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A/N:  This chapter is named for 'La Cerca' by Sparta.  I hope you like it.

Mia xx





Hermione stood over a hot cooker.  She wore a checkered apron as she bustled about the kitchen, hating herself presently for being the embodiment of the feminine stereotype.

 

Hermione had immediately noticed Kreacher’s absence from the House of Black upon there arrival.  When she commented looking around the rooms, Harry predicted she would not like the answer about to come out of Sirius’s mouth.  He instead informed Hermione that Sirius sent him to work for Dumbledore at Hogwarts.  Sirius, after receiving a look from his godson, followed this by explaining that he was lonely in the house without other house elves.  Not that Hermione was glum to start with but after this revelation her mood elated slightly.  Sirius would later inform Harry that Kreacher had accidentally wound up in a sack at Mundungus’s with strict orders not to leave.  As a result it was left to them to make their own food and clean up after themselves, which Hermione added she would have done anyway.

 

Neither of the boys knew how to cook or so they said.  Hermione informed Sirius that had he no cooking skills he would probably be presently dead.  He countered this by explaining that Molly was there every other day to cook something for various Order members and in the mean time he lived off sandwiches and fruit.  Hermione sighed and did not doubt there was truth to this.  It was therefore left to her to make something to eat with the compromise that the boys would do the washing up.  In her apron, the only thing substantial she could find to cook was pasta.  They would need to buy more food soon.

 

After gobbling up the dinner she had made, Hermione wrote out a shopping list.  She would have to trust Sirius to purchase the items as Harry and Hermione were supposed to be in hiding.  He acknowledged the list before he went to bed and the next morning when Hermione woke he had already been to the shops and back.  He had done mostly okay for a man who had never done much grocery shopping.  He, however, came back with three extra bottles of fire whiskey and without broccoli which he poignantly refused to purchase on the pretense that ‘it was not even a real food and normal people don’t eat it’.  Harry grinned in agreement at this comment and even Hermione had to giggle slightly.

 

As Sirius assured her, Harry and her school work was owled to them.  Hermione sat down and attacked hers immediately.  Harry joined her but more reluctantly.  Apparently didn’t think he was going to have to do work while he was away from Hogwarts.  They sat in the den completing their studies, occasionally interrupted by Order members who all frequently dropped by to update others and themselves.  Harry was tempted to stop his work when Sirius and Remus started a game of cards in the kitchen but Hermione said she would write a letter to Dumbledore if she felt this stay was affecting his school work.  He appraised her sourly at this and she came back with the statement, ‘this is not a holiday’.

 

Dinner that evening was a curry from a book that Molly kept in the kitchen.  It was spicy and Harry complained but Sirius and Remus, who stayed for dinner, commented that it was very nice.  Hermione sighed at Harry who sarcastically apologized for not having an acquired palate.  After dinner the boys sat down to cards while Hermione pulled out her well thumbed history book in front of the fireplace.  She read against the warm glow from the fire missing muggle lamps, which were a much more substantial source of light.  Sirius opened a bottle of fire whiskey and offered it around.  Harry accepted a small glass and Hermione initially refused, despite being above the legal drinking age for wizards.  Sirius poured himself and Remus each a healthy glass, both being quite seasoned drinkers.  After some time, Hermione abandoned her book and joined the boys for cards to which they were happily surprised.

 

“Well boys-“ Hermione’s slight cough interrupted Remus to which he added, “and lady.  The game is called cheat and the rules are no legilimency,” he said this looking in Sirius’s direction.

 

“Hey, I’m not even good at it,” he said defensively.

 

“If you call someone and they cheat they pick up the pile or if they are truthful you pick up the pile.  You can not take back a call or a card once it is played.  You can only throw down cards one below or above the previous one set down.  First one with no cards wins,” Remus said.  Everyone nodded in agreement.

 

“Heard of this game before?” Sirius asked Hermione.

 

“Yeah but when I’ve played it we usually call it bull-“ She stopped herself before she said something most unladylike and blushed.

 

“What was that?” asked Sirius playfully.

 

“Yeah Hermione, what was that?” said Harry wanting to hear the profanity escape her mouth.

 

“We call it bullshit,” she said quietly, blushing further.

 

“Sorry?” said Sirius wanting to make her repeat it once more.

 

“Bullshit,” she said gaining confidence.

 

“Okay then, the name of the game is bullshit,” said Remus chuckling.  “I’ll go first.  Two sevens,” he said throwing two cards in the pile.  Hermione checked her hand but noticed Harry and Sirius were staring directly at Remus rather than their cards.  Hermione looked perplexed.  Sirius leaned over to her.

 

“This game is about reading people.  If I don’t have the cards in my hand that some claims they do, you look to their facial expression to see if they are lying,” he explained.

 

“Oh, so it’s more about your skills of deception and your reception of other people’s,” she exclaimed.

 

“Yes Hermione, which is why you are going to lose,” he said with a devilish smile.

 

“How are you so sure?” she asked faking a confidence.

 

“Because you are too honest to be any good at lying to someone’s face,” he continued to smile.  Hermione, who was good at everything, was determined to give this game her best shot.

 

“Alright then, we’ll see,” she said enigmatically.

 

“One six,” said Harry throwing his card on top of Remus’s.

 

“Bullshit!” cried Sirius and Remus in unison immediately.  They turned over his card, it was a four.

 

“Nice try Harry,” said Remus.

 

“Oh shut up,” Harry said grumpily.

