A/N - I've been so excited to share this story with you all! I have a huge buffer built up and am almost complete with the story, so updates will be every Sunday without gap :) Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy! The biggest thank you to my amazing friends who have helped with Windswept, PotionChemist and LumosLyra for Alpha/Beta work, and LauraArmada and BreathofThePhoenix for being baby alphas/prereaders.
"What do you think about this one, Hermione?" Harry asked, sliding the newspaper across the table.
Hermione thumbed through the pages, skimming the circled listing. "Abraxan Road…isn't that where the dragon egg smuggler was found? Right next to the fairy dust dealer?"
"Maybe?" He grimaced with a small shrug. "Ginny found our flat with her mum so I never paid attention to location."
Popping a grape into her mouth, Hermione asked, "Speaking of Ginny, where is your fiancée this morning?"
"She had a game last night against the Falmouth Falcons and it ran late; it took hours for Thompson to catch the snitch in the rain. She's at home having a lie in." He nudged the paper gently, drawing her attention back to it. "Back to the listing, did you see they have new appliances in the kitchen?"
"I don't know," she sighed, disappointment trickling through her. "It's owned by the same company as the one on Gilly Lane, and that flat was a real—"
"Shite-hole," Harry supplied with a chuckle as he dropped a handful of berries into his porridge.
Hermione's face contorted into disgust. "That's being generous. I'm still convinced that there was a pixie infestation in the walls. The extermination fees alone would offset the cheap rent."
With a heavy groan, she folded the newspaper and set it on the table in defeat.
"At this rate, I'll never find my own place unless I severely lower my standards." She took a sip of pumpkin juice. "Perhaps I'll have to find a flatmate."
"What's this I hear about lowering standards?" Remus Lupin strolled into the dining room and selected a red apple from the fruit basket, looking thoroughly unimpressed. "I thought we raised you better than that, Hermione," he teased, his teeth cutting through the flesh of the apple with a satisfying crunch.
"I am officially out of options, Remus," she complained. "Don't judge me in my fallen state."
"Good luck with that." Harry shoveled another spoonful of porridge into his mouth, quickly swallowing before he spoke. "You wouldn't have to look for a flat last minute if you hadn't been forced to take that lease in the first place. I'll never understand what you saw in that wanker."
Jerking her head in Remus' direction, Hermione's eyes widened and then narrowed, silently urging Harry to be quiet.
Remus eyed her curiously before taking another bite of his apple. "Out of options for what, Hermione?"
Her shoulders slumped forward. "I've been looking for nearly a month and I still can't find any decent flats within my Ministry budget—"
"—and you won't take help," Harry grumbled under his breath before refilling his cup.
"And I'm not going to live off charity," she corrected with a determined wave of her finger. "The flats in the local post have all been out of my price range or completely uninhabitable. I might be living under a bridge with a pair of trolls come next week."
"How culturally insensitive of you to make that assertion," Remus chided, a crooked grin sweeping across his lips. "I'll have you know, trolls haven't lived under bridges in centuries. If you're absolutely determined to have trolls for flatmates, I must first ask, how do you feel about swamps?"
With a loud huff, Hermione pushed her plate away and rested her forehead on the table.
"What's with her?" James Potter asked, sounding altogether too amused for Hermione's liking as he entered the dining room and claimed the empty seat next to Harry. "Hermione looks far too distressed for this early in the morning. She should have the courtesy to wait until at least ten to have a breakdown like the rest of polite society."
"She's mentally debating the merits of swamp-life," Remus informed him with a grave look, his head shaking in faux pity. "It's a challenging time for her and she needs our emotional support."
James paused, eyes drifting towards the ceiling in thought. "Ample real estate available, low cost of maintenance, water-front view." He ticked each comment on his fingers before cocking his head and turning to Hermione. "Though there is always the complication of trolls. Has Remus warned you about the trolls?"
"I did mention the trolls; they appear to be a selling point for her," Remus chuckled softly with a raise of his brows.
The hard wood of the table pressed against her skin as she lifted her head just enough to glare at Remus while he poured himself a cup of coffee.
"Why do I even come to these Sunday brunches anymore?"
"Because you love us," Harry sang, bumping his shoulder against hers playfully. "Can't break our brunch streak. Mum would be devastated; she already thinks we're growing up too quickly."
Hermione fought the urge to roll her eyes. "Your mum was married with a baby at our age. I think we're grown, or did she miss your engagement last summer?"
"I still don't see why she would rather live in a troll swamp when you have the old flat lying around unused." James smeared a generous serving of raspberry jam on his toast before gesturing towards them with the spreading knife.
"The old flat?" Harry's brow furrowed, and he looked to Remus for an explanation. "What old flat?"
Lifting her head up, Hermione watched the interaction with curiosity, her interest piqued.
