A note from Serade Black: Well, I can see that a few of you readers ended up liking the combination canon and what happened to the characters when unseen. A side note on reviews, I won't lie, I love them. I like to see what people like and if they approve of the direction I'm taking it. Not to mention, the readers' theories of what they "think" will happen. That's my favorite! ~SB
Chapter 31 - A Life's Work Begun
*FOUR YEARS LATER*
Nineteen year old Hermione was dusting along the edge of the bookshelf that sat on the first landing just to the left of the stairs. It was old and raggedy, but refused to be moved because of the neat look it had. Worn shelves that were previously lined with century old books on the Dark Arts were now catalogued with books of gardening and favored muggle authors. Scorched marks stood out of the dark cherry wood as a light reminder of Sirius dueling with his brother Regulus when they were children; a keen memory they wanted to keep alive, even years after Sirius's death.
"Hermione?" Remus called from the first floor. He'd come out of the kitchen with a dish rag in his hand.
"I'm up here," she called over the banister, flourishing her duster at him like a wand. "Doing muggle work!"
He smiled as he looked upon her, admiring the way she said it so lightly. "An owl came for you. I think it's from Ron, because it's got a heart shaped box attached to it."
"You can have the chocolates, Remus. I'm just tired of letting him think everything will be okay, as long as bribery is attached," she explained, shaking her head. Her waves fell in front of her shoulders as she leaned further over the banister.
"He's just a boy, love. He doesn't know any better," Remus soothed, looking up at her like Juliet in the window. He shook his head at the fact that she was wasting her time with someone that no longer stimulated her.
"I know, I know. But, love conquers all, doesn't it?" she said passively, leaning on her elbows. The duster hung in her hand.
"Yes...and no," he said hesitantly. "It doesn't stand a chance, if you're not happy."
"I know. Maybe I should just throw it all away and run away with you!" She smiled sweetly.
He smiled back platonically and added, "Perhaps, but I'm not your type."
She knew his sincere smile was harmless and she never thought more from him. He was always her friend, her trusted friend that saw things the same and it was comforting to have that. "No, Remus, I think someone like you would be just what I needed."
He shook his head, knowing a few secrets of his own, "Only if someone like me was worthy to deserve someone like you." She smiled again and teased her duster above him before turning around to continue tackling dust bunnies the size of ping pong balls.
The purple feathers of her cleaning wand brushed passed titles that she couldn't help but read. She perused the bound edges out of habit, in the event that something had snuck their way up on the shelf worth reading, or rereading. Pausing over a blank title, but taking a second glance over it, she reached a finger to pull it out of its line up.
Laying her duster down on the shelf it came off of, she opened it up in her hand, listening to the bounded paper breaking open from a few years worth of settling closed. Blank pages looked back at her, strengthening her accusation.
"I thought I'd lost this," she said to herself, taking her real wand to point at the pages. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Just as she thought, the pages came to life with the handwritten ramblings of a teen witch. The first pages brought her back to when she first received the book as a present and the last entry reminding her of her stay over the holidays at Grimmauld Place when she was fifteen. The entry went on about her view of Sirius and his solitude in the house. A private life she never got the chance to tell him she understood.
Hermione flipped to the last entry, the one she made the night before she left the house as she sat alone late in the night on the couch in the sitting room. Everyone else had gone to bed early that evening, hoping to regain some sleep lost during their holidays for a fresh new start for the new term. She remembered vividly how Kreacher's outer-inner monologue had accused her of leaving undesirable scents on the ancient furniture that reeked of "mudblood", a term she had gotten used to hearing from uncivilized company.
Her eyes scanned down over her own words, but it was the small script on the opposite page that caught her eye. There, not in her hand, were two words and a signature.
"Maybe someday. - Sirius"
Her hands clutched the book tighter, her fingers pressing hard on their grip. Shortness of breath came and her knees got weaker. She dropped herself to the first step to sit down, newly fearful of her height and the long way down. She felt drained, emotionless and just numb. The man she had thought about through the years was speaking to her from beyond the grave.
That was the day Hermione decided to put her request to be transferred to Level Nine: Department of Mysteries. It was then that she began her work; her mission undoing what wrongs had been done. Most importantly, she was about to set her mind to rescuing those that had fallen beyond the Veil, making Sirius her most concentrated specimen.
The day was cool and windy. Leaves were falling must faster these days and Remus looked up into the sky to see the way the clouds were rushing by overhead. Soon they would be amongst the cold holidays with fires and friends. As he took out his wand and tapped the door handle, he was careful to look both ways up the walk in case any onlookers were lurking behind.
