A/N: Three things:

1.) I apologize for my absence. It's inexcusable.

2.) I'm not abandoning anything. Not this, Playing the Players, Interviewing Casanova, or fanfiction in general. It's just taking me awhile to find the time to update, because I'm also currently working on my first novel. So please, bear with me.

3.) I'm indebted to the following people: Amy, because as always, she's my biggest cheerleader, and my readers Tia-Mica and Sundaegirl99 for reminding me why I love this community, and why I should prioritize my writing better. So thank you, friends. I owe you.


Chapter 10

"Well, this is a fine mess you've landed us in, Brown Eyes."

Hermione slowly turned to face her companion, willing herself into enough of a state of self-control to avoid involuntarily singing off his eyebrows. Sirius, calm as a cucumber, was surveying his surroundings with the bored disinterest of a jaded aristocrat—as if being stuck behind a magical tapestry with a fellow student was a commonplace, if slightly inconvenient, occurrence. Normally, Hermione would have found his attitude comfortingly familiar, in a nostalgic way. At that moment, however, she merely found it infuriating.

"You must be joking," she snapped, glaring at him.

"Well, I wasn't the one who got us trapped behind some clingy carpet looking down the end of a dark, secret corridor just before curfew, was I?"

Hermione threw her hands in the air. "No, of course! How silly of me. I forgot we just suddenly appeared on this side of the castle and simply found ourselves trapped behind a sodding tapestry," she replied sarcastically.

Sirius grinned. "You're very pretty when you're angry, Brown Eyes."

"Oh for Christ sake," she mumbled, willing herself to maintain her composure in the musty darkness. Ten minutes earlier, she had been blissfully ignorant of dusty corridors and her maddeningly-adolescent animagus friend. She had been curled in a chair with a leather-bound tome in the relative comfort of the Headmaster's office, reading through the stacks of books Dumbledore seemed to collect from mid-air. She had spent many evenings there, and while it was at times tedious, time-consuming, and often fruitless, she and Dumbledore were determined to unravel the web of mystery her situation had dropped her in.

When the clock had chimed the late hour, Hermione had set her book aside, wished the Headmaster a good evening, and headed toward Gryffindor tower with the intention of having a cup of tea and soaking herself in a hot bath before going to bed.

Sirius, it appeared, had different ideas.

She had barely set foot on the third floor landing when a body collided with her from behind, and she found herself being carried by a sprinting aristocrat. In her shock she wasn't able to voice her outrage at being so suddenly shanghaied, and by the time he finally stopped and set her down in the trophy room, she was so overwhelmed by all the unkind epithets running through her head that all she could do was push him—hard—with a punctuated "What the bloody hell, Sirius?!" for good measure.

The force of the push made the surprised animagus stumble, and he fell back into a tapestry hanging on the wall. Instead of the wall breaking his fall, however, Sirius fell through the tapestry and into an unseen corridor. When she rushed to help him out, the tapestry slid down behind her and became immovable. Hence the current dilemma.

"You know, I hadn't realized this corridor was here," Sirius mused as he squinted to look down the cobwebbed hallway.

"Nor I," she said quietly, following his gaze. Then she looked back at him, lifting her chin defiantly. "I do hope you're smart enough to understand that I will slowly, gleefully, and without a hint of remorse, dismember you limb by limb if you don't come up with a very clever way to get us out of here, Sirius."

Sirius sighed melodramatically. "It's almost as if you don't want to be alone with me, Brown Eyes, and I'm wounded by your callous apathy to my suit."

Losing the tentative grasp she had on her calm, Hermione lifted her wand to back up her threat and growled, "I swear to God, Sirius Black, I will start with your favourite appendage."

He lifted his hands in surrender. "Easy, love, I was only joking."

"And I suppose you were 'only joking' when you abducted me from the hallway at top speed? What on earth were you running from, anyway?"

"I find a good sprint in the evening is good for the health."

"So is yoga, Sirius."

"What?"

