A/N: Mwahahaha!


Embracing the Madness

By Kittenshift17


Chapter 13: Paving the Road to Happiness.


Friday afternoon crept up on Hermione, and as she lounged in the common room with the Marauders she realised something terrible. Tomorrow was the day of the next Hogsmeade trip and she hadn't been asked by a single person in all of Hogwarts to go as their date. In her old life, before the time-travel, that wasn't really that unusual. It was expected that she, Harry, and Ron would go together, and other than attending the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum, she'd never been on a date in her life, at least not while at Hogwarts. But here, in this time, she was the 'exotic' new transfer from Beauxbatons, and yet, she was utterly dateless.

Perhaps people believed that she was dating one of the Marauders or something and hadn't dared or bothered to ask her. Perhaps they just found her as uninteresting as Hermione Peverell as they'd found her as Hermione Granger.

Hermione sighed and glanced around at her friends, noting the way they sprawled about the Common Room, utterly oblivious to her dateless dilemma. She had somehow conned the four boys into doing the homework they'd been given for the weekend this evening because tomorrow was a Hogsmeade day and James and Sirius had Quidditch practice all day Sunday.

The group of boys were sprawled around the common room. Sirius was lying on his stomach along the couch Hermione sat on, his face by her thigh as he read from a text book on the floor. James had his parchment on his lap as he scrawled lazily in his armchair. Remus was bent over his paper at one of the desks in the common room underneath the window and Peter was sitting on the floor by the fire with his legs crossed as he scanned a book. Hermione herself sat with her parchment on her lap and her text book propped against the arm of the couch as she read and scrawled out information simultaneously.

"Something wrong, Hermione?" Sirius murmured to her without looking up.

Hermione glanced at him. She was shocked that he had managed to heal so quickly this week. His body was still covered in angry red scars, but he was no longer in danger of tearing his skin back open. Despite that, Remus still felt awful. He'd almost cried when he'd seen Sirius's body and again when he'd hugged Hermione to apologise for trying to attack her.

It truly astounded her how close the Marauders were though, Sirius hadn't batted an eye at the fact that Remus had almost killed him. Instead he'd slapped his friend on the back and suggested they all sneak down to the kitchens for food, even though he had only been out of bed for an hour. Days later he was practically healed, and not once had he lost his charm or wicked sense of humour. Remus still felt terrible, Hermione knew, but Sirius's upbeat and forgiving attitude went a long way to easing his guilt.

"I'm ok," Hermione said mildly. "You excited for your date tomorrow, James?"

Sirius snorted next to her as James groaned at the reminder of his date with Jenny Flaversham tomorrow. The past two weeks since he had asked her to be his date for Hogsmede had been a nightmare for James. There was plenty of speculation about the fact that James Potter had asked out a girl who wasn't Lily Evans for the first time in history, and little Jenny Flaversham had been parading around like a peacock, puffed up with pride and her own self-importance because she was the girl who had supposedly stolen James's affections. Hermione had seen her bragging to her friends about her date with James, and hand heard many other girls within Hogwarts envying Jenny because James was handsome and popular and rich and played Quidditch and because the Marauders exuded that devil-may-care attitude that so many girls fell for.

"It's been a bloody nightmare listening to how everyone speculates about this," James groaned, scrubbing his hand over his face. Hermione chuckled at him. He looked just like Harry had in fourth year when the whole school was convinced he had entered the Triwizard tournament on purpose.

"I swear, if this plan doesn't work and Evans doesn't change her mind, then I'm getting down on my knees and begging her until she agrees to go out with me" James said miserably.

"Don't worry Prongs, tomorrow you get to tell Flaversham over those little couple's table in Madame Puddifoot's that she's awful and egotistical and that her very existence offends you because she is so shallow and vicious and a complete heinous bitch," Sirius told James. He sounded particularly pleased about it and Hermione glanced at him with raised eyebrows.

Sirius caught her look and flashed her that wicked, heart-breaking smirk of his.

