “You startled me and I just… I reacted badly.”
“You reacted like a witch that survived a war,” Sirius replied pointedly.
Hermione’s shoulders slumped in defeat and she sank down into her seat.
“I knew going to that birthday party was a stupid idea,” she muttered. “I should have broken my leg or something.”
With a groan, she put her head into her hands. Years of worrying and planning gone in an instant. The combined attention of Sirius, Regulus, and Severus—the press of their knowing gaze after so many years of slipping by unknown and unremembered was overwhelming. Tears burned her eyes and she gulped for air. A small hand pressed hesitantly against her shoulder.
“Mummy?” Pollux’s voice had a worried edge to it.
“Don’t cry, Mummy,” Castor added. There was the feather-light touch of his hand patting at her hair.
Coming undone in front of her children in the middle of Marius Prewett’s law office wasn’t going to happen. Not today, not ever. Hermione had done her best to present a strong face to her sons. She hadn’t ever wanted to burden them with her issues. They were 5 year-old children, and certainly not able to understand all of the complexities of Hermione’s situation.
“I’m fine,” Hermione lied, her voice cracking with emotion. “Mummy’s fine.”
Determinedly, she raised her head and gave each boy a strained smile. Castor frowned at her and then turned to look at Pollux. They both turned to glare at Regulus. Identical grey eyes turned stormy and matching mouths turned down.
“You upset Mummy,” Pollux informed Regulus in a flat voice.
“No.” Hermione slipped an arm around Pollux and pulled him to her side. “Sweetheart, no. I’m just tired and… Regulus surprised me. That’s all.”
“You surprised me, as well,” Regulus huffed at her. He rubbed a hand over his face. “Ollie—oh fine. Hermione… how is this even possible?”
“Not here,” Hermione said flatly. She paused then to run a hand over Castor’s curls. “And not in front of them.”
“Fine,” Regulus retorted. “We’ll go to number 12. Kreacher can keep them occupied.”
“I’m coming, too,” Sirius growled, glaring at his brother—daring him to say otherwise. Regulus rolled his eyes.
“Of course, you are,” Severus muttered.
“Kreacher’s been cleaning the nursery for days,” Regulus announced as he stood up and shook out his robes. “The boys can play in there.”
“Kreacher’s been cleaning the nursery,” Hermione echoed with a scowl. “Rather presumptuous of you, Regulus. Unless you lied, and you had every intention of trying to take my sons from me.”
“He was going to try and convince you to move in to number 12,” Severus explained with a heavy sigh. He shook his head. “At the time he had no idea that you… well, that you were you.”
“Right,” Hermione muttered. She glanced at Marius Prewett who was watching everything with a calculating expression. “Regulus?”
“I know,” Regulus sighed. “If you could take the boys, first?”
“Of course,” Hermione agreed. She turned to Sirius and bit her lip. He stared at her, his expression unreadable. Then he turned and knelt in front of Castor.
“You heard your Mum.” Sirius held his arms out and waited patiently. Castor jumped at Sirius and wound his arms around Sirius’ neck. Automatically, Sirius’s arm wrapped around Castor, supporting him. Hermione watched Sirius swallow hard and blink rapidly.
With a sigh, she picked up Pollux who wrapped his arms around her neck.
“Where are we going, Mummy?” Pollux asked quietly.
“We’re going to Regulus’ home,” Hermione explained. “You’re going to play while Mummy talks to—”
“Me,” Sirius interrupted with an air of determination. Hermione’s throat closed and she nodded. “Come on, we might as well get going.”
Number 12 Grimmauld Place was much as she remembered it. Certainly cleaner and better kept than it had been the first time she’d seen it, but it still had a vague air of gloomy nostalgia—the vague sense that the house’s very best days were long in its past.
The nursery was a welcome contrast to the rest of the house. The walls were in a soft pastel green, and the ceiling and wainscoting were white. It made the room seem light and airy. Scattered throughout the room were a variety of wizarding toys, but Hermione was surprised to see several Muggle toys as well.
“It did not look like this when you were a child,” Hermione guessed.
“No,” Sirius agreed. He poked at a boxed Meccano set. “Decidedly not.”
“Alright then.” Hermione knelt down so that she was eye-level with Castor and Pollux. “You may play with everything in this room. Please remember to be careful and treat these toys nicely so that you can play with them again.”
“We know, Mummy,” Pollux said solemnly.
“Where will you be?” Castor asked with a faintly worried expression.
“Kreacher?” Hermione called with a weary sigh.
“Miss Ollie called for Kreacher?” Kreacher appeared next to them.
“Can you please keep an ear out for Castor and Pollux?” Hermione asked. “Please let me know if they need me.”
“Kreacher is happy to be looking after the young masters,” Kreacher agreed eagerly. He sniffled loudly. “They is looking just like young Master Regulus, they is.”
“Are you sure--,” Sirius began to protest and Hermione shook her head.
“It will be fine,” she interrupted him. “Come on.”
Once the nursery door shut behind them, Sirius’ fingers clamped tightly around Hermione’s wrist. She turned to stare up at him and bit her lip. He was struggling to remain in control of his emotions if his red-rimmed eyes were any indication. His jaw was clenched so tightly that she worried it might shatter, and the muscles in his forearm flexed.
“You’re really here…” Sirius managed to get out before he couldn’t speak. He shook his head and growled in frustration. “Lea.”
“Hermione,” she corrected him softly. A strangled, choking noise escaped him and he started blinking rapidly again.
“And them?” He asked his voice cracking.
“You know they’re yours,” she sighed.
He rubbed at his face and his laughter sounded more like muffled sobbing. He crowded her against the wall of the hallway and cupped her face, staring at her. Hermione licked her lips anxiously and stared back. Tears clung to his lashes and his cheeks were still wet. Lines that she didn’t remember had developed around his mouth. She hated the years that she’d had without him.
“I missed you.” His voice was so quiet that Hermione almost didn’t catch it. The merest thread of sound, but so much longing and grief clung to it.
Then it was her turn. Her eyes burned and her throat grew thick with unshed tears.
“I’ve missed you so much,” she confessed.
When his lips crashed against hers she had been expecting it, and she relaxed against him. His hands continued to cradle her face, as though she were precious, but also as though he were afraid to let her go. His lips weren’t as gentle. Brutal, needy, his teeth nipped and then his tongue soothed. She sighed and opened her mouth under his. Hermione’s fingers fisted in his robes to keep him close. He broke the kiss first, pressing his forehead to hers, his breath warm against her cheek.
“You kiss the same,” he muttered into the skin at her temple. “How can it be the same?”
“So do you,” Hermione offered. She paused and bit into her lower lip. “Do you… I’m sure you have questions.”
“Just one,” he muttered. He pulled back and stared at her—his eyes slightly wild. “You’re going to let me have this, right?”
“This?” Hermione repeated. She could feel her eyebrows rise.
There was a frantic, frenetic feeling that flowed between them. It had been years since she had been this close to Sirius—able to touch him and kiss him. She could feel the heat of him through his robes, and she wanted nothing more than to burrow into him and stay, forever. His fingers tightened on her face, his fingertips pressing into her skin.
“You. Them.” Sirius growled at her. “Everything. All of it.”
In every scenario she’d ever imagined there had been yelling. Sirius had always been such an intense wizard, so uncontrolled and passionate, that she had assumed he would be furious. Hermione had expected him to hate her for sacrificing herself without telling him. She had thought that he would despise her for Castor and Pollux as well. The entire situation had been impossible from start to finish, but ultimately… it was all her fault.
“Oh.” Hermione was stunned into temporary silence. “You’re not mad?” She asked hesitantly.
“I’m furious,” Sirius growled. He took a shaky breath and let it out. “And proud. And humbled. And so, so grateful, love.”
“But don’t you want to know how I—” Hermione began only to be silenced by another hungry, greedy kiss.
They broke apart again so that Sirius could trace the line of her neck with wet, open-mouthed kisses.
“I don’t give a fuck about anything except for the fact that you’re here, now, in my arms,” Sirius breathed against her shoulder. He pulled back to frown at her. “And that you’re not leaving.”
“Oh.” Hermione swallowed hard.
That Sirius would still love her… still want her… after finding out what she’d done had been the one thing that Hermione hadn’t even conceived. It had been nearly impossible and highly improbable.
“You aren’t leaving, are you?” Uncertainty coloured Sirius’ words and Hermione shook her head, trying to clear it.
“I’m not leaving,” Hermione whispered. She could feel her cheeks heat as she stared up at him.
