A note from Serade Black: Here we go again! I'm nearly done with the outline to this story, thanks to Tatiana422, the Narcissa to my Bellatrix.
This is the revised version of this chapter, since it's already been posted for quite sometime now. If you've read this before, please take the time to maybe read it again. You'll see a few subtle, grammatical changes, but mostly I just wanted to get it out there.
I hope you enjoy the new ride I take you all on!
Ch. 1 - RETURNED
Some things cannot always be foretold. Generation after generation has sought higher education in distant countries to find answers to ancient questions. The time now, is not something that was written in a book, nor planned, nor seen as clearly as a moving picture. The question in our minds now may ask if we have the ability to turn back time, believe in the power of divination or to follow a prophecy.
On Halloween night, number twelve Grimmauld Place was settling in. The occupants had long since retired to bed, the portraits had been wished a good evening, the left-overs from dinner had been packaged and the magical self-propelled knitting set had put itself away. The house creaked here and there, showing its age and the grandfather clock in the parlor chimed its two o'clock dong. As consistent lighting illuminated the curtains of the house, a quiet rumbling was heard in the distance that a storm was coming. Down the old set of stairs leading to the kitchen, a kettle steamed from the stove, indicating that the water was now ready to brew tea.
Hermione Granger quickly tapped the kettle with her wand to put a silencing charm over it, so as to be a little bit considerate of the upstairs dreamer. Hermione quietly padded across the cold stone floor to pour the hot water into her readied cup. She replaced the kettle to the stove, so it would be there ready for the morning brew. Bobbing her tea bag up and down in her cup, she listened as the quiet threatening storm began to tap raindrops on the window like a music conductor beginning the first few notes of a powerful orchestra.
The house, even after living in it for two years, still gave Hermione an unsettling chill. Harry and Remus had done their best at giving the house a thorough clean; disposing of anything dark or evil that may have created a special vibe that offset the entire house. The old tapestries had been taken down and had been replaced with fine collectables and quidditch trophies.
The house had fallen into Harry's possession, having been left the house by his late godfather, Sirius Black. Sirius was the eldest remaining of the Black family and therefore, left it to the hands of good, rather than into the hands of bad, his cousin Bellatrix Lestrange. The house had already been put to good use, aside from hiding Sirius, a then convicted killer, as a meeting place for the Order of the Phoenix.
Over the summer of Harry's seventh year, the summer he turned a legal adult, he moved into number twelve Grimmauld Place and invited Remus Lupin to live with him. Remus was elated with the invitation and was able to keep an eye on Harry at the same time by doing so; acting as a mentor during dark times and final growing pains.
The house remained a meeting place for the Order and after school when Hermione, Harry and Ron graduated, things changed again. Both Hermione and Ron had been offered jobs with the ministry as Aurors, thanks to Arthur Weasley's word. He based it on his excellent judge of character, and not because they joined the secret society of the Order. Harry, on the other hand, had been offered a job of a lifetime with the Chudley Cannon's as their new seeker. Quiddich was something Harry was always good at and after seeing him win the house cup his seventh year at school, the team's scout couldn't resist taking on such an established and popular player. One year later, all of Harry's closest friends, including the Order members, came to see him at the World Cup.
Harry was usually away during a quidditch season and, after talking it over with Remus, invited Hermione to move into Grimmauld Place, as well. Being muggle born, it was better for Hermione to keep her new wizarding job separate from her muggle home life. It also served as brilliant company to their former Dark Arts professor.
Hermione emerged from the downstairs kitchen and was about to turn and go up the stairs, when she noticed a lantern in the window had not been extinguished. She glanced back up the stairs giving a slumbering Remus a quiet scolding that he had overlooked it when he was the last to go to bed. Hermione set down her tea on a nearby table and tiptoed to alleviate as much floor creaking as possible as she made her way to the lantern in the window. As she leaned over to blow out the candle, she happened to look outside the window to the sidewalk. Across the street, she noticed a jacketed hooded figure stumbling across the road, taking a moment to lean on a parked car. The figure looked as if it was either incredibly drunk or incredibly crippled, for it seemed to be quite a task just to walk. Hermione moved a few curls out of her sightline as she watched out the window to the intriguing scene.
