Written for the 2013 Granger Enchanted exchange. Thank you so much to my lovely beta, DHLane who helped me out in a pinch. To my giftee, Nathaniel Cardeau I really do hope you like this! I think it's probably a little different, and you gave me such free reign that I was at a bit of a loss at first 3
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable character, settings etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of this story. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended, and no financial gain is resulting from this work.
MAGIC IS REAL, AND YOU COULD HAVE IT IN YOU!
By Joksim Drobnjak
Do you remember that time you saw a dragon when you were five? No?
How about the three headed monkey at the zoo? Still no?
It might be because you're magic! According to a leading expert in magical phenomena , many people have the ability to perform spectacular, and scientifically impossible feats, but due to an inherent instinct for protection, any memory of these events is immediately wiped away along with the memories belonging to any witnesses!
Turn to page 3 for more...
The room is hazy with smoke, thin strips of light slicing through the mist as it peeks between the cracks in the cheap drapery. Through the gloom, Joksim can see curling photographs and papers thumb tacked to the walls, covered in a messy scrawl that sometimes spills onto the pale apricot wallpaper.
He wrinkles his nose as he glances down. The floor is littered with bottles and take away wrappers. He kicks aside a burger box covered in mayonnaise, and steps fully into the room.
"Cole." There's no response, and Joksim picks his way across the room, towards the lumpy, mess covered bed. "Cole!"
A grunt sounds from the other side of the mattress, and a pair of bloodshot eyes beneath a scruffy head of black hair peer over the pile of clothing and papers that litter the duvet.
"What the fuck d'ya want... fuckin'... oh, 'syou."
Joksim throws a wad of small bills at Cole, and sneers down at the dirty, drunken mess of a man. Three months ago, he had found him sleeping in the doorway of Santa Clara's, and to be honest, his personal hygiene hadn't improved much.
"You owe me a story, Cole. I've come to collect."
Cole frowns and scratches his head as he pushes himself to his knees. "I've got it here... some... uh, right... there!" He shuffles through one of the piles of dirty clothing for a few moments, until he grabs hold of something, and thrusts his fist into the air triumphantly. "Oh, you're going to be so happy with this one, Jok. Definitely some of my best... work and, um... yeah that's... here you go."
Joksim reaches into his trouser pocket and pulls out some more bills, throwing them at Cole, whose eyes go wide. He scrambles to collect them as they scatter across the bed.
"Go buy yourself some soap. When was the last time you showered?"
"Show... uh, I, um... no, I don't think I have time to write another story today, Jok I'll... Do you think I could get a coffee from the lobby? How many more days until you need the three headed monkey story? Do you-" Cole's eyes close and he clutches at his back for a moment. "I think I need to sleep."
Joksim curls his lip and turns on his heel. "Drink some water, . It'll help with the hangover."
He hears a loud groan and the creak of the bedsprings as he pulls the door shut. His heels click on the floorboards as he heads for the stairs, and he glances down at the handful of sheets.
Cole may be completely insane, but he's the best goddamn tabloid reporter he's ever come across.
The street is blurry and hazy through the misty window, and Hermione waves her hand over the glass, squinting as she peers through the droplets of condensation.
"You know this is bullshit, right?"
The woman on the other side of the table is tapping a fingernail on the cheap Formica, and Hermione looks away from the window.
"It's stupid, I mean... who gives a shit about ridiculous, ludicrously inaccurate tabloid fodder?"
Pansy is glaring at her through narrowed eyes.
"Yes, Pans. I know it's a load of bollocks."
"So, what are we going to do about it?"
The tapping stops, and changes to a knocking. The toe of Pansy's boot is banging against the table leg, and Hermione kicks her.
"Ow!" Pansy leans over and rubs her leg.
"Two specials, one crumbed," the man behind the counter in the small fish and chip shop calls out. Hermione picks up her bag and stands up, tugging on her coat and gloves as she shuffles towards the counter.
