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Chapter 4 : Ten Years' Time
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Chapter Four: Ten Year’s Time
Hermione wasn’t sure why she felt the need to watch over him. Remus had put him into such a deep sleep that he’d been out for hours and she’d caught herself drifting in and out of consciousness. At some point, Juliette had come to join her, an oversized woolen blanket trailing behind her as she lay down on the floor in a darkened corner. Hermione knew she felt safe there and resisted the urge to scoop her into her arms. She fell quickly back asleep, leaving Hermione to wonder in quiet musings as to what exactly she was supposed to do with a previously dead man that was now sleeping in her daughter’s bed. A vague worry that Sirius might send them out of Grimmauld crossed her mind. After all, the whole event was so extraordinary; she couldn’t really blame him if his mind was a bit out of sorts. Visions of St. Mungo’s flew through her mind accompanied by dreams of being a healer that she’d long since given up when the war against Voldemort ravaged the wizarding world.
“Hermione?” Sirius coughed slightly as he tried to sit up. He noticed Juliette’s sleeping form right away and lowered his voice. “Is she all right? I didn’t frighten her?”
“You frightened us all, Sirius,” Hermione whispered, moving to sit closer to him. “What about you, how are you?”
“Remarkable well for a man who apparently fell through a veil and has been considered dead for, how long again?” He asked, his brow furrowing as he tried to piece together what Remus had told him before so unceremoniously sneaking sleeping potion into his firewhiskey.
“Ten years, give or take.” Hermione watched him for some sign of mental instability but even his gray eyes seemed to look exactly like they had the last time she saw them. “We think Juliette brought you here but we aren’t really sure how yet.”
“Juliette?” he asked, nodding to her. “Your daughter, right?”
“Yes.” Hermione moved away from him. A sudden nauseous feeling had grown in the pit of her stomach and she stepped closer to where Juliette was beginning to rouse from sleep with their discussion. Discussing Juliette with Sirius was not something she had planned on…the others were one thing, but Sirius? He had always been able to see straight through her.
Sirius’ weary eyes fell on Juliette, who was struggling to unwind herself from the giant fuzzy blanket to get a better look at him. “So it was you who brought me here?” He asked quietly for fear of frightening her.
She nodded but still made no attempt to move. She had tucked her legs under her long nightgown, her body trembling. “I made a wish.”
“A wish?” Sirius glanced to Hermione, who shrugged helplessly. “Can you tell me what you mean, Juliette? What kind of wish did you make?” He motioned for her to come forward but she still seemed too unnerved to do anything.
“She doesn’t come to people; she’s a bit shy…” Hermione’s words fell off as she watched her daughter pull herself out from the corner and move to Sirius’ bedside. Sirius sent Hermione a glare for silence.
“It’s a secret, Sirius,” she whispered, climbing up next to him on the bed.
He eyed her curiously, her deep brown hair sticking in all directions from being so tightly rolled in the blanket. He reached up to brush it down and could feel Hermione’s eyes on them. He knew she wanted to rush forward and pull Juliette away from him…he was, after all, nothing more than a ghost to her. Ignoring the need to try and comfort and reassure Hermione, Sirius smiled warmly at Juliette. His eyes met hers and a shock of familiarity coursed through him. He glanced to Hermione, wanting an explanation but somehow knowing he wasn’t going to get it anytime soon. A shiny sparkle caught his attention as he turned back to face her and he tugged at the silver chain hidden beneath the collar of her nightgown. She gripped it tightly, concealing it deep within her gown, but she hadn’t been quick enough to prevent Sirius from seeing it.
Sirius sucked in a heavy breath, a knowing smile crossing his lips. “I’m very good at keeping secrets, but you know that already, don’t you?” he grinned mischievously. “You’ve been exploring Grimmauld on your own, haven’t you?”
Juliette glanced at her mother quickly, her voice strong. “I’m not allowed to do that.”
Sirius couldn’t help but laugh at the indignant nod Hermione sent him…he’d forgotten how prim and proper she could be. It probably would never occur to her that no matter what rule she put down, a child was going to go off exploring as soon as they got the chance. He winked conspiratorially to Juliette. “Yeah, neither was I.”
“Sirius!” Hermione moved to them, her arms resting on Juliette’s shoulders. “If she said she didn’t—"
“Well, she didn’t actually say that, did she?” Sirius tapped her nose. “Off to bed, Juliette. You’ve had quite the adventure and that floor can’t be too comfortable.”
“Do you want it?” she asked quietly, avoiding Hermione’s questioning gaze.
“Want what?” Hermione interrupted but neither paid her any attention.
“No, you keep it for now,” Sirius smiled, his teeth flashing a brilliant white underneath his shadowy stubble of a growing beard. “But no more wishes, okay?”
“I promise,” she breathed a sigh of relief and hugged his neck. Her lips close to his ear, she whispered and with a grin confided, “I wished for mommy to be happy again.”
Sirius nodded uneasily, unsure of what to say as Juliette disappeared out of the room. How could a wish like that bring him here and why wasn’t Hermione happy to begin with?” Sure, Hermione had always been the serious one, but she did seem to have a rather dark cloud hanging about her that he’d never noticed before. He had so many questions…where everyone else was; why they were at Grimmauld; and what had happened to Voldemort anyway? An image of Draco fluttered into his mind, causing his face to flush with anger.
“Why are you staring at me like that?” Hermione bristled.
“I apologize,” Sirius offered her a smile. “You are afraid of me?”