She rolled her eyes. "Muggle Studies, Sirius. At some point, you will be required to pay attention to it. But you're avoiding the question. What did you do to warrant being chased and why the hell did you involve me?"

"Why do you assume I was being chased?" She gave him a look which definitely told him exactly what she thought of that question, and he grinned sheepishly. "Alright, fine. Fair point."

"What did you do?"

"Why do you assume I did something?" Again, she let her look speak for her, and he sighed again. "Always thinking the worst of me, eh, Brown Eyes?"

"Talk, Sirius."

He had the good grace to look somewhat guilty. "Well…I may have accidentally let a few harmless magical creatures loose in old Sluggie's room."

Crossing her arms, she arched her eyebrow and said, "A few harmless magical creatures?"

"Now that I think about it, they may not have been fully harmless."

"What did you release in Professor Slughorn's rooms, Sirius?"

"Just a few blast-ended skrewts."

She narrowed her eyes. "How many is a few?"

"Oh…couldn't have been more than a dozen."

"More than a…for the love of Merlin, Sirius, really?"

"It may have also been during a Slytherin house meeting."

Hermione fought the urge to let out a scream of annoyance. "You know, at some point you're going to have to mature past the age of nine, you overgrown child!"

His hackles raised at the insult. "Kindly remove the stick from your bum, Granger. I hardly expected I'd get chased through the castle after I did it."

"I'm curious, Sirius, what did you think was going to happen? Were you expecting them all to just say, 'Good one, mate, you got us'?"

"That would entail a sense of humour, which is not a defining characteristic of the Slytherins."

"Perhaps you don't give them the opportunity to appreciate your finely-honed wit."

"That's what I was trying to do with the skrewts, you clever creature."

Heaving a deep sigh, Hermione gave up on trying to argue with the man. She had once thought arguments with a depressed, alcoholic, stir-crazy Sirius were frustrating, but those were nothing compared to trying to argue with a hyperactive, oversexed, over-confident Sirius. He didn't have the same buttons to push, and therefore things didn't faze him as much. In many ways, she preferred the younger version—he was far easier to interact with on a regular basis. There were times, however, when she really did wish he had learned from his mistakes and behaved like a civilized human being.

Wishful thinking, most days.

"Let's momentarily put a pin in this conversation and try to figure out how to get out of—"

Before she finished her sentence, Sirius slapped a hand over mouth and pulled her deeper into the shadows. As she struggled in silent protest at the sudden manhandling, she heard the sound of footsteps approaching the trophy room. Not for the first time in their acquaintance, she wondered if his animagus abilities heightened his senses while in human form. She wished she could ask him.

"I saw them run in here," a familiar voice said, the tone nervous. Hermione could feel Sirius twitch. She wasn't surprised that Severus Snape was one of the people chasing him, but she also knew Sirius was entirely too arrogant to run if it was only Severus. So who had spooked him?

"What do you mean, 'them'? There was more than one?"

Hermione froze. She knew that voice. The low, clipped tones of Lucius Malfoy were not easily forgotten.

"No. I mean, Black released the skrewts on his own."

"Then why did you say 'them'?"

There was a moment of hesitance before Severus said, "He ran in here with a friend."

"Then how do you know Black released the bloody things on his own?"

"I only saw Black running down the corridor after it happened."

"And he just happened to run into someone who just happened to run here with him?"

There was another moment of hesitance. "I'm relatively confident the friend had nothing to do with it."

"Why?"

"Because she doesn't have the motivation."

"Ah. It's a she, is it? Well then never mind. Mr. Black's friends rarely possess the intelligence to spell 'skrewt', let alone help to mastermind a juvenile prank."

Outraged by the disparagements, Hermione struggled against Sirius with the intention of giving Lucius a piece of her mind. Sirius held her tightly and she quickly found her struggle to be fruitless. The man was definitely stronger than he looked.

"She's not like that, Lucius," Severus said quietly.

There was a pause, then a silky, "Is that so?"

Hermione could feel the tension ratchet up around her, and Sirius's grip tightened. She wasn't sure it was entirely necessary, but she was far more preoccupied with the fact that Severus Snape had just defended her. Not only that, he was purposely keeping her name out of the conversation. She strained to listen closer.

