This fanfiction is my response to the lj community hermionesirius' 2008 Christmas challenge. The challenge was to adapt A Christmas Carol with the Harry Potter character. This is unusally AU, even for me. :)

Characters are the property of JKRowling. A Christmas Carol isn't mine either. No profit is being made

Only the scant and sketchy light from a television, blinking in between bright flashes of harsh grey and shadow, offered sparse illumination to the small, furniture and knickknack crowded flat of Hermione Granger. The young woman in question slept on a couch, under an afghan tucked around toes and feet that was pulled up to her chin. She was unaware that a black and white rendition of A Christmas Carol had been playing out its yearly message, encouraging its annual audience to embrace the spirit of Christmas.

A jumbled mass of flecks and specks heralded the conclusion of another broadcast day, accompanied by loud, shushing white noise, disrupting her sleep pattern and waking the young woman. As her eyes blinked open in momentary confusion over her location, her reflexively stretching arms bumped the remote control and knocked it to the floor. With a light grumble and protested whimper, she reached down and picked up the errant technology, using it to turn off the television before laying it on the coffee table and heading off to bed.

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"Hermione, wake up, love." The whispered voice was familiar, creeping into her subconscious with its sheer impossibility.

"Come on, Hermione. I'm trying to do this without all the theatrics at my disposal, but I will if you make me." A little louder and more insistent now, Hermione opened one sleepy eye in recognition of the disturbance.

"G'way, George," she mumbled, not fully conscious or she would have questioned how George Weasley came to be in her home, in her bedroom, in the middle of the night.

"That a girl, wake up now. I've got something to tell you and, uh, it's not George, its Fred."

Pushing back, elbows pointing into the mattress, she raised her head and neck to glare bleary eyed and sleep heavy at the insubstantial form of Fred Weasley. Rousing more with each irritating second that passed, her mind made note that although he was sitting fully on her bed, he didn't disturb the weight distribution of the mattress. As pranks went this was good because he was doing a fair job of impersonating a ghost. His timing however, left something to be desired, as did the subject matter.

"Not funny, George. In fact, I think it is safe to say that it will never be funny to impersonate your dead twin on Christmas Eve." She was too angry to ask why her wards, the only bit of magic she still used, hadn't kept him out.

On second thought.

"And how did you make it past my wards?"

"You're dreaming, love. And I'm here because you need me to be. I'm here to tell you to pay attention to what is coming." Fred smiled his sly, mischievous smirk, giving her a look like he was waiting for her to dispute him and call him a liar.

"Fine, George," she said, using a patronizing tone that spoke of her small regard for this prank and its believability. "What's coming?"

"Three messengers and you need to heed their warning. It's not good for you to be so alone, sweet." The last was spoken with a hint of uncharacteristic tenderness. "It's a terrible thing my brother did to you, breaking your heart the way he did, but its time to move on and see that there are options you aren't considering."

"Time's up," snapped Hermione, pulling herself up to a sitting position. She would decide what was and wasn't right for her. She understood George's motivation now, but this was the poorest and most ill conceived delivery in the history of mismanaged messages.

"Sure, I'll go," said Fred, a bit sadly. "Just mind you pay attention to what I said."

"Out!" ordered Hermione, shaken by the cruelty he had employed and the memory of how her heart had been broken.

Fred offered her a last smile before fading into the black, not floating away like some low hanging cloud or Apparating with crack. He just slipped away, like a memory that could not be recalled.

Tired and shaken, she eased back into her bed, pulling covers warmly over her small body. If she weren't exhausted sleep might not have come but that didn't save her from visiting the memories that Fred had stirred as she slept .

The night she found Ron buried within another witch in their bed was the opening act, playing out in slow motion so she could relive the emotion of each agonizing second in shattering detail. He was drunk and the witch was easy, it wasn't a difficult calculation to make.

Snippets of the months that had come after rolled through her dreaming, with Ron slowly and convincingly winning her back until that fate filled day from which there would be no return. There was something about losing him twice, about a heart that had broken and mended only to break harder and deeper, that she couldn't or wouldn't recover from.

"The dead can't come back," murmured Sirius, sympathetic to her pain as he held a hysterically sobbing Hermione in the Black library. The books scattered about them covered a range of Dark Magic, all instructing the various ways to outwit or control death.

She had raged at him that night for faking his death because if he actually had died and come back there might be some sliver of hope for her. He had swallowed her agony and accepted her abuse because he understood what it was to lose like she had lost.