“No I-" Hermione began but the grin on his face infuriated her. “Of course not. It’s just not everyday a dead man shows up in your daughter’s bedroom.”
“Well, in all fairness, this was my bedroom first,” he countered. “I wondered why Remus put me to bed under a mass of pink sheets.”
Hermione couldn’t help but laugh and all of her fears and tensions melted away. “Feel like going downstairs for something to eat?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Sirius hopped out of bed and allowed Hermione to lead him to the kitchen. He withheld the urge to show her a shortcut, knowing she was just now beginning to relax in his presence. But when she suggested they sit down at the table, Sirius refused and deftly led her into the parlor so he could sit in front of the fire.
“You don’t like the kitchen?” She asked, sinking down into a chair opposite him.
“It’s about the last thing I remember before that battle,” he explained quietly. “Sitting at that damn table.”
He shrugged. Popping several of the tiny sandwiches in his mouth at once, he turned a questioning gaze to her. She met his gaze but only briefly.
“I can’t tell you, Sirius. Remus said to wait.”
“He always was the paranoid sort. Hermione, I’m fine,” he insisted. “I’d rather hear the news now without a hundred people around to watch for my reaction.”
He watched Hermione carefully for some reaction but it seemed she had learned to withhold her emotions as she grew up. He knew she was probably afraid he’d go off on her. He wasn’t, of course, known for holding his temper very well. Her last memories, of course, had to be of his turmoil at returning to Grimmauld and being sentenced to exile while everyone else fought on behalf of the Order. He had hoped that maybe over the years she had come to realize why he had reacted so violently to that ordeal but the uneasy look on her face told him she still viewed him as an adult that was unbalanced at the least and, at the most, someone who deserved to be institutionalized.
But, he also knew that, other than Remus, Hermione was seemingly the only person left who had ever seen him at his weakest…she had been there in the shrieking shack. She had seen his anger, his heartbreak, and his emotional breaking point at the lowest point in his life when the darkness had finally overcome him and he was willing to take a man’s life. Remus was too consumed with protecting him to tell him anything…he had hoped Hermione would be braver than that. Or, should she lack bravery (which he highly doubted) he hoped that she had other things on her mind rather than caring about his emotional state.
Sirius’ mind wandered to Juliette and he realized Hermione must fear for her safety in the wake of his appearance. Finding a way to convince her he was able to handle whatever had happened through the years was his only option.
“Harry’s dead,” Sirius prodded, his face remaining placid.
Hermione turned to him, her eyes unreadable. “How did you know that?”
“He would’ve been at my side immediately if he could,” he answered with a reassuring smile. “I have no doubt about that.”
“Oh.” Hermione tried to look indifferent but couldn’t seem to manage it. She surveyed him…he certainly looked stable. Other than Harry, there was really nothing else worse that she could tell him. Well, there was Ginny but was something someone else would have to tackle even if he did prove sane. She gave a resigned sigh and sank heavily back onto the couch. “The list is a long one, Sirius. Very few are left.”
“Ron? Ginny? Moody? Dumbledore? Peter? Hagrid?” Sirius prompted, watching her closely as he said each name. Only the mention of Ginny and Hagrid seemed to evoke any emotion from her. “All of them?”
“Hagrid is around. He still lives at Hogwarts so we don’t see a lot of him. He tends to scare Juliette still.”
“Your daughter,” Sirius murmured, trying to let it all sink in. “I think I would rather wait to hear the details, if it’s all right with you.”
She released a relieved sigh she didn’t realize she had been holding. “Of course.”
“Draco,” he raised his eyes to hers. “What is Draco doing here at Grimmauld?”
“He doesn’t live here,” Hermione offered. “He…he…”
Even in the darkness, Sirius could sense the flush in her cheeks. “You and Draco?” he asked, unable to withhold the disgust he felt.
“No, well, he wants that. He loves Juliette, you see.” Hermione defended. “But, no, we aren’t…” she trailed off, unsure how to phrase what she was trying to say. “He came to our aid in the end. Harry brought him to Grimmauld and he’s just sort of stayed around since then. He’s asked me to marry him.”
Sirius choked on his sandwich, causing Hermione to rush to his side and offer him a drink. “I’m sorry. I should’ve listened to Remus. Won’t I ever learn?”
“Apparently not if you intend on marrying a Malfoy,” he murmured through coughing spurts. He brushed off her motherly care and began to pace the floor. Juliette’s wish jumped to his mind and he was suddenly afraid he understood…she was afraid Hermione would marry Draco and be forever unhappy. “Tonight? He proposed tonight, didn’t he?”
“Yes, but how did you know that?” Hermione stepped away from him slightly, her eyes wide.
“Hell, Hermione I’m not doing dark magic on you. I’m just being observant,” he grumbled.
“I didn’t say…”
“You didn’t have to. I can read you like a book,” he sank onto the sofa and motioned for her to sit beside him.
“You aren’t going to play give the girl advice, are you?”
“Advice? You’re looking at the wrong Marauder.” He chuckled and Hermione sank down beside him. He slipped his arm around her shoulders, giving her a tiny squeeze. “You are going to be all right,” he murmured quietly.
Hermione didn’t bother to ask how he knew she was upset or even how he knew exactly the right thing to say to her. Instead, she relaxed in his protective arms and the safety he offered….a safety she hadn’t felt since Harry’s death.
“I know.” Hermione said and, for the first time in years, she finally believed it.
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