A brilliantly blinding smile spread over Sirius’ face.
“So, you’re letting me have this?” He asked again.
“Yes,” she whispered.
If she had thought that Sirius’ kisses were greedy and hungry before—she had been mistaken. It was as though he was trying to devour her. His fingers fumbled with the fastenings on her robes and he cursed as he tried to gain access to skin. She laughed and slapped his hands away, easily opening the front of her robes.
“Bloody hell, witch,” he groaned as he took in the silky slip dress she wore underneath.
The rough callouses on his hands, earned from doing Muggle things like working on his motorbike to shock his Mother and later Regulus, caught on silky material, pulling it up as he explored Hermione Granger’s body. He pressed her up against the wall and slid a leg between her knees, grinding against her until she was moaning into his mouth.
“Sirius,” she panted helplessly.
“Lea,” he groaned. Then he growled against her neck. “Hermione. Bloody hell.”
“It’s okay.” She slid her hands in his hair, twisting her fingers in his curls, and tugged. “It’s all me.”
“We can’t do this here,” Sirius muttered as his hands wandered.
“No,” Hermione agreed. Her breath caught when Sirius’ fingers slid underneath her slip and up the bare skin of her thigh. “Regulus,” she managed to gasp out.
Sirius pulled away so that he could glare at her.
“Not the name you should be calling, love,” he grumbled.
“He’ll be back soon,” Hermione reminded him. “This is his house, Sirius.”
“Do we have to?” Sirius demanded. “Couldn’t we just take Castor and Pollux and go somewhere else?” He shifted and ground his thigh against her. “Prongs and Lily owe me a lot of babysitting.”
“We should probably go downstairs,” Hermione whimpered. She clung to his shoulders and pressed herself against his thigh, rotating her hips in a tight circle.
“Downstairs,” Sirius groaned. “Right. Good. Excellent plan.”
Distantly, a door slammed.
“Ollie!” The bellow echoed throughout the house.
With a frustrated growl, Sirius pulled away from Hermione. This time, Hermione’s fingers were the ones that fumbled with her robes. Gently, Sirius took the clasps out of her hands and fastened them for her. Then he wrapped his fingers around her wrist again, and began to tug her down the hall.
“What are you doing?” Hermione asked.
“Trying to get this part over with so that I can take you home and shag you rotten,” Sirius told her with a raised eyebrow.
“I beg your pardon?” Hermione squeaked. Sirius stopped on one of the landings and frowned at her.
“It’s been over 20 years since you’ve been in my bed, love,” Sirius growled. His hungry gaze pinned her where she stood. “And I intend to memorize every inch of this new body you’ve got.”
“Oh.” Hermione stared up at him with wide eyes. “Right. Good. Excellent plan.”
Sirius’ lips curled in a smug grin. “I know.”
“Ollie!” Regulus yelled.
“I’m coming!” Hermione leaned over the railing to yell back.
“You would be if my prat brother wasn’t such a pain in my arse,” Sirius grumbled as he started down the stairs.
“Sirius,” Hermione hissed at him.
“20 years,” Sirius reminded her. She sighed and followed him down the stairs.
Chapter 11: Flashpoint
Regulus wants answers. Hermione reluctantly gives him some.
For Auntie_L who encourages this sort of foolishness.
Merry Christmas, my lovely. May 2020 bring you blessings and joy and wonderful things.
For several moments, Regulus paced back and forth in front of the fireplace in the library. Hermione sat gingerly on one of the loveseats with Sirius sprawled next to her carelessly. Severus leaned against the mantle, silently watching the entire scene. Finally, Regulus stopped pacing and turned to stare at Hermione.
“How?” He demanded. “How did you… what exactly did you do?”
“I--,” Hermione paused, and her throat closed.
What had she done? How could she explain the choices that she had made, and why she had made them? Would they believe her? The silence stretched out between them, growing heavy with unspoken words. Regulus’ jaw tightened and he turned away from her.
“Hermione saved all of us,” Sirius said quietly. “Me, you, hell even Severus.”
“What?” Regulus spun around to glare at his brother.
“What?” Hermione turned to stare at Sirius who was watching her with knowing eyes. She swallowed hard and her heart began to race. “How did you…”
“I solemnly swear I’m up to no good,” Sirius murmured. Hermione closed her eyes and slumped on the couch next to him.
Stupid. She’d been so stupid to use that as the key to her secrets. Regulus had kept the small chest for her, and she had thought that safe enough. Even though the relationship between the two brothers had been somewhat repaired, Regulus had kept well clear of the Marauders as a group. Hermione had thought herself clever and her secrets safe. She was such a fool.
“What the bloody hell does that mean?” Regulus demanded, his voice rising.
“What would you do to save Sirius?” Hermione asked, her voice cracking on his name. She glanced to the fireplace. “Or Severus?”
“Anything,” Regulus said firmly. “I would do anything.”
“Even if it meant that you died?” Hermione continued, one eyebrow quirking in challenge.
Regulus froze and stared at Hermione with horror.
“What did you do? Who are you, really? Oleandra or Hermione?” Regulus asked in a hoarse whisper.
“I was born as Hermione Granger,” Hermione replied. Her fingers twisted in her robes. “But the world that I was born into was… different.”
“Different how?” Severus spoke up for the first time.
“You were a professor at Hogwarts,” Hermione murmured, her eyes distant and unfocused.
“A professor? At Hogwarts?” Severus sputtered helplessly. “Who in their right mind—”
“Dumbledore,” Sirius said flatly. Then he glanced at Hermione. “Right?”
Hermione blinked at him in surprise. “I didn’t write that bit down.”
“You didn’t have to,” Sirius countered with a wry grimace. “It has his manipulative fingerprints all over it. That and… Professor Lupin.”
“Professor Lupin!” Regulus’ bellowed. He threw his hands up in the air. “Had the daft bastard completely lost his mind? Why did no one step in? Was the board of governors incompetent?”
“Hey!” Sirius barked standing to his feet, his hands fisted at his sides. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“Lupin is a bloody werewolf!” Regulus shouted.
“And Snape is a bloody Death Eater!” Sirius shouted back. Regulus flinched as if Sirius had slapped him, and Sirius froze. Hermione sighed heavily.
“Regulus was killed by Inferi trying to defy Voldemort,” Hermione said quietly in the sudden quiet. “Sirius was murdered by Bellatrix trying to protect his godson.”
“Harry Potter,” Severus guessed in a silky, cold voice. Hermione swallowed and nodded.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Your brother,” Severus asked, tilting his head and staring at her with sharp intelligence in his dark eyes. “You asked Regulus what he would do to protect Sirius.”
Hermione lifted a hand and then let it fall into her lap.
“Once,” she admitted. “Once he and… another… were as brothers to me. We did a sibling bond spell so that Harry would know that he… that he would always have family.”
“Family,” Regulus repeated with a frown. He turned to look at Sirius. “What about that idiot Potter?”
“Dead,” Sirius replied shakily. He glanced at Severus and then focused on his brother. “Lily, too.”
“What kind of hellish nightmare did you live in?” Severus demanded, pushing away from the fireplace to come stand next to Regulus. “Who exactly was left alive?”
A strange expression flickered over Sirius’ face and Hermione sighed.
“The Malfoys survived,” Hermione began carefully. “Andromeda Tonks and Teddy Lupin. Neville Longbottom. Luna Lovegood,” she paused and a bit her lip. “Several of the Weasley family.”
“Merlin,” Regulus muttered. He rubbed a hand over his mouth. “That’s why Ollie, why you were so surprised at that party I dragged you to in Paris.”
“I had no idea that you had cousins in France,” Hermione admitted.
“You took her to meet Marius’ family?” Sirius asked in surprise.
“Of course,” Regulus huffed at his brother. “Just because Mother was a cow about it didn’t mean that Grandfather Cygnus agreed. He made sure that Marius had a small inheritance with provisions for any future magical children.”
“Why were you introducing her to the family?” Sirius demanded with a scowl.
“Because you had no intention of doing so, and it was obvious that you planned on marrying the girl,” Regulus retorted. His lip curled and he sneered at his brother. “Or at least shacking up with her and producing a litter of bastards.”
“You watch your mouth, Little Prince,” Sirius snarled. “Don’t think that I won’t punch you in the face if you talk about Hermione like that ever again.”
“He’s right,” Hermione murmured, and Sirius paused to glare at her. “Don’t glare at me. You had no intention of marrying Oleandra Puckle. You had no intention of marrying anyone. Ever. We can probably thank your Mum for that.”
