A/N: Written for the June Challenge over at LJ's "hermionesirius" community.
The Thing With Sirius
'The universe is asymmetric and I am persuaded that life, as it is known to us, is a direct result of the asymmetry of the universe…' - Louis Pasteur.
The thing with Sirius was that she wasn't able to label him. He wasn't a professor like Snape or Lupin. He wasn't, strictly speaking, a friend like Lupin or Harry or Ron. He wasn't one of the lads, like Ron or George or Charlie and he certainly wasn't one of the girls like Ginny or Tonks. In particular he wasn't one of the adults like Mr and Mrs Weasley and yet – and yet – there were moments when he was older than Dumbledore himself. In fact there were moments, if truth be told, when he was, in some ways, all of those things combined together in a weird conglomeration. It bothered Hermione that she couldn't pigeonhole him. It bothered her even more that she was bothered – she hadn't realised that she labelled and sorted the people she knew, like her books, until she was swung into close proximity with Sirius Black. It surely wasn't a thing to be proud of, this inclination towards categorising people. But it was like a compulsion, her way of comprehending the world, of making the universe just a fraction smaller and bite-sized; making it something she could cope with. But Sirius Black – he evaded all her labels. And that evasion intrigued her.
"I'm sorry, but there's only so much of Mrs Weasley I can take in one day, honestly."
Sirius's hands paused, mid-fold, as the voice appeared from nowhere behind him. He turned and found Hermione watching him. He smiled at her, leaning there against the frame of the doorway into his bedroom, her face clearly fighting between irritation at the Weasley Alpha-female and sheepishness at the sentiments she'd just expressed. It was a common theme shared between the two of them: Hermione and he were, after all, the only two not-quite-adopted members of the close-knit Weasley clan. All the others were more tightly bound to the fold, even Harry, which was a bit unexpected since he had finally gotten his act together and taken up with the Malfoy lad. And Hermione, who's parents had decided to return to Australia when their memories had been re-installed because they'd loved it so much, found herself in the awkward position of having been bullied-by-kindness into staying at the Weasleys for the duration of her poorly-paid apprenticeship with the Ministry. Frankly, Sirius had bets placed that she wouldn't last it out there that long.
She seemed to find his smile reassuring because she straightened up slightly, made an expressive motion with her hands that he couldn't quite decipher, and said, "Mind if I come in?"
His smile twitched slightly larger and he shrugged. "Sure. Mi casa es tu casa and all that jazz."
He had been sorting clothes when she'd arrived and now she wandered over to his bed and gave the piled garments a quizzical look. "Just because you got to hide out in the wonderful world of South America doesn't mean you get to show off the Spanish every five minutes," she teased as she picked up an armful of shirts and dumped them to one side, clearing herself enough space to sit, which she did, dropping her shoes off with a clunk-clunk to the floor and then wriggling backwards a little, pulling her knees up to her chin. The position made her look incredibly young, but it also made her look incredibly sexy. Sirius rapped himself tartly over the brain and turned his eyes from the shadows of her shorts and back to the piles of old clothes.
"I wouldn't say it was every five minutes, chica magnífica."
She rolled her eyes, then gave in and chuckled.
For a while Sirius worked in silence at his clothes sorting. Hermione sat and wriggled her toes meditatively in the fuzzy-woolly folds of his bedcover, and Sirius enjoyed the feeling of her eyes upon him as he folded unwanted items and dropped them in a box for charity. He was always deeply conscious of just how easy it was to simply sit with her like this, and always surprised that she didn't seem to feel the need to fill the silence with meaningless talk. When she was younger he'd always had her pinned as a chatterbox and, frankly, with most people she really was one. But with him… it was nice.
He glanced at her as she wriggled back a little further onto his bed, one of her hands reaching around behind her to find a pillow, which she balanced on the top of her knees and then placed her elbows on.
"What are you actually doing, if you don't mind me asking?" she inquired curiously.
