A/N: (gasp) I'm so sorry for the huge delay in this chapter! I feel so guilty... But here it is. The last chapter... The bitter end (?)
Well, I'd like to thank all of you for hanging in there with this story, and for your wonderful reviews- I love all of you, I swear. You guys have made me so happy! It makes it all worthwhile. I'm quite sad to let this story go, but alas... Anyway, here's the last chapter of Remember me... I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: Nope, nothing except the plot.
Once she had been thoroughly examined, Hermione was immediately removed out of the 'intensive care' ward to be put in the recovery wing. Sirius, unfortunately, had yet to wake up- Harry was the only one allowed to visit him. When he informed Hermione of this, she didn't say anything and just nodded. It had not been a day and a half since she woke up that she was visited by the Ginny and Draco. When Ginny had tore open the curtains surrounding Hermione's bed, shaking and red eyed, Harry had discreetly made his way towards Ron, Luna and Draco.
Once Ginny had closed the curtains around them again, she sat down on the edge of Hermione's bed, as the owner stared at her. Hermione's appearance was somewhat disheveled, and her eyes seemed to stand out more than normal in the pale face, which strangely did not hold the freshness that Sirius's face had portrayed when he had returned from the Veil.
"You're pregnant," Hermione had finally whispered, trying in vain to smile. She didn't know what to say. Ginny agreed with her head.
"Five months now." She replied. Hermione also nodded, and an awkward silence enveloped them. "Why didn't you drink the first potion?" Ginny asked. Hermione broke eye contact and swallowed.
"I didn't..." she trailed off. "I didn't want to be alive anymore," she mumbled, trying to hold her tears back.
"Someday I'll tell you, I promise," Hermione said, closing her eyes. "I'm s- sorry, I'm so- so sorry..." she added brokenly. "I know that apologizing is not enough, but I..."
"We missed you," Ginny quietly told her, wiping a tear from her eye. "I guess... I guess that you are as sorry as we were," she said. Hermione nodded, still unable to look up, and suddenly found herself hugging Ginny and crying as though it would make anything easier; as though their tears could make all the hurt disappear. In some ways, it did. When Ron's and Luna's turn came, it was no different- with much surprise, Hermione was told that she had not only missed Ginny's and Draco's wedding, but Ron's and Luna's as well... However, the true surprise came when it was Lupin's and Tonk's turn to visit.
"How are you feeling?" Tonks had gently asked Hermione, whose eyes had swollen five times their size with all the crying.
"I don't know," Hermione had truthfully answered. She felt relieved, of course, and happy that none of her friends loathed her, but there was the anxiety over Sirius... The anxiety, the uncertainty, the longing and aching to see him... "Can I ask...? When... When S- Sirius came back... Was he..." she didn't know how to approach the subject, how to ease some of her nervousness about his condition. Tonks shared a glance with Lupin and he nodded, making Hermione raise her eyebrows.
"Hermione, dear..." Tonks slowly started, "you could have told me."
"Told you what?" Hermione's questioned barely above a whisper.
"About you and Sirius," Lupin responded, making Hermione flinch and tense.
"You... You two... Who...?"
"I already suspected as much, but Sirius confirmed my assumptions," Lupin explained. "Tonks overheard us talking about it." Hermione's body language at the news couldn't have been clearer: her reticence and sudden discomfort were shown in the way that she backed up in her bed, pressing herself against the wall and drawing her knees together and up, as if they were intended to act like a shield...
"It's alright," Tonks immediately told her. "We didn't judge you."
"And did you judge him?" Hermione wanted to know. "I was the one who started it... who started it all..." She hid her face among her hair at this. "I don't regret it."
"Sirius told me the same thing," Lupin said with a small smile. Hermione sharply looked up at this, but didn't say anything. "He really does love you, Hermione. Regardless of the age gap. Yes, what you two shared toed the line of what's acceptable and what's criminal, but..." he trailed off. "You are of age now." Hermione couldn't stop staring at the couple, unable to believe the way they were acting.
