That Which Was Lost
The first thing Harry heard when he woke up was Ron yelling. He opened his eyes and blinked up at Sirius, hovering at his bedside, and Sirius looked back at him with a somber expression on his face.
"What's the matter?" Harry rasped, and Sirius fumbled at the bedside table for a glass of water. Ron's voice cut out abruptly with the suddenness characteristic of a silencing charm.
It hurt to swallow, but Harry managed a few mouthfuls before waving the glass away. Sirius replaced it carefully on the table before answering his question.
"Hermione was hit with some new curse the Death Eaters cooked up. She's alive and healthy, but her memory's gone. The last thing she remembers is getting her Hogwarts acceptance letter."
"All right," Harry said as steadily as he could manage. It was better than he'd half-expected, but far worse than he'd hoped. "I can see why Ron's a bit upset."
"It's not just that," Sirius said. "It seems Hermione's parents were a conscientious sort and warned her about not getting friendly with strangers. She gets nervous around anyone who isn't a mediwizard or a nurse, so they've asked us to stay away for a few days while she's still recovering from shock."
"I want to see her," Harry said.
Sirius shook his head at him. "Harry..."
"I won't stay long. You can dress me in a mediward's robes if you think that'll help."
"You've only just now woken up from a three-day coma," Sirius protested. "You're not fit to be going anywhere, let alone to visit someone in Hermione's condition."
"Just for a moment," Harry said. "Imagine if it were Remus lying in there. Wouldn't you do almost anything to see him and make sure that he was all right?"
He couldn't begin to interpret the shifting emotions on Sirius's face, but Sirius said, "Yeah, all right," which was the most important thing.
"You want to get me that mediwizard robe now?" he asked.
"What, you were really serious about that?" Sirius asked.
Sirius's face lit up in a quick grin. "I'll be right back," he said and snuck away with a light and stealthy tread.
In the end, the mediwizard robe--handily procured by Sirius--proved unnecessary. The moment Harry walked through the door Hermione's eyes lit up. "Harry!" she said. She smiled broadly at him, and when she looked at Sirius it was with more curiosity than suspicion.
Harry swallowed the sudden lump in his throat. "Hermione," he said. "You're looking well."
"Much better than you," she said frankly. "You look so tired and sick, Harry. What have you been doing?"
"There was a...fight."
"With the boys at Hogwarts?" Hermione blinked suddenly. "Harry, was I at Hogwarts? I only remember getting the letter, but of course I must have met you there."
"Um...yeah, you did."
"But then why can't I remember?"
"You were cursed, Hermione. The mediwizards are going to make you better, though, just as soon as they know how."
She seemed to accept his assurances, hollow as they sounded to Harry's own ears. "It's so good to see you, Harry. They said that my parents couldn't come see me, but they wouldn't tell me why. I've been alone all this time."
Hermione's parents had been among the first to die when Voldemort began targeting the families of Muggleborns. Not that Harry even dreamt of telling her that. "Some of our friends came by to see you," he said instead. "Ron, and Sirius, and probably a ton of other people that I don't know about."
"Who are Ron and Sirius?"
"This is Sirius with me," Harry said, tackling the easiest part of that question. "He's my godfather."
"How do you do?" Hermione said and offered her hand, which Sirius shook with gentle gravity.
"And Ron is...he's our best friend, Hermione. He's tall, and has red hair and freckles, and..."
"I remember," Hermione interrupted. "He came in and shouted a lot. I don't think he likes me very much."
Harry glanced inadvertently at Hermione's right hand, even though he knew that she always took her ring off before a battle. Ron thought it was because she was too emotionally attached to it to bear the idea of losing it. Harry knew that Hermione had figured out just how many galleons Ron had borrowed to pay for the thing and didn't want to risk his investment.
"No," Harry said. "I think he likes you an awful lot."
"I like you, Harry," Hermione announced. There was a choked noise, and Harry looked up to see Ron standing white-faced in the doorway.