Sirius paused in the middle of inspecting a very black, very leather, jacket, and couldn't help the shadow of a smirk that had crept onto his face. "Hermione," he said with tendrils of amusement lurking around his voice. "I've given you the spell that enables you to pass through the wards on my house, so that you can escape the Weasleys. You practically live in my library. And you're sitting on my bed, woman. I think you can ask whatever you want, don't you?"
She raised her eyebrows at him and gave him that almost-mocking smile he liked so much. "That's a pretty broad offering, Sirius Black, when I think of all the things that I could ask you…" She chuckled again. "Honestly, though, what are you doing? A Spring clean?"
"It's June," he said, and flipped the jacket onto the 'keeping' pile.
"Again with the you know what I mean, Mister."
It had been like this for some months now, this banter, this easiness in one another's company. And it had, he thought, begun rather primarily because of his library. About the only one better, that Hermione had access to anyway, was in the Malfoy Manor but, so she'd confided in him with a delectably naughty smile, it gotten to the point where she couldn't really be bothered hanging out there since, she said, it usually meant watching Draco and Harry together and while I'm an open-minded female of the modern persuasion and can admit that, okay, there is something kinda appealing about watching two hot guys getting friendly, the fact that one is Harry and the other is Draco is a bit of a turn-off… Either way, Sirius had been more than happy for her to make his library her second home. And, at first, he had left it empty for her whenever she'd wanted it, not wanting to make her feel that she had owed him for her access. When he had wanted the library at the same time as her he'd kept well out of her way, hunkering down in a chair by the fire and reading one of the fast-paced Muggle novels that he liked. It had taken a few weeks to realise that she genuinely didn't mind the company. A little later he'd realised that she actually preferred it. Which was when he'd started making her tea, great big steaming cups of Earl Grey, or the masala chai that he'd introduced her to. He always liked to watch her amongst her piles of books and notes, taking pause for long enough to drink her tea, and the lines of her face visibly relaxing…
Now Hermione was watching him with a curious expression, and Sirius realised that his mind was wandering. He slipped on an easy grin. "Well, you know this place is full of utter rubbish. I figured it was about time I got rid of some of it… I mean, there are clothes here from when I was a kid, twenty-two and under, basically."
"Twenty-two isn't a kid," pointed out Hermione in her best school-marm voice, probably her way of reminding him that she wasn't much older than that herself. He rather wished she hadn't, because the sight of her bare toes in his blankets was just about killing him and the last thing he wanted was her age flung in his face. Still, she didn't seem to notice the effect of her words and continued, after a small pause, "But I didn't think you would have any clothes from those days. I mean, you'd moved out of here by then, hadn't you?"
Ah, always the clever thinker. He smiled and nodded, picking up a pair of trousers. "Yeah, but apparently the law requires that a fugitive's miscellaneous crap be stored somewhere and it ended up here in the cellar. I'm not sure why my mother never threw it out when I was gaoled. One of the many mysteries of life, I suppose…"
He half-expected her to make some sympathetic noise about his rotten family, or Azkaban, but, to his astonishment, she burst out laughing instead. "I'm sorry," she managed, "but are those leather pants?"
She tried to snatch them from his grasp, but he snorted and held them out of her reach. "What? It was the early eighties!" He held the trousers up higher and gave them an appraising grin. "I had some good times in these fellows. And out of them."
Hermione snickered and leant back on her elbows, stretching out her legs before her and crossing them at the ankles. The pillow she'd been balancing on her knees dropped down to teeter on her hip, drawing his eye up the length of her pale legs towards it. He shook his head slightly at himself and forced his eyes upwards to her face. She was grinning with a wicked tilt more appropriate to something he'd see on his own mug. "Do they still fit?" she inquired oh-so-innocently.
He tried not to look startled, but had a suspicion he'd failed.
"No, seriously," she said, shifting slightly so that pillow slipped completely to the side, tilting her right hip upwards a little as she rested her whole weight onto an elbow. "I'd like to see them. Just to see the look on our Harry's face when I tell him I was a first-hand witness to the event."
