"Do you think I'm pretty?"
That's how it started. It was wrong and no amount of justification excused his behavior afterwards, but his worst sin had been his lack of remorse. He felt none.
Someone once asked him: would he do it over again if given the chance?
He wouldn't change anything.
Yes, it was wrong and immoral to some, but it was the cause of his happiness now and what else mattered?
He was a man bound by the pains of the past. He was no stranger to loss, betrayal or heartache. She was the sole light at the end of all that darkness. His entire life seemed to have been made for that moment when he opened his eyes and there she was, bathed in the early morning of sunlight, her unruly curls a halo around her breathtaking face. But it wasn't just that which held him captive to her. There was her smile, her intelligence, her baffling ability to understand him without any gesture from him. She knew what he was thinking, what he wanted, needed even before he did. His very soul seemed to be bared for her.
Of course he had no idea why. She was beautiful, young and had the whole world bowing at her feet, yet she picked him, a man twice her age, old enough, jaded enough to be considered unapproachable. But she didn't seem to notice that. Every time he looked into her eyes, he could almost taste and feel the love she carried inside her for him, and it baffled him. It opened him and made him vulnerable in a way he'd never thought he could be after spending more than a decade behind the bars of one of the Wizarding world's worst prisons.
She made him love, feel loved; despite his exhaustion of the world, he wanted to keep that, cherish it and hold it with a greed only a man in his possession could retain.
It was selfish. God help him. But he wasn't letting her go. She was his salvation, his only link to sanity and life. True, he needed her more than she needed him, but what else could he do?
It started during her third year. Seeing her standing so straight and brave in front of Harry, like a warrior Goddess, it did something to him.
She was a child, so young and unaware, yet she had wisdom behind her eyes that shamed even him. But it was her loyalty and valor that shone the brightest, so fierce, so passionate. It made him feel so warm and alive. After spending half his life locked behind bars, in a cell no bigger than a closet, with cold stone walls and a leaking ceiling. Having your soul sucked out little by little by faceless monsters; it was such a phenomenon, unreal and so potent. He wanted to curl into that feeling and never let it go.
That was when he fell in love with her courage and devotion.
Fourth year, she'd changed so much. She was almost a woman. He had been ashamed that he'd notice such a thing. She was still a child. It was only because he'd spent so many years without female contact, without the feel of a woman's arms, lips, and scent that his mind was now riveting towards the first woman-child that came his way.
But she had changed. Her curly, golden-brown hair was longer, her face thinner and nearly void of its baby fat. Her eyes were still the color of liquid honey and her lips… he dared not allow his thoughts to wonder to them. But if he had to put a name to them: rose petals, pink, plump and too beautiful when they curled into that endearing smile that stole his breath away time and time again. It was because of those tender lips he did the most unthinkable of acts. His shame would forever seal an eternal home for him in hell.
She'd been talking about an article in the paper. They were the only two seated in that cramped, musty cave. Buckbeak had wondered off to find himself food, leaving him alone with a temptation he feared he could not resist for much longer. He recalled a brief moment where he had asked himself who this perverted old man was, eyeing a young creature like her when he possessed no right. She should have been with a boy her own age, a boy who wasn't on the run from the law. But it wasn't just about lust. He craved and yearned for her touch, the warmth of her embrace. For a moment, he'd wanted to feel human and not the animal he knew he must portray, cowering filthy and repugnant in a cave. It shamed him, but he wanted her to see him for the man he once was: handsome, devilish and charming. He was humiliated by this side of him that she had to witness time and again.
But that afternoon, she'd run into the cave with her basket of food, clothes and reading material in tow. She set them down on the rock that had become hers since she was the only one to ever visit him. He knew there was a risk of others joining her, but it still made him feel better—not that loneliness was much of a difference from what he felt, shut away from the rest of the world. But that particular day, she had looked different than the any other times she'd come to see him.
Maybe it was because he rarely saw change, little differences were more obvious to him. But she had her hair up neatly and fastened with a red ribbon; her eyes were darker and her lips pinker and she didn't have her habitual school uniform on.
