A/N: And here we go! The Salon! Thanks to my new reviewers and the faithful ones that have stuck by me. Also thank you to my amazing beta LiteratiAngel! Enjoy!
"I don't want to go," Dora said matter-of-factly as she disentangled herself from Severus' thin but toned arms. They were lying on the couch in his office at the Bergére, her back pressed against his chest and he had his head buried in her hair, which was still messy from their afternoon romp. He groaned as she rolled out of his arms but her scent of ginger and honey stayed with him, clinging to his shirt.
"I don't want to take you back either, but you've missed supper and I am sure your new cousin has been expecting you," Severus said as he sat up on the couch, ran a hand through his black hair and buttoned up the top half of his shirt. Dora was sitting cross-legged on the floor in only her underwear. She looked up at him and he had to try not to verbally admit that he wanted her again at the sight of the swells of her breasts.
"Is everything okay with you and Sirius? You talked for a while…"
"Nothing to concern you."
"When can I start back here?"
"Never." Severus sighed, looking at her with a finality that meant he didn't want the issue to be pushed. But who was he kidding; it was Dora…he was practically asking for a response.
"Why not? I love it here. I love being around you! How will I ever see you if I can't come here? How will I make money?" She stood up from the floor in a flash, pacing around the room, her hands moving wildly to accompany her ranting.
"Sirius and I both agree that it isn't safe for you to be here. I couldn't bear it if anything happened to you again. As for money, Sirius has you taken care of…"
"Oh, we both know that's a lie!" Her hands were on her hips as she stared down the older man.
"With all my heart, I promise that I will never allow you to starve again. Both Sirius and I are figuring out a way to fix his little problem and will ensure that you want for nothing. And you know, Nymphadora, when I want something, I always get it…" he finished with a small smirk that sent a shiver down her spine. It took her back to over a year previously, when he had first told her that he wanted her and they had shared their first kiss on the very couch he was sitting on.
"But even if that does happen, which is highly unlikely…" Dora said. Severus moved his mouth to speak but she held up a hand, "Do not patronize me, Sev, I know exactly what's going on. Now, where does that leave us?"
Severus shook his head at the defiant girl in front of him who regularly tested his patience, but he wouldn't have it any other way. He couldn't help but lament that she really did not know all of it. Not where he and the Bergére were concerned.
"You and I will be just fine. I will visit you when I can…"
"You don't want to be seen with me! We've been sneaking around for over a year; my friends only recently found out but you still won't take me as a mistress! You are perfectly entitled to, you know. You don't even have to fucking pay me if you don't want to. I don't care!" She was working herself up. He loved how passionate she was about everything but it made it hard for him to look at the pain in her eyes.
"That's not it, Dora…"
"Then what is it? I may have started out badly. I may have been a whore once upon a time. But since I've come here all I've been is a dancer and a lover to you. Besides Riddle, no man has touched me since then and you know I didn't want his hands on me at all! I have a family now, a proper family, a respected family! Why am I still not good enough for you?" she yelled at him, looking down at him hopelessly.
He didn't know what to say to make her feel better. Ever since Riddle had kidnapped her, he knew he was past the point of reason in his love for her. He had told himself that upon her return he would ask her to marry him, and that he wouldn't care what society thought. Now she did have the chance to be a respected society woman with the right training and a little damage control…but he didn't. In a week's time he would have nothing but the clothes on his back. It was he who was no longer good enough for her.
"This isn't the right time to discuss this, Dora," he said after a moment, his eyes hardened as he stared at the ground instead of her.
"Then take me home."
"Is everything settled?" Narcissa asked Remus as she stood in the doorway of the social room near the end of the second floor hallway. He was sitting pensively on a few blankets, reading a book from Sirius' library in the space between the cards and billiards tables. He looked up at her; glad that he hadn't decided to turn in early. The whole manor was quieting down now but she looked just as awake as he was. The only change in her from that morning was that her blonde hair was down, falling around her shoulders, and it made her look less intimidating and much more beautiful.
"Yes, thank you. Has Monsieur Black returned?" Remus asked anxiously. He was still very nervous about his painting of Hermione and the fact that he was sleeping at Sirius' place without his agreement.
