Sirius didn’t understand the magical world. For all its amazing qualities, the magical world lacked the one thing muggles had long since learned…foreseeable consequences. If a muggle is killed, for instance, the consequence is foreseeable. The muggle is dead and will never return. In the magical world, though, this isn’t always the case…. Five years ago, Sirius Black fell through a veil at the Department of Ministries and left those he loved. Now, though, less than a week after the final vanquishment of Lord Voldemort, here he was – floating amidst a sea of agonizing grief with the others at Grimmauld Place. How he made it back, he could only guess, but somehow the death of Voldemort had brought back almost all of those that had perished at his hands. Those who had willingly sacrificed their lives to protect others – James, Lily, Dumbledore, Neville, Ron, Molly, Arthur, Fred, and George – they were never to return. And then there was Harry. Sirius grasped Harry’s lifeless arm in an attempt to shake him awake. Harry had protected Ginny and Hermione. He’d saved them all. A week after the battle, though, and Harry had still not awoken. Harry could come back to him just as Sirius had returned to his godson. Sirius was sure of it - they needed each other. “Sirius?” Sirius whirled from Harry’s bedside, ready to attack the intruder. “It’s just me, Sirius.” Bill Weasley held his hands up. “I’m not loony, Bill. I know who you are. You just startled me.” “The war’s over, Sirius.” Bill put a hand on his shoulder. “You have to stop being so anxious.” “He’s still fighting.” Sirius nodded toward Harry. “That one is also his own private battle, Sirius. No one can help him with it.” Bill cleared his throat. “But there are people we can help.” “What do you mean?” “Look around you, Sirius. Everyone has lost someone. Damn near all of my family is gone. I’m older, I was prepared for this, but Ginny…” Bill trailed off as emotions overtook him. “And Hermione. Both of them have lost almost everyone close to them in the wizarding world.” “What do you want me to do?” Sirius’ voice sounded defeated. “I can’t hold everyone together by myself. I need your help.” Bill watched as Sirius’ grip on Harry tightened. “He’s safe, Sirius. The rest of us need you now.” “I’ll be down soon.” Sirius could see the doubt in Bill’s eyes so he smiled reassuringly. “I’ll be down.” Sirius knew Bill was right. Bill had done more than his share. He’d brought everyone back to Grimmauld Place, got the injured medical attention and made arrangements for the dead. Sirius had been useless; so wrapped up in his own grief that no one else’s emotions mattered. It was easier that way…blocking away the tears and pain. But Sirius also knew that should the younger ones follow his path, they would grow into the same dark outlook with which he saw life. Bill was right. It was time Sirius let Harry fight his own battle and he helped the others. When Harry awoke, he would undoubtedly be blaming himself for the deaths of those around him. Somehow, Sirius had to make sure the emotions at Grimmauld stabilized before Harry woke up. Sirius kissed Harry’s forehead and, with new found determination, went downstairs to find the others. “Sirius!” Ginny flung herself into his arms as soon as he appeared. “I was so worried,” she murmured through tears. Ginny…the youngest of anyone in the room, Sirius thought silently. How had she managed to survive? “Harry.” Ginny whispered into his ear. “Harry saved me.” Sirius nodded; disconcerted that Ginny could so easily read his thoughts. Taking his hand, she pulled him into the dining room. “It’s the same question everyone asks, Sirius. How did little Ginny survive? No mind reading powers, I promise.” Although she had attempted a joke, her words were not lost on Sirius. She felt guilty. She, the witch barely trained, had survived while others perished. Sirius tilted her face towards him. “We remain for a reason, Ginny. It took me twenty years to discover that.” Ginny nodded. “Thank you.” Sirius smiled and joined the others at the table. Only Hermione was absent and, although Sirius could sense her presence in a nearby room, he felt it better to let her be alone. The group talked long into the night. Sirius had convinced them to reminisce rather than re-play the final battle. He heard the first true laughter that night as everyone recounted the escapades of Fred and George. With a slight motion to Bill, urging him to continue the stories, Sirius went off to find Hermione. He knew Hermione would be the hardest to talk to. Her and Harry had grown to be as close as brother and sister. They’d seen each other through first loves, first sexual encounters, and supported each other as the death tolls rose. From Bill, Sirius had learned that Ron and Hermione were to be married and, almost immediately after, Ron had been lost. Harry had been the one to help her pick up he pieces of her shattered dreams. Sirius watched Hermione from the darkened doorway. The single lamp in the parlor cast an eerie glow over the room and it was difficult for Sirius to imagine that this broken woman had once been a strong willed little girl that helped save his life. “Are you coming in?” she asked softly. “Would you prefer to be alone?” Sirius didn’t give her a chance to answer but came in and sat across from her. “You’ve really grownup since Hogwarts.” “You’ve been away awhile.” “You’re