Chapter 4 : The Lost Years
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.: Chapter Four – The Lost Years :.
Friday, November 2, 2004
Ten years. How could he have missed ten years? It was almost unfathomable. He’d missed a decade’s worth of memories, good and bad. He’d missed the bringing of life and the coming of death. He’d missed weddings, funerals, birthdays, Christmas’ and every other significant turning point in his loved ones lives. They were memories lost to him and he would never have the chance to get them back. It was cruel – almost too cruel. Life had always dealt him a bad hand. Hell, look at his family. His mother had hated him. She’d loathed his very existence and probably spent her last breath hissing words of hate simply because he wasn’t the precious son Regulus had been. His younger brother had relished in his fall from their mother’s graces, loving the fact that he was the favourite where Sirius was not. It didn’t bother him. Regulus could lap up all the attention he wanted from the old hag, he certainly hadn’t wanted it. The two of them had gotten along well enough as children but as their teenage years came to pass, a rift grew between them and that was that. His father hadn’t been any better. Drinking himself into the ground, the old man had blatantly ignored him and often found it more interesting to have a conversation with a lamp rather than look at him. They may have been his family by blood and by name, but his real family were his friends. They were the ones that would lay their life on the line for him, just as he would for them. He’d missed the beginnings and endings of their lives for ten years. He was sure that someone was punishing him. For what, he didn’t know, but he was certain that life wasn’t meant to be this cold – or this hard.
He didn’t know what hurt more; not being there for Remus when he’d needed him the most, or not knowing anything about his godson’s life. He knew Moony had liked Tonks even before the old werewolf had figured it out for himself. He wouldn’t deny that it was a kick in the guts to know he’d missed his best mate’s wedding to Nymphadora, the cousin that was more a sister. It was even worse when Hermione had told him about Nymph, but what really did it, was knowing that he hadn’t been there for Teddy’s birth. How many other memories had he missed out on? And what about Harry? Was he married? Single? Did he have any children? It was an endless cascade of unanswered questions, each of which tore at his slipping mask of control, leaving him a little less shielded than before.
He would prepare himself for a barrage of questions when Molly and her clan arrived, Order members in tow. There would be no answers – for them at least. He wasn’t ready to talk about the veil or anything that might have happened to him in the last ten years, but they would ask despite knowing that in the first place. He just had to prepare himself for the initial onslaught, after that he would be fine. Besides, he had his own questions and he was sure that he would get the answers whether he wanted them or not. He was scared – scared of knowing exactly what he’d missed out on, of what had happened and who had moved on. He was scared but he wouldn’t show it. He never did.
There was one comfort in all of this; Hermione Granger. She had been amazing. He still couldn’t believe that she was twenty-five years old. The last time he’d seen her, she’d been fifteen. A lot had certainly changed. Initially he’d thought that she was just another healer there to torment him. How wrong he had been. He felt like a right ass. The way he’d treated her was – well it was far from civil. He’d have to remember to swallow his pride and apologize later. Still, it wasn’t entirely his fault. He doubted any of her old classmates would recognise her. She had certainly grown into herself. It wasn’t as if she was like one of those models, super slim and drop dead gorgeous. No – she had a more natural, classic beauty. She didn’t need the make-up or the fancy clothes to look beautiful, there was something uniquely her that did that for her. He could hardly say he knew her or her feminine habits, he just guessed that she didn’t spend as much time worrying about her appearance like most women. She was too focussed to be that superficial. Then again, she was a woman. She had to have at least a little vanity. Her hair was still uncontrollable but it suited her. It always had. Nonetheless, she wasn’t the fifteen year old he’d met all those years ago. Her personality seemed the same though. She was still bossy and ambitious, intelligent and perceptive, stubborn but understanding and as caring a person as she had been at fifteen. It was the understanding and caring nature that he had recognised first. She hadn’t asked any questions or demanded any answers. It was like she understood that he was still too raw to talk about any of that. She’d let him ask the questions. For that reason alone, she was amazing.
