A little more than a week later, Remus purposefully didn't return to the flat at 5pm as usual. Emmeline was nervously straightening the house and fluffing the pillows on the sofa for the three-hundredth time. Sirius was coming. She didn't know when or how, but he would be in this very room sometime before midnight. Emma grabbed the book she'd be trying to finish for weeks, but once again, she found her mind wandering as she gazed at the front door, waiting for the knock.
Impatience was killing her, and at about 9 o' clock, after hours of listening to the ticking of the clock in an otherwise silent room, she could no longer stand it. She decided to grab one of Remus's beers. He had them stowed in the pantry under a cooling spell, and Emma hoped he wouldn't mind if she took one. She had just popped the cap off the bottle and taken a long sip, resigned to a long night of waiting, when a loud scratch at the door startled her. She dropped the full bottle on the ground, cursing and casting a haphazard spell to clean up the mess, and racing to the front door.
When she opened the door, she saw a large black dog sitting on its haunches on her doormat, tail wagging merrily. An enormous grin stretched across her face as she ushered the shaggy animal into her flat.
After shutting and locking the door, Emmeline watched the black dog transform into the handsome man she had known for years. She couldn't help but leap at him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. He lifted her in the air and spun her around before setting her on her feet, his hands then coming up to her face to brush her dark hair from her eyes.
"I've missed you," he said with a smile.
"You shouldn't be here, you know," she replied, grinning mischievously.
He put a finger to her lips.
"Best not tell, then," said Sirius.
Emmeline led him into her small kitchen where the floor was still a bit sticky from spilled beer. Cleaning spells had never really been her forte. Smiling, she pulled out two more bottles from the pantry. Sirius took the beer from her and stared at it as she twisted off the cap of her own.
"I haven't had a beer in more than thirteen years," said Sirius quietly, his eyes haunted and his fingers shaking.
Her eyes widened, stopping with the bottle halfway to her lips. It was too easy to forget how much this man had been through. After all, he appeared healthy, he smiled and hugged her. How close beneath the contented exterior did the horrors lie? She remembered painfully the day he'd turned his wand on his in this very apartment. Simply handing him a beer had brought uneasiness back to his countenance. She found herself feeling frightened to move, to speak, afraid he would forget himself again as the memories washed over him.
Sirius stared at the beer, eyes clouded, and Emmeline waited, holding her breath, scared to make the quietest sound. After a long moment, he lifted his hand mechanically, twisted off the bottlecap, and took a swig. His eyes closed. A grin crept across his face. He smacked his lips.
"If I ever have to go to Azkaban again," he said smiling, eyes still closed, "promise me you'll sneak beer in through the bars."
"Promise," she said.
He opened his eyes, familiar grey with a spark of laughter in them, and clinked his bottle to hers. She took a long drink as he did, glad to see that he was capable of pulling himself out of the darkness. They walked back into the sitting room together, lowering themselves onto the couch, just near enough for comfort but not touching.
"I'm to Floo Harry at 1am," said Sirius.
"Does he know where you are?" she asked.
"Not really," he said with a shrug. "I've had him using different owls to make sure no one sees a pattern. Hedwig is his owl, and she's quite recognizable. If someone noticed her going into the same cave-"
"No, I mean does he know you'll be using the Floo at my flat?" she said.
"Oh," said Sirius. "No, I don't suppose so. I guess I'm not sure what to tell him about you."
Emmeline bit her lip. She wasn't sure either.
"Maybe nothing," she said sheepishly. "Not yet at least?"
"So tell me about yourself," said Sirius, sipping his beer.
She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Really," he prodded. "I feel like I don't know anything about you. What do you do?"
She tilted her head to one side. It was true, she supposed. He didn't know anything about who she was now. He only knew the 20 year old Emmeline Vance, not the 34 year old one. And if she were honest with herself, she knew very little about 34 year old Sirius Black. Well, it was as good a time as any to get to know one another again.
"I work at a firm that manages wealthy wizards' estates," she said. "Including your cousin's, actually."
"Narcissa," responded Emmeline. "I like it. Keeps my busy."
"How long have you done that?"
"Oh, three years I think," said Emmeline. "Almost four, actually."
"What did you do before that?" asked Sirius, eyes shining with curiosity.
"Before that, Remus and I worked at a book store together," she answered. "I loved that job, but when they found out about his condition, they fired him, so I quit."
Sirius nodded approvingly.
"Where is Remus?" he asked.
"Tonight?" she said. "Out, I guess."
He gave her a very familiar suggestive smile, and she felt her cheeks color.
"So what else?" he continued.
"What do you want to know?" said Emmeline.
"Everything," he said with a smile.
She returned his smile warmly.
"Um, right after you . . . er . . . left, I went to work as a personal accountant. I worked for the Prewetts. The rich Prewetts, not the ones Molly Weasley came from," she said, and then paused, her face heating. "Oh, Merlin, that sounded awful. I didn't mean it like that."
