DISCLAIMER: I am in no way affiliated with the true owners of the Harry Potter franchise, and if they were to ever stumble upon this piece of fiction I feel there would be much blushing and possible disapproval at the manhandling (hehe) of the characters. I mean no disrespect. I only like to play with them...and have them play with each other. :)
SUMMARY: Part Three in the How to Make a Bad Idea Worse series. If you haven't read parts 1 & 2, you might be slightly lost with part 3.
A/N: OK...so due to the overwhelming pressure from one of my bff's who "HATED" part 2 (not really, you guys, she just hated the ending, as I think we all did) I'm submitting for your approval part 3. Now, I could end this series with this one...it is definitely possible. However, I do have a few random plot bunnies that could fit nicely if I expanded this to, say 5 parts? Any thoughts?
Leave me love and let me know...R&R!
How to Make a Bad Idea Worse: Bemusement, Birthdays, and Orchards
Hermione stumbled slightly as she stepped out of the foreign fireplace, brushing off the bits of ash that had accumulated on her long journey. She had never realized how tiresome international travel could be via the floo network. She certainly didn't expect the trip to take almost as long as Muggle travel. With all the floo stops from London to Paris to Milan to Belgrade before finally ending at the small bar in Romania, she thought that boarding an airplane and having a six-hour lay-over in Frankfurt might not have been the worst idea.
The second-eldest Weasley brother smiled apologetically at her as he stepped out of the fireplace behind her.
"Sorry about that, 'Mione," he said. "Usually I fly back but since you don't like to fly, I thought this was the only other option."
"It's alright, Charlie," she said, looking around curiously. "I'm just very glad to be out of England."
He gave her a soft smile and wrapped his arm around her waist, picking up their bags and walking out of the bar in silence.
When Hermione had woken up that morning in Sirius's bed, the full weight of her actions had descended upon her so rapidly that she almost started hyperventilating from the overwhelming anxiety of it. She had sworn to herself that she would not sleep with Sirius again but within twenty-four hours he was making love to her passionately and, Merlin help her, she had lost herself in him.
So she left.
She had apparated back to the Burrow, silently creeping up the stairs to the bathroom where she cried under the scalding heat of a shower. Afterwards she had dressed quickly and had tip-toed to Charlie's room. She had slipped in, waking him gently and asking him if he would mind her company in Romania for a week or so. In his sleep-induced state, he had agreed without question, and she had hurried to her room to pack and to write a quick note to Kingsley asking him for a week off for personal reasons.
She knew he wouldn't object, as she hadn't asked for time off in the four years she had worked for him.
Charlie was able to stave off curiosity for a little longer, but once they were in Milan and had a few hours to kill before going to Belgrade, he had sat her in a Muggle café and had demanded her reasons for self-imposed exile. She had broken down, describing the past forty-eight hours and how she had known sleeping with the unbelievably handsome yet emotionally-unavailable Marauder was a bad idea but how it had felt so right and how scared she had been knowing that he would never, ever feel for her what she was quickly starting to feel for him.
Charlie had listened sympathetically and hadn't asked any more questions since.
"So you're planning on staying for a week?" he asked as they started down a dirt road. The countryside was gray and the overcast sky seemed to be a permanent fixture to the landscape.
"Yes. I'll stay in a hotel or an inn or something. I don't want to inconvenience you."
"Don't be silly. I won't have you wasting your gold when there is a perfectly acceptable bed in my flat. Just…be aware that I wasn't expecting company."
She smiled slightly. If his room at the Burrow was any indication, Charlie was not the neatest of housekeepers. She wondered whether Ron had learned his 'tidying' skills from his elder brother.
"So…do you have any plans while you're here?" he asked, trying to make conversation. He knew that he couldn't really ask the questions that were burning in his mind but apart from continuing the conversation they had had in the orchard the night before – a thought that he wasn't terribly keen on – he didn't know what else to talk about.
"I brought some books I've been meaning to read," she said. "And I'd like to explore the countryside and perhaps have a look at the dragons. Maybe I can visit Norbert…or rather, Norberta. Hagrid might like that."
"I think I can arrange something. But 'Mione…" He trailed off, deciding that perhaps he should pursue the subject of Sirius a bit more. "You do realize that running away from your problems isn't the answer, right?"
"I know. But I panicked and it was the first thing I could think of at the moment."
"I understand that, truly. But really…leaving the country? That's a bit extreme."
"I suppose it's childish," she agreed. "But at least I know he won't find me here."
"Don't count that out just yet," Charlie said. "Sirius is a very resourceful man when he puts his mind to something."
"I don't think he's going to try and find me all the way out here. If he's anything like I think he is, he'll be in someone else's bed tonight."
Charlie rubbed her back, hearing the sadness in her tone.
"Why didn't you just tell him why you thought it was a bad idea in the first place? I mean…nothing scares a man away more than knowing the witch he's about to ravage is in love with him."
She laughed slightly.
"I suppose on some level I wanted to tell him. But I guess – considering the position I was in – I don't think I could have taken the rejection."
She blushed furiously at the memories of the past two nights. Their first liaison had been a rush of adrenaline. She had been caught in the moment and in her teasing and everything had tumbled out of control. She should have realized, however, from the look on his face as she apparated back to the Burrow, that their tryst wasn't just going to end with a passionate shag against the dirty brick wall of a Muggle pub.
