Forty minutes later, they reached the simpler and happier, four-year-old-appropriate ending of the story of Peter Pan. Teddy had fallen asleep somewhere around the rescue of the Indian princess, but it was apparently considered bad luck, or at least bad form, to not finish the story anyway.
Sirius and Hermione crept out of the room, not making a sound until the one-way muffling charm was cast, allowing them to hear if Teddy made any noises, but letting him sleep undisturbed.
As they made their way downstairs, Sirius immediately started teasing Hermione. "Well, you do a nice enough Wendy, but I must say, your Tinkerbell was absolutely remarkable," he said, unable to keep the laughter out of his voice.
"What, I get nothing for my performance of Smee?" Hermione threw back in mock indignation. "But of course, nothing can compare to your Hook," she added, neatly sidestepping the whole awkward issue of the story itself.
Anything else she was going to say was forgotten as soon as she pushed through the dining room door. Stopping in her tracks, Hermione let out a small 'Oh!' of surprise. The room was bathed in the soft glow of candlelight coming from several long, thin tapers. An elegant but intimate dinner was laid out before her on the Lupins' table, replete with two long-stemmed roses, crystal settings, fine linen she thought she recognized from the Black manor, and the faint strains of soothing music coming from the wireless. Looking closer, Hermione realized that Sirius had picked up dinner from her favourite Muggle Italian restaurant and charmed it to stay fresh while they had watched Teddy.
She supposed it might not have been the most original idea a wizard could have had for "romance" – perhaps some would say it was even a bit cheesy. But no one had ever gone to such lengths for her before. Truthfully, the only wizard who had ever even given her flowers was Viktor, and that had just been her corsage for the Yule Ball.
A warm hand pressed gently at the small of her back. "I know this isn't exactly a 'date'," Sirius rumbled, "but I thought - "
Hermione whirled around and cut him off by impulsively planting a kiss on his cheek. His eyebrows shot up briefly and an uncertain smile played across his features as his hand came up to touch the spot where her lips had been. She merely smirked vaguely and walked over to the table.
Apart from their "inappropriate" little exchange under the table earlier, that kiss was the first sign Hermione had given of anything other than platonic tolerance since Sirius had showed up at Flourish and Blotts that afternoon. It had been a bit of a cold splash in the face when she'd made the sarcastic and not entirely uncalled for retort about them being a couple now. After all, he knew he'd given her no reason to believe they were anything more than friends who had fucked. Despite everything he'd tried to show her of his feelings that night, his behaviour since then had likely demolished all of his good work. And Hermione Granger was hardly the kind of witch to wait around for him to pull his head out of his arse. She wasn't going to make this easy for him – it wasn't in her nature to, and that was one of the many things that drew him to her and made it impossible to just let her go after a month and a half of silence.
That one kiss, though – it was hope, a small indication that perhaps he hadn't let this whole thing die from his neglect. It was just a peck on the cheek, but Sirius saw it as encouragement to continue into these unfamiliar waters of properly romancing the brilliant young witch. He could do this – he might not have that much experience with actually dating (as opposed to just shagging), but perhaps his parents hadn't put him and Reg through the hell of etiquette lessons for nothing…
Licking his lips, Sirius moved to pull back Hermione's chair, unfolding her napkin and placing it in her lap once she was seated. She gave him a teasing half-grin that didn't quite mask her own pleasure as he helped scoot her in to the table.
"This looks absolutely lovely, Sirius," she said genuinely. "Thank you."
"Least I could do," he murmured as he filled her glass with a "fine red" – it was actually one of several bottles he'd discovered in a back corner of the cellar in his family home. He'd nearly chucked them out of sheer hatred for the man who'd originally purchased them. Remus had stopped him, however, pointing out that it was merely elfin wine, and exceptionally good years, too. 'Pouring out a priceless vintage isn't going to accomplish anything except making you look like a petulant child, Pads,' his friend had lectured. Not that the werewolf was biased, of course. He always did prefer wine to whiskey, and had apparently become a bit of an aficionado over the years. Sirius had given most of the bottles to him then, keeping a couple for himself just in case he did feel the overwhelming urge to take out his temper on them. Now, however – he could think of no better way to thumb his nose at the past than by enjoying the fine drink with this beautiful, intelligent, and sexy Muggle-born.
