All characters belong to JKR

Part VII – The End

After making love, Regulus admitted to Hermione that he had never completed the act without taking blood. After this confession she was quiet, contemplating, before she asked, "Do you want to take my blood?"

He propped up on his elbow. "Would you allow that?" He gazed down into her eyes, brown, warm, and so very alive. He knew that she didn't know what she was asking. If he took her blood, he would never allow her to leave. As it was, he wasn't sure he would be able to let her go, but if he took her blood, she would be bound to him forever. He had already had the essence of it, and it was so strong, so sweet, and so incredibly powerful that he was tempted…so very tempted…to keep her here even without taking her blood. If he took her blood, she would be his forever.

"If that's what you want," she said. "I want it, too."

He shook his head no, lay back on the pillow, and pulled her to his chest. For once in his life, he would be selfless, just as she was being selfless in her offer. He answered, "No. I feel peaceful and happy for a change. I still want your blood, make no mistake about that, but I know now that I can have one without the other. It's a good feeling." And it was.

"Are you happy?" she asked. She rubbed her hand in small circles upon his chest.

"I don't know," he admitted, although he thought that he might be. "I'm not sure I've ever been happy, so I'm not certain I would know what it feels like." He lifted her chin with one hand so that she was forced to gaze up at him. "Are you happy?"

"Yes, oh yes," she said. "And I love you, too."

He exhaled a breath. He couldn't believe that a woman such as she would ever love a man such as he. He knew that she wanted him to say that he loved her too, but just as he didn't know what happiness was, he didn't know what 'love' was either. Perhaps in time she would show him both, but it was too soon. He said, "I can't say that in return. Not yet. I'm sorry."

She frowned at his admission and he instantly felt ashamed for saying it, but he owed her the truth. He looked at her once more and said, "I merely want to be truthful with you."

"That's fine, of course," she said, "as I do with you."

"I will say one thing," he offered, "I don't think I can let you go now."

She looked up at the ceiling instead of looking into his eyes as he made his claim. Hermione Granger was a strong woman, a woman with her own mind, her own agenda, and her own wants and desires. She wanted this man so she searched for him. She wanted to heal him, but he may be beyond redemption, or perhaps he was already healed. She didn't know. The only thing in which she was certain was that she couldn't stay here and live with uncertainty for the rest of her life. She wouldn't give up her moral, her values, or her life for any man, even if she loved him.

She wouldn't ask him to give up his life for her either. She propped herself up on her elbow, looked down at him and said, "I'm not sure that's up to you. I don't think I can stay here, not even for you. I don't know what will happen later. Let's not worry about that right now." She leaned forward, kissed him, and soon they were once again making love.

In the aftermath of making love for the second time, Regulus and Hermione's thoughts were tangled and confused. He knew he could never let her go, yet he felt as if he could never have a normal life again. She knew that she loved him, yet she knew that it was too soon to know if that love was real, and it didn't matter anyway as he didn't trust in that love, and perhaps he never would.

They were still strangers. They came from utterly different worlds. They had different agendas, wants, and desires. The last twenty years of his life had been filled with rage and anger. Hers had been filled with hope and anticipation, patience and expectancy.

Perhaps it was a gulf that was too wide to cross.

She knew she couldn't stay here with him, in this strange place, with these strange people, forever. He knew he could never leave. They had no future and somehow they both knew it to be true.

Yet lying in each other's arms, they didn't care.

Hermione fell asleep, but when she woke, she was alone. Somehow, she knew she would be. She sat up, reached out in the darkness, and felt only empty air, so she pushed back the covers and turned up the oil lamp next to the bed. Finding her clothing, as well as her wand and the red tattered journal, she dressed, tucked the journal safely inside her jacket, armed herself, and went to the door.

It was unlocked.

She knew what that meant. He was telling her to go, or more to the point, he was letting her go.

Still oblivious to the time, or even the day, she stepped over the threshold and went out into the hallway. The hallway was lit sparingly, with only modest gas lanterns on the walls. She hurried to the room across the way, the room she knew to be his, and knocked upon the door. When there was no answer, she felt no reluctance about opening the door to see if he was inside. He wasn't.

