Warnings: Rated M for explicit language, violence, mentions of non-con elements, implied child abuse, and sexual content. This story is Canon Divergent and contains both het and slash pairings. The narrative is non-linear, which means that it includes flashbacks (so for those who get a little confused, just double check the dates ) For further disclaimers and warnings, make sure to read my profile. [Updated Jan 2023]

Beta Love: Fluffpanda, Nykizta, azuthlu, Tiffany, Rachael, Krystle, Miranda, and eleventyJJ

Presque Toujours Pur
Almost Always Pure

Chapter One

April 1998

"Take these prisoners down to the cellar, Greyback."

They had been on the run for so long; they were so tired and broken.

One small slip of the tongue and Snatchers were at their doorstep—or tent flap as it was. Hermione had hastily thrown up a series of complex wards to keep their pursuers out while she turned and began altering their features. Her own appearance would have been easily overlooked had her face not been plastered all over the Daily Prophet for months labelling her a known Muggle-born associate of Harry Potter, but Ron and Harry's features were unavoidably recognisable. There were redheads all over Wizarding Britain, but that vibrant shade of red paired with specific facial features spoke only of the Weasleys. In addition to Harry's scar, his emerald green eyes were a dead giveaway.

She had changed her own hair to a dirty-blond and adjusted the shape of her nose, given Ron a head of brown hair, and altered Harry's eye colour to brown before she tried to glamour the scar on his forehead. Nothing had happened. In a panic, as the Snatchers gave up on taking down the wards and resorted to ripping through them, she had hit Harry in the face with a Stinging Hex, muttering apologies to her best friend as a hideous werewolf descended upon them all.

The glamours had not been strong enough.

They were partially recognised by Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy immediately, so Bellatrix called for Draco to confirm their identities.

The insane witch had grabbed him by the back of the neck and shoved him so close to Hermione's face that her vision was filled with nothing except the trademark molten silver eyes of Draco Malfoy.

A dull silver, the colour of hard metal. In the right lighting, they sometimes appeared to glow. Torches and flickering candles around Hogwarts sometimes made them seem ethereal; as though she could actually see with her own eyes the magic inside of Draco moving.

Now, his eyes looked dull. The magic of the colour reminded her more of steel in need of a good shine. They lacked the sparkle that Ron's and Harry's held. Even Sirius, whose grey eyes still had a small glimmer despite his time in Azkaban and still more after last summer at Grimmauld place when he miraculously survived duelling Bellatrix in the Department of Mysteries with only a slowly healing curse wound to show for it.

When Bellatrix finally let Draco out of her personal bubble, Hermione had taken the opportunity to really look at him. He seemed so much worse than when she last saw him, fleeing from Hogwarts on the heels of Professor Snape with Harry screaming, "Murderer!" behind them. Draco had looked terrible for most of sixth year. While Harry had spent the majority of time at school insisting that Malfoy was a Death Eater (which, apparently, he had been), she had taken notice of the way his clothes hung off his body too loosely, how he never ate in the Great Hall, and rarely spoke in class. More than once during Prefect rounds, she had caught him hyperventilating in dark alcoves.

Now, he looked much worse. Sickly thin and pale, with dark circles under eyes that were red-rimmed by stress. Draco had stared at her with obvious recognition and swallowed hard, taking a moment presumably to invent a lie. Apparently, the best that he could summon at that moment was, "I can't be sure. It might be them, but I'm not certain."

Regardless, Hermione appreciated the effort. Considering the worried looks on the faces of Bellatrix and the elder Malfoys, they would have needed to be one-hundred percent certain before summoning Voldemort. She was grateful for the seedling of doubt that Draco had planted in their minds. But, unfortunately, with a certain famous sword discovered in their possession and Bellatrix Lestrange's determination to get back in the good graces of her Dark Lord, they were not even close to seeing the clearing of the woods.

Greyback took hold of Harry and Ron, gripping each of them by the arm with his filthy hands and squeezing tight as he began to approach her. Hermione hated the way that she flinched.

"Wait." Bellatrix stopped him, her heavy-lidded eyes staring at Hermione. "All except . . . except for the Mudblood."

Harry and Ron were taken away quickly, screaming and pleading to stay in her place.

"No!" Harry yelled, fighting against Greyback's grip.

"Take me instead!" Ron shouted as they dragged him away, presumably to a dungeon. This place seemed like it would have a dungeon.