Settling down into his own chair, Sirius froze as a soft moan came from the pretty witch across the table. The sound went straight to his groin, and he swallowed hard. Looking up, he saw her face a mask of pleasure, her eyes closed, fork slowly sliding out from between those two luscious lips. Down, boy, he thought with amusement.
"That good?" he asked teasingly, although he knew the answer – he couldn't argue that Hermione's favourite dish of lobster stuffed ravioli from Fellini's was a bit of culinary bliss. But dear Merlin, if she continued making those little noises, he wasn't sure he'd know what to do with himself…
"Mm, heavenly," Hermione murmured, taking a sip of her wine. "I was starving," she added.
Sirius took a bite of his own food, unable to help the small groan that escaped as his taste buds were overcome by the rich dish. They ate in blissful silence for a few minutes before he decided to plunge headfirst into the topic that seemed most important for the evening.
"So tell me," he began, lazily swirling the red liquid around in his wine glass. "Suppose Peter Pan had grown up – do you think Wendy would still have left Neverland?" he asked in what he hoped was a casual tone. It was a ridiculous way of putting things, he knew – it was just a children's book, after all. But it also seemed painfully appropriate.
Hermione put down her fork and looked at him almost apprehensively. "Wendy didn't leave Neverland because of Peter, Sirius," she answered softly. Then, letting out a quiet laugh, she shook her head and looked down at her plate. "It's a stupid analogy anyway – the book isn't even about that, really," she added.
Forging ahead, Sirius argued, "Oh, I think it's a rather brilliant analogy, actually. After all, Pan was an arrogant, cocky, self-centered child who pretty much abandoned Wendy for her decision to grow up, right?"
Hermione gave him a startled look, clearly surprised that he had, in fact, read the original version of the story before that night.
"I'm sorry I reacted so poorly," he said finally, his voice firm but sincere. "You deserve so much better than that, Hermione. And I know it's not enough to simply say I'm sorry, but I was hoping you might give me a second chance to make things right through actions as well."
There, he thought nervously as he took a swig of wine. He'd manned up and said his piece, and what happened next was up to her –
"But…why did you react that way?" Hermione asked in a tone that was neither demanding nor accusatory. "I mean, I'll admit it was utterly dismal timing on my part, making that decision when I did. But you know I wasn't rejecting you, right? So surely this isn't all about me…"
Sirius sighed heavily and ran his fingers through his hair. So much for the ball being in her court…
"Not exactly," he admitted uncomfortably. "I know you weren't rejecting me, love. Honestly, it took me a while to figure out 'why,' myself."
He glanced up to see her watching him expectantly. No, Hermione Granger sure as hell didn't make things easy. Taking a deep breath, he began to explain. "Look – technically, I'm old enough to be your father, pet. And yet you're one of the most mature, brilliant, put-together people I know - far more mature and put-together than I am. And just when I'd finally managed to capture you for myself, you up and left, announcing that you needed to grow up!" He let out an incredulous chuckle and shook his head, but his grin quickly faded. "I suppose it just made me realize what a useless old hack I really am."
"You're not," Hermione argued.
"No?" Sirius laughed bitterly. "I missed the war, Hermione. I missed the war, I missed out on being there for Harry, I – I missed everything. And instead of making up for that, what have I done? I've spent the past thirteen months behaving like a self-entitled, self-serving, adolescent jerk, contributing absolutely nothing of benefit other than a good party now and then."
