"Hold the lift please!"

The man in the lift hesitated for a second before his hand shot out and stalled the closing door. Hermione sent him a thankful smile as she stepped inside, juggling several folders in one arm and a box of loose documents in the other.

The lift jerked into motion. Hermione stood completely still except for her foot, which tapped against the ground in a way that Harry and Ron had always found irritating. The lift pulled into the second floor—Department of Magical Law Enforcement. As the door opened Hermione's foot froze, mid-tap.

Harry was standing there, waiting for the lift. But that wasn't what made her stomach drop. Not Harry, but the man standing beside him.

Sirius Black's eyes were fixed on Hermione, his mouth open as if he had been about to say something to Harry before he caught sight of her.

"Hermione!" Harry beamed as he stepped into the lift.

"Hello Harry," she breathed, "Sirius."

Sirius didn't say a word. He nodded once at her, following a step behind Harry and then turning in place. He faced the front of the lift, eyes locked ahead and arms locked at his sides. The man was pissed and Hermione knew why.

Harry stood between the two of them, the smile on his face dropping when he looked at Sirius, then back at Hermione.

"How are things in the Auror Department?" Hermione asked, trying to distract him. She could do this. It was only one more floor until they all got off and she could go back to avoiding Sirius like the plague.

She heard Sirius snort in amusement. He knew what she was doing.

"They're well. What about you? How's it down on the fourth floor? I heard the Centaur Legislature has been giving you some trouble." Harry was either easily distracted or ignoring the obvious tension between Sirius and Hermione. Probably the latter.

She nodded. "It's proving difficult to pass. Though Firenze has been a great help. Thank you for asking him to come in."

"No problem," Harry replied. The subtext was easy to interpret: I owe you a million favors, Hermione. She was starting to feel guilty about all the nice things Harry was doing for her. Sure, she'd rescued his godfather from near-death in the Veil, but after the other ways in which she'd wronged Sirius, Hermione wasn't quite sure that she was deserving of all this gratitude.

They lapsed into silence. The lift was approaching its final stop—the first floor. Hermione counted down the seconds, lips pursed as she fought to avoid sneaking a glance at Sirius.

When the lift finally pulled up and the doors opened, the other man in the lift bolted out the opening door, scurrying away into the crowds. Hermione wondered if he had felt the thick, stifling tension as well.

"Where are you headed?" Harry asked as he and Hermione stepped out of the lift. Sirius followed behind. "We've got a meeting with Kingsley."

"Just delivering these to filing," she explained, looking down at the folders and the box of papers under her arms. Her eyes caught sight of the label on the first folder under her arm. Sirius Black, it read, in large, dark print. "Oh!" she said, shifting the folder out from her arm and extending it to Sirius, "this is for you."

Better to give it away now, she figured, rather than seek him out at another time to give it to him.

Sirius took the folder, not meeting her eyes. He proceeded to inspect its contents.

"Everything's finished," she explained, "I filled out the final witness report, so as soon as you sign off and it's filed away we're done. You're officially the first man to ever be legally resurrected from the dead." She forced out an awkward huff of laughter, a feeble attempt at lightening the tension.

Sirius nodded. "Thanks." His eyes were hard and emotionless, but the word sounded sincere. Hermione again felt her chest tighten painfully. Merlin. She had pissed him off.

"That's great!" Harry enthused, looking over Sirius' shoulder at the documents, then at Hermione. "We have to celebrate! Let's go out for drinks tonight. Hermione, are you free?"

"No," Hermione quipped without missing a beat. It took her a half-second longer to think of an excuse. "I- uh- I'm having dinner with my parents."

"Too bad," Sirius said, eyes narrowing at her, "perhaps another time, then."

"Yeah," she breathed, gaze locked with Sirius, "another time."

It was a lie. She would make as many excuses as possible to avoid going out for drinks and being celebrated as Sirius' savior. She didn't deserve that. They both knew it.

"I should go," Hermione muttered, checking her wristwatch and then waving goodbye as she backed away.

Harry said goodbye and smiled at her while Sirius said nothing, still watching her with his hard, unforgiving eyes. She longed for it to go back to the way it used to be when he looked at her— all youthful happiness and tender affection.

But she had ruined her chances of that. She ruined it all the moment she woke up on that dreadful morning and fled. Well… no. She had actually ruined it about eight hours before that morning, when she'd decided to leave the bar and go home with Sirius in the first place.

She slept with him. That was her first mistake, and by far the biggest.

Her second mistake was running away in the morning.

As soon as she'd woken up to the bright morning sunlight and noticed her bedmate she was filled with dread. Sirius woke up about thirty seconds after her, a lazy smile on his face as he leaned in to kiss her.

She'd recoiled, eyes wide as all the memories came back to her. It was only a matter of minutes before she made her excuses and ran for it. The look on his face was one she wouldn't forget for a long, long time.

