Hermione had never been so nervous. Sirius promised her that after all was said and done, the Order would be back and the twins’ birthday celebration could double as the day in history that Lord Voldemort was defeated. Hermione wasn’t so sure. The entire time line was corroded and changed. What if they missed something? What if he couldn’t be stopped in this time no matter what they did?
As she got the twins ready to floo over to Lily’s house, Hermione spoke to them in quiet tones. She knew that they couldn’t understand her and that was probably what allowed her to be so blunt with them. She told them how stupid she felt, meddling with time and forgoing fate for her selfishness. Sirius could never understand and one day, she was sure that they wouldn’t understand either. In fact, Hermione was almost sure that by the time the war against Voldemort was over, a new and improved ban on Time Travel would be created under the careful eye of Albus Dumbledore.
“Those aren’t exactly the type of bedtime stories that the children should be hearing.” Sirius sounded neither upset nor put out by what she had told the children. “I’d choose to tell them about unicorns and leprechauns.”
“Leprechauns are foul,” Hermione muttered, stiff in the shoulders as she turned around to face Sirius. She was sure that her nerves were displayed quite clearly on her face. “Besides, at least I’m telling them the truth and not some silly fantasy.”
“I happen to think that I’m very fantasy worthy.” The smirk on his face didn’t quite reach his eyes. He rushed over to her and took her hands in his. “You’re shaking, love.”
“Prince charming is rushing off to slaughter the wicked witch and I’m going to be stuck in a house, decorating cake.” She couldn’t keep the annoyance out of her voice. There were too many emotions to keep in check – irritation at Sirius’s lackadaisical view on the entire Voldemort situation was not something that Hermione was prepared to tolerate.
“We all know that you’re capable,” Sirius started soothingly, rubbing his thumbs in circles on her skin. “But if things go wrong, I don’t want to leave Harry and Violet without their parents. You can appreciate that, can’t you?”
She thought about what it would mean for both her and Sirius to die that night. Harry would be an orphan, like fate had always planned. But, Violet… what would become of their daughter? Would she have a place in Harry’s world? Could she consider putting the weight of the survival of the Wizarding world on Harry’s shoulders?
Could she really see this night as the end of her life?
“We’re changing the future, Hermione. I won’t let it be what it was for you. In the end, it will be you, me and our six kids-”
“Six?” Hermione’s voice squeaked and she ripped her hands out of his.
“Successful practicing.” Sirius’s smile was radiant – it was a genuine grin. Hermione shook her head. How could he be so blasé about this? “I promise that everything will be okay.”
“You can’t promise that, Sirius.” Hermione turned away from him and struggled while trying to put a sock on Harry’s tiny foot. “We have no idea what will happen.”
“And that bothers you because you used to know everything.” Sirius was beside her, sliding Violet into her pink tights. “Now you’re like everyone else – not knowing what will happen tonight or tomorrow or ten years from now.”
“I know what could happen, Sirius, and that’s bad enough.” Hermione shoved a white shoe on to Harry’s foot and turned her body to face Sirius. She felt like a child as she stared up at him. When did he become the logical, mature one in their relationship? “I don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone. Not to you or James or Lily or Harry or Violet.”
“Things happen,” Sirius answered her, not taking his eyes off of their daughter. “I can’t not be a part of this fight, Hermione. I’m doing it to keep you and our family safe. You can’t begrudge me that.”
“Want to bet on it?” Her voice was low and steady as she picked Harry up from the crib. “You better come back to me tonight, Sirius. Otherwise, I’m going to turn you into an inferi and kill you all over again.”
“That’s my girl!” Sirius practically chorused as he lifted Violet from her crib.
The couple walked together toward the fireplace and one after the other, called out Lily’s address.
Twelve members of the Order of the Phoenix stood in Lily’s front room. Each of them were completely covered in dark earth tones, which gave Hermione the impression that they were going to find Voldemort in an open area or forest. Gideon Prewett waved at Hermione with a toothy grin on his face and she returned his pleasantry, though by no means as excited as he seemed to be.
Sirius wrapped his hands around Hermione’s waist and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I promise that I’m going to return to you, Hermione. I won’t let that bastard take me down.”
“Don’t be a liar,” she begged him breathlessly in his ear. “And take care of James and Remus, please.”
They shared a deeper kiss, one that didn’t quite say goodbye, but didn’t leave any question of their feelings left behind either. His fingers dragged along her stomach as he walked away from her to join the assembled Order. She tried desperately not to cry. It wouldn’t be the same after tonight –everything would change one way or another. The only thing left to know was how.
James suddenly appeared at Sirius’s side. Though Hermione’s blurry eyes, she could see sadness etched into his features. His heart didn’t seem to be with the fight. His eyes were glued on Lily and Ruby and then moved slowly to Harry and finally to Hermione’s face. If her eyes hadn’t been filled with tears of worry, Hermione would have sworn that she saw his lips tremble. She cast the thought away.
“If there is an emergency, we will be in contact. Our secret keeper is the only person to know the location to which we will be travelling tonight and that person has been instructed not to speak the words unless midnight strikes and none return.” Albus’s deep voice bellowed through the room.