He pushed the door open and in the foyer he saw the fallen body of Hermione. Her backpack lay not too far from her as if it was just dropped to her side, her clothing different than when she left a few hours ago and around her neck was a black chord with a familiar looking necklace that he hadn't seen in years.
"You're home now," he whispered, checking her forehead and overall statistics. It appeared that she was just over tired and could no longer stand, for all her body wanted to do was sleep.
Very carefully, Remus kicked the door shut behind him and lifted Hermione up into his arms. She did not fall like a broken doll, but managed to wrap her hands around her carrier's neck, mumbling small incoherent sentences.
"Remus...have to see...Sirius," she murmured.
"Soon enough love. He's close. Just rest," he whispered carrying her up the stairs. They creaked heavily under each foot, cursing him with the doubled weight at a time.
When he reached her bedroom door, he nudged it open with his knee and went to lay her down in her bed. He contemplated changing her clothes, but settled on only removing her shoes. He pulled a loose blanket up over her shoulders, watching as she took to the comforts quickly and turned her face into her own pillow.
Upon returning down the stairs, Remus watched Sirius coming in through the door. Carrying a few groceries, Sirius nodded to his friend and continued down the hallway to the kitchen at the end without saying a word. Though, he may have heard something of a light hum.
A few minutes behind his friend into the kitchen, Remus braced himself with how he was going to tell Sirius that Hermione was home. Everything was going to change in a matter of minutes, or everything was going to remain the same, depending on how the two interacted. It was difficult to say.
Sirius quietly tinkered away in the kitchen, moving slower than he normally did, putting away tea bags and a few food items. His movements were slow and concentrated, like his brain was moving too quickly between things, even the simplest task was somewhat difficult to manage. He was either walking on air or eggshells, depending on how you watched the way he carefully moved the milk on a shelf in the refrigerator like it were made of shattered glass.
Remus watched his friend carefully, closely guarding the news. He pulled out a chair, making it scrape along the century worn floor, to gracefully slide in to ready himself. "Sirius," he began.
Like he'd been snuck up on, Sirius jolted just slightly and immediately turned around, still holding a wrapped package of tea bags in his left hand. "Remus, don't do that!"
He had been serious and collected up until now, but it was the funny expression on his friend's face that made Remus smirk just a bit. He sat there looking up at his friend with his palms open and honest, surprised more than anything that he had startled him. It was nearly comical with the way Sirius had wrapped himself up so tight in the anticipation of Hermione's inevitable return, it was almost cruel not to tell him, just so the poor bloke could relax just a bit.
"My friend, take a moment to collect yourself, for you look incredibly spent."
"Remus, I don't have time for your criticism. Go do something else useful," said Sirius, still clutching his tea bags protectively before walking across the kitchen to the pantry.
With a slight nod and a genuine smile, he finally announced, "She's home."
The sound of tea bags hitting the floor echoed off the stony walls. The clocked ticked loudly in the hallway, making every second count longer and longer. The air felt dense and had nearly stilled; the tension already building up to an undetermined thickness.
Sirius froze for a few seconds before laying a hand on his chest and the other through his hair nervously. The moment he'd waited for so long had finally come and he was without any words with how to approach it. He'd gone over in his head what he would say the first he saw her, but with the very idea that she was back in the house with the newfound knowledge of their love affair and everything dangerous around it had left him with barely enough air to breathe.
"Did you see her? Did she ask for me? What did she say? Where is she?" The words tumbled out of Sirius like they were on fire. Barely comprehending anything, Remus just chuckled, amused by his friend acting like a school girl himself. "Fuck you, Remus!"
"There you are, I was getting worried," he teased. "She was exhausted, both mentally and physically and so I helped her up to bed."
"She's in bed? She's sleeping? She is here, though?"
"She is resting, yes. She needs it, right now. The poor girl must have collapsed at the foot of the stairs. I don't gather she was there long. You just missed her."
"Did she say anything? Is she alright?" Sirius took a few steps closer to his friend, reaching out for the chair that sat opposite him.
"She was fine, friend," Remus assured.
Sirius slowly slid into the chair before him, paled and like he'd just received the biggest shock of his life. His eyes looked on, staring at a ragged sot on the long wooden table in front of him. Once seated, his hands splayed out in front of him, grounding himself to keep it together. His insides started to tumble and as his eyes began to dry up, he finally remembered to blink.
Remus saw his cue to leave Sirius to his thoughts and let the two have their time, regardless of the outcome. Eventually Hermione would wake up, or Sirius would wake her up and they would have to come to terms with where they stood - good or bad. He passed his friend, almost to the door when he looked back to Sirius still staring in the opposite direction.