How ironic that Hermione would be the one to sleep with him and then slink away in the morning like some sort of emotionless slut. Sirius ought to play that role. Judging by the stories she'd heard of his youth, he was far better at it.

Hermione let out a heavy sigh, shifting the box under her arm and starting towards the filing offices. She only had these documents to deliver, then she could get back to work for the rest of the day. It would be easy to push thoughts of Sirius out of her mind with all the work she had to do.

She arrived at the filing offices and sorted through all her paperwork, handing them to the secretary one by one. Her load was quite a bit lighter now that she'd given away Sirius' folder. His file was a thick stack of documents that had taken over a month to accumulate and complete. That was the process of bringing someone back to life. Hermione had been willing to take on all the work. She had even been willing to bear the accusations against herself and the trial before Wizengamot—to prove that she wasn't some sort of Necromancer—when she'd decided to retrieve him from the Veil. She had known what she was getting into.

What she hadn't known, however, was that she would find herself extremely attracted to Sirius. And that he would start trying to seduce her. That had been quite a shock. The first time he'd flirted with her at a gathering at Harry and Ginny's she was left giddy and surprised, blushing like a teenager all night. It was sort of intoxicating, and she allowed him to continue his seemingly harmless flirting.

In the beginning it had been innocent and fun to be the focus of his attention. Then she'd decided to fuck it all up and actually agree to go home with him that one night at the Leaky.

Yes, that was where it all went wrong.

A small memo breezed into Hermione's office the next day. It said that all her documents had been approved and filed. Sirius' folder had also been returned, signed, and completed. With that little memo, Hermione was officially finished with any professional business with Sirius Black whatsoever. She could now avoid him for the rest of her life in all social situations and be just fine. This realization brought a smile to her face as she left the Ministry and Apparated to a café where she was meeting Ginny for lunch.

"What are you so cheerful about?" Ginny asked. "You're never this happy after work."

"It's nothing," Hermione said, skimming over the menu, "just some progress I've made."

"Is it about Sirius?" the redhead persisted.

Hermione's eyes widened just a tad as she read through the sandwiches list. "Why do you think that?"

"Harry told me everything's finalized with him. Does this mean you're finally able to tell me how you did it?"

Hermione looked up at Ginny, eyes growing wider. "D-did it?"

"Yeah! How'd you get him out of the Veil?"

Hermione let out a great exhale. "Oh. Uh- yes, I suppose I can tell you about it now."

She proceeded to explain her whole process of research into the Veil and its odd suspension of its victims. She used the metaphor of Sirius frozen in a block of ice for seven years—he was trapped, unable to think or move or grow older, while the world around him turned on. Then Hermione explained how she'd retrieved him with an old summoning ritual that used his magical core to drag him from the limbo.

"That's why he was so drained after," Ginny realized, watching Hermione with rapt attention, "and why he couldn't use magic for weeks."

Hermione nodded, feeling the memories float to the surface of her consciousness.

Sirius was still and pale, lying on the ground in front of her while she struggled to say the last line of the incantation. It had to be complete, to ensure that all of him was retrieved. Right now he was still just a body, an empty shell. Once the full ritual was complete, assuming she did it correctly, only then would his soul and magical core become anchored to his body.

As Hermione uttered those final words of the incantation she turned to him and began evaluating his form. He was shuddering; eyes closed, fingers twitching at his sides, as if reaching out for something. "It's alright, Sirius," she whispered, one hand rising to press against his cold forehead. He flinched when her hand made contact with him, but after another moment the shuddering stopped.

"Is that why he acted so odd as well? He wouldn't leave your side for nearly a month."

Hermione swallowed the sudden lump in her throat. "Perhaps," she muttered, voice strained, "but I think that was more so a result of the shock. It felt like no time had passed for him, but he could still, somewhere within his mind, remember being trapped in there for all that time. Seven years." She recalled the night in the Library of Grimmauld Place, when Sirius had explained this to her.

Sirius had been sitting on the couch beside her for a long time, examining with rapt attention the planes and lines of his hands. "It doesn't feel right," he rasped, breaking the silence.

"What doesn't feel right?" she closed her book and fixed her gaze on him.

"That I'm… here. It's wrong. Seven years have passed."

She didn't say anything, just waited, hoping he would say whatever he needed to get off his chest.

"It didn't feel like time was passing, but at the same time-" he broke off, voice cracking in a moment of weakness. There were a long break of silence before he spoke again, "A-at the same time… I could feel it. Somewhere in my mind I could feel every minute ticking by… for seven years." He took a deep breath, haunted eyes roving towards the fireplace.

He didn't look or speak to her again, but he stayed in the library with her for hours. Hermione shivered at the memory of the haunted look in his eyes.

