Dedicated to: Danielle (my new beta)! Loved reading your little comments and I'm so happy to have you as my beta. You're doing an incredible job! Thanks!

The Portrait

by: atruwriter


A solemn mood followed the two gentlemen as they entered the empty house previously occupied by a family of three. One month prior the mood would have been drastically different. Humor and friendship, love and family had filled the hollow spaces. Instead, it was unnaturally silent. It hadn't been touched since the night all had come to a startling halt. The house looked as if it were waiting to be filled again. The couches sat in wait, longing for somebody to lay or sit on them. The kitchen table begged for a family to dine at it, to fill the empty chairs and cover it in a lavish meal as chatter and laughter filled the dining room. A few toys scattered the floor, a teacup or two occupying an end table here or there. They'd been called away in a hurry due to an emergency job and so their first thought was to deposit their son in a safe environment. There was a cold loss that surrounded the house now. Shadows seeming darker, the emptiness feeling, if possible, even more hollow, and the lack of noise was deafening.

Remus looked over to Harry, not surprised to see a brooding depression marring the young man's face. It seemed death followed him still. It had been some time since he had to face it, but it was there again. Twelve years ago, Harry had thought his life would never be marred by such loss and destruction again, but it wasn't only Voldemort that caused such travesties. He'd lost two more just one month before; a loyal pair that had saved his life more times than he could count. Remus felt his own distinct loss in his gut, tightening to the point where he felt his breathing was shallow and his eyes burn. He would hold his composure, however. He must.

He was the last one. Again. It seemed as if he just wasn't destined to have his friends. Five years after regaining and losing Sirius, a breakthrough made by the always brilliant Hermione Granger, who had retrieved Sirius Black from the elusive Veil in the Department of Mysteries. Still 35, Sirius Black returned equally jaded as when he had previously returned from Azkaban. But a shower, hair cut, fresh clothing, and a home that wasn't filled with bad memories lent him a new start. He wasn't wanted by the Ministry for a false crime and he had a Voldemort and Wormtail free world ahead of him. With his best friend Remus at his side, and Harry under his wing, Sirius was on the brink of perfection. But it seemed his goals were set higher than usual. He didn't want to go back to being the carefree adolescent he once was. Too much had happened and he'd been marred by his life as it had been. Seeing Remus with his wife Nymphadora, who still preferred Tonks, and his son Teddy, Sirius sought something more.

Twenty year old Hermione Granger caught Sirius' eye in more than one way. After returning him to life she went out of her way to help him fit back into society. It was she who told him the story of the Final Battle he'd been unable to fight in. Harry was still too fresh from it all and kept most of the details to himself. But Sirius wanted to know, needed to know, and so Hermione was the one who told him every dark detail of Harry's triumph and the losses suffered. She then cut his straight black hair to an acceptable length, which he barely had to coerce her into doing as it was a scraggly mess. Not too short, but an inch or two past his ears, he held it back off his face with an elastic at times. More often than not, he let it fall handsomely across his gray eyes. A homemade meal greeted the newly groomed and more at ease Marauder as he grew more comfortable in her presence.

It wasn't long before they spent the majority of their time together. Sirius began speaking of "Mione" as though she were his other half. When he wasn't with Remus or Harry, he could always be found with the bookish woman. He refused to admit any infatuation though, stating that they simply had a strong friendship after all she'd done to save him from the darkness that the Veil had smothered him with. But it was obvious to everyone that they were far more than just friends.

With all the commotion of Sirius' return, a proper party hadn't been thrown. The twins got one together a few months in, however, stating that it was only right that everybody get royally pissed and show their glee over his revival. While Sirius hadn't been one for going out since returning, he agreed as long as it was somewhere he'd feel comfortable. He bought his house almost immediately, as he couldn't stand living at Grimmauld place. Leaving her flat behind, Hermione made the decision to join him in his recovery. He needed the company, and Harry couldn't exactly move out of his flat with Ron and Ginny. So they spiffed up the backyard of The Burrow, making it look as if they were having another big Weasley wedding. Food was set out on long tables and chairs were places around; a few blankets tossed on the ground for some to sit on.

Remus, Tonks, and Teddy arrived early to help out. Kingsley, Moody, McGonagall, Hagrid, and a few other Order members arrived shortly thereafter. All of the Weasleys were present, including girlfriends or wives. Harry stuck close to Ginny for awhile, but enjoyed a game of Quidditch with the many Weasley boys while she conversed with Neville and Luna. Remus looked all over for the man of the night, only to find him sitting on a far off blanket with Hermione, not really getting into the festivities. She was laid out of the blanket, staring up at the stars and talking to him quietly as he rested his head on her stomach, one of his hands wrapped in hers. They lay together like a couple, looking tender and separated from the outside world. She stroked his hair while he played with her fingers, all the while they ignored everything but each other.

"Sirius," Harry called out, approaching from the side of the Burrow. He leaned his broom against the house and walked toward the couple. "George and Fred have a drinking game set up. Guys only, come on," he said, motioning for him to follow as he left back toward the house. "You too, Remus. Time to get you completely sodded," he told him, grinning.

Remus shrugged at his wife who looked mildly disapproving as she was pulled away to talk to Molly about having more children. He watched as Sirius sighed in disappointment, lifting his head from Hermione's stomach and staring off at the house with a little apprehension.

"Go. Drink. Have fun. Harry's missed you," he heard Hermione say, her voice low from so far away. He had to strain his sensitive hearing, but he could just make out their conversation.

"I've missed him too," Sirius replied almost defensively. "I just... feel out of place."

"You just haven't been out for awhile, Sirius," she assured, rubbing his shoulder. "They'll help you loosen up. Maybe a few drinks would be good. Just don't get so inebriated that I have to drag your arse to bed. You're a sleep talker when you drink," she teased.

He stilled, looking momentarily worried. "What have I said?" he asked, his eyes thinned suspiciously.

"Nothing I can say in public," she replied cheekily before waving him off.

Sighing, he leaned over to kiss her forehead before climbing up from the blanket. "I'm off, fair lady, and you will simply have to do without my good company. I dare to dash your hopes of spending an eve with me, but fear not, I will return," he told her, standing erect with a look of overdramatic charm.

Rolling her arms, Hermione snorted. "I daresay I will survive," she replied, chuckling.

Half-smirking, Sirius left her on the blanket and caught up to Remus, motioning for them to get inside and have a drink with the others. The Weasley boys cheered as they entered, lifting half-empty shot glasses and tankards in greeting.

It wasn't long before the surrounding blokes were half drunk and Remus only felt mildly intoxicated. Harry and Ron were somewhat slumped, but still very much interested in drinking more. George and Fred were singing merry tunes and waving their tankards around happily. Bill was moaning about something or other as he nursed his drink, while Charlie continued to prattle on about how much better Romanian alcohol was. Sirius simply listened, laughing at their antics and sitting comfortably in a chair. He swept his hair back as it fell over his eyes and grinned at Remus as he knocked back another shot of Firewhiskey.

"So, Siri..." one of the twins said, elongating the end of the nickname. "What have you and Miss Granger been doing up in that house all alone?" he teased.

The others looked over at him with interest, their expressions eager.

Sirius' face remained impassive, though he did shift in his seat slightly. "Nothing you lot would be interested in," he assured, lifting a brow.

"Au contraire," the opposite twin told him, shaking his head. "Ronniekins here still has a fancy for the brainy bird. And really, why wouldn't he? She's certainly... grown, hasn't she?" he asked, smirking.

There was glint in Sirius' eye that told Remus they were treading on thin ice. "Thought you were dating the blonde girl," he said, looking over at Ron.

Shrugging, Ron muttered, "Luna an' me jus' started. I (hiccup) I l-liked Her-(hiccup)-mione before, but..." He shrugged once more, looking rather confused.

"Ya still do, little brother," Bill told him, shoving his shoulder. "Don't think she returns the affection though. Seems she's got her eye on Mr. Black here." He winked at the man of the hour, grinning rather drunkenly.

"You like Hermione?" Harry asked, looking at him through bleary eyes. "'Splains a lot," he muttered.

"Like what?" the twins asked eagerly.

"They're always touching," Harry reminded them, looking at them as if they were stupid. "And he's always, 'Oh, I gotta get home, Mione's making dinner,' or 'No, I don't feel like going out tonight. Me and Mione have plans,'" he told them in a slurred voice. "Mione, Mione, Mione."

Sirius frowned. "I do not always--"

"And when they're together they're always all over each other," Ron interrupted, waving a heavy hand in the air. "He's always got his arm 'round her and he's always whisperin' in 'er ear. She's always touchin' 'im and talkin' to 'im and they got their secrets that none of us know."

"That's the point of a secret," Remus heard Sirius mutter as he rolled his eyes.

"I bet their sleeping together," Harry announced, nodding with eyes wide, his voice a stage-whisper, as if Sirius wasn't in the room and he was sharing a dire secret. "Yeah, I bet they'll fall in love and have a million babies and they'll forget alllll about me," he told them pitifully.

"I won't forget ya, mate," Ron told him, patting his shoulder.

"A million babies is a bit much," Sirius said under his breath, which only Remus could hear and had to chuckle to himself over.

"No denial from you then, Siri?" the twins asked, lifting their brows suggestively.

"Mione and I are just friends. She just understands me, I guess," he told them, his eyes turned off.

"Yeah, lotsa understandin' going on in bed," Ron exclaimed, throwing his arms up and sloshing his drink over.

"You spend a lot of time thinking of us in bed, Weasley?" Sirius asked, his temper pricked.

"Thinkin' o' her maybe, not you," he slurred back, his eyes thinned.

Sirius scowled at him. "That was your problem, boy. Too much thinking and no action."

"Oi!" Ron shouted, trying to get up from the couch but not managing to.

The twins laughed uproariously. "That mean you and the bookish beauty been spending time in bed together then Black? You gettin' the action Ronnie here couldn't?" they wondered.

Sirius sighed, shaking his head at them as if they were ridiculous. "Can't a guy be friends with a beautiful woman any more?"

The men looked at each other before shaking their heads at him. "No!" they all exclaimed before laughing.

"Sirius," Hermione's voice could be heard as she entered the room.

Everyone turned to look at her, smiling in a rather mischievous way. She lowered her eyes in suspicion before approaching the man she'd called out for. "You ready to go home, yet? I'm getting tired and Molly won't stop telling me about some boy that works at the Ministry. You'd think she was planning my wedding the way she talks about him," she muttered sourly.

