A note from Serade Black: We come upon another quickly added chapter. Some of you believe that all endings should be happy ones, this might steer you into another direction with your educated theories. I guess you'll just have to stay till the ending to see how everything turns out...

Enjoy the chapter. It's rated PG13 and it is the same on my LJ.

Chapter 21

"It All Comes to an End"

Hermione flew out of the kitchen, still wearing her pajamas, hair pulled back in a messy bun of curls, her eyes red and watering, holding a frying pan. It appeared that she had been up crying all night. Sirius closed his eyes, wishing he could feel his own emotions right now, but instead, still felt the repercussions of what his mission forced him to do: be numb. His worrisome girl stood in front of him, looking completely a wreck, frustrated and angry.

Sirius stood there, caught like a deer in the headlights and after he knew she wasn't going to hit him with that frying pan, just sighed, "Not now, Hermione."

"Not now? When, Sirius? When would be a good time to ask you where you've been for the last two nights?" She insisted, trailing behind him as he slowly walked to their bedroom.

"I wasn't gone for two nights, just one!" Sirius turned around on her, starting to get irritated that she was giving him the third degree.

"You came home the night before in the middle of the night! I never even saw you, Sirius, until I left for work. And now, it's today. I woke up this morning with no idea where you were, that I nearly floo Remus."

"Don't floo Remus. Don't bother him when he's with Tonks." Sirius moaned rolling his eyes at her. His muscles were beginning to drag and he just turned on her to go back to bed, not impressed with her demands.

Hermione was taken aback by the way he so easily dismissed her, as if he didn't care, as if he were a walking zombie, as if he wasn't Sirius! All she wanted was an honest answer about where he was last night, without sounding too suspicious and asking around. If she went around and asked the Order members where he was, they would turn on him and have their own doubts, thus resulting in a feud between her and Sirius, and the Order and Sirius. If they didn't have an answer for her, then it would believed that Sirius was up to something fishy.

Hermione Granger was not going to accept this so easily, not when he was retreating into their bedroom, not when he was walking away from her, not when she had been put through two nearly three whole weeks of this "ignoring" phase. Sirius hadn't properly kissed her in over a week, their bed felt cold and lonely, and half of the time he wasn't in it, either still at Grimmauld, or on the couch. Something was definitely up. Would this be called a seven year itch...at nearly seven months?

"Sirius, I think we need to talk about this. I stayed home from work today, because I was so upset over you. I've been up most of the night, worrying about where you've been. This has got to stop." she said, rushing it out before he could quiet her.

Sirius felt numb to her, for the moment. Snape's spells seemed to be not only weighing heavy on him, but they were coming home with him, too. Ever since he had agreed to this mission and fake the Imperious curse, he had not been himself and his heart was no where in the right place. Even, and this was hard for Sirius Black to admit, his libido wasn't on par. Sex didn't matter to him, he had no drive for it, and the thought of doing anything but sleeping right now, disgusted him.

"No, Hermione, not now. Now, I'm going to take a shower and go to bed. I've had a rough night and I really want to just sleep it off, please." Sirius was tearing off his shirt and throwing it on the floor.

Hermione felt like a ball of fury and ran up behind him, picking up his dirty shirt and throwing it in the proper hamper. Even angry, she still felt the need for cleanliness control.

"No, Sirius, I believe this matter is far more pressing than your beauty sleep."

Sirius spun around on his heel, looming over her, calming himself before he just started screaming, "No, Hermione, I'm done. Let me be, leave me alone and we'll talk later."

He was ignoring her. He was avoiding her. He was shutting her out completely. He had, as painful as it was to admit, disrespected her.

Without warning, she bit her lip, holding back her tears and slapped him hard across the face. "Maybe THAT will bring you back to your senses!"

Sirius stood there stunned as he raised a hand to his stinging cheek. The power of her slap knocked him awake, all right, it knocked him awake to actually catch himself, count to ten and not follow her out of the room as she spun on her heel. Instead, Sirius swore under his breath at himself, and went into the bathroom to take a shower to cool off.

When he emerged from the steam filled room, she was gone. The flat was empty and silent. There was a sense of nothingness in there with him, and he knew it was because she wasn't there. Her energy, her love, her being had vacated his presence and the only way he was going to deal with it, was by collapsing face first on top of the bed. His eyes were just closing, sleep was coming to take him and as he drifted away, the lingering smell of Hermione's perfume filled his senses as he lay on her pillow. Her sweet, calming, hypnotic scent that he had learned to find irresistible, was now invading his mind, wishing that he had her with him at that very moment.

