DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter.
A/N: Thanks for your positive reviews and encouragement to continue this at my own pace. I hope you're all safe and healthy!
June 5, 1978
(seventeen years ago)
When she entered the Room of Requirement, Hermione slumped on the rug by the fireplace and opened a book without greeting her friends.
"Hey, Hermy," called James from the couch.
Hermione laid on her stomach, hands on her chin, and looked up at James. He was still wearing his school shirt and trousers, but the tie was loosened. His hair was messier than ever.
"How was the exam for you?" he asked.
She shrugged. "It was fine, but I wasn't sure if I got the last part in History of Magic, you know about the Goblin - "
"You did well, I'm sure," Sirius, who was just joining them, cut her off in a teasing way. Hermione frowned at his attire. He was wearing a casual t-shirt with 'The Beatles' printed in front, and a pair of denim trousers. He sat beside James.
"Where have you been, Pads?" asked Remus from the other couch, putting down his book.
"Muggle London," replied Sirius, winking at her instead of looking at Remus.
"What?" Hermione and James exclaimed together.
"I should give you detention!" she cried, standing up.
"Why didn't you take me with you?" asked James.
Hermione smacked the back of Head Boy's head. "Git!"
"Ouch!" groaned James. "Honestly, woman, I should file a violence complaint."
Hermione turned to Sirius sternly, hands on her hips. "Why did you leave the castle? It's not allowed to -"
"Do I know you?" he cut her off again. "Or, do you know me? I've been breaking rules since eleven."
She rolled her eyes. Arguing with Sirius about rule-breaking was like going on a wild goose chase. In other words, pointless. "Fine. Why did you leave the castle?"
Sirius smirked. "Well, I heard that there's going to be a concert at Hyde Park, so I decided to grab the opportunity and buy tickets for myself and three exhausted seventh-years."
"We're going to watch a concert?" asked James excitedly. "When?"
"We're not allowed to leave the castle..." she said in a sing-song voice, turning around to sit by the fireplace again.
"We are... next weekend, for job-hunting," quipped Remus.
"Bingo! And that's when the concert's going to be," grinned Sirius. He reached inside his pockets and showed them concert tickets.
She reached out for one and frowned. "How did you manage to procure tickets? This band is prominent and even my sister's boyfriend said it's not easy to - "
She glared at him.
"What?" Sirius barked a laugh. "I'm of age. I just had my N.E.W.T.s. I'm allowed to use magic."
"Not to the Muggles," quipped Remus.
She turned to her other friend. "Thank you."
"Hermy, relax! It was just a simple charm to get in the queue first."
She sighed. "Why am I ever friends with you?"
The three Gryffindor boys laughed and teased her some more.
Guess I just have to enjoy the time while I still can be with them. Everything's going to change once we step out of Hogwarts, she decided.
August 4, 1995
"And so the hermit died, and the tree bloomed again, continue providing food for the townsmen." Hermione closed the book and smiled at her son affectionately.
Leo gently pulled the book from her hands and hugged her. "Thank you, Mummy."
She closed her eyes and embraced the boy. "You are such a sweet kid, my love."
Leo pulled away and kissed her forehead, making her smile even more. Their beautiful moment was disturbed by a knock on the door. Leo got up from the bed to open the door.
"Good morning, Dada!" greeted the boy happily.
Severus bent down to kiss Leo's head. "Good morning, son. Your grandmother's waiting for you in the kitchen. I think she has something for you."
"Yay! Thanks, Dada!" Leo happily left the room. Hermione could hear him running and calling out for Eileen. She got up from the bed to tidy up the room.
"Where did you sleep last night?" he asked from behind her.
"Leo's couch," she replied without turning around.
She was putting Leo's books back on the shelf when she felt him behind her. He wrapped his arms around her waist. "I'm sorry, I was a git."
She snorted. "You are a git." She didn't turn around. She continued putting back the books, and she even arranged them alphabetically.
"Hermione," he whispered against the crook of her neck, sounding gloomy.
"Yeah?" she replied nonchalantly.
"Forgive me. I wasn't thinking carefully," he admitted.
She froze for a moment and sighed before pulling herself away from him. She turned around to face him. "You have to stop picking arguments with Sirius. It's not funny anymore," she told him seriously.
Sev didn't meet her eyes, and he looked unhappy.
