Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot and anything you don't recognize. There is no profit gained or involved with this story.

My infinite thanks go to redheadfaerie (aka Lady Lynn), who goes through my enormous chapters without complaint and fixes all of my errors, and she cheers me on while she does it.

Warning: Fluff! Fluffy fluff! Fluffy fluff fluff! So much fluff I could smother you with it and you would never stand a chance.

Many thanks go to my wonderful reviewers: Black Mirror, Aruca, Karma's Slave, BringTheNight, JGirl1016, Faerie-Chell, jcmy1nonly, aurora, Serias, Pleiades81, Darkness-Lightness, Mia Kell, GroowyL, treeson, Just a Reader, VickieL, remuslives23, Monnbeam, Miss. Silver Star, doBBy loVe, queenelfina, diamond-helen, Hades666, AIDSwolf, this-love-is-sirius, Funkydunkum, PinkSlytherin, Starry, SiriuslyLoveBound, gooberhead11750, truelavender, Bella67x, Chelsea, blue artemis, ppp, danduschka, Ekiushi, Kneazle, mark my words, Lyni Potter, ChamberlinofMusic, runaway mental patient, popie, Mistra Rose, skopde, Shandra23, OMGITsSEVERUS, TenaciousGirl, truelavender, Miss. Silver Star, Snowdove30, Shandra23, bananapankaces, Mwhahahaha18, Joker molester here, Shwink29, xoxyellowporchebabexox, nexandvinny, TonksLupinHedwig, mark my words, lagirl266, Arandomreader, skopde, padfootsnuffles, tarirose, Dreams of Starlight, KJS X-OVER, Imbyrri, and also to TimeRose for her lovely PM.

KJS X-OVER 2009-02-19 . chapter 9

Oh my god... This is the best time travel story i have ever read! Seriously, and ive read a lot! The plot is original, the characters are extremely lifelike, the plot development is great and seriously- the sex pistols rock! :) fantastic story and i hope you update!
-KJS x-over

padfootsnuffles 2009-02-15 . chapter 9

This is story is different from the other HG/SB stories. I love it! Please keep it coming!!

SJane 2009-02-11 . chapter 9

Typically I do not read Hermione/Sirius fanfics, so when I stumbled upon yours it was a fluke. I have to say, however, I was hooked by the middle of your first chapters (I felt chills of cold just from your description.) I love the way you are working both in and outside of the world created by the books. I wait anxiously for the next installment!

The Thief of Time
VIII - Part I: Of Dancing

"The inertia hardest to overcome is that of perfectly good seconds." - Martin H. Fischer

"Suck it in!" commanded Lily, with one foot propped up on the bed to keep herself from sliding.

Hermione was in front of her sister, sucking in her tummy and going pink in the face. The redhead behind her was trying to lace up the corset attached to her dress robes, and Hermione damned to the depths of hell the bastard that invented the garment. Why did the wizarding world do everything so old fashioned? But the dress robes were too beautiful not to wear, so she dealt with the trouble of getting it on. Dress robes resembled elegant gothic dresses more than actual robes. It made sense, actually, since the Muggles always dressed their 'imagined' witches in such clothes, so the idea must have blossomed from reality somehow. Muggle kin or squibs, most likely.

The dress robes she wore tonight were a supple silver. The long sleeves went all the way down to her knuckles, and the silky dress flared to only a centimeter or so from the floor. The corset of the dress was beautiful, with intricate swirling designs spun in a sparkling black. Her bosom was amplified as well, of course, but tastefully so. The soft silver colours of her dress robes made her jadeite eyes lined in smoky black stand out even more, and it brought out the subtle red tones of the brown hair that was piled majestically atop her head, courtesy of Lily's Muggle magazine and her wonderful handiwork. Her slender neck was completely exposed, something she wasn't used to since she usually wore her hair down, and the cut of the top of the dress was a little risqué- especially for the wizarding style of the seventies- but it was still within the realm of proper.

When the corset was finally laced up, Hermione turned around to face her sister.

"What do you think?" asked Hermione, trying very hard to keep the overall giddiness from her voice, but she had a feeling she failed miserably.

"You look..." began Lily, shaking her head with wonderment and pride. "You look like a princess from a fairy tale."

"Shut up, Lily," replied Hermione, but there was no contention behind it, and her tone was touched. She recalled Remus once saying in her past life that Lily was beloved by all, and Hermione received first-hand knowledge of why that was every day.

Lily grinned, but when she ran her eyes over Hermione once more, she looked pointedly at her throat. "The stone in the locket doesn't go with the dress, though," she informed, and reached her arms around to take it off of her.

"What?!" gasped Hermione in disbelief, stepping back before Lily could unclasp it and holding on to the locket protectively. "We swore we would never take them off..." She wasn't sure why she was making it such a big deal.

"Well, I'll wear it until you get back," insisted Lily, and her eyes were understanding, but her face was set and she was obviously determined not to let Hermione out of the house looking mismatched.

Hermione frowned, but relented. It didn't seem so bad to have it off as long as her sister was wearing it. Lily immediately put it on, and although she looked a bit silly with two matching lockets around her neck, Hermione was grateful. It was funny how attached she had become to that piece of jewellery, but it represented the bond between her and Lily. It felt odd not to have the weight of it at the base of her throat, but she had to agree that the ensemble looked much better now.

"Hermione! Your escort is here!" They heard Ivy call up the stairs, and Lily looked confused.

"Escort?" the redhead asked.

"The carriage driver," assumed Hermione with a shrug. "I can't believe James didn't invite you," she added, looking quite miffed.

Lily looked decidedly uncomfortable, and busied herself by untying and retying the drawstring of her unicorn patterned pyjama pants.

Hermione eyed her suspiciously. "What?" she asked, with squinted eyes.

"Er, well... he did invite me," said Lily, meekly, and Hermione stared at her, agape. "Remember the letter you saw from him yesterday? He wrote it to ask me... But I replied and said no."

"Well get dressed fast and come with me! They won't mind!" demanded Hermione, rushing over to the wardrobe to find clothes for Lily.

"What are you doing?" asked Lily, confusedly.

"I'm looking for Narnia, of course," said Hermione, her tone dripping sarcasm, and Lily laughed. "Searching for your dress robes!"

"No, Hermione," replied Lily, stern but not unkind.

Hermione turned to face her sister, nonplussed. "Why?"

"Because tonight is your night," answered Lily, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Hermione opened her mouth to argue, but Lily hushed her before she could. "Tonight's Sirius' night, too."

Hermione's jaw snapped shut. She was right, of course. Sirius deserved to have a night where the people he considered family fussed delightedly over him and his girlfriend, considering the fact that most of his blood relatives would probably Crucio him for dating her.

When had Lily become so wise?

"I'll miss you," said Hermione a few moments later, and they hugged, letting the comfortable embrace linger for a few moments.

"I'll miss you, too," replied Lily, before finally drawing away and taking Hermione's hand to guide her out their bedroom door and down the stairs. "Your escort awaits! Have fun and don't do anything I wouldn't do. But, if you do do anything I wouldn't do, make sure you do the proper spells before you do it!" she added, cheekily, and Hermione laughed happily, even though a slight bit of colour rose to her cheeks from the implications.

She was still laughing when they reached the hallway, and when she stepped into the lounge to say goodbye to her parents, she froze mid-stride.

Sirius was sitting on the sofa, in black dress robes that looked fit for royalty. The thigh-length coat was brilliantly tailored, and the onyx buttons and the high collar declared his obvious wealth. Long sleeves fell to mid-palm, and he wore his usual black leather gloves, which added a bit of the every-day Sirius she was used to. His black pants clung nicely to the bit of thigh she was able to see, and his medieval, knee-high leather shoes looked like something only a prince could wear. To top it all off, it looked like he had attempted to fix his hair but had given up at some point - and the way it looked slightly mussed but still managed to fall over his stunning steel-grey eyes was nearly breathtaking.

If Hermione looked like a princess from a fairy tale, then she was quite sure she was staring at a modern-day Prince Charming.

He looked up, finally, and when he realized Hermione had stepped into the room, he immediately stood. If she wasn't mistaken, he may or may not have been slightly open mouthed as his eyes travelled all the way from her face to the hem of her dress, and back again.

"You look..." he began, and his brow furrowed as though he was searching his vocabulary for the right word. Hermione giddily wondered if he was going to say beautiful.

"You look ravishing," he decided aloud, and the word made heat stir in her lower abdomen. That was so much better than beautiful, in her opinion.

"Come here," she said, quietly, inviting him over to her since he seemed to be acting the part of a perfect gentleman, and probably wouldn't have made the move otherwise. She met him halfway and cradled his face in her hands to guide his lips down onto hers. The kiss was a little too long to be properly chaste, and when he stood at full height again, his shoulders relaxed and he grinned easily. He was obviously satisfied that she wasn't regretting her hasty decision to be his girlfriend.

"You're so handsome, Sirius," she cooed, and his face softened before he placed another kiss on her lips, this one much deeper, and her insides squirmed with delight when his warm tongue caressed hers.

"Break it up," a stern voice commanded, and the pair pulled away from one another. She suddenly understood why Sirius had been acting like the perfect gentleman up until his lapse a moment ago. In her captivation, she had failed to notice her father sitting in the armchair across from where Sirius had been sitting. Although, in Hermione's defence, Rob's back had been to her.

"Sorry, Mr. Evans," mumbled Sirius, and Hermione couldn't hide her smile. She was vaguely aware that she had never been in this situation. She and Ron had never actually been on a proper date- not the kind you see in movies, where the girl dolls herself up and the boyfriend is down in the sitting room getting grilled by the father.

She hadn't ever known what she was missing.

"You look beautiful, little one," said Robert when his eyes fell on Hermione, and he came over to place a kiss on her forehead.

"Thank you, Daddy," she said, a bit shy, but when Ivy came into the room holding her Polaroid camera, Hermione groaned.

"Mum," she whinged, aghast due to the levels of cliché embarrassment.

"Oh, look at my beautiful little girl!" gushed Ivy as she pranced over to Hermione and Sirius. She pinched Hermione's cheeks, but the witch took it like a trooper. Hermione could practically see Sirius prepare himself for the inevitable onslaught, and he was all smiles when Ivy yanked at the flesh of his face. "You look so handsome, Sirius! Doesn't he look handsome, Rob?"

Robert grunted an incoherent reply and soon Ivy was smushing Sirius and Hermione together and kneeling in front of them to take a picture. They smiled for the camera, but once the picture popped out, Ivy commanded them to pose differently so she could take 'just one more' for the album.

Nine pictures later (it would have been more if Lily hadn't snatched the camera away from Ivy), Sirius was putting Hermione's velvet cloak on her shoulders while she tried to blink away the spots of light she was still seeing. Petunia chose that moment to come down the stairs, and when she saw Hermione and Sirius in their majestic clothes, she squeaked in surprise.

"Don't they look wonderful, Tuney?" asked Ivy, fondly, with an unconcealed sigh. "They look like they belong in a fairytale."

