the present
Chapter Thirty-One: An Old Mentor

He was too tired to fight, to argue or even analyze. Too tired to be rational and think about how wrong his running to Hermione actually was. But staring out the frost covered window into the dark as he sipped his coffee, the caffeine was beginning to unfog his senses.

What exactly had he been thinking? Running to her with no idea whether or not Draco was beside her. How would he have explained that? Just appearing in her bedroom in the middle of the night? How could he have been so careless?

And Bella. He had killed his cousin tonight. Not that the relationship particularly meant anything to him but the virtue of life certainly did. Was he as heartless as people seemed to think? Perhaps he was being too hard on Hermione, pushing her to face facts from her past that she wasn’t yet ready for.

Or maybe he was just looking for a way out. The commonality, the normal life, the routine – he’d never done well in these settings. Something usually fouled everything up and if it didn’t, he seemed to be able to cause enough disruptions of his own. He could just fly away. Take off to some exotic locale and forget about Hermione and Draco and Juliette and Remus. He could do without them…he was sure of it. Exile was something he didn’t like but it did seem to be the one thing he excelled at. And they could certainly handle life without him – they’d been doing it for over a decade.

“Sirius,” Hermione’s soft voice was beside him, her hand slipping into his. “You’re shivering. Come back to bed.”

When he failed to move immediately, her eyes narrowed in the darkness. “What is it?”

He opened his mouth to respond but the flickering Christmas lights from outside the house were bouncing off her face, contorting it into a freakish ribbon of multi-colored strands. Her eyes were still narrowed on him, as if waiting for the bad news to hit and he wavered.

It would be so easy…to stand here and insult her. To make her so angry she would never want to see him again. There were a million tiny things he could say knowing that they would cut through her. He had no doubt - he alone knew her soul. He could build her up or destroy her in a few simple words. He could offer her security or strip away everything with mere syllables. Or, perhaps, words weren’t even necessary. He could break his grip and stride away. He could storm out the door and cause a scene.

But what purpose would it serve? To protect her? She was in no danger. Confusion and heartbreak perhaps but no danger.

Heartbreak. Sirius scoffed. As if she was using him for anything other than kinship and a roll in the hay. They had chemistry, he knew that, and he knew she was clever enough to take advantage of it whatever chance she got. Not that he was complaining, of course, but it would be nice to have something like Remus had – something beyond friendship and sex. Something that didn’t have to be hidden.

What on earth was he saying? Wasn’t this what every man dreamed of? A warm and willing woman anytime he wanted with no strings attached? Nothing tying him down or weighing on him. He wanted this…he started this.

No, he shook his head. Leaving would solve nothing for her but it would protect him. He was in over his head and Remus knew it. Hadn’t he even warned him? Remus didn’t want to pick up the pieces when she chose Draco over him. But, hell, when had Remus ever been right about anything? So, he was going to be upset and pissed off when she married Draco. He’d get over it…he’d done it once before already, hadn’t he?

He had learned the hard way – he’d much prefer to have her for a few moments than to never have her at all. Broken hearts be damned.

He turned toward her, cupping her face in his hands. He let his lips brush hers with a soft, feathery touch. “Happy Christmas, my dear.”

Hermione’s face melted into a relaxed smile. “I’ve got you a present you know,” she murmured, padding across the floor in her bare feet. “Mind you, it’s not a statute full of memories that will make you blush or anything but I suppose it’s the thought that counts.”

“Is it?” Sirius asked, feeling his heart return to normal from the race he’d just lost to himself. He sank down onto the bed, as she climbed on to sit next to him. Smiling, she handed him a box wrapped in red tissue paper, little stars moving around the paper as if in a Christmas dance.

“W-where…” Sirius’ voice faltered as he stared at the gift. Tangled under the tissue paper lay a single framed photograph. Harry was standing by himself, quite solemn, his green eyes flashing brilliantly in what Sirius could only imagine was a late summer sun. His cloak was billowing with the wind, one hand clutching his wand and another hanging loosely at his side. A brief smile would appear and then disappear only to be replaced with the melancholic look that was so characteristically Harry. “He, he looks so old,” Sirius managed, his fingers running across the photo with Harry’s tiny movements.

He was not the rangly boy he remembered but a strong, tall, capable man. His muscles had filled out, his shoulders now broadened with time. His face wore the heartbreak of a thousand lifetimes and Sirius couldn’t help but swallow hard.

“He was only twenty-three. We were in Bulgaria maybe or Romania, I really can’t recall. It was the day before his birthday,” Hermione offered. “Most photographs I had were destroyed ages ago in one way or another. I tried to find one where he looked a bit more gleeful but it seems Harry wasn’t ever very gleeful when cameras were around.”