The figure turned out to definitely be a man wearing a beaten up old jacket and he walked now, without the support of a parked car, and he appeared to be clutching his throat as he staggered. Hermione was not yet alarmed, not thinking that the man was coming to the house, because if he were a muggle, he wouldn't be able to see the house. She walked over to get her tea from the table and then returned to the window to watch the man and see which direction he was going in. If he had been a vagrant, at least in the morning when she went to work, she'd keep an eye out for him, in case he passed out in the nearby bushes.
She managed to get back to the window in time to see the man cross over the threshold and approach the door to Grimmauld Place. The man outside had apparently thrown all his weight onto the door, trying push his way through, and the sound of the hard thud caused Hermione to jump and drop her tea cup, contents and all. The cup made a horrible echoing sound through the house and she wondered if Remus had heard it. Her attention fell back to the door and she immediately grabbed her wand from her pocket and took retreating steps back, wand aimed at the door to the stranger that was forcing his way inside. She could hear his growling voice from the opposite side and his fingers scraped along the door, begging to be let in like a rabid wolf. She yelled for Remus to come, but her voice didn't seem to escape her. Instead, she watched as the door eventually gave, swinging open and causing a brisk breeze to rush inside the house. The rain had begun to fall harder and the man was now drenched.
The man forced himself over the doorway, swatting his hand in the air to close it behind him. He was a wizard. With a few more pants and growls, the man collapsed on the floor at Hermione's feet with a frightening thud. The house was still dark and after screaming for Remus again, this time finding her voice, she illuminated the rooms.
Hermione remained strong and cautious as she approached the fallen man, ready for some kind of trick that this might be an undiscovered ploy from the dark side. Her wand was aimed at the strangers head, carefully observing any movement aside from the faint breathing she could hear with strained ears. Her eyes scanned up his body, over the worn pants and shirt that looked like he hadn't changed in years, when they finally settled on the...familiar face?
She fell to her knees immediately, dropping her wand and catching her breath with the immediate discovery. His face was incredibly familiar, never forgotten, and it had been six years since she'd seen it. His dark hair was still as ebony as before, his face a bit gaunt, but not as much as expected and his jaw was perfectly chiseled from his esteemed Black blood.
A wash of emotion came over her, not believing that one of the biggest mysteries was about to be solved and here he lay, resting his head in Hermione's lap. She quickly placed both arms around him, cradling him in her arms, and placed a hand on the side of his cheek so that he might feel a warm person.
"Sirius! Sirius wake up! Please! Remus, come down here!" She cried, first to the heavy body in her arms then to the heavens, or second floor, above her.
Hermione felt her clothes beginning to soak through, as she held him in her arms and tried with all she could to peel his heavy cold jacket from his body. She was careful not to hurt him, but distressed that the coat was being so difficult. Finally, she managed to get half of it off and then ripped the rest of it with a good fierce tug, freeing him of his frigid restriction. She whispered to him again, placing a hand on his cheek and wiping strands of his hair away from his face. As she glanced down at the length of him, surveying if there was any blood stains that might indicate any wounds, she noticed that he was wearing the same clothes he had fallen through the Veil in.
Hermione yelled her roommate's name again, screaming it this time, looking around franticly for her wand to cast a spell that would walk his bed down the stairs itself if she had to.
Thankfully, she didn't have to, when she finally heard Remus stirring from the floor above her. A few moments later, he emerged to the top of the staircase, tying his robe around his waist. He yawned a bit, letting his eyes adjust to the brightened room and glanced down to his housemate who had awaken him from his heavy slumber. He saw her cradling a lifeless body in her arms and immediately grabbed the railing to help him rush down the stairs with urgency. It only took him a few seconds to see that it was Sirius and he fell to his knees next to her.
"Merlin! Hermione what happened? How did he…when…we have to…" He had a million things to ask, but he was just as shocked when he first saw him. His first instinct was to check and see if he's breathing.
"I did that already, he's breathing. Barely, but he's breathing!" Hermione sobbed, she clung to his body as tight as she could, hoping the human contact would some how bring him to. "We have to take him to a hospital!"
"No, we can't! He's dead, Hermione! We can't check him in, he doesn't have any I.D. and if we take him to a wizard's hospital, they'll quarantine him immediately and we'll never know. We have to…we have to take care of him on our own, for now." Remus said with a shaky tone.
As cool and composed as he normally is, even in the toughest situations, he always knew what to do. Though he wanted nothing else, but to find out where his friend had been, he needed to just get Sirius up the stairs to a bed.
Remus grabbed Hermione's wand that lay beside her instructed her to stand back. With a flick of the wrist, Sirius rose from Hermione's lap and ascended up the stairs as if he was a marionette. Hermione recalled seeing Sirius do the very same thing to Snape when he guided him through the pathways under the womping willow her third year.