Then there was last night.
She shook her head. That shouldn't have happened. She had already felt fragile after she had let herself be taken so openly the night before. But when he stood there teasing Harry and Ginny after the couple had announced their engagement, she couldn't help falling into the easy banter they had shared for so long. She hadn't intended it to increase the level of sexual tension between them, but once he had cornered her against the counter she knew she couldn't refuse him.
And then the passionate, unbridled love-making back at Grimmauld Place had proven that she was starting to feel things for the man that she should have never let herself feel for him.
"I don't suppose you have a game plan for when you return to England," Charlie asked, turning down a bigger road that seemed to lead to a quiet village on the outskirts of a large forest.
"I suppose changing my name and cloistering myself in a convent wouldn't be the healthiest idea, would it?"
He chuckled, shaking his head.
"I think I speak for all mankind when I say that it would indeed be a waste of a beautiful woman for you to marry yourself to God."
She smiled, shaking her head.
"I honestly hadn't really thought of it. I know I'll have to, though, because inevitably I'm going to see Sirius at Harry's birthday party. I suppose I'll need to explain things to Ginny, too. When I told her I was going back to Romania with you, I fear she had that glint of epic romance in her eye."
"I suppose she and my mum have wanted to add you to the family for awhile now. They don't seem to be bothered with which of the Weasley men you end up with."
"Yes. But with Bill and Percy married, the twins in relationships and Ron with Luna, I think they are all assuming that we'll announce our engagement within the month."
He shook his head.
"I suppose they'll come to their own realizations about me eventually," he said, hoping that she didn't decide to pick up on their conversation from the night before.
"Perhaps," was all she said.
Charlie smiled to himself, his arm around her waist tightening protectively. He had always found Hermione very easy to get along with. She had a way about her that was almost maternal and he liked that about her. Once she had left school, they spent more time together, usually when he was home for the holidays. So when he asked her to walk with him to the orchard the night before, she didn't think anything of it and thought they were just going to chat about dragons and other magical creatures like they usually did.
He had caught her slightly off-guard when he admitted to her that he was gay and in a relationship with one of his fellow dragon tamers.
But like everything else with Hermione, she accepted it with grace and compassion, wishing him the best of luck and agreeing to keep the information from the rest of his family, though she urged him to entrust them with it eventually. She admitted that, while his parents might take it with slight difficulty, his siblings would accept him wholeheartedly. And if they didn't, they'd have to deal with her.
He had laughed at that.
He knew she was right, though. He did need to tell them eventually, but the thought of coming out to his family still made him uncomfortable.
"This is me," he said, nodding to a quaint little cottage that sat close to the forest. "I rent the upper part of the cottage from a lovely older Muggle couple. My Romanian is atrocious but they are very friendly and have often had me down for supper."
Hermione smiled, letting him open the door and following him up a small staircase to his home. As she had expected, the area was far from neat, but she was impressed that it didn't have the lingering scent of sweaty socks that sometimes permeated from Ron's attic room during especially sweltering summer days. She supposed Charlie had mastered freshening charms fairly quickly once he had started to live on his own.
He led her to his spare room. She chuckled slightly as she saw piles of unfolded laundry scattered throughout. She assumed that, with the cruder elements of his job, he probably didn't spend much time worrying about creases or wrinkled fabric.
With a wave of her wand, the laundry folded itself and zoomed into the room that Charlie had pointed out as his. Slightly impressed, he allowed her to dust off the unused furniture and put away the small amount of personal effects she had brought with her before showing her the rest of his modest abode.
"Now," he said with a soft smile. "Are you hungry?"
"Not particularly," she admitted. "I'm a little tired from the journey, though. Do you mind if I just nod off?"
"Be my guest. I'm going to pop over to the dragon compound quickly to make sure the dragons haven't burnt anything down. If you're hungry, I think there are some stale biscuits in the kitchen."
"Alright." He turned to go, but she stopped him. "Thank you, Charlie. I really appreciate this."
"No problem, 'Mione. You have done more for me than I can possibly say in the past twenty-four hours, so this is the least I can do."
Sirius raced into the Burrow as though the hounds of Hell were on his heels.
Bursting through the front door, he took in the startled faces of the Weasley family, most of whom were sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast. He ignored them as he scanned the crowd for the one face he was looking for.
It was notably absent.
"Where's Hermione?" he demanded.
Ginny and Ron exchanged confused looks.
"Um…she left," Ginny said. "She went out of town for a week."
"Bullshit," Sirius spat. "Where is she really? Is she at work?"
"No, Sirius, honestly," Ron said softly. "She and Charlie left this morning for Romania."
Sirius saw Ginny give her brother an exasperated look. Clearly, she hadn't known what had transpired between him and her friend the night before and Ginny's reaction seemed to be an extension of the general Weasley hope that Hermione's disappearance to Romania with the second-eldest brother had something to do with a developing romance between the two.
Sirius didn't know why the idea of Hermione with Charlie made his heart ache and his blood boil angrily at the same time.
Growling in frustration, Sirius ran a hand through his hair. He knew he must have looked a sight. When the anger had finally bubbled past his pain that morning, he had grabbed the first few pieces of clothing he could find and had apparated to the Burrow. He now wished he had put a little thought into his appearance.