"So when we picked Flaversham as the target, it wasn't just at random. Obviously, we had to pick someone awful, otherwise it makes James a complete tosspot, but Flaversham has actually spread rumours about us. At one stage last year she told the school she had seen James and me holding hands and spread it around that we fancied each other. And earlier this year she spread around the school that Remus was in love with Tracey Montague, and she's… portly…. To put it delicately. Basically, she looks like she would eat Remus for breakfast and then search for a proper meal rather than just a snack."

"Sirius Black, I did not just hear you judging girl for carrying a little bit of weight, and calling another one shallow in the process," Hermione admonished him mockingly, her eyes twinkling as Sirius realised the irony of his words.

"Ok, so I'm a little bit thick, but honestly Hermione, I'll point Montague out to you tomorrow and you will understand our disgust and horror that such a lie would be spread about our dear, furry friend," Sirius said. Hermione rolled her eyes.

"You know James, you could always cancel on her, although that sort of defeats the purpose of the last two weeks I suppose. But if you really don't want to do it, then you could chicken out. But I know for a fact that the whole situation is driving a certain red head bonkers," Hermione said.

James glanced over at Hermione and raise his eyebrows when he realised she was serious.

"Did she say something to you?" James perked up; ruffling his hair excitedly. "Is she madly in love with me? Do you think if I ask her, she'd marry me over the summer?"

Hermione glanced around the group at the other Marauders. Each of them smiled happily, and when Hermione met Sirius's gaze, he rolled his eyes at their hopelessly smitten friend.

"Doubtful. But I think that if you keep this up, it might actually work. You guys should have seen her last weekend after the match. I was talking to her at one stage and I think that if she had glared any harder at the trashy little third years that kept flirting with you lot, they might have actually caught on fire. She was totally fuming, calling them tarts and glaring a whole lot, so I dropped a few hints that your ego could only handle so many rejections, and that maybe that was why you had supposedly moved on. She looked really unhappy about it, but I've seen the way she glances at you in class. It's totally working, the way you've been trying to ignore her as much as possible," Hermione smiled happily.

James looked ecstatic at the news and Hermione grinned when his eyes glazed over, no doubt he was picturing himself and Lily Evans being madly in love with each other.

"I heard some gossip today," Peter piped up suddenly, and Hermione glanced at him. "There are rumours flying about you Sirius."

"What are they saying about me now, mate?" Sirius asked, perking up now that they were discussing something he considered exciting. Himself.

"There's a lot of speculation about you not having a date for tomorrow," Peter said, "There were theories about you not having a date because of Hermione."

"What?" Hermione yelped, blushing when all four boys glanced at her mildly for gasping. Hermione avoided eye contact with Sirius, knowing that if she looked at him she'd just turn beet red and probably even stutter pathetically.

This week had been a nightmare for her. Especially after Sirius had spent all of Sunday night in her bedroom suite and her bed, healing. Her crush on him had definitely stepped up a notch.

"Yeah, I heard some of the fifth year Ravenclaw girls saying that Sirius must have it bad for the French transfer student, because it's the first time since third year that Sirius hasn't had a date to a Hogsmeade trip," Peter interrupted Hermione's thoughts.

Sirius continued to lounge languidly next to Hermione on the couch and Hermione found herself glancing at him to see first if the information was true that this was the first time he didn't have a date, and second, to see what sort of expression he wore at having people speculate that he must have a thing for her.

Sirius looked amused by the information and his eyes twinkled wickedly when he glanced at Hermione again.

"Did they say anything else?" he asked Peter.

Peter nodded. "They said some nasty things about Hermione. Said that she was a snobby French tart and went on about how it was unfair that she got to transfer from Beauxbatons and join our group so easily. And then they speculated some more that Sirius must really fancy her to forgo a date. They also called you rake, Sirius."