Moving quickly down the hallway to the grand staircase, she flittered down the stairs, pausing slightly when she reached the landing for the second floor. The hallway there was once again dark and ominous. The only light was at the very end, near the windows, where there were two hurricane oil lamps on the walls. Though every fiber of her being, especially the ones that were tied to her curiosity, told her to find out what was happening behind the closed doors of the second floor, she ran past it and down the rest of the way.

After searching the entire first floor and not finding a single soul, she decided that perhaps she should try to leave. She didn't want to leave him, but she knew in the deep recesses of her heart that she couldn't stay here with him perpetually. She went to the parlor, found a piece of parchment and a quill in the large escritoire in the corner of the room and she wrote him a note. She explained to him that it wasn't a 'goodbye' but an 'I can't stay right now' note.

She hoped that he believed her. She hoped that it was true.

She folded the piece of parchment in thirds, printed his name large on the front of it and put it on the mantle, where he would be sure to find it. Then she sighed and started toward the doorway when she saw someone hurry past her, running really, through the foyer, up the stairs.

She followed.

The person had a dark cloak and they headed straight for the second floor. She paused at the bottom of the stairs. The person paused at the top, then turned and looked at her. It was Sanguini, the person who first lead her here – the person who told her all about vampires, and who led her to believe that Regulus was the creature that he was.

He seemed shocked to see her, appalled even. He started back down the stairs, stopped, and then said, "What in the world are you doing here, Miss Granger?"

"I had to find him," she said cryptically, knowing he would know to whom she spoke.

"How…but, how did you find the place? How did you enter? Do they know you are here?" He looked all around and only then did he run back down the stairs. "You really must leave. I'll escort you out of here."

"No," she begged, backing away from him as he approached. "I've been here, well, I think for days, I'm not really sure. Things are a bit murky."

He regarded her wearily for a moment and then said, "Explain."

She did. She told him of how she had spied on the house for days, and how Regulus apparently had been watching her as well. Hermione explained about the fight with the rogue vampires in the alley, how Regulus and she were injured, how he locked her into the room. She left out some details, but she told him about how he let her back out, only to lock her back in. She told him of the fight between Regulus, Cain and Abel.

He looked shocked at this point.

He took her arm in his hand, ushered her closer to the front door, and said, "They fought? Over you? Over your blood?" Again, he looked over his shoulder. "Where are they now?"

"I really don't know," she said. His grip was tight on her arm, but she didn't sense danger, so she didn't go for her wand. However, she felt slight alarm when he looked down at her and posed his next question.

"Did they only want your blood? Were they fighting for something more?" His grip tightened on her arm and he reached in his robe and pulled out his own wand with his free hand. "Tell me, Miss Granger, did you sleep with one of them?"

"Let go of me," she demanded, pulling out her own wand and brandishing it before him.

He expelled a breath and his head dropped to her shoulder, his body pressed hers against the door and he said, "You stupid, stupid, girl. It's my fault as well. I knew why you asked me those questions. I knew you would seek him out. I knew you had romantic notions. Don't you see? He'll never let you go now. You're his. Tell me he didn't take your blood as well as your body. Please, tell me he didn't take your blood!"

"He didn't!" she promised, her voiced raised a pitch, her wand hand shaking. "Now let me go!"

"We'll leave together," he said, as he moved away from her, only to usher her to the door.

Sanguini went for the handle, but a voice above him said, "No one is leaving this house."

Sanguini and Hermione turned toward the voice on the stairs. It was the blond vampire, Abel. He stood tall and repeated his command. "No one is leaving, Sanguini, not you, and certainly not her. She belongs to Black now."

Sanguini placed Hermione behind him and said, "This isn't necessary. Let her go. She's not part of this. She doesn't belong to anyone."

"You're being naïve, Sanguini, besides, she knows too much," the other vampire said lazily, as he started down the long staircase.

"What does she know?" Sanguini asked. "That Black is a vampire? So what? I know it too, as do others. She'll not tell. She knew it before she came here. And as for her knowing how to get to the coven, that's an easy fix. I'll Oblivate her memory as soon as we leave here. I'll Oblivate everything!"