"Would you like to stay for breakfast, Sirius?" Mrs. Weasley asked politely, but he saw a flicker of anger in her motherly eyes.
Sirius narrowed his eyes at her. She was mad at him?
"No thanks, Molly," Sirius replied, starting towards the door. "I was just leaving."
"Sirius?" The departing man turned to see Ron standing and walking over to him. "I'll walk you out."
Exiting the kitchen, they headed towards the garden gate in silence. Opening it, Sirius turned to Ron.
"Well…thanks for those thirty seconds," he said, trying not to sound bitter.
"Look, Ginny doesn't know this, but I saw Hermione when she came home this morning. It's really not my business where she was, but she definitely wasn't with Charlie and I know that the two of you…" He trailed off, looking at the ground before looking back up at the older man. "Well…whatever happened, she was crying in the shower for almost forty-five minutes."
"Oh yeah?" Sirius asked, feeling his anger flaring up. "And why do you suppose that is, eh?"
"I don't know, mate, but I'm just letting you know what I saw."
"Well, you're right. I really is none of your business."
He saw Ron's ears start to pink.
"Listen, mate," Ron said, and his tone was decidedly more dangerous than Sirius had ever heard from the redhead. "You may be Harry's godfather and a beloved member of our extended family, but if you've hurt Hermione I swear to God neither Harry nor I would hesitate to kill you."
"Hurt her?! She was the one that fucking walked out on me?!" Sirius roared, not really caring who heard him. "We spent an amazing night together and she just fucking leaves! And now you're telling me she's gallivanting around Romania with your brother? Fuck you, Weasley!"
"Get a grip, man," Ron said, angrily, glancing over at the door of the kitchen. "Look, just go back to one of your many girlfriends and leave Hermione alone, OK? For whatever reason, she went to Charlie after spending the night with you, so either you spurred her into pursuing something with him or she's trying to get away from you. It really doesn't matter which reason, but either way, it's easy to see that she doesn't want to see you. So back off."
Sirius would have decked him if it hadn't been for a sudden, calm hand on his shoulder.
"Sirius," Lupin said, and Sirius spun around to see his best friend, looking slightly disheveled, standing behind him. "I think we should go back to London."
Sirius glared at Ron, but silently followed Lupin as they apparated back to Grimmauld Place.
"How did you know where I was?" he demanded immediately of his patient friend, who was heading to the kitchen to make tea.
"Harry flooed me after you stormed out of the house shouting curses and muttering Hermione's name murderously," Lupin explained. He turned to his friend. "As you can imagine, he was slightly concerned for her safety."
"Well he bloody well better be! If I see that little…" but he couldn't finish the thought as an overwhelming sadness enveloped him and he sank into one of the chairs in the kitchen, he arms limply at his sides.
"Sirius, what's wrong?" Lupin asked worriedly. He had never seen his friend in this state before. He looked almost…
Then it hit him and his eyes narrowed.
"You slept with her again, didn't you?" he asked softly.
"What?" Sirius replied, somewhat dazed.
"Hermione. Did you two get together again last night?"
"Yes," Sirius replied, and once again found himself explaining the course of the night's events to his friend.
"Well, I can't say that I blame her entirely for her reaction."
Sirius's head shot up.
"Excuse me?" he demanded.
Lupin sighed again.
"Sirius, you have a reputation. You're known as a heartbreaker. Surely you can see how something as phenomenal as last night would have scared the living shit out of her."
"I don't follow."
Lupin rolled his eyes.
"Did you ever stop to wonder that the reason she was protesting so vigorously last night was because she was afraid of how she felt about you in the first place, and that perhaps sleeping with you would exacerbate those emotions?"
His friend frowned.
Lupin gave him a withering look.
"I think she has feelings for you, you twit. Christ, Sirius, she left the country because of you!"
"No," Sirius said darkly, leaning back in the chair. "She left the country to be with Charlie."
Lupin bit his lip. He didn't know whether he should reveal to Sirius that Charlie was as likely to pursue Hermione as Buckbeak was. He didn't know whether anyone else had caught on yet to Charlie's sexual preferences. Lupin himself had suspected but hadn't known for sure until Tonks had revealed confidentially that she had caught him 'experimenting' with other boys when they had both been at Hogwarts.
"I don't really think Charlie had much to do with the decision," he finally said.
"Oh yeah? Every Weasley in the immediate area believes wholeheartedly that the two of them are going to end up together. Molly was never concerned with which of her sons Hermione would marry, so long as she married one of them and had a dozen little curly-redheaded brats. And now she's off in Romania with Charlie and his fucking dragons and I'm left here with a bloody piece of parchment that says 'I can't. I'm sorry. Don't hate me.'? Well, fuck that! Fuck that and fuck her and fuck this bloody…piece…of…parchment!"
The parchment ripped soundly as Sirius punctuated his final words with a resounding wrench of his hands, seemingly exalted by the sound of its tearing. Lupin watched him, torn between worry and a sense of foreboding. He didn't know Hermione's exact emotions, but he had gotten to know the young witch fairly well and he knew that she wasn't one to go into things lightly. Sure, she liked to tease and to some extent she did have that 'sexy siren' act down pretty well. But that's just what it was: an act. Sleeping with Sirius so spontaneously was uncharacteristically rash of her, and while Lupin knew that she wasn't planning on settling down anytime soon, one-night-stands were definitely not her style. Sirius had probably thrown her emotions for a bit of a loop.
