"The First Chapter"

"Good morning, Mr. Courtenay!" Hermione said, greeting her publisher. He smiled up at her as she entered his office.

"Hermione," he said warmly. "How good to see you again. Have you been well?"

"As well as I can be at this time of year," she replied, shrugging half-heartedly. "But I feel all the better for seeing you." She blushed at her words, and Jack Courtney chuckled.

"The art department has designed the cover for the next book in the series," he said, getting straight down to business as he pushed a folder across the desk to her. She opened it, and the title, the same size font as her name by now, was in a light gold colour, standing out.

"Music and Magic," she read, smiling down at it. "It's perfect."

"Yes, it is," Mr. Courtenay said, watching Hermione closely, by no means referring to her book. But she wasn't paying attention. Instead, she was examining the cover design for the latest in her popular children's novel series, the famous fantasies starring a magical bird who could turn into a human, Stravinsky the Firebird.

"Thank you," she said, finally speaking. She raised her gaze to his, and gave him the special smile she reserved only for him. After all, she was in love with the man. Hopelessly, desperately, head-over-heels in love.

Damn. Why couldn't she have fallen for Ron, or Neville? Things would have been so much easier than being in love with her publisher, the man responsible for her career.

"So why is it such a terrible time of year?" he asked, leaning forward. Hermione felt tears forming as she closed the folder, and gave it back. "Hermione? What's wrong?"

"My friend's godfather… he died five years ago… today, in fact. It's a… difficult time for all of us, remembering him."

"Oh, I'm so sorry. Were you close?"

"It's hard to say, really," she said. "But he was still going to Harry's rescue… Oh, it's too difficult to tell you without giving you all the circumstances, which I really can't do. Much as I'd love… I mean, like to."

"I understand," Mr. Courtenay replied. "What was his name?"

"Sirius Black," she told him.

"Sounds familiar," he said, frowning. "But I can't remember why. Sirius Black, Sir…"

His face went blank, and Hermione began to panic.

"Mr. Courtenay? Mr. Courtenay? Are you all right?"

"Sirius," he whispered, still staring into space. Hermione stood, and hurried around the desk. She placed a hand on his shoulder, and he jumped out of his reverie. As he looked up into her concerned eyes, he underwent a change. His salt-and-pepper hair darkened, grew longer, and became slightly wavy. His brown eyes turned a tarnished silver, and the few lines on his face disappeared. He even seemed to grow taller, his clothes magically adjusting to fit. Hermione gasped, and back up a bit. It couldn't be Sirius, though he did look an awful lot like him.

"Who… who are you?" she asked.

His mouth opened and closed as he searched for an answer. Finally…

"I'm… Regulus Black."

When Hermione regained consciousness, it was to the gentle stroke of someone's hand on her hair, and a soft voice begging her to awaken. She blinked several times to let her eyes adjust to the light, before sitting up slowly.

"Hermione, are you all right?"

"I'm… okay. Uh… are you quite certain that you're…"

"The younger Black brother, yes," he replied, still stroking her hair. He recalled himself, and pulled his hand back. "The Dark Lord… he did something to me. When he discovered my betrayal, he decided not to kill me, but rather condemn me to a kind of amnesia, even giving me a new identity. I'm remembering it all now." He looked wistful, and then returned his attention to Hermione. "Sirius is dead?"

"He died bravely, like the Gryffindor he always was," she said, nodding. "I'm so sorry. But… but you're alive. That's a good thing. Really," she insisted when he looked unsure. "If it wasn't for you, I don't know where we'd have been."

"At least the Dark Lord is no more."

"How do you know?"

"It was one of the 'conditions' of my memory returning," he said, smiling. "There were four conditions, and that was the first one. Clearly, he thought himself invincible."

"And with the horcruxes, he was able to come back to life," she added. He looked confused.

"I think there's a lot I need to catch up on," he said. "It's been twenty-three years, after all."

"Indeed," she said quietly, looking at her hands. She drew her wand. "But first, we can't let you out of here looking like… well, like you do." He laughed.