Hermione knew that she wasn’t the secret keeper, so she had to wonder who it was. She and Lily exchanged a short glance and both shrugged – obviously it would be a person who was attending the birthday party, but there were only a handful of Order Wives and children that had arrived. It was relieving that someone somewhere would let them know if something went wrong, though. She had to be thankful for that.
“Have the lager flowing when we get back,” Sirius beckoned to the group of women standing in front of him. A merry chorus of ‘oi, oi’ followed his words.
“On my count, then,” Albus instructed, his hand rising into the air.
Hermione’s eyes were glued to Sirius. He had that stupid, devil-may-care smile on his face. She wanted to punch him and cling to him at the same time.
“Three.” Hermione’s heart galumphed. “Two.” Sirius blew her a kiss, which would have been cute if the smarmy smirk on his face was absent. “One.”
As they disappeared, Hermione started to run forward. She had lost control of herself. She wanted him to stop. Lily’s hand was on her shoulder while she stared at the space that Sirius had been standing. There was a sour, sick feeling in her stomach threatening to boil over onto Lily’s clean, beige floors.
It didn’t feel right. None of it did anymore.
There were at least thirty guests at the birthday party by the time that nine o’clock rolled around. Hermione’s eyes nervously watched the clock above Lily’s fireplace. Every second that ticked by constricted her heart even more. There was still no word from anyone at the Order – good nor bad. Hermione could feel how clammy she was getting, her hands still shaking and her stomach rumbling because she was refusing food.
Lily approached quietly, her voice timid and consoling. “I’m sure they’re fine, Hermione. I think that if Voldemort wins, we’ll know straight away.”
“We would know straight away if the Order wins, Lily,” Hermione countered shortly, eyes snapping to look at Lily. “The point is that we just don’t know anything.”
“But there’s nothing we can do. It’s not like we can go hunt them down and tell them off for not being in contact with us.” Lily’s sarcasm did little to ease the tension.
“I’m tempted,” Hermione huffed and jumped from her seat.
She needed to clear her head. Fresh air. Making her way out of Lily’s flat was difficult; people insisted on stopping her to talk about the twins or Sirius or what her plans were for her career, or whatever it was that normal people wanted to talk about while there was a war going on around them. Somehow, she managed to push through them and burst out into the hallway of Lily’s building.
It was eerily quiet. None of the other neighbors were making as much noise as Lily’s flat was and she wondered if there were any protection spells put up to keep the Muggles from hearing the chattering about wizards and Voldemort and everything that went along with it. She had to believe that Lily wasn’t that absent minded and instantly regretted doubting her friend.
The stairs creaked under each step she took down to the first floor. She tried to step lightly, but it didn’t matter. Any amount of weight seemed to irritate the wood. Funnily enough, she never realized how little Lily had until now.
Cold, bitter air struck her immediately when she stepped out of the door and into the night. She glanced up at the stars in the sky and stared at the little dots that never really held any meaning to her. Hermione wanted to believe that there was something – anything – out there that would hear her prayers. Over and over in her head, she begged for Sirius and the rest of the Order safe.
Hugging her own body close, she closed her eyes and let the mantra continue. Just bring them home alive, she pleaded.
A scream broke her line of prayers. She spun around quickly and withdrew her wand. Another scream caused her to run faster. Another made her heart slam even faster in her chest. Grabbing the handle on Lily’s door, Hermione thrust it open and was horror struck by what she found inside.
Lily was on the ground, blood coming from her head. A dozen others were lying unconscious on the floor around her. Smoke from spell work filled the room. Sirens were blaring in the distance. Whoever had attacked at the party appeared to be gone. Hermione walked from room to room in search of the person responsible. Logically, she knew that it couldn’t have been just one wizard, and the thought terrified her.
The children. Hermione nearly collapsed at the thought. The final room for her to check was where the children had been put to sleep. Part of her didn’t even want to open the door. Taking a deep breath, she gathered her wits and walked into the nursery.
Harry was standing up in the crib, a wide smile on his face. Relief flooded Hermione as she ran over to him. Violet and Ruby were asleep, safe and sound next to him.
“They’re dead.” A ragged voice, almost sounding as if the person was being suffocated, choked from the door of the nursery. “The Order was ambushed.”
Hermione spun around and saw Lily sliding down the wall with her hand pressed to her chest.
“Lily!” She ran forward, tears in her eyes, shaking from head to toe. “What happened? Lily! Wake up, Lily!”
Over and over, Hermione slapped Lily on the cheek to try and rouse her. It wasn’t until Hermione took Lily’s wrist in her hand that she noticed a small piece of parchment wrapped inside of her curled fist.
Pulling it out, Hermione read the scrawled words while dread made her blood run cold.
The Death Eaters are coming. Voldemort lives. Tell them now.
Author's Note: Holy cow, it's been nearly a 3 year hiatus! I have tons of excuses, but they hardly matter now. I want to thank those of you who encouraged me to come back to this story to finish it and those that have stuck with it. I've always been very excited about this story and it feels good to be back to writing it. I've had a lot of original fiction going on in the last 3 years, so this made a fun break. My goal is to have this story finished in the next couple of weeks and post the chapters as quickly as I can. Tons of celebratory huggles to you! :)
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