"That's awful," Ginny whispered. Before she could get another word in the waitress came around to take their orders. Hermione was grateful that Ginny allowed her to change the subject after. She asked how summer training was going. Ginny fell into a deep explanation about the rigorous life of a Qudditch player in the off-season.

Neither brought up Sirius for the rest of lunch. But still, Hermione couldn't get that haunted look out of her mind as she Apparated back to work. She had spent so much time caring for Sirius after retrieving him. He'd been awfully weak for a while, his magical core so drained that he was forbidden from casting spells for three weeks. Hermione moved into Grimmauld for a month just to help Harry take care of him. Even after the exhaustion went away, he was noticeably more quiet and reserved. She could recall several evenings spent in his presence reading. He never said anything to her then, just sat with her in the library in silence while she went about her business. Sometimes she would catch him watching her. Sometimes he would just stare off into the fireplace, a blank look on his face. As he healed both mentally and physically he started using excuses to sit with her in the library—reading or writing a letter in front of the fire.

She knew he had found her presence comforting. It was a natural occurrence after going through something so traumatic. He had latched onto her because she was the first friendly face he saw. Now, months later, she knew that this comfort had changed into something more.

Somehow it had translated into affection. Or rather, misplaced affection. He started to watch her longingly when he thought she wasn't looking. He began flirting with her and doing nice little things like pulling out chairs for her or bringing her tea after a long day. That was when she had decided it was time to move out. She didn't want Sirius thinking he was in love with her. He just needed some distance. Then he would realize that his affections were misplaced and that it was time to move on with his life.

The unfortunate part was that somewhere along the way Hermione had unwittingly grown attracted to him. As he healed and gained back his confidence he started to transform into the flirtatious and lively man he had once been. She realized the pitiful truth one morning when she met him in the hallway while he was getting out of the bathroom from taking a shower. He wore a towel low and tempting around his waist, leaving his glorious chest and stomach on display. Hermione didn't stop blushing for at least ten minutes after scurrying away. That was when she knew that she was lusting after Sirius. And it was not good.

She tried her hardest to resist his advances, and it worked for a long time. The problem was that Sirius was infuriatingly persistent. One night, after a few too many glasses of wine at the bar with all their friends, she gave in. That was the night she went home with him—thus, the beginning of all the mistakes.

Now, everything was a horrible mess of awkward run-ins with an angry Sirius Black and earth-shattering memories of her night spent with him. She just kept telling herself that as long as she avoided him as much as possible, this would blow over. Perhaps one day down the road they would laugh about this. She hoped that it could one day be laughed at, but right now it didn't feel comedic in any way.

"Well, Hermione," Kingsley sighed, "this is some quite extensive research you've done." He looked through each document once more before sliding them back into their folder.

"Thank you," she replied, sitting primly in the chair across from his desk. There were two more chairs, one to her left and right, and enough space for several more behind her. His office was huge. She couldn't help but compare it to her minuscule workspace.

"I think I'm still going to need some time to think about this," the Minister added, scratching at his beard.

"Oh I don't expect you to have a decision on my proposal now," she said. "I'd just like the opportunity to present it at our next inter-department meeting. I'd only need a few minutes to explain the situation of the Merpeople and show my data."

Kingsley sighed in consideration, "I suppose I could grant you a few minutes, but are you sure you'd be able to convince the others? You know it's hard to get them to change their mind about legislature, and if you really want to change the Merpeople laws it's going to take all of us to back you up, even before this goes to Wizengamot."

"I know, Kingsley, but I'm prepared for it."

He scrutinized her for a moment before nodding once. "I suppose if anyone could do it, it would be you, Hermione. I can give you ten minutes at the meeting next Wednesday."

"Perfect," she said, "thank you."

He nodded. "Now, I have a two-thirty with the Auror department. They should be here any minute…"

Hermione noticed that it was five minutes past the scheduled start of his next meeting. "Of course," she said, collecting her folder and standing up to shake his hand. "See you, Kingsley," she called as she exited his office, into the lobby area, where his secretary sat at her desk, tapping her foot exasperatedly. When Hermione exited the Minister's office, the secretary sighed and turned towards the opposite end of the room. "The Minister will see you now."

Hermione glanced at chairs in the waiting area, expecting to see Johnathan Goldman, the head of the Auror department. Instead, she saw two familiar faces that made her freeze on the spot.

Harry stood from the chair, grinning at her. "Hey, Hermione. Long time no see, yeah?"

"Uh, yeah," she murmured, eyes darting to Sirius then back to Harry, "Hello, Harry, Sirius."

Sirius gave her a minuscule nod, wearing the same tight, angry expression he had in the lift the other day. It was the same expression he'd been giving her for a week and a half now.