That day, she wore a beautiful peach-colored dress with tiny, white flowers scattered across it and small, white shoes. They had no heels, otherwise the climb up the side of the mountain would have been impossible. But they were… sweet. She looked sweet. It was hard to look away. A part of him warmed at the idea of her dressing up for him while the other part assumed she must have a young man waiting to see her after her visit.
So, there she sat, newspaper open in front of her, chattering away about the random things that had happened in Hogwarts and in the Wizarding world. She must have assumed that he couldn't read anymore for she always read to him, and he didn't tell her otherwise. Her voice was the sweetest thing he'd heard in ages.
He didn't know what possessed him to do it. He'd deliberately taken the stone furthest from her just to maintain a gorge of distance between them, but somehow, by some unexplainable force, she spotted the blood on his hands. How she managed to see clear across the dark channel was beyond him, but she was on her feet and rushing to him in seconds.
Heedless of her dress, she dropped down between his raised and parted legs and took his hands.
"Sirius! You're bleeding!" she gasped, voice filled with a ring of concern he hadn't heard in much too long.
"It's nothing," he told her, wishing she would just return to her safe place, but she wouldn't be Hermione if she did that.
Instead, she pulled out her wand and did a cleansing charm on the gash he'd received the day before, climbing the jagged rocks in his desperation to gain some freedom. She followed it up with a healing charm, put aside her wand, and gently smoothed her fingers over the now blemish-free area across his palm.
Her skin was like ivory against the filthy state of his. Before she visited, he'd always tried to wash up in the stream at the bottom of the mountain. But by the time he climbed back into his hole, he was covered in sweat and dirt once more and he was just too embarrassed to ask her to perform a cleansing charm on him. He always just hoped she couldn't smell him.
"Are you hurt anywhere else?" she asked, large, brown eyes sweeping over him, making him that much more self-conscious of his appearance.
But she never seemed to care about that sort of thing. She never remarked on how hollow and sickly his skin looked, how thin and gangly he was, or even how disgusting his matted hair hung around his face. She just cared about him.
It was daunting.
"No," he answered her, trying to maintain a firm lock on her eyes and nothing else.
To notice nothing else, not her scent of jasmine and oranges, not the freckles sprinkled across her nose, not even the soft, pink blush mirroring her cheeks. But that was a challenge when she continued to sit there, far too close, far too intimate for his resolve. There couldn't have been more than inches between their faces.
That's when it happened.
It was quick and barely made contact before he shot back, but his lips captured hers in the quickest, most earth-shattering kiss he'd ever bestowed on anyone. Their lips barely even touched, but it was enough for his entire body to tingle and his heart to jump.
But later, it wouldn't matter how he turned the act around in his head, or who he blamed, he was forever shamed by his gesture. She'd been nothing but kind to him, loving and gentle and he had stole something from her that she would never get back. The horror on her face afterwards was like a punch in the gut before she shot to her feet and ran from the cave.
He never thought she'd come back again. But she surprised him by returning the following Wednesday, basket in tow and a heart-melting smile in place.
They never discussed what happened.
That year, he fell in love with her generosity and kindness.
Fifth year, he was finally a free man and spent every waking minute with her during summer. The generosity she'd taught him was returned by offering his childhood home to the Order. She had looked so proud of him. Her brown eyes had shone like stars with her barely suppressed tears. She had thanked him, but her smile had been more than enough.
That year was also the year her affections had been captured by the redheaded boy she and Harry were so fascinated with. Sirius honestly couldn't fathom why someone as intelligent and kind-hearted would want someone dim-witted and lewd, but he wouldn't stand in her path. She had every right to be a young woman and follow her own dreams, and he had no right to ask her otherwise.
But that summer had been and would forever be one of the most treasured in his heart. It had been spent lounging in the library with Hermione reading, talking and laughing. He couldn't get enough of it, of her. Each night when she'd doze in the midst of reading, he would scoop her up into his arms as if she weighed nothing and took her to her own room. He would never touch her beyond removing her shoes and draping the covers over her. Every so often, he would brush a curl off her cheek, but that would be the extent of his contact.
