A/N: I'm sorry for updating a week later than expected. I'm swamped with work and I can honestly say that I lost track of time. But here's another chapter and I hope you'll like it. I'll try to keep to my deadlines but I can't make any promises with how busy my schedule is :(
Sirius didn't try to pull back and look at her, afraid she would stop talking if he did. He kept holding her, kept swaying in place, his voice as soft as it had been the entire time ever since they got on the dancefloor. "Why is that? That you can't go home?"
"It's complicated." Again that answer. It was always that same answer.
"Tell me." It wasn't an order. It was a suggestion, a request, hoping she would take it. Hoping she would tell him, let him in.
There was a pause, making him think she would just keep quiet, like she usually did, avoiding the subject. And just when he was about to accept the fact that she would shut down again, she spoke.
"A little over a year ago something happened back home. Because of that I can't go back. It's also the reason why I don't receive any letters. I don't have any contact with anyone back home, really."
Hermione shook her head. She wouldn't tell him. Not because she didn't want to but because she couldn't. Not that he knew that. "It's too much to explain. Too complicated. I don't – I can't talk about it."
"Okay, shhh, it's okay." He waited a few seconds. "Is what happened back home the reason you started going to Hogwarts?"
If only he knew that she had been going to Hogwarts ever since first year. Only, those years at Hogwarts were spent in a different timeline. "Yeah, that was the reason I got here."
They fell silent for a moment. Sirius was thinking whether he should ask further, whether she would answer. Something was gnawing at the back of his mind and he needed to make sure. "That thing that happened, had it something to do with Voldemort? Or his death eaters?" He hoped he was wrong but over the last two years attacks have been rising and she was muggleborn.
"There were some death eaters involved, yeah." So they did have something to do with it. It was getting harder for Hermione to keep calm, to keep her voice soft and even, emotions starting to well up, wanting to get out. "Can we stop talking about it?" she asked. It came out almost like a plea, her voice soft, vulnerable.
"Yeah, yeah of course." He held her a little tighter, a little closer, offering the only comfort that he could. After a while their swaying stopped and they just stood there, holding each other. "Look over there," Sirius said suddenly.
Hermione looked at him in question before he tilted his head, indicating for her to look too. She turned around and was honestly slightly surprised by what she was seeing. There were Lily and James, kissing. The brunette got a smile on her face. Finally, she thought. Finally.
She turned back around to look at Sirius, a smug look on her face. Seeing her face he said, "Don't you dare say it."
She just smiled as she said, "I told you so." He groaned.
"Mione, I really can't go a week without getting in trouble, that's what I do. If I had known this would happen, I wouldn't have taken the bet." He pouted slightly, looking like a petulant child. He was adorable.
"I'll make you a deal," she told him.
He raised an eyebrow. "What kind of deal?"
"Instead of a week I'll make it three days."
"Okay?" He wasn't sure where this was going. "And what do I need to do to get those three days?"
"Simple, all you need to do is win the next quidditch game."
An incredulous look crossed his face, like he couldn't believe what she was saying. "I need to win the next quidditch game? That's it?"
"What's the catch?"
She just started laughing. "There is no catch."
He looked at her, appraising her before he came to the conclusion that she was indeed genuine. "Okay, deal."
She put her head back on his shoulder, comfortable. "I'm glad I came."
"See? I told you it would be fun." He felt smug, she could hear it in his tone. She let him, knowing he was right.
"Yeah, yeah you did."
Hermione wished she could stay like this forever. Being here, in his embrace, swaying to the music, talking, just being. It was intimate, cosy. Since her conversation with Lily a couple of months ago she had had time to think. And even though most of her thoughts were too much, too complicated to make sense of, one thing was clear. She had feelings for Sirius Black. She liked Sirius Black. So yeah, she wished that at this moment time could just freeze and they could stay like this.
It was no different for Sirius. Holding the brunette in his arms, close, swaying, whispered conversations, it felt so right. He had realized his feelings months ago and he had accepted them. If only this night could go on and on. If only it didn't have to end.
And even though they were aware of their own feelings, they were oblivious to those of the other.
However, time couldn't freeze, the night couldn't go on forever. It was almost midnight when Hermione decided to go home, reluctantly. But she had made a promise to little Bill and wasn't about to break it by staying here and not being home in time. "I have to get changed. I need to go home." She went to pull away but he didn't let her.
"One more dance. Just one more song."
When the song was over, she pulled back, not meeting any resistance this time. She went around the room saying her goodbyes and thanked Mr and Mrs Potter for everything, the amazing night and the borrowed dress.
"You have to go already?" Lily asked.
"I promised Bill. And you, young lady, I expect details later."
"Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. I saw you with James earlier." A look of realization came on the redhead's face together with a small blush and Hermione laughed.
When she got back to the Burrow everything was silent. It was dark, the lights out and everyone asleep. She decided to do the same, having a feeling that Bill and Charlie would wake her at the crack of dawn, wanting to open their presents.
