the present
Chapter Nine: Tortured Thoughts

“Your talk with Draco must have gone as well as my talk with Remus,” Sirius muttered, barging into the kitchen and brushing past Hermione as he slammed the cabinet doors. When she failed to answer, he turned her way. She was fussing about the kitchen, burning toast and muttering under her breath as she tossed it to the table. She barely managed to keep from dropping the coffee pot as she tried to pour him a cup. “Trouble in paradise?”

He ducked as the hot liquid flew through the air, missing him by mere inches. Leaning against the counter, he crossed his arms, eyeing her with genuine curiosity now.

Hermione could feel his eyes burning into her back but she refused to turn. Couldn’t he tell she just wanted to be alone? She hated him right now, almost as much as she hated Draco. Draco and his damn insistence at staying by her side…she had tried everything she knew to convince him to take the mission with the Ministry. But, no, he was ‘worried for her safety’ and couldn’t ‘fathom leaving her alone with the likes of Sirius Black’. As if I’m any safer with Draco around, she thought furiously. He’d told her if she would just be willing to do magic then he might feel comfortable leaving her at Grimmauld…his veiled threat had sent her reeling and when he had the gall to suggest that she would miss his touch and their nights alone, Hermione could do nothing but slam the door in his face.

“He’s a skunk. Can’t he ever just let things go?” she mumbled to no one in particular which caused Sirius to chuckle. Her cheeks flushed with anger as she whirled on him. “And you,” she seethed.

“Yes, me,” he said with a grin, “I knew we would eventually get to me.”

“Self-absorbed, arrogant, self-centered—"

“Surely you can do better than that. Those mean the same thing, my dear.” He leaned to the side as she sent another mug flying his direction.

She turned her back on him, shoving her hands under the soapy dishwater and fiercely scrubbing at imaginary spots. “There are not enough words in my vocabulary to even describe how much I loathe the two of you right now.”

Sirius wasn’t sure what made him do it. But she was so angry and full of life and so ready to knock him senseless that he couldn’t resist. Leaning in to her before she could react, he kissed her gently. “You are beautiful when you hate me, do you know that?”

She hesitated. Her breath caught in her throat, the dirty glass in her hand slipping to the floor in shock. But Sirius only smiled and moved away from her, chewing on the burned piece of toast she had tossed on the table.

She stood still a moment, trying to understand what had just happened. She came up empty though and followed after him. He was halfway up the stairs and she saw him hesitate when she appeared. His smile dissolved as he watched her and she could see a bleakness come over him as if he had suddenly realized what he’d done.

Sirius gazed at her in mild perplexity, as if her following him had changed something. She no longer seemed so unapproachable. Although she looked terrible- her apron was dirtied, black crumbs from this morning's toast sticking to it, her hands covered in suds, and she looked distinctively like a muggle with her hair pulled back- she had a dignified, prideful air about her that he hadn’t witnessed since Lily died. The thought caused his heart to ache…he had been present for the terrible fates that had given Lily her tenacious character. That Hermione may have endured such hardships made a flurry of guilt wash over him. His eyes came to rest on the ring on her hand, the glint from the over-sized silver setting causing a vague and rather unpleasant memory to stir in him.

“I apologize. I had no right.”

He shoved his hands into the pockets of his trousers as he watched her approach him…if she was going to slap him, well, at least he’d had worse. But she moved to stand on the step above him, making her almost eye level with him and forcing him to turn her direction. That she had somehow gotten such control over him within a matter of minutes infuriated him. He was about to launch into an offensive verbal attack when she cocked her head slightly to the side, her words a whisper.


It was the last question he had expected and one he wasn’t prepared to answer. He could tell her how long he’d been without a woman in his arms, he could tell her how she reminded him of a love long lost or…he could lie.

He chose the latter.

“It’s the ring,” he murmured, twirling the engagement ring Draco had given her. “Forbidden fruit and all.”

She hesitated only a moment before making her decision. She slipped the ring off her finger, dropping it into her apron pocket and looked at him expectantly. Her move had thrown him and she could see him fighting. A moment later she understood.

He stepped toward her quickly, locking her against the banister as his lips pressed into hers with a passion that made her weak. She gasped for breath but he kept coming back, lack of air and space causing her to feel faint. His arms were strong around her, though, holding her steady so that she couldn’t move away. She felt the hard, desperate clutch of his body as he pulled her closer. But when she began to let her hands travel him, he pulled away. His lips were soft next to her ear, their ragged breaths coming rhythmically as they tried to calm themselves. “Or perhaps the ring was keeping me away.”

“It’s a piece of metal, Sirius,” she whispered, her hands running through his hair.

“Perhaps to you.” He pulled her hands away, moving out of her grasp. “To Draco, it means a hell of a lot more.”