Abel looked at the other vampire doubtfully and then laughed. "Her mind is too strong for that. You know it, as do I. Moreover, the draw of her blood is too strong. It's powerful, I know. One taste was all it took, and now she can never leave."

Sanguini looked back to Hermione and accused, "You said Black never tasted you!"

"He may have tasted some, when he healed my hand," she began.

Abel laughed and interrupted, "I tasted her! Last evening! Before Black fought me off and I have to say, she is exquisite! Her blood is potent and it made me feel powerful! She will be vital, I know it, in our work here, so Cain and I have decided, and I'm sure Black will agree since he's fallen so doe-eyed for her, but she's not leaving here. She's going to help us with our cause. Come Hermione, come find out what happens on the second floor."

Abel smiled, showing full fang, and extended his hand toward Hermione. She shook in fear and trepidation, but stood her ground, holding her wand tightly in her hand. Sanguini stood beside her, his wand held just as tight, his feet also rooted to the floor. "I'm so sorry," he said to her. "You must reach the door," he added, "and then we'll try to leave together."

He raised his hand to fire a hex toward the vampire on the stairs, but a hex hit him first from a vampire standing in the doorway of a room off the foyer, down the hallway. Sanguini fell in a heap at Hermione's feet.

She turned toward the door and reached for the handle, scrambled to open it, but it wouldn't open. Cain rushed to her from his hiding place down the hall, after having hit Sanguini with the curse. He snaked his arm around her waist even as his brother ran down the stairs and grabbed her wand out of her hand. Stepping over the body of Sanguini, Cain and Abel carried a kicking and screaming Hermione Granger up the stairs to the second floor.

They set her down outside the first room. Cain held her back toward his chest, his arms like iron bands around her body, one hand around her mouth. She still fought and squirmed, but the tall, dark haired vampire was much too strong and much too big for her. Abel stood in front of her, pocketed her wand and said, "Hush now, be quiet, you should feel honoured. You're about to become one of us. You're about to be shown our life's work. You of all people, someone who helped take down the Dark Lord, who helped fight Death Eaters, should find our work worthy."

He stroked a long finger down her face. She stilled at his words. She was curious as to what he referred, yet still repulsed and more than a bit afraid. Noting her acquiescence, Cain eased his hold on her, but kept one hand on her arm, as Abel reached his hand over and took her other arm.

"Shall we show her brother? Shall we show her what we do here at our coven? Shall we show her what takes place sometimes here on the second floor? What feeds Black's wrath? What eases the pain of how our mortal lives were taken from us?" Abel teased.

Cain smiled and said, "Black is in the last room, as we speak. Yes, let's show her. She needs to know. I even think she wants to know. She claims she wants to give us back our humanity, but I think she should see that it's too late for that, and that we don't want our humanity, we only want revenge."

They were slowly easing Hermione toward a room at the end of the hallway. She looked from one vampire to the other, and at the word 'revenge', she looked at Cain and said, "Revenge? Revenge for what?"

Cain pulled her from his brother's grip and pushed her against her wall. "Revenge against the men who made us like we are!"

"Who made vampires?" she asked.

He laughed. Abel laughed as well and pressed his body to her side. His breath was warm on Hermione's cheek, his face hovering close to hers, as was Cain's. It was all too much, too close, too much to bear. She closed her eyes for a moment, only to open them when she heard a scream from inside the room.

When she opened her eyes Abel said, "We want revenge against the Death Eaters, Little Mouse. You were told the story. Death Eaters killed our family. Death Eaters are the reason we were forced to become vampires to survive. Death Eaters were the reason Black was enticed to follow the Dark Lord and his teachings, when he was merely a boy of seventeen. Many Death Eaters and their families got off with very light sentences, and some got off completely free, did you know that?"

Hermione felt sick to her stomach suddenly and the urge to wretch was unavoidable, but she swallowed the bile and said nothing in response. What could she say? What did this man mean by that statement? Another scream from inside the room gave her a small inkling as to what he meant.

Abel laughed again and said, "Sounds as if Black is having a grand time in there tonight. I wonder who's in there with him. Shall we go look?" He opened the door and pulled on Hermione's wrist, pulling her into the room with him. Cain followed, closing the door behind him.

