A word of warning : I always write M, and with that rating there comes certain expectations that most readers should be familiar with (violence, mature themes, etc.). The tags on this story are also fairly accurate—but I will say there will be a fair amount of romance, too. Suffice to say, things will be dark. This is the only time that I'll mention it.

Disclaimer : This fanwork is intended for personal, non-commercial use only. All creative works off which this fanwork is based are the property of J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: Chapter revised October 23, 2017. Reviving this story from the dead and continuing it, because it's been rotting on my HD for ages.

Chapter I: Steps of Atonement


Hermione Granger did not like her name.

There were other things that she was more critical of when it came to her person—her hair, her habit of cutting others off mid-sentence—but in general she'd never considered herself a self-hating person by nature. Hermione also knew how common self-loathing was amongst insufferable Know-It-Alls and perfectionists like herself, so the fact that she'd never fallen prey to this peculiar quirk filled her with no small measure of confidence.

She loved books, and how they brought her comfort; she loved how good she was at casting spells, and how competent a witch she'd proven herself to be despite everyone disparaging her heritage. Hermione loved how she put brains before brawn, and logic before all else; how she was able to remain rational in the most difficult of circumstances. She'd used her intellect to save her best friends from danger ad nauseam. It made her feel needed, being the person that she was. It made her feel wanted, and Hermione had been so proud of her accomplishments. By and large—for the longest time—she'd been exceptionally happy.

But.

But. And that "but" was important.

There were also things she didn't like about being Hermione Granger. Those things had grown particularly prominent during the war, and in the immediate aftermath.

It had started off—as most things do—with exhaustion. With running and fleeing and too many sleepless nights. It had grown larger by listening to Harry scream through his nightmares and Ron lashing out, with Obliviating her parents and Dumbledore's demise and Hogwarts crumbling. With those dead bodies falling in flashes of fluorescent green light all around her.

It began and ended with Bellatrix. Bellatrix Lestrange, maddest witch on this side of the moon; crouched over her with a dagger in hand as she cackled and carved Mudblood with unnerving precision into the soft skin of her arm. Merlin take her, but Hermione couldn't forget that. The witch was dead, but she could still hear her voice.

They had won the war of course, and Voldemort had been vanquished. But hatred died hard and trauma died harder, and with all those little things adding up, Hermione's relentless sense of self-determination began to crack. Just a bit.

It began with the ending: with the slow-strangling aftermath. With countless nightmares and nights of dreamless sleep potions, with putting extra locks on her door and booby-trapping hexes around her flat. It continued on with speaking less, with telling people who asked that she was simply tired, or a bit worn thin. Hermione drifted from friends, and she drifted from school. She decided to take a break from Hogwarts, but after she did she went home and burnt her pictures of her parents in a fit of rage.

She had no parents now, Hermione decided, and she and Ron had fallen apart as quickly as they'd met. Two ill-fitting puzzle pieces, they were, doomed for dysfunction. It was for the best. Still, the failures in her personal life began to eat at her, crunching at her bones akin to rats. Some days, Hermione wondered how she tasted.

Filthy, Bellatrix said.

Hermione tried to ignore her whispering indecision, but as the months dragged on the strangling sensation got worse. Around July, she decided that she didn't like anything about herself. Hermione despised her big mouth, which had gotten her in trouble too often to count. Her extreme love of books was freakish at best. Brains got you nowhere, she opined, unless you could think quick on your feet, and outside an academic setting she simply floundered. Crick, crack, went the holes in her psyche, and slowly those chasms of self-determination grew more entrenched. Bellatrix Lestrange had been a cruel witch; a very cruel witch, so of course the dagger she'd used had been cursed something awful. It wasn't until after the war that Hermione had realized how permanently she'd been branded. It was a horrible, physical reminder of her past.