“No, I suppose he didn’t live a very happy life, did he?” Sirius closed his eyes, guilt coursing through him. He loved seeing Harry, felt a surge of pride at seeing the man he had become but the solemnity that had to have engulfed Harry’s life filled him with anger and despair. “I did this you know. I should have been there, I should have – “

Hermione tugged the photo out of his hands. “I didn’t give it to you so you could berate yourself, Sirius. He loved you. Even the brief time you two had together meant the world to him. He carried it with him every day. No one, absolutely no one, is responsible except Voldemort.”

“Indeed?” Sirius’ countered. “Then why do you carry all that guilt around with you?”

“Don’t try and analyze me.”

Sirius turned away, unwilling to let her bait him into an argument for mere distraction. He wanted to be miserable…he deserved to be miserable. “I fuckin’ hate the holidays.”

Draco huddled under his cloak, pulling the edges of his hood tighter around his face to obscure it from view. He kicked aside a drunk lying in the street, glanced quickly in all directions, then stepped inside the dilapidated building. He threaded through the stairwells, carefully stepping over holes that showed through to the floors below. He glanced up at the rusted metal number, raised his knuckles to knock and then hesitated.

An image of Juliette passed through his mind…her asking him not to leave tonight, almost as if she knew he was going somewhere he shouldn’t. He had smiled, kissed her as usual, and then debated his options. But he knew no one else to turn to.

He rapped heavily, the door opening immediately. He recoiled at the aged and bitter man standing before him. “Severus?”

“You shouldn’t be here,” he hissed and tried to slam the door.

Draco shoved his foot in the doorframe, his eyes searching his old mentor. “I had no where else to turn or I assure you I wouldn’t have come.”

He could feel Severus breaking into his mind but made no attempt to stop him. He had nothing to hide from him, after all…Severus knew everything. Draco held his gaze steadily, letting him probe until a vision of Sirius flashed across his mind. He broke the connection immediately but had not been quite quick enough - the startled look on Severus’ face proof of that.

“May I come in?”

Severus nodded without replying, backing away from the door to allow him entrance. He waved to a torn and weathered chair in the corner. “You take a big risk coming here. You put not only yourself but me at risk as well.”

“I don’t fear my father, Severus. You should know that.”

“But you do fear Sirius Black,” he commented, leveling a gaze at him. “Perhaps you should learn to fear them both.”

Draco nodded and sank into the chair, a cloud of dust rising to surround him. As it settled, he turned a pained look Severus’ direction. “As usual, you are probably right.”

Severus sank down opposite him, his hand rubbing the stubble on his face. He waited patiently but Draco seemed unable to verbalize anything on his mind. “How long has he been back?”

“Too long,” Draco responded quietly. “You’ll leave him alone, Severus. He doesn’t even know you are alive and I’ll keep it that way. You have to assure me you’ll leave him alone.”

A small smile crept across his face, the nearest thing to a laugh he could manage. “That’s not what your mind says you want.”

“Yes, well, when have you given much stock to my intelligence?” he countered. “I’ll deal with Sirius.”

“The only other reason for your appearance that I can deduce from your limited brain function is the lovely Ms. Granger.” Severus sent him a dark glare. “Surely you haven’t risked both our lives for the sake of her.”

“I’ve asked her to marry me, Severus.”

“I’m sure that’s endeared your father to you even more.”

Draco couldn’t hide the grimace that passed across his face and is old school professor cackled loudly. The laughed died out quickly, though, replaced with a fit of coughing that made Draco’s heart wrench with both pity and disgust.

“She’s a site better than living in some shack with only myself for company,” Draco spat and stood up to pace the room. “Let’s not waste both our times, alright? You know why I’m here.”

Severus lowered his eyes, a brief moment of regret passing over him that Draco could sense even from across the dusty room. “I can offer you no advice, Draco. I’ve nothing left to offer anyone.”

“You know me better than anyone – "

“You are no longer the person I knew. The boy I knew loved himself above all others, he was ambitious and would never settle for less than he believed he was entitled,” Severus whispered. “That boy is long gone.”


“Enough!” he sat up in the chair. “Even I have better things to do that worry about your love life, Draco.”

“Hermione is none of your concern either.” Draco shuffled uneasily. “I need information.”

Severus head twisted slightly to the side, an inquisitive look passing over him before he could hide it. “Indeed?”

Draco sank down opposite him, knowing that trusting Severus was like playing roulette. He could and possibly would, turn on him in an instant. He also knew he had made a vow to his mother years ago. Severus would not betray him. Nor would he turn him away. He had no choice and they both knew it.

“I need to know about a Black family heirloom. What its properties are, how it works, what type of magic it’s bonded with.”

“And what makes you think I would know anything about a Black family heirloom?” Severus’ eyes narrowed, his voice a low growl. “Try asking your dear friend Sirius.”

“I’m asking you,” Draco returned. “If my mother was around, of course, I’d be happy to ask her but as you know—“

“Fine,” Severus cut him off. “Tell me and don’t waste my time with nonsense.”

Draco nodded. “It’s a locket. A locket that makes wishes become real.”

A small wry grin spread across Severus’ haggard face. “Yes, Draco. I know it well.”

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