Bellatrix lifted her wand, and Hermione looked up at the woman in terror. Bellatrix had grey eyes like Sirius. A family trait no doubt. They sparkled as well, but not with the mirth of a Marauder. They looked hungry.

Hermione broke eye contact, unable to watch. Instead, she turned her eyes to the other occupants of the room.

Draco seemed to twitch in understanding of what was to happen to her, and she was even tempted to scream out, begging him for help. For a split second, he looked like he might have done so. Whatever he could have thought to do to stop his aunt was thwarted by the gripping fingers of his father, keeping him still and silent. It looked as though Lucius had dug his fingernails into the skin of his son's shoulder in anxious anticipation.

The first Crucio felt like death.

The second made her pray for it.

But it was not until Bellatrix's frustration began to reach a peak that things took a genuine turn for the worse. The torture curse stopped, but the spellcasting did not. Hermione could feel as Bellatrix began to dismantle the glamours she had put on herself. Any normal witch or wizard with a decent understanding of transfiguration could have ended the visual trickery easily, but Bellatrix Lestrange's thirst for control and desire to witness agony led her to do it as painfully as possible.

It felt like she had clawed her way into Hermione's magic and began picking it away, looking for physical traits and casting them aside, piece by piece, until the truth revealed itself. The spells were a relief from the pain, but Bellatrix's magic felt wrong and invasive. It felt cold and wet and acidic. Suddenly, the magic pushing inside of her seemed to hit a wall of sorts, and she actually jolted at the barrier. The coldness suddenly grew very hot, and the acidic nature of Bellatrix's magic felt corrosive. Like it had gone from lemon juice to battery acid. Something cracked in the wall inside of her, and it felt like her magic was fighting back.


The fight inside of Hermione didn't feel like her magic.

Unable to cling to the protective magic or assist it in any way, she felt as it shattered to pieces. Her body jolted again and a tingling fire ran over her skin, down to her fingertips and toes and then back up her arms and legs, cascading over her face in a wave of heat and thrumming aches.

It took the air right out of her lungs.

She didn't even have a moment to catch her breath before a hand fisted in her hair.

"What are you playing at, little girl?! You dare mock me?"

Hermione was beyond exhausted, sobbing, and unable to understand what conclusion Bellatrix's insane mind had drawn together. The pain focused on her skull where Bellatrix yanked hard, and soft black curls drifted into her vision.

The gripping hand eventually released her, and she felt when the back of her head smacked into the marble flooring with a thud that echoed in her ears. Her vision shook, and in confusion, she wondered why the soft black curls were still in her face when she could see the blurred image of Bellatrix standing above her.

"I'll teach you . . ." the older witch snarled before descending upon her again, and then Hermione felt a stabbing pain in her arm as Bellatrix held her down by the throat.

It felt like the Cruciatus anchored to one singular spot until it began to move along her skin in sharp lines. She screamed and cried, and she sought out help again, only to see Draco shaking in his father's tight grip, and his mother covering her mouth in horror at the scene.

A bright light swooped overhead, and the pain ebbed just enough for her to blink away tears and see Ron and Harry running toward her with wands in hand. Loud footfalls and echoing magic shook the ground, and the last thing she saw before losing consciousness was Harry and Ron staring down at her in confusion.

Hermione sat in the first-floor drawing room of Grimmauld Place, staring straight ahead at the large tapestry that hung on the stone wall. It had weathered many generations, protected by strong family magic, and all the names that were magically embroidered in perfect calligraphy still stood out in black stitching against the Slytherin green background.

Raised voices argued in the room next to her.

The door was closed, but no Silencing Charm had been cast; she could not, for the life of her, comprehend why the men on the other side had not thought to do so. The sheer volume and intensity of their shouts were liable to wake the Muggle neighbours, who were currently unaware that a number twelve existed between numbers eleven and thirteen, Grimmauld Place: the seat of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.

"I should have been told!" Sirius' voice was hoarse and emotional; he'd been yelling for hours and crying for days before the start of this particular argument when Harry had Side-Along Apparated her there immediately after escaping Malfoy Manor.

She had woken up in the guest chamber adjacent to the drawing room at Grimmauld Place, initially not realising where she was. A familiar set of worried emerald green eyes stared back at her from within the darkened room, red-rimmed with dark circles beneath, indicating a severe lack of sleep. Harry had not slept well for the majority of the year but, then again, none of them had. Constantly being on the move and hunting for Horcruxes did not allow for proper midday kips; stress-induced insomnia had been detrimental to everyone's health.

