Author's note: I didn't want want to just upload a message, so here's a little holiday ficlet a month and a year late. I wanted to let everyone out there know two things:

One, I am very likely going to be pulling all of my NC-17 material from this site. It goes against the site's policies, but more importantly, I'm just not personally comfortable knowingly giving access of explicit material to a younger audience. If it were my 13 year old daughter using this site, I wouldn't necessarily want her to have carte blanche to all manner of smut when ffnet is supposed to be 'friendly' to younger readers. My explicit works can still be found at my dreamwidth account, as well as Archive of Our Own, which will convert files into epubs for you if you want to download them.

Two, in case it's not already obvious, I'm not really writing for fandom anymore. I won't say "never," but I am and have been focusing on original fiction for about a year and a half now. Unfortunately, that means "The Wait" might not ever get completed, and for that I owe everyone a huge apology. I am still waffling on the final verdict there, but if/when I close the door on it, I will be removing it from the web entirely.

I just wanted to give fair warning to anyone who might still be reading this stuff. Thanks so much for all of your support these past few years. You've really helped me to move forward as a writer, and for that I will always be grateful.

-pelespen

~O~

He loved this time of year the best. Always had, really, if for different reasons. As a child, it was the one time of the year he could count on his family at least pretending to be human. As he'd gotten older, it had become a glorious opportunity to rub his family the wrong way, humming Muggle carols under his breath, spending Christmas Eve in that tiny church in Spinners End with Lils for the candlelight service... at one point he'd considered purchasing a nativity set and sneaking it in to the family decorations, just to see his mother go through the roof over those 'ridiculous and primitive' icons of Muggle religion. In Walbura Black's mind, 'God' was a concept for lower humans who lacked the power to handle their own lives as witches and wizards could. But then he'd left all that behind, and December took on yet another meaning. The Potter family, with their holiday pranks and batches of biscuits and over-the-top decorations, and nothing bad there, no darkness or elitism or rivalry or obsession with 'purity'... He'd only had two Christmases with the Potters before James' parents had left them, but they'd been the best he'd had up to that point.

Then came the Order, and Christmas with a new family - their 'chosen' family, as Lily had called it. With James, Lily, Remus, and himself at their core (he refused to acknowledge that simpering piece of filth, ever again), the others would come and go, flitting between their blood families and other friendships before alighting on the hub that had become the Order. Patchworks of handmade decorations interspersed with the ornate strands of fairy lights and sparkling globes brought in from those with money, gifts that were heartfelt and given with real consideration rather than obligation, spiked cocoa and disastrous pies and so much laughter. Two years of those had immediately become the 'best' in his memory then.

And finally there was the addition of a new life, and Christmas became truly magical, because it was centered around one very precious gift to them all. Prophecy or no, the birth of Lily and James's child had been a symbol of hope, renewing determination in them all to fight what had become a nearly hopeless battle. Merlin, how they'd all spoiled that boy, despite the fact that he'd barely been old enough to appreciate any of it. That had been the last of Christmas for him, period, for a very long time.

He didn't like to think much of that one in between stints, either; he wasn't proud of his behaviour at that time, no matter how much understanding and justification the others had painted over it in hindsight. Too much alcohol, not enough sunlight or fresh air, far too many bad dreams, bad memories, too many ghosts, inside and out... No - best to skip ahead. Impossible not to, really, what with all the chattering and laughter and smells and her.

Almost as if on cue, she turned to him, still smiling from something someone must have said - he wouldn't know, as it was damned near impossible to pay attention with her around. He gave up trying long ago. He could almost hear James laughing at him now. 'Thought you said that'd never be you, Pads,'he'd probably say. Lily, on the other hand, would just give him that gentle but knowing smile - too sweet to be smug, but only because it was Lily.

"Still with us?" she murmured to him, making him blink.

Good lord, she was so beautiful. Unexpectedly so. Everything about her was warmth and home and - and Christmas.She was like Christmas, every day. His heart hurt and suddenly he couldn't swallow right.