"I like you, too," he said hastily. "Sirius, would you...? Ron, wait!"
Harry dashed out the room, only to find Ron waiting for him in the hall.
"Just another day in the life for the marvelous Harry Potter, is it?" Ron snarled. "Your godfather comes back from the dead, and never mind the family the rest of us have lost."
"--he wasn't dead--" Harry interjected quietly, but Ron bulldozed right over him.
"You defeat You-Know-Who on more than half a dozen separate occasions. And now Hermione recognizes you when she doesn't even know her own fiance."
Ron's voice cracked, and Harry tried not to wince. "I'm sorry, Ron," he said.
"'Sorry' doesn't bring her back to me," Ron said and stalked down the hallway.
Harry leaned back against the wall and sighed.
"Harry? Are you all right?" Sirius appeared beside him suddenly, his voice worried, and Harry forced himself to straighten up and smile.
"I'm fine, Sirius. Just tired. Could you maybe help me back to my room?"
"Of course I will," and Sirius's arm went around his back, warm and steady and comforting.
After that inauspicious beginning, it was almost extraordinary how easily they fell into a routine. Ron apologized shamefacedly the next day; Harry "introduced" him to Hermione; and they visited her on alternate days from that point on.
"Bad day?" Harry asked one evening when Ron slammed the door of their flat behind him, and Ron nodded.
"Maybe Luna should come talk to her. Like two peas in a pod, the both of them. Maybe Hermione just needs someone who can understand her." Ron's voice was especially bitter on the last sentence, but Harry pretended not to notice. They were all doing a lot of pretending.
"Luna stopped by to visit a couple of days ago. She just frightened Hermione as much as everyone else she's forgotten."
"Like me," Ron said viciously, and that was the cue to offer a butterbeer and turn on the television. This time, though, Ron just shook his head and said, "Not tonight, Harry. I'm going out."
"All right," Harry said, looking after Ron's retreating back uncertainly.
He watched ten minutes of a rugby match before flicking the television off again, and wandered into the kitchen to prepare a pot of stew that he had little interest in eating. Sometimes Ron would eat if Harry left a dish for him in the refrigerator.
He was in his bedroom trying to read a book that Remus had recommended to him and waiting for the stew to finish simmering when he heard the front door close, and then a series of thumps that traveled down the hallway and ended at Ron's bedroom.
Harry listened a moment longer, and then climbed out of bed, shaking his head. He could take Ron's shoes off for him at least, and get a glass or two of water into him.
When he rapped perfunctorily on Ron's door and pushed it open, though, he found that someone else had already dealt with Ron's shoes and was steadily working on his pants.
"Oh, sorry," Harry said, trying to glare at Ron and look apologetically at the young blonde woman--Elaine Morgan?--that he'd met at Ron's office once, all at the same time. He closed the door again, and then reopened it. "I'm really very sorry. Ron, could I have a word?"
Ron held his pants closed with one hand and followed Harry out into the hallway. "What is it?" he asked belligerently.
"Are you drunk?" Harry asked.
"Are you just a bastard, then?"
Ron's face hardened. "I suppose I must be." He stalked back into his room and slammed the door behind him. Harry could hear the murmur of voices, and went back to his own room before the bedsprings started creaking and caused him to die of shame and fury.
"I know a secret," Hermione confided after Harry had given her her "hello" kiss on the cheek.
"Is it a secret you can share, or a secret just for you?" he asked.
Hermione frowned at him. "I don't know."
"Is it about Ron?"
"No," Hermione said, shaking her head so that her curls bounced in front of her red cheeks. She'd begun to blush at the mention of Ron, and Harry didn't know if it was because she'd begun to remember what he was to her, or because she was picking up on what they all expected her to feel for him.
"Is it about Remus?"
"Is it about Sirius?"
"Did he tell you the secret?"
"No, you did!"
"So I know the secret, too," Harry said.
Hermione giggled. "Nope!"
"How could I tell you the secret, then?"