"Are you sure you're alright?" Ginny had asked one day. Hermione simply smiled and nodded. The pain that radiated from her elbow all the way down to her fingertips had become a constant by then. During the war Bellatrix's mark had been beneath bandages. The bleeding had stopped, and of course there'd been pain, but Hermione had been too preoccupied with everything else to notice that the word Mudblood didn't scab over. Once the Battle of Hogwarts had ended, she'd finally realized what was happening. Hermione had turned to her books in response: upbeat, bright-eyed, and full of determination. She'd tried every spell and counter spell she could think of, every potion and magical device. Still the wound remained raw and weeping. Although the rot didn't spread, the nerve damage along her arm got worse. Her failure to find a cure hurt even more. Hermione hated failure.

"Don't worry," she'd assured the younger girl, then added ruefully, "I'm the smartest witch of my age. I'll figure something out."

Ginny laughed at the joke, and Hermione had smiled, but she never found a spell to get rid of the curse.

A few weeks later in a fit of frustration, she'd tried to carve the damn thing off. Hermione was a weakling when it came to her injuries—a full-fledged coward who avoided physical pain like the plague. The only reason she'd attempted the blade was because she'd been desperate. Locked in her room, buzzed on Firewhiskey, she'd taken a knife to her arm and gritted her teeth, slicing the skin off piece by piece until there was nothing but red. Unfortunately when she'd healed her forearm, the Mudblood brand had remained. Short of cutting off her own limb, it had seemed like she was out of options.

Hermione had screamed, then, because damn Bellatrix, and damn everything she stood for.

But you love me, poppet.

Hermione ignored her.

Plagued by pain, her fingers curling, she'd finally decided it was time to move on with her life. Hermione started a daily regimen of not enough bandages and too many pain potions, to help manage the aftereffects of the curse. She wore long sleeves and thick robes without fail to stave off the questions, and towards the end of July Hermione landed a job at Tomes and Scrolls, overseeing their backroom to pay for the bills. It was a position that was far below her station, but one that she needed.

It was punishment, Hermione decided: punishment for her so-called brilliant mind failing her. At least working in the back room of a bookstore gave her some much-needed peace and quiet. She was desperate for time and air.

"Why won't you come back to Hogwarts?" Ginny demanded, early in August. She'd been upset, and Hermione had known why; Ron wasn't doing too well, and neither was George. Harry was erratic at best. "Please. Classes starts soon. It's… it's almost September."

Hermione smiled tightly and waved her wand to put away another stack of books. The painkillers had begun wearing off, and the day that Ginny came to visit had been a bad day for the shakes—one of the many side effects of being under a prolonged Cruciatus curse. Hermione had been having lots of nightmares about Bellatrix by then, and they were getting worse. She hid her rotting arm beneath her heavy robes and tried not to limp.

"I will be back," she amended, and at the time she'd truly thought she would. She loved Hogwarts and all her classes; she loved the Room of Requirement and the rotating stairs, the dust in the library and the roar of the Great Hall during mealtime. That feeling of home that permeated everything. "I'm just taking a short break, like everyone else. I'm emancipated now, you know, and I… I have to save up a bit of money, for my education." She didn't mention her parents directly, anymore. No one did.

"I've been talking with my dad," Ginny said, sitting down on an abandoned chair as she'd crossed her arms over her chest. She'd looked extremely tired, but everyone had been in those days. "He thinks you might have a muggle condition, called P-T-E-D . George has it too. We're taking him to St. Mungo's this week. Maybe you should come along. Stop by for a visit. Harry would love to see you."

Hermione had given Ginny a befuddled look, and then it had been her turn to laugh. She'd hoped the younger girl couldn't hear the strain in her voice.

"It's called PTSD, and I don't have it, Ginny. Besides, I just saw Harry on Tuesday for lunch. It's not like I'm not turning into a hermit."

"But Hermione–"

"Really, I'm fine. I don't have PTSD. And honestly, I'm a Mudblood. I know far more about these muggle diseases than you."

Ginny drew back sharply at her comment, looking at her with horror. Hermione had continued on with her filing, humming away, until she'd noticed the younger woman staring at her like she'd sprouted a second head.

