Title: Walking in Circles
Author: SA2_chan (Sailorartemis_2000)
Warnings: PG-13. Spoilers for all books up to #5. Mild swearing. Time-travel paradoxes. Love triangles.
Disclaimer: For me to claim that I own any of these characters would be claiming that I am JK Rowling. And that, of course, is blasphemy.
A/N: Hallo, all. Now, before I start this, I must inform you that I have a track record for leaving stories unfinished. This is a very unfortunate habit of mine that I am currently trying to break. To break me of this habit of mine, I will need inspiration. This is where you readers come in. I like to know when my stories are being read, and the only way I know this is by receiving reviews. Now, I'm not going to be a review whore and demand such and such number of reviews for my next chapter, but I believe it is well within my rights to request some constructive criticism. I don't even mind flames… I mean, I have to roast my marshmallows with something, right? But anyway, I think you catch my drift. That's about all I have to say. Have fun!
Hermione groaned and rolled over as the alarm clock on her bedside table chirped incessantly. She reached over and flipped the switch on the back of the clock, eliminating the din and leaving her in blissful silence. Who had turned her alarm clock on, anyway? It wasn't as if she had anything important to do on a morning during the summer holidays, not until the day of the funeral, anyway.
Hermione's eyes, which had been half closed in weariness, snapped open.
"I'm going to be late!" she cried, throwing off she comforter and leaping barefoot onto the fluffy blue carpet that covered her bedroom floor. She ran over to the blue and white armoire that stood in the corner of her room and threw it open. Her eyes were drawn immediately to her periwinkle dress robes that she had worn to the Yule Ball in her fourth year. That had been two years ago, when Sirius was still… She immediately cut off that train of thought as unbidden tears came to her eyes. She hadn't cared as much about Sirius Black as Remus or Harry, but he had still meant a lot to her.
Hermione shook her head and commenced her search for her already-selected outfit. After thirty seconds of riffling through her closet, she at last pulled out a set of black silk dress robes. She was about to change into them from her pajamas when somebody knocked on her door.
"'Mione, love? Can I come in?" Hermione made an affirmative noise in her through, still staring at her dress robes. Henrietta Granger opened the bedroom door, greeted by the sight of her youngest daughter gazing at a set of black robes with tears threatening to spill from her eyes. "Oh, Hermione," she breathed in pity. Like most mothers, it broke Henrietta's heart to see her child in tears. Hermione tore her eyes from the robes and looked to her mother.
"I'm all right, Mum," Hermione said, smiling shakily and wiping the tears from her eyes. "Really."
"Your friend Harry called to say that he and Ron will be here shortly, so you had better hurry and get ready." Henrietta left the room and Hermione quickly changed clothes. She looked herself over in the mirror as she brushed her hair. Her robes were tailored to the current Muggle fashion: sheer bell sleeves that flowed out at her elbows, a somewhat low neckline that bunched in the middle of her neck, and a skirt that dropped to just above her knees. She pulled her hair into a braid with the futile hope that it might stay neat for more than an hour. Alas, hairs were already escaping as she tied the braid off with a black ribbon. She stared at herself sadly in the mirror before sighing and walking out of her room to wait for her ride to the cemetery.
It was a small crowd that showed up to mourn the passing of the late Sirius Black. Most of the procession was made up of the Order of the Phoenix, along with a handful of Dumbledore's Army, namely Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, the Weasley children, Harry, and Hermione. There was only one person there who Hermione didn't recognize: a woman around the same age as Sirius would be. Hermione stared at this woman discreetly, wondering who she was.
The woman had chestnut hair that was styled into loose ringlets that seemed slightly tangled from lack of brushing. Her brown eyes were filled with tears, and her cheeks were stained with running mascara and old tear tracks, as if she hadn't stopped crying for a long time. Hermione continued observing this woman even as Albus Dumbledore began a eulogy. Her curiosity about this strange woman increased even more as Remus Lupin walked up beside her and placed a hand on her shoulder. The Woman turned to Remus, eyes brimming, and gave him a quick embrace before turning to Dumbledore and listening to the rest of the eulogy.
"…And so it is with great sadness and regret that we say goodbye to a fine man and a great wizard, Sirius Black."
As the funeral ended and the mourners went their separate ways, Hermione was approached by the unfamiliar woman. "Hermione Granger, isn't it?" the woman asked, voice hoarse with tears. Hermione nodded, wondering how this stranger knew her name. The woman gave a watery smile.
"How did you know him? Sirius, I mean?" Hermione asked, looking down in embarrassment at her boldness.
