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Chapter 24 : xxiv.
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21st December 1976
The voice was familiar. It was more hoarse than she was used to, and there was a distinct slur to it from alcohol, but she was positive she knew who it was. Hermione grasped her wand firmly and pointed it in the direction of the disembodied voice.
“What are you doing, Sirius?” she hissed. “And could you please show yourself? It's a little disconcerting speaking to someone who is invisible.”
Sirius fumbled with the Invisibility Cloak, she caught his trainers in front of her a few times, before the rest of his body made an appearance. Her eyes rested on the nearly empty bottle of Firewhiskey he held in his hand. He gave her a lopsided grin before lifting the bottle to his lips to take a drink.
“You could get in serious trouble for that, you know,” she snapped at him.
He let out a loud laugh. “Serious trouble,” he repeated, then stumbled a bit.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “I am in no mood to deal with you while you're in this state.” She stood from her seat and glared at him.
His hair was completely disheveled, his shirt was buttoned incorrectly and inside out. She had a feeling that he was up to no good with someone, before she had the misfortune of running into him.
“Goodnight, Sirius,” she said with a sad shake of her head, then turned to walk away.
Barely making it two steps, she yelped when he grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her entirely too close to him.
“What in the name of Merlin do you think you're doing!” she shouted and tried to pull her arm from his vice-like grip.
The smell coming from him was nauseating. There was nothing worse than the bitter smell of alcohol on someone’s breath.
“Pipe down, Devereux.” He laughed loudly again, clearly unconcerned with being caught completely pissed with the evidence still in his hand.
His hold on her was too tight, and regardless of who he was, she was still entirely too uncomfortable being so alone with someone so drunk, who had made his feelings about her clear on numerous occasions.
“Sirius, maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey. You know she doesn't ask too many questions. Get something to sober up,” she tried to convince him. A noticeable quiver was present in her voice.
“Nah, I reckon I'm fine just where I am.” His smile frightened her. It was always predatory.
Her gut was telling her to run, but her head was trying to make sense of the situation. She refused to believe that the man she knew would be the type to corner a girl they fancied in a dark corridor, alone, while he was inebriated. The same man who lived off of rats in a cave for nearly a year, just so he could be nearby to protect his godson. The same man who escaped Azkaban, and was on the run while he hunted down the traitor who led to the deaths of his best friends. The same man who was locked up in his childhood home, with the ghosts of abuse and torment lurking in each corner, just so he could help bring down the tyrant who murdered his friends, and wanted to destroy his godson -- his only family.
But when she looked into the youthful grey eyes of the Sirius Black who stood before her, it was a painful reminder that he was not that man at this time. Now he was a sixteen year old boy, who had just run away from home, and had mountains of baggage and unresolved trauma from years of living with parents who treated him worse than a house elf. He was troubled. And in that moment, he was trouble.
“Sirius, I -”
“Why Snivelly?” he interrupted and pulled her body against his. The stench coming from him made her eyes water.
Her eyes narrowed as anger bubbled in her chest. “That's none of your concern.”
Sirius laughed again, the whole thing seemed amusing to him. He placed his finger under her chin and tilted her head back.
“Well, perhaps I can make you see sense.”
Hermione knew what he was about to do, and should have stopped it, but fear and shock that he would actually be so bold froze her.
He leaned down and kissed her sloppily. Between the sour taste from the Firewhiskey, and the disgusting amount of saliva, she gagged and shoved him back hard.
“How dare you!” she screamed, then jumped due to the shout of pure rage she heard coming from behind her.
Before she could even register what was happening, she saw a fist collide with an audible crunch to Sirius’ nose.
“Severus, no!” Hermione shouted with an attempt at grabbing his robes, but it was no use.
Sirius fell to the floor, and Severus dove on top of him, so overcome with anger, he didn't even use magic. He was punching every last inch of Sirius that he could reach.
Hermione knew that under normal circumstances Sirius would have easily been able to hold his own. Perhaps even overtake Severus. Sirius was much broader, and if he was not as intoxicated, could have easily won this fight.
“Filthy -- fucking -- animal! Don't -- ever -- touch -- her -- again!” Each word was punctuated with another blow to his body.
Hermione didn't know what to do. Sirius’ face was covered in blood, and Severus seemed to be in a frenzy. It didn't look as if he would stop.
She rushed forward and grabbed Severus’ arm as it raised to deliver another blow to Sirius’ head.
