Warnings: Rated M for explicit language, violence, mentions of non-con elements, implied child abuse, and sexual content. This story is Canon Divergent and contains both het and slash pairings. The narrative is non-linear, which means that it includes flashbacks (so for those who get a little confused, just double check the dates ) For further disclaimers and warnings, make sure to read my profile. This story is also currently being uploaded to Archive of Our Own. As the Ao3 version is uploaded, the corresponding chapter here on FFN will be edited to reflect an adherence to FFN's rules for explicit content. As of this moment, the FFN version is complete and unedited for content. [Updated Feb 2019.]
Beta Love: Fluffpanda, Nykizta, and azuthlu.
Presque Toujours Pur
Almost Always Pure
Hermione sat in the first-floor drawing room of Black Manor, staring straight ahead at the large tapestry that hung on the stone wall. It had weathered many generations, protected by strong family magic, and all the names that were magically embroidered in perfect calligraphy still stood out in black stitching among the Slytherin green background.
Raised voices were arguing in the room next to her. The door was closed, but no Silencing Charm had been cast; she could not, for the life of her, comprehend why the people on the other side had not thought to do so. The sheer volume and intensity of their shouts were liable to wake the Muggle neighbours, who were currently unaware that a number twelve existed between numbers eleven and thirteen, Grimmauld Place: the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.
"I should have been told!" Sirius screamed. His voice was hoarse and emotional; he had been yelling for hours and crying for days prior to the start of this particular argument.
Hermione could not be sure exactly what any of the previous altercations consisted of, as she was unconscious for most of them.
She had woken up in the guest chamber adjacent to the drawing room at Grimmauld Place, initially not realising where she was. A familiar set of worried emerald green eyes stared back at her from within the darkened room, red-rimmed with dark circles beneath, indicating a severe lack of sleep. Harry had not slept well for the majority of the year but, then again, none of them had. Constantly being on the move and hunting for Horcruxes did not allow for proper midday kips; stress-induced insomnia had been detrimental to everyone's health.
"How long?" Hermione whispered.
Harry gripped her hand tightly. "Four days," he muttered softly. "God, Hermione, I thought you were . . ." he said, his voice cracking as the memory of her echoing screams floated through his mind.
She reached out, muscles weak, and lightly ruffled his permanently messy black hair until he cracked a smile and tears flowed out in earnest, which was actually what she had been trying to prevent knowing how Harry hated it when people saw him get too emotional. She felt guilty for putting him in such an emotionally fragile state. Taking care of Harry had become second nature to her; she had spent six years forcing him and Ron to do their homework, and the better part of a seventh making sure they were eating, even if it was only wild mushrooms and the little bits of fish they were able to catch anytime they found themselves camped near rivers and lakes.
"Did everyone else make it out?" she asked.
Harry frowned. "Dobby," he whispered.
Hermione felt a tight pain in her chest she knew to be grief. It was amazing that she was not numb to the feeling yet. "Oh, Harry," she said. "I'm so sorry."
"Ron said that Bill and Fleur buried him in the garden of Shell Cottage," he told her. "I haven't been by to visit, but Ron says it's beautiful. Bill carved a headstone and Luna arranged flowers," he said softly. "Ollivander, Griphook, and Dean got out safe as well."
"Why aren't we there?" Hermione asked curiously.
Harry shrugged. "When . . . when everything happened at Malfoy Manor," he said the word with disgust, "Dobby was taking us to Shell Cottage like I told him to but . . . He'd been injured mid-Disapparition, and we ended up separating from him and Ron when he . . . I don't know why, but I was holding onto you and I knew I had to take over or else we'd get splinched, so I thought of Grimmauld Place."
They had not been to Number Twelve since September. Since they had accidentally led Yaxley, who had tailed them via Apparition, to the steps of Black Manor. Hermione managed to kick the Death Eater off and immediately Apparated herself, Harry, and Ron elsewhere—that, however, ended up with Ron splinched and their Horcrux hunt delayed several days. Harry had sent a Patronus to Sirius, telling him that Grimmauld Place may have been compromised and to get to safety.