"She said your name, Sirius," he said calmly, still staring at the back of his friend's head. "I'll be at Tonks's if you need me."
Sirius heard the front door open and close, a few portraits whisper and finally he was left alone in the house...with Hermione only a few floors above him. His subtle movements were only to move away a few stray hairs that had fallen into his sightlines and as he reflected on everything, a small slight smile began to pass over his lips. Like prayers finally being answered, it sunk into him like warm water on the coldest day and it soothed his inner core that she had said his name.
For the longest time, he held onto the thoughts of her diary and her musings regarding him back then. Why else would she have been driven to rescue him or even see him in a painful past? So many questions without enough answers to determine her state. Instead, he was forced to sit in silence and mull things over until she came to him.
Sirius slowly stood, after he had made up his mind to wait for her, to fix himself a cup of tea. It wouldn't settle his nerves enough, no, only Firewhisky could calm him now, but at least it would mentally prepare and keep his mind occupied for a bit longer. The answer was always in a cup of tea. So, with that, he very carefully tucked his chair back under the table he sat at and began taking a cup down from the cupboard. With a moment's hesitation, his fingers lingered over the cup and just in case, he reached up to take a second cup down to ready for potential company.
Warm beams of sunlight started to bask their healing powers over the sleeping young witch. Her curls, a wild mane like a tigress, spread over her pillow as her hand started to reach up to touch her lips. The soft touch of her own hand woke her and her eyes fluttered open into the sunlight. While slowly coming back to life, her eyes started to focus, her mind started to balance and her memories were beginning to drift back into place.
Her eyes moved wildly in her head before she shot up from under the blanket. She looked all around her, recognizing the guestroom as her current bedroom in Grimmauld Place. The Grimmauld Place in the year 2001. Over to the side, two suitcases were placed carefully with dirty clothes from her previous residence. On the vanity, a few pictures were pinched in the frame of the mirror, displaying happier times with her, Harry and Ron from Hogwarts days.
She was home.
If her feet could take to the floor any faster, she'd have flown to her bedroom door. With an unexplainable strength, she threw open the door and ran to the railing in the hallway that peered down below to the bottom floors. The gigantic chandelier hung magnanimously down the center as fresh portraits ogled at its grandeur. Her hands clutched the railing tightly, as if she were to suddenly fall off the great height. Her throat was dry, but she pushed through, her heart racing a mile a minute.
"SIRIUS!" she bellowed down below.
Her voice rang through the house with such an operatic sound it was almost hypnotizing. The portraits jumped with a start as they looked around to find the voice that had called their master's name. Somewhere on her floor, Kreacher dropped a dish, causing a muffled crash. Without waiting for any response, she started down the stairs with great haste.
The downstairs kitchen door was blasted through with equal strength. At the sound of her voice calling his name, he immediately dropped his tea cup and took to his feet. Hurrying down the hallway to the foot of the stairs, he looked above him, eager to see her. Once their eyes met and he saw that she was flying down the staircase with furious tension, he froze where he stood, right before the first step.
She gripped the railing of the old wooden squared staircase tighter, using it to guide her safely to the bottom floor. She practically broke into a run once she saw him coming in from the hallway, waiting for her like a prince in a dream. He looked so rugged, so handsome, only a few years older, but practically perfect in her eyes that she was already wondering if he was still the same. She wondered if after all his years away from her, if she would still have the same effect on him, or if they harbored the same chemistry they once did. His hair was longer now, just past his shoulders with a slight curl. His face a bit sharper, more refined and not quite as youthful when she'd left him. Still, he was heaven in her eyes and he was there waiting for her. Standing proud and alert, he'd come when he'd been called.
She was getting closer to the bottom stair now. The railing her lifeline. He waited, he knew. She wondered, she needed to know.
But, when she got to the end of the staircase, she stopped. As if an invisible rope had pulled her back from leaping at him like a frolicking school girl, she stopped abruptly on the last step. She could not move, she was frozen on the spot with nowhere to go. But, she didn't want to leave. She wanted to look at him, admire him, talk to him, hug him, love him, caress him...but, he was different now.
Far from the young man with life in his blood, far from the twenty-two year old that thrived on riding his motorcycle and hanging with Stubby Boardman. He was a grown man now, a man in his late thirties, a man with a life, a past, and it was no place for someone like her to take up residence. She doubted everything she had set her heart on down to the detail of their attire not matching with her in jeans and a jumper and he decked out in a fitted jacket, dark buttoned shirt, vest, pocket watch and charcoal colored trousers.