"Oh, the old flat!" Remus' features softened with apparent nostalgia. "I haven't been there in years. I suppose it would be the perfect solution. The fireplace is still connected to the Floo Network; she could use it to commute to the Ministry."
"Though she would be giving up the prospect of infiltrating troll society and usurping their leader. She could command an army by December if she plays her alliances well." James tilted his head as he mused, "The opportunity cost would be tremendous."
Scoffing, Remus tossed James a look of incredulity. "Surely, you're joking. Trolls are bumbling idiots with little aptitude, you'd be better off infiltrating giants who at least have their own language and basic intellect. Trolls bring hardly anything to the table, their only 'skills' are their size and ability to smash."
"Smashing is useful," James muttered, his brows disappearing behind his fringe.
Remus placed the apple core on his serviette and picked up a fresh muffin from the serving platter before continuing, "Trolls have no element of surprise—they are loud and easily visible from a distance. The coordination it would take, even with a proper military strategy, to command an army would be excessive for the return on investment. Plus, imagine having to maintain a health and healing station for creatures of that size."
Retracting in his seat, James stared at Remus in confusion. "You don't think there would be massive benefits to commanding an army of trolls? It could be phase one of a strategic overtaking of the magical world. I mean, the intimidation power alone would be—"
"What was that about a flat?" Hermione interjected, matching the intensity of their slightly raised voices. She knew that if she didn't direct them back to the original topic they would be discussing troll militaries for the next hour, and as fascinating as she might have found the debate, she was in desperate need of a flat.
James and Remus turned to her, wide-eyed as if they had forgotten she was in the room.
Remus blinked. "Yes. The flat." He and James shared a glance. The pair could have an entire conversation in the span of a look.
After a beat, James explained, "When we were your age, we had a flat in Muggle London."
"Muggle London? How have I never heard of this flat?" Harry asked, eyeing his father with suspicion.
The chair scraped across the floor as James stood up. He crossed the dining room to the photograph of a tall man with dark hair and a brilliant smile that had hung in the kitchen for as long as Hermione could remember.
"We lived there with Sirius," James' voice was low and introspective as he lifted the frame and inspected the photograph. "It was all of us at first, until I moved in with Lily and we had Harry. Remus and Sirius lived there together until—"
"—until the explosion," Remus finished with a heavy sigh, making his way over to James and resting a hand on his shoulder. She could just make out the comforting squeeze of Remus' fingers, another small gesture between the two friends.
Hermione frowned, making the connection. " The explosion with Sirius Black was at your Muggle flat? You've retold that story every year since we were children and never once mentioned the flat."
"Remus was out that night collecting supplies to make the next batch of Wolfsbane and I was at home with Lily and Harry. We aren't sure of the details but we know that Sirius was alone at the flat—"
"Having a drink, or five." Fond smile lines creased into Remus' cheeks. "He never did listen to me when I told him to slow down. He'd had a row with his brother the night before and was self-medicating with copious amounts of Ogden's."
James nodded, adding, "He was at the flat and—according to the neighbors who were later Obliviated—around midnight there was a loud crack and flash of light. The entire living room was destroyed, and we found no trace of Sirius anywhere. There was an entire Ministry investigation but they didn't find any evidence of tampering. The official report attributed the explosion to a random burst of magical energy."
"We repaired the living room and searched for years; it was nothing but dead ends," Remus finished quietly.
A beat of silence overtook the room.
Lily walked around the corner of the dining room, holding a large pot. "I have more porridge if anyone's still hungry." Lily's wide smile fell as she took in the somber faces.
"What did I miss?" she asked, brows furrowed in concern as her eyes drifted to James who was still holding the photograph in his hands. "Oh love, are you telling them about Sirius?"
"I am. It's been twenty years but it still feels like yesterday. I can't believe he's gone." James hung the picture back on the wall, straightening the frame carefully with a twist of his fingers. "He's still our brother."
Remus nodded, his mouth set in a grim line. "He is. I say we have a glass of his favourite tonight and pass the flat on to the next generation. I don't think Sirius would be happy we let his flat turn into a dusty memorial to him. He always did hate that sort of thing."
"Oh!" Lily exclaimed as she set down the pot and removed the lid. "You're finally doing something with the 'fuck you flat'? I've been saying you should rent it out for years."
Harry choked on his drink, hitting his chest with his fist as he coughed out the words, " The what flat ?"
Lily covered her mouth with her hand, looking at Harry. "I'm sorry dear, I didn't mean to—I mean, it's just that's what Sirius called it." She turned to Remus in horror. "I'm glad Teddy is with Tonks this morning. That boy is related to two Marauders and I absolutely refuse to be the one responsible for teaching him that word."
"And why is that the name of the flat?" Hermione asked, teeth digging into her lower lip, wondering if she would even want to live there after hearing the namesake.
