The Ballad of Sirius Black
O I FORBID you, maidens a’,
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Sirius Black is there.
There’s nane that gaes by Carterhaugh
But they leave him a wad,
Either their rings, or green mantles,
Or else their maidenhead.
Hermione Jane has kilted her green kirtle
A little aboon her knee,
And she has broded her bushy hair
A little aboon her bree,
And she’s awa to Carterhaugh,
As fast as she can hie.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand,” Hermione said finally.
“Your father’s papers are all in order,” the solicitor explained politely. He tried handing the sheaf of papers to her again.
Hermione turned to her mother. “Mum? Did you know about this?”
Mrs Granger sniffled and nodded. “It has been in the Granger family for centuries. Your father wanted you to have it.”
“But I’ve never even heard of…” She trailed off helplessly and looked back to the solicitor.
“Carterhaugh,” the solicitor supplied helpfully.
“Carterhaugh?” Hermione’s voice rose and she stared at the solicitor.
He chuckled and wagged a finger at her. “Now, Miss Granger, you can’t put stock in faerie tales. Carterhaugh is a bit derelict. It hasn’t been lived in for some time. You’ll need to have some renovation work done if you wish to stay there. Now I can recommend some good local lads if you’re interested.”
You can’t put stock in faerie tales. Hermione didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He was a Muggle solicitor so he hadn’t any idea what he was saying or who he was saying it to, but Hermione longed to tell him that faerie tales often had more than a bit of truth to them. The War had ended and they had won because of a book of children’s stories. But Hermione was too clever and too cautious to say any such thing.
“That would be lovely, thank you,” Hermione murmured instead.
‘A bit derelict’ was perhaps being too kind. Carterhaugh was… well, it might be kinder to give a lovely sending off and completely rip it down. She had seen ruins that looked better. Still, Hermione had never backed down from a challenge and Carterhaugh’s current condition was definitely a challenge. She turned around and hiked back to the village to gather supplies.
A young woman, a stranger, garnered attention and speculation from the villagers; Hermione had expected no less and did her best to ignore their stares. She gathered together what she would need for the weekend—a few groceries to tide her over as she worked on Carterhaugh. A wizened, little, old woman shuffled close to her and peered at her from sharp, intelligent eyes.
“What are you up to then gel?” She asked with her head tipped to the side.
Hermione blinked. “I’ve come into a small inheritance,” she explained as she grabbed a loaf of bread.
The old woman’s eyes narrowed on her. “An inheritance?”
“Yes,” Hermione said with a brief smile. “It’s just outside the village…”
“Do not go down to Carterhaugh,” the old woman commanded in a sharp voice.
“I beg your pardon?” Hermione blinked in surprise.
“Do not go down to Carterhaugh,” the old woman repeated firmly. “For young Sirius Black is there. There’s none that go to Carterhaugh without paying him the price — be it a ring, or a hair ribbon, or… more.” And the way the old woman’s eyes raked Hermione left little doubt as to what the more meant.
Hermione sputtered helplessly for several moments. Then she turned back to the old woman. “I beg your pardon… did you say Sirius Black?”
But the old woman was gone. Hermione was standing by herself in the aisle holding a packet of biscuits. She blinked in surprise.
“Do you need help miss?” A young, spotty teenager with a name badge was eyeing her with a hopeful expression.
Hermione stared at him for a moment. “Cheese?” She asked after the first thing that came to mind.
“Right this way, miss,” the teenager leered at her.
After gathering her groceries and fending off the faltering advances of a sixteen year-old boy, Hermione was ready for a pint at the pub. Instead of relaxing, her night was just beginning. Hermione packed up her supplies into her bag. Then she efficiently braided the bushy mass she referred to as ‘hair’ and tucked the tail of the braid up under her hair. After a moment’s pause she waved her wand at her head and a delicate golden snood kept everything where it ought to be. It was odd how the old spells refused to produce a snood that was made of stretchy mesh or hair ribbons that weren’t silk. Hermione supposed that reproducing vulcanized rubber might be a struggle for magic as it wasn’t a natural material.
