Chapter Two

After the Veil

Hermione felt terrible for the elder witches after the initial rush of adrenaline caused by the revelations during Sirius' examination. The late hour the three of them had returned from the Ministry certainly worked toward their own hours in handling the Night Class, but Poppy and Minerva were still intended to function at their normal capacity when daylight broke. They both looked about ten years older than they truly were by the time they dragged themselves off to get back to sleep.

The disturbing information they'd gleaned would be researched at the soonest available opportunity, they'd all decided. Even if that meant using free time in their individual schedules to consult whatever information might be in the library. She'd been more than aware this was decided for her benefit, as everyone expected her to slink off to that very place the first chance she got, anyway.

Sirius assisted Hermione and Remus with finishing up in the classroom—as she'd heard it, there were not nearly as many children afflicted with Magical Maladies, or who were defined as magical creatures, as there were normal wizarding children. The first few weeks were to serve as a primer, the children all collected into a single, larger class. When the faculty serving the Night Class deemed the students ready, they would be broken up into smaller groups based not age, but on their ability to process the information their lessons would contain.

She'd yet to meet the other three teachers, but she considered the unorthodox handling of setting up their classes a step in the right direction. Age did not dictate an inherent capacity to grasp new educational materials, and she was frankly a little relieved for the forethought—it would alleviate some of the stresses the new students would no doubt be under, coming to a place where they still might not feel welcome despite the faculty's best efforts.

As they worked, Remus and Hermione filled Sirius in on all that he'd missed. Though he was saddened, but not terribly surprised, that so many had been lost—war was war, after all—he injected a bit of levity as he wondered aloud if Fred might not be palling around with Peeves, now.

By the time they had finished, and all grabbed a bite from the kitchens, the sun was coming up. Between the long night, and an enchantment on the windows that blocked daylight unless otherwise directly commanded by the rooms' assigned occupant—another bit of forethought, so no mean-spirited person could harm a vampire child by banishing the enchantment and exposing them to the sun's rays—Hermione realized she hadn't needed to worry too much about adjusting to her new schedule. She was so tired now, she felt sure a marching band could stomp through the corridor and it wouldn't stop her from drifting to sleep.

Unfortunately, it was as she was drifting to sleep that her mind, with nothing better to do, began to pick over the things which had happened between herself and Remus earlier that evening. She didn't want to think back on the way he'd looked when she'd walked in on him in that towel. Wanted even less to consider what could've happened had they not been interrupted by that message from Professor McGonagall.

Not that she was unhappy about the message, itself, given that it had led them to the Ministry to find Sirius, but the timing could have been better.

Squeezing her eyes shut in the false twilight of her room, she pressed her cheek more firmly against her pillow. To distract herself, and nudge sleep to overtake her, she played a little reverse psychology game she'd learned as a child.

Hermione told herself she was absolutely not tired! No! She could get up right now and go run a million errands before noon!

And—as had happened since she was a child, which was why she still used this trick—she felt herself drifting off, once more. And, once more, those thoughts of water-dappled skin and lips drawing closer to hers flitted through her sleepy mind.

Sirius snapped awake, holding in a sigh. He turned onto his side . . . only to find his body had not moved with him. Bolting upright, he looked down at himself.

He was a mass of silver-blue wisps that resembled his physical form, but his body still lay flat against the mattress. Swallowing hard, he turned wide eyes on his own sleeping face. He could see the disconcerting rise and fall of his own chest. Okay, okay. His body was breathing, he looked like he was . . . peacefully in slumber.

Climbing out of bed—each move ginger, as he hadn't the faintest clue what to expect from this—he looked down to his hands, flexing the wispy fingers, and then back to his body on the bed. Was . . . was this just what happened to him now when he slept? Or perhaps when he dreamed! He had no idea, after all, this was his first time falling asleep since escaping the Veil. If this was now his natural state, logic dictated this ephemeral bit of him would snap back into his body when it started waking up.

That meant he had a few hours on his hands . . . .

Glancing across the room to the other bed, he saw Remus dozing peacefully. Well, no reason to disturb him.

A smirk curving his lips, Sirius started for the door. Time to see what sort of mischief he could get up to while everyone else in this portion of the castle was fast asleep.

He slipped through the door and was about to start along the corridor when he heard a very curious sound from the door on the opposite side. Oh, no. That could not be what it had just sounded like. Not from sweet little Hermione.

