Chapter 8 : Start of Something New
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Author’s Note: Life has been really hectic lately and I’m finding it harder to find time to write but don’t worry, I always find time – somehow. I’m also working on another story which isn’t Sirius/Hermione, so I’m trying to find a way to transition myself from one story to the other without losing my focus. I’ve also got another story worming its way into my brain, which is technically a big problem, but we’ll see what happens later on.
And without further ado, the chapter!
.: Chapter Eight – Start of Something New :.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
It had been one month, one unbelievably cruel month. So much had happened in such a short amount of time that it became incomprehensible to think of her life being any other way. It was like a strange dream, abstracted from the panes of normality. Her life had changed so dramatically since that day and the change, as hard as it had been to imagine at the time, was for the better. It still hurt like hell; the burning pain of that day haunting her dreams, served as a constant reminder of what she had lost and what she had gained. Her bones ached and her heart still bled for the idiot that had crushed it, but the pain was slowly beginning to wane. It was the first time in years that she felt like her old self, felt like the old Hermione, the exuberant and ambitious bushy haired know-it-all that had enough courage to step out on her own and take the world on head first. She still had her insecurities, the persistent need to project a false sense of unwavering confidence being one of them. She had always felt as though her best was never good enough, partly because of her heritage. That wasn’t to say she wasn’t proud of her heritage, because she was, it was more or less the fear of not being good enough that got to her.
The day her Hogwarts letter came had been one of the best and most terrifying experiences of her life. She had never entertained the notion of magic, nor the idea of there being a whole new world hidden away in broad daylight, but when a stern looking woman arrived on her doorstep claiming she was a witch, that notion was swiftly swept under the carpet. Ever since that day she had felt the insatiable need to learn everything she could about the magical world, knowing that she wouldn’t stand a chance if she knew little to nothing. She was terrified of being substandard in a world she knew nothing about and that insecurity, to some degree, had carried on throughout her Hogwarts years and stayed with her even now. Sure she put the brave face on, squaring her shoulders and holding her head high whenever those pitying eyes glanced her way, but inside, she felt like a lost little girl trying to find her way home.
Ron had broken her heart, crushed it in one of the cruelest ways, but in the end, if she was truly honest with herself, it had probably been the best thing for her. She would have fought for their relationship, grasping at straws wherever she could; days would have turned into weeks, and weeks into months. In the end, she would have talked herself into marrying him, knowing deep down that it was doomed for failure. She had loved him so ardently at the beginning, that maybe the reason she fought as hard as she did, the reason she held on for so long, was because she was afraid of losing that. They had been together for so long and she had been terrified of having to start over. She had spent eight years of her life with him. What if it took another eight to find someone else? In hindsight, she knew that the relationship wouldn’t have gone anywhere, but that didn’t ease any of the pain, if anything it added to it.
She had wasted eight years of her life fighting for a lost dream, and now after everything that had happened, she was damned if she wasted the years she had left. After initially getting over the shock, instead of apparating home like she had intended to, Hermione had gone to work. It was often said that a person shouldn’t make any rash, or life altering decisions when they were experiencing depression or an emotional crisis, and normally Hermione would have taken heed to that little bit of advice, but at the time, she hadn’t. It could easily be argued that she hadn’t been thinking straight and that her judgment had been skewed somewhat due to an onslaught of emotions, but to her, she hadn’t been thinking more clearly in her life. She had wasted so much of her life living up to the expectations of others that she had forgotten to live for herself at times. That wasn’t to say her life had been miserable up until now, because it hadn’t been. It had just been good where it could have been great.
She had quit her job at St Mungos that day, ignoring her fellow healers pleas for her to reconsider. Why stay in a job where she felt no satisfaction? Why stay when all it did was put her in a foul mood? It was true that the job did have its rewards, the pay and being able to save lives on a daily basis, being only two of them. But the cons far outweighed the pros when she examined it in relation to her life. She felt no guilt or failure at handing in her resignation, only the promise of something new. Sirius’ words had played on her mind, reinforcing her decision and making it more resolute. Now she was in uncharted waters and anything could happen.