The teenagers had waited for three weeks before the familiar image of a large silvery Grim wisped its way in the opening of their tent. It informed them, in Sirius's voice, that he had gotten out in time, and, thanks to some clever spell-work that he "wasn't at liberty to discuss" (which could only mean illegal and very likely in the grey tones of Light and Dark Magic).
They had sent word back telling Harry's godfather of their safety and nothing more. Grimmauld Place had been a decent hideout in the beginning, but they had put it, and Sirius, at risk far too easily just by staying there when they should have been out, physically tracking down Horcruxes. Eight months since the official beginning of the hunt and they were only one locket down. Hermione had wondered to herself how long it had taken Dumbledore to figure out how to destroy the Gaunt ring. Despite not knowing that it had been a Horcrux as well, it took Harry a full school year to destroy Tom Riddle's diary—though it had not been in his possession the entire time—but going off of those numbers did not bode well for the rest of the Horcruxes. They could not very well spend the next three to four years on the run trying to destroy the dark vessels in the hopes that Voldemort did not destroy their world in the process.
"Why Grimmauld Place?" she asked curiously. "Why not Shell Cottage? We were already supposed to have been going there."
Harry frowned and reached out to wrap one of Hermione's curls around his finger, a habit he fell into whenever he was nervous, "I . . . I guess I was thinking of Sirius," he whispered.
Hermione winced as memories of Malfoy Manor flashed through her mind.
"Take these prisoners down to the cellar, Greyback," Bellatrix ordered the deranged werewolf.
"Wait." The wicked witch hesitated, her heavy-lidded eyes staring at Hermione. "All except . . . except for the Mudblood."
They had been on the run for so long, tired and broken. One small slip of the tongue and Snatchers were at their doorstep—or tent flap as it was. Hermione had hastily thrown up a series of complex wards to keep them out while she turned and began altering their features. Her own would have been easily looked over had her face not been plastered all over the Daily Prophet for months labelling her a known Muggle-born associate of Harry Potter, but Ron and Harry's features were unavoidably recognisable. While there were redheads all over Wizarding Britain, that vibrant shade of red paired with specific facial features spoke only of the Weasleys. In addition to Harry's scar, his ethereal, emerald green eyes were a dead giveaway.
She had changed her own hair to a dirty-blond and adjusted the shape of her nose, gave Ron a head of brown hair, and altered Harry's eye colour to brown before she tried to glamour the scar on his forehead. Nothing happened. In a panic, as the Snatchers gave up on taking down the wards and resorted to ripping through them, Hermione had hit him in the face with a Stinging Hex, muttering apologies to her best friend as a hideous werewolf descended upon them all.
The glamours had not been strong enough. They were partially recognised by Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, so Bellatrix had called for Draco to confirm their identities. Hermione felt bile rise in her throat as the insane witch grabbed her nephew by the back of the skull and shoved him so close to Hermione's face that her vision was filled with nothing except the trademark molten silver eyes of Draco Malfoy.
When Bellatrix finally let Malfoy out of her personal bubble, she took the opportunity to really look at him. Draco looked much worse than when she last saw him, as he fled from Hogwarts on the heels of Severus Snape, Harry screaming, "Murderer!" behind them. Draco had looked terrible for most of sixth year, and while Harry had spent the majority of time at school insisting that Malfoy was a Death Eater plotting a plot most terrible (which, apparently, he had been), Hermione took notice of the way the Slytherin's clothes hung off his body too loosely, how he never ate in the Great Hall, rarely spoke in class, and during Prefect rounds she had caught him hyperventilating more than once in dark alcoves.
Now, he looked much worse. Sickly thin and pale, with dark circles under his stress-induced, red-rimmed eyes, the Slytherin stared at her with obvious recognition and swallowed hard, taking a moment to presumably come up with a lie. Apparently, the best that he could summon at that moment was, "I can't be sure. It might be them, but I'm not certain."