"Are you... truly alright with it?" Hermione shyly asked. Both Lupin and Tonks nodded, and Hermione had the urge to hug them both for their understanding. And to think that she could've avoided so much pain, had she talked to them sooner!
But would Sirius be alive? Would she have found The Veiled Mysteries?
"Thank you," Hermione told them at last. "Thank you."
It took a little bit more than a week for Hermione to be able to walk properly again, but she preferred to spend her days in bed anyway. Currently, Hermione was on her bed, listening to Ginny and Luna talking about their respective weddings. Harry, who was sitting on a chair next to Hermione's bed, couldn't help but to notice that Hermione had a different aura about her. She had an air of tranquility and peace; it could be seen in the way that her smile was wide but relaxed, the way that her hands were neatly folded on her lap, the way she covered her mouth with her hand when she laughed softly. Had the bossy bookworm disappeared forever? Harry hoped not.
Like Ginny, he had also noticed that, even though she was now nineteen again, Hermione's features did not appear renewed and fresh, but worn. It was strange. It if it was because of hardships suffered in life, wouldn't Sirius look worse than her? Hermione had lived through the War, though. She had been there when Harry had met Voldemort for the last time. Well, Sirius was not looking very good either nowadays... Harry sighed sadly at the thought of his godfather. He wondered what Hermione made out of it...
"Mr. Potter?" a Healer interrupted his musings, as well as Ginny's speech about how handsome Draco had looked in his tux. Hermione, who had also turned to see who had spoken, felt her heart shrink when she recognized Sirius's healer. "I was wondering if you could come with me?" the Healer asked. Harry quickly stood up as he nodded, not glancing back at the three girls, and walked out of the ward trying not to seem too anxious or worried. Without a word, Harry and the Healer walked through the white corridor and turned around the corner into the ward Sirius was in. When they stepped inside the ward, a nurse was examining Sirius.
"Is he alright?" Harry finally managed to ask, staring at the nurse waving her wand over Sirius and then writing on a clipboard. The Healer sighed.
"It's hard to say, Mr. Potter," he answered. "He appears to be in some sort of coma, but we can't be sure."
"But... Can't you recognize the symptoms of a coma or something?" Harry wanted to know.
"Yes, we can, but as I have already said, this is not a common case," the Healer replied. "Mr. Black, as well as Ms. Granger, should be dead. The laws of nature are not made to be broken or bent, and that is exactly what has happened, as you must have noticed. I believe that Ms. Granger has woken up because she had never 'returned'... It's a wonder how Mr. Black's body, and not to mention soul, didn't shatter when he again threw himself in there." Harry felt sick for a couple of seconds. Why hadn't he gone beyond the Veil to get Hermione? Why had he allowed Sirius to go...? "Are you alright, Mr. Potter?" Harry nodded slowly.
"Is there anything we can do?" He asked. The Healer scratched his chin and shook his head slightly.
"Nothing but wait, I'm afraid," he told him. "Mr. Black is breathing, and he isn't cold anymore, so that's a good sign. However, if he does not wake up in the following weeks... Well, a few Unspeakables who specialize on the Veil have sent us a few owls wondering if they could examine Mr. Black. I told them that I'd talk to you first," the Healer said, boring his eyes into Harry's. Harry really didn't like the idea of people examining his godfather like some guinea pig, but what if it could help?
"What would they do to him?" Harry questioned.
"Nothing even close to surgery, first of all," the Healer said. "Spells and such... Here at St. Mungos we don't approve those kinds of procedures, if you want me to be honest," the Healer continued, frowning. "If you agree with them examining Mr. Black, rest assured that the operation will not go under supervised."
"Let's wait before we tell them," Harry retorted, nodding.
"Very well," the Healer said. "As for Ms. Granger, she's more than fit to go back home if she wishes to do so."
"Thank you," Harry mumbled, still trying to work through his guilt- induced nausea.