“Severus! That's enough!”
He turned his head to look at her; there was murder in his eyes.
The minor distraction seemed to be exactly what Sirius needed. Hermione winced upon hearing a nasty crack when Sirius’ foot connected with Severus’ chest. Severus yelled out in pain, the sound tore right through Hermione, who took her wand and placed a shield charm between both boys that was so strong, the blue light blasted both of them back from each other.
She stood with her chest heaving, her arm shook as it was still extended out in front of her. Severus was laying with his arm wrapped around his torso breathing shallowly, while Sirius sat up holding his robes to his bleeding nose.
Footsteps pounded down the corridor.
“Sirius! Snape! What the fuck do you two think you’re playing at?” Remus yelled from behind her.
Hermione turned around, feeling like the color drained from her face. She’d been hoping that no one would have heard, and that she could have possibly cleaned them both up a bit, before insisting they both head to the Hospital Wing.
Remus stood running his hand through his hair, his eyes darting back and forth between the two boys on the floor, before finally landing on Hermione.
“What happened?” he asked.
Hermione took a deep breath.
“Sirius had a little bit too much to drink,” she began to explain, her voice shaking, “and he kissed me.” Her nose scrunched, the vile taste still lingered in her mouth. “Severus saw, and...well.” She gestured towards the two of them groaning on the ground.
Remus eyes widened, he shook his head. “I’m sorry, Hermione,” he whispered with a murderous glance towards Sirius. “He’s normally not like that. I don’t know what must have gotten into him.”
Hermione managed a small smile. Remus always took on the responsibility of apologizing for Sirius. It wasn’t right, she thought. He couldn’t control the actions of his friends any more than she could.
“You’re both going to have detention,” Remus told the boys. “After the holidays.”
Sirius glared at Remus as if he was a traitor. “What the fuck, Moony?!”
“AND,” Remus went on, as if he didn’t hear Sirius, “I’m going to have to inform both of your house heads about this.”
“Of course you do, bloody Saint Lupin,” Severus growled, then winced as he tried to sit up.
Remus rolled his eyes and let out a loud breath. “Can you manage taking him to Pomfrey?” he asked with a pointed glance towards Severus, then walked to Sirius, extending a hand to help him up, which Sirius reluctantly took.
She nodded, still feeling completely numb after the events of the last fifteen minutes.
Remus casted a cleansing charm on Sirius, removing most of the blood, and brought his attention back to Hermione. “Are you sure you’re alright?” he asked, quickly eyeing Severus again before looking back to her.
Before Hermione could answer, a loud snort came from Sirius. “She’s fine, Moony. It’s not like she just had her bloody teeth knocked into the back of her fucking head.”
“I’m fine, Remus,” she assured him, while kneeling down next to Severus. “Go on and take care of that.” she spat with an angry look aimed at Sirius.
A sad smile crossed Remus’ lips. “Right. Have a good night, Hermione.”
She nodded, and then the two boys stood up to leave. Sirius rubbed the back of his neck, and told Remus to hold on a second.
“Hermione, I -- I’m…” he mumbled, looking ashamed of himself. As he should, she thought.
“Just go, Sirius,” Hermione told him, not quite sure how long it would be until she could forgive him for this.
Remus placed his hand on Sirius’ shoulder and gently pulled him along. With one more apologetic look at Hermione, the boys both turned and left. As their figures disappeared into the darkness, she thought she could hear them quietly arguing with one another all the way down the corridor.
When she brought her attention back to Severus, he looked as if he was losing lots of color, her heart felt heavy.
“Come on, Severus. Let’s get you up to Madam Pomfrey. I think you might have a broken rib.”
Gingerly she hooked her hands under his arms, and took her time gently helping him back to his feet. He grunted when he stood up, his eyes scrunched in pain.
“I could have killed him, Hermione. I might have, had you not stopped me,” he told her. She saw the look in his eyes when he was on top of Sirius. She believed him.
“Well, luckily you didn't.” Hermione smiled weakly. “A minor hex would have done the trick, Severus. I was just about to send one his way myself, before…”
Severus tried to respond, but with every attempt to speak, he seemed to lose even more color. Hermione tried not to let the worry she felt show on her face.
They started to walk together, with Hermione holding on to Severus as tightly as she could without causing him more pain. It was no easy task, and even making it half-way down the corridor seemed to take forever.