A mischievous grin curving his lips, Sirius crept closer to the witch's door. He leaned close, intent on listening in . . . . But totally underestimated his own balance in this bizarre new form of his, and went tumbling through the surface of the thick, ancient wood to tumble out on the other side.

He'd always wondered how spirits, ghosts, and other non-corporeal beings managed to not fall through a floor, yet had no issue simply going through walls and closed doors . . . . Yet, now that he was one such being, he didn't bother with wondering anything of the sort, only grateful it didn't hurt when he landed rather unceremoniously on his face, his bum in the air like some daft character in a comically bad stage production.

Holding in a sigh, Sirius picked himself up, going through the motions of dusting himself off out of sheer force of habit. Immediately realizing the futility of it, he dropped his hands to his sides and rolled his eyes at the gesture.

But that sound came again . . . . Nearly startling him in how close it was. Of course it's close, you twit. You just fell into the woman's room! Biting hard into his lip, he pivoted on his heel to face the source of those tempting little noises.

Hermione was shifting beneath her covers, a blissful expression on her sleeping face as she uttered yet another small, mewling moan.

"Okay, Sirius," he said to himself in a whisper, "now that you've completely invaded her privacy, you should probably go. Right." He nodded.

And, after another moment, he finally willed himself to turn away and start for the nearest wall. Yet, just as he was about to vanish through it back out into the corridor, he heard her say . . . something? A name that ended in an us sound.

But with how low her voice was, he couldn't make out more than that.

Curious, he whirled around to face the sleeping witch, once more. He knew he should leave her to her private thoughts, it wasn't any of his damn business if she was making such intriguing noises because of something she was dreaming about either Remus or Sirius.

You should respect her privacy, a little voice—that sounded remarkably like Remus in one of his stuffier moments—scolded in the back of his mind. Sirius knew the voice was right, of course. He should turn right back 'round and leave her be.

Oh, so why the bloody hell was he walking toward her, instead?

She mumbled again, but still that first syllable was unintelligible. Frowning, and once more forgetting the one rather glaring issue with his new form, he reached out to sweep away the hair that had fallen across her face.

Though his fingers went right through the wild tangle of her locks as though they weren't there, his skin came into contact with hers. He had no way to brace himself for the sudden rush of images and sensations that flooded from her to him at that touch.

"Oh, God, Remus," she said in a moaning whisper as she clung to him.

His voice was deliciously low and rumbling in her ear as he chuckled. "Shhh, you're almost there. Just a little further, yeah?"

Nodding, she lifted her hips, rocking herself against his thrusts. She tried to hold back another moan as he all but drove her into the wall at her back. Hermione bit down on the side of his throat, loving the little growl he uttered at the gesture. He was still damp from shower, and she delighted in lapping the droplets from his skin, even as her body tensed.

She bit down a bit harder, concerned she might actually draw blood even as she started to—

Sirius yanked back his hand, coughing out a surprised sound as he fell back, hitting the floor on his bum.

The noise tore Hermione from sleep and she bolted upright, stopping just short of letting out a shout of her own. Catching her breath in frantic gulps of air, she looked about the room for the source. She patted the back of her hand against her forehead. Oh, a sweat . . . and not a cold one, either . . . that dream was—

And then she did let out a shocked cry at the sight of a ghostly Sirius Black staring up at her from her bedroom floor in bewilderment.

How . . . ? Wait, what? She couldn't seem to put her own thoughts together. Right at the end, there, as Remus—well, the dream version of him, of course, because what she'd just dreamed was probably never going to happen—was bringing her to orgasm, a fleeting thought of Sirius had zipped across her mind. And there'd been a quick shock of sensation that had intensified what she was already feeling, she recalled that quite clearly.

What the bloody hell was going on?

"Sirius," she demanded in a hissing whisper. "What happened to you?"

He climbed to his feet and held up his hands. "I'm fine. Okay? My body is asleep, and I guess this is just a thing Revenants do when their bodies rest."

Even dazed and still half-asleep, she couldn't stop her mind from leaping on his statement. "Well, you're only technically a Revenant, we've still got a lot of research to do on how to actually properly classify you. However, this ability to slip from your body when you're sleeping should help to narrow the search—"

"Hermione, love? Merlin's beard, you're not even awake yet and listen to you!"

She winced, fighting a sudden yawn at the reminder. "You're right, I'm sorry. Wait, why the bloody hell am I apologizing? Sirius, what're you doing in my room while I'm sleeping, anyway?"

