I don't remember falling asleep, but I remember waking up. Sirius was deep in slumber, one arm still about my waist, the other flung over his head. I smiled at the goofy grin on his face and gently disentangled myself. I sat on the edge of the bed and his arm found its way to my waist once more, trying to pull me back.

"Are you actually awake, or is this your sleeping self in all of its persistence?"

His face remained unchanged, but he curled over, toward me, and pulled more insistently. I leaned close and whispered into his ear, "You needn't fear- I'll return. But for now, I must get up."

I placed a pillow in his arms and he sighed happily. I took it as assent for my rising and picked up my kimono from the floor.

More adequately attired, I stretched and found my cigarettes before going outside to find Buckbeak. I didn't see him, so I sat on the edge of the fountain, smoking contentedly until I heard him alight beside me.

"Well, you two seem to have found a way to occupy yourselves," he smirked, dipping his head into the water for a drink.

I feigned shock. "Buckbeak- were you spying on us?"

He made a noise that expressed disdain and sarcasm; for someone who hadn't a human voice until recently, he was making excellent work of copying our mannerisms. "Better things to do than watch you lot copulate. But it's hard not to see that look on your face and understand what it means, and who put it there."

I blushed and he quirked his head in my direction. "Yes, Buckbeak- when I do that, it does go all over, and no, you can't look again. Sirius and I were doing what you thought we were doing. Do I truly look all that…"

"Satisfied? Yes. And peaceful, at the same time. That good, was it?"

"Yes… and no. It was… more than I'd anticipated. Much, much more."

"Are we discussing Sirius's, ah, endowments, or something else?"

I laughed. "His endowments are quite more than adequate, since you ask, but I mean something else."

"Ah- does it have to do with you being a vampire?"

"I'm not a vampire, I'm part vampire- how did you know?"

He seemed to shrug. "Just a guess. Something about the way you smell, the way you move. Maybe something else. I haven't been around many vampires, but something about you put me in mind of them. That's all. Did you feed off of him, or do you need to do that? How does that even work?"

"Yes, I fed off of him. No, I don't need to do that, in general, to survive. It's just like any other taste or preference- having it sated is gratifying, but not necessary. But that wasn't all that happened."

"Do you mean to tell me, or just go on being mysterious? I don't know if I'm curious enough to keep asking questions, and might just let all of your secrets stay inside of you."

"We… bonded. I hadn't meant for it to happen, exactly, but it did."

He nodded. "I've heard that vampires do that, sometimes. I thought it only happened with other vampires- I didn't know they could bond with just regular wizards."

I laughed. "I didn't know it would happen with me at all. I had a sense that it might happen with Sirius, but I don't think I really believed it until it did. And now…"

"Now you have no idea what to think. You're bonded, but what does that mean in a realistic sense- that's your question. Did he know that the bonding was possible if you mated?"

"Yes. We talked about it, and he said that he readily accepted whatever would come." I lowered my head and grinned, remembering his words and the sincerity they held. "He wanted the bond. He wanted me- he wants me. Me…"

"You don't need to be so surprised- it isn't becoming in a lady to doubt her attractions."

"Oh, Buckbeak- it's just so intoxicating! He's one of the few people I've ever met who could look past all of the other things around me and see me- and want me. Want to be with me.

"I haven't had many relationships, but I've had a couple of lovers. This, the post-coital part, is where I always start to go bonkers- to doubt what I mean to them, what they mean to me. I start to feel a need to escape so they can't tell me to my face how their desire was an illusion. That's happened, as well, which is why I fear it.

"But now- this- him… it's all so different. I know, so truly, I know, I understand, that it's real. That he really does love me, and that he'll never leave me. I know it doesn't make any sense, and I sound like an imbecile. A romantic imbecile, of all things. I was just explaining, twenty-four hours ago, to my uncle that I don't believe in romantic love, and here I am, having forged a bond of eternity…

"I feel more peaceful than I ever have. I feel so calm, so different. I get so scared, so much of the time. I'm afraid of other people, and afraid of being alone. I am afraid of crowds of people, I'm afraid of- so, so much in this life. But now, it's like a talisman- a kernel of hope and truth and light that I'm holding within myself, even now. I feel strong. I feel courageous- like I can do anything, because I have him, and he loves me and he'll never leave me.

