A/N: Many thanks to Muggle Jane and Krissy for looking this over. Sorry it's been so long since I've updated! I hope this chapter makes up for the long wait! xx
Disclaimer: The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.
Hermione made her way towards Professor Dumbledore's office, her heart pounding wildly with every step she took. She couldn't shake the feeling that she was walking towards her doom… that every step would be her last.
"Oh stop being dramatic," Hermione furiously whispered to herself. She was just going to talk to the Headmaster. She needed to think more positively. Approaching the statue, she frowned when she realized she didn't know the password. Recalling that Harry mentioned Professor Dumbledore liked sweets, she started rattling off a few.
"Acid pops….Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans….Sugar Quills…"
The gargoyle leapt aside.
"Sugar quills! That's it," she said, mentally storing the information.
She slowly climbed the steps, afraid of what would meet her. She paused outside the door, taking a deep breath. I can do this. I'm Hermione Granger, the smartest witch of this age. I can do this. I'm a strong, independent witch; I can, and will, do this.
Sighing, she knocked on the door. It swung open, revealing the Headmaster who was sitting behind his desk.
"You wanted to see me, sir," she said, slowly stepping forward.
"Take a seat, Miss Granger. There is much we must discuss."
She nodded, sitting down in the large chair in front of his desk. Her heart was hammering loudly in her chest, showing just how nervous she was feeling.
Professor Dumbledore smiled at her, and she tried to smile back. He was nice, but he was more a mentor for Harry, not her. She still felt rather awkward.
"Now, I know this is rather uncomfortable, but there is no way to get around the Marriage Law, Miss Granger," he explained, a frown on his face.
Hermione sighed. "I figured as much, Headmaster."
"Have you accepted it?"
She looked up and met his blue eyes. "Accepted it? I suppose, yes. I don't like it, and don't think I'll ever like it, but I won't give up my magic… I can't. So if marrying some Pureblood is what I have to do, then so be it."
He smiled at her. "Spoken like a true warrior."
Hermione smiled half-heartedly.
"Have you received any letters yet?" he probed.
Hermione bit her lip. "I was… erm, accosted by Malfoy earlier today. He seemed rather insistent we'd marry. And he was rather vulgar about it."
Dumbledore's eyes narrowed. "I see. Well, I'll do my best to make sure that doesn't happen again, Miss Granger. If he does approach you, let me or another Professor know immediately."
"Yes, sir," she said, rather embarrassed. She felt like a child who couldn't take care of herself.
"Now, you may be pleased to know that I have found a potential suitor for you, Miss Granger. He's older than you, but I am completely confident he'll be able to protect you. He's the best option."
Hermione's eyes flicked upwards. "Really? Is it someone I know?"
Dumbledore gave a short nod. "Yes."
She scooted forward in the chair a little bit. "Who is it?" She was eager to know who Professor Dumbledore thought would be a good match for her.
"Now, Miss Granger, please remember to keep an open mind. He is older than you, by quite a few years, but I think he is what is best. So please, do not jump to conclusions."
Hermione was now confused. Did he think she would react badly? He must if he thought he needed to caution her not to. Who on Earth could he have chosen? "Please, sir, I want to know."
"Very well," Professor Dumbledore said. "I will tell him to come in, and leave you two alone for a moment."
Hermione nodded. He was here? Her heart began to race. She was going to meet the person she was supposed to marry in mere seconds. Feeling panicked, her eyes looked around. There wasn't any way to escape except for the door, which Dumbledore had just exited.
The door creaked open. He was in the room with her, right behind her.
She wanted to turn around and see him, but a part of her was just too afraid. What if she didn't like him? What if it was…
Hermione sighed. It was too late for these sorts of doubts. She would be marrying this man, whether she wanted to or not. She just had to hope for the best. Hermione was about to turn around when she heard him speak.
"Hermione?" the distinct male voice asked.
She froze. She knew that voice. She had heard that voice before… recently. She turned around, although she already knew who it was. "Sirius?" she asked, turning.
He looked better than when she had last seen him. His face was cleanly shaven, although his mustache was still there. Sirius's wavy brown hair was pulled back, making him look a bit younger than he actually was. He was dressed in Muggle clothing, some black slacks and a light blue shirt. Over the shirt he wore a black leather jacket.
He was looking at her expectantly. Hermione looked confused.
Oh, he must have asked me something while I was busy ogling him… get a grip Hermione!
"It's nice to see you," she whispered, playing with her fingers.
"It's nice to see you too, although I wish it was under different circumstances, kitten."
She smiled softly at the use of her old nickname. He had taken to calling her that the summer before their fifth year, and it had just stuck. At the time, it had irritated her, but now that she was older, she found that she rather liked it.
But then reality crashed down around her, and she remembered why he was here.
Sirius crossed the room. "Hermione, everything will be okay."
Her eyes flicked up to meet his. "I don't really see how that's possible."
"Well, it is. You will just have to be a bit more positive about things." He grabbed her chin and gently tipped it upward. With his other hand, he wiped her tears away. "Don't cry, kitten, please don't."
"I'm sorry," Hermione said, shaking out of his grasp. "I've just been a bloody mess lately."
Sirius nodded. "What you need, love, is a day off. Let's see if Professor Dumbledore will let me take you to Hogsmeade for dinner."
"Oh, Sirius, you don't have to. I appreciate the thought, though."
"Nonsense, we're going. I insist." Sirius held his hand out for her.
With a sigh, she placed her hand in his.
His large hand closed around hers, holding it tightly. Hermione shivered at the warmth.
"Let's go ask Dumbledore for permission," Sirius said, leading her towards the exit.
Hermione followed behind him, focusing on the fact that Sirius had yet to let go of her hand.