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Chapter 33 : The Maiden's Tale
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Chapter Thirty-Three: The Maiden’s Tale
Sirius paced the floor around the bed, biting the inside corner of his lip in deep concentration. It wasn’t what Hermione had told him that was tearing at his soul but more what he had made up his mind to do. Upon his return, he had worked hard to open himself to her, to give her nothing but the truth no matter what it cost him just in the hope that she would one day realize her past was nothing to be ashamed of. But if her story was true, Hermione and Draco had caused Ginny’s death and, ultimately, Ron and Harry’s as well.
He didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t believe it. It was all too neatly packaged and nothing, he knew, was ever quite so easy in the magical world. There was something nagging him about her story, something perhaps she didn’t even realize had played a part in the whole ordeal. He tripped slightly on the Persian rug and, as he grabbed the banister to keep from pitching forward, a vision fluttered into the recesses of his mind.
Peter. They had never counted on Peter. They had been young and arrogant and believed they had accounted for all options. But some things couldn’t be planned for—a childish mistake, a careless oversight, a friend whose loyalty was up for bid. They hadn’t considered those things and, for it, James and Lily had lost their lives. What if the same thing had happened with Ginny? Something had to have gone wrong. Something neither Hermione nor Draco had ever planned for or anticipated. He couldn’t believe Hermione was responsible for their deaths.
His eyes drifted to her sleeping form, her bare freckled shoulders visible just above the sheets. Her arm was curled lazily under her pillow, a crooked position that she’d certainly regret when she awoke. Her mass of hair was spread across the bed and Sirius squeezed his eyes shut to block out visions of the varied caresses he had shared with her…soft, comforting ones; wild, insatiable ones; touches so dizzying that neither had been able to determine where one body ended and the other began. His stomach was queasy, his head feeling faint. He wouldn’t believe it. He refused to believe the woman he was now sharing his bed with was the person responsible for his godson’s death.
He waved his wand near her then hesitated, struggling with the idea of putting a spell on her. It was a breach of trust, something you never did to someone you cared about. A furrow came over his eyes, knowing he perhaps shouldn’t be caring so deeply anyway. With a stifling breath, he quickly waved his wand across her body to keep her from awakening before he lost his nerve. He had to find answers. Not just for himself but for her as well.
“Juliette.” Sirius shook her gently. “Juliette?”
“Sirius?” she asked groggily, tiny fists rubbing her eyes as she struggled to sit up. “What’s wrong? Has something—"
“Stop being your mum,” he whispered. “I need a favor, darling.”
“It is an adventure?” she asked, now fully awake. She scooted over so he could sink down beside her.
“Not exactly.” He shook his head as he straightened one of the tiny yellow bows on her nightgown distractedly. “I need to ask you something about Remus.”
She frowned and batted his nervous fiddling away. “He’s not being a poop again, is he?”
“Always,” he chuckled. “You know the stories he tells you? The bedtime stories?”
“About the princes and knights,” she answered nodding. “But I know who they really are. You and James and—"
He patted her hand to quiet her. “Yes, but I need you to think very very hard for me. Will you do that?”
“Do you recall any stories that weren’t about us? I mean, any one of us…Harry, James, your mum—"
Her brow furrowed in concentration.
“Perhaps one you didn’t quite understand?” he prodded and her eyes lit up immediately.
“The maiden!” she exclaimed. “The one with the love potion!”
Sirius exhaled a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Can you remember it? Word for word, it’s very important.”
“No,” she shook her head. “He told it to me right after you come back.”
He offered her a faint smile to try and hide his disappointment. She was too observant for him and patted his hand lightly.
“Don’t be sad, it’s okay, I taped it.”
She nodded and reached into a drawer beside her bed. She pulled out a tiny tape no bigger than her hand. “Muggles have these things called tape recorders. And you can record things to play them back later. I taped some of Uncle Remus’ stories so I can listen to them when he’s not here.”
Sirius turned the tape over in his hand. “The story is on here?”
“Sure,” she answered and pulled out another device from the drawer. “Just put it in here and press play. You’ll hear everything.”
He looked hesitantly at her, her green eyes looking back at him with a trust and love that made him far weaker than he had ever expected. Mistaking his hesitation as confusion, she hugged him. “It’s okay. I’ll show you how to do it.”
He nodded silently, his eyes moving away from her as the tape began to play.
Once upon a time many, many moons ago, there lived a beautiful fair maiden. Her head was crowned with gleaming red hair, her face colored with freckles from the sun. Unlike most maidens, she was vivacious and full of spirit. She was brave and loyal and loved adventures. The maiden had many brothers and sisters and they all lived in a small but loving home. Being the youngest, the older siblings rarely had time for her and she often felt sad and lonely. Always trusting, one day she accepted a gift from a stranger. The gift was very special—a wondrous book that would write back to her whenever she touched her quill to the page.
“Sounds like dark magic,” Juliette interrupted.
“Indeed it was,” Remus answered before continuing.
She was pulled into a darkness like she’d never known. She did things she didn’t understand—hurt people in ways she would never have imagined possible. Page by page the book began to take away the very breath of her soul. Until one day, a brave boy found her. She was near death but he destroyed the book and saved her. As time passed and years waned, they grew to love each other. But many things stood between them. Histories, prophecies, stubborn pride—all of these things began to tear them apart. It was a sad, sad time for them and their friends. Their friends watched helplessly as the two tried to stay together but seemed unable to overcome the obstacles they faced. The couple was always torn apart by something.
Then, one day, in the darkest of night, two friends who loved them very much decided they knew how to help. They would magic a love potion. Not any love potion but a potion that would bind them together no matter what tried to tear them apart. They would be able to overcome anything and be together always.
“A potion couldn’t do that,” Juliette admonished. “But there’s a charm—"
Remus chuckled. “Only imagined ones, Juliette.”
“It didn’t work,” he cut her off. “And something terrible tore them apart. Their love was gone and never to return. Shortly after, they both perished.”
“That’s a terrible story!” she chided.
“Not all magic is pretty, Juliette,” he hesitated. “Sirius’ coming back is a blessing but it may not be pretty, right?”
Juliette laughed. “I like him. He makes mommy’s eyes flash.”
Remus laughed. “Just wait. Knowing Sirius, he’ll have her blowing steam out her ears soon enough.”
Sirius reached over and clicked off the tape. He moved it slowly to the bedside, trying carefully not to disturb Juliette, who had fallen asleep during the replay of the story. He tugged the covers around her, his eyes closing in silent thanks for her presence.
“Sirius,” she mumbled near deep sleep, “the charm exists, you know.”
He nodded, ignoring the gnawing pain rising within him. Remus hadn’t believed her…he hadn’t listened. If he’d only listened—
He leaned down to kiss her head. “I know, darling. I know it exists.”
“But it’s in—"
“The room where you aren’t supposed to go,” he said with a nod. “Yes. I know that, too. I won’t tell your mum. Go to sleep, darling. I’ll see you in the morning.”
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