"What?" she'd asked her in alarm. "Ginny, what is it?"

"Don't call yourself that," Ginny said, looking affronted. There had been tears in her eyes, threatening to fall.

"Don't call myself what?"

"That," Ginny gasped, gesturing helplessly in the air. She'd started shaking. "That, that word! How could you be so cruel?"

It took the infamously intelligent Granger a painfully long minute to catch on, and then her mouth had formed into a perfect o. She'd given Ginny a tight but benevolent smile.

"Sorry," she said. Beneath her robes, the scar on her forearm had ached. "Force of habit. But the answer's still no. How about we meet for dinner this weekend? Or maybe lunch instead? I have Sunday off."

Ginny continued to look like she was on the verge of crying.

"Come back to Hogwarts," she'd pleaded. "Come back to school. You love it there."

"I do, and I will, just not right this second. I need… I need some time off. A bit of time to think."

"But you're Hermione. You're always thinking."

And that was the problem, really: the weight of a name that shouldn't have weighed that much at all. Hermione was Hermione Granger—muggle-born, lover of books and creature comforts, friend to house elves and house cats alike—but she was also the brightest witch of her age, war hero and voice of reason. Try as she might to hide in the backroom of a Hogsmeade bookshop, the world still wanted more of her, and they were relentless.

What was she doing, the papers asked? What had happened to the Golden Trio, and why had she broken up with Ron? Soon the tabloids drifted away from her specifically, but the questions they raised became more sinister, and definitely alarming. Just reading the headlines brought a chill down Hermione's spine.

There were bodies, the papers said; missing bodies, both of witches and wizards, and the headlines were so reminiscent of the lead-up to the war that Hermione had a bit of a breakdown. When mid-August rolled around, she packed her bags, fleeing to the Scottish countryside. Once there she holed herself up in a decrepit cottage on the island of Hirta. Not long after, her arm began bleeding again. She still couldn't find the cure to the curse, and her nights were plagued with dreams of Bellatrix.

Poppet, Bellatrix crooned, swirling around her in a cloud of ink. Her skeletal fingers would drum a constant beat against her shoulders. Filthy little poppet, come out and play. Bella misses you.

Whenever the papers arrived at her door, Hermione burnt them. She cast multiple charms to make the cottage harder to find. She'd had enough of the outside world and the war, she decided. She needed a break. Then she'd go back. Bellatrix could rot.

In the days leading up to her last fateful decision, Harry sent her a letter. Hermione didn't read it until it was too late, but when she did—vision blurred by tears, her hands shaking—she'd barely been able to make sense of the words.

There was a spell, Harry said: a spell to make Horcruxes, or a counter-spell of some sort. He'd just found the letter from Sirius, stashed away in the ruins of Grimmauld Place. He hadn't known about it, and he was sorry. By Merlin, he was going to make this right.

The letter meandered from one topic to another; babbling on about the Chamber of Secrets before intermingling with snippets about the brief but tragic existence of one such Sirius Black. He'd been Harry's godfather, to be sure, and Hermione had held him in the highest regard, but she'd gotten the impression right from the get-go that the man was uncomfortable around her. The renegade wizard had been an excellent dueler—a brutal one, made hard from grief and years in Azkaban—but he'd never struck her as the sort to go mystery hunting, especially for something as delicate and time consuming as this.

Then Hermione had turned over the letter, and she'd read the second page. She'd read the words, vision blurring, and she'd screamed so loud the glass on her desk had nearly shattered.

After that she'd burned the letter, along with the notice of Harry's death.

All of it. It had all been for nothing, and they'd lost so much.

They'd found Harry's body at the bottom of a well, the notice said. Ron was gone, the Ministry bombed. And it was there, right there—with her arm bleeding and tears in her eyes—that Hermione began to truly hate Hermione Granger.

All sneaky-like, side-winding into her psyche like the sound of Bellatrix's laughter.