Lupin supposed they all sometimes forgot that she was still so young, and therefore didn't have quite as firm a grip on her feelings as a woman a decade older. True, she enjoyed her independence and her autonomy, but when it came down to it, Lupin also knew she had the innocent dreams a family and a stable relationship, maybe even a marriage, in the future.
And Sirius was definitely not the poster boy for either.
The fact that his friend was reacting so aggressively to her repeated attempts to push him away, however, was decidedly un-Sirius behavior. He rarely pursued women with such insistence. They usually came to him, falling at his feet and demanding he ravish them until the end of time. He had been happy with this lifestyle, pursuing the occasional chase that inevitably led to a renewed arrogance that was insufferable for weeks. Lupin had half-expected Sirius to assert that same cockiness when he found out that his friend had finally made it with the ever-so-sexually-elusive Hermione Granger.
But he didn't.
Instead he was sitting at the kitchen table of his house, his head in his hands on the verge of tears.
"Sirius…" Remus said softly, putting his hand on his friend's shoulder. "What is going on with you?"
"I…I don't know. I honestly have no fucking idea. All I know is that she's gone now and I'm a complete and utter mess."
"What do you feel?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"I've never been one to really understand emotions, Moony."
"Well…no, I suppose you haven't really."
Lupin sighed. Sirius's behavior was starting to worry him. Sirius was never one to get worked up over a girl, and the fact that he was reacting like this over Hermione was unnerving. They were the couple that everyone joked would be great together but deep down everyone hoped wouldn't come to pass. Everyone knew Sirius would hurt her and she had already had enough pain already to last several lifetimes.
Yet right now, it seemed the only person who was hurting was Sirius, though Lupin didn't doubt that Hermione was going through her own emotional rollercoaster.
"Listen, I have to go to work," Lupin said, looking sympathetically at his unresponsive friend. "Why don't you come round for dinner tonight? I promise I'll cook," he added when he saw Sirius's face at the idea of his wife's cooking. Tonks never had gotten the hang of domestic charms.
"Alright. Thanks, Moony."
Hermione sauntered through the marketplace that sat just a few streets over from Charlie's flat. The past few days had been lovely and she wasn't looking forward to her return to England. She knew she had to, though. Harry's birthday was approaching quickly and she knew that missing it simply because she wanted to avoid his godfather was a sin the consequences of which she did not wish to face. So, the morning before she and Charlie were going to go back, she found herself wandering the now-familiar cobblestone streets in search of a gift for her friend.
The booths that were set up in the market square were mostly filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, but some had interesting trinkets made by the gypsies that still traveled the countryside. She picked up a hand-carved wooden shepherd's flute, reminding herself to charm it to play by itself before she gave it to her friend. At the next booth she picked up a skein of wool for Mrs. Weasley, knowing that the woman would appreciate the gesture.
She wandered around, snacking on some fresh-roasted chestnuts she had bought from a street vendor. Sitting with her purchases on a stone bench overlooking a small courtyard, she contented herself with watching old men playing chess, relaxed by the soft strains of jazz coming from a worn Muggle radio by a group of gossiping old women.
She was dozing off in the sunlight when the sounds of a familiar song drifted to her ears. She opened her eyes, slightly dazed by the bright sun before feeling an overwhelming panic as she heard the words:
In the morning
Fever all through the night
Standing quickly, she ignored her protesting body and grabbed her bags, intending to head back to the flat as swiftly as possible. Thoughts of that night started to float into her mind unbidden, and she tried her best to banish them away as she stumbled over the cobblestones toward the next street. The sound of a rumbling motorcycle behind her caught her attention, and she felt herself freeze as the image of black and chrome flooded her head, along with the delicious feeling of strong arms wrapped securely around her body and hot breath on the back of her neck.
Finally making it back to the small cottage, she rushed up the stairs and closed the door before the tears started to fall. Those few days with Charlie had been wonderful but they had not succeeded in getting her mind off Sirius. She had thought that a few days away from him would allow her to settle herself. She thought she could bury those feelings and everything would be absolutely fine when she returned. But everything seemed to remind her of him and every passing moment made her feel more and more desperate about the entire situation.
"What the hell is wrong with me?" she mumbled, closing her eyes as she leaned against the door.
As if to answer her question, there was a tapping at her window and she looked up to see Hedwig floating effortlessly outside, waiting patiently for Hermione to let her in. The beautiful snowy owl swooped gracefully into the kitchen, proffering her leg to relinquish the scroll that was attached. Hermione smiled as she recognized Harry's untidy script, and fed Hedwig a leftover piece of toast before reading the letter.
I hope you're enjoying your time in Romania. I have to say I was somewhat surprised that you had taken off, especially with Charlie. But then Ron told me that Sirius came by the Burrow raving about how you had left him after you spent the night together and everything started to make a bit of sense. I do have to admit, though, that leaving the country isn't exactly Gryffindor behavior. But I'm really not one to judge matters of the heart.
You should know, however, that Sirius has been a complete mess since you've been gone. I don't know exactly what happened between you (though I do have a vague idea) but what I do know is that I want my best friend and my godfather back, and I feel one cannot happen without the other. Sirius needs you, 'Mione. I have never seen him so upset.