Coughing uncontrollably, a thick haze of dust caught in her throat, Hermione tried to sidestep her way past the debris without tripping over. Shortly after quitting her job, the reality of being unemployed hit her hard and for the second time that day, she had acted on impulse. The Poisoned Pen Bookstore was a small but reasonably well sized shop in the centre of Hogsmead, and had been up for sale for the better part of a year. Despite being a rundown and haggard looking place, Hermione had seen its potential and pounced on the opportunity to buy it. And now she was here, trapped in what looked like a war zone, while the builders tore through yet another wall. It was easy enough to redecorate and redesign the shop to suit her tastes, but when it came to extending the shop, the ministry had insisted that trained builders specializing in fortifying and renewing old structures, be there. It had something to do with the structure’s magical stability and safety regulations, so she didn’t argue too much, it just made opening sooner rather than later a whole lot harder. Her ideal open date would be before Christmas, but the fact that Christmas was only thirteen days away, made that near impossible.
She’d contacted Minerva McGonagall, Hogwarts Headmistress, to ask when the students had their next Hogsmead trip, and had been mortified to find out that it was in three days time. Her plan had been to open on that day for obvious reasons, but sometimes things don’t go the way they’re planned to. Sirius still believed it could be done, providing the builders finished up today. All the books and the furniture had arrived, it was simply a matter of redecorating and stocking the shop. So she was here, observing with a mild anxiety as the builders moved about the store. Everything looked in order, if you didn’t count the odd piles of rubble here and there; she just hoped to god that they finished today.
“Excuse me?” a portly looking man made his way toward her, a role of black parchment in his hand.
“Yes?” she answered a little apprehensively, eyeing the man with interest. She could have sworn she’d seen him from somewhere before but she just couldn’t put a name to the face.
“You the owner?” he asked, mouth set in a grim line. She nodded warily; this couldn’t be good. “Sign here,” the abruptness of his voice made her eyes narrow instinctively. She was sure she’d seen him before.
“And what exactly am I signing Mr – I’m sorry but I didn’t catch your name?” she challenged, brown eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“Parkinson, Gerald Parkinson,” he sneered, seemingly impressed with himself at her shocked expression. “And you’re signing my behavioral slip,” he snapped, thrusting the small piece of parchment in her hand impatiently.
She tried not to look too affronted by the rude tone of his voice, but found it was hard not to. At first she was confused; why would a Parkinson be working on a construction site? But as the wheels of her mind clicked into place, it made perfect sense. After the war, the ministry had been hard pressed by the public to catch and convict known Death Eaters, as well as implicating certain families that were suspected of dark dealings during the war. It had been hard at first to accumulate enough evidence against certain individuals to warrant an investigation, but as time passed, people began to slip up. Certain crimes warranted certain punishments, but the majority of people hadn’t been sent to Azkaban due to a lack of evidence. Gerald Parkinson, Fernaco Nott and Edric Zabini were just a few of many, who had somehow managed to escape a prison sentence despite being found guilty by the Wizengamot of war crimes. As a result the ministry had been forced to take action where the law had failed. It was decided that for the individuals to be allowed back into society, they had to be stripped of any privileges they may have had, their money for example. After a period of ten years, if the persons in question had deemed themselves trustworthy and able to hold a steady, honest job, then their money and estates would be returned to them. To say that the act was controversial would have been a bit of an understatement, but then it had succeeded where the law had not.
“And why pray tell, am I signing your behavioral slip Mr Parkinson?” she asked in a clipped tone, scanning the numerous columns and subcategories penned on the parchment. She knew it had something to do with his being able prove that he could successfully blend into society and work a steady job, but she decided not to make it easy for him, he had after all, been incredibly rude beforehand.
“Well,” he ground out, obviously trying to bite off whatever derogatory comment that was on the tip of his tongue. “I gather you know of my situation Miss –?”
“Granger,” she replied pleasantly, a sickly sweet smile plastered on her face. “Hermione Granger,” she felt like adding war hero, Harry Potter’s best friend and your bloody worst nightmare, but stopped herself just in time. Gerald Parkinson was a Death Eater, she had no doubt about that, but it had been impossible to convict him after the Dark Lord’s fall; the Dark Mark had been enchanted somehow, so when he fell, it disappeared with him.
“Granger?” his voice quavered a little, but he remained emotionless. She could see his mind working over time, trying to find a way to get her to sign his slip and get away unscathed, obviously at the foremost of his thoughts. “Well, how, pleasant,” he looked like he wanted to gag.
“Indeed, so tell me what I have to sign, but more importantly tell me why I should sign?” she couldn’t stop the smirk from spreading across her lips as she noticed the pearly beads of sweat forming on his brow. He was nervous, and so he should be.