Hermione's arrival at Hogsmeade in the fall of 1977 was a bit of a blur. She made sure to dress the part, wearing robes that were appropriate for the time period. As an extra measure, she cast a Not Notice Me charm on herself. The less people saw her, the better.

It was raining the day she arrived; a heavy sort of rain that came down in torrents that was more suited for spring than autumn, and within a minute of landing Hermione was soaked to the bone and shivering. She'd brought everything she knew she'd need for a single year, and with a heavy heart and a sense of dread she'd trudged down the cobblestone streets to the Three Broomsticks Inn. Once there, she'd made sure to rent a long-term room at the back of the establishment. When Madame Rosmerta—who looked the same age in 1977 as she did in 1997—asked why she was out on her own, Hermione had given her a tight-lipped smile and told her she was looking for work. It wasn't the same thing as saying I'm an orphan, and in Hermione's mind it sounded better. It made her feel more in control of her surroundings, even though she knew she wasn't.

The room she'd purchased was located at the tiptop of the attic, where various knickknacks and magical objects were stored. Above her the ceiling was so steep she had to hunch when she walked, and the rooftop leaked like a sieve during the rain, but it was private. Beyond the knickknacks her room was bare, save for a lonely little bed in the center that was covered by a threadbare grey blanket, and a mattress that sagged in the middle. The whole area smelt of mildew and wet wood.

Ever so slowly, her limbs trembling from another bad day of the Cruciatus after-effects, Hermione unpacked her bags. She put her books in the driest corner she could find and her potion supplies under her bed. Her meager assortment of thick black robes and nondescript clothes were neatly folded into a small wooden trunk at the end of it. It was August twenty-ninth now, and early in the morning. As Hermione magicked a calendar to hang on a nearby wall—crossing off the first day in the old world with a flick of her wrist—she felt a terrible pang of nostalgia spring to life in her chest. Classes at Hogwarts would be starting soon, and she missed them dearly. She missed the hustle and bustle on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. She missed the chugging of the steam engine and the shark shriek of the whistle as the Hogwarts Express pulled out of the station; the varnished halls and the green-seated cabins. She missed the way the train wound around bends and meandered through hills, the smell of the crisp autumn air tickling her senses. She would never get that now. Not again.

Sniffling audibly, Hermione lifted her good hand to wipe tears from her eyes. Thank goodness for attics and silencing charms: she hated it when people saw her crying. Her supplies all packed away, she took out her Time Turner, previously hidden on a long brassy chain between her thick robes and shirt. She'd had to cobble it together from pieces of others, like some sort of Frankenstein monster in the dead of night. Bottom lip quavering, Hermione drew a protective rune on the floor. Afterwards, she placed the TimeTurner in the center of it, transfiguring a nearby candelabra into a heavy, medium-sized rock.

Without so much as a by-your-leave, Hermione brought the stone down and crushed the device.

Tick, tick, tack went the Time Turner as it broke into pieces, and Hermione watched as the sands leaked out; the metal spun and warped in on itself like a miniature black hole until there was nothing.

When the Time Turner was gone, she breathed a heavy sigh of relief. This was it: a one-way trip to the end of line. There was nothing to distract her from her task now. No second chances, no do overs, and the finality of it all steeled her resolve.

Except.

When Hermione turned around, determined to sleep, she moved just in time to see a small white envelope with a red wax seal being slipped under the crack of her door. She cursed then, and mostly in despair, because of course. Of course she should have know that Dumbledore would've found her. She was still in the books.

Ms. Granger, the letter began. It is my delight to welcome your transfer into our seventh year classes. School begin on September 1st. When you arrive at Hogwarts, please see me immediately. Below, you will find a list of supplies needed for school.

Hermione read the list. Then she wept, because even though being a student made her task marginally easier—giving her access to supplies she'd thought she'd have to do without—she couldn't escape her name. Not even here. Hermione Granger, brightest witch of her age, cursed with a heavy title that should have been worthless. This time, she had to end things. For Harry, and the others.

