A/N: Italics in the present tense are dreams, italics in the past tense are flashbacks. Generally the flashbacks are dated.
Sirius looked suspiciously at the young woman seated before him. Her sleepy expression had long vanished; his outburst appeared to have cured her of it. She was frozen, very much awake and her eyes darted nervous about the room.
"Who are you?" he asked a second time stressing each word.
Shrinking under his glare she quietly replied, "Hermione."
To her eternal surprise he laughed, a rumbling, low mock that was disbelieving in its tone and veering on contempt. "Do you think I'm stupid?"
"No," she countered. He was using his height as an advantage; he was not going to make this easy for her.
"If you're going to pretend to be someone," he drawled. "At least do it right."
Hermione went over the application of the potion in her head; she momentarily wondered if Snape had sabotaged the potion, she wasn't proud of that. There must have been some unforeseen side effects to the potion. How had she lost control of the situation?
"For a start she's a lot younger than you are and her hair…" he gestured wildly around his head. "Is a lot bigger – not to mention she's only a kid."
For some reason his bluntness hurt. Everything he said was true, the last time he'd seen her she was only a kid, but still his apparent ease at calling her one was insulting. She liked to think that when she was sixteen, she was quite mature.
Sirius was aware of the girl's discomfort, he learnt at a young age how to take advantage of other's intimidation. His face distorted with disgust and he began pacing the room, asserting his control. "So even though you don't fit the description – you still claim to be my godson's best friend?" he asked, sneering.
She didn't answer. This was crazy, this was Sirius. Hermione gripped the arms of the chair and slowly eased herself up.
"So whose idea was it?" he shouted louder than necessary, aware his control was slipping.
"To pretend to be Hermione – honestly, to think I wouldn't know what she looked like."
"Sirius you are making no sense – sit down so I can explain," she said exasperated.
"Tell me who you are first."
She took her time to reply, lifting her blanket of the chair she started to meticulously fold it. "Sirius, I am Hermione Granger."
"Look," he said, leaning in close to her head, grabbing but not removing the material in her hand. His voice little more than a whisper, "we've established your not Granger, so who are you?"
Hermione snatched back the cover irritated. "Sirius, I'm going to make breakfast, when you calm down I'll explain to you what happened."
Sirius being naturally quicker than the young witch reached the door first and blocked her way. He pushed out his chest to give the impression he was bigger.
Hermione pulled out her wand and pointed it at him. "Move or I will hex you - don't tempt me."
Reluctantly the older man moved from the doorway and just as Hermione reached the end of the hall, she heard Sirius curse and yell. "Where is my wand?"
She grinned and continued to the kitchen. She'd barely sat down when she heard the slap of bare feet running down the hall. The man burst through the door and banged his fists on the cluttered table.
"Explain," he exclaimed, His eye catching a bill addressed to Hermione.
Sirius stared dumdfounded at the brown envelope, turning it over, half hoping it was not real. He looked sheepishly at her, letter clutched in his hand. "So you're really Hermione?" he said disbelievingly.
"What did you do to your hair?"
She snorted faintly. "Merlin but aren't you vain, of all the things you could have asked me."
He didn't miss the tone, "but it was you!"
"And I wanted a change… a lot has happened Sirius. You where missing a long time, ten years."
"Ten!" he fell with a thump into a kitchen chair.
Hermione nibbled on a slice of toast, "what's the last thing you remember?"
Sirius dropped his face into his hands his fingers wrapped tightly in his hair. He tilted his head towards Hermione, only the tips of his eyes where visible shrouded beneath strands of hair. "Duelling LeStrange," he uttered.
"Don't you remember being in Yorkshire?" Hermione asked her earlier frustration replaced with concern.
"No – why?" His head shot up.
"Are you sure you want me to tell you? Ok, where do I start… that night in the Department of Mysteries you fell through 'The Veil'. Do you recall the stone arch with the tattered curtains?"
He nodded, picking at a stain on his white t-shirt.
"Well you fell into it," Hermione took a deep breath. "Because of a curse Bellatrix hit you with. The thing is, we all… everyone. No one really understands how 'The Veil' works. Many Unspeakables think it's a gateway to the realm of the dead. There are many references to it in books, but as anything that went through never came back, no one really understands. We thought you were dead."
Sirius grasped a spoon and glimpsed his reflection. "I look pretty good for a corpse!" He turned to her grinning, but she didn't need the clues to know it was an empty joke.
"You must have been frozen or something because you haven't aged in ten years."
He shook his head and asked gently, "What was I doing in Yorkshire?"