Hermione rose from the floor, standing behind Remus and grasped his free hand for support, as she watched a motionless Sirius float before them. Right into his old room, Sirius was placed upon his old bed, stripped of his clothes, cleaned and dressed with nightclothes. Remus immediately conjured up some food, water and a bowl with a cloth at its side. Both witch and wizard pulled up a chair to be next to Sirius and they watched and waited to see if the refreshing feel of clean clothes and a soft bed would help him come around, at least for a few minutes to let him know he was home.
With the curiosity killing her on how Sirius came to be lying right in front of them, Hermione jumped at the chance to start nursing him. Remus checked all his vital signs with the basics that he knew and then went on to begin with a short spells to see if any bones were broken.
Hermione carefully dabbed a warm cloth over Sirius's forehead, watching him carefully. She saw his chest beginning to rise and fall with a more rhythmic pattern as Remus worked his magic throughout his body, relaxing him. His color was still quite pale, his face gaunt, but as Hermione pulled the cloth over his temples she allowed herself a small little smile to pass over her lips. There he lay before them, full of secrets and answers, and nothing to say, for the first time in a long time. She knew that he was missed by a lot of people that never got the chance to say good-bye, and they'll be happy he's returned - in whatever form.
"We have to owl Harry." She whispered, thinking of how her best friend would react, once he knew his only father figure had returned.
After Sirius had left, Harry was miserable. The only chance he had to having a warm homelife, with a guardian that wanted only the best for him, was snatched away prematurely. No time to grieve, everyone saying how sorry they were, disrespecting Sirius's memory and not once considering the actual hurt Harry had gone through. The closest thing to a father was only his for two years, without ever really enjoying it. Harry Potter had been cheated so many times in his life, and now, like a secret present, he had returned.
"And the Order." Remus added, thinking quietly how they were going to begin handling Sirius's return and a unit.
"The Ministry last. Maybe, we can hold out long enough until Harry comes home. Just in case..." Hermione began, her voice trailing off as she thought of what their wizarding government might do to someone who may have literally walked out of one of the biggest mysteries of all.
They both agreed that a few days at home, before exposing him to the Ministry couldn't hurt, as long as he remained well enough. After all, when Sirius woke up he might have all the answers and the ordeal might not be so much of a procedure as Hermione and Remus speculated.
"I can stay up for a few hours and look after him. I'm too jumpy to go to sleep now. Besides, you'll have day duty tomorrow since I have to go in to work for a bit." Hermione suggested.
Remus smiled first to her and then to his best friend, "All right, if you're sure." He waited for her approving nod and then glanced back to Sirius, "Don't scare her too much with your stories when you do wake up, old friend."
Remus stood from his seat and leaned over Hermione, placing a light kiss on her head to say goodnight. When he left, Hermione leaned over to wring out the cloth a bit more before reapplying it. She looked about the room for a form of music player and when she saw the turntable in the corner, she charmed it with her wand, so it would play softly in the background.
After a few more pats around Sirius's forehead, Hermione leaned back in her chair to take a few minutes to rest and just watch him. She tilted her head a little in thought as she relished the feeling that Sirius Black was back.
He was home. There he was, flesh and blood, lying before her in a state of mind she had no idea about. When he awoke, would he be the same man before he fell through the Veil, or had he been through a life altering state that he would no longer identify with that person? Would the charming and charismatic Sirius that bounced around the house, causing rows with Severus Snape when he felt fit, return?
Hermione sighed to herself, thinking that she wished he would awaken, anxious to know those answers. Not to mention the unsaid things she had lingering in her mind. She remembered that the two of them never really saw eye to eye on things, mainly because some of the things he'd say to Harry were that of something he might have said to James, had he been alive, and poor Harry was nothing more than a stand-in. But, deep down, she knew that Harry's best interests were always on Sirius's mind and she had no place to interfere. After all, Sirius was to play the role of "father" in Harry's eyes, something he'd never had, and for Sirius, it was a chance to redeem himself for being so irresponsible all those years growing up.
Sirius had led a very hard life, she thought to herself, never finding the love and the satisfaction he needed. It was probably the reasoning behind his marauding ways, no pun intended, as well as "cating" around, making women his conquests.