The next morning, she would greet him in the kitchen with one of her priceless smiles and set down a mug of coffee for him. She always made the best coffee and somehow always knew how he liked it. Molly tried to make it for him once and it lacked that special touch Hermione always put into it. So no one bothered after that.
Then there was the way she made breakfast, lunch, supper… they just couldn't be competed. He didn't know how she did it, she'd sworn she did nothing different, but whatever she created tasted like heaven. He could sit at the table all day and devour everything she placed in front of him and be the happiest man alive. She had always blushed when he'd said this. It had given him a small thrill to know he affected her, even slightly.
Their quiet days and nights became an adventure when number twelve, Grimmauld place became overrun with Order members. There was suddenly no more privacy, no more blissful silence and tranquil conversations.
Ron and Harry arrived; taking all her time and suddenly Sirius was alone once more. He'd told himself it was for the better. She deserved to be with her friends and the boy she liked. She was young and beautiful and didn't need to be cooped up in a musty, old house with a musty, old man.
One morning, she'd proved him wrong when he woke to find a note tucked beneath his bedroom door. It was from her and it said very little, but it was enough to make his old, tired heart pound with anticipation.
Meet me tonight in the library.
Yes, those were the most precious words ever to grace a piece of parchment. And for Sirius, that had been the longest day of his life.
That evening, he found her sitting curled up on the sofa, book in hand. She smiled when he entered and patted the spot next to her.
"I haven't seen you in a while," she whispered, closing her book and setting it down on the end table, next to the lamp. "I… I missed you."
Had he not been completely shocked by her confession, he would have danced.
She looked down, cheeks rosy. "I'll understand if you have other things you need to do…"
He shook his head, moving around the sofa as if in a trance. He found himself accepting the offered spot, sitting far closer than he should. There were other seats in the room; it would have been a smarter choice to pick one of them. But he couldn't move.
"Where are Ron and Harry?" he asked, relieved when his voice didn't falter.
She shrugged. "I think they're upstairs."
"Why aren't you with them?"
She looked down, nibbling on her bottom lip in that way that made him want to reach over and pry it lose and… he quickly cleared his mind of those thoughts.
"I wanted to be with you," she whispered, timidly lifting her gaze to peer at him through her lashes. "I miss reading with you and talking…"
He missed it too. He missed a great many things between them.
Instead, he said. "I miss you reading to me."
She chuckled softly. "I read you the paper just this morning."
It was true. She still sat with him at the breakfast table each morning and read him the paper. It was one of their many routines that had become a permanent fixture in his life, a routine he craved and needed to maintain a normal stream of sanity.
"What book are you ready?" he asked instead, motioning with his chin towards the book she'd set aside.
"Mechanics of Magic," she murmured, showing him the cover.
"Read it to me," he pleaded, peering deeply into her beautiful eyes.
She nodded, slicking her soft lips and opening to the first page. Her satiny smooth voice flowed through him like liquid honey. The sweetness lulled his weary body and relaxed him into a near state of absolute bliss. He closed his eyes and let her words seep through him.
Sneaking into the library late at night while the rest of the house slept quickly became part of their silent relationship. Nothing immoral or indecent took place while they sat in the soft firelight and read to each other. More times than not, she read to him, only because the sound of his own voice annoyed him.
When he'd told her this, she snorted and shyly told him she liked hearing him talk, to which he had no response.
But it happened during one of those tranquil moments when the fire crackled in the hearth, the cold wind whistled against the glass and everyone slept overhead. He wasn't sure how it started, but it came to the point where he would rest his head on her lap while she read.
The first time he did it, he half expected her to be appalled and shove him away. But she merely smiled down at him and began gently combing her fingers through his long tresses, and God did it feel incredible.
Soon he was returning the favor, by letting her curl into his side and rest her head on his chest while he read too, his fingers combing her hair.