"Working on a Muggle farm."
He smiled sardonicallyand said, "Care to explain."
"I was in York to pick up a book and got lost on my way home. I don't if it was coincidence or luck but I came across the house you were staying in and took you home. Honestly, I don't know you weren't very forthcoming with the details. It appears that you were helping out the family that found you."
"How is it I don't recall any of this?" he inquired.
"It must be a side effect of the potion we gave you called Recordoranimus. It's a new one. It seems to have awoken your Sirius Black memories whilst erasing any you had as Heathcliff. If that's permanent, I don't know."
"So that's why you called me Heathcliff earlier."
She nodded. "Charles called you that."
"This is a bit much to take," he said quietly, accepting a mug of tea from Hermione. He raised his head to meet her. "How do I know your telling the truth?"
"You'll just have to thrust me," she offered.
Sirius looked up, a sad smile gracing his face, "Harry, I've missed another ten years of his life."
"I don't think he'll resent you," she said, standing up to make some more toast. "Want some?"
"Where's Harry now?" Sirius asked.
"He's at the Burrow."
There was a sharp clang, as the butter knife fell to the floor. "No," Hermione answered, bending down to retrieve the utensil. Turning back to the counter she continued, "with Ginny."
"They're getting married."
The shock was getting Sirius, how much more could he take. "Harry can't get married, he's only fifteen," he mumbled.
"Twenty-five," Hermione corrected, "just like me."
"Yeah, you have grown up," he muttered.
Hermione retook her seat and began absently running a finger along the rim of her coffee cup.
"What about Remus?" Sirius asked.
"Oh, he's fine. He works with me and is practically married to Tonks."
He'd had his suspicions about Tonks but never would he have believed Remus to reciprocate, not with the age difference. "Did they put something in the water at Grimmauld Place?"
Hermione grinned, but the smile didn't quite reach her eyes.
"What about you?" asked Sirius.
"Me?" she replied confused.
"I suppose you dated Ron."
Hermione didn't look up from her cup, but nodded. "We dated in Seventh Year."
"Oh!" he said, "and now?"
"Like I said a lot has happened."
"Apart from my godson being engaged and my best friend dating my cousin, care to fill me in?"
"I don't think it's my place to tell you everything."
"Why not?" he asked irritated. "Obviously it was seen as alright that you stayed with me last night."
She tried to ignore the bitterness in his voice; her heart had started to race since the mention of Ron. "What do you want to know?"
"Gone – Harry vanquished him after we graduated, this time for good. Every part of him destroyed. But maybe you should talk to Remus about that."
"Much like the first time, most were caught, some escaped or claimed innocence."
"Peter," he spat.
"Peter," she repeated, she had subconsciously started curling a finger in her short hair. "He's dead, they gave him 'The Kiss'."
"Oh!" he whispered. His reply sounded regretful to Hermione's ear, but maybe she heard wrong.
"So everyone's trying to get back to his or her life then?" he asked.
"As best they can," she replied. Sometimes you forgot just how long ten years really was, and just how fast it could go by.
Their conversation was quiet and short. The ability they'd had to talk animatedly about anything seemed to have vanished. It seemed forced and awkward to both of them.
"Where…. Eh… are Moony and Harry coming over?" questioned Sirius.
"Oh." Sirius desperately needed to make conversation, talking to Hermione was hard and she wasn't giving him anything to work with he'd have more luck with the wall. Right now he needed to keep his mind of being dead!
"So…" he began. "You never said how Ron was, he still baiting you into arguments."
"Ah…" he said scratching his unshaved chin awkwardly.
"He's dead," she whispered.
Sirius froze. "What? When, I don't understand, how?"
She looked up from her cold coffee, her eyes glistening. "Death Eaters killed him."
"Oh! I'm sorry."
"You've nothing to be sorry about."
"I'd rather not talk about it," said Hermione pushing back her chair from the table and depositing her cup and plate in the sink.
"Any idea, when Remus will get here?" It never crossed his mind that something could be wrong.
"I'll go send him an owl," she said leaving the Sirius alone and confused in the kitchen. He jumped at the sudden pop of the toaster.
"Moony, mate!" Sirius called brightly grabbing Remus and embracing his old friend in a tight hug. He turned to Harry ruffling his hair playfully, "so I hear you're getting married."
Harry blushed and mumbled something incoherently and Sirius noted Hermione smile, though it was a very fake one. His eyebrows knitted in confusion but he didn't have long to contemplate it as Harry winded him with a sudden tight hug.