"You honestly believe that?" she asked quietly. When he didn't immediately answer, she shook her head. "Alright, fine - so you weren't here for war. But you also weren't here to witness the fallout immediately afterwards. We all lost so much – less than we could have, granted. But for some of us, having spent most of our youth battling or preparing to face Voldemort, once it was over, we didn't know what to do. Especially Ron, Harry, and myself.
"We all just sort of dissolved for a while there – I don't think any of us knew how to just live normal lives after all of that, particularly Harry." Hermione continued. "But when you returned, Sirius – it was like someone flipped a switch in him, and it spread throughout the rest of us, too. Somehow, you pulled us all back together again, and reminded us how to simply enjoy life and not take everything so seriously."
Sirius merely looked at her, somewhat skeptical. Hermione seemed to notice this and flashed him a grin. "Not that getting a job and behaving responsibly is necessarily a bad thing," she said, raising an eyebrow at him. "Although, I take it you're not supposed to talk about that."
"Neither are you," he replied with a smirk. "Besides, you're not answering my question."
"Oh, there was a question in there?" Hermione asked wryly.
Rolling his eyes, Sirius rephrased it. "Will you give this a second chance, Hermione? Look – what happened between us that night – I know what it looks like. But I never intended to take things that fast. And I know we're both shite at this, but - "
"It seems to me that we never really took our first chance," she interrupted, a careful smile flickering across her face.
Sirius took a deep breath and exhaled, giving her a nod of understanding in response. "Right," he said, feeling that awkward peace of having taken a step in a new and unfamiliar direction.
"And what's this 'we're both shite at this' nonsense?" she added teasingly, picking up her fork again and spearing a ravioli. "Is there a pygmy puff in your pocket, Black?"
"That's not the way I've usually heard it put, princess," he threw back.
Hermione hummed. "I'm sure many witches have mistaken your wand for something altogether less impressive…"
"Oi! I didn't hear you complain," he protested, then grimaced as he realized that even if they weren't joking, he couldn't have 'heard' her that night in any case.
Raising her eyebrows, she looked at him in disbelief. "You left that wide open, didn't you?"
"Yeah, well, you threw me off," Sirius grumbled.
"So sorry," she replied with a grin.
"There was crème brulee for dessert, but now I'm not so sure," he muttered petulantly.
"Mm, my favourite. Let me make it up to you?" Hermione asked sweetly before taking another bite of her dinner.
"Depends on how," he purred, his eyes narrowing as they watched that damned fork slowly glide from between her lips again. When her tongue darted out to run across her upper lip, he nearly groaned. Going slow and being 'properly romantic' was going to be even harder than he thought.
After they'd cleared the dishes and packed away the leftovers from dinner, they adjourned to the Lupins' living room with two small dishes of crème brulee, the sugar crust kept warm by the same stasis charm as their dinner. Sirius finished his first, then, setting his empty dish on the coffee table, he pulled Hermione's bare feet into his lap.
An involuntary moan escaped her lips as his thumbs slowly kneaded into one of her arches.
He smiled sinfully at her. "Love all those little sounds you make," he murmured. "It definitely was the down side to how I went about things that night."
Hermione blushed and swallowed a last spoonful of the sweet custard. "I don't make that many soun- oh!" she broke off on a sigh, her eyes closing and her spoon clattering in her dish. The things that man was doing to her feet…
"Mm-hm," she heard Sirius hum as he took the dish from her and set it on the coffee table next to his own. Still caressing and working her feet, he shifted to a more comfortable position, facing her with his legs running alongside hers. She could feel the warmth of that space between his thighs, and she tensed slightly, trying not to brush against him with her feet.
"Relax your legs, pet," he commanded, easing the foot he wasn't currently massaging into that very area she was trying to avoid.
It's not as though we haven't already done more… Hermione thought to herself with a deep breath, melting into his touch once more. Her instep, toes, heel, the top of her foot, and up her ankle – Sirius paid loving attention all the way up her calf to the back of her knee, his knuckles brushing the back of her thigh before making his descent back down her leg.