"You're welcome." Harry agreed with his head mutely and, dragging his feet, walked out of the ward without daring to look at Sirius. Once outside of the ward, he closed his eyes and leaned against the doorframe, not knowing what to think.
When would it all finish? Couldn't they live at peace for a while? He was tired of the tears, and the laments, and the sorrows. He was tired of the mind exhausting worrying, and the implacable anxiousness... He felt like crying for a couple of seconds, but no tears wet his eyes.
"Is he going to die?"
Harry snapped his eyes open at the voice, and spotted Hermione, bare footed and using her hand to steady herself against the wall, staring at him. Her hair was frizzy and all over the place, but she didn't deem fragile anymore.
"Are you alright?" Harry asked her, walking towards her. Hermione shook her head, discarding the question.
"Is he going to die?" she repeated. Harry let out a long sigh.
"I don't know." Hermione nodded and broke eye contact. Pause. "Are... Are you coming back to Grimmauld Place?" Harry asked her. She looked up back at him, her face impassive. "I mean... You can- you can stay here if you like..." he hastily added. All the discomfort that had seemed to melt between them hit them hard at that moment; Hermione stared at the door of Sirius's ward, and Harry fixedly gazed at the floor. Longer pause.
"I wonder if I'll be able to stand it," she finally whispered, still staring at the door.
"Going there," Hermione answered, slowly gazing at him. "It literally killed me to be in that house, without... without..." her voice died and the unfinished sentence lingered in the air almost hauntingly, and her gaze returned to the door. Harry raised his eyes to her face, swallowing.
"That's why you had the overdose?" His voice shook as he asked this barely above a whisper. Hermione nodded imperceptibly. "Oh."
"That's why you shouldn't love me, Harry," Hermione told him, gazing at him. "There are so many ghosts between us..." Harry looked down at this, frowning slightly.
"I don't care, Hermione. Ghosts are nothing but imprints." He told her with the beginnings of a smile. Hermione felt a smile tugging the corner of her lips at this. "Besides, even if you won't be with me, well... You did sleep with me. Not even... Not even S- Sirius can gloat about that one..." he said, blushing at what he had said, and in disbelief of what he had just implied. Hermione did finally smile as she reached down to hold Harry's hand.
"Alright... Let's return to Grimmauld Place."
Two days after she had decided to return, Hermione found herself standing in the middle of the old house and for some seconds she didn't know what to do with herself. As she stared at the couches and the paintings as though she was seeing them for the first time, Ron and Harry were making tea in the kitchen... She didn't know what to do with the memories, mostly. Every crack in the wall, every scent, every noise brought a different kind of memory and feeling; Hermione realized that she was momentarily disoriented.
But Sirius was not dead. He was not dead anymore.
Hermione's longing to see him was almost unbearable, and the ache she felt to simply touch his hand was eating her away, but she couldn't complain about anything. Truth was... She felt so much older. Looking back at all the things she had done before throwing herself through the Veil, well, they just didn't deem as so horribly soul shattering as before. That was the funny thing about growing up- you have more perspective of things. You can analyze stuff more objectively, more calmly...
Maybe she wasn't making sense. It felt like... Like she had cried and cried for days and days, then had proceeded to fall asleep, and when she had woken up, a burden from her shoulders had been slightly lifted. As though what had made her cry had hurt her enough to go over it again.
"Hermione, what're you doing?" Ron's muffled, yet demanding voice coming from the kitchen broke her train of thought. How much time had she been standing there? As Hermione started walking towards the kitchen, she realized that the last time that Harry, Ron and her had been alone in a kitchen had been an hour before she jumped through the Veil... Hermione sighed and a smile formed on her lips as she put her hand over the kitchen door.
"I'm here, you prat," she told Ron as she pushed the door open. If she had been given a chance to change that particular nasty memory into a nice one, she was not going to waste it. Time to start healing, Hermione believed. Healing the scars she had left on her friends, and her own wounds in the process.