"Cheers." She smiles at the man, and picks up both packages, dropping one on the table she just vacated as she passes. Pansy is still sitting there, examining her leg.
"Did anyone ever tell you you're a total cow?"
Hermione raises her eyebrows and opens the door. "Oh, sweetheart. You keep me so grounded." She holds the door open as Pansy scrambles to get out of the cheap plastic chair. "Hurry up, I'm letting all the cold air in."
Pansy continues to grumble, and limps in an exaggerated manner as she follows Hermione through the door. They've been partners for a year now, but still Pansy insists on acting like a teenager who has been assigned a project with the least cool kid in the class.
"Pansy, you're thirty-three years old. Start acting like it."
"Stop being such an old fuddy-duddy, Geeky Granger." The last two words are said in a sing-song voice, and Hermione glowers.
"Fuck you, Poser Parkinson."
Pansy throws her free arm over Hermione's shoulders and nudges her with her hip as they stroll down the street. "You know you love it."
Hermione shoves her away and laughs. She doesn't really know how to categorise their relationship, but it's somehow gone from grudging colleagues, to what she would loosely call frenemies. That space in between friendship and intense dislike, that seems to have very blurry lines.
Honestly, most of the time she has no idea whether or not their exchanged insults are just that. She's starting to think they're more like terms of endearment.
The walk back to the Ministry is short, but icy. It's early December, and the shop fronts are decked out in Christmas colours, but the flashing lights and sparkling tinsel don't help manufacture a feeling of warmth. Hermione tucks her dinner under her arm and shoves her other hand into her coat pocket, hunching down into her scarf.
"I just don't get it... why would Shacklebolt send us on a useless assignment like this, when he could have us hunting down Nott, or sorting out that screw up in Norway?"
Hermione sighs and reaches for the door to the red phone booth that comprises the visitor's entrance, conveniently only a block from their favourite fish and chip shop. "Probably punishment for undermining him during the Bethesda investgation."
"Gosh, when did he get so vindictive? Ugh. And interfering in the Auror department as much as he is? He's turning into a micro-managing berk."
"I know, right?"
"Whatever, Shacklebolt's a dick. Let's move on and investigate this incredibly important case of the fake tabloid news stories." Pansy shoves open the booth door when it shudders to a halt, and strides out across the Ministry of Magic atrium, all evidence of her exaggerated limp long gone.
"The irony in your voice is telling." Hermione trails after her, picking up her pace to sneak into the lift before the doors close.
Pansy looks at her askance and grins. "I'm suddenly feeling very enthused"
"Come on, Granger. It'll be like a holiday."
Hermione makes a non-committal sound and shifts the fish and chips under her arm to a more comfortable position.
"We'll just say we've tracked the so called leak to some tropical island and take a couple of weeks off."
"Oh come on. Neither of us have had a holiday since we got lumped with each other, and you need to actually spend some proper fucking time to get over Black-"
"Oh my gods, Pansy. That was a year ago, I'm over it."
"When was the last time you had sex?"
"None of your bloody business."
She can hear the water trickling down the dank, cold walls of the dungeon, the chill seeping through her thick trousers and long johns, until it reaches deep beneath her flesh. The body that lies next to her is still, and she tugs off a glove to feel for a pulse. She lets out a breath at the feel of a steady beat, and shakes the man's shoulder lightly.
"Sirius." He makes no movement, so she shakes harder, shoving him roughly until his nose hits the stone floor.
"Wha- ow! Fucking hell, Granger."
"Apart from you nearly breaking my nose, yes. Fine." He looks up at her and leers. "I was actually having a lovely dream about you in a pair of-"
"You looked... nice."
"Can you stop hitting on me for two seconds and focus on coming up with ways to get out of this dungeon?"
"Does it still count as hitting on you if we're engaging in regular sexual relations?"
She glares and he grins. "Yes."
"So here's the thing."
Hermione jerks at Pansy's snappy voice, and looks up from where she had been staring at her chips, barely remembering the time between getting in the lift, and settling at her desk. She licks some salt from the corner of her mouth and swallows. "What?"