He was getting heavy, bearing nearly his entire weight on her. It was difficult to move and she wasn't quite sure if she could carry on much longer without hurting them both. She stopped walking, took a step back and pointed her wand at him. His eyes widened.
“What are you-”
“I can't carry you,” she interrupted.
Hermione used the same spell that adult Severus used on herself, Harry and Sirius, when they'd all passed out near the Black Lake after the Dementor attack her third year. A stretcher appeared underneath him, then levitated him above the ground.
“This isn't necessary,” he growled while laying on his back.
Hermione began walking, stretcher in tow. “Nonsense. You can't walk, and I was proving to be no help. This will be better for each of us. Now hush, you're in no shape to argue.”
As much as she knew he wanted to, Severus did not argue with her the rest of the way. He was almost completely silent, save for a few groans and hisses from the pain.
When she opened the door to the Hospital Wing, thankfully it was empty. The medi-witch must have fixed up Sirius and sent him on his way in the time it had taken she and Severus to get up there, she thought. Madam Pomfrey immediately rushed to them in her dressing gown.
“Miss Devereux!” she exclaimed, waving her wand mid-run preparing a bed for Severus.
She took one look at him and shook her head. “Fighting with Black again, I suppose?”
Pomfrey tutted, and sent Severus onto the bed she had just gotten ready for him.
“I assumed as much,” she went on, waving her wand over his body, doing her diagnostic spells. “Just mended his nose. The foolish boys.” Her voice was filled with half-exasperation and a half-motherly tone.
Hermione sat on a chair next the the bed, while Madam Pomfrey rushed to her healing potions cabinet.
“Two broken ribs,” she called back over her shoulder, then turned around with a bottle of pain potion in her hands.
Severus’ eyes met Hermione’s, she reached over and wrapped her hand around his.
“Over night for you, I'm afraid,” Pomfrey said while pouring a glass for Severus to take. “Here,” she handed it to him, “drink up.”
Severus took a sniff from the cup and crinkled his nose. “Never gets easier,” he mumbled, before tipping it back and taking the potion in one gulp. He frowned at the taste and placed the empty cup on the table next to his bed.
Madam Pomfrey flourished her wand once more, and Hermione heard the sickening cracks of Severus’ bones resetting themselves. It was lucky she'd given him the pain potion first, because from the sound of it, Hermione knew that would have been excruciating.
“Not much more for you to do besides rest, Mister Snape. Now say goodnight to Miss Devereux, it's nearly curfew,” Pomfrey told them both with a look on her face that meant she was not to be argued with.
Hermione didn't want to leave, but knew she had no choice. Reluctantly, she squeezed his hand and stood. “Goodnight, Severus. Get some rest. I'll come back first thing in the morning.” She leaned down and placed a soft kiss to his forehead.
Severus took another potion Pomfrey gave him -- a sleeping potion, then smiled sadly. He's eyes started to droop. “Goodnight, Hermione. I - I lo-” He stopped. A tint of red filled his cheeks. “I'll see you tomorrow.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “What were you going to-”
“Alright that's enough for tonight,” Madam Pomfrey interrupted, and all but pulled Hermione away.
Hermione’s stomach dropped. Was he about to say…? No, she thought. There was no way.
Slowly she walked to the door, looked back and saw that Severus’ eyes were already closed. Hermione left the Hospital Wing, and the entire walk back to her common room, the words she thought he was about to say kept replaying in her mind.
22nd December 1976
Hermione had difficulty sleeping, images of Sirius’ glazed over eyes and memories of the stench of his breath kept replaying over in her mind. Of course she'd been through a lot worse, with being tortured, losing loved ones, erasing her parents’ memories and fighting in a war, but she'd never been attacked quite in that way before. She feared something more sinister would have happened with Greyback in Malfoy Manor all those months ago, but what happened earlier that evening was the first time she'd been handled as if she were a piece of meat. It nauseated her.
Obviously she also worried about Severus. He had been lucky that one of his broken ribs did not pierce his heart or lungs. The whole situation could have ended up being much, much worse, and all of those what ifs played on a loop in her head.
Just before sunrise, Hermione had finally given up on any hopes of sleeping. She quietly got out of her bed and padded her way towards the showers, hoping that the hot water would calm her nerves and ease the tension she held in her back.
It was daybreak by the time she'd gotten out and dressed. The girls were still sleeping, having a bit of a lie in due to there being no classes, so Hermione left the dorm and walked down to the common room to kill some time before it would be acceptable to visit Severus in the Hospital Wing.
