She whispered "bedroom" and then they were there, stumbling into the darkened room – the trip up the stairs a blur of fumbling hands and fervent kisses. She helped strip him of his clothes, a tricky task – his teeth buried in her shoulder and his mind fixed on pulling her to the bed – but she kept her pace and he grew frustrated. His fingers tangled in her shirt and he pulled with such force that the hem tore.

She smiled enigmatically and managed to slip out of his hold. "Has your old age robbed you of your patience?" she murmured, stepping out of her shorts. Her methodical coolness irked him even more than her subtle jibs – only Granger would be this calm about sex.

"Are these all the wiles it took to snare a Weasley?"

She ignored his bitter comment – her goal was close as she approached the bed where he was kneeling. Waiting. "You talk too much."

Sirius waggled his eyebrows. "I would think that would---"

The words died on his lips.

Hermione had pulled her shirt up and over her head, but instead of smooth golden skin, his eyes were met with flesh that was warped and disfigured; her torso a canvas of scars.

She stood there and waited for his eyes to take in the whole of her deformity without comment. Not wanting Sirius to see the fear now thriving inside her, she kept her eyes carefully guarded and her face empty. She held her breath and time stood still – frozen under the weight of that one moment.

And when Sirius held out his hand, she merely took it.

Hermione let him pull her onto the bed, falling into his touch as he reached up and pulled back the length of her curls. His teeth grazed her collarbone, not gently – never gentle – but reassuring in its harshness. Hermione sighed, rising up on her knees to meet his hands.

Sirius traced the rippled burns across her ribs, waves of scarred tissue lapping at the underside of her breast. The red marks of dragon fire. "This is why you slept with Charlie," he whispered. Hermione wasn't surprised.

They always figured it out.

His fingers drifted to the purple, bruise-like mark across her hip; the faded reminder of a long-ago encounter with a grindylow. "And Krum."

She made no answer, no movement other than to rest her hands upon his shoulders. It didn't matter really; he already knew. A jagged scar, white and broad bisected her stomach – the killing swipe of a manticore's tail, intent on gutting her. Doubtless, Sirius remembered the story, and its true ending was now laid bare before him. "Finnegan?"

There were half a dozen more – some he couldn't place, others he didn't even try – they crawled along her sides like insects – eternal reminders of the very creatures she'd given her life to protect.

She knew when he'd reached the potion burns because his hand tightened like a vice on her hip. The pink star bursting across her inner thigh was the result of an overhasty attempt to cauterize a crippling wound; a frightened unicorn had charged her, its gilded horn slicing through flesh and muscle, rupturing her femoral artery.

Her nails dug into his shoulders, but his grip didn't loosen. He was so angry. "And...and Sn—"

She silenced him – her fingers against his mouth. "Not now, Sirius. Not now..."

He shifted on the bed, forcing her to twist as his palm covered the intricate brand freshly burned into her left shoulder. It was the mark of the centaurs. He didn't understand its meaning but now wasn't the time to tell him. For now it was just another scar.

"And now me."

"Don't pretend you care." She slipped from his hands like honey and lay back on the bed, her cream skin glowing in stark contrast to the brilliant blue of the sheets. She was perfectly at ease with her nakedness, her stiffness and fear now put to rest; maybe it was because of the hunger in Sirius' eyes, or the way he immediately shifted himself to straddle her full hips – there was no way to be certain. She rested her hands above her head, idly toying with her curls. "I picked you because I knew you wouldn't."

"You picked me?" Sirius snorted – the atmosphere that had been so thick about them a moment ago, thinning out and giving way to the natural order of things. "I kissed you."

"Okay," she said without conceding anything and her smirk far from acquiescent. He leaned over and sunk his teeth into her neck, growling when she let out an airy laugh. Her scars were forgotten. "You think you've got me all figured out..."

Sirius knew he did. "You seem to think the same of me," he rasped against her throat; the smell of her was intoxicating.

"I do." Her confident reply came with a breathy hitch as Sirius slid his hand between her legs. The quiver in her bottom lip and the subtle fluttering of her lashes as she buried her hands in his hair brought a self-satisfied smirk to Sirius' face. Hermione frowned at his arrogance and the sharp tug she made at his hair instantly brought a scowl; his wrist made a sharp twist and she gasped.

Nerves tingling, she recovered enough to whisper. "You were easy."

He yanked her off the bed.

Pillows and sheets fell with her in a heap upon the floor. Her shoulder screamed with pain, but it was easy enough to ignore and she stood, her legs tangled in blue satin, and made to strike him, but he got to her first. He pushed her back, her feet stumbling and sliding backwards across the floor as he caught her by the wrists and pinned her to the far wall with a thump!

He kissed her. Hard. Tongues met and teeth clashed together, a moan catching in Hermione's throat as he pressed his full weight against her. They broke apart gasping for air.

"Did you expect this?" he growled, masculine pride in his challenge.

Hermione laughed – breathlessly. "Yes."

He kissed her again, anger mixing with lust, to form a kiss that left her lips aching and bruised. When his mouth released her, she licked her lips, testing the damage he'd left behind in his tantrum, and smiled; though, it felt as though doing so would cause her mouth to crack and bleed.

"You can't surprise me," she said. She strained her neck, leaning forward to kiss him.

"Remus loves you."

Hermione's eyes were fixed on his mouth, mere inches from her own, yet she stopped short and flicked her eyes to meet his. They softened, taking in the raw pain reflected there.

"I know."

He slammed her arms against the wall. "You're using me – just like all the others," he snarled. "Using me to bury your scars."

"And you're using me to get back at Remus."

He dropped her hands but he didn't move.

Slowly, Hermione shifted her body to glide her fingers up his chest, shuddering deliciously against him as their bodies slid over one another. "Sex can be mutually beneficial," she told him quietly; though, the way they were pressed together left no doubt as to his willingness.

"Today will serve its purpose, but...this can be the only time, Sirius." She took his face in her hands and kissed him softly. "Do you understand?"

He smirked and her spirits lifted. "Don't worry, Brown-Eyes -- I'll make sure it's unforgettable."

She laughed and the sound of it was melodic and uplifting. She was still laughing when Sirius Black took her against the wall of her bedroom at two in the afternoon.

It lasted for hours.

She never tired and he never stopped, both demanding and unwilling to rest. He called her 'beautiful' because she needed to hear it, and while they were in that room she loved him unconditionally, because his need was also great.

The sun rose high in the sky and then began to sink, their coupling becoming more frantic as the day died – both racing against time and the ending of their solitude, desperate to escape forces they couldn't understand.