Chapter 3:  Veritaserum


The morning after the funeral dawned cold and gray. Hermione lay cocooned under an exceptionally soft feather down comforter. Ron had given it to her the year before for Christmas. At the time he had told her that he had grown tired of her constant complaints that they kept the flat too cold at night, but Hermione knew that he had put a lot of thought into getting her something that she would love.

She threw back her covers and stepped lightly onto her wood slat floor. Hermione immediately threw herself back onto the bed with a tiny squeal of surprise.

"They always keep it so bloody cold in here!" she hissed out loud.

Hermione accioed a pair of thick, woolen socks from her dresser drawer. She felt an all too hysterical giggle break loose when she realized that these socks belonged to Harry. She was going to miss them. Pulling the too big socks on, Hermione padded out of her room, her plaid flannel nightgown almost dragging on the floor as she headed to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. If Ron was still here it would have been done already, but one must not want for what one can't have.

She had just crossed through the living room when she froze and stepped backwards. Turning her head, she surveyed the couch, where a shaggy black mass was asleep. Hermione stepped closer, trying to determine if Sirius was a man or a dog at the moment. Upon closer inspection, she found that he was curled on his side, his hands clasping at the tattered cloak that had served him as a blanket. Hermione sighed softly and padded over to a small linen closet hidden behind one of her many movable bookcases and pulled out a blanket. She stealthily draped it over the older man's shoulders. Hermione leaned a bit closer and tucked the blanket more snugly around him. She had just begun to pull back when he woke. Grabbing her arms he pulled her down and then rolled on top of her, preparing to defend himself. His hands went to her bare throat, his sleepy eyes savage and wild.

"Hermione?" he whispered hoarsely, his eyes finally coming into focus.

She swallowed hard, very aware of the large half crazed man holding her down and sorely missed her wand, which was still in her room.

"Sleep well, Sirius?" she asked, trying to sound calm.

His hands were on either of her head now, his fingers splayed against the wood floor. His breathing was ragged and his eyes still fierce. Hermione thought she saw something in their dark depths but it was gone almost at once.

"Sirius?" she prompted.

"Hermione?" he said her name again, mulling it over before pushing himself back from her. "I'm sorry, you startled me. Don't you know that you should let sleeping dogs lie?" He cracked a dry smile at her.

She didn't return his smile as she sat up rubbing her back where she had hit the floor. Hermione appraised him closely. It had been hard to notice before through all the dirt and tattered robes, but when he had held her down, Hermione had felt just how thin Harry's godfather had become.

"Sirius, when was the last time you ate anything?"

His lopsided grin faded. "Hasn't been much of a priority these past few days."

"Right then, I'll make us some breakfast." Hermione stood up and went back to the linen closet and dug out a fresh towel. Ron had always said that a woman's touch was most obvious by the amount of clean towels in a house. She turned back to Sirius who was still sitting on the floor, watching her. "And while I'm doing that, you're going to take a bath." She tossed the towel to him and then walked into the kitchen.

There was no argument from Sirius and he headed to the bathroom that the three had shared. By the time he had come out, Hermione had just set two bowls of porridge on the table. He eyed them suspiciously but his stomach betrayed him by growling loudly.

He devoured his first serving in nearly one swallow. He went through his second and third almost as fast. Hermione picked at hers, focusing more on the cup of coffee instead.

"I'm not leaving until you tell me what I want to know," Sirius finally paused long enough to say.

Hermione didn't even glance up from the Daily Prophet that she reading. "Shall I fix up one of the rooms for you then? I suppose you'd want Harry's..." her voice trailed off and she raised her eyes to his.

He was looking at her in a way that made Hermione blanch. It was a look of loathing, or distaste. "How can you be so callous?"

"I'm sorry," her voice quivered, she was no good at this! "I wasn't thinking. It's just been so sudden, I think I'm still in shock," she added quickly but regretted it immediately as Sirius narrowed his eyes.

He actually seemed to scare her more now that he was cleaned up. His hair was still matted in places and would probably just have to be cut, but the dirt and grime was gone and his pale skin shone through. Now that his hair was pushed back from his face, his dark eyes seemed even larger and more dangerous than before.

She pushed back from the table and took her bowl into the kitchen. She emerged to find him sitting in the same position, watching her.

"Look, Sirius, you know that you're welcome to stay here, but I have a lot of work to do. So please, just leave me be."

She lifted her coffee mug off the table and headed towards her desk where a stack of promising books awaited her. She took another deep drink from her coffee and then stopped dead in her tracts. There was a sweetness that hadn't been there before. She stood mulling it over in her head, the heady taste, almost like currants, but lighter, and then there was a soft warmth. Hermione looked back over her shoulder at Sirius who was standing now, his eyes having never left her. Hermione knew what the sweetness was.

"Veritaserum," she whispered in disbelief. "B...but how did you get it?"

"The same way that I get everything else, I stole it." Sirius stepped towards her.

Hermione backed away from him. The violation of the truth potion making her feel sick she spun towards the door of her room, but years of being hunted had given Sirius an edge on reflexes and he was on her before she had even gone a pace.

"Let me go!" she cried, struggling against him.

Sirius pulled her back to the couch and forced her down. Hermione struggled against him but he was far stronger.

"What did you do to Harry?" he hissed angrily, his face only inches from hers.

"I didn't do anything!" she snapped back immediately, there was no point in fighting against the easy questions, the harder ones where still coming.

"Did you betray him? Did you turn to Voldemort's side just like Peter did to James?"