Anyway, Charlie sent me an owl and said you were definitely coming back for my birthday, which I should have expected because even you wouldn't risk Mrs. Weasley's wrath by not showing up. I know I don't have to tell you that Sirius will be there. Please, 'Mione, for my sake – talk to him. You will always come first in my book, but please don't make me have to choose between the two of you.
Hermione read and re-read the letter and she felt a flame of hope flicker within her. The idea that Sirius seemed so despondent was heart-warming, though she didn't dare trust Harry's assertion that it was entirely due to her absence. But the wheels in her mind were turning now and she allowed herself, for the first time, to willingly think back to that second night that had changed everything for her.
He had been so aggressive – far more than she would have expected from him. She knew he didn't usually have to try nearly so hard for female attention. His good looks and his charm tended to draw quite the crowd of admirers. But he had pursued her single-mindedly that night before consuming her completely. They had made love passionately, climbing to new heights of pleasure before collapsing into each others' arms.
She remembered the way he held her, like he never wanted to let her go, and she remembered losing herself in his beautiful gray-green eyes.
She had thought she had seen something in his eyes that night, though afterwards she was too overwhelmed by anxiety and sadness to think much of it. It had been something she had seen burning in Harry's eyes when he looked at Ginny, or in Lupin's eyes that night at the pub before he had dragged his wife home to make love to her. It was more than lust. It was passion, desire, and unadulterated adoration all mixed into a soul-searing gaze.
She didn't know whether she had actually seen it or whether she wished she'd seen it, but one thing was definitely certain: she was in love with Sirius Black, and it was quite possible that he loved her back.
"Bloody hell, mate! A little warning!"
Lupin had jumped a mile when his best friend had apparated in front of him. He had been with Teddy in the library, letting the little boy draw happily on several pieces of parchment while Lupin read. When Sirius had appeared so suddenly, he had scared Teddy so much that the boy had started wailing loudly, clinging to his father.
"Sorry," Sirius said, smiling warmly at the frightened child. "See Teddy? It's only me."
He turned himself into his animagus and let the little boy chase him around the room while Lupin got his blood pressure back to normal.
It was the day of Harry's birthday party, and Tonks had gone over to the Burrow to help Molly set up the garden. Deciding that having a child underfoot was not the best idea, especially when the house would already be filled with the Weasleys' brood, Lupin had agreed to watch his son while his wife was away. He enjoyed the quiet moments he had with Teddy, as the young metamorphmagus seemed to settle into a quiet, contemplative mode when left to his own devices. It reminded Lupin a lot of himself when he was a boy.
"So to what do we owe this impromptu visit?" Lupin asked when Sirius had finally changed back into human form and was sitting on the couch with Teddy in his lap.
"Huh?" Sirius asked, glancing up at his friend with a twinkle in his eye. He had been watching Teddy draw a big black dog on the parchment and Lupin's had to smile. Sirius was always wonderful with children, and once James and Lily had had Harry, they and Lupin had always joked – in private, of course – at the fact that Sirius would make a wonderful father but a horrible husband.
"You. Here. Why?" Lupin asked simply.
Sirius suddenly sported a goofy grin.
"I love her, Moony," he said. "I'm totally and utterly in love with that brainy, beautiful, maddeningly-intriguing witch."
Lupin didn't look nearly as pleased as Sirius thought he would. In fact, he looked quite worried.
"I see," was all he said.
"Perhaps you didn't hear me correctly," Sirius said. "I, Sirius Black, lady's man, man's man, man-about-town, am in love with Hermione Jane Granger."
Lupin sighed, turning back to his book.
"No," he said softly. "I heard you correctly the first time."
Sirius frowned and put Teddy back down on the couch before walking over to his friend.
"I wasn't exactly expecting cartwheels and somersaults, Remus, but I have to admit your reaction is not what you'd call encouraging."
"I just…I don't think…" Lupin paused, sighing again. "I'm not getting my hopes up."
Sirius looked like he had been slapped.
"What?" he asked incredulously.
"Look, Sirius, I have no doubt that you do love her. But…the fact remains that you have never been in a real, honest-to-God monogamous relationship and…well…you're both my friends and I don't want to see either of you get hurt."
Sirius crossed his arms.
"Nothing's happened yet, and already you're acting as though we're doomed. I thought you were supportive of a relationship between us?"
"I was! I mean…I am," Lupin clarified. "But…well…"
He was grasping. This was the type of conversation he had never thought he would be having with his best friend. If it had been any other witch in the world, he would have remained completely quiet. But the fact that Sirius was pledging his love for Hermione, his godson's best friend, made everything much more complicated.
"Sirius, you said yourself that you don't do relationships," Lupin finally said softly.
Sighing, Sirius sat in the chair opposite his friend, running a hand through his dark hair.
"I know. But…I spent this week thinking and I realized that I don't want anyone but her. I spoke to all of the other girls, broke everything off, and am planning on talking to Hermione tonight at Harry's party."
"All that…just because of a shag?" Lupin asked.
"No," he said firmly. "I'll admit that having sex with Hermione might have stoked a few embers, but it took being away from her, knowing that she's with Charlie, to make me realize that all this time, I've been falling in love with her."
Lupin shook his head.