"Sure, love. Had enough fun for the night." Sirius stood up from the chair rather quickly, his arm wrapping around her waist and his hand lifting to wave his drink in farewell.

"We better go say goodbye to everyone. Molly wants us to take some leftovers home," she reminded, her arm lifting to wrap around his back. "You too, Remus. She has a few platters for you and Tonks. I think Teddy is sleeping in Ginny's old room," she informed him.

"Psst, Hermione," Harry called, motioning at her. "Com'ere," he told her in a voice that wasn't very quiet.

Rolling her eyes at his drunkenness, she moved over to him and bent her head forward as he waved her too. "Are you sleeping with Sirius?" he asked, his voice a stage-whisper. The men around him barely covered their laughter. "Is'okay, you can tell me! I'm your best mate. Eh, you'd be like my godmother!" he exclaimed, moving to hug her. "I like you, Godmother Hermione," he told her in a soft slur. "Too long," he muttered, shaking his head. "Godmione!" He brightened with drunk excitement

"I like you too, Harry," she said, patting his shoulder with a sigh. "But don't ever call me Godmione again. I think you've had enough to drink for one night. I'll let Ginny know you're about ready to go home." She ignored his moaning over not being allowed to drink any longer and walked back to Sirius. "Have a good night, boys," she farewelled.

"G'night Godmione," they chorused cheekily.

Sirius shook his head at them, his arm wrapped tight around Hermione's waist before he apparated them out.

"He so wants her," Charlie commented smirking.

Remus couldn't help but agree.

Sirius was abnormally possessive of her, disliking when any male seemed to show any kind of interest in her. He was physically very affectionate with her; always having an arm around her waist or a hand clasping hers. A kiss to her cheek or forehead wasn't rare and he could be found resting his head in her lap as she read or relaxed most afternoons. Often, while napping as Padfoot, he curled up next to her, comforted by her scent. He had a keen interest in her hair, often seen running his hands through it or braiding it rather sloppily as she sat in front of him while they chatted with friends and family. Hermione wasn't any less responsive. She could be found pressed up against his side, arm looped around his waist comfortably whenever they walked through Diagon Alley. She often laid against his chest while reading her books or ran her fingers through his hair as he rested his head in her lap. She seemed to have a fondness for kissing his shoulder and could be seen rubbing her cheek against his when there was a light shadow of days growth across his jaw

While at first Molly had been vehemently against them entirely, believing he was too old for her and she'd be better suited for someone like Ron, it wasn't long before she had to admit defeat. Their growing and obvious affection had surprised most for a time but then began to soften them to the fact that the two were quite simply right for each other. While Sirius had been dark and rather bitter after returning, he became steadily less gloomy as he opened himself up to the affection of friends, mostly due to the fact that Hermione brought him out more. For the first while Remus and Harry had to come and visit him in his home, where he felt far more comfortable. Prying eyes and crowds made him nervous. Hermione slowly brought him out of his shell though. Encouraging him to come to Weasley dinners and join her in Diagon for some light shopping. She practically lived with him in his new house, taking up residence in the room next to Sirius', though his nightmares had her sleeping in his arms most nights.

Countless mornings Remus had happened upon them cuddled up together in Sirius' large bed. It was only the fact that they were fully clothed and the room held no heady scent of a coupling that kept him from believing something had happened. They made a handsome couple, without a doubt. Especially fast asleep. Remus only ever found them together on Hermione's mornings off, as she was usually out the door to early for him to even interrupt. Whenever he found them together, wrapped in one another's slumbering embrace, he usually let them be and returned home for a few hours. Tonks found it endearing. She'd come with him one morning just to see them, though the rather awkward stability of her feet had Remus worried she'd wake them. They slept on, however. Sirius laying behind her, arms wrapped tightly around her slim, soft body. Sirius' cheek usually lay across her neck and ear, his face bent forward as if he were kissing her shoulder. Their legs were noticeably entwined beneath the heavy black blankets and red satin sheets. His tanned skin was in sharp contrast to her pale ivory, somehow making them look even more attractive.

Sirius had always been a handsome man, especially during his Hogwarts years. He'd had a steady flow of admirers, which only lessened when he had gone off to Azkaban falsely. Upon his return from the Veil, he was still as haunted as he looked when he'd escaped the harsh environment of Wizarding prison. But in the time since his return, his appearance had softened and his body had become healthier, so he was soon regaining his aristocratic look. Remus had noticed a fair few female Order members ogling him at meetings. He wasn't oblivious to them, but he kept his attention solely on Hermione. There was still a harshness to his face at times, his anger bringing it out more. His eyes could be as cold as ice and his temper was something not to be triggered. Likewise, however, his smile could be the happiest and most charming expression to ever grace a face. He had a dangerous balance of warm and friendly, and dark and vicious.

His upbringing and past with deception left him as someone who could be rather harsh and suspicious. But those he did care about he held onto tightly. He didn't welcome strangers, and Remus thought that was perhaps one of the reasons he stayed away from his old lifestyle of whatever witch, whenever. He still commented on the beauties, even told stories of his many ladies in Hogwarts, but when it came to actually dating or even flirting with a bird, he kept close to his friends and shrugged the opportunity off. Both the Weasley boys and Harry had commented on his odd attitude but he was keeping tight lipped about it. Remus was fairly certain it was simply because he'd fallen for the only witch keeping vigil beside him. Much like James had been when he'd fallen for Lily, his interest lay in only one and none other could match.

Hermione was much the same way. She wasn't what some would call stunning, unless looking through Sirius' eyes, but there was something about her. She was rather short, only reaching most of the men's shoulders. Her face was pale with a spatter of freckles across her pert nose. She had bright, inquisitive brown eyes, and plump pink lips that were often seen curved in a friendly smile. Her hair was wild and untamable, a dark chocolate brown that hung in large curls to the small of her back. She was no longer the bucktoothed, young girl she had been. She was graceful and feminine in a way that came naturally. Her soft curves were more pronounced now that she wasn't wearing her robes over everything, far more comfortable in her Muggle clothing. Remus had witnessed more than a few wizards looking her way and knew for a fact that both Ron and George had harbored a fancy for the intelligent and pretty witch. Her interest lay more in work and reading than dating, however. She spent time with both Harry and Ron, but as an Auror she had her work cut out for her.

Perhaps it was Hermione's wisdom and years growing up in the war that gave her a rather intimidating and regal appearance, as well. She was well known as the bright witch who helped the Boy-Who-Conquered defeat the darkest lord of their time. Her grades walking out of Hogwarts were that to be marveled over and her understanding of the world and knowledge from books left her one to be quite well versed. Oftentimes, Remus had known a number of witches and wizards unable to keep up with her quick thinking and simply gave up on the idea of challenging anything she said, simply because she was most often right. She was still a bleeding heart when it came to the 'kicked dog' types and held firm to her beliefs that everyone, human and creature, is equal and should be seen as such. Her rather righteous rants had been heard more than once by those close to her and it kept a few suitors at bay, not that she cared.

Remus wasn't exactly sure when Sirius and Hermione finally gave up on the pretense of friendship. He knew of when he realized it had changed, seven months after Sirius' return when he entered his best mate's house mid-afternoon to see if he'd like to get together with him, Harry, and the Weasley boys for a men's night out at a popular pub. When he entered to hear the house far too quiet for the usually busy home, he wasn't sure what to do. He'd drawn his wand as he felt startled by the emptiness of the first floor. Usually Hermione and Sirius were up and about, despite the fact that it was her day off from work as an Auror. She'd never into the afternoon hours and while Sirius likely would have had she not lived with him, he hadn't been one to waste any time spent with Hermione, no matter how early it was.

He was halfway up the stairs when his werewolf senses kicked in. Their co-mingling scents reached his nose, forcing a blush to his pale cheeks. Sweat and sex pricked his sensitive nose and his eyes widened at the realization. He'd always thought they would eventually... but to know they were, right then... He swallowed uncomfortably, frozen in place with shock. His ears picked up their faint voices and he stumbled down a step at the intimacy of their words. Encouragement and strangled love words escaped them, their previously unspoken affection so obvious now.

He could hear Hermione's deep panting, her shallow breaths and the throaty moans escaping her. Similarly, he could hear, quite distinctly, Sirius' harsh breathing and deep, satisfied groans. Softer noises, like that of the bed making faint protests to the movement made on it and the rustling of sheets reached his sensitive hearing. Slick skin sliding against each other, their movements increased in pace, much to Remus' discomfort. He hated his werewolf hearing at that moment, as it was all too clear that he was hearing the end of their coupling.

The sudden realization that he was hearing his former students pleasured cries forced him off the stairs entirely. He quickly hurried to the fireplace, though he could still hear them clearly. They breathed each others names so lovingly that Remus felt as if he were witnessing their most intimate display and hastened to leave the house.

They didn't inform anyone of the change for another month and Remus never told them what he'd heard. He wondered how long it had been going on but was given no details as they didn't come right out and say they were together. Christmas afternoon had everyone coming together at Sirius' house as it had more space than the Burrow. Molly had dinner already cooking away in Sirius' kitchen and all the Weasleys, their significant others, Remus, Tonks, Teddy, Harry and Hagrid were all gathered in the living room. Gifts were being exchanged with everyone. The families had already passed around their own gifts at home but presents were handed out to friends now, a pile of gifts in front of everyone.

Harry sat on the floor, Ginny in his lap, as he enjoyed watching everybody open his gifts. Molly and Arthur thanked the many people around them as they were surrounded by so many gifts they hardly had any space to move. Hagrid cried his gratitude and shook the breath out of every one of them as he tore open gift after gift, happily brought into the family surroundings. The room was full of shouts of glee and laughter as the Christmas season filled them all with a sense of freedom.

Remus noticed Sirius and Hermione apart from all the rest. Sirius sat on the floor in front of the armchair Hermione occupied, one of her legs was tossed over his shoulder and he ran his hand absently from her ankle to her thigh, beneath the black satin robe she wore that clearly had SB emblazoned in gold lettering over her left breast. Hermione watched her friends open their gifts, her long fingers running through Sirius' dark hair as a small smile pulled her lips up. Remus found himself thinking of Hermione as much older than before. A wise sense of content seemed to radiate from her. She almost appeared as though a mother watching over her children, enjoying their happiness far more than anything else. Her eyes lingered over Harry and Ron, a sisterly affection coming from her eyes.