"How long?" she had whispered upon waking.

Gripping her hand tightly, Harry had muttered, "Four days. God, Hermione, I thought you were . . ."

She had reached out, muscles weak, and lightly ruffled his hair until he cracked a smile and the tears flowed out in earnest; which was actually what she had been trying to prevent. She knew Harry hated it when people saw him getting too emotional, and she felt guilty for putting him in such a fragile state. Taking care of Harry had become second nature to her. She had spent six years forcing him and Ron to do their homework and the better part of a seventh making sure they were eating, even if it was only wild mushrooms and the little bits of fish they were able to catch any time they found themselves camped near rivers or lakes.

"Did everyone else make it out?"

Harry frowned. "Dobby."

She had felt a tight pain in her chest she knew to be grief. It was amazing she was not numb to the feeling yet. "Oh, Harry. I'm so sorry."

"Ron said that Bill and Fleur buried him in the garden of Shell Cottage," he told her. "I haven't been by to visit, but Ron says it's beautiful. Bill carved a headstone, and Luna arranged flowers. Ollivander, Griphook, and Dean got out safely as well."

"Why aren't we there?" she had asked curiously.

"When . . . everything happened at Malfoy Manor," he'd said the words with disgust, "Dobby was taking us to Shell Cottage like I told him to but he'd been injured mid-Disapparition, and we ended up separating from him and Ron when he . . . I don't know why, but I was holding onto you, and I knew I had to take over or else we'd get splinched. So I thought of Grimmauld Place."

They had not been to Number Twelve since September. Since they had accidentally led Yaxley, who had tailed them via Apparition, to the steps of the house. Hermione had managed to kick the Death Eater off and immediately Apparated herself, Harry, and Ron elsewhere. That, however, had ended up with Ron splinched and their Horcrux hunt delayed by several days. Harry had sent a Patronus to Sirius, telling him that Grimmauld Place may have been compromised and he should get to safety.

The teenagers had waited for three weeks when the familiar image of a large silvery Grim had wisped its way into the opening of their tent. It had informed them, in Sirius' voice, that he had gotten out in time thanks to some clever spell-work he "wasn't at liberty to discuss" (which could only mean illegal and very likely in the grey tones of Light and Dark Magic).

They had sent word back telling Harry's godfather of only their safety and nothing more. Despite Sirius' wish to be involved in their plans, Dumbledore had left the secret of Tom Riddle's Horcruxes to Harry alone, and he'd only shared that information with Ron and Hermione. It was their job to find and destroy them. Looking back, she wished they had gotten the Order involved.

Grimmauld Place had been a decent hideout in the beginning, but they had put it, and Sirius, at risk far too easily just by staying there when they should have been out, physically tracking down Horcruxes. It had been eight months since the official beginning of the hunt, and they were only one locket down. Hermione had wondered to herself how long it had taken Dumbledore to figure out how to destroy the Gaunt ring. It had taken Harry an entire school year to destroy Tom Riddle's diary— even though it had not been in his possession the entire time and he hadn't known what it really was—but those numbers did not bode well for the rest of their Horcrux hunt. They could not very well spend the next three to four years on the run trying to destroy the dark vessels in the hopes that Voldemort did not destroy their world in the process.

"Why Grimmauld Place?" she asked curiously. "Why not Shell Cottage? We were already planning to go there."

Harry frowned and reached out to wrap one of her curls around his finger, a habit he fell into whenever he was nervous, "I . . . I guess I was thinking of Sirius at the time."

She had winced as memories of Malfoy Manor flashed through her mind.

She'd looked down at her bandaged forearm. "Harry, what happened?"

He apparently decided the best way to broach the subject was by visual representation. Harry had reached into the drawer of the bedside table and removed a mirror from within. She had snatched it from his grip and brought it to her face. She did not know why it did not shock her to see it. Bellatrix's reaction to the broken glamours might have been a clue, but as Hermione took in her sudden abundance of soft black curls and grey eyes, she understood, at least in part, what had happened.

Somehow when the insane witch had broken Hermione's glamours, she had done something else, revealing the colouring that she now wore.