He burst out laughing. "You, Hermione Granger, never cease to amaze me."
She picked up the pillow and held it in front of her face. "See, I won't even look, your modesty will be spared!" And then she lowered the pillow slightly to peek at him over it teasingly.
It had taken Sirius more than a little while to get his mind wrapped around this side of Hermione Granger. It wasn't that he disliked it – quite the opposite – but that it simply wasn't something he had expected from her. He was used to being able to glance at a person and know instantly exactly which box they belonged in. Molly was the maternal type. Ginny was the feminist Quidditch-playing type (and he suspected she did girls). Tonks was the needy-of-love type. Fleur was, oddly enough, the domestic type (even if she did look like a sex kitten). And Hermione, or so he had believed, was the highly intelligent and rather straight-laced type. Except that she wasn't. Settled in the comfort of his library Sirius had made the startling discovery that he was just as likely to find her reading erotica of the steamiest Muggle-persuasion as he was to find her buried in her thesis – and even that was inclined towards the sexual side, since the paper she was writing was focused upon a historically-based exploration of the relationship between Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw. Of course, Hermione protested vociferously that she wasn't focussing on 'that' side of it (he'd dubbed it her 'baby dyke paper', which made her furious) but wanted to draw attention the importance of witches in wizarding history. An argument that fell, as a whole, on deaf ears. Put simply, the fact was the Sirius had come to realise that Hermione wasn't just intellectually old for her years, but she was also an astonishingly sensual young woman. Three months back he'd given her the run of Grimmauld Place for a fortnight while he travelled to Spain – just for the hell of it, really, and because their quality of sun was a damn sight better than that in London – and he'd come home a day early to find Hermione spread on the kitchen table in the most intimate of circumstances with the young man who delivered Sirius's Muggle books.
Innocent she wasn't. And he rather enjoyed it.
"Alright then," he said, and gave the leather pants a twirl.
She grinned and put the pillow back over her eyes. He shook his head at her and unbuckled the trousers he was already wearing. He turned as he was taking them off, letting them fall to the floor, and heard the sound of her shifting against the blankets as he moved to pull the leather pants on. He wondered whether, if he turned suddenly, he would find her peeping at him over the top of the pillow again and he was stuck, for a second, between wanting to turn and have the gratification of catching her in the act, and wishing that he was fifteen years younger to make a better show of it. With a wriggle he pulled the pants all the way up. They were a tight fit – although, they always had been, that was part of the attraction – but to his surprise they were functionable. He supposed that all those years in Azkaban hadn't really been the best environment to grow oneself a middle-aged belly and he did take care of himself.
"Are you decent?" asked Hermione sweetly from behind him, her mouth appropriately muffled by the pillow.
"Okay," she conceded, and laughed too, "poorly phrased. Are you clothed?"
"Sure." He did a playful little spin for her and then experienced a moment of doubt as the leather pull tightly against his skin. Maybe not the best fit, after all. He looked at Hermione questioningly.
She was smiling at him. "What do you want me to say?" she asked.
If he wasn't mistaken, he rather thought that there was an approving gleam to her eyes as she surveyed him. "Oh, I dunno," he drawled. "Do these pants make my arse look fat?" To his delight a slightly incoherent sound escaped her – he suspected that she'd intended it to sound rather different to how it had come out. "I'll take that as a no," he commented smugly.
The faintest of blushes had crept across her face and, perhaps to try and draw his attention away from it, she turned slightly and rummaged around amongst the clothes beside her. Snatching, like a magpie, at the sight of gold, she pulled a dress free of the chaos and raised her eyebrows significantly. "Is there something I should know about you and your secret cross-dressing habits, Sirius?"
He was supposed to laugh at that, he knew, but the sight of the dress had knocked him for a six.
Hermione sat up straight, moved as though she were going to reach for him, then restrained herself to resting the shimmery gold stuff in her lap and saying his name gently, questioningly.
