Written for a Valentine's Day prompt at Granger Enchanted.
Prompt: Drunk on Valentine's Day, Hermione casts a spell to find a wizard and ends up getting someone she never expected.
"Fight! Fight! Fight for my Master, defender of house-elves! Fight the Dark Lord, in the name of brave Regulus! Fight!" ~ Kreacher, DH
Hermione wondered what Ron was talking about across the table. He seemed to be gearing up to something, with an usually long reflection on their relationship. Or at least, his view of it, which seemed suddenly removed from her own.
"… only you Hermione, for so long. I want to have children with you and come home to you every night…"
Oh gods. He was about to propose. She hoped her face didn't convey the nauseous horror that began to churn in her stomach. Children? Children? But- her career. He knew how important that was. She realised he hadn't actually stopped speaking and tuned back in.
"… I've been given a pay-rise so you won't need to work or anything. We'll buy a nice house in the countryside, I've seen one I like actually, move out of that flat."
"I love that flat, Ron."
If he noticed the icy tone of her voice, he didn't show it.
"Oh but Hermione, when we're married you know you'll want a nice big house for all the kids. Besides, it's in Muggle London."
"Ron, I don't think I can. Not yet. I want a career, for one thing. I'm only twenty-one! I'm not ready to settle down."
"You don't need a career, Hermione! I'll make enough for both of us soon."
She stared at him, flabbergasted.
"Ron, I'm so sorry," she took a deep breath, "but I don't want to marry you."
As soon as it had escaped her lips she heard the statement resonate, the truth of it ringing out clearly in a damning crescendo. I don't want to marry you. Not I don't want to get married yet. Or ever I don't want to get married. Semantics. I don't want to marry you. Him. Ron. Her boyfriend of three years.
Her horror increased exponentially as he got down on one knee and pulled out a ring from his pocket. A small ruby on a gold band. She wrinkled her nose slightly.
"Hermione, we're meant to be together. Marry me, please?" He said, gazing up at her and all she could feel was regret that she'd ever taken this step and ruined a friendship that perhaps ought to have stayed that way.
She took a deep breath.
"Ron get up please. I really can't do this. I don't think I want to marry you - not now, and not tomorrow or the next day," she said quietly, guilt washing over her as his face flushed and his eager eyes fell to the ground.
"Well - someday then? Say you'll be my wife someday. I can wait." He was so eager, had such lack of understanding of her.
"Oh Ron, stand up- please."
He stood slowly, ears burning an angry red.
"Ron, I wish I wanted to marry you. I wish I could be the wife you want and need but I – I – I can't do this. I can't marry you, not ever."
And with that she fled like a coward, tears burning in her eyes at the knowledge of her cruelty. Poor, naive, teaspoon-like Ron. She apparated to Grimmauld Place, praying that Sirius wouldn't be out on a Valentine's date.
"Hello?" she called up the stairs, hating the stain of tears on her shaky voice, "Sirius are you here?"
His leather jacket was missing. Her heart sank; he must have gone to trawl the bars for some pretty blonde happy to spend a night of fun with the (in)famous man. Why today, of all days, when she needed her confidant more than any other time? The one person who would understand why she couldn't marry Ron? Suddenly feeling hollow, she walked slowly up the stairs to the library and sank down in a leather chair near the still-burning fire. The warm glow lit up the room, and she waved her wand at the decanter of firewhiskey on the Mahogany sideboard.
Might as well get pissed, she decided. She had just dumped the man who she'd thought she'd marry since she was twelve years old after all. It seemed like a worthy day to get legless on dark spirits.
God, the papers would have a field day. And Harry… he'd be just as devastated as Ron… she took a huge gulp of firewhiskey, wincing as it burned down her throat.
She was a third of the way into the decanter when she noticed the sparkling… something on the Black tapestry, just catching the firelight. Wondering again why Sirius hadn't covered or removed the hideous cloth, she wandered over.