“I’d marry you now,” Sirius admitted and flushed. Hermione blinked and felt her cheeks heat.
“Oh. Well. That’s… that’s good to know,” she muttered.
“Speaking of heirs,” Regulus stated with a gimlet glare at both Sirius and Hermione. “How did… what in the bloody, buggering name of Merlin happened there?”
All three men focused on Hermione, who fidgeted on the couch.
“I died that night,” Hermione admitted quietly. She paused and winced. “Or at least… I meant to do so. I was going to sacrifice myself in Lily’s place.”
“In Lily’s place,” Severus choked out. He struggled to control himself for a moment and then waved Regulus off.
“But you’re here, now, with Ollie’s memories and the previous Hermione’s memories, too?” Regulus pressed with a small furrow between his brows.
“Almost six years ago… I woke up in a bed that wasn’t mine, in an apartment that I didn’t recognize that I apparently shared with Luna Lovegood,” Hermione explained in a slow, careful voice. She grimaced slightly. “A few weeks later I discovered that I… that I had brought more than just myself back.”
“Why didn’t you come to us?” Regulus demanded.
“And say what?” Hermione retorted. “Hi, you don’t know me, but your brother—who also doesn’t know me, by the way—got me up the duff with twins? That would have gone swimmingly,” Hermione sneered bitterly.
“It probably wouldn’t have gone well,” Severus admitted carefully. Hermione snorted derisively and he frowned at her. “But once the boys began to get older—the resemblance would have been undeniable.”
“In this world, one of Hermione Granger’s best friends is Draco Malfoy,” Hermione explained with a slight smile.
“Narcissa thinks they’re Draco’s children,” Regulus guessed.
“She knows they aren’t,” Hermione corrected him. She shrugged. “She’s not quite sure of the specifics, but she knows they’re related somehow.”
“How?” Regulus demanded.
“I suspect she did a paternity test,” Hermione replied. “It would have shown that Draco wasn’t the father, but that he was a cousin.”
“You suspect?” Regulus repeated. “You don’t know for certain?”
“It’s Narcissa,” Hermione explained with another little shrug. “It isn’t as though she’d tell me. She would consider that crass and gauche.”
“True,” Regulus agreed reluctantly.
“We just both politely ignore the fact that she treats Castor and Pollux as though they were family,” Hermione added.
“What did she say when you told her what you’d named them?” Sirius asked curiously.
“She was quietly, smugly please for at least a week,” Hermione admitted. “Then she became slightly less smug. I believe that was when she did the paternity test.”
“You never would have said anything, would you?” Sirius guessed. He held himself stiffly and his cheeks were flushed with temper.
“How could I?” Hermione pointed out. “How could I ever explain any of this? What would you have said if I had sworn up and down that I was Oleandra Puckle, and that I was pregnant with your children?”
“Lily would have convinced me that you should be committed,” Sirius muttered.
Hermione snorted. “I’m sure she still will.”
The flush on Sirius’ cheeks grew darker and he rubbed the back of his neck.
“About that,” Sirius began. He paused and averted his gaze.
“What?” Hermione frowned at him. Sirius was behaving the way he always did when he felt guilty. What on earth would Sirius have to feel guilty about when it came to Lily Potter? “What about Lily Potter?”
“She and James were with me when I was going through your trunk. James was the one that… figured out the passphrase,” Sirius explained.
“Great,” Hermione huffed. “Just perfect.”
“Harry knows, too,” Sirius added.
At those words, Hermione froze, and all the blood drained from her face. Tears slipped down her cheeks. The Harry here would never, ever be her Harry, and she was fiercely, proudly glad of it. This world’s Harry had been loved and cossetted and encouraged. This world’s Harry never had shadowed eyes or a pinched smile, or a sad, distant look on his face when he thought no one was watching him.
“He doesn’t know,” Hermione corrected Sirius with a shake of her head. “Thank Merlin, he never will.”
“He’s read the journal,” Sirius countered. He held up his hands when Hermione scowled at him. “We didn’t know what it was, at first. The photo album helped, but it was so confusing, for all of us.” Sirius waved a hand at the room around him. “Harry’s never been here in his life, but there were pictures of him sitting in that chair.”
“This was one of the only places you were able to hide out in,” Hermione explained. “Your father’s paranoia was semi-useful for that, at least.”
“Lovely,” Sirius grumbled. “Trapped in this hell-hole until Bellatrix murdered me. Sounds like a wonderful time.”
“That sounds disastrous,” Regulus muttered.
“It was,” Hermione agreed sadly. “By the end, he was so desperate to get away from here that he probably would have welcomed death, except for Harry.”
“I want to be furious with you,” Snape snapped furiously. “I want to scream at you for what you put Regulus through—what you put them both through. He grieved you like you were family. He was so angry with Sirius. He blamed him for everything.”
“I know,” Hermione said quietly. “Draco told me about it once, when I asked him if he’d ever wanted a sibling. The very public fallout between the brothers Black makes for juicy gossip—even now.”
“You idiot girl,” Snape hissed. He took a deep, hitched breath and then another. “How could you?”
“How could I not?” Hermione countered. “I saved Regulus Black and Lily Potter.”
The impotent fury of Severus Snape was almost amusing. The internal war was visible in the harsh lines of his face and finally he cursed under his breath and threw up his hands.
“Fine!” Severus shouted. “Fine, you saved them!”
“And Sirius,” Regulus added. He turned to stare at his brother for a moment before turning back to Hermione. “Ollie made sure he wasn’t anywhere near her that night. She… you made certain he wouldn’t be blamed again.”
“I wouldn’t let him go back to Azkaban,” Hermione agreed. “I’d die first.”
All three men flinched and glared at her. She glared back unrepentantly.
“Can we not talk about you dying?” Sirius demanded.
“I’d like to never talk about it again,” Regulus muttered.
“I would much rather that she never does it again,” Severus huffed from the fireplace.
“That too,” Sirius agreed immediately. He frowned at Hermione. “Next time just let us all die. I would much rather that you live.” He glanced upstairs. “Castor and Pollux need you.”
“They need you, too, you silly man,” Hermione reminded him.
“No one gets to die,” Regulus snapped. “Everyone is stuck dealing with me for the next 150 years.”
“Well that sounds terrible,” Sirius whispered to Hermione. She rolled her eyes at him.
“It does not,” she told him. “It sounds rather nice and you know it.”
“I do not,” Sirius protested. “It’s Reg! He’ll be utterly obnoxious about who we’ve hired to tutor the twins, and he’ll demand that we enrol them in dancing lessons and music lessons.”
“Narcissa and Andromeda already tutor them. I have retained Mme Encausse to begin private tuition with them this coming fall. They are on the lists for Master Leonidoff and Master Gregori,” Hermione informed them drily.
“Oh.” Sirius stared at her with wide eyes. “You remembered.”
“Of course, I remembered,” Hermione huffed at him. “It’s only been five years for me.”
“Remembered what?” Severus asked curiously.
“French for tutors, Russian for dancing, and Italian for music,” Regulus recited. He shook his head. “The boys would receive language lessons at the same time as their other lessons. It’s not quite as rigid anymore, but no one would bat an eyelash at such a Curriculum Vitae.” He sighed and shook his head. “No one would believe that the father wasn’t a pureblood. Not with that education.”
“And an old family, too,” Sirius added. “Nobody else would even recognize what you were doing.” He quirked a brow at Hermione. “What did Narcissa say when you told her your plan?”
“It unnerved her, I think,” Hermione said slowly. “Not that Narcissa would ever show unease, but she seemed… too quiet. She wasn’t smugly pleased. She was… not quite worried, but perhaps disturbed.”
“It’s the education of an heir,” Regulus explained. “Heirs that Narcissa thinks have not been claimed. It would bother her that the boys are receiving the education, but not the safety and security of the name.”
“I will just have to explain to her that Sirius and I had a horrible falling-out, and I was afraid to contact him,” Hermione sighed.
“Why would you have been afraid to contact me?” Sirius demanded.
“I didn’t want you to assume that I was trying to trap you with a pregnancy?” Hermione suggested.
“You thought we’d take the boys,” Regulus countered. He pressed his lips together in a thin line. “That’s believable enough, and Narcissa would be sympathetic to your fear of losing the twins.”
“I thought that’s what you were trying to do with Fawley & Prewett,” Hermione admitted.