The room was almost devoid of furnishing. There were several chairs, a bed, one small table beside it, and not much else. In one chair by the fireplace sat a man, tied up with chains. Hermione noticed him first. On the bed, on top of the covers, was Regulus, and he was drinking from the arterial pulse of a woman, who was crying, whimpering, in his arms.

When they entered the room, the man started to shout, "Please, help us. They are going to kill us! That vampire is killing my wife."

Regulus seemed oblivious to the intrusion. He continued his feed. He was in the middle of a blood lust, and it sickened Hermione. She turned her head away and stared at the man in the chair. He didn't seem familiar to her, but he recognized her and he said her name and pleaded again for her to help him, which at that point, Abel went over and struck the man. The man and the chair fell on the floor.

Abel said to the man on the floor, "Do you really think that Hermione Granger, war hero, would deem to help a former Death Eater like you? Stay on the floor where you belong and take the punishment that we're giving you!"

"I was never a Death Eater! I swear!" the man promised from the floor. "My brother was, but not me! The Ministry investigated me and deemed that I was innocent!"

"STOP THIS!" Hermione finally shouted. She pulled her arm from Cain's grip and moved to the bed. "STOP!"

Cain moved to her side. "He can't stop, not yet. Let him finish with her," Cain said, almost softly. "He won't kill her. He'll take her to the brink, yes, but he won't kill her. He never does. He'll make sure she doesn't remember as well. The husband is different. We want the husband to remember," Cain repeated, moving over to the man on the floor, who looked up at Cain in fear. "He'll remember, and be afraid, wondering, when will they come again? Whom might they take the next time? Will it be his wife again, or perhaps one of his daughters? Will they stop the next time or will they kill the next time? That's his punishment. He'll live with the same fear that Muggle-borns lived with during the reign of Voldemort, and he won't tell a soul, because we'll compel him not to tell." Cain squatted down, looked into the man's eyes, and said, "Isn't that right? You won't tell a soul."

Tears streaked Hermione's face and she leaned over the bed. "Please, stop, Regulus. I beg you to stop!" Regulus looked up into her eyes finally. He didn't seem to recognize her, even as she called his name, and pleaded with him to stop, stop, "STOP!"

Sanguini ran into the opened doorway of the room, his wand in front of him. Hermione looked across the room at him. She asked, "Did you know about this? Did you know they did this here?"

Abel laughed and answered for the other man. "Knew? Of course, he knew! He participates! Many vampires participate! Vampires hate Death Eaters! He came here tonight for a bite, didn't you, Sanguini, after all, a man has to eat."

Regulus finally removed his fangs from the woman's neck and sagged against the headboard, the woman's body hanging limply over his arm. His mouth was bloody, as was his shirt and the sheets. The woman looked dead; she was devoid of movement and colour. He closed his eyes, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his jacket. It was only in that instant, that moment that he seemed to realize that others were in the room.

When he realized it, he was aghast. He opened his eyes to see horror on the face of Hermione, who stood at the side of the bed. He leaped from the bed quickly, leaving the woman in a heap, and demanded of his fellow vampires, "What is she doing here? Her room was to remain locked!"

"I unlocked the door. I thought she should see our life's work," Abel said proudly.

Sanguini moved through the room and went right to Hermione. "Let's go now!" He tried to remove her from the room, but she bent over the bed and tried to administer healing spells to the woman who had lost most of her blood, although she didn't have her wand. Her efforts were futile.

Sanguini took her arm, but she pushed at him and shouted, "No! Leave me be! I have to help her! Give me your wand!"

"NO! I have to get you out of here. I feel responsible for you. It's my fault that you're here. Don't worry about the woman. She's beyond help!" Sanguini argued.

"Don't say that!" Hermione disagreed. She stared back at Regulus, who had moved to the corner of the room. He seemed to be in a sort of shocked embarrassment that Hermione had seen him feeding.

"She's not dead," Cain countered, coming to the other side of the bed. He knelt on the bed, felt for a pulse, and said, "See, she has a pulse. Black never kills them. He never loses control."