"No. Nymphadora returned a while ago, but he did say that he had some very important errands to run. He shouldn't be back too late. But please don't worry about a thing. Besides, we are happy to have both yourself and your talent here… or at least I am." She gave him a small smile, tapping her red nails against the doorframe before disappearing out of his sight and walking down the stairs to the foyer. She wanted to check on Dora again, as she had come back unsettled and teary-eyed, but her thoughts kept wandering back to the second floor where the scruffy artist was sitting so casually in a linen shirt reading some tattered novel. He had a passion in his eyes that her husband lacked, especially when looking at her. It made her heart ache and she found her excuse to retire to bed as she looked over the banister and saw George Weasley speaking softly with Dora in the drawing room. She turned on her heel and walked back up the stairs to give them privacy.
"What did he do to you to make you so upset?" George asked concernedly as he sat next to a quiet and distant Dora. He touched her hand softly but she pulled away.
"What does it matter, George? It's none of your business."
"If you want to get technical, Tonks, it actually is. You are Monsieur Black's beloved cousin and I work for him, therefore, I think it is in my job description – unstated, of course, but nevertheless important – that I look out for your well-being," he said smugly, pleased that his answer made her smile a little.
"Well, if you must know, I don't think that he wants to be with me anymore," she said, turning to the redhead, who frowned.
"And why wouldn't he? You are unlike any woman I have ever met…"
"Thank you, George, but you really shouldn't be after me. You should be looking for a nice girl your own age." She sighed. She liked George, she really did. She found him attractive and loved flirting with him, but it wasn't the all-consuming beautiful and awful love she felt for Severus.
"What are a few years when he's a middle-aged man?" George asked more forcefully and Dora leaned over and gave him a light kiss on the cheek.
"I don't know, George. I really don't. All I know is that you are just as amazing as you think I am, but my heart is already too full to let you in. Goodnight, I'll see you in the morning," she said with a soft, sad smile before getting up and heading to bed.
Sirius arrived a half hour later and Fleur was still up to make him a cup of tea. He thanked her and took a moment by himself in the drawing room to collect his thoughts about the day. First there had been the bad news with the Bergére and Severus, which subsequently affected Dora, and then spending hours upon hours at the clearly corrupted police station while the officers ignored and avoided the questions about his fortune, saying that they had put the case aside and that they did not believe his claim. He was sure that it was Riddle now; the man was slowly unraveling his life so that he was free to pick up the pieces when they fell. Sirius was desperate and scared, and he gulped the rest of his tea down quickly. He knew that he should go up to his library to write until the sun came up, but all he wanted was to see Hermione.
He knocked on the door to her room lightly a few moments later and heard her sweet voice beckon him in. After he shut the door, he turned to see her cuddled under the duvet of the large pink bed and watching him move towards her with big, sleepy eyes.
"I'm sorry that I am so late," he apologized, taking off his jacket and laying it over the back of her vanity chair.
"You told me to wait up for you, and I did as promised." She smiled as he flipped back the duvet, took off his shoes and crawled under the covers next to her, almost fully clothed. Her warm body in a simple white nightgown pressed up against his.
"That you did, darling, and that deserves something special," he smiled back at her, rolling gently on top of her and kissing her softly. Hermione closed her eyes and took it in. His shirt told the story of his day. As they kissed, she smelled the few cigarettes that he had smoked, the smell of rain from the drizzly day, and on his lips, she tasted earl grey as her fingers worked the buttons of his shirt apart and then her hands were free to roam over the taut muscles and planes of his chest.
Sirius hated being away from her all day like that and, after the Salon, he hoped they would have time to devote to each other, to more of this. Her lips tasted like chocolate and she smelled a little bit like fresh paint; the whole manor did. He was lost in the softness of her full lips against his and how her little hands touched him all over and to his great pleasure started to cup his erection through his trousers.
"You are much too overdressed for this occasion, Monsieur Black," she giggled underneath him, pulling at the button.
"I think it is you who are too underdressed…I mean, how dare you wear such flimsy nightgowns to bed? It could give men like me filthy thoughts…" he teased back, palming her breasts through the sheer white fabric, noticing her pink nipples straining against the lace.
