"Tell me again," Hermione demanded, squeezing Sirius' hand with a pleading gaze in her eyes.
"We've been through this, Hermione," Sirius huffed, running his free hand through his long, untidy locks. "I'm not going to torture you with this...again."
Hermione's eyes dropped from his and became suddenly interested in the color of her shoelaces. Her eyebrows furrowed together and for the faintest of seconds, her hand went limp in his again. Why couldn't he say it? It was, after all, everything they had fought for to see each other. Was it the pain of looking in her eyes and seeing the same thing shining back out? Or... did he feel something different now that he had to leave.
Mumbling, she still refused to meet his eyes. "You have no idea about torture."
Sirius' grey eyes snapped to take in Hermione's profile; sad and irresolute. Placing his hand on her chin, he forced her to look in his eyes. No words were spoken, but both could feel what needed to be said. Sirius never meant for this to hurt her. He thought this could help them... he thought he could bring her back with him. Together they could change the future and keep it safe as it was now. Without him and the other Marauders' demise.
But it would never work. Hermione would never consider leaving what she had spent so long trying to build. Not for Sirius. For no one. No matter the emotions flying through her eyes... the same that reflected in his own.
He stepped backwards. She tilted her head to the side.
"Why are you distancing yourself?" Her voice was even, calm. Too unattached.
Sirius' eyes moved quickly over her face, trying to solve a puzzle of sorts. "Why can't you?" He countered quietly.
He took in everything about her, drank in her presence, her spirit, her soul. There was no good time to leave her... he never wanted to let go of the hand he was holding onto. The skin so soft against his own, reminding him that he was human - reminding him that no matter what he had been taught, he was able to love and could do so in strides.
The silence was stunning. With only a few short minutes remaining, Hermione wondered why they couldn't bring themselves to speak. But what could she say? Certainly not another goodbye. The first had been too painful and this...this was harsh abandon. He knew he was coming to leave... He had been by her side, teaching her, admiring her from afar... just to leave.
And there were so many unresolved issues. James and Severus. Harry and Ron.
"What happens now?"
The words rang in his ears. A question he never wanted to contemplate. She had spoken them, finally, after a very tense two minutes. His eyes fluttered closed, the tired lines of his face becoming more apparent. Hermione watched him with baited breath. It was a question she couldn't answer... one that she had already solved years ago when she had left Sirius. But this... it was different. Infinitely different. He had tracked her down. And she...a small smile crept up her lips...and she had hunted him again.
"Cat and mouse forever, then?"
Sirius still couldn't speak. Hearing the words roll off of her tongue playfully was far too painful. They were a game of cat and mouse. Their lives, the intricate web of dedication they held to see one another even though the morals were misplaced along the way, would always be for each other.
Her whisper echoed in his mind. He tried to blank it out, to not hear it. The desperation. He could feel it with every passing second. It grew stronger, clawing at his heart. Feel something, you sodding fool. ... And yet, he stood still and silent. He had two minutes with the love of his life. Two minutes to say goodbye. Two measly minutes to whisk her into a tight embrace, whisper in her ear, beg for her to come back with him... Two minutes to fight the tears. He - all Blacks - never cried. No tears. Not today. Never.
It only called to him in more anguish. She needed to be comforted. Sirius needed to prove to her that it would be okay. She would move on.
His face turned back to hers, a lone tear streaked down his cheek. No more movement. Otherwise they would never stop flowing. He had to stay calm, collected. The more he looked into her brown eyes, the faster his heart would beat. Sirius' eyes shot to the ground. Her foot took a steady, cautious step toward him. Before he could react, a finger was wiping the tear from his face. Hot breath, mixing with his. She was too close now. He couldn't turn away.
In one, sweeping motion, his lips connected with hers. The world around them melted away. Hermione's eyes squeezed tightly shut as her hands snaked around Sirius' neck, pulling him closer, afraid to let go. He could feel her anxiety in the way she was shaking. Quelling her nerves would come to a second after showing her - proving beyond a reasonable doubt - that he was in love with her. Never, so long as he would live, would he love another woman quite the way that he loved her.
His hand rested on her hip and pulled her more firmly against him. He traced a line up her spine, sending a shiver through her body. And while the tears began pooling behind his eyes, he felt the mingling of salt with his kiss, knowing that she couldn't contain her own.
Just as he was pulling away from the kiss to tell her what he felt and to wipe away her tears, there was a tugging sensation in his stomach. This was it. He was going home. But nowhere would ever feel more like home than being wrapped up in Hermione. He stiffened at the sensation and refused, now, to let his lips leave hers. He couldn't look at the sadness in her eyes and remember it forever. There was no way he could live with himself after that. So, he held her, kissed her, and loved her with every ounce of himself that he could spare.
She felt his body tense and knew immediately that it was time. But he pressed his lips more forcefully against hers, causing her to sink into him again, forgetting the inevitable. It wasn't until the pressure on her body subsided that she opened her eyes. He was gone. Out of her life forever.
The sobs that she had held in while they claimed each other's lips were released. With a hand to her eyes, trying to shield out the world, Hermione crumpled to the ground. That was their goodbye. The parted ways had left her cold and alone with a flood seeping down her cheeks, creating a river on her neck, soaking her jumper. Somewhere, somehow, she knew this would happen. And still, she couldn't let go of the feeling of his eyes, his hands, his love encompassing her.
