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Chapter 5 : And Now it Comes...
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It was settled. Regardless of lineage, Hermione's children were going to have a father; a proud and loving father. They wouldn't be able to tell until after the kids were born who they actually belonged to, but until then, Sirius was going to watch after Hermione and James was going to pretend that their unadulterated affair never happened. It suited the three of them. Except, Hermione guessed, James.
Sirius was forceful with James, telling him that he needed to reconcile with Lily, to raise his child. James countered that the child Lily carried could very well belong to one of his best friends and Sirius scowled. Hermione went over the words in her mind several times. That's not stopping me, is it, Prongs?
She couldn't understand why Sirius was so calm. There was no explaining why James was so drastic in his attempts to not try and reconnect with the love of his life. All she could do was accept things as they were now. Change would come soon, she thought. But for now, she had love and she had friendship. It was more than enough.
"Hey," Sirius greeted her softly as he sat on the bed next to her, "you're alright, yeah?"
Hermione let a small smile appear on her lips and nodded her head, as if to tell herself that she really was alright. Sirius returned the gesture and pulled his shirt over his head, threw it and sent it tumbling to the floor. Her eyes studied his back, the flexed muscles, tense knots, scars. He stretched backward, his arms high above his head, and she heard a clicking sound; relieving pressure.
She reached out her hand and gently grazed his skin. There was no reason why, but it felt numb beneath her touch, cold even. Still, her hand didn't withdraw, only began to move slowly up his spine, her thumb working in circles around some of the more tense parts of his back. He slunk, his shoulders falling and his chin resting on his chest.
"I'm sorry," Hermione whispered so quietly she didn't think he could hear her. Her other hand pressed against his back firmly and rubbed in concentric circles. "I should have told you."
He grunted as she hit a particularly hard spot near his shoulder blade, but didn't say a word. She knew that he was being passive, that he could have kicked her and the unborn babies out to the streets. But he didn't. And he wouldn't. Hermione knew, when he had forgiven her, that he loved her. Even if he didn't know how to show it anymore.
"Where did you and James go tonight?" Her tone was light, almost too bouncy. She jerked a little when Sirius turned his head sharply to the side to catch a peek at her.
"He still has feelings for you," Sirius said monotonously. No spite. No anger. No jealousy. "I can see it in his eyes; it's been there since we first met. You were the - ah -" Hermione dug the heel of her palm into the middle of Sirius's back "-only one that ever swayed his vision of Lily."
Hermione nodded, though she knew he couldn't really see her. He had saved her from Ron's follies, James had. They had something in common, a bond that kept them close through time. She wiggled behind Sirius and lifted herself onto her knees.
"But him and Lily belong together," Hermione recited carefully, grinding her fingers into his shoulders. "I've witnessed them together... sort of."
Sirius chuckled darkly and shook his head. Somehow she knew he had a morose smirk on his face, she could feel it radiating through his body. "And things are exactly what they were, are they? So, will you go back and become best friends with James's only son again?"
Her hands stopped moving and she lowered her head, closing her eyes. "No. I'll stay here. With you and our children."
"Then, my sweet, what makes you think that James and Lily are meant to be together? Now that the circumstances have changed, do you really think that they can have a happily ever after?" Sirius turned to face Hermione, a quizzical gleam, a curious glimmer, in his slate eyes.
She didn't realize that her jaw was slack. His words cut to her in a very odd, twisting way. "They didn't have a happily ever after to begin with, Sirius."
Sirius inclined his head toward her, his hair falling out of his face. "Then, perhaps, they never belonged together."
There was nothing left to say. His point was made and Hermione fully understood where he was taking it. The time didn't change, it was the circumstances. And circumstances change without a second's notice. In his own way, Hermione believed that Sirius was afraid of losing her.
"Come here, love," he said, holding out his arm to her. "Lay with me and let your mind rest. We wouldn't want you to pass on that overanalytical brain to our children, would we?"
Hermione's lips raised in a half smile and she followed Sirius as he layed down on the bed, snuggling them both under the warmth of the duvet. She clung to him, but no matter how hard she tried to contain her thoughts, she was worried now, that perhaps Sirius's point was not too far off from what could be.
"I love you, Hermione," he whispered, kissing her temple. "There's a war to fight. I can't fight one at home too."
She shook her head and kissed his chest. "I understand."
James sat up in his room, his head resting in his hand, while his elbow rested on his thigh. He ticked off the different reasons why he should go home to Lily, why he should forget about the bachelor life and maintain the steady relationships around him. But it was too taxing. He needed a break, needed to get out. He needed to prove, once and for all, that James Potter was not a fool.
"Occulous Reparo," he muttered to his cracked glasses, thankful that Hermione's spell worked. It was time for a night out. Just James Potter. For one night.
He apparated from the spot and cursed loudly when he appeared in Knockturn Alley, missing the very tip of his pinky toe. All of this damn emotion was clouding his judgment and his abilities. He needed to clear her from his head. Them. They all needed to be cast aside, just for one night. He made his way up the road, scowling down at his foot every meter or so, shaking his head and apologizing as he had near run ins with the locals.
"Watch yourself, Potter," a slick, heavy voice called out. "Isn't it past your bedtime, mate?"
"Regulus," James answered evenly, lifting his chin in defiance of the insult. "Haven't gotten yourself killed yet, mate?"
Regulus tutted viciously and stepped forward, a dazzling and playful smirk on his face. "Did my older brother finally discard you for the traitorous trash that you are? Are you out seeking some nasty revenge?"
"Sirius is more of a brother to me than you could ever be to him," James taunted back. "You're jealous of what he has. Of what he'll have when you're rotting in Azkaban."
"Now, now, gents, let's not get too feisty so soon." Severus Snape tisked. James rolled his eyes and put his hand around his wand. Severus snorted, his lips twisting into a smile. "There is a lot that we need to do, Potter, so please stick that thing somewhere useful. I don't want to have to poison your drink tonight."
"What makes you think I'm going anywhere with the pair of you?" James quirked an eyebrow and gripped his wand harder. "I wouldn't trust you even if you wore fluffy, pink knickers, Snivellus."
Severus snarled and glared at Regulus, who was holding back a laugh. "Then I'll stand back and watch her be killed. I'm not the one still desperately in love with her. And she's not carrying my child."
James was upon him fast, his hand wrapped relentlessly around Severus's throat. He placed a binding curse on Regulus, who stared at them, shocked at the display. Once his wand was free, he pressed it just below Severus's clavicle. "Bastard."
The amusement in Snape's face was unmatched. His voice was strangled, but still resilient against the threat of being choked. "Do you think it's coincidence that she never became pregnant with Black's baby before you and she..." Snape began to pale.
But the revelation struck James in the gut. "Timing... and the lunar cycle... and, and, positions," James blustered, loosening his grip on Severus. "It... they may not have-"
"Good Lord, Potter, you're a right bumbling twat, aren't you?" Severus dusted off his robes and took out his wand, aiming at James's chest. "Now, you will follow us to the pub so that Regulus and I can explain how things are going to work, do you understand?"
James glanced down to his wand, but found that it wasn't there. He was then staring back at Severus who had the full intention of cursing him at least once tonight and decided not to make things more difficult. James nodded.
"The pig-headedness wore off, did it, Potter?" Regulus teased James with a raised eyebrow. "Perhaps it's my brother that's protecting your arse. Not the other way around."
Before James could move to try and rough up Regulus, Severus placed a binding curse on him. "I think your brute ways need to be kept under control, mate. Wouldn't want to damage the man that's trying to save your life, would you?"
James narrowed his eyes and scoffed. Save his life, his arse. "Let's get this over with, then."
She was giggling, a sound that filled his ears like a melodious tune. It seemed as if she was finally becoming comfortable and he hoped that this feeling would last for the rest of their lives. The circumstances were terrible, but he knew that nothing would make him happier than seeing that smile on her face every single day.
"Remus, you're going to make my bladder explode!" Lily laughed and finally sat up, her face flushed and lit up with a dazzling, toothy smile. "Honestly!"
Remus didn't draw his hands away from her sides, but rested them there, a placid smile strung across his lips. "Don't pretend that you didn't enjoy it, Lily," he cooed sweetly, leaning closer to her. His lips grazed her ear and when he breathed, he could feel her shiver. "It's been so long, hasn't it? We're back where we came from, just you and I..."
Lily's eyes were glazed over and he knew his words were affecting her. "It's not that simple, Remus. It could change everything."
"It already has, darling." His hand stroked her side and up her back, finally pressing against the back of her neck. "We should make the most of it, don't you think?"
She bit her lip and turned her head slightly to make eye contact. "I don't know. James-"
"Left you and didn't know the entire story. He left you and didn't know if this child really was mine." Remus brought her face closer with a little pressure on her neck. "I stayed and I came back. I don't know if this child is mine, but I will treat it as such even if I'm proved otherwise."
He kissed her, deliberately cutting off anything she may have said. There would be no argument today, only feeling and emotion. He twisted his hand gently through her hair and pressed his lips as firmly as he could on hers. It was only when he felt her respond, nipping and rolling her tongue over his lips, that he pushed her further.
And, as he did, she pulled away with a lustful and dazed expression. "If we do this now, it's the end of something huge in my life..."
"And the beginning of something better."
That was all the confirmation that she needed. James would have to live with losing her and Remus would always stay to pick up the pieces. It was life and life was always on the move. Remus wouldn't change his for the world.
Slinking through the trees, his little paws carried him fast. There was much to be done, much to be said. And he had to do it, lest he died a most gruesome death. He didn't enjoy serving such a grotesque wizard, but he did enjoy the breaths that he was allowed to take. It was this or the end. He chose this. The life of a servant.
He arrived at the gates of a broken down house and squeezed through a hole in the iron fence. He would be late, and he would be punished. The Dark Lord was never merciful. Squeaking and panting through his tiny nose, Peter ran as quickly as he could up to the house, transforming only when he jumped through the small flap in the door.
"Master-" he wheezed and flinched as he called for Lord Voldemort. "Master, I have...the best...the best news, sir."
Gleaming red eyes showed through the darkness well before his pale flesh was visible. "And what is it, Wormtail? Have you finally discovered how to strangle yourself without magic? It would, effectively, make my immortal life simpler."
"N-no, your Lordship," Peter stuttered and stepped backward. "Snape! He is teaching at the school under the old man. He got the job!"
What would have been a smile, if not for his lack of emotion, showed itself on Voldemort's face. "My eyes are everywhere, Wormtail. With this final phase complete, we should be able to take over very, very soon. You, Wormtail..." A large snake slithered to Voldemort and rested around his shoulders. She stuck her tongue out, sniffing the air in front of Peter. Voldemort slid a slim finger down her nose and breathed in deep. "You are to keep a close eye on your former friends. If the plan is to work to our advantage, we must not forget the trouble we have gone through to get things this way."
"Yes, Master," Wormtail gulped, watching the snake intently. "I have it on good authority that both of the girls are with child."
"And Potter's child?" Voldemort hissed without patience.
"Is in the Granger girl, sir. I'm most certain." Peter answered quickly. "There are two, I'm told."
Voldemort laughed mirthlessly. "Perfect."
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