Me too, poppet, Bellatrix cackled. Me three. Hermione shut her out. On her arm, the Mudblood brand burned.


Hermione's first thought upon meeting seventeen year-old Sirius Black was that it wasn't fair.

It wasn't fair, not for her but for him. In no world was it right, because he'd been a beautiful boy with a beautiful smile and so much to live for, only it had been taken away from him; locked away in a decrepit cell under the threat of a Dementor's kiss.

When Hermione had been in school and Sirius had been alive, she remembered him as a gaunt, haggard man; a ghost with too-sharp cheekbones and bird-bone wrists, his face raw-looking from lack of nourishment and the indents of his spine standing out in sharp prominence. Black was his last name, and black was his hair, a thick nest of matted waves that fell past his shoulders. Always, he'd purposely angled his face away from her to hide his eyes, his skeletal fingers picking at his beer mug like a scab.

He'd never liked looking her in the eye, that Sirius Black. He'd never been comfortable around her in general, although he'd been downright fanatical about keeping her safe. She was Harry's best friend, after all. He had a list of priorities, and it was short. Very succinct.

"Don't look at me," Sirius had snarled one night, when she'd come down to the kitchen in his miserly home to find him sitting in a slump at the table. Hermione had promptly asked him if he was all right. She had her priorities, too.

"DON'T LOOK AT ME!" he'd screamed when she didn't leave. Then he'd thrown his mug against the wall and upended a chair, before turning into a dog and fleeing. Sirius Black didn't like staying in Grimmauld Place, everyone knew. He had no happy memories there.

Traitor, Bellatrix Lestrange hissed in her ear as she stood in the hall, her spider-thin fingers curling around her shoulders as Hermione stared at her future-dead cousin. Bastard blood-traitor. Mudblood lover! Filthy little Black!

"Hi Luv," seventeen year-old Sirius said. He extended a slim hand in greeting. Almost-eighteen-year-old Hermione Granger just stood there, her books falling out of her arms as her senses deserted her. The tomes went a-tumbling, thud, thud, thud onto the floor. There was the overwhelming pulse of her heart in her ears. The too-young Sirius' face was practically swimming in front of her.

Hermione swallowed hard; she struggled to breathe. It was painful to see him like this. To see anyone that she even remotely recognized. Dumbledore had been bad enough when he'd greeted her that morning. Sirius was taller than her by an entire head. Hermione didn't know why she hadn't noticed this detail until now, then vaguely deduced that future-dead Sirius had always walked with a hunch, as if perpetually afraid of getting hit. His younger self was wearing voluminous black robes in a casual sort of way, his tie loose and his shirt rumpled. His smile was rogue-ish, his eyes grey. His teeth were as white as his skin.

Remember the plan, she told herself.

Remember our plan, Bellatrix corrected. Hermione tried to ignore her.

"Luv, are you alright?"

No. No, she definitely wasn't.

Seventeen year-old Sirius's had the same sort of hair that he did in her time; inky dark and oh-so-thick, only now it was lustrous instead of matted. Slytherin good looks with a Gryffindor heart, Hermione thought, her memories jagged; a beautiful boy with a beautiful smile and too much to live for, the victim of an ugly life. It was devastating.

"Do you need help with your books?" Sirius asked.

There was a strained sort of quality to his smile now: a queer kind of neediness behind the warmth. If Hermione hadn't known better, she would've thought he was seeking approval, but the future-dead Sirius had never sought sanction for anything. Not once. Her books were scattered like dominoes across the floor. Hermione crouched down, muttering apologies again and again as she scrambled to collect the tomes. Her hands continued to tremble however, and she couldn't seem to pick them up. It was all she could do to remember what Dumbledore had told her. The end-result of her master plan.

Cissy, snapped Bellatrix, tapping her foot. I want to tell our plan to Cissy. Go find her.