Then Hermione looked down at herself. She had seen the awful ruin that Carterhaugh was now, and perhaps wearing a skirt hadn’t been the brightest idea. It was one of her favourite skirts, but she always felt guilty wearing it because it was a deep emerald colour and Ron always made some snide comment about Slytherin whenever he saw it. She sighed and tugged at her skirt. Thinking on Ron now certainly wouldn’t help matters. Their relationship or the lack thereof was the subject for another day… preferably after a pint or two at that pub. Sighing she grabbed the hem and tucked it into her belteffectively creating trousers.
The path to Carterhaugh was easy enough and Hermione hiked it easily. Tucking the hem of her skirt up allowed her more freedom of movement and she strode quickly to her inheritance such as it was.
An afternoon of wand-waving and incantations later and Hermione was tired and sweaty, but very, very pleased with what her wand had wrought. The detritus of at least a hundred years had been removed and Hermione had painstakingly rebuilt the stone walls. Who knew that helping to rebuild Hogwarts after the war would come in so handy? A spell for whitewash that Molly Weasley had taught her and Carterhaugh was beginning to look liveable again.
Humming softly Hermione transfigured an old tree stump into a sturdy oak table. Perfect.
“Wingardium Leviosa,” Hermione murmured and then swished and flicked her wand gracefully.
The oak table floated neatly into the farmhouse’s kitchen and Hermione set it down gently. She set out the things she’d picked up at the market and arranged them as artfully as she could. Among the debris she’d found a chipped pitcher and she remembered seeing a gnarled rose bush out in what must have been the house’s garden.
The roses were lovely despite the condition of the bush they were growing on. Hermione noticed two that were growing from the same cane. Those would look lovely on her table. She reached out and used a severing hex to neatly cut the cane. She took the roses in hand and inhaled their sweet fragrance.
“Why did you pluck the rose, Hermione Jane?” A familiar voice asked curiously.
A tingle went down Hermione’s spine at the use of her full name. She turned slowly, not really willing to credit what was happening. Sirius Black stood there watching her with intelligent grey eyes. Only he wasn’t quite the Sirius Black that she recalled. He appeared to be much younger and much less care-worn than he had after twelve years in Azkaban. There was a strange, fey look to his eyes that made Hermione very wary.
“I thought they would look lovely in the kitchen,” Hermione whispered staring at Sirius. “How? You were… you went through the Veil.”
“I was taken through the Veil,” Sirius corrected.
“But… what are you doing here? Harry was devastated when you d—when you were taken. He at least deserves to know that you are still alive,” Hermione declared passionately.
“I am here because this place touches upon the Veil,” Sirius explained. “I am not able to leave the Veil… I’m trapped. I’ve tried to leave, but I can’t.” He frowned at her. “Why are you at Carterhaugh Hermione Jane? Didn’t they warn you away? None are allowed to come here without being granted leave by me.”
“Carterhaugh is mine,” Hermione countered tightly. “My father left it to me. I shall come and go as I wish, Sirius Black, and you shan’t tell me otherwise.”
Sirius considered her for several moments. “I am required to demand a gift from any who trespass here. That includes you Hermione Jane.”
Hermione paled. “I have a ring,” she said quickly. She pulled off the ring she always wore on her thumb and held it out.
Carefully he picked it up between his forefinger and thumb and stared at the ring in surprise. Then he frowned at her. “This is my signet ring. Why do you have this?”
“To remember you,” Hermione muttered and flushed with embarrassment.
“To remember me?” He appeared stunned. “Why on earth would you want to remember me? I was reckless, foolish, stupid—everything that everyone always accused me of being. I cost Harry the only real family he had left. I failed him and I failed James and Lily. Why would you want to remember that?”
“You were all those things,” Hermione agreed, “but that was not the sum of your person. You were so much more than that, Sirius. You were brave and loyal and true. Your heart and your faith were unswerving once given. You didn’t fail James or Lily, and you certainly didn’t fail Harry. You loved Harry and you were willing to do anything to protect him. It is for those things that I want to remember you.”
“I accept your boon, my lady,” Sirius said formally and made her a little bow. He cocked his head to the side and grimaced. “I must go.”
“You’re being called? By whom?” Hermione asked curiously.
Sirius sighed. “I cannot say,” he said at last. He took one last look at Hermione and held up the ring. “Thank you for this… and for everything else.”