A few weeks had passed since Hermione had left St. Mungos and spring had arrived in its glory, making the cruel winter months seem like a distant nightmare. Hermione had slowly begun to readjust to the world, Ginny's belly got bigger, Ron and Luna had decided to go on a short weekend vacation, Tonks and Lupin accompanied Harry when he visited a still asleep Sirius in St. Mungos, and the world kept turning.
On April the fifth Harry had just been promoted to Head of the Auror's department, and had been currently doing a small happy jig in his office, when a memo flew into his cubicle and hit him on the head. Harry immediately recognized that it came from the Department of Mysteries, and his heart skipped quite a few beats at that. A week and half ago he had grudgingly allowed the Unspeakables to examine Sirius, and they had promised to let him know whether there was an improvement or a relapse in his godfather's condition. He breathed in deeply as he took hold of the memo, feeling his excitement give way to the now familiar feeling that of his insides doing loopholes inside his stomach.
We require your presence in St. Mungos immediately. Kindly apparate there as soon as you read this.
That was it? Harry turned over the paper, in futile hope that there would be something else written there, but there was nothing. Had Sirius died? Was he alright? Why hadn't they said anything? As Harry ran his fingers through his hair, not even grabbing his coat as he stepped out of his office to tell his boss that he had to leave, he wondered if he should tell Hermione? But if Sirius... if he had... If he had passed away... Harry wanted to deal with it alone, at first. What would they do if that was the case? Hermione would snap like a dry twig, and Harry would follow her example sooner or later.
Let him be okay. Let him be alive... By the time he arrived at the hospital, those two sentences had become a prayer. Without stopping at the reception and not even bothering to glance at the elevator, Harry ran towards the staircases, trying to calm down his heart as well as his stomach. He has to come through this. Please, Sirius, don't even think about me if you don't want to. Remember her...! Harry wasn't sure if he would be able to stand seeing Hermione in so much pain again.
"Ah, Mr. Potter. Glad to see you got here so quickly," a voice broke through his thoughts. Harry found himself, breathless, standing in front of the same Healer that had told him about the Unspeakables in the first place.
"Is Sirius alright? Is he... Is he...?" Harry couldn't bring himself to pronunciate the word, afraid that if he said it, it'd become the truth. The Healer beckoned Harry to follow him into the ward in silence, and this frightened him more than whatever the doctor might have done. When they arrived to Sirius's bed, Harry was nothing but a pale mob of nerves. His godfather's face had a more healthy color now, at least... The Healer put a hand over Harry's shoulder.
"He opened his eyes, Harry." He said. Harry's breath hitched at this, glancing at the Healer with widened eyes, and for a few embarrassing moments, felt afraid that he'd start either crying, or jumping, and even, Merlin forbid, hugging random people. Before he could speak or start embarrassing himself, Harry heard a low groan come from the bed.
"Sirius?" he asked, leaning over his godfather's body. His godfather blearily blinked a few times before frowning.
"'rry? S'that you?" Sirius slurred.
"Yeah." Sirius closed his eyes again.
"'S 'Mione 'key?" He wanted to know.
"Very..." Maybe it was his happiness and relief that made it difficult to say more than one word when Sirius asked him a question? "But don't let her hear you calling her that; I think Ron's shoulder still hasn't healed from the last time he tried." His godfather smiled sleepily when he heard this, opening his eyes to look at Harry.
"'Been here before..." he trailed off.
"You and me both. Talk about déjà vu," Harry agreed with a grin.
"See... No punching this time..." Sirius commented, rubbing a side of his head tiredly.
"Nah. Even if you had deserved a second one, Hermione would have had my head for making you black out again." Sirius opened his eyes and stared at Harry fixedly. Had he forgiven Sirius and Hermione, and all they had done to him? His godson was still grinning at him, and his voice hadn't faltered or sounded remotely angry, nor bitter. Awkward, perhaps, but that was to be expected...
