"Hermione, help! My goodness, child, how does one get these blasted birds to leave one alone?"
"Hermione Jane Granger! War hero or no, you will get your nose out of that book and help me with this thing this instant! I gave you life, child, I can take it from you."
Hermione calmly walked downstairs and into her parents' kitchen, where her mother was busy fending off the advances of a rather determined barn owl. The 21-year-old witch grabbed a crisp from a box in the cupboard and handed it to the bird, which hooted his gratitude and flew back out the window. Hermione unrolled the scrap of parchment her mother had previously untied, frowned, tapped the parchment with a stick while muttering some pidgin Latin, and once the parchment was of a size that it could be read, she did so.
"Oh dear. Goodness me, no. This just can't be right," Hermione was heard to say to herself, as she read the elegantly penned paper. "First of all, he's five years dead, and –"
There was a subtle, yet certainly audible pop in the Grangers' living room. Hermione walked over quickly, her stick in her hand. She pointed it at a man who'd appeared out of nowhere.
"What was Padfoot's most frequent, yet least favourite dish, once he was free?"
The man's face contorted, remembering some obvious unpleasantness, and then he very simply replied
Hermione let out a squeak, and flung herself at the stranger, who let out an 'oof', before returning the exuberant embrace.
"Sirius Black, as I live and breathe! How did you get back? Does Harry know you're here? – He's missed you terribly. What have you heard? So much has changed! We really must catch you up!"
"Yes, right. Sorry about that – still happens every once in awhile."
"As to your first question: Funny thing about that veil, you see. No one had ever tried to just walk back through the way they came. And when I got back to the other side, I just Reductoed the damned thing to bits and was done with it. As to your other questions, I've seen Kingsley – Minister Shacklebolt now – and he's caught me up on a few things, including that parchment you were just reading."
"Yes, about that, Sirius," Hermione said with a rather reproving tone. "I mean, you're a wonderful man, fun to be around and all, but really. Married? You and I?" There was an audible gasp from the kitchen.
"Excuse me," Hermione continued, "I've been a dreadful hostess yet again. Mother, just come in here."
Emma Granger hurried in to the living room and stopped as she saw the man with whom her daughter was talking marriage – and his very obvious forty-five years.
"Sirius, this is my mother, Emma Granger. Mum, this is Sirius Black. He was Harry's father's best friend back in school, and Harry's godfather." Sirius held his hand out to Mrs Granger in greeting, which she took before laying into him.
"And Mr Black, exactly what is it that you have in mind for my 21-year-old daughter?"
"Mrs Granger," Sirius replied, "I have nothing to do with this, I assure you. This is strictly a Ministry initiative. Unfortunately, as the Geas has been initiated, there really isn't anything either of us can do."
"Nothing you can do?" Mrs Granger fairly hollered in response. "No. No, I will not allow it. First this blasted magic war takes my husband and I to Australia, where he winds up leaving me for a buxom thirty-year-old dental technician, and now you're telling me it's going to take my daughter as well? I will not have it, sir, believe you me this!"
"Don't you 'Mother' me, Hermione. I don't care who you are in that world; in this house you are still my daughter, do you understand me? And I will not allow some forty-five year old –"
There was a rather loud boom as a white elephant statuette exploded on the mantel. Hermione put her stick back behind her ear calmly as her mother quieted.
"Now, let's talk about this calmly, shall we? First of all, Sirius is not forty-five, he's forty-one."
"It's 2001, Sirius. You've been gone awhile."
"Right, but I was only behind the veil for five minutes or so. So I really am only thirty-six. Which would make us the same age as Remus and Tonks last I saw them."
"Sirius, Remus and Tonks were, er, anomalies, to say the least. You're still far too old for me. Besides, I'm seeing Ronald. Ron Weasley – you remember him, right?"
"Oh. Oh dear," Sirius said, visibly chastened. "I asked Kingsley about that, you know. He said the two of you were through."
"Oh sweet Merlin," Hermione sighed. "It was a bloody argument – not like it was the first of ours anyone's ever seen, either. So we'll expect him to come popping in here any minute as well, I imagine? No matter. Geas or no Geas, we're really not to be married, Sirius. I'm sorry if this is a disappointment, but, no."
"But that's… I mean…" Sirius was flummoxed. The Geas attached to the parchment was designed to compel the reader to marriage, and it quite obviously had not worked. "How did you break it? I know you're bright and all, but a Geas? That's old magic there, Hermione."
"Mother? What's my middle name?"
"Jane, dear," Emma replied, still a bit wary of the stick in her daughter's hand, and wondering how she was to replace a seventy year old Hummel statuette.
"Hogwarts has had it wrong for a decade now, Sirius. They've had me on roll as 'Hermione Jean Granger'. I let it go because I thought it was such a silly mistake. The Ministry must have used my name from that list. Dumbledore even had it wrong in his will, but Minister Scrimgour didn't really care to investigate that. So I'm sorry for the trouble, really I am, but there's to be no marriage, at least not between us." And, as predicted, there was another *pop* in the living room, shortly followed by Ron Weasley rushing to his girlfriend's side.
"'Mione, I just heard about –" He saw his old friend standing with Hermione and Emma, and drew out a small stick of his own. "Sirius? So it's true, then."
"Ron, first of all, how many times have I told you not to call me that?" Hermione warned. "Secondly, it's really okay. There's been a bit of a mix-up is all."
"Look here, mate," Ron said, advancing on the older man, "I don't know what foul thing brought you back here, but I'm prepared to send you straight back – "
"Ron!" Hermione screeched. "It's alright. I'm not going to marry Sirius. Please put your wand away and say hello to my mother like a proper guest." Ron was not pleased to be dressed down like this in front of others.
"I come flying over here to warn you about this marriage Geas, and you've nothing better to say in thanks than to start with the nagging right away? Really, Hermione!"
"As if I ever needed your help! Honestly, am I just some damsel in distress to you? Where were you when –"
"Don't you dare start on the forest again, woman. You know that wasn't my fault!" Hermione drew a quick breath, and then exhaled slowly.
"Sirius?" she said, "Is that offer of yours still open?" Sirius backed away a good two steps before replying.
"Look, I'd really better be going. Mrs Granger, it's been a pleasure. Sorry for the mix-up. Ron, Hermione, good to see you two again, and… good luck." With that he popped out of the house.