"This is a bad idea. You guys are going to throw off the entire balance of this little extended family we've created. And if something were to go wrong…"
"I'm hoping nothing goes wrong, Remus, and you have to understand, of all people, how hard it is for me to say that."
Lupin looked into his friend's eyes and saw a sincerity unmatched by any other moment in Sirius Black's life. Lupin could feel a weight lift off his shoulders. He knew Sirius was a good man, though somewhat misguided in his constant search for love and affection. And if anyone could provide unconditional love and affection, it was Hermione. As long as Sirius didn't fuck it up, there was a possibility, however small, that things would not end in disaster.
"Moony…I could really use your blessing on this," Sirius said.
Lupin smiled slightly.
"You're both consenting adults. What you do with each other is none of my business. But if you hurt her, Sirius," Lupin gave his friend a dark look of warning. "You have to know that you are going to have several trained Aurors and one very pissed-off werewolf hunting you down."
Lupin sat back, watching his son for a few moments before allowing himself a smirk as he thought about everyone else's reactions if Sirius and Hermione started dating.
Sirius cocked his head to the side.
"What?" he asked.
"I'm just imagining the look on Molly's face once she finds out the girl she has raised like a daughter is in the clutches of the one and only Sirius Black," Lupin said before chuckling. "I'd really like to be there for it."
Sirius rolled his eyes.
"Molly can go and shove…"
"Sirius," the werewolf interrupted, nodding at Teddy who was watching them curious but rapt attention.
"Well…luckily she doesn't have a vote," Sirius said, though Lupin could tell he was censoring himself heavily.
"And you're going to talk to Hermione tonight?"
"Well…good luck, I guess."
"Thanks. I'll need it."
Hermione looked in the mirror one more time, trying to decide just how big of a delusional little girl she was being. She had been back at the Burrow for twenty-four hours and already she was having doubts about her decision. Mrs. Weasley was going all out for the party, but Hermione couldn't help but hear the jabs she kept throwing out when Hermione informed them all that she and Charlie hadn't eloped or engaged in anything remotely romantic. She knew that the hardest nut to crack would be Mrs. Weasley should her fantasies prove correct and she and Sirius end up together.
That was a conversation she wasn't looking forward to.
Ginny, of course, had immediately changed her tune once Hermione had admitted to her what had happened with Sirius. She had squealed in delight and had automatically started planning the joint wedding that she and Harry and Hermione and Sirius would inevitably have. Hermione had smiled slightly but remained silent on the situation. She knew Ginny was happy as long as Hermione was happy, but Hermione had to wonder whether the perky redhead wasn't just a little jealous of the fact that Hermione had slept with the handsome Marauder. Despite being desperately in love with Harry, Ginny had always been slightly enamored by Sirius.
Ginny always did like the bad boys.
Hearing the party underway in the garden, Hermione took a deep breath, straightening the simply, classy, and understatedly sexy black dress she was wearing. She had debated on forgoing underwear, but she didn't want to get her hopes up. Plus, being that the twins were going to be at the party, there were entirely too many situations where she could expose herself unwittingly and she preferred not to think about the consequences should she be caught, literally, with her knickers down.
Brushing a strand of her hair out of her face, she grabbed Harry's present and headed down to the party. As she entered the kitchen, she saw Mr. Weasley and Lupin talking seriously by the doorway. Both stopped speaking when they saw her.
"My goodness, Hermione," Mr. Weasley said with a slight smile. "When did you grow up?"
She chuckled slightly, kissing her surrogate father on the cheek.
"I'll always be that bushy-haired, buck-toothed little know-it-all, don't you worry, Mr. Weasley," she said with a smile.
"You do look rather dazzling, 'Mione," Lupin said with a grin. "But you don't need to hear that from two old men. I think Harry's outside."
"Oh Remus, you're not old," she admonished gently before sliding around them and out into the garden.
She walked towards the large tent, pausing every once and awhile to greet those who called to her. Her eyes, however, were sweeping the crowd for those fathomless gray-green eyes and silky raven hair. When a preliminary glance told her he wasn't there, she turned her attention toward finding her emerald-eyed best friend.
"Happy Birthday, Harry," she said with a smile when she found him sitting with Ginny, Ron, and Luna at one of the tables. As expected, Ron was gorging himself with the wonderful food Mrs. Weasley had made while the others laughed at him. Harry stood up as she approached, and kissed her gently on the cheek when she handed him his present.
"Thanks, 'Mione," he said. "How was Romania?"
"Beautiful. I think we should all go there sometime. Though, I don't think we could all fit in Charlie's flat."
"'ow er eh ah-ons," Ron said, his mouth filled with pasta.
Hermione arched her eyebrow.
"I'm sorry, could you repeat that? I was distracted by the cement mixer that has currently commandeered your mouth."
He narrowed his eyes at her but swallowed before repeating.
"How were the dragons?"
"Lovely. Hagrid would have an absolute fit of ecstasy if he were to go there."
"I don't doubt that," Ginny said with a smile.
"'Mione, why don't you go grab a drink and join us?" Harry asked. "We're all enjoying Ron as he tries to communicate in the new language he's invented."
"Thanks, but I...er…I'm looking for someone."
"Alright. We'll see you later, yeah?"
She nodded before turning away and scanning the dance floor.