Sirius ran his hand over the soft sheets, thinking back when she first came to him in that very bed and the memories they made together there on after. How he wished that he had her in his arms, wrapped around her slender form, acting as her protector. His opportunity to admit to her his true feelings had left him high and dry and he knew that it was going to take a long time of making it up to her, before he was able to touch her, again.

As the silent flat settled around him in the late hours of the morning, the sunlight filled the room on his otherwise, somber mood. No light was too bright, no feeling occupied his mind and no one around was going to keep him awake from his slumber, as he finally let his mind escape into a dream state.

Another week went by and Hermione had found solace at her parents' house. She'd left her reasons short and sweet with her parents, believing that this was just a "rough patch" that she and Sirius were going through. She'd gone home one night out of them, but still slept alone under her own roof. Feeling the flat empty like it had been, empty of that intimacy that seemed to have left she and Sirius faster than a wand sale at Ollivander's, she didn't feel safe there anymore.

Hermione packed a few things for the next few nights, again, and this time went to Grimmauld Place, knowing there she wouldn't be alone. Harry would be there, and though she couldn't tell him what she was really going through with his godfather, she could at least try and pretend things were okay, and just want to be at Grimmauld for awhile. If he asked, she'll just say that she needed some space.

Harry was out for the evening, and it appeared that Hermione was, again, alone. The Black house seemed eerie on that particular night, feeling for the first time, she didn't belong. Maybe it was the energy of she and Sirius not currently getting along and his spirit was telling her this. Maybe it was her own paranoia and the only way to fix that for the moment, was to prepare herself a nice warm cup of tea with chamomile, so she could relax. She'd sneak herself a sweet snack from the fridge that Molly had made for the Order meeting the next night and make her own self, be all right.

Remus came into the kitchen to see a bed bound Hermione, carefully reading a book by candlelight at the large table in the center. The same table they gathered for Order meetings, the same table they shared dinner on and the same table they decided on Hermione and Sirius's marriage law. His face fell with the idea that she was probably there, because she didn't want to go home.

Already knowing the answer, he pursed a question, "Hermione, what are you doing here?"

Hermione jumped a little with the sudden company and break of silence, but was relieved to know that it was Remus who was joining her.

"I didn't feel like going back to my parent's house, again." She sighed, closing the cover of her book and staring off into the blue flame of the low burning candle. She looked up at Remus as he started to prepare himself a cup of tea to join her, "Did Sirius tell you about that?"

"About going to your parent's house? Yes, he told me." Remus nodded, his back turned to her and facing the kitchen counter.

Wondering if he said anything more, she advanced, "Has he said anything else, Remus?"

Remus kept his back turned, truly not wanting to be in the middle of their fight, but pained that all this was caused by a mission in the Order. Another mission that was necessary by the Order to follow through with. He hadn't planned for Sirius and Hermione to go through this, but at the same time, he hadn't planned for the couple to even start a real relationship. It was terrible timing for them, for Sirius to get involved in this second mission, but it was out of their hands. If Voldemort requested him, then it was essential to the plotting plans. Using Sirius as another form of spy, was very valuable and it helped cover Snape and reinsure his position in the Dark Lord's eyes. They had to follow through with the drastic request. They had made progress. Though a bit of convincing was needed on Bellatrix's half, already the sisters believed Snape to be in complete control of their fellow Black's mind and were using him as a tool. They were very much "in".

On the other hand, they had no idea how long this was going to go on, and Hermione was still seen as a pawn in the game as well. One of the pieces, Sirius, had already been moved and it was only a matter of time before they put him into play. If anyone was to get their hands on Hermione, they would surely torture her for the truth with Sirius, had she known what he was set to do. If they used Verituserum, she would have spilled everything without even knowing it. For Hermione not to know any part of this plan was essential. They'd know that Sirius's own wife would know what he was doing.