Her eyes were drawn by the glittering thread that appeared to entwine itself in the name Regulus Arcturus Black. His name, like all those who were dead, was dark green, those living embroidered in silver. Pretty. That had been Kreacher's job, she knew.
She stumbled slightly and held her wand hand out to steady herself, forgetting the glass of firewhiskey held in her other. It splashed onto the tapestry and she started back in surprise, dropping the glass. Oops. She stared at the glass, frowning for a moment. Then an errant thought crossed her mind.
Why would Regulus' name have the colours of the living and the dead entwined? She looked back at his it, wondering what could possibly cause that. Perhaps Kreacher had decorated it to commemorate his late master?
Then she realised that the name was glowing faintly. What on earth…? She leaned forward and tapped the name with her wand, whispering, "Revealis".
A small tear appeared in the stitching and she eagerly pulled at it. Perhaps she would regret this later, but here was a chance to solve the mystery that was- or rather, had been - the enigmatic youngest Black.
Her fingers closed on a tightly folded scrap of parchment. She gently tugged it free and watched in surprise as the tapestry healed the small rift, as though it had never been there. Unfurling the paper, she read in a faintly familiar hand;
The clue is in the name and in the stars.
Not death, not life, but peace.
An enchanted, accursed "prince".
Hermione stared at the scrap of paper.
Regulus Arcturus Black. R.A.B. At least that was one mystery they'd already solved.
The second line tugged most firmly at her attention. Not death… was this a hint that he was alive? But then it definitely said that he wasn't alive either. Peace. Which indicated that the threads of name on the tapestry were less dark that those (very few) living for a reason.
Could he be alive? An animagus, like his brother perhaps? Or- she hated to think it- a Horcrux. Hearing voices on the floor below, she pushed the riddle into her pocket, and tiptoed out to see who it was.
"Hermione? You here?" Harry, and he sounded frantic. Shit.
"Look mate, I'd best talk to her. She is here - look there's her coat."
"Well, okay… but if she needs me will you floo straight away?" Harry sounded reluctant, but tired.
"Course I will. Now go and comfort your prat of a best friend. Try and find out what he did to make Hermione run off like that."
"Alright, I'll see you tomorrow," Harry replied, his tone still holding a layer of concern.
She waited for the door to shut behind Harry before walking down the stairs. Sirius held out his arms and she walked gladly into them, grateful for the warmth and comfort they provided. He held her tightly then stepped back to look at her face.
"You alright pet?" there was no hint of liquor on his breath; perhaps he hadn't been out? She would ask later. "Come on upstairs and we'll talk."
"Okay," she whispered, suddenly exhausted.
He apparated them into the Library, and frowned at the smashed glass.
"Bit of pent up anger?" he smiled at her, but it wasn't that convincing. There was too much worry behind it.
"No, accident. Sorry…"
"It's fine," he waved his wand and the shards flew back together. "Come here." He sat down, pulling her onto the sofa next to him.
Sirius groaned. He'd never really liked Ron much. Perhaps because Molly had never trusted or liked Sirius, nor accepted his rightful place as Harry's guardian. Although he loved the twins, and Charlie. Perhaps he saw something in Ron that he couldn't respect. She'd never asked and he'd never gone into detail.
"He wants me to give up my career and have lots of little Weasleys," she said twisting to bury her face in his shoulder. "How could he ask me that? How could he?"
Sirius pulled her tightly to him, murmuring in her ear.
"I can't marry him Sirius, not now and not ever. I- I've always believed we were meant to be, that I loved him and - and - I realised tonight that I don't. He was my best friend. What have I done? I just left."
She was sobbing now, whiskey prompted tears soaking his shoulder.
"Come on pet. I'll put you to bed here and we'll talk about it more in the morning, yeah?"
She nodded and let him carry her up the stairs to the room next door to his. He tucked her in, and left her to her thoughts. Her dreams were filled with lions and stars and sleeping princes and the face of a beautiful boy she'd only ever seen smirking arrogantly out of photographs.