She called him dreadful things and beat his chest for the loss Harry had felt, that she now felt. He made no excuse, no plea for leniency because it had been an Order mission. The Veil incident at the Ministry had been orchestrated by Dumbledore, an eleventh hour decision that was made so Sirius could leave England and rally support in other countries under an assumed name. Preparation, should the war ever spill beyond Britain's borders.

After Ron's death, no one batted an eyelash when she disappeared to Australia to retrieve her parents. Months later, after all excuses of needing more time to reunite with her parents had worn thin and she was still a scarce commodity, Harry had gone in search of his friend. Now he, Ginny and Sirius were her only links to a life she had chosen to forget.

Sirius and his frequent visits to check on her well being were among the last of her sleeping visions before she succumbed to a slumber that was past all dreaming.

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"You know, I imagine she has only seen us in pictures. We're likely to scare the poor girl to death." The deep whisper of an unfamiliar male voice interrupted her sleeping, which had grown shallow and fitful in the dark hours of the morning.

"Too important to let that worry us," spoke a warm and honeyed female voice.

Hermione's mood upon waking was frightful.

"George Weasley, you will pay a high price for your meddling," she grumbled sleepily, this time actually bothering to shift sheet and comforter so she could sit on the edge of her bed.

Blinking, Hermione got her first look at the second set of intruders, a man and woman who bore a vague familiarity.

"Harry?" she asked uncertainly.

"No, but close," he replied, with a voice that carried a smile in its tone, as he reached out with a warm and solid hand to shake hers. "James Potter at your service and this is my wife Lily."

He did look like Harry but with a stronger, squarer jaw, slightly taller and the eyes….

"This is not funny, George," said Hermione loudly, to the room at large.

"Ah, so he did deliver the message, although I think you mean Fred," said Lily kindly, her hand entwined with her husbands.

"You're dead," said Hermione bluntly. The woman in front of her wore a thick sheet of silky red hair and had eyes that were a match for her best friend's.

"Oh, yes. Quite," replied James, rather cheerfully in spite of the subject. He wound an arm around his wife's waist and gave it a playful squeeze.

"I don't believe this, that any of this is real," said Hermione, her tone severe and matter of fact, arms folded across her chest.

"Well, if none of this is real then you won't mind going for a little trip, will you?" Lily lifted a dressing gown that was draped across a chair and handed it to Hermione.

"Trip?"

"Just take our hand, pet, and we'll do all the work." Hermione had shaken James' hand earlier but now she eyed it suspiciously even as she took the robe from Lily.

"Where?" asked Hermione.

"To that which has already happened," said Lily in a falsely mysterious voice, doing a horrible Trelawney-like impersonation and then laughed at her own joke. Hermione let her jaw drop slightly, unable to believe that sharp tongued Lily Potter had such a misfit sense of humor.

James laughed with her and nuzzled his face in her hair while sharing an indulgent look with Hermione, an admission that she was right about his wife. It hardly mattered to him, he was completely smitten. "Well done there, Red."

These displays of affection were really starting to get on Hermione's nerves.

"Changing the past is against-"

"-the rules." James rolled his eyes impressively. "You can't change anything; we're only showing it to you."

Because it was only a dream and therefore of her own making, Hermione took their outstretched hands in hers and in the time it took for Lily to give her a reassuring squeeze, her location had changed.

No longer was she sitting on the edge of her bed, in her snug and cozy bedroom, but was instead standing in a long, dark hallway. Her first breath was a misery, and she coughed as a light stench of urine, feces and rotting food made her eyes water and her stomach tremble with a flutter of nausea.

There were murmurs and wails and moans, intermingled with caustic laughter and an occasional wet coughing. The corridor held a brisk chill in the heavy, salty air.

In front of her were dark, dull metal bars and to each side were heavy stone bricks, huge in size and this lined the entire corridor in front of her. Bars and bricks, bars and bricks all the way down, both in front and in back of her, emptying to either side in tall, filthy windows that let in a cheerless and unremarkable light.

"Where are we?" she whispered into her house robe that she was using to cover her nose and mouth. Her companions said nothing so she took a step closer to the bars to investigate, step by step until she could place her hands on the icy metal.

Much to her surprise, instead of grasping hold, her hand slipped through and then so did she, wraith like in composition, and looked around the cell that was empty save for a pile of filthy, tattered rags which were topped off by something black, both matted and stringy.

"There's no one he-"

She was interrupted by a deep, hoarse cough which seemed to be coming from the rags, startling her, making her yelp and drop the robe from her face as she gasped for air.

The mass of black, matted stuff shook and lifted, revealing a man beneath, with a long, scraggly beard, waxy skin and hollowed eyes that saw without seeing.