Hermione began to laugh. Grinning like a fool, she threw her head back and laughed. She might be twenty years in the past, but it seemed she would never escape the stigmas that stemmed from having mainly boys as her friends. There was something in that moment as she laughed about having people spreading rumours about her and popular boys that Hermione couldn't help but laugh out loud, even as she felt like she wanted to cry from missing Harry and Ron so much.

"Is she ok?" Remus asked softly as Hermione continued to laugh hysterically. Tears of laughter rolled down Hermione's face as she looked around at the four boys she had befriended, wishing Harry could have known them as she had come to. Gasping for breath even as she tried to control her laughter Hermione managed to choke out a question to them.

"You know how people always tell you that time will change everything?" she managed as she continued to chortle.

The Marauders all nodded their heads.

"Well, it's a complete lie," Hermione gasped out before her book fell off her lap and landed with a thud on the floor as she broke down into hysterical laughter once more.

While Hermione laughed, James Potter consulted his watch.

"Speaking of time… Bloody Hell! It's after midnight. I'm going to bed," he claimed, even as he began to yawn.

"Yeah, you've got to get some beauty sleep for your big fake date tomorrow," Sirius quipped, a chuckle in his voice. "You'll bloody need it, with a mug like that, eh?"

Hermione reined in her mirth as the Marauders got to their feet. Gathering up her own things, Hermione wished each of them goodnight as they headed for the boy's stairs.

"Hermione?"

Hermione glanced up, dropping her quill when she realised that she wasn't actually alone.

The common room was deserted but for Sirius Black and Hermione.

He stood close to her, as he always did, invading her personal space in a way that only Sirius seemed able to without upsetting Hermione. Memories of the previous week flooded Hermione's mind as she stared into those twinkling eyes.

When Hermione had returned from her lunch with Dumbledore, Sirius had been awake in her room, reading one of the books on the small book shelf. He was still in her bed, but he must have levitated the book over to himself.

He'd looked awful as he sat there, pale and drawn from the blood loss and the pain of his injuries. He'd smiled when he saw her, though. And even looking as pained as he had, he'd still managed to give her that wicked, heart-breaker smile that stole her breath and launched her stomach into an impressive display of acrobatics. It hadn't helped that his shoulder length black hair was mussed from sleeping and somehow made him look even sexier.

He wore that same smile now as he looked down at her, making her realise again that he was taller than her.

"You're blushing, Hermione," Sirius murmured as he smiled down at her.

Hermione felt her face warm as she blushed harder.

"Merlin, you're beautiful when you blush like that," Sirius whispered staring at her as his hand came up to brush her cheek very gently.

"Did you need something, Sirius?" Hermione asked, kicking herself for the huskiness she heard in her voice.

"You are an enigma, Hermione Peverell," Sirius told her. "Did it bother you? What Pete told us, about what people are saying around the school?"

Hermione raised her eyebrows.

"It's not the first time I've been accused of stealing the affection of boys who are far too popular with the female gender, Sirius."

Sirius quirked an eyebrow at her.

"That's not really what I meant," he murmured. "You yelped like a puppy with a sore paw when Pete told us they were speculating about you and me."

Hermione felt herself blush even more.

"Oh… Um… Did I?"

Sirius just stared down at Hermione, so close to her that Hermione could count the freckles on his nose.

"Why would people be thinking that you don't have a date tomorrow because of me?" Hermione asked softly, surprising herself with her daring. It wasn't like her to be so forward about this kind of thing. Normally she would just leave things to work out on their own and let people think whatever they liked. But there was something about Sirius Black that left her feeling tingly and weak in the knees.

He had this intensity to him that stole her breath. He stood there, practically nose to nose with her, so close that only an inch separated their bodies from being pressed flush against each other. His long black hair hung in silky waves around his face and his blue eyes sparkled in the firelight from the hearth. And as he answered her, Hermione found herself staring at his lips.

"Because I always have a date for Hogsmeade. But not this time."

"So why didn't you ask anyone to be your date then?"

"I did ask someone."

