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The next day Remus left the house with a “bottomless” enchanted bag full of the newly potion-coated phials and the letters to their friends explaining what they were for. During his breaks he sought out friends and fellow members of the Order, giving them their phials and telling them to read the letter for the instructions to complete their part in the surprise before Sirius’s birthday party that coming weekend. When asked about it, Remus just told them to read the letter, that it would explain it better then he could. He Apparated to the dorm after work to give Harry and Ron their phials and letter, though they didn’t ask what it was about since Hermione had already filled them in. Remus smiled as he made his way home, intending to go over a copy of the letter he’d made for himself, so that he could get started as well. From what he understood of the gift, it would be the most thoughtful and creative gift Sirius had ever received. Only Hermione would develop a potion to gift him with like this, he thought proudly.


~{}~


After only a few hours of walking around the house together as Sirius continued to memorise the whole place, he encouraged Hermione to go ahead and work on her potion making. Ever since Hermione had started making potions regularly for the Order, she had become expert at brewing some very difficult ones that apothecary shops paid big money for. On occasion, Hermione made batches just for her own profit, wanting to put some money away for a rainy day. Of course, it was also a way for her to wind down as she put her mind to work, perfecting each batch. Hermione thanked Sirius and made him promise to cast a Sonorus if he needed her for anything.


Sirius did want to try walking the house on his own for a while, but he also used that as an excuse for some alone time. He had some planning to do if he was going to make a go of things with Hermione, but first he wanted to figure out the best and most subtle way to get a little encouragement on her part, so he wouldn’t embarrass himself. After stubbing his toe for the fifth time, he turned around and made his way back downstairs into the den. If he was going to put some real thought into his approach, he needed to concentrate. Once he was sure he had the right room, he found the liquor cabinet and poured himself a small glass of Firewhisky while he thought about Hermione.


~{}~


Hermione went to the potions lab, but she didn’t set up a cauldron for brewing. She pulled out her own phials, intending to start working on her own part of the surprise like everyone else. She was in the almost done with her fourth phial when Remus knocked and entered the room.

Remus had been thinking of his two friends during the day as he worked and handed out the phials for the surprise. He knew that Sirius would be unsure of how to approach Hermione, and he figured that as a friend, he could sound her out and give general hints to help them along. “Hermione, I gave everyone their phials. Harry actually requested ten of them. He wanted to have more than enough for future things,” he told her with a smile, remembering Harry’s enthusiasm.


With a smile of her own she replied, “Well, I figured as much. I’m going to stock up on the potion-coated phials so that if anyone has something to share, they can grab what they need. I’ll probably go to Diagon Alley again next week to get more of the ingredients,” she said, and she carefully affixed a magical label to the outside of the phial listing its contents, a special one that, with Sirius’s special spell for reading the little cards, would enable him to tell what was which.


Clearing his throat, Remus asked, “So, how have you two been getting along? I mean really getting along?”


She took a moment, wondering how to put this to him. “Well, honestly, it’s kind of confusing,” she said, with a contemplative look on her face. “I mean, we’re getting along wonderfully. He’s adjusting a lot faster than I thought he would. It’s just something else that’s really confusing. I…I like him, Remus.” She said the last bit hesitantly. Sneaking a look at his face for a reaction, she was surprised to see a knowing smile on his face.


“I’ve got to tell you, Hermione, that it’s not a surprise, not really. But just to clarify things—if you don’t mind my asking, what exactly do you mean by ‘I like him’?” he asked, not wanting to push her into answering if she wasn’t comfortable doing so.


Looking away from his face she took a deep breath and replied quietly, “To be honest with you, I love him. I have for a long time; it just kind of sneaked up on me over the years. I used to have a crush on him, but I didn’t pay it any mind. I thought of it as a school-girl crush. But after I graduated, the more time I spent around him, I realised that it might have started out as a school-girl crush, but it has definitely grown into love.” She stood there for a moment, just breathing as she basked in the relief of finally telling someone of her feelings.


Shaking herself out of the moment, she turned to him with a tear escaping her eye. “I just don’t know what to do, Remus. It really wasn’t his fault, but he hurt me for a long time with the way he was ‘catting’ around London. It was stupid of me to let it get to me—I mean, we’ve never even dated, and I don’t think he’d ever want to date me. I just couldn’t help but—and now I’m with him all the time, and he’s more sweet and caring toward me every day. It’s even harder now ’cause it’s like I’m getting a piece of him, but I know I won’t ever get any more than what I have now,” she finished hopelessly, hating herself for crying like this over something she couldn’t change.


