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Chapter 41 : Slytherin's Lair
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Chapter Forty-One: Slytherin’s Lair
Remus stepped into the dark ominous room uneasily. He had never been to this area of Grimmauld and couldn’t say he would ever want to return again. It had an air about it…dank, immoral, wicked even. But it was where Sirius had escaped to. He hesitated at the doorway, Sirius sitting in a chair, a small sliver of remaining sunlight filtering through the dust covered emerald curtains. His head was held in his hands and he didn’t bother to look up.
“How did you find me?” he asked, his voice hoarse.
“Juliette,” he answered, kicking the door shut with his foot. He balanced two glasses in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other. He moved to stand beside Sirius, placing the glasses on the table with a clink and then poured them full. He took a deep swig off the bottle before placing it on the table.
“What is this place?” Remus asked, pacing around the edges of the room, blowing bits of dust away to look at the carvings that had been painstakingly inlaid into the wood.
“Slytherins lair,” Sirius mumbled, sinking back into his chair and toying with the bottle in front of him rather than taking a drink. Remus jerked his hand away from a snake carving and Sirius chuckled. “It’s a guest room. In its more brilliant times, the best purebloods stayed here. Riddles, Blacks, Malfoys, Potters…” he trailed off.
He was never good at reading Remus but the fire in his eyes was unmistakable. This was his best friend…the man who would give his life to keep Sirius from being hurt and he’d just witnessed one of the deepest wounds he had ever been dealt. Sirius wanted to reassure him, to tell him he was okay, but he couldn’t bear the thought of lying to the man before him.
“There was no need to defend me, although I did appreciate it.” Sirius offered as Remus dropped into a chair beside him.
They were silent for several minutes, Sirius knowing that the longer he remained quiet the more time Remus was being allowed to let Hermione’s remarks fester. He watched as Remus downed one drink and start on another. As he lifted it to his lips, Sirius covered the glass with his hand. “She didn’t mean it.”
“Don’t defend her.”
“There’s nothing to defend,” he answered cautiously. “She is scared and feeling like she’s ruined her entire life.”
But the tone in his voice had already warned Sirius where he was headed. “Don’t do it, Remus. Just be your calm, reasonable self for one more minute, okay?” He placed a tight grip on Remus’ forearm. “If it was anyone but me….anyone…would you be so angry?”
Remus considered for a moment but couldn’t seem to get his anger to subside. “Why will you fight for what you believe in but not fight for what you want?”
“And what is it that I want? Do you know because I sure don’t.”
“Stop putting your tail between your legs and cowering in the corner as if you don’t have a choice. For once in your damn blessed life, fight for whatever it is you want!”
“I don’t know what I want,” he repeated more forcefully, refusing to meet his gaze.
“You want that child to be yours.”
“No,” Sirius returned vehemently. “I want it to be hers--no conditions, no prophecies, no future plans or premonitions-- hers without question.”
“Sirius?” Juliette’s tiny voice sounded from the doorway, causing both men to turn. She stood quietly, her hand locked tightly in Hermione’s. “Mum was looking for you. Is it okay that I brought her here?”
Sirius nodded, opening his arms wide for Juliette to climb into his lap. He nuzzled her neck gently, breathing in the warm scent of little girlish-ness that was Juliette.
“Are you all right?” she asked quietly, worried green eyes locking with his.
He knew better than to lie to her…even if it was what both Remus and Hermione wanted him to do. Besides, Juliette was probably smarter than the entire group of them put together.
“Not really but it’s not something you can fix either.”
“If you could, darling, I’d let you do it in a heartbeat,” he offered smiling and planting a kiss on her forehead. “Can you let Remus tuck you back in bed? You had one heck of an adventurous night.”
“You’ll be here for breakfast?”
Sirius hesitated and he could feel all eyes turn his way. But he still wasn’t going to answer any of them. “Off to bed with you.”
As they disappeared, Sirius’ tired eyes moved to survey Hermione. She looked uneasy, fearful even, and he knew she was going to apologize. And it was the last thing he wanted.
She sank onto the floor as his feet, crossing her legs underneath her. “I’m about as good at apologizing as you are.”
“No apologies are needed,” he whispered, touching her cheek tenderly to let her know he meant it.
“Don’t do that. Don’t let me off so easily. I know you didn’t bed Lily when she was married and for me to have used something like her against you--”
“Stop,” he drew away from her. “Please stop,” the slight pleading in his voice made her weak.
She nodded but was unsure of what to say to make things right between them. Luckily, Sirius always knew where to lead them.
“Hormonal changes aside,” he murmured, “I would think you’d be a bit more happy with the news.”
“I am happy,” she offered him a faint smile. “I’m just--”
“Scared,” he provided with a resigned sigh. “I know.”