"Oh… did she say no?" Hermione asked softly, frowning and wondering who he might have asked that would actually turn him down.

For a long time, Sirius stared down at her, and Hermione raised her eyebrows at the intensity of his stare as he did so without replying to her question.

"Hermione, I asked you last week," Sirius murmured softly when it became clear that Hermione was still waiting for him to speak.

"No, you didn't," Hermione said, stepping back in shock.

Surely, she would've remembered if Sirius had asked her to be his date to Hogsmeade. Because every time she got close to the guy, her nose filled with the scent of diesel and timber and freshly cut grass and leather. Because every time Sirius Black grinned at her she felt her stomach launch into the most erratic gymnastics routine in the world. Because he constantly invaded her personal space in a way that she had only ever tolerated from him. Because whether she was entirely ok with it or not, Hermione felt certain that she fancied him just a little bit more than a school-girl crush.

"Yes, I did. When we had Potions and had to brew Amortentia, and I told you that you smelled like the things I could smell coming off the potion and then I asked you if you had a date for the Hogsmeade weekend."

Hermione took another step back and crossed her arms over her chest.

"First of all, asking whether I had a date and whether I would be your date are two very different things. And secondly, what does Amortentia have to do with this?"

Sirius stared at Hermione drolly.

"An enigma; I swear," Sirius muttered, dropping into an armchair and scratching his head. "Amortentia has nothing to do with anything. And I wouldn't have asked you if you had a date unless I meant that I was asking you to be my date."

Hermione snorted at his logic.

"Says who? Remus and Peter and James also all asked me if I had a date for tomorrow. Does that mean they were all asking me to be their dates, too?"

Before Hermione could blink Sirius shot off the couch and had circled behind her, this time with his hand resting gently on her right hip and so close to her that his chest brushed against her back. His long hair tickled her neck as Sirius stuck his nose against the skin on the left side of her neck.

Hermione squeaked as she heard and felt Sirius inhale the scent of her skin.

"You see Hermione, you smell like wildflowers and apple pie and rosewater and lilacs," Sirius murmured softly and Hermione felt goose pimples rise up all over her body at the huskiness of his voice. Slowly his hand crept across her hip to rest with his palm flat against her stomach, gently pulling her back against him.

Hermione quivered and bit her bottom lip on a gasp when she felt Sirius press a hot kiss to her neck.

"I lied to my friends for you when you asked me to tell them that the only reason you knew about all of us being Animagi and Remus being a werewolf was because I had explained it to you when you patched me up," Sirius whispered. "Until then, I'd never told a lie to James."

Hermione's whole body felt like it was on fire from Sirius's touch. Goosepimples raced across her skin, and she could hear her heart beat pounding in her ears. When Sirius pressed another scorching kiss against her throat, higher this time, Hermione heard herself gasp.

She'd never felt like this before.

Sirius pressed another kiss even higher up on Hermione's throat and Hermione heard the soft moan that escaped her lips moments before Sirius's hot breath and warm lips brushed against the sensitive shell of her ear

"Will you be my date to Hogsmeade tomorrow, Hermione?" Sirius asked her softly.

Heat flushed across Hermione's whole body at his actions and his words and Hermione felt herself turn to face him, with every intention of kissing him as a way of answering. She'd never wanted to kiss anyone as much as she wanted to kiss Sirius Black at that moment.

Her eyes quickly scanning his face Hermione saw that Sirius gazed down at her, his eyelids lowered slightly with lust as he stared hungrily at her lips. Hermione rose up on her toes with the intention of kissing Sirius.

"Everything ok, Padfoot?" James Potter's voice asked from the boy's stairs.

Hermione jumped in shock at hearing his voice and grinned a little when she saw Sirius jump, too. Hermione stepped back from Sirius as she turned towards James, the spell of the moment broken, even as her lips tingled and throbbed with the need to be pressed against Sirius's lips.

