There was a guest visitor who reviewed recently and I dedicate this chapter to you and everyone else who has stuck with me and this story. I thank you so much for your encouragement and your patience. I am deeply sorry it has taken this long to update but real life has been…challenging and had to take priority.
I noticed my last chapter did not upload properly so please go back and read it if you can. Please let me know what you think - I still love this story and hope you do too.
Chapter Thirty-Four Letters
It was hours before Sirius stumbled into Hermione's apartment from the floo to find it in darkness. He knew it was late and should have been surprised that there appeared to be no one home but Sirius was still in shock from what occurred at Gringotts. His eyes were red rimmed from all his tears, his hands blooded from the walls he had punched and his throat raw from his screams.
He was able to keep him composure during the long meeting with Bill, Draco, Kingsley and the goblins but as soon as he was able to convince the other men to leave him alone, he apparated to the Shrieking Shack and let his true emotions out. He had spent the past few hours raging and crying in a place which once held fond childhood memories for him. Sirius had eventually exhausted himself to the point he collapsed on the dusty floor of the Shack, only to wake hours later.
He was pulled out of his thoughts by a stifled sob coming from his left. With a flick of his wand, SIrius had the living room lit and he could clearly see Hermione huddled on the sofa looking broken and lost.
Hermione hadn't realized that there was someone else in the room with her until the bright lights hit her swollen eyes. As she closed them and tried to gather her bearings she felt a dip in the sofa next to her. On opening her eyes, she found herself face to face with Sirius. Hermione felt self conscious having spent the last few hours crying and she was aware she looked a mess but when she felt Sirius' arms go around her, she relaxed a tiny bit. Sirius was heartbroken to see the strong witch looking so upset, it reminded him of the Hermione he saw being tortured by his deranged cousin, an image he never wished to see again. Although his mind was still consumed by events earlier in the day, all he cared about was comforting Hermione.
Neither of them spoke as they sought and took comfort from the other. It was nearly an hour before Hermione shifted and looked at Sirius properly. Sirius heard her intake of breath when she finally noticed his shabby and dusty robes and his bloodied hands. Almost instantly she was in mothering mode as she summoned her healing kit and gently took his hands.
"What happened?" Hermione whispered as she gently applied a cleaning solution to Sirius' raw knuckles. He hissed when the sharp pain hit him but it was soon replaced with a numbing relief.
"Draco asked me to meet him and the others at Gringotts and I learnt some…new information that left me…shocked and…conflicted." Sirius whispered. Hermione looked up at him when she finished healing him and boldly placed her soft hand on his cheek. Sirius was shocked at her action and from the surprise and fear in her eyes, she was too. Before she could remove her hand Sirius placed his own on top of it, keeping it there. Sirius starred into Hermione's eyes as he held her hand to him. Hermione blushed before lowering her eyes to his other hand which she still gently held. She was highly aware of everything around her.
"You know I'm here if you need to talk about it Sirius…I don't want to pry but its quite clear whatever you learnt has upset you greatly and I don't…I don't want you to feel like you're alone, because you aren't." Hermione's confidence grew with every word until she stared directly into Sirius' stormy grey eyes. "You have me Sirius."
Sirius couldn't help it, it was clear that she was as emotionally vulnerable as he was but with her warm eyes staring at him with such conviction he did the only thing he could to express his gratitude. He closed the small space between them and kissed her. This kiss was nothing like the two before, it was not gentle yet neither was it brutal with passion. It felt like the most natural thing in the world for Sirius to do and as he felt Hermione's hand move from his cheek to his hair he knew she was lost too.
Hermione felt like she was on fire. She thought the kiss they shared earlier was full of passion but it had nothing on this one. As she gripped Sirius' hair she felt him pull her body closer to his and couldn't help the moan that escaped her. She knew this was crazy, that they obviously both had hard days and that they needed to discuss things but all she could thing about was how right it felt to be in Sirius' arms and to have him kiss her like she was the most important thing in the world. She had been thinking of him a lot in the past few hours, ever since she had her revelation really.