“The slip is from the ministry as well you know,” he snapped, wincing seconds later at the outburst. She almost laughed; he had to be nice to her. “And as such, you need to sign off, being an employer of my services, that I have completed my job to a satisfactory standard,” he paused, seemingly contemplating his next words. “And to say that I have conducted myself in a civilized and respectable manner appropriate to society.”
“Ah,” the smirk on her face grew at his words. She knew she shouldn’t be tormenting him like she was, but the fact remained that the man had been a Death Eater, or at the very least an associate of one. He wouldn’t get off easy. “Well, Mr Parkinson, I have only one question that I wish to ask you, though it is of no relation to your slip,” she said, waving the black piece of parchment in the air for emphasis. “I would like to know when you and your colleagues estimate finishing this job?” there was no harm in asking; hopefully the answer would prove to her liking.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” he snapped, his beady eyes flashing in anger.
“I am the owner, Mr Parkinson, of this shop and I think it is my right to know when I may be able to in fact, open it,” the builders were doing their job, following ministry jurisdiction and she was in no way complaining about their capability to do the job, but the fact remained, that this man, was grating on her last nerve. Just as she was about to open her mouth to continue, a silvery voice silenced her.
“Come now Granger, you make it sound as though Gerald isn’t doing his job. You are doing your job, aren’t you Gerald?” the silent threat in his words, were not lost on the man.
“Oh sod it, Malfoy! I can speak for myself,” she huffed, ignoring the lazy smirk on the blonde’s face. Time had been good to him, especially his looks.
“I know, sometimes I do find myself wondering if you will ever shut up,” he drawled, sidestepping a pile of wood as he made his way toward her. She could see the slight sneer of disgust on his face as he maneuvered past a large pile of dust that had risen from the floor. “But I’ve long given up on that dream, now do sign whatever it is you have to sign, I don’t have all day,” he intoned haughtily, brushing invisible specks of dust off his robes.
“Good, then by all means run along,” she snapped, shooing him away with her hands.
“Ah, but then my little visit would have been for naught,” he smirked, glancing casually at Gerald Parkinson whose mouth stood agape. “And to think I had to put up with Miranda’s whining for a whole day, just to come here, be attacked by dust and have you yell at me. My, my, my – didn’t your parents ever teach you any manners?” he tsked, eyes dancing with challenge.
“I’m sure you’ll survive Malfoy,” rolling her eyes, she summoned a quill and deftly scribbled her name and ticked what boxes she thought appropriate on the black parchment, before chucking it back at the elder Parkinson. “Now what did you say about Miranda?”
The predatory smirk on his face suddenly made her regret signing the papers. “You did something I said,” he intoned casually, the smirk turning into a grin. “Well, I’ll be damned I –”
“Oh shut up, will you? I didn’t sign it because you told me to, believe it or not, but I actually have somewhere to be right now,” she snapped, eyes bristled with anger.
“Whatever you say Granger, one of these days you’ll admit that you can’t resist me,” he smirked, eyes inspecting the invisible dirt beneath his nails nonchalantly.
“Oh please!” throwing her hands up in the air in exasperation, she couldn’t help but roll her eyes at his irritating smirk. “I’d have to be desperate to even consider dating you,” she huffed, ignoring the arrogant twinkle in his eyes.
“You wound me,” he cried in mock pain, a hand carefully placed over his heart as he dramatically fell backwards.
“What do you want Malfoy?” she laughed, shaking her head despite herself, at his antics.
“Here,” straightening up, he handed her a green envelope. “Miranda insisted that you be invited to our Christmas party this year, to annoy me no doubt, but she said that you probably wouldn’t be going to the Burrow,” the word dripped with distaste. “Due to the circumstances, so it would be rude not to invite you,” he finished in a lazy drawl.
“And you’re giving this to me why?” she arched an eyebrow, curious.
She watched in amusement as the color, or rather what little there was, drained from his face. “I don’t like you or anything Granger,” he snapped. “I simply hate Weaslebee a whole lot more,” straightening his robes haughtily, nose thrust up in the air with indignation, she watched as he made his way to the door. It was hard not to laugh. Here was Draco Malfoy, spoilt pureblood and cunning Slytherin, running away because the question was too much for him. It shouldn’t have surprised her, it was the Slytherin way after all, but the fact that it was such a simple question, made the scene all the more hilarious, not to mention ridiculous. “Oh, and Granger,” he turned around. “Do try and look presentable, I know it’s hard but I do have a reputation to uphold,”
“Why you little –”
“Like the new do Granger,” smirking triumphantly, Draco tilted his head by means of a goodbye. “It makes that beehive you call hair make you look less, well, like a banshee for lack of a better word,” before she could react, with a half turn, he was gone.