The two just stood there like statues, blinking once or twice to encourage something, anything, just whatever in order to make these moments not last as long as they felt. It could have been hours that they didn't speak, but it had only been seconds. She wanted to say something, anything, but was so scared deep down that she was sure he hated her. He must have hated every fiber in her body for what she'd done, what she'd caused, or what she'd known and not bothered to change a thing about what had happened.
Everything that had happened had been the reason why she stood there now. Standing there, because he knew her and had once loved her. She stood there, because the life he had after her was still the past she'd witnessed and was still the reason he had remained her friend throughout her adolescent years. He was there, because it had all happened...even before she left. He had always known. He knew that the reason she stood there before him at that moment, was because she didn't know what to think.
When she had reached the last stair, she could barely breathe. It was incredibly surreal seeing him for the first time through different eyes and she could only wonder what he was thinking in return. She had so many opportunities to change the way things had ended up, so many chances to go back and save James and Lily, so many times to tell him everything...but, she couldn't. Now, only now, did she consider the amount of hatred and loathing he must have harbored for her. So many years had passed for him to say what he had wanted, and now the moment had come. Would he yell, scream, or hex her? Would he banish her from the house of his fathers and forbid her to ever see Harry again?
As he only watched her, like she to him, she felt her insides quivering. She felt no strength, no power, only sadness and pity for the man before her. She wanted him to stop hurting, wanted him to return to the person he once was, and wanted more than anything to know how special he truly was, even if she wasn't the person to tell him. Oh, how he must have hated her. With his taunting lips, gently curled hair and amazingly strong hands that clenched into fists at his sides, he remained her constant tease. But, he was different, now. Different, but exactly the same.
Finally, she was able to muster enough strength to speak to him, dreading his ticking time bomb reaction. Her voice was almost a desperate whisper. "I wish I could have told you."
He was still; he said nothing. He just watched her, waiting, but for what?
Very timidly, she raised a hand up to reach out to him as if he were a snake about to attack. Her hand was hesitant and twice she had pulled it back slightly, but she needed something, some connection, some thrill of being close to him, even if it were only the tips of her fingers grazing over the fabric of his coat. Her throat was burning, her eyes wetting, mentally pleading to him to say something, anything, just give her a sign that he heard her voice. Instead, he stood still enough to believe he was petrified.
She took another deep breath, hoping she would get a response, for her insides were blazing. She wanted to know if he was the same man after all those years, she needed to know if he tasted just as delicious, or if the way he held her made her feel safe and loved just like always, but she knew the chances were just so slim as every second passed without something from him. Her heart beat so fast, she was practically short of breath. She held onto the railing of the staircase tightly with her other hand, fearful that her legs would give out under her.
"I never meant to hurt you, Sirius," she confessed, gazing into his misty grey orbs. "I love you and I'm sorry if you-"
He swooped in on her like an eagle; she never saw his hands reach out to hold her face. He kissed her fiercely, demanding and with dire need like a man that had gone without water for years.
Oh gods! It was the same!
The same tender lips, the same taste, the same haunting whispers of an unshaven cheek. She felt his hands traveling down over her shoulders and to her waist the way they used to, wrapping his strong arms tightly around her to pull her close against his body. She felt safe, she felt wanted, she felt desired and she couldn't get enough of him. She couldn't get enough of the way he slid his tongue over hers or the panting between hot kisses that were barely enough to satisfy. It was so much better than before, he was a new Sirius.
His hold on her was enough to practically lift her off the bottom step. She slid her arms around his neck mechanically, pulling herself closer so that there was hardly any space between them. Her fingers ran through his hair, lightly scratching and pulling affectionately and with desperate need. He growled against her mouth, hungry for her passion and eager to get as much out of her as possible. Their bodies were tight and close.
Unbelievable emotions began to overwhelm him for being eternally grateful to hold her again, after so many unkind years. He tried his best to hide his weakness, but failed as his eyes felt moist and his heart beat fiercely in his chest. His passion with her was more than he had anticipated. It was enough to dismiss all of this between them and get on with discussing the rest of their lives from that moment on. But, instead, he held her firmly, not wanting to let her go. She was the very same as he had remembered, because it was the same Hermione. The same everything.
She tore at him with equal need, kissing and praising with each slight move. Together they breathed in each other's aura, savoring their reunion, running their noses together and kissing every neglected feature.
"I have waited so long for you, love," he whispered hoarsely, pulling away to frame her face with his hands. He stole small sneaking kisses every second he could as he pressed his forehead against hers.
She pet him affectionately, "I can't believe you waited." Tears cascaded down her cheeks like thin romantic waterfalls.