Before things could heat up anymore though, Hermione was pulled out of their bubble by the rustling of paper. Hermione froze when she realized that Sirius had swiped everything off the sofa and onto the floor as he adjusted her to lay down. Hermione was mortified to realize that she hadn't even noticed when Sirius had moved her and how intimate their position was. Hermione gently pushed against Sirius' chest and almost immediately he stopped and sat back. As Hermione sat up and attempted to sort out her even wilder hair she noticed that Sirius had a slight blush on his cheeks and was breathing deeply.
"Sirius…?" Hermione asked unsure how to finish the question as the man in question avoided her eyes.
"I am so sorry Hermione I didn't meant to let things to get so far…you deserve to be treated better than that. I just…whenever I'm around you…and you're clearly upset…I..." Sirius was at a loss. He had no idea what he was feeling for the young witch but he didn't want her to think that he was using her or taking advantage of her kindness. Before he could say anything more Hermione gently placed her hand on his knee.
"Sirius please do not apologize, I was certainly not complaining. I know we have to discuss…whatever this is between us but I think we need to discuss what has upset you so much first." Hermione said gently as she forced Sirius to look at her. Sirius still appeared uncertain so Hermione summoned all her Gryffindor courage and placed a chaste kiss on his lips. Sirius' eyes widened at her actions but he soon had a smirk on his face when he saw Hermione's light blush.
Clearing her throat and making herself more comfortable on the sofa Hermione summoned a bottle of wine and two glasses, allowing the action to steady her shaking hands and her racing heart.
"Judging by how you look I think we both need something a bit stronger than tea." Hermione said as she handed Sirius the glass. "Now start talking. What happened at the bank?"
Sirius moved to make himself more comfortable and took a deep drink of the rich wine to compose his racing thoughts. So much had happened in just a few short hours and with that electrifying kiss, he was finding it hard to focus. He didn't know how to explain to Hermione what had happened today but he knew he owed it to her to try. He looked the young witch over once more, noticing her swollen eyes and pale face. Something had obviously happened to her today as well.
"I'll tell you everything if you promise to do the same." Sirius asked. After a pause Hermione nodded her head in agreement. Sirius sighed in relief, hoping he would be able to help her with whatever she had faced today. At that thought, Sirius froze and looked at Hermione in a panic.
"Where's Ted? I am so sorry Hermione I did not want to leave him abruptly but I had to meet the others and Astoria was there…is he ok?" Sirius asked the young witch, frightened at her response. He had honestly been looking forward to spending the day with the young boy and felt guilty for so quickly leaving him.
"It is ok Sirius, Astoria explained to Ted what had happened and he is hoping your meeting at the bank means you'll be able to buy him all the tools needed to be a budding prankster. Astoria and Draco dropped him off a few hours ago and we had dinner. He is sound asleep now." Hermione soothed the wizards worry and guilt. She knew that he did not deliberately abandon her son and it was clear from the emotion in his eyes he felt awful for having to do it.
"I'll buy him the whole joke shop if i could get away with it with you watching." Sirius laughed softly before going sombre again as he thought about his meeting. Hermione grabbed his hand briefly to give it a gentle squeeze, encouraging him to speak. Sirius squeezed her hand back before letting it go and running his hand through his hair.
"The goblins can't give me my vaults back." Sirius whispered softly. Hermione sighed, fearing that this might happen. She didn't understand though why Sirius was such a mess, he never cared for his family's wealth. "Apparently they have a deal with Harry that his vault would be in a lockdown of sorts to ensure his privacy and as the goblins entered a binding contract with him they can't open the vaults that once belonged to me or give me anything until he returns. We can't even tell where he is as the documents regarding all withdraws are also private."
"Oh Sirius I am so sorry. Kingsley couldn't do anything?"
