A/N: I don't own Harry Potter, but you all know that! A huge thanks to everyone who reviewed, favorite, and followed this story. You all melt my heart.
Hermione slipped into the kitchen as Eridanus was busy playing with all his new toys. Sneaking over to the cabinet, she pulled out a bottle of wine. She opened it as quietly as possible, grabbing herself a glass. Just a small one, that's all I need. She was about the pour the wine into the glass when she heard a small cough behind her.
Frowning, Hermione turned and saw Ginny in the doorway. She was caught red handed. Shame filled her and Hermione remained quiet.
Ginny frowned, closing the door behind her. "Hermione," she said softly, crossing the room to her friend.
"I'm sorry," Hermione said, casting her glance downwards towards the floor. She couldn't bear the guilt of what she was feeling.
"You have a problem," Ginny said simply.
Hermione's gaze snapped upward and met her friend's gaze. "You don't think I know that?" she asked harshly.
Ginny held her hands up in mock surrender. "Hermione, I'm just saying. It's your son's first birthday, and you're in the kitchen trying to sneak some wine."
Hermione took a seat at the table, burying her face in her hands. A sob escaped her lips. "I'm a horrible mother!"
"Awh honey, you're not a bad mom," Ginny said, taking a seat next to her. Reaching over, she began to rub Hermione's back. "You're just stressed out, that's all. Hermione, there's nothing wrong with that."
"I'm turning into an alcoholic!" She practically screamed.
"Shhhhh," Ginny cooed. "Listen, you're fine. I know you're not an alcoholic, because it's only during social events that you drink."
"I can't help it," Hermione muttered, burying her face in her hands once more. "Everyone just talks about Sirius, and Eridanus looks more and more like him. It just breaks my heart, you know? I thought that as time went on, I would get over it and things would be all right, but I was wrong. It doesn't get any easier."
Ginny wiped a tear from her eye. She hated seeing Hermione like this. She didn't deserve it. "It'll be okay," she whispered.
"I don't see how," Hermione answered, dejection in her voice.
"Listen, have that drink of wine. I know you won't feel better until you do." Ginny stood, and poured Hermione a glass. She handed it to Hermione, who eyed the glass distrustfully.
"I don't know Gin…" she trailed off.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Just drink the wine. Please?" Ginny knew it'd be the only way Hermione would be able to get through the rest of the day.
Hermione closed her eyes, quickly drinking the wine. The sweet tangy flavor sent her taste buds into overdrive and gave her the comfort that she needed. It was wrong to rely on it this much, but she didn't know what else to do. She had tried everything.
"Feel better?" Ginny asked, after a couple minutes.
Hermione nodded. "I still feel guilty though."
"You shouldn't. Hermione, I just care about you. It's understandable you don't know how to deal. Hell, I can't even imagine what it'd be like to lose Harry," Ginny said sympathetically.
Hermione stood. "All right, enough of this moping. Time to go see my baby."
Ginny stood. "That's my girl!" Ginny quickly hugged Hermione.
Hermione offered Ginny a weak smile. She'd be okay, even if she didn't believe it. Moving back into the living room, she saw Ron playing with Eridanus.
"Mommy!" he squealed when he saw her. Getting up, he scrambled over towards her. Smiling, Hermione scooped him up. "Hey baby," she said, rubbing their noses together.
Eridanus squirmed in her arms, so she put him down. He ran back over towards Ron. She watched with a smile on her face as they played. Ron really was so good with him.
"Hermione, can I speak with you?" Minerva asked, approaching Hermione.
She nodded. She motioned for them to move into the kitchen. "Yes Minerva?"
Minerva smiled. "Have you ever thought about teaching?"
Hermione bit her lip. "I'm not sure. I mean, I just figured I'd work on the veil, but I never thought about it. Why do you ask?"
"Because I'm in need of a Potions master."
Hermione's eyes widened. She quickly shook her head. "Oh no Minerva, I'm not qualified. Besides, surely there must be someone else?"
Minerva shook her head. "No, there isn't. And I think you're perfectly qualified. You did brilliantly on your N.E.W.T.s, and Severus spoke highly of you, as hard as that is to believe." The Scottish woman smiled brightly at Hermione.
Hermione chewed on her bottom lip. "I don't know…"
Minerva nodded. "Take your time dear, it's just a suggestion. Eridanus would be more than welcome to come along."
Hermione remained quiet.
"Just think about it dear," Minerva said. She patted Hermione on the arm before moving back into the living room.
Hermione collapsed into a chair. She had never thought about anything else apart from research. Should she consider Minerva's offer? It seemed rather tempting. But that would mean giving up on the Veil, and Hermione wasn't sure if she was ready to do that.
Hermione was quiet, lost in her own thoughts when she heard the front door open. Harry must be back. Suddenly, she heard someone scream and a whole amount of commotion in the living room.
Drawing her wand, Hermione burst into the living room. Everyone had faces of shock. Turning, Hermione saw Harry in the doorway, but it wasn't Harry who caught her eye.
It was who was standing behind him.
Her breath caught in her chest. It wasn't possible… it couldn't be… Vaguely, in the back of mind, she could hear her conscious yelling at her to breath.
But she couldn't. She had forgotten how. He offered her a weak smile.
"Sirius?" she croaked out, still not believing what she was seeing.
Sirius nodded. He remained frozen in the doorway.
"He was found wandering about the Ministry," Harry explained.
Hermione didn't say anything. She just stared. She shook her head. "This isn't right, it isn't real." She put her hands on her temples, closing her eyes.
Ginny quickly stood and moved over to Hermione. "She's going to have a panic attack."
Hermione's breathing became shallow, and a sense of coldness came over her. This wasn't real… there was no way it was real. Reality was just playing a cruel joke on her.
Her breath came out in short, sharp breaths. She started to see white specks. "Gin…." She clutched her friends arm.
Eridanus chose this moment to run over. "Mummy!" he cried, knowing something wasn't right.
Sirius' eyes widened. "Mummy?!" He looked around in disbelief. No one met his stare.
Harry closed his eyes, wondering how hard it would be to fix this mess.
Ginny watched in horror as Hermione's grip became ice-like. Hermione's eyes fluttered.
Hermione felt like she was falling backwards in slow motion. She heard Ginny scream something and then a pair of arms catch her. Darkness took her quickly.