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Chapter 36 : Unconditional Love
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Chapter Thirty-Six: Unconditional Love
Draco shrank backwards a few steps from the sight before him. Hermione…in Sirius’ arms.
No. More than in his arms. Lying atop his body, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist, his hand threaded through her messy hair as she slept on his chest.
He backed into the table, jarring a crystal pitcher and causing Hermione to jerk awake. Her hand reached deftly into Sirius’ cloak and drew his wand (how the fuck did she know where he kept his wand?) and brandished it toward him as if it was a daily occurrence.
“Oh, Draco,” she lowered it immediately and moved to sit up properly on the sofa.
Oh? All she had to say was oh?
Draco couldn’t seem to focus – his eyes darting from the wand to Sirius. At least she’d unarmed the bastard for him.
“Sirius,” Hermione nudged him. “Wake up, Draco’s here.’
“At least you two had the decency to keep your clothes on in the parlor,” he seethed, drawing his wand before Sirius could even struggle to sitting.
“I’m in no mood for this,” he mumbled irritably.
“Please-” Hermione’s voice was soothing. “Let’s be rational. Draco put the wand down.”
“Since when are you doing magic again?” he asked, his wand still pointed Sirius’ direction.
“It doesn’t matter. I-”
“Doesn’t matter to who exactly? What the fuck has he done to you?”
Hermione could feel Sirius bristle beside her, his eyes now blazing.
“I would suggest, Hermione,” he offered calmly, “that you rein in your pretty boy here before-”
“My pretty boy?” she jumped off the sofa, her anger now matching theirs.
Draco leveled a gaze at Sirius. “Have you slept with her?”
“What I have or haven’t done isn’t any of your business.” Hermione seethed. “And this doesn’t concern him anyway. If you have something to accuse me of, then ask me.”
“I’m not asking you, I’m asking him.”
Sirius glanced casually from one to the other, watching as they both seemed to feed off each other’s anger. He withheld the urge to smile, knowing that his amusement would just add fuel to their argument. “Perhaps you two could take this little quarrel to a more secluded location? My head is killing me.”
They both turned on him in an instant. Draco stepping closer as Hermione whirled, her hands instantly going to her hips. Both opened their mouth to say something but then realized the other was going to speak and hesitated. In the temporary quiet, Sirius couldn’t help but chuckle. “See? Isn’t that better? You do have something you can agree on.”
Hermione glared at him. “We would both like nothing better than to strangle you where you sit?”
“Well, that’s a start, isn’t it?” Yanking his wand out of Hermione’s hand, he strode toward the doorway but, with a well placed hand on his chest, Draco stopped him.
“We’re not done here.”
Sirius raised an eyebrow, offering Draco the tiniest smile. “So you do have some courage in there somewhere. How refreshing. Now get your hand off me before I separate it permanently from your arm.”
“I deserve the truth, Sirius,” Draco’s voice was quiet as he moved his hand away, “and you know it.”
He met Draco’s gaze unfalteringly but couldn’t help feeling a bit of sympathy for the boy. Standing up to him was perhaps the most mature thing he had ever seen Draco do and, unfortunately, it made Sirius understand – Draco wanted to love Hermione, he just didn’t know how. Had it been anyone else, Sirius would have had no problem in blurting out that they had been lovers for months now.
But as it stood, this was Hermione’s battle to fight and not his. He wanted to be honest, to admit the truth to Draco so that the ensuing anger would be directed at him rather than Hermione. He wanted to protect her – and that alone kept him silent. If she had only given him some position over her, some indication that she wanted his protection and everything else that entailed, he would have jumped at the chance to pummel Draco…the locket be damned.
He glanced at her, hoping to see some emotion…hoping that for once she would drop the shield she had crafted around herself to prevent either him or Draco from getting too close. But if there was something there she had hidden it so well even he couldn’t find it.
He took a shuddering breath- one oblivious to Draco but one that caused Hermione to turn his way. She had recognized the defeat in him and he cursed himself for allowing her such entry into his mannerisms. Ignoring her, he turned a dark look Draco’s direction. “While I know how much my bedroom escapades must intrigue an innocent like yourself, you have mistaken me for one of your schoolmates, Draco. I neither kiss and tell nor do I share my sexual activities with anyone so they might use visualizations of me when they are alone in the shower stalls. So, do us both a favor and please, find someone else to aim your wet dreams at.”
And with the softest pop, he vanished.
Hermione paced around Sirius’ bed, glancing at the clock every few minutes to check the time. He had been gone all day, had missed seeing Draco pass out drunk, had missed seeing Draco and Remus come to blows, had missed seeing Tonks drag away a still half drunk Remus, had missed tucking Juliette in bed and now, long after bedtime, he still hadn’t appeared. For a brief moment she wondered if he was gone for good and a sickening feeling she refused to acknowledge rose in the pit of her stomach.