"Thank you, Harry," Sirius told him quietly. Harry didn't stop smiling as he shrugged and put a hand over Sirius's shoulder.
"Well, get better soon. We miss you, I've just got promoted, and no celebration is complete without you getting pissed in it."
"Harry James Potter! You jerk; why didn't you tell me sooner?" Hermione was exclaiming two weeks after Sirius had woken up. They were having breakfast when Harry had told her that he had gotten promoted, and Hermione had almost blown a blood vessel.
"I forgot," Harry replied lamely, grinning. Hermione slapped his shoulder and shook her head.
"You sound like Ron," she said as she picked their empty cups of tea to leave them in the sink. Harry shrugged, and raised his eyebrows when Hermione sat down next to him and scrutinized his face.
"What?" he asked. Hermione's brow was lightly furrowed.
"You're different. You're... acting..." she murmured, narrowing her eyes. "You... You look too... happy." She sentenced. He chuckled.
"Can't I look happy for once? I've been promoted!" Hermione shook her head again and sighed, standing up once more. She was about to leave the kitchen when she turned around, suddenly serious.
"How's... How's Sirius? Has he woken up?" She questioned.
"I'll go to St. Mungos today," Harry responded. Hermione nodded.
"Keep me informed, okay? Have a nice day at work," she told him before disappearing up the nearest stairs, leaving a smiling Harry behind her.
Nice hours later, Hermione was humming softly as she took out a cake from the oven; she had decided to make a nice dinner for Harry as to congratulate him on his promotion. Everyone would be arriving in a little more than one hour, at eight o'clock –including Harry- and she wanted everything to be perfect. During this past month, Hermione had discovered that the more things she did, the less she was able to think of Sirius's condition, and thus didn't get depressed so often- this time was no exception. She had cleaned the house, done the dishes, had a bath, put on make up, curled her hair, put on a fancy dress, and had made dinner.
As Hermione put the icing on the cake, she failed to notice that there was someone else in the kitchen, leaning against the small table and staring at her back, but not uttering a word. Hermione grinned proudly as she examined the cake and moved to pick up a small pile of dishes to put on the dining room table. With a contented smile, she turned around.
The sound of the dishes meeting their end on the floor was echoed in the kitchen, which had suddenly become a very stuffy, little place. Hermione's hands were still frozen in the air, as if they were holding the plates and her eyes were as wide as apple saucers, and her skin was pearly white. Sirius swallowed, with some difficulty, as he stared at her face, and testily took one step towards her. He would have to make up new words to describe what he was feeling; but he did know that he was experiencing a mix of exhilaration, terror, and mind numbing joy.
"Her-Hermione...?" His voice shook as he dared to break the silence. Even from where he was standing he could see her shaking... Hermione's lip parted slightly open as she also stepped closer to him, unable to believe what she was seeing. How could he be here? Wasn't he in St. Mungos? Was he a dream? A ghost? Her throat felt dry, and the knot in it was not making things any easier.
The little amount of air left in her lungs wasn't enough to enable her to speak, apparently, and she was feeling kind of... dizzy... Hermione extended her hands as she came closer to Sirius, afraid that he would disappear one second to the next, and her eyes blurred as she looked upon the face she had yearned to see for five years. Damn it all if he was a delusion- she'd be able to at least say that she had almost died of happiness for a few blessed minutes.
When her hands came near his grip, Sirius wasted no time and softly grabbed them, discovering with some surprise that his were shaking too. At the contact, Hermione realized that he was solid flesh and bones.
He was...? He was- He- But! Sirius! Sirius—
She freed her hands from Sirius's grip and began touching his face and hair... He smiled. Hermione finally sobbed and threw herself over him, hugging him with such strength that he almost fell over the table, and his arms wound themselves around her trembling body on their own accord. He closed his eyes against her hair, smiling until it hurt... He felt so elated that it was almost painful, but he had never known a pain so sweet.