Several couples were gliding along the floor and her heart stopped when she saw him. Or rather, them. Sirius was dancing with a beautiful woman, her hair long and black and her features angled and equally as aristocratic. Hermione felt her face burn as she tried to will the tears from her eyes. She wanted to hex Harry.
So Sirius was upset, huh?
She stalked over to the drinks table, planning on loading herself with alcohol until her brain decided to shut down completely. She didn't know if she was more upset with Harry for getting her hopes up, or with herself for allowing such wild fancies to enter her brain. Sirius Black, in love?
It was simply laughable.
"What'll it be, gorgeous?" Fred joked from behind the table, clearly playing bartender while George played DJ for the evening.
"The strongest liquor you have, straight up," she said dully.
Fred arched an eyebrow.
"You've only been back twenty-four hours. Life can't possibly be that bad yet."
"You'd think," she murmured, accepting his proffered firewhiskey. She was certain it wasn't the strongest thing he had behind the bar, but she would take what she could get at the moment.
Walking away from the dance floor with the whiskey in hand, she headed towards the orchard. There was no moon, but the stars shone bright and she could pick out the constellations. It was a cruel irony that the brightest one was the one whose mortal counterpart was a man she needed to forget.
"Hermione," a deep voice said behind her, sending unbidden shivers through her body.
Turning to face him, she tried to make sure her face was as apathetic as possible, hoping that her voice wouldn't give away her true emotions.
"Hello, Sirius," she said, feigning distant affection with a feeble smile.
"You look…stunning," he said simply, his eyes traveling lightly over her before settling on her eyes.
"Thank you. You…you clean up well," she said, unsure whether she had managed an impassive quality with that comment. She always was a sucker for a well-dressed man.
Especially a devastatingly-gorgeous man.
"I was wondering if I could talk to you," he said, taking a step forward. She took a shaky step back, and found herself against a tree.
'Smooth, Hermione,' her inner monologue taunted.
"Won't your date mind?" she asked, her voice just a little squeakier than she intended.
"That beautiful woman you were dancing with," she snapped, cringing as she heard the hurt and jealousy in her tone.
He smiled slightly.
"I think you mean Andromeda. That's Tonks' mum. My cousin," he said, emphasizing the word. "I know the Blacks are notorious for that type of nefarious behavior, but I assure you that is a sin I do not intend to indulge in."
Hermione felt her heart skip a beat.
"So…you're here alone?" she asked softly.
He took another step towards her and this time she wasn't quite so upset by the tree's presence behind her, as it was the only thing that kept her standing as she caught his masculine scent.
"I hope not for long," he said.
"Do you have someone in mind?"
"Yes." He took another step closer. "You."
"Me? That's a bad…"
"If you say the words 'bad idea' one more time, Hermione Granger, I might have to kiss you to stop you from ever saying them again," he whispered, so close she could feel his breath on her upper lip as she looked into his eyes.
"Kiss me anyway, Sirius," she whispered.
His lips descended upon hers and she felt her knees buckle. His arms were coiled around her in a second, holding her close to him as his lips moved softly on hers. She ran her hands through his hair, delighting at the feel of the silky locks once more.
Sirius could not believe that she was kissing him back as passionately as he was kissing her. He had been waiting for this for too long, waiting to hold her again and kiss her. Waiting to feel the warmth emanate from her warm brown eyes. A week seems an eternity to a waiting lover. He loved her, and he tried to make her feel it as his lips moved gracefully over hers.
She pulled away first, her lips still slightly pursed as she gazed at him, her eyes hooded. He smiled, lifting his hand to brush an errant strand of hair from her face.
"Please don't leave me again," he whispered, leaning his forehead against hers.
"I…I don't think I could if I wanted to," she replied.
He nuzzled into her hair, breathing in her scent.
"I can't tell you how painful it was to find that note instead of you in my bed the morning after we made love," he said.
"I didn't know if you wanted me there," she said honestly.
"I didn't know I wanted you there until I saw that you weren't," he said, pulling back and looking into her eyes. "You should have seen me afterwards. I went charging into the Burrow…Mrs. Weasley was none too pleased."
She smiled slightly.
"I can imagine."
"Then Ron and Ginny said you were gone…and with Charlie…oh 'Mione, I hadn't known jealousy before that moment."
Her heart soared.
"There's nothing between Charlie and me. Absolutely nothing. Never has, never will be."
His eyes brightened.
She chuckled, a tear leaking out of her eye.
"Of course not, you idiot. I'm in love with you."
"Then…why did you leave? Why didn't you tell me?"
"You're Sirius Black," she said simply. "I didn't think you'd appreciate it."
"Of course I would, you silly girl. I'm in love with you."
"Oh Sirius," she breathed before kissing him again, deeper and more passionate than any other kiss she had ever given.
He lifted her into his arms, her toes barely touching the ground, as he marveled how soft her lips were. It was the first time he had really enjoyed them as a gentle lover and not as a frenzied lothario. She tasted like fire and water all at once, scorching and soothing him at the very same time.
"Hermione Granger," he whispered. "I fear you've inherited a man who is quite undeserving of your affections."
"Sirius Black," she replied with a small smile. "I couldn't give two shits."
He chuckled and kissed her again, though briefer as he felt the familiar fire stir within him. He wanted this woman, body and soul.
"I suppose Harry wouldn't appreciate us making love against this tree at his birthday party, eh?" he whispered in her ear.