She sank down onto the bed, wondering how much longer she would have to wait. Would he be gone all night? Draco always disappeared to punish her or avoid her (she never really knew which) but she didn’t think Sirius would do the same. She knew something had happened during the fight with Draco…she had seen a shift in him that she didn’t quite understand. She knew she had somehow hurt him and she was determined to find out what she’d done wrong. She jerked involuntarily as a large, black dog jumped onto the bed beside her, stretching out next to her. She smiled and let her hand float along the fur which was slightly damp from having been outside. “You can’t avoid me forever,” she whispered, “although Juliette has mentioned several times wanting a pet.”
He changed instantly, standing before her, his grey eyes darkened to nearly the color of his previous fur. “Is that what I am, then? A pet?”
“I can accept that, it’s a sight better than whatever position you’ve given Draco in your life.”
“Did I deserve that?” she asked quietly.
“Did it make you feel better to say it?”
“A bit, actually.”
Hermione exhaled a heavy sigh. “Oh, Sirius, what have we done?”
He nodded, feeling the same overwhelming exhaustion that he could see in her eyes. “Made a right bloody mess of things, haven’t I?”
“Stop taking responsibility for everything, will you? It’s getting a bit tiresome.”
“Fuck you, Hermione.”
Hermione watched as he moved to the dresser, his body movements giving away the tension he was trying to hide. He paced around the room, picking up clothes and tossing them somewhere else. His eyes paused briefly on the picture of Harry she had given him for Christmas and he buried his hands in his pockets.
She stepped forward, touching his forearm lightly. “Do you know how foolish you are?” she asked softly. “You act as if Lily betrayed you, as if she chose James over you. That didn’t happen and you know it. You couldn’t love her. She knew that and went to someone who could.”
“Then learn a lesson from her and just go away.”
He brushed her away and moved to pour himself a glass of water. His head was low, his eyes downcast and Hermione hated knowing that she couldn’t fix whatever she had broken in him.
“Earlier, you wanted to yell at me, I know that. You took it out on Draco instead but it was all my fault. You needed something from me.”
“Need and want are two separate things,” he answered, shaking his head. “What I want is definitely not what I need.”
He glanced at her but only momentarily. “I am determined that this time, I’ll be man enough to know the difference.”
Memories coursed through Hermione at a rapid pace. Sirius had played such an important role in the lives of the people she knew. He had saved her from herself, given Lily the ability to be strong even in death, given James a trust so deep that it had endured for generations. Was it really possible that Sirius couldn’t see what he’d given people?
Of course. To him, his life had been nothing but failure. What she saw as breathtaking, he saw as defeat.
She slipped her hand into his, intertwining their fingers and pulling him towards the bed. Although he sank to sit beside her, she could sense his misgivings.
“You,” she whispered, “are like no one I’ve ever met. You are reckless and devoted, caring and careless. You can make me so frustrated I can’t see straight and the next moment you can brush it all away with a single touch. And just once, I wish I could make you see how many wonderful things you’ve done for so many people.”
“He loved you so much, Sirius. I know you feel like you deserted him but, truly, in your brief time with him you taught him everything he ever heeded to know.”
“To go off half-cocked-” he growled, trying to pull away but Hermione held tight.
“No,” she touched his cheek to get his attention again. “You taught him about unconditional love. In a world where he was devoid of family, you became that. You showed him that your love would be given no matter what. You accepted him for who he was no matter his faults or his past or his mistakes. You taught him what James and Lily believed and to understand that love was worth fighting for.”
She turned his face towards her own. “You taught him love is worth dying for, Sirius. And, in the end, that saved us all.”
She could see him struggling, unable to accept what she was telling him. He wanted desperately to believe her but couldn’t seem to let go of the dark emotions that had clouded him since birth. He moved away to stand near the window. His eyes met hers briefly and, for once, she finally understood the desperation he was feeling.
“I can’t fight you, Hermione,” he whispered. “So I am asking you, please, go to Draco.”
“Sirius-” she could feel her throat tightening. How could he do this? To send her away after everything she’ just told him.
“I don’t deserve you. Perhaps he does.”
Hermione rushed to his side. “No, I need-”
He whirled on her, his emotions tumbling out of control but still unwilling to let her say something she couldn’t turn back from.
He cupped her face in his hands, his breath warm on her face. His voice was low and shaking, his eyes piercing through her. “I need you more than I’ve ever needed anything in my whole life.”
“But you want me to leave?” she asked quietly, tears beginning to stream down her cheeks to trickle over his warm hands.
“I want,” he whispered softly, “for you to give Draco the same chance you gave me.”
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