"You're here, you're here," Hermione began whispering over and over again as she cried almost hysterically. After five years... Five years! After all the pain and the hurt, he had returned. Hermione was holding him again- he was breathing- She felt as though she was in a roller coaster.
"My Hermione," Sirius hoarsely whispered. "My Hermione..." Hermione broke the embrace and gazed at him for a couple of seconds too see that his eyes were red, too, and in a fraction of a second her lips were on his. Oh, the feeling! The quick chill strike of adrenaline running through her veins; her brain going numb; a thrilling hint of moisture. Their lips were pressed together for what seemed a timeless moment of existence; her fingers traced gently up his neck and through his unruly black hair, sending shocks through his shoulders. When they parted, they were both breathless; Hermione rested her forehead against his and closed her eyes, attempting to stop crying.
"I thought you- you were in the hospital," she lisped, opening her eyes to gaze at Sirius through her eyelashes. "Harry didn't..." she was too far gone to feel any kind of anger towards Harry, but why hadn't he said anything?
"He wanted to tell you, but... I wanted it to be a surprise," he replied with a smile. Hermione smiled shakily and kissed him again, not able to get enough of his taste. Sirius gently cupped her face in his hands to push her away, and bored his eyes on hers, wiping some of her tears away with her thumb. "I..." he started. Hermione stared at him in contained anticipation, but didn't say anything. "I... I love you," Sirius finally managed to get out. She widened her eyes at his confession, and then suddenly started laughing.
"Me too!" she replied in a high pitched voice, embracing him again; still laughing. Sirius grinned and lifted her up slightly, spinning her around as he kissed her cheek, and her laughter grew louder- and she couldn't help but to start crying again.
As the oblivious Sirius and Hermione kissed again, Lupin shook his head with a wide smile. Tonks and Harry started to smile too in the hallway outside the kitchen. Luckily, they had been the first ones to arrive to the house for the celebration Hermione had planned for Harry.
"And all is right in the world," Lupin was muttering, thankful that finally his childhood friend and Hermione had found each other once more.
"Why didn't you tell us about Sirius?" Tonks cheerfully asked him, hearing the muffled laughter coming from inside the kitchen.
"He wanted to be okay first," Harry replied while shrugging. At the sound of his godfather's bark like laughter a bittersweet feeling rose inside him.
"Are they going to live here?" Lupin wanted to know. Harry shook his head no.
"Hermione told me that she was going to move out before she knew about Sirius, so... I guess he'll go with her," he responded.
"Are you alright?" Tonks asked. Harry looked down for a couple of seconds, considering his answer.
"I love both of them, and I want them to be happy. They are when put together, and I'm not going to get in the middle of that..." he trailed off with a smile that the couple in front of him returned.
"So... D'you think we'll be able to remind Hermione that Ron is coming and the food isn't ready yet?" Tonks asked both men.
"And that Sirius will be joining us, apparently, and the food won't be enough," Lupin added. Harry grinned.
"It's worth a shot," he commented, knocking on the kitchen door. At the dry sound Hermione and Sirius broke apart, flushed and grinning madly. As the door opened slowly, Sirius reached out to grab a bowl of what looked to be fries, but before he could touch them, Hermione noticed what he was about to do and playfully slapped his hand.
"Wait until we have dinner," she scolded him. Sirius stuck her tongue out at her mockingly and grabbed a handful of fries, stuffing them in his mouth at once. Before Hermione could object, Lupin cut her off.
"Give up, Hermione... He'll never grow up," he said.
"I know," she retorted with a warm smile. "That's one of the many things I love about him, after all."
And indeed, all was right in the world.
A/N: (sigh) so there it is. I hope it was worth it- worth all the previous 27 chapters of angst! Hehe... Was there a part in the story you simply hated, or didn't like? What did you like most? I love this story to death, and thank you all once again for reading it. I also hope you'll let me know what you thought of it in a review... Bye!