Author's Note: Welcome to a story I've been hatching for more than a year! I have a few notes that you should take into consideration before reading, so please don't ignore them. First, this story is not a crossover; however, I will be making use of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde as it was a brilliant inspiration for this tale. Second, you do not have to be familiar with Wilde's story to enjoy this one; in fact, I have neatly summarized the tale in this very first chapter for your viewing pleasure. I would advise you to read the story at some point as it is fascinating, but for the purposes of this story, it's not necessary. Third, this story will be a slow paced one, and I may have troubles updating regularly, so be forewarned that I will post at my own pace but will try to update as often as I can.
Disclaimer: Nothing owned, nothing earned. Entertainment purposes only. Thanks!
I hope you enjoy this first chapter!
The Portrait of Sirius Black
-A "Harry Potter" Fanfic-
"The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim."
-Oscar Wilde, Preface from 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'
Hunched in a black-backed recliner in the Black family library sat one Hermione Granger, bushy hair falling wildly around her face, her hands gently parting the pages of a book. By the looks of it, it was an older book with worn pages, and Hermione treated it reverently as she read, eyes scanning the words hungrily but blankly. A few pages later she closed the book, having finished it and set it to the side on a table laden with two piles of books.
This particular book she placed on the larger pile and then reached to the smaller one for the topmost book. Taking a moment, she sighed and pulled out a hair tie which she used to pull her long hair back into a messy ponytail before picking up the book to glance at it again. Her eyes scanned over the title listlessly, and she sighed once more before laying the book on the arm of the chair and standing, stretching her back as she did so. Her back gave an enormous pop, causing her to jump slightly, and then she placed her hands slightly behind her on her lower back and pushed back again, just to make sure she had stretched properly.
A moment later she walked aimlessly out of the library, closing the door behind her. It was habit, really; no one else bothered to enter the room, especially now that Kreacher had been cowed into submission by Dumbledore and was back to maintaining the noble house of Black once more. None of the rooms required the serious clean-up that she, the Weasley's, Harry, and Sirius had engaged in last summer. Her heart gave a pang as she remembered the laughter as they sprayed the curtains to rid them of the doxies and the amusement she'd gotten when Molly realized George and Fred had been sneaking doxies into their pockets for use in their trick boxes.
Walking past the sitting room, she noticed Harry, Ron, and Ginny sitting inside. Harry had only arrived at the Black house the week before, but with his coming, things had turned suddenly bleaker. It was depressing to be in the house with him, and Hermione was nearly broken to realize how much pain her best friend was going through. It made her heart ache to see the raw pain in his eyes when he looked around the house, and she knew it must be difficult for him to be in the house he had hoped to share with Sirius.
She, herself, was never as enamored of Sirius as Harry had been, and she knew it was her fault at times that Sirius was cool with the three of them. It was only logical, she knew, that he would be resentful of her practicality and cautious nature, considering he had always prized risk-taking and impetuous actions. But she regretted some of the harshness she'd always felt towards him, and she especially regretted anything she might have said to make him act coolly toward Harry. For herself, she didn't mind, but with Harry, she was so worried that he might break from all the pressure he was under.
Now that he was here, she had not seen him so much as crack a smile. His heart seemed buried, and all he showed was a blankness that was starting to scare her, but for the life of her, Hermione didn't know what to do to help him. So she took her grief, both for Harry and Sirius, with her and disappeared into the library, searching for her books.
Books had always been Hermione's sanctuary. When she was younger and the children in school made fun of her bushy hair and big teeth, she hid behind books and learned of places she'd never seen before and histories she wished she could be a part of. When she grew older and went to Hogwarts, it was often her books, her textbooks even, that she hid behind once more in her first years when people taunted her for her looks and know-it-all nature, and more than once she had used her books as a means of ignoring the pain from one of Malfoy's "Mudblood" comments.