"Good?" he asked softly, running his fingers lightly over the top of that foot.
"Heavenly," she moaned and shifted, letting him set to work on the other.
Once he reached her other knee, Sirius lightly raked his nails down both her legs, causing her toes to curl in pleasure. In so doing, she managed to brush against the now hard bulge in his jeans. They both jumped slightly, but he held her legs in place, still soothing and smoothing over her bare flesh as if to calm her. Her awareness of him in that moment sent a wave of heat through her senses. Slowly opening her eyes, Hermione met Sirius' dark gaze and swallowed.
She knew she shouldn't – if for no other reason than because they were on their friends' couch and supposed to be watching their child. Never mind that whole concept of "taking it slowly." But the hunger in his look and the memories of that night together seemed to guide her actions as she deliberately curled her feet against him. He inhaled sharply, his eyelids fluttering and his fingers tightening around her calves as she gently kneaded him.
"Kitten…" Sirius growled thickly. Rather than just stopping her, though, he pulled her to him, dropping a leg to the floor just long enough for her to swing her body around and lay flush over him. She could feel his erection pressing against her abdomen, her breasts crushed against his chest as she shifted over him slightly and raised her head.
Hermione expected him to kiss her, their lips crashing together in an outburst of sexual tension and too long being apart. Instead, he smoothed her unruly curls back from her face and looked at her.
"How long before they're home?" he asked in a ragged tone as his other hand slid around her waist and began rubbing slow circles into her back.
"Not till two or three, I think," she answered with a shrug, her insides fluttering with apprehension and want.
Sirius let out a frustrated exhale. "Then I need you to behave, witch," he said tightly. "Because not only would it ruin my every good intention, but Moony has this rather appalling ability to – to smell if someone's… well…"
"I understand," Hermione interrupted, somewhat horrified. It made perfect sense, of course, but it was hardly something she really wanted to think on or be aware of.
"Good," Sirius said. "Thank you. Now just lay here and be nice, hm?"
Hermione let her head drop, her cheek resting against his chest, just above his heart. She inhaled and closed her eyes, letting the smell of leather, spice, and lavender shampoo fill her senses. She fought the urge to explore the exposed skin of his neck, just inches from her mouth. Instead, she focused on the warm hands that were rubbing slow, innocent circles over her back and shoulders.
After a while, though, even those movements were filled with too much heat, his touch possessive and filled with an intimate familiarity of her body. Hermione sighed against Sirius' neck, running her hands along his sides and over his shoulders until they were buried in his jet-black hair. He didn't protest this time as she moved against him, her lips nuzzling the juncture of his shoulder and neck.
His breathing had become just as labored as hers, intentionally long and heavy with forced restraint. That same deliberate restraint kept his hands moving in a constant rhythm - over her back and up to her shoulders, then back down again, cradling her to him as she tasted a path to his jaw line. When she finally reached his mouth, their kiss was achingly slow, a dance of lips and tongues that was slow and dusky and sweet as cold, dark honey.
When she broke away, Sirius nipped gently at her bottom lip before whispering against her mouth, "I shall have to punish you for this, you know."
Hermione merely hummed lazily in response, moving against him with a drugged sort of heat. She knew they needed to stop, and when Sirius bucked his hips against her, that hard bulge trapped in denim brought her to her senses just enough to do so.
"Sorry," she said ruefully, sighing and pushing against his shoulders so she could move off of him.
Sirius had other ideas, however. "Where do you think you're going?" he growled, wrapping his arms around her to keep her in place.
"I'm trying to behave," she retorted, wiggling against him to free herself.
"Fuck!" Sirius hissed, grabbing her hips and holding her still. "That's not helping, princess."
"Well, let me up, then!" she laughingly protested.
"No, no – I have to punish you, see," he purred against her ear, sending a shiver down her spine. "And I think the punishment should always suit the crime."