Sirius struggled to quell the emotions tumbling within him…it had been years since he’d felt so confused and out of sorts. Avoiding her gaze, he climbed the stairs, slamming his door behind him. He paced the floor as he tried to get himself in check, wondering exactly when she had become the cold hearted person he’d just been witness to. No, that wasn’t fair. He tempted her…he knew she hadn’t been with anyone….she told him herself how she had cut everything off with Draco while she tried to decide what was best for Juliette. How could he blame her for a natural reaction to a man’s touch? But, no. It was what she had said that bothered him…not that she would have so easily been bedded. Did she really think so callously about a ring that meant the world to Draco? It was the only decent thing Sirius had ever seen Draco do…how could she be so ungrateful?

“How dare you!” Hermione burst into his room, slamming the door louder than he. “How dare you decide you know what’s best for me. You have the nerve to kiss me and then when I choose to reciprocate you judge me?” She shoved him angrily. “Screw you and whatever arrogant tangent you’ve decided to be on today. I don’t need shit from you. I get enough from everyone else as it is.”

“Me?” His anger suddenly matched hers. “Exactly when did you become such a bitch? Draco gives you a part of himself and you’d find it so useless to just toss it away without a second thought?”

“What are you talking about?”

Sirius hesitated. He turned to look at her more closely. Her anger had caused her face to flush a dull red but he saw nothing else. Could if have misjudged her so terribly? “Give me the ring.”


“Give me the ring,” he growled. He winced as she tossed it effortlessly his direction. He turned it over in his hand. No, he hadn’t been wrong. “Have you looked at it, Hermione?”

“Of course. It’s been on my finger for…”

“You assume I care about that,” he cut her off. “Have you looked at it?” He shoved it her direction. “See that? N.B. Do you know who that is?”

“Narcissa Black,” she whispered, sinking onto the bed. She fingered the ring hesitantly now, almost as if she was afraid of it. Sirius took it away and sank down next to her.

“My parents gave this to her as a wedding present,” he explained. “This was his mother’s wedding ring. Not merely a piece of metal, as you so eloquently described it.”

“Oh, Sirius,” her voice cracked. “I had no idea. I swear. Why on earth would he do that? It’s not as if…” she trailed off, her eyes meeting his.

“Perhaps he feels more strongly about you than you imagined?” he asked quietly. He tucked the ring back in her hand, tightening her fist around it. “Either way, my actions were inexcusable and I do apologize.”

He moved away to the window, closing his eyes as the warm winter sun streaked through the panes. He knew he had to clear his mind…he had to think clearly with so much at stake. That locket was so full of dark magic- he had to take care of everything before unfortunate things came to be. He knew that but still couldn’t bring himself to say anything that might cause Hermione to make rash decisions.

“Sirius, it doesn’t change anything.”

Her whispered voice behind him caught him off guard. She slipped her hands to his biceps, her hands tracing lightly over his shirt. “I mean it changes some things, of course, but not this.”

He breathed deeply to calm the quiver in his stomach. “I’ve made this mistake once before in my life, Hermione. I can’t do it again.”

“I’m not married,” she whispered, turning him to face her. “And I’m not ashamed to be seen with you either. I don’t want to confuse, Juliette, but…”

“No,” he shook his head. “She doesn’t count. Things are different with her.”

“But there is no one else I would keep you hidden from,” her voice was soft and reassuring. “Whatever she did to you, it’s not fair to assume I’ll be the same. The ring was a mistake. Nothing more and definetly not how I would have acted had I known.” Her voice quieted. “Did she know?”

He stiffened considerably. “I don’t know—"

“The person you gave the ring to…did she know how much it meant to you?”

“She should have,” he murmured. He drew away from her, the sudden exposed feeling making him uneasy. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It matters if you are unwilling to kiss me because of something some whor—"

“Never say that! Do you understand me! Never say anything like that!” Sirius was shaking her before he even realized. He let go of her instantly, as if she was on fire, and backed away.

“Sirius—" she took a step toward him, unsure of exactly what to say. She’d never seen anyone react quite so violently…well, not since Harry had first learned of the prophecy anyway.


But his voice was a mere whisper and Hermione continued forward. As if calming a child, she ran her hand through his hair, speaking softly to him about nothing. She kissed his face, her lips pressing gently all around to help soothe his tortured thoughts. When she was certain he was calm, she kissed him gingerly on the lips, almost afraid of bringing out more demons that he had hidden away. She pulled away slowly, hoping to keep him in the calmness she had invoked in him with her movements.

“Don’t trust me, Hermione,” he murmured. “Promise me you won’t ever trust me.”

Hermione met his gaze strongly, surprised that for once he was wavering against her. He wanted her to lie…she could see it in his eyes. But she couldn’t bring herself to do it. “I trust no one else,” she whispered.

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