"That is exactly the point," she looked up at him, now wide-awake as she pushed his trousers down his thighs.
"You surprise me every single day, Hermione." He dove back down to kiss her harder this time, sliding her nightgown up her smooth legs and nestling himself right at her entrance as he realized she had forgone wearing any underwear to bed, "Naughty, naughty girl…" he smirked and proceeded to thank her well for the surprise.
The guests started arriving around 5 in the afternoon, over a hundred of them in all; filling up every room and the foyer, and with Neville, George, and Fred taking coats and serving drinks, and Minerva and Fleur hastily finishing up the food in the kitchen.
Sirius was in awe of the success of it so early. He was dressed in an immaculate black double-breasted tail coat, his bowtie perfect thanks to Narcissa, who was standing across the foyer a few meters away, laughing congenially with two politicians' wives.
He tapped his foot nervously and sipped a cognac as he talked with Edgar Degas and Gustave Caillebotte. They were interested in some of Ronald's paintings that were displayed in the foyer and Sirius was very sure that by the end of the night, Ron, Harry's, and Remus' paintings would be their ticket to admiration and fame.
He looked around the party, more people coming through his doors by the moment. There were other poets and writers, many painters, politicians, academics, architects, and aristocrats. In the fray was Harry, not far from him, dressed in one of Sirius' own suits that Minerva had tailored to fit him quickly this morning, standing alongside Ron, also in borrowed attire.
It had certainly been a hectic morning at the manor. Most of them had been up since dawn getting everything in place, and although he had wanted nothing more than to lounge with Hermione in her bed, he knew if he left Cissy alone she would never let him hear the end of how she had single-handedly executed his salon party.
Things had also been thrown for a wrench with Sirius when he found out that Hermione's former lover, Remus Lupin, had spent the entire night under his roof without him knowing it. But Cissy had chastised him about it enough to know when to stop complaining and thanked the man for coming, and lending him one of his older (and quite ugly) waistcoats was the only sufficient payback that he could get away with even though he had fully invited him weeks ago.
Besides the general chaos, Sirius spent the morning writing in the foyer, with Cissy insisting that his office and library were being used as gallery space and Harry and Ron still had some work to do in there. He hardly saw Hermione, Dora, and Ginny as Fleur was preening them to within an inch of their lives – when she wasn't stirring bisques or making canapés, that is.
His eyes alighted to Hermione as she came down the staircase in the beautiful royal blue gown she had worn when she had first visited him there. Dora and Ginny trailed behind her and most of the crowd gathering on the main floor looked up from their drinks and conversation with interest. Everything seemed blurry to Sirius, except for Hermione. All he noticed was the smooth curls of her hair falling over her shoulders, her sweet pink lips, the black ribbon around her neck and the lace fan she was holding in her small hand, walking down the staircase looking like she was a princess. She was to him.
He excused himself from his conversation with the artists and made his way over to the landing of the staircase to offer Hermione his arm. She beamed up at him and took it with her gloved hand as Narcissa smiled on in approval. Dora lingered but was soon offered an arm by George, and Ginny found Harry easily enough as the party and conversation continued.
"Is Riddle here yet?" Hermione whispered as she looked around the crowd. Sirius shook his head. He was more than aware that Tom was not yet there, nor was his cousin Bellatrix. Severus had not shown up yet either and he could tell from the look on Dora's face that she was distraught about it.
"I honestly hope he doesn't. It is such a lovely party and I would hate for him to ruin it. You look absolutely stunning, Hermione," he said, changing the tone of the conversation. He knew that he and Cissy wanted Tom to appear so that he could 'see' that they were not being hurt by his games and ploys.
"Oh, Monsieur Bouguereau, I want you to meet Mademoiselle Hermione Granger." Sirius stopped in front of what was presumably a dear friend. He looked nice enough as he took Hermione's gloved hand and kissed it.
"He is the President of the Société des Artistes Français," Sirius added with emphasis so that Hermione would know just how important he was. He watched the light in her eyes as she was surrounded by everything she deserved to be surrounded by; luxury, intelligence, and culture.