"I knew what you meant," said Sirius, smiling for her to go on.
She gave an embarrassed chuckle and plowed ahead with her story.
"That continued on until Dominicus Prewett tried to marry me off to one of his hideous sons," she said with a shudder.
Sirius barked a laugh at that.
"Which one?" he said.
"Viator," she said, rolling her eyes.
Sirius laughed heavily, yelping out things like, "three-hundred forty pounds" and "beady eyes" in between gales of laughter. She smiled broadly despite feeling a bit perturbed that he was having such a raucous laugh at her expense. His laughter died down and he took another swig of beer, smiling brilliantly at her.
"So, never married, then?" he asked, his carefree tone betrayed by tension in the corners of his eyes.
"Did you . . . date much?" he asked cautiously.
She looked over at him, feeling extremely uncomfortable and having absolutely no idea how to answer such a question. Sirius noticed the look on her face.
"It doesn't matter," he said, shaking his head. "Forget I asked."
She grinned sheepishly at him and decided to scoot closer to him. She shifted once, twice, as he stared at her with uncertain eyes, until she was flush against him, resting her head tentatively on his shoulder. He wrapped an arm behind her, pulling her closer and burying his face in her hair.
And in a voice that was so quiet she almost didn't hear, he said, "I still love you."
She lifted her head from his shoulder and stared at him, willing her mouth to stay shut so her jaw didn't fall to the floor. His expression was vulnerable. He lifted a hand to her face.
"I know this is confusing, and difficult . . . " he continued quietly, "I don't want you to say it. I know I'm not the man you loved fourteen years ago. I know you've been through a lot since then. I just . . . I just wanted you to know that the way I feel hasn't changed. I still love you. I never stopped."
He brought her face to his, never dropping her gaze, and placed a soft kiss on her lips. She felt transported to the world in which it was just Emma and Sirius, no complications. She kissed him again, lips parting slightly. His hands traveled down her body to graze her hips, to touch her back, to pull her close to his body. Every worry disappeared in the soft movements of his mouth, and when she let a whimper escape her lips, his answering feral groan made a tingling sensation flare up below her belly button. Her hips pressed against him of their own accord, her breathing coming fast and heavy. Her hands searched his body, feeling for the familiarity she longed for: his unshaven face, his strong jaw, his shoulders, which were at last filling out since his stint in Azkaban.
Azkaban. Dementors. Voldemort. Remus.
The memories slammed against her and she pulled back abruptly, just as his hands were beginning a cautious journey below her waist. He looked stunned.
"I'm sorry," he said suddenly, pulling both hands back from her body. "I shouldn't have even tried to-"
"Oh, it's not that, Sirius," she said with a sigh, slumping against him. "It's just . . ."
There was a long pause.
"Just what?" he asked.
"It's just complicated," she whispered.
Sirius wrapped both arms around her in a bear hug and nodded, leaning his head against hers and his breaths to go back to normal. They sat in silence for a few moments before returning to their beers. She was relieved to find that the conversation continued with no hint of awkwardness as they laughed and caught up with each other. Every now and then, Sirius would use the fireplace to check the Gryffindor Common Room, impatient for the room to be empty so that he and Harry could talk.
When the clock on the wall struck 1am, Sirius threw a handful of Floo powder in the flames and his head disappeared. She could hear his conversation, muffled and barely understandable, but when she heard something about dragons, she got nervous.
"Sirius! Dragons?!" she hissed.
Sirius waved a hand in the air, indicating that he'd heard her but not able to respond.
"Is the first task dragons?!" she pressed.
Sirius gave a thumbs up symbol as he continued his conversation with Harry.
"Tell him about the Conjunctivitis Curse!" she said, hoping that he'd heard her.
A few minutes later, though, Sirius jumped back from the fireplace as though making a hasty exit.
"Did you tell him?" she asked.
"Didn't get a chance to," he replied, shaking his head. "Someone showed up in the common room."
Emmeline was wringing her hands nervously, and Sirius looked grave.
"I've got to get back," said Sirius. "I need to be close."
Emmeline nodded and followed him to the entryway. He reached for the doorknob but paused, turning back to her. He took a step toward her, grey eyes searching her face, and it seemed he found something promising in her expression because he smiled before dipping his head to kiss her. She fisted her hands in his black hair and pulled him close, attacking his mouth with hers, letting her tongue graze the inside of his mouth. His lips danced across hers before making a journey to her jaw, her neck, her ear. She gasped softly and wondered momentarily if she should be worried that he would leave a mark. He stopped quickly, however, and looked at her with a sort of dazed grin.
With her face cupped in his hands, he said softly, "I love you, Emma."
He turned abruptly, taking one step outside her door before disappearing with a loud crack. She felt a smile creeping across her lips.
"I love you, too," she said to the empty space where he had just been.