When she sat on one of the couches in front of the fireplace, she sighed and pointed her wand at it, igniting a crackling fire. She stared into the dancing flames, again reliving the events of last evening.
Severus meant to say something to her before she left the Hospital Wing. It sounded as if he was about to say he loved her. It could have just been the effects of the sleeping potion. Perhaps he didn't know what he was saying. She'd already come to the realization that she was in love with him, but Gryffindor courage be damned, she would not be the first one to express those feelings. What if he didn't feel as strongly for her? She'd only scare him off.
Hermione exhaled loudly. She fought in a war, for Merlin’s sake! Why was the thought of telling someone you loved them more terrifying than that?
Impatiently, she looked at her watch. It was seven o'clock. If she took a slow walk to Severus, she could reach him by seven-thirty. That would be completely acceptable for a visit, she thought. She couldn't stay cooped up in the common room any longer, since she felt as if she could climb the walls.
When she arrived next to his bed nearly a half hour later -- she timed it perfectly -- he was still asleep. He looked so much younger while he slept. The lines between his eyebrows from his usual scowl were smoothed out, and his lips were fractionally turned upwards, almost like he was smiling. She wondered what he was dreaming of to cause such a serene look on his face.
Not wanting to wake him, she took a seat next to his bed and opened a book she'd brought with her, just in case he was still asleep when she arrived.
Madam Pomfrey came out about fifteen minutes after her arrival, and looked for a moment like she was about to tell Hermione off, but stopped when Hermione gave her a pleading look. The young medi-witches eyes softened. She placed a finger up to her lips, signaling for Hermione to remain quiet, then waved her wand across Severus’ body, doing some more diagnostic spells while he continued to sleep. Pomfrey nodded after she was finished, looking satisfied by the results, and gave Hermione an understanding smile before heading back to her office.
Hermione went back to reading her book. Periodically looking up each time she heard Severus stir, hoping that he would wake, but also being glad that he was getting the rest that Madam Pomfrey prescribed.
About an hour later she jumped upon hearing his voice.
“Hey,” he said, wiping his eyes, his voice scratchy from sleep.
Hermione placed the book on her lap and smiled as she took his hand.
“Good morning,” she replied with a gentle squeeze. “How are you feeling?”
He shifted his position, trying to sit up. His face screwed up in pain. “A little better, but not much.” He craned his neck, looking in the direction of Madam Pomfrey’s office. “Could probably do with a bit more of that pain potion.”
Before Hermione could even offer to fetch her, Madam Pomfrey was right there, and if Hermione hadn't known any better, she would have sworn the woman had Apparated with how quickly she arrived.
Handing him a goblet full of the potion, she shifted her eyes to Hermione. “You've been well looked after all morning Mister Snape. The girl hasn't left your side.”
Hermione flushed, giving Severus a sheepish smile.
When he took the cup from his lips, a small smile appeared. “You've been just watching me sleep?” he asked with a slight chuckle.
She lifted the book from her lap. “As interesting as I find you, Severus, I had other things to keep me occupied.”
He shook his head, amusement plainly written on his face.
Madam Pomfrey quickly checked Severus over once again, now that he was awake. She informed them both that his ribs were healing as well as she could have hoped, but he would still require one more night there to recover fully.
Severus and Hermione had identical scowls on their faces. Each of them had been hoping to spend the day together, not under the watchful eye of the school medi-witch.
Hermione stayed with him for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, refusing to leave even for meals, and ate with Severus in the Hospital Wing. They kept their conversations light, not speaking much about what happened the night before, and certainly neither one of them bringing up what Severus had almost said before she left the previous night.
As the day progressed, she was happy to see that he seemed to be improving with each hour that passed. His movements were becoming more fluid and less painful, and most of the color had returned to his face.
When it was nearly suppertime, Severus’ expression grew somber.
“Hermione?” he asked, angling his body towards her.
She hummed in response, while turning a page in her book. He reached for it and pushed it down, causing her to look up at him. When seeing the frown he was wearing, she grew concerned.
“What is it, Severus?”
“I'm sorry,” he said softly. “I should have been there before…before he put his hands on you. If I'd just arrived earlier, none of this,” he waved his arm over his injury, “would have happened. What he did to you would not have happened.”
Slowly she stood up, bent down and placed a gentle kiss on his lips. When she pulled back, his brow was furrowed.
“What was that for?” he asked.