When Hermione awoke, it took her a moment to place where she was. Her mouth was dry and her head was aching with a dull, heavy throb. The room was dim, heavy velvet curtains obscuring any light from the window and had she not stayed in this room many times before she would have been at a loss.
Gratefully, she remembered Sirius gently laying her down in the large bed. In some ways he was her brother, her best friend. They fought like siblings over almost anything, from house elves to Muggle rock, but it was Sirius to whom she ran when she was upset and to Sirius she could confess anything. Even more than Harry who she'd always felt the urge to protect, not to confide it.
Like not wanting to marry Ron… like not being in love with Ron.
Hermione bit her lip, feeling the guilt wash over her again, and the deep, sick feeling that pooled in her stomach when she thought of the reaction to the news. Mrs Weasley would finally feel justified in not loving her as she loved Harry… and the press. Gods.
And Harry… she couldn't bear it if Harry hated her for this. It seemed unlikely, but the fear ate at her regardless. The boys had always been closer to each other than to her; three years with Ron hadn't changed that. She sat up slowly, rubbing her temples and sighed when she realised she was still in her robes from the night before. She needed a shower and something to eat.
And then… and then she'd have a go at solving the mystery that was Regulus Black, although in the light of day it seemed far more likely that Kreacher would have braided his name in silver to be sentimental, not because Regulus was alive. The note could be referring to a myriad of things. There would be a logical explanation - there always was. At least the mystery was something to take her mind off the lack of Ron.
She pulled the note out of the small pocket in her deep blue robes and read it again.
Who was Regulus Black, really? He was as handsome and confident as Sirius from the photographs she'd seen, and he had that same careless grace that came so easily to the Blacks. Not that there was any chance he could be ugly; with Narcissa, Bellatrix and Andromeda who had all been unbelievably beautiful as his cousins, to his brother who had been an exquisite mixture of grace and charm before Azkaban had ravaged his looks. Sirius was still handsome, but far more worn than he should be... and his eyes were haunted sometimes with memories she knew he would never share.
But Regulus - she'd long been intrigued by the younger Black brother. By all accounts he was tremendously clever; brighter even than Sirius. He'd appreciated house-elves as well, which had always seemed incongruous for an arrogant Pureblood teenage boy, and therefore interesting. Perhaps life in the Black household, particularly after Sirius had left, had been so lonely and difficult that Kreacher- and the Dark Arts- were all he'd had to turn to.
She'd probably never know, not really.
The clue is in the name and in the stars.
Not death, not life, but peace.
An enchanted, accursed prince.
Prince… it was too much like the Half-Blood Prince or comfort. But then… hadn't Snape and Regulus been friends? She supposed they might have been and tried to recall whether she'd ever heard anything to consolidate that statement.
In the name and in the stars. That wouldn't be divination, surely? No, much more probable was that it was to do with his name. Regulus, she knew, was in the constellation Leo but she couldn't remember much more about it other than that.
Breakfast first, and then research, she decided.
Sirius joined her for breakfast and she spent a cathartic half an hour crying again. When The Saturday Scorpion, Sirius' tabloid of choice arrived she groaned at the headline.
HEARTLESS HERMIONE STRIKES AGAIN?
Scandal follows notoriously ambitious witch through yet ANOTHER break-up
Hermione Granger, Harry Potter's ex-girlfriend, left a distraught Ron Weasley in The Golden Goblin last night. Eyewitnesses say the War Hero begged the infamously callous witch, who boasts breaking the hearts of Harry Potter and Viktor Krum at a young age, and it's rumoured that she's even had her claws in the dashing Puddlemere Unitede Captain Oliver Wood.
The ambitious witch has frequently been seen on the arms of the most powerful wizards in the country, including Minister Shacklebolt (although rumours of an affair between the two have always been denied) and the notorious womaniser Sirius Black, whose home she stayed in last night.