While the surrounding friends seemed occupied with their own luck, Remus couldn't help but watch the couple with keen interest. They were somehow a part of the people with him and yet separate too. Sirius rested his cheek against her knee, gray eyes fondly watching Harry and the others, though his affection for Hermione kept him from joining the festivities. He didn't seem put out by it however, comforted more where he was than filling the space next to Harry. In the months since his revival, Sirius had kept close to Hermione more than anyone and even though his relationship was strong with Harry and Remus, he seemed to need her more than them. He thrived on her existence next to him. There was a content look to him that had only come to fruition when he was with Hermione.

Ever since that afternoon he'd walked in to hear their lovemaking, he waited for the moment they'd make it official to everyone else. It seemed friends and loved ones were just waiting for the words so they could shout their 'I told you so's', but still it hadn't come. Their actions never changed. They were still as close as ever. Still whispered to each other and held each other for no reason besides they wanted to. They continued to live with each other and ignore Molly's hinting that Hermione should get out more, date, start a family. It was noticeable that Sirius disagreed with her getting out and dating, he tensed up every time it was brought up, but he didn't say anything to stop it and Hermione simply waved off the idea. Her excuse was always her work, despite the fact that she always had time for Sirius.

The gifts were dwindling and the chatter was calming. Teddy's hair changed colours rapidly as he ran around the bright paper, kicking it around and playing with the many toys littering the floor. At four years old, he was rambunctious and curious. Molly handed out coffee to some, hot chocolate to others, and a warm butterbeer to Teddy. Ron and girlfriend Luna were taking full advantage of the "nargle free" mistletoe. Harry and Ginny were cuddling by the beautifully decorated Christmas tree. The many Weasley boys were donning their mothers knitted sweaters and passing around their gifts for opinions. Tonks was snuggled up against Remus' side, her fingers playing with his as she watched Teddy play with a train that bore a great resemblance to the Hogwarts Express. And all the while, Hermione and Sirius sat in their own world, surrounded with only them, watching from the outside.

It was as Sirius leaned his head back, saying something only she could hear as she ran her free hand through his hair, the other holding her hot mug of chocolate on the arm of the chair. The lights of the Christmas tree glinted off something near Sirius' eye and Remus' gaze was drawn to it. A simple diamond set in a very beautiful silver antique looking ring stared up at him from her finger. Sirius drew her hand closer, kissing her palm as she laughed lightly to what he'd said. She cupped his cheek, thumb stroking his chin as he stared up at her. Remus felt surprise settle in his stomach, all sound seeming to drown out. Had he really...? Was Sirius actually going to...? While Remus knew the glint in Sirius' eye as the same James had always donned for Lily, and he shared with Tonks, he hadn't really considered what long term plans would come to be.

"Sirius?" he asked, his voice rather giddy, he thought. "Something you want to share with the rest of us?"

Sirius had lifted his face from her lap, confusion in his eyes until he seemed to realize that Hermione's ring was very visible against his face. He smirked slowly, winking at Remus, and that was all he needed to know for sure.

Molly let out a sobbing shout. "Oh my!"

"Wha' happened?" Ron asked, breaking away from Luna as he heard his mum exclaim.

Hopping over toys and presents, ignoring the crowded space, Molly managed to make her way to Sirius and Hermione. "Are you really, dears? Is it true?" she asked, her eyes glittering with happy tears.

"We figured the back yard of the Burrow was nice during spring," Sirius replied, grinning up at her.

Mrs. Weasley almost seemed to be hopping on spot before she leaned forward and gathered them both in a rather awkward hug. "Oh but when did this start?" she asked, shaking her crying head. "I thought you two were still avoiding the obvious?" she said bluntly.

Sirius shrugged. "Awhile," he told them simply and didn't elaborate.

There were hugs and pats on the back, congratulations and shouts of excitement all around. Already the twins were planning a bachelor party and Ginny was getting excited about a bachelorette bash. Molly was quickly in discussion with a quietly smiling Arthur over how the wedding would look, where they could put everything and who would be invited. Alternately, Sirius and Hermione seemed to slip away from the well-wishers and Remus found himself following them out, if only to speak to them privately about what was happening. For once he felt left out of their loop. Sirius wasn't one to keep things like this quiet, but when it came to Hermione he wasn't saying much. Although, questions almost seemed pointless when his eyes told the answers already.

Remus pushed the door to the kitchen open, his mouth opening to call out to them but closing as he happened upon their position. In the few seconds it took for him to reach them, Sirius already had Hermione pinned against the counter, his hands on her hips and his mouth slanted over hers. Hermione's fingers were buried in his dark strands, her chin tilted and her body arched against his as she met each movement of his mouth. Their tongues were visibly tangling, noses brushing, barely any space separating their bodies. One of Hermione's legs rose to wrap around his hip, the black robe she wore falling open to reveal her creamy thigh, which Sirius' large hand took advantage of immediately. Remus found himself glued to the spot, never having witnessed their affection go past kisses on the cheek or the odd nuzzle of her face against his. But the passion between the two was unmissable.

As Sirius broke away, air becoming a necessity, he trailed lingering and calming kisses down her throat, her head thrown back and her eyes closed. Remus could hear Sirius' panting breath against her skin, the way his husky voice pledged "Love you, Mione," the deep honest emotion that seemed to allude him in his younger years.

Their embrace grew more heated and Remus quickly took his leave, making sure to alert the others that the kitchen was currently occupied by the newly engaged. The Weasley boys and Harry chuckled over his embarrassment and Molly looked over at the kitchen rather uncertainly, "Oh, but how long will they be? I have to check the food..." he could hear her muttering. He found himself wondering just what Mrs. Weasley would think about what Sirius and Hermione were probably going to do on the clean counters and smirked to himself.

Presently, Remus found himself following a step behind Harry as they sadly perused the vast emptiness of the house. There was a sharp pain vibrating in his chest as his eyes washed over the empty chairs and shadowed corners. By this time, the couple was usually home from work and spending time with their son. Remus grimaced as he remembered the seven year old boy asking him if he was allowed to go home yet, as he missed his mummy and daddy. He still didn't understand what they meant when he and Tonks had explained that his mum and dad were in a 'better place' and wouldn't be returning. He kept telling them that his daddy took mummy out all the time, but they always came back for him, because he was their little prince. It pained Remus to see such an innocent and trusting expression on the boys face. He looked so much like his dad, with his mum's nose and ears, as Sirius had often pointed out.

Remus could still see the family clearly if he squinted real hard and let his mind wander. Sirius and Hermione had wed in spring, as mentioned, in the back property of The Burrow. The ceremony was open only to a select few friends and family members, not wanting the public involved. Upon finding out, Rita Skeeter wrote a scathing article about them being together before Hermione was of legal age and cited their marriage as 'necessary due to Black's lack of morals or female attention,' meaning she was sure that Hermione was pregnant. Had she been at the wedding to hear their vows, see them share their first dance as husband and wife, she would have surely taken back any harsh criticisms.

The world seemed not to exist as Sirius held his wife close, face buried against her shoulder, and bodies swaying across the grass. There was a light wind and the scent of flowers was strong in the air. The music was soft and sweet, a Muggle song that Remus had often heard playing around their home. He'd walked in on them swaying in their kitchen a few times to the same melody and found he couldn't pull his eyes away now either.

Feeling tired
By the fire
The long day is over

He wasn't surprised to see that everybody who'd attended the wedding watched on fondly as the couple publicly let themselves just be. From where he stood, Remus could see that both their eyes were closed. One of Hermione's hands was tightly wound in the black strands at the base of Sirius' head. His arms were wrapped snug around her, large hands splayed out over her bare back, stroking her skin and playing with the brown curls that hung down in glossy waves. Their steps were small, a little to the left and then to the right, bodies swaying just barely.

The wind is gone
Asleep at dawn
The embers burn on

He felt Tonks lay her chin on his shoulder, her hand wrapping around his bicep as he tore his eyes away to see her. She smiled up at him, "Feels like things are getting on track, yeah?"

He nodded, his throat rather tight. "I'm glad he found her." He grinned at his best mate, though Sirius' attention hadn't wavered from his wife. "James and Lily would be proud." He sighed, watching as Sirius kissed Hermione's shoulder and she returned it by burying her mouth against his throat. "I'm proud of him."

"She's just what he needed," Tonks agreed.

Remus smiled. "And vice versa."

With no reprise
The sun will rise
The long day is over

Remus watched the content happiness invade Sirius' face as he opened his eyes to smile at his wife, laughing lightly at something she said. He leaned forward, capturing her mouth and stopping his swaying entirely as he possessively and lovingly stole her breath away. Hands buried in each others hair, bodies pressed tightly together, they freely showed everyone around them that there was no one else for them but each other. The twins interrupted with cries of, "Oi! Our innocence!" and the couple broke apart, chuckling, before they hugged each other tightly and whispered against each others ears. Others joined them on the grass for a dance but they stuck close to each other for the next few hours, oblivious to the knowing and happy gaze of their friends and family.

Remus reached out with a shaky hand, picking up the discarded book laying on the couch. It was marked with a red ribbon and he could envision the way they were likely cuddled up on the couch, Ethan upstairs asleep in his bed. Hermione would be reading while Sirius played with her hair or teased his mouth over her neck, attention more on her, though his eyes would venture down to read what she was. They were always so together, it was no wonder they died the same.

Shortly into their marriage, Sirius had returned to his position as an Auror, which he'd been before the death of James and Lily and his incarceration. His desire to always be close to his wife, coupled with the hatred he held for dark wizards, made it the perfect career choice. Kingsley placed them as partners shortly after realizing that they simply couldn't work well with others. More Sirius than Hermione, but as partners they were fluid and dangerous, not to be messed with under any circumstance. They quickly made a name for themselves, the Blacks who held justice in the strike of their wand. Their capture rate was high and their determination put them in a position where most dark wizards wanted them disposed of. Injuries were not at a minimum for them, despite their ability to get themselves out of deathly scrapes. They'd suffered their fare share of broken bones and blood loss. A deep slicing hex to her shoulder had Hermione in St. Mungo's a little over a year after she and Sirius had married, where some startling news had her off duty for the next year and a half.