"Has Severus Snape finally discovered girls?" Lucius continued to chide, and Hermione could almost see the supercilious smirk upon his angular face.

This comment was met with silence, and Hermione wished she could see what was happening. She also wished she could ignore how nice it felt being pressed up against Sirius's warmth. While she didn't harbour any feelings toward the handsome pureblood, she couldn't help feeling comforted by his strong embrace. She also wasn't blind. She appreciated a pleasing aesthetic as much as the next red-blooded woman, and Sirius was nothing if not easy on the eyes.

She mentally shook herself. Those thoughts, however fleeting and superficial, were dangerous. In the recent months, there was something in Sirius's body language and the way he interacted with her that told her she may need to have a conversation with the man about just how casual his flirting was. She was beginning to suspect he was slightly more invested than he was letting on, and that was an additional complication she definitely didn't need to her already-problematic romantic situation.

That conversation, however, was definitely not her top priority at the moment.

"Anyway, it looks like they were able to slip away. More's the pity," Severus finally said.

"I suspect Mr. Black will have his comeuppance soon enough, Severus. In the meantime, what have you found out about our little project?"

"The hourglass is with the Headmaster. There's no way to get it right now."

"Why is it with him?"

"I don't know."

"Well, find out. You know what'll happen if we can't get it."

"I'm doing what I can, Lucius."

"And I'm telling you, it's not good enough. I'm risking a lot to act as courier for you and the others, Severus. I will not die for your incompetence."

"It will get done."

"You'd better hope so. In the meantime, talk to our mutual friend. Maybe he can do something about Black."

"He won't do anything. He never does." There was a heavy silence, then Severus sighed. "I'll talk to him."

"Good. Now, let's get back before Slughorn gets curious."

There was a shuffle of footsteps and once the echoes of their departure had silenced, Sirius removed his hand from her mouth. He didn't, however, loosen his grip on her. She gave him a moment, thinking perhaps his brains was whirring at a million miles a minute like hers was, but from the way his hand splayed along her stomach, she was fairly certain his mind was not on Severus or Lucius Malfoy.

"Um…do you mind?" she asked, slowly trying to extricate herself from his embrace.

His grip tightened slightly. "Not really." She could almost hear the cheeky grin in his voice.

"Come on, Sirius, let me go."

His breath brushing her ear as he whispered, "It's always about the romance with you, isn't it?"

"Yes, well…" She trailed off, unable to think of anything to say, and gently pulled away. "Let's try and find a way out of here, shall we? Let's see where this hallway leads."

Without waiting for his response, she held her wand aloft and whispered "Lumos!" before striding down the hallway. The light bounced off the crumbling walls, casting a cool blue-white glow against the ceiling and revealing a thick canopy of spider webs. Hermione was grateful Ron wasn't with her. She could only imagine the amount of moaning and whimpering she would have had to endure.

As she waited for Sirius to catch up, she thought about this new threat. Clearly, Lucius and Severus were looking for the hourglass, and she presumed they intended to hand it over to Lord Voldemort. She had no idea why the man would want it. Knowing now what she did about the item, it seemed like something completely useless to someone like Voldemort. Was he looking to make another horcrux with is? Could one make a horcrux from an item which already possessed its own unique brand of magic?

"I can hear the gears of that beautiful mind of yours humming, Brown Eyes. Care to share? I'm a-quiver with anticipation."

"I'm just mulling over what Severus and Malfoy were talking about."

"Oh?"

"What's Malfoy even doing here?"

"Apparently, he was the guest of honour at the meeting."

Hermione frowned. "Guest of honour? Why? What's he done?"

"You ask a lot of questions, Brown Eyes."

She glared at him. "I do wish you'd stop calling me that, Sirius. It's woefully unoriginal."

"Well, I hope to call you 'darling', but we haven't gotten there yet."

She stopped short at his words, information clicking into place. "He's getting married."

"Who is?"