“No,” Regulus blurted out, frustration making his face flush. “I would never have done that to you—even if you weren’t… who you are.”
“Narcissa is going to assume that Regulus is forcing me to do the right thing,” Sirius grumbled and scowled at everyone.
“You will just have to make a show of being ridiculously in love with me,” Hermione decided. “That will shut everyone up.”
Severus snorted in amusement. “That won’t be hard for him at all.”
Chapter 12: Boiling Over
Regulus and Sirius both want to be a part of her life--and a part of Castor's and Pollux's lives.
Hey. This is a weird-ass time. Take care of yourselves out there.
When Hermione checked on Pollux and Castor in the nursery, they were happily playing and showing everything, they did to a rhapsodic Kreacher who praised everything he was shown. A reluctant smile was pulled from her at their antics. Sirius stood behind her, his body pressed against hers, his hand resting on her hip. She swallowed hard and smiled at Castor and Pollux when they waved at her and went back to playing with Kreacher.
Tea-time was slightly awkward. Regulus and Severus had produced an impressive spread with next to no notice. They ate in a small side parlour that Hermione vaguely remembered as the home of a particularly nasty nest of doxies. Sirius had chosen to sit right next to Hermione, in flagrant defiance of the carefully set places that Regulus had painstakingly laid out. Severus had the nerve to smirk at her throughout the entire meal.
“Who did you choose as the godparents?” Regulus asked quietly.
Hermione flushed. “Luna Lovegood and Draco. They are my best friends, in this world, and it satisfied the traditions that you told me about,” she explained.
“They’re good choices,” Sirius stated after a moment of silence. When Hermione turned to look at him in surprise, he smiled and shrugged at her. “I would have tried to pick Lily and James, and I know that your relationship with Lily wasn’t… well, you made good choices.”
“I’d like to visit with them on a regular basis, if that’s acceptable.” Regulus took a sip of his tea and stared at Hermione, waiting.
“Me too,” Sirius added firmly, turning to stare at Hermione as well.
“Of course,” Hermione agreed. “I work full-time at Malfoy’s research laboratories. I’ve had the boys in day-care, but if you’d like to split the responsibility between the two of you, you can watch them while I’m at work.” She smiled smugly at both men.
“Done,” Regulus said quickly. He glanced at Sirius who nodded. “You won’t object to Kreacher helping?”
“I…,” Sirius frowned and looked to Hermione.
“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Hermione said slowly, “but I know that your relationship with Kreacher is not… not the best. If you would rather, he not, I’m sure Regulus can figure out something else.”
“It was Mother,” Regulus muttered darkly. He frowned down at his plate. “It wasn’t Kreacher’s fault, but I understand if you… I’ll understand.”
“It was Mother,” Sirius agreed. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “If you promise me that Kreacher will never be the one that punishes them for anything, then yes.”
“We aren’t going to punish them for anything,” Severus protested vehemently. “We’re going to—I don’t know—teach them potions and Latin and let them do experiments in Reggie’s warded workroom.”
Hermione nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She had never thought to have even this much again. She had expected Regulus and Sirius to hate her for the choices that she had made. She had never believed that either wizard would forgive her for dying on them, or for having the heirs to the House of Black with no way to present them.
“I’m going to take them to the kiddie Quidditch League,” Sirius muttered and shoved a scone in his mouth.
“Of course you are,” Regulus scoffed and rolled his eyes.
Unbidden, tears slipped down Hermione’s cheeks. All three wizards stared at her in abject horror.
“I don’t have to take them to Quidditch,” Sirius babbled quickly.
“Yes, you do,” Hermione sobbed and then hiccupped for emphasis.
“It’s fine if he does,” Regulus rushed to agree. “That’s fine. Truly it is.”
“What’s wrong, love,” Sirius asked with a worried frown.
“I never thought that I — that you —” Hermione dissolved into great heaving sobs.
Quickly, Severus moved around the table and pulled her into a tight hug, patting her back and muttering at her. Once she calmed back down, she flushed and thanked Severus.
“I’m sorry, all of you,” she said as she sat down again. “I always thought that if you found out the truth that… that you would hate me. I never expected—any of this.”
“I can’t speak for Reggie, but Hermione you have to know that I…,” Sirius paused and flushed. “I love you. I don’t care if you’re Lea, Hermione, or Celestina Warbeck. You have to know that even if you’d fallen in love with someone else — even if those two boys weren’t mine, I’d still be trying to find a way back into your life.”
“Despite Sirius’ many, many, many faults, he is loyal,” Regulus added. He smiled fondly at his brother. “Once he decides he loves you, that’s it.”
“Look at James Potter,” Severus pointed out with a smirk at Sirius.
“I suppose that’s true,” Hermione agreed. She grimaced and shook her head. “But the Blacks are known for their tempers. I can’t tell you how many fights Sirius and I had when we were dating.”
“Half of those were because of how you made him feel,” Regulus protested. “He was not ready for an emotionally mature relationship.”
“Hey!” Sirius glared at his brother.
“What?” Severus asked drily. “You know that he’s right.”
“I did not want to have this conversation with my brother and his husband participating,” Sirius groaned.
“So, you were actually planning on having this conversation?” Regulus asked.
“Shut up, Reggie,” Sirius huffed at his brother.
Severus turned to look at Hermione. “What if we watched the boys tonight?”
“They don’t even know you,” Hermione protested.
“What if we convinced Narcissa to stay here tonight?” Regulus suggested.
“It would be better for the boys if you stayed at Malfoy Manor with Narcissa,” Hermione countered. She blushed and glanced at Sirius. “They have their own room there.”
“Do you have a room there, love?” Sirius asked with a frown.
“Yes, I do,” Hermione replied evenly.
“Done,” Regulus said with a nod.
Convincing Castor and Pollux to leave the wonderfully stocked nursery and the exuberant Kreacher was not as easy as one might have supposed, but once Hermione mentioned Narcissa they were barrelling out the nursery door and downstairs toward the Floo.
It was disturbing, how excited everyone seemed to be about getting Hermione alone with Sirius. That many people should not be emotionally invested in her love life. Even Castor and Pollux had been happy to wave goodbye to her and run off to the Malfoy nursery.
The house was eerily silent without the boys, and Sirius’ footsteps seemed to echo as he followed her into her living room. She turned around and he was right in front of her, in her personal space. She took a step back and looked up at him with wide eyes.
“How does this work?” Sirius asked. He reached out with one finger and tweaked a curl. “How do we work?”
Memories of how Sirius and Lea used to work flooded Hermione and she blushed brilliantly. They had both been young, imaginative, and fairly flexible. Sirius frowned at her in confusion and then he smirked at her.
“No love, I mean… I want to be a part of your life. However you’ll let me in, I’m there. I want to be a father to Castor and Pollux. I want to be whatever you’ll let me be to you,” Sirius told her.
“We should take it slowly,” Hermione cautioned. “We can sit down with Castor and Pollux and introduce you as their dad. I’m not sure how to explain all the semantics, but we’ll figure out something. You’re welcome to come over for dinner every night if you want. They’ll need to get used to having you around.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Sirius agreed with a wide smile. Then he tilted his head and did something absurd and ridiculous that made his eyes smoulder. “What about you and me?”
“We should take that slowly, too,” Hermione squeaked. Her pulse jumped as Sirius bit down on his bottom lip and ran a hand through his hair.
“You sure about that love?” Sirius rasped at her. Hermione swallowed hard.
Fuck. It had been almost six long years and being a single mum had not been conducive to having romantic partners of any sort. The last thing she needed was Sirius Black standing in her living room giving her intense bedroom eyes and begging her to let him have his wicked way with her.
“I just… I think we should be sure,” Hermione confessed. “What if you decide that—”
“I’m not changing my mind, love,” Sirius reminded her. “Not ever.”
“But I’m not her,” Hermione worried aloud. “I look nothing like her.”
“You are her,” Sirius countered. He waved a hand in the air. “You’re you, and like I said, I don’t give a fuck what you look like on the outside.”
“I hate it when you’re like this,” Hermione huffed at him. Sirius blinked at her.
“Like what?” He demanded.
“Unreasonably romantic,” she snapped.
“It’s the truth!” He protested.
That was the breaking point for Hermione. Recklessly, she flung herself into his arms. Sirius was ready for her, his arms slid around her and pulled her against him. He kissed her just as eagerly, just as greedily, as he had at Grimmauld Place. Her fingers slid into his hair and she pulled him closer.