It was decent. He never took advantage of her, not even when her delicate fragrance tore him to pieces. Even the nights she had fallen asleep in his arms, he kept his thoughts and hands on things that would not embarrass him or her.
Their nightly ritual continued all through the summer. The morning he ignored Dumbledore's orders, joining her and Harry to the train station to set her on her way to Hogwarts, had been the hardest day of his life. Watching her look up at him with deep, sad eyes had nearly torn him to pieces. It had taken all his resolve not to crumble under the temptation and touch her.
"I will see you at Christmas, love," he told her gently, giving her a small, reassuring smile. "It is only four months."
It felt like an eternity, but he refrained from mentioning so to her.
"It won't be the same without falling asleep with you," she murmured, flushing scarlet and dropping her gaze. "I mean…"
He chuckled softly, stuffing his hands into his pockets to keep from gathering her up into his arms. "I could always transform into Snuffles and sneak aboard."
"I wish," she whispered wistfully. "But the Order needs you here."
"Do you not need me, Hermione?" It had been meant as a joke and he hadn't really expected her to answer.
But she replied, "Yes," in such an honest breath that he balked.
His knuckle grazed her cheek, heart wrenching when she turned her face into it. Warm tingles raced up his arm at the satiny texture.
"We will be together in the library again soon. I promise," he assured her in a low, husky whisper.
She nodded, her next words rudely silence by the train horn signaling everyone aboard the Hogwarts expression
"Be safe, please, Sirius," she whispered, capturing the hand he'd used to dust her cheek and squeezing. "I'll write to you."
He kissed her knuckle softly and quickly released her. "I look forward to it."
The tears were evident in her eyes, even when she tried to conceal them by ducking her head and hurrying aboard.
He watched her go with a heavy heart, telling himself repeatedly that there was Hogsmeade visits and holidays that he could see her. It just wasn't the same.
The longing and loneliness he hadn't felt since his announced freedom quickly enveloped him and he found himself anxiously awaiting news from her. The library just wasn't the same without her in it.
Christmas, however, quickly became the focal point of his days. Each day drawing to that point sent a thrill through him, and judging by Hermione's letters, she was equally excited about the impending holidays.
The actual day the Hogwarts train dropped the children off, Sirius had been in a state of absolute anxiety. He couldn't recall the last time he'd wanted something so badly. Her descent off the train had her gaze roaming the crowd until they settled on him. Her eyes lit up like the string of Christmas lights branching around the train station.
"Sirius!" his name hadn't been shouted. It was barely even uttered. But he heard it like the crack of thunder before she lunged off the remaining step and hurried to him.
He didn't know why he did it.
Maybe because he'd missed her like nothing else, but it felt like the most natural thing in the world to do when he scooped her up into his arms and crushed her close.
"Hello, love," he breathed into her shoulder, closing his eyes and inhaling her sweet scent.
"I've missed you so much!" she said, holding him equally tight with her arms around his neck.
It was wrong, but he couldn't stop himself from replying. "I missed you too, baby."
Regrettably, that would be the last time they spent Christmas together, not that either was aware. They spent every waking hour together, cuddled on the sofa that had become theirs during the late hours of the night. The months they spent apart was quickly made up with the long hours they exhausted, watching the sunrise together before separating at the top of the landing and returning to their own respectful rooms.
Christmas morning, he gave her a copy of her favorite book, along with a silver locket inscribed with the words always yours across the back. She had thrown herself into his arms right there, right in front of all their friends and family.
He didn't look to see their reactions, didn't care about their hushed whispers or burning stares. His main focus was the tiny figure in his arms, holding him as if he were the only thing in the world to her.
Oh how he wished…
"I love it, Sirius," she whispered into the front of his button up top. "Thank you."
He kissed the top of her head. "You are welcome, love."
She pulled back an inch and peered up into his face. "I have something for you as well, but can you wait until the others are asleep for it?"
He opened his mouth to tell her he didn't want anything, except her, but the excitement, apprehension and uncertainty made him rethink his words and he replied instead. "I would love to."