It was hurtful to watch the once loving couple fall apart like they slowly had been. From the first day of Sirius's mind being affected, you could see a definite change in him, from body to soul. His feelings, including those for Hermione, had dulled. Even his demeanor with Harry wasn't as "fatherly" as it once was, and it seemed to be taking a toll on him as well, but in another way. Sirius often complained of fatigue, irritability, no reason to care and finally, no respect for authority. Several times, he'd picked a fight during the Order meetings and everyone around them saw that the Sirius Black that now sat with them for business was another man; a darker man.

"Not much, Hermione." Remus started, turning around with his steaming cup of water, slowly dunking the tea bag up and down. "But, I know what you two are going through."

She bowed her head, letting her shoulders slump, feeling that this was what it felt like to lose someone you loved, "It's been like this for a month, Remus. He just seemed to change and I don't know what I've done wrong."

"You haven't done anything wrong, Hermione. It's…" he paused, not quite sure to say it like this. "It's him."

Hermione's newly watering eyes slowly looked up at him, "I wish he'd talk to me."

"He doesn't talk to you?"

"Well, not like he used to. Up until a week ago, he would come home late, come home drunk, pass out on the couch, raise his voice at me," her voice was calm and quiet, like she was absolutely spent with crying. "I just don't know how to explain it. I suppose," she made herself chuckle, out of fear, "the honeymoon's over."

Remus's heart was breaking for her and he reached out to rest a hand on hers that lay lonely on the table, "Don't say that, Hermione. I'm sure he's…he's just going through a spell."

She shook her head convincing herself, "No, he's just made up his mind that things aren't supposed to be. Just as well, he is twenty years older than I am."

Remus shook his head, quietly telling her not to think that way. He wished he could tell her, he wished he could tell her that Sirius admitted that he loved her, but he just didn't say it in time.

"I was a fool to even fall for him. I was just like all the others. Well, at least now, we don't have to tell Harry, anything."

"You have to tell, Harry."

Hermione was silent, thinking that there wasn't really a reason to, but then again, she knew Remus was right and that Harry had to know. She really didn't look forward to getting the slack from him without Sirius, but at least it'll be out in the open.

The two of them heard a door slam and they knew it was Sirius coming in the front door. The portraits around the doorway were yelling, telling him to be a little more considerate about barging in.

"Oh, shut up, the lot of you!" Sirius bellowed at the portraits like an angry dog, from the living room.

Remus quickly stood up and left the kitchen to warn him that Hermione was there and to better prepare him. He saw a disgruntled Sirius, running a nervous hand through his hair, shaking himself of the excess water that had rained in on him as he walked in the door. Snape was close behind with a look of irritation and in appeared that the two of them had probably just finished a good argument.

Remus held his hands up to the two men, stopping them from any further discussions of where they had been, "Shh, Hermione is here."

"She is? Why?" Sirius asked, looking behind Remus towards the kitchen door, as if she was doing something she shouldn't.

Snape drawled a deep chuckle, "She couldn't stand the likes of you any longer, eh Black?"

"Get fucked, Snape!" Sirius barked, glaring at Snape through deeply confrontational eyes.

"That's enough." Remus whispered, trying to calm the situation. "Sirius, I don't think it's best for you to talk to her right now. She's a little distraught over this whole situation."

"She thinks she's the only one that's suffering? I've been trying to sort my own head out, before I even talk to her. She's come here to stay for a bit, I take it? No more parents?" Sirius rushed to spit out, his frustrations over the entire situation finally spilling out and he was afraid that he was nearing his wit's end with this mission.

"No, she's just convinced that the two of you aren't going to make it. But, don't you dare go in there and try to sort her out, now. She's not in the right state and you are most definitely not in the right mind." Remus interrupted, putting a hand to Sirius's chest to stop him from forcing his way past him and into the kitchen.

The room around Sirius felt thick and foggy, like someone had just decided to let some of the oxygen out and he was struggling to breathe. The only thing he could think of was that this might have been what it felt like to have a mental breakdown. Too many people messing with his mind and one was sure to just crack.

He knew Remus was right, he wasn't thinking as himself. He was a walking zombie version of himself and right now, that person wanted to talk to Hermione. Sirius pushed himself past his friend and made a beeline for the kitchen. Remus called after him, trying to stop his friend from making a mistake, with Snape close behind him to not miss the show that was about to unfold.

"Don't tell her, Sirius!" Remus cried out, regarding both the mission and his true feelings. This was not the time for either.