"I was… a friend of his, at school. And his fiancée, before he was sent to Azkaban," the woman said softly, also looking down. Hermione, however, snapped her head up in consternation.
"He never mentioned—"
"I know. But… here. I want you to have this, Hermione Granger," the woman said, slipping a small parcel into Hermione's hands.
"You'll find out soon. Don't tell anyone about it, it would be dangerous if they knew." Hermione stared at the woman whose name she did not know. Dangerous? Why was this stranger giving her something potentially dangerous? "I know what you're thinking, Hermione. Let's just say it's a matter of Sirius's happiness."
"But Sirius is—"
"Trust me, Hermione. Please?" Perhaps it was the broken tone in the woman's voice, or it might have been the look of deep sadness in the woman's eyes, but for whatever reason, Hermione nodded and curled her fingers around the small parcel.
Sitting alone in her dormitory at Hogwarts, Hermione toyed with the thought of opening the parcel that had been given to her almost two weeks ago. She had delayed unwrapping it for what seemed like ages already, convincing herself that she was too busy doing homework or packing. Now however, she did not have that excuse, as the professors had given no homework in honor of the first week of school. (Not that she expected homework in Defense Against the Dark Arts for the rest of the year; Professor Dumbledore had gone out on a limb and appointed Fred and George Weasley as co-professors for that subject, in honor of their participation in the DA and the Order.)
The small package sat on her dresser, taunting her. She was starting to loathe that parcel. It was always one of the first things she saw every morning, its neatly sealed ends a reminder of what she hadn't done. At long last, she could not take it anymore, and reached over to grab the thing. She ripped open the outer layers of the package to find a velvet box, the kind that could be easily found in a jewelry store. Suddenly nervous, she eased the box open carefully.
Inside was a band of gold, embedded with diamonds and rubies; to all appearances, it was an engagement ring. Hermione gasped and examined it intently. On the inside of the ring was engraved the words from Sirius, with love— September 8, 1996. 'Hold on,' Hermione thought. 'That can't be right! September 8, 1996 is tomorrow! This has to be over a decade old, if Sirius gave this to that woman as an engagement ring!'
"Wow, Hermione, who gave you that?" Hermione jumped, having not noticed her roommates' arrival. Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil awaited the answer to Lavender's question excitedly.
"Oh, this? It's," Hermione paused, searching for an excuse. "My… grandmother's! She passed away last month." The brunette put a sad expression on her face, feeling guilty.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Hermione!" Lavender said, looking stricken. "I didn't realize— I mean—"
"It's all right, Lavender," Hermione replied, mentally berating herself for her lie.
"Harry and Ron just sent us to tell you that it's dinner time. They tried coming up here themselves— I guess they forgot about the warding spell on the girls' dorms," Parvati said, smiling at the memory.
"Oh, thank you," Hermione said absently, putting the ring back in its box and pocketing it. As she walked out of the dorm, her thoughts dwelled on the words of woman at the cemetery. How could a ring be dangerous? Was it cursed? That would make sense… but how would a curse be tied to Sirius's happiness? Besides, Sirius Black was dead.
The day dawned somewhat cloudy on September 8th, 1996, and it matched Hermione's mood precisely. Despite several hours perusing about fifteen thick books in the library, Hermione still could not figure out whether the ring had a curse on it or not, and she was left feeling cranky and tired.
After snapping at Ron for disturbing her from her studies, Hermione deduced that she needed a break. When one has been cooped up for hours on end, a good walk around the school grounds sounds like paradise— even when rain is coming down in torrents. Hermione pulled on a waterproof cloak and pocketed the velvet box that held the ring; she didn't want to risk it falling into the wrong hands.
The heavy front doors in the Entrance Hall were heavier than usual against the wind and rain, and Hermione had doubts about leaving the comparatively warm castle. She brushed the doubts aside and drew her cloak tighter around her body as she stepped outside. She slowly made her way to the tree by the Lake that Ron, Harry and she usually sat under on summer days after exams. The abundant leaves made a half shelter from the elements, but Hermione was still cold as she sat down and drew the velvet box out of her pocket.
Even in the pouring rain, the gold and jewels glittered admirably. Hermione examine the inscription again and again, wondering why the date was so recent. She inspected it for so long that the text seemed to glow a brilliant gold. But that was just silly; there was no need for the caption to—
But it was glowing, and the ring was becoming quite warm. Before Hermione had the chance to drop the ring, the glow turned into a bright, consuming light, blinding anything that would happen to be within a twenty-foot radius of the girl. After a few moments, the light receded, taking with it any sign that a young witch named Hermione Granger had stood under that tree on that stormy night.