With a smile, she handed him the silver locket and turned her back, lifting her hair and exposing the satin column of her neck. His hands shook slightly as he looped the silver chain around her throat and fastened it into place. He could have sworn she shivered when his fingers touched her skin, but he refused to dwell on it.
No one outright asked what was happening between him and Hermione, but he could see the question in their eyes every time they turned to him. Even his lifelong friend Remus looked wary of his intentions, not that Sirius could blame him. Hermione was so sweet and innocent, a far reach for an old scoundrel like him, and she was only sixteen.
Yes, legal in the Wizarding world, but still a child and in no way prepared to settle with a bitter, old man like him. She needed to live her life and explore whatever there was between her and Ron. It would be wrong of Sirius to deny her that.
That night while he waited for her in the library, he'd made up his mind. He was going to divert her attention away from him and onto the redheaded wizard. That was the right path for her.
"Sirius?" Her sweet voice drew him away from the leaping flames inside the hearth, and he turned to find her slipping into the room, clad in a white robe.
Her state of near undress made him swallow hard. She had never come to him that way and he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. Send her away? Take a step forward? He opted to just stand there and wait for her first move.
She stepped deeper into the room, tiny fingers twisting anxiously at her abdomen. "I…"
Her bottom lip disappeared between her nipping teeth and a hot, red flush crept through her face. She stopped when they were inches apart and tilted her head back to peer into his face. Her fingers flew to the locket lying against the soft skin of her chest. The sight of it, and nothing but flesh, had his mind wandering to images he had no right thinking. But still, his gaze inched down another millimeter to the V neckline. A sick part of him wondered if she wore anything under while the sane part told him to act his age.
"I wanted to thank you for the lovely presents today," she told him, her voice hoarse and uneven. "I…" she trailed off, face now a tomato red.
She looked so sweet at that moment and he wanted to calm her hesitance, but he was curious. Her behavior made him wonder what she was up to.
"I… love you, Sirius!" she blurted in a quick rush of words.
As if he wasn't stunned enough, she then lunged forward and pressed her mouth to his.
So sweet, so precious, but so wrong. He shouldn't allow it to happen. He should stop her. He should…
His mouth responded even before he could register all the reasons why he should push her away. All his thoughts, doubts, hesitations melted away in that single gesture. The darkness inside him seemed to vanish for that split second before she pulled away; peering at him with a mixture of uncertainty and something she was far too young to feel, at least for an old pervert like him.
"I'm not sorry," she said quickly. "I meant it! I've loved you since the very beginning and I know you would never feel the same for me, but I had to tell you."
How could she think he didn't love her? He'd never loved anything more. But she had to understand. She had to realize what she was asking.
"You belong with someone like Ron," he told her softly. "You have so much to offer, so much life and love to give… it would be wasted on someone like me."
She shook her head. "You deserve it more than anyone. I care about Ron, but he doesn't make me feel the way you do. I know you're the one I belong with."
Heaven help him if her confession didn't make his heart soar, if it didn't make him yearn for that glimpse of hope she was offering him. He could take it, take her and her beautiful affections and clasp them greedily to his chest. But even he couldn't be that heartless.
"I can't, Hermione," he whispered, hating himself all the more as he watched her heart break before his eyes. "Give your affection to someone your own age, someone who would appreciate them."
Her eyes glistened with tears under the firelight. They paved down her porcelain cheeks like rivers of silver.
"I thought… I thought you felt the same…" she whispered. "Is it because of my age? I'll be eighteen next year…"
He sighed, wishing with all his might he could take the pain away. "Your age is a factor, but there are so many other reasons, love. Just believe that I never intentionally wanted to hurt you. I do care about you dearly and would do anything for you—"
"But not love me."
"I can't," he murmured, stuffing his hands into his pockets to keep from grabbing her and showing her just how much he did love her.
Her heartbroken sob as she fled the room would haunt him for the rest of his life, a life that didn't last much longer than that.
Sirius Black died June 17th due to the Unforgiveable curse casted by his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. His body fell through the thin veil in the Department of Mysteries and was lost forever.