 

“Three sixes,” said Sirius.  No one questioned him.

 

“Two sevens,” said Hermione.  Sirius yelled bullshit.  Without waiting she picked up the pile of cards.

 

“You hesitated,” he whispered to her.  The game came around to Hermione once more and yet again, Sirius picked up on her lying.

 

“I wouldn’t have to lie if we were allowed to set down any card and not go in an order,” she said huffily.

 

“But the point of the game is to lie.  And to get away with it, hun,” he said cheekily to her.  He poured another glass of fire whiskey and gestured to her.  She took it without hesitation this time and sipped it.  It smelt like paint solvent but tasted better thank Merlin.  Still, it burnt the back of her throat.  The game continued and Hermione and Harry were appearing to have a large portion of the cards, while Remus and Sirius’s hands were diminishing slowly.  Like Hermione, it appeared that Harry was not a very seasoned player.

 

“Two twos,” said Harry setting down a couple of cards.

 

“Bullshit,” said Hermione.  She had caught out Harry once and Remus twice during the game.  This was only because she had the cards in her hand to prove that they were indeed lying.  This time it based on pure instinct.  Sure enough as she turned over the cards Harry had set down a Queen and a five.  She smiled to herself and took another gulp of fire whiskey.  Sirius really knew what he was talking about.  Not once had she been confident that he was lying.  He was very good at this game of deception and maybe he was even better at sensing the truth about others.

 

“One ace,” she said.  No one called her bluff.  She was, however, telling the truth.

 

“Two kings,” Remus called.

 

“One King,” Harry said.

 

“Three queens,” said Sirius.  Hermione did not have any queens herself but she did note that Harry picked one before.  How likely was it that he or Remus did not have more?

 

“Bullshit,” she said bluntly.

 

“Are you sure about that?” he said trying to intimidate her.

 

“You never can be,” she replied.  He gestured with his head for her to turn over the cards.  Three queens.

 

“Better luck next time hun,” he said throwing her a wink.  She irritatedly took the cards from the table, added them to her hand and then downed the rest of her fire whiskey.  At least she seemed to be doing somewhat better than Harry, who just had another bluff called by Remus.  Hermione managed to disperse many of her cards by playing them one at a time to ensure she lied as little as possible, however, every now and again someone would see through her.  She called Harry’s bluff in stating that he had two nines when she had three.  He dejectedly took up the cards.

 

The fire whiskey she had drunk successfully went to her head.  It was at this point she started doing better at the game.  She supposed it was due to the relaxation and daze she now felt, which made her tension when lying melt away.  She was getting caught out less and less.  Every time she set down cards Sirius appraised her with and icy intensity from his grey eyes.  She learnt not to look away but to oppose his gaze with her own as if tempting him to call her bluff.  Mostly he didn’t.  Remus set down four jacks.  Harry stupidly called his bluff.

 

“Harry do you honestly think I would put down four of anything if I were lying?” asked Remus rhetorically. He then chuckled

 

Harry ignored his laughter.  “One ten,” no called him.  It was now Sirius’s turn.  He had only three cards left and surprisingly he set them all down.

 

“Three nines,” he said calmly.  Hermione stared into his eyes.  There was not hint of anxiety or worry in his gaze.

 

“Bullshit,” she said mimicking his calm.

 

“What?” asked Remus.

 

“I said Bullshit.”

 

“Hermione,” Remus reasoned, “Sirius wouldn’t be lying on his last turn.  After you get the hang of the game you calculate your next moves so you can avoid cheating in your last run.”

 

“She can’t take it back now,” said Sirius smiling, “besides I don’t think she’s acting on more than Dutch courage.”

 

“Is that so?  You think it’s just the whiskey?” she posed.

 

“Yes, darlin’ I do,” he said confidently.

 

“Then turn over the cards,” she commanded.  With a steady hand he slowly moved to over turn the cards he placed on the table.  Two nines and a three.  Remus looked at her and smiled.  She gave Sirius a haughty flick of her head and Harry laughed.  Finally she had caught him out.

 

The game ended not much long after that and of course Sirius won.  Remus was already out half an hour later than what he posed to Tonks, so he hurried off after the cards were back in the deck.  Hermione reclined on a couch still feeling the effects of alcohol and Sirius began to tell the teenagers the tale of his first game of bullshit.

 

“Let me guess, you were a natural?” asked Harry.

 

“Nah.  I was shocking,” he laughed.  Apparently it was always James who would win bullshit out of the Marauders, he was unbeatable when it came to reading people.  Sirius too, was quite surprised that Harry had not inherited the same talent.  Hermione noted that he may have for all they knew.  It was impossible to tell if he could even speak correctly after Harry had his third glass of fire whiskey.  Sirius laughed in agreement.  Harry pouted.

 

“Don’t worry Harry.  First time I ever tried alcohol was at a dinner party my parents were throwing.  I had one and half glasses of elf wine and spent half the party in the bathroom,” he chuckled.  Hermione also giggled slightly.

 

“I must say Hermione; I am surprised at how well you hold your alcohol.  What you drank is more than enough to have an amateur falling off her chair,” he said dipping his head in regard to her.

 

“Are you implying that I’m an amateur?” she asked straightly.  He sat down on the other end of the couch she was on.

 

“Are you implying you’re not?” he countered.

 

“Depends on what you class as an amateur,” she announced.  He stared at her with one eye brow raised and she felt her defense crumple.  “Okay okay, I’ve only been drinking once before. And,” she stressed, “it was on my birthday so it was still legal.”

