A Note from Serade Black: Oh, it's been so very long since I've revisited Hermione & Sirius, so I'm happy to be updating this story. Thank you for the loyal readers that have stuck by this one and welcome to the new shippers that have stumbled over. Enjoy the latest chapter, I hope to be updating a bit more frequently. I DO have an ending sitting on my hard drive waiting to be published, so it will come to a conclusion.
Ch. 13 - The Stranger, Aiden
Hermione froze, immediately drawn to the man like a moth to a flame and she couldn't take her eyes off of him. He was dressed in a golden silk poet shirt with puffy sleeves and gorgeous brocade vest that hugged his form nicely. Slender black pants and knee high boots, while his hair fell angelically around his face. She was stunned, amazed and enchanted to see a familiar face playing so well, that for a moment, just a second, she almost believed to be staring a little too long for what was deemed appropriate. Sure other on-lookers were watching just as carefully as she, but coming from her, Hermione felt a sense of guilt befall over her.
Still, he played beautifully and as he looked up and away from his music, he locked eyes with Hermione with the intensity of a vampire honing in on its prey. The moment was fleeting and his eyes returned to reading music, but the flickering tease was enough to make Hermione check herself. She reached up and adjusted her scarf, buttoning her jacket closed and otherwise fidgeting with anything she had on in order to take up business without being rude.
Aiden played on, hypnotizing both the witches and the wizards into a peaceful sense of harmony. The small audience applauded and he bowed his head when he dropped his violin to his side. He gathered the bow in the same hand and laid his other hand over his stomach where he politely bowed. He tossed his hair out of his face and offered an innocent smile to those that continued to clap for him. Ginny being one of them. Harry had to nudge her a couple of times to remind her that she was an engaged woman.
"He was bloody brilliant," Ginny said, turning to Hermione who was otherwise reading the inside cover of her book. She shook her head when she realized she was being spoken to.
"Yes," she recovered, not wishing to be rude. "He really, really was."
Hermione glanced up to the violinist that was just bowing his head to be polite to a witch that was gushing her compliments his way and it was evident that Aiden did not know how to accept them. He smiled innocently and shook her hand. He was putting his violin back into his case, when Hermione felt the coast was clear for her to approach him and give him the standard compliment that he so deserved.
"You played beautifully, Aiden," Hermione offered, cautious not to startle him as he placed his violin gently into its case.
He turned around after closing the lid and smiled, "Thank you, thank you."
"Played long?" she asked, making small talk and glancing towards Ginny who was otherwise dumbfounded that her friend had mustered the courage to speak to the musician.
"Since I was a little boy. My parents forced me into lessons, so it's kind of my thing." Aiden had a very gentle voice, a young voice, and seeing him this close and calm made Hermione guess that he was probably a little older than she was. "Did you know I was playing tonight and that's why you're here?"
Hermione shook her head, gesturing to Remus who was standing behind the cashier's counter and checking someone out with their books. "No, Remus is a good friend of mine. He encouraged me to come out and listen and no offense, if he told me merpeople were singing here tonight, I still would find it a good excuse to come to the bookstore."
He nodded, folding his arms in front of him, covering the handsome brocade vest that he wore, "So, you're a bit of a bookworm, are you?"
She smiled and averted her eyes to the floor, "I've been called that before, yes."
"So, you're here alone, or with friends?" He asked, meeting Hermione's eye line to the ginger that waved very enthusiastically at her like a mad crazy woman.
Hermione grinned shaking her head at little embarrassed, "No, I'm here with friends...that are coming this way." She bit her lip, feeling a bit foolish in front of the man she had just met. It wasn't anything, but the way Ginny was acting you'd think Hermione had just met her future husband. "Aiden, this is my friend Ginny and her fiancé-"
"Harry Potter, of course," Aiden interrupted, shaking Ginny's hand then pointedly reaching out to Harry, already knowing his story. "It's an honor, Mr. Potter."
Harry smiled, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, "Just Harry, thanks."
"So, Hermione, where's the other bloke I've seen you with?" Aiden asked, turning back to her and inquiring.
"Ron couldn't make it tonight," Ginny interjected, trying to bring something to the small group, feeling ignored, but still hung on Harry's arm to ensure that she was not intending on throwing herself at the violinist like she'd just drank a love potion.