"You know how the goblins feel about the Ministry. But that's not what left me…feeling conflicted." Sirius whispered. Hermione wanted to reach out to him but knew he wouldn't be able to continue. "Apparently when Regulus died his vault and property went into my mother's private accounts which then went to Bellatrix on her death. The goblins contacted Narcissa who had inherited the Lestrange vaults by default on their deaths. She had never touched the vaults or anything else connected to it so the goblins wanted to discuss the proper ownership of Regulus' and Wallburga's vaults."
Hermione's heart ached for Sirius, she knew how much he despised his mother and how conflicted he felt about his brother. She was sure Narcissa happily returned the vaults to the proper Black heir, especially with the rest of his fortune currently unavailable.
"Narcissa came immediately and signed over her rights to the vaults and everything with them to me and we all thought that was that when one of the managers came in. Apparently there was a box of paperwork I was able to access due to my release from prison which Harry never had the chance to look at and forgot to place under the privacy lockdown. Merlin them goblins are sneaky, know every loophole in every contract and promise they ever make. Anyway, there were some deeds to some of my property and investments I had made in the eighties and…there were…there were…letters." Sirius whispered the last word, forcing Hermione to move closer to Sirius.
"Letters? Letters from whom? I think I can vaguely recall a box Harry wasn't ready to deal with after the war. Who were the letters from Sirius?" Hermione said softly as she reached for his hand and squeezed encouragingly. When Sirius looked at her, his eyes were sad and haunted. Instead of answering her, Sirius reached inside his pocket and pulled out three crumbled letters. Hermione gingerly took them as Sirius filled his wine glass and drank deeply once more.
The first one had Padfoot written on the envelope and as Hermione pulled out the parchment she couldn't help but gasp.
It's been a few days since we last saw you and we are worried. Harry keeps asking for his 'paw-paw' and hasn't stopped playing with that toy broom you got him (thanks for that by the way, as much as I complained about it at first I'm glad to see Harry so happy and James is always bragging about how he'll be the best Quidditch player Gryffindor will ever have, just something else for me to worry about.) We know that things are more dangerous than ever, but we're concerned as that never stopped you from visiting before. We're also worried about Moony, have you heard from him? On his last visit he looked worse than usual after his furry problem and was very vague about when we'd next see him. I know you and James have your doubts over him but I know he is not the one the Order seeks, I can't explain why or how I know but I trust him just like I trust you with not only my life, but the life of my husband and child. Which is why I write to you now. Padfoot something is coming, I can feel it in my bones and I don't know whose going to make it or what exactly 'It' is but I think the prophecy will come to pass soon.
I haven't told James yet but I will soon as I will be unable to keep it from him for long, but I need to tell someone on the outside. Padfoot I'm pregnant! I feel like the worst mother ever, as when I realized I cried. Not in happiness but sadness and anger at myself and James. We already brought one baby into a War how could we possibly do the same to another? How selfish could we be? How can we protect two children when there is a madman out there looking to kill us? I thought I could not be anymore frightened about this War but I was wrong. I know James will be so happy and will have nothing but love for this child, love which I feel too but I can't help the fear and panic that grips me. I did the gender spell I saw the medi-witches using in St. Mungos and it's a girl Padfoot. I've always wanted a little girl with my hair and James' warm eyes but…whatever is coming I don't know if I'll ever get to meet her and thats why I need to tell someone about her that isn't trapped in this house. James and I are having a little girl Padfoot, little Maddison Grace Potter. I know that was the name you and James loved the most when we were looking at names for Harry, little Maddie Potter I believe was said with nothing but love and warmth. I want her to experience love and warmth Padfoot I just don't know how in the world we now live in.
I'm crying again, stupid hormones are already acting up I'm afraid. Please tell me you will visit soon! It's Halloween tomorrow and I know how much James and you boys love it. Maybe you can get the Marauders together and we can all celebrate? We hope to hear from you soon. Be safe my dear friend.
Hermione had tears in her eyes as she finished Lily's letter. It had only been sent the day before James and her had been killed and it meant that poor Harry not only lost his father and mother but his little sister too. Before Hermione could voice her sympathy a heartbroken Sirius motioned for her to turn the letter over. Hermione silently did as he summoned another bottle of wine.