Hermione saw Petunia frown, but was surprised to see a grudging nod. She thought for sure her sister would say they looked like freaks, or something along those lines, but Hermione and Lily shared a look of awe, since they had just witnessed the nicest thing Petunia had done in their direction in the past five years.

"Thank you," said Hermione, quietly, but Petunia rolled her eyes and looked away. Still, Hermione was uplifted by the nice gesture -- no matter how tiny it was.

As Sirius put on his own wool cloak, Hermione kissed Lily and her parents goodbye.

"Be home by one," said her father sternly. "If you're home any later, I'll have his head on a platter and you in a chastity belt until you're thirty." Her eyes widened, but she didn't doubt that he would do everything in his power to make it happen if she disobeyed, so she nodded, and she could see Sirius nodding along with her. She tried to give Petunia a kiss, but the older sister shrugged her away.

"Ready to go, love?" asked Sirius, and Hermione felt a swarm of nervous butterflies fluttering around in her stomach.

"Yes," she agreed, and was a little confused when he led her out through the back door. She saw why a moment later, when she spotted a huge crimson carriage in the backyard, a startling contrast to the white snow all around. Attached by reins were what looked to be two giant, black Arabian horses, except they had enormous wings that shone sleek in the moonlight. The abraxans were just as large as the ones Beauxbaton had flown in on during Hermione's fourth year in her past life, but far more beautiful.

Sirius opened the door to the carriage and helped her up the tiny steps, and when she stepped inside, she was slightly awed as she sat down. It was lined in a silky black material with a window on each side, just a hint of the Potter's wealth. After Sirius followed her in, he pulled the door shut and winked at her.

"Ready?" he asked, and she nodded, trying to contain her anxiety and excitement. Sirius stuck his hand out of the window beside him and knocked three times on the side of the carriage. A moment later, the carriage gave a great jolt and began moving forward, before Hermione felt it lift off into the air only moments later.

"Muggles can't see us, I guess?" she asked, and Sirius shook his head.

Now that they were out of sight from the prying eyes of her father, Sirius looked much more relaxed and didn't hesitate to slide his arm around her shoulders to draw her closer to him.

"How many people are going to be at this thing?" asked Hermione. She kept smoothing her dress robes even though they didn't need it. Her mind was running rampant and she was silently trying to recall all of the rules of the old wizarding etiquette, since high society had never really grown out of them. Was she supposed to curtsey when she met people or bow her head?

"A few friends of the Potters," he answered, and he grasped her fidgeting hands with one of his own. "Relax."

She finally looked up at him and she could tell by his grin that he knew she was nervous. His stormy eyes were calming, though, and she let out a breath when she felt her shoulders relax. "I feel like a kneazle in a room full of rocking chairs," she informed him meekly.

"You'll be fine," assured Sirius, and she scooted over to snuggle against his side.

This situation was a first for her. In her past life, she had already known Arthur, Molly, and the rest of the Weasley clan before liking boys was even a thought in her head. Going to meet Sirius' parents -- and she used the word 'parents' when she thought of Mr. and Mrs. Potter because she knew that's what Sirius considered them -- was making her slightly timid. Harry had always had this magnificent idea of what his parents and grandparents were like, and Hermione and Ron had typically had the same picture. Practically everyone the trio had met who had known the senior Potters always had the utmost respect for them, and raved about how wonderful they had been. And now, Hermione was going to meet the living, breathing, in-the-flesh versions of the grand idea she had held onto even in this time. Would she be disappointed? Or would they be disappointed in her? What if she made a fool of herself? What if she accidentally spit on them when she talked or snorted when she laughed?

Sirius' leather-encased hand moved gently up and down her arm, momentarily extracting her from her thoughts. The familiar smell of his cologne made her smile, and as their eyes met when he looked down at her, she couldn't help but ask, "What if I trip in front of everyone?"

She could see the corner of his mouth twitch, threatening a grin. "Then I'll catch you before you fall."

Damn him and his infernal ability to make her blush like a schoolgirl! She bit her lip to keep from cooing and buried her face in the crook of his neck so he wouldn't see the flush creeping over her cheeks.

"And what if they hate me?" Hermione spoke against his neck.

"They'll love you," he replied with a laugh, but the confidence he spoke with made her look up at him. He shifted slightly to make himself more comfortable, and he leaned his head back on the cushion behind him and pulled Hermione against him once again. She saw his eyes close through the hair that was falling over them casually.

"How do you know?" she finally asked.

"They'll love you because I love you," he replied, and Hermione blinked. He kept his eyes closed while he said it, and he was still reclining casually. There had been no tension in his body when he spoke the words. He was and had been completely relaxed, and he said it like it was a simple fact.

She knew he didn't mean that kind of love. It was obviously platonic love that he spoke of, considering his relaxed disposition, but she was even surprised by that. Although, she loved him too, for more years than even he knew of. He was valued by her in her past life and he was cherished by her in this one. It made her breath hitch to hear him practically say out loud, without hesitation or doubt, that she was as dear to him as James and the Potters.

Sirius must have felt her watching him, because he opened his eyes, and looked at her with a lazy grin. "What?" he asked, curiously.

"Kiss me," she spoke, quietly, and his smile grew.

"As my lady commands," replied Sirius, and she could feel him smiling into their kiss when his lips touched hers.

Hermione's doubts eased away and disappeared for the rest of the ride, probably because her brain was clouded with contentment and her body had a severe case of the warm and fuzzies. Every time one of them broke the kiss for air, the other would recapture their lips moments later. Her hands raked through his hair, occasionally even pulling on it gently to guide his head into a more suitable position for her. Every time she did that, she could feel him grinning that damned arrogant grin, which only led to her tugging on his lower lip with her teeth. He seemed to enjoy it a little rougher, so she doubted it was proper punishment since he made a pleased sound whenever she did it and tried to pull her closer. It was an impossible feat, of course, since she was pressed against his side and chest as close as it was humanly possible to be. Sirius' fingertips trailed against her neck and a shiver went down her back, which made him groan when she involuntarily wriggled against him. She, too, let out something akin to a muffled whimper, and she discreetly pressed her legs together to sate the unladylike urges she was currently having.

But then the carriage started to slowly descend, and she felt Sirius gently guide her off of him. Even though it was a much needed reprieve since things were heating up too fast, she still felt slightly disappointed when she was no longer resting on him.

After she smoothed her dress robes and patted her hair to make sure it was still in place, she glanced over at Sirius and her smile turned into a frown. His hair was endearingly mussed, his cheeks were flushed, and the state of his lips left no doubt that he had just been snogged senseless. She knew her lips were probably just as pink and tender as his, if not more, but the thought that people would know what they had been doing didn't even occur to her when she saw his expression. He was staring out the window as they flew over Godric's Hollow, but his jaw was clenched and his neck was taught. Was he angry? Had she been the worst snog in history? Was he regretting his decision to take her to the Potters? Did he think she was a slag?

She shifted nervously, but when she dropped her eyes down to wonder further what it was that could be bothering him, her cheeks lit up in a shade of brilliant red when she saw an unmistakable -- well, bulge, for lack of a better word -- in his pants. How had she not noticed that before? And why couldn't she stop staring?

When she finally was able to pry her attention away, she looked up to see Sirius staring at her with amusement. She let out laugh of mortification.

"I'm sorry," muttered Hermione, staring at the point over his shoulder so she wouldn't have to look into his eyes.

"What for?" asked Sirius with slightly raised brows and a Marauder's grin. "It's pretty much yours now, anyway. You're allowed to look at it whenever you like."

Her eyes widened and she could feel her cheeks heat up once again. They had only been dating for twenty-four hours! But the very worst part of it was that she wasn't offended by it... she was turned on by it.

"Picture Dumbledore in a yellow polka-dot Muggle bikini... jumping up and down," she told him, randomly, and Sirius' eyes widened and his face twisted in horror.

"What...?" he stuttered, but Hermione could see by the deflation in his pants that it had worked. She was not about to go meet the people he considered family with him hiding an erection next to her. She wasn't even sure how long she would have been able to last after him practically telling her it was for her personal use. When he realized she had effectively solved the problem, he leaned over to capture her lips.

"I hope you know that I'll never look at Dumbledore the same way again," Sirius informed her when they broke the kiss.

"Have I awoken a newfound attraction inside of you?" she teased.

"Oh, yes," he agreed, sarcastically. "In fact, as soon as we land I'm ditching you and making a turn for Hogwarts to confess my feelings."

"I thought you liked me since you were eleven?" questioned Hermione, sombrely, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice.

"It's not you, it's me," he consoled, rubbing her shoulder. "We had some laughs, though, for these past twenty-four hours. No regrets."

She giggled and leaned over him to look out his window, and she bit her lip when she saw them fly over the spot where James and Lily's home had been in her past life. They went straight over it, and headed across the town square and glided over the cemetery. The carriage lowered even further as they neared what looked to be an abandoned factory. Garbage, fallen trees, and Merlin only knew what else littered the land around it. There was a high, barbed-wire fence around it, and she could see signs that ordered no trespassing. As they flew right over the gate, Hermione felt the carriage rumble as they passed through magical wards.

As soon as they had cleared the fence, Hermione gasped.

Acres of land surrounded an enormous manor. The house itself was raised up on its own hill, and there was a cobblestone path that led all around the grounds, probably so one wouldn't get lost. There were stone steps leading up to the house, and there was a large, beautiful fountain in front that spouted sparkling water. The carriage circled once, and then sloped down to the cobblestone path, where it gently touched down to the ground. Hermione could hear the abraxan's hoofs trotting on the stone until they slowed to a stop.

She was nervous again.

"Hermione," addressed Sirius, and she realized she was still leaning across him to gape out the window. She hummed a reply as she fidgeted with her dress robes, staring down at her chest to make sure the girls were in place and weren't indecently exposed. "Everyone who's important to me will love you. The rest don't matter." She looked up at him hesitantly, and he ran a gloved finger down her cheek. "But I shan't lie to you... there will be people there who won't like you. I can guarantee that there will be girls there who will take one look at this," he took her left hand and ran his thumb over the ring her gave her, "and hate you for it."

Her first thought was to be appalled by the amount of ego it would take to make that statement, but when she opened her mouth to reprimand him, she had never seen him more serious. "Why would they hate me for wearing the ring?" she asked, furrowing her brow.

"I told you. It means you're mine," he told her, giving her a one-armed shrug. "It means I'm yours. They'll be rude to you because of it."

She could honestly see why it would anger some girls. Sirius was not only handsome, smart, charming, and funny, but he was also filthy rich and a bloody Grand Duke. She would definitely meet a few bitter girls sooner or later, especially the ones that had grown up in wizarding high-society.

And then she wasn't nervous any longer.

She wasn't a very territorial person-- Okay, that was an outrageous lie. Hermione was a Gryffindor. A lioness. And, in nature, the females were the hunters, and they protected what was theirs. Sirius had made it very clear that he was hers, so if any one of those girls tried to infringe upon that, Hermione would have to realign their perception. It wouldn't bode well for them to pull anything too catty.

"Well, they can bite my arse if they don't like it," Hermione told him, and he barked a laugh.