"How'd your meeting go?" Harry asked, collecting a folder under his arm. Sirius took his time collecting his things, and didn't spare her another glance.

"It went well," she replied.

Harry nodded, still smiling, "good. We should get in there."

"Yeah," Hermione breathed, looking at Sirius again as he stated to follow Harry towards the door. When he passed her the same rigid expression was on his face, but there was something else there. His eyes flickered over her body, resting on her face with a surprising intensity in his eyes. That look made many memories come rushing to the forefront of her mind.

Hot hands were grasping and roving at her sides, pulling at her clothes. Sirius' mouth latched onto her neck, sucking and biting. Hermione groaned and began pulling up at his shirt, trying to lift it over his head. Sirius broke away from his neck to allow the shirt to be removed. While he did this, he looked into her eyes, his expression one of intensity and dark desire. Hermione shivered, something in the back of her mind telling her that this shouldn't be happening. She was in Sirius Black's flat, pressed between him and the wall, and she knew that she wasn't supposed to be here. But the three glasses of wine were making her question whether she had a reason at all behind that logic.

Her hands roamed over his exposed chest and shoulders. He leaned in to kiss her again, with teeth and tongue and practiced skill. Merlin, how did he get away with being this sexy? Hermione felt her knees wobble a little when he bit at her lower lip and ground his hips into hers at the same time.

Hermione forced the memories out of her mind. Sirius turned away from her without a word, following Harry through the door and into Kingsley's office. Hermione was left standing there, staring at the door he'd just passed through, wondering if it would be wrong to use him for sex again despite knowing that he felt more than just sexual attraction to her.

The answer was, of course, a resounding yes.

Hermione looked up from the file on her desk just in time to hear the knock on her office door and see the door inched open. Harry poked his head inside. "Hey."

"Hi, Harry," she smiled, "what's up?"

He opened the door further and stepped inside, standing on the opposite side of her desk. "I was wondering if you want to have lunch together," he murmured. "We haven't had lunch in too long."

"I agree," Hermione said, "it's been too long. Sure, just give me a minute to put this away."

Harry nodded and sat down in the chair across from her desk. She felt his eyes on her as she gathered the sizeable stack of papers on her desk and placed them within their magically sealing folder. She proceeded to grab her lunch from the drawer at the bottom of her desk. "Alright," she sighed, looking back at Harry, "shall we?"

He nodded. Together they left her office and took the lift down to the staff lounge, claiming their usual table and sitting down across from each other. It almost felt like they were back at Hogwarts, sitting down for a meal together, only without Ron.

After a few short seconds of silence, Hermione realized there was something off about Harry today. She was about to ask, but then he looked up at her, placing his hands flat on the tabletop and adopting a serious expression. "We need to talk about Sirius."

All the air seemed to leave Hermione's lungs at once.

Does he know? Did Sirius tell him?

She stared at Harry, wide-eyed, like a deer caught in headlights for several long moments before she could formulate a reply. "Uh- okay," she muttered.

Harry took a deep breath, "this tension- this awkwardness between the two of you is going too far, Hermione."

"What do you mean?" she asked, already knowing that playing dumb was just silly. Harry knew everything, she could tell.

"You've hardly spoken to him in weeks," he explained, "and when you do speak to him it's just about the most uncomfortable thing I've ever witnessed. Listen," Harry adjusted his glasses and leaned forward over the table, "it's okay if you don't want to be romantically involved with Sirius. It's obvious that something happened between the two of you, and it's okay if that was a mistake. But please, don't keep holding him at a distance like this just because you feel uncomfortable. Sirius is so torn up about it, Hermione, you- you have no idea."

Her heart was sinking. She watched Harry, shocked at his insight and maturity in approaching this subject. But then again, he'd always been rather mature, hadn't he?

"I- I just," she let out a long breath. "I don't know how to deal with this. He's become attached to me and it's obviously because I saved him and spent all that time with him. He would never like me this way if I hadn't pulled him from the Veil. I'm not—"

"Stop." Harry held a hand up, looking up from his sandwich, over the rim of his glasses. "It's not because you rescued him from the veil, Hermione. Is that what you think? That he only likes you because of some odd sense of gratitude?"

"Of course," she breathed, sitting up straighter in her chair, "that's what it is. These things happen all the time, Harry, especially to victims of intense trauma or emotional upheaval."

He shook his head, frowning and looking much older than the twenty-three-year-old that he was. "It's not like that. Do you think that he couldn't like you for who you are?"

Hermione was starting to feel very frustrated and very confused. How had this conversation turned in such an odd direction? When Harry brought up the topic of Sirius she had expected some sort of reprimand or warning.

"I'm not the kind of person that Sirius would fall for," Hermione declared. "We're complete opposites. People like him don't feel this way about people like me. He used to consider me a child, the best friend of his godson. I'm supposed to be the annoying bookworm who he still thinks of as an awkward teenager."