 

“Always one for upholding the law,” he noted.

 

“Better than breaking it.  All rules are set down for a reason,” she pointed out.

 

“Where’s the fun in that?” he asked.  “You know for someone who’s broken so many rules in her time at Hogwarts, I must say I’m rather surprised at your firm stance on rule breaking,” he said devilishly.

 

“Are you calling me a hypocrite?” she asked with a mock offence.

 

“Not necessarily,” he smiled.

 

“Well, I’ll have you know that sometimes it was impossible to get around breaking certain rules in the scheme of things.  Isn’t that right Harry? Harry?” she got naught but a snore from the hearth rug as a reply.  Sirius laughed hoarsely.

 

“Now there is a boy who really can’t handle his alcohol,” he said shifting his position on the couch uncomfortably.  Suddenly he pulled a book out from under him.  It was the history she was reading earlier. “Is this what you read for pleasure?” he said recognizing it as hers and scanning the front cover.

 

“I’ll have you know it’s very interesting,” she informed him.

 

“Doesn’t look like it,” he replied.

 

“Give it to me and I’ll show you,” she said.

 

“No.”

 

“What?”

 

“You heard me.  I said no,” he said mischievously.  She scrunched her nose playfully and moved over to his side of the couch.

 

“Give it to me Sirius,” she said reaching for it.  He lay back and elongated his body so she would have climb along him to reach her book.  He held it back behind his head on the arm of the couch as she squirmed over him to reach it.  Just as she was about to grab it he rolled the pair of them off the couch and onto the floor.  Hermione hit her hip against the ground but did not feel it thanks to the alcohol in her veins.  She shot up and chased after Sirius, who was now holding the book captive on the other side of the room. 

 

As she approached him, he dodged around her and her grasp.  She followed him around the table to the door which, luckily for her, slammed shut due to a draught.  He was cornered.  He kept his cool however and merely held the book above his head.  He smiled down at her five foot and four inches as she stared up his six foot two.  There was no way she could reach the book.  This did not mean she was going to give up. 

 

She reached up to the arm he had holding the book and struggled to pull it downwards to her, scratching him slightly in the process.  He snaked his arm around her waist in an attempt to keep her down and stop slightly jumping.  The pressure against his body slammed them both into the opposing wall where she stood on the tips of her toes to reach higher.  He held her tighter which provoked more movement in her as she struggled against his grip.  He tilted his head down to watch her fight and he smiled watching the determination in her eyes.  She gripped him tighter and pulled harder against his upright arm which only resulted in her pulling herself upwards.  She could not match the strength in his arms. 

 

She could feel his abdominal muscles contracting every time she made a jarring movement upwards to grasp her book which only resulted in her falling and being pulled tighter against his body.  He could feel and see her breasts heaving against him as she took deep breaths.  She tried a new tactic of loosening his hand around her waist.  As she struggled to unclasp it she arched back backwards and pushed her lower body forward against him.  A button on her sweater popped.  When she felt she had enough leeway she took another bound upwards to reach the book. 

 

The downward tilt of his head and the upwards tilt of hers resulted in their lips meeting for a brief instant.  He dropped her book.  She stopped moving.  It landed with a thud on the ground.  Silence.  Neither of them made a move and the only sound that could be heard was Harry’s snoring.  Suddenly both of them came to a realization of the current circumstance.  It wasn’t the most neutral position that they were entangled in.  He dropped his arm from her and she backed away.

 

“Going to bed.  Good night,” she said running from the room and up the stairs.

 

“Okay.  Night,” he muttered watching her flee from the room.  His eyes pierced the space she had just filled.  What had just happened?  He smiled to himself as he thought of her reaction.  Their lips had barely brushed and she fled, full force, from the room.  It was hardly a big deal, he had been in far worse situations. 

 

Maybe that was it?  Maybe it seemed like nothing to him because he had experience and she didn’t.  Maybe she was too young? She was hardly what one would call a child, she was eighteen.  She was by all rights a woman.  She emanated maturity.  Her mind exuded it and, if he was being honest, so did her body.  She was so collected all the time and yet, she fled like a frightened school girl.

 

Hermione IS a school girl, his conscious mind tried to inform him.

 

He pondered this for a moment.  Yes, technically she still had a semester of school left to complete but she had never seemed like someone you would call a ‘silly school girl.’  She was too good for that.  She was too smart, too savvy.  She was definitely too well shaped to be considered a ‘school girl.’  He could contest to this from the way she had just been pressed against him.  Definitely not the figure of a ‘school girl.’

 

He smiled to himself.  She was obviously overwhelmed by nervousness.  He had seen her body immediately become the picture of unease when she had been asked to stay at Grimmauld place.  She was very easily unnerved and he attributed this to his former conclusion.

 

Yes, Hermione was eighteen but had she ever had a real boyfriend?  Had she ever been on a date?  She was definitely not the type just to ‘fool around’ so he guessed that she probably was lacking in some experiential contact with the opposite sex.

 

Not that he should really care.  What did he care if she had a lack of experience?  Their lips had barely brushed and, in Sirius’s book, that was absolutely nothing to worry about.  It didn’t really matter what she thought or how old she was or what she felt like next to him.  It didn’t matter because nothing was really between them.  There was nothing and so nothing had been disturbed.

 

It shouldn’t matter.

 

However, Sirius was never one to lie to himself.  This did matter and on a second recollection, it mattered to him more than it should have.  Hermione was now a woman and that was something he was going to have trouble ignoring.