Hermione had overhead a little commotion coming from the living room, but couldn't make out what was being said. She quietly sipped her tea, she being her only company, when the kitchen door swung up with such force, it could have been torn off.

"Hermione, you can go back home. You don't have to stay here." Sirius said sternly. He wasn't yelling, but his voice was serious.

Surprised with his outburst, though not entirely surprised, she stood up from her chair as Remus and Snape filed in. Remus to act as a mediator if necessary, and Snape to watch the downfall of a once happy Sirius.

"I'm not going back home, Sirius and don't tell me what to do. I don't really want to go anywhere near that flat, unless I have to." She defended, looking at Sirius as if he had just offended her beyond words.


"Because, I don't like it there. I don't like how you are when you come home, I don't feel safe and I don't know what's happening to us!"

"Nothing is happening to us." He replied, half-assed.

"Nothing? Are you bloody blind? Where have you been these last few nights? Why do you come home drunk and late? Why don't you come to bed?"

"Because, you don't want me to come to bed drunk, Hermione! Your words!" he was quick to raise his voice, as if it was never his fault.

Remus wanted to so badly to just take Hermione out of this equation while Sirius was like this, because as he watched the two have their fight, he no longer recognized his friend. He at least was able to make most of him out, right after Azkaban, but now, as he watched his longest friend yell at the woman he was involved with, as if she were below him, he found himself afraid for this person.

"Hermione, why don't you just leave the room and walk away. Don't bother with this right now, this late." Remus suggested, hoping that one of the two stubborn souls would realize they weren't going to win.

"No, Remus! I'm not leaving. I want to find out where he's been." Hermione began, pointing at Sirius as if he were accused of the worst.

"No, it's just best if you walk away now, Hermione." Sirius realized, trying to win the argument over himself and her.

"I won't walk away! Where the hell have you been all these nights, Sirius? Why won't you tell me?" she begged, her voice cracking, searching for the strength to continue with him. She had to find something out.

"It's none of your business!" he shouted at her. Sirius was changing emotions like Jekyll and Hyde and it was beyond his control.

"I have every right to know. Unless…" her voice fell, as if a little light just went on in her head. "Unless…unless, you're cheating on me." Her quiet little voice found its way out.

Sirius ran his hands through his hair, frustrated to continue, and started to shake his head, "I wish it were that easy. No, I am not with anyone else!"

Hermione started to nod her head, as if discovering the real truth, "You are. I don't believe it."

"NO! For Merlin's sake, I'm not! Listen to me!" he yelled at her, finally lifting his head and walking towards her, his arms outstretched.

Hermione staggered back, afraid for herself and whatever he was capable of doing, regardless of who was in the room, "Don't touch me! Get away from me." Convincing herself, Hermione found the strength to walk further away from him, turn and leave him.

Watching her leave his sight was the last thing that Sirius couldn't handle. As she left the kitchen, Sirius felt the blood rush to his head, the room started to spin and he clutched onto the ends of the table to remain standing. His head fell and he could feel his insides tearing apart. This was too hard. Remus went to console his friend as Snape watched on.

The next night was an Order meeting and after the fight between Sirius and Hermione, the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Both parties sat on opposite sides of the table, not looking for anything that was said. They were like strangers to each other and neither one really felt like talking. It wasn't until they got to the last bit of business, that Arthur took the table.

"I've got some news from the Ministry that involves Sirius and Hermione." Arthur announced in a somber note. He was aware of the hostility between the couple and knew that anything said for, or on their behalf, wasn't necessarily going to be taken well in public.

Both Sirius and Hermione looked at Arthur, baffled with what more could be about them. Hermione glanced over at Sirius just to check his expression, but it was cold. He never looked at her, didn't notice her, he just looked up at Arthur with indifferent interest, only because his name was said.

"I think, it might be wise if I told these two in private. With the exception of Molly and Remus, I believe that everyone else should be excused." Arthur recommended, looking down and holding the rolled parchment in his hands, fidgeting nervously.

The rest of the Order meeting looked around in silence and quietly filed out of the room, with Harry looking back at the two very important people in his life, like someone was going to die. With a final glance at Hermione, whose eyes had fallen back to the center of the table, he closed the door behind him.

As requested, only Remus and Molly remained in the room with Sirius and Hermione. Sirius tried to play it off like it was nothing, and leaned back on the two legs of his chair arrogantly. Hermione, however, looked up at Arthur, concerned for her well-being.