"Sirius," she whispered, and drew near, kneeling before him as she tried to cup his face in her hand but it passed through him like she was a ghost. "Oh god, honey. I'm so sorry this happened to you." Tears wet her face in anguished grief because there was no consolation or solace that she could offer.

"Isn't there something we can do?" She whipped up into a standing position and whirled around to face James and Lily, prepared to beg for something, anything. The only thing that greeted her was the soft, darkness of her bedroom. She was no longer standing in a dank corridor of Azkaban but sitting on the edge of her bed, which was still warm from her body.

Unable to deny that she was shaken, her cheeks still slick with her tears, Hermione padded into her kitchen to get a drink of water, or something stronger if she could find where Sirius kept his hooch.

"Emergency purposes, love," he had said with a warm, mischievous grin.

The memory of him, playful and roguish, made her smile, a much happier alternative to what she had just witnessed.

"Wotcher, Hermione! Have a nice visit with James and Lil?"

Hermione shrieked and slammed into the wall behind her, reaching instinctively for a wand she no longer carried.

Remus and Nymphadora Lupin, both deceased, sat calmly at her kitchen table like this was a perfectly normal occurrence. Remus' shy, almost apologetic smile was a complementary contrast to Nymphadora's, err, Tonks' wide, gregarious one.

"Sorry," said Remus softly. "She's a bit excited, you see."

Tonks leaned back to gave Remus a kiss on the cheek but he surprised her, and turned his head to capture her mouth.

Whisky. Somewhere in this house there is whisky.

"No time, sweets," said Tonks, pulling away from Remus, mouthing something to him Hermione didn't catch, nor did she want to. "What you need to see is about to happen." The Metamorphmagus walked boldly up to Hermione, followed closely by Remus.

"I don't want to see any more," she whimpered, still haunted by the endless look in
Sirius' eyes.

"This won't be bad, I promise," vowed Remus, his gentle demeanor and quiet voice was familiar and comforting to her, reminding her of things she could rely on like authority figures and school.

"I'm actually quite interested to see your reaction," confessed Tonks, and without waiting for permission she surged forward and grasped Hermione's hand in one while holding onto Remus' with the other.

The scene changed instantly and abruptly and instead of the kitchen in her flat, she was in the drawing room at number twelve, Grimmauld Place. Sirius was helping supervise young James Potter while Harry and Ginny decorated the tree.

"This is such fun!" laughed Ginny gaily as she placed a fragile glass ornament well out of James' reach.

"Almost perfect," said Sirius wistfully.

"You need to just tell her how you feel and not take no for an answer," said Ginny firmly.

"I really miss Hermione," said Harry, surprising her with the hardness in his tone. "The least she could do is come for Christmas."

"I want to," she whispered, unsure why he had changed the subject but grateful to be remembered. She had never realized before that Sirius would be unaccompanied on Christmas Eve.

"What lucky witch has he fallen for, I wonder?" She looked away from the happy scene and over her shoulder but to her dismay, she was back in her kitchen, standing in the very spot where she had been taken.

Sirius was not one to remain indecisive for long, she reminded herself. There was no sense in insinuating herself among couples, or future couples, if things went his way. There was less pain here, of that she was sure, less chance of heartache and dwelling on what wasn't, on what she could have had with Ron but didn't.

Besides, these were just dreams, she told herself firmly. She was not, in fact, standing in her kitchen with the pantry door thrown wide, searching for the whiskey she was certain Sirius had left.

Sirius.

Why did he even play such a featured role in these dreams? It made no sense.

"Dreams never do." The nervous voice behind her brought another shriek to her lips, which irritated her because by this point she should be used to dead people popping in and reading her thoughts.

Wheeling around, gripping the wooden pantry door for support, Hermione was frightened but unsurprised. In her kitchen was one of the few people in life she didn't want to be alone and wandless with, irrespective of their mortality.

"Pettigrew," she spat, forgetting for just a moment that this was all some dream, the fear making it much more real for her.

"Dear girl," he simpered, still twitchy with watery blue eyes and an air of defeat and self loathing. "I'm not going to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt anyone, ever, I just…"

"Save it," she interrupted. "This is a dream, you're not real and I am fast asleep in my bed."

"True," he replied. "It is a dream but that doesn't make it any less real. Haven't you been paying attention?" He took a step forward. "Do you know what is at stake?"

Hermione sighed wearily and reached into the pantry for a bottle. As long as she was dreaming it couldn't possibly hurt to get drunk.

Pettigrew made no move to stop her, which raised her suspicion.

"What? No urgency? No 'we must leave now or else?'"