And she had been right. It felt like she had only had a couple of hours of sleep before two creatures woke her up. Fairly gentle, mind you. Certainly not in a way the twins definitely would have woken her up back in her previous timeline and she was grateful for that.
They grabbed her hands, tugging her along with them to the living room. Hermione sat on the couch as they opened their presents, waiting with opening hers until they were finished, giving them her undivided attention.
When she opened her presents, there were two things that stood out, two things that touched her. One was the dress she had worn the previous night, a note accompanying it stating that James' mom wanted her to have it because she looked so beautiful in it. The second was a Christmas jumper. Molly's Christmas jumper. She had made her a jumper, just like she had always done ever since she had got to know the matriarch in her previous timeline.
Tears filled her eyes but she refused to let them fall. She hugged the matriarch and pulled on the jumper immediately. "Thank you."
"It was no trouble at all. You're part of the family now."
The fact that they considered her family was clear when the couple allowed her to meet up with Lily in Diagon Alley after New Year together with Charlie and Bill, both boys wanting to see the redhead again.
They allowed the boys to drag them from store to store. Anything that seemed even slightly interesting to them had to be inspected. And just like that summer Charlie kept staring at the animal shop. Ultimately, they decided to pay a visit, indulging Charlie. He was especially interested in the owls and lizards.
It was cold, snow still littering the streets, everyone wearing layers upon layers of clothing. Yet the two boys insisted on having ice cream. And who were they to refuse them? So they got them ice cream. But the peaceful fun couldn't last.
There, right in front of them, was Bellatrix Lestrange with a handful of other wizards. Hermione didn't immediately recognize anyone but she would bet they were fellow death eaters. She tried to stay calm, to not panic, it would only make the kids worried and anxious.
She wanted to turn back and walk away but before she could move the black haired witch had caught sight of her. "Look who we got here. The witch with her little creature."
Hermione turned to Lily. "Lily, I need you to take the boys and get them away from here. Take them home."
"What? Why? What's happening?" She tried to keep her voice steady in case the boys could hear her but there was definitely a hint of panic to be detected. She probably noticed who the witch in front of them was.
"Just do as I say."
"Now, now. No greeting? Aren't you glad we meet again? Not so sure of yourself after the stunt you pulled last time?" Bellatrix taunted.
The brunette kept her voice steady as she replied. "I just have nothing to say to you."
"Look at that. A no-name low-life mouthing off. I think someone has a death wish." She saw Lily behind Hermione with the two boys, trying to get away, walking back slowly as to not draw attention. She got a crazy smile on her face. "She probably won't have such a big mouth by the time I'm done with those two little creatures."
She had hardly finished speaking before she hurled a curse in the direction of the boys. In the blink of an eye Hermione jumped in front of them, shouting, "Protego!"
"Oh, looks like she'll be fun to play with." Her smile wasn't crazy anymore, it was feral.
"Lily, go! NOW!" She didn't need to say anything more, the redhead running of with the two boys, all the while Bill screamed after Hermione. It had been a while since she had been involved in a fight but she wouldn't let anything happen to Lily and the boys. Harry's DADA lessons would come in handy right about now.
Another curse was thrown at her and another and another. She tried to buy as much time as she could for Lily to get away while protecting herself at the same time. As the other presumable death eaters tried to get a curse in, Bellatrix yelled, "NO! It's my time to play. This one is mine."
More curses followed and the brunette realized that she wouldn't get very far with only taking a defensive stance. She needed to try and attack as well, try to even things out.
"Bombarda maxima!" she yelled when she saw a small opening. The wall of the building next to Bellatrix blew up and brick and stone went flying everywhere. When they were distracted by the rubble flying around she aimed her wand at Bellatrix and yelled, "Diffindo!" This earned her a few cuts on the female death eater's face.
The black haired witch lifted her hand, wiping at the cuts, seeing blood. A cackle filled the air. "Now you've done it you filthy low-life creature!"
Curses were thrown, jinxes were fired, back and forth. However, it seemed like Bellatrix just threw one after the other without even blinking. For a split second the brunette didn't pay attention, watching her footing and before she knew what was happening she went flying into the air, crashing into a building.
The wind was knocked out of her, leaving her trying to get in some air. As she tried to get up she was pushed down again. "Now what to do with you? I know! We'll give you some of your own medicine."
Before she could cast a protego she felt cuts starting to form, on her face, her arms, her legs. Bellatrix was trying to get every part of her cut up. However, she seemed to lose interest. "I thought you would have been more of a challenge. What a pity. It's about time I finish here but not before I have had my fill. CRUCIO!"
Hermione didn't know what hit her. She was writhing on the floor, screaming her lungs out. It felt like hundreds of hot knives cut through her, feeling like every single one of her nerves was being scorched. A heat so immense it felt like she couldn't breathe. And all the while Bellatrix was cackling, enjoying the way the brunette was writhing before her.