"That's my girl. Are you ready, love?" asked Sirius, and Hermione took a deep breath and nodded.

He opened the door to the carriage and climbed out. The cold air rushed in and Hermione shivered involuntarily, but took Sirius' offered hand. He held on to her so she didn't hurt herself going down the steep little steps of the carriage, and Hermione realized as she looked up the hill that Potter Manor was even bigger than she had originally realized. There were other people making their way up the stone steps, as well as people climbing out of other carriages, all dressed elegantly. Sirius offered her his arm and she took it, clutching on to him so she wouldn't fall as they climbed a long row of stone stairs. When the reached the top, there was quite a bit more land in front of the manor, and as they passed the fountain, Hermione admired it. It was made of Australian black opal, and the most incredible, lifelike sculpture of a white opal unicorn was bent down over it, as if it were taking a drink from the water. Crystal clear water spouted out of various stones lining the fountain, and swimming around in the sparkling water were fish that changed colour at random. Hermione would bet money that it looked even more beautiful in the sunlight than it did in the moonlight.

Sirius stood still while she admired the fountain, smiling knowingly. "Touch it," he told her.

"I beg your pardon?" asked Hermione, brows raised, and Sirius laughed.

"The unicorn. Touch it."

Hermione eyed him warily, but overall she trusted him enough to reach her hand out. As soon as her fingertips touched the snout of the sculpture, she nearly jumped out of her shoes. The opal unicorn sprung to life and shook its head as though it were dazed. In her surprise, she had left her hand outstretched, and she cooed when the sculpture nuzzled her palm with its nose.

"I love it," she informed Sirius, and he smiled and motioned his head towards the house. A small part of her wanted to stay outside all night and play with the statue, but she patted its head one last time and walked away with Sirius. With one last glance over her shoulder, she saw the opal unicorn lower its head back down, as if it were taking another drink, and freeze into the exact position she had first seen it in.

As they neared the manor, the house loomed over them, but it looked friendly beneath the starry night, and Hermione entwined her fingers with Sirius' gloved ones. It was just as big as Malfoy Manor, but it wasn't nearly as foreboding.

When they finally entered the grand oak doors, Hermione had to clench her jaw to keep it from hanging open. The entrance hall was exquisite. The floors were marble and the room had a gold, white, black, and silver colour scheme. The one word that popped into her head as she looked around was: wealth.

"Can Mipsy be taking your cloak, Master Sirius?" a squeaky voice asked, and Hermione looked down to see a house-elf that came up to just above Sirius' knee, bowing her head. There was a little tuft of black hair between her floppy ears which she had tied with a gold ribbon, and she wore a black satin fabric around her like a toga. Hermione was very happy to see how well she was taken care of.

Sirius nodded and, taking Hermione by surprise, helped her out of hers first. Mipsy took the velvet cloak from Sirius, and as the handsome man pulled off his own cloak and gloves, Hermione addressed the elf. "I'm Hermione Evans," she said, holding out her hand for the elf to shake.

Mipsy's bright blue eyes widened comically and she looked around, probably looking to see if Hermione was addressing someone else. The Potters were nice to them, she could tell, but the house-elf probably wasn't used to kindness from the guests. Once the elf was satisfied that it was indeed her that Hermione was speaking to, she broke out into a toothless, maniacal smile. She took Hermione's hand and shook it, still looking a little awed by the gesture. "Oh, Miss, I is so pleased to be meeting you!"

"Call me Hermione," she told her, and the elf bounced excitedly on the heels of her feet.

"Yes, Miss Hermione," said Mipsy, and Sirius looked amused when he handed his cloak and gloves over to the elf. The tiny creature snapped her fingers and the items disappeared. "I is liking Miss Hermione very much, Master Sirius," Mipsy informed him, and Sirius grinned.

"Me too, Mipsy," he replied, and Hermione smiled rather goofily before she caught herself.

"Enjoy your party, Master and Miss," Mipsy told them with a huge smile, and when Hermione bowed her head in thanks, the elf squeaked with joy and bowed so low her nose practically touched the floor.

Hermione's heels clicked on the marble as they walked across the hall to another set of doors, and she noticed Sirius kept looking over at her. "What?" she asked, running her hands over her silver robes self-consciously.

"Thank you for being my date tonight," replied Sirius, and Hermione's face softened.

"Stop being adorable," she admonished, and he broke out into a grin.

"Impossible. That's like telling the sky to turn green," he informed her, and she laughed. He never failed to make her smile.

When they reached the other set of doors, another house-elf was there, dressed just as Mipsy had been, except this one was lacking a bow. It was amusing to see Sirius switch into the pureblood gentlemanly role. His posture straightened and he bent his arm at the elbow to protrude straight out. With his free hand, he took her arm and laid it atop his outstretched forearm, and Hermione had to smile because she had only seen people do this in movies before. She straightened her posture, too, and although he looked the part of an aristocrat, his mussed hair and the wink he gave her were still distinctly Sirius.

"Are you ready?" inquired Sirius, and Hermione's tummy gave a flutter of excitement when she said yes.

Sirius nodded to the elf, and the next thing Hermione knew, the elf snapped his fingers and the doors swung open. She and Sirius were standing atop a grand staircase made of ice, except it wasn't the least bit slippery, and down below was the most breathtaking ballroom she had ever seen. The floor was ice as well, and the walls and high ceilings were black as night. It almost gave the illusion of being at an outdoor party in some kind of winter wonderland. There were round tables all around, each able to fit at least five guests- except for a very large one right in the centre, which would hold about ten or eleven. Candles hovered above and wizarding cameras floated around- she supposed they were taking pictures, though there was no flash if or when they did. Hermione was a little stunned by just how many people a 'few' friends of the Potters turned out to be, and if she had to estimate, she would say it was about the same amount of people that had attended the Yule Ball. In the very few seconds she and Sirius had been standing atop the staircase, almost everyone in the room had looked up from where they stood or sat to watch the newcomers. She could already see them whispering. They all, of course, knew Sirius, so Hermione had to keep herself from rolling her eyes since she was certain that she was their topic of choice.

Hermione was in the middle of wondering why Sirius hadn't started walking yet when the elf behind the pair spoke up.

"Miss Hermione Evans, accompanied by Lord Sirius Black III," informed the elf, and Hermione fought to keep her jaw from unhinging. Things were certainly formal at this soiree.

As soon as his name had left the elf's lips, Sirius took a cautious step forward to make sure Hermione knew he was starting to move, and she followed his lead. Her arm was still resting atop his, and she discreetly squeezed his hand as they walked down the sparkling stairs just in case she lost her balance. Her jadeite eyes were glancing all around the room, taking in the beautiful decor and the gossiping faces. After what seemed like the millionth step, they reached the bottom, and Hermione fought to keep her composure when they were immediately approached by guests.

An older blond couple who appeared to be married sauntered over with two younger girls trailing alongside them. Hermione recognized the girls from school, although one was a year below her and the other was two years her junior. She had never learned their names. The man in the group, whom she assumed to be the husband and father, looked utterly bored.

"Sirius, darling," the middle-aged woman gushed, "you look so handsome."

He bowed his head but Hermione could see his smile was forced. "And you look lovely as always, Mrs. Sinistra."

Sinistra?! Hermione did a double-take at the oldest of the two blonde teenagers, and she realized the resemblance between the girl and the Astronomy teacher of her past life.

"My girls are here, did you see?" asked Mrs. Sinistra, and Hermione tried not to roll her eyes. How could he have missed them when she was parading them in front of him?

"Yes, I did," answered Sirius, politely. "Aurora," he greeted the older of the two, which confirmed that it was indeed the future Astronomy professor. "Ariel," he addressed the other. "This is my-" he motioned to Hermione to introduce her, but Mrs. Sinistra cut him off.

"You simply must humour Aurora for a dance after dinner, dear," she told him, and Hermione glanced over at Aurora. She nearly guffawed with surprise when she saw the way she looked about ready to scratch out Hermione's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Sinistra, but I must decline," Sirius replied, and although his tone was calm, it held no room for argument. "I am already spoken for. I'd like to introduce you all to Miss Hermione Evans. My girlfriend."

The females all narrowed their eyes, and Hermione managed to hide her grin. She felt like she had stepped into a time-machine (no pun intended) and went back to the Victorian Era where all the young women were searching for husbands, like they couldn't function in society without them. Although, this was an old-fashioned world, and it held at least some truth. Unwed women usually became teachers, but an unwed man could do anything he chose to do.

"Lovely to meet you," said Mrs. Sinistra, but considering the way her eye twitched, Hermione highly doubted it was half as lovely as she made it sound. The elder woman held out her bejewelled left hand, and Hermione had the distinct impression that the woman was only doing it to flaunt her wealth quite literally in Hermione's face.

So, Hermione held out her own left hand to daintily grab the older woman's, and watched with sadistic satisfaction the way all three of the women went slightly slack-jawed when the carbonado diamond sparkled in the floating candlelight.

"Sirius!" a voice Hermione recognized as James called. Sirius' ears perked like a dog, and when he spotted James, he nodded over to him.

"Excuse us," said Sirius, and he guided Hermione away without another word. It was rather rude, but she could tell he didn't care, and she honestly didn't either. Various people greeted Sirius along the way, and like a considerate boyfriend, he introduced her to everyone who spoke to him, including a blue-eyed, American Squib named Francis who looked strikingly familiar, but she couldn't quite put her finger on where she knew him from. It was all going by in a blur so far, and she was relieved when they finally made it across the ballroom to James.

"Wow, Hermione! You look great!" exclaimed James, and he leaned over to give her a kiss on the cheek. She was a little surprised by how enthusiastic he was, but she realized he was excited for Sirius when his hazel eyes kept darting back and forth between them.

"So do you!" she replied, and he did. His robes were similar to Sirius', except they were made of deep reds and black and didn't quite fit him like Sirius' did him. But it could have been favouritism talking, and the fact that she doubted anyone could look better than Sirius did.

"Is this her?" a woman's voice said from behind her and Sirius, and Hermione froze, recognizing it as Dorea from the invitation. Hermione watched as Sirius smiled and turned around.

"Yes it is," confirmed Sirius, and Hermione turned around to face the voice as well. The woman was beautiful. High cheekbones, flawless skin, James' hazel eyes, and long grey hair that was tied into an elegant knot at the base of her neck. When she moved her head, you could see strands of silver shine, but it suited her, and her robes were a silky blue. Charlus was beside her, and Hermione was giddy to note that he looked just like James, only with a slightly smaller nose and sky blue eyes. He looked quite a bit older than Dorea, but he was still handsome, even with the laugh lines wrinkled on his face. His robes were black and complimented Dorea's nicely.

Sirius motioned between them. "Momma P., Papa P., this is my girlfriend, Hermione Evans. Hermione, this is Dorea and Charlus Potter... the parents I never had."

Hermione's cheeks were hurting from smiling so much when Sirius called the older couple his nicknames for them.

"I am so honoured to meet the two of you," said Hermione, unsure whether she should shake their hands or curtsey.

