Story Notes:

This story was written for the 30 Candles Challenge over at hermionesirius on LJ.

Many thanks to the lovely JadeCharmer for being a terrific beta to this little drabble.

Disclaimer: All characters and recognizable character situations belong to J.K. Rowling. I am making no money from the writing and posting of this story.

The Battered Heart

The first time she had her heart broken was because of a story in a book of fables. She was eight and, like all the little girls her age, she had been raised with fairy tale princesses and their heroic princes up to that point. But even at that tender age, she was already reading at a level of someone almost twice her age so her mother thought it appropriate to give her the 'real' fairy tales.

It first started with the Brothers Grimm. Looking back with a fond smile, Hermione realized that they were probably completely inappropriate, but she had not been scared or traumatized; she had found each story to be fascinating and had long conversations with her mother about the differences between the 'real' stories and those force fed by the current mainstream media. Her mother smiled and suggested that they not enlighten her father about the 'real' stories since he had a rather quaint attachment to the Disney versions.

But it was Hans Christian Andersen that broke young Hermione's heart with "The Little Mermaid." The original version where she dies! Yup, if you think the real Ariel ended up with the prince you are certifiably bonkers. It was the only fable that made her cry. And when she asked her mother… why oh why, couldn't the prince love the mermaid? Her mother responded that we do not choose the person that we love.

"Then why didn't the silly chit just kill the wanker off and go home?" an angry eight year old Hermione asked her mother.

Elizabeth Granger managed, but just barely, to not snort her tea all over her precocious daughter. She cleared her throat and said sternly, "Hermione, that language is unbecoming. Vulgarity is a sign of ignorance and the lack of proper etiquette. Both of which are not true in your case." She folded her napkin several times in order to gather her thoughts before continuing. "I think you failed to understand that 'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." Elizabeth looked at her daughter pointedly.

Hermione bit her lip and scrunched her face trying to think of where - "Tennyson!"

Elizabeth nodded and gave her a pleased smile, "Excellent. You have to understand, Hermione, the point of the story is that the Little Mermaid became a better person by having loved the prince even though he broke her heart when he married another. And, by the act of not killing the prince, she gained an immortal soul with the Daughters of the Air. She became a better person."

Hermione took a deep breath and bit her lip. "Well, if having your heart broken and dying makes you a better person, then I'd rather just be a good one and keep my heart, thank you very much. Because better doesn't seem to be all that great."

That's how it began. Just like a child, albeit a precocious one, Hermione decided to collect hearts. All shapes and colors and materials. She had them in paper, glass, stone and clay; keeping them all in various jars in her room. She figured if she had so many then surely, if she lost hers, she could replace it with another. Her parents thought it very logical - and incredibly cute, but they didn't tell her that - and they were more than happy to add to her collection of hearts.

Her favorite turned out to be a black glass heart. It wasn't always her favorite but one day when one of her ridiculous cousins decided to invade her room, they inevitably hit one of the jars, sending it crashing onto the ground. Everything inside it was fine, except for the black glass heart. It chipped and had a very large crack right through the middle, but it retained its shape and Hermione couldn't help but treasure that fact that though it had been battered, it was still true.

She had been fourteen when she met him, the Black Prince; the accused murderer and betrayer of the Potter's. Only it turned out, in that ramshackle shack, that the truth came out. Not the betrayer but, instead, the betrayed. A wizard capable of so much love but one whom never had the opportunity to give it. She refused to believe that her heart broke for him so she just raged against all the misfortunes that had befallen him. Hermione thought that it would be an opportunity for her to right that which had been wronged so long ago.

Only it wasn't meant to be. She managed to save her Black Prince, but she couldn't right all the wrongs that had been committed against him in the past. She couldn't prevent the new wrongs that were committed against him in the present and she was terrified of what laid in store for his future if his history was any indicator.

When she went home that summer, she found her favorite heart and couldn't help but think of Sirius Black as she held the damaged glass in her hand; it was so much like the man, damaged, yes, but still true. She wrapped the black heart in a silk kerchief and put it in her school trunk, determined to give it to wizard that, at least in her mind, was the embodiment of her favorite heart.

It would be another two years until she saw him again and, unfortunately at sixteen, her hormones got the better of her. He wasn't the Marauder of old, the Legendary Sirius Black, heartbreaker extraordinaire, but he was …breathtaking. Perhaps it was the pain and the tragedy that emanated from his every pore that made her just want to hold him and tell him that things would turn out better. She really couldn't help that pity was so mixed in with newfound desire. It would only be later that she would understand that he had recognized not only the desire, but also the pity and that had been the last thing he needed or wanted from her; which is why it lead to their own legendary verbal brawls.

Until the last evening that she was at Grimmauld.

Hermione had been carrying that stupid heart in her pocket for almost two weeks now, waiting for an opportunity to give it to Sirius but now she realized what an idiot she had been. He wouldn't care about a ridiculous heart and her silly childhood mementos. He didn't even like her. Hermione shook her head; she was an idiot… a bossy swot know-it-all idiot.