With Harry here, she had found herself trying, for the first few days, to engage him in conversation and to draw him out so they could help him. Instead of erupting in a rage as she had thought he would, though, Harry only turned more sullen and remained silent, not making any comments and only responding when absolutely necessary. Hermione was at a loss as to how to get him to open up about the pain she knew he must be feeling, and when Ron and Ginny verbally chastised her for one particular moment of questioning Harry, she nearly broke down. The tension was wearing on her, and that was the last straw. So she did what she would in any circumstance. She retreated to the library and drew up a pile of books to read.
Now, however, she was hungry and quite thirsty, so she glanced into the sitting room as she passed on her way to the kitchen. Ron and Ginny appeared to be engaged in an intense game of wizard's chess, and Harry was staring listlessly out the window. Hermione paused in her walking and looked carefully at him. She saw the signs of strain on him that he had, so far, successfully ignored. His eyes were perpetually narrowed, and there were small wrinkles beginning to form along his forehead; she knew this from her hours talking with him earlier in the week, trying to draw him out. As she glanced at him, she saw him sigh heavily, and his eyes grew somehow darker and emptier, as when a person has lost all hope. Her heart sank in her chest, and she noted his pursed lips as he continued to ignore the siblings in front of him.
Turning from the depressing scene, Hermione made her way into the Black kitchen, where she found, to her disappointment, Molly Weasley and Remus Lupin engaged in conversation. All talking stopped when she entered, as she knew it would. The two stared at her as she entered.
"How is the reading going, Hermione?" Remus asked kindly, eyeing her wearily as he sipped on his cup of tea.
She spared a small glance for him and noted the shuttered pain in his eyes and the world-weary look he sported almost all the time now. "I just finished reading Emma," she responded quietly, going to the cupboard. "I've read more than half of the books I picked out. Though I do wonder where Sirius found all these Muggle classics. It seems like the kind of thing Kreacher would have disposed of immediately."
Molly chuckled at that and grinned when Hermione turned to her curiously. "Kreacher would have if Sirius had allowed him into the library. He forbade him from entering and told him if he caught him there he'd give him clothes," she explained. Hermione raised an eyebrow at that, and Molly caught the unspoken question. "Oh, the books weren't for him; you know Sirius wasn't much of a reader. But he wanted some of you all to stay with him. He was lonely all cooped up here in the house with nothing to do."
Her voice broke off as she realized what she'd said. Turning a bit red, she bustled over to the teapot, turning on the burners of the stove and pulling out a tin of tea to put in when the pot warmed.
Hermione wondered at something Molly had said, though. "Who did he want to stay here? I mean, I know he wanted Harry to live with him, but who else did he want to have come here?"
It was Remus who answered this query. "Well, he got some of the books for me, since he knew how much I love to read," he said, chuckling a bit at some memory that obviously reminded him of Sirius's opinion of reading. Getting a nostalgic look on his face, Remus said, "He also knew that I wasn't likely to get another job anytime soon, not with the Ministry's decrees and whatnot. Sirius wanted me to move in or at least come visit as often as the Order allowed since I don't have much else to do." He paused, and Hermione nodded, understanding what he meant. She'd known, of course, that Sirius was lonely in the Black house with no one but Kreacher and Buckbeak around to entertain himself with.
"But who else did he get the books for? You said he only got some of them for you," she reminded Remus, breaking him out of his reminiscence.
"That's right," he responded, avoiding looking anywhere but his teacup. "He got the rest of them for you. He knew that you and Ron were Harry's best friends, and he wanted to have both of you over to visit during the summers and such. Sirius told me that he knew you'd be bored if you didn't have anything to read when you came, so he ordered several Muggle classics and other books for you to enjoy in addition to some of the other books in his library." His voice grew wry with humor as he added, "Of course, he couldn't let you read all of them; there are some pretty Dark texts in there, after all. This is the Black family library, you know." He grinned at the surprised expression on her face. "You really shouldn't be so surprised, Hermione. Sirius could be quite thoughtful when he wanted to be."
By this time, Molly had finished brewing the tea, and she set a cup in front of Hermione on the table, and a few minutes later she placed a small plate of snacks in front of the girl, who took the plate and cup and exited the kitchen without a word. Walking back to the library, Hermione's head was in a fog; she'd never considered Sirius a thoughtful person or even someone who did much thinking before acting. But this showed that he not only cared about Harry's well-being but he also seemed to care about her, Harry's friend. It was a shock to Hermione that she'd never noticed this part of Sirius before, and she was quite confused to realize that it hurt her to only realize something like this after he was dead.