Until yesterday, however, it had seemed the ruthless Muggleborn had finally settled down. The Scorpion has avidly followed the relationship betweeb the two members of the "Golden Trio" - presumably Golden Duo after Miss Granger's betrayal last night - since they officially confirmed their relationship in July 1998.
Now 21, it seems Miss Granger wishes to put her career ahead of her love-life, and reportedly said to the heartbroken Mr Weasley, "I couldn't marry you Ron, not now and not ever," after he proposed with a beautiful ruby ring (estimated cost G1500, see pg 6 for details).
"She was very rude to him," one fellow diner, a Mrs Talltale from Sussex, comments, "I felt sorry for the poor boy. He'd got his proposal all worked out and a lovely ring and she threw it back in his face. I've always thought she had a hard streak in her."
Mr Weasley has reportedly been in love with Miss Granger since early in their Hogwarts days and spent years trying to catch her attention. We ask, is this how such loyalty and devotion is to be rewarded?
And who will The Man Who Conquered choose in this dramatic break-up? His wronged, loyal best friend or the scandalous woman many still believe him to be in love with? Has Hermione Granger transferred her affections to rake Sirius Black? We'll be watching closely.
"Apparently you're a notorious womaniser and a rake and we're shagging," she commented lightly. "Oh and I've been sleeping with Kingsley, you, and Oliver Wood recently and Harry's in love with me."
"Not handsome or dashing?" he asked, snatching the paper and scanning it. "Oh Hermione, this is vicious. I'm sorry, especially as now they think we're having an affair."
"It's fine. I was expecting it anyway, the tabloids have always had it in for me. I'm sure I'll get some hate mail soon enough. Do you mind terribly if I go and hide in the Library for a while?"
"No, you go ahead… I'll bring you up some coffee later alright? You can stay here as long as you like."
"Is that alright? I'll go home soon - although Ron can have the bloody flat if he likes. I just need to hide for a few days."
"Hey, move in here if you like. The papers would love it but at least you won't be alone." His tone was warm and gentle and she leaned forward to hug him.
"Thanks Sirius, I'll consider it."
"You're the only witch in Britain I'd let live with me you know," he said half-seriously. "Pretty much the only attractive one I haven't shagged either. I've always felt you didn't belong to me, somehow."
She laughed and shook her head.
"Don't go all sappy on me, Sirius."
"I'm not but… there's some seriously decent bloke out there for you, I promise. Now, I'm going to go and have a little chat with Harry. Do you want to see him?"
She felt the guilty look cross her face; all she wanted to do was go and study the mystery Regulus had left.
"I'll tell him to give you a couple of days then, eh?"
"That would be amazing, thanks. And - will you check Ron's okay?"
He nodded, kissed her forehead and summoned his jacket.
"See you later pet, don't wallow- he's not worth it."
She nodded vaguely, her mind already on the ambiguous note.
Heart of the lion (Latin: Cor Leonis, Arabic: Qalb Al Asad).
Also derived from the Latin 'rex' and meaning prince or little king. Found in the heart of the constellation Leo, it is the brightest star in the group. Persian astrologers around 3000 BC knew Regulus as Venant, one of the four 'royal stars'.
Well that explained the 'prince' part, she supposed, and she had a feeling it explained the first line as well.
"Oh Regulus, what were you trying to show me?" she whispered, frustrated after an hour of research had rendered little help.
Heart of the lion… could that be a reference to Sirius? Perhaps she should go up to the top floor and look in the boys' rooms - left untouched for reasons Sirius had never explained. As the books were, unsurprisingly, offering her little in this instance, she decided that would be the best course of action.
She went to Regulus' room first, and flinched at the newspaper cuttings of Voldemort still stuck to the walls, the proud green and silver display. It was the pictures that drew her attention; Regulus with various attractive and clearly wealthy future politicians and Death Eaters, Regulus standing outside Malfoy Manor in the sunlight arm in arm with Narcissa, Regulus flying in his silver and green SEEKER shirt… Regulus with various pretty girls. None of it was particularly helpful.