Remus walked over and placed his arm around her shoulder, feeling sad for her, for how lost she sounded. Inside he was smiling—no—he was grinning like a mad person. She had just confirmed that she and Sirius would find each other if they actually opened their eyes to see what the other felt. “Hermione, I know you’ve probably been thinking, somewhere in that calculating mind of yours, of all the reasons you two are wrong for each other. Your foremost thought is probably ,‘He couldn’t or wouldn’t like me or love me in return’, am I right?” When she nodded and wiped a few tears off her cheeks, he went on. “I’m telling you as a friend, don’t worry about the things I know you’re obsessing over that would encourage you to not pursue something with Sirius. I’ve seen the way he’s been acting around you, and despite his blindness, I’ve never seen him happier. I’ve never seen him treat a witch like he treats you. There’s something there, in my view, so don’t let things get in the way, and just trust your feelings. You don’t have to do anything major, like throwing yourself at him,” Remus said with an exaggerated chuckle before he continued. “Just keep yourself open, and if you feel comfortable, talk to him. Just being honest with him could work wonders for you both,” he said with a squeeze of her shoulders.


Hermione thanked him shyly and told him she was going to freshen up for dinner. Remus smiled to himself as he left to find Sirius. The more he gave them these little nudges, the sooner they would quite hiding from each other.


~{}~


A few days later Hermione rushed around the house getting things ready for Sirius’s birthday party that evening. It wasn’t going to be a surprise party, but most of the Order were expected to show up and she wanted to make sure the house was spotless. Remus and Sirius wisely decided to leave the arrangements up to her, if only to avoid getting snapped at if they did something wrong. Hermione had been awake since dawn since she had to go to the shop when it opened to pick up the Pensieve so she could sneak it into the ballroom where the presents were going to be placed. That was the one room Sirius was forbidden to “remember” that day.


Finally, around six p.m., the house was ready and the doorbell rang, signalling that the first guest had arrived. Hermione answered the door and was greeted with hugs from Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, Fred, George, and Charlie, who happened to be in town this weekend. She ushered them into the ballroom where Sirius, Remus, Harry, and Ron were already partaking of the punch and snacks on the buffet table. Next to arrive were Mad-Eye Moody, Kingsley, Tonks, and Minerva, who practically dragged Severus through the door. The last guests to arrive were Mundungus and Hagrid. Hermione finally made her way into the ballroom to see the party in full swing, happily noting the smile on Sirius’s face.


Hermione was playing hostess, making sure everyone was having a good time, when Mrs. Weasley asked her for a moment of her time. They left the party in the ballroom, opting for the privacy of the den at Mrs. Weasley’s insistence. Once they were seated Hermione asked her, “So what was it you wanted to chat about, Mrs. Weasley?”


“Molly, dear, call me Molly,” she said. When Hermione nodded that she would, Mrs. Weasley said, “I admire how willing you are to help those who need help, dear, but as your guardian I have to say that I have concerns about your situation here in this house. It’s just not fitting for you to be here alone with two older men who can more than care for themselves. Sirius seems to be getting along just fine now, so I was wondering if you’d thought anymore about our offer for you to live at the Burrow.”


Hermione sighed to herself before replying, “Molly, I appreciate your worrying for me, for taking your guardianship so seriously, but I’m quite happy here. I understand what you’re saying, but Sirius and Remus are two of my best friends. I’m also an adult now, so I hope you take it kindly when I say that I have no wish to leave Grimmauld Place. This is my home. And yes, I know that Sirius is getting along okay so far, but he still needs someone with him. He stills trips now and then, and there are many little things that he needs help with that I’m more than willing to do for him. He’s my friend, and I just don’t feel comfortable leaving him.”


Molly was starting to get aggravated but knew that lashing out at Hermione, who she still thought of as her future daughter-in-law, would do no good. “Hermione, honestly, think of the impropriety of the situation. A young girl living with two grown men, one of whom is a dedicated flirt. It’s just not fitting. More importantly, think of poor Ronald! He must be upset that you’ve decided to stay here when he leaves for school. Have you two talked about this at all?” Molly asked, certain that she was on the right track to fix this whole situation.


Hermione looked at her, completely unsure of how to break the unwelcome news to her. Finally, deciding the direct way was best, she said without further hesitation, “Molly, I know that you’ve always had hopes of Ron and myself getting together as a couple, but you should know that it isn’t going to happen. We’re friends, nothing more. To be honest, I’m in love with someone else—and no, I won’t tell you who ’cause with the utmost respect, it’s just no one’s business right now. Thank you again for your concern, but I hope you have enough respect for my choices and maturity to accept that I’m just fine where I am and that I can take care of myself. Now if you’ll please excuse me, it’s time for Sirius’s big surprise,” she said a little stiffly, as she excused herself and went back to the party.