He frowned, unable to hold her gaze as he explained. "Well, I thought I'd go exploring like this, and then I heard you making noises in here, so I tried to listen and find out what was going when you should be sleeping. Next thing I know I fell through the wall, and well, here we are." It was sort of mostly true.

"I was making noise . . . ." Hermione swallowed hard. "What sort of noises?"

"Um . . . ."

She clamped her hands over her mouth, stifling a gasp. "Oh, God. You heard me!"

He shrugged, an awkward expression on his face. "In my defense, it became hard not to listen after you said a name."

"Oh, no, no, no!" The witch dropped her hands into her lap and looked at him with pleading eyes. "You're not going to tell him, are you? Please! I know it's not literally possible, but I do believe I would die of embarrassment."

Without thought, he sat on the edge of the bed and reached toward her. As he rested his hands over hers, however, another sweet, tingling zip like earlier went through them, both.

Her brow furrowed as he snatched back his hands, his eyes wide.

"You . . . you touched me when I was sleeping, didn't you?"

Sirius nodded. "I didn't mean to, it was an accident. When I did, I saw . . . . Look, I promise I won't tell him. But . . . ." He waited until she met his gaze before going on. "If you've got feelings for Remus, and I mean, more than 'him shagging you up against a wall' feelings, shouldn't you tell him?"

She shook her head, frowning in thought. "I wouldn't even know where to begin. First, I'm not even sure what I feel. Second, there's so much going on right now, I wouldn't want to add to his stress. Third . . . ." Hermione couldn't help herself—she supposed it was part researcher, part young woman in long overdue need of physical attention—she hurried to force out the words before she lost her nerve. "What is that that happens when you touch me?"

He looked down at his fingertips as he spoke, "I really don't know. I know when you were dreaming, I was able to feel what you were feeling, so I thought maybe it was just that, at first, but now . . . ?"

Holding her hand toward him, she said, "Do it again."

He arched a brow at her suggestion. "Will this help in your research?"

Before she could think to stop herself, the truth was tumbling from her lips. "Probably, but that's not why I'm asking. Do it again, and think of something . . . inappropriate."

Now, both his eyebrows shot up his forehead, but the mischievous side of him liked where she was going with this. "Is this for research?"

"Actually, yes. Going to see if the thought-transfer goes both ways." She wiggled her fingers in a show of impatience.

Nodding, Sirius gave himself a moment to call to mind a scenario inappropriate enough for his liking. He tried to hold back a smirk, but failed as he stroked his fingertips along the palm of her waiting hand.

Her eyes drifted closed of their own volition . . . . She felt as though she was laying back . . . . There was the brush of his lips against her inner thigh as he dragged his mouth higher. The impression of his fingers parting her, delicate and teasing. Squirming in an effort to get closer to him, she looked down, meeting his blue-grey gaze as he buried his mouth against her.

It all seemed so real that when he dropped his hand from hers, she snapped open her eyes and lowered her gaze into her lap, as though expecting to find that he'd actually stuck his head between her legs.

"I see from your reaction that it does go both ways."

"That, was, um . . . ." She swallowed hard and nodded. "Very imaginative of you, Sirius."

"Actually, not terribly so," he admitted as he stood from the bed and started toward the door, or one of the walls. Whichever he fell through, first.

"Not terribly—" She cut herself off as she watched his strangely beautiful form drift across the room. "Does that mean what I think it does?"

With that familiar wicked smirk of his—the one she'd not seen in so long, and that she'd certainly never thought she'd see directed at her in a moment like this—he said, "Ask me when I'm back in my body."

And like that, he was gone.

She tried to will her own body to calm itself. Not easy when Sirius Black had literally left her with soaked knickers over the simple touch of his hand against hers. It wasn't only the feelings coursing through her during that moment—or the sweet little tremors that accompanied recalling it.

It was what he'd said. If he wasn't being imaginative with what he'd thought up, that meant it hadn't taken that much effort. Which either indicated that he was simply sordid like that all the time, which she didn't doubt in the slightest . . . .

Or that he didn't have trouble imagining doing such a thing with her.

With a miserable groan, she fell back against her pillow and pulled her covers up over her head.

Once more, she tried to will herself to go back to sleep, even with all these wildly curious thoughts raging through her head. The sooner she got back to sleep, the sooner the day would be gone and Sirius would be back in his body.

And the sooner she could ask him which it was.