Work made it difficult for Hermione to travel often to Carterhaugh, but she tried to come as often as she could. She had a feeling that she was Sirius’s only contact with the outside world. She debated about whether or not she ought to tell Harry about Sirius, but fate conspired against her. She owled him—telling him that she had something urgent to say. She had even included that her urgent news regarded Sirius. Unfortunately, Harry was on an important trip to the International Warlock Convention (IWC) and he had owled back a rather distracted message telling her that he was grateful for her concern, but that it would have to wait until he came back.
Carterhaugh had done just fine while she was gone, and Hermione noted that her cleaning charms had held well. She unpacked her bags and took a turn in the garden hoping for a glimpse of Sirius. Most of the time he was not there, but occasionally he would be.
Despite her best intentions Hermione found herself looking forward to the times that she did find Sirius in the garden all too much. They usually spent their time talking—chatting about everything and nothing. Hermione liked to pretend that Sirius looked forward to their meetings as well. She liked to pretend that perhaps he too thrilled when their hands accidentally brushed against one another.
“Hello my lady,” Sirius said as soon she stepped foot in the garden.
“Sirius,” she breathed and smiled brilliantly at him. “You’ve been busy. I haven’t seen you for some time.”
“I have duties,” Sirius acknowledged with a shrug.
The afternoon passed far too quickly for Hermione’s liking and soon Sirius was standing and holding out a hand to her.
“What have you brought me today, my lady?” Sirius asked curiously.
“Oh!” Hermione gasped and went pale. “I forgot… oh, Sirius what do we do?”
Sirius grinned wickedly at her. “You wouldn’t happen to have a maidenhead about you?” He asked jokingly.
Hermione stared up at Sirius with wide eyes. She knew the Ballad of Tam Lin as well as anyone, and she knew what Tam Lin took if there was no ring or brooch, or other boon to give. The thought of giving herself to Sirius made her breath quicken and heat pool in her belly. She wanted the wizard and had for some time. Hermione wished that he felt the same.
Sirius’ jaw dropped at the look on her face. “What… never? What about Weasley? For Merlin’s sake, what about Harry?”
“’Weasley’ and I didn’t suit,” Hermione said softly. Her cheeks turned pink and she turned away from Sirius. “And Harry and I… well, it was never like that.”
“What on earth is wrong with wizards these days?” Sirius demanded indignantly.
Hermione laughed and gestured to herself. “I’m not exactly the sort of witch that wizards pant after.”
“You are exactly the sort of witch that I panted after,” Sirius snapped. He realized what he had said and flushed. He held out a hand to Hermione who was staring at him in shock. “My lady?”
“Are you certain?” Hermione asked and then looked away.
Sirius put a finger under her chin, tipping up her face so he could look into her eyes, and he gave her a dirty grin. “I’ve never been more certain of anything in my entire life.”
“What do we do?” Hermione asked nervously.
“First? We kiss,” Sirius said with a soft, gentle smile that was rather unlike him.
The kiss was tentative at first. Sirius’ lips were soft and gentle and Hermione felt herself relaxing into his arms. The delicate touch of Sirius’ tongue to her lips startled her into gasping and he took advantage of her open mouth. He licked into her mouth with his skilful tongue and soon she was clinging to him and whimpering into his mouth. He pulled back and grinned at her.
“So responsive,” he murmured and stroked her cheek. “Should’ve kissed you ages ago.”
“More,” Hermione breathed against his lips.
“Oh there’s so much more, my lady,” Sirius murmured.
Sirius undressed her with a reverence that made Hermione blush and stutter. His fingertips lingered over her bare shoulders and he caressed her skin. When it was her turn she disrobed him with shaking fingers. His skin was pale, but she supposed that was a side effect of living inside the Veil. She traced the lines of his muscles lightly and then realized what she was doing and snatched her hand away. Sirius smirked at her and caught her hand. He kissed each fingertip in turn and then cradled her hand against his chest.
“You can touch me as much as you’d like, my lady,” he told her with a dark look in his stormy grey eyes.
Her fingers roamed then and her lips hesitantly followed. Sirius’ skin tasted of the air and the earth and magic. If she had to guess she would imagine that it was a fey sort of taste that reflected where he spent most of his time. She licked tentatively at his skin and Sirius moaned. His encouragement made her bold and she soon allowed her fingers to explore freely. The hair of his thighs crinkled under her fingers and he groaned helplessly as she stroked over his skin.
“You stopped,” he pouted at her.
“I did,” Hermione agreed.