Molly sat there in shock for a few moments before anger took over. I guess I’ll have to make sure Ron and Hermione don’t give up on each other. I’ll have to find a way to get her away from Grimmauld Place—and from Sirius Black, she thought as she smoothed the wrinkles out of her blouse and made her way back to the party as well.

~{}~


Hermione made her way into the ballroom, taking a few easy breaths to calm her nerves after being “advised” by Mrs. Weasley. She was about to ask for everyone’s attention when Remus and Sirius approached her. She smiled as Sirius held out his hand for hers, after Remus helped him hold it in the right direction. She took his offered hand and led him onto the dance floor. A slow ballad from the Weird Sisters started to play as he pulled her close, placing his free hand at her waist as she placed hers on his shoulder. They danced quietly until Sirius said in a slightly husky voice next to her ear, “I wish I knew what you looked like right now, but the best I can do is say you feel beautiful tonight.”


Hermione blushed before replying, “A-and you look handsome tonight, Sirius. It’s nice to see you smiling so much.”


“Well, my dear, it’s thanks to your stubbornness that I agreed to still have this party, so thank you. ”


They danced the rest of the dance, and when the music was over Sirius risked a kiss on her cheek before pulling away. Knowing he wouldn’t be able to see her reaction, she just squeezed his hand for a moment, to let him know that she wasn’t rejecting the kiss. She tried to hide the blush that swiftly overcame her neck and face as she pulled on his hand and led him over to the gift table. Neither of them had noticed the glare directed at them by Mrs. Weasley.


~{}~


Hermione led Sirius to a chair that was sitting next to the table, currently piled with presents. Waving her wand to turn off the music, she gathered the guests’ attention. “All right, everyone, it’s time for the birthday boy to open his presents!” she said happily, pinching Sirius’s cheek just to make fun. He playfully smacked her hand away as the party guests and their friends and family gathered around and conjured chairs of their own. That was a smart thing to do, because it was going to take a while for him to open the boatload of presents. One by one he opened the gifts, and the gifters quickly learned to to explain what he was opening, especially if he couldn’t tell by touch alone. He received a Firebolt from Harry, specially charmed so that the broom would take over and keep him from running into anything, but also “sticking” him to the broom so he wouldn’t fall off at any unexpected turns. He received several interesting tee-shirts, with logos which, upon being described, made him burst out laughing. He received a cane and sunglasses as a joke from the twins, which would stay on him for hours, but he didn’t know that yet. Finally, after a few more well-chosen gifts, it was Hermione’s turn to give hers.


She waved her wand and floated the large Pensieve over in front of Sirius, laying it on a conjured table. She picked up the last wrapped present on the table and sat it carefully in his lap. “Sirius, this is my present, but it’s from everybody else as well—I just put it all together. This is a Pensieve that I bought for you. It’s rather larger than regular ones, but that was important for what I did.” She took a breath, nervous for some reason, before she continued. “I purchased a hundred glass phials, and coated them all with a special potion I created, and then I sent a few of them to everyone in this room. Since you’re now unable to see inside a Pensieve, I wanted to find a way past that. With the potion-coated phials, every memory that we’ve stored is charmed so that when you put the memory in the Pensieve and lower your face to enter it, you’ll be able to see the memory clearly in your head, kind of like a Muggle television. So everyone in this room has filled several phials with memories for you, Sirius. And I’ll continue to make fresh phials whenever anyone wants one to share a special moment with you,” she finished quietly, trying not to cry at the look on his face.


For a moment she thought he was upset; he certainly looked like he was going to cry. He was fighting to hold back the tears, completely overwhelmed at her perfect gift. He carefully sat the wrapped box of memory phials on the floor and stood up and reached out for her. Everyone watched with smiles or tears of their own as he enveloped her in a tight embrace. He whispered into her ear, “Thank you Hermione. You have to know what this means to me,” he said, taking a shuddering breath. “Of course you do, you’re the smartest witch of your age!” he said playfully, and both of them laughed as they slowly pulled apart. Sirius held onto her hands, though, and turned to the room. “Thank you all for giving me memories to see. It means so much to me.” Turning to Remus he said in a mock whisper, “Do you think you can give me a phial or two after looking at my magazines?”


Everyone burst out laughing—well, almost everyone. Mrs. Weasley was subtly fuming as she watched everyone laugh at Sirius’s crude joke, Hermione playfully smacking his arm with her free hand that wasn’t clasped firmly in his as she rolled her eyes, trying not to laugh as hard as everyone else. 


A/B: Hey people...sorry for the lack of updates lately... Life is crazy but great for me right now! So yes, I've been busy, but I promise to get off my butt and update more often! I hope you like this update.... *HUGS* (11-06-08 Edited)

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