Disclaimer: As usual, all that is of the Potter universe belongs to JKR. I merely have this plot to offer and some out of canon ideas.
AN: Much as I hate these things, I must say this story had the first three paragraphs written with a particular story to follow. However, paragraph five came on its own and dictated a new idea be explored. Stories are like small children, they require your undivided attention and if left to their own devices can wreak utter havoc. Uncharacteristically, I'm letting this story run rampant on its own. So forgive me. This pairing intrigues me and so we shall see where they go…
What She Should
She should be sleeping. She knew she should be sleeping. She knew she needed to be in the office early in the morning. After glancing at the clock she realized she was supposed to be sitting at her desk in less than seven hours. Being awake at two in the morning when you were expected to be at your desk no later than nine was not her ideal evening. Especially when the previous three days had been twelve or fourteen hours of work with lunch and dinner eaten at her desk. She should be sleeping.
You see, despite being a mere twenty-five years old, Hermione Granger was quite the power house at the ministry. Of course being a war hero, best friend of the Boy-Who-Won, and best friend of the Minister's son does help with things. Even without all these little titles, she would likely be in the same seat as she really was the brightest witch of her age and likely a few ages yet to come. After all, she had been part of the trio whom defeated Voldemort and managed to pull off a few tricks even the best wizards were calling miracles as they seemed to go beyond magic.
Of course, if she was really bright she would be sleeping. She should be sleeping. She knows this, of course. For it is generally acknowledged that the harder you try to fall asleep the more awake you will become. Hermione watched the hands of her clock tick off seven more minutes.
"Will you just stop talking!" she exclaimed to herself. Realizing that sleep was futile, she slipped out of bed and padded down the stairs of her flat to the kitchen. There she made a cup of tea and decided to read. Yes, shocking, Hermione Granger can not sleep so she decides to read. As books are strewn throughout the entire expanse of her rather large flat, she does not have to go far to find a novel to entertain her. She picks up one of the many lying around with a ribbon in the midst of it.
She reads exactly two and a half sentences before she hears a pop, some obscene language, and some dreadful pounding on her door. She grabs her wand, lights the hall and goes to the door.
"Who the bloody hell is there?" she hollers in a much lower voice than she normally uses.
"Cut the act, Hermione, it's just me," a deep male voice came through the thick entryway door.
"Of for the love of all that is holy, this is not helpful," Hermione muttered as she opened the door. "You showing up on my door step at half-past two in the morning is hardly a comfort, Sirius," she scolded.
"You should watch yourself there Hermione, for a moment you sounded just like McGonagall," he said as he walked past her, kissed her on the forehead, and threw his jacket on the small reception table. He kept walking towards the lighted kitchen.
"I really had intended to sleep tonight. First I get a bout of insomnia and then that hooligan arrives for some obliquitous purpose I'm sure," she continued muttering as she shut the door and followed the rogue down the hall.
"Only you manage to use such big words at this hour of the day. You do realize that ninety percent of the population does not even know what that word means and even fewer can spell it correctly at any time of day," Sirius said as he poured himself a cup of the herbal tea Hermione had on the table.
She merely sighed in response, picked up her book and mug and went into the library. Whether her uninvited guest chose to follow was up to his own discretion. He would anyways, so why should she worry if she was a good hostess or not.
Just as Hermione settled herself on her favorite chair and started up the hearth, Sirius entered with his cup of tea and sat down in the chair opposite of her.
"Fancy finding you awake at this hour," he began.
"Yes, quite," she replied not looking up from her book.
"I thought I'd be waking you up when I showed up here," he doggedly continued.
"If your rather loud apparition, which might I remind you I live in a Muggle neighborhood so that was asinine, did not make me wake, then that foul bout of language surely would have," she continued, again remaining focused on her book.
"Now I know that you have read that book before so will you just put it down and have a normal conversation with me?"
"How do you know I've read this book before?" she asked.
"First, the pages are well worn. Second the page you're on has a tea stain. Third you just admitted it," he smugly replied. He could be quite annoying when he wanted to be and right now he was annoyingly superior. At a quarter to three in the morning this was not something he should be doing to our poor leading lady.
"Sirius Black you show up at my door step with a vocabulary of a particularly maladjusted sailor and have the audacity to criticize and annoy me?"
"Hermione Granger, you should know I have the audacity to do just about anything," he says with a rakish undertone, but an innocent expression as he takes a sip of tea.
"Of that I am well aware. However, what I would like to know, old man, is what you are doing here at this hour?" If she was going to have to have a conversation with him she might as well make it interesting.
"Well, I had a particularly nasty night of it and thought a bit of moral support would be helpful. Harry is off playing new father and I highly doubt Ginny would let me show up at their door at this hour. She would hex me from here to eternity if I woke that kid of theirs up. Ron's off on a tournament in Europe. I'm not about to turn to McGonagall at a time like this. That left, I'm sorry to say, you, as my confidant of choice."
"Nice to see I rank so high on your scale," she said from the corner of her mouth as she sipped some tea.
"I'll have you know you were my first choice. You just also happened to be my only choice," he said with a note of seriousness.
Suddenly Hermione realized several key issues all at once. The fact that it was early morning and thereby a new date began the train of revelations. This led to quickly assessing the significance of that date in its significance to the man in front of her. This in turn led to an understanding of what exactly the nasty night entailed.
