Chapter 29 : A Library of Sorts
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Chapter Twenty-Nine: A Library of Sorts
Hermione tightened her grip on the back of Sirius’ shirt as he climbed the stairs. He glanced at her over his shoulder, but she couldn’t discern a thing. His happy mood was gone, though, replaced by a melancholy air that she couldn’t quite understand. “Are you all right?” she asked once they had reached the top of the stairs. He turned on her abruptly, pulling her into his arms in an unexpected kiss that held more emotion than she knew he had.
“You’re scaring me,” she whispered when he finally drew away.
“I know,” he answered nodding but offered no smile or explanation. “Come, this way.” He shuffled her toward a darkened hallway, one she’d never quite had the nerve to venture down in the time she’d been at Grimmauld. He hesitated at a doorway, a look Hermione could only imagine as a goodbye passing his face before he offered a faint smile. “Nothing dangerous behind this door, I promise. Well, not for you anyway.”
“Sirius-" Hermione couldn’t help but hold him back. “Whatever it is…”
“Nothing so dramatic, my dear.” He nudged her slightly. “Go on.”
Hermione’s eyes squinted at the darkness of the room, even the candle providing little light. Dark wood bookshelves, possibly cherry, lined every wall of the room. Desks of various kinds – plain metal, ornately carved wood, rusted iron- were scattered haphazardly around the room leaving her little room to walk. Figurines of all shapes and sizes littered the room, not an inch of space being left vacant. Dust billowed up off the ceramics and scattered to the floor as wind from her moves caused the stale air to stir.
“What is this place?” she asked as she wandered around. She turned to Sirius who was leaning against the door of the room, his fists buried deep in his pockets.
“A library of sorts…don’t touch that!”
Hermione jerked her hand away from a golden goblet perched on the edge of a table. She turned a wary look his direction. “What do you mean library?”
“The objects, all of them,” Sirius shrugged around the room to indicate, unwilling to pull his hands from his trousers. “They are memory collectors.”
“Objects that are used to hold the memories of a person once they’ve passed on.” Hermione recited. “Often used by nobility to make sure family knowledge and traditions are passed on to the next generation. Once started by a founding member of the family, each dying person receives a collector automatically.”
“Whether they want one or not,” Sirius murmured nodding. “They are intended to preserve memories in case a family member dies an untimely death. Memories are automatically collected by magic in case they die before important information can be passed along.”
“You,” she whispered. “You are here.” She glanced around the room, the littering of hundreds of objects overwhelming her. She had almost given up when she spotted it…back in a far corner, behind several ornate vases and talismans. A tiny polished wood figurine of a lion with a snake perched precariously on its back. The snake was curled in a ball, looking almost as if had fallen asleep while on watch.
“Very perceptive,” he nodded at her unasked question. “It holds every memory I have until Juliette brought me back.”
“All of them?” she asked quietly, stepping away from the lure of it to return to his side. “Even…”
“All of them.” He slipped his hands out of his pockets, rubbing her arms as if she was cold. “Hermione,” he hesitated. “I have nothing else to give.”
“Sirius—" Hermione shook her head. She knew what this meant to him…he was the most private person she’d ever met in her life. He encapsulated his life just like he compartmentalized his friends. If you weren’t there at the time, you just had no idea what had gone on in his life. That he was offering her a chance to know him, to know everything that made him who he was, made her feel completely inadequate.
“This is partially self serving, Hermione. Please don’t get me wrong. I have no desire for anyone to see those things. If there was a way to destroy it I would but there’s not. Anyone, including Bella and Draco and whoever else is still out there, has the ability to steal the only thing that is truly mine.” His gaze softened. “Do you understand?”
“For reasons you’ll come to see, there are memories he can’t know.” Sirius murmured. “You can turn me down. I’ll understand.”
“You are offering me the truth?” she questioned. “About everything?”
He nodded and she could feel his body tense next to hers. “You believe I’ll want nothing to do with you, don’t you?”
“We all do things we aren’t proud of in hindsight. Some of us, like myself, make a career out of bad mistakes and stupid childish whims. I hate who I was. I can’t imagine you will be any different.”
“But why?” Hermione asked confused. “Are you trying to push me away? That’s not necessary, you know. All you have to do is say—" her words were cut off as Sirius kissed her tenderly.
“Because you deserve the truth,” he whispered, “and nothing less.”
Hermione nodded, approaching the figurine slowly as if it might bite. “What will happen?”
“All you have to do is touch it,” he explained. “It will be instant. Not even long enough for you to take a breath. You will just suddenly have all the memories as if they were always there.”
She bit her lower lip in anxiety. He was offering her a gift she couldn’t refuse…her curiosity alone wouldn’t let her. But somehow she knew it was something more. He was offering her a part of him that he’d never been willing to share with anyone. She glanced at him one more time, his face unreadable but his unease evident in the stiff way he was holding himself. Closing her eyes she took hold of the figurine and inhaled a deep breath.
Flashes of light…
Collages of memories…
Faces of people she’d never known…
They flew around her at an astonishing pace, making her dizzy with mental and emotional overload. In the time of a breath, though, it was over. She opened her eyes slowly, her eyes meeting Sirius’ worried gaze.
“Hermione? Are you all right?” he asked worriedly. He wanted to step toward her but the expectation of her hatred held him back. How could she not hate him after the life he’d led?
She nodded and picked herself up off the floor, the now useless figurine gripped tightly in her hand. She glanced to Sirius, incapable of verbalizing anything that she’d just witnessed.
“I’ll go,” he whispered and hurried out the door before she could reply.
“Sirius!” she rushed to the hallway and as he turned, the battered and worn look on his face caused her heart to break all over again. She stood still a moment, trying to gauge what the look on his eyes might mean, but he had once again managed to drive the emotion off his face before she could decipher it. His hands were once again slipped into his pockets, clinched fists that seemed to be gently pounding the inner fabric being the only indication of his unease.
She lifted her foot-barely lifted it-to move toward him, and he backed away, running into the wall in his distracted state. “Sirius,” she said more softly and tried to move toward him again.
With only one step, though, Remus materialized between them. His arms were outstretched on either side...a move of protection she had seen him do with Harry hundreds of times over the years. He was acting as a shield for Sirius, Hermione knew, what she didn’t understand was why or how he even knew Sirius might need one at this particular moment. Behind Remus’ protection, Sirius slipped away, without so much as a look in her direction.
“Let him go, Hermione,” he murmured quietly. He lowered his arms as if sensing Sirius had retreated and took her by the elbow. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, no, I mean—" Hermione hadn’t noticed she was shaking. “I don’t know.”
“Come, you need rest.” Remus steered her out of the hallway and toward her own room. She could feel the tension in his normal consoling touch and it took her a few minutes to gather her thoughts enough to understand.
“He’s gone, hasn’t he?”
“For Bellatrix?” Hermione asked, afraid she already knew the answer.
“I don’t understand.”
“Then you’re a fool,” Remus whispered, “because I understand and I don’t have anything near the gift he just gave you.”
Author’s Note: Did you like it? A bit different I know but I hope you enjoyed it. This was one of the first scenes ever written for this story and I’m so happy that after a year it’s finally posted! I hope you liked it and thanks for all your support and wonderful comments!
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