"Lucius. That's why he was the guest of honour."

"Lucius, is he? And how have you come to be on a first-name basis with the great Mr. Malfoy?"

She rolled her eyes. "I'm not on a first-name basis with him. I just make it my business to keep up with the people I have absolutely no desire to interact with, if only to avoid them."

"Oh. Well. That's okay, then."

Once again, Hermione was struck by her uncertainty behind Sirius intentions. He was really going for it tonight, which made her lean on the side of sincerity. She was unprepared, however, for how pleased she was. Not necessarily because she reciprocated—though the idea wasn't entirely stomach-churning—but because she was flattered that someone like him would be attracted to someone like her. It was definitely an ego-boost.

"Why don't you lead?" she suggested, pausing to let him slide past her. "I'm not entirely sure where we are, exactly. I don't remember there being a corridor in this area of the castle."

"There isn't," Sirius replied, though his stride remained confident and his attitude remained cheerful.

"Obviously there must be, Sirius, as we're currently walking down it."

"Trust me, Brown…Hermione. There isn't a corridor here."

"Then what exactly are we walking through?"

"A secret corridor, darling, do keep up."

"How does one walk down a secret corridor if it doesn't exist?"

"Is this one of those 'if a tree falls in the woods' type of riddles?"

"Sirius!"

He paused and turned to look at her. "Magic, my darling," he said slowly, as if the answer was obvious. "This is what they call magic."

He grinned then, pecked her lovingly on the cheek, and turned once more to continue down the hallway. Hermione followed wordlessly, knowing she would have to curb her questions. Sirius wasn't academically curious, so she was fairly certain he wouldn't have the first idea as to why the corridor was there, now would he care. Remus, however, would know. She made a mental note to ask him.

The passage twisted and turned as they picked their way around fallen stones and did their best to avoid the cobwebs. Hermione sneezed several times and the sound bounced off the walls, echoing in the eerie darkness. She couldn't help but worry that they were headed deeper into trouble instead of avoiding it. Not that she was unfamiliar with that type of worry, of course. A life as one of Harry Potter's best friends was accompanied by no small amount of peril.

Even if she had hoped for a slightly less eventful school year than she was used to, despite being stuck in the seventies with people she was growing to care about who she knew she would never see again.

After almost twenty minutes of walking, Hermione was starting to worry about their destination. She asked, "Do you know what direction we're going, at least?"

"Not a clue," he replied happily.

"And that doesn't bother you?"

"Not a wit."

She sighed. "I do wish I knew where this passage leads. I would like to go to bed at some point tonight."

As if responding to the comment, the floor and walls suddenly started to vibrate. Bits of dust rained from the ceiling as both she and Sirius stopped dead in their tracks. Then, there was a nauseating lurch and the passage started to tilt upwards while the sound of scraping stones echoed deafeningly, bouncing off the walls. As the incline increased, their footing became less and less sure until they were forced to plaster their backs against the wall to avoid sliding backwards.

"What the bloody hell is happening?" Sirius demanded, clinging to her hand as they tried to keep their balance.

"The trophy room is moving," Hermione replied, trying to sound confident.

"What?"

"The trophy room. It moves from the third floor to the sixth floor every so often. I think that's what's happening now."

"How do you know that?"

"I read the orientation material when I first arrived."

"Of course you bloody did."

It took another moment or two for the movement to settle and for the corridor to once again become relatively level. Once they'd regained their balance, they continued walking, though at a slightly quicker pace than before. Neither wanted to be caught in the corridor when the room decided it wanted to move again.

As if understanding their desire, the corridor started to widen until they could comfortably walk side-by-side. After a further hundred meters, however, they were confronted by a dead end.

"Well…this is unfortunate," Sirius said, surveying the wall in front of them before glancing behind him. "Care to go back?"

"No, thank you," she replied before stepping toward the wall and, hoping she wasn't about the make a colossal fool of herself, waved her wand with a hopeful "Alohomora!"

Nothing happened.

"Good thought, Brown Eyes," Sirius said. "But that spell only works on doors and windows, not stone walls."