"No, not the red head, the dark-haired bloke. I'd seen you two together at the Ministry," Aiden cleared, reaching for his music to fold up and put inside his messenger bag.
"Oh, ah," Hermione started, "that was Sirius."
"Yes, Sirius Black. Why didn't he come tonight?" Aiden asked casually and watched how Harry and Ginny politely excused themselves to allow the two acquaintances to talk.
"We're not actually together, anymore," she said with a quiet solemn voice.
For a moment, Aiden stopped to consider her. A blank look fell over his face, as if he was trying to comprehend the man being gone from her life. "I'm sorry to hear that," he said, looking more concerned for her than a mere acquaintance would and busied himself with gathering his things together. "How long have you been-?"
"You know," Hermione interjected holding her hand up to stop his line of questioning, "that's a lot of personal information to give away to someone I've just met. Forgive me for being forward, but I'm just not that comfortable telling you those things."
As if Aiden had just woken up, he looked at her surprised with himself and gave his head a slight shake, "Yes, of course. My apologies. Please excuse me, I didn't mean to pry."
She obliged him and said, "It's okay. I just...I'm just not ready to talk about it."
"Of course. Again, my apologies," he repeated, trying to encourage a thoughtful smile from her.
Holed up in the lab, Hermione reassured that her goggles were back on safe before she added a few drops of cat's blood to her cauldron. It was already steaming a yellow goldish color, indicating that it was near perfection and the next step in creating a memory relaxer for those that had returned and still found their minds clouded with a dark milky haze. It wasn't all the time for them, just for those that had been gone a lot longer than normal. They would complain of headaches and occasionally black out, unable to recall their last encounter or what they were doing beforehand. The symptoms were similar to an oncoming migraine, but rather than flashes they would see a foggy milky haze that would settle first on their sight, then their brain and then they went black and immobile.
Isa was looking closely over Hermione's shoulder, both curious to the way her colleague worked and also using her as a shield should something go array. Either way, Isa was learning a great deal.
"It appears that the concoction-"
"How do you do it?" Isa said, squeezing her shoulders as she hunched over behind Hermione.
"Well, I researched the properties of cat's blood, it's density, it's iron count-" Hermione started to ramble, leaning back and jotting down notes of her results.
"No, I mean with the tall dark and handsome men. How do you do it? You're quiet, you're brainy, and you never go out anymore-" Isa rambled on, removing her own goggles and taking down her hair so it tumbled down her back.
"Isa, what are you talking about?"
"The gentleman caller you had while you were away at lunch. Much younger than the last one, but still, you really have a knack for attracting the dark and mysterious ones," Isa expressed, licking her lips as she looked into the mirror, in the event that her colleague had any more attractive men coming to visit her.
"Oh, that must have been Harry. Did he have glasses and a-"
"I know who Harry Potter is," Isa interrupted, stopping her primping to glare over at Hermione like she had three heads and was saying something very very stupid. "No, this one looked a little older than you, shaggy dark hair, amazing eyes, slender and left a note for you at reception. And the jeans he wore, looked as good as they did on your ex-'s."
Hermione frowned in honest curiosity who would visit her at work and not wait until she was back in to speak to her. First thoughts when she mentioned the dark and handsome man, that it might be Sirius just sauntering back in, but everyone knew who he was. Still, curiosity got the better of her and she left the lab to walk down the hallway towards their reception desk. Stereotypically, the reception witch was filing her nails and she smiled when Hermione went to greet her.
"Madge, did anyone come to see me, today?" Hermione asked, lifting an eyebrow and waiting for her explanation of the mysterious man.
Leaning behind her to retrieve a message she had tacked on the wall; she turned and offered the small folded note to Hermione, as if it had just slipped her mind with all the work she had to do. She replaced the nail file in her desk drawer.
As Hermione thanked her, she opened the note and saw handwriting she did not recognize before:
Just wanted to say thanks for coming to see me play last night, even if you didn't intend to. However, I wanted to apologize again for my forwardness. I didn't mean to pry. To make it up to you, I wanted to start it off again, by buying you a nice cup of tea at the end of your day.
No need to reply, I'll just see you downstairs at the coffee trolley.
She looked over the writing, playing it over and over in her mind that he was just trying to be polite and though they had bumped into one another more than anyone else in this town, it was a harmless gesture. She folded the note away and tucked it into her lab coat, trying not to over think things.