bitter.” “So are you,” she returned. “But you’re angry with me.” Sirius leaned back into his chair. He had expected her to be upset but certainly not angry with him. “You shouldn’t have left.” “I didn’t have options, now did I?” Sirius tried to hide the contempt in his voice. How many times had he been through this himself? If only he had been more careful…if only he’d found a way back… “Pitiful excuse” she spat. “Harry’s up there...” “Leave Harry out of this! I’ll answer to Harry when the time comes, certainly not to you!” “Is there a problem?” Bill stood in the doorway watching the two closely. “No!” they both yelled in unison. “I’ll just shut this door, then.” Bill backed out and slid the door shut. Sirius’ eyes flashed as he turned his attention back to Hermione, but she had moved to look out the window. “Hermione?” “Stop treating us like we hate you, Sirius. We know this isn’t your fault. Anymore than it is ours” she whispered softly. “Determined to make me admit it?” Sirius smiled. “You are clever.” Sirius moved to stand behind her at the window. “And you, Hermione, how can I help you?” Silently, Hermione pulled Sirius toward her. Sinking her back into his chest, she pulled his arms around her. “I can’t be Harry” he whispered softly. “And I can’t be Lily.” Sirius tried to pull away from her. He tried to act shocked, but Hermione held tight. “I’ve known forever, Sirius. Since the first moment you said her name. It’s okay. It’s not necessary for you to admit it.” “You’re a lot like her.” “Probably more than you know” Hermione murmured. “Did James know?” “Oh, yes.” Sirius laughed and hugged her tighter. "Lily and I were the best of friends. Even dated before her and James got together. We just grew up.” “But you still love her?” “Of course. That doesn’t change, Hermione. I wish I could tell you it will. Ron…” Sirius could feel Hermione bristle in his arms and suddenly he understood. “Your tragedy is far greater than I imagined then.” He paused. “It’s Harry.” “What if….” “I won’t allow…” “You don’t understand.” Hermione intertwined her fingers with Sirius’ and slid them to rest on her stomach. Sirius was thunderstruck. He remembered Hermione as a child- a girl with a heart of gold and a desire to save the world. He was suddenly very sad knowing he had missed out on watching Hermione grow up into such an amazing woman. “You’re with child.” It wasn’t a question, but Hermione nodded anyway. “And the father?” Hermione was silent. “Do the others know?” “No and please don’t….” “You know me better than that, don’t you?” “Of course. I’m just an emotional wreck.” Hermione let go of Sirius’ arms and turned to face him. “Thank you.” She hugged him warmly then stepped away. “We should get back to the others.” Sirius nodded and placed a protective hand in the small of her back as he guided her into the room. It was the smallest gesture he could manage, but it was the one Bill noticed most. **** “How’s Hermione?” “As I keep telling you, she’s fine, Bill.” Sirius took the coffee pot away from him. “She hasn’t been coming to breakfast. Is she ill?” “Tired, I imagine.” “You two have been staying up late for the past few weeks.” Bill knew he had set off Sirius’ temper the moment he said it. “I only meant…” “As much as you may want to play head of household, Bill, remember this is my house.” “Sirius…” Sirius’ eyes flashed and his voice dropped. “Leave it be, Bill.” “I just hope you know what you’re doing. I know she’s grown up now, but I can’t help remembering…” “That’s a luxury I don’t have.” Sirius shot back. “And while I find it to be none of your business, she’s been sitting up with Harry.” “I’m sorry, Sirius. I didn’t mean…” Bill trailed off. “It’s none of my business anyway. You’re right.” Sirius sank down into a chair as Bill left. He hadn’t lied. Hermione had been sitting up with Harry. She just hadn’t been alone. Sirius knew Bill’s concern. He’d felt it himself. Since their first talk, they had become almost inseparable. He had caught Hermione finding reasons to be in the same room with him, and the tender touches she gave him when others weren’t looking were becoming more and more frequent as the weeks wore on. He had been planning to talk to her about it but just couldn’t bring himself to do it. “Morning.” Hermione placed her hand on Sirius’ shoulder. “Are you alright?” When he didn’t answer, she sank down opposite him. “Sirius?” Hermione’s hands reached to touch Sirius’ knee. At their touch, a slow warm ruby colored glow spread around the two. Hermione jerked away, but Sirius remained still, intently watching her. “Toast?” he finally asked, sliding a piece of bread toward her. “Sirius.” Hermione was whispering. “What was that?” “Old magic.” Sirius shrugged, but his unease was obvious. “I don’t need protecting, Sirius.” “I enjoy the job.” “Oh really?” the slight rise in Hermione’s voice was unmistakable and Sirius couldn’t help but give in. “Yes, really.” “So, what was it?” Sirius could hear stirrings above them and knew the rest of the house would soon join them. If he was going to give in, Sirius knew, he might as well jump in head first. Sirius stood up and moved to Hermione’s side. She gazed at him expectantly, waiting for an answer. He let his hand slide through her hair. As the ruby glow began to form again, Sirius could feel her body tense. He rubbed her cheek softly. “Don’t be afraid of it.” “What is it?” Sirius’ hand