Placing the plate on top of the cup, she carefully opened the door to the library and entered it, closing it behind her, before going to her chair. She placed the cup and plate on the table with the books and sat gingerly in the chair, curling her feet underneath her and ignoring Crookshanks, who had slipped into the room earlier, when he tried to jump up onto her lap. She pulled the plate in her lap instead and took a sip of tea before pulling the book she'd picked up earlier into her hand.
She read the title once more. It was another Muggle classic called The Picture of Dorian Gray and appeared to be rather short, like Emma had been. She should be done with it in a few hours, she realized. Pulling the pages apart, she landed on the book's Preface, which immediately caught her attention. The author, Oscar Wilde, was obviously trying to make a point with this book, and Hermione was determined to figure it out.
Taking a bite of her sandwich, she turned the page to the first chapter and began to read the story of Dorian Gray.
Hours later, Hermione was still immersed in the story of the man who had sold his soul for the chance to live forever. She found the story fascinating but especially liked the dynamics between Dorian, Lord Henry "Harry" Wotton, and Basil Hallward. She had read, essentially, that Dorian Gray was the subject of a painting Basil Hallward was doing, and when he found out how beautiful and naive the boy, who was very young at the time the painting was done, was, Lord Henry decided to befriend him. Within only a chapter, Lord Henry had begun his almost innocent indoctrination of the boy to his rather odd hedonistic viewpoint, and by the time Basil finished the painting, Dorian had become strangely enamored of Lord Henry.
As the three gazed on the freshly finished portrait, both Basil and Henry were struck by the beauty expressed in the painting, but Dorian was unusually repulsed after having spoken with Henry about the brevity of youth. Looking at the painting, he finally realized how incredibly handsome he was at that point in time and that his beauty would only fade from this point on. In fact, Dorian was so horrified by this revelation that he swore he would give anything if only the portrait could age and he retain his youth.
Thus, Hermione found, the odd bargain that seemingly sucked the soul from Dorian Gray was struck, and the boy aged no more. Through page after page of vice and debauchery, she read as Dorian turned into a man, coached into adulthood by the haunting tones of Lord Henry and chastised by the reproach of Basil. She read of his love for the actress Sibyl Vane and of his subsequent rejection of her when she failed to act to his standards. Then she read of Sibyl's suicide and Dorian's discovery that the painting was, in fact, changing with not only his aging but also his actions.
The next chapters gave Dorian more reason to hate the painting as it changed with his continued debauchery and sinfulness, and Hermione was enraptured by the concept of the painting changing to reflect his character and age. It was like something out of a wizarding fairy tale, and she was fascinated that a Muggle had come up with this tale. Unlike other Muggle fantasies, which were much too far-fetched (even the ones about Vampires) to be believable, this one seemed almost too lifelike for her comfort. For she had seen charmed portraits, in this very house, even, that retained the personalities of their subjects for decades after their deaths. Hermione was enchanted and appalled that such a story could exist, and she simply could not put the book down.
She had just turned the page to the next chapter, where Dorian led Basil up the stairs to the room he had hidden the grotesque painting in, when the door opened. She didn't hear it, however, so engrossed was she in her book.
"Hermione?" The softly spoken question caused her to jump suddenly, and she looked up into Harry's blank eyes.
"What is it, Harry?" She asked softly as well, and she waved him into the room.
The black-haired boy shuffled into the room and closed the door behind him, coming to sit in the similar chair on the other side of the table. He looked at the piles of books and then looked at his bushy-haired friend. Pushing his glasses up higher on his nose, Harry relaxed into the chair.