"What is it, Mr. Weasley?" Hermione asked softly, her voice a bit unsteady.

Arthur glanced over at his wife and then back at Remus, who were just as interested. With a mental nod, he prepared the two extras for an emotional blow that he wasn't sure how it was going to be taken.

"Come on, Arthur. What do those wanks demand of us, now?" Sirius asked, looking up at the ceiling unimpressed and rather bored.

Arthur cleared his throat and announced, "Quite the opposite, Sirius. It appears that they've lifted the Marriage Law."

Hermione's mouth fell open, utterly stunned. This news was not something she was expecting, or ready for. She just sat there in silent shock, her eyes slowly falling back down to the table, finding that her breath was very very thin.

"What?" Sirius checked, "You're shittin me! How?"

"It just came out today." Arthur repeated, handing Sirius the parchment, and feeling like he was, in some way, delivering bad news.

"I'll be damned. I guess we are actually making some headway up there, aren't we?" Sirius sang, as if this was the greatest news he'd heard from the Ministry. He was extremely impressed.

Hermione just stared at the table, studying all the cracks and crevices that it held, taking in each detail. Molly went to sit next to Hermione, putting a loving arm around her, worried about how she was going to take this news. No one in the room knew how it was going to be taken, because everyone in the room knew that the two were actually together. As their relationship progressed, they never thought about the "what if's" when the law lifted, they just never brought it up. So right now, it was hanging there in the open, waiting to be decided.

"So, that means that your marriage can be annulled." Arthur reminded, offering the last of the surprise and glancing at each of them with sympathy.

Hermione didn't say anything, she just felt like the bottom had just fallen out from under her, leaving her feeling extremely bare and alone all of a sudden.

Sirius reread the letter from the Ministry passing the Pureblood/Muggleborn Law was no longer in effect and they now had the freedom to choose what they wanted to do.

Taking a deep breath and tossing the letter back on the table, he leaned back on the two legs of his chair, "Well, where do we sign, Arthur?" he said, looking straight at Hermione.

Hermione lifted her eyes to his cold ones, looking for anything but that, to be said. She hadn't considered anything at this point, but for him to just write her off like that was stabbing her in the heart and twisting the hilt for extra measure. Even Molly looked at him with a sudden surprise with the way he had said it.

"Don't look at me like that. You've wanted this since day one." He added with a smug sneer on his face as if the very picture of her disgusted him.

She slowly shook her head, holding back the building emotions that she felt were going to erupt any minute from her. "No, I haven't."

"Bullshit." Sirius added, calling her bluff. He was not the person everyone knew and certainly not the same person Hermione had fallen in love with.

"Sirius Black!" Molly snapped, rubbing Hermione's back with gentle care.

"Butt out, Molly. This is between the two of us." Sirius baited, hoping Hermione would snap back.

"How can you be so cold, Sirius? How can you just write me off like nothing mattered?" she asked quietly, still stunned.

"It did, but you don't seem to want anything to do with me. If you remember, last night you told me stay away from you and I'm just doing what you wished." He replied in a cool dry tone, with no emotion.

Remus watched the scene unfold before him, not believing that they were tearing apart so easily, so quickly, but he couldn't interrupt. It was between the two of them to decide and it appeared that Sirius, no matter what state of mind, had made it up.

Sirius Black and Hermione Granger were getting an annulment.

Sirius let the two legs of his chair slam back onto the floor and stood up from the table. He glanced one more time at the brunette girl and left the kitchen without looking back. The room remained silent and quiet and just when she couldn't hold it together any longer, Hermione let tears stream down her face without a sound, staring at the discarded parchment announcing the lift of the law.

Sirius pushed out the kitchen doors when everyone turned towards the door with an eager look on their face, as they were interested in the news that was so private. He focused all his attentions on the front door, just wanting to escape and get out of that house. He felt like the walls were closing in on him and he needed a drink.

Harry stepped in front of him and reached out to grab his arm, "Sirius, what was the news?"

"We're getting an annulment." Sirius growled, his intent was still on leaving and looked nowhere else.

"That's great! But, where are you going?" Harry asked, releasing his godfather as he pulled away.

He opened the front door without looking back and finished, "I'm going to celebrate."