Chapter Twenty-Five: A Knife to His Throat
Hermione lay silently watching Draco as he slept. She had forgotten this side of him—the kind, gentle man who had seen her through so many ordeals. If he could only remain this way in the daylight or perhaps treat her less as a prize to be won and more like the love of his life. She watched his bare chest moving up and down contentedly, the light tone of his skin contrasting starkly against his deep green sheets. Scars, old and faded to a pasty white, criss-crossed his arms but his chest remained amazingly clear of any visible wounds. He had often joked about it with her, telling her he’d rather his arms be cut off than have his beautiful chest marked but she’d always known better. His lack of scars compared to the Order members such as Bill and Remus served as a constant reminder to him of how long he had remained under the protection of Lord Voldemort. He hated himself for it—it was a venerable reminder of his failure and cowardice. Even in his sleep he was tugging the sheets over himself, blocking off her revelries. It was something they had never been able to balance…his need to ignore their past and her desire to never forget it.
Sliding out from underneath his bare arm, Hermione tugged on her clothes as quietly as she could and then grabbed her cloak. She fought off the hot tears she felt coming, knowing he would hear her and try and convince her to stop and talk things out. She didn’t want to talk…she wanted to forget the last few months had ever happened. She wanted to be back before Sirius had arrived and caused her life to turn upside down. She sped down the hallway toward her room, her feet skidding to a stop as she caught his recognizable form a few doors away. He was the last person she wanted to face right now or perhaps he was the only person she wanted to see.
He was standing outside Juliette’s door, his hand still resting on the doorknob from pulling it closed. He glanced curiously at her and she had no doubt her scattered appearance told him she had just come from an escapade with Draco. She stopped in front of him, knowing it would do her no good to try and hide, peering at him for the look of disapproval and waiting for the vicious retorts she expected. She felt like a whore, after all, and Sirius had never been one to mince words.
“She’s just gotten back to sleep,” he said, nodding toward the door. “It’s my fault for getting in so late. Please don’t be angry.”
Hermione nodded, tears beginning to well in her eyes again…the double meaning of his words going unnoticed. How could he do this? Standing here so nonchalantly even knowing she had been with Draco? Did he really feel nothing for her and could he not realize how confused and broken she felt? She lifted her tear filled eyes toward him. He hadn’t moved but his stance was somehow more serene, almost as if he had come to some level of realization or acceptance about her.
“I should know,” he murmured in a somewhat perplexed voice, “what you need but I don’t.”
She nodded understandingly. It wasn’t that he didn’t care…he cared only about fixing whatever was wrong and, for once, he had no idea how to do that. Loneliness he could cure with a quick lust filled shag; nightmares by merely listening; and sadness with his trademark humor. But for her current turmoil, however it might be defined, he had no solution. She offered him a half smile through her tears. “Will you walk with me?”
He didn’t answer but slipped her cloak out of her hands and helped her put it on. Pressing her gently in the small of her back, he led her through the halls of Grimmauld and into the barren gardens. The night air was cold, assaulting their faces as they tramped slowly through the snow packs. As the lights of Grimmauld melted away, she slipped her hand into his, the silence and surrounding darkness causing her mind to clear and her emotions to settle. She had no idea how long or far they had walked but he seemed to walk with purpose and she took comfort in that.
Though overgrown and far from the normal gardens of Grimmauld, Hermione had seen the Black family gazebo many times. It was a favorite haunt of Juliette’s – she always liked to imagine summer garden parties and grand affairs that might have been held there during its better days. Winter and time had come here, though, icicles glistening under the full moon giving the white lattice work an almost forbidden appearance. Thorns, she mused silently but a glance to Sirius seemed to indicate that he noticed none of it.
“Are we friends, Sirius?” she asked quietly, sinking down as he took a seat on the scuffed and warped wooden benches.
“Before anything else,” he returned.
He hesitated, unable to read her in the darkness. “I’ve turned on only one person in my life, Hermione.”
“Peter,” She could feel him bristle beside her and immediately felt guilty. She placed a reassuring hand on his arm. “Of anyone I’ve met, Sirius, yours is the loyalty I would never question.” She dropped her voice. “In my experience, very few men can separate friendship and sex. I just needed assurance that you can.”
He gave a relaxed, warm chuckle. “No offense, my dear, but I don’t consider you a friend because of your prowess in the bedroom.” He smile was large enough to see in the darkness. “You are my friend because you are you.”
“Friends share things, don’t they?” she tried to say it lightly but he knew better. She moved away, reaching up to take down a broken, rusted lantern hanging near the gazebo’s entrance. She held it out expectantly and he lit it for her, his eyes searching hers.
“What is it you want from me, Hermione?”
She glanced at him and then dropped her eyes. How did she explain to Sirius – the man who refused to share almost everything – that she needed reassurance that someone, anyone is completely honest with her; she needed to know that one day Draco would be able to tell her about his scars rather than hide from them. How did she tell him that she merely wanted assurance that Draco would never become the man that Sirius had turned in to?