While Hogwarts did not offer classes in biology and genetics, she understood enough of the principles and the magical theories to know that certain traits belonged solely to certain families: a specific shade of red and freckles meant Weasley, golden blond hair and blue eyes made you a Greengrass, crimson hair and blue eyes led to the Bones family tree, dark skin and green eyes belonged to the Zabinis, and white-blond hair and silver eyes told the world that you were a Malfoy.

Inkjet black hair and grey eyes distinguished a witch or wizard from all others, proudly proclaiming their blood linked to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.

Harry helped her to stand, her hands shaking slightly as she put the mirror down on the bed and got to her feet. She was led into the drawing room to face the infamous Black family tapestry. It did not take her long to see it, and when she did, her breath caught in her throat, and Harry needed to support her weight as her knees buckled.

Which was how she found herself now, sitting on the floor and staring up at the tapestry in front of her with a hole in her heart, a lead weight in her stomach, and a million questions running through her mind.

Harry wrapped her in his arms as he lowered her to the ground, sitting with her, kissing the top of her head as he whispered, "Your arm wouldn't stop bleeding, and when we got here . . . Sirius carried you up the stairs, and you bled a lot on the floor. The house is magical and sentient in itself. Charmed like Hogwarts to recognise certain things and . . . people."

"Blood wards," she mumbled.

"Kreacher actually healed your arm."

She turned and stared at him incredulously, her newly-discovered grey eyes wide.

"He's calling you his special Young Miss."

Sirius and Professor Snape suddenly burst through the door, continuing to yell at one another until each man turned to stare at Hermione and Harry on the floor in the drawing room. Neither said a word more.

Professor Snape looked positively wrathful, and Sirius had obviously been crying. The current Headmaster of Hogwarts and accused murderer of Albus Dumbledore gave each of his former students a curt nod before stepping into the adjacent bedroom. Sirius gave her a pained smile before following, slamming the door behind him.

"Sirius is angry," she whispered, trying to prevent tears from falling down her cheeks.

Harry shook his head. "Not at . . . and not about . . . he's just . . ." He sighed and scratched his head. "He's mad that it was kept from him. That he didn't know."

Almost on cue, the screaming between the grown wizards began again.

"We need to figure out the next Horcrux," she whispered and moved to stand as she wiped at her eyes.

Harry's grip tightened as he held her down. "Absolutely not. You were tortured Hermione, and . . . and I don't think you should even be moving much until you're fully recovered. Don't look at me like that. I told them. I finally told the Order what we've been trying to do."

Hermione gasped. "Harry!"

"I don't care. I know Dumbledore said that only the three of us could know, but after everything that's happened, I think keeping secrets for the supposed 'Greater Good' has done nothing but hurt people," he said, frowning.

Her arm started to itch.

"After we escaped, the Malfoys summoned Riddle. There was a big Death Eater meeting where everyone was told what happened. Snape found out and came straight here. He knew," Harry told her. "He brought you potions and a bunch of books. I'm not sure what they are," he admitted. "But he's left his post at Hogwarts with some kind of lie to the Death Eaters, and he told the Order some things about how Dumbledore really died."

She furrowed her brows. "Harry, you told me you saw him kill—"

Harry sighed. "There's a lot more to it than what I saw . . . apparently."

"So Professor Snape's . . . ?"

"A good guy," Harry said, almost disappointed.

"And Malfoy?"

"Still a ferrety git. But he didn't give us away so . . . I don't know."

"So the two of you will soon become best friends?" she tried to joke.

Harry let out a small laugh and then sighed. "Are you okay? I know this is a lot to take in, and I'm sure once those two are done screaming at one another, they'll answer whatever questions you have."

She nodded. "I . . . I had a feeling something was . . . wrong," she admitted to him, swallowing down a mouthful of guilt. "Last summer, when I Obliviated my p-parents . . ." Her voice wavered as she collected her emotions and thoughts. "It felt like something was wrong. I only meant to alter their memories with a charm. Nothing permanent, but when I started layering the magic, I found things. They'd already had their memories altered by someone else. I couldn't see what exactly had been changed; they were specific, and it took me a while, but I was able to trace the origin of the charm back years."

"How long?"

"I can't pinpoint a specific day but . . . I would say close to the end of 1981."

His eyes widened in horror. "You think this happened because of me?"

"Of course not," she insisted. "Even if it has something to do with what happened to your parents, it's not your fault. I really wish you would stop blaming the entire war on yourself. You're not Tom Riddle's endgame, Harry; you're the mountain that's preventing him from destroying everything we know and love. It's not your fault."

