“Sirius, wake up!” Juliette’s aggravated voice barely registered in Sirius’ sleep deprived brain.
“Honey, let him rest. He didn’t sleep well last night.”
“Intriguing,” a male voice chuckled from somewhere nearby, rousing Sirius from sleep immediately.
Raising himself in the bed, he let his hand run through his hair as his eyes tried to focus. Across the room, Hermione was clothed in his shirt from the wedding, shuffling around the room as she tried to put it in some semblance of order. A flare of jealousy rose, finding it unfair that Remus was allowed to see her like this but then he quickly brushed it away. This was no doubt Remus’ surprise visit and Sirius couldn’t very well fault his new wife for it. He’d just have to make sure to get her a robe to keep handy at the bedside from now on. His arm wrapped instinctively around Juliette, pulling her into his lap, as he narrowed his eyes at Remus. “It is the day after my nuptials, Remus. Why am I awaking to your face instead of my bride’s?”
“I brought your favorite coffee as a peace offering for the intrusion.” Remus tilted a take away cup at him enticingly.
“Not accepted,” he grumbled. “And if you say one sentence with the word Ministry in it I will personally throw you out on your arse.”
Remus’ smile faltered and Hermione turned quickly away. It didn’t matter – Sirius knew she was laughing by the way her shoulders trembled. He smiled to himself, enjoying that he knew her moves so well. Letting out an exhausted sigh, he raised an eyebrow to Juliette, knowing she wouldn’t deny him an explanation.
“Lucius Malfoy was caught,” she supplied. “He’s in cuss….cuss…cussdee.”
“C-u-s-t-o-d-y,” he repeated gently, knowing she took offense to the slightest hint of correction in her speech. Taking a few loose tendrils of her hair, he tucked them back into the loose ponytail at her crown and tightened the sunny yellow ribbon that was coming undone in her excitement.
“Isn’t that great news?” she bounced in his lap. “Remus came to celebrate with us!”
“Celebrate, hm?” Sirius frowned. He knew Remus well enough to know that an intrusion this early the day after his wedding was definitely not cause for celebration. He tilted his head for explanation but Remus remained placid, sipping his own coffee in silence. It was Hermione a pace behind, still not meeting his gaze, who touched her chest with a single finger. A tiny movement, so small no one but him would ever notice and his breath automatically caught in his throat.
Harry’s mark. No scar. The entwined rope scar above his heart that signified his acceptance as Harry’s godfather. Memories flooded through him, the ancient relics in the Black bedroom where he sat seeming to make the images that more real. He could see Harry as a baby, James standing proudly over him. He could envision Lily trying in vain to protect her son, wondering if death would be painful for them both.
“Sirius?” Juliette was worried now, unable to mask the concern in her voice. It was easy for Sirius to forget how perceptive she was at such a young age. He squeezed her shoulder in an attempt to reassure her. She wasn’t going to buy it. She could feel the tremble in his muscles and when she sent him a reprimanding glare, he scooted her off his lap to make her stand beside the bed.
“What say you at least give the newly married time to get dressed?”
“He’s kicking us out,” Juliette said, folding her arms across her chest and sending Remus a withered look.
“Yes, he is,” Remus nodded. “Come, Bill is still downstairs. Let’s go keep him company, shall we?”
Sirius didn’t bother to move as they left, remaining stone-like in the bed as the door clicked behind them and Hermione sank down beside him. Her fingers slid over his arm to comfort but he jerked away. “Don’t coddle me like a child.”
“No, I-“ she trailed off. Like always, he was right about her actions. She wanted to temper the storm before it came. It was hard for her to remember but Sirius liked the storm. He was drawn to it, as if without some dilemma to solve he wasn’t really alive. But she also knew this was a storm he wouldn’t want to be near.
“Just stop the mental analysis and tell me, Hermione. What is Lucius saying about Harry?”
“He’s not. He refuses to talk to anyone but you. That’s why Bill is here – official ministry business. Remus is along to try and get you to cooperate.”
