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Chapter 27 : The Dark Mark
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Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Dark Mark
Hermione hesitated as she felt Draco shift in her arms. His caresses were more demanding, his breath more urgent. She’d forgotten how he moved, the slight turn of his muscles at just the right time, the way he shifted his body weight so she could feel his bare skin next to hers. She let her nails trail along his arms…down from his shoulders, around his tanned biceps, across his forearm until it rested on the dark mark he had taken so long ago. His lips were tracing her neck -the place he knew like no one else- when she felt it. He was too busy to notice, she knew, and she squinted her eyes in hopes of it not being true. But when she opened them again, she jerked away from him, causing him to almost topple to the floor.
“What the—" Draco whirled on her as he tried to zip his pants. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Voldemort,” she whispered, unable to hide the fear she thought she’d buried long ago.
It took Draco a minute to understand. “No, no,” he shook his head vehemently and lifted his arm towards her. The dark mark glowed dangerously, the snake wriggling slowly out of the skull’s mouth. “It’s not him!” He moved closer, grabbing her arms tightly. “I swear, it’s not him! Ask Remus…he’ll tell you. Hermione, I swear.”
As if the mention of Remus had given her senses back, she faltered. “Who then?”
“Hermione, you don’t need—"
“Don’t patronize me! Who?”
Hermione started. “Bellatrix? As in Bellatrix that caused Sirius to fall into the veil.”
“So Remus tells me,” Draco murmured and Hermione didn’t miss the sarcasm.
“Does he know?”
“No,” Draco put his hands up. “And that was Remus’ decision not mine. I would have just as soon let the two of them fight it out amongst themselves.”
“Get out! You foul loathsome…”
“Hermione!” Draco backed away as her fists pummeled into his chest.
Hermione wrenched the ring off her finger and threw it at him. “And take your damn loyalty to the Black family with you!”
Draco tried to move to her, tried to reason with her, but she wouldn’t allow him near her. He fumbled with the shirt she threw at him, fumbled with the ring, he’d never felt so humiliated in his life. What on earth had he done that was so wrong?
Hermione knew she had to say something to Sirius…he had been the only one to make her face the truth of Juliette. She couldn’t bring herself to hide anything from him but she couldn’t find a way to tell him either. In the days to come, Remus assured her that it was Bella and not Voldemort and that, yes, he had asked Draco to keep quiet about it. He felt Sirius had enough on his plate and didn’t want to bother him. He understood that Hermione felt the need to tell Sirius but swore he couldn’t be a part of it…exactly why, she never really could tell. Draco had gone off again, whether on ministry business or to punish her, she didn’t know. But he did promise Juliette to be back for Christmas and Hermione knew her time to talk to Sirius was limited.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Remus and Tonks had offered to take Juliette for last minute shopping and she knew Remus was giving her the last chance she had. When she finally found Sirius strolling through the house humming carols, though, she hesitated. He scooped her into his arms, offering her a kiss under the mistletoe but the stiff way with which she held herself gave her away.
“What is it?” He moved away quickly, watching her closely. He knew she had been fighting with Draco and he worried that he might have been the cause. She was no longer wearing the ring Draco had given her and, although he felt a twinge guilty, he felt more vindicated than anything.
“I need to talk to you.”
“That sounds a bit ominous.” His eyes narrowed. “Sounds like something Remus might say actually.”
“Don’t make this more difficult for me, Sirius.”
“It’s Christmas Eve, can’t it wait?”
“It’s waited long enough as it is.” She retaliated softly, taking his hand in hers and leading him toward the front parlor. “Would you like a drink?”
Sirius surveyed her questioningly. “Will I need one?”
“I will,” she murmured but offered him a smile and sank down beside him. “This mission…”
“Draco’s mission,” he provided, already not liking the way the conversation was starting.
“Yes. I’m not sure whether or not you are aware but in our sixth year, Draco took the dark mark.”
“I had assumed so, yes.” Sirius met her quizzical look with a chuckle. “He’s a Malfoy, Hermione. No better than a Black in that regard.”
Hermione nodded. “Someone has been trying to communicate with the others…not Voldemort, someone much less powerful. Someone just trying to stir up trouble.”
Sirius sighed. “This story will never end if you don’t forget whatever advice Remus gave you and just tell me the damn truth. Someone? Lucius? Crabbe? Goyle?”
“Bellatrix,” she whispered and Sirius halted.
It took only a moment before frustrated anger flooded through him and he whirled on Hermione. “How could you not tell me this? Bella, of all people!”
“Sirius, it wasn’t important. The war has been over---"
“It’s never over while she’s still alive. Don’t you understand that?” Sirius towered above her. “She poses a danger to you, Remus, Juliette, everyone,” he tried to keep the shake out of his voice. “Does that mean nothing to you?”
She touched his arm gently. “Of course. Her knowing about you doesn’t change anything. If she had wanted to come for us, she would’ve done it ages ago.”
“No, you’re wrong.” He shook his head, his body trembling. “She will come for me and all of you will be in danger because of it.”
Flashes of James and Lily flew through his mind at a rapid pace, making him dizzy with grief. “I have to leave.”
Hermione cornered him before he could walk away. “I won’t let you.”
“I’m not letting you walk out of our lives again,” she murmured.
“Lily, oh God,” Sirius crumbled to the floor instantly, the weakness over powering him. Hermione dropped to her knees, holding tightly to his hands in confusion and worry.
“Sirius!” She tried to shake him but he was lost in memories.
“That’s what she said. She said I wasn’t protecting them I was walking out.” He dropped his head in his hands.