But Dorea solved the problem when she held out her arms and wrapped them around Hermione to hug her. Hermione managed not to squeak with surprise and returned the embrace. "Let me get a good look at you," said Dorea, finally breaking the embrace. Hermione grinned and stepped back, trying not to fidget under Dorea's scrutiny. "You're even more gorgeous than he said you were, love," the older woman informed her, and Hermione smiled uncharacteristically shyly and looked over at Sirius, who was watching the scene unfold fondly.

"Indeed," agreed Charlus, stepping forward to take Hermione's hand to kiss it in a gentlemanly fashion. He paused only momentarily when he saw Sirius' ring glittering on her finger, but spoke nothing of it. "Sirius tells us you're as smart as you are beautiful, so it's no wonder that you hold top grades in your year."

Hermione was touched and mumbled a thank you because she couldn't think of anything clever to say, but Dorea saved the day again by kissing both her cheeks. "We have to go mingle with the other guests, dear, but we'll talk more when dinner is served. You'll sit with the family," informed Dorea, and Hermione wondered why she had been nervous all day. They were wonderful people, just as she and Harry had pictured them.

"I told you they'd love you," gloated Sirius, and Hermione wrapped her arms around his waist so she could lean against his chest. When his arms wrapped around her and held her against him securely, she tilted her chin up so he would kiss her, and he obliged, but they kept it chaste.

But that didn't stop James from teasing them. "When you guys are done sucking face, I'd like to know if either of you would like some punch."

They broke the kiss with a smile, and Sirius glared at James, but answered him anyway. "Yeah, I would like some punch, actually."

Hermione was just about to agree when James literally punched Sirius in the arm. "There's your bloody punch. That's for snogging in front of me and ruining my appetite." She could tell by the smile he was trying to hide that he was kidding. She giggled, and Sirius nuzzled his nose against hers. They really were affectionate, now that she thought about it. But, Sirius had always been starved for affection, so he deserved it now.

"Would you like a drink, love?" he asked, and she nodded. "What do you want?"

"Surprise me," she told him, and he stole a kiss one more time before he and James headed off to the open bar.

"The most beautiful person in the room." A man's voice spoke when Sirius had disappeared in the crowd, and Hermione turned around.

"Uncle Alphard!" greeted Hermione with a pleased smile. "Thank you, but I'm really not."

His brows rose, and he smoothed his forest green robes. "Oh, no, no. I was talking about me. But you look good too, love," he informed her, but the mirth in his eyes belied his serious tone. Hermione laughed and smacked his arm, only realising afterwards that it hadn't been a proper thing to do. He was chuckling, though, so he was either oblivious to the rules of etiquette or he didn't care, and Hermione had her money on the latter.

"My father let it slip that you've been having secret meetings with him," she said, putting her hands on her hips.

"They were hardly secret," alerted Alphard. "You and Sirius probably would have noticed if you two hadn't been busy pining over each other every waking moment."

Hermione's cheeks flushed and she couldn't stop the giggles, even though she desperately wanted to look reprimanding. She vaguely wondered if Sirius would have that much life and humour when they were Alphard's age, and then proceeded to silently panic because she had just thought of her and Sirius still together sixty years from now.

"Hmm," she heard him mumble, effectively breaking her concentration, and he lifted her left hand to examine the ring shining on her finger. He ran the pad of his thumb over the diamond and quirked a brow, but took a seat at the large table they were standing next to without another word, even though he was smirking.

"What?" she questioned, taking the seat beside him.

"Nothing at all. These old bones just needed a rest," Alphard told her, and she was aware he knew she wasn't asking why he had sat down.

"I meant why did you look at the ring like that?" she scolded in her Prefect voice. It usually worked on everyone but Sirius, and it seemed it had no effect on Alphard either.

"Were you wearing a ring?" he asked absently. "My memory is truly failing me in my old age."

"Uncle Alphard!" she hissed. "Why is everyone so enthralled with this ring? It's not an engagement ring, right?" If it was, she would have to make a mad dash out of here. She may be able to fantasize about still being with Sirius sixty years from now, but the idea of an engagement at seventeen was insanity. He wouldn't put an engagement ring on her the same night she agreed to go out with him, right?

Alphard chuckled. "No, you can relax. It's not an engagement ring."

Before she could get him to elaborate, Sirius and James were back.

"Were you two just talking about me?" asked Sirius, his eyes narrowed with amused suspicion.

Alphard cocked his head back. "What are you on about, son? I was just sitting here, minding my own business, when she strutted over to me and started flirting with me indubitably, the trollop. I tried to tell her it would never work out, her and I, but she would hear none of it."

Sirius barked a laugh and Hermione's jaw dropped, but she couldn't stop her peals of laughter. At least she knew now where Sirius had acquired his sense of humour. She leaned over and kissed Alphard on the cheek for being so bloody charming.

"Case in point," said Alphard, motioning to the cheek that she had just pecked.

"Leaving me for an older man?" questioned Sirius as he slid into the seat next to her, placing a flute of what looked to be elderberry wine in front of her.

"Why shouldn't I? You had plans to do the same to me not even one half hour ago," reminded Hermione, and Alphard and James shared a look of utter confusion, but she and Sirius grinned at the private joke.

"I love elderberry wine," she thanked Sirius after she had taken a sip of what he had brought her.

"You've had it before?" he asked, curiously. She was still underage, after all.

Hermione smiled slyly and quirked a brow. "You're very naive if you think you boys are the masters of mischief. You have no idea what goes on in the girls dormitories... We just never get caught, unlike some people I know," she added, looking pointedly at Sirius and James.

Alphard chuckled and mumbled something that sounded very much like 'perfect for him', but Sirius and James were too shocked to hear the older man. Hermione, however, realized she had just admitted to drinking smuggled alcohol in the girl's dormitories in front of Sirius' uncle. Alphard just winked when he saw her panic and made a zipping motion over his lips.

"So, what you're saying is... Lily drinks?" James asked, leaning forward eagerly.

Hermione laughed. "Not every night! I'm not saying we're winos, James! Once in a while, though, we do have some fun. And, yes, on those occasions, Lily does get plastered."

James had a cat-that-got-the-cream grin. "How plastered are we talking?" he asked, with a tone that implied what he was hearing was too good to be true.

She pursed her lips, wondering if she should go into detail. "It usually results in her dancing around the room in her underwear, singing American Muggle rock music."

Sirius barked a laugh and James practically giggled with glee. If word got back to Lily that she had told James that, Hermione would probably lose an eye.

"Blue Oyster Cult?" asked Alphard, surprising Hermione with his knowledge of Muggle rock bands.

"Aerosmith. Sweet Emotion," she elaborated, and Alphard chuckled into his drink.

A loud chime rang over the guests voices, signalling dinner. With Sirius to her left and Uncle Alphard to her right, she wasn't the least bit nervous. Dorea and Charlus sat down with them at the large round table, and Hermione vaguely wondered who else they considered close enough to sit at the 'family' table. Her question was answered a few moments later.

"Hey," said a familiar voice, and Hermione looked up with a smile. Remus was standing by the table, wearing brown and black dress robes in fairly good condition.

"I didn't hear Jiffy call your name, dear," said Dorea affectionately as Remus kissed her cheek in greeting.

"I asked him not to. It's no fun if you don't have a date," he grinned, shaking Charlus and Alphard's hands. It was obvious he had met them before. "Wow, Hermione. You look beautiful," said Remus, vehemently, and Hermione kissed his cheek when he bent down to hug her.

"You're looking debonair this evening as well, Master Lupin," she teased, and he blushed and ran a hand through his slicked hair.

"Hands off my girl, mate," joked Sirius, and Remus took his hand off of Hermione's shoulder to shake Sirius' hand. They made a few odd movements with their fingers and ended the shake by punching their hands together, and Hermione had to bite her cheek to keep herself from laughing when Remus and James did the exact same thing. It was probably some kind of secret Marauder handshake.

"Where's Pete?" asked Remus, sitting down next to James.

"He decided to go on vacation with his mum after all," explained James, who grabbed a glass of mead off of an elf who was walking around serving them, and placed it in front of Remus. "How's your dad?"

Remus made a 'so-so' gesture with his hand and gratefully took a long drink. Hermione frowned, but she didn't want to put a damper on the party by asking him to explain, so she remained quiet.

"Nymphadora, please stop," a woman exclaimed tiredly, and Hermione whipped her head around. For the slightest moment, her stomach dropped, because she could have sworn it was Bellatrix Lestrange standing right behind her. However, Hermione thankfully noticed that the hair on the woman was brown instead of black, and she had wider, kinder eyes. This woman looked nothing like the Andromeda that Hermione had previously known. But, then again, she hadn't spent more than five minutes with Andromeda until after the deaths of her husband and daughter, so the emotional pain had definitely taken its toll on her features in Hermione's past life. Andromeda was beautiful, though, there was no denying it. It was safe to say that everyone from the House of Black was breathtaking. Even Alphard was handsome with his salt and pepper hair. It was surprising that he wasn't married.

Hermione was surprised that Andromeda was there at all, considering that Sirius had said he hadn't seen her since she had been disowned. The Sirius of her past life hadn't seen Andromeda at all once she had been blasted off the family tree until after his escape from Azkaban. But there she stood, in robes of a green so deep it was almost black. Holding her hand was a young Nymphadora, who was probably no older than five, wearing pink dress robes and matching, shoulder-length hair.

"But I look silly, Mummy," whinged Nymphadora, who was missing a few teeth.

"Andromeda!" greeted Sirius, standing up to give her a bear-hug. His cousin laughed and returned it just as enthusiastically. "You must be Nymphadora," Sirius addressed the little girl once he had parted from Andromeda's embrace.

The pink-haired girl scrunched her nose when she heard her name, but confirmed his inquiry with an almost inaudible yes. Hermione's heart practically melted when he knelt down on one knee, so the little girl wasn't intimidated by his exceptional height.

"I'm your cousin, Sirius," he explained, and Nymphadora smiled shyly.

"Hi, Sirius," she replied, tilting her head and swishing her dress back and forth, no longer intimidated by him. In fact, she looked quite taken with him, and Hermione really couldn't blame her. Every time Hermione looked at him she couldn't help but compare him to some kind of medieval prince.

"Those are beautiful robes," Sirius informed her as he stood back up.

Nymphadora, however, clearly disagreed. "They make me look stupid," she argued, and Andromeda let out a huff, clearly having heard it the entire way there.

"That's not true! You're the prettiest little girl in the room," Remus piped in from his seat, giving Nymphadora a warm smile.

"He's right," agreed James, and Sirius nodded along.

But the little Nymphadora Tonks had eyes only for Remus, and Hermione noticed the girl's hair had morphed into a deep, metallic red. Hermione couldn't hide her knowing smile.

When Sirius offered Hermione his hand, she took it and stood up next to him, smiling almost as shyly as Nymphadora had a few minutes ago.

"Hermione, this is my cousin, Andromeda. Andy, this is Hermione," Sirius told his cousin, and Andromeda looked her up and down in quite an intimidating manner, considering she looked uncannily like her deranged sister. The woman's kind eyes widened slightly when she spotted the ring on Hermione's finger, much to the younger witch's dismay.