"No!" Hermione yelled at him trying to push him away from her. "I would never do something like that to Harry or Ron."

"And why should I believe you?"

"I am under the affects of a truth potion," Hermione responded snidely.

"What are you hiding?" His voice was low and ominous.

Hermione opened her mouth to answer, but nothing came out, nothing could. It was all part of that long ago secret. She couldn't betray them even if she wanted to. Torture or truth potion, nothing could drag their secrets from her lips.

"Well?" Sirius shook her angrily, her head bumped against the back of the sofa and she whimpered. "What are you hiding girl?"

And again, the truth potion made her try to answer, but she couldn't. She choked on the words and tried to draw a breath but she couldn't breathe. There was a burning in her stomach, if he didn't stop asking her questions that she couldn't answer, he was going to kill her.

"Please, stop," she whispered, trying to draw a breath.

"Tell me what I want to know then! What happened in Malfoy Manor? How did Harry and Ron die?" Sirius' eyes were almost feral.

Hermione felt the room begin to spin, dark spots were forming in her vision. Sirius was holding her so tightly that she knew it should hurt. But the pain was fading now, the burning in her chest becoming a dull throb as she fought to keep her eyes open. She thought she heard him call her name, but everything was gone a moment later.

She was back in her room when she opened her eyes. She lay curled on her side, while Sirius paced back and forth around the room. He hadn't noticed her stir.

"You're making me dizzy," she complained.

Sirius stopped in his tracks and turned to look at her. There was a moment of silence before he strode forward and pulled her up into his arms. Hermione was shocked; Sirius hadn't touched her like that since her days at Hogwarts. Now he held her without moving, one strong arm looped around her waist while the other had buried itself in her hair.

They stood for a moment like this until he suddenly seemed to come to his senses and recoiled from her. Hermione stumbled back onto her bed.

"I wasn't sure what was wrong," he said as he began to pace again. "You just passed out. I've never seen that happen with a truth potion."

"Maybe it's me," Hermione supplied eagerly. "I've never been under the effects of Veritaserum before."

"Bloody Hell, Hermione, this is serious! I thought you were dying," he stopped to look at her.

"Well I don't see why that would bother you so much." The words stumbled out before she could stop them. She hated sounding like a petulant child.

He looked like he wanted to say something, but he only turned and walked from the room, closing the door behind him.

Hermione closed her eyes and thought about Sirius. She had thought they had all become friends, well as close to friends as an adult and a couple teenagers can become, when he had hidden inside of Hogwarts in their sixth year. But then he had left the school without an explanation. When he finally came back into their lives, he treated Ron and Harry as he always had, but it was different with her. It had been strained and uncomfortable.

She had covered up her disappointment as best she could and continued on with her plans. When they had graduated from Hogwarts, it had seemed that Sirius had gone out his way to make things difficult for her. Whenever he was around, she always felt that he was judging her. She had voiced this only once to Harry, but his obvious discomfort over the very thought of a feud between Hermione and his godfather was enough for Hermione to keep her worries to herself.

It wasn't something that Hermione had to deal with often anyway. Sirius stayed away from their flat as much as possible. It had always saddened Harry that Sirius would never spend more than a night with them. Sirius had always told them that if he stopped looking for Wormtail for even a few days, he might lose the trail forever, but Hermione couldn't help feeling that he avoided their home because of her. It had almost made her sick to think how much Sirius must hate her if he would stay away from the only family he had left in order to avoid her. There was also a lingering sense of relief as well. Hermione often felt like there was something more going on when Sirius was there, something that was on the tip of his tongue or the edge of his mind. There was something unnerving about those dark, animalistic eyes of his, almost as if he wanted to devour her. Waiting for his attack kept her constantly on her guard.

Once he had come, as always unannounced, and Hermione had been alone. Harry and Ron had both gone to see a Canons game together but she had wanted to practice a new hex. She had told them that they should stay and practice too but they had exclaimed that all work and no play would make them very dull boys and had gone ahead. When Sirius arrived there was nothing to do except let him in, offer him something to drink, attempt to make polite conversation, and then when that failed ignore him.

But he hadn't been so easy to ignore. Hermione had been able to feel him watching her. She had tried to focus on the wand movements, on the angle of her wrist, on the words written on the pages but the knowledge that he was behind her only five feet away kept interrupting. Finally, when she had banished the thought of his presence from her mind and lifted her wand, the knowledge that he had left the couch and was directly behind her became suddenly overwhelming. With a startled murmur Hermione spun on the spot but Sirius was just as he had been before, sitting silently watching her. Hermione had fled to her room complaining of a headache that didn't exist and as soon as Ron and Harry had returned she packed a bag and left saying that she had planned to visit her parents and had forgotten. Hermione hadn't returned until she was sure he was gone.

She had felt wretched over that, for like Ron and Harry, she had once truly venerated him. And how could she not? He had been like a tragic hero in all of those Greek plays that her mother had read to her when she was little. In truth, Hermione had even been a little infatuated with him in her sixth year. She wasn't ashamed of it, not anymore at least. It was a natural part of childhood to become enamored with something that cannot be attained. At least Sirius wasn't a spineless, brainless fop like Lockhart. That crush Hermione was still embarrassed to speak of.

But past crushes aside, there was still a sizable problem facing her. She couldn't very well run to her parents' home in order to avoid him, and he didn't seem to be about to leave. With the loss of Harry the need to find Wormtail seemed to have dwindled. But Hermione couldn't stay hidden in her room, or even let him know that was upsetting her. He mustn't know anything. And there was still work to be done.


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