The rickety old elevator made strange noises as the coils and magic worked together to transport people down or up, side to side, or backwards or forwards. Hermione gripped the hang bar for just a precaution, given that when there wasn't as much weight distributed all around you, the car tended to shake a lot more than normal.
The grate opened before her and Hermione stepped out onto the main floor where she was always greeted with the fountain in the center of the atrium. Her heels clicked as she crossed over the linoleum floor and she glanced towards her favored coffee trolley that had two little round tables set alongside of it. Seated at one of them was Aiden and he was just reading the last page of the Daily Prophet.
She made her way towards him, unnoticed and leaned over to say, "The stuff they print in there is only half true."
Aiden spun around in his seat, grinning ear to ear, and pleased as punch that she had met him. He popped right up out of his chair, gave a flourish into his spin and pulled out the seat for her. Rolling her eyes, Hermione took a seat and folded her hands on top of the table, pushing away the copy of the Daily Prophet as if it were trash. She had had her fair share of printed name.
"So, what shall it be? Coffee? Espresso? Liquor? Tea?" Aiden offered, rambling off several drinks as if he were the barista.
"Chamomile tea with a little bit of honey," she said, but then jolted as she spun around to practically shout, "No sugar!"
Aiden's eyes widened as if horrified from her change and then raised his hands to advise her to calm down as if she were a frightened animal. With a mutual smile, Hermione turned in her seat and waited for her tea to be brought to her. She strummed her fingers along the table, looking about her and then glancing down to the last page of the Daily Prophet. Along the left handed corner, Hermione could make out the words "Black Tracks by Rita Skeeter". Hermione reached for the paper and slid it closer for her to read, feigning interest.
My loyal readers, sources tell me that the illustrious Mr. Black has vacated England for the time being. Perhaps it's the romantic allure to travel the world, spread his wings and fly. There are many delectable delicacies in the world to sample and it's no doubt that he has sought refuge elsewhere. No news yet, whether he is still with bookish boring Hermione Granger, Harry Potter's ex-girlfriend.
She shoved the paper away from her, like it was plagued with germs and evil bacteria and that was the last thing she wanted to have anywhere close to her body. Nearly knocking it to the ground, Aiden was back with their warm drinks by the time she was ready to shred it into a million pieces.
Aiden sat down across from her and set down her tea cup with the string of the teabag laying over the edge. "Hot chamomile tea, as requested." Hermione smiled and thanked him, lifting out her tea bag and laying it carefully on her napkin. Aiden, mocha latte kind of man, flipped his loose curls away from his face and leaned in on his elbows to give her his utmost attention, "So, tell me: what is Hermione's entire story?"
Hermione stirred her tea, mixing the contents with the cream and flicked her eyes like daggers up to him, "No." Aiden froze, looking for an inkling of humor in her tone and realized that it was there, just buried beneath all the cynical sarcasm she harbored. "Aiden, tell me about your childhood, teen years and why you are a violinist in a bookstore."
"No," he answered in the same manner in which she had answered. This forced out a keen, sweet smile from Hermione and she couldn't help but bite her lower lip, playfully. "I can see," he began, "that we are off to a great new friendship." Hermione smiled, nodded and then transitioned to a shake of her head.
"I'm not very good company, these days," she said, lifting her tea to her lips and savoring the first sip. She loved the way the taste first explored her taste buds when perfecting a hot tea.
Aiden nodded, "Right, the whole guy thing. Well, I'll have you know that for a straight wizard, I'm good at being partial to a woman's side, I'm catty as all hell, never wear argyle socks with black shoes, and try to avoid wearing a tie at all costs. So, if you're in need of someone like that, then I am your man."
Feeling a warm sensation calm her again was refreshing. Her friends, Ginny, Harry and Ron were there for her, but they had known her nearly her entire influential life. They had no chance to form opinions of their own without forcing to bond together because of mutual friends. Aiden, at least, had that opportunity for her; a friend to get to know right off the bat. Could be a good change.
"You're not a reporter, are you?" Hermione tested, raising an eyebrow and sipping her tea cautiously.
Aiden grinned and looked down in front of him, with a sly look he replied, "You have my word that I'm not. I'm just offering to be a friend, that's all."