"Coincidence is one of those things that gets confused for destiny, right?" Pansy is looking down at the Muggle gossip magazine Hermione had picked up at the corner shop that morning, her voice is tinged with irony, and Hermione can't help but lean up and over her desk, squinting curiously at the open pages.
"I guess... why?"
Pansy looks up, meeting her eyes and smiles broadly. She holds the magazine just below her eyes, and raises one eyebrow.
"So, some d list reality stars are sunning themselves on a yacht. How thrilling."
Pansy rolls her eyes and tosses the magazine across the room. The pages whip about, but it makes it to the edge of Hermione's desk unharmed.
"Could you not have just levitated it over here?"
"Your Muggle ways are rubbing off on me. Look at who's standing on the dock in the background."
It takes Hermione a few moments to realise Pansy is talking about the photo, and she flicks through the pages until she finds the right one. She narrows her eyes a little, and peers closer, nose almost touching the cheap, glossy paper.
"Are you fucking with me?"
"What? No! Why would I be fucking with you?"
"Because you just spent the entire ride in the elevator telling me I need to get laid?" She waves her wand over the page, but it shows no traces of enchantment.
"I swear on the Sword of Gryffindor, I am not fucking with you."
Hermione harrumphs, and looks back down at the magazine. "I dunno... I mean, it looks like him but it's a pretty grainy shot."
"Personally, I think this is an excellent opportunity to go to – where is it, Montenegro? - and sun ourselves on the beach while claiming to be chasing down a lead on our assigned case. And if it has the added benefit of finding your disappeared partner slash lover then how can it be a bad thing?"
"First off, it's December. It's not much warmer there than it is here. Secondly, this is a really strange and uncomfortable coincidence." Hermione goes back to studying the photo closely, and screws up her nose. "I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. What if it's a trap?"
"What? Some dark wizard knows you like to read Heat Magazine?"
"Okay, so I get your point there."
"He was bound to turn up eventually. We know he's not dead."
"I guess I just thought he would be trapped in some unplottable dungeon somewhere, not tanning on the Adriatic coastline."
"Doesn't look like he's tanning to me. And come on, Sirius Black, sunbathing?"
The man in the photo is standing at the edge of the dock, seemingly peering into the bright blue waters of the marina. Hermione tears the page out and looks back up at Pansy. "It looks like he's about to... jump."
"All the more reason to catch a Portkey to Kotor forthwith, don't ya' think?"
Hermione hums a response, and looks back down at the magazine, now missing a page, and proclaiming KARDASHIAN KLYLES CHEATING HOLIANDAL.
She tosses it in the bin.
"So, I was thinking..."
Sirius grins at her over his tea, and his eyes twinkle in the low light coming through the window of their office. "We should probabl-"
"Black, Granger, there's been a sighting of Nott in Pescara. I want you on a Portkey to Italy in fifteen minutes." It's Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister of Magic himself, who has his head poked through their office door, and Hermione sits to attention at her desk.
"Of course, sir. Shall we plan for an extended stay?"
"I've arranged for your emergency kit to be sent to the departure room. The rest is your call."
Shacklebolt's head disappears, and Hermione opens her desk drawer, gathering her bag, and relevant files. She looks up momentarily, and sees a disappointed look on Black's face. "You were saying?"
"Erm... doesn't really matter. Talk about it when we get back?" He gulps back the last of his tea, and stands, plucking a couple of files from a tray on his desk as he steps around it.
They both head for the door, and he reaches for their coats, passing hers to her as she reaches for the door handle.
"Is it just me, or is this drop of a hat thing becoming more and more regular?"
Hermione shrugs. "I guess... it's a pretty urgent case." She tucks the files under one arm, and drapes the coat over the other. "He might already be long gone by the time we get there."
Sirius nods and reaches over her shoulder, holding the door open. "Okay, Granger, you've convinced me."
He pauses. "I... don't really know exactly."