Where would an intelligent, devious wizard hide his secrets? She looked around the room and then cast a spell to show any lingering magic. The bedpost glowed slightly and she walked over to it thoughtfully. A secret compartment, perhaps?
Running her wand and hand over the polished wood, she almost missed the tiny knothole in the centre of the post. Tapping it lightly she whispered, "Alohamora," and golden lines glowed down the bedpost, revealing a small door. She pulled it open and smiled in satisfaction at the pile of photographs and letters.
The photographs were all of Sirius, she realised quickly. A young Regulus gazing adoringly up at his older brother, proudly wearing new Hogwarts robes. The two, a couple of years older, standing side by side in their robes, stiff and formal- a photograph for their mother perhaps? Sirius and Regulus laughing, hair spelled bright green, playing in the snow, then older pictures, a scowling Regulus and guarded Sirius in what was obviously a family portrait, Sirius laughing with his Gryffindor friends.
Hogwarts is great so far- had a few weird comments from the Slytherins because of being in Gryffindor but nothing too bad. Don't listen to Mother, it's great here. Much better than being in Slytherin and the people are nicer too. You'll really like James, my new friend- he's funny.
Wish you were here already,
Serious, Gryffindor is the BEST. I got another howler from Mother yesterday about betraying The Ancient and Most Noble House of Black but I've met some Muggleborns and they're actually really nice. I think she's wrong. I'm glad you want to be a Lion too! We'll have so much fun,
I'm in my first detention- my head of house caught James and I stealing brooms to go and fly at night. First Years aren't allowed brooms, it's rubbish.
Happy Birthday- hope you like the present. I nicked it from Filch's office… thought you'd find it funny. I've sent a proper one to show Mother as well but that's boring. Did you get your Hogwarts letter?
That's wicked mate. James has fallen in love with a pretty Muggleborn called Lily. He keeps following her around, I don't think she likes him very much. Girls are rubbish anyway,
Hermione snorted at the eleven year old Sirius' view of girls. She estimated a year till he'd become an accomplished charmer.
I hate Bellatrix. I know she's our cousin but she's awful to people here. I found her bullying a Hufflepuff in my year - she was using dark magic and everything. I can't believe it.
Can't wait to see you! I'll be home on Saturday but I'm dreading it… Mother will probably feed me to Kreacher.
There were hundreds from Sirius' first year at Hogwarts, showing the brothers' excitement about being in the same house, the mischief they would cause. Through Sirius' letters she gained an insight into Regulus' adoration of his older brother and wondered what could have caused the drastic change. However, if Regulus' love for his brother had never worn away then it was likely the solution to the frustrating little riddle lay in Sirius' room. She'd come back and search through Regulus' things later.
It seemed so obvious the minute she walked into Sirius' room. The huge Gryffindor lion hanging proudly on the wall called out to her, taunting her with how easy it was.
She walked to the lion and, standing on a chair, pulled it up to where the heart would be and studied the wall intently. There was a faint discolouration and she knew she'd found another of Regulus' secret doors. It opened easily and she pulled out the small wooden box inside. Hermione shut the door and let the banner fall back into place, staring at the box. Would it be another, infuriating clue? Or something more substantial?
She hopped down from the chair and replaced it, looking around to make sure everything was in place. Then, cradling the little box as though it were made of the most delicate glass, she returned to the Library.
He had gone to such lengths to hide this little box. Her mind swirled with questions, about the silver thread on the tapestry, why it had only now appeared, what she could possibly have done to make the note reveal itself… what went on in the mind of this ever-more enigmatic man? Before opening the box, always cautious, she cast some spells to ensure that there was no malicious purpose to whatever was contained within.
Then, hardly daring to breathe, she opened the box.