When Sirius tried to move, they overbalanced and landed on the floor of her living room. He picked her up easily and tossed her onto the couch, joining her with a wicked grin. He buried his face in her neck, inhaling deeply and leaving a lingering kiss on her collar bone. He pulled back and frowned at her.
“You smell different,” he announced.
“I used to wear that perfume that you bought me,” Hermione reminded him. “I don’t even know where you found the stuff.”
“No, it’s… your underlying scent is different,” he explained.
Hermione frowned at him. “Is this some kind of Animagus thing?”
“Maybe?” Sirius frowned back at her.
“Is this a deal-breaker?” Hermione asked hesitantly.
The fact that Sirius’ immediate response was to clutch her tightly against his chest was slightly reassuring.
“No!” His fingers tightened on her. “No, it’s just different. I’ll get used to it.”
“Okay,” Hermione agreed. She stared up at him for a long moment and then reached out to trace her fingers over his face. “You look different, too.”
“Older?” he asked drily.
“No, I mean, you are, yes, but… it’s not that,” Hermione decided.
The young wizard that she had known had been wildly passionate and mercurial in his moods, but his default expression had been cheerfully cocky. Now, when Sirius was calm and relaxed, his face was solemn and slightly sad. That she had something to do with that made her chest tighten with grief. She had never meant to hurt him.
“It’s okay,” he breathed against her skin.
“It’s really not,” Hermione countered.
Gentle kisses were pressed against the line from her neck to her shoulder.
“It will be,” Sirius promised.
Every inch of skin that he exposed he worshipped. He stroked and kissed and licked every part of her that he could reach. Hermione revelled in his touch, in the slow slide of his calloused hands up her thighs. She gasped whenever he found a new sensitive spot and huffed when she could feel him smirking against her heated flesh.
“You prat,” she gasped at him.
“Your prat,” he corrected her before he continued to tease her.
It was easier than she had expected, but perhaps that was because he hadn’t changed… not really. He’d gotten a bit older, but everything was where she remembered it. Every spot that made him gasp and shudder against her was the same. All the things that had made him beg were still the same. She smirked down at him as he babbled a litany of more and please. When she eased back, he surged up from underneath her, cupping the back of her neck with one hand, his lips crashing against hers. She groaned helplessly against his lips.
“Now?” He panted into her mouth.
“Now,” she agreed.
“Thank fuck,” he muttered.
The stretch and burn were delicious, and Hermione couldn’t help the low groan of pleasure that they pulled from her. Sirius was breathing slowly and carefully as she slid down him until she was seated firmly in his lap. His fingers tightened on her hips and he breathed out through his nose. She rolled her hips and he closed his eyes and bit his lips.
“You’re about to undo me, witch,” he warned her.
“There are spells to help with that, if it’s become an issue for you,” Hermione pointed out.
Grey eyes snapped open and glared at her. “It is not an issue,” he gritted out between clenched teeth.
“If you say so,” Hermione said with a smug little smile and a shrug of her shoulders.
“Oh, that’s it,” Sirius huffed at her. “You’re in for it now.”
“Good,” Hermione said with a dirty grin. “That’s exactly what I was hoping you’d say.”
Letting Sirius prove himself took most of the night and part of the morning, and Hermione couldn’t find it in herself to regret any of it.
Chapter 13: The Walk of Shame
Narcissa makes assumptions.
The first chapter of this story was published on my livejournal on the 13th of May, 2013. It has been my baby, my guilty pleasure fic that I wrote for me and me alone. It has humbled and thrilled me that so many of you loved this right along with me. Thank you.
Seven years later, and here we are. Realistically, there's probably one chapter left to this bad boy.
Breakfast at Malfoy Manor had been a strained affair. Draco wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but Mother was extremely displeased with Cousin Regulus. For his part, Cousin Regulus was accepting Mother’s glacially cool demeanour with a surprising amount of grace. There was a tightness in her expression that Draco wasn’t used to seeing, and she seemed disappointed.
“Are you feeling well, Mother?” He asked cautiously once Castor and Pollux had been allowed to go play in the nursery with a House Elf to watch over them.
“I’m just… I’m rather surprised,” Narcissa said finally. She frowned down the table at Regulus and Severus. “I would have thought that you would have at least said something if you were considering our House’s future. I would have expected you to have treated Hermione with more…”
Matching expressions of shock and repugnance flickered over both Regulus’ and Severus’ faces. Draco wasn’t quite certain he understood all the nuances of the conversation, but he tried to follow along.
“I believe you misunderstand me, Cousin Narcissa,” Regulus protested.
“I understand enough,” Narcissa retorted icily. “That poor witch was left alone. She struggled through her pregnancy with no help from anyone in the wizarding world except Luna Lovegood.”
“Wait,” Draco protested. “What are you trying to say, Mother?”
“The father abandoned her,” Narcissa snapped.
“The father didn’t even know she was pregnant,” Regulus growled.
“Are you… are you saying that Cousin Regulus is the father of Castor and Pollux?” Draco demanded. He waved a hand at Severus Black. “Mother he’s married.”
“Draco, darling,” Narcissa sighed heavily. “Marriage is not required for pregnancy.” Then she focused her attention back on Regulus. “You will never convince me that Hermione would keep such a thing from you,” Narcissa protested. She glanced at Severus and winced. “Not even if it meant that she intruded into your relationship—I’m sorry Severus, this must be difficult for you.”
“You have no idea,” Severus muttered.
“To be honest, this is more the sort of thing that I would expect of Sirius,” Narcissa huffed and then grimaced. “Or rather, the Sirius we went to Hogwarts with. He’s… matured since… well.”
Regulus pinched the bridge of his nose. “You have no idea how… accurate you are,” he muttered.
Narcissa sat back in her chair and her mouth dropped open.
“No,” she breathed. “But… I thought he would never, not after the Puckle girl.”
“Her name was Oleandra,” Severus stated evenly. Narcissa rolled her eyes at him.
“I know that you and Regulus took pity on the poor thing, but really Severus--,” Narcissa protested.
“She was my friend,” Severus cut in and glared at Narcissa. He took a deep breath and averted his eyes from everyone at the table.
“She was our friend,” Regulus corrected him gently. He turned back to Narcissa. “What if I told you that he planned to never… to leave it up to me, not since Ollie.”
“But…,” Narcissa trailed off helplessly and frowned. “I don’t understand,” she admitted reluctantly.
The door to the dining room opened and Hermione entered. Cousin Sirius trailed after her into the room. Draco blinked at his friend. Hermione had always been a quiet sort of witch, even after she changed when she fell pregnant with the twins. This Hermione was almost glowing with happiness. She grinned at all of them.
“Good morning everyone. Thank you so much for letting Castor and Pollux stay with you last night, Narcissa,” Hermione said as she sat down in the empty seat next to Draco. Cousin Sirius sat down next to her.
“Of course, Hermione,” Narcissa replied automatically. “You know how much we adore the boys.”
“You are looking disgustingly chipper,” Severus huffed at Hermione.
“I’m sorry,” Hermione replied with mock solemnity. “From now on I shall do my best to adopt a more appropriate mien in your presence, Severus.”
“O—oh, Hermione,” Regulus corrected himself quickly and frowned at her. “Don’t get his back up. It’s been a trying couple of days.”
“Oh,” Narcissa breathed. She stared at Hermione and then stared at Regulus. “OH.”
“Mother?” Draco frowned at his mother. “Are you alright? Do you want me to fetch Father?”
“How?” Narcissa demanded with a frown. She turned to look at Hermione. “How?”
The grin slipped and all the blood drained from Hermione’s face. She turned to Regulus who sighed heavily and then nodded at her. Hermione bit her lip and looked at her lap for a moment.
“Black magic,” she whispered at last. Cousin Sirius took her hand and frowned at Narcissa.
“Family magic,” Narcissa said. Hermione shrugged.
“What’s going on?” Draco asked with a frown. He turned to his mother. “You know what’s happening.”
“I…,” Narcissa automatically looked at Regulus and then looked at Draco. “It’s not really my place to say, Draco.”
“Hermione?” Draco turned to his friend and gave her an impatient look. “What in the bloody hell is going on?”
“I…” Hermione looked up at Sirius, who put an arm around her shoulder. Then she turned back to Draco and blushed. “Remember how you kept asking who the father was?”
Draco snorted. “Bullshit,” he said flatly. “You had never even met Cousin Sirius or Cousin Regulus before this. Pull the other one, Hermione.”