The four ex-members of the Order sat around the wooden table in Hermione's kitchen. They sat and spoke of little things, what they were all doing. Harry spoke about his latest case and how it was irritating Mrs. Weasley to no end, because it meant he was at work late. Hermione suspected he stayed more than necessary, that if he really wanted the time off, he could have. Molly was a little demanding.
"Well," Remus said. "Harry you'll be there. The Weasley's are all coming. Tonks wants to give Molly the day off for Christmas, mind you she'll probably still spend her time in the kitchen."
"Sirius?" asked Remus.
"Oh, I'll be there, any chance to embarrass you and the wife."
Remus reddened slightly. Hermione lifted her head really fast and caught Sirius' wink.
"I'm… we're not married."
"That's not what I heard, mate. I believe the exact words were Remus and Nymphie were practically married," Sirius said with an innocent expression.
"Just a warning mate, never call her Nymphadora."
Sirius smiled, "got you on a short leash then."
Remus ignored the comment and turned to face an increasingly embarrassed Hermione. He was about to speak when a loud crash was heard. "That'll be my lovely Tonks now."
"Hello… hello," Tonks yelled cheerfully entering the kitchen. "Hermione, had trouble with your door. The key got stuck or something. Sorry knocked into your shelf in the hall but don't worry nothing's broken."
Tonks plonked a canvas bag to the kitchen table that clinked on contact. "I hope they didn't break," she joked pulling out two bottles of Firewhiskey. "And for you Hermione, white wine. Got some nibbles too."
Hermione stared at the piles of crisp packets amounting on her kitchen table. "We should probably move to the sitting room, it's warmer in there," she said.
Sirius took a seat on the lone armchair; he had just sat when Tonks jumped on his lap and refused to leave.
She wrapped her arms around his shoulder, her hair its natural dark brown, and nuzzled into his neck. "Merlin, I missed you so much," she mumbled.
"I miss you too," Sirius said glancing at Remus for help. Sirius was never very good at dealing with extreme emotions.
Remus understood the look. "Tonks… Tonks, let him breath. You don't want to make me jealous?"
"No, I'm not getting up until you promise never to leave again."
"I promise," Sirius said softly.
She loosened her grip but didn't get off his knee. "We all really missed you."
"Remus, not that you don't matter Sirius, but more importantly how's the shop?" Hermione said genially. Aware that if she didn't say something the night would only go one way and there was too much alcohol for that.
"Fine, it runs grand without you – and you're still on your break so stop worrying about it."
"You two work together?" asked Sirius.
"Yes, in a bookshop," said Hermione.
"A bookshop?" Sirius tried to read her face. It was a practiced expression, he knew about those. "I always thought you'd end up in the Ministry."
"Remember the time that kid robbed the book?" interjected Remus foreseeing the imminent argument.
"I haven't heard this one." Harry said leaning forward and pouring himself a drink.
"Ok, well. This boy he was about what 12?"
"14," Hermione corrected automatically.
"The boy was in the shop and he was looking really shifty. And he knocks over a pile of books to distract Hermione and take the opportunity to grab a book and runs out of the shop. The boy could be an athlete… Hermione is off in a flash after him. She chases him through Diagon Alley and eventually she pulls out her wand and curses him. However, instead of just immobilising him, she sends him flying. Thankfully the kid is not hurt, but she feels so bad about it that she gives the boy the book for free," said Remus.
"He told me it was a dare."
"He was probably terrified of you," said Harry.
"He was terrified," Remus agreed. "But yet, he couldn't help looking at the book on Ancient Runes and handing it back to her."
"Right, when you three have quite finished embarrassing me," Hermione said crossing her arms.
"So I was thinking," said Harry. "That we should all go to a Quidditch match together. That could be fun. It's been a while."
Remus looked at Hermione's face, he knew she would go if necessary, but that she was not a fan. "That sounds like a lovely idea, maybe we could do dinner before hand?"
"Sounds like a plan," Tonks added.
"Top up?" Sirius asked holding the bottle over Hermione's glass.
"Just a small one," she replied holding her wine glass to the lip of the bottle.
"Hermione doesn't drink a lot Sirius, not since New Years Eve four years ago."
"Tonks!" she said threateningly. "Don't."
Tonks changed her hair to a shocking pink and smirked. "It was at a party that Kevin's friends were throwing. They weren't going out yet so Hermione asked me and Remus to go. Of course the old man wouldn't go." She leaned over and kissed her boyfriend's cheek affectionately before he could say anything.
"Who's Kevin?" asked Sirius.
"Hermione's boyfriend," said Harry. "He's away with work, Spain isn't it?"