Kotor is ostensibly an exclusively Muggle town, and while Hermione isn't surprised, she does find herself cursing the fact, as she drags her suitcase up the four flights of stairs to her hotel room. She can hear Pansy grunting and whining behind her, and briefly ponders whether a minor levitation charm wouldn't go amiss.
"Why did we pick the hotel without the working lift again?"
"Because it was cheap."
"Could we not have just booked a more expensive one and... coerced our way into not paying more than the deposit?"
Hermione hefts her bag up the last stair, and turns, frowning. "No."
"You are such a buzz-kill."
"Would you please stop whining? This little sojourn was entirely your idea. It's not my fault Gringotts has the monopoly on the Muggle exchange, and the Ministry is notoriously cheap."
Pansy pokes her tongue out as Hermione turns and heads down the hall toward her room. It's an old fashioned key, and it rattles a little when it's inserted into the lock. After a little wiggling, the key eventually turns, and she shoves the door open. She can hear Pansy doing the same across the hallway.
"Granger, remind me never to let you book the hotel ever again."
Hermione peers into her room. It's dim and bare, with little more than a double bed, bedside table, and lamp. The walls are a sickly yellow, with a couple of cheap landscape prints adorning them. She can feel breath against her right ear, and jerks in surprise.
"Oh gosh, yours is even worse than mine." Hermione shrugs her shoulder, nudging Pansy's head away, and drops her suitcase just inside the door.
"We'll set up a base of operations in your room then."
Pansy looks horrified. "What? No way; not fair, we're looking for your boyfriend."
"Not my boyfriend."
"Fuck buddy?" More glaring, and a pointed look at the maid down the hall. Pansy widens her eyes. "Honey, this place is called the Hotel Rendez-Vous, I'm sure it's not the first time these walls have seen or heard unseemly things."
"This town is literally ninety-nine percent religious. Keep the potty mouth to a minimum in public, huh?" Herimione hears Pansy grumble something about Muggle religions under her breath, and chooses to ignore it, instead crouching down and focusing on methodically unpacking her bag.
"I can't believe you bought a cauldron."
Hermione glances up and frowns. "Well, it's not like I can buy one here, is it?"
"What makes you think you're even going to needit?"
"Call it a hunch? Or just.. you know... being prepared."
"Ugh, you're such a swot." There's a pause, the only sound the steady thunk of objects being set on the wooden floor. "Oh my Godric. How many jars of ingredients did you bring? Are there even any clothes in there?"
"What are you expecting to happen?"
"I dunno... I figure he doesn't exactly want to be found... might need to get creative."
"Yeah, creative." She starts to line everything up neatly against the wall, and transfigures the lamp into a small shelf unit to hold the smaller items. As she begins to shuffle the jars and packages restlessly, Pansy reaches out and puts a hand on hers.
"What's got you all in a state?"
"What if he really doesn't want to be found, Pans. What if this is all a horrible idea?"
"You told me once that he said something odd before you left for Italy. That was the last time you were at the Ministry together, right?"
"Yeah, but it's nothing."
"You two seemed to be actually getting pretty serious, and then he just drops off the face of the earth deliberately? Smells like blast-ended skrewt farts to me."
Hermione snorts. "Serious? Me and Sirius? Never in a million years."
"What makes you say that?"
"He's attractive, I was horny... he was just my..."
"Man-thing? Fuck buddy?"
Hermione rolls her eyes at the echo from before. "Never going to be serious. Doesn't mean I'm no less concerned for his whereabouts."
"Why not serious? You're hot, he's hot, you like each other, you have great sex. What else do you want?"
"I think you're forgetting my failed marriage that had exactly the same ingredients."
"Oh, you and Dean don't even fit into the same category. You were just trying to prove to Molly Weasley that you're not gay."
"Hey! That is not the only reason Dean and I got married!"
"Oh, you keep telling yourself that." Pansy flops down on Hermione's bed and stares at the ceiling for a moment. "You know, I sometimes can't believe how everything turned out."