They didn't say anything for a few minutes, and Hermione took the time to survey her best friend once more. His eyes had closed, and she saw the wrinkles etched into his forehead from his grief, but she also knew that he was still in pain. He hadn't really gotten a chance to get his grief out and to really mourn Sirius, and it was killing him to be in this house now without having done such a vital thing. Hermione decided she would not push him to talk; he had sought her out, and she would give him his time. Putting a bookmark in her book, she took a sip of her now-cold tea and grimaced a bit. Before she could do so much as put her book down, however, Harry spoke.
"I miss him, Hermione," the green-eyed boy said, eyes still closed. "And it's so hard to be here. Where he should be. With Kreacher and Buckbeak and everyone in the Order. He should be here. And I shouldn't."
Hermione gasped at this comment. Was Harry beating himself up for Sirius's death? Did he really believe he should have died instead? "Oh Harry," she sighed, not sure what else to say. But she didn't have to say anything because he continued.
"He should be here, and I shouldn't. Because it's my fault he died. I should have given them the stupid prophecy, and he wouldn't have ever had to face any of the Death Eaters," his voice was breaking now, and his shoulders were hunched, as he spoke. Hermione could see that Harry was very close to breaking down, and she could only watch in suppressed horror as he continued his diatribe. "If I wasn't so stupid, if only I'd listened to you, if only we'd gotten out of there when we realized he wasn't there... I just... I don't... I want him back, Hermione. And the thing is, I know he'll never be back. And I'm stuck here, in this house, and have to be reminded of him all the time."
And there it was, the moment she'd been waiting for since Harry had arrived. Hermione knew he would never grieve for his godfather with the Dursley's; they would never let him forget it if they caught him crying for any reason. And the end of the school year was not the proper time for him to grieve either. So she had been waiting for this since he arrived on the front steps of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. She slipped from her chair as he pulled up his knees and placed his head on his knees.
Harry began to cry, softly at first, but slowly growing louder as he really began to let out the grief he'd had building since he saw Sirius fall through the Veil. Hermione moved over next to her heart-broken friend and sat on the arm of his chair, looping her arm around him and pulling him into her embrace. His sobs grew louder still and were punctuated by the occasional murmur that she could not place but assumed were exclamations of his grief and guilt. Holding her friend, she rocked back and forth and rubbed his back softly, murmuring in his ear that everything would be okay, that Sirius wouldn't want him to be sad, that he would be all right. But Hermione was finally feeling some sense of relief at the thought that Harry was able to mourn for his godfather, the only thing close to a real relative he had, and she wanted him to get this out.
The door opened quietly, and she looked up to see Remus and Molly slip in, followed closely by Ron and Ginny, who all looked as relieved as she felt. Hermione continued to hold Harry and comfort him as much as she could, and the other four filed back out of the room, leaving her with him, knowing that he was finally getting some of the grief he carried out.
An hour passed, and Harry's sobs subsided into heaving cries that eventually melted into the occasional shudder as he rested heavily against Hermione and continued to let his pain ebb from him. Hermione stayed with him all the while, even as Molly checked back in thirty minutes to see if he was all right. They nodded at one another, and the red-haired woman left once again. Some hour and a half later, Harry sat up slowly and looked over at her, his eyes bloodshot and his hair mussed impossibly.
Hermione gave him a watery grin, her own eyes growing teary with her relief that he was going to be okay. Harry gave a small smile in return, the first he'd shown her since arriving at the Order headquarters, and she felt her heart leap.
"I only wish I was able to say goodbye, you know," he said, looking sadly down at the floor. "If we'd only gotten to say goodbye, this might not be so hard. But he didn't even have a chance before he fell through the Veil, and all I could do was watch. I couldn't stop him or accio him or do anything to save him." His eyes grew watery once more, but he stopped himself from crying. "And now he's gone, and I can't say goodbye. Hermione, why does it hurt so much?"
"It's hard to lose someone you love, Harry," Hermione told him, feeling very inadequate to answering such a question. "We don't always get the chance to tell them goodbye, but you have to believe that they understand. The people we love understand if we don't get the chance to say goodbye because they've been there, too. Sirius wouldn't be upset with you for that, Harry; he would understand. He's been there, with your parents and your dad's parents. He knows what it's like, and I'm sure he'd only be sorry for your sake, not for his."