"Oh, honestly, Harry," Hermione said, sounding so much like her old self that Harry blinked. "Just because you can't figure it out doesn't mean that I can't."
"True enough," Harry said, laughing, and Hermione smiled sunnily up at him.
"What brings you by?" Sirius asked as he ushered Harry into the front hall of Grimmauld Place.
"I was visiting Hermione, and I thought I'd stop by while I was in the area."
"Well, you know you're always welcome here," Sirius said, leading the way to the kitchen. "Did you have a nice visit?"
"Mmm," Harry said. "We played a guessing game, and then she brushed my hair, and then she made me braid hers. I don't think I did a very good job," he confessed.
Sirius chuckled. "I thought your hair looked a bit wilder than usual when you walked in."
"Well, it's nothing to what I made Hermione's hair look like, so I suppose I deserve it."
"And how's Ron holding up?" Sirius asked.
Harry opened his mouth to answer, only to find that the usual platitudes wouldn't pass his lips. He stared helplessly at his godfather.
"Why don't you sit down and I'll make us some tea?" Sirius suggested gently, and Harry sank into one of the kitchen chairs with a grateful sigh.
"Since when do you drink tea?" he asked.
"I've been brainwashed," Sirius confided in dark tones. "Remus stole the contents of my father's winecellar and left me a bunch of Darjeeling and Orange Pekoe in its place, and there are only so many times you can drink butterbeer or milk before you itch for a little variety."
"You've been pardoned, though. You could go out and buy whatever you want to drink."
Sirius looked uncomfortable for a moment, and then he shrugged. "To tell the truth, Harry, Remus might have had the right idea when he cleared out the wine cellar. I couldn't drink enough to forget, the last time I tried, and my attempt to do so didn't do me any favors."
"Yeah," Harry said, "I think I know what you mean."
The kettle whistled, and Sirius jumped up to deal with it.
"I caught Ron in bed with another woman," Harry said while Sirius's back was turned.
Sirius stilled, and then began measuring tea leaves as though he'd never paused. "Is it a new girlfriend, do you know, or just a bit of comfort?"
"The latter, I'm fairly certain," Harry said. "I just don't understand how he could do something like that! Hermione's been ill barely a month. How can he just jump into bed with somebody else as though she didn't matter to him?"
"Not everyone reacts to grief the same way, Harry," Sirius said, setting a steaming cup of tea before him. "You just have to give him some time."
"Why is he grieving at all, though? Hermione's right there at St. Mungo's; she's alive and cheerful and happy."
"And she's not the Hermione he fell in love with, not anymore," Sirius said gently. "How old was she when she received her Hogwarts letter, ten years old?"
"Yeah," Harry said.
"Do you think that Hermione as a ten year old would have demanded that someone play a guessing game with her or braid her hair?"
Harry sighed heavily. "No, of course she wouldn't have."
Sirius wrapped his long fingers around Harry's and held their clasped hands in his lap. "Remus talked to the mediwitch assigned to Hermione's case, and she thinks they've identified the family of spells that her curse is a part of. In the meantime, though, Hermione's likely to get worse before she gets better."
"If she gets better," Harry muttered, feeling a stab of guilt even as he said the words.
"She will," Sirius said, and Harry let himself feel reassured even though there was no way that Sirius could be certain of that.
Sirius hadn't let go of his hand yet. Maybe he thought Harry still needed the comfort, or maybe he'd forgotten that they were holding hands, or maybe...Harry felt himself beginning to blush and looked down.
Sirius's gaze followed his, and then he dropped Harry's hand as though it had burned him and stood up suddenly, shoving both hands in his pockets. "Sorry," he muttered.
"It's all right," Harry said. "I've got to be going, anyway."
"You'll stop by tomorrow," Sirius said almost anxiously. "Remus is coming down for a visit, and I know he'll want to see you."
"Yes, of course. Thanks for the tea."
"You're welcome," Sirius said. He walked Harry to the door, and when Harry looked back at the end of the block, he could see Sirius still standing in the shadow of Grimmauld Place's front hall, framed by the open doorway.
Harry rang the doorbell twice and knocked three times before the front door suddenly flung open.
"Harry!" Sirius said, letting him in. "Remus is in the sitting room, I'm popping back into the kitchen for a bit, and if you see any smoke, don't panic."
He disappeared as quickly as he'd arrived, and Harry shut the door behind himself with a chuckle.
"Hello, Remus," he said, walking into the sitting room.
"Hello," Remus answered, and put down the book he'd been glancing through. "It seems that we keep missing each other. How've you been?"
"Fine. Hermione's mediwitch told me today that they're very near a cure."
"Yes, I know," Remus said gently. "But I asked how you were."
"Oh. Well, I'm fine, too. Why, did Sirius say something about me?"
Remus hid a smile, but Harry could see it in the crinkles around his eyes. "Not in so many words. Have you spoken to him recently?"
"I come by once a week or so. Yesterday he made me tea. Said you'd brainwashed him."
"That's what comes of moulding young minds. It's hard to break yourself of the habit even when you've altered your career plans," Remus said, smiling at him.
"You see what I mean?" Sirius asked from behind them. "He's pure evil, only no one will believe it because he's so mild-mannered."
Remus hurried over to help him with the second of the two platters of biscuits he was carrying unsteadily in his arms. "Did you bake all these by yourself, Padfoot?"
"Yes," Sirius said proudly.
"They look delicious," Harry said.
"And the recipes are from Molly, so stop looking so skeptical and try them, you wanker," Sirius said, nudging Remus, who laughed and selected a jam tart.
"Very good," he pronounced after the first bite. Sirius grinned at him. "Is there tea as well?"
"In the kitchen. Hang on a minute."
"No, I'll get it," Remus said. "You know you always steep it too long."
"I like it to have flavor," Sirius protested, but Remus was already out the door.
"I thought it tasted fine, yesterday," Harry said.
Sirius smiled at him. "Thank you, Harry. I always knew you were a young man with discerning tastes."
Harry smiled back, and felt himself on the brink of saying something foolish when suddenly the lights flickered and went out.
"One of the fuses must have blown," Remus called from the other room. "I'll take care of it."
"One of the what?" Sirius asked, and Harry shrugged helplessly. It was a dim, misty sort of day, and the heavy velvet curtains kept out most of the light, but there was still enough to see by.
"Hey, have you seen my wand?" he asked suddenly.
"No," Sirius said, "and mine's gone, too. What in the world do you suppose Moony's playing at?"
"I haven't the faintest idea," Harry said, though he was beginning to get some suspicion.
"Well, I'm going to go ask him."
"You can't," Harry said. "If he's looking for the fuse box, he'll be in the cellar. You'd break your neck trying to go down there in the dark and with no wand."
"Harry, what in Merlin's name is a fuse box?" Sirius shouted, so bewildered and beautiful that Harry said:
"It doesn't matter," and kissed him.
There was a sickening moment when Sirius didn't kiss back, and then his mouth opened to let Harry's tongue slip inside, and he wrapped his arms around Harry tightly with a soft moan that Harry could feel against his lips.
Suddenly Sirius was six feet away, and Harry turned, disoriented, to see Remus standing in the doorway with a lit birthday cake and a curious smile on his face.
"Remus," Sirius said, sounding flustered. "We were just...I was..."
"So I see," Remus said dryly. "Well, I was going to wish you a happy birthday, Padfoot, but it looks like you've already begun to open your presents."
Harry blushed bright red, and Remus smiled at him. "I'm sorry, Harry, I'm only teasing. Don't mind me; I'll just let myself out."
"We're all right, then?" Sirius asked hesitantly.
"Yes, of course," Remus said, sounding puzzled. "You can't imagine that I hadn't figured it out myself."
"That's what Hermione said," Harry said, laughing, and Remus nodded.
"Well, there you go. She always has been an exceptionally clever witch."