"Sirius was worried I might be upset about what people are saying about me," Hermione told James brightly, lying smoothly to cover the fact that she had almost kissed Sirius Black. Her heart was thumping so loud against her ribcage that she had no idea how both boys couldn't hear it.

She had almost kissed Sirius!

Again!

And once again, Jams Potter had interrupted. Hermione wasn't sure whether to thank him or hex him, because it would be incredibly foolish of her to admit to Sirius in any way that she fancied him as more than just a friend. In the same way that she had kept her feelings for Ron from him, Hermione felt she ought to keep her feelings about Sirius from all of the Marauders. Because from what she had learned of Sirius these past two weeks, and what she knew of him from her old time, Hermione knew that Sirius Black was the type of boy who would 'love' her until she gave him what he wanted and then he would become bored and move on to his next conquest.

And Hermione would not be just another one of his conquests.

Her peers could whisper about her all they liked, they could say the worst things about her if they must because she could take comfort from knowing it wasn't true. But there was no way Hermione was going to risk her friendship with James and Remus and with Sirius, just because she had foolishly fallen wand over cauldron in love with Sirius Black.

Sure, Remus knew that she had smelled scents of Sirius on the love potion, but he hadn't breathed a word about it to anyone. Mostly because he felt guilty about kissing her and then chasing her in werewolf form.

"Are you ok? Don't worry about what they say, Hermione. You're running with us now, so they were bound to viciously lie about you. They're all jealous because they aren't anywhere near cool enough to even be considered as becoming part of our little group," James smiled at Hermione kindly. He sounded ridiculously cocky, but Hermione couldn't help the small giggle that escaped her at his acceptance.

There was no way she could start anything with Sirius. It would cost her too much when things fell apart.

"I'm peachy, James. Just Peachy. It takes a little more than petty fifth year girls describing their jealousy to upset me," Hermione reassured him with a happy smile.

James grinned and winked at her before he turned away and ascended the stairs once more. Behind her, she could hear Sirius grinding his teeth, as he had been since the moment James's voice had interrupted them.

Slowly Hermione turned back toward him, blushing slightly because she had almost kissed the handsomest boy she'd ever met. Sirius looked mad. His arms were crossed over his chest and he leaned against the arm of the couch, with one ankle curled over in front of the other. He didn't say anything, just lifted one eyebrow at Hermione.

Hermione mimicked the action, crossing her own arms.

"Quite the forked tongue you have, Peverell."

"Only when I have need of it," Hermione countered, less than pleased at being called a liar.

"Oh, and what reason could you possibly have for lying to James?"

"I didn't lie to him, Sirius. You asked me a few minutes ago if what people are saying bothers me."

"We'd moved on from that topic, and you know it," Sirius began to tap his foot in irritation as he watched her with hooded lids.

"Did you really want James to know you had just asked me to be your date for tomorrow?" Hermione asked mildly.

"Why wouldn't I? He'll see us tomorrow, anyway, and I'll probably tell him tonight."

Hermione raised her eyebrows.

"Sirius, I'm not going to be your date tomorrow," Hermione told him softly.

Sirius froze at her words and Hermione wondered if she had already done damage to their friendship by turning him down. But it was either do a little bit of damage now, or deal with a whole lot more damage later on when he went and broke her heart. Besides, Hermione reasoned to herself, if she was going to achieve her goals here of destroying the threat of Voldemort , the worst thing she could do would be to drag Sirius into danger by having people know she was in love with him.

Hermione started as those words floated through her mind.

Because she was in love with him. Like a fool she'd let her emotions run away with her just like they had for Ron. Hermione snorted as an image of Ron wrapped around Lavender floated behind her eyes.

"Sure looked like you had a different answer a few minutes ago," Sirius's low voice interrupted her musings.

"A few minutes ago, I let you cloud my judgement."

"And if James hadn't interrupted, we'd be snogging," Sirius growled. "You embarrassed by me, Peverell?"

Hermione sighed, realising she had hurt his feelings.