Rough hands gripped her shoulders; harsh words in her ears. It was a moment that she thought of fighting them away, but instead, she slumped and allowed them to carry her off. She didn't bother looking at his face, but knew who he was. It didn't matter. What she - and everyone - had fought for during the war - it was gone from her life. Sucked from her. The tears were more silent as the man carried her away. A couple of sniffs and breathless murmurings.
His silky voice was filled with promise as he felt her headrest against his shoulder. "It's time for the whole truth."
"Miss Granger," Professor Dumbledore greeted in mild amusement. "Your calls are frequent, my dear."
Hermione glanced from side to side, noting how protectively Remus and James stood near her. Her eyes finally locked with the Headmaster's and she looked down, ashamed. All of her actions had been selfish, even if she didn't know what she was doing at the time. Creating the Sominaire spell had done too much damage. Possibly irrevocable. She only hoped that Lily and James could reconcile. And that, at some point, Sirius would be at peace with his life, as she would try to make peace with hers.
"For the sake of everyone, sir," Hermione said shakily, "I think it's best that I go home..."
Dumbledore nodded and stepped aside, allowing the three of them into his home. He watched James carefully as he passed the threshold and smiled at Remus. "I think you'll find it to be the best solution. You see, Voldemort is growing more knowledgeable of your influence here."
She was silent. Scenes from her romantic episode with James flashed through her eyes, causing her to blush. But as soon as Sirius' hurt face entered her mind, the blush faded and was replaced with a pale, sickened expression.
"They filled me in on the potion, sir. And Severus Snape's role..." Hermione's voice, spiteful and hurt, grew stronger. "If I'm a danger, then I should leave. I swear, I didn't know this would happen."
Over his half-moon spectacles, Dumbledore surveyed Hermione. "There is much to be done to ensure that you are still safe when you get back."
That was the end of the conversation. She would speak no more, for fear of blurting out something that was best left unsaid.
"You will be sent to the time that you first created the dual reality. Mister Lupin and Mister Potter," Dumbledore signaled to Remus James, who stood aiming their wands at Hermione nervously, "will use the spell to duplicate what it was that brought you here. Do you understand?"
Hermione fidgeted with her wand in her hand. "Yes, sir."
"Good. Mister Potter, Mister Lupin. On my count. The spell is Sominaire Meminisse." Dumbledore looked back and forth between the two, who nodded, but remained staring at Hermione. Neither were going to say goodbye to her. It would make everything too difficult.
Hermione flinched. She was leaving. If she didn't, everything would get worse. Concentrate, she scolded herself. Her nose scrunched and her eyes focused on the wiring of James' glasses.
James' hand twitched ever so slightly. He could feel the nervous tension around the room. Hermione would have been good here, had Snivellus not mucked it up. Things could have been different. For everyone.
A blinding yellow light shot from both Remus and James’ wands. Remus stood in the far corner, watching with wide eyes as their spells boomed through Dumbledore's den. The Professor didn't seem the slightest bit concerned that the roof might blow from his hollow, tree house. However, at that thought, the spell stopped and a settling quiet overtook the room.
"She's gone," James noted, somewhat painfully, staring at the spot that Hermione had once stood. "It worked."
James and Remus rushed through the door of the cottage at Godric's Hollow, looking around anxiously for Sirius and Lily. They had been gone for hours, it seemed and were curious as to what their friends had gotten up to since they first left to search for Hermione.
The thought of her being gone, this time for good, plagued James' mind. There had been some truth in his need to be with her. It would die, over time. Along with him. No one ever needed to know the truth. He couldn't remember everything from Hermione's initial visit, but the feelings had always been there. He shook his head, ridding himself of the thought and glanced to Remus.
"Reckon they started their own search party?" He asked Remus curiously while advancing inside of the house.
"The den," Remus answered, hearing rustling in the back of the house.
"Right." James should have figured. Evans and her books.
They walked purposefully to the den and stared in shock as both Lily and Sirius... Sirius?... were sifting through various books. James scratched the back of his head and stepped lightly into the room.
"We, er..." How could he tell his best friend that he had sent her back? "It's... She's gone."
Sirius and Lily glanced up to James. While Lily was relieved, Sirius felt a stabbing pain in his heart. The use-to-be shallow, black hole had started to mend with Hermione. And now... she was gone again. He stared at his friends, back and forth, for several minutes, before standing up and tossing a ratty old book at Lily.
"Let's get this over with, yeah?" He said shortly, avoiding eye contact with everyone.
"Get what over with?" James asked harshly. "What the bloody hell are you on about? Hermione. Is. Gone."
His words, no matter how slowly uttered, sounded fast and furious to Sirius' ears. He sneered in the direction of his best friend and took a few steps toward him.
"Thanks to who, Prongs?" His eyes narrowed viciously as Severus flashed in his mind. "And you... You..."
James puffed out his chest and stared Sirius down. "I what, exactly? Reacted?"
Glowering, Sirius turned to Remus and gave a dry smile. "Same old Prongs..."
"Neither of you have changed." Remus noted casually, sending a wink to Lily. "Now, what are you two planning?"
Author's Note:Whew! I'm relieved to have this chapter done. It took forever to write because I really didn't want to write it. =( The story is getting closer to finishing and it's going to be a sad day when it ends. I've had so much fun writing it, creating the twists and confusing everyone (including myself). Two more chapters to go. There will be a trilogy - a short story following this one.
Thank you all for the wonderful reviews! And to anyone who reads but doesn't review - thank you as well! I hope you all enjoy what's to come!! *hugs*
If you would like updates on Remembrance and its progress, you can check my Author's Page - under 'bio' - for details. =)