Hermione makes a curious noise from the other side of the small room, and Pansy rolls on her side, staring at the faded Monet print on the opposite wall.
"You're divorced, I'm celibate, we're both workaholics, and I'm actually starting to think we might be friends."
Hermione's laugh is clipped and sharp. "Your definition of workaholic is seriously warped if you think you fit into that category."
"Oh, shut up."
The café is crowded for a winter morning, the outside tables filled with patrons drinking espresso and smoking, while reading their morning paper. Hermione squints through the door, watching the busy staff rush around, and turns to Pansy.
"What do you think? Popularity equals quality?"
Pansy shrugs. "Sure."
They walk up the narrow gap between some tables, and the bell on the door jangles as they open it. Nobody turns to look, and Hermione smiles.
"Gosh, I love being in Muggle towns."
"You're a very strange woman."
"Try telling me that after two decades of having your face plastered all over theProphet."
They both tug off their gloves as they stand in the queue, looking around the small interior.
Pansy peers at the selection on the counter, and looks longingly at the pan au chocolat as they step forward. "Definitely."
"Excellent, I'll have poached eggs on toast, grapefruit juice, and a macchiato, thanks." Hermione grins at Pansy innocently.
"Well, you're the one who didn't want breakfast at the hotel. Your treat."
Pansy huffs. "Fine."
"I'm going to snag us that table over by the window." Hermione strides across the room, sending a silent Confundus in the direction of a man she can see making a beeline for the same spot. The man looks up at the ceiling and wanders back towards the counter aimlessly, and Hermione sits down in one of the chairs triumphantly.
She watches the bustling street outside for a few minutes, as Pansy makes her way through the queue. Eventually, the other witch joins her, sitting down heavily in the chair opposite.
"This café better be worth it. Three people stood on my feet while I was in that queue."
Hermione grunts and turns her head away from the window. She pulls a slightly crumpled photograph from her coat pocket and lays it down on the table.
"You're not seriously going to start asking the wait staff, are you?"
"Do you have a better suggestion?"
"By the way he was dressed in that Heat photo, I think finding the local homeless population would be a better idea."
"Doesn't hurt to try, right?"
Hermione begins to think she's woken up on the wrong side of the bed after a couple of minutes, only responding with non-committal grunts and hums while Pansy talks about the best places to find vagrants in Kotor.
"So, I was thinking we could start with-"
"Could you just... maybe shut up for a couple of minutes?"
Pansy raises her eyebrows and screws up her nose a little. It makes her look a lot more like the pug faced child she had been at Hogwarts, and Hermione feels a little vindictive thrill run down her spine.
"Whatever you want, Granger."
The waiter arrives a few moments later, and as he's setting down their drinks, and Pansy's pastry, glances at the photo of Sirius. He points at it and says something in Montenegrin. Hermione looks up, and narrows her eyes.
"You know this man?"
The waiter thinks for a moment, before responding in broken English. "Yes. Name Cole."
"Have you seen him recently? Do you know where he lives?"
"Was homeless. Live at porto, but now Hotel Marija."
"He lives at Hotel Marija?"
Hermione looks back at Pansy and grins. "Well, that saves a lot of traipsing around town, doesn't it?"
"Fuck off! Get away!"
"Merlin, Hermione! Just stun him already!"
"I don't want him to land on something sharp. Who knows what's in all these piles of crap!"
"You're good at healing charms, who cares if he sticks himself with something?" Pansy leaps away from Sirius' flailing arms, her attempt at restraining him without her wand failing miserably. Hermione points her wand in the direction of the window for a moment, dodging the lamp in the process, and before she knows it, there's a stick hurtling through the curtains. Pansy catches it mid-air, and immediately casts a full body bind on their attacker.
Sirius goes rigid, and begins to topple. Before he hits the ground, Hermione casts a hasty cushioning charm, and he bounces slightly as he hits the mounds of clothing and junk that litters the grimy carpet. Pansy nudges him with a pointy boot, and Hermione whacks her across the shoulder.