She didn't know what she was doing. Everything was fine. Harry was safe and they would all be going back to school and everything would be fine, but Hermione still couldn't sleep. She climbed out of bed, careful to not wake up Ginny and grabbed her robe, heading for the kitchen to make some tea.

The old house was quiet despite all of the inhabitants currently invading the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Hermione quickly made her tea and, for once, bypassed the library to catch a last summer night. She closed the door behind her quietly before walking out onto the porch to look up at the stars. Inhaling deeply, she mused that she could still taste the remnants of summer and just a hint of the autumn to come. Hermione leaned against the porch railing, one hand gripping the steaming mug while the other naturally slipped into the pocket of the robe, only to find her favorite stowaway. Hermione set down her mug on the railing, before giving her full attention to the kerchief in her pocket. She unwrapped it carefully, holding the damaged heart in her hand.

"What are you doing up, Hermione?" Sirius asked quietly from the porch swing.

Hermione inhaled sharply, bringing the heart to her chest while brandishing her wand. Which was really rather ridiculous when she thought about it since, had he been a Death Eater, he would have had the drop on her because she had been complacent. Hermione dropped her wand, sending him a rather embarrassed smile.

"Sorry," she said, "I couldn't sleep."

Sirius patted the seat next to him and took a swig of his bottle. Hermione frowned at the sight of the bottle but grabbed her tea and sat down next to him. They sat there in comfortable silence for several minutes, both actually surprised that they hadn't started sniping at each other. After all, they had in each other's presence for more than thirty seconds.

"What is it you have there?" he nodded towards the kerchief still clutched tightly in her hand.

Hermione smiled, "A heart." She held it out to him.

"Are you giving me your heart, Hermione?" he teased, enjoying her blush that graced her cheeks.

"I think it's yours, actually," she said quietly, placing the black, fractured heart in his hand.

Sirius looked curiously at the black glass heart, seeing the chip on its edge and the ragged crack down the middle, but despite the damage, it was whole, reflecting the glow of the moon brilliantly. "It looks a bit beat up. Are you saying I'm damaged goods?" he smirked.

Hermione studied the handsome wizard, giving him a sheepish smile. "It reminded me of you. That despite all that it had been through, it was still whole and beautiful and…" she suddenly realized what she'd said and cringed. She sounded like a besotted idiot.

"Thank you, Hermione," Sirius said quietly, stroking the black glass heart. He picked up her hand and softly placed the heart in the center, closing her hand with his. "You've kept it safe all these years; do you think you can keep it safe a little bit longer?" He asked with a genuine smile.

"Are you giving me your heart, Sirius?" Hermione managed to tease back even though she knew her cheeks were probably cherry red.

"I think you've always had my heart," he smiled just a bit rakishly, giving her a glimpse of the Marauder of old, "and I can think of no one more valiant who would dare keep it, even now, as fragile as it is." He gave her hand a squeeze.

That's when it happened. Right there, at that moment, without meaning to, he stole her heart right in front of her, even as he gave her his.

"It's almost four o'clock in the morning, Hermione. Go back to bed. You have a busy day ahead of you."

Hermione nodded, getting up and going back into the house. She turned back when she realized that she had left the kerchief only to see him take another swig of his Firewhiskey bottle while absently stroking the silk fabric that had held his heart with the other.

She was just weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday but she knew even then, that she had lost her heart to the Black Prince. She stroked the glass heart, hoping that he would take care of her heart as fiercely as she would guard his.

But instead he broke it, irrevocably, nine months later. She had been unconscious when it happened. All she had were Harry's memories and they never failed to break her non-existent heart. He had taken her heart with him when he fell through that cursed Veil. She cried until there were no more tears left to cry, only dry shuddering whimpers that ravaged her still weakened body.

She shared her pain with no one. Not even her mother, who would have surely understood. Hermione finally realized why the little mermaid would choose death because it was surely easier than living with the pain. She slept holding that black glass heart all that summer. It gave her comfort even though her own heart was now lost. It was in her pocket, giving her strength when they faced the Death Eater's in the First Battle at Hogwarts. It comforted her at Dumbledore's funeral. It gave her courage all through their hunt for the Horcruxes. It kept her grounded under the horror of Bellatrix's wand. It gave her valor during the Final Battle.

She was eighteen when she finally decided to say to goodbye to an empty grave. She needed to set him free, to let him finally go with the Daughters of the Air. She was standing in the rain, ignoring the bone deep chill and her own soaked clothes as she reverently stroked the headstone of her beloved Prince. Tears flooded her eyes again and this time she didn't stop them.

"I guess there are still tears left in me," Hermione sobbed. "You stole my heart and I can't ever get it back. I should hate you, Sirius Black, but I can't help but love you. I loved you then. I love you now. I'll love you always. But I have to let you go. Go fly your motorcycle with the Daughters of the Air and try to not break any more hearts." She placed his damaged glass heart on gravestone.

Hermione got up, not bothering to brush the mud and dirt on her denim. She walked, even though she couldn't see through her tears. She sniffled, then stopped and turned back, walking purposely back to the grave.

"I'm setting you free, but I'm keeping your heart because it's mine now," she whispered as she picked up the black glass heart and put it back in her pocket where it belonged.