"Yes, he works for the Department of International Magical Cooperation."
"Oh! That's nice, thought he might have been a Muggle," Sirius commented.
"Good," Sirius replied shortly.
Tonks gave Sirius a look before speaking again. "Anyway… Kevin disappeared somewhere and Hermione drank a little bit too much. She was sitting on the couch fairly tipsy and she starts smiling at his guy standing across the room. To be fair, the guy was very good looking." She's interrupted by a soft cough. "But obviously not as attractive as Remus!"
"Good," Remus joked.
"Is this really necessary?" Hermione asks dreading the answer.
"Yes," Sirius said simply leaning back in his seat and sipping his Firewhiskey.
"Sorry Hermione, they have spoken. Where was I, oh yeah, she's smiling at the guy and starts beckoning him over. He thought he was in there. Hermione looks at him with the straightest face, and says 'you know your eyes are the shape of liverfluke and the colour of Flobberworm pus.' He thought she was joking, but she wasn't. She gave him a list of books he could use to compare his eyes to, and insisted he read an article… who was by?
"Annelid Pearl,"she mumbled.
"Yeah that was it, because it had wonderful colour frames. Poor guy had no idea what was going on."
"That's unfair. I'd been reading about the new study on the properties of Flobberworm Pus earlier, so it was obviously still on my mind. Where the liverfluke came from? I've no idea," argued Hermione.
"I heard about this," Harry interjects. "Isn't that the time Hermione woke up the next morning, half lying on a sofa and clutching a garden gnome?"
"It was a ceramic one, and needless to say I never touched tequila again! You should be careful what you say Nymphadora, I've one or two stories about you," Hermione threatened.
"Wait, that can't be it," Sirius said leaning forward. "How'd you end up sleeping with a gnome?"
"That, you will never know."
"Don't think she remembers," added Harry.
Hermione ignored him and was about to reply when Harry spoke, "Oh Merlin, look at the time, I'd better be going. Sirius we'll meet up just the two of us."
"You're leaving," Sirius said, trying to hide the disappointment in his voice.
"Yeah, Molly wants to do more wedding planning early tomorrow, and as it is I'll have a killer hangover."
Sirius grinned mischievously, "and here I thought it was Ginny you were marrying."
Harry reddened, and Tonks interrupted to save Harry more blushes. "I'd better be off too. Shaklebolt has me in, in oh! Four hours… Come here you." She grabs Sirius in tight hug. "Don't you ever think of doing that to me again," she chastised with a bright smile.
Hermione walked them to the door. On her way back the conversation in the room caught her attention.
"She told me about Ron," Sirius' voice said.
Hermione moved closer to the door, through the gap she could make out Remus' back and half of Sirius' face, but they couldn't see her.
"Really, what did she say?" Remus' voice asked.
"Just that Death Eaters got him, why what did happen?"
"That's it, only no one knows which one."
"How does Hermione know then?" questioned Sirius.
Remus replied, "She was there."
"Oh Merlin… that explains a lot."
"Just the way she reacted when I mentioned his name, is she ok?"
"Most of the time," said Remus.
Sirius nodded. "So dating my cousin, a girl thirteen years younger than you. I remember a certain werewolf telling me that an age difference that great was wrong."
Hermione couldn't see Remus' face but he whispered a reply that sounded like, "That was different, Padfoot."
Sirius was going to reply, but Hermione took this opportunity to re-enter the sitting room.
"So what have we decided?" she asked.
Remus paled to Hermione's confusion, "what do you mean?"
"Well now that Sirius sort of remembers, is he staying here. Is he staying on your sofa or Grimmauld Place?"
Neither replied her.
"Sirius, you're welcome to stay with me for awhile. Kevin is still away and most of your belongings are still in the spare room. Neither of your other options sounds too pleasant."
"Well Padfoot, you can stay with Tonks and I," offered Remus. "I doubt Harry would mind either."
"No," Sirius grinned. "I'll take Hermione up on her offer."
"Padfoot, really, you can stay with us." Hermione didn't see the pointed look from the werewolf.
"I'd enjoy the company Remus," Hermione added.
Sirius smirked, "there you go Moony, that's that sorted."
"What will Kevin think?" Remus asked Hermione.
"I'm sure he'll understand Remus," she continued, oblivious to the glances shared between the two best friends.
"Well I'm beat, I'm of to bed," said Hermione stifling a yawn. "Remus you're welcome to stay."
After Hermione had exited the room Remus turned to Sirius, "Padfoot, you're asking for trouble."
Sirius just smiled.