"This is the one?" asked Andromeda, glancing over at Sirius.

"This is the one," confirmed Sirius, and Hermione absentmindedly fiddled with said ring, wondering what they were talking about. He must have mentioned her previously if they were talking about all this 'the one' business.

"It's very nice to meet you," said Hermione, holding her arm out to shake her hand.

She was taken by surprise when Andromeda hugged her instead, but managed to pull enough sense together to return the gesture. "I've watched him grow up," Andromeda whispered in her ear, so only Hermione could hear. "He's as sweet as a puppy dog," she told her, and Hermione wondered what she was getting at. "And twice as vulnerable."

Sirius' cousin gave Hermione a pointed look that said it all, and the message was hurt him and die. But, still, Hermione had to admire the woman for being honest with her, and when Hermione glanced over at Sirius and saw the way he was watching her so fondly, she knew Andromeda was right. Sirius was just like a puppy, and his animagus form suited him in more than one way. All he really wanted was a little affection. When Hermione was mad at him and scolded him, he didn't talk to her or look at her because she told him not to. But as soon as she called him back, he was right there, eager for her attention. It was his mother's fault he had been so neglected, and it made Hermione's insides boil with anger.

When Andromeda greeted Alphard and began introducing herself and her daughter to those that didn't know them, Hermione took advantage of everyone's distraction to slide her arms around Sirius' waist.

He looked down at her curiously, but he wrapped his arms around her too. "What's this for?" he asked.

She shrugged nonchalantly. "I just like it here," she replied.

Hermione watched his brow furrow as he processed what she said, and she could see the recognition in his face when he realized she meant she liked being in his arms. His face softened and his lips parted as if he were going to say something, but in the end he just bent his head down to rest his forehead against hers.

"Ahh, young love," a familiar voice spoke quietly. "The poetry of the senses."

She and Sirius both turned their heads to look over at the man, and her eyes widened when she saw Albus Dumbledore rocking back and forth on the heels of his feet like a child, smiling at them warmly. His white beard was long enough to tuck into his belt and his silky robes were a brilliant purple. He and Charlus had been close, she knew, but she was surprised to see him away from Hogwarts. Well, actually, the more she thought about it, the less surprised she was. He had always dropped by Grimmauld for the holidays and had left the school and frequented Hogsmeade many nights. Before either of them could reply, he was already over by the table, saying his hellos before he sat down. He was fast for his age.

"Come sit," called Dorea, giving them a knowing smile, and Hermione and Sirius complied- with Sirius humming a tune that sounded very much like Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Hermione knew it didn't go unnoticed to the Potter matriarch that Sirius subtly moved his chair closer to Hermione's, but the older woman just gave him an adoring look that he was none the wiser to.

After a glance around the room, Hermione realised everyone but those at her table was already eating, and she glanced over at Charlus, who was looking down at his plate.

"Pork chops," he said to it, and just like at the Yule Ball, a plate of pork chops, potatoes, and mixed vegetables appeared before him. At least she knew now where Albus had gotten the idea. Hermione, however, was a bit perplexed because there was no menu to choose from. No one else seemed to worry about that fact as they all told their plates what they wanted.

"Steak," she heard Sirius say, and she looked over in time to see his dinner appear. He caught her eyes, noting her confusion, and leaned over to whisper to her. "Just tell it whatever you want."

"Grilled chicken," she said, cautiously, and it appeared a moment later. She vaguely wondered what would have happened if she had ordered something like escargot. She would never do that, of course -- she had had a pet snail named Speedy when she was a child in her past life -- but it would have been interesting to see if they had that prepared ahead of time, too.

It was a surreal moment to be sitting there, having dinner with all of these people. Some of the faces she had never even known, and the ones she did were so much younger than she remembered. The elder Potters treated her like she was already part of the family, and surprisingly had little or no questions to ask her about her private life. Hermione had a strong suspicion that they had either asked around about her, or Sirius had already told them all they needed to know. Andromeda, however, asked enough questions for the entire table, from the neighbourhood Hermione grew up in to where the younger witch had bought her dress robes. She didn't do it to put her on the spot, she just seemed genuinely curious and eager to get to know her. Hermione learned that Sirius had stopped off last night in Hogsmeade on his way home and had run into Andromeda and invited her, which explained why she was there. One particular question of Andromeda's really peaked Hermione's interest: "Did he tell you about the fairytales?" But before Hermione could comment, Sirius had changed the subject, looking a little pink in the face.

It was impossible not to be comfortable at the 'family table', since it truly felt like one. There was a lot of good-natured teasing -- especially in Remus' direction, since the young Nymphadora sitting next to him kept glancing up at him, which would cause her to unwittingly morph her hair into a scarlet colour. Hermione had even held up a forkful of chicken for Sirius to try, and after James watched her feed it to him, he whinged because he wanted to try it too. Somehow, everyone ended up putting small portions of their own meal on everyone else's plates, so by the time dinner was done, all ten people sitting at the family table had tried a bit of whatever the other nine sitting around them were having. The same thing occurred at dessert, and Hermione didn't even blink when Albus Dumbledore leaned over and stole one of her custard filled cream puffs.

When the plates were cleared, Hermione sat back in her seat and leaned her head on Sirius' shoulder, since his chair had somehow ended up touching hers at one point during dessert. She had that content, sleepy feeling one gets after enjoying a big meal.

A few minutes later, the floating candles dimmed dramatically and the ice surrounding them sparkled in the faint light. Everyone began standing, so Hermione followed suite. Once everyone had risen, the tables and chairs disappeared with a pop, only to reappear on far side of the room, lined up against the wall so they were out of everyone's way. A huge block of ice arose from the floor and created a stage near the bar, and Hermione watched with fascination as a few men carrying odd instruments climbed atop it. The Squib she had met earlier went up there, too -- Francis, she recalled.

"Come on, James, Sirius," said Charlus, taking Dorea by the hand and leading her to the middle of the floor. The guests had stepped back, giving them a generous amount of room.

Hermione furrowed her brow, but Sirius took her hand and led her into the clearing too. It wasn't until he put his hand on her waist and held her hand up that she figured out they were about to dance. James was near them as well, holding a confused Andromeda.

"The Potters always have the first dance," whispered Sirius, and Hermione stared up at him with a nervous smile. Her heart was warmed, knowing that they truly accepted Sirius as family, but she was still a little apprehensive that she was going to trip and fall.

But Sirius held her a little closer than necessary, which she was comforted by, and his firm grip on her ensured that if she did indeed trip, he would probably stop her momentum before anyone even noticed she had messed up. The winter wonderland they were surrounded by only enhanced the fairy tale aspect of the night, and the very ice beneath their feet seemed to glow softly in the faint light. It made the silver in her dress sparkle, and Sirius' eyes were such a clear, fathomless grey they were almost otherworldly.

A nod from Charlus struck up the band, and to Hermione's surprise, Francis began singing a familiar Muggle song called Witchcraft. His voice was enchanting- almost hypnotising- and when Sirius began elegantly twirling them in a Viennese Waltz, she was quite sure that no matter what happened, she would never forget this night for as long as she lived.

The other guests soon joined them on the dance floor, but Hermione was still lost in her own little world while Sirius lead them around so fluidly.

"What's on your mind, beautiful?" asked Sirius, looking down at her with an intensity that made her stomach flutter.

His shaggy black hair was falling over his eyes so elegantly, and he was so insolently handsome that Hermione was left stunned. She was caught up in the moment -- her past and their future didn't matter, it was just them, right there, right then. He made her forget her worries, and she vaguely realized that she had never felt that feeling before, neither in her past nor present life.

"I think I'm besotted," she admitted, finally. Their dance slowed and ended a few seconds later when the music began to change, and Hermione almost squeaked with surprise when Sirius slid his arms around her waist and tugged her against him.

"Well, it's about bloody time you finally fell for my charm," he said with a haughty smirk, but his eyes were soft.

"Mm, I love it when you sweet-talk," teased Hermione, and she wrapped her arms around his neck when he leaned down to kiss her.

"May we cut in?" a voice interrupted them a few moments later, and when they broke the kiss, Hermione giggled and took James' hand while Sirius grinned and swept Andromeda up for a dance.

The music was fast paced, and Hermione could barely stop laughing when James led her around the room, marching to the beat of his own drum with a very dramatic tango.

"He spent twenty minutes slicking his hair back to perfection," informed James, prowling her around the floor. "And then when I reminded him you liked it shaggy he mussed it up."

Hermione bit her lip and glanced over at Sirius, who was laughing while he danced with Andromeda and saying something she couldn't make out.

"Lily slept with your letter under her pillow," Hermione told him, since he had shared a secret about the object of her affection.

He looked so much like Harry, especially when he was smiling so goofily. "Sirius still uses the quill you lent him in fourth year."

Hermione was sure she was smiling just as stupidly as James. "Lily still has the everlasting lilies you gave her last year. She keeps them in a vase on her writing desk."

James twirled her around, and his hazel eyes flickered over to Sirius. He almost looked surprised that he was about to tell her whatever it was he was going to say. "Every time you had a date with someone in Hogsmeade..." he began, but cut himself off. "You can't ever tell him I told you this!" he said, vehemently.

"I swear I won't," vowed Hermione, staring at him confusedly.

"Every time you had a date with someone in Hogsmeade..." he continued, lowering his voice so much that she almost couldn't hear him, and she was only a few inches away. "Sirius would spike their pumpkin juice with potions... Babbling Brews, Laughing Liquids, Sweating Serums..."

Hermione's jaw dropped.

Well, that explained why they all either babbled, laughed inappropriately, or sweat like they were sitting in an oven. Hermione had never even fathomed that it could have been sabotage. She never really took into consideration just how much mischief the Marauders got up to. In fact, she had always assumed the rumours were outrageous and the boys were fairly innocent. How wrong she was.

It was difficult trying to be mad at him for it, because when she looked over at him, he caught her eye and smiled. She found that she just couldn't hold it against him.

The dramatic tango she and James were performing (well, James was performing, Hermione was just basically being tossed around) actually had a few spectators, much to her embarrassment, but she had to admit that the man could dance. He must have had ballroom classes when he was younger as well.

"Alright, give me my girl back," she heard a voice belonging to Sirius say when the song changed. "I don't like it when you two are alone together for too long, I never know what you're saying about me." James smirked but said nothing, further confirming to Sirius that they had probably been talking about something embarrassing.

A song she recognized as Something's Gotta Give came on, and the fast-paced beat worried her, especially when she saw the mischief in Sirius' eyes.

"Ready for the quickstep?" he asked, though he didn't wait for an answer. Instead he just pulled her into position while she squeaked a protest.

"No, Sirius, please!" she hissed, as memories of her bumping into tables with him came back to haunt her. He had taught her the steps in Gryffindor tower, but they had been alone then, or with James and Lily. There was too many people around her now, and she was (shamefully) worried that they would point and laugh.

"Relax," soothed Sirius, putting her hand on his shoulder. "It's just you and me in the common room."