He tugged on her arm, pulling her to sit across his lap. She sat there peacefully for a few seconds then began kicking her feet in random nervousness. He intertwined his fingers with hers.
“What do you want, Hermione?”
It wasn’t really something that she had to think about but more something that required courage to say. She leaned forward, her lips brushing lightly against his, knowing he alone could give her the strength she needed.
“I want it to be yours,” she whispered. “More than anything in the world.”
“It will be mine. No matter who the father is.”
“No, I mean…”
“And I’m telling you,” he cut her off, his voice stern but his lips kissing her tenderly, “Stop worrying yourself sick. It will be mine.”
“Sirius,” her soft voice filtered across the room as she watched him dress. She knew he had not intended on having sex with her…she had cornered him in to it. She knew his weaknesses and preyed on them when he was most vulnerable. She hated herself for it and couldn’t blame him for leaving as quickly as possible. But, just once, she was determined to summon the courage he had revived in her.
“I need something from you.”
“Are you hungry?” he chuckled as he finished buttoning his pants.
“No. I mean yes, of course, but,” she hesitated, “I need you not to leave.”
He straightened, his hands frozen in position on his zipper. “What?”
“I know I hurt you. More than anyone. More than your vile mother or any of your relatives. More than those years in Azkaban and even Peter. But,” her strong voice had faded to almost a beg, “I need you to stay. You don’t have to play nice…yell at me, scream at me, do whatever you wish. Just please,” she whispered, “please don’t leave.”
As if her admission had sparked something in him, he moved into a frenzy of activity. He bustled around the room, moving objects then moving them back. He mumbled incoherently, small snippets of words like “impossible”, “should’ve know better”, and “coward” reaching Hermione’s ears. He grabbed a vase, hurling it across the room and causing it to shatter into tiny pieces. He dropped his head, his knuckles turning white as he throttled the edge of the dresser. When he finally spoke, his voice was tinged with an uncontrollable emotion that Hermione couldn’t define.
“How is it possible,” he asked, “to hate you and love you in the same breath?”
His announcement stunned them both. Hermione tightened herself into a ball on the bed, unable to even breath. He dropped his head between his arms, a sickening feeling of exposure causing him to feel faint. He collapsed to the floor, pulling his knees up to his chest and resting his arms on his knees.
He watched her tentative steps toward him. Her hair still mussed from their tumble, his long white dress shirt reaching almost to her knees. He could tell the floor was cold on her feet by the way her toes barely touched her the wood; her face was still flushed pink from their love making and her fingers were curled tightly around the French cuffs of his shirt in fear and uncertainty for the emotional windfall he’d just dealt her. If only she could remain this way he might could love her…perfect but tarnished; beautiful but edged in thorns; prim and proper but wild and insatiable when she got him alone.
If only…she wouldn’t open her mouth.
He cursed her. He begged her to leave. He damned her to hell. Then, in case she missed it (since she seemed in no haste to leave) he did it again. Twice.
He was just considering launching into a fourth hate filled tirade when she placed a tentative pink fisted hand on his chest. The other soon followed and her hands moved over his shoulders, up to his neck to rest on either side of his face. She touched him as she might Juliette…brushing away loose strands of hair, wiping away invisible fuzz that only a mother could see, and pressing her lips gently into his forehead with the comfort as only a mom could possibly do.
“Being in love,” she whispered, “is not nearly as miserable as you’d have the world believe.”
Sirius couldn’t quell the urge to flee. Even with Hermione lying in his arms, his pronouncement of love had made him physical weak. The concept that he had somehow exposed himself, that deepest darkest part of himself that he had kept from everyone, to her made him vulnerable. It wasn’t that he feared rejection but the thought of that damned locket that hovered in the back of his mind. He was terrified that his love for her would complete the entire vicious circle…that Juliette’s wish was now fulfilled. She had wanted her mother to be happy and the contented sleep with which Hermione now slumbered told Sirius that time had arrived.
He had always known the day would come- the time when the inscription on the locket would fall upon Grimmauld and he would have to explain to her that her happiness was the only real reason for his return from the veil. He hadn’t expected it to be him. He had counted on the fact that Draco would be the source of her happiness but now that the moment of truth had arrived, Sirius was beside him with worry. How could he ever explain that the repayment for her happiness was for him to leave? And what if the locket wouldn’t accept him? He had to be willing to walk away…how many times had he told her that? But with her lying in his arms, the one person that had ever managed to break through the shell he so carefully crafted around himself, he wasn’t entirely sure he could do it. He had been walking away from people his entire life and now, as he lay in the pale yellowish-pink haze before dawn, he knew…he was failing at the most important test of his life.
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