"What? Just making sure he's..."
"I have complete faith in your ability to cast a spell commonly taught to first year students. Now, stop kicking him."
"How exactly are we going to disguise the fact that we're levitating a body back to our hotel?"
Hermione glances around at all the papers on the walls, and frowns. Sweeping her wand in a wide arc, all the sheets collect in a neat pile at her feet, and she turns to Pansy. "We'll figure it out. We always do."
He can hear quiet voices in the room. There's a breeze hitting his cheek, icy cold but dry.
The smell of sulphur and raspberries is all around him, and he coughs at the sour stench.
"Holy shit, he's awake."
The voice is familiar, and Sirius wrinkles his nose and squeezes his eyes before blinking them open. The room is dim, and a little hazy with smoke. Two figures stand against the wall at the foot of the bed, both with ponytails. The profile of the woman on the right snaps his vision into focus.
"...Hermione?" His voice is rough, and he coughs again. "Whats... what's going on?"
Hermione turns a little, arms crossed over her chest. He can see her glaring at him, and he shrinks back a little into the saggy mattress.
"You've been selling stories about Wizards to Muggle tabloids."
"For the last year, you've been living here in Montenegro, under the pseudonym Cole Sothis. Care to let us know what that's all about?" This time it's the second woman, hair darker than Hermione's, voice a little shriller. The one he had recognised as familiar first.
The woman ignores his question. "Do you remember anything about the past year?"
"No..." he rubs at his eyes and blinks, eyelids feeling like sandpaper. "I don't... everything's a bit... vague."
"A bit vague, or not there at all?" This time it's Hermione. She's suddenly standing at the edge of the bed, and leaning over him, shining her wand into his eyes. He holds his hand up to shade them and cringes.
"What in Merlin's name is going on?" The two women share a look. He sits up, and kicks off the thin blanket that covers him. "Where are my shoes? Give me my shoes."
"Just calm down, Black. We're not going to hurt you." Parkinson is standing next to Hermione now, holding her wand out, pointing it directly at his chest. Sirius raises his hands in surrender, and sits back against the wall.
"Why are you pointing a fucking wand at me then?" His voice is a little panicked, and he knows it's not particularly becoming, but it's an accurate reflection of how he's feeling. Two skilled Aurors have wands pointed at him, he's terrified.
"Precaution," Hermione responds, flicking her wrist so that the blanket flops back over his knees.
Anger bubbles up in his chest, and he kicks the blanket away once again. He immediately regrets it, as the cold breeze is still coming through the window, but he refuses to show his discomfort. "What kind of precaution? Hermione, it's me. Will someone please just tell me what the hell is going on?"
"We came here to find you. You've been missing for a year. We're supposed to be investigating some bullshit case about a reporter trying to expose the Wizarding World. Imagine our surprise when that reporter turned out to be you." Hermione's eyes are narrowed, and she prods at his chest with her wand.
"I swear on the Sword of Gryffindor, I have no recollection of anything since you and I were in that dungeon, fighting Nott and his flunkies."
Hermione nods, and Pansy raises her eyebrows.
"Oh, come on Pans. We already knew he was telling the truth."
Pansy nods reluctantly and jerks the thumb of her free hand towards Hermione. "Granger here cooked up a potion that's blocking the effect of the modified Confundus you were under. Care to share any info on who put the thing on you in the first place?"
Sirius feels an irritation on his back, and scratches at it. Pansy makes a disgusted face as he brings his hand back around to his front, and he looks down. Black is smeared across his fingers, and he sits forward, frantically peering behind him in an attempt to see what the cause is.
"It's a Yantra brand. Whoever put you under the Confundus was doing it from somewhere that isn't Kotor. These things are designed to have long lasting, and long distance effects."
"Where the fuck is Kotor?"
"Montenegro, Sirius. Where you've been for Merlin knows how long."
"Montenegro... Montenegro." He looks up at the two witches and wrinkles his brow. "I couldn't even point out Montenegro on a map. How on earth did I end up here?"