“I hate to burst your invisible bubble but you’re probably going to stay like that unless you tell me where the bloody hell you are,” snapped the haughty blonde, drumming her nails impatiently against the glass window pane. He didn’t know who this woman was but Hermione obviously trusted her. The Hermione he had known in 1994 had been a good judge of character and he doubted her perceptiveness and ability to read people had changed all that much. He would just have to trust her judgement.
“Are you always this demanding,” he asked, smirking as she jumped in fright. There were definitely some perks to being invisible. The best being the obvious; no one could see you. It certainly made pranking and day to day mischief a whole lot easier.
“I do try,” she retorted snootily, glaring in irritation at the empty space where he stood. He couldn’t understand this woman or rather Hermione’s friendship with her. They were complete opposites as far as he could tell. If she had attended Hogwarts, Sirius was sure that this haughty blonde would have been a Slytherin. She was Hermione’s friend, not his. He wouldn’t loose any sleep over it, it just perplexed him was all.
“Mind taking this lovely charm off?” he drawled sarcastically, smirking at the effect it had. So she hated being challenged. He could definitely have fun with this.
“Not at all,” she ground out, jabbing him in the stomach with her wand. After muttering the counter charm, the blonde leaned back against the porch railing, smirking triumphantly at the pained expression on his face. When in doubt violence was obviously the answer. When he made no attempt at small talk and just stood there glaring, she turned to open the front door, smiling lazily. Who ever this woman was, she was good. She had the skill, the ability and all the arrogance to fight fire with fire. He would have to tread carefully with this one. Irritating her just simply wasn’t enough. He had to infuriate her. A prank was definitely in order, he just had to figure out the best approach first. Slow and steady would win this race. He just had to have a little patience.
Returning her lazy grin with one of his own, Sirius casually walked through the front door, purposely taking his time. He could hear her huffing impatiently as he leaned against the doorframe, blocking her path, but he didn’t care. She could wait as far as he was concerned; his current surroundings were far more interesting. This is Hermione’s house? He didn’t know what he’d expected her house to look like but it certainly wasn’t this. Healers were paid fairly good money compared to other wizarding jobs but there was no way her salary could support this. The house, while quaint on the outside was extraordinary on the inside.
The hallway seemed to go on forever, the dark mustard yellow wall was scattered with memories, muggle and magical. There was one picture in particular that caught his eye. It was a picture of Hermione. The picture was still, frozen and her expression captured. There was another woman in the photograph but he hardly paid her any attention. Black and white, the image was charmingly quaint, capturing the true beauty of that moment. Hermione couldn’t have been more than seven at the time. She seemed so carefree. Smiling happily, her face decorated with painted swirls of unknown colour, she was dancing with a woman, obviously her mother. She didn’t have a care in the world, only a child’s freedom from pain and hurt. She was free. It was her freedom in that moment that appealed to him. He wished he could go back, back to when everything was alright, when Lily and James were still alive. He wanted to go back to those precious moments in time and relive the carefree life he’d had when he’d been at Hogwarts, his home away from the prison that housed him. He wanted that freedom again.
Tearing his eyes away from the photograph, he slowly made his way down the hallway, glancing through an open archway on the left. It was a large, spacious room, filled with the warm comfort of a fireplace. Rays of natural light illuminated the room, making it airy and comfortable. There was an elegant simplicity about this room, a reassuring place to wind down and just be. There was something relaxing about this place even if all he had seen was the hallway and the lounge. He felt at ease here. That in itself was extraordinary. Letting his feet carry him forward, Sirius walked to the end of the hallway, examining each photographed memory, fascinated by the stories they told; she’d had an amazing life.
Changing focus, he turned to survey the room he now stood in, genuinely amazed. The room was massive. Dark crimson tiles adorned the kitchen’s back wall, accompanied by the dark mahogany wood that seemed to flow throughout the house. The kitchen itself was fairly large and decorated flawlessly. The Gryffindor colours didn’t go unnoticed either. The kitchen was a compilation of red and gold, or rather, dark crimson and dusty yellow. While the island bench top was mahogany much like the rest of the kitchen, small, almost indistinguishable thin lines of red and gold circled the outer rim. He couldn’t help but smile at the small detail. The rest of the room was designed with equal measure and attention to detail. The dining table, standing alone in the middle of the room, was dark with a simple but elegant design, and the extra lounge room to the left, was equally elegant with its uncomplicated finish. He noticed three closed doors to his left, amazed that the house branched off further. In the far corner, a small staircase reached up to the house’s second floor landing, surpassing his preconceived ideas. The house was far from what he had expected but then, he hadn’t known what to expect. Maybe it was the sheer size of the house that shocked him. She’d certainly never given any indication or impression of having grown up with money. There was so much he didn’t know about her and while that frustrated him, it also intrigued him. He liked a good mystery. Still, he could tell this was her house. It was all her. Every piece of furniture, every painting, table, vase, coffee mug; one way or another, it all resembled her.
He was distinctly aware of the arrogant blonde smirking beside him, obviously enjoying his momentary awe. He paid her no heed. She could smirk all she wanted – for now at least. Small and barely noticeable, a roguish grin spread across his face, disappearing moments later as though it was never there. Some things would never change. In life there will always be those defining moments, the ones where you find out exactly who you are or who you could have been. People change. They are constantly growing, thinking and learning from their mistakes while making new ones. It is an undeniable fact that the world is constantly changing, as are the people in it. There is, however, always an exception. The prankster would never die. It didn’t matter how many tortures he’d endured, or how much death and destruction he’d beared witness to. None of that mattered because the prankster, the little boy tying his brother’s shoelaces together, the teenager water bombing the professors at the end of graduation, that man, or at least that side of him, would never die. Life may have changed him but it certainly hadn’t stripped him of his humour.
Walking backwards, Sirius glanced around the room, moving until his back hit the kitchen’s island. Inconspicuously, he quietly removed his wand from the back pocket of his jeans, arching back with a yawn to hide the transfer. All it would take was a swish and flick. Shuffling to the side, he transferred the majority of his weight on the nearby wall, discreetly directing his wand toward the oblivious blonde. Swish and flick. That’s all it took. Simple and effective. Hiding the grin that threatened to destroy his well hidden laughter, Sirius casually walked over to the kitchen bench, grabbing an apple from the nearby fruit bowl. Carelessly, he rubbed the ripe fruit on his top, cleaning away its non-existent grime. Just as he was about to bite into the apple, his stomach growling in hunger, a door slammed, causing him to jump and the fruit to topple to the ground. Glaring mutinously, he bent down and snatched the red fruit from the ground, transferring his disdain to the archway as footsteps padded down the hallway in their direction. His disdain however, was short lived. The apple toppled from his hand, falling with an echoing thud. Harry.
-- 9:43AM --
She should have known how he’d react. Harry was never one to think rationally, at least not when a loved one was concerned. It wasn’t like there was any immediate danger like there had been during the war. They didn’t have to worry about him running off, risking life and limb in some harebrained scheme to save those he held dear. She loved and hated him for that. He would risk anything to save the ones he loved, even if it cost him his life. She hated the fear and overwhelming sense of hopelessness, like there was nothing she could do to help him, save him. She loved the loyalty and courage he had, but by god did she hate worrying about him, whether he was lying in a ditch, dead and cold, rotting in the darkness. Those had been the darkest days during the war – for her at least. She hadn’t been able to sleep, eat or even think straight. He was her best friend and he was all alone, facing god knows what just to save the life of someone he cared about. It was Harry’s emotions that drove him to such crazy feats, but she wouldn’t want him any other way because then, he wouldn’t be Harry. She could hardly blame him for reacting the way he did, she just hoped he’d have enough sense to avoid causing a scene. No one needed to know that Sirius Black was alive – at least not yet.
“Gin, do you think you could try and keep the others occupied long enough for me to get home and make sure everything’s okay?” she asked in a hushed whisper. If anyone would help her, it would be Ginny. The redhead had enough sense to understand that her husband’s disappearing act was just the beginning. If Harry was pushed too far – well, she didn’t know what he’d do. He was of a sound mind and wouldn’t do anything life threateningly dangerous, but that wasn’t exactly the point. Harry was an emotional person and while he may not share his feelings openly with the world and the majority of the people in it, there is only so much one person can take. Sirius Black was probably the breaking point.
“It shouldn’t be too hard,” Ginny replied lowly, a worried but thoughtful expression marring her delicate features.
They had separated from the rest of the group but Mrs Weasley’s voice seemed to carry down the corridor, shrill and demanding. She was silently thankful for not telling the elder redhead about Sirius. While Molly had the best of intentions, the older woman was usually overcome by emotion, something that nine times out of ten resulted in a public scene. The only people she’d trusted enough to keep this secret as quiet as possible was Harry and Ginny, the latter of the two she was counting on. If all went well, she’d be home in a couple of minutes and have enough time to prepare Sirius for the imminent onslaught of tears, exclamations of happiness and excessive hugging. Harry would already be there and because of that, she would keep her distance – for a while. They needed some time to themselves, to reunite without any interruptions or added pressure. They both deserved that much. Ginny would take care of the others, all she had to worry about was Harry and Sirius, not to mention a pissed off Miranda, but then, Miranda was Miranda. The blonde was always pissed off at something or rather.
“You’re a lifesaver,” she sighed, hugging the witch ferociously. Ginny always came through for her. Pulling back, Hermione’s smile turned into a frown, her brow furrowing as a complication crossed her mind. “Gin, where’s he going to stay?”
At first the redhead looked baffled before the dawning of realization hit her. “We have James,” sighed the younger witch, eyes remorseful. “Merlin knows Harry will want him to stay with us and normally that wouldn’t bother me, but with this little one on the way and James to deal with, I don’t think I could handle it,”
“He can’t stay with Molly,” Hermione said, her voice adamant.
“Merlin no! Mum has the best of intentions but she would drive him mad,” glancing down the corridor, Ginny fiddled with the hem of her blouse nervously. It was obvious the redhead didn’t like their current situation, but there was nothing they could do. They had to figure this out before Molly became aware of how much they knew. Molly meant well, but at times the older woman could be unbelievably overbearing. They both knew how Sirius and the Weasley matriarch had clashed in the past, their polar opposite personalities made sure of that. They had to try and work this out, find a solution that would suit all of them – and fast. “Can he stay with you?” Ginny blurted out, eyes wide and pleading. “It’d be perfect. Mum wouldn’t dare try to contradict you if you said it was because of your responsibilities as a healer,”
“Molly isn’t stupid,” reasoned Hermione, slightly dazed at the redhead’s suggestion. She was surprised she hadn’t thought of it herself, after all, she had more than enough room. There was, however, a complication. There always was.
“Hermione,” whined the younger witch, stamping her foot impatiently. “It’s perfect. You have plenty of room, more than enough. He’d be comfortable there and Harry could visit whenever he wanted,” the more Ginny said, the more it made sense. It was a perfect solution. Opening her mouth, she went to talk but was stopped. “Hermione, please,” begging, Ginny stared imploringly, eyes desperately seeking her friend’s answer.
Sighing, Hermione ran a hand through her hair, glancing down the corridor. “You’re forgetting one thing,” she said, voice low and exasperated. When the redhead gave no response, a blank look on her face, Hermione couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “Ron,” she yelled exasperatedly.
“Oh,” small and nearly inaudible, the quiet exclamation escaped the witch’s mouth. “Well, sod him!” gaping, Hermione stared. “It’s your house and besides, he may be your fiancé and my idiot big brother, but he doesn’t live there. It’s up to you, not him. If he doesn’t like it, then he can go fu–,”
“I get the point,” Hermione grumbled, silencing her unabashed friend.
It was true, Ron didn’t live there, but that wasn’t exactly the point. He was her fiancé. If she agreed to this, then she would not only piss him off, but it would be like a slap in the face. They had lived together before, a long time ago, but things hadn’t exactly worked out all that well. It’d been three years since she’d moved out, and despite their still being together, she had refused to let him move in a second time. As selfish as it sounded, she didn’t want him there. It was her house, hers and hers alone. While it didn’t bother her in the slightest, Sirius moving in, even if it was only temporary, it would be about as deflating to Ron’s ego as loosing the Quidditch World Cup. If she was honest with herself, she wouldn’t mind the company; the house was fairly large after all. What would she say to Ron? He’d been trying to convince her to let him move in for the past two years, but she always politely refused. He would be beyond angry, but what could she do? This seemed to be the only solution.
“Okay,” she said quietly, looking down at her muggle wristwatch. “I’ll do it, but right now, I have to get home. Try to give me as much time as possible. If all goes well, bring them by in about twenty minutes,” sighing, Hermione hugged the pregnant witch, inwardly anxious. She didn’t need another fight with Ron, but it seemed that would be inevitable.
Silence. That’s what she had been greeted with. Pure, unbroken silence. Admittedly, she hadn’t ventured farther than the front door, so it was impossible to tell what was going on, but that was hardly the point. There were no voices. That in itself was the root of all her worries. Harry was here. Sirius was here. So why weren’t there any voices? Why weren’t they talking? Had something happened? Was Harry okay? Sirius? Something wasn’t right. Maybe she was reading into it too much. They could have gone outside, but then, they had to have been stupid to even think about going out in this weather, especially to talk. She was just being paranoid, they were probably fine. She would be the first to admit that she overanalysed things. She thought of every possible scenario, imaging what could happen. She always planned for the worst. During the war, she had backup plans for nearly everything. It was like her safety net, knowing what she would do if the worst did happen. Ron thought it was her inability to live spontaneously, but she saw it as preparation. She was perfectionist and as such, there was a level of control she could live with, and a level she could not. She liked to be in control. Ron had often called her a control freak, but so what if she was? Why place your life in the hands of someone else? She didn’t believe in destiny or fate. She believed in choices. There were right and wrong choices, but whichever you took, it would lead you down the path of life. If you chose wrong, there were always forks in the road where you had a chance to make things right, to redeem and learn from your mistakes. She believed that it was her choices, her decisions as a person that shaped her life, not pre-aligned fate.
“Miranda,” she called out warily, inching forward, her hand clasped securely around her wand.
“In here!” came the exasperated reply. Sighing in relief, Hermione walked down the hallway and followed the barely audible sounds of someone sobbing. It was so quiet. No wonder she hadn’t heard it before. Was it Harry?
Anxiously biting her lip, she slipped through the open archway, eyes immediately watering at what she saw. Sirius stood, leaning against the kitchen’s island for support as he comforted the younger wizard. He looked slightly uneasy but for the most, he looked determined. She could feel her own tears springing free. The scene, while morose, was beautiful. Harry had been through so much. When he’d lost Sirius, to him, it had been like loosing a father. Sirius had been the only father figure he’d known and to loose him – well, she couldn’t imagine what Harry had felt, but she could relate. Loosing her father had been devastating, but for Harry, it had been like loosing the only thing he’d had close to a family. He’d withdrawn into himself for months, but after a time, he’d come to accept his loss. Everything he had told himself, everything he had overcome in those months of grieving – she imagined it was like a never ending nightmare. Sirius was back and Harry was barely coping. That much was obvious. Lifting her hand, Hermione wiped away the stray tears that had fallen. The simple action, causing the barely composed man to look in her direction. She felt her breath catch in her throat. She didn’t know why, but she felt nervous. Sirius continued to stare, eyes piercing. It felt like he was looking into her soul, into her very core. A small smile appeared on his face, one of acceptance, appreciation and warmth. He was thanking her. Smiling back, albeit somewhat weakly, she turned her back, giving the man time to console her weeping friend. Right now, Harry needed his godfather.
She could hear a soft sigh escape the woman beside her. Miranda wasn’t as cold as she seemed, it was just a front to hide who she really was. Turning to address the woman, she stopped, eyes wide. “Miranda, why is your hair blue?”
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