 

He strode up the stairs to his room, all the while smiling to himself.  She had looked rather cute when trying to grab that book off him…

 

*****

 

The next morning Hermione avoided getting out of bed for as long as she could.  Her hip ached from last night where she hit the ground and she was not surprised to find a large purple bruise on her side.  She resided herself to the fact that what happened between her and Sirius the previous evening was merely the result of various dynamic and erratic factors.  Alcohol was a primary one of course.  It wasn’t as if anything regrettable had occurred.  Their lips accidentally brushed.  No big deal, right?  The awkward position they were entangled up in was just the result of some innocent fun.  Somewhere in her mind, however, her voice of reason was chanting,

 

Platonic fun? You keep telling yourself that

 

Well maybe their playfulness had insinuated a little more but, it had remained an implication and nothing more.  Nothing had actually happened.  They didn’t even really kiss, at all.  They were just playing around under the influence of whiskey. 

 

Sirius probably didn’t even cast the issue a thought this morning, so why was she so worried?  It was just a one off arbitrary event; it wasn’t as though there was sexual tension all night.  Definitely not.  A completely random accident.  It didn’t have a basis at all.  Hermione would admit that Sirius was rather good looking.  Although, he was several years her senior she would not deny that his ebony locks, high cheek bones and cold grey eyes made him a very attractive man.  However, just because she found him attractive did not mean that in the slightest that she had planned, wanted or enjoyed last night.  Because she didn’t.

 

Hermione took a deep breath to calm herself.  She promptly placed her legs over one side of her bed and rose.  She was determined not to make a big deal of last night.  She headed down to breakfast to find the boys munching on burnt toast.  As she opened the door they both smiled warmly at her and although she felt hot when Sirius, she was not going to show it.

 

“Hello,” she greeted.  “What is that you’re eating?” she exclaimed.

 

“Toast,” said Harry stupidly.

 

“We’ll thank you for that informative statement,” she rolled her eyes.  “Why is it so burnt?”

 

“We did it over a flame,” Sirius answered.

 

“Why would you do that? Why not just use the toaster?” she asked.

 

“What’s a toaster?” asked Sirius.  Harry looked at her with a mock smile as if to say ‘that’s why’.

 

“Oh right.  No electricity either,” she commented.

 

“What’s electrikity?” asked Sirius with a puzzled look.  Upon seeing Hermione and Harry’s faces he raised his eye brows and muttered ‘silly muggles’.

 

“By the way.  Thanks for leaving me on the floor last night.  Now I have a sore back,” Harry said whining.

 

“Oh come one Harry.  You’re a big boy.  I’m sure you can put yourself to bed,” said Hermione patronizingly.

 

“You could have at least woken me,” he pointed out.

 

“But you looked so peaceful.  Hermione can contest to that too,” Sirius said laughing slightly and nodding at Hermione.  She looked at him and smiled in agreement.   She sat down at the table and helped herself to a piece of toast which she transfigured to make less burnt.

 

“I should have though of that,” said Harry.

 

“We should get to work,” she said biting into her toast.

 

“What do you mean?” asked Harry.

 

“Our school work,” she said obviously to him.

 

“Oh yeah,” he replied dully.

 

After they were dressed and fully fed, the pair retreated into the den to complete the work that had been owled to them that morning. Hermione approached hers enthusiastically, while Harry merely approached his.  They flew through most of the tasks, apart from potions which was naturally excessively hard, as the course was written by Snape.  Harry’s success could be attributed to Hermione’s constant hints and help but nether the less they were getting through everything that had been set for them.

 

“Done,” said Hermione.

 

“What!” yelled Harry with utter amazement.  “I haven’t even finished reading the text book.”

 

“Oh well you haven’t go much to go then.  The questions are pretty easy, charms work is always simple,” he groaned at this.  “Think of it this way, after this you are done for the day.”

 

“I’ll just do it tomorrow,” he said moving to put his book down.

 

“No you don’t Harry Potter.  You will finish that now.  There’s almost none left,” he groaned louder this time as he reclaimed his book.  “Alright, I’ll go and make us some tea and when I come back you’ll be half done,” she said sprightly.

 

Hermione rose and headed into the kitchen.  She moved towards the cooker and searched for the kettle.  She turned abruptly to find Sirius sitting at the table, not having noticed him when she entered.

 

“Oh, Sirius you scared me,” she said putting her hand to her chest.  He chuckled and she continued to look for the kettle which she spotted on an opposite counter.

 

“I wanted to talk to you,” he said deeply.

 

“What about?” she asked, knowing full well where the conversation was going.

 

“Last night,” he said simply.  She did not reply nor did she look at him.  “Last night was…“

 

“Nothing,” she added to his sentence.  “It was nothing really,”

 

“Then why have you not been able to look me in the eye since?” he asked her seriously.

 

“Okay okay.  I did feel a little… umm I don’t really know the word for it.  Anyway it’s not like any of it was contrived.  We were playing around and that’s it,” she said trying to convince herself more than him.

 

“Alright.  I just wanted to make sure you were okay with it seeing as you’ve been tense all day,” he informed her in his collected tone.

 

“I have not been-“she flipped around to look at him and stopped mid sentence when she saw the look he was giving her.  “Okay maybe I have been a little … tense.  But I’m fine.  Really,” she assured.

 

“Promise?” he asked her smiling his devilish smile.  She smiled back.

 

“Yes, I promise,” she looked him in the eye.