The nervous jitters quieted and when Sirius guided her through the first fast steps across the floor, she did indeed pretend it was just them. She trusted that he wouldn't steer her wrong and that he would catch her if she stumbled. By the time they got to her favourite part, which was the sliding step, she was giggling. The dance went smoothly once she was relaxed, and she even thought she heard Uncle Alphard wolf whistling when they passed towards the end of the song.

"May I cut in?" someone said as the music changed, and Hermione raised a bewildered brow when she turned around to see Albus Dumbledore standing there. Sirius obliged with a bow of his head, and he passed her over with a wink in her direction, leaving Hermione no choice but to take Albus' hand.

"I thought I would never live to see the day that you said yes to the poor boy," chuckled Dumbledore as he spun them around, and Hermione smiled as she looked over at the 'boy' in question. Sirius was already dancing with Dorea, and the elder witch was laughing uproariously as something he had said.

"One can only resist him for so long, I think," she told the Headmaster, thoughtfully. An idea struck her, and she looked up at Albus' blue eyes, which were sparkling with so much life it almost looked like they were twinkling. "May I ask you a question, sir? But you have to answer it honestly."

"Hmm..." he pondered, glancing up at the fathomless ceiling. "I will answer your question honestly if it is within my limitations to do so... If I may ask you a question afterwards that you must answer honestly."

Hermione blinked. She certainly hadn't been expecting that. The question must have been important for him to slip in such devious terms. If the question he asked was too dangerous, she would just have to stretch the truth.

"Alright," she agreed, and he nodded for her to ask her question. She took her hand off of his shoulder and flashed him a glimpse of Sirius' ring. "What does this ring mean? No one will tell me."

"Ah," hummed Dumbledore. "I thought that's what you were going to ask. What did Mister Black say it meant?"

"He said..." Hermione blushed, but continued. "He said it meant I was his and he was mine."

"Indeed," agreed Albus, but when he saw her glare at him, he had a small smile on his face. "It means... he is your suitor. It means he will court you, and only you, until you either accept his hand in marriage... Or until you decide you no longer wish to wear it." Hermione knew her eyes must have been as wide as an owl's. "In the simplest terms... It means he has eyes for no other but you. Think of it as a promise ring."

"Oh," murmured Hermione, following Dumbledore's lead in a daze. "Well if he takes it back, he can still give it to someone else, right?"

Albus raised his white eyebrows. "A gentleman does not go back on his promise."

Panic was beginning to bubble inside Hermione. What was wrong with Sirius? She didn't know if she wanted to laugh or cry. "But what if he decides he doesn't want me one day?"

"Miss Evans," addressed Dumbledore in a calming tone. "Family Crest rings are not given away lightly. I am sure Mister Black knew what he was doing when he put it on you."

Hermione shook her head, trying to calm her racing heart. "No, he didn't. He didn't think about it at all, he just put it on me when I said I would be his girlfriend." It should have been awkward, talking to the Headmaster of Hogwarts and one of the most powerful wizards in history about her awkward love-life, but it wasn't.

"I believe he thought about it more than you give him credit for," he informed her, gently, and she tried to decipher what exactly that meant. "The fact that he had no hesitations to give it to you should tell you just how much he cares for you."

Hermione said nothing more as she tried to calm the anxiety she was feeling. She almost forgot she promised to answer Dumbledore's question until he broke her concentration. "Why do you hold yourself back?"

"I beg your pardon?" asked Hermione, distractedly.

"You are capable of such great heights, but you repeatedly refuse to spread your wings and jump," he said, looking down at her with piercing eyes. "The professors say you never even raise your hand in class, yet your O.W.L. scores prove just how advanced you are. Why do you hold yourself back in the classroom?"

He wasn't performing Legilimency, thankfully, so he was obviously genuinely curious as opposed to suspicious. "I never liked the spotlight," she answered as honestly as she could. "I prefer to observe."

Dumbledore seemed satisfied with the answer, and when the song ended, he bowed his head and thanked her for the dance. The lights were still dim, and Hermione could see no one in sight that she actually knew. She was still a little dazed, and she kept absentmindedly twirling Sirius' ring around her finger with her thumb. There were a lot of emotions running rampant inside of her, from giddiness to guilt and pride to weariness. It was times like these that made her angry with Harry for putting her here, and made her angry with herself for preferring it here.

Her feet carried her through the crowd, over into a little nook near the bar where no one could really see her. The low lighting cast dark shadows where she was and she felt more comfortable there, watching everyone dance so gracefully on the ice. Francis the Squib was singing another Muggle song that was introduced as Reaching for the Moon, and Hermione sat down on a big block of everlasting ice to rest her tired feet. Her whole body felt exhausted. The morning had been spent helping Lily decorate the house, and her evening had been filled with dancing. And, on top of it all, she was feeling emotionally drained as well. When she spotted Sirius talking with Aurora Sinistra, she felt even worse. She was jealous, she couldn't deny, but she was also self-depreciating. He would probably be better off with the chit, or anyone else for that matter. Not only was Hermione jaded, but she had a fair share of secrets she could never tell him. Part of her wanted to slip away from the party and just go home, but she couldn't do that to Sirius.

"Hey," greeted a voice she recognized as Remus, and Hermione gave him a small smile when he sat down next to her. The song was still playing, and when she cleared her mind and just let the words and tone go through her, it had quite a soothing effect on her.

"Why aren't you dancing with all the pretty girls?" asked Hermione, leaning her back on the wall behind her.

Remus shrugged and shook his head. "I'm not interested in any of those girls," he said, and Hermione didn't miss the look he gave her when he glanced over at her.

"One day you'll meet a woman who will turn your world upside down," Hermione told him, rubbing his back comfortingly. "She'll love you completely and unconditionally. I promise you."

His amber eyes almost looked like they were illuminated in the dark corner, one of the very few characteristics that gave a werewolf away. "You say it like you know," he commented with a furrowed brow.

"Maybe I do," said Hermione, vaguely, and Remus continued to stare at her curiously. "Maybe I saw it written in the stars," she added in a dramatic Romanian gypsy voice, gesturing wildly, and he laughed.

She couldn't keep herself from looking over at Sirius, who had just said something that made Aurora laugh and rest her hand on his chest. Hermione had a strong urge to tackle the bint Muggle-style and start smacking her senseless, but refrained. A warm feeling travelled through her when she saw Sirius politely remove Aurora's hand and step away from her.

"He won't hurt you," said Remus, quietly, and Hermione turned her attention back to the man next to her. "You don't have to worry about him," he elaborated. He must have seen the look on Hermione's face when she was staring over at Sirius and Aurora. "I'm not going to lie to you, he's always up to no good," he told her with a fond grin, and although he thought she wouldn't understand the pun, she did, but she didn't let him know. "But it's just good-natured mischief. His heart's in the right place, and... and he really cares about you, Hermione. A lot. I don't know if you realize how loyal he is, but I can honestly say -- with no doubt in my mind -- that he will never cheat on you, and he will never hurt you intentionally."

Hermione was a little stunned by the time Remus was through. It was almost scary how perceptive he was. One of her main fears concerning Sirius was that he would break her heart, and now she felt bad for ever thinking he would.

"Thank you, Remus," said Hermione, hoping that her eyes conveyed how much it meant to her, since her mouth couldn't seem to form the words. She knew he understood by his knowing smile, and she couldn't help but marvel at how deep the bond ran between the Marauders. Well, all the Marauders in attendance at the soiree, at least.

"There you are! I've been looking all over for you." Hermione looked up to smile at the owner of the voice. "Is everything alright?" added Sirius, gazing down at her worriedly.

"Yes," assured Hermione, even though she still felt tired. She took his outstretched hand and stood. "Do you think we can go someplace a little more quiet?"

"Of course," agreed Sirius, and she watched as he ran a hand through his hair while he glanced over at the staircase. She could practically see the wheels turning in his head. Everyone would see them leaving since the grand staircase was the only way out, and he probably didn't want anyone thinking they were sneaking off to do something untoward. "I'll be right back," he told her, and nodded his head for Remus to follow him.

Hermione watched perplexed as Sirius and Remus made their way over to James- both walking with a Marauder swagger that only those boys could pull off, she noted with amusement. She could see Sirius talking to James and Remus in hushed tones while gesturing over to her and the staircase. A few moments later, James and Remus nodded before they disappeared into the crowd, and Hermione felt a small sense of worry when Sirius walked back over to her with a Marauder gleam in his eyes.

"What have you done?" she asked without hesitation, since she knew he was up to something.

Sirius widened his eyes innocently. "I haven't done anything... We just planned a distraction so you and I could slip away."

Not even a minute later, she watched as James and Remus climbed up on the stage of ice, and the band stopped abruptly. The crowd was murmuring and whispering, and Hermione was sure she heard Dorea squeak over the crowd.

"So sorry to interrupt," called James over the crowd, and they all hushed as they watched him. He said something to Francis, and the old man smiled and nodded before he fed quiet instructions to the band. "For those of you who don't know, I'm James Potter, and this here is one of my best mates, Remus Lupin," he introduced, wrapping an arm around Remus' shoulder. Hermione was surprised that Remus didn't even so much as blush- but then again, he was a Marauder for a reason, so he must like a little attention once in a while. "Ever since I was a young lad, sometimes the mood to sing would strike me unexpectedly and I would just have to do it. It usually happens in the shower, so you all should thank your lucky stars because you'll be the few blessed enough to be a part of such a life-altering experience. Hit it, Frank!"

Hermione stared in fascinated horror as Francis motioned towards the band, who struck up an old Muggle tune, and James and Remus began to sing together -- quite dramatically (and very badly) -- to Danke Schoen. They even had a sway to their hips when they snapped their fingers along to the beat. All of the guests were just as stunned and unable to move, some laughing too hard and some too confused.

She felt Sirius grab her hand and he led her to the staircase while everyone's back was to them. As they walked up the grand staircase, Hermione glanced over her shoulder when James and Remus belted a loud note about 'hearts carved on a tree,' and she finally appreciated just how far the men would go to help out their brother Marauders. The giant doors creaked open quietly for them, and once they were back in the hall, they closed silently, blocking out the bad singing.

"They won't miss you?" asked Hermione, curiously, and her voice echoed through the empty, grand corridor. Sirius was already leading her through it to another staircase.

"Nah, James' mum had a few sips of his dad's firewhisky. She won't notice much tonight," he told her with a grin, and she giggled.

Her hand grasped his the entire way up three flights of stairs, across a carpeted hallway, and up yet another eighteen steps. They finally reached a landing in what seemed to be its own wing of the house. There was a long corridor with walls painted a soft gold and an expensive Persian rug lining the floor. Lanterns hung on the walls, lighting the path, and she noticed there was a dark oak door on either side. Sirius led her to the one on the left.

"Where are we?" she whispered. There was no need to whisper since this wing was obviously completely empty, but she didn't feel like disturbing the quiet of the corridor more than necessary.

Sirius grinned and pulled his wand out from the inside of his lapel, holding the tip of it to the doorknob. "I solemnly swear that I have permission to enter," he said, and the doorknob clicked and the door swung open on its own. "I saw your room, it's only fair you get to see mine," he added.