“And Harry?” he prodded. He knew he had not mistaken her signal, there was just something she wasn’t wanting to tell him. It was times like this he wondered why he married her. She could infuriate him more than anyone on the planet.
But this time he paid more attention when she reached out to touch him. This time, she was the Hermione he knew – the needy one, the one who relied on him to be her strength, the one who trusted him and no one else- and it was her hand that was now trembling. Wordlessly, he pulled her to lie on his chest, listening attentively as her heartbeat slowly returned to normal in his arms. He married her for a lot of reasons but this was by far the biggest – she needed him. Like no one had every needed him before. Slipping his fingers to her chin, he tilted her to face him. As if looking in a mirror, betrayal infused every beautiful line of her face and it took him a moment to understand. He sighed heavily, letting his lips ghost across hers in the softest of good morning kisses. “You were right to love Harry, Hermione. How many times must I say it doesn’t bother me?”
A lie. A tiny one but still a lie. Of course it bothered him. He was now married to a woman who had shared his godson’s bed. In any era that would affect a man. She was his. His soul mate. Had he never disappeared into the veil, he had no doubt that they somehow would have found their way together. But he had left, just like he’d left Lily and now he was going to spend the rest of his life trying to rectify the results of his absence. A flash of dead bodies – Lily, James, Harry- went through his mind. Not a memory but a make-believe vision that his own head had created to fill in the blanks. But it still had the intended effect. He understood Hermione’s mood.
“Lucius has details of Harry’s death.” It was a statement not a question but she nodded anyway. He tried to fight the anger he felt rising within him. “And you want me to talk to him.”
Hearing the edge in his voice, she sat up to face him. “I need-“
“You don’t need to hear anything,” he grumbled, sliding away from her and out of the bed so he could get dressed. “You’ve allowed Remus to convince you that knowing the truth will help you move on.”
“Well-“ her head dropped, her hands twisting tightly in the covers to hide the shaking. It was true. Remus had come to her not an hour ago and they’d sat quietly in the corner of the bedroom, watching Sirius toss and turn while discussing Lucius’ capture.
“You have moved on! You’re lying in my bed as we speak. Besides, why the hell would you ever believe Lucius Malfoy would tell you the truth about anything? He doesn’t do anything to help someone. You, of all people, should know that!”
“I do know that. I do. But, Sirius, understand this has haunted me for years. For a decade I thought I was responsible for his death. I stopped doing magic because of it –“
“I don’t need the trip down memory lane. I know all this,” he spat.
Hermione raised her eyes to him, confused at his raging anger. Yes, they were known for their fights but she’d never seen him raise to this level of fury in such a short time frame. Only when he was cornered did he ever act so irrational. She frowned with sudden understanding. She was cornering him. As if his torment on their wedding night hadn’t been bad enough, now he was reliving Harry’s death before the sun even rose. Trying a different tactic, she softened, wishing she’d been able to talk to him alone rather than having him wake up to a surprise party in his own bedroom.
“I know the last thing you want is to sit in a room with Malfoy and listen to the details of Harry’s death.”
“Do you?” he seethed, yanking on his jacket and refusing to look at her.
“If I could do it myself, I would. I would have struck him down myself years ago if given the opportunity. But he won’t see me. I’m too far beneath him to have my presence even be considered.”
“You can’t reason with me on this. Sitting in a room with Malfoy while he describes in detail the vivid horrors of my godson’s death is not something he is likely to survive.” Sirius was to the door, his hand already wrapped around the doorknob when he heard her whispered, broken reply.
Of course she knew. How could he have been so blind? She knew the Ministry would never allow him to enter the interrogation chamber with a weapon. They would have it sealed against verbal and non-verbal magic. She’d spent years testifying after Voldemort’s death. She would know every safeguard they had. She knew Sirius would never be able to sit idly by while Lucius described Harry’s death. She not only knew he would strangle Lucius with his bare hands – she was depending on it.