"Is that so?" Hermione breathed, gasping as Sirius' teeth grazed her earlobe and dipped down to nip sharply at a sensitive spot on her neck.
"Mm-hmm. So… you will… stay put," he explained between nibbles and kisses. "And behave yourself," he added, leaving a stinging sharp little bite on her shoulder to make his point.
"And in the meantime you'll do what? Torture us both?" she asked. "Doesn't that defeat your whole punishment?"
"No," Sirius answered patiently. "In the meantime, I will read a book."
Hermione jerked her head up with a frown of disbelief. "You can't be – 'read a book'? Are you mental, and what kind of a book?"
But Sirius had already grabbed his wand from the coffee table and Accio'ed the book of his choice from the Lupins' expansive library.
"Now," he said, catching the tome neatly in his hand. "You can either lay there and suffer in bored silence, or, if you're good, I will read aloud to you until my dear cousin and her husband return, or until we both fall asleep. Deal?"
She was still looking at him as if he'd grown another head and had started speaking Mermish. Not having any better ideas, however, Hermione gave a slow nod.
"Brilliant," Sirius said crisply, adopting a schoolteacher like tone. "Comfortable?" he asked. When Hermione gave another nod, he levitated the book above them and behind her head where he could read it, charming it to stay open to the correct pages on his command. Then, his warm, deep voice rumbled the beginning lines of a very old story.
At two thirty-five in the morning, Remus and Nymphadora Lupin Apparated just outside the front gate of their fenced-in yard so as not to disturb any sleeping children or babysitters inside. While Remus picked up a few stray toys left outside by their son, Dora went ahead, walking with a silent grace that she only ever managed to have in the comfort and familiarity of their home. Remus watched as his wife slowly opened the front door and peered inside before covering her mouth and closing it again.
Oh, no… Pads, you idiot… he thought irritably. If that mangy old cur… "What did he do," Remus snarled in a whisper, striding over to the porch.
Dora turned to him and shook her head as she lowered her hand. She was biting her lip against a grin so hard he thought she would burst any second. He gave a questioning shrug and waited. Holding a finger to her lips, she carefully pushed the door open again and let him peek inside.
There, on their living room couch, Sirius Black lay fast asleep, his face partially obscured by a head of wild brown curls, and his arms wrapped possessively around the witch laying partly atop him. Hermione Granger was also asleep, her face buried in the crook of Sirius' neck. An open book rested on her shoulder, evidently having landed there when Sirius had nodded off from reading.
Remus looked at his wife with a smirk before creeping into their home on silent feet. While Dora went straightaway to the loo, he carefully retrieved from the couple on the couch what he saw now to be one of the "Compleate and Annotated" volumes of fairy tales purchased by Andromeda as an 'heirloom gift' for Teddy's library. Neither Sirius nor Hermione so much as shifted. Remus looked at the cover and rolled his eyes, heading in to the kitchen to make some hot chocolate before going to bed. When Dora returned from the bathroom, he held up the front of the book for her. Seeing the title, she snorted and covered her mouth with her hand again.
Setting the copy of Peter Pan down on the counter with a sigh, he regarded his wife, who had predicted this relationship several months ago. "What do you suppose will happen now that the Pan has decided to grow up?" he asked wryly.
"Well," Dora answered, not looking up from her task of dropping marshmallows into the four steaming cups of cocoa on the counter. "I imagine he and Wendy will simply have countless adult adventures together, instead."
AN: Many, many thanks to all of you who left such lovely reviews - this is officially my most-reviewed story to date! I hope the ending wasn't too dangly, but really since this is essentially a story of how two people finally began a relationship, I had to end it somewhere, and "riding off into the sunset" seemed appropriate. I suppose I could go on and on with nothing but smut and fluff and a dash of fanciful high-tech magic projects, but I have The Wait to get back to, as well as a dozen or more other plotlines floating around here (*cough* and you can always check out my other stories too, if you haven't already!). I hope you enjoyed and many thanks again!