Regardless, Hermione appreciated the lie. Considering the worried looks on Bellatrix and the elder Malfoy's faces, they would have needed to be one-hundred percent certain before summoning Voldemort and Hermione was grateful for the seedling of doubt that Draco had planted in their minds. Unfortunately, with a certain famous sword discovered in their possession and Bellatrix Lestrange determined to get back in the good graces of her Dark Lord, they were not even close to seeing the clearing of the woods.
Harry and Ron were taken away, screaming and pleading to stay in exchange for the witch. "No!" Harry was yelling, fighting against the grip of the werewolf. "Take me instead!" Ron had shouted as they dragged him away into the cellar of Malfoy Manor. Even Draco seemed to twitch in understanding of what was to happen to the young Muggle-born witch, but whatever he might have thought to do to stop his aunt, his parents were gripping his arms to keep him still and silent, Lucius digging fingernails into the skin of his son in anxious anticipation.
The first Crucio felt like death.
The second made her pray for it.
But it was not until Bellatrix's frustration began to peak that things took a genuine turn for the worse. Determined to find out who exactly she was dealing with, the unhinged witch aimed her wand at Hermione and began to dismantle the glamours she had put on herself, spell by spell. Any normal witch or wizard with a decent understanding of transfiguration could have ended the visual trickery easily, but Bellatrix Lestrange's thirst for control and desire to witness agony led her to do it as painfully as possible.
It felt like she had clawed her way into Hermione's magical core and began picking it away, looking for physical traits and casting them aside, piece by piece until the truth revealed itself. When she had apparently broken through the glamour, what she saw only enraged the witch further.
"What are you playing at little girl?!" the woman had screamed. "You dare mock me?!"
Hermione was beyond exhausted, sobbing, and could not understand what conclusion Bellatrix's insane mind had drawn together.
"I'll teach you . . ." the older witch snarled and then Hermione felt a stabbing pain in her arm. Thankfully, it was not long after that she had been rescued by her friends and taken to safety. To the safety of Grimmauld Place.
"My . . ." She looked down at her forearm which was now bandaged. "Harry . . . what happened?" she asked her friend.
Harry decided the best way to breach the subject was by visual representation. He reached into the drawer of the bedside table and removed a mirror from within, handing it slowly to the witch who snatched it from his grip, bringing it to her face. She did not know why it had not shocked her to see it. Bellatrix's reaction to the broken glamours might have been a clue, but as Hermione took in her sudden abundance of black curls and grey eyes, she understood, at least in part, what had happened.
Somehow when the insane witch had broken Hermione's glamours, she had done something else, revealing the colouring that Hermione now wore. While Hogwarts did not offer classes in biology and genetics, Hermione understood enough of the principles and the magical theories to know that certain traits solely belonged to certain families: a specific shade of red and freckles meant Weasley, golden blond hair and blue eyes made you a Greengrass, crimson hair and blue eyes led to the Bones family tree, dark skin and green eyes belonged to the Zabini's, and white-blond hair and silver eyes told the world that you were a Malfoy.
Inkjet black hair and grey eyes distinguished a witch or wizard from all others, proudly proclaiming one's blood linked to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.
Harry helped her to stand, her hands shaking slightly as she put the mirror down on the bed and got to her feet. Her best friend led her into the drawing room to face the infamous Black family tapestry. It had not taken her long to see it and when she did her breath caught in her throat and Harry needed to support her weight as her knees buckled.
He wrapped her in his arms as he lowered her to the ground, sitting with her, kissing the top of her head as he whispered, "Your arm wouldn't stop bleeding and when we got here . . . Sirius carried you up the stairs and you bled a lot on the floor. The . . . the house is magical and sentient in itself. Charmed like Hogwarts to recognise certain things and . . . people."
"Blood wards," Hermione mumbled.
Harry nodded. "Kreacher actually healed you," he said, gesturing to her arm.
She turned and stared at the boy incredulously, her newly-discovered grey eyes wide.