His penis jutted out proudly from his body and Hermione stared at if for several minutes. It was full and dark red and seemed to have a life of its own. Hermione reached out with one hand and then hesitated. Sirius made a sort of whining noise in his throat that made Hermione giggle.
“It won’t bite, I promise you,” Sirius gritted out between clenched teeth.
The skin was silky soft, but she could feel how hard he was. Hermione stroked and touched until Sirius made a strangled noise and dragged her across his lap.
“I thought you wanted me to touch you,” Hermione said in surprise.
Sirius gave her a heated look that made her toes curl. “Oh I do, but just now I think I’d like to touch you. If you’ll allow me?”
“Please,” Hermione said eagerly.
Stories—whispers and rumours—had abounded whenever Sirius Black’s name was mentioned. All of those stories didn’t even come close to the reality. Yes, Sirius was skilled, but there was a gentleness, a tenderness, to his touch that mere skill didn’t necessarily imply. Hermione supposed that Sirius was able to tailor his technique to the needs of the moment. Then he did something fabulous with his tongue and Hermione stopped thinking at all.
“Like that do you?” Sirius murmured into the skin of her inner thigh.
“Oh yes,” she gasped.
Sirius surged above her balancing himself on his hands. “Ready?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
A wicked glint appeared in those stormy grey eyes and he entered her in one smooth slide. Hermione gasped and clutched at his arms. It didn’t hurt. She had read that it was supposed to hurt, but it hadn’t. She felt very stretched and very, very full. She wriggled a bit and was rewarded by Sirius’ eyes rolling back in his head. He bit his lower lip and flexed his hips.
“Oh,” she breathed.
“Now hang on tight,” he muttered under his breath.
The few mutual gropings and sloppy kisses that Hermione had been privy to had done nothing to prepare her for this. She was fairly certain one couldn’t call it love
“That’s right,” he growled into her throat. “Just like that.”
Hermione buried her fingers in Sirius’ hair and held on as he took her higher and higher. She could hear the wet slap of skin on skin and she wasn’t even embarrassed. She tilted up her hips to meet Sirius’ thrusts and the change in angle allowed him to reach a part of her he hadn’t been able to before. Pleasure ripped through her and she moaned loudly tossing her head back. Again and again he managed to find that place within her and soon her orgasm took her with such intensity that her vision whited out for a moment. She blinked stupidly up at Sirius who was watching her with a fond, smug expression.
“That was… is it always like that?” Hermione asked in a dazed voice.
“It is with the right partner,” Sirius drawled.
“You?” Hermione found the energy to quirk a brow at Sirius.
“I think you’ll find that I–,” Sirius broke off and grimaced. “I am sorrier than I can say, Hermione Jane, but I’m being called.”
“Why do you do that?” Hermione asked as Sirius began to pull on his clothes.
“Call you Hermione Jane?” Sirius replied absently.
“It’s a faerie thing,” he muttered half to himself as he searched for one of his boots. Hermione found it under her skirt and handed it to him silently. He paused and cupped her face in one hand. “The boon you have given me is a treasure beyond compare. I shall cherish it always.”
“Go,” Hermione urged him. “You don’t want to get into trouble.”
“No,” he agreed.
Another urgent owl to Harry, but this one was returned with a personal note from Shacklebolt. Harry was apparently doing some very important work that involved him working undercover. He wasn’t able to take anyone’s owls. If it were truly urgent, Shacklebolt would pass it on, of course. Hermione replied immediately. She explained that it was indeed truly urgent. She had important, critical information about Sirius Black’s passing through the Veil and she needed to speak to Harry without delay. She received no reply.
Carterhaugh proved to be her respite from the outside world. Whenever she could escape she would take her weekends there. More often than not Sirius was not able to get away and join her, but sometimes he could. Together they had christened every possible inch of the house. Sirius had shown her so many different ways to enjoy one another’s bodies, but she had managed to surprise him once or twice. Every time she did he would laugh and kiss her on the nose.
“You are the brightest witch of your age,” he would tease her and tug on her hair.
Now though, even being the brightest witch of her age would not help her. She stood in front of her mirror with her body turned to one side and her eyes trained on her belly. The rounded swell was easily discernible. Hermione bit her lip and her eyes filled with tears. She had gone and fallen in love with someone who was trapped beyond the Veil. She had taken a fey lover and now she was pregnant with his child. Sirius had been gone from the wizarding world for almost fifteen years. No one would believe her when she tried to explain from whence her baby had come. Even worse, Harry would be so hurt… so angry. He would think that she was pulling some sort of stunt. What was she to do? Without any conscious thought the lines of the Ballad of Tam Lin rose in her mind.