“Sirius!” flinging the front door open, its hinges protesting against the sudden attack, Hermione all but ran into hallway, her muddy shoes sliding against the wooden floorboards dangerously.
Normally she would have scowled and berated anyone who dared step into her house with their feet so muddy, but she was far too distracted to care at her own hypocrisy at the moment. She’d just come back from the shop, which had thankfully been vacated of all builders. It had taken a while, but she had finally found the answer she was looking for and was thrilled to discover that her ideal opening date wasn’t as impossible as she had originally thought. Gerald Parkinson had begrudgingly accepted defeat after she had pestered him for the better part of an hour, after Malfoy’s impromptu visit. The man had seemed mortified at the thought of her attending the Malfoy’s annual Christmas Ball, so rather than asking the site manager, she had decided to pester the man for an answer instead. In some ways it was the immature and illogical route, but a little bit of pay back never hurt anyone.
“Sirius, for the love of Merlin, where are you?!” she cried, skidding past the open archway on her right as she ran into the main living area.
Scanning the area frantically, her damp hair whipped about, its short strands stinging as they collided with the side of her face. It hadn’t taken much persuasion from the hairdresser to cut the long tresses all off, especially since she had only ever had it that long because Ron had liked it that way. With her curls, the long bob her mother and hairdresser had convinced her into choosing, had effectively shrank, turning her once bushy mess of hair, into loose ringlets that fell just bellow her chin. Her hair was still a bushel curls, untamed and wild, but it looked slightly less chaotic.
“Siri–” she began, starting up the stairs.
“What?” came the muffled reply from below. Turning around, she slowly made her way back toward the archway, more calmly than before. “What you screaming about now?” his voice sounded, disgruntled with what she guessed was disturbed sleep.
She had to suppress a laugh as she entered the lounge room which branched off from the hallway. He had obviously been sleeping on the couch, head buried under a mass of light blue couch cushions as his legs were strewn at odd angles in an effort to keep from falling. Looking somewhat dazed yet peeved at the same time, he half glared at her through sleep ridden eyes, chucking a cushion at her for good measure.
“What, did I wake you?” she asked innocently, smiling despite herself.
“What do you think?” he snapped, standing up to stretch his muscles, his shirt lifting as he arched back with a yawn.
“Sorry to disturbed your nap, old man,” she laughed, teasingly. “But I’ve got some great news about the shop,” pushing the few stray strands of hair that was still plastered to her face, she smiled brilliantly. “They finished this afternoon and said that the shop could be opened in a couple of days,”
“So that means we’ve only got –” Sirius started, eyes suddenly alert.
“Two full days and tonight to make it ready for opening day,” she finished, nodding her head in emphasis.
“Well what are we waiting for?” he asked, suddenly jumping at the chance to do something worthwhile.
Even though Sirius had been back for almost six weeks now, Hermione couldn’t help but get the feeling that he felt somewhat useless. He’d gotten over that initial stage where everything was wondrous and exciting because he was finally a free man, but now he seemed, for lack of a better word, bored. She knew that pestering him would get her nowhere, but she really believed that he needed to get a job. Now that he was a free man, he could start moving on with his life and maybe make something of the years he had left. She wasn’t a fool to think that he would want to live with her forever, so it made sense for him to start saving for his own place considering the majority of the Black family fortune had been donated to the war orphans fund, by Harry and Ginny a couple of years back. She loved the company he provided and the fact that they were the most unlikely of roommates made it all the more enjoyable. He complimented her and vice versa; where she was serious, he was flippant and where he was ignorant, she was informed. They made an unlikely duo, but it worked.
“Nothing,” she laughed. “Except first we need paint, and then we need food so we have enough energy to paint, but other than that, I can’t think of anything,” he really did make mundane things seem invigorating just by the twinkle he got in his eyes.
“Minor setbacks,” he shrugged them off nonchalantly, grey eyes alight in excitement.
“Well then, Mr Black, what are we waiting for?” she laughed, grabbing his hand and dragging him outside into the pouring rain.
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