"He's calling you his special Young Miss," Harry said, cringing at the memory of the house-elf cooing over his best friend. Whispers of, "Young Miss, special Young Miss," echoed as he watched the Elf Magic heal the cuts on Hermione's arm. When Kreacher saw the angry red words and scarring that was left behind, Harry witnessed the house-elf punish himself, almost creating a dent in the marble fireplace mantle. Harry could not decide which he preferred, Kreacher calling Hermione "the little Mudblood" or "special Young Miss". He shuddered thinking of the house-elf caressing the word carved on her arm, muttering under his breath. If there had been any silver lining it was that the curtains covering Walburga Black's portrait had remained shut, and Kreacher had not cried out for his "poor Mistress" once since he started tending to Hermione.
Sirius and Professor Snape burst through the door, continuing to yell at one another until each man turned to stare at Hermione and Harry on the floor in the drawing room. Neither said a word. Professor Snape looked positively wrathful and Sirius had obviously been crying. The current Headmaster of Hogwarts and accused murderer of Albus Dumbledore gave each of his former students a curt nod before stepping into the adjacent bedroom. Sirius gave Hermione a pained smile before following after Professor Snape, slamming the door behind him.
"Is . . . is Sirius angry?" Hermione asked, trying to prevent tears from falling down her cheeks.
Harry shook his head. "Not at . . . and not about . . . he's just . . ." Harry sighed and scratched his head. "He's mad that it was kept from him," he said.
Almost on cue, the screaming between the grown wizards began again.
"We need to figure out the next Horcrux," Hermione whispered and moved to stand.
Harry's grip tightened as he held her down. "Absolutely not," he said. "You were tortured Hermione, and . . . and I don't think you should even be moving much until you're fully recovered. Don't look at me like that, I . . . I told them. I told the Order what we've been trying to do."
Hermione gasped. "Harry!"
"I don't care. I know Dumbledore said that only the three of us could know but . . . after everything that's happened, I think keeping secrets for the supposed 'Greater Good' has done nothing but hurt people," he said, frowning. "After we escaped, the Malfoys summoned Riddle . . . there was a big Death Eater meeting where everyone was told what happened. Snape found out and came straight here. He knew," Harry told her. "He brought you potions and a bunch of books; I'm not sure what they are," he admitted. "But he's left his post at Hogwarts with some kind of lie to the Death Eaters, and he told the Order some things about how Dumbledore really died."
Hermione furrowed her brows. "Harry, you told me you saw him kill—"
Harry sighed. "I . . . there's a lot more to it than what I saw . . . apparently."
"So Professor Snape's . . . ?"
"A good guy," Harry said almost disappointedly.
"And Malfoy?" Hermione asked.
"Still a ferrety git. But he didn't give us away so . . . I don't know."
"So the two of you will soon become best friends?" she tried to joke.
Harry laughed. "How are you . . . ?" he began to say and then sighed. "Are you okay? I know this is a lot to take in, and I'm sure once those two are done screaming at one another, they'll answer whatever questions you have."
Hermione nodded. "I . . . I had a feeling something was . . . wrong," she admitted. "When I Obliviated . . ." she swallowed. "Last summer, when I Obliviated my p-parents," her voice wavered as she collected her emotions and thoughts, "I felt that something was wrong. I meant to only alter their memories with a charm, nothing permanent," she confessed, "but when I started layering the magic, I found things. They had already had their memories altered by someone else. I couldn't see what exactly; they were specific and it took me a while, but I was able to trace the origin of the charm back years."
"How long?" Harry asked.
"I can't pinpoint a specific day but . . ." she frowned, "I would say close to the end of 1981."
Harry's eyes widened with a bit of understanding. "You think this happened because of me?" he asked, horrified.
"Of course not," she insisted. "Even if it has something to do with what happened to your parents. It's not your fault. I really wish you would stop blaming the entire war on yourself. You're not Tom Riddle's endgame, Harry, you're the mountain that's preventing him from destroying everything we know and love. It's not your fault."
Harry nodded solemnly but turned away from her gaze. "So . . . what happened with your parents?" he asked a moment later.
"The Memory Charms were too deep. I couldn't alter them without erasing it all," she muttered, swallowing down her emotions. "That's why I chose to Obliviate them. Permanently."
Harry reached for her hand. "I'm so sorry, Hermione."
"It'll keep them safe," she whispered. "So . . . tell me about the plan. How is the Order involved?"