"Nothing sinister," Remus assured her. "It was aptly named. Sirius used what he fondly called his 'fuck you money' from his family trust. He liked to make purchases with his Galleons for the sole purpose of making his mother angry. It was a pastime of his."
"WWWD!" Remus and James declared in unison before bursting into laughter.
Glancing around the room, Hermione wondered if she was the only one missing out on the joke as James and Remus doubled over in their moment of apparent insanity. James' hand clutched Remus's shoulder as their bodies shook with laughter. She was relieved to find that Harry looked equally confused when she caught his eye.
"What Would Walburga Do. When faced with any major life choice, Sirius would ask himself that question. Once he decided what his hag of a mother would do in that situation, he did the exact opposite," James snickered, his eyes glazing over from the memory.
"Walburga was his wench of a mother," Remus offered with a chuckle. "I'm sure you've seen her wailing portrait around Grimmauld Place once or twice over the years."
"Oh my god, that's his mother ?" Hermione balked in horror. "I thought she was the lovechild of a stray banshee who bred with a boggart."
The older men doubled down in laughter. "Oh, Sirius would've loved you."
Their laughter faded until only the sound of Lily's cutlery filled the room as she sliced up a plate of fruit.
"Are you sure you're ready to give it up now?" Hermione's brow knitted, unconvinced. "The flat is so significant to you. If I'm living there, I might change it. Are you ready for that?"
"You should alter it, make it something new. It's taken twenty years to come to terms with losing Sirius but I think we are ready. It felt like as long as we held on to the flat, there was a possibility that he might come back. Rather ridiculous to say it out loud..." James' voice trailed off with a distinct sadness that made Hermione's heart hurt for their loss even more.
"It doesn't sound ridiculous," Hermione insisted. "If it were Harry or Ron, I would have done the same. I can't tarnish those memories for you."
The corners of Remus' mouth lifted in a small smile as he leveled his gaze on Hermione. "It hasn't been used in nearly twenty years, Hermione. I believe we are well past our time of mourning. You should breathe some life back into the old place; I am willing to bet it could do with a fresh coat of paint, and I'm sure Sirius would have agreed with us. It's been sitting empty far too long."
"I really appreciate the sentiment but I can't do that, not when it meant so much to you. I can find another flat."
"Where, Hermione? You're about to be homeless living with swamp trolls," Harry interjected.
"If that's the reason that you're offering, I won't take charity, Remus—" Hermione protested, but Remus lifted a hand to cut her off.
"It's not charity, Sirius owned the flat—something about how satisfying it was to purchase Muggle real estate with his family's fortune—and after he was declared dead, James and I inherited his estate. It's free of charge, the family discount."
Hermione hesitated. "Though I appreciate the sentiment, I have to pay rent. I won't just live there for free. That's not fair to you. I'm making a decent salary at the Ministry and I will pay you monthly. You can save up the money for Teddy."
"He should get a new broom!" Harry grinned broadly. "I've been teaching him to fly."
"Harry James," Lily started, disapproval laced in her tone.
"He's going to be a Seeker." Harry shrugged, dropping his spoon into his empty bowl. "Told me himself."
A smile tugged at the corner of Remus' mouth. "Fine, you can pay rent. If you absolutely insist."
"—and buy Teddy a broom," Harry added quickly.
"I absolutely insist."
"Five Galleons a month," Remus negotiated, spearing a piece of sausage with his fork.
Hermione gave him a look of incredulity before quickly snapping her mouth closed. "That hardly qualifies as a payment for rent. That's the price of coffee for a month."
"Won't find a good broom for five Galleons," Harry muttered into his cup before he took another sip.
"Ten Galleons?" James' suggested casually, grinning at Remus. "But no more than fifteen or it will seriously hinder the military budget for feather plumes, and you must have feather plumes in a proper military uniform."
Remus hummed thoughtfully in faux contemplation. "I absolutely agree, Prongs. I will accept no more than fifteen Galleons as your counter-offer."
"You're a terrible negotiator." Hermione bit back a smile, reaching into her purse and counting out the gold coins. "I would have gone to at least twenty."
"Looks like you've got a new tenant, Moony."
Hermione exhaled deeply, stepping back to admire her work. Her hair was tied up into a messy bun and her clothes were covered in splatters of paint. She brushed away a loose curl with the palm of her hand, completely exhausted.
It had taken three coats of paint and an entire Saturday, but Hermione finally painted the living room of her flat. She had been pleasantly surprised to find the old flat in excellent shape—though a bit dusty. It came fully furnished with the bachelors' old furniture from two decades prior, mostly usable with the exception of a few pieces that only needed a bit of repair from years of disuse.
Remus was insistent that Hermione make any changes to make it feel like her own. He and Tonks stopped by with the buckets of paint and helped her complete the first bedroom, though they did tease her for insisting on doing it the Muggle way. There was just something so satisfying about painting a room by hand.