Mate you're taking the whole secrecy thing to a new level. You've even got Lils freaked so please do us all a favor and show your ugly mug to us soon or we may have to summon you like back in fifth year. I'm going crazy trapped like this Padfoot. I feel so weak and useless, what kind of wizard can't even protect his family? Forces them into hiding? I really need to see you soon brother, need to be reminded that I've eyes out there and fighting the good fight. Lils and Harry are everything to me Padfoot, you know that and you know that promise I made you swear on my wedding day? I know you would never forget it but I feel every day like it will be needed. Please do everything to make sure they are safe and live a happy and full life if I can't. And Padfoot…I want you to live one too. Find a nice witch, not your usual type please, someone with 'substance' I believe Lily says. Get her to make an honest man out of you and have a Quiddittch team of kids for Harry to grow up with. Speaking of which, SIrius you should see how big our boy has gotten. He's going to be amazing when he's older. He misses you. We all do. Right we're going to send this now and hope it reaches you before you go on duty. Check on Moony will you, he's been acting odd. I miss you brother, visit soon.
Hermione took Sirius' hand and squeezed it tightly. She knew then that the letter never reached him before he went on Order business and there were no words that she could offer for comfort. No doubt the letter brought him back to the very night he longs to do over, a night that changed his life forever. Sirius took another deep drink from the wine as he handed her another letter, this one faded and crinkled with no name on the envelope. Hermione slowly opened the letter, apprehensive to read another heart wrenching letter.
If you are reading this then what I am about to do has ended the way I fear it will, I just hope I've achieved what I wanted. I realize how cryptic this all is but…perhaps one day you will learn the truth and if not….Sirius I want you to know that I know the truth. I know I made a huge mistake when I allowed that monster to mark me as his own. I know there is no excuse and nothing I can do to change the past but I want you to know that I wish I could. I wish I could go back and say no to our Mother, I wish I had run away with you to Potter's like I wished every night after you left. I wish I had let the hat put me in Ravenclaw like it wanted. There are so many things I wish for Sirius but there is no point, not in wishing to change the past nor in wishing for a future. What I am about to do is certainly signing my own death warrant but I find that I do not care for this life I am living is not one I wish to endure any longer. HE is a monster Sirius, I knew it when I took the mark but I truly underestimated the extent of his evil, I believe we all have for the things he has done….the things he has created…I aim to go after him, tonight. I hope that I am successful but even if I am not I have ensured that someone after me shall be. I am sure you are getting frustrated and even angry at how cryptic this all is and I do apologize Sirius but I want you to know…I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not being brave enough to follow you out of our poisonous family. I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough to defend you against our mother and I'm sorry all I've ever done was disappoint you. You're my big brother and I love you Sirius now and forever. I'm sorry its taken me so long to realize but better late than never right? I hope you survive this War brother, I hope you and your friends get to live the lives you have been so valiantly fighting, as well as deserve. I hope that if you do, that you can think of me from time to time with not hate in your heart but warmth and perhaps love.
I love you Sirius and I hope that we may some day be reunited, if not in this world perhaps the next.
Regulus A. Black
Hermione grabbed Sirius and pulled him in for a long hug as they both silently cried over the letter, one which Sirius knows word from word after reading it over and over. Hermione's heart was breaking all over again for the older Wizard, to learn that his brother had tried to make amends before he betrayed Voldemort must have hit him hard.
Sirius gently pushed against Hermione as he sat back in the sofa, reaching for his glass again. Hermione watched silently, her teary eyes showing the sympathy she held for the man before her. Sirius reached for her soft hand and gently squeezed it.
"I…." Sirius began to speak before getting chocked up again. "I was placed on watch duty the night before Halloween, had to keep an eye on some Ministry officials the Order suspected were more than sympathetic towards Voldemort and his cause. I left early as I was with Moody and I didn't want to piss the man off. I….I never got these letters….I never….I didn't know." SIrius whispered softly. Hermione couldn't take seeing him in so much pain and she once again embraced him. Sirius placed his head on her shoulder as she wrapped her arms tightly around him.