"No, Sirius. I'm not embarrassed by you at all. But I am aware for the fact that you lot are the only friends I have, and seeing as I'm stuck here permanently, it seems awfully foolish of me to risk losing the only friends I have now, doesn't it?"

"Meaning what?" Sirius said sharply.

"Sirius Black, you know as well as I do that you are a complete dog when it comes to women. You chase them until you get them and then you drop them like a forgotten toy as you chase your next conquest," Hermione snapped. "And I won't lose my friendships with James and Remus, and with you, just because you're thinking with the wrong head. I've spent far too long loathing one of my best friends because he went and broke my heart by running off with some little hussy. I'm not doing it again."

Gathering up her belongings Hermione turned away from Sirius, and headed for the staircase to her suite.

"Hermione?" Sirius said softly. Hermione tried to ignore him, but Sirius caught her arm. "Don't go to bed mad."

Hermione felt her eyebrows rise as she glanced over her shoulder at him. Sirius wore a tender expression and he tugged on her arm until Hermione turned back around to face him. Hermione stared up at him, daring him with her eyes to say something sweet that might convince her to possibly agree to be his date, anything that might confirm to her that he would love her and leave her like he had done to so many girls within Hogwarts.

"You know," Sirius began thoughtfully as he looked down at her with those beautiful grey eyes. "I don't know where you came from or how you landed here with us, but there's something about you, Hermione. Something mysterious. I don't think you are who you say you are."

"What do you mean, Sirius? You do know. I came here from Beauxbatons in France after a charm kicked into effect upon the death of all my living relatives."

"Funny, for a French girl you've got a British accent," Sirius murmured, his eyes scanning her face for some clue that she wasn't telling the truth. "And while you might have denied it or pretended to forget, I know you knew me and James when you burst into being on the Quidditch pitch."

Hermione's mind raced as she scrambled for lies to keep Sirius from ever finding out the truth. Because it would be impossible to explain to him that she had been blasted back twenty years in time until before she was born, after knowing him in her own time, after knowing all the things she knew of the Marauders and their fates. Sure, she was tampering with fate by being here and she would keep tampering, but Sirius could never know that unless she changed the present, the future would lead to the death of his best friend at the hand of another of his best friends. He could never know that Peter could betray James if it came to it. He could never know that he would leave his godson to the mercy of a cruel aunt and uncle because he was wrongly accused of mass murder and locked in Azkaban prison for twelve years, only to escape and have the largest ever man hunt wizard-kind had ever known.

"You burst into existence and when you opened those pretty brown eyes, I saw recognition in them. You called James by another name and looked devastated when we didn't know that name. And when you asked to be taken to Dumbledore, you called me Sirius. Before I'd introduced myself, you knew me. And not just through rumour or social standing as one of the oldest Pureblood families either, when you looked into my face you really knew me. And you knew in less than a week that Remus was a werewolf and the rest of us had become Animagi to help him cope. I showed up at your door drowning in my own blood and three quarters dead in dog form and you knew instantly that it was me. You barely batted an eye when I transformed on you floor."

Sirius still had hold of Hermione's arm and the warmth of his hand through her clothing was very distracting even as he broke down the lies she had constructed.

"I lied to the boys for you because you looked terrified when I asked you about how you knew so much, but I know you're lying to me. You're lying to all of us. I know you're not Hermione Peverell, recently orphaned French girl. I don't know what it is that you have to fight so hard to keep from us 'Mione, but I will find out," Sirius vowed his eyes held her gaze as he spoke, and Hermione knew he meant every word. That he would dig and he would delve until he knew every skerrick of truth about her.

Hermione felt chilled at the thought, but that didn't stop the words that tumbled out of her mouth on her next breath.

"Sirius Black, the truth about me would rock the very foundations of your whole world."

Rising up on her toes, Hermione pressed a soft kiss to Sirius's cheek, pulling away from him and ascending the stairs before he could stop her again.