"Ah, so you are the muse. Prettier in person, although I confess that I thought would be very hard for the girl in question to live up to such a likeness…" Bouguereau complimented her and watched her blush sweetly.
"Pardon?" Sirius asked, confused and Hermione's stomach began to clench.
"The lovely portrait of her in the library. I daresay I must exhibit it at our next showing. I know it will sell for a very high price. It is honestly the most genius thing I've seen in years. Do tell me who painted it?" He looked at Sirius, who still seemed confused.
"Monsieur Lupin… He's right over there…" Hermione answered for him, pointing to the tall man in conversation with Ron and a man she didn't recognize.
"Well, I must go and inform him that he is a very talented and lucky man. Please excuse me." Bouguereau inclined his head slightly and walked off, leaving Sirius staring intently at Hermione.
"I assume that you did not see it…" she started.
"Obviously, what is he talking about? What have you and Cissy been keeping from me all day?" he asked through gritted teeth.
"Something that just got Remus out of poverty!" she answered. She kept her voice low but her tone was agitated.
"I need to see it…"
"No…not right now…" she pleaded, but he seemed intent. His dark eyes were troubled and he glanced at the staircase, wondering just how many of his friends had seen this mystery painting. People were starting to move around the house. Fleur and Minerva had set the food out and had changed into nicer attire to serve food around on trays. People were making their way upstairs to play cards. He was starting to panic.
"Yes, now," he said, breaking away from her and making his way calmly through the crowd away from her. He stopped to talk and mingle with people who caught his eyes, but she could tell that his goal was clear. Instead of following and witnessing his reaction first-hand, she stayed and joined Harry who was talking to a poet introduced to her as Rimbaud, who looked very intoxicated.
Hermione watched the main door that Neville was constantly opening and closing and one of the guests was Lucius Malfoy with a pretty, slightly aloof blonde girl in a silver gown trailing behind him. Behind him was his son Draco – who Hermione observed looked constantly as though he had smelled something horrible – and who had his arm linked through one that belonged to an aristocratic black-haired beauty. Monsieur Snape trailed in behind the two couples and although Dora's face brightened across the foyer, Hermione noticed that Cissy's only looked annoyed.
Hermione had grown to love Narcissa as both a surrogate mother and sister, and politely excused herself from Harry and Rimbaud's increasingly odd conversation to join the gorgeous blonde as a sign of support. As Hermione sidled up next to her, Cissy gently squeezed her hand in thanks as Lucius, Draco, and the two girls approached.
"Good evening, dear husband of mine," Cissy smiled, her voice dripping with false sycophancy as she leaned across to brush her lips against Lucius' cheek. She was in front of friends, after all, and had to play the game. While the girl on Draco's arm was introduced as Pansy Parkinson and was clearly his girlfriend, the ethereal blonde next to Lucius was named Luna and was clearly the mistress that Narcissa had told Hermione about.
"This is quite the gathering," Lucius responded, looking around.
"Is Bella coming?" Cissy persisted.
"Of course, and she's bringing Mademoiselle Gold…" Lucius smirked at Hermione who had to stop herself from shooting him a dirty look in return.
"How wonderful," Pansy drawled, entering the conversation. In that moment Hermione felt a small kinship with this girl, as it was clear that she was not taken in by Theresa either. But none of the party had to wait long for their arrival, as the noise only made by a gossipy murmur soon came and a look at the door confirmed Theresa Gold and Bellatrix Black had arrived, their coats being taken simultaneously by the twins.
Theresa Gold was wearing a beautiful blood-red dress that accentuated her creamy as milk skin and her beautiful eyes. Even her auburn hair didn't clash with the bold color and was pulled back in an intricate twist with some tendrils hanging down to frame her face. Her dress was cut just low enough for some of her more impressive assets to be displayed and her lips were painted the same deep shade as her dress. She looked perfect. It was now Cissy's turn to comfort Hermione as the two women walked over and joined the little circle. Small, polite greetings were exchanged between Theresa, Pansy, and Luna as Bella sulked off to the side in a lacy black dress with a smirk on her face and no good reason to have it.