"I'm so sorry Sirius, I wish there was something I could do to ease the pain you're going through but…please don't let this add to your guilt, you already carry more than any man should." Hermione placed her forehead softly on top of Sirius' head. "I'm nearly afraid to ask but….the third letter you got?" Hermione heard Sirius take a sharp in take of breath before he reached out to the table and lifted the last letter.
Hermione gently took the letter, noting that it was crumbled like the other letters but also slightly torn as if damaged in rage. Hermione's heart pounded, a feeling of dread coming over as she began to read.
I guess after tonight I can not call you that anymore and I feel nothing in regards to that or what is about to happen. I know what you will think of me, but only you will know. I still can't believe you convinced James and Lily to trust me. ME over YOU, you can't imagine how delighted I was with the change in plans. You presented me with the perfect opportunity to please my Lord, to finally earn his favor above all others. If you are ever able to read this letter, of which I am doubtful, then I hope you know that the pain and agony and pure torture James, Lily and sweet baby Harry are to go through tonight is all on one person….YOU. You are the one who easily mocked me when we grew up, all I ever wanted was to fit in with you all, to be your friends. I looked up to you and James so much, but instead of revealing in that devotion you never fully treated me like one of the gang and now after years of silently waiting you will finally know the pain of something you love and hope for being ripped away. For you see Sirius, I know you and your heart very well. You may act the playboy and unreliable one but you are the one who so valiantly champions love and family and I know you see it every time you look at the Potters. Well I hoped you enjoyed your last visit with them for after tonight they will be dead, as well as your so called loyalty.
See you in hell,
Hermione's angered gasp had Sirius look at her. The fury in her eyes took him back until he realized it was not directed at him but at the piece of parchment.
"That….that foul….creature! Oh his death was far too merciful for him. How could he….he can't….Sirius!" Hermione looked over to the broken man before and swiftly reached for him again. "Sirius look at me. The things that sorry excuse for a wizard said is not true. You know James and Lily will always love you and would never blame you for what happened. You need to stop blaming yourself or you will never let yourself heal and learn to live again. Please Sirius, don't let him get to you." Hermione softly whispered as she began to gently rock SIrius in her arms as he silently cried. Hermione held Sirius, trying to give him as much comfort as he could as he finally allowed himself to grieve and break down for all that he and his friends lost.
"Hermione…please tell me that little rat is dead for good this time." Sirius whispered an hour later. His voice was soft due to his tears and Hermione could only nod her head silently. She was devastated for the man before her, it was unfair for life to treat one person so cruelly. Before any more words could be said there was a noise at the window and Hermione and Sirius looked up to see a Ministry official owl. Sirius looked at the owl in confusion as it was unusual for the Ministry to be contacting anyone at this late hour while Hermione looked at it with dread.
Silently Hermione let go of Sirius and slowly rose from the sofa. Sirius thought she looked like a condemned woman walking and wondered once more what happened today to her today in work. Hermione opened the window and silently took the letter from the owl who quickly flew away. Sirius watched as Hermione opened the letter and was by her side in a heartbeat when she collapsed in sobs.
"Hermione love, what…what's happened?" Sirius gently rocked the witch hoping to get her to calm down. Hermione took a deep breathe, tears still streaming down her face as she handed him the letter.
Dear Ms Granger,
It has come to our attention that as of 3:03pm today you are no longer in employment. Due to your adoption criteria you are to be in full-time employment in which to sustain you and your War orphan charge to a standard deemed necessary by the Ministry until he is of legal age. As you have breached this obligation we are left with no choice but to terminate your custody of the child in question. Your adoption hearing is thus set for the end of the month. We advice that you are entitled to seek legal counsel and that you and your charge are not leave the country during this timeframe.
See you on the 30th.
Head of the Department of Orphans, Adoptions and Fostering