In the past month, she had replaced the sagging lumpy sofa, added a dining room table, and repainted the two bedrooms. After moving the furniture from the spare bedroom into storage, she transformed the space into a library. The walls, once bare, now had framed art and pictures.
Overall, the flat was completely transformed, and Hermione was proud of the progress she had made.
It felt like home.
As she walked past the large round mirror on the wall, she paused to inspect herself. At some point she had smeared paint across her forehead. Rubbing at it unsuccessfully with a wrinkle of her nose, she gave up, knowing that it was not coming off without some serious scrubbing. With a small sigh, she decided to stop for the night; since it was nearing midnight, her feet were starting to drag and the frequency of her yawns had increased.
Stripping clothing off piece by piece, she lethargically climbed into the running shower. Humming softly under the heated water, she relished in the feeling of paint and sweat rinsing off her body. The smell of her body wash drifted through the air as she lathered it across her arms, rising with the steam to fill the small lavatory.
Just as she turned the squeaky knob to shut off the water, a loud crash rang out from down the hall. Hermione jolted in panic, pulling on her thin nightshirt and shorts in a hurry, her curls still heavy with water. Clutching her wand in her fist, she mentally recalled spells from her defence classes at Hogwarts as she stumbled out into the dark hallway.
" Lumos ."
Focusing intently for any sound, she took several steps before pausing, trying to identify the origin of the crash; it appeared to have come from the spare bedroom.
There was another clatter followed by the sound of glass shattering.
She flinched, her heart fluttering rapidly inside of her chest as sheer panic threatened to overwhelm her.
"Oh, fucking hell!" a low voice exclaimed from behind the door.
Holding her breath, she quickly ran over the list of people who could possibly be in her flat. The wards set up would not allow anyone inside who had not already been granted access, and they were nearly impenetrable without an army (wizarding or trollish). Remus and James had fortified the place like it was a safe house in a war zone, using wards they had taken from the Black family ancestral home.
With her wand raised in the air, she kicked open the door to the spare room, prepared to defend herself or to hex whoever was in her spare bedroom.
Tilting the light from her wand, she quickly inspected the room, eyes darting around the space. Several books were knocked off her shelf and it appeared that the intruder had tripped over her ottoman and cracked the vase her mum had gifted her as a housewarming present. Scanning the remaining area, the light caught on the body below her.
"Turn off that bloody light!" the raspy voice begged. "You were right, Moony; it was too much whisky. I think I'm simultaneously pissed and hungover. I might vomit."
On the floor of her home library was a man with curly black hair and a five-o-clock shadow. He wore a black blazer, a plain white fitted shirt, and snug Muggle jeans. His arms were dangling over his face in an attempt to shield himself from the light.
It took her a moment to realise exactly what he had said.
"How do you know Remus?" she demanded, not lowering her wand. "Where did you hear the name 'Moony'?"
"How do I…? I bloody well live with him! I gave him the damn name!" the man asserted, sitting up and running his hands over his face slowly. "Gods, I feel like shite."
His entire body swayed and he kept counter-balancing with a jerk of his arms. He was clearly sloshed.
"You do look like shite," she agreed, taking in his appearance as she sniffed the air gingerly. "And you reek of firewhisky."
"I took some of—oh, what does it matter?" His words slurred as he flung an arm into the air. "Can you find Moony? He has this potion, it helps. I'll be back to my charming self in no time."
The hair on her arms raised and her mind reeled. Adrenaline pumped through her veins as she held her stance, trying to steady her shaking hand. "I'm not doing anything until you tell me who you are. You have one chance to tell me before I petrify you and call the Aurors! Who are you and why are you in my flat?"
" Your flat? This is…is my flat." With the way his words blended together, it was a miracle Hermione could understand them at all. "Orenda Way. Or I am far drunker than I thought."
"But…" Her mind frantically processed his words.
One by one, it clicked together.
He knew Remus.
He called Remus 'Moony'.
I gave him the name.
This is my flat, Orenda Way.
In the dimly lit room, she had barely recognised him from the photo in the Potter's dining room. He had not aged a day. The realisation knocked the wind out of her and she took a reflexive step back, nearly dropping her wand in the process.
Uncovering his face, Sirius looked up at her with curious silver eyes, as if seeing her for the first time. "That's my name, beautiful," he mumbled, his eyes drinking her in as a grin stretched slowly over his lips.
She was suddenly very aware of her state of undress.
"I don't remember taking you home but Moony won't mind once he sees those eyes of yours. I think… I think I'll keep..." His eyes rolled to the back of his head as they fluttered shut, his body slumping backwards.
A sharp scream pierced her ears. It took a moment for her to recognise that it came from her own lips as she stared down at the unconscious man on the floor.
Sirius Black was back.
A/N - Updates every Sunday, find me on Tumblr at CurlyKay