‘And pleasant is the faerie land,
But, an eerie tale to tell,
Ay at the end of seven years
We pay a tiend to hell;
I am sae fair and fu o flesh,
I’m feard it be mysel.
‘But the night is Halloween, lady,
The morn is Hallowday;
Then win me, win me, an ye will,
For weel I wat ye may.
‘Just at the mirk and midnight hour
The faerie folk will ride,
And they that wad their true-love win,
At Miles Cross they maun bide.’
All the colour drained from Hermione’s face and she sat down hard on her bedroom floor. Sirius appeared to be bound the same way that Tam Lin had—she had noted the similarities, but she hadn’t really considered what they meant. Halloween was in three days’ time. She had to speak to Sirius, and she needed to do so right away.
It wasn’t easy to find the double rose, but Hermione searched until she spied it. She plucked it with her bare hands, not even bothering to pull out her wand to sever the cane. The thorns pierced her skin and her blood stained the petals. There was a put-upon sigh from behind.
“Please pluck no more roses, my lady,” Sirius said firmly. He moved to stand next to her and took her hand in his, frowning at her bleeding wounds. He looked up at her with concern in his eyes. “Why did you pluck the rose, Hermione Jane?”
“Am I your own true love?” Hermione countered.
Sirius blinked and his hand tightened on hers. “What do you mean?” He demanded harshly.
“Do you love me?” Hermione asked again. “Am I your own true love?”
“Hermione Jane,” Sirius said in a rough voice. “Don’t say such things at Carterhaugh.”
“I love you, Sirius Black,” Hermione declared recklessly.
Sirius pulled her close and clapped a hand over her mouth as his eyes darted all over the garden. Finally he relaxed against her and she shifted impatiently. Hermione knew the exact moment that he could feel the hard, round bump that was nudging insistently against him. His face grew pale and he stared down at her with wide grey eyes that seemed far more vulnerable than she had ever seen them.
“Is it because of that?” He whispered fiercely. “If it is I can help you. I left things behind that no one knows about—there’s an account at Gringotts that will take care of you.”
Hermione glared at him. “Don’t be an arse,” she hissed. “I love you, you git. Now do you love me or don’t you?”
“I do,” he whispered back.
Hermione nodded seriously. “Is the Ballad true? Do I need to go to Miles’ Cross?”
“Yes,” Sirius whispered back. “The Ballad is true. You’ll need to do everything it says, but I won’t be on a white steed. They’ve changed things because of Tam Lin.”
“But how shall I thee ken, Sirius Black, or how my true-love know, amang sae mony unco knights the like I never saw?” Hermione teased her lover with a lilting smile that made her eyes sparkle.
He smiled back, but his face was much graver because he knew the risks involved. “I shall be on a jet-black steed. I’ll be in the first group that goes by. My right hand shall be bare and on my pinkie you’ll see my signet ring. I’ll wear Gryffindor’s colours so that you may spot me quickly. After that… just do everything it says in the ballad. Don’t lose faith Hermione Jane. No matter what they do to me you must not let go.”
“Is it like a boggart?” Hermione asked anxiously.
Sirius gave her a tight smile. “Such a smart little witch,” he murmured.
“Why couldn’t you just turn into a bear,” Hermione muttered.
“Because that wouldn’t scare you, my lady,” Sirius told her.
Clouds obscured both the moon and the stars making the night seem far darker and gloomier than normal. The wind when it blew made a sad, sighing sound that made the hair on the back of Hermione’s neck stand up. She was dressed as the ballad had said Janet was dressed and she had a thick green mantle wrapped around her. She was grateful for its protective warmth. Hermione huddled by the stones at Miles’ Cross and waited for what seemed like an eternity. Finally she heard an eerie, uncanny music that made her long to run from the place. She stood her ground focusing on her love for Sirius. He was trapped just as surely as Tam Lin, and she would win his freedom just as Tam Lin’s Janet had done.