Hermione smiled to herself, absent-mindedly stirring her tea and thinking of a time when she wasn't labeled or had to try so very hard. Aiden was a stranger, still was one, but at least he seemed interested in being just a friend. That could work, for now.
The dinner party for her group of friends was a great success. The dishes, plates, pots and pans were all being magically cleaned in the sink as the enchanted scrubber did its worst on the baked on food. Suds occasionally overflowed, but a nearby table caught the splashes should they fall onto the floor.
As the end of dessert had been enjoyed, Hermione picked up her fork and gently, but assertively, clanked it against her own glass. All night she had nursed one glass of wine to hide any suspicions before she announced the news, for her own muggle doctor allowed her to partake in only one a week. Hermione chose this night, of all nights, to do just that. However, a small bit of her couldn't help but feel guilty, so she didn't feel it necessary more than the presentation night.
Heads turned in her direction, all with big intrigued eyes and open ears, waiting to hear what it was Hermione wanted to say. Remus had already been briefed regarding the purpose to the diner party, so he was prepared to tackle Tonks, should she feel the need to hunt down her cousin once she heard the news.
"Thank you everyone for joining me tonight. I know it's hard to get everyone together, but I thought it was important for me to organize an evening," she started, carefully holding her glass of wine as her hand shook slightly. Both Molly and Arthur smiled in her direction, proud of the dinner she had pulled off and knew that it wasn't easy to tend to everyone's needs and necessities, but she managed. "The real reason that I wanted to have everyone over was to announce something, so that you all heard it at the same time and directly from me." Ginny's head tilted just slightly, but Hermione noticed. "With Sirius gone, it's taken some time for me to adjust without him, but it seems that I'm not always going to be without him." Hermione took a big breath and looked out to the faces of her friends, "I'm pregnant."
There were gasps, awes, tsks, shouts and squeals from the eclectic group. Some were immediately pleased, a couple were angry, some were outraged, some were just stunned, but most asked the same question, "Does he know?"
As she absorbed the different ranges of opinions, she closed her eyes and shook her head, "Please, everyone...please. To answer you all at once, no, Sirius doesn't know and I'm asking each and every one of you to please, please, please...not reach out and tell him. The only one he should hear it from, should be me, so until then, please keep this quiet. I know I cannot keep this a secret forever, because once the Daily Prophet gets a whisper of this story, there's no way he's not going to know. So, until then, let him come to me, so that I can present this to him in my own way."
Faces that looked to her with pity turned into faces of admiration and envy of strength. They knew that their level-headed girl would find an answer to everything, find a way of life as a single mother and never, ever be alone without support. Everyone in that room from George to Kingsley, to McGonagall to Ron, to Harry to Arthur, they were all on her side and would help protect Hermione in any fashion they could.
"What of your parents, Hermione? What do they say?" Molly asked, as quiet as a whisper, acknowledging the sensitivity of the subject. She had a lot to say, but knew that it was not her place to speak her voice.
Hermione smiled and nodded, "They are, surprisingly, optimistic. They're not too sensible when it comes to magic, but they feel they've gotten to know Sirius enough that they believe he will be back the second he hears wind of this. It's better they believe that, because I need to enjoy this. I need to enjoy all of this and I will...I am! This is an amazing opportunity for me and the only tragedy about it is that Sirius doesn't know. But, when his destiny brings him back here, he will learn about the baby then and make his mind up when it's presented to him as a choice."
Hermione was wearing her bravest face as a mask. On the exterior she was hard and protected, fearless with her suit of armor at the ready, but on the inside, she was a frightened little person. Her body was going to do this and there was no stopping Mother Nature and her planned intentions. "Ship in a bottle" she heard someone in her doctor's office say and as the situation settled, that couldn't be more spot on truth.
On normal work days, muggle or wizard, the average employee went home at a reasonable hour to enjoy their families and have dinner. Hermione was sitting at her desk, her lights on and she was going over final paperwork that was sent her way to approve. Everyone on her floor had gone home for the evening, aside from the office cleaners that were permitted to enter at this hour.