When they stepped inside the dark room, candles lining the walls sprung to life, but the room was still only meagerly lit. Sirius raised his wand to light some more, but she stopped him with a shake of her head. "Leave it," she said with a shrug, and he raised a brow but acquiesced.

Hermione looked around his room as unabashedly as he had looked at hers the night before. His room was probably as big as hers and Lily's, and they had an attic which covered the entire span of their house. She could only imagine how big the master bedroom was at Potter Manor. There were, surprisingly, very few posters on his wall, and the ones that were up were only of wizarding and Muggle bands. She had had expected the walls to be covered in pictures of half-naked Muggle biker women, but she supposed he had only done that at Grimmauld in her past life to anger his mother. There was a writing desk on the far side of the room, and she could see open books and papers scattered messily on it. There was a door on the far left that she assumed led to a bathroom. In her peripheral vision she could see Sirius trying to be incognito while he hastily picked up clothes he had left lying on the floor. She didn't have the heart to tell him that she had already seen the boxers and t-shirts when she first walked in. He had a large, dark wood dresser with a mirror attached to it. She could see the evidence of the time he had spent on his hair before he mussed it up- an open bottle of hair mousse and a brush and comb.

She saw Sirius in the large mirror, pulling off his thigh-length, high-collared coat, revealing a tight black t-shirt beneath. She hid her smile when she saw him look over at her curiously.

There was a few bottles of cologne on the dresser as well, and Hermione picked each one up to give it an experimental sniff while Sirius watched with amusement. When she found the one she loved on him, she cradled it to her chest.

"This one's my favourite on you," she informed him with a sly smile.

"Is that so?" he murmured, and Hermione's jaw dropped when he swept an arm across the dresser, effectively pushing the other bottles off of the edge. They fell into a rubbish bin beside the dresser that she hadn't noticed before.

Her mouth was still opened slightly when she looked back at him. "Are you mental?"

"It has been suggested," he informed her with a devilish smile, which she found endearing. She put her favourite cologne back on the dresser and continued her walk around the perimeter of the room. When she reached the writing desk, she peeked at the papers and saw it was the holiday homework they had been assigned. Near the desk, there was a giant bronze cage that was nearly as big as Hermione, and Nyx hooted softly and nipped her finger affectionately when she reached her hand through the wide space between the bars.

A gleam in the low candlelight caught her eye and she moved further around the room to a large, built-in bookshelf, much like the one she had at home, except it was twice the size as hers. Wizarding and Muggle literature littered the shelves. It surprised her to know that he read so much, although it really shouldn't have. The Sirius of her past life spent a lot of time with a nose in a book, but Hermione had assumed it was just because he was trying to escape to a world of pretend, since he couldn't escape anywhere else. She had never assumed he had actually liked to read. Hermione glanced over at Sirius, who was watching her quietly, and scolded herself for stereotyping him so much. She had built up this image of a lady-charming, motorbike-riding, arrogant, reckless man... And he really wasn't. She had wasted so much time by refusing to get to know him.

There was another big, built-in bookshelf on the next wall, except it held no books. Instead there were knick-knacks and odd little gadgets. A wizarding radio was on one shelf, and next to it was a phonograph. There was also an entire shelf dedicated to records, with both Muggle and wizard music. But the shelf that fascinated her the most was one filled with nothing but framed, moving pictures. They were pictures of Sirius, both younger and older, with people like Uncle Alphard, the Marauders, Mr. and Mrs. Potter and even one of him with Regulus, but it was all the way in the back and practically hidden from view. There was a fairly new picture of him and James, standing back to back with their arms crossed over their chests. Every time they turned around to look at one another, they'd laugh, and Remus would randomly pop his head up right in front of the camera and cross his eyes. She could see Peter's pudgy finger in the corner, too, so he must have taken the picture.

Hermione was distracted, but she was aware enough to notice Sirius discreetly remove a picture frame from the shelf, and she turned around to face him.

"What was that?" she asked, with he jadeite eyes narrowed suspiciously.

"Nothing," replied Sirius with an easy shrug. She would have believed him if she hadn't known him.

"Is it an embarrassing picture? Is it a nude baby-Sirius sitting in a bathtub?" inquired Hermione with a delighted grin.

"Yeah," he confirmed, but she noticed his grey eyes shift uneasily and knew he was hiding something.

"Let me see," she insisted, reaching around him to grab the frame.

"No, Hermione," he denied, spinning around so she couldn't get at it. "It's embarrassing."

"I won't laugh at you," argued Hermione, still trying to get at it. "Besides, why would you frame it if it was such an embarrassing picture? Pleeease let me see?"

He was quick, but she was smaller and able to manoeuvre around him faster than he could get out of the way, and he was so surprised he didn't even have time to grip the frame tighter. Hermione squeaked with glee when she yanked it away from him, but she soon turned wide-eyed when she saw the picture.

It wasn't a picture of a nude baby-Sirius like she had been expecting. It was a picture of her. It was recent, too. She was in her baggy plaid pyjamas, sitting in a squishy armchair in the common room with her legs tucked beneath her. There was nothing dazzling about her; she had bed-hair and she looked sleepy. Every once in a while, she would look over in the direction of the camera and laugh at something Alice had said. She looked utterly unremarkable, and she couldn't imagine why in Merlin's name he would ever frame a picture of her looking so... frumpish.

"James took it," Sirius defended himself unnecessarily, and she finally looked up at him.

"Why did James take a picture of me?"

"Well, he was going for Lily," he told her, pointing to a hand that kept swinging in and out of the frame, which she recognized as her sister's. "But she moved out of the way just as he snapped it."

"But why did you frame it?" she asked, handing it over to him so he could put it back on the shelf.

He shrugged as he placed it carefully in its correct spot, which she noticed was right at the front. "I liked it," was his simple answer.

Her eyes slid over his taught back covered in black cotton, and (shamefully) even further down to his bum, which looked adorable in his black tailored pants. Her attention snapped back to his face when he turned around, but judging by his amused grin, he had noticed what she had been staring at.

She busied herself by looking around the room, and when she took a second glance over at his bed, her brows raised. It was huge. The four-poster dark-oak bed had to have been magically expanded, because she had never seen a bed made that big. The sheets and quilt were black and the pillows looked fluffy. Hermione headed over to it without invitation, much like he had done the previous night, and sat down. She, however, made herself much more relaxed by kicking off her uncomfortable high heels and climbing into the middle of the enormous mattress.

It felt just as heavenly as it looked, and she hid her smile against a pillow when Sirius sat on the edge of the bed to take off his shoes as well.

"In bed with me after the first twenty-four hours," he grinned as he crawled over to lay down next to her. They were both on their sides, facing each other, but Sirius made no move to touch her or make her uncomfortable with their proximity in any way. "And I was under the impression you were a good girl."

"Looks can be deceiving," replied Hermione, flirtatiously.

Sirius' eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw her pulling up the silver material of her dress, but she stopped before he could see anything personal. She was just trying to relieve her thigh of the uncomfortable wand holster, but she ended up wrestling with the tiny buckles.

"Let me," he said, and although she had a feeling he just wanted to touch her leg, she gave a nod of approval.

His hands were softer than she thought they would be, and she noticed they looked slightly tanned compared to her alabaster skin. His brows were narrowed while he concentrated on getting the tiny buckles undone, and it gave her an opportunity to examine his handsome features. His grey eyes looked dark in the dim light, and they were looking downwards, lined by long black lashes. His soft lips were forming a little smirk while he worked, but she didn't comment on it. When she finally felt the irritation of the holster on her bare thigh slip away, Sirius grinned triumphantly and put her wand and its leather bindings on the nightstand beside him.

"Thank you," she murmured, sleepily, correcting her dress robes.

"You should let your hair down," he commented lightly, but she raised her hands to her hair defensively.

"Why? Does it look bad?" she asked, ready to clobber him if he had let her walk around the party with messed up hair.

"No, I love it," he said hastily, but his words were genuine. "I just love it more when it's down."

Hermione bit back her smile and sat up, pulling the uncomfortable clips out of her hair. When her hair finally fell free around her face, she handed him the clips to put next to her wand. She laid back down next to him and let her eyes flutter closed when he ran a hand over her smooth hair.

"What was Andromeda talking about when she asked if you told me about the fairytales?" she inquired, opening her eyes slightly to gauge his reaction.

He looked uncomfortable, and his hand stopped stroking her hair. "It's stupid."

"Sirius," she pouted, scooting a little closer to him so she could entwine her legs with his. It was a persuasive tactic as well as for her own enjoyment. The soft silver fabric of her robes had ridden up slightly, and she could feel his defined legs against hers through the thin material of his pants. "Tell me."

His eyes darted downward for a moment, but she knew her persuasion had worked when he rubbed his calf against hers. "When I was little," he began, taking a moment to clear his throat, though she had a feeling he was trying his best not to blush from embarrassment. "I used to make up these stories and tell them to Andromeda and Uncle Alphard. They were always focused around one central character..."

She smiled fondly when he looked at her and nodded her head, encouraging him to continue. He closed his eyes, looking quite mortified he was admitting this to her. "And his name was Prince Sirius."

Hermione bit down hard on the side of her cheek, but she ended up giggling anyway. Surprisingly, he didn't get angry. In fact, it had quite the opposite effect on him. He opened his eyes and smiled while he watched her laugh.

"Prince Sirius would always slay the dragon, Walburga, in the end," he added, grinning wider when she laughed harder.

"Tell me one," she pleaded, but he laughed and shook his head.

"I haven't told one of those in over a decade, and I really don't want to embarrass myself in front of you any more than necessary."

She pursed her lips but didn't force him. Instead, her attention was drawn to the ring on her finger, gleaming in the low lighting. Hermione drew her hand up to her chest to examine it, noting that Sirius was watching her.

"Professor Dumbledore told me about the ring," she informed him, quietly. When she raised her bright green eyes to look at him, she noticed his brows were slightly raised with acceptance, since he had obviously assumed someone would tell her.

"And?" asked Sirius, wrapping an arm around her to pull her closer to him.

"And... what were you thinking, Sirius? We're young! And you hardly know anything about me," scolded Hermione, though there was no anger in her words, only genuine confusion. The last part was a bit of a stretch. They had been very good friends since October, so he knew quite a bit about her. But, still, her guilty conscience focused on what he didn't know- on what no one knew.

Sirius' brows narrowed and, for a moment, it looked like he was slightly hurt by what she had said.

"I know that your favourite colour is silver," he said, finally, after a few moments of silence, stroking a finger over the silky material of her corset, "but you very rarely get to wear it. I know that you love Quidditch even though you hate flying. I know that you hate being the centre of attention and would much rather stand back and watch others have the glory. I know that you despise mayonnaise and sometimes gag just from the smell of it." Hermione cracked a small smile, and raised her brows, surprised. "I know that you always wear cherry-almond lotion and your hair always smells sweet. I know that when you look up into the sun, your eyes are sea green. I know that even though you pretend it doesn't, it hurts you when your sister Petunia ignores you." She bit her lip and looked down at his chest. "I know that it's not normal for a Muggle-born eleven-year-old to have mastered nonverbal magic."