 

“Okay good,” he said stretching in his chair.  The angle gave her a view of his toned stomach as his t-shirt rode up.  He smiled at her before rising to leave the room.  She turned back around, grinning into the opposite wall as she began to make tea.

 

*****

 

“We want to move Harry,” said Kingsley Shacklebolt.

 

Hermione and Harry had being staying with Sirius for almost a month.  They were still not informed of when they could return to Hogwarts.  Now the Order wanted to move Harry, away from her and his godfather.  The pair was listening just outside the den.  There was no need to listen against the door, Kingsley’s deep bellow and Sirius’s husky timbre were clearly audible.

 

“Why?” asked Sirius with genuine shock.

 

“I over heard Dawlish saying that he knew Harry was here,” explained Kingsley.

 

“That’s impossible.  The Fidelus charm and its secret died with Dumbledore.  No one else can be told of this location.  I thought that was our conclusion,” said Sirius sternly.

 

“I didn’t say they knew where ‘here’ was.  Dawlish said he knows that Harry is at our meeting spot on Grimmauld place.  They still don’t know it’s our head-quarters and they don’t know which number and it’s a long street.  So really they don’t have much information,” he pointed out.

 

“Well then why is it necessary to move Harry?” he asked sounding slightly distressed.

 

“Because this house is still used as the head-quarters to the Order,” Kingsley said.  “People are in and out all the time.  If they put up apparition detecting charms or one of us is seen outside the bounds of the Fidelus charm then we are in trouble,” he told Sirius who solemnly nodded.  “While Harry is here they will stake out the entire street and we can’t afford that in terms of his safety and the secret of the Order.  We can’t let them know this is our head-quarters or we’ll all be in much deeper trouble than we can imagine,” he finished.

 

“Where to?” Sirius asked.  “Where will we send him?” he said with defeat.

 

“Remus has volunteered.  We thought he was the next closest person to Harry besides sending him to Molly’s,” said Kingsley.

 

“How did they find out?” he asked.

 

“We don’t know.  We’ve checked all our members for the Imperius.  I’d stake my life on the information not having passed through a leak.  I trust all Order members with my own life.  Well, maybe except Mundungus, but he never was told that Harry was here for that purpose.  We think that they may have tapped someone’s home floo network, which is bad news because that means our wards are faulty,” he sighed deeply.

 

“I see,” Sirius said staring into the opposite wall.  There was really no other choice and although Sirius would miss Harry’s company, his safety and that of the Order was more important.

 

“We’ll have to set up new wards at every location.  It’s going to take months and we don’t have that much time.  From now on, if anyone wants to talk Order business they must never use floo,” Kingsley informed him.

 

“We do you want Harry and Hermione to leave?” asked Sirius.

 

“Oh, Hermione doesn’t have to leave,” he said.

 

“But I thought you said-“

 

“The Death Eaters have no idea she’s here.  After Harry leaves it will be the safest place for her.  They would never expect that we would move just one person and leave another behind,” said Kingsley.

 

“Oh, of course,” he muttered.

 

“Unless you want some time to yourself,” said Kingsley at Sirius’s expression.  “We could find somewhere else for her to stay.”

 

“No no.  It’s fine.  She is excellent company,” said Sirius hurriedly.  Kingsley raised an eyebrow at him.  Outside, Hermione flushed and Harry seemed inquisitive.

 

“Well alright,” he said rising, “I’ll be back to escort Harry tonight.”

 

“Tonight?” he exclaimed.

 

“Is there a problem?” Kingsley asked kindly.

 

“No.  I just didn’t think it would be so soon.  It’s okay though.”


”Well, I’ll be on my way.  I’ll be back at six,” he said approaching the door.  Harry and Hermione moved quickly and managed to scale half the stairs in the loft before the door to the den opened.  They turned around and acknowledged Kingsley with a fake surprise.

 

“Hello Hermione and Harry.  I’ll see you both later this evening,” and with that Kingsley stepped outside and onto the front door step.  They heard the crack of him disapparating as Sirius stalked out of the den.

 

“What’s Kingsley coming back tonight for?” asked Harry.  Sirius looked up at him with amusement in his face.  “What?” asked Harry again.







“Don’t act like you two weren’t listening to every word that was said in there,” he said shaking his head.

 

“How did you know?” asked Hermione sheepishly.

 

“It’s what I would have done,” he smiled at the pair of them and ushered them down the stairs into the kitchen.  They sat down at the central table.  It was already set for dinner.

 

If Hermione had known that her cooking on her first night at Grimmauld place had volunteered her for the job for the rest of her stay, she would have rethought her decision.  Neither begrudging her new role nor enjoying it immensely, Hermione had prepared meals almost every night for the males thanks to their complete inability with even a spatula.  Sirius was willing to learn, however.  Many a night he sat in the kitchen, or stood over her shoulder, as she stirred and mixed watching her progress.  She had already successfully taught him the secrets to potato bake.  Sirius felt that this was quite a feat and Hermione refrained from mentioning that it was a rather easy recipe.  This evening he had helped readily with the roast.

 

The brief awkwardness surrounding Hermione and Sirius during their first week had melted away in complete entirety.  Hermione concluded to the idea that even the best of friends found themselves in suggestive circumstances.  Merlin knows that she and Ron had been in their fair share previously.  She now found herself drawn to Sirius as opposed to avoiding him.  His light hearted jovial side made him fun to be around whilst his other persona intrigued her more so.  He was insightful and clever.  She had always heard tales of the Marauders’ brilliance at Hogwarts but she never assumed it to be academically.  Remus had been the true brain of the group but Sirius had not been surpassed at Transfiguration and only superseded by James in Defense Against the Arts.  A virtue which had been passed down to Harry, they both had noted on occasion.  His skill at Transfiguration allowed Sirius to be the first Marauder to become a full animagus, three months shy of his fifteenth birthday. 

 

Although he had never read during his Hogwarts years, having been too busy wrecking havoc on the old caretaker, Sirius’s love of literature had developed as an adult and he read whenever there had been an opportunity.  He informed her, however, that a fair percentage of these books had been Qudditch themed but books none the less.  These days, he told Hermione, he was not reading as he did prior to his stay in Azkaban but he was still no stranger to the odd text.  Surprisingly, he had even read Hogwarts, A History but when Hermione attempted to discuss its content, he professed his intense dislike for the book which made her frown playfully.

 

After dinner each night Harry and Hermione would sit and listen to Sirius’s stories like they had in the recent holidays.  Sometimes to Remus’s, as his visits were frequent.  Harry would always attentively soak up every detail, for want of his parent’s history.  He was disheartened to learn that his mother had absolutely despised for most of their school years.  He had always secretly hoped that what he saw in Snape’s memory had been a one off day.  He was comforted, however, when Remus explained that in his mind he always knew the pair would end up together.  Sirius agreed, apparently women never said what they meant.  Hermione huffily disagreed at this but she was over ruled by the males.

 

Sometimes, after Harry went to bed, Hermione and Sirius would linger by the fire to discuss history or politics.  She was happy to note he subscribed to a different set of ideas and philosophies as her which always made their conversations animated and interesting.  Sometimes even a little hostile which was always even more interesting.  It was endearing in a way to watch Sirius getting so worked up.   Politics and history were some of her favourite topics of conversation and she felt far less bookish when discussing them with someone such as Sirius.

 

*****

 

Sirius and Harry had just finished clearing the table when Kinsley arrived as promised.  Harry’s bags were near the door, packed and ready.  Harry would be side-along apparating with Kingsley after he failed his apparition test for the second time.  His next test was set in another month and the Order had promised him that he could leave his confines to try for his license again.  Harry was most displeased with his skill in terms of apparition.  Most magic came quite naturally to him especially when it came to travel.  His skill on a broom was undeniable and professor Flitwick had always commented on his summoning and banishing charms, yet apparition was something else.

 

Hermione hugged him tightly.  She would miss him.  She would miss him dearly.  She made him promise to write and he had agreed under duress.  He claimed that they would be back at school soon enough but Hermione felt different.  She hoped he would be right but from the previously estimated timeframe, they should have already been back at Hogwarts.  The timeframe had stretched dramatically and Hermione was beginning to worry about her studies.  She did every piece of homework that was owled to her but she felt as though she hindered somewhat.

 

Sirius and Harry hugged.  They attempted the affectionate pain inducing male back clapping but some how it died.  Sirius was upset that Harry had to leave.  The pair had limited time together as it is.  Hermione thought it wasn’t fair but then again safety was safety.  After he let go, Sirius attempted to reduce the sentimental tone of the current situation through some jocular chastising.

 

“Now Harry, don’t go running amuck.  Mind your manners and be polite to Mr and Mrs Lupin,” he joked.  Harry punched him in the arm and Sirius laughed.  Harry bent down to pick up his suitcase.  This was it.

 

“Bye,” he said finally.

 

Kingsley nodded politely to the pair of them before, opening the door for himself and Harry and closing it behind them.  The sound of the door closing echoed in the surrounding silence.

 

She and Sirius were now alone, together.

 

*****

 

“What’s that?” Sirius asked pointing to her exposed left hip bone.  Her t-shirt rode up slightly as she reached for tea cups in the high cupboards.  She blushed at the exposure of her skin and moved down to cover her stomach quickly.

 

“It’s just a bruise,” she informed him.  She placed the tea cups and tea pot on a tray for him to carry out to the sitting room.  She followed him as he walked out of the kitchen.

 

It was time for their usual evening chat by the fire.  They took a seat on the lounge, in front of the radiating warmth with their tea and books.  Well a book for Hermione, today Sirius had chosen a witch’s magazine, the kind that made her scoff with cynicism.

 

“From what?” he asked her.

 

“Well, from our wrestling match a few weeks ago.  Remember, I fell off this lounge?” she informed him, attempting to cover the slight blush that appeared on her face as she reminisced.

 

“Ouch! It’s still there?” he said.  He remembered the incident.  He didn’t think of it at the time but her fall had probably hurt.

 

“Well it was a lot bigger before.  It’s pretty small now and it’s fading slowly,” Hermione said as she poured him and herself some tea.

 

“Sorry about that,” he didn’t relish the thought that he had caused her pain.

 

“It’s okay.  I like it a little bit rough and tumble,” she spoke huskily, barely lifting her head as she added milk.

 

Sirius choked slightly.  He never thought Hermione would have been the type to make such a joke.  Maybe she didn’t understand the implications of her words?  From the way she was innocently smiling at him as she handed him his tea, he was sure she understood.  It wasn’t as if he hadn’t heard much worse but he had never heard such things from her mouth.

 

“I’ll bare that in mind,” he replied smiling coyly.

 

“For when? The next time you steal my book? Which tonight is Pragmatic Applications for the Charms You Thought Were Useless.  That’s more than I can say for your choice,” she held up her own book as she eyed the direction of Sirius’s copy of The Wicked Witch.

 

“At least my reading material doesn’t sound like the cure to insomnia,” he said haughtily.

 

“That can be argued,” she objected.  “Sirius, honestly, it’s a load of rubbish and I can’t understand why a grown man would want to read poorly worded articles aimed at the physically insecure.”

 

“Hey!  There’s some good stuff in here,” he insisted.  “It gives me a little insight into the inner workings of the female mind.”

 

“And conversing with a woman won’t produce similar effects?” she questioned.

 

“You women never say what you actually mean, so no,” he concluded.  She huffed at the assumption as he flipped through the pages.  “Have you ever actually opened one of these?”

 

“No, I haven’t,” she replied honestly.

 

“Well I’m sure I can find something you like about the magazine,” he said continuing to flip.

 

“I highly doubt it,” she muttered.

 

“Ahh here we are,” he said ignoring her previous statement.  He handed the magazine over to her.  She grasped the magazine awkwardly and a fold in page unraveled.  Hermione cast her eyes over the picture displayed on the extra long page and realized she was staring at, what was commonly referred to as, a centre-fold.  It depicted a tall, fit, blonde wizard clad in only a set of open robes and a pair of very tight black briefs.  And brief they were, they covered only the essentials and left nothing to the imagination.  All in all, it was a very aesthetically pleasing picture.  She found herself growing hot in the face just looking at it.

 

“Looks like someone’s a fan,” Sirius noted.  Hermione had not yet torn her eyes from the centre-fold.

 

“I am not,” she said shoving the magazine back to him playfully.  “Yes, that picture was…nice but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of the magazine itself.  Who cares who The Weird Sisters are dating and I do not need to know 5 things that will make him notice you.”  Sirius merely laughed at her.  “You don’t need to know any of that either, so why do you read the magazine?  Fond of the pictures?”

 

He stopped laughing and sobered quickly.  “I am not fond of the pictures.  I told you already, it gives me insight.  Reading 5 things to make him notice you will give me hints as to body language I should see when someone fancies me.  I use the magazine for heterosexual purposes thank you,” he said defensively.

 

“Oh really.  So you’re telling me you just read the pitiful articles and don’t care for the sex tips in the back,” she said opening her book to chapter three.  He choked again.

 

“I never said I didn’t read those,” he muttered.  She lowered her book.

 

“Ah and the true intentions are revealed.  Honestly Sirius,” she laughed slightly.

 

“Honestly what?  You’ve never read them so you don’t understand how informing they can be,” he protested flipping to find a page.

 

“How do you know I’ve never read them?” she asked him.

 

“Ahh miss Granger, you told me before that you had never opened one of these magazines,” he informed her.

 

“Well yes. It was opened for me and I really must say that the advice in there was either too generic or plain weird,” she said firmly.

 

“I beg to differ,” he insisted.

 

“Once again, couldn’t you achieve a similar knowledge through talking?  If you really wanted to hear about someone’s sexual preferences, I think asking them would be a little more informative than a magazine,” she proclaimed.

 

“Well, as I said before women never say what they mean.  I also believe that if you confront said women with intrusive questions they tend to misrepresent the truth more so,” he pointed out.  He picked up the magazine and slapped the front cover.  “However, this advice here is sent in by real women.  They’re readers of the magazine and they send in their own tips and advice.  It’s a pretty comprehensive and informative document,” he finished.

 

She glared at him and then scoffed indignantly.  “Whatever you say Sirius.”

 

“Okay well here’s an example of beautiful women never saying what they mean.  Hermione, if someone asked you of your sexual preferences would you answer completely and honestly?” he asked her narrowing his eyes.

 

She was silent for a moment, her expression blank.  He caught her off guard.  It was by no means the question that unnerved her but if she had heard correctly, Sirius had just implied that she was a beautiful woman.  No, not a pretty girl but a beautiful woman.  She was tempted to comment at this but she had no idea what to say.  She opted to just answer his question straight.  “No, I guess not.”

 

“Exactly, but if you were asked to write into a magazine anonymously, would you?” he asked once more.

 

“Yes, I would,” she admitted.

 

“Thank you,” he said as his argument concluded.

 

She stared down at her book intently.  She was breathing deeply and trying desperately to concentrate on the page.  She had read the same paragraph several times now and could not seem to absorb the meaning of it.

 

Beautiful woman

 

His voice rang in her ears although she was trying to ignore it.  She tried thinking of other things but it was useless.  She looked over to him.  He was enjoying the magazine, reading with a furrowed brow.  She watched as he brushed hair from his eyes and she smiled.  He really was a very attractive man.  Grey eyes, dark hair, bulky arms and a set of very broad shoulders.

 

Quickly she turned back to her back to her book and returned to her breathing exercise.  She felt absolutely ridiculous.  She felt like a silly little girl crushing on a role model or teacher.  Only she wasn’t silly or little and he was not a teacher or role model.  Not for her anyway.

 

“Hermione, is something wrong?” he asked nervously.  The rise and fall of her chest as she took hurried and nervous breaths was very noticeable.  She forced herself to calm down.

 

“I was just thinking,” she said very softly.

 

“Of what?” he inquired.  She smiled at his concerned expression.

 

“Well, I was thinking of what you said before,” she paused and he did not comment.  “You used me as an example of a beautiful woman,” it was not a question.

 

“I did,” he replied calmly without a trace of joke in his face.