In his better days, he held a reputation of being a ladies man, breaking hearts along the way, never settling down with one long enough to make a difference. At least, that's what Remus had told her. Being deprived of love at a young age would do that to a person and no matter how hard you searched to fill that void in your life, you'd never be satisfied. It was a battle that he never won.
Now, Sirius was about to embark on a new chapter of his life. He was finally cleared of all charges. Though Voldemort was still amongst us, enough witnesses testified on Sirius's behalf that what happened twenty ago, what not Sirius's doing. Sadly, the verdict didn't come out until Sirius's death.
Peter Pettigrew, Wormtail, now had the bounty on his head, adding on another twelve years to his life sentence, making up for the time served by Sirius Black. Sirius's name had been cleared, his finances passed on in the name of Harry Potter, and a letter of pardoning from the Ministry themselves was presented. Being that Sirius was not amongst the living to accept this letter, Harry and Remus made sure that the letter was accepted, framed and mounted in the House of Black as a tribute to his legend. There it remained in full sight of everyone that entered the house, hanging in the parlor in the place of the old Black tapestry that Sirius's own mother had burned his name from.
The memory of Sirius, his escape, his death and now his return started to warm her insides, feeling a light tear fall down her cheek. Everything was going to change now, and her thoughts were on Harry, about the war, and about him.
"Please wake up, Sirius." She sighed, looking fondly at him as he slept. She spoke to him, as if he were listening, "We can't wait to tell you all that's happened since you've been gone. We've made so much progress in the war, and so far, not many deaths. You'd be so proud of Harry, Sirius. You and Lily and James wouldn't believe what he's doing now." She couldn't help but raise her own spirits as she thought warmly of her friend, but how quickly they fell again, once she rested her eyes back on Sirius. "I guess, a lot was left unsaid, especially with me. I want to apologize for being….for being a fifteen year old girl. There were things I might have said to you I had no right to." Her eyes fell to the floor again, "But I guess, looking back, it makes sense, now. It was me. I mean, some of it was you," she smiled to herself.
Hermione let her thoughts wander, thinking back at the moments in the house when she was younger. She remembered coming to Grimmauld Place with Ron, before Harry arrived. Having dinner with all the Order members, seeing a side of Remus that only his old friends knew, watching Sirius and Snape bickering constantly and Molly breaking them up, and seeing Harry's face when Sirius embraced him, as his godfather.
Hermione remembered one particular night at Grimmauld Place, before Harry arrived, when she and Ginny were sitting on the couch reading. Ginny was playing with her pigmy puff and Hermione was engrossed in a book that she needed to lay it on the coffee table to read, rather than on her lap, because her legs would fall asleep from it's weight. Sirius had been told that the Order had left to get Harry and his spirits were intensely raised. He raced down the stairs, two at a time, cursing his mother's portrait on the wall as he passed it.
Hermione glanced up from her withered pages, to see him looking over in the girls' direction as he passed, heading to the kitchen. His hair was neat with long silky locks, his face had a lightly groomed shadow, and his shoulders and body had filled again, after some of Molly's home cooked meals. She couldn't help but smile at him, with the way his dark eyes flicked over at her. She saw the corner of his mouth lift and out of habit, gave her that famous wink.
Upon seeing that, she smiled broadly as he disappeared behind the kitchen door. She immediately cleared her throat, composed herself and returned to her book, glancing over to see if Ginny had noticed if anything transpired.
Hermione's mind slowly came out of her haze, as she remembered that Sirius was still unconscious in the bed before her. Feeling like she had abandoned her duties, she quickly took the cloth, refreshed it and returned it to his face. Her eyes looked over his features, his nose, his perfect jaw, his tempting lips. It was no wonder why women didn't fall for him, the moment they saw him smile. He was so handsome, that it seemed like such a waste for him to have not been given the chance to be loved.
Hermione narrowed her brow as she studied him, realizing that he appeared to not have aged those six years gone. Still resembling a man just beginning his thirties, he was actually thirty-six when he fell into the Veil, when everyone in his generation was already forty-two.
She clucked her tongue, chiding herself for her puppy-dog crush thoughts, and quietly scolded him that he better wake up soon, because at this rate, she was going to be older than he was.
"Hermione? Hermione, wake up." She heard the kind male voice whisper.
A light hand had been placed on her shoulder and was gently shaking her awake. The dream she was having that Sirius had returned seemed to be just on the tip of her brain and she….
"Remus?" She managed to get out, as she slowly opened her eyes right into the sunshine that was pouring into the bedroom.