Hermione's voice had grown louder as she said this, and by the end the passion in her voice matched her fervor for S.P.E.W. Harry was staring at her with shining eyes, and when she finished, she realized what she'd done and immediately blushed, turning her head down to the ground.
"Hermione," Harry said, trying to get her attention. "Hermione, look at me." She turned her face to him, meeting his eyes reluctantly, and he smiled at her, a true smile. "Thank you, Hermione," Harry now said, emphasizing his thanks. "Thank you so much."
"Oh Harry," she said, in what he had come to associate as her relieved tone of voice. She threw her arms around him, and he caught her up in a hug that landed her nearly in his lap and Harry thrown against the side of the chair. The two laughed at one another, and this was the signal that it seemed outside eavesdroppers had been waiting for.
The doors were thrown open, and Ron, Ginny, Molly, Remus, Fred, George, Arthur, and Tonks all streamed in, grinning and calling to Harry in cheerful voices. It was then that he realized what his pain had been causing, and Harry grew a bit embarrassed that everyone had been so reluctant to be cheerful or to even try to convince him to enjoy life. Glancing at Hermione, he caught her knowing look and realized she was the only one who had really tried to draw him out, and that was why he'd come to her in the end. He smiled in true gratitude at her, and she smiled back, seeming to understand what he was trying to express without needing the words.
An impromptu party was thrown in which Molly shuffled everyone along to the kitchen for a late dinner, and Harry was made to sit between Ginny and Hermione, both of whom were thrilled to be celebrating. Fred and George sent up some new Weasley Wizarding Wheezes sparklers they'd created that flared up in bright colors before fizzling out in the air only to erupt in great explosions seconds later. Mrs. Weasley wasn't too pleased with this interruption but let it pass when she saw Harry grinning at the twins.
Dinner was excellent, as all Weasley dinners were, and Hermione found herself feeling happy for the first time in days as they began to get back to the way things used to be. Even Remus seemed to be more cheerful than he had been, which was saying much for the best friend of the man who had gone to Azkaban for twelve years only to return and subsequently die three years later. The group carried on for hours, ignoring the pending war, the death of Sirius, the problems they were sure to encounter once they re-entered school and anything else that could possibly make them feel sad once more. At least, they enjoyed themselves until they heard the front door jerk open.
Molly, Remus, Tonks, and Arthur headed to the door to see who had come in, but it was Molly's shriek that drew the rest of them from their meals. They rushed to the front corridor only to be met with the sight of Remus levitating an unconscious and bloodied Snape up the stairs to the first guest bedroom on the right. The adults followed quickly, Tonks rushing into the sitting room to floo Dumbledore and the others from the Order before heading up the stairs herself. Only a pool of blood on the doorstep gave evidence of the sudden interruption of the party.
"Could one of you clean that up?" Hermione weakly asked George and Fred, who nodded. Fred pulled out his wand and scourgified the spot, as the others watched with morbid interest. A moment later, George grabbed Ginny's arm and pulled her back towards the kitchen, Fred doing the same with Ron and Harry.
Hermione stood in the doorway a moment longer before turning to follow her friends and wondering as she did what could have harmed Professor Snape. Back in the kitchen, she found Fred and George already scourgifying the remains of dinner in a subdued silence as Ginny put the cold items into the refrigerator. Ron and Harry sat at the table talking quietly. When no one came down, they decided to go to bed, one and two at a time. First Fred and George moved to exit the room, muttering good nights to the others, who responded in kind. Then Ginny yawned and did the same. Finally Ron and Harry stood from the table, both hugging Hermione good night before heading up the stairs.
Exiting the now cleaned kitchen, Hermione decided to go to the library and finish her book instead of going to bed. She didn't think she could sleep after seeing Snape in such a state, and her emotions were going haywire enough with Harry's sudden grief and her need to comfort him. Feeling quite sure of her decision, she entered the library and plopped down in her chair, allowing Crookshanks to hop into her lap when he tried this time. Picking up her book, she continued reading.
