the present
Chapter Seven: The Deal

In the haze before sleep and wakefulness, Hermione could feel the presence beside her. Warm, warmer than she ever remembered, and the smell of him…smoke, leather, and a bit of fresh clean air like he’d never spent more than an hour indoors. She rolled closer to the smell, her hands instinctively moving along the ridges of his chest. Her lips sought the soft curve of his neck but all too soon, the warmth moved away and a cold drift of air caused her to slowly open her eyes.

“You didn’t tell me you were a morning person,” Sirius chuckled as he shifted away from her. “Had you told me that I would’ve left before you woke up.”

Hermione blushed fiercely as she jerked awake immediately…what exactly had she been doing to him in her half dazed slumber? She tried to remember but she couldn’t discern what had been a dream and what was real. And how long, exactly, had he let it go on before stopping her? He was only smiling kindly at her, though, a mischievous glint making his entire face light up. “I apologize,” she managed as calmly as possible.

“No need,” he returned quietly. “But you do need to let me up. It wouldn’t do to have Juliette to find me in your bed, I don’t suppose.”

“Oh, of course,” Hermione hurriedly moved to allow him to get out of bed. “Or anyone else for that matter, I guess,” she murmured, following him out of the bed to pull on her robe.

Sirius turned to face her, the seriousness on his face catching her off guard. “I don’t care about anyone else.”

Hermione considered him for a moment…the turn of events taking her off guard but not so much she was willing to allow him the upper hand. “Nor do I.”

But when he stepped toward her, his breath warm on her cheek, she couldn’t help the shiver that flooded through her. “That’s a dangerous place for a betrothed woman to be and as accustomed as I am to being the other man, this situation is entirely unacceptable.”

He paused only a moment but it was long enough for him to feel her heart racing in his presence. He kept his face placid but couldn’t help the emotions tumbling within him. It had been foolish for him to come to her room, he knew that. She was the only link he had to he past since Remus was being so standoffish…he didn’t want to use her. But her touches had been so emotional, so heart felt, that it had taken everything he had to pull away. If things had only been different…if her life didn’t require such solemnity, he would have gladly stayed in bed with her the whole day and shown her that life was meant to be lived. Why did it seem like everyone he knew took it for granted?

“Since when does Sirius Black care about acceptable?” she whispered, the heat from his body reminding her how long it had been since she had felt a man’s touch. She reached to touch his chest and could feel the slight tremble in him. He moved a pace away, his eyes never leaving hers.

“Good morning, Juliette,” he murmured, his eyes still on Hermione. He couldn’t understand her…did she really believe he was that vile? That he would appear out of nowhere and ignore the fact that she was engaged? Yes, she had a pull to her that he couldn’t ignore and yes, he had been without someone for so long it was almost maddening. But, it was not in him to destroy whatever plans had been made for little Juliette…no matter how wrong they seemed to him.

“Are we going to decorate today, Sirius?” she bubbled, taking her hand in his. “Right after breakfast?”

He smiled and squeezed her hand. “I promise but first we have a bit of shopping to do. We need to go to Ollivanders and get your mum a wand. He is still around, isn’t he?” he turned a questioning gaze to Hermione.

“Yes but, I don’t want a wand,” she shook her head vehemently.

Sirius chuckled. “My apologies, Hermione, you mistook that as a request.”

“Pardon?” She stuttered. His sudden change threw her and she couldn’t seem to get her bearings again. “You can’t make me—"

“I can make you do anything I damn well please,” Sirius laughed softly, moving closer to tower above her. “Don’t mistake me for Draco or Remus, Hermione. You can’t bully me.”

“You arrogant, self-centered—" Hermione tried to push him away but he was too strong. He didn’t even flinch with her movements, a smug grin lighting up his face. It was only a moment later she remember Juliette was in the room. She quieted, fuming internally that he would spring this on her when he knew she couldn’t argue. “I have to see Draco first. I promised Remus,” she managed finally.

Sirius’ eyes narrowed. “Juliette, can you get breakfast on the table? We’ll be down in just a moment to join you.”

“Are you going to yell at mommie?”

Hermione’s face blanched but Sirius grinned and patted her on the head. “Indeed, I believe I am, Juliette.”

Juliette bounded away in amusement, glad for once to see someone not treated her mum with kid gloves. Sirius turned to Hermione, whose face was white.

“Relax, Hermione. I’m not going to yell.”

“As if your silence is any better,” she retorted icily. “How could you—"

“Hermione,” his voice was soft, his touch on her shoulder even softer. “I have no idea what Remus has asked of you but I can only assume it involves me. He’s an overprotective old fart and has been since he was fifteen. Don’t let him guilt you into something that you don’t agree with just for my sake.”

The softness Hermione remembered from the night before was back and she couldn’t help but feel grateful for not only his honesty but his protection. How he had guessed it was about Draco, she had no idea, but the tiny movement in which he touched the ring on her finger gave his thoughts away. He didn’t want her to make a bad choice just for his sake.

But, she knew Remus was right. Draco had pushed her for awhile and Sirius’ appearance had just made things worse. She wasn’t being fair to him and she knew it…she would have to make a decision soon or fear losing Draco altogether. And she had so many things she’d thought she’d forgotten…so many old wounds that had reopened with Sirius’ appearance. Everything just seemed to be spinning out of control all at once.

“It’s not just for you,” she finally managed. “There are things I need to get through. Things I can’t do with Draco here. Convincing him to leave for just a little while might…”

“Honestly, Hermione, I don’t want to think about what might happen,” he murmured quietly. “Just do what you think you need to do and not what someone else wants, that’s all I’m asking.”

Hermione straightened. “I’ll make you a deal.”

“A deal?” Sirius smiled. “That sounds as if the real Hermione Granger may have joined us.”

“I’ll talk to Draco, truly talk to him, if you talk to Remus.”

Sirius chuckled. “And I gain what by you talking to Draco?” He shook his head. “If I talk to Remus you will let me take you out for the evening.”

“Out where?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.

“What fun would there be in telling you that? Do we have a deal?”

“You won’t make me do magic?”

“Not at all.”

Hermione chewed on her lower lip. But, try as she might, the more she attempted to figure out what he might have in mind, the more unnerved she became. Deciding it was better just to stop thinking and react, she smiled half-heartedly. “Deal.”

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