A/N: Thank you all so much for your reviews, favorites and follows! I am just so overjoyed that you are enjoying the story and love reading all of your speculation. This one finally contains a little bit of Marauder action. You can follow me on tumblr (nauticalparamour) where I post sneak peeks, story updates and answer questions. If you follow me on tumblr, you might have seen that I am trying to make Fenrir February happen - a celebration of Fenrir work. I am currently taking suggestions for Fenrir related prompts as well as Fenrir fic recommendations, so send me those if you are interested :)
Huge thank you to Alassea Black for beta reading this chapter as usual :) Please let me know what you thought of chapter twelve and be on the lookout for chapter thirteen soon!
Although she would have liked to chain herself to the little desk in the library, and not come out until she had solved how to destroy the horcruxes once and for all, Cassiopeia would not hear of it. No matter how much time she would have liked to spend trying to puzzle out what the other horcruxes could be, her older companion could always be counted on dragging her out of the house at least once a day.
Despite what she said, Cassiopeia had a much fuller life than just Walburga checking in on her from time to time. She was in very good health, considering her age, and got around just fine on her own, leading Hermione to question the necessity of herself as a companion. Why on Earth would the Blacks be paying her for doing essentially nothing as Cassiopeia's caretaker? The older witch's words about Walburga having plans for her came flashing back, but Hermione thought it seemed so ridiculous, she dismissed it out of hand.
Cassiopeia had daily tea with various society witches of her age group, most frequently with Anna Rowle, who had lost her husband several years ago. She would also meet with some of the other elderly Black witches, but Hermione found that those teas seemed to leave her exhausted and frustrated. When confronted about it, Cassiopeia would just give her a wry look, before shrugging her shoulders. "You can't choose your family, darling, but they are usually there for you when the chips fall."
Hermione wanted to ask her then about the blasted faces on the family tapestry that was up in Walburga and Orion's parlor, but she could never find the courage, seeing as Cassiopeia's own sibling was included in those forgotten family members. She wondered if it would bring up painful memories.
When she did ask questions about Cassiopeia's family, she was typically regaled with interesting stories from her wild years after Hogwarts and how her brother hated her living in France on her own. Once, though, she'd gotten the story behind Walburga and Orion's marriage. Apparently, Walburga's best friend had a crush on Orion, but Walburga couldn't stand not having what other people wanted. She'd thrown such a fit that finally, her father had caved and set up a betrothal. At least they were both purebloods though, right?
In the evenings, she liked to listen to a soap opera type program on the wireless, which Hermione had initially tried to dismiss as silly nonsense. However, now that she'd been listening for a few weeks, she could admit that it was quite compelling drama, but only if you twisted her arm.
At least once a week, Cassiopeia would venture into Diagon Alley with the pretense of visiting the apothecary. In the beginning, Hermione thought she might be taking some potion or tonic for a chronic condition, but it turned out to just be generic health supplements and beauty potions. The brunette had come to realize that the weekly pilgrimage was more an excuse to get out and about, and to be seen by as many people as possible.
Hermione could usually be encouraged to come along with her, if only because it was good to get a little fresh air every now and again. Seeing as Cassiopeia did not really need that much assistance either, it was a good opportunity for Hermione to get a little time to herself. She would usually get herself to the little café near the Daily Prophet's offices and grab herself a newspaper and tea.
That was where she found herself today, reading all the articles about the disappearances, finding it eerie how similar the whole situation was to her time. It was odd, though, to see all the speculation, the whole Wizarding world yet ignorant to the danger that Voldemort posed.
"Um, Miss, would you mind terribly if I borrowed the Quidditch section of your paper? I see you aren't reading it," a voice stumbled, breaking her concentration.
Setting the paper down, Hermione felt her breath leave her, as though she'd been hit with a bludger. "Harry?" she whispered, seeing the familiar messy, black hair coming into the view. Only then, the reality of the situation came rushing back to her, and she realized that this face wasn't quite right - his eyes were not green, his nose was slightly too long, and he had a whole air of casual arrogance that Harry never could have hoped to possess. It was not Harry Potter, the boy who lived, standing in front of her, but his father, James.
Wanting him to go away as quickly as possible, she pressed the paper into his hands. "By all means, Potter," she bit out, horrified by the lump that had appeared in her throat, making her sound hoarse and a bit pathetic.
He paused, making Hermione realize her mistake too late. "I'm sorry, do I know you?" he asked, his eyes rapidly roving her face, looking for anything he recognized about her. "Did you go to Hogwarts, Miss -?" he pried for her name.
"Dagworth-Granger," she responded cooly. "And I am sure that we don't know each other from anywhere. I was privately educated," the lies ran out of her mouth in a practiced flood, but internally she was floundering.
So far, she'd pushed all feelings regarding her severed friendships with Harry and Ron down, not ready to face them. But now, seeing someone who really did look so much like Harry, it was as if all of the emotions were forcing themselves up, forcing her to deal with them. Being reminded that she might never see them again, that she would never again share that deep, sure friendship, forged by six years of trials and tribulations, was overwhelming her. What if she completed her quest with Regulus, only to be left alone, with no friends to speak of, and no one to know what she'd done?