“The Hermione Granger that you know hadn’t met Sirius Black until that ridiculous birthday party for Luna,” Hermione agreed.
“Talking about yourself in the third person is a sign of mental instability, love,” Draco drawled leaning back in his chair to frown at one of his best friends. “What in the name of Merlin is going on? The Hermione Granger that I know? What other Hermione Grangers are there?”
“The one that used a book she found in the Black family library at Grimmauld Place to travel back in time and change… everything,” Hermione replied drily.
“Time travel?” Draco scoffed. “You hated time travel. Any time Professor Vector mentioned it as a possible application for Arithmancy you got all huffy.”
“Well, as a Muggleborn it did seem terribly illogical and filled with contradictions,” Hermione said slowly. “To the Hermione Granger that you know.”
“But to this other Hermione, it wasn’t illogical at all?” Draco asked with sarcasm thick in his voice.
“Oh, that Hermione was allowed to use a Time Turner as a Third Year so that she could take more classes,” Hermione said with a shrug. She glanced at Sirius and smiled slightly. “She might have misused it to help an Azkaban escapee avoid being Kissed.”
At that, Cousin Sirius leaned down and kissed her soundly on the mouth.
“I’m sure he was very grateful,” Cousin Sirius murmured, cupping her cheek, and rubbing his thumb over her cheekbone.
“He was complimentary,” Hermione allowed. “But I was thirteen years old, so he was hardly chasing me about.”
“Poor sod,” Cousin Sirius murmured and kissed her again.
“How do we get to the part where a wizard that you have never met is the father of your children?” Draco pounded a fist on the table in frustration.
“She altered her appearance and travelled back in time,” Narcissa murmured.
“Altered her appearance?” Draco repeated. He stared at all of them. “Are you… are you trying to say that… that Hermione… that our Hermione… is Oleandra Puckle?”
“Is that so very hard to believe?” Regulus asked him curiously.
“Frankly? Yes,” Draco replied. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “You weren’t exactly a coward, but you hardly ran head long into danger, Hermione.”
“Do you think she would if it protected Cas or Pol?” Narcissa asked him gently.
“Well, of course,” Draco sputtered. “She would do anything for them.”
“What if it was you, or Luna?” Narcissa prodded. “What would Hermione do to protect you?”
Draco raised his eyes and stared at his best friend. Hermione stared back at him. All the little changes that he and Blaise had noticed when she fell pregnant with Castor and Pollux. The way she moved, the way she reacted, even the way she spoke to them had changed, but even before that—Hermione had been his friend. There had been several times at Hogwarts that she had done something crazy or ill-advised or dangerous because Luna was in trouble.
“Anything,” he admitted. “Hermione would do anything to save someone she cared about.”
Hermione beamed at him. “You would, too, you wanker. It’s one of the things I love about you.”
“So, you really… I mean… really?” Draco looked at his mother. “This isn’t an elaborate joke, is it?”
“No, darling, it’s no joke,” Narcissa assured him. She glanced at Sirius and Hermione. “I can put together a wedding in about two months.”
“We were thinking the Ministry,” Sirius countered. “This Saturday.”
“I can work with that,” Narcissa allowed. “We’ll turn it into an official Naming party. The twins are five, that’s… actually pretty traditional.”
“Just family, Cissy,” Regulus cautioned her. He glanced at Sirius who had made a noise of protest. “Okay, fine. The Potters as well.”
“Small and intimate is fine,” Narcissa conceded. She quirked an eyebrow at Hermione. “You and I will need to plan this together.”
“If you break the news to Lucius, it’s a deal,” Hermione countered.
“Done.” Narcissa smiled in satisfaction and stood up from the table. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to make some Floo calls.”
As soon as Narcissa left the room, Draco turned to Hermione.
“You know that she’s going to gloat at poor Chiara Zabini,” Draco protested. Hermione groaned and leaned against Sirius.
“Maybe we could just run away,” she suggested.
“Absolutely not,” Regulus huffed. Hermione stuck her tongue out at him.
“Spoilsport,” she muttered.
“You need to talk to Castor and Pollux,” Severus added. He glanced at Regulus. “Do you want us there for that conversation?”
“What do you think?” Hermione looked up at Sirius.
“Yeah, I mean, maybe it would be a good idea?” Sirius suggested.
“Okay,” Hermione agreed. She looked around the room. “I think that it might be best if we did it at my house. It’s familiar, comfortable ground for the boys and I think that might be the best way to do it.”
Anxiety built between all of them as they rounded up the boys and Hermione led them through the Malfoy’s Floo to her home. Sirius, Regulus, and Severus looked around curiously, each one of them searching for a piece of the woman that they had known.
“Castor, Pollux, let’s have a talk, okay?” Hermione said to the boys and led them into the living room.
Cautiously, the three wizards sat down on various pieces of furniture. Sirius sat down next to Hermione on a settee. Castor and Pollux looked up at them with wide, grey eyes, and Sirius’ heart stuck in his throat. Hermione’s hand on his knee was warm, and he realized that he had stopped breathing. He took one deep breath, and then another.
“We… we don’t have to do this,” she said hesitantly. She bit her lower lip. “If you don’t want to do this, we… we don’t have to do it.”
“I want this,” Sirius swore to her. “So much.”
“Okay,” she said, her voice quiet.
“Okay,” he whispered and then swallowed. “How do we… how do we do that?”
“Castor, Pollux, you remember Sirius, don’t you?” Hermione asked the boys.
“He can turn into a ‘normous dog,” Castor said with no small amount of awe.
“That’s right, he’s an Animagus,” Hermione agreed.
“He knows really good games,” Pollux added. Sirius snorted at that and Hermione smiled.
“He does know some good games,” Hermione allowed. She swallowed nervously. “Sirius is also… he’s your dad.”
The twins focused on Sirius and frowned.
“Like Mr. Lupin is Teddy’s dad?” Pollux asked.
“An’ Mr. Malfoy is Uncle Draco’s dad?” Castor added.
“Exactly like that,” Hermione agreed with a nod. The twins frowned at Sirius for another moment.
“Okay,” Castor said. “Can we play outside?”
“No, darling, you don’t understand,” Hermione protested. She patted Sirius’ knee. “This is your father.”
“Okay, Mummy, we heard you,” Pollux huffed at her. He tugged on her shirt. “Can we please play outside?”
“Why don’t you take your father with you,” Hermione suggested weakly.
“Come on, Daddy, let’s play!” Castor yelled and hurried toward the door that led to the garden.
Sirius stared at Hermione with wide eyes.
“What do I do?” He asked.
“Go play with them,” Hermione suggested drily. “Don’t let them out of the yard, and don’t let them get a hold of your wand.”
The twins whooped and each boy grabbed one of Sirius’ hands, pulling him toward the backyard.
“Well that went well,” Severus observed slowly.
“They’re only five years old,” Hermione said and flopped back on the settee. “They’re brilliant boys, but sometimes they act their age. I suppose now had to be one of those times.”
“What about us?” Regulus asked hesitantly.
Hermione closed her eyes and waved a hand. “By all means go join them.”
“Ollie,” Severus protested.
“Hermione,” she corrected him. She opened her eyes and turned to face him. “You can’t afford to make mistakes like that in public.”
Regulus and Severus stared at her.
“You would have made a magnificent Slytherin,” Regulus whispered.
“Slytherin wouldn’t have known what to do with me,” Hermione snorted.
“Possibly not,” Severus agreed. He frowned. “How do we do this?”
“Let’s go outside and see what the boys are up to,” Hermione said with a slight smile. “Hopefully, they haven’t damaged Sirius.”
“Is that a real possibility?” Regulus asked cautiously. Hermione quirked an eyebrow at him.
“What were you and Sirius like when you were small?” She asked curiously.
Regulus blanched. “Let’s hurry,” he suggested.
Chapter 14: Settling In
Hermione and Sirius make preparations.
As I said, the very first chapter of this story was published on livejournal on May 13, 2013. It was my secret story. The one very few people even knew existed because it languished on livejournal, and no one ever went there. Once a year, or so, one of those readers would remind me this story existed, and I loved it, and I would write another chapter.
So this story has been with me for seven years. I sat down to write the "final" chapter and after I pounded out 3,000 words and I wasn't even *close* to being done--I realized that this really had two chapters left.
This was what I needed to say goodbye to these incarnations of the characters that have become a part of my heart. So I'm posting both chapters and the author's note will be MUCH smaller on the other chapter.
Thanks for coming along on the ride for this, you've been lovely.