"Beats me," replies Hermione. She waves the wand over him, and it glows blue for a moment. He bats it away.
He remains still as she passes the wand over him, hovering for a moment over the area near his hip.
"It's okay, Sirius, not your fault."
"But that's just the thing, I think it might be."
She narrows her eyes and frowns. "How so?"
"It's all a bit hazy but... I think maybe I should have kept my return to the world quiet."
"Kind of hard considering you landed on the cold hard floor of the Department of Mysteries Death Chamber."
"I could have snuck out."
"You have very little faith in the Ministry's security systems."
"Hermione, it was Kingsley."
There's a heavy silence, as all the inhabitants of the room freeze. Eventually Pansy pipes up.
"The Minister of Magic did this to you? The same man who spent years fighting against dark wizards alongside you, who assigned us to find you."
"So, maybe he thought you wouldn't find me... perhaps he was so confident that he'd hidden me well enough that you would never find me." Sirius takes a breath and settles his eyes on Hermione. "Remember before we left for Italy, and I told you something didn't feel right?"
"You mean when we talked about having to leave the Ministry without much notice?"
"Yes!" he exclaims, gesturing excitedly. "I think Shacklebolt was sending us off on fake assignments – well, apart from that last one, anyway - to keep us away from the real danger behind the scenes."
"Do you know what the real danger is?"
"Of course... oh shit, I haven't told you, have I? Sorry, I think my brain is still a little scrambled." Pansy and Hermione look at him expectantly. "That dungeon, where you and I got separated... the last time we saw each other."
"Yeah..." Hermione looks at him curiously and something in his mind clicks. "Kingsley was there. He was thin and frail, in a cell deeper into the side of the mountain than we were. But then another man who looked just like the Shacklebolt we know stunned me, and the next thing I knew, I woke up here."
"So, there's someone who is Polyjuiced as him running the Ministry of Magic?"
"That can't be it, or all the new security protocols would have been tripped. It has to be him, just perhaps not the one we know."
"How can it be Shacklebolt, but not be Shacklebolt?" Pansy asks, wand still trained on him.
"I don't know... time travel? Dimension hopping?" He points at Hermione. "You told me something started feeling off at the Ministry around the same time I fell back out of the veil... what if it's a portal, but not to the afterlife like we think, but to alternate universes or dimensions?"
Hermione stares at him for a moment, eyebrows raised and face disbelieving. "That is the most ludicrous thing I've heard in my entire life."
"More ludicrous than me being dead for nearly fifteen years, then suddenly being spat back out like a brussels sprout from a five year old's mouth?"
His mouth is on hers, and she's biting gently at his lower lip. He shivers, echoing her statement.
His hands are on her neck, fingers tangled in her hair at the nape of her neck and he tugs roughly, switching their positions so she is the one with her back pressed against the office wall. He rubs his hips against hers, and she sucks hard, soothing the bite from a moment earlier.
"Mmmm..." one of his hands is on her waist now gripping tightly as she lifts one leg in an attempt to get closer, grinding herself harder into him. She lets go of his mouth for a moment, and trails her lips towards his ear, biting down hard on his earlobe and tugging. He groans loudly, and she chuckles. "This is... interesting?"
He grabs both her hips and lifts her, turning them both so that her bottom is perched on the console table just to their left. "It's a bit weird though, right?"
Between kisses, she responds. "Really, really fucking weird... but... mmmm, yeah... nope, definitely weird in a good... mmmm, way."
"I think..." kiss. "We should do this..." bite. "More often" suck, bite, lick.
"I con—ooh, lord- yeah, I definitely concur." Her voice goes high pitched at the end, as he flicks at a nipple through her shirt, and he chuckles against her neck. "No serious stuff, just sex though."
"You're the boss."
They take the long way back to the United Kingdom. Despite having a multi-person Portkey at their disposal, Hermione deems it too dangerous. Sirius' brain is still not back to normal, and she says something about having no idea who is tracking their movements.