"Sorry Luv," Sirius said. He was crouched in front of her now, his long black robes pooling around him and his shaggy black hair hiding his face. "I didn't mean to startle you. You were just carrying so many books, and I thought you might need a bit of help—"

Hermione swallowed again and tried not to scream. She needed to get out of the hall. There was a kindness to Sirius' words that made her shake more; an openness to his expressions she was downright terrified of, because she was hearing his talks with Harry in the tone of his voice. Hermione knew she definitely didn't deserve any kindness, however unintentional. She'd probably get him killed in this timeline, too.

Kill him, Bellatrix agreed, stalking in circles. Definitely kill him. Take out our wand, poppet! Filthy little Black.

"Oh," was all Hermione managed to say. Even that was barely above a whisper.

Sirius stacked her books in a pile: a color-coded pile with all the spines facing the same way, smallest ones on the top and biggest books on the bottom. Hermione found herself so thrown by the action that she couldn't help but watch. Every move he made was fastidiously neat, and she knew she had bigger things to focus on, she knew, but she just couldn't help it. She'd never seen him act this way before. Then Hermione realized oh, of course. Sirius was a pureblood, and had been raised as such; neatness was simply another thing that Azkaban had stripped from him, along with his sanity and health. He'd been dying a slow death since the demise of James and Lily Potter. The lingering wastefulness of it almost caused her to shriek.

"I'm Sirius Black, by the way," Sirius said. He stretched out his hand, his tone still kind. He was so kind, almost as if he knew how nervous she was, and maybe he did, because her hands were visibly wavering. She couldn't seem to stop. Hermione didn't know what hurt worse: her arm or her heart.

"You're a Gryffindor, right? I haven't seen you before."

"Transfer," Hermione managed to mumble out.

"What?" he said, leaning forward.

"I'm a transfer," she said, louder this time, but her voice was shaking too. She had to escape. Trying to hide behind her hair, Hermione began gathering up her books, ignoring the pale hand that was still outstretched and waiting.

"Transfer from where?"

"From… from…" It didn't matter from where, but it did. She needed to say something, but she was mute. Here, she wanted to scream, I'm from here, but she could say that either, and the brightest witch of her age was no longer the brightest. In an instant, her words failed her. Her tongue stumbled over the from again and again. Hermione couldn't do this. Not with seventeen year-old Sirius Black crouched in front of her.

"It's alright," Sirius was saying. He laughed. Although the gesture seemed strained, it wasn't cruel; if anything, he sounded nervous too. "It's fine, you don't have to tell me." There was a pause., "What… what year are you in?"

Hermione had never heard Sirius falter in conversation. She had never heard him sound even the slightest bit unsure, but she could tell his smile was fading fast. What followed was an uncomfortable silence; a long, awkward pause, where Hermione hunched in on herself, her books held close to her chest and her face hidden behind her hair. Sirius kept his hand in the air, waiting for her to take it, but she didn't.

"Did I say something to—"

"Seventh," Hermione said, all in a rush, cutting him off and stumbling over her words as she fought back a fresh round of tears. "I'm… I'm in seventh."

In front of her Sirius sighed. Hermione saw the way his shoulders lowered, how his whole form seemed to loosen with relief. "That's great," he said happily. "Really. I'm in seventh year, too. If you want, after lunch today me n' Prongs can show you around a bit. Prongs is great, he's my best—"

"That's alright," Hermione said quickly, hunching up further as she began to discreetly scuttle away. "It's fine, you don't have to. I'm sure you're busy." Sirius was bad enough, but seeing Harry in his father's face was something she definitely couldn't handle right now. Not at the same time.

Don't think about it, just don't, but she couldn't help herself. Hermione thought of the two letters on her desk in Hirta; one overdue, the other black, starting with the words Ms. Hermione Granger, my deepest condolences. Merlin's beard, she was going to be sick.