Harry cleared his throat. "Well, another Horcrux is destroyed," he told her. "When we got here, you were out of it, but you kept muttering something about Bellatrix's vault. Snape confirmed that she thought the Sword of Gryffindor was in her vault, but that something else might be hidden away as well. The Order had Tonks morph herself to look like Bellatrix. I'm not sure of all the details of how they got it out without being found, but Tonks had burns all over her body when they brought her back. Turned out to be Hufflepuff's Cup, like we thought. Sirius was the one to destroy it. Said he really wanted to stab something."
"And the others?" Hermione asked.
"Snape thinks it could be the lost Diadem of Ravenclaw. He's got McGonagall and the D.A. looking for it while he's here," Harry told her. "The last, we think, is the snake."
"Where's Ron?" she asked.
Harry winced. "He . . . he's a little freaked out about . . ." he made a vague gesture to her face, "Well, you know he's not the most tactful person. We thought it would be a little better if he stayed at Shell Cottage with Bill and Fleur until he figured out how to talk to you."
Hermione frowned. "Because I'm different."
"Because you look different," Harry corrected her.
Hermione sighed loudly. "No, I'm . . . oh God. I'm a pureblood." She swallowed the word down like sand. "From a family that . . . that . . ." She looked down at her arm, reaching out to touch the bandage there. "Well . . . I'm not a Mudblood anymore," she said bitterly.
"You never were," Harry said, glaring at her use of the word. "You're just Hermione."
"Why is Professor Snape here?" Hermione asked, changing the subject. "I mean, he brought me potions and books but—"
Harry shrugged. "Apparently, he knew the truth."
"This whole time?"
"Sirius has been screaming at him for the better part of four days," Harry said. "It's only now that Snape's finally started yelling back actually," he added, looking at the closed door of the bedroom where the Potions Master and Animagus were still shouting.
"—I should have been told!" Sirius screamed, his voice hoarse and emotional. "How could you keep a bloody secret like this for so long?! She's nearly nineteen-years-old!"
"Well," Professor Snape drawled, "unlike you, Black, I actually keep secrets. I don't just toss them aside to the first blubbering idiot I think can—"
The distinct sound of fist on flesh echoed from behind the heavy wood. What sounded like a noisy scuffle followed by the colourful lights of hexes emitted from the seam around the door, the bright light of a Petrificus Totalus filtered under the crack near the floor, followed by a loud thud and the room went silent.
Sirius exited, shutting the door behind him and pocketing his wand as he slowly approached the pair of teenagers. He knelt down in front of them and ran a hand nervously through his hair. Smiling sadly at Hermione, he reached out to brush the edge of his knuckles affectionately against her cheek.
"Hey, little girl," he whispered, "You had us scared there for a while."
The tears finally came to her eyes and she blinked, allowing them to fall against her cheeks. "Is it true?" she asked him even though she already knew the answer.
Sirius wiped the back of his hand against his own eyes and nodded silently before reaching out and pulling the witch into his arms, letting her sob on his shoulder. "It's all right, Hermione," he said, stroking her black curls tenderly. "Everything's going to be fine," he promised. "You and I . . . we're going to be fine and we're going to find out everything."
"You're not mad?" she asked.
"At you? Whatever for?" He chuckled softly. "I'm bloody thrilled about you. Pissed about not knowing," he admitted as he pulled away from her, "I'm pissed about a lot of things that were kept from me," he said softly and leant forward, kissing her forehead. "I'm just glad you're alive and there's a little piece of . . ." his words stuck in his throat. "I'm just glad you're alive."
"I don't . . . I don't even know what to call you anymore," she admitted awkwardly.
"Sirius is fine. You're a little too old to start calling me Uncle, I think," he admitted with a smirk and pulled her again into his arms.
She blinked tears away again, her blurry vision focused on the tapestry on the wall behind Sirius where her name sat in elegant lettering.
Hermione Astra Black
b. September 19, 1979
Her gaze followed the line that flowed from her up to her father:
Regulus Arcturus Black
b. May 12, 1961 — d. May 31, 1979