"How very true. Mustn't alarm the Muggles."

Hermione and Regulus Apparated to Grimmauld Place. He remembered his wand being broken, and she promised to take him to Mr. Ollivander once he was rehabilitated. No one was at Grimmauld Place, because Hermione had bought it from Harry after the war, and she lived alone, except for Crookshanks. And he was probably out hunting.

The only blight on living here was Mrs. Black's portrait, which was why Hermione usually flooed, as it was quieter, and didn't involve going through the door. Sometimes she even forgot about her 'housemate'.

However, she got the usual welcome when they entered the house, having removed Regulus' Glamours before they entered.

"Mudblood! Scum!" The curtains burst open, and Hermione rolled her eyes. "Dirt! You should never have been allowed in… Reggie?" Mrs. Black looked in awe at her seething son, disbelieving. "You're alive?"

"Yes, Mother," he said, and Hermione noticed that his fists were clenched.

"Oh, how wonderful, my son! Now you can take back possession from this Mudblood, this scum of the earth." She wiped her painted eyes. Regulus growled, and she looked at him in surprise. "Reggie? What's the matter, dearest?"

"How dare you refer to Hermione like that," he whispered. "If you were alive, you wouldn't be worthy of breathing the same air as her."

"Reggie, what are you talking ab…"

"Hermione, could you please leave us alone for a few minutes?" Regulus asked, teeth clenched.

"Uh… of course," she said, and she hurried into the living room, wondering who to tell first. Harry would have to know; but should he be informed yet? Professor Slughorn would need to be told, having known and liked Regulus. Yes. Perhaps she should tell him first. He would know what to do.

While she waited for Regulus to finish with his mother—and she hated to think about what he was saying to her, considering how chivalrous he had been—she flooed Professor Slughorn, who was happily retired once again. She didn't tell him why; just that she needed to speak with him, urgently, and that he should be prepared for a shock.

Suddenly, there was an explosion from the hallway, and she ran out there in a panic.

"Regulus!" she cried. She was relieved to see that he was all right, and was instead looking at the floor smugly. Mrs. Black's portrait was in tatters, and she was running from scrap of painting to scrap of painting, shrieking, and shouting at her son.

"'These boots are made for walking; that's just what they do'," he sang softly, and he glanced at Hermione. He held at her hand. "'One-a these days these boots are gonna walk all over you'." He stamped a foot on his mother where she was in one of the pieces of portrait. "Would you join me for this dance, my dear Hermione?"

Her heart leapt at his words, and she reddened as she accepted his hand. They both laughed as they waltzed over the former painting, completely ignoring Mrs. Black's shouts as they tried their best to finish the song. However, not knowing all the words, they soon trailed off, and instead slowed their dancing down until they were swaying in each other's arms. They were interrupted by the sound of the floo activating. Hermione whispered to Regulus to stay there.

"Professor Slughorn," she said as she walked back into the living room.

"Hermione, my girl!" he exclaimed, taking her right hand in both of his. "So good to hear from you again."

"You should sit down first, Professor," she recommended, and he obediently seated himself in an armchair by the fireplace. "Could you come in now, please?" she called out, and Regulus, having cleaned up the painting, walked into the room.

Professor Slughorn lost all the colour from his face as his mouth dropped open. Regulus smiled at him, and walked forward.

"Hello, sir," he said quietly.

"R-regulus… my dear lad… you're alive?"

"Yes, sir. It's great to see you again, to see a familiar face." Horace stood up, and the men shook hands, before Regulus was pulled into a fast, but fierce, embrace. Once he was let go, he grinned at his former teacher. "Have I missed much?"

Going with unoriginal chapter titles for this one. It was only supposed to be a one-shot; and then I thought a two-shot more reasonable, but the place where I wanted to cut it was about three-quarters of the way through. So now it's a three-shot. Is there such a thing? Who cares! Three is my favourite, and lucky, number.


Because when three people sit in a circle and hold hands, everyone is holding each other's hand.

Sappy, I know. I was about six at the time. *Shakes head*

Review, please!