"Sirius is tactless, impulsive, and immature most of the time. But you don't have to be like him. He's still my friend and if he picks on you again, ignore him, and he will stop. And Remus and I can always tell him off. I'm not asking you to be friends with him. Just, please, tolerate him. He's important to me."
"I told you, as much as I dislike him, I don't want him dead that's why I agreed with your plan to clear his name and endured a Cruciatus Curse from a psychopath. And I know how important he is to you."
She was taken aback for a moment. "Then why were you - "
Severus sighed and reached out inside his casual robes.
Hermione gasped when she saw the trinket in his hand. It was a small, porcelain dish tray with a caricature of her, Sev, Alice, and Frank. Below their faces were the symbols of their Hogwarts Houses. Each of the four of them had the trinket, a graduation gift from Alice's parents.
Hermione reached for the dish tray carefully and ran her thumb on it.
"Did you forget about them?" he asked silently.
She looked up at him with wide eyes. "What? Of course not!"
"You know very well I can't visit them," she said with a hint of annoyance.
Sev turned around and walked to the window. "I know," he said, eyes outside. "Sometimes, I just long for their presence, especially when I'd see you in the castle but couldn't talk to you. I fancy the thought of them being sane, and I continue to meet them secretly. They were good friends, like Regulus and Toyin."
"Toyin..." she whispered. "What happened to him?"
Sev turned to face her. He shook his head sadly.
"Sev, tell me what happened," she pleaded, taking a few steps towards him.
Sev sat on the couch, and so did she. He rested his elbows on his knees and looked down. "Do you remember what happened to the other Hermione at the Department of Mysteries?" she began.
She nodded. "Cursed by Dolohov, Toyin's father?"
He nodded and turned to her. "Do you have a theory why he cursed you? Other than the obvious reason, of course."
"Toyin died months after you were cursed," he almost whispered. "His own father Crucio'd him, in front of the Dark Lord, as a punishment for failing in one of the missions given to the two of them. I think when he was too weak, before the Dark Lord Avada'd him, his father was able to break his Occlumency shield and caught a glimpse of you."
Hermione frowned, trying to process everything and at the same time, feeling hurt. Toyin... gone.
"Did you have an idea that he fancied you for a few years when we were in Hogwarts?" he asked casually, looking at her.
She raised an eyebrow and shook her head.
He looked away again. "He did. He asked me in our third year if I was ever planning to ask you out because if I didn't, he would. Then, he asked Amelia Bones instead, but because of Regulus's uncouth mouth, Bones backed out."
Hermione remembered a certain conversation with Amelia about Regulus Black and the boy who asked her out.
"So it was Toyin..." she said.
"Toyin respected you. I think his father caught a glimpse of one of the moments when Toyin still fancied you... Maybe that's why he was enraged to the bones at the other Hermione, at the Department of Mysteries."
She nodded and wiped the tears that were now falling on her cheeks. Who else died? she asked but couldn't voice out.
Sev wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. "All of my friends left me. First, Regulus. Then, you were cursed and became an infant. Toyin's life was ended by the Dark Lord after his father tortured him. Frank and Alice are alive, but I can't count on them." He sighed heavily and kissed her head. "Your family - Bob, your mum, and Mona - was all I have. And the headmaster. He becomes a friend when he's not meddling with my life. While your family's great, I could not tell them everything about the wizarding world. And they were raising you, making sure you'll grow up like a normal child. Lucius and Narcissa were there, but I didn't trust them like I trusted you all. I felt alone, Hermione."
She continued crying silently, imagining what Sev had gone through. He lost his only friends in his early twenties. He had been alone for more or less than fifteen years. She wrapped a hand around his waist. "I'm sorry for not asking, for not thinking about what you've gone through..."
"I'm sorry as well. I should've just told you instead of saying stupid things like a petulant child."
She looked up to him. "So next time..."
Sev gave her a small smile. "Next time I will tell you how I really feel."
She nodded. "That's good. Sorry for not sleeping beside you last night."
"Guess I have to get used to it again. I have this feeling that you're really going back to Hogwarts as Hermione Granger."
She bit her lip, looking slightly guilty. "How about we watch some other memories of Leo's other parents, so we can learn more what happened during their time?" she suggested.
Sev nodded and gave her a fond look. "All right. Let's do that."
She hugged him tighter and Sev kissed her forehead. "I love you, Hermione."
Instead of responding in words, she yanked his head to give him a lingering kiss.