Chapter Forty-Five: The Present
It was the dream world Juliette had envisioned for as long as she could remember. Although she missed Draco terribly, the gaiety that had enveloped Grimmuald on this one, single day was enough to almost make her forget. She watched as Hermione snuggled close to Sirius on the wooden floor in the center of Grimmuald’s formal gardens. He had one arm around her waist and another hanging loosely at his side as he twirled around in a dance that seemed to make them oblivious to those watching from the perimeter of the square.
Sirius waved his hand to her in greeting, and she smiled, wondering how angry he would get if she un-did the ringlets on her head that Fleur had taken hours to make look just perfect. He winked at her mischievously, his hand lifting her direction before turning Hermione in quick step that caused her to mother to laugh out loud. Juliette reached to her head, disappointed that the ringlets were still there, and then she felt the movement on her tummy. She glanced down to the horrid dress she’d been forced to wear- a white one to match her mother’s but it was covered in tiny pastel butterflies that made her look like a freakish flower garden. She’d hated the dress that morning and made no qualms about the frilly thing to Sirius.
She glanced back to Sirius who was smiling at her as he left Hermione on the dance floor to head toward Remus and the other men assembled at a nearby table. He had enchanted her dress…the butterflies now dancing and fluttering across the fabric of her dress as if to keep her company. She tumbled with glee, dropping on the grass to see if she could actually catch any of them or if he was only teasing her.
“What on earth is she doing?” Remus asked, watching Juliette as he kicked a seat out for Sirius.
“Chasing butterflies.” Sirius shrugged and took a glass off the table, surveying the pastel layered liquids with bemused interest. “Pink and yellow?” he asked, shaking his head. “Let me guess, Tonks picked out the colors?”
“Funny,” Remus snorted. “Oliver and Viktor brought brandy to spike the fluffy girly drinks.”
“Brilliant.” He raised a hand to call them over.
“Viktor is harassing people about the Quidditch World Cup,” Oliver explained, grinning as he poured a dark, ruby colored liquid into Sirius’ glass without even being asked.
“Sorry, Sirius, it just seemed like a good opportunity-"
Sirius waved him off. “As long as I get free tickets, harass all our guests until they leave.”
Viktor nodded as if to say “I told you so” and then sank down between Remus and Bill. “Oliver is making moves on Gabrielle.”
“She’s just a kid!” Oliver argued but took a good natured seat with them anyway. “Besides, without that stupid veil luck he had, Sirius would be as old as Remus now.”
“Don’t remind me,” Sirius grinned and clinked his glass with Remus’ as a peace offering.
“When are you going to make an honest woman of Tonks anyway, Remus? Twelve years is a pretty long courtship even for an old fart like you.”
“Marauders aren’t the marrying type, remember?” Bill reminded them and then glanced at Sirius. “Oh, sorry mate.”
Remus threw his head back in laughter. “I figure I’ll let Sirius give it a go. If he’s still alive in a year or so, maybe Tonks and I have a chance.”
“Sirius has defied death how many times, again?” Viktor asked, grinning. “He’s got damn better odds than you at surviving marriage.”
Sirius’ eyes drifted to Hermione. She had moved to be with Juliette, her white cotton dress swaying in the spring wind. He could find nothing more beautiful than watching her bare feet, so simple and at ease, twirling around the grass with her daughter. Could there possible be a more normal, mundane, breathtaking thing in the world?
The late spring sun glinted off his wedding band, and he glanced at it curiously - the strange color or perhaps the band itself seeming horribly out of place on his own hand. He had stared at one on James’ finger for ages, and even before his death had never quite gotten used to the look of his friend wearing such a tiny but monumental piece of metal. Of course, this was no ordinary band…made of neither gold nor silver, it flashed a somewhat silverish white which sparkled with colors of red, green and gold if you held it against the prisms of light just right. Hermione had fought him about it but he’d never been one to be swayed when he made up his mind. He’d had the locket melted down for their rings, determined he would never forget the gift Draco had given them both. He knew as time went on Hermione would feel the same and, indeed, even today, mere months after his sacrifice, she was beginning to remember Draco with fondness rather than remorse.
He felt the heavy weight of Hermione’s arms around his neck as she leaned down to steal his off-colored drink. The other men looked at him anxiously, but Sirius merely grinned; he knew Hermione’s drinking well enough to know she had no doubt in what she was doing.