Harry nodded solemnly but turned away from her gaze. "So what happened with your parents?"

"The Memory Charms were too deep. I couldn't alter them without erasing it all," she muttered, swallowing down her emotions. "That's why I chose to Obliviate them. Permanently."

Harry reached for her hand. "I'm so sorry, Hermione."

"It'll keep them safe," she whispered. "So . . . tell me about the plan. How is the Order involved?"

"Well, another Horcrux is destroyed," he told her. "When we got here, you were out of it, but you kept muttering something about Bellatrix's vault. Snape confirmed that she thought the Sword of Gryffindor was in her vault but that something else might be hidden away as well. So the Order had Tonks morph herself to look like Bellatrix. I'm not sure of all the details of how they got it out without being found, but Tonks had burns all over her body when they brought her back. Turned out to be Hufflepuff's Cup, like we thought. Sirius was the one to destroy it. Said he really wanted to stab something."

"And the others?" Hermione asked.

"Snape thinks it could be the lost Diadem of Ravenclaw. He's got McGonagall and the D.A. looking for it while he's here. The last, we think, is the snake."

She nodded. That made sense. Looking around the room, she suddenly realised something. "Where's Ron?"

Harry winced. "He . . . he's a little freaked out about . . ." He made a vague gesture to her face, "Well, you know he's not the most tactful person. We thought it would be a little better if he stayed at Shell Cottage with Bill and Fleur until he figured out how to talk to you."

She frowned. "Because I'm different."

"Because you look different," he corrected her.

"No, I'm . . . oh God. I'm a pureblood." She choked the word down like sand. "From a family that . . . that . . ." Glancing down at her arm, she reached out to touch the bandage there, and bitterness settled deep in her chest as she snapped, "Well . . . I'm not a Mudblood anymore."

"You never were," Harry said, glaring at her use of the word. "You're just Hermione."

"Why is Professor Snape here?" she asked, changing the subject. "I mean, he brought me potions and books but—"

Harry shrugged. "Apparently, he knew the truth."

Her eyes widened in surprise. "This whole time?"

"Sirius has been screaming at him for the better part of four days," Harry said. "It's only now that Snape's finally started yelling back actually," he added, looking at the closed door of the bedroom where the men were still shouting.

"—I should have been told!" Sirius screamed, his voice still hoarse and emotional. "How could you keep a bloody secret like this for so long? She's nearly nineteen years old!"

"Well," Professor Snape drawled, "unlike you, Black, I actually keep secrets. I don't just toss them aside to the first blubbering idiot I think can—"

The distinct sound of fist on flesh echoed from behind the heavy wood. Then, what sounded like a noisy scuffle, was followed by the colourful lights of hexes emitting from the seam around the door. The bright light of a Petrificus Totalus filtered under the crack near the floor, followed by a loud thud.

The room went silent.

Sirius exited, shutting the door behind him and pocketing his wand as he slowly approached Harry and Hermione. He knelt down in front of them and ran a hand through his hair. Smiling sadly at her, he reached out to brush the edge of his knuckles affectionately against her cheek.

"Hey," he whispered, "You had us scared there for a while."

Tears finally flowed from her eyes, and she blinked, allowing them to fall against her cheeks.

"Is it true?" she asked him, even though she already knew the answer.

Sirius wiped the back of his hand against his own eyes and nodded silently. He reached out and pulled her into his arms, letting her sob on his shoulder. "It's all right, Hermione. Everything's going to be fine. You and I . . . We're going to be fine, and we're going to find out everything."

"You're not mad?" she asked amid a sob.

"At you? Whatever for?" He chuckled softly and leant forward, kissing her forehead. "I'm bloody thrilled about you. Pissed about not knowing. I'm pissed about a lot of things that were kept from me. I'm just glad you're alive, and there's a little piece of—" His words stuck in his throat. "I'm just glad you're alive."

"I don't . . . I don't even know what to call you anymore," she admitted awkwardly.

"Sirius is fine. You're a little too old to start calling me Uncle, I think," he admitted with a smirk and pulled her back into his arms.

She blinked away tears again. Focusing her blurry vision on the tapestry behind Sirius on the wall, she saw where her name now sat in elegant lettering.

Hermione Astra Black
b. September 19, 1979

Her gaze followed the line that flowed from her up to her father:

Regulus Arcturus Black
b. May 12, 1961 — d. May 31, 1979