"NEVER LOSES CONTROL!" Hermione barked. She pushed Cain away from the woman and said, "He wasn't even aware anyone was in the room! He didn't stop even as I was shouting and yelling for him to! That's losing control!" She turned toward Abel and said, "Give me my wand, now!"

He seemed to find the whole thing comical and he threw her wand to her. It bounced on the bed. She reached for it, but before she could administer healing spells, Sanguini grabbed her hand and began to pull her from the room, even as Regulus remained in the corner, in silent shock.

"Wait…" Abel began with anger, as he watched Sanguini pull her from the room, but Cain stalled his brother and said, "I'll escort them away." Even as Hermione was shouting for Sanguini and Cain to let her go, they pulled her out into the hallway.

Abel turned toward Black and said, "So that's it? You're going to let her go? Are you just going to stand there and do nothing? Are you a bloody humanitarian now? Have you grown soft? Are you full or morals and righteousness? One quick fuck with a Mudblood and you're no longer filled with hate toward the people who made us what we are?

"You know she'll go to the Ministry. She'll turn us in. We can't let her leave. Also, I've had her blood. It's very powerful. She would make a powerful vampire. She could help us in our work! We could punish them all! We could punish every Death Eater who remains on the face of the earth! Think about it, Black! I know you don't want her to leave! Make her stay, make her…"

Black interrupted Abel's diatribe by holding up his hand and saying, "Enough. Let her leave. Don't try to stop her. You know I'm stronger than you are. I'll kill you if you hurt her. I've had enough. She's had enough."

"You've lost your anger. What good are you now?" Abel complained as he fled out the door, past Cain and Sanguini, who still had his hand around Hermione's wrist.

Hermione stood in the hallway and stared into the room, watching Regulus pace back and forth between the unconscious man on the floor, and the equally unconscious woman on the bed. She didn't know what to say. Even as Sanguini started to pull her away, she held onto the doorjamb.

Finally, he spoke first. Regulus looked up at her with a haunting expression and he said, "I told you that I had lost my humanity."

"Yes, you told me that, and perhaps you have. I don't know. I don't know if I know anything." She looked down at the floor and willed herself not to cry. She looked back up at him and begged, "Tell me one thing. Do you have any feelings, honest feelings, true feelings, at all for me? A man without humanity could not have shown the feelings that you showed toward me, so I ask you, do you have feelings for me at all?"

"I don't feel any good feelings for anyone any longer. I only feel anger, pain, and wrath." He hung his head again and ended with, "I told you that I didn't love you. I wish you had believed me. I'm sorry.""

"No, you didn't tell me that you didn't love me. You only told me that you couldn't say it, but it doesn't matter, because I believe you now," she whispered, "and if you're truly sorry, then at least you feel something. I'm sorry too, but I'm sorry for you, not for me." She removed her wrist from the other vampire's hand and walked back into the room, approached him, and said, "If you had asked me to stay, and never leave you, I would have stayed, and never left. You wouldn't have had to force me to stay, because I would have stayed out of love." She leaned forward, kissed his cheek, and turned to walk out the door.

He wanted to say…wait, don't leave me…wait, stay with me…wait, I do love you. Those WERE the things he wanted to say. The problem was that he didn't know how to say them.

Now she was leaving and he would never get a chance to say another word to her.

He was surprised by her parting words. He thought her last words to him would be full of hate and disgust. He was certain that she must feel revulsion for him. He was stunned that she wasn't angry with him. He was surprised that she didn't hate him.

She walked out into the hallway. Cain and Sanguini were nowhere to be found. It was dimmer than the hallway on the third floor, only being lit with two hurricane oil lamps at the end of the hall. She closed the door from where she had just come and looked up to see Abel standing at the other end of the hall, near the stairs. She gripped her wand, just in case, and pointed it toward the other vampire as she walked closer to him down the hall.

"He's letting you leave?" Abel asked.

"He didn't ask me stay, or tell me I couldn't leave, so yes, I'm leaving. I won't tell anyone about this place, unless you continue to do what you do, then I promise you, I'll tell the Aurors, the Ministry, and anyone who will listen. It's not up to you to play Judge and Jury and punish those who you deem need punished."