"Thank you for that penetrating insight into elementary Charms, Sirius. I was hoping it was a secret door. Why else would there be a corridor that leads to nowhere?"

Sirius shrugged and, with a grin, said, "Magic."

Hermione opened her mouth to launch into a lecture about how 'magic' wasn't a placeholder for all uncertain things, but was interrupted by a soft purple glow that started to radiate through the rock in intricate, beautiful swirling patterns. Instinctively, both of them stepped backwards and braced themselves, but there were no vibrations or movement. Instead, the glow faded to reveal a large wooden door decorated with swirling iron embellishments.

Hermione glanced at Sirius with a knowing smirk. "You were saying?"

"Well…I wasn't wrong. The charm technically only works on doors and windows."

Exasperated, she asked, "Is there ever a time when you admit that someone else is right?"

"Is there ever a time when you admit that someone else is right?" he countered.

"When it happens, I'll let you know," she said smartly before walking confidently toward the door. Taking a firm grip of the handle, she took a deep breath and pulled. The door creaked in protest, but opened, revealing a wide expanse of darkness. Praying they weren't walking into a trap, she stepped into the dark room, keeping her wand aloft. Sirius followed, and the door slammed shut behind them.

"So…this seems to be a lateral move," Sirius said as they surveyed the large, dark, cool room. It seemed to go on forever, and Hermione quietly wished there was more light so she could see where they were.

It was then that torches started lighting along the walls, revealing a massive, empty stone chamber.

"That's…convenient," Hermione murmured, extinguishing the light from her wand and casting her gaze in as many directions as she could manage to ensure they were alone.

"But it still doesn't explain where we are. This doesn't look like the trophy room." He let out a growl of frustration and ran his fingers through his hair. "It's times like this I wish I had our map."

There was a sound of rustling paper, and the Marauder's Map came fluttering to the ground, landing at Sirius's feet.

"Um…" Sirius said, thoroughly confused as he bent down to retrieve the map. Hermione, however, let out the breath she didn't realize she was holding. They were in the Room of Requirement.

"I wish for an exit," Hermione said aloud, and smiled when a door appeared on the wall to their left. Then she turned to her silent companion. "Come along, Sirius."

He just stared at her. "Alright, Hermione. Who are you?"

She paused, looking at him. He hadn't moved. Tilting her head, she frowned slightly. "Pardon?"

"Who are you?" he asked quietly. "I mean…who are you, really?"

Thrown by the question, Hermione swallowed hard and forced a laugh. "I've no idea what you're on about, Sirius. You know who I am."

"I know what you've told us," he corrected. "I'm starting to suspect that's not exactly the same thing."

Fear started to creep up her spine and she was suddenly reminded of an interaction she had overheard between Moody and Kingsley during the summer she spent at Grimmauld Place before their fifth year. She had been hiding in the Black family library with Crookshanks, avoiding the twins and their incessant apparating. Moody and Kingsley had come in to use the floo after an Order meeting, oblivious to Hermione's presence as they discussed yet another argument between Sirius and Snape. Curled in her overstuffed chair by the window, Hermione listened as Kingsley wondered aloud why Dumbledore's trust of Snape wasn't enough for Sirius to stop second-guessing the man at every turn.

Moody's response, it would transpire, was prophetic:

"Don't let the old dog fool you, Shacklebolt. For all his drunken self-pity, Sirius Black is not an idiot. He may be skewed by school day biases, but know this: I've never met a wizard who is more consistently in tune to the inner character of his fellow man. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you'll understand why Black says and does the things he does. We must all tread carefully around Snape. There's a reason he has that blasted mark on his arm."

At the time, Hermione had thought Moody's words merely the wishful thinking of a mentor, blinded by sentiment. In hindsight, she should have known that Mad-Eye Moody would be the absolute last person to rely on sentiment. Now, however, it became blindingly-clear all-too-late that if there would be anyone to discover her true origins, it would be Sirius.