Harry shook his head again, and there was just a hint of a smile on his lips. "You have no idea, do you? You have no idea how he sees you and you think it's impossible for him to actually feel this way about you."

"It is impossible!" Hermione snapped.

Harry groaned, running his hands over his face in exasperation. "No it's not, Hermione! He's been falling for you since the moment he came back! You two get along. Don't you remember how many hours you would spend together at Grimmauld Place? Nearly every night I would find the two of you just sitting in the library together, talking for hours. You were one of his best friends and now you ignore him completely!"

Although everything Harry said was surprising, the outrage in his voice was what shocked Hermione most of all. Harry was so upset about her treatment of Sirius that he'd decided to yell at her about it. In a moment of horrible recognition, she realized that she had hurt Sirius. Not just a petty, he'll-get-over-it kind of hurt, but a bad, bruising, terrible hurt.

Harry sighed, the aggression leaving his shoulders in a slump. "Please just talk to him," he said. "You don't have to ever be romantically involved with him, Hermione, Merlin knows I don't expect that, but please just don't ignore him like this. I know both of you miss spending time with each other. How could you not?"

She was silent for a long time. She didn't know what to say. At last, after a lot of thinking, Hermione opened her mouth, "you… you really think it's more than just gratitude a-and misplaced affection?"

Harry nodded, holding eye contact.

She let out a whoosh of breath.

"You get along," Harry said by way of explanation, "but at the same time you challenge him, Hermione, and he challenges you. To me it's no wonder he sees what a wonderful person you are and has grown to care about you this way. He may have only noticed it in the wake of the trauma, but his feelings for you do not stem from the trauma alone."

Hermione stared down at her hardly eaten salad, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth as she went over Harry's words in her mind. She felt idiotic. Was she this blind? This clueless?

"I should talk to him," she murmured, looking up at Harry, lips pulled into a frown. Would he ever forgive her for being so insensitive?

Harry nodded. "You should."

After her conversation with Harry it was easier for Hermione to comprehend the fact that Sirius may indeed have honest feelings for her. As she returned to her office after lunch, she found herself sitting at her desk, unable to work, thinking over all her interactions with Sirius.

After she'd retrieved him from beyond the Veil they had spent a lot of time together. In those days he was not like his usual self. She remembered the withdrawn, apathetic moods he'd always fall into. He would spend hours just sitting in the drawing room or the library of Grimmauld, staring at a wall and appearing to be lost deep in thought.

Those were the days when she started spending so much time with him. She would sit with him, either in silence or with a light conversation, depending on his mood. She memorized his expressions and the way his face moved in those days, stealing glances at him whenever he looked away. She remembered always feeling a little entranced by him, and simultaneously sad for the state he was in. Back then she had pinned it on some odd fascination with him, or perhaps a return of her leftover crush from when she'd been fifteen.

Hermione tried to work. She opened up the file she'd been reading before Harry grabbed her for lunch, but her eyes just scanned the paragraphs, unable to absorb any of the words. Her mind was caught on Sirius.

There was one particular night—she could remember it vividly—where he'd joined her in the library very late, while she was about to doze off but still interested enough in the book she was reading to put off sleep. He'd slipped inside the doorway and made his way to the chair beside her, falling onto it limply.

"Are you alright?" she asked, looking at him over the top of her book. There were bags under his eyes and a tight frown on his face.

He shrugged. "Can't sleep. Thought I'd join you since…" he trailed off, turning his head and meeting her eyes. "Since it's nice to be around someone else when you can't sleep."

She was caught in his gaze, staring into his eyes over the coffee table and the pages of her book. She lowered the book to rest in her lap. "Was it the nightmares?"

He nodded, still looking into her eyes. The corners of his mouth twisted, transforming his frown into a grimace.

Hermione put on her best reassuring smile, leaning forward and reaching for his hand, which rested on the arm of the chair. He flinched when her fingers touched his, but didn't pull away. She covered his hand with both of hers. He was cold. She tried to rub some warmth into his hand. "It's not always going to be like this," she said, studying an odd smoky tattoo on his wrist, "the nightmares always end. They may come back for a few nights in a row, but they will end."

It was the most reassuring thing she could think of saying. When she looked up at him, hoping that he was at least marginally comforted by her words, she was surprised by the darkness of his gaze. He stared at her with piercing grey eyes, which somehow looked darker than their normal light, steel-blue hues. She was caught in his gaze, unable to will her eyes to look away.

"You're right," he muttered at last, his voice hoarse and tired. A small smile turned at his lips. Hermione was finally released from whatever petrified state she'd been in. She felt herself blushing, but forced a smile and nodded.

Looking back, that was the first night where she could pinpoint that he had any sort of feelings for her. It had felt entirely different than any of their innocent interactions before.