"What's your name?" Sirius asked. He definitely sounded unsure now. Hermione could literally feel his relief falling away as a strange sort of delicacy took over his tone. She blinked hard, trying to clear her vision of moisture. The boy's hand was still outstretched. Finally, tortuously, Hermione reached out and took it. Her fingers were engulfed by his. His skin was warm.

"Hermione," she said softly, and ah, there it was: the lack of quick thinking was failing her again. The tremble to her voice was noticeable. "Her-Hermione Granger."

Filthy, Bellatrix hissed. Hermione could feel the Death Eater's nails dragging down her back. Filthy little Mudblood! How dare you! How dare you talk to the traitor! After everything I told you! After everything we shared!

"I don't recognize it," Sirius said as shook her hand. There was relief in his tone once more.

Sirius had strange hands, Hermione decided. Aristocratic and slim with pianist fingers, but noticeable rough along the palms. His knuckles were scuffed. The future-dead Sirius had never let her touch him. The future-dead Sirius had been downright skittish of her presence.

"Are you a half-blood?" Sirius asked, almost excitedly. There was desperate edge beneath the cheerfulness that inexplicably made Hermione very, very sad. "I don't know too many half-bloods, but Prong's girl is muggle-born. I love their music, by the way. It's really great. I went to see one of their bands in concert with Prongs last spring, and I—"

Hermione shuddered involuntarily. Sirius stopped, and his babbling abruptly died away into dust. There was another long, uncomfortable silence between them; another period of nothingness where his grip loosened around her palm and Hermione stared resolutely towards the floor. When Sirius spoke again, his tone was sharp.

"Is it because I'm a Black?"

Hermione looked up in surprise. And oh, what a mistake that was.

Sirius Black had been a beautiful boy with a beautiful smile, only he wasn't smiling anymore, and there was something terribly brittle about his expression. He was lovely to look at, with his lily-white skin and pewter grey eyes, but Hermione remembered him as Harry's godfather. She remembered him as a broken man with a broken body and too much anger; a man who threw chairs and screamed through his nightmares and shied away from her as if she were poison. She couldn't see how they were one it in the same. It wasn't fair.

"No," she said quickly, blinking hard. In front of her Sirius' expression morphed to one of shock. "No, of course not." Hermione quickly withdrew her hand from his and desperately tried to remember her plan.

Our plan, Bellatrix hissed. Ours, just like our wand. Time to share, poppet.

"Why are you crying?" Sirius asked.

He was full of brittle edges now, all glass and shards. Hermione felt it, then. She felt the proverbial ground crumbling beneath her, her wits deserting her as the full weight of her situation hit her like a runaway train. She clapped a free hand over her mouth to stifle a cry, but she felt it now; wetness on skin, tears on her cheeks. The face in front of her was blurry. So was the floor.

"Hey," Sirius began softly, reaching for her again. "Hey Luv, it's alright—"

"I'm sorry," Hermione choked out. She bowed her head and backed away from him, nearly tripping over her feet and dropping her books a second time in her haste to get away. "Oh gosh, I'm so sorry. I don't know why… I… I just need a minute." She needed more than a minute. She needed a whole lifetime, but she'd already had that, and it still wasn't enough.

Turning on her heels, Hermione fled down the hall, away from seventeen year-old Sirius Black towards the girls' lavatories. She spent her first day back at Hogwarts crying in the bathroom with Moaning Myrtle.


Author's Note

So I grew up on Harry Potter. I love it, and I love the fandom, but I haven't read the books in awhile, so my memories on certain details might be a bit hazy. I told myself (and was thoroughly convinced) that I would never write a HP fic. I've got too many projects going on, and there are literally thousands upon thousands of fantastic stories out there to read, so there was really no reason for me to try my hand at it. That said, I was given a wonderful prompt by an anon, and I couldn't resist. I've also been out of sorts of late, and needed a side-project to help me get back into the swing of things, so we'll see how this goes.

Just a word of warning: I have other fanfics on the go right now, plus a ton of original work, so updates on Diderot will be extremely erratic. My apologies in advance.