Hermione sat back down and exhaled. “Severus, if you think for one second that you're going to blame yourself for the actions of someone else, you're sorely mistaken.”
He tried to argue, but silenced him with one look.
“Stop,” she ordered. “You cannot control everything, so please just stop. It is not your fault.”
“But if I -”
She groaned loudly.
“We’re not arguing about this. What's done is done and cannot be changed. It is no more your fault than it is the Giant Squid’s.”
His mouth puckered, it was obvious he hadn't agreed with her, but to her satisfaction he dropped the subject.
Soon after trays of food were brought in for each of them, and after they ate they spent the rest of the evening reading quietly next to one another, or discussing their plans for the following day when Severus would be released.
Surprisingly, Madam Pomfrey let Hermione remain until a little past curfew, then after giving Severus his pain and sleep potions she insisted Hermione return to her dormitory.
Again Hermione kissed Severus goodnight, and again his eyes were closed before she'd even reached the door. She felt monumentally better after spending the day with him, and could not wait to get into bed. After barely sleeping the night before, she was absolutely knackered.
When she was nearly to Ravenclaw tower, she heard footsteps behind her.
“Merlin’s Beard, not again,” she whispered to herself, before turning around with her wand out in front of her.
Just as she assumed, Sirius Black was standing behind her, hands up in a defensive position, and looking much better than he had the last time she saw him. Cold fury raced through her veins
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn't blast you into next week, Black?” she growled.
Sirius dropped his arms, his shoulders sank.
“I can't…” he said.
Hermione lowered her wand minutely. “What do you want?” she asked, silently asking whatever higher power there might have been why she had such rotten luck.
“I wanted to -- no,” he shook his head, “I need to apologize.”
She raised an eyebrow, but did not lower her wand. “Oh? And you think that will just make everything better, do you? Say, ‘I'm sorry,’ and everything will just go away? Do you even understand how wrong what you did was?” Her voice grew louder with each word she spoke.
He flinched as if she hit him.
“Hermione, I'm not going to make excuses for what I did, alright? And yes, I know it was wrong, which is why I'm here trying to apologize to you. Last night that...that wasn't me,” he told her, his eyes wide and sincere.
Finally Hermione lowered her wand. He was right. It wasn't him. Not the him she knew from her time, that was. Clearly this Sirius Black still had a lot of growing up to do.
“I know it wasn't,” she admitted in a whisper. “But I'm not sure if I can accept your apology.”
His head jerked up fast. “But Hermione-”
“No, Sirius. There are no buts about this. I'm not sure if I can accept it yet. It's going to take me some time.”
Sirius nodded and ran his hand through his hair.
“I understand,” he said just barely loud enough for her to hear.
Hermione took a step away from him and placed her wand back in the pocket of her robes.
“I appreciate you coming to apologize. But, please, from now on, you really need to just stay away. Do you understand?” Hermione asked, hating that she was even having this conversation with someone she cared for.
He nodded again, looking like a small child who'd just been scolded.
“I do. I will. And for what it's worth, I truly am sorry.”
Hermione’s eyes filled with understanding, remembering again that conversation she had with Sirius during Christmas her fifth year. “I know you are, Sirius.” Now she knew for certain what he had apologized for that evening, and that he absolutely knew who she was when he met her again later in his life.
They stood facing each other in an awkward silence for several seconds, until she sighed and began walking away. “Goodnight,” she called over her shoulder, as she left him alone in the dark corridor.
A/N - Here's the next chapter, a little more quickly than normal. I'm working on this story for Camp NaNo, and set a 20k word goal, so this month will probably be a little more rapid with the updates. (If I can manage to keep myself writing and reach my goal). I'm hoping that 20k more words will nearly finish the story. I've been working on it since November of 2014, and it's about time that I finish, I think. :)
I know it was guessed that it was going to be Sirius, which I assumed that mostly everyone would. He *does* use James' cloak, and he has been a bit infactuated with Hermione. However, he wasn't actively searching for her here, it was just an unfortunate coincidence that they ran into one another.
Things are really going to start picking up after the new term begins for our characters, and we'll be working our way towards the climax and end of the fic. Which, yay! :)
I have to thank you all again for being so lovely, kind, supportive, funny, and just all around amazing. *group hugs all around* I never imagined that this story would get the attention that it has so far, and I couldn't be more thankful to all of you readers. Thank you so, so much for all the reviews, reads, favorites and just everything. Love all of you!
I hope you enjoyed the chapter!
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