With sudden understanding, Hermione’s heart broke. The pieces of the puzzle had fit into place for her, and after all these years, she finally felt she knew him. “It was Lily,” she whispered, tilting his face to meet hers, “You were in love with Lily but you walked away.”
“James was my best friend. I’d give him the world if I could,” Sirius’ broken words caused tears to form in Hermione’s eyes. “I still would.” He glanced at her. “Hermione, I’m not walking out. I’m not. But, I can’t let her roam free.”
“Draco will handle her.” She pulled him to standing, leading him to the couch as he tried to get his emotions under control.
“He’s not strong enough, you know that,” he said, shaking his head. “Do you not trust me to do it? Do you not trust that I’ll come back?”
She sucked in a breath. It was the question she had wanted to avoid since the first moment she realized Bella might come after Sirius. She considered lying. She considered ignoring his question. But the heartbreak on his normally passive face was more than she could stand. “Either of you could be killed facing her,” she whispered, her eyes turning away from him. “I don’t want to lose you.”
She could feel him bristle beside her but didn’t have the nerve to look at him. She knew it sounded horrible…it sounded like something Voldemort himself might do. She was effectively saying it was okay to lose Draco but not Sirius. The thought disgusted her, made an acid taste rise from the bottom of her throat and made her stomach tie in knots. She twisted the edges of her skirt anxiously. “I know it sounds terrible but…”
“Don’t say it,” his husky voice cut her off. “Please don’t say it.” He leaned into her, his lips inches from her ear. The smell of peppermint tickled his nose and drew him even closer to the soft scent of her skin. He could feel her breath catch in her throat as she tilted her neck closer to his lips, the pulsating rhythm of her racing heart inviting his mouth toward her. “Swear it.”
“I swear,” she breathed before he pressed his lips deeply into hers, the warmth of his skin causing beads of sweat to form on her forehead. His rough hands cupped her face gently, holding on to her as if he was afraid she’d slip away. The heartbreak he’d experienced melted with his touches and Hermione could feel the longing well within him. He never changed pace though, seemingly content to only have her lips be a part of him. It was a needy move—a move she had not experienced since Harry came to her for comfort after Ron’s death. But Harry had been different… he needed her comfort, her friendship, tender embraces that reminded him he had to go on. This was something entirely different. Sirius didn’t need someone, he needed her.
As her lips began to travel to his neck, she could feel him bristle…a slight change that she could tell he was trying to fight but seemed unable to win. He wanted to run to her, to need her but something was keeping him away. She could feel him struggling, hovering between emotions that he seemed unable to control. She paused, her lips inches away from his skin, her breath still ragged from their passionate kiss. “You’re not ready for this,” she whispered then pulled away to look into his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be my line?” He smiled but moved away from her, willing his breath to calm itself.
“Is it Lily?” She asked quietly.
“No, no.” He chuckled. “I fought that battle with myself years ago.”
“Then what?” She shifted uncomfortably afraid of his answer.
“There are so many things wrong with this I can’t possibly name them all. I’m Harry’s godfather.” He paused. “Was. And you, Draco has proposed to you. Juliette, what about her? Or the fact that I’ve apparently been dead for ten years. Need I go on?”
“With excuses? No, I think I’ve heard enough.”
“They aren’t excuses, Hermione. They’re facts.”
“My haven’t you changed, little Ms. Follow the Rules. Is that my influence?”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” she tried to wipe the smile off her face but failed. She dropped her voice. “You bring out the best in me. A part of me I thought I’d lost.”
“What a frightening pronouncement,” he murmured with rare honesty. Reaching over he fingered the silky strains of her hair that had fallen loose during their passionate embrace.
“It feels right, doesn’t it?” she asked softly, her eyes locking with his. “I’ll be the first to admit I’m lonely, Sirius. That doesn’t mean its wrong but it doesn’t mean I’m not just using you either.”
Sirius’ laughter echoed in the darkened room. “Did you actually mean to say that out loud?”
“Well, except for admitting you are lonely, it’s what you’d say, right?” she countered.
“Yes,” he answered, still chuckling, “that sounds exactly like something I might say.” He leaned toward her, kissing her softly. “And yes, it feels right,” he murmured and then, with a tiny laugh, he sunk his teeth into her earlobe. “And feel free to use me all you like.”
“I may-" Hermione leaned toward him but a bustle from the doorway caused her to jump away.
“Dark enough in here?” Remus asked, leading a giggling Tonks into the room with him. “Have we seen Santa yet?” He asked, with a wink as the two sank onto the hearth.
“He hasn’t yet made his appearance,” Sirius grinned. “Where’s the twitchy ferret boy?”
Hermione gasped. “How did you learn about that?”
“Remus tells me everything, don’t you Remus? Except for when he first bedded my cousin here. That he keeps a closely guarded secret. I think he’s rather afraid she might turn herself into a weregirl and give him a run for his money.”
“A weregirl?” Tonks laughed. “How much have you been drinking?”
“Not a drop.” Hermoine answered. “But now that the adults are here we can certainly find something to keep us entertained. Is Hagrid coming?”
Remus nodded. “He and Grawp should be here before Juliette wakes up. Draco left us at Hogsmeade station, something about getting a last minute present for her as well.”
“Bill and Fleur will be here tomorrow with those boys of theirs in tow and…”
“Come on,” Sirius interrupted testily. “Enough with the guest list. Whoever shows up shows up. Bring on the Christmas punch and the horrid memories of our worst presents ever.”
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