In the front were the standard bearers and Hermione let her eyes slide over them. They were not human and they weren’t proper fey either. If Hermione had to guess she would bet that they were Unseelie with their strange, disjointed movements. The black horses were in front, just as Sirius had told her they would be, and her eyes searched for Gryffindor colours and his distinctive signet ring. Her sharp eyes caught the flash of silver and she ran to his horse as though she had wings on her feet. She grabbed him with both hands and pulled him down from the fey horse. He struggled against her and Hermione knew it was because he was bound to do so. She threw her arms about him and held on tightly.
At first the forms were similar to those described in the original ballad. Sirius changed from a basilisk to a great, ruddy snake that reminded her of Nagini to a wolf who looked suspiciously like Padfoot to a bear to a lion. She had assumed that next he would become a bar of red hot iron, but instead he twisted into Voldemort. Hermione’s heart pounded in her chest and she clung to him anyway. It isn’t Voldemort. Voldemort is dead—Harry killed him. This is Sirius. This is Sirius. The figure in her arms turned into a number of things before finally turning into a burning hot gleed. Hermione ran with the burning coal in her hands and flung it into the well where it sank with a hiss into the water.
There was a brief moment of fear where Hermione wondered if perhaps she had done something wrong and destroyed Sirius instead of saving him, but then he burst up from the well gasping for air. She pulled him out quickly and whipped off her mantle covering his naked body. It was an ancient ritual that was all but forgotten in the human world; the spreading of her mantle over Sirius meant that she was laying claim to him.
A figure moved down the procession to stand before them and watch them with strange, fey eyes. A scowl twisted her lips and she glared at Hermione. Hermione knew without asking that this was the creature who had bound Sirius. The Ballad of Tam Lin called her a Faerie Queen, but Hermione wasn’t so certain that was true. If anything this creature appeared to belong to the Unseelie Court.
“You have taken my bonniest knight,” the creature growled and her hands were curled into fists.
“He is my own true love,” Hermione said bravely and stood protectively in front of Sirius.
The test had been performed and Hermione’s faith had not wavered. There was nothing that the Unseelie Queen could do to them now. The creature snarled wordlessly and flung up a hand to the procession. It continued on with the eerie, uncanny music. Hermione huddled on the side of the road and clutched Sirius to her.
“You did it,” he panted in her ear. “Cleverest witch of your age.”
“We did it,” she corrected him.
Humming absently Hermione moved around her kitchen. It hadn’t been easy having Sirius Black reinstated as a living wizard, but Hermione had made it happen. There was nothing that could stand between Hermione and whatever she had decided to accomplish, not even the Ministry of Magic. The fact that Hermione’s archaic claiming of Sirius had triggered a marriage license in the Records Department had only helped matters along, that and five minutes alone with Kingsley in his office so that Hermione could express her extreme displeasure. After Hermione and Kingsley had their little talk Sirius was almost immediately reinstated.
“What are you up to, Hermione Jane?” Sirius asked suspiciously.
Hermione glared at him over her shoulder. “You’re not bound by the fey now. There’s no need to throw my full name around like that.”
“With you, my lady, I need all the help I can get,” Sirius retorted. His eyes narrowed on her. “Now what are you doing?”
“Cleaning,” she informed him loftily.
Warm hands slid around her and cupped the growing swell of her belly possessively. “I think that book you made me read called it nesting,” he murmured into the sensitive skin of her neck.
“Perhaps,” Hermione allowed as she leaned back against her husband and let him have his way with her right shoulder.
“You know, I don’t think we’ve christened this counter yet,” Sirius murmured thoughtfully.
“I believe you’re right,” Hermione murmured back. She moaned as Sirius nipped at her skin and ground the hard length of his erection into her bum.
“Well there’s no time like the present, is there,” Sirius said in his most seductive, sexy voice.
“Hermione?” Harry called loudly. He walked into the kitchen speaking as he went. “What was up with all the frantic owls about Sirius? I really don’t see… why… bloody hell. Sirius?”
“Hello Harry,” Sirius said cheerfully over Hermione’s shoulder.
Harry’s eyes widened as he took in the sight in front of him. His godfather who looked a great deal younger and healthier than he had the last time Harry had seen him was practically wrapped around Hermione. His large hands were cupping Hermione’s belly in a way that emphasized the fullness of it. Harry stared at Hermione’s stomach. Then he looked up at his godfather.
“What… what the hell, Sirius?” Harry demanded.