She let a trembling hand graze lightly across a scar along his neck, following it down the collar of his shirt where it intermingled with several others. “Where are they from, Sirius, do you know?”
He moved her hand away gently but firmly. “Of course.”
He could feel the bitterness and resentment rising within him. He would have to do this because of the locket- to keep Juliette safe- but it didn’t mean he had to be happy about it. He didn’t care if she used him to learn something about Draco, it might help make her happy and Sirius knew that standing in way of locket could endanger Juliette. But he hated to be cornered and she, more than anyone, should realize that.
He gave a resigned sigh without looking at her, slowing unbuttoning his shirt. He hesitated as a feeling of complete exposure washed over him but, knowing he had no choice and it was better to control the situation than react to it, he slowly began the arduous task of explaining the history of each and every scar that was visible to her. Dozens of them were scattered across his chest… small ones; large ones; Marauder scars; stupid childhood antics; war scars; werewolf confrontations…they all held memories of his life that he’d never intended on sharing. His foray into the past over, he began to slowly button his shirt but her soft fingers reached to a scar he’d chosen to overlook. Tiny, almost infinitesimal and definitely older than most. Near his left shoulder, it appeared to be shaped, unlike the others, and resembled a Celtic knot.
“A woman?” Hermione guessed as his unease became evident.
“No,” he answered quietly and pulled away from her touch. He walked paces away and finished buttoning his shirt.
Hermione moved to stand behind him, her hands running along the fabric of his sleeves, following the curves of his muscles soothingly but nothing seemed to make his tension depart.
“Sirius-" she whispered.
From somewhere in the darkness, Remus’ gravelly voice caused her to jump. “It’s a bonding mark, given when he accepted his role as Harry’s godfather.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, squeezing his arm but Sirius merely nodded, his hands trembling with cold as he tried to button the tiny buttons on his shirt.
“Hermione,” Remus draped a heavy blanket around her shoulders, “you must be freezing. Get inside and get some rest, won’t you?”
She nodded briefly, with only a backwards glance to Sirius. When she had disappeared into the darkness, Remus conjured another blanket and placed it on Sirius’ shoulders, leading him back towards the gazebo bench. “It’s hard, isn’t it? Sharing bits and pieces of your life and never knowing how someone is going to react? Whether they will run or stand beside you, admire you or loathe you.”
“What are you doing here?” he asked vacantly, pulling the blanket tighter around him, never realizing exactly how cold he had gotten.
Remus nodded up towards the heavens. “Just sobered up and realized it’s the last few hours of a full moon, thought you might be willing to keep me company.”
Sirius nodded, dropping his head back heavily against the railing. “Is it a man, thing, do you think?” he asked without moving. “To hate to share anything?”
He chuckled. “It’s a Marauder thing.” He conjured mugs of steaming coffee for them, placing one in Sirius’ shivering hands. “It’s the locket, isn’t it?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t know—"
“Stop, just stop,” Remus cut him off. “I’ve known you too long. You wouldn’t tell anyone the things you just shared with her unless someone had a knife to your throat.”
Sirius lifted his head, his eyes drifting aimlessly at the surroundings, and then took a long drink of the coffee. He had missed this more than he realized. The quiet moments with Remus where they could talk freely, things not said somehow meaning as much as the things they did manage to say. He knew Remus was curious about his relationship with Hermione but he also knew Remus would allow him his privacy no matter how much the situation concerned him. It was an unwritten agreement between them…Sirius would make his mistakes and Remus would watch silently as he made them, picking up the pieces when everything fell apart. And, it always fell apart. Sirius didn’t have the courage to tell him that some deep, long forgotten part of him had enjoyed being able to share something so private with her no matter how heart wrenching it had been.
“Yes,” he mumbled, “it’s that damn bloody locket’s fault.”
Remus nodded resolutely, sinking his back against the wood with a thud. He drank silently for a moment, his eyes studying Sirius with well-practiced ease. “I should know better than to ask, but have you found no way to break the spell?”
Sirius shook his head, glad Remus wasn’t asking him to explain the magic behind the locket. “It’s impossible and you’ll just have to trust me on that.”
“I don’t doubt you,” Remus frowned. “I suppose I was just hoping that there was going to be an easy way out for you.”
“You and I both,” he returned with a half smile. Sirius dropped a head into one hand, letting his fingers run through his hair. His fingers caught in the wind curled knots and he held them there for a moment, too tired to pull them free. The icy feel of his hair made him realize how much the temperature must have fallen and he immediately felt guilty for not only allowing Hermione refuge out here but now Remus as well. He knew Remus was waiting on him…waiting on some direction or instruction…and had no intention of leaving until he received it.
“Remus,” he mouthed, his voice croaking slightly as the cold began to seep in. “I need the boy alive,” he whispered, then chanced a look at his friend. “Whatever that takes or entails, I need Draco alive.”
Remus’ eyes bore into his but he asked for no further explanation. He placed a rough hand on Sirius’ leg, his voice strong and unflinching. “Then so be it.”