Hermione's eyes darted back up to his face and she felt a knot of panic in her stomach. She knew Sirius could see the fright clearly written on her face, but all he did was stroke her cheek with the back of his hand. "I know that there's something special about you." Her heart was beating so hard she could feel it pounding in her ears. "And I know that no matter what it is or whether or not you ever tell me, I'm never going to stop caring about you."

Her eyes closed and she tried to steady her breathing. There was an overwhelming urge to tell him everything eating away at her. He said he wouldn't stop caring about her! And she knew he could keep a secret, she knew he was trustworthy!

But she wouldn't. Couldn't.

And that depressed her more than she cared to admit, because she wanted to tell him. She would feel so much better if she just told someone, shared the burden... The burden was too dangerous to share, however. It was up to her to make their futures brighter, and she couldn't risk anything tarnishing that. He honestly couldn't fathom the truth about her, and the shock of it could possibly devastate him.

Her heart felt heavy and she found she couldn't look at him. She hated these moments, when her past life would haunt her and the guilt would overwhelm her so much it would almost make her cry. There was no one there for her to talk to about what she so desperately wanted to say. And even though she was rarely ever alone, there was always a part of her that was lonely anyway.

"Once upon a time," whispered Sirius, drawing Hermione's eyes back up to lock with his, "there was a devilishly handsome prince named Sirius." Hermione felt a warmth in her chest when she realized he was making up a fairytale. "His family were all evil tyrants, but Prince Sirius hated the lot of them. They were always trying to turn him into something he never wanted to be, and they punished him for being so unlike them." Hermione felt her jaw clench, and she had an overwhelming urge to Apparate to Grimmauld just to smack Walburga Black upside the head with the troll-leg umbrella stand. "When he was just a boy, he met a young maiden who told him that it was okay to be different." Her heart skipped a beat.

"Prince Sirius believed her, and he moved away from his family, to a village called," he paused, and she watched him squint his eyes thoughtfully before he continued: "Gryffindor. He was beloved by all -- except for a few cretins from the neighbouring village, Slytherin, but that's for another story..." Hermione giggled, but hushed herself so he could go on. "The young maiden lived there too, and she went by the name of Hermione." A small smile formed on her face, and while she listened, she unwittingly moved her hand over to run her fingertips on the material covering his toned chest. "Hermione was very special to Prince Sirius, even though she didn't know it. Eventually the pair got older, but he only grew more fond of her as time went by." Her face softened, and he closed his eyes momentarily when she slid her hand up to caress his neck.

When his stormy grey eyes opened again, they roamed over her face adoringly. "He thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world." She felt a flutter in her chest, and Sirius' face turned reflective. "Sometimes, he noticed, when Hermione thought no one was looking, she'd get very sad... and Prince Sirius didn't know why." Hermione's breath hitched with an unexplained emotion. How much had he watched her from afar? Had he seen her getting lost in the haunting images of her past life? Her thoughts were interrupted when she felt his hand slide up her arm to trail the tips of his fingertips along the curve of her neck, making pleasant chills run down her back. "And when Hermione was sad, Prince Sirius got sad, too..."

There was a tightness in her chest, and she felt tears prick her eyes. His hand moved further up and his palm rested beneath her chin. Sirius ran the pad of his thumb over her bottom lip, slowly, making her lips tingle from the sensation. His eyes moved from her lips to her eyes and back again. "It made him sad to see her frown, because all he ever wanted..." His jaw clenched, and he continued to stare at her lips while he thought up the words that best conveyed whatever it was he was trying to say. "Because all he ever wanted was to see her smile all the time."

Hermione couldn't bear to hear anymore. She was so overwhelmed- she didn't even think, she just lunged forward and kissed him. She didn't care that she was crying or that she had somehow hooked her leg over his waist and was now straddling him. There was an emotion running rampant inside her, one she couldn't name because she had never felt it before, in this life or her past. Her silver dress robes were tented around his hips, and her bare, smooth legs hugged his thighs. Sirius was stunned at first, but soon his hands were moving up and down her back and he returned the kiss eagerly. Her fingers trailed through his hair, and when she accidentally shifted forward, she felt him harden beneath the thin barrier of her underwear. The friction had had a similar effect on her, and she could feel her knickers dampening. When Sirius sucked on her tongue the way he had learned quickly that she liked, her response was to rub herself against him rather wantonly. He let out a strangled groan, muffled by their kiss, and she felt him grip her hips to help her rock herself against him.

She finally understood what all the books she read were talking about when they said that passion was intoxicating. Well, she assumed this was passion- she had never felt anything like it and whatever it was, she was drunk off of it. All that mattered in the moment was how good he tasted and how her thighs hugged his hips perfectly, like he was meant to be between them.

But, still, a little voice reminded her that regardless of how much she wanted to keep rubbing herself against him, this was only their second 'date', if one even counted the night before. So she broke their kiss, but stayed still where she was, practically laying on him while she tried to catch her breath. She felt him slide one of his hands up the side of her body, and she bit her lip when he pushed her hair aside and pressed his lips to her neck. Her breath caught when she felt his warm tongue trail along a particularly sensitive spot, and she tightened her grip on his hair when she felt his teeth scrape gently against her skin.

"Sirius," she hissed, thought she wasn't sure if it was a plea for him to continue or to stop.

Sirius smiled against her neck and she felt him grip her hips a little tighter. A gasp escaped her when he took the initiative and began softly rocking her against him, but each time the bulge in his pants brushed up against her centre, her thighs would quiver. She knew that if he kept up the slow torture, she was going to end up rutting against him until she orgasmed, and the little voice in her head reminding her about propriety got louder and she was fairly certain it was shouting obscenities and warning her about the danger ahead.

"Sirius," whispered Hermione once again, but this time she moved her palms to his chest to stop him.

He complied immediately, loosening his grip on her hips, and she noticed how fast his toned chest was rising and falling beneath her hands. She had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep still. Sirius looked... astounding. She could think of no other word to describe him in that moment. He was as magisterially handsome as always, but his hair was mussed, his cheeks were flushed, his lips looked tender, and he was looking up at her through heavy lids like she was the most perfect thing he had ever laid eyes on.

"I'm sorry, Sirius-" began Hermione, but he silenced her with a shake of his head.

"If you say stop, we stop," he informed her, and his face was impassive.

She had no way of knowing if he was angry with her for halting their pleasure, but she didn't want it to go any further than it had tonight. They were moving much too fast.

"I say stop," she said, so quietly even she almost didn't hear it.

Sirius took a deep breath, and Hermione could feel his racing heart slow as he calmed himself. He rolled them over gently so Hermione was on her back, and she had butterflies in her stomach when he placed a gentle kiss to her lips.

"I've got to.. er.." he motioned towards the bathroom door and she blushed, but nodded for him to do what he had to do.

He got off of her and she found she missed his weight, but when he disappeared behind the door she sat up and grabbed her wand. A simple spell dried her knickers, and she silently berated herself for even having to perform such a spell after just a day of dating him. Things were going to be much slower from now on. That is, if he even wanted to continue seeing her. She really couldn't believe the situation she found herself in. Here she was, sitting in the enormous bed of her boyfriend of only a day, Sirius bloody Black, spelling her knickers dry while he wanked himself off in the bathroom. She would have laughed if she wasn't so distracted by her silent fear that he was going to be awkward when he came back into the room.

Hermione wasn't sure how long she was sitting there, contemplating whether or not she should just run, maybe even leave a shoe behind Cinderella-style, but she finally heard the water run in the bathroom. She laid down to try to look casual, but then decided that looked too inviting so she sat back up. But then she second-guessed herself and didn't want him thinking that she felt awkward, so when Sirius did walk out, he found her in a half-sitting, half-laying position that looked completely forced. He paused for a moment to quirk a brow, and Hermione held her breath and waited. Was he going to ask her to put her shoes back on so he could escort her downstairs? Did he want her to leave? Was he feeling awkward about what had just happened between them?

But in the middle of Hermione's mental onslaught of panicked questions, Sirius plopped down on the bed and snaked his arm around her waist to pull her tight against his chest. Her worries melted when he pressed a kiss to her lips.

"I think I need to tell you fairy tales more often," he said, cheekily, and she smiled like an idiot and smacked his arm so softly it was barely even a love tap.

Their fronts were pressed together, and it didn't go unnoticed how well they seemed to fit together. Hermione placed a gentle kiss on his lips, still a little surprised how natural this felt and how unfazed he was that he had just masturbated in the bathroom.

"I want you to know that I've never done that before, and I don't want you to think--" Once again, he cut her off.

"Shh," he soothed, and his eyes closed lazily. "It's not your fault that I'm irresistible."

Hermione shouldn't have encouraged him, but she giggled and buried her head under his chin, breathing in the intoxicating scent that was distinctly Sirius. They would have to go downstairs soon, since it was nearing midnight and they had to say their goodbyes and make it back to her house by one, but she was comfortable there in his arms. She wasn't sure how long she laid there like that, holding on to him, hearing nothing but the rhythmic beat of his heart. When she did look up at him with drooping eyes, she noticed he was sleeping and she smiled. His face was relaxed and his lips were slightly parted. She decided to let him sleep for a little while longer, since he had probably exerted himself with his... activities in the bathroom. Her eyes fluttered closed, and she decided she would just rest them for a few minutes.

She was determined not to fall asleep...

But, after only a few minutes, she did just that.

And, unbeknownst to Hermione, there would be a few very angry people to deal with in the morning.

To be continued in
Chapter VIII - Part II: Of Potions

I really have to take time out to thank all of you that are reviewing. I had a small block with this chapter, but all of the wonderful reviews really inspired me to just keep pushing myself to finish it. You have no idea just how much it means to me to hear that you guys reread the story again and again, or that it's your favorite, or that people are actually recommending it to each other -- or (and this one's my favorite compliment of all) to just hear that it made you smile. It's really heartwarming, so all of my lovely reviewers have my unyielding gratitude.

Some probably didn't pick up on this, so I'll say it here: Francis (the old, blue-eyed, American Squib that was singing) was Frank Sinatra. His real name was Francis Albert Sinatra. Yup, I made him a Squib and a friend of the Potters in my ficcy.

In case anyone was confused with the seating at the dinner table, it was (going clockwise): Hermione, Sirius, James, Remus, Nymphadora, Andromeda, Dorea, Charlus, Albus, Alphard. Yes, I actually plotted that out... Sometimes I fear how nitpicky I am.

Fun Fact: Reaching for the Moon by Frank Sinatra (the song playing when Hermione is sitting with Remus) is probably one of my favorite songs of all time. My seventy-year-old dad is a huge Sinatra fan, and I'm actually on video when I was very little, singing the song in my old living room. I was about three, I think, and there's this one line in the song that goes "I'm just the words, looking for the tune," but I'm actually on video singing "I'm just the fork, looking for the spoon!!!"

Reviews are welcomed and very, very encouraged, so let me know what you thought!