"And I love him- and I'll never leave him. And having someone that I can love so completely, with such perfect trust, that's what the strength really comes from." I laughed.

"If I heard anyone else talking like this, I would think they'd gone insane. And stupid. It sounds so foolish and naïve, but it's the truth. Like I could die of happiness…"

"You also seem to have lost your ability to speak in complete sentences, but I'll forgive you. Congratulations, I guess. I don't know what one says in such a situation."

Just then an owl came soaring out of the lowering twilight and careened straight past us. It flew into my house and I heard a strange crashing noise followed by Sirius bellowing, "What the deuce?!"

He came wandering out of the house, rubbing his head and looking about for me. His face split into a grin as he spied me sitting near Buckbeak.

"Blasted bird pulled my hair! It gave me a letter- addressed to you and me, Amarice."

Seeing him blinking into the darkness, I was filled once more with soul-searing happiness. I rushed toward him and threw my arms around his waist, holding on, laughing. He hugged me, then surprised me by lifting me up and spinning me around in a circle. He finally set me down again and we embraced, pressing our lips together, each feeling the other smile.

"Need me to kiss your boo-boo?"

"Yes."

He lowered his head and I kissed the hairline, noting that he was right- the skin there was inflamed where his hair had been pulled by the eager bird. I took the letter from him and turned around, heading back to the fountain to sit and read. He embraced me from behind, walking with me, and planted a kiss on the top of my head.

Buckbeak snorted. "All right, you two- I know you're happy, you're in love, you've bonded. But this is your warning. You have twenty-four hours before I start biting when you do that obnoxious cuddly thing that couples do- go it?"

"Buckbeak, you old romantic! Twenty-four hours is quite generous."

"Well, I was young once, too."

"And in love?"

"Oh, gods, no! Ever met a female hippogriff? That's why we're so rare- none of us males are willing to go within a hundred yards of the females. Like harpies, only more rude, you know. And the smell- they all smell like Roquefort cheese, for reasons no one has ever been able to explain. Actually, to get a hippogriff to mate, our caretakers have to go to a lot of work."

"Like what?"

"It involves a blindfold and the song Moon River."

"Does it have to be the Andy Williams version, or will any other suffice?"

"Both of you- enough! It's from Dumbledore. He… that man- how on earth does he know everything? He wishes us the best of luck in our bond, Sirius. Says he knew we could do it. He also says that Remus is going to floo here tomorrow morning for a visit…

"Wait- I just remembered! I have a friend from school who's coming to visit tomorrow. She's supposed to stay a week; with all the other excitement I forgot. Oh, well- we'll just have to hope they get along. But, you know, Tonks is a really easy-going girl, I'm sure she won't mind the extra company."

"Remus might, but we could always just give him a sleeping draught and wake him up once she leaves. We can just put in him your bathtub or something."

"Nice… I can see that you are quite skilled at playing host. Do you think we should try to make the house bigger?"

"I don't know. We could just try adding another separate little building for guests. Or a hayloft- we could build a hayloft!"

"Sirius- I don't have hay. Why would I need a loft for my non-existent hay?"

"I have no answer except that I always wanted to have sex in a hayloft- people do it a lot in Swedish movies. We could turn it into something useful afterward. Like an owlery."

"Okay… a hayloft. With hay. I should be able to do that."

After pointing my wand and uttering a long series of complicated words, a hayloft sprung forth from the ground, looking odd, as it wasn't attached to a barn. But I've always appreciated the nonsensical, personally.

We then launched into a discussion of what color to paint it. I was making an impassioned argument in favor of good, old-fashioned, red when I heard another derisive snort behind me. Buckbeak was shaking his head and I heard him murmur to himself, "Merlin preserve us- they're nesting!" He was still shaking his head as he flew up, overhead, soaring in lazy circles over our heads as my Sirius and I continued planning ways to make our guests feel at home upon their arrival.

We hadn't talked about children, his godson, or the question of how Sirius would clear his name of the charges against him. But we were making our home ready for guests, and some things take precedence. Besides- we had the rest of our lives to sort out all the other questions. Or to let them take care of themselves…