"What is it with you and vertical surfaces, Sirius?"
"I don't think it's the location so much as the burning desire to pin you two anything sturdy within a five yard radius."
"Well, regardless of how much I would love to be pinned against anything with you," she said, pushing him away slightly. "I've been away for a week and if I know the boys, they'll be searching for me soon."
He looked into her eyes, the glowing, soul-searing gaze she now knew she had seen in his eyes that fateful night, and her resolve crumbled.
She pulled him to her, kissing him deeply as she backed them further into the orchard. Shaded by the trees, they sunk to the ground, his body pressed against hers on the cool grass. She could feel his desire pressing against her thigh, and she wanted him so badly she could taste it.
His hands were all over her body, sliding under her dress and caressing every curve beneath the fabric as she made quick work of his dress shirt, leaving it hanging open as she ran her hands hungrily over his muscles.
"You know," she whispered as he teased her nipples with the pads of his thumbs. "I was seriously contemplating not wearing panties tonight."
"That, my love, would have been an ideal aspect to this situation," he said, a finger running under the band of her underwear.
She smirked, and with a flick of her wand, Sirius found his path to her center suddenly clear of cloth.
He looked at her in wonder.
"What did you do?" he asked.
She arched an eyebrow.
"Do you think I'm going to give away all my secrets? I am a woman, Sirius. I must remain a creature of mystery for as long as I can…oh dear God…"
His fingers had found their way to her slick folds and she arched her back as he slid a finger inside her. She had forgotten how her body reacted to his touch. True, it had only been a week since they had done this, but it felt like a lifetime and as she writhed beneath him, she somehow knew it would feel that extraordinary every time they would make love.
She ran her hands down his chest to his pants, unbuttoning and unzipping. She looked up into his eyes when she found him unhindered.
"I, also, had high hopes for the evening," he teased. In retribution, Hermione wrapped her fist around his cock, giving it a hard squeeze which resulted in his low, ecstatic groan.
"Baby," he whispered. "I don't think we have the time to go slow."
"That's fine," she replied, kissing his ear. "You can make it up to me later tonight."
His heart beat faster with the knowledge that she was going to go home with him. He wanted to make love to her slowly, tenderly, and all night, every night. He knew that he wanted to go to sleep with her in his arms and wake up with her in his arms. He wanted to see her looking adoringly at him, as she was now.
When he slid into her, they both exhaled loudly. He took a moment to collect himself, still unused to that initial jolt that flew down his spine every time her tight body surrounded him. He wondered briefly if this was what it felt like to make love to a soul mate, but the thought quickly left his mind as she started to roll her hips beneath him.
"Jesus, 'Mione," he groaned, rocking into her body quickly, gripping her hip as she bent her legs, wrapping them around his back.
"I love you, Sirius," she whispered, moaning slightly as he leaned in and kissed her passionately in response.
His hips moved faster, recognizing her need before she even voiced it. She gripped the back of his neck, nipping his bottom lip hard as she felt her release coming. Closing her eyes tightly, she felt the pressure in her stomach get tighter and tighter.
Sirius groaned, feeling her body tensing around him. He loved this part most about making love to Hermione. The moment at the precipice, when both of them could feel that delicious, slow second when time stops before they fall, headfirst, into their simultaneous bliss.
"Sirius…" Hermione hissed, tugging at his shirt as her muscles tensed and she exploded in her pleasure.
"Christ…" Sirius gasped, burying his head in her hair as his hips jerked hard into hers, his seed coursing up his shaft and into her hot, waiting body.
They collapsed together, breathing heavily as they came down from their highs. He wrapped his arms around her, rolling off her and in the process pulling her onto his body. She squealed in surprise before landing unceremoniously on his chest. He chuckled as he saw her frown.
"I love you, witch," he said. "And I intend fully to show you just how much."
"Hmm…yes, please," she said, nuzzling into his neck as her eyes drifted closed.
After a few minutes, Sirius heard faint voices calling their names.
"Er…'Mione, love?" he whispered.
"I think they've sent out the search party."
"That means they're going to find us like this."
"Do you want to explain to Molly why you're lying in the orchard on top of me with your knickers off and your dress hiked up?"
That did it. Hermione was on her feet in seconds.
"Oh stop it," she admonished as he laughed at her. "You wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that either."
"True," he said, still chuckling. "But if I had known it would make you move that quickly I would have said it first."
She pouted and he leaned over, giving her a quick kiss.
"Come on," he said, offering her his arm. "Let's go before people really start to worry."
They hadn't taken three steps when Lupin came into view.
He grinned at them.
"I told them not to worry but there was no way I could assure them without telling them why," he said. "And I don't want to be that messenger."
"I appreciate your discretion," she said.
"As long as you two are very careful with each other. I know I don't have to tell you…"
"Moony," Sirius interrupted. "Don't ruin it."
"Everyone is waiting for you because of the cake. Harry wants you to sing, 'Mione."
She laughed, shaking her head.
"No bloody way."
"Oh come on, love," Sirius said. "You have a beautiful voice!"
"I only use it for karaoke, Sirius," she said huskily. "Or if I want to seduce someone."
She winked and hurried ahead of the two men, back towards the party.
"That woman," Sirius said with a goofy smile. "Is going to be the death of me."
"Perhaps," Lupin said with a smile. "But what a way to go."