What Hermione could now accept was that Sirius had genuine feelings for her. But now she had to deal with these feelings. She had ought to apologize, of course, but what next? Should she go back to avoiding him? Pretend they'd never slept together? Make a joke of it and laugh it off?

No. How could she turn that into a joke. Almost unwillingly, the memories came back to her.

"Fuck, Hermione," Sirius hissed, rutting his hips against hers while she dragged her nails down his back. His mouth trailed down her neck, teeth scraping against her skin. She moaned at the combined sensations: his hot mouth and the hardness pressing against her center.

"Sirius," she moaned. He appeared to understand, for a moment later he picked her up off the ground, wrapping her legs around his waist. He took concentrated steps backwards, then toward what appeared to be his bedroom. Hermione had only been in his flat a couple short times, and she had no idea how to navigate on her own. She allowed him to carry her along, pressing her lips against his and gliding her tongue against his lower lip.

Soon they were in his bedroom. Sirius dropped her onto the bed, following not a second later, pressing her tightly between his body and the bed.

She realized that they were both still dressed and immediately went to work on his shirt, simultaneous kicking off her heels.

Meanwhile, Sirius slid his hands under her blouse, tracing his hands over the trembling muscles of her stomach. Hermione allowed him to pull the delicate fabric over her head a second later. Then he reached under her back and undid the clasp of her bra in one swift movement.

Sirius pulled his head back and opened his eyes only long enough to wink at her, oozing confidence and pride.

Hermione swatted him on the shoulder and pulled him down on her again, kissing him hard. His hands cupped her breasts and plucked at her nipples. Hermione could help the string of moans and sighs that tore from her throat. She could hardly even concentrate long enough to divest him of his shirt. Once she did, however, her hands were all over, feeling the divine hard planes of his chest and the shifting muscles of his shoulders.

When he nipped at her lower lip she couldn't take it anymore. Her hands snaked down to his trousers, fumbling with his belt and then the button of his pants. Her hand brushed over his erection several times, and with each touch he would groan and press his body into hers again. Finally, she managed to pull down his trousers and then his boxers, only low enough to free his cock.

Sirius let out a string of hissing curses when her hand wrapped around him, firmly stroking, thump swiping over the tip. "You're too good at that," he murmured a second later, his head pressed into the space between her shoulder and the bed beneath her.

In response she picked up the pace of her movements. Sirius let out a breath and his hands moved down to remove her skirt. He nearly tore her knickers, but managed to pull them down her legs far enough so she could kick them off along with her skirt.

Once they were both nude he was on her again, his body pressing so perfectly into hers, his cock sliding against her center. She moaned in a way that she was certain she would be ashamed of later.

Suddenly he pulled his face away from hers, so there was only an inch between them. She stared up at him while she felt his hand trace down from her waist, to her hips, then away. He guided his cock towards her entrance, until he was poised just on the brink. Hermione opened her mouth, breathing laboriously and still caught in his gaze.

He stared into her eyes as he sunk into her. Hermione gasped and sighed and moaned all at the same time. Sirius watched her, though half-lidded eyes, and she was unable to look away.

Hermione certainly couldn't turn that night into something they could laugh about. She couldn't forget it, either. She sat at her desk, tapping her ballpoint pen against a pile of papers and trying to push those memories out of her mind. It was far too distracting.

She couldn't help but wonder about that moment when he'd entered her, looking into her eyes all the while. It was so intimate and arousing and frightening all at the same time. Hermione remembered the strange feeling rising up in her chest as she looked up at him. She'd disregarded it at the moment, thinking that lust did strange things at strange times, but now as she thought about it more, it didn't feel like a simple by-product of lust.

Hermione suspected that she had feelings for Sirius Black. In that moment in his flat she had felt it, and many times before she had felt it. She'd always pushed it aside as a stray crush she'd developed because of his flirtations. But Hermione even felt it now, long after their fallout, when she thought of him. She couldn't shake it and she now realized that it might be a lot more than a temporary crush.

She slept with him. That was her first mistake.

The second was running away in the morning.

The third was lying to herself about what was really going on—and that was the cruelest mistake of all.

She couldn't take her eyes off of him. The way his hair fell so haphazardly around his face. The fidgeting movement of his hand as he scrawled some sort of note on the slip of parchment before him. The narrowing of his eyes as he looked back up to Kingsley at the front of the room.

She couldn't take her eyes off of him and it was decidedly odd.

"Now," Kingsley sighed, "Hermione, I believe it's your turn to present?"

Hermione's eyes darted away from Sirius. "Oh- of course, Kingsley. Thank you."

Kingsley nodded and sat down. Hermione collected the papers scattered before her and stood.

"As many of you know," she began, taking a deep breath and forcing her gaze away from Sirius, "I've been doing a lot of research into the growth of the Merpeople population in Britain."