“I sincerely hope you don’t expect me to call you Mrs. Black,” he returned with a mock shudder, as he let his hands slide across her bare skin to keep her close.
“Perish the thought. I’ve no desire to be compared to that old bat.”
“She would make one frightening mother-in-law, wouldn’t she?” Remus asked, refilling the glass for Sirius and Hermione to share.
Hermione dropped into Sirius’ lap, nodding her thanks to Remus. “You know what Tonks is serving over there?” She paused for effect. “Lemonade. Now really, Remus-”
Remus held his hands up with a laugh. “I suggested we all run off to London and forget this whole blasted wedding thing.”
“Well,” Hermione kissed his cheek softly, “I figured if you weren’t going to ever marry the girl, she might as well get to plan someone’s wedding.”
The boys howled with laughter, one by one getting up to leave the couple alone. Hermione nuzzled Sirius’ neck. “How much longer until I get you in bed, Mr. Black?”
“Sexual appetite of a man, I tell you.”
“Tell me you love me,” she ordered, entwining her fingers in his.
“What on earth would give you an idea like that?”
“Tell me.” She punched him gently in the ribs.
He kissed her lips softly, knowing he loved her but still unwilling to say the words out loud. His eyes met hers, hoping she understood.
He knew he would one day have to explain Draco’s role in Ginny’s death, but for now, it had been hard enough to work through the gift he had given them both. He had no desire to tarnish the memory so soon after his death or disappearance or whatever it was the locket actually did with him. And no matter how much he loved her, he knew he wasn’t nearly free enough from his guilt to tell her what she wanted to hear.
He dropped his eyes away, but she quickly turned his face to hers and planted a kiss on his lips. She smiled. “It’s okay. I can wait. For once, we have time on our side.”
He nodded, knowing she was accepting him for who was as no woman had ever been willing to do before. Taking her hand, he pulled her back toward the dance floor.
“By the way, thank you,” he said, as they walked hand in hand toward the crowd.
“What for? My graciousness? My wonderful insight into your mannerisms? Putting up with you stupid boyish gestures? Or your arrogant, incessant fighting over pointless things?”
“No,” he pulled her into a warm embrace, trying to conceal the grin that was forming across his face. But her eyes were sparkling with his - she knew him too well, and he couldn’t help but laugh. “For not wearing a fucking veil to the wedding.”
Hermione sank into his easy movements on the dance floor, letting his strong arms pull her into the curves of his chest that she’d memorized so well under the cover of darkness. She glanced around the festive atmosphere, trying to keep her emotions in check. She dropped her head against his shoulder for the briefest moment, though, and knew she’d given herself away.
“Are you all right?” he asked, his lips soft against her ear. “It’s okay to say no.”
As always happened, Sirius’ voice caused the world to melt away and allowed her to believe nothing else existed. “Sirius, do you think it’s possible for people like us to be happy? The things we’ve done, the things we’ve failed to do...what gives us any right to happiness?”
He chuckled, kissing her forehead gently. “I care little about what the world sees as right, my dear.”
“Sirius,” Hermione chided, sliding her hand around his waist to make him look at her in earnest.
“You and I?” he whispered reassuringly, the crooked grin that had welcomed him back from the veil so many months ago, sliding across his face, “we’ll make the world jealous.”
Author’s Note: There is no possible way to put into words how much I owe to all of you. I have read every single review (the good and the not so good) and have learned something from every one. This story was meant to be done in two months time and now, two years later, is finally finished. For those who have been with me from the beginning – your support and encouragement have meant the absolute world to me. To those who joined in as it was in progress – nothing compares to having someone drop a note and tell me they skipped work to read something I wrote. It’s an amazing and wonderful feeling. To all of you who voted for this story (and me personally) in the Dobby’s I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Never did I imagine the nominations much less the out pouring of support all of you gave to me during this.
As to what’s next: I have an original work that is keeping me quite busy but I’m not about to give up on fanfic. I love it and HPFF too much. The sequel to this and Reckless will be posted shortly (I need to edit the first chapter) as my site duties and real life allow. But it shouldn’t be long, I promise! The Out of Your Realm Challenge has begun again as well and I may attempt an entry in it (and hope that it doesn’t take over my life like it did last time around!). If I seem to take to long….please come hound me in the meet the author section at the forum…nothing gets my off my butt faster than that :P.
Again, thank you and I hope this story means as much to you as all of you readers have meant to me.
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