It was long after midnight when she closed the book, stretching once again as she placed it on the larger pile of books. She was still fascinated with the story, however, and as she lowered her arms, she picked up the book again, making the decision to take it up to her room with her.
Hermione's fascination had continued with Basil Hallward as he entered the room where Dorian hid his painting, and it had turned to disgust with Basil when he realized what Dorian's vow had done to himself and his painting. She was horrified when Dorian stabbed Basil and even more so when he hired Alan Campbell to remove the remains. Her heart pounded in her chest when she learned that Alan then committed suicide and Dorian almost got caught by James, Sibyl Vane's brother. She continued reading through several more conversations of Lord Henry and Dorian before lighting on the last chapter of the book.
It was this, more than anything else, that caught her attention the most. The fact that Dorian went back to his painting to see if his one good deed could make up for the horror his life had become made her pause. And when he saw that the painting was even more grotesque than the last time he'd seen it, she knew then what would happen, even if it was more of a magical ending to the story than a normal Muggle ending. He took the knife he used to kill Basil, and in a kind of poetic justice that Hermione appreciated but did not enjoy, Dorian stabbed the painting, killing himself in the process and turning into the very man he was determined never to be. She found the irony a perfect ending to the story but was still unsatisfied as she wanted to figure out if Oscar Wilde had any wizarding blood in him or if he knew about wizards because this story had her intrigued.
Pushing Crookshanks off her lap, she stood, book in hand, and made her way to the door. When she opened it, however, she heard voices, and she listened hard to see what was being said.
"We'll have to get someone else, Albus," Minerva McGonagal's brogue filled the hallway, and Hermione wondered what she meant. "Severus is obviously impaired, and he won't be able to do much with his wand for a while. You're going to have to replace him."
A soft sigh came from somewhere, and she knew it was the headmaster. "Yes, Minerva, but I wonder if this might not be a sign. Severus has been loyal to the cause for many years now, but I feel this might be the end for him," Dumbledore said. "I'll make arrangements for a replacement soon. On both accounts." The way he said this made the hairs on the back of Hermione's neck stand up.
"Will he be all right?" Molly's voice floated up to her. "He was so pale and there was so much blood when we brought him up. I'm amazed he made it here."
"As long as he stays here and takes the potions Poppy left him, he'll be fine," Dumbledore reassured her. "But don't let him leave, Molly. He can't be allowed to leave until he's fully healed, and that won't be for a while yet."
"Albus, he won't be happy to hear what you're planning," Minerva interjected in a warning tone. "He was already making plans..."
"Yes, my dear, but Severus trusts my judgment," Albus interrupted. "He knows that I would not do this if I didn't find it necessary. Ah, Remus, I wonder if you have a moment to speak with me...?"
"Of course, Albus," Remus's calm tones reached her. "Shall we talk in the library, then?"
Hermione quickly opened the door wider and ducked into the shadows of the hallway, heading upstairs before they could get to her hiding place. She did not stop to listen but instead walked straight to her room. Walking inside, she got ready for bed quickly and slipped under the covers with Crookshanks curled on the end of the bed. Before she fell asleep, Hermione allowed the conversation she'd overheard to replay itself in her mind once more. It seemed Professor Dumbledore was going to be replacing Professor Snape, but he couldn't be removing him as the potions master, could he? That wouldn't make sense. Her mind caught on an idea that horrified her; what if he'd been caught by the Death Eaters? But Voldemort would have killed him for such a betrayal, wouldn't he? Hermione wasn't sure, and her mind couldn't form a good explanation for what she'd heard.
Eventually she drifted off to sleep, but it was not as restful as she would have liked. Indeed, her dreams were filled with haunting visions of laughing skeletons glaring at her from portraits and her professor, lying on his back, pale and bloodied.
Author's Note: I do hope you enjoyed this first chapter. This is my first chaptered HP fic, and I've worked on it for a long time now. I'm not finished writing it, which is why it will take some time to post, but I look forward to the challenge.
I welcome comments, critiques, and questions and will happily reply to all reviewers. And if anyone would like to volunteer to be my beta for this particular story, please also feel free to let me know. Thanks for reading!
Until next time -