Many faces around the table nodded. Harry smiled at her.

"I've come to the conclusion that with the population growth in the past decade and the rise in aggression of the Merpeople, we must remove the restrictive legislature placed on the Merpeople." She rifled through the papers in front of her, drawing up the data she'd pulled together and passing it around the table.

"We've all seen the reports in the Prophet about unrest in locations like the Black Lake and the Irish Sea." Hermione continued to explain that the Merpeople wouldn't be as aggressive if they didn't feel so restricted in their allowed property, which the Ministry had no right to restrict anyway as Merpeople had been living in locations like the Black Lake and the Irish Sea for centuries.

Throughout her short presentation, Hermione felt Sirius' gaze. Of course he was looking at her—this was her presentation. But the way he was looking at her was becoming distracting. Hermione tried as hard as she could to avoid his gaze, but every once in a while her eyes would meet his and she would feel frozen in place, like a deer in headlights.

Hermione began to close her presentation, seeing Kingsley tap his wristwatch in warning. "I hope that in the coming weeks all of you will think about what I have said today, and perhaps look into the Merpeople legislature on your own. In the end, I will be going against Wizengamot alone in this battle, but I would appreciate the support of the Ministry in this fight."

Many around the table nodded as Hermione sat down. Harry smiled at her from across the table. The presentation had gone well. Everyone seemed receptive to her ideas, and even Kingsley was looking at her with approval.

Kingsley stood up to address a few final things and then ended the meeting. "I'll see you all here next week, same time," he said, gathering up his files with a flick of his wand and levitating them behind him. Many others did the same, and the room began clearing out.

Hermione looked across the table at Sirius and Harry, standing up from their chairs and making their way around to the door. She realized that this was a perfect opportunity to have a much-needed conversation with Sirius. Plus, Hermione felt confident after her presentation. She could do this.

"Sirius?" she said.

He turned towards her, brow arched in surprise. Beside him, Harry looked at her, a smile on his face as he slipped closer to the exit. There was only one other person in the room, Mark Whitter from the Department of Security.

"May I have a word?" Hermione asked, trying her best to make her voice sound strong and unworried.

Sirius narrowed his eyes at her before nodding. "Of course."

Harry and Mark slipped out of the room a second later. The sound of the door shutting behind Harry was loud and uncomfortable. Hermione stood a few feet away from Sirius, her gaze trained on him. He watched her with a calm sort of frigidity that made her chest clench a little.

After her conversation with Harry and her extensive analysis of the situation afterwards, Hermione was drawing to the conclusion that she felt more for Sirius than a mere physical attraction. But she wasn't certain. The logical, scientific part of her brain told her that she couldn't be certain without evidence. There was only one way that she could think of to test this out.

Inhaling, Hermione stepped closer to Sirius. She approached cautiously, knowing that he was already growing wary of her, already becoming closed off like he had been since they slept together.

His gaze was cold and calculating, and it made her want to retreat. However, the dominating part of her mind screamed out at her that she needed to figure this out once and for all. She wouldn't forgive herself if she didn't get to the absolute bottom of it. With this in mind, she continued to move closer to him.

The moment that she was close enough to smell his cologne and see the subtle rise and fall of his chest, the entire atmosphere shifted. Hermione felt his presence change, though she couldn't pinpoint what it was. Perhaps something in his expression shifted; the way his lips became less pursed or the way his eyes softened as he looked at her. She couldn't say with any certainty why, but it was a distinctly different atmosphere between them.

She stepped closer again.

She was close enough now that she would simply have to lean forward in order to kiss him. She could make out the specks of grey in his eyes and the fine wrinkles on his face. The voice in the back of her mind that she had long ago named the Teenage Girl Voice remarked that even from this close, he was astoundingly handsome.

She couldn't bear to meet his gaze any longer. Her head fell, and she focused on their feet, shoes only a centimeter away from touching. She could feel how close they stood to each other, like static electricity building up between them, preparing for some sort of explosive culmination.

But… how could she tell what this feeling was? She knew that she was physically attracted to him. That explained the tremendous intensity she felt at this moment. Still, Hermione didn't know if it was something more than just an attraction.

When she looked back up at Sirius his expression was guarded again. His lips were drawn in a tight, thin line. His eyes no longer held the softness that they did a moment ago. He looked at her with a coldness that rivaled all the other looks he had given her since she'd wronged him.

Hermione was stricken by his anger. She felt her throat constrict and her eyes burn. Regret rose heavy and unforgiving within her, and she wanted to apologize to him, over and over and over again until he saw how sorry she was.

Unbidden, some part of Hermione's subconscious cried out: There's your proof. You care for him. You hate the idea that you have hurt him. If someone else—another woman—had hurt him like this you would be prepared to rend her limb from limb.