"I would have waited longer-"
"I'm so sorry I couldn't tell you. I wanted to-"
"I know you did," he soothed, touched by her compassion and honesty. He loved feeling the silky texture of her hair through his fingers, again. It was like finding a treasure one lost so many years ago.
"I died inside when I saw you ride off, Sirius."
"I thought you were dead," his voice broke. "I thought Voldemort got to you, just like Lily and James."
"I wouldn't have left you if I had a choice!" she begged. She surveyed his entire face, running a free hand down his cheek, afraid he would disappear into thin air and he was just a dream. She didn't want him to have any doubts in her.
"I know, love," he consoled, "But, it's done now."
Seeing her tears only touched him more. He kissed her nose, her cheeks, and her lips just one more time before looking into the same loving eyes from so many years ago. He had only looked into platonic eyes until now, eyes that saw him as Harry's father, Remus's friend, just a friend. Those same eyes had changed to him, transforming to the eyes of his angel with warming features that gave him the desire to live.
Hermione felt comfort in his arms again, like she really was only gone from him for a few hours. Nothing felt different. Though a little older, his eyes, his smile, his aura, his smell, his devilishly good looks were all still him. It felt like she never had to say good-bye, never had to see him flying off on his motorbike to be condemned, but always here waiting for her the entire time.
"I couldn't save James, I wanted to, but I couldn't! It would have-"
"Shhh, I know," he pacified quietly.
"I just couldn't, I need you to know that!"
"Hermione, love, please. Don't say anything." He pressed a finger to her quivering lip, "I know the rules of a Time Turner; I had plenty of time to do the research. There was nothing you were allowed to do." His brow crinkled at the center and he shook his head sympathetically, "I understand."
She reached for him again, hugging him close and resting her chin under his neck. He laid a hand on the back of her head, tenderly stroking her hair.
"The hardest part of all, was watching you grow up. I would look at you with such dangerous eyes, I'm surprised no one said anything," he said to her quietly, as if guarding a deep guilty secret. "Well, Remus did, naturally."
She smiled into his shirt, smelling his romantic cologne and letting it fill her senses. Her hand slid up the front of his jacket, her fingers taking notice of the ornate buttons. She'd never been this close to adult Sirius, before and it was enticingly euphoric.
"So much has happened. The world is so different, now," she whispered, leaving kisses against his neck. She felt so comfortable, so tranquil, laying her head against him. She felt his fingers trailing small circles against her back.
"I waited all these years for you and now that you're here," he hesitated, going out on a ledge, "I don't know if this is right for you."
"Don't you dare!" she cried, pulling herself off of him to grab the lapels of his jacket firmly. Her hands began to tremble immediately in their grasp.
"I'm not quite the same person I was, Hermione."
With a heated fire within her loins, she was not letting him get away. Her fingers held tighter to his jacket and she forced a kiss on him that rendered him powerless before pulling away to say, "You're the person I fell in love with! I got to know both of you, but the whole time I kept thinking of this you. The older you, the one that I was going to see, the one that belongs in my time, the one that watches over Harry, the one that sits silently in the shadows. You're still the same to me."
Sirius's lips parted, but he was speechless at first. He just pushed her hair out of her face, wondering what he'd done right to make her still want him. "I think you're absolutely mad. Beautiful, but mad."
"Maybe I am, but maybe I'm just as stubborn as someone else I know that wouldn't let up."
He couldn't help but smirk, fondly remembering the way he followed her up the street while still sitting on his motorcycle
"I need you to take that place in my life. You're the one I want." She looked upon him fondly, not fully believing that he was the same man just hours ago told her he loved her. "It was only a few hours ago that you drove off in that storm. My heart broke."
Sirius closed his eyes, sealing the moment to his memories. Feeling her close, hearing her voice and listening to every single word made him feel lighter than air. She was an answer to years' worth of prayers and requests - his patience had paid off. He wanted the day to come where he could kiss her soft red lips once more and slide his hands over her naked curves.
His silence was worrying. Though she still had his attention, he hadn't agreed to anything. His face looked content, his brow creases subsiding. Handsome chiseled features twitched slightly as he breathed normal, calming himself before opening his eyes to her anxious brown ones.
"You might not be in love with me, right now. But, I'm here if you still want me."
Sirius was crushed that he hadn't answered her until that moment. How cruel he was to leave her hanging without an answer, without a solid word. His hands smoothed around her neck where his fingers clutched her neck gently. He was moved beyond words and managed to sum it up in one sentence when he pressed his forehead against hers, believing them to be the only two people in the world.
"You were my reason for life, love."