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Chapter 21 : The Locket
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Chapter Twenty-One: The Locket
Sirius let his fingers trail up and down Hermione’s bare arm absently, his eyes fixed on the pale sliver of the full moon that was visible through the partially opened curtains. The soft crinkle of the newly starched sheets caught each move he made, leaving a hollow, scratching noise echoing into the darkness of her bedroom.
“Everything all right?” she whispered, without raising her head from his chest.
“Fine. Go to sleep, my dear.”
“Thinking of Remus?” she asked. “There’s no need to worry. I taught Tonks how to make the potion myself.”
“So you do do magic?” he chuckled.
“Telling her which ingredients to drop in a jar hardly qualifies.” She shuffled to face him, doubting that even their intimate position would allow her access to whatever was going through his mind. His face wasn’t masked, though, his grey eyes filled with a touch of concern she’d never witnessed before. “What is it?”
“Habits are horrible things, do you know this?” he asked, letting his fingers slide over her tangled hair. “My father said they were a sign of weakness.”
“Sirius Black, are you saying that bedding me has become a habit?” she asked lightly but when he failed to respond, she nodded. “No, of course not. You are warning me that I’m making a habit out of you.”
“I suppose we are both a bit guilty there,” he offered unconvincingly. “At least we make good company.”
“Your father was a fool,” she returned and kissed him lightly on the chest. “Stop letting him dictate your actions and you’ll be a much happier person.”
“Hm,” he frowned and tipped her face toward him, “strong words from a woman who can’t seem to let go of her own past.”
She rolled over onto her back, a disturbed sigh exhaling into the chilly night air. “I hate it when you get like this…all Remus-like and serious and giving out blanket words of wisdom.”
“Wisdom? Hardly, I just point out the obvious,” he chuckled and pulled her back to lie on his chest.
“Sirius,” she eyed him carefully, trying to judge his mood before continuing, “what do you know of the locket? The one that brought you back?”
His eyes lifted to meet hers, a sudden desire to be anywhere else flooding through him. Her look was more inquisitive than frightened and he had to remind himself that this was what he had expected and, in fact, what he was hoping for. Not directed at him or the locket, of course, but seeing the inquisitive, intellectual nature he remembered from her youth slowly coming back made him fill with something akin to pride.
“You’ve been trying to trace it, haven’t you?” he asked quietly, his voice well rehearsed and steady. “I saw the books lying out in the library. You didn’t find anything, did you?”
“No, nothing,” she admitted. “You do know something, don’t you? Has Juliette endangered herself? Its dark magic, isn’t it?”
Sirius watched her carefully, unsure of exactly how to phrase his response. “She is not in mortal danger, no. Did you ever come across the Mirror of Erised, Hermione?”
“Harry and Ron did so I know about it but no, not personally,” she answered, shaking her head. “Is that what it does then, give you your deepest desire?”
“Something like that, yes. It’s been in our family for ages. My family, of course, isn’t known for its love of the happier magic, to put it politely. That locket has been used for dark magic more times that I could possible count. What effect, if any, that has had on the locket is anyone’s guess.”
“Is it temporary? If your desire changes, so does the outcome?” she asked softly, refusing to look at him.
“Do you mean am I going to disappear tomorrow?” he chuckled. “Not likely. Once her wish has been fulfilled the locket will expect repayment. Nothing is free.”
“Repayment?” Hermione sat up. “What do you mean? Juliette--”
“Nothing will happen to Juliette,” he assured her softly. “And that repayment assumes the wish is ever fulfilled anyway.”
“Do you know what she wished for, Sirius?”
“I do,” he nodded, “but I’ve no intention of telling you.”
She stared at him defiantly for a moment but, all too quickly in his mind, the emotion passed.
“If you tell me she’s safe, I’ll believe you. Please don’t patronize me where my daughter is concerned.”
“I would never do that,” he answered, his voice flat with disdain. She leaned forward and kissed his anger away, then dropped her face close to his.
“She’s falling in love with you, Sirius.” Hermione could feel him falter and the look on his face was unmistakable…he was going to apologize for it. He was afraid something would take him away from her just as it had broken him apart from James and Harry. “They were better people for having known you. Whatever happens, we’ll muddle through. She’s strong and independent and can survive anything that’s thrown at her. I have no doubt that loving you will only make her that much better.”