Just as this realization crossed her mind, Sirius snapped. He stepped back from her, running a hand through his hair. "Well?" he breathed, "did you actually want to speak to me or just stand there?"

Hermione stood there with her mouth hanging open for a few seconds before she could formulate a response. "Oh… I, um, I wanted to apologize to you, actually."

His brows pulled together. "Apologize?"

"Yes." She cleared her throat, "I'm sorry, Sirius. I've been awful to you and I'm sorry for it."

He nodded, waiting for her to continue.

"I regret what I did," Hermione began. She had the next words carefully planned out in her mind, but somehow she couldn't bring herself to say any of them. All she could do was stare at him in silence.

He watched her for a long moment before nodding, something even colder in the way he proceeded to turn his back to her and head for the door. "Thank you for apologizing, Hermione."

The moment his hand reached the doorknob she was freed from her state of complete paralysis. "No! Sirius, wait! I regret running away in the morning. Not-" she paused, taking a deep breath, "not spending the night with you."

His hand fell from the doorknob. With the same caution, he turned around to face her.

"It took me a long time to realize what's been going on between us. Even up until a few moments ago, I didn't fully understand… but now I do."

"Go on," he said after a pause.

"I thought it was a mistake because I've always thought that spontaneously sleeping with someone has to be a mistake. That, along with my suspicions about how you felt about me made me run away in the morning."

He arched a brow. "What suspicions?"

"I thought…" she struggled with finding the correct words, "I thought that you were only attracted to be because I saved you and helped you recover after you got out of the Veil. I thought it was just… misplaced affections that you had for me because I was always around during such a vulnerable time for you."

He studied her, as if her words were taking a long time for him to decipher. At last, a slow smile pulled at the corner of Sirius' mouth, and there was something decidedly sexy about it. Hermione idly wondered if someone had taught him to smile that way—with such sinful promise and intent—or if it had just come naturally to him.

He stepped forward. "Nothing was ever misplaced, Hermione," he said lowly, "I know what I want, and I always have."

She had to restrain the shiver that threated to course through her. She was suspended in his gaze, her entire being hanging by a thread, as if Sirius was the only thing anchoring her to reality. "I-I didn't think you could actually be interested in me," she found herself blabbering, "after all, I'm the swot. The bookworm. Your Godson's best friend."

"I know," he said. His brows pulled together as his hand lifted to brush the side of her face. Hermione didn't think she had ever experienced such an intimate gesture before, and it made wild fondness for him rise in her chest.

He leaned forward then, hand cupping the side of her face, pulling her closer. His lips pressed against hers with intent and promise. Hermione found her hands gripping the front of his robes, for her knees felt quite weak and her head was light with the feeling of kissing him.

He moved his hands down to her waist, pulling her hips against his and aligning their bodies. She didn't even try to restrain her moan of pleasure when he bit playfully at her lower lip. How was it possible that he affect her so much? Her whole world revolved around him in that moment, and she couldn't think of anything else.

Sirius broke his lips away from hers. She tried to follow his mouth, but his hand rose to her face again and stopped her. He was looking at her closely. "I need to know exactly how you feel about me, Hermione," he said.

Her mind was reeling and cloudy in the aftermath of the kiss they'd shared. "W-what?"

"Is it just sex for you? Just a physical attraction?" He was still gazing into her eyes, and it was getting difficult for her to make eye contact. "It's okay if it is," he continued. "I can handle it, and I'm happy to just have sex with you if that's all it is for you, but I just need to know for sure. Last time…" he paused, and Hermione registered the flicker of hurt in his eyes, "last time I thought it was more than just sex and that- that's what hurt, but this time if you just tell me once and for all, that's all I need to hear."

She was stricken by his words, and a small part of her wanted to yell at him for doing this to himself, for being willing to hurt himself so much if it was just sex to her. "It's not just sex," she blurted. "I-I thought it was at first but it's not. It's more."

All at once he stopped looking like he was bracing himself for something awful. A grin spread across his face and he kissed her, with teeth and tongue and warm hands skimming across her waist and hips. Hermione barely registered what was going on when he lifted her and placed her on top of the wooden conference table. A large part of her screamed that she was in a conference room and this was the most inappropriate thing she'd ever done, but a greater part of her mind told her that this had to happen now. Besides, she could feel Sirius reach into his pocket and pull out his wand to cast silencing and locking charms on the door. When he returned his focus to her she was lost to the blissful oblivion again.

His erection was pressing against her clothed center and when he ground his hips into hers she cried out. His hands jerkily pushed her work skirt up, then began to unbutton her blouse. She followed suit and pushed his robes off before tugging and undoing his belt. He managed to unbutton most of her blouse, enough to expose her chest and bra, allowing him to kiss his way down her neck, