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Chapter 14 : The Aspects of Choices
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The Aspects of Choices
It was all too much to comprehend. Hermione fell to the ground with a loud thump, not even trying to catch herself during fall. The only reason she raised from the ground was because Lily and Sirius had grabbed her underarms and hoisted her up into a nearby chair, facing Dumbledore. He sat, with his hands holding each other, and peered through his spectacles, darkened eyes, at Hermione. He hadn't really expected her to understand, but before any explanation could be made, he had to lay the groundwork. He wanted to convince her to choose this future, instead of the one she was so accustomed to having.
Her voice was shaky and high pitched when she spoke. Hand trapped between one of Sirius and one of Lily's, Hermione found the necessary strength to ask her questions. "Professor, how had I been back there three times and not remembered such events?"
"The first thing you have to understand, Miss Granger, is that I am aware of the future you thought you would return to," Dumbledore stated meticulously. "In that respect, I also want to urge you to stop meddling with time, starting as soon as I send you back."
"Send me back, sir?" Hermione said, barely above a whisper. Surely she wasn't going to go through time...again!
"Of course, Miss Granger. Only if I send you back can you make the responsible decision; to stay or to come back as though nothing happened. But, I daresay it will be your last visit to the past." Dumbledore's eyes spoke finality, yet his voice was light and airy. "My Pensieve has allowed me to track your adventures. We will take all necessary precautions against your return, if that is your wish."
"What happened to Harry, Ron and Neville?" She ached to know what was going on, but part of her wasn't so sure it was a good idea.
"We'll get to all of that later. For now, I wish to tell you the answers of which you should be asking," Dumbledore stood and swished around his desk. Three pair of eager and confused eyes followed him along the way. He rested at the front of his desk, sitting on the edge, while leaning a little bit forward in attention of the others.
"Dumbledore, why wouldn't she remember us if she had been there three times?" Sirius asked, confused by his sentence and still in shock over being an uncle...apparently a proud uncle.
"Mr. Black, your question is exactly one that I will answer right now. Who can tell me about time?"
"Time, sir," Lily spoke up warily. "Is a precious thing, not to be tampered with." Her eyes shot Hermione a look of apology before continuing. "However, if one does have an incident, it is possible to return without effecting anything around them. So long as one does not meddle in certain affairs, and has a clean, unemotional break from those that surrounded them at the time of the turning, there should be very minimal consequences of their journey."
When Lily concluded, all eyes were on her; Hermione was taken back, thinking only of what she could have done that would have made this time different. Dumbledore, was looking at Lily with some pride shining from his eyes. Her brilliance was something that he had envied while working with her in the Order of the Phoenix. She always brought a textbook analysis to the table. He moved his eyes from Lily, and focused them on Hermione.
"Thus," Dumbledore began his conclusion of Lily's textbook answer, "the reason you do not remember. You were unattached, very much aware of the mistake you had made, and willing to fix it in an instant."
"Why was this time different," both Sirius and Hermione shouted out, more irritated by Dumbledore's ability to make things even more complex.
"You fell in love," Lily answered in annoyance, and quickly put her hand over her mouth. She hadn't meant for it to come out so snotty. But really, who couldn't see it? Lily cursed herself for not recognizing the mistakes that Hermione was making and bringing them to her attention sooner rather than later. Of course, if little miss kiss-everyone-and-their-brother's hadn't stolen James...or, rather, tried to be more than friends with James. Lily's jealousy suddenly boiled over and she 'humphed' at Hermione, casting her eyes to the ground.
Hermione had finally comprehended what was going on. She and James.... Harry...It was Harry! That boy in the class, it was her son, Harry. And, uncle Sirius...Sirius must have been named Godfather. This was so weird, and so wrong! Hermione looked up to Sirius, his face remained void of emotion. It seemed as if he understood now, too. Hermione's eyes became wider as she stood up and faced Sirius, afraid that he would act out rashly to the news, because just a few hours ago he was telling her that he had feelings for her. And, now they knew that she would have chose James. She offered him a look of sympathy, which he returned with a small smirk.
A knot formed in her throat as she thought of things outside of her friends. How were things with..."Sir? What about Voldemort?"
A heavy sigh left the old man; his hands clasped the tops of his knees as he thought hard of the answer. "Voldemort," he paused briefly. This would be difficult and would weigh heavily on her decision to let the future unfold the way it was. "He has only one Horcrux remaining."
Hermione gasped as her hand flew to her mouth. "How?" She asked in a long breath.
"Voldemort has Horcruxes?" Sirius repeated the knowledge.
"What?" Lily shouted in amazement.
"Your friend, the one that used to look up to Harry, Neville Longbottom, seems to have taken Harry's place as 'the Chosen One," Dumbledore revealed with intensity. Before Hermione could interrupt, he raised his hand, his eyes begging for continuance. He gave an apologetic nod to Lily and Sirius. It was all about to get much more confusing for them. "Do not interrupt me, no matter how much you want to. If you feel that you will be a nuisance to this discussion, please leave." Waiting a moment before he progressed, Dumbledore got up from his seat at the corner of the desk and resumed his seat behind it.
"That chat that we had years ago, or, to you days ago, was preserved in my memory. From what you told me then, Harry was seen as the only possible hope against Voldemort. And, what you later confided in me, years down the road, Harry's mother died to save her child. I remember you telling me of the Prophecy, about Harry's tie within it, and the choice of two boys who would be forever changed because of its contents.
"From what I gather, between this time and that, the only thing to have changed about the Prophecy and Harry is that Neville became the boy-who-lived, instead of Harry Potter. It is because there was a different union, one that is more complex than," he looked to Lily sadly and then met Hermione's unfaltering gaze, "Harry's parent's previous union."
Sirius growled. This was getting nowhere. What he heard was that Hermione and James had a son named Harry, who used to be able to kill Voldemort, but it wasn't really Hermione's son, it was some other girl's son and now that she was not Harry's mother, another child, Neville something, was in Harry's old position. Bloody Hell!! "This makes no sense!"
"Please leave, Mr. Black," Dumbledore requested firmly. "This is much more important for Hermione's understanding. Obviously, she is comprehending what is happening and I have no doubt that she will explain it in its entirety to you later. For now, let us focus on letting her come to terms with everything."
"Sorry, sir," Sirius grumbled, still upset that this whole day was not making any sense. "I'll wait until you are finished."
"Too right," Dumbledore answered. "Now, Hermione. Any questions thus far?"
Thoughts swirled around in her brain, forming questions that she wasn't completely convinced she wanted answers to. However, there were a few burning in her mind, that she could pass off as simple curiosity rather than heated annoyance. "Why is it different with me being Harry's mother, than it was for...erm...the other woman? She was muggleborn as well. Why didn't Voldemort still choose Harry?"
"It's me isn't it?" Lily sudden realized. "Harry was my...Merlin this is complicated."
"Correct assumption, Miss Evans," Dumbledore applauded. "The matter of the mother is the most important. I believe that Voldemort had a different connection with Lily than she had with you, Hermione. Your relatives are fairly open about having a witch or wizard in the family. Lily's family, aside from her mother and father, were more closed minded."
"But, Neville's family is pureblood!" Hermione protested.
"Also correct." Dumbledore tilted his head a little to the side. "However, Neville has always been looked down upon by his Gran, the one who began caring for him once his parents died."
"They're dead?" Lily gasped.
"Miss Granger, you also told me, many years ago, that when there was a choice between the two boys, a back up plan was made by Voldemort."
Right then, Hermione's eyes started to water. She knew exactly of the time that Dumbledore was referring, although she couldn't remember having told him. She knew the back up plan to Harry. Neville's parents. Torture. Not wanting to hear any more at the moment, Hermione held her head up high and pleaded with Dumbledore. "Can we chat more later? Let this sink in and let me fill these two in more?"
"That would be alright, I suppose," Dumbledore said, getting up from his desk to walk the three out. "Now, please do not go wandering off. Times are still dark and I would rather keep you all away from certain eyes..."
Hermione nodded in understanding. Sirius and Lily started down the stairs. As Hermione was taking her first step, she looked back to Dumbledore. "Sir, does that mean that James and I..."
His answer was silent. A small nod presented itself. Hermione then took the stairs slowly, pondering a future with no life, no means of communication, no hope, and their child with no guidance from his parents. She thought of how Neville had always been affected by his mum and dad's condition. That was the choice - Harry the orphan, or Harry, the boy with addled parents. She sighed heavily and tried to urge the tears away. For now, she faced the toughest decision yet; to live, or to suffer.
Hermione sat trembling in the Room of Requirement. She had perched herself on a sofa that was positioned in front of a fireplace, whose fire had long since burned out. Sirius and Lily sat on the floor in front of Hermione; each taking awkward glances at her from time to time. Neither wanted to ask her what happened and what everything meant, however, all three of them knew that she would have to tell them soon.
All the thoughts that had matured in Hermione's head in the last two hours were now forming plots and schemes to rearrange time as if nothing had ever happened. But, nothing was ever that simple. She had grown attached to the Marauders and Lily. Even Peter had his good moments; which was a compliment that Hermione never imagined she'd find herself thinking.
What everything came down to now was a matter of life, death and affliction. Her choices would change everyone's life; it would alter reality and condemn some to certain doom. If she were to live as though nothing had ever happened, go back to her own time and help Harry fight Voldemort, it would mean that James and Lily would die, Sirius would die. If she stayed with the Marauders, Sirius would live, Lily would live, she and James would live forever in St. Mungos, and Neville's parents would die. How could she choose between her life and everyone else’s? It was starting to boil down to sacrifice; would she die or become incapacitated so that others could live? Was she as good a person as Lily, as she had asked herself multiple times in the past?
"I-" Hermione croaked. Before she went any further, she snapped her mouth shut and continued to stare determinedly at the ground, admiring the life of a rug. Its purpose was to stay still, to cover and protect, and to provide decoration. What a life that would be, she imagined. Far different from her own: if she stayed, she would not remember her own name, if she tried to protect. If she left to protect Harry from such a future, Lily would die, canceling out her previous protection. Decoration? She was bushy haired and far too jumpy to be a decoration. No, she was very much unlike a rug. She was more of a carpet - stepped on, treaded, cleaned up once a week and replaced. Tears welled up in her eyes when she was making the asinine similarities between herself and two pieces of decor. It was truly the mark of having lost your mind. She was comparing herself to inanimate objects. That is when she knew that she had to make a decision, here and now...what to do?
"I-" Hermione tried again. This time she faltered due to the quick response that Lily and Sirius showed at her words. They looked at her as though she might explode and send an array of knowledge their way. They were eager. Far too eager for her liking. Closing her eyes tightly, Hermione began reminding herself that the only way to get over something was to go through it, now she was going to test that theory. Her voice shook as she addressed her two friends.
"I...I have to make a choice. You heard Dumbledore," she spoke solemnly. "This is the last time I can make this decision, and he will see to it that I never try again."
"Hermione, I'm still confused," Lily said carefully. Hermione raised her head, inclining it a bit to acknowledge Lily. "In your real world...I was dead?"
Hermione nodded and Lily continued. "And, now, because I'm not Harry's mother, in this world...I'm not dead?"
"Apparently not, Lily. You are not the mother of Harry. I am."
"Then why didn't you die?" Sirius asked, more aggravated than he intended to sound.
Hermione's cheeks flushed with pain from his words. "Dumbledore said that Lily and I are too different. So, Voldemort chose the one he felt more connected to. Obviously, this time it wasn't Harry. This time, it was a boy by the name of Neville."
"And, what did Neville have to do with Harry in your world?" Lily asked, trying to sound uninterested, when, really, she was eager for more knowledge about Hermione's time. "Was Neville part of the plan that Dumbledore mentioned?"
The answer was a small nod and a sniff. Her tears had come back. "Neville's parents...When Voldemort was forced from his body after killing you and James...” Hermione glanced quickly at Sirius and then continued, knowing full well he was going to start screaming at any minute. "Bella Black and her husband Rudolphus, they...well, they used the Cruciatus Curse on the Longbottoms until they went mental and had to spend the rest of their lives in St. Mungos." She breathed out quickly as the tears started falling more freely down her cheek.
To her surprise, Sirius didn't start getting riled up because of his family's involvement. He stood from the ground and sat next to Hermione. Draping his arm around her shoulder, he brought her in for a tight hug, letting her sob against him. Lily looked at the two of them, with tears of her own. It truly was a tough predicament. But, if she had her way, she was going to make sure that Hermione had a thousand good options to go along with her two horrible ones.
Sirius was running his fingers through Hermione's hair, trying to calm her down and soothe her. He hated seeing her like this. It was the first time he had ever seen her completely break down and lose her strength. In truth, he wasn't use it this from women, but he had enough common sense to know that she needed to relax. Racking his brain for some semblance of hope, Sirius thought of different ways to undo the curse of the future. Barely recognizing his gestures, he began to whisper into Hermione's ear, letting her know that it would all be okay, shushing her. "We love you, Mione. We won't let anything bad happen to you," he whispered through her sobs.
"I've got it!" Lily suddenly yelled. "I know how to fix it!"
Hermione's head snapped up, bouncing painfully off of Sirius's chin. She mumbled an apology to him and turned her full attention to Lily. Could there possibly be another way?
"Well, it seems that whomever James marries is out of luck," she started thoughtfully. "How about...neither of us marries him!"
Hermione rolled her eyes. Sure, that was exactly how to fix it, Hermione thought sarcastically. There was just the little problem of any girl that would marry James. They would have to either ban James from ever being intimate with a girl, or they would have to pray that he really loved men. Neither would happen. Hermione went back to sulking.
"It was worth a shot," Lily said with a small smile. "Hey, Hermione...Are you really willing to spend the rest of your life in Mungos for me?"
"I would," she answered simply.
"What makes you think that I wouldn't die to protect you and Harry?"
"I know you would, Lily. I've lived with that knowledge for near seven years. But, the point is that I know how Harry's dealt with it."
"Do you think he would deal better in his current situation," Lily asked suspiciously.
"What are you suggesting," Sirius chimed in. "Because if it is what it sounds like, that is just cruel to bring it up to the boy."
"No, Sirius," Hermione said as she placed a heated hand on his chest. "It's brilliant. I can talk to him and find out if he's okay. Anyway, he already thinks I'm his mum."
"I'll come with you," Lily said happily. Finally, they were getting somewhere.
"You two are completely evil," Sirius said in a gruff voice. "You do not go chastising people about their family!"
Lily and Hermione smiled at each other. The way to solve the problem was to let Harry choose. That was exactly what they were going to do.
"First thing tomorrow, we'll go find him and talk with him," Hermione noted out loud.
They both looked tentatively at Sirius, waiting for an answer. "Fine. But if you upset that kid, you'll never forgive yourselves."
Hermione smiled, "Aw, see, you really do make a great Godfather."
Sirius did not smile back.
"Professor Dumbledore, I have a request before you send us back," Hermione announced proudly.
"And, what may I ask, is that, Miss Granger," Dumbledore asked with mild interest.
"We would like to stay overnight and observe this time. If I am to make a decision, I would like it to be completely based on fact and not opinions."
Dumbledore surveyed Hermione over his spectacles, giving her the penetrating stare that he was known for. "You may stay in the Room of Requirement for tonight. I trust you will all behave respectfully and as adults?"
"We shall see you tomorrow afternoon, and we will send you back then. You will have the morning to draw conclusions."
"Thank you, sir. See you tomorrow." Hermione turned to leave his office, prancing down the stairs. Her mood was considerably lighter, now, knowing that there was a way to know what Harry would rather want. Of course, she didn't realize that nothing is ever as simple as it seemed.
"Miss Granger," Dumbledore called after her. "Do remember that no matter what, you will stay where you choose. There will be no more chances."
Hermione barely heard him as she rounded the corner and hopped out from behind the stone gargoyle. She knew she shouldn't like the idea of prodding Harry for answers, especially because he was clueless as of right now. But, just with small answers, Hermione would know what to do, she would know where he needed her. And she would do it without a second thought.
When she reached the Room of Requirement, she walked by three times and thought of the place that Lily and Sirius were in. The knob appeared, she grasped it and let herself into the room. Sirius was lying on the couch and Lily was reading one of the many books that lined the shelves.
"Hem!" Hermione called out, clearing her throat.
Sirius sat up, regretting having done it so fast, because now his head was pounding from the rush of blood. Lily looked up timidly from her book. "What did he say?" She asked.
"We can stay here tonight, but we leave tomorrow afternoon."
"That's plenty of time," Lily observed. "Let's get some sleep and we'll find him in the morning."
"It's a plan." Hermione thought hard about three beds, separated in the room, each on a different wall. Sure enough, three beds appeared. She looked at the other two and gestured to the one in the center, the biggest of the beds. "That one," she said with a coy smile, "is mine."
"No way!" Sirius argued. "Why do you get the big bed?"
"Figure it out for yourself."
"Bloody women!" He growled as he walked over to the farthest bed on the right. "G'night." Sirius leapt in his bed and closed the hangings without another word.
Lily stifled back a giggle and walked over to Hermione. "It'll be okay. We'll get it all sorted out, I promise."
"It's just...It's got to be more difficult than just talking to him," Hermione confessed. "I don't think I'm going to be able to handle any decision that I make."
"And that's what you have us, Hermione."
"Thank you," Hermione said absentmindedly. She was still thinking about her choices. No matter what Harry seemed happier with, she knew that it would come down to her.
"Good night," Lily said as she climbed into her bed.
"Night," Hermione responded.
The room had darkened considerably, and still Hermione sat wide-awake in her bed, staring at the curtains, trying to form patterns in her mind. Nothing was working. Any way she looked at it, something bad would happen to someone she cared about. Finally frustrated, she let out a loud huff and slammed her head back onto her pillow. It was truly a pain to be so damned detrimental to society. Now she knew how Harry felt...well, how Harry, the Harry she knew from her world...felt.
A rustling sound outside of her bed curtains caught her attention. She reached around for her wand, which was laying next to her pillow. Holding it up defensively, she started to form the words for the disarming spell, only to see a familiar face poke through the bed hangings.
"Sirius!" She said in a hushed yell. "What the bloody hells are you doing?"
"I heard that you were still awake. As am I," he pointed out and kneeled upon her bed. "I thought you might like to talk." He scooted closer to her on her oversized bed, finally realizing why she got the biggest of the beds; she had positioned herself smack in the middle of it and had her arms spread out across the top. "You look like a spoiled princess," he muttered under his breath.
Hermione sat up, and positioned herself on her knees directly in front of Sirius. They stared at each other, for what seemed like an eternity, before Hermione finally broke the silence. "I don't even know what to say anymore."
His finger went to her face and swiped off a stray tear that was beginning to form in her eye. His finger lingered on her cheek and then on her jaw, marveling at the strength she had in her face. Realizing that he was staring, and yearning to kiss her, he pulled his finger away and looked away, ashamed of himself for thinking about kissing her while she was going through such a terrible time.
"So, you either have to leave, or you are marrying James?" He asked glumly, wishing for a different answer.
"Apparently," Hermione said while she nodded.
"Have you already started to fall in love with Prongs?"
She shook her head fast, in complete honesty. "No, I haven't. I was so confused about everything that I didn't have time to."
"What were you confused about, Mione?" Sirius asked as he cocked his eyebrow over his gray, mysterious eyes.
"It wasn't just James that attracted my attention. He wasn't the only one who fancied me. I had...options," she said gently.
He didn't even feel himself lean in closer to Hermione. Her lips were moving, and she was talking, but he wasn't paying proper attention to what she was saying. Instead, he was focused on the blush that crept up her face, the way her mouth was forming words. He was falling apart knowing that he would never have a chance. "And now you have no options?"
"It all seems so definite. I mean, it seems that if I hadn't made the potion, I'd go back to James," she reasoned. "Why fight what could be the inevitable?"
"Or you go back to your time," he suggested carefully. "Forget about him, live your life."
Hermione stared at him blankly. He was suggesting that she just...leave. He made it sound so simple. "But, I'd be leaving Lily, Remus...You..."
"You shouldn't worry about anyone aside from James and Lily. It's them and yourself that have the world on their shoulders." He sounded spiteful, like he would welcome the choice. But, that wasn't it. If he couldn't have Hermione, and she married James, he would have to watch them for the rest of his life...incapacitated.
"The problem," she said with a little bit of force, her face reddening slightly from the annoyance that was beginning to settle, "is not whose shoulders this lies on. I want what is fair to everyone."
"There is no such thing," he said countered. "You have to do what is right by you."
Hermione stared at Sirius. He was telling her to be selfish, to choose herself over the others. "That is not what sacrifice is about."
"Then you will either marry James or James will die," he said with honesty. "All games and intrigues aside, Hermione, you have to choose one or the other."
She nodded, knowing full well that he was right. It came down to where she would stay. "I still have to talk to Harry."
"He can't sway your opinion, Mione. You don't understand." Sirius grabbed her wrists and shook her a little. He needed to snap her out of her mind. "You need to make the decision. Harry's say will have small impact on what you will actually decide."
"I want to stay," she confessed. "I want to be with you all. And if that means that I fall in love with James..."
"You don't have to fall in love with James," Sirius argued.
"But it will happen. It's destined to happen if I choose to stay."
Hermione silenced him with a look. "If I decide to stay, Dumbledore will do what is necessary to make sure that I go back with you. He will also make sure that I stay there. If I decide to go back, he will send me back with the intention of making the potion and going back where I originally came from. You all will not remember me."
Sirius surveyed her, trying to prove her wrong...to find a lie behind her eyes. He found nothing. "How will you fall in love with James if you know you have to?"
"Maybe that's the gift of time,” Hermione said proudly.
Sirius pondered this. "But, you are not in love with James now?"
Again, to this question, she shook her head. Sirius didn't wait for her words, for her explanations. He leaned down the rest of the way and closed the space between them. His lips were cascading on Hermione's. It was desperate, an attempt to show her how he felt. Hermione sat still for a moment, surprised by his actions, before allowing herself to kiss him back. She never moved her hands from his; they were clasped together between their bodies. Finally realizing what he did, Sirius pulled away. He didn't want to cause her more confusion.
Hermione unhooked her fingers from his and wrapped her hand around his neck. She brought him into another kiss. He took her bottom lip in his teeth gently pulling on it, before melting his lips back onto hers. He let his tongue sensually glide across hers; caressing it as his hands found her waist.
She pulled back, breathing heavy and whispered with her eyes closed, "Don't stop."
It was all he needed. Passionately as possible, Sirius crashed his lips back into hers before dragging his mouth along her jaw line, down her neck, licking at the flesh below her earlobe. His hands were wandering over her body, rediscovering the territory he so desperately wanted to claim as his. Hermione was just as ferocious. Her hands roamed Sirius, lifting his shirt and tossing it over his head. Her nails lightly scratched his skin, sending chills up his spine.
He laid her down gently on the bed, hovering over her, his hands never leaving her body. She moaned under his touch, quietly as to not be heard by Lily. Their breathing got heavy and erratic as they came closer to giving into each other. Sirius found himself by her pants, slowly unbuttoning them and sliding them down. When she was bare beneath him, he held himself up and discarded his belt and pants, revealing himself to her, as she was to him.
He came down on top of her, and let his hand slide through her hair. His eyes met hers, asking for permission for what came next. She nodded her head and bit her bottom lip before Sirius's lips took her over, showering her lips, neck and jaw line with kisses.
"Make love to me, Sirius," Hermione whispered in his ear.
Nothing but a soft growl came from him in response as they joined together as one; if only for tonight.
A/N - This chapter, my longest to date, is dedicated to the people who sparked this idea and had no clue what kind of insane plot bunny they released inside my head. This chapter is for: Elena, Webby, Mum, and Cat. I heart you all!! Did you know that you inspired this mess???!! *huggles* ~Jessi
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