At twenty-three and thirty-eight, Hermione and Sirius were about to be parents. Nobody was surprised, as the two were the most affectionate couple to ever walk the planet. While previously they'd been rather low-key about the affection, after marrying they seemed to find no qualms about snogging at any time. It was a well-known fact that anybody visiting must write beforehand or give loud warning to the couple before entering the Black house. Their sexual appetite for each other seemed unending, as Remus knew from many an uncomfortable interruption.

Remus was in an excited hurry. He couldn't wait to tell Sirius and Hermione the good news. Tonks was pregnant with their second child and he wanted his best mate to come celebrating with him. He was so absorbed in his own exuberance, that he hadn't realized what he was about to walk in on until he did. He pushed open the swinging white door leading to the kitchen and opened his mouth to shout that he was going to be a dad... again. But his words left him as he realized what was happening.

Hermione was on the table. Her casual red dress was pushed up to her waist and her legs were hanging open widely, toes curled and feet sitting at the very edge of the table. Her arms were holding her up, head back, hair pooling beneath her. Sirius' arm was wrapped around her waist, holding her arse tightly. His face was buried between her thighs and Remus realized quickly that he'd just seen a whole lot more of the wife of his best mate than he'd ever wanted to.

Despite his inner shouts of "GET OUT QUICKLY!" his feet were stuck in place as he watched in rapt shock as Sirius' tongue lapped at his wife's folds, teeth grazing the sensitive nub and making her moan loudly. Hermione cried out for him, rather vulgar curse words exiting her mouth, which merely made Sirius chuckle, sending her into a quivering fit, much to Remus' shocked discomfort. Sirius' other hand stoked the inside of Hermione's thigh tenderly, his wedding band glinting.

It wasn't the first time he'd walked in on them so intimate. They'd been shagging on the stairs two weeks prior, which looked uncomfortable and rather painful, but didn't slow them down in the least. And it'd been Hermione's head between Sirius' legs the month before when he popped in to see if they wanted to join him and Tonks for dinner. They shagged like bunnies, Remus knew, because it seemed every time he came over they were locked around each other. Against the walls, on the couch, in front of the fire, on the counters, in the bedroom, on the stairs, across her desk, in the shower. He was seriously considering never visiting them again and simply telling them they had to come to him from now on, just so he wouldn't ever have to see Sirius' naked lower half thrusting into his friend and former student again.

Sirius' enthusiastic tongue continued it's assault on Hermione's glistening mound and her cries grew deeper and heavier as Remus turned and hurried out of the room at a run, finally finding his sense. It didn't stop his ears from hearing her scream her orgasm out for the world to hear, Sirius' name yelled in sheer ecstasy. He could imagine his best mate's smug face and the pleasure that must be clouding Hermione's. Per usual, he left through floo and hoped he'd be able to look Hermione in the face without blushing the next time he saw her. He vowed then he wouldn't be back for awhile, as he wasn't flooing in or apparating until he knew for a fact they were properly dressed. He'd just have to owl them the good news and hope they came to him.

Sirius hadn't had to deal with the same interruption when he realized he was going to be a dad. He was in St. Mungo's, badgering a healer as his wife was looked over. Remus, Harry and Ron had all arrived at the hospital after hearing that Hermione had been brought in, bleeding profusely from a mission gone wrong. From where he stood, Remus could hear Sirius shouting and cursing about nobody telling him anything. He was forced to sit out in the hall with them as they continued healing Hermione, which meant he'd be pacing and muttering under his breath the entire time. Ron fell asleep in his chair and Harry yawned every few minutes, while Remus tried to calm Sirius down.

Finally, when it seemed Sirius had had enough and was going to curse answers out of the healer, he was called in to speak to his sleepy but recuperating wife. Remus sat anxiously in his chair, knee jumping, until five minutes later when he heard Sirius' loud shout of, "HOLY FUCK!" followed by Hermione's chastisement of swearing. Worried, Remus and the two younger men followed him hurriedly into Hermione's room, only to find Sirius on her bed, hugging her tightly and kissing her throat rather enthusiastically.

"Is she physically able to do that?" Ron asked rather uncomfortably. "She is injured, remember!"

"I'm going to be a dad!" Sirius exclaimed, ignoring the question. With swimming eyes, he kissed Hermione full on the mouth for so long Remus began squirming in place and Harry cleared his throat to get their attention. When they finally pulled apart, congratulations were handed out with pats on the back and shakes of the hand. A very proud Sirius never left Hermione's side, his hand resting on her abdomen and his eyes staring into hers. Remus figured it was one of the best moments of Sirius' life and couldn't help but feel grateful that he was there to have it at all. It seemed all the bad things that had happened to Sirius were ending and a real future was beginning for him.

Six months later, Ethan James Black was born to two very happy parents. Sirius instantly loved his son, proudly telling everybody that he had the Marauder gleam in his gray eyes and would surely outprank even the Weasley twins when he grew old enough. There was a sheen to his eyes as he held his squirming son out to Remus to hold for the first time. "You'll be the second greatest godfather alive!" he told him, his voice rather raspy. He barely left Hermione's side, holding her hand tightly as she sleepily watched their friends coo over their son. Remus watched the proud parents with a warm feeling in his chest. He softly stroked the dark mop of black hair on a red and squirmy Ethan's head, thinking to himself that he really would be the best godfather the child could ever ask for.

Bringing himself out of his memories, Remus followed Harry into the library/office connected to the living room. Floor to ceiling bookshelves surrounded them, filled with every volume of every book Hermione could get her hands on. Her desk lay off to the side, piled with parchment and ink, finished and unfinished reports for work. There was an area in the bookshelves devoted solely to their family; baby books, photo albums, colouring books, etcetera. Remus stared down at the many spines lining the small stories Sirius read to Ethan each night. They ranged in age, some for when he was much younger and learning to potty train and read. He wondered if he should take them with him, as Ethan kept asking when his daddy was going to come and read him a bedtime story. Remus had tried once, but found that Sirius was the only one who could tell a story quite like how Ethan liked it. He made faces and acted out scenes; he used voices and knew the stories by heart. Remus could only read Ethan some of Teddy's old books, which he no longer touched as he was away in Hogwarts for his third year. His daughter, Anabelle, loved his storytelling, but Ethan wanted his daddy back and Remus couldn't explain that Sirius wouldn't be returning. It would be too much to ask for a third revival.

"This was her favorite part of the house," Harry commented, his sad green eyes taking in the room. "'Cept maybe the bedroom," he tried to joke, though his face tightened with his remorse.

"I know Sirius' was definitely the bedroom," Remus replied, a strangled chuckle escaping him. "Couldn't keep their hands of each other, those two," he said, his voice wavering as his eyes filled. "God I miss them," he choked out. He shook his head, his eyes burning and his throat tightening. "I miss their poorly timed snog sessions and their ineptness at shagging at a decent hour rather than when guests were due to arrive. I miss his vanity and her answer to every question," he admitted, his voice going in and out. "The way he was always grinning around her. How happy he was. How complete they looked with Ethan between them. Gods... I miss them so much, Harry. I thought... I thought it was all over... I'd never lose anyone ever again... How ridiculous of me," he cried brokenly.

"No, no, I do too. I... I really miss them," Harry confessed, his shoulders shaking as he tearfully stared back at Remus. "I thought it would all be easy after Voldemort was defeated. I thought I'd become like any normal wizard and I'd have my family and friends. Sirius was back and everyone close to me survived. It was... It was like life was finally turning out right." He swallowed tightly, his hands fisting at his sides as he looked around, looking like a lost little boy.

Clearing his throat, he admitted in a strained voice, "I was jealous of her at first. When he returned and he really only wanted to be around her. Only felt right around her. I kept thinking that I would finally get all his time, I would finally have the attention I always wanted from him. There was no Voldemort, no Ministry after him. It was just us. And he spent time with me, he did. We played Quidditch and we talked, about dad and mum and him, about everything." He shook his head, his chin shaking. "But it was always as if he was waiting to get back to her. Like he needed to see her. And while it was good to see me, great even, he couldn't stand to be away from her for even a minute." He nodded, his eyes falling. "I didn't get it at first. I thought... I thought eventually he'd get tired of her. They weren't all that close before the Veil. But... But then I realized that it wasn't going to change. He... He needed her... Loved her..." His hand lifted, pressing against his chest as if trying to stop his heart from breaking. "And, y'know, after I told that selfish voice in my head to shut up, I realized... She needed him, too. She loved him, too. And they... They were..."

He laughed a humorless choke. "You know how they say there's a person out there for all of us? Like how my mum was the only one my dad could have ever loved. The type of person you sacrifice yourself for. That you really can't bare to be away from. That's Hermione and Sirius. I don't... I dunno what changed in him but when he came back, he was different. Not bad different, just... Just changed. He was like a father rather than a friend and... He was still Sirius, but... But he was ready for Hermione and what they had."

Remus nodded jerkily, blinking rapidly to stop the tears from falling. "I was jealous too," he told him softly. "Sirius wasn't the type to spend more time with a woman than his friends. It was always the Marauders before a snog. But it wasn't just physical with Hermione and I guess that's why things changed so much. First time the dog ever fell in love and he fell hard." Remus chuckled lightly, smiling briefly. "Life wasn't always good for them, but... The last ten years..." He stuffed his hands into his pockets, nodding sagely. "I can't imagine them wanting it any different, Harry."

"I just wish... I wish they were still here," Harry said, gulping in air shakily. "I wish they could be here for Ethan. I wanted my kids to know them. I wanted... I wanted to know them forever."

"You will. They may not be here with us, but we don't know them any less," Remus moved to stand next to the man who so resembled his father. Gripping his shoulder comfortingly, he looked down into the emerald eyes awash with tears. "They're Sirius and Hermione, Harry. You've known them all along. She'll still be that voice in your head, telling you right and wrong, and he'll be the one encouraging you to do the fun thing, blast the consequences." He sniffled, hating that his composure had slipped. "Well," he said, clearing his throat of the clog of emotion. "We should unveil this, yeah?"

Sniffling and wiping his face, Harry walked toward the large curtain hanging in the middle wall sitting directly across from the door. They stood side by side, simply staring up at the black velvet hanging that hid the portrait diligently. One month prior, he'd never expected to be standing where he was. He'd seen them just that afternoon, bringing Anabelle by to play with Ethan as he and Tonks chatted with Hermione and Sirius over tea. They'd returned home before dinner, taking a rather sleepy Anabelle with them as Ethan ran past into his dad's arms, shouting about playing football with him in the backyard while his mum cooked up dinner. He remembered Hermione gave him a kiss on the cheek, assuring him she'd have his batch of Wolfsbane ready the next day. Then Sirius hugged him, shoving his shoulder and promising that they'd get together later in the week, out for a drink or see a Quidditch game, just them.

That night he was woken by a sobbing Tonks, ushered to the Ministry with barely any idea what was going on.

"Remus! Gods, Remus, wake up," his wife's shaking voice woke him from his slumber. It was late, still deep into the night as he could see the half-moon high in the sky. Sitting in a mess next to him, Tonks was crying heavily and trying to get words out. "G-Get up. We h-have... Ministry... G-Get... Sorry... So sorry... Take the kids to... We... Oh Gods!"

"Dora, sweetie, I can't understand you. What's wrong?" he asked, fear clutching his heart. She'd been called away shortly after they put Anabelle to bed. Sirius had shown up just minutes after Tonks had apparated away, asking Remus to watch a half-asleep Ethan as he and Hermione had been called in too. Knowing that they were often away until quite late, having to do reports after they were finishing capturing whoever it was they were after, he'd put Ethan in the spare bed in Anabelle's room and went back to his book, an anxious feeling in him. Hermione had been an Auror for over ten years and Sirius knew what he was doing. Over the years, Remus had grown used to feeling out of sorts when they were called away on important Auror business, but they always came back all right. A little bruised and battered, but alive.

Tonks shook her head, her tears spilling terribly down her face. "We h-have to bring Ethan and Anabelle to Harry and Ginn'ys... We... We have to go to the Ministry, Remus," she told him, running a hand through her hair roughly. "H-Harry's already there. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry... You... You have to get the kids to..." She broke off in sobs and Remus climbed out of bed quickly. Pulling on clothes in a daze, he went and wrapped an arm around Tonks, walking her out of the room and to Anabelle's. He picked up both seven year olds in his arms, barely feeling their weight and apparated to Harry's living room. Ginny was already sitting up, looking worried when the four appeared. She immediately took Ethan from Remus' arms and motioned for him to follow her upstairs so they could put the two to bed. She looked sadly at Tonks and questioningly at Remus, but he had no answers for her.

He promised to let her know what he learned when he could and took hold of Tonks arm, apparating with her to her office at the Ministry. There was chaos all around. Injuries were at a high; it seemed no one escaped unscathed. Grim expressions greeted him upon arrival and stayed that way. Dirt and blood marred the Auror outfit he saw so often; though he was thankful to know that the person he saw it in most, his Tonks, was nowhere near as harmed as those around him.

"Where the fuck is the pensieve?" he heard Harry's deep and angry voice shouting. "Carter, I told you to get the damn memory out of the bastard. Why is it not in front of me?" he shouted, his voice dripping with venom.

Remus was surprised to hear such vicious rage coming off of the usually collected man. He'd reigned in his temper when he became Head of the Auror Department. He walked closer, thinking perhaps he'd been called because Harry was out of control. But as he grew closer he could see that it wasn't just anger clouding Harry's face. There were fresh tear tracks running rampant down his face and his eyes burned with loss and pain. He was limping slightly as he walked forward and motioned for somebody to get the pensieve. There was a bleeding gash on his cheek going ignored and his knuckles were bruised and bloodied, but he paid it no attention. As he looked around, he felt a fresh wave of fear grip him. Where were Hermione and Sirius?

"H-Harry?" he asked, his voice shaking. It bothered him that he sounded so pitiful. As if he were the younger man, in need of somebody to talk to him, rather than the opposite.

Harry looked up at him, his face still twisted in a ferocious expression. The tears dripped without pause, seemingly unending. He muttered curse words under his breath, his body visibly quaking as he shook his head at Remus, his jaw clenching to stop the quiver. "They... Gods, they..."

"No," Remus murmured to himself, feeling a shard of panic and denial pierce his heart.

Before Harry could reply, a swirling bowl was dropped in front of them. Together they stepped forward, staring down for a moment before placing their hands in the silver, shining liquid. Noise permeated his ears as he was transferred from Auror Headquarters to a battlefield. Instincts told him to take cover and take out his wand, but he was just a spectator.

They appeared to be in an abandoned old brick house. It was fairly dark, lit by the moonlight filtering through the side of the house, where a large portion of the wall was missing. The scuffling of feet and whispers had them turning to see a man dressed in a dirty robe. Remus gasped as he recognized Antonin Dolohov crouched next to a woman he didn't recognize.

"The others are ready?" he asked briskly.

The woman nodded, her face determined and nasty. "Yes, zey vait in zee upstairs rooms. Zee Aurors approach, Black and Granger are viz zem, yes?"

"Of course," he replied curtly, looking annoyed. "I still don't see why we need all of us for two Aurors. Waste of resources."

"Zey take down more of us than ve could pozzibly replaze," she replied, sneering. "Zee mudblood beetch and her dog must be put down," she spat, eyes flashing. She looked him over rather, mild disgust in her features. "Do zey scare you, Dolohov? Zey are zaid to be very efficient togezer. Anticipate each others moves and strike vizout mercy." She leaned in, lifting a thick black brow. "Doz zat vorry you, Antonin? Vill you run avay vhen zey come for you? I heard Black vants you dead for vhat you deed to heez wife when she vas younger. You scarred her, zey say, and he vants to keel you for ever touching his voman. Vhat d'you think he vill do to you, hm? I hear Black is quite ruthless. Very vicious vhen it involves any harm to his vife," she taunted.

"I suggest you shut up, Katarina, before I toss you out there to take the brunt of this," Dolohov replied in a dangerous voice.

A faint rustle, one he was sure he could only hear because of his sensitive hearing, had Remus turning to see Hermione and Sirius slip inside the dilapidated house. Two more Aurors followed them in, and then another two, four more, and finally Harry broke through to stand against a far wall. Hand signals were exchanged and they all began moving out in twos, Sirius and Hermione sticking close together.

"Wait until they get to the dining room, then send up the signal," Dolohov told her, before standing up from his position and moving toward the far wall. Remus moved to keep his eyes on Sirius and Hermione as best he could, but since it was either Dolohov's or Katarina's memory he couldn't go far.

From where he stood, he could see Hermione and Sirius' crouching figures make their way across the hallway, faces clearly having a conversation that nobody else could hear or decipher. Nods and shakes of the head accompanied frowns and nose wrinkling. As Sirius swept a chunk of black hair out of his eyes, he smirked at his wife and then nodded sharply.

Remus felt the urge to shout at them as their footsteps approached the dining room but knew it was useless. Their wands were held forward defensively, knees bent, heads to the side, listening intently. Hermione's free hand was splayed out over Sirius' back, which was taut in expectation. Their expressions were both excited and grim. They'd been doing this for so long and doing so well that it was probably more of an exhilarating boost.

It wasn't until they reached the middle of the room that Sirius seemed to notice was something was off. "Fuck," he cursed, turning quickly.

It all seemed to happen in slow motion. Katarina stood up from her position, a loud screech of, "Now!" escaping her as a green-snake figure tore up through the ceiling to alert the people above. Remus barely looked at her, his eyes focused on Sirius as he wrapped his arms around his wife, jumping to the side as the roof caved in on them heavily. Remus reached out to steady himself against the wall as wood and plaster fell in heaps. Furniture from the above room crashed and broke against the pile covering the two Aurors. He felt his chest clench tightly, the air escaping his lungs. Was that it? After all they'd been through, a ceiling took them down? He couldn't believe it.

As if answering his disbelief, he heard the angered growl of his best mate standing up, throwing the remnants of the roof off of him and tossing it away. The vicious scowl on his face would have anyone backing off in fear. Blood trickled out of a wound on his shoulder, a chunk of wood stuck in it. Without even wincing, he yanked it out and threw it away. His hair fell out of its ponytail further; strands falling over his dirt smudged and bloodied face. A scrape drew from his eye down his cheek, likely deep enough to scar. He knew Sirius would've been pissed; his vanity hadn't quite deteriorated over the years.

"Sirius?" he heard Harry's worried voice shouting from another room, not the one who was viewing it with him.

"Upstairs," Sirius yelled back hoarsely. "Get the bitch who ran out the back!" He turned back after calling back and Remus noticed a visibly relieved Harry running toward the back door and motioning to the four Aurors behind him to take the stairs.

"Mione, love," Remus heard behind him. Turning back, he watched fearfully as Sirius dug through the destruction frantically, ignoring his hands as they were torn open on debris. A soft, strangled cough could be heard before Sirius let out a small cry of relief, pulling Hermione from beneath a large chunk of plaster. Her lip was bleeding profusely and her hair had fallen out, covering her bruised face. Sirius held her in his lap a moment, his arms tight around her, eyes scanning for serious injury. She was holding her stomach tightly and her back was hunched over but there wasn't anything visibly treacherous to her health.

When Sirius realized she wasn't bleeding to death, he quickly kissed his way up her throat. "We should apparate to Headquarters," he told her, his voice shaking with rage.

"They dropped a ceiling on us," she said, lifting her face and showing him her scowl. "We aren't going anywhere until every one of them are apprehended," she ordered heatedly.

A smirk formed on Sirius' face. "As you wish, love."

Nodding, she let him help her out of his lap, taking up her wand once more. They didn't get a chance to leave, however, as they were met with Dolohov standing in the doorway.

"Isn't this sweet," he mocked, sneering. "I told Katarina we were wasting our energy with you, but does she listen? Of course not. Stupid woman."

If possible, Sirius' expression became more murderous. "Dolohov," he spat his name like a curse. "You dare show your face, Death Eater? You should've run when you had the chance."

Standing up, Dolohov took a step forward. "Pathetic dog, this whole mission is to dispose of you. And I have you right where I need you. Running was never an option. Not only do I have my objective right here, already injured, but the Boy-Who-Will-Finally-Die chasing after one of the most mental witches I've ever known. She's the next Bellatrix, Black. Are you worried about your godson now? Sent him after her yourself, didn't you?" He grinned manically. "Should've stuck to your library, mudblood, and you and the mutt wouldn't be in this predicament. Never know when to back down. The next rising is coming; we have to get rid of our rivals quickly."

"Voldemort is dead and he won't return," Hermione shouted, her expression twisted with anger and not a little worry.

Dolohov laughed, loud and thick. "You think he's the only one who has those views. There are powerful wizards out there still. Those who know the likes of you and your blood traitor don't deserve to rule this world."

Crashing came from upstairs and a body fell through the hole in the ceiling, a Death Eater impaled on a large upturned chunk of wood.

Sirius sneered from the body to the man in front of him. "When will you sods get it? You will not win!" he told him, slowly pushing Hermione behind him.

"One by one, Black, you'll all fall. There is only a handful or so of you left. Without someone to follow, the rest will crumble," Dolohov told him, grinning. "What d'you think the werewolf will do when his wife's innards are laying outside her? When he finds his daughter in pieces in her bedroom," he baited. "Better yet, what will little Ethan think when I slit his throat and pour his dirty blood all over your graves?"

Hermione stepped out from behind him, her hand shaking with rage as she sent a slicing hex at him and cut his stomach deeply. Gasping, he lifted his wand and sent a dark curse back, but missed by inches as she leapt to the side. Heavy footsteps on the stairs alerted them to others coming and Remus turned to see if it was help or more trouble. While he was sure he knew how it ended, he couldn't help but hope somewhere deep down that Hermione and Sirius were just seriously injured, but alive in St. Mungo's. The front door slammed open and Katarina rushed inside, bleeding profusely from her shoulder and a wild look in her eyes. She put a locking charm on the door and then ran toward the hallway, coming up behind the dining room.

"Incompetent foolz," she screamed as she entered the room where Sirius and Hermione still stood, throwing curses and hexes at Dolohov as he worked to get out of the way and kill them while holding his injured abdomen. "Zee boy eez coming back," she shouted, throwing a stunner at Hermione, which she dodged easily before throwing one right back. "He's fucking quick and not happy."

"You didn't kill him?" Dolohov raged, taking his eyes off Sirius and Hermione for a moment to glare at her.

"He vaz peesed off and zrowing curses faster than I could get out of zee vay," she shot back, leaning against a wall, shielding herself from Sirius and Hermione's curses.

Taking advantage of Dolohov's lack of attention, Hermione and Sirius simultaneously threw a hurling hex at him, sending him right through the hall behind him. It crumbled on impact and sent the house quaking in its foundation. Sirius grabbed Hermione's hand, yanking her out of the room and out to where Dolohov was lying in a mess of blood and broken limbs, groaning in pain. The room they'd previously been in collapsed into itself, leaving a cloud of dust around them.

A few people fell down with it, both Death Eaters and Aurors. Remus turned to see the fight from upstairs spilling down but Sirius and Hermione were focused on Dolohov and the missing Katarina. Remus could see a shadow pass outside and realized Harry was coming around the back to get inside, unable to break through the locking charm Katarina put up.

Sirius aimed his wand down at Dolohov and shot off a roping charm, but as they approached to knock him out and go after Katarina, she appeared and vengefully shot a chunk of the newly demolished wall toward them. It was too quick for a reaction and Hermione caught it in the stomach, slamming into the far wall and knocking her head back against it. Blood dripped down her neck noticeably and Remus let out a choked sob as he watched her slump down the wall, though her eyes were still open.

Sirius turned on Katarina, shouting a fire curse that wrapped around the bottom of her robes and quickly began searing her skin. She screamed loudly, though manic laughter could be heard breaking through. Her arms waved around for a second before she shouted, "I vill eet your heart, mutt!" She countered his curse and began to duel him, using her rage to enhance her vicious curses. Dolhov was struggling painfully between them, trying to get out of the tight ropes around him.

Remus looked over to Harry beside him who had moved to stand next to Hermione, his tearful face watching as she tiredly pushed the chunk of wall off herself and put a hand behind her head to check the damage. It came back covered in blackish blood, but she pushed herself up from the floor, her hand gripping her wand.

Green and red flashes could be heard behind him and Remus looked away from the duel before him to see a Death Eater go down, torn up and bleeding heavily. He knocked his head on the floor and his wand rolled out of his hand. The Auror who took him down, however, was quickly preoccupied a moment later. The Harry in the memory broke through the back door, quickly disarming a Death Eater nearby and stunning him, but he was taken up in a duel a second later.

Remus turned back to the main fight, watching as blood splattered out of a wound Sirius inflicted on the raging witch waving her wand muttering incantations behind him. Remus could hear the clattering of the fight behind him. People being thrown into walls, the stairs buckling nearby, the window glass shattering. He smelled smoke from somewhere and shook his head, as if able to get rid of the fire by his mere act.

Hermione stepped forward suddenly, shouting a curse out at Dolohov as he successfully managed to get out of his bindings, but he rolled out of the way and joined Katarina on one side as they circled Sirius and Hermione. Sirius' eyes turned from their enemy for just a moment, checking on his wife. He barely hid his grimace of fear and pain at how bad she looked and Remus could tell he wanted to simply grab her and apparate them away, but they couldn't run now. Dolohov was a very wanted Death Eater and Katarina could very well become the next Bellatrix Lestrange, which simply wasn't acceptable.

Harry moved to stand next to him, watching with crossed arms and teary eyes as the duel progressed. Sirius and Hermione still managed to work fluidly. Able to move each other out of the way while keeping themselves covered. They somehow knew when they other would bend and shot over each other, using one anothers bodies to their advantage. Rolling over each others backs, working with each others advantages and filling in for their misgivings. They ignored the injuries already sustained and focused on taking down the two dark assailants before them.

The shaking of the house threw them off balance and Dolohov took the advantage to shoot a slicing hex at Sirius, tearing his torso open and spilling his blood over the floor. Remus shuddered as he saw Katarina lick her lips and wink at them, laughing cruelly. "Vill you taste sweet, mutt?" she asked, her eyes flashing as she looked over to Hermione. "He's preety, mudblood. Maybe I keep him for my pleazure. Vould you like zat? Teach him a few treeks. Not zat you vill enjoy zem from vhere I vill send you."

Hermione sneered. "You're not his type. He likes it tight," she implied.

Sirius' choked bark of a laugh could be heard as he threw a Reducto at the table Dolohov was hiding behind, successfully forcing it to blow up, gouging the Death Eater behind it with the splintering wood.

Katarina threw an Avada curse at Hermione, but Sirius yanked her down out of the way, his expression twisted and his breathing picking up. Their cursing sped up, as did the shaking of the house around them. Harry's voice could be heard shouting to them.

"Sirius? Hermione?" he yelled frantically, still dueling with a Death Eater while dragging one of his Aurors to safety.

"Get out of the house," Sirius called back to him, throwing over a couch to hide him and Hermione behind it. "It's falling apart, kid. Get out while you can."

"What about you?" Harry wondered worriedly.

Sirius laughed, looking over to Hermione as she grinned tiredly back at him. "Sacrifice the one for the many, friend."

"Sirius?" Harry shouted fearfully, though his voice was lower as he was forced out of the house by the fight and a fire blazing near the stairs.

"On three?" Sirius asked her, winking though his eyes were glazed with tears.

"I love you," she replied softly, ignoring the bright shine of curses hitting the couch shielding them.

"Love you forever, Mione." His voice was quiet, adoring despite their surroundings.

"Til' death do us part," she murmured, her eyes filling with tears though her mouth was set in a determined line.

"We'll never part," he returned, leaning in to kiss her chastely before saying, "Three!"

Jumping out from their position, they shot off curse after curse, walking forward and glaring darkly at their adversaries. Dolohov took a hurling hex to his shoulder and flew into a window, the glass shattering and impaling him in the sill. He lifted his hand and shot a Reducto before slumping painfully, catching Hermione in the side, sending her sprawling to the floor, her hip bleeding profusely. Sirius winced when she went down, but refused to look as he threw various spells at Katarina that stripped her of her wand, tore sores open from head to toe, and threw her out the remnants of the window Dolohov lay struggling to get out of, knocking her onto the grass behind the house. Harry and another Auror apprehended her, but she watched through the window with a gleeful smile, blood pouring from her mouth, shattered teeth and torn open lips making her look even more demented.

The house gave a great shudder and Sirius fell to his knees, looking down at Hermione who was breathing shallowly and staring up at him. Her hand lifted, bloody and shaking, waving in the air as if she was trying to tell him to go. The walls began to crumble and the ceiling fell apart. Without a second thought, Sirius rolled on top of her as if to shield her from the impending debris and held her tightly, face buried against her throat. The ceiling fell through, taking the fireplace with it. Brick, plaster and wood rained down on them, including an ancient looking chandelier and a bed from the second floor. A pile taller than Remus lay on top of them and he felt his stomach roll with reality.

The memory faded away and he found himself standing once more in Auror Headquarters with an angry and hysterical Harry.

"Where was back up? I called for three more teams! Where the fuck were you?" he shouted at a group of people that winced and barely restrained themselves from stepping out of range of his temper.

Suddenly, an Auror ran into the room, his robes covered in dust and dried blood. "Sir, Dolohov just died. The medi-witch couldn't revive him."

Remus stood in shock, not sure how to react. He couldn't remember how to breathe

"Remus, baby, I'm so sorry," Tonks' voice called out to him.

"No," he muttered, shaking his head. "No, they... I... This can't be..." He ran a hand over his face, his throat tightening and his body shaking. "Where were you?" he screamed at her, suddenly angry. He hadn't seen her in the fight, hadn't heard her voice helping out at all.

"I-I-I was outs-side," she stuttered, her tears enhancing. "I was ordered to watch the perimeter. There were... There were more trying to come. Me an-and Ron were dueling with f-four others," she cried, shaking her head. "I'm s-sorry. I-If I knew... I... Oh Gods, I'm sorry," she sobbed, falling to her knees mournfully.

Remus felt his heart ache and fell next to her. "No I am, Dora. I... I didn't mean to take it out on you, I just..." He shook his head, wrapping his arms around her and burying his head in her shoulder. "I've lost him. I've lost them all. I... I'm alone again."

"No, no, I'm here. I'm here," she told him, rubbing his back lovingly.

"They're gone. They're really gone," he cried against her. "And they're not coming back this time, are they?" He sounded like a little boy asking his mum for a miracle.

"No baby, they're not," she whispered against him.

He closed his eyes, falling apart in her arms, listening to Harry's angry rantings at everyone around him. It would never be over. The pain would never stop.

Remus shook off the memory, feeling a chill run down his back. At the will reading a couple weeks prior, they were informed that Sirius and Hermione had a portrait made together to be unveiled exactly one month after their death, whenever it may be. Their house and money was given to Ethan, set so he could have a good life. He wouldn't have to work his entire life and neither would his grandchildren if he saw fit. But both of his parents encouraged him to do something with his life and make them proud, as they knew their prince was intelligent and powerful, bound for great things. They left a few precious things to each of their friends and Remus was somewhat happy that Hermione had left him her library, though the idea of touching the books felt wrong still. As if he believed they'd come back somehow and want everything to stay where it was.

Ethan would be living with him and Tonks for the remainder of his childhood. More than enough money had been transferred into their vault to make sure that Ethan was well taken care of and he and Tonks wouldn't be low on anything. Hermione had even given him the name of a trustworthy and nice wizard that could make his Wolfsbane for him. They'd taken care of everything, as if they'd known all along that they'd likely not make it far into Ethan's life. They had ten great years together, but Remus still felt as if they should have had fifty more.

Harry cleared his throat, his hand reaching out toward the yellow braided rope. He swallowed audibly, looking to Remus for confirmation. When he received a jerky nod, he pulled the rope, his eyes falling, as if wanting to keep from looking for as long as possible. They took a few steps back, the portrait was rather high on the wall and quite large. Remus' heart clenched tightly as he saw them move, as if they were alive and real. It wasn't the most conservative portrait, but he'd expect nothing less from the Blacks. Hogwarts would never hang it up, in fact most places wouldn't. It was nearly graphic, far too sensual and implied more than any who didn't know them would accept. But for Sirius and Hermione, it was perfect.

They were kneeling on their bed, though the background wasn't as pronounced as they were, only vaguely defined. Sirius knelt behind her as she leaned back into his chest. They were, from what he could see, completely nude. Sirius' tattooed hands cupped Hermione's naked breasts, the green letters spelled over above his knuckles spelling across both hands, 'Mione Love.' A red silk sheet covered Hermione's most intimate area, pooling just below her hips bones. She covered Sirius' nakedness with her slim, curvy body, which seemed to be lit by a faint candle somewhere. Hermione's arms were behind her, wrapped behind his neck, fingers delved in his black hair. Her head was turned slightly into the curve of his neck, at ease and comfortable with the intimate embrace.

Sirius' shadowed body was wider than hers and he seemed to lean slightly to the right. His hands held her possessively, while his arms need not flex, as they were toned, the strength he hid behind mischievous smiles and childish pranks now visible. Since his return from the veil, his body had returned to a more healthy state; evidenced in the hard plains of his chest, the noticeable dips of muscle in his abdomen, the wide and strong set of his shoulders. Obsidian strands of hair fell across his gray eyes, which he ignored as he whispers against his wife's ear, trailing kisses down her the slope of her throat.

They had it made five years prior, he knew. The knuckle tattoos weren't new by that time, Sirius having got them shortly after his wedding, while they were on their honeymoon. He wasn't new to the world of tattooing, either, as he, James, and Remus had all gone out and had 'Marauders' written in an arch over their stomachs right after graduation. Peter had been swept away by his mum immediately and was unable to attend, and despite many drunk nights of coaxings by the other three Marauders, he still refused to get it himself. Remus could make out the "Mar" leading over her stomach, but the rest was covered by Hermione's body. His bicep held a tribute to his son; a red heart with fluttering white wings covered by a gold banner with "Ethan" written across it in cursive and a crooked crown sitting atop the heart. The last ink he'd had added was written over the inside of his forearm, which Remus could barely see from the way his arms were curved to hold Hermione. He knew what lay there though; he'd been by Sirius' side as he had it done. His vows were written in black ink, a pledge of heart and skin to the wife he planned to forever love.

My friend, my love, my life,
On this day I make a promise,
I give you my trust, my loyalty, my heart
My courage, my friendship, my mind
I give you my arms to forever hold you
My mouth to forever kiss you
My heart to forever love you
I vow to stand by you in dark days
To laugh with you through happy times
To love, cherish, and occasionally obey
In sickness and in health, for all eternity
As we will never part

He remembered how Hermione had cried at his words, how Sirius had wiped away her tears and kissed her gently, despite the fact that he wasn't supposed to yet. He remembered thinking that there was no way life could get any better. That the darkness had finally passed and a new future was set. One free of death and sadness, but clear for families and love to blossom fully. He remembered that seeing their love so true and eternal gave him hope and took away those last few worries he had, if even for that moment. Tonks had smiled across to him as he stood next to his best mate, blinking away the mist from his eyes.

"They should be in a place with more portraits, so they can talk to others," Harry said, his voice rather choked.

"I believe they chose this place for a reason," Remus replied, shaking his head slightly. "They always were rather separate from the rest, you know."

"Can they hear us?" Harry wondered, despite his knowledge of past portraits.

"They are charmed to speak to those outside of their portrait. They're like any other, Harry. They speak if they want to, move when they want to. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just another portrait," he said, rather sadly.

"Except all those other portraits weren't them," Harry muttered, scowling.

"No use brooding, Harry. Gotta except the things we cannot change," Sirius' voice told him warmly.

Harry and Remus looked up the couple as they stared down from their portrait. "Good to see you, Padfoot," Remus managed, his throat tightening.

"Always is. I'm without a doubt the most handsome Marauder there ever was," Sirius replied smirking.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Obviously he had the biggest ego as well."

"Not the only biggest thing I had, love," he murmured back suggestively.

Hermione tipped her head back, smiling at him, her mouth close enough to brush her lips against his. "Can't you see you're embarrassing them?" she asked, lifting her brow.

Sirius chuckled, looking down at the two uncomfortable men. "Don't tell me you're not used to this yet? It's been ten years, hasn't it?"

"Should've been more," Harry replied, glaring down at the floor.

Sirius shook his head. "I can only cheat death so many times, Harry."

"Why couldn't you do it just once more?" he asked, his voice cracking.

"Oh, Harry," Hermione said softly, a sigh escaping her. "I hope you know this wasn't your fault. We all die eventually. It's the nature of life."

"Yeah, well, life sucks," he spat, tears clouding his eyes.

Sirius chuckled, shaking his head. "Only because you're focusing on the bad. We're dead, that's how it goes. Doesn't mean we didn't have a great run of it."

"You were in Azkaban for thirteen years and then you were stuck in a veil for five," Harry reminded sourly, rolling his eyes.

Sirius shook his head. "Again with the bad, Harry. I also got married to the love of my life. I got to see you grow into a good man, get married, have your children. I had a son," he said, his eyes looking rather sad. "Ethan was worth all that bad, Harry. I'd do it all over if I knew I'd have these last seven years with him. And you... You mean the world to me, son. These were ten of the best years of my life. I had my ups, my downs, my middles. I had my friends, my wife, my boy, my family. Just because I'm gone doesn't mean you don't still have me. I'm probably up there right now, with your dad, telling him how wonderful you are."

"I want you here with me," Harry choked out, tears slipping down his face. "Both of you. I need you so bad. I can't... It was supposed to get better now. You were supposed to grow old and ugly and lose your hearing and become cranky," he told him. "You were both still so young."

"I dunno about young," he muttered cheekily. "I was forty-five, not that my looks were waning." He lifted his brows, smirking smugly.

Harry snorted, rolling his eyes and sniffling as he wiped his face quickly and self-consciously.

"It's okay to hurt," Sirius told him sagely. "Feeling is what makes us human, Harry. You're sad, angry, lonely, a million different other things. That's okay. One day it's not gonna hurt as much and you're gonna look back and think, 'I'm glad they went together. I hope they're happy. I know they're proud.' Because we are and we will be."

Hermione nodded, smiling down at him gently. "You've got a whole life ahead of you, Harry. You have stories to tell our son and a future to live with your family. Don't waste it mourning us." She shook her head, offering a soft sigh. "I'm where I'm supposed to be."

Choked with emotion, Harry simply nodded. "I'll make sure Ethan knows all there is to know about you, about both of you."

"We know you will," Sirius assured, nodding. "Give us a moment with old Mooney, will you kid?"

Harry bobbed his head agreeably, wiping his face once more and leaving the library rather quickly, his shoulders quaking.

Remus looked up at his best mate and the woman he'd come to see as a great friend. "I don't know how to explain this to Ethan," he admitted, shaking his head. "He keeps waiting for you to come back and he just doesn't... understand that you... you won't."

"He's young. It'll take a little while," Hermione told him, her eyes falling sadly. "You'll raise him well, Remus. We wouldn't want anyone else to be there for him now that we can't."

"I promised him I'd always be there, I just didn't explain that it wouldn't always be in the physical sense," Sirius said. "He'll be a handful. Just like his dad," he declared proudly.

"A marauder in the making," Remus agreed half-heartedly.

"Chin up, Mooney, besides this snag your life is right on track," Sirius reminded, grinning.

"I don't want to be alone again," he replied quietly, his throat tightening. "You've all left me and now it's just me, left behind."

Sirius sighed. "You're not alone. You've got lots of friends and a great family."

"None of those friends are-- are you and James, though. You guys were everything to me... My brothers," he told him hoarsely.

"We still are, Mooney. We always will be. We're Marauders. Not even death can stop that. You've got a place up there with us, mate. Right there next to me and James. It's waiting for you to fill it. But you've got a whole lifetime ahead of you. You're gonna watch Teddy and Ana grow. You're gonna raise my little prince. You'll be there for Harry and you'll love Tonks for another fifty or a hundred years. That's the way it is, mate."

Remus nodded, though his mood hadn't lifted much. "D'you have any regrets, Padfoot? You... You had a chance, you know. You could've gotten out," he reminded, though he felt a twinge of remorse. Not unless he left Hermione behind, he knew. But she was dying. That much was obvious. She wouldn't have made it. Not with the blood loss and the internal injuries. He could've gotten out, the selfish wolf inside him raged, could've lived long past his forties. Been in his mid-hundreds with great-great-grandchildren running about. He knew the answer before his best mate even said it.

"No regrets, Mooney old pal," Sirius told him, shaking his head. His obsidian hair fell across his aristocratic face. That dangerous edge was hidden behind a warm smirk. The sheer power of a pureblooded Black wizard was contained behind the body of a man who epitomized love as he held his wife. The woman he died holding; the woman he knew was dying but still tried to shield from as much pain as possible in her last moments; the woman who would've done the same for him. "She's my everything," he said quite simply, with a rather nonchalant attitude about it. As if it were the most easy of things. The sky is blue, the grass is green, Hermione meant more than life itself.

Remus knew well that when he said 'no regrets' he was twisting the truth. It wasn't that he had no regrets. He didn't want to leave his son, or Harry, or him. But when it came down to it, when the question was asked silently, his decision was not something he regretted. He did not feel he made the wrong choice when he wrapped himself around her instead of running for safety. He did not mourn the life he could've had if he hadn't stayed with his dying wife, only to perish himself. He did not regret loving her enough to die with her.

Remus felt his mouth shake as he realized this was goodbye. He could return, of course. He could come every day and speak to them. But in the end, they were not Sirius and Hermione. They were not who he visited weekly, for tea and chit chat. He was not the boy he'd grown up with, or who had studied to become an Animagus just so he could keep him company and safe from himself and others. She was not the bookworm he'd once taught in her third year, or the intelligent witch he'd grown a strong friendship with. They were not who he needed, wanted, couldn't have any longer. Sirius and Hermione were dead. This was just a portrait of them, just a memory locked inside a portrait. They may look, act, and sound like Sirius and Hermione, but they were programmed magically to do that. To reply how Sirius or Hermione would. To act the way they had. Seeing them, hearing their reassurances, made some part of him feel better, and the rest hollow.

"E-Ethan keeps asking for you. I-I can't read his books like you can," Remus admitted, scratching at his head as his sorrow filled his throat.

Sirius nodded, seeming to contemplate it for a moment, though Remus knew it was just what Sirius would have done had he been alive. He already knew the answer, as the real Sirius must have anticipated his son's reaction. "Tell him daddy can't read to him anymore and ask him to tell you his stories," he offered. "I suggest the one about the kidnapped King and Queen, whose proud and powerful son, Prince Ethan, scoured the world to find them. It's his favorite."

Tears built up in his amber eyes. "It sounds so easy," Remus said, swallowing tightly. "But it really isn't."

"Death is never easy," Hermione told him, her voice taking on a rather wise tone. "If it were, we wouldn't cherish life so much."

"Is... Is there anything else?" Remus wondered, looking up at them.

"No more guilt, Remus," Sirius told him, shaking his head. "Live free and happy. You have nothing to feel guilty about. That part of our lives is over. It's okay now. You're free, my friend. To live and love and laugh. I did and you should. Don't waste it."

Sighing shakily, Remus nodded. "I'll try," he agreed.

"Could you do me a favor?" Hermione asked, staring down at him from her position high in the air. She showed no embarrassment over how she looked, but then, she'd grown quite comfortable with her husband's obvious affection. She never shied from it, even if there was company around. She'd grown out of being that prim and proper girl to a confident and beautiful woman. She had loved Sirius, far more than anybody had ever really grasped. It was in her eyes whenever she looked at him; in her body language whenever he was near; in the parting of her lips each time he kissed her. Remus remembered, quite clearly, the scent of love the both of them exuded when nearby each other. The emotion poured from them, and while Remus could only smell it clear as ever near the full moon, there was always a faint scent surrounding them. Despite ten years together, Remus could still hear their hearts speeding up when they grew close, could still hear the intakes of breath as they touched each other gently in passing or placed a whisper of a kiss against each others mouths in hello or goodbye. Their love and affection had never waned, and often Remus hoped that he and his Dora could keep their own affection going as strong.

Sirius and Hermione were like a new breed of Lily and James. As he thought back, he realized they had about the same amount of time together, only Sirius and Hermione spent it more constructively. From eleven to twenty one, James and Lily had something. Be it a dislike for each other, conflicting and opposing feelings, or full fledged, die-for-the-other love. Ten long years of maybes that boiled down to forever. From the moment Sirius came back from the veil, he was at Hermione's side. He would leave for awhile, to visit and make up for lost time. But his place remained, as always, at her side. Holding her hand, kissing her temple, charming her into loving him as he fell further and further in love with her. They cared not for what others thought, taking their time to explore their feelings before making any decisions. They ignored the fifteen year age gap, the fact that she was best friends with his godson, that he was a former convict and from a family that's motto was all about blood purity. That the majority of people expected her to become a Weasley. That she could still be a bossy swot who read too much and cared nothing for Quidditch. Ten years of unquestionable love, unending friendship and loyalty, unadulterated freedom.

"Anything," Remus replied softly.

"Every night before he goes to bed, kiss him on the forehead and tell him," Hermione paused, looking down at him so genuinely that for a moment Remus truly thought it was the real her. "Tell him his mummy and daddy love him very much. That they are forever proud of their prince." She smiled briefly. "And tell him I still know if he has or hasn't brushed his teeth." She winked.

Remus chuckled, though it sounded rather strangled. "I will."

"Go home, Mooney. Let your wife make it better," Sirius recommended.

Remus stared up at them a moment longer. Watching as Sirius nuzzled Hermione's cheek before dropping his chin to rest on her shoulder, kissing it softly. They made a beautiful couple. She was all soft, toned curves. Pale white skin, marred with a few scars here or there from serving her world to the utmost of her abilities. Him all tanned, taut flesh. Strong, powerful form standing behind what would be considered to most as a gentle, slip of a woman. Though he knew, personality wise, they were so much more. The mere view of them, so contrasting and yet right, reminded him of why they worked so well. It was a great loss to the wizarding world to be without their star Aurors. A terrible loss to their friends who would never have the joy of their company, laughter, existence. A tragic loss for their son, who would never again be able to hug them or kiss them or hear them tell him his bedtime stories. But he supposed all the great romances of the world ended in tragedy. It was as if the world could only allow a short moment of bliss before tearing it away. Balance, he supposed, though it always felt as if it shifted more toward loss than gain.

"Goodbye, my friends," he told them hoarsely, tipping his head sadly before he watched their farewell smiles stare out at him. He turned and walked toward the door, his feet feeling uneven and his heart heavy. He could hear their voices behind him, conversing as if they were just a regular witch and wizard.

"How does it feel knowing you'll spend eternity locked in a portrait with the devilishly handsome Sirius Black?"

Hermione snorted. "I knew your game from the beginning, Black. Arrange for our portrait to be painted and in a rather erotic setting, too. You just wanted to be sure that even in the afterlife you'd be making love from sunset to sundown," she said, rather amused, hardly any chastisement at all.

"It was for as much you as it was me," he replied cockily.

Remus found himself nearly chuckling at the familiarity.

"You're going to be a good little portrait, Sirius. You'll play nice and act civilized. Poor Remus has walked in on us far too many times. Let's not embarrass him any more than we have to," she told him, using her prim voice.

Sirius' bark of a laughter reached him as he opened the door to leave the study. "Love, I'd be doing Remus a favor. Teach an old wolf, better tricks," he joked.

"Oh Sirius," Hermione said, her voice soft as she sighed.

"You love me," he replied, simple and without an ounce of doubt.

"Heaven knows why," she replied cheekily.

"Would you like me to list the ways?" he asked. Remus was sure he was smirking.

She would have rolled her eyes at that. He couldn't turn back to see, but he knew it was true.

"I only have all eternity," she told him, amused.

He laughed. "I'll talk fast."

Remus closed the door behind him, motioning to a somber Harry to follow him out. They'd done what needed to be done. It was time to return to the world once more. A world where Sirius and Hermione no longer lived, but many others who mattered were waiting. Tonks had been anxious about him going and he was sure she, Ginny, and the children were waiting for their return. He had returned to the home he'd avoided for a very long and taxing month, worried and uncertain about what to expect. And while some part of him had hoped in some surreal way that the portrait wouldn't activate, that somehow Sirius and Hermione would return, he knew it wouldn't happen. His friends were gone, but their message lived on. Live and love to the fullest.

Remus apparated home, immediately enveloped in a warm embrace by his adoring and worried wife.

"Are you all right?" she asked quietly, stroking his hair and nuzzling his neck with her nose. He could smell her soft scent, natural and warming to the senses. It calmed him rather quickly and he felt his arms wrap around her tightly.

"I will be," he replied honestly. It would take time, but he would mend. He was not alone. He never would be and perhaps he never had been. His brothers were forever watching, caring, waiting for him. His wife would always be there to hold him when he needed it, to love him through good or bad. His children would never leave him. Teddy and Anabelle would never frown upon his lot in life, but instead accept him for who he was and love him all the more. His friends, be them new or old, would support him as best they could.

He supposed the day was not as bad as it could have been. A deep sense of sorrow sat heavy in his bones, but he knew, now more than ever, love was not a privilege; it was a way of life. It was the way his life ought to be lived. Loving those who lived for him, living for those he loved; loving those who no longer lived and living for those he lost.

He wondered if perhaps it would be smart for him and Tonks to make a portrait as well. Not as racy, of course. They simply weren't the type of couple Sirius and Hermione were. But it seemed the ancient magic used passed on the most important of messages. He had not been able to see his friends to say a real goodbye, face to living face, but they had enough sense to arrange the best alternative beforehand. Perhaps they expected it, perhaps they were just cautious. In the end, it was worth it. To see their faces once more, to hear their voices, to witness their love. All from a portrait; the great Hermione and Sirius Black, forever in moving print.

A/N I realize this is terribly long, but I couldn't find the right place to break it up to make it into a two-parter or even a three-parter. So I'm sorry for the length, but those are the breaks, yeah? Anyway, this is my first try at Sirius/Hermione, so I hope you enjoyed it. Currently, my computer is at my apartment and has no internet. I'm on my sister's comp and she can only send me some of my stories but I still have a whole lot of things needing saving on a floppy which she then has to take to school to send to me because her computer doesn't have a floppy disk area. I know! My computer is so old, lol! So, I'm trying my best to get updates out, but my moving had things in a bit of a standstill.

Hope you enjoyed this! Please review, it's very appreciated!
I know it's a little much to ask, but I was hoping I could reach 100 reviews for this one-shot.
No pressure. I'm not going to hold out on updating my other stories. I'm just asking for a favor of sorts.
Just a personal goal of mine. I'd appreciate it if you could help me out with it.

Much Love,