She had watched Lucius kill her friends and family with a single wave of his wand. It wasn’t vindictive anger or blinding hatred…to her, this was justice. She was too kind hearted to want someone dead for the mere sake of revenge. No. She wanted to feel safe, to know Malfoy would not be able to tear apart her family again. But he couldn’t balance what she was telling him with who he knew she was. Rather than look at her, he dropped his head for a split second.
“I can’t control myself around him, Hermione. Lord knows I’ve tried since I was a teenager. But he’s a Malfoy. I’m a Black. You want the truth but is his death a price you are willing to pay?”
She wanted nothing more than to pull him into her arms and make him understand how traumatic this was for her but she knew better than to move toward him. He was back in his childhood, back in the mentality of being a Black – a man being asked to do something no matter what the cost to others. Tears trembled on her lashes but she sat straighter, unwilling to let him make her sound like a heartless murderer. “I don’t want him dead. Punished, yes. He deserves to rot in Azkaban for his actions. But I do want the truth and you have the ability to provide it.”
“You’ll never forgive yourself,” he whispered.
She hesitated but only for a moment. Long enough for him to know she had been considering this for years, never expecting an opportunity for truth and justice to ever arrive. “I don’t have to. I only have to forgive you. And I’ve already done that.”
He could feel the knife staking through his heart. She forgave him for leaving. She forgave him for killing Bella. She forgave him for Draco. She forgave him for who he was, where he came from, for everything that no one else in the world would ever forgive him for. She didn’t want Lucius killed but she wouldn’t hold it against Sirius if it happened. Her love was an unconditional gift. And, in repayment, she asked only for one thing: the truth.
Seemingly cold and heartless, perhaps but not unreasonable. Certainly nothing he hadn’t heard before in his years as a Black. Rather mundane after the things he’d heard and done, actually. He wondered vaguely if this is who she believed him to be – the murderer he had been named as for so many years- but then shoved the idea to the back of his mind. Hadn’t she herself witnessed him trying to kill Peter in cold blood when she was only a mere child? He was willing to kill in front of a bunch of school kids but wouldn’t kill the man who had the answers of Harry’s death? It wasn’t wrong of her to ask…it was wrong of him to think Lucius deserved anything else but the fate that was coming to him.
“Sirius?” Remus’ voice was soft as he pulled the door open, hesitating when he saw Sirius’ already fully dressed. His eyes darkened quickly, taking in the situation with a perception that drove Sirius mad. He wanted Sirius to talk to Lucius. Remus believed he could control the situation…that both Lucius and Sirius would come out unscathed. It was as obvious as the five o’clock shadow on his cheeks that told Sirius Remus had not been home in over a day.
“Take me to the ministry.”
“Sirius, wait a minute, let’s-“ Remus had caught the dangerous tone in his voice. He knew it well enough to know Sirius was going to fight rather than accommodate some Ministry request.
“That’s what you came here for, isn’t it?”
“Sirius?” Hermione’s soft voice interrupted, making them both turn her direction. “I love you.”
He nodded once, knowing it was true but having no desire to hear it right now. He didn’t deserve love, especially not from someone as good as her. He let his stormy grey eyes settle on hers, meaning to both reprimand her and offer her a tendril of forgiveness for her behavior at the same time.
“Mrs. Hermione Black,” he whispered, “odd, isn’t it? I never expected the name to suit you quite so well. Welcome to the family.”
Author’s Note: Well, it only took a year and a half to get me to write fanfic again! That should be like a site record or something. I want to thank staffers AndrinaBlack, Arthimany Wiz, Lovly Rita (who gets credit for the fabulous summary!) and LisaMackay for staying up in the wee hours of the morning holding my hand as I tried to pluck up the courage to write and then post this thing. Also thanks to members tell_me_what_the_truth_is and Violet_Gryfindor who have been nothing but the kindest of cheerleaders as I battled whether or not to try and enter the fanfic world again. Thank you all!