Fool, he growled at himself in frustration. She always did this to him, had this power over him, reducing him to an inarticulate idiot. When he didn't answer, he felt her fingers close around his, cool and gentle and reassuring.

"Come on," she said, giving him a tug.

He followed her down the hall, through the kitchen, out on the back porch where it was really too cold and no one had bothered with a warming charm because they were all content to stay inside with the tree and gifts and mulled cider and cocoa. He watched in silence as she flicked her wand and erected a bubble of warmth around them before clearing the blanket of snow off of the porch swing. "Have a seat," she said, then added as an afterthought, "please."

It was that 'please' that grabbed his attention. There was something almost nervous in that single word, and he couldn't decide whether that was good or bad, so he simply nodded and did as requested. He looked up at her now, and felt a twinge of worry at the look on her face. She was chewing her lip. Andwringing her hands. For a fleeting moment, he felt real panic - more than he could ever recall feeling in his life, surprisingly. She was going to end it. He'd been a fool to think it would last - she was too young, too brilliant, and he was just some old, washed-up mess of baggage and scars. His mind swam with too many things at once - too many thoughts, emotions, memories. Somewhere amidst all that, the sound of 'God Rest Ye Merry Hippogriffs' broke through from the interior of the house. It was Christmas, for fuck's sake - was she really going to do this now? Anger, bitterness, then a jolt as she spoke.

"I - er, I know this isn't how it's normally done," she began, and her voice was so soft and slightly quivery and he suddenly felt ridiculous - of course she wouldn't just dump him on Christmas. Jesus, Pads, get a grip.

"Hey," he said quietly, and patted the spot on the swing next to him. "Come here. Whatever it is, it's all right, pet."

She took a deep breath and shook her head. "N-no, I need to do it like this," she answered.

He swallowed, his nerves and panic threatening to edge their way back in. "All right," he said slowly, bracing himself.

"It's been three years, Sirius. And that's okay," she added quickly. "I mean, I know other women put a great deal of importance on time frames, and - and some of them might automatically think that if things hadn't... 'progressed' to a certain point after a certain amount of time, that there might be reason to - to take certain measures, I guess. But I'm not one of those women! I'm really not! And, and if it's not something you want, then that's okay. I mean, it's not an all or none situation with me, and I hope you know that. It's just - I got to thinking that we all have our doubts and insecurities - well, at least, some of us do, and I was always taught that if you want something, you shouldn't just wait for it to fall into your lap, and sometimes all it takes is asking, even if it goes completely against tradition to do so-"

"Hermione, love," Sirius interrupted, chuckling bemusedly. "You're rambling. Why don't you just spit it out?"

The look she gave him then was so vulnerable, brown eyes wide and almost scared. He kicked himself as it sunk in. And then his heart began beating wildly. Had he really understood her correctly? Was she asking him -

With a shaky exhale, she nodded and dropped to one knee before him, her hands clasping his in his lap. He looked down at them - both sets of fingers imperfect in their own way, hers with jagged, uneven nails and paper cuts, his scarred and dry, chapped from riding his bike without proper gloves.

"Wait," he croaked, before she could say anything more. Then, freeing one of his hands, he dug around in his jacket pocket for the small, velvet box he'd been carrying around for months. She always had been braver than him, he thought with a note of derision. "You shouldn't have to be the first to ask."

"Oh," she gasped, her hands flying to her mouth. When she looked up at him, her eyes were filled with tears and - and love. So much so that he couldn't breathe for a moment.

"Is that a yes, then?"

Mutely, she nodded and let herself be pulled into his lap, her arms winding their way tightly around his neck. Her kiss was salty mixed with a sweet hint of cocoa. "Yes," she finally whispered against his lips and grinned wickedly as she pressed herself against the quickly growing tension between them.

Despite the overwhelming sense of joy, relief, and unspeakable love he felt, his only response was a lazy smirk. He tightened his hold on his witch and let his feet go, allowing the motion of the loosed swing to take matters a bit further. This Christmas, he thought happily as Hermione shifted into a more 'naughty' position, this Christmas was definitely the best one of them all.