He laughed at her. She glared at him.

"You're so innocent, yet self-righteous, Miss Granger."

"No, I lost my innocence a very long time ago, but unlike you, and Regulus and your brother, I didn't lose my humanity along with my innocence. I didn't lose my morals with my humanity. I didn't lose my conscience or sense of right and wrong. I wasn't much older than you were, or Regulus was, when faced with darkness and danger and evil, yet I overcame it, and I didn't let it rule my life."

Regulus stood on the other side of the doorway, hanging on to every word she said, and he knew she was right, yet he had no response for her declaration. Abel, however, had a few things to say.

"Who are you to tell me what is right and what is wrong, Little Mouse?" Abel asked.

"You're only responsible for yourself," she countered, "but I won't let you hurt others. I'll stop you. I will. I expect you to let that man and woman leave here before I leave tonight, and if there are any other people here, waiting to be punished, here on the second floor, I expect you to let them leave as well."

"Oh really?" he laughed.

"Are there any others here?" she asked seriously.

"Open another door and find out," he leered.

"Tell me instead," she leveled. "Tell me or face my wrath."

He pointed his wand at her and laughed. "You really shouldn't make threats that you can't keep."

She pointed her wand at him. "You really shouldn't tempt me to make threats that you don't want me to keep, either."

He leveled a curse at her, which she ducked just in time. She ran back down the hallway just as the door to the room she was in before opened quickly and Regulus started out, wand in hand, but she actually pushed him back in the room. She pointed her wand at Abel, shouted, "Expelliarmus!" but she was too late. He had shouted another curse at her first. His curse rebounded against her curse, and hit the glass hurricane lamps behind her, shattering the glass into pieces, sending the pieces into the air, where the flame sputtered everywhere, catching a small table and drapes of the window near it on fire.

Hermione gave a cry of fright as the globes broke and the fire ignited.

Abel ran up the stairs to the third floor, instead of down, even though he was well aware that one of the few ways a vampire could die was by fire. Hermione turned to the fire, and Regulus stepped from the room at the same time. He pointed his wand at the flames and shouted, "Augamenti!" but the flames were already too high, the wallpaper already ablaze and rolling black and charred, the flames fingers licking the ceiling and even the floor.

Soon the fire and smoke was everywhere. Black and bilious, it filled the air. Regulus reached for Hermione's hand and they ran toward the stairs. Taking no chances, he swooped her into his arms and practically glided down the stairs. At the bottom, they saw Cain and Sanguini.

"What happened?" Cain asked, shocked.

"Fire, the second floor!" Regulus explained. "It's taking off fast. We must get out!"

"Are there others here tonight?" Sanguini asked, though the question was on Hermione's lips.

Regulus looked at Cain for an answer. "Yes, there are," Cain answered, adding, "Where's Abel? Where's my brother?"

"He went up the stairs, instead of down," Hermione answered. "He started the fire. He tried to kill me. We have to get everyone out of here!"

Cain ran up the stairs, and Hermione started to follow. Regulus pulled her back, pushed her into Sanguini's arms and said, "Take her to safety. I'll see that the others get out safely."

Hermione began to protest, but she had no choice – Sanguini was stronger than she was. He pulled her from the house, but they stood within the wards, within the walls surrounding the gardens, and watched as the entire house was consumed and engulfed with flames and smoke.

Sanguini explained that the house was protected by such powerful illusion charms that Muggles wouldn't even be able to see the fire and smoke. He also assured her that no one would be able to save the place and that by morning it would be nothing but a pile of ash.

They watched the burning structure for what felt like an eternity, but no one exited the house. Not Regulus, not Abel, not Cain, and certainly not any of their victims. When the purple and pink haze of dawn approached, she was exhausted by her own frantic thoughts and from fighting against a foe larger and stronger than she was.

She wasn't aware of finally leaving the confines of the house, but Sanguini must have pulled her away from the front garden, past the wards, because just as the sun came over the sky, what was left of the house began to fade from view, due to the powerful magical charm that surrounded it.