"We're going to visit what will be. I daresay you could use a drink before hand." Hermione scowled at him and then pulled two tumblers out of a cabinet.

"Why?" It was simply stated because she was pretty sure he knew what she was asking and she was beyond mincing words with phantom dead people in her dreams.

"I would think that would be obvious."

Hermione growled softly and downed her drink in one.

"Let's go," she said, and grabbed his hand without waiting for him to finish his drink.

Kneeling just a few feet in front of her but facing away, was the recognizable form of Harry Potter, albeit much, much older and now quite gray, positioned in front of a pair of gravestones, his wife Ginny just a few feet back.

"I hope you don't mind where I've put you," said Harry to the silent stones, as he fiddled with the placement of an arrangement of white carnations that were clearly fresh from a funeral. "I know it would make him really happy and since you never married or anything…" his voice trailed off. "I know it's probably silly but I don't like to think of either of you being alone and this way you don't have to be."

Hermione took a step closer and read the names carved into the two stones.

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She woke up the next morning and just lay still for several long moments, staring up at the ceiling. It took her a minute to realize there was something foreign in her hand, something soft and the slightest bit moist. Raising her hand from underneath the covers she examined the object which was revealed to be a white carnation blossom.

"Ouch," she said quietly, a firm pinch revealing that she was in fact awake.

Leaping out of bed, she showered and dressed, making sure to grab the blossom, her wand and the gifts she normally owled before she left the flat. She had no idea how she was going to tell Sirius what she had spent the whole night telling herself, but for the first time in years she felt hope and the thrill that came with taking a chance.

The comfort she used to feel in simply walking into number twelve, Grimmauld Place was gone; she would have to risk the doorbell. The shrieking portrait of Mrs. Black preceded the sound of Sirius' bellow as he descended the stairs. It was Christmas Day and guests were to be expected but she knew he hated to hear his mother's voice under any circumstances.

When the door opened wide to reveal Sirius, all words failed Hermione. She was suddenly afraid to be wrong and seeing him there, handsome as usual, with that smile that always seemed to hint at something naughty, made her feel slightly foolish for even thinking he would consider her.

She reached into her pocket and gave the carnation a squeeze, letting it remind her that magic was real and so were dreams and if she would just take a leap of faith she might have an abundance of both.

The only warning that she gave him was a small self conscious smile before standing on her toes and touching her lips softly to his. He was surprised but recovered admirably, pulling her inside the warm house to continue this with a little more privacy.

"Hermione?" he asked hesitantly, cradling her face in his large palms as he searched her eyes, like he was verifying that it was really she.

"Sirius," she confirmed, now worried about the question in his tone. The soft, white petals in her palm gave her the courage to press forward once more, putting her heart in his hands, moaning softly with relief when he responded.

His lips moved warmly over hers, soothing away the winter's chill and bad dreams, as his tongue tasted her lips in tender encouragement. A tiny sigh opened her mouth and he plunged in, taking what he wanted and giving in return. Their arms curled possessively around each other, fingers twisting in hair and caressing new territory.

"What happened?" he asked, pulling back and gazing at the breathless witch in his arms. "Not that I'm complaining but, something changed.

"You got a little help from your friends," she replied with a coy smile.

He raised a sly, surprised eyebrow and then grinned. "I always did have fantastic friends."

"Sirius? Who was at the door?" Ginny peered down from the stairs into the hallway, her eyes widening in surprise at the pair, so intimately entangled in each other arms. "Bout bloody time."

"I have presents for everyone," offered Hermione, attempting to step back to sling her purse off her shoulder so she could reach inside. Sirius' arms didn't budge and in fact tightened, like he was afraid to break their contact and let reality invade this dream come true.

"James and Harry already got to unwrap theirs, seems only fair that Sirius get to unwrap his too," said Ginny with a smirk, stepping into the hallway, headed toward the kitchen.

Ginny's remark brought a soft chuckle from Sirius, who took Hermione's purse and tossed it to Ginny.

"You know, I really agree," he said quietly by her ear before nibbling at her lobe and then moved down along her neck.

"Oh," said Hermione, and then, "Ohhhhh."

"I'm impressed," teased Sirius, nipping softly at her jaw. "You caught on quicker to that than I expected."

"I'm quite bri-"

He pressed his mouth against hers again, all tentativeness gone, his need for her laid bare in his exhilarating exploration of her mouth. There would be time for talk later. Her soft whimpers and moans grew louder as her body curled and arched in response to his mouth and hands. Fearless fingers explored her boldly, reaching over and then under and soon, soon he would reach into.