"Oh, Hermione, I was so hoping to see you here," Theresa exclaimed with feigned over-excitement.
"Why wouldn't I be? I live here," she replied.
"Hmm…Lucius, darling, could you take me upstairs? I heard rumors that there was some fantastic piece of art in the library that everyone is positively raving about!" she asked him in a sugary voice and the man was all too happy to comply, leaving his mistress slightly confused as she stood awkwardly with the group. Cissy and Hermione exchanged looks, wondering how she could have possibly known about the portrait when she had barely been in the manor for five minutes.
There were so many emotions warring in Sirius' body that he literally could not move. When he had entered the library, it was thankfully empty, so he had shut the door and walked towards the painting on the wall that everyone had been talking about: the one of his Hermione.
His Hermione: naked and sprawled out on a couch. Not his couch.
His Hermione: looking right at him with her big eyes and an unreadable expression.
His Hermione, who had been painted by another man. Seen naked by another man. And now seen naked by half the men currently in his house.
He was angry, and even that was an understatement. And he was confused. And entranced by the unmoving girl in front of him. And he was jealous, very, very jealous.
His inner emotional struggle was interrupted by the door opening and shutting, and heels making their way towards him. His hands clenched and he was ready to turn around and yell at Hermione.
"How dare…!" Sirius paused, immediately shutting his mouth when he saw the women that had crept up behind him was the lovely Theresa Gold.
"Expecting someone else, I take it?" she asked with a glimmer of mischief in her eyes as she looked up at the large painting of Hermione, knowing that the man in front of her was clearly upset about it.
"Something like that. Enjoying the party, Mademoiselle Gold?" he asked, his tone polite bit clipped, his stormy eyes still darting to the Hermione on the wall.
"Everything is lovely, but I was most interested in this painting. No one can stop talking about it, and I can see why. Your mistress, bared for all the world and painted by another man. I can't imagine how you must feel about it…" she said softly, placing a hand on his arm as she stood next to him.
"My feelings are irrelevant," he said, turning to her, "Now, can I take you downstairs and introduce you to some of my closest friends?" He didn't know what to do. He knew this young woman had made Hermione cry and hate herself. He knew Cissy hated her. He knew his body was screaming at him to get out of the room before something bad happened, and at the rate her hands were slipping from his arms to his chest, it was imminent.
"I was actually hoping for a moment alone with you. Don't worry about Mademoiselle Granger, she will be out of both of our lives soon, and all anyone will remember her by is this wretched painting," Theresa whispered as her hands stopped roaming over his chest and started to descend down his body. He tried to push her away, but it was a feeble attempt. His mind was clouded with thoughts that Hermione had betrayed him and more than that, ruined her image, so when Theresa's red lips pressed against his, he took her eagerly but guiltily.
Hermione had finally managed to break away from the awkward conversation with the Malfoys and Blacks and had gone in search of Sirius. She checked the social room first and found it lively and full of people, none of whom were Sirius. After a few more failed attempts she tried the library, opening the closed door quickly… What she saw made her hand move to her mouth to stifle a scream.
The noise she wanted to make would have scared the whole house. The sob that was threatening to erupt was going to give her away but she couldn't take her eyes off of the beautiful Mademoiselle Gold with her lips on Sirius'. And he wasn't pulling away. He wasn't moving, but he wasn't pulling away.
Hermione had seen enough. She had known in her heart that she wasn't good enough, or pretty enough, and this confirmed it. Cissy had insisted that the painting would make Sirius so happy, that it would be for him if it was not sold. Remus had even wanted him to have it. How could he stand there and kiss that horrible girl in front of it?
She wiped away some tears and ran into the first unlocked room to calm down and gather her breath. As she closed the door behind her she realized it was Sirius' bedroom. As she looked around, fresh tears started to well up in her eyes and she knew this wasn't the place for her to think. But a voice stopped her when her hand found the knob.
"Well, Mademoiselle Granger, we meet again…"
A/N: Who do you think is in the room with her? Will Sirius stop the kiss? Who is your favorite pairing outside of Hermione/Sirius? Review box is empty and waiting for you answers!