The last thing Hermione recalled, before waking up the next morning, was being physically lifted by Sanguini and carried far away from the old grey mansion with the gargoyles. When she woke up she was in her own flat, in her own bed, in her favourite nightgown, and she seriously thought for one moment that perhaps the last few days had all been a massive nightmare or hallucination.

Except it couldn't have been, could it?

She took a long, hot shower and ate a large breakfast. She called her mum on the phone, then Owled Harry to tell him that she was fine and to apologize for not contacting him for the last few days. She sat by her window and watched as the lavender, morning sky turned grey with the threat of rain. Her thoughts felt disjointed and disconnected and she decided she needed to see if any of what happened was real.

She called in sick at work, telling them that was why she had missed the last two days as well. Then she scanned The Daily Prophet to see if there were any reports of missing people. There was none. Did that mean that the people who were on the second floor of the house escaped the fire, and were safely in their own homes this morning, or did it mean that they were not yet missed?

She tried to contact Sanguini first, but to no avail. Then she went to the same alley and tried to spy the large mansion, but she could no longer see it. Perhaps it burnt to the ground and the rubble and debris had already been cleared away? Perhaps the charms and enchantments that had kept it hidden from prying eyes for so many years were merely doing their duty once more, so that was why she could not see it today. Perhaps it was never there, and she imagined the whole thing.

She leaned against the brick building to the left of the alley, pulled out the red, leather-bound journal and looked at it closely. She didn't imagine it. It was real. Suddenly, an odd feeling came over her. She felt as if she was no longer alone. She looked up; saw no one, though she was certain she heard her name in the breeze that blew the dead leaves on the ground.

His presence was in the alley with her, she knew it. She closed her eyes, and then opened them just as quickly, and he was there, paler than usual, stark, and gaunt, with a tortured, searing, soul-searching haunting hunger in his eyes, along with something that was not quite rage, no…not rage…but something else.

"Regulus?" she asked, uncertain if it was really him. "Is that you?"

He nodded, reached for her, but then as if he was afraid of touching her, he recoiled, his hand springing back to his side, and he said, "I've changed my mind. I'm not angry any longer and I don't want you to leave me."

"What?" She was confused. "I don't understand. Tell me what happened. What happened to your home? Did everyone survive?"

"Did you hear me? I'm not angry any longer and I don't want you to leave me, I just decided," he said hoarsely. That was when she realized that the look in his eyes, the look she assumed was rage, was not rage, or wrath at all. It was terror. It was fear. He was afraid of losing her.

He reached out for her, frantically, his hands sliding over her arms, ribs, waist, pulling her closer. "Please, don't leave me. I'll die if you leave me. You can make me complete again. Teach me to be a human again. Teach me humanity. Teach me humility. Teach me morality. Teach me, Hermione."

"I will," she said, her cheek against his. "I won't leave you. I didn't know what happened. I wasn't even sure if anything was real. What happened after the fire?"

His arms still fast around her, he held tight and said, "The fire destroyed my coven, destroyed my home, and destroyed what I thought was my life's work, and my very reason for living, but what it really did was save my life, that's what happened. Cain and Abel are dead. I tried to save them, but in the end, they didn't want to be saved. I was able to save the others that were held on the second floor. I Obliviated their memories, and sent them all home.

"If I had died saving them, it would have been worth it, because it would have been as if I was saving you, because I would have given my immortal life for you. I still will. I love you. Please, don't leave me."

They embraced and kissed and Regulus presented, "I no longer have a home to offer you, but I would still very much like us to be together. I don't know how to be with someone as good as you, Hermione, so you'll have to be very patient with me. It may take some time for me to learn to be a man worthy of you."

Rain began to beat down on them in earnest, but neither cared or noticed. The rain washed away all traces of wrath, anger and pain that remained in Regulus, and as Hermione reached for Regulus' hand, she said, "I'm very patient. Patience is a virtue, Regulus, and it's the antithesis of wrath, don't you know, so don't worry, I have enough patience for both of us. You don't need to provide a home for me. I have a home, and can provide one for you. So, would you like to go home with me, instead?"

He nodded and she took his hand and they went home together, wrath and patience, Regulus and Hermione, together, forever.