 

“Just checking,” she whispered before turning her attention back to her book.  She inwardly smiled.  She felt elated, completely elated by his words.  As much as she told herself she was being silly and trivial, she couldn’t help it.  His words had made her happy and tingly.  He thought she was beautiful.  She smiled into her book at the thought.

 

Sirius felt she should learn the art of subtly.  He watched her as she delicately returned to reading and then smiled into her book.  He smiled himself just watching her face alight with this new revelation.  She tucked her hair behind her ear and continued or pretended to read.  She really was very cute.

 

Her tiny hands clutched her book as her nose scrunched at words on the page.  All the while her mouth never ceased its enchanted smile.  He was drawn to her at that moment.  Her skin looked like silken ivory, her chestnut hair flooded her shoulders and her lips were plump and pink.  She leaned over for some more tea allowing her t-shirt rode up and again he was confronted with her bruise.  It was a yellow colour, ready to finally fade but it was a lot larger than he originally thought it to be.

 

“May I?” he asked piercing the resounding silence.  He pointed at her abdomen and she blushed again.  She looked at his face and merely nodded.

 

Tentatively, he lifted her top slightly to reveal the full extent of the bruise on her hip.  Well, not the full extent, some of it was hidden by her jeans but he didn’t think it would have been prudent to seek below them.  It was right over the bone and curved around to the side of her hip.  He frowned at it.  It looked like it really had hurt her a lot.  Carefully, he reached a finger out to touch the area softy.  He brushed the skin of her abdomen lightly and he felt her breath hitch in her chest.  He looked up to her face to see her eyes closed.

 

He traced the outline of the bruise from the side of her frame, up her stomach and down to the top of her jeans, where the rest of it was obscured.  Her breath was shallow and he smiled hearing her chest gasp at the lightness of his fingers.  Slowly he let the shirt fall back down, covering her once more.  He extracted his fingers and picked his magazine back up.

 

Hermione opened her eyes and tried to rectify her breathing.  She hadn’t intended to be so mesmerized by his touch.

 

“I thought it was a tattoo when I first saw it before,” he said to her, again he broke the thick silence.

 

“Oh, that’s why you were interested in the kitchen,” she said understanding.

 

“Yeah, I was curious because you never seemed like the type to condone a tattoo,” he spoke honestly.  She accepted the comment as an insult.

 

“In who’s opinion?”

 

“Well, mine obviously,” he pointed out.

 

“Well who it the type then?” she asked.

 

“I don’t know.  Someone less pragmatic than you,” he suggested with a smile.  She warmed slightly to this idea.

 

“I wouldn’t say that a tattoo is a bad idea.  It just should take a lot of thought.  You don’t want something completely meaningless on your body forever,” she said.

 

“I agree with you there.  Mine took a lot of thinking, even if it was obtained on a drunken whim,” he said chuckling to himself.  Hermione was not surprised by his confession, Sirius definitely seemed the type.  Not in a bad way, however.

 

“Can I see?” she asked smiling.  He looked her in the eyes and returned her smile.  Slowly he rolled the sleeve of his shirt back to his elbow.  He turned his arm over and revealed his forearm to her.  It was in such a neutral location, she didn’t understand how she hadn’t spotted it previously.

 

On the inside of his arm, next to and parallel to the crease of his elbow, were the bolded words ‘Carpe Diem.’  She brushed two fingers over his inked skin and he flexed in response.  She smiled.

 

“Seize the day,” she murmured.  “Really Sirius, I never thought of you as the philosophical type.”

 

He smiled coyly at her.  “There are many things about me you still don’t know then,” he spoke as he rolled the sleeve of his shirt back down.

 

“Well then, anymore insightful body art?” she provoked.

 

“Yes but you’ll get to see that another time,” he said nonchalantly.  She stared at him inquisitively for a moment and he smiled coyly.  “I promise, you will see it eventually.” His reassurance had her drop the subject.  She sensed there was some underlying meaning to his words but she knew he would not reveal it until she discovered it herself.  She turned back to her book.

 

“Hermione?” it was only seconds later that her eyes were torn back from the page.  She looked up to him.

 

“Yes Sirius?” she answered him.

 

“What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked her casually.

 

“Well my school work obviously,” she pointed out.  He snorted.

 

“You can’t do that everyday,” he suggested.

 

“Sirius, if I was at Hogwarts this is what I would being doing in class.  Unlike Harry I understand that this in not a holiday.  I am here for my own protection and I do not intend to jeopardize my NEWTs because of it,” she ranted.  He rolled his eyes at her insistence.  “Sirius this is serious.” He laughed at her unintentional pun and after a few moments his infectious laughter broke her resolve and she grinned.

 

“I really do have to do my work though,” she reiterated.  He stared at her and shot her his most intoxicating and charming smile.  She felt her insides melt and she sighed.  “Okay what did you have in mind?”

 

“Just a day out.  Shopping and lunch maybe.  You must be very tired of the same surrounds everyday,” he suggested.  She looked at him thoughtfully.  “Oh come on Hermione.  You can afford one day off.  You can make up for it tomorrow,” he insisted.

 

“No it’s not that.  It’s just that I thought I was supposed to stay inside for my own protection,” she told him.

 

“Don’t worry.  I’ll take care of that.  So what do you say?” he raised an eye brow at her.  She wanted to say no but he seemed genuinely excited about getting out of the house with her.  Although she knew it was a bad idea and that they were about the most conspicuous pair that could be seen together, this all seemed rather insignificant compared to being to spend the day out with him.

 

“Yes, alright then.”

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