"Oh, Sirius, I had forgotten the date. Well, more accurately, I had forgotten it was no longer yesterday. Oh, you know what I mean," she blustered out in a rush.
"I know," he said with a small smile. "I thought I could make it through the day by myself finally this year. I made it a whole two and a half hours."
Both found themselves lost in the glow of the fire. Hermione thought over the past years and this day's significance. For the man sitting across from her it was a day that seemed to be plagued with tragedy and chaos. On this day he lost his two best friends. On this day several years later his one remaining friend from school died from complications of an ancient hex thrown at him during the Last Battle. He had only a few hours to reunite with his friend in the ward at St. Mungo's for it was on this day that he had emerged from beyond the veil one year after the Last Battle. He had missed that, but the lasting effect of Remus' injuries took him on the anniversary of Lily and James' death. Yes, this was a day that Sirius Black dreaded and feared each year.
"Were you able to sleep at all before you came over here?" she asked softly, coming out of her reverie.
"No, I tried to go to sleep early in hopes that I would be able to at least sleep until dawn. That idea was quickly proven a delusion," he ended with a snort.
"As insomnia seems to have taken hold on me tonight, you came to the right girl," she said as she took stock of Sirius. She could see the deep circles under his eyes. It seemed this wasn't the only sleepless night for him recently. Under the weariness and sorrow the handsome Marauder was still present. When he had returned from the veil he was younger than when he had gone in thus causing great debate as to his age. General consensus was he emerged at an age somewhere around the age of 25, likely a bit older. Now that placed him a few years past thirty to the best of anyone's estimation. While she had managed to find a way to bring him out of the veil with some contributions from Harry, she did not know the details of the veil or its effects.
She thought of the two lives this man had ripped away. His first life was lost on the day the Potters were murdered. The second life ended the day he fell into the veil. Now, this man was trying to cut a third life out the unusual fabric of life he had been presented with on the day Remus died and his new life began.
During this time, Sirius was just as pensive. Hermione presumed his thoughts dwelled exclusively on the past. However, they rampaged over the years and into the present and back again. Yes, he thought of finding James and Lily that night. He remembered the sound of his motorbike riding into the sky with Hagrid and Harry. He remembered the elation of being free of the veil only to despair as he saw the last of the true Marauders, his brothers in all but blood, die before him in that hospital ward. He glanced up from his thoughts to catch Hermione gazing into the fire. With the light dancing on her face and her long hair she was quite the object to contemplate. As the flames flickered she would alternately appear like an innocent girl, curled up on the chair with oversized pajama pants and an old shirt that likely had belonged to Harry or Ron as it was clearly at least four sizes too big for her. Then the flames danced red and he saw the woman who had fought in a war and watched men and women, her friends, and even her family die in front of her.
"It does seem so," he finally replied.
"How about we just plan on you being my shadow for the rest of today? I will just owl in sick today. If I send in the note now on Orion, it will seem like I really came down with the flu. Hang on," she said. She got up and went to the desk where some parchment and quills were waiting. She wrote a quick note and whistled for Orion her owl. Though it was a small female owl, it only wanted to be named Orion. Given how sturdy the little thing was and always managed to find the largest mice being named after the famed hunter was apt. Orion came to the window and took the note. "Now don't let on that I'm skiving off work today, dear," she said to the owl as it begged to be petted.
As the owl flew off, she shut the window and returned to her seat. "Now, what shall we do as apparently sleep is eluding us both this night? And no, whatever rubbish first entered your mind is not going to happen," she said in a matter of fact tone.
"How do you know my thoughts were anything but of lofty ideals and dreams?" he asked.
"First, you have a mind that is well suited to your colorful and less than delightful vocabulary. Second, you are Sirius Black. Third, you just admitted it," she responded.
"Touché," he replied.
"Yes, you should really know better by now. How about I read to you and no, not from this book. I've got another one around here my mum used to read to me when I had nightmares as a child," she concluded her statement as she rummaged in a stack of books sitting next to the chair. Sirius had not been the only one with several sleepless nights. "Ah! Here it is!"
"That's not some sappy romance novel or such is it?" he asked wrinkling his nose.
"No, do you know what a fairy tale is?" she asked. "And again, don't go with your first response."
Sirius rolled his eyes and said, "No, that was not part of the Hogwarts curriculum back in my day."
"Well, they are stories often read to Muggle children. Some like to draw lessons from them and some of them in their original forms are quite frightening. However, this volume is full of the lighter ones and quite possibly my favorite book. Don't tell Harry and Ron it isn't Hogwarts, A History. Letting them think me as utterly hopeless has its advantages," she said.
Before he could reply she picked up her wand and made a few adjustments to the room. "I don't see the need to relocate so this should make things more comfortable." She had turned Sirius' chair into a lounge with several plush cushions and a quilt. She also acquired a quilt. The lights were extinguished except for the candle next to her allowing her to read the text without straining her eyes.
"Now just relax. Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away there lived a young girl. Now this little girl had hair as dark as coal, lips as red as roses, and skin as white as snow…"
Her voice drifted over Sirius and he slowly released the tension as he became immersed in this simple tale. Hermione's voice continued mesmerizing him with these children's tales.