circled around her throat as he pulled her close to him. His breath was soft in her ear. “Something you can’t learn from a book.” Sirius could feel her breath grow unsteady and then he felt the soft tender press of her lips as they began tracing the curves of his neck. Sirius pulled away to be able to see her face. “Do you understand, Hermione?” “Yes.” “Tell me.” “Not love. Passion.” She answered smiling. “You are clever.” “I didn’t need the glow to feel it.” “No, just to admit it.” Sirius winked to help lighten the moment. “It can overwhelm you, Hermione.” “So can being alone.” “No, you misunderstand me.” Sirius smiled. “I’m not being philosophical here. It becomes a physical manifestation.” Sirius said seriously, unsure if she understood. “Magnetic.” “Something like that, yes.” “This has happened to you before then?” “Many times.” Sirius moved away from her. “I’m the dangerous marauder, remember?” he grinned. “You, on the other hand, are level headed and refuse to be lead by emotions.” “Not anymore.” “No.” Sirius watched her closely. “Apparently not anymore.” *** It had been days since their conversation and it was becoming harder and harder for Hermione to stay away. Sirius knew the glow intrigued her. Whenever they got too close, the warm silky feeling would begin to wash over them both. Sirius would be forced to step away and the disappointment was evident on Hermione’s face. But Sirius needed answers and Hermione was unwilling to give them. He’d brought up the subject of her pregnancy several times, but she still wouldn’t reveal the father. Worst of all, she still hadn’t told the group and she was beginning to show. Sirius' thoughts drifted as bustling from the hallway distracted him. “Sirius, have you decided to come, too?” Ginny took his arm in hers. “Hogwarts could…” “No.” Sirius said flatly. “You can organize Hogwarts new school year without me. Say hello to Hagrid though.” “Are you sure?” “Come on, Ginny.” Bill took her arm. “We’ll be back late, Sirius. The applications for professors and letter to students are…” Sirius waved him off. “Just don’t hire a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. That’s Harry’s job.” “But...” “He’s right.” Bill cut Ginny off. “That’s reserved for Harry. We wouldn’t forget.” Sirius nodded and, grabbing a cup of tea, went off to find Hermione. “I brought tea. Are you feeling any better?” he asked, rapping softly on her bedroom door. “Better, thank you. Has everyone gone already?” “Off to save Hogwarts. The fools are determined to make sure it opens as always.” “It keeps them focused on something. It makes them feel needed.” “So this was your idea, then?” Sirius smiled. “I should have known.” Propping up her pillows, Hermione sat up and reached for the cup Sirius offered. Even the slight touch made the room feel warmer. “What causes it?” Hermione asked after a moment. “No one really knows.” Sirius shrugged. “It’s like when a wand finds its owner. No one really understands where the magic came from or how it works.” “The light. I knew it was familiar.” Sirius nodded. “Maybe one day you’ll be the one to figure it all out. I, for one, prefer that some things not be explained.” “Me too.” “Really?” “I’ve changed in a lot of ways, Sirius. Harry taught me some things are better left unexplained.” “He would understand that.” Sirius sank down on the edge of the bed. He watched her intently as she sipped the tea. “You’re beginning to show.” “I know” her voice was quiet, almost solemn. “Is it Harry’s?” “Sirius…” Hermione sat her cup down. “I’ve told you. It doesn’t matter.” With only a moment’s hesitation, Sirius slid his hand to her stomach. The silkiness of the glow was instantaneous. “That’s not fair. It makes my mind hazy.” “No, it doesn’t.” “Sirius.” Hermione’s hands moved slowly up his arms. “I have to know.” Hermione had moved her body close to his, her small frame dwarfed by his. He slid his hand around her waist, pulling her toward him so that their bodies collided. The effect bathed the room in a haze of vivid ruby colored light. Hermione’s lips pressed into his and Sirius couldn’t help but react. They collapsed onto the bed, their breaths ragged. “Is it Harry’s?” he asked urgently as Hermione’s hands slid into his shirt, her fingers tracing the ripples of his muscles. “No.” her voice was rushed but it was all Sirius needed to hear. In hasty passion, they both quickly undressed and Sirius sank into Hermione’s bed. **** “You talk about Lily in your sleep.” Hermione whispered as Sirius traced the curves of her body. “You talk about Harry.” He countered, and then rolled over on his back. Hermione moved to rest her head on his chest and Sirius dropped his arm lazily around her. “They’ll be home soon.” “Ummm.” Hermione replied tiredly. “You lied to me about the child.” Sirius’ words were calm, with no hint of resentment. “You let me.” “I suppose I did.” “Why?” “Selfish.” “The truth.” Sirius touched her face. “The same reason you lied. The consequences are a lot easier to face if it wasn’t Harry’s.” “And now?” Hermione asked, her lips traveling slowly along his chest. “I have no idea.” Sirius kissed her tenderly. “But we should probably come up with a plan pretty quickly.” The change in his voice made Hermione look at him questioningly. Without changing his position, Sirius nodded toward the door. “Feeling better there, Harry?”
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