"Do you realize we can almost always hear it when you're thinking about something?" Sirius asked, pulling Hermione from her memory. "Are you trying to come up with a way to mask your many secrets?"

Hermione snorted in spite of her nerves. "They'd hardly be secrets if I went around sharing them, would they?"

"You're very good at deflecting with sarcasm. It's one of the things I like about you, actually. But don't change the subject."

She crossed her arms. "What leads you to all-of-a-sudden think I have some deep, dark secret I'm not sharing?"

He took a step toward her, his grey eyes locked on hers. In the dim light of the torches, Hermione fully appreciated the man's exceptional good looks. While James and Remus received their share of covetous glances, Sirius inspired a truly impressive number of looks, sighs, and blushes. In another life, if circumstances were different, she could see herself contributing to the litany of girlish giggles. As handsome as the pureblood aristocrat was, however, all she felt was an academic appreciation for the symmetry of his face, an aesthetic understanding of his allure, and a deep, unbidden longing for the amber-ringed warmth of Remus's soulful, leaden gaze.

"You're really quite captivating, you know," he said quietly.

Hermione blinked at the rapid shift. "Um…thanks?"

He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. "But not so captivating that a perceptive eye couldn't pick up on the hidden depths you try so desperately to conceal. And I am nothing if not an attentive appreciator of the feminine mystique."

He said the last part with his trademarked smirk, and she levelled a look at him. "Betty Friedan you are not, Mr. Black, and if you honestly think now is the best time to try to figure out my mystique, you've a rather poor sense of timing."

He motioned to the emptiness around them. "Do you have anywhere else to be?"

"Yes, in point of fact. I should be in the Gryffindor tower. In my bed. As should you be."

His smirk widened to a full grin, revealing his straight white teeth. "Anytime you'd like me in your bed, Brown Eyes, just say the word."

"Oh really, Sirius…" she grumbled, but knew the dangling modifier had set him up perfectly, which was her own fault. "Let's do press on."

He maneuvered his body between her and the door, effectively trapping her with his taller, broader frame. "I suspect you're not who you say you are, Hermione," he said gently. "And if you aren't who you say you are, by definition, you're trying to keep who you really are away from us. And I just want to know why."

"What on earth makes you think I'm not who I say I am, Sirius? What possible reasoning have I given you to doubt my word?" she demanded, her stance wholly defiant in spite of her stomach churning with nerves.

"A few reasons. The first is that it's rare, perhaps even unique, for a student to transfer schools. Especially between the Big Three. There's an immense school pride, you see. If you'd actually transferred from Beauxbatons Academy, you'd be looking down your nose at us mere Hogwartians."

Remembering Ron and his attitude during the Tri-Wizard Tournament their fourth year, Hermione doubted much had changed in the way of inter-school prejudices and therefore couldn't fault Sirius's suspicions. Her character, however, had never been comfortable with exclusion and so she decided to lead with that in order to throw him off.

"I don't really go in for that type of thing. Beauxbatons is a brilliant school, as is Hogwarts. They have sterling reputations and just because there's some silly school rivalry doesn't mean my attitude needs to follow. My education comes first."

"Then why did you transfer."

"I missed England. Wouldn't you?"

Sirius contemplated her for a moment, then nodded. "Fine. Then explain this: how is it you know more about this castle than I do, and I, quite literally, wrote the map on it?"

"I highly doubt I know more about this castle than you, Sirius."

"Oh no? What room are we in?"

Her brow furrowed. "What?"

"This room. This strange, empty room with naught but torches and a door. What room is it?"

"Is this a trick question? How should I know what room it is?"

"Because you know how it works."

"How what works?"

"The room, Hermione, and do please stop playing dumb. I only pretend to be as stupid as I look."

Hermione sighed. "This is the Room of Requirement."

"And how do you know about it?"

"What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?"

"You're very close to people I care deeply about, Hermione, and it's getting harder to trust people these days, so will you please kindly answer my questions?"

"I swear to you, Sirius, I don't mean you or anyone else here any harm," she said, her tone heavy to convey her sincerity.