Sirius pulled her face towards him; his lips brushing hers in a tender, heart felt thanks. His touch was soft and warm, his kiss relaxed and reassuring. Slipping her head down to rest on his chest again, he rubbed her head rhythmically, knowing it would quiet her tortured thoughts. “Go to sleep, Hermione.”
Hermione pulled away from the slight shake that was disturbing her sleep. “Hm?”
“Mum, I’m starving. Can I conjure breakfast?”
Hermione turned a disapproving look towards her daughter who was curled up beside her on the bed. “You didn’t eat with Sirius? What time is it anyway?”
“He said I should have breakfast with you because he only had time for a quick cup of coffee. He said I should wait until you woke up but I’m really hungry. I can conjure it, if--”
“No, no,” Hermione pulled herself up to sitting, tugging the sheets around her nightgown. She tried to brush the heavy sleep out of her eyes, glad that for once she’d listened when Sirius had ordered her to get dressed before falling asleep. She glanced around the room uneasily, searching for some sign that might let Juliette know he had been there but, as usual, he had left no trace of his presence. She tugged Juliette toward her, straightening the pig tails that Sirius had apparently done in haste this morning. “I’ll take care of it. What do you mean he didn’t have time? Has he gone somewhere?”
She could feel Juliette stiffen beside her. Her eyes clouded, all sleepiness now forgotten. “Juliette--”
“He went for Draco.”
Hermione turned her to face her, her hands gripping tightly on her daughter‘s tiny arms. She fought to keep her voice steady. “Juliette, has something happened? Where‘s Remus?”
“He came for Sirius early this morning. They left together about an hour ago. Please, can we eat now?”
“Juliette,” Hermione hugged her tightly to her chest, “please stop trying to protect me, okay? I know you think you need to but this is one of those times when not telling me isn’t helping me. Okay?”
Juliette nodded, her voice soft and reassuring. “Draco hasn’t been calling in to the Ministry. They finally located him late last night and Remus pulled together a team to go and get him. Remus showed up this morning just before dawn. He and Sirius argued for awhile, that’s what woke me up. Then Sirius left with him.”
“Sirius didn’t want to go?”
Juliette shook her head. “He was willing to go, he just wanted to have his coffee first. He said something about Remus being too anxious for his own good.”
Hermione nodded, the tight knot in her stomach making her feel nauseous. “Breakfast, then?”
Juliette smiled, pulling her along with her to the kitchen. It took no time for the cereal and toast to be made and Hermione sank down next to her daughter, sipping on coffee as she tried to calm herself. Juliette passed a bowl to her.
“Sirius said to make you eat,” she said, almost apologetically. “He made me promise you’d eat something.”
Hermione nodded, eating the food without tasting it, her stomach revolting with each bite she took. Her eyes glazed over as she stared at the ripples of milk in the bowl, her mind wandering to a time when every day had brought news of a new death to Grimmauld. The deaths had been bad enough but the uncertainty of it all had almost driven her mad. Not knowing when or if people would come back. She cursed Sirius for putting her in the same position all over again. Her cheeks flushed with anger as her temper flared…why hadn’t anyone told her this mission was dangerous? Vaquely she recalled Sirius mentioning something about Draco not checking in and the idea that she had ignored him made her grip her mug tightly in her hands. So Sirius did mention something, couldn’t he have been more forceful about it? He was so damn obstinate and argumentative…why had he chosen to be so silent about this? She bit her lower lip. Because she told him she didn’t want to talk about Draco…this wasn’t Sirius’ fault, it was hers. And she’d never forgive herself if something happened to Draco and she hadn’t taken the time to--
“Mum?” Juliette had moved beside her, her tiny little hands placed securely on Hermione’s. She entwined their fingers, her face strong and assured. It was Harry’s look…the one Hermione had witnessed so many times over the years when he realized someone else was counting on him. “He told me to tell you he’d bring him back.”
“Sirius,” she whispered. “He said when your mum goes off the deep end; tell her ‘I’ll bring him back safe.’ He said it’s the only thing you really need to know anyway.”
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