For the last six years, Hermione felt as though she were walking a tightrope without a safety net. The constant fear of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person had made her slightly paranoid. She had taken constant vigilance to places that might only have been understood by Mad-Eye Moody, and that had been a disturbing realization.
As a single mum, Hermione had to do everything by herself. Luna had helped Hermione whenever she could, and Blaise and Draco had tried, but their go-to solution for most issues was to toss galleons at it until it resolved itself. There had been extraordinarily little time to herself. When she wasn’t working, she had been home with her boys. She hadn’t quite realized how small she had allowed her world to become until it suddenly wasn’t.
When she had first been hired by Malfoy Industries to work in Research and Development, her hiring package had been extremely generous. When she turned up pregnant, there was suddenly a clause that she was willing to bet had not been there before, and Lucius Malfoy had sworn was standard to all his contracts. Malfoy Industries had provided a magical nursey for children of employees, free of charge. Hermione had used its services gratefully.
Now, there was a queue of people who wanted to babysit her boys, and they had to argue with Regulus and Severus for the honour. Sirius kept them home with him when she went to work.
“I’ve only got a few more years with them before we put them on the train to Hogwarts,” he had confessed when she asked why. “I just… I don’t want to lose any more time.”
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, and her eyes burned. Sirius wound a hand in her curls and tilted her head back so that he could frown at her.
“Stop that,” he growled at her. “I’m not blaming you. I just… I want the time with them, Hermione. That’s all.”
“Okay,” she breathed out and closed her eyes. She could feel the press of his lips against her forehead and she opened her eyes again to stare up at him. “Okay.”
Saturday at the Ministry had been awkward and embarrassing. The witch standing at the Records Office window had been one of the witches in Ravenclaw that had teased this Hermione and Luna mercilessly during their time at Hogwarts. Hermione and Luna had celebrated with a tiny party of just the two of them when Cho Chang had graduated Hogwarts.
“How can I help you, Mr. Black?” Cho purred at Sirius, completely ignoring Hermione.
It was nice to know that some things would always stay the same.
“I’d like to get the paperwork for registering a bonding,” Sirius said with a bored tone that Hermione had heard Draco use on more than one occasion when people were irritating him. Had Draco learned it from Sirius?
“Registering a b-bonding?” Cho sputtered and then shifted her gaze to Hermione. “For you a-and Granger?”
Sirius frowned at Cho Chang, his grey eyes turned steely and he set his jaw.
“Yes, for me and Hermione Granger,” he agreed evenly.
“I… it will be just a moment, sir,” Cho murmured with a frown. She left the window and Sirius turned to frown at Hermione.
“What the bloody hell was that?” He demanded with an irritated scowl. Hermione shrugged.
“You’ve met Luna,” she said calmly.
“What does that have to do with this?” Sirius asked and gestured to the window where they were standing.
“Has she ever talked about her time at Hogwarts?” Hermione asked gently. She paused and chewed on her lower lip. “Or rather, have you had to listen to Harry spout self-righteous drivel about her time at Hogwarts?”
A little crinkle formed between Sirius’ brows.
“Yes,” he said slowly. He glanced at the empty window and then frowned darkly at Hermione. “She was one of them?”
“One of the worst,” Hermione agreed. “We held a celebration party over the summer at Luna’s house after she graduated.” She shook her head and lifted one shoulder. “Well, it was just me and Luna, an enormous chocolate gateau, and a bottle of dirigible plum cordial that we nicked from her dad’s pantry. We got drunk and were very silly for the rest of the afternoon.”
Sirius’ lips twitched and his eyes shifted from steely to molten silver.
“I would have liked to have seen that” he said softly and tucked a curl behind her ear.
“Just ask Luna,” Hermione said drily. “I’m sure she’d love to share the memory with you.”
The sound of a door shutting, drew their attention back to the Records Office window. Cho Chang had an expression that this Hermione, the one who had Sorted to Ravenclaw, was intimately familiar with and her body tensed before she was even aware of it. Sirius glanced at her and he frowned before turning back to the window.
“Here’s the paperwork for the registry of a bonding,” Cho Chang simpered at Sirius as she handed over the thick packet of parchment, again completely ignoring Hermione. She pouted at him. “I’m afraid the Ministry Official who performs bondings is booked for the next several months, though. If you cannot fill this out and return it within six months, you’ll need a new set.”
“That’s not a problem,” Sirius said with a laugh. “We have the bonding all sorted; don’t we love?”
Hermione huffed at him. The bonding had been a source of irritation ever since Sirius had sprung his ‘brilliant idea’ on her. It wasn’t the idea of bonding itself. She had expected to die and hadn’t. She had lived for six years hiding who she was and wasn’t. She had thought she would spend the rest of her life reading the Daily Prophet and grinding her teeth every time Rita Skeeter speculated about Sirius’ love life. Getting the chance to build a life with Sirius was everything that she never thought she could have. The bonding was fine.
Sirius’ choice of bonder was the problem.
“Yes, we do,” Hermione agreed with a tight smile at Sirius.
The expression on Cho Chang’s face might be worth it, though. Sirius slung an arm around her shoulder, pulling him up against his side. She rolled her eyes at him, and he kissed her on the nose. A Sirius who had just gotten his dead girlfriend back after twenty years was a handsy Sirius. She suspected that she had been hugged, kissed, and just touched more in the last week than she had the entire time that they had dated.
“Ta,” Sirius called cheerfully over his shoulder as he dragged Hermione out of the Records Office, their bonding paperwork clutched tightly in one hand.
Saturday morning began with Sirius’ fingertips tracing over Hermione’s anklebone. He wrapped one warm, strong hand around her calf and his hand slowly, slowly, slowly began to slide higher. Hermione sighed in pleasure as his thumb found pressure points along the way. He dug his thumb into the top of her calf, just behind the bend in her knee and Hermione groaned helplessly. The release of pressure that she didn’t even realize was there was just… lovely.
“Merlin’s beard witch,” Sirius complained. “Why on earth are your calves tense? What have you been doing?”
“I don’t know,” Hermione admitted. “Just… don’t stop.”
It was at that exact moment that Hermione remembered why she had pulled on a pair of shorts and an old t-shirt before she’d fallen asleep the previous night. The door to her bedroom burst open, slamming against the wall, and Hermione winced hoping that the wainscoting hadn’t been damaged again. Twin tornadoes whirled into the room and bounced onto the bed.
“Good morning, Mummy!” Castor cried out and bounced on her bed.
“Sorry ‘bout the door, Mummy,” Pollux added and bounced. He turned and frowned at Sirius. “What are you doing to Mummy’s leg? Mummy, are you hurt?”
“I’m not hurt,” Hermione promised. She propped herself up on an elbow and reached out to ruffle Pollux’s thick curls. “Your dad was just trying to massage my calf.”
“Like the way Uncle Draco rubs your shoulders?” Castor asked innocently.
Sirius’ fingers tightened on Hermione’s calf, digging into sore muscles. She yelped, and jack-knifed in the bed, knocking Sirius onto the floor. Castor and Pollux scrambled to the end of the bed and peered over it. A low, pained groan drifted up.
“Daddy, are you dead?” Castor asked worriedly.
“No, Cas, I’m not dead,” Sirius wheezed.
“Why are you on the ground, Daddy?” Pollux demanded with a pout. “We came to say mornin’ to you and Mummy.”
“Sorry about that, Pol,” Sirius wheezed again.
Worried, Hermione leaned over the side to frown at Sirius. He was lying flat on his back with one hand over his chest, and it looked as though he were struggling to catch his breath.
“Are you alright?” Hermione asked cautiously.
“Fine,” Sirius gasped. “Just… got the wind knocked out of me.”
“Right,” Hermione said. She turned to her boys. “If you two go get dressed, I’ll go make eggy bread. Sound like a deal?”
“Yes!” Both boys cried excitedly. They slid down from Hermione’s bed and ran out of the room, their footsteps pounding down the hallway.
Once the boys were gone, Hermione spread back out in her bed, crossing her arms at the very end of it and resting her head on her crossed arms. She watched Sirius for a long moment. He avoided direct eye contact.
“He’s one of my very best friends, Sirius,” Hermione said gently.
Suddenly, Sirius was willing to look at her. She wasn’t quite sure that she’d ever seen that expression on any version of Sirius Black’s face. It was… uncertain.
“Never?” He asked hesitantly.