She was aware that James was trying to say something to her, but all she could focus on was the way she was shaking from the effort of holding back a sob. Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, the dam finally broke and she could feel tears trailing down her cheeks.
"Oh, Merlin! I didn't mean to - are you alright, Miss?" she heard James ask, obvious very concerned about the unstable girl who would start crying after being simply asked how she knew his name.
Standing abruptly, Hermione pushed past him. "I'm sorry, but I really need to be going," she said, her voice dipping and rising from the effort to keep calm.
James tried to follow after her, and Hermione was never so happy to see Cassiopeia standing at the door, looking at him with a sharp glare. Hurrying to the older woman's side, Hermione was surprised when Cassiopeia wrapped her arm around her shoulders. "Hermione? What's wrong?" she asked, softly. "Did he do something to bother you?" she indicated towards James Potter, who was watching the scene with interest.
Hermione shook her head, taking comfort from the unexpected gesture from Cassiopeia. It seemed the old woman had grown quite protective of her, which warmed Hermione's heart. "No, it just finally hit me that...I'm all alone in this world now that...grandfather is gone," she lied, wishing she could tell Cassiopeia the truth. She wondered though if the Black heiress wouldn't think her touched if she started going off on being from the future.
Instead, Cassiopeia nodded, her mouth a thin, hard line. Raising her wand, she magicked away the most obvious signs of Hermione's tears, before ushering her out the door. "Well, I know I'm not your true family, but...I promise that you won't be alone so long as I'm in the world," she said fondly. "Now, let's get you home. We'll have some brandy and listen to As The Broom Turns. I think that Theodora and Prospero are finally going to admit their feelings for one another tonight."
The brunette couldn't stop that giggle at that suggestion. "Not if Priscilla has anything to say about it."
"Sirius?" James called out, waltzing into his best friend's flat without knocking. Even though he'd moved in with Lily earlier that summer due to them finally tying the knot, James knew that he had a standing invitation to Sirius's home, should he inevitably find himself sleeping on a couch, having pissed off his wife.
The only hazard was the potential of walking in on Padfoot and one of his flings. "Err, hey Marlene, is Sirius in?" he asked, rubbing his hand on the back of his neck trying not to look at the blonde's bare legs, not nearly hidden by the length of Sirius's black t-shirt. From the smell of it, it seemed as if she was making breakfast, despite the afternoon hour.
Marlene, another one of their Gryffindor housemates from Hogwarts, turned and looked at him with a smirk, despite the innocent look in her doe brown eyes. "He's got a shift soon, so I think he'll just be getting out of the shower. You might want to knock first," she said with a wink.
Nodding, he snagged a rasher off of the plate where it was cooling, before heading off in the direction of Sirius's bedroom, wrapping against the door, before calling out to him. He'd seen Sirius's "sexy dance" once on accident and it was more than enough for a lifetime, in James's opinion. Marlene was such a nice witch, sometimes, he didn't understand what she saw in him, considering how corny he could be sometimes.
"Didn't expect to see you today," Sirius said, barely looking up from his spot at the mirror, where he was meticulously doing his hair, going for that effortless look that always seemed to include a vast amount of effort. He'd clearly just come from the shower, as he'd only put on trousers, and his auror robes lay on the unmade bed looked crumpled and slightly dirty. "What brings you by my humble abode?" he joked, though James knew that the flat was much more humble than the beginnings Sirius had come from.
James cautiously sat down on the edge of the bed, trying not to think about what might have been occuring there an hour before he arrived. "Tell me, do you know a girl by the name of Hermione Dagworth-Granger?"
Sirius snorted. "Can't say I've ever heard of her in my life," he responded, though his voice did have a hint of suspicion in it. "Why do you ask? Because, mate, if you are thinking about leaving Lily, I'm going to have to ask you to reconsider. You do not want to be on the wrong end of her wand."
The bespeckled man laughed, shaking his head. "Don't you worry about that, Pads. Lily and I are still going strong," he explained. "It's just...I was in Diagon Alley today, and I asked this girl for the Quidditch section of the Prophet. She looks at me as if she's seen a ghost, and then starts crying."
"Well, it wouldn't be the first time you've made a witch cry, Prongs," Sirius quipped.
"That wasn't the odd part - the thing is, as soon as she started crying, your great-Aunt Cassiopeia swooped over like the hawk she is, and shuffled the girl off, cooing about how it was time to get her home," James said, still feeling rather baffled by the turn of events. "Did your family take in a ward or something?"
Sirius did pause at that, finally acknowledging the queerness of the situation. "If they did, it would be an absolute first. But, they aren't likely to tell me...seeing as, the whole disowned thing still stands," he said, self-deprecating. "Listen, I will keep an ear out, but I've really gotta run. Moody has me on doubles all week."
Knowing that he'd done all he could for the moment, James nodded, determined to put the whole situation from his mind. Talking to the Dagworth-Granger girl had made his magic itch, but he couldn't for the life of him figure out why. If it was still festering in his mind in a week, he resolved to ask Remus about it.