"Morning, love," he cooed.
Hermione smiled into those friendly eyes, prepared to tell him all about the dream she had about the stranger walking into their house, "Sirius! He is here!" She allowed her eyes to focus and realized that she had fallen asleep in the chair next to his bedside.
"Did he wake up at all? Did he say anything, when you were awake?" He ask curiously, checking over his friend, eager to take his shift of watching over him.
She started to rise from the chair, her joints protesting and angry that she had confined herself in that wooden chair all night long. She managed to stand upright, leaning over to place a kiss on Remus's cheek and rested her eyes on the slumbering man in the bed, "No, he never woke up when I was awake. I'm sure he would have said something."
Remus nodded, agreeing that Sirius would be anything but quiet, if he awoke in his old bedroom, "You're right, there. You still have a couple of hours before you need to go to work, so why don't you go and lie down a bit."
"Yes, good idea." She agreed, saying it loud enough so that her joints would hear her and allow her to move with less pain. When she reached the door, she turned to see Remus sitting down in the chair, checking all of Sirius's vitals. "Remus?"
"Would you please tell me if he wakes up today? Send me an owl?" She requested politely with a yawn.
"I will, Hermione. Now, go take a nap."
She gave him a nod and turned to make her way to her own soft and comfy bed to get a few minutes of horizontal sleep.
At the Ministry, she immediately tried to find Ron all, but discovered to no surprise, that he was running late. A normal occurrence, she proceeded to each individual department, seeking out fellow Order members to tell them about the emergency meeting.
"Tonks, morning." Hermione chimed, as she watched Tonks typing away, or rather dictating to the typewriter, her latest report on Draco Malfoy and his mother.
"Morning, Hermione." She smiled, giving a quick run through her hair to change it to black with red stripes. It was one of those days today that she was completely unsatisfied with her hair. She went through that every twenty-eight days.
"Tonks, please do try and come 'round to see that vicious boyfriend of yours. He's really starting to get on my nerves. Besides, it's his turn to cook tonight." She dropped the code to Tonks, and left it with a wink. "Probably around seven, or so."
"Fabulous, I'll wear the purple hair tonight; he always loves it when I add more color to the evening." She answered with a nod. "Is it all right if I bring a friend along for you to meet?" Tonks prodded if she should help spread the word about the immediate Order meeting, raising an eyebrow.
"Sure, why not." She threw back, making her way around the department. She rounded on a very militant ordered desk that used to be covered with pictures of wanted pictures of Sirius all over it, but now it just had one, with a copy of Sirius's death certificate next to it, "Shacklebot?"
"Not now, Granger. I'm doing just fine without a rookie coming around and pointing out punctuation discrepancies!" The large black man barked at her, slowly standing up menacingly from his desk a good two feet over her.
"Shacklebot, stop being such a prat! It pains me to be Remus's messenger that he's invited you to dinner. I, on the other hand, wish he'd reconsider but he's set on you and I making things friendly. So, why don't you do him a favor and pacify him. I'll try if you try. Eight o'clock." She baited him, knowing full well that it was all code and they rather liked each other a lot. Kingsley made it so much fun to argue with him.
"If I'm there at seven, would it piss you off?" He shouted down the walkway as she left him in a huff, but he was just confirming the time.
"Bugger off!" She confirmed, walking away and waving a hand.
She smiled to herself feeling pretty good about that one. The more others thought that she and Kingsley had a sincere hatred for one another; the more it kept the Order a secret society. She walked with confident steps through the department, weaving herself around cubicles and hallways, leaving an aura about her that meant business.
Hermione was highly respected in the Ministry's eyes, and she tended to be behind many conspiracies about Voldemort. As she walked to her cubical, wearing her khaki Capri's and red cardigan sweater, her boots clicked on the floor below her announcing her arrival. Her long brown curls were pulled off her face, giving no indication that she had been up all night watching and weeping over someone that was presumed dead.
The Order members were going to be beside themselves and for the moment, she couldn't keep herself from bursting with excitement, she had to sit down. She made it to her desk by the window that overlooked New York City's skyline. She loved sitting there, because everyday they'd change the view to a different major city of the world. Yesterday, it had been the beaches of Key West, Florida.
The first thing she needed to do was to send owls informing "dinner" being served that evening. This short of notice informed them that the meeting was, indeed, urgent and she started to compile the letters. Finally taking out the last piece of parchment, she paused for a moment as she took a little extra time with the one addressed to Severus Snape.