“It’s a long story, Harry,” Hermione said tartly. “Now sit down and I’ll tell it to you. Then again, if you had bothered to answer any of the owls I had sent you, you would already now.”
“But I didn’t think that he was actually alive,” Harry sputtered.
“Then I guess next time you’ll answer my owls,” Hermione snapped.
“Let’s just sit down and you can explain everything, love,” Sirius said gently.
Hermione huffed at him, but she allowed Sirius to pull her down next to him on an overstuffed loveseat. They took turns telling a carefully edited version of recent events and Harry sat in a wing-back chair staring at them.
“What… like… a real Faerie Queen?” Harry gawped at Sirius before turning to Hermione. “She can’t steal him again can she? Sirius doesn’t have to go back to the Faeries does he?”
“No,” Hermione said in a voice rich with satisfaction. “He’s mine now. When I passed the Test of Faith and covered him with my mantle I officially severed allof his ties to the Faerie realm. Sirius is a fully reinstated wizard with all the rights and privileges thereof.”
“Well, I’m glad to have you back Sirius,” Harry said honestly. He glanced at Hermione and frowned. “When is the wedding?”
“It happened when I rescued him,” Hermione explained. “The test and the claiming with my mantle constituted an archaic wedding ritual.”
“Right,” Harry muttered and rubbed his temples. He grimaced at Sirius and Hermione. “I promise from now on to never ignore one of Hermione’s owls ever again. Okay?”
Hermione beamed at him. “I’m glad to hear it,” she replied cheerfully.
Harry frowned again. “Are you two going to want Grimmauld Place? I mean… for you and the baby?”
“No,” Sirius said firmly. “There are a number of properties that we could choose from. Now that I’m officially reinstated it won’t cause any issues to reopen one of them up.”
Harry’s face fell. “Oh. Well… that’s good I guess.”
“Harry, we do expect you to be a regular visitor wherever we make our home,” Hermione said gently. She glanced up at Sirius and then smiled at Harry. “I think we’ll need to have the baby’s godfather close at hand, don’t you?”
Harry’s wide, bright smile was all the answer they needed.
“Again, again!” Capella begged clapping her hands.
“Oh Daddy, please, not again,” Cassiopeia said repressively from her spot curled up in a comfy armchair with a large book cradled in her arms.
Sirius sniffed dramatically and turned an injured face to Cassiopeia. “It’s all right,” he said mock-bravely. “If you don’t care how brave and noble your mother was, that’s fine. I’ll just tell her how you feel when she gets back.”
“Daddy!” Cassiopeia glared at him over the top of her book, “I never said any such thing.”
“How about I tell you the Amazing Tales of Padfoot the Wonder Dog?” Sirius asked his youngest child.
Capella squealed and bounced in his lap. “Padfoot!” She shrieked.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Sirius laughed. He hugged her and kissed her on the top of her head. “At least someone loves your poor old Dad.”
“Oh Daddy,” Cassiopeia sighed heavily and rolled her eyes.
“What’s your father done now?” Hermione asked in an amused voice.
“Mummy!” Capella abandoned her father and raced to clutch her mother’s legs.
“Hello darling,” Hermione said with a smile as she bent down and picked up Capella. She stood back up and looked around the room with a frown. “Where are Arcturus and Regulus?”
“In their room,” Sirius murmured and bent to kiss his wife hello. “Why?”
A loud boom reverberated through the house and Hermione lost her footing, staggering against Sirius with Capella trapped snugly between them. She arched a brow up at her husband.
“That’s why,” she said drily.
Sirius sighed. “I’ll go see what it is,” he muttered. He righted Hermione carefully and kissed her on the lips. He pressed a light kiss to Capella’s baby-fine hair and headed upstairs to see if his sons had left any ‘upstairs’ for him to find.
As he put his hand on the banister the light caught his signet ring and he paused for just a moment to stare at it. What had once been an annoying family heirloom that meant very little to him had become infinitely precious. Because they had never had a formal wedding Hermione and Sirius had never gotten around to purchasing wedding rings for one another, but he never took off his signet ring. He carried it with him everywhere. Sometimes he saw Hermione glance at it and smile. He knew that she was thinking the same thing he always did whenever it caught his eye. The first boon. Sirius continued up the stairs with a besotted smile on his lips. Even if his sons had completely levelled the upper floor of their house—he was the luckiest man alive.