He shook his head, trying to clear the past from the present. "It's nothing," he said. "Just… that dress was Lily's. These clothes… they're not only mine. I mean, for months there we were all shacked at my place, until James and Lily married. I suppose some things just stayed there when they left." He didn't have to close his eyes to see an image of Lily, who never had understood the meaning of fashion, clasping a glass in one hand and spinning on the spot with that crazy dress swirling around her. It had made her look like a 1920s flapper, and James had spilt his drink at the sight.
"Oh." The mood had shifted dramatically and a glance at Hermione showed she rather regretted it. "She… she must have been so very beautiful," murmured the young witch softly.
Sirius gave a shrug-nod. Then he glanced at her again, studied that expression on her face and saw that it had shifted from sympathy to something slightly more unreadable. He said, "Beauty isn't everything, you know."
She looked up at him, brown eyes half-closed and smiled a slightly bitter smile. "I think you'll find that the average woman would rather have beauty than brains, Sirius, because the average man can see better than he can think. No offence intended."
"None taken." He wasn't used to being indecisive, but for a moment he just stood there on the edge of speaking, before biting his lip, changing his mind, and asking simply, "Can I take them off now?" He gestured down towards the pants.
Two, three, four heartbeats long she just kept on looking at him with that mix of wry bitterness and big brown eyes, then she blinked very, very slowly and, when she spoke again, the melancholy had vanished and been replaced by a distinct blend of calculation and curiosity. "What were you going to say, just now? Instead of asking about the trousers?"
Sirius tilted his head a little to the right. It tipped his hair into his eyes. He didn't speak.
"Just now," she explained. "You were going to say something but you changed your mind. I could see it written all over your face. You have a very expressive face, you know, Mister Black."
She called him that so often, Mister, though it was anything but a title of respect, spoken in that lilting twist the way she did. He took a step towards the bed and looked at the golden material of Lily's dress, still pooled in her lap.
"Well?" she repeated.
He swallowed slightly then said, as though he were discussing the weather, "Nothing really, just… I think you're very intelligent young woman, you know that, Hermione, but somehow I suspect you are also incredibly good at misleading yourself. You seem to be under the impression that you're no great beauty yourself."
Without hesitation Sirius reached out and moved to scoop up the dress, the backs of his knuckles grazing the warm skin of her upper thighs. She shivered, reached out and placed a hand on his wrist. He'd never expected – hoped, dreamt, imagined perhaps – but never actually expected―
Hermione had seen him swallow when he'd told her, indirectly, that she was beautiful. She also knew that he'd thought he was being Sirius-nonchalant, but he wasn't; she'd seen that swallow. And that swallow had told he was nervous and, in the world of Hermione-logic, if a man were nervous about paying you compliments that could only mean one of two things. One, he was a complete ignoramus in the art of flattering women which, when it came to Mister Sirius Black she highly doubted was the case. Or two, he truly meant it and… it was the sign, the loop-hole in his 360-degrees charm, that she had been waiting months for.
His wrist beneath her hand was slender and full of angular bones. She looked up at him, her gaze not breaking with his gaze, as she moved her hand up along his arm, feeling the dark hair slip beneath her fingers as she slid them towards his elbow. At his elbow she brought them to a halt, rose her hand up, and ran her index finger along the point where his upper arm joined his lower. There was a look of utter astonishment on his face for a second, quickly covered by careful neutrality which she shrewdly guessed masked either an internal debate about the ethics of having let his godson's best friend into his bedroom in the first place, or him trying to work out the best way to tell her to get lost without hurting her feelings. Woman's intuition whispered to her that it was the former. Sirius was right, Hermione certainly didn't fancy herself a beauty, but she did know that she was passable enough to get what she wanted if she put her mind to it and what she had wanted, ever since she'd first realised that she couldn't label him, was Sirius Black.