Absentmindedly, her eyes drifted off the paper to the picture that faced her on the end of her desk in a silver and black frame. The couple that looked back at her smiled happily, laughing and giggling and enjoying themselves on that Christmas Eve at Grimmauld Place. Portrait Hermione hung over Sirius's shoulders as he held her hands together pressed against his heart. A few times the couple would look back at one another and share a kiss, then back to the spectator smiling. The real Hermione couldn't bring herself to take the picture down, for as she sat alone in her office preparing to go home to an empty house, her heart still belonged to the man she hugged so lovingly in that picture.
She loved the way his hair fell into his face when he tried to restrain it in a hair tie, she loved seeing the age lines around his eyes as he laughed and she loved the way he bared his teeth whenever he had that mischieveious playful spark surfacing. She missed his company, she missed his touch, she missed the way he smelled, she missed the way he would whisper in her ear and...
Hermione immediately gasped!
Her hand flew to her stomach, sliding over it as if she was going to initiate it again. Now in the middle of her fifth month, Hermione felt the slightest little flutter against her inside. Like a butterfly's wings adjusting themselves, the sensation was fluid and sweet and it brought a new level of the experience becoming very surreal. Hearing the live heartbeat and seeing the black and white image on the screen at her doctor's side was one thing, but feeling this little flutter, this tiny flurry that felt like small bubbles in her stomach made it all very real that this was definitely happening.
She whispered softly to herself, looking down at her barely visible belly bump and rubbed her fingers along the outside of her clothing. Totally unexpected, just thinking of the baby's father and that's when she felt it...the first real mothering sensation and she was all alone to appreciate it in her own little world.
An hour later and her paperwork lay forgotten on her desk, her ink well was near drying up, and her shirt was now lifted to expose her stomach. Very slowly, the tips of her fingers caressed her own skin as she whispered sweet lullabies her mother used to sing to her when she was very young. Though it was unclear whether or not the baby could hear her voice, it was the very idea that the two were beginning to express a bond that no one else would understand. This was to be her life. The child growing inside of her would thrive with her nourishment and in less than five months from then, she would take home a perfect little precious angel.
"I'm sorry your father is not here to enjoy this with me, peapod," she said affectionately to her small belly. "He is a great man that sadly, is not aware at this moment. Someday, he will come back and he will fall in love with you. I guarantee it."
After another hour, Hermione believed that the little beating one inside of her had already exhausted him or herself and decided to doze off to sleep. As she realized that she could take her own self home, possibly experiencing this all over again while in the comforts of her own home, her own bed and in her own cozy pajamas, the allure had forced her to leave her office.
The Americas were not as kind and forgiving as Hermione had made them out to be. At least, the cheap muggle vodka wasn't.
Sirius pried his eyes to open and look out through the dingy curtains that hung in his Las Vegas motel. He smelled like the night before, his hair was longer and his face still unshaven that he was starting to look like a man that had just left Azkaban. With a painful groan of a thumping headache, Sirius rubbed a hand over his face to wake him up more than what his internal clock permitted him to.
There was a knock at the door and he rolled over practically out of the bed shouting, "No maid service, please!"
With another painful moan, Sirius rolled backwards and rested his head back against the pillows. He scratched his head and again ran a hand over his face to wake up. He felt like death warmed over, only because he had enjoyed himself a little too much the night before, playing poker and chain smoking at the casinos, while partaking in the hotel manager's finest: shitty vodka.
Like invisible forces were hoisting him out of bed, Sirius pulled himself upwards, threw his legs over the side and attempted his grandest to balance on his own two feet. At his second go, Sirius mustered the strength to stand and walked carefully like a zombie to the bathroom to see the damage he had done. Like a monster coming out of the mist, his eyes focused on the hairy man staring back at him from the bathroom mirror. He placed two hands on the counter, shook out his hair and stared deep into the soul of the reminder of what he once was. He was a mess. His throat hurt, his bones ached and as if it was a subtle reminder of what he had done, he felt a stinging pain on his left upper back. Sirius turned around to see the better of the reflection and reached for the square white bandage affixed by surgical tape. Very carefully, he picked at the tape and gently pulled it off of his skin to tear away the gauze bandage.
With eyes that now were awake, he peeled the rest of the bandage off and surveyed the new ink he had displayed proudly on his skin. There was a black heart offset with red writing that said "Hermione" and above it the words "Love Is" translated in Russian. He sniffed back his approval, nodding his head that he rather liked the new artwork that was placed directly behind his actual heart and though he may never show it off, it was good that she was as close to him as she could be.