Although her words suggest otherwise, Sirius can't help but feel Hermione is angry with him. She's currently glowering at him across the fold down table of the train, and he shifts uncomfortably in his seat. "What?"
"Why didn't you say anything to me earlier? About something not being right."
"I agreed with you numerous times, Granger. Don't put this all on me."
"You've always been more perceptive than me Why didn't you think your gut wasn't screaming at you to investigate?"
"I don't know... I think maybe I just thought I was being paranoid, you know, seeing as I was a completely paranoid, raging lunatic while you lot were in school."
"You weren't that bad."
Sirius looks at her pointedly and she scratches her temple.
"Okay, so maybe you were that bad." She points at him, finger jabbing the air. "That doesn't mean you weren't wrong not to tell me something was seriously off."
"I didn't know anything was wrong, Hermione. I had the same tickle at the back of my neck as you did. Don't go trying to blame this whole mess on me. This is Kingsley we're talking about. He's a smart guy, and if he is some alternate version, chances are that he's still a smart guy... perhaps a little more arrogant, but still intelligent.."
Hermione huffs and crosses her arms over her chest.
"I know it's been a year for you but-"
He sighs, and settles back into his seat, not taking his eyes off her. Pansy mutters something and stands, wandering off in the direction of the restaurant car, and Hermioine shifts in her seat uncomfortably.
"So... you and Pansy, huh?"
"She's a good partner."
"I'm surprised you're both still alive."
"People change. You of all folk should know that." Her voice is clipped, but he doesn't take his eyes off hers.
"Why are you being such a bitch?"
"I'm sorry, Sirius. I'm sorry if I'm destroying your fragile male ego with my unwillingness to pick up where we left off. I'm sorry if I'm not cutting you any slack for letting yourself get captured and put under mind control for a year."
He groans and looks up at the ceiling.
It's going to be a long trip.
Hermione glances at the person to her left, Dean Thomas, and nods. Dean smiles back at her and draws his wand, looking up at the large gates that loom ahead.
"So... you ready?" he asks.
She grins at him and twirls her wand in her fingers. "Ready as I'll ever be."
On her left, Pansy snorts and nudges her in the shoulder. "Ready to fuck up the Minister of Magic and his posse. Sounds like we're walking to our impending doom."
"Merlin, Parkinson. Have a positive outlook, will you?"
"Shut up, Sirius." It's all three of them who respond, not taking their eyes off the black, imposing entrance to the Minister's home.
Hermione looks back at the small assault team they have assembled. "Ready, folks?"
They give a collective nod, and she turns back to the manor.
"Okay, let's do this."
There's blood splattered against the walls, the dark, glossy surface stark against the rough surface of the wallpaper. She can feel Sirius' warmth at her back, and she stiffens.
"So... that's that, I guess?" His voice is strangely light, a stark contrast to their surroundings. "I can't remember the last time I was in a battle that got so bloody. Not exactly par for the course when you're firing magic at one another. Those bastards sure were fond of Sectumsemptra."
A bark of laughter escapes her throat, and she's shaking, her wand clattering to the ground. "I... oh Merlin, I killed him."
Kingsley lays at her feet, unmoving, eyes staring back at her dull and unseeing.
She's still looking down at him blankly, when a boot comes from the edge of her vision, stepping in just behind where the wrong Shacklebolt lays.
She looks up, and into the eyes of Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic. This is a man she knows so well, thin and gaunt, but still no less commanding.
She turns back towards Sirius. "Yeah."
"I um... was wondering..."
"Spit it out."
"Would you like to go out for dinner sometime? Like... a date."
There's a wolf whistle from the other side of the room, and Dean's jovial voice echoes around the room. "Better treat her right, Black."
Hermione chuckles and grins. "Do you promise to let me know if you've got any dodgy gut feelings in the future?"
"Well... yeah. But not if it's you know, a dodgy gut."
Hermione laughs heartily, still shaking, and puts a hand on his cheek. "It's not weird, is it?"
"No, Granger. It's not weird."