Better be hung for a sheep as a lamb. Her other hand took the gold dress back out of his grasp and placed it, without removing her eyes from his, on the bed beside her. "You still want to take those pants off?" she murmured without thinking, which was probably the crassest thing she could possibly have said and, to her horror, she felt the pink of a blush rising up from her neck to her face. Merlin, it wasn't as though she were an ingénue when it came to the arts of seduction but this was Sirius, and he was hot, and she'd been after him ever since she'd invaded his library, and found her head full with images of him pressing her up against bookshelves―
Something of her thoughts must have shown on her face because all at once he seemed to relax. He put his free hand out and cupped her chin and asked with a smirk, "Were you offering to help with the process?"
Blurring warmth. She rise, he sinks, their mouths meeting somewhere between in a clash of tooth and tongue and silver strands of saliva, wet cobwebs stringing them together. His hands rise up to her shoulders beneath her t-shirt, his hands slide down inside her shorts, wrists straining backwards against the band as his fingers reach to cup her buttocks Her hands sling upwards around his neck, fingers entwined in his hair, nails scraping behind his ears. Old clothes crumple beneath them as he pushes her further back along the bed and she pulls him closer, warmer, nearer, rougher. The black jacket falls from the pile, unnoticed, dropping to the floor with a clatter of metal buttons. Her clothes, his clothes, promptly cover it in an absent, preoccupied scattering of material. Skin upon skin, flesh upon flesh, an exploration of stray hairs, coarse curls, dips and rises, rough spots, freckles, a mole by her shoulder, inked lines against his bones and amongst it all, her warmth, her dampness, ever increasing exponentially with their moans. Eyes open, eyes close, her legs wind around his back, his elbows rub raw against blankets he'd never noticed the roughness of, small groans and names and strings of words that mean nothing and everything. Eyelids flicker, mouths shape o and mm, and then the world slides into that precarious place that is pleasure beyond pleasure, that stage of shapeless not-grimaces, and, one after the other, they collapse, milk-boned and loose-limbed, into a curl of hair and moistly heated skin. Consumed and consummated.
"Do you know, I read once," observed Hermione whimsically, as Sirius lay on his side and brushed strands of damp hair from her face with an almost absent tenderness, "that Pasteur believed that our entire mode of existence could be explained by the asymmetry of the universe."
Sirius rose slightly and looked at her. She had the half-dreamy expression of a philosopher on her face and her eyes gleamed a darker shade of chocolate beneath her heavy lashes.
"I can only imagine," he murmured, right hand exploring its way languidly down from her face to her breasts, "what you think up to discuss when you're stoned, if this is your after-sex conversation." His thumb enlisted a finger to help it in the pleasurable occupation of massaging her left nipple.
The expression on her face flickered slightly, as though she were rising from sleep, at the feel of his touch. "Actually, pot puts me to sleep." His own face must have registered his surprise because she leant her head backwards against the pile of jumpers she'd ended up with as a pillow, and smiled a small smile. "When Charlie and I― ahhh, but you don't really want to know about that."
"Oh, don't I?" He chuckled low. "I think the past exploits of Miss Hermione Granger could prove an interesting tale."
She raised her eyebrows, reached up a hand, and stroked his hair into place behind his ears. "Who said anything about sex? I was talking about pot."
His hand flattened out against her, massaging her breast in broad, steady sweeps, a smile on his face as she moved slightly beneath him in response to his caresses. "Hmm, but we were also talking about Charlie. I saw you snogging him that Christmas, don't forget."
"Mmm," she mumbled, although whether it was an affirmative to his Charlie-centric innuendos or simply a noise of womanly appreciation at his touch, he wasn't sure. Nor did he care all that much, to be honest.
"You taste like chocolate and raspberries," he whispered, lips against her areola, tickling their way around and then up towards her soft neck.
She put her hands against his shoulders and laughed. "And has that line worked for you in the past, Sirius Black? Got you in many girls pants, has it?"
He smirked. "Well. It's not like I have to make an effort to get into your pants, is it, seeing as you seem to have temporarily mislaid them."
For just a second he could see her moving to reproach him, but then she pulled him back down towards her again, eyes laughing. "I think we'll keep it that way for a while yet…"