"Please…" she whimpered.

"Children live here," called out Ginny, sensing they had forgotten they were still only five feet into the house.

"The twins used to Apparate around here all the time," said Hermione, between kisses.

"Impatient minx," replied Sirius with a wolfish grin.

In a blink of pressure that was short enough to be nearly unnoticeable, he had her alone in his room. There was a brief, uncertain pause and then they were tearing at each other's clothes between needy kisses, clashing lips, tongue and teeth, unsatisfied with anything less than full exposure and the hot press of skin on skin. Hermione's giggle over watching the button's fly free of her blouse to clatter and scatter on the wood floor (because something as passionate as button's being ripped off clothes actually happening to her just struck her as funny), was stifled by the intensity smoldering in his eyes, burning her like a witch at the stake, helpless to do anything but get lost there, unable to look away.

His hands trembled on her flesh where he touched her, evidence of the struggle to remain in control. Eyes moved from her face to the blouse hanging open, unashamed of his lust and desire, before he pushed the garment off her shoulders and to the floor.

"So beautiful," he murmured and she wasn't sure if he was talking to her or not. He looked back up to her eyes and noticed that she had noticed, and smiled in a way that sucked all the air from her lungs. He pushed her playfully, but with enough force to let her know he was in charge and she fell against the bed with a surprised groan.

Her jeans were flicked open, slid down her thighs and then they were off and on the floor with his. His black buttoned down hung open, revealing his toned and decorated chest, the material of his shirt ghosting over his silken, tented boxers. He didn't give her long to admire him, although the self satisfied smile let her know he'd caught her ogling him.

The bed dipped as he pressed his knee into the mattress, which sighed with the addition of his weight. He lifted a foot to his mouth and slipped a toe inside, suckling it warmly as she gasped at the new sensation. His mouth scorched from there to her ankle, nibbling along her calf before running his hands between her knees, spreading her wide as he smoothed them up to her hips. His urgency was back in the grip of his fingers along flesh as he moved further and further to his goal. He ripped her knickers off, ignoring her yelp as he lifted her hips, ungentle, like he was eating a melon and buried his face in her cunt.

His hot tongue slipped between her folds and briefly circled her tight ring of muscle before settling on her clit. She could vaguely recall another mouth trying this once, timid, belonging to a name she should remember but couldn't because she couldn't even remember her own. Only one name mattered and she cried it aloud, over and over. There was nothing timid about Sirius' wicked tongue and she writhed against his fierce grip and the pleasure that was almost too much to bear. Her incoherent cries and babbled praise swam together, indecipherable, rising sharp with a gasp and then falling off with a shudder until he found what he was looking for. Her body clenched and curled and then rewarded him with a flood of wet warmth. Claiming her mouth again in a hard and hungry kiss, he brought her the remnants of the treasure he'd found between her legs.

"Need you," he groaned and slipped out of his boxers before sitting on knees in the middle of the bed, moaning softly when her hands wrapped soft and warm around his cock. "Three years, Hermione," he pleaded with her. "I need to be inside you. Now."

She could only swallow and nod. He pulled her up, and then with fingers hard on her hips, he lifted her slightly and then down onto him. She slid her knees to the outside of his thighs and gripped his shoulders, gasping when he slid into her, hands leaving his shoulders to pull him tight against her as they moved together slowly, holding each others gaze.

"I love you," he whispered harshly against her breast.

"Love you, too," she hissed back.

Hermione rocked her hips forward as she pushed down, trying to get as much friction as she could but the position they were in, while incredibly close and sensual, limited her ability to get what she needed. Her whining, frustrated growl prompted Sirius to lay back to give her the freedom he body required. Rising and falling, faster and faster, she rode the pressure with soft sighs and moans and, "Oh, Sirius." He bent his knees to offer support and thrust up hard in time with her but soon even that wasn't enough.

"Harder," she begged, her voice furious with frustration.

He pulled her down for a rough kiss and then rolled them in order to meet her demands. There was nothing he wouldn't give her, slamming into her like this was a full contact sport and not love making. Her body surrendered to his, senses overcome with pleasure and then he joined her, "Hermione" a prayer on his lips as boiled over inside her.

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Hermione smiled, eyes closed, content. They had been lying together quietly and a part of her was amused to discover that Sirius was rarely, truly still. His fingers explored endlessly, just gentle touches over available skin, like he didn't want her to forget he was there.

"There's so much I need to learn about you," he murmured softly.

"Oh, like what?"

"What's your favorite flower?" he asked at length.

Hermione turned to him and smiled.

"Carnations in white."

~The End