“This Hermione fancied him a bit in Fifth Year, but he never knew,” Hermione said with a shrug. She sighed then. “I’m not her, though. I’ve never fancied Malfoy in any version. This version is a good friend and a good person. I love him—he’s had my back on a variety of occasions.”
“But you’re not in love with him,” Sirius muttered. He pushed his fists against his eyes. “I’m such an idiot.”
“You’re trying to rekindle a twenty-year-old romance with not-quite-dead-as-you-thought girlfriend,” Hermione reminded. “I’m willing to cut you some slack.”
“I wish you would stop saying that” Sirius grumbled at her.
“Come on, we’re going to go make eggy bread for two obnoxiously energetic five-year-old boys, and then I’m going to bind myself to you for all eternity,” Hermione said drily. When Sirius smirked at her, she threw a pillow at his head. “Come on, Sirius.”
Feeding two small children, dressing them, dressing herself, and yelling at Sirius to hurry up for Merlin’s sake had resulted in only one thing: they were late.
They were late to their own bonding ceremony. Hermione wanted to cringe when they claim through the Floo and Narcissa was tapping her foot impatiently.
“I’m so sorry,” Hermione blurted out as she set Castor down.
“You are not wearing that,” Narcissa said flatly, staring at the simple dress she’d thrown on once she had checked it for stains.
“Yes, I am,” Hermione retorted. “It’s clean, and there is nothing on it that the twins can accidentally rip off. The last thing I need to do is flash the guests.”
The snicker was at once familiar and not. Her Harry had never snickered like that. His laughter had always been slightly muffled… muted… as though he were afraid of getting in trouble for having fun.
“Trust me, Hermione dear,” Narcissa countered, ignoring Harry’s snickering. “I would hardly bring a dress that Castor and Pollux could destroy.”
“Oh, but” Hermione protested, reaching out toward the twins.
“They can come with us,” Narcissa said with a shrug. She grinned at the twins. “Nonna Zabini is here, boys. Why don’t you come say hello?”
“Chiara is here?” Hermione exclaimed and felt stupid for the moisture that gathered in her eyes.
Both Narcissa and Chiara had circled around her protectively when she had the twins, and no one stepped forward to claim them or her. They had become very dear friends. Hermione turned back to Sirius who was already smiling and making shooing motions at her. Then she turned to face the Potters, struggling not to flinch.
“Hey there, Hermione,” Harry greeted her with an awkward wave.
Her shoulders slumped and she smiled at him fondly. How could she not?
“Hey there, Harry,” she replied.
“I’ll just let the guests know it’ll be a bit longer?” He asked.
“Yes, perfect. Just… please don’t let your father say anything. Or Sirius. Or Severus, really,” Hermione said urgently as Narcissa took her elbow and began to lead her out of the room.
“What about Malfoy?” Harry asked flippantly.
“Lucius, yes, Draco, hell no,” Hermione replied on autopilot. She paused and winced when she glanced up at Narcissa who shrugged.
“No, you’re right,” Narcissa agreed. “Now come along.”
In some room that Narcissa had apparently taken over, Chiara Zabini was lounging elegantly in an armchair sipping champagne. Sitting next to her and giggling like a schoolgirl was Hermione’s mother.
“Mum!” Hermione squeaked.
Being a single mum, her parents could have handled. The fact that Hermione had repeatedly refused to name the father, or even talk about the father had led to a strained relationship. Hermione was just so happy that her parents were alive and well and knew who she was that she hadn’t cared about the disappointed looks they would shoot her whenever she visited.
“Hermione!” Portia Granger straightened in her chair and gestured with her glass of champagne at Narcissa. “Your friend came to visit me, and we had a talk.”
“You did?” Hermione whispered faintly and looked at Narcissa with wide eyes. The Malfoy Matriarch looked particularly smug, which made Hermione’s stomach drop.
“Daddy and I have made a mess of things, haven’t we?” Portia asked sadly. She hiccupped and shook her head. “We love you to pieces, you and the boys, it’s just… we expected you to… it doesn’t really matter though, does it? I mean, you have a wonderful job, and you found this wonderful man to share your life and be a father to your boys.”
Hermione turned to stare at Narcissa. “What on earth did you tell her?”
“The truth.” Narcissa shrugged elegantly. “Most of it, anyway. The pertinent bits.”
“Narcissa,” Hermione protested.
“It’s your bonding ceremony,” Narcissa countered firmly. “Your parents should be there. Sirius said family only.”
“He’s never even met my parents!” Hermione’s voice rose as she began to panic.
“I’m sure he’s meeting your father right now,” Chiara said with her own smug little smile.
Hermione turned toward the door and Narcissa grabbed her elbow again.
“Relax,” Narcissa commanded her. “Let’s get you into your dress and get you ready.”
“But we’re already so late,” Hermione protested. Chiara giggled into her champagne glass. She frowned at both women. “Aren’t we?”
“Don’t be silly darling,” Narcissa scoffed. “I told you one time and put another on all of the invitations.”
“But… Harry,” Hermione protested. Narcissa smirked at her.
“He lied,” she informed Hermione.
“He lied?” Hermione’s voice rose again.
“I told him it would help, and he agreed before I was done speaking,” Narcissa explained.
“But we were just going to do something simple,” Hermione protested.
“You’ve waited years for this, the both of you,” Narcissa said firmly. “I agreed to less than a week planning time. I agreed to family only. But I want this day to be something special for you both. You deserve it, darling. Let me give this to you.”
“Okay,” Hermione agreed quietly. She blinked rapidly to avoid crying all over Narcissa Malfoy.
Efficiently, Narcissa pushed Hermione into the bathroom and threw some under things at her. Hermione held up the white lace bustier and snorted. She pulled her wand out of her thigh holster and changed the colour of the bustier to Gryffindor scarlet and the lace to gold. Another flick of her wand and the knickers matched. She slipped them on carefully, fussing with the bustier until it fit properly. With a sigh, she tugged on the garter belt and slowly rolled on the silk stockings.
When she poked her head out of the bathroom, Chiara and the twins were gone, and it was just Narcissa and her mum in the room. Narcissa waved a hand at her imperiously.
“Let’s get you into the dress robes,” Narcissa said with an air of determination that was slightly intimidating.
The dress was… perfect. Simple, clean, classic lines. It was also not quite white. Hermione tilted her head, first one way and then the other.
“What… what is that?” Hermione asked curiously.
“Undyed Acromantula silk,” Narcissa replied. “It’s a lovely effect, isn’t it?”
“It’s almost pearlescent,” Hermione murmured. “Fascinating. I wonder if we could—”
“No!” Narcissa protested. “If you go on a research binge on your honeymoon, Sirius will never forgive me.”
“Honeymoon?” Hermione repeated and blinked in surprise.
Perfectly coiffed, perfectly poised Narcissa Malfoy scowled. “Fuck,” she muttered. “That was supposed to be a surprise.”
“What?” Hermione froze in the middle of the room. “What about the boys?”
“Oh, he’s planning on taking you all to Black Island,” Narcissa said drily.
“I thought it was a surprise,” Hermione asked with a laugh.
“I’ve spoiled that already, and if I didn’t explain it, at least a little, you would panic in the middle of the ceremony—and if you don’t let that wizard marry you today he’ll have a fit, and Regulus might very well disown me, and that is not going to happen.” Narcissa’s voice rose higher and higher.
Silently, Hermione stepped into the dress and let Narcissa fasten the back.
“I’m not going to leave him again,” Hermione whispered as Narcissa did up the buttons.
“I know,” Narcissa said quietly. She moved around Hermione to clasp her shoulders. “I wished that it was Draco, did you know?”
“I guessed,” Hermione murmured with a blush.
“Lucius was horrified, of course,” Narcissa huffed with a roll of her eyes.
“Because I’m not Sacred 28?” Hermione guessed.
“No.” Narcissa shook her head. “Because no son of his would ever get a girl that he cared about pregnant, and then abandon her.”
“But I’m not…,” Hermione trailed off. Both she and Narcissa were aware of all the things that she was not.
“You darling girl.” Narcissa laughed. “We adored you from the first time you came to the Manor.” She took a step back and looked Hermione over. “What do you think, Portia?”
“Oh, Hermione,” her mum sniffled. “You look so beautiful.”
“Are you ready?” Narcissa asked.
Hermione swallowed hard. “I think so.”
Chapter 15: Settling Down
The big finale
I can't believe it's over. I'm a little teary-eyed right now. It's been an emotional day.
This is seven years of love. Seven years of waiting for this Hermione to get her happy ending.
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.