"I like you, 'Mione. We all do. But you're hiding something and I'm not sure I can trust you."

"Just because I know more about this room than you do? That's hardly sporting."

"Then how do you know about it?"

"I read about it! Hogwarts: A History. I'm fairly certain I'm the only person in this bloody country who's read the book but feel free to read it if it makes you feel better."

He smiled slightly. "I have read it. All four of us have, in point of fact. Several times. And there isn't one mention of a Room of Requirement."

"Then maybe I read about it in the orientation—"

"The orientation material, right. Here's the thing, Hermione…I've read that too."

Hermione felt her heart start to pound as he continued to look at her, waiting for a response. Gone was the companionable flirt with an easy grin. His eyes were flinty; his nostrils slightly flared. The firelight played shadows off his angular cheekbones, making him gaunt and intimidating. She felt like a small, furry creature trapped in the dangerous, hypnotic stare of a serpent.

"Who are you?" he asked a final time.

Hermione felt like she was on the edge of a cliff, stuck between the desire to jump versus her fear of being pushed. The past few months had been a steady, pressing weight on her shoulders. With every lie, misdirection, or evasion, she could feel pressure building. She desperately wanted to tell someone her own age; someone who could relate to her and the crazy situation she was in.

But of course, that was impossible.

"Sirius," she said softly, rebellious tears stinging her eyes and threatening to fall as the fatigue and frustrations of the day caught up with her. "Please don't ask me that."

He took a step toward her. "Why?"

"Because I can't tell you the answer. I want to…desperately. But…I can't."

"Why can't you?"

"I…it's complicated."

He smiled slightly. "Of that, my dear, I have no doubt." Then he sighed. "What if I give you an even trade?"

"What?"

"What if I told you something secret…something only a handful of people know, or will ever know. Would you trust me then?"

"It doesn't have anything to do with trust, Sirius, believe me."

"I don't believe you, 'Mione, and that's kinda the problem."

"But…I do trust you. You, and James, and Remus, and Lily. I trust you implicitly."

"But not Peter."

She opened her mouth to respond, but paused. She had avoided interacting with Peter, which was easy to do as he was rarely around. However, even when he was around, she got the distinct impression he didn't like her much. She wasn't sure why, but since she wasn't overly fond of him she hadn't dwelt on it. Now, however, it seemed like she wasn't the only one who was worried about his intentions.

"I...I don't know Peter as well as I know the rest of you."

"I think it's questionable that you know much about the rest of us. You haven't known us long enough for that."

Part of her wanted to protest, since she had learned more about them in the past few months than she would have ever learned about them in her own timeline. Since she couldn't explain that, however, she let the comment pass.

"I know what I need to know about you. And what I know, I trust. I wish you were the same."

"Ah. Well. I don't know everything I need to know about you, do I? Not if what you've told me isn't the whole truth."

Hermione took a deep breath. Sirius, full pun intended, was very much like a dog with a bone when it came to things he wanted. He wasn't going to let her off easily, and it was likely that if she left him without some type of answer, he would go to James, Remus, and Lily. Since she didn't want to isolate the only friends she had managed to make, she knew she had to give him something.

"I'll give you one question. I get to decide how long the answer is, so make sure it's a good question."

He looked at her for a long moment, then asked, "Where were you before you came to Hogwarts this year?"

She shook her head. "That's a question I can't answer, Sirius. If I could, I would."

He crossed his arms. "You told me I got one question, Hermione."

"Yes, but—"

"Where were you before you came to Hogwarts this year?"

"Sirius, please…"

"Answer me."

His eyes sparked with growing anger. She knew what that anger could do, so she took a deep breath. "I was here, Sirius. I was here at Hogwarts."

And before he could respond, she side-stepped him and made a mad dash for the door, running all the way back to Gryffindor tower without a second glance behind her and praying that she hadn't just destroyed the fragile house of cards she had built for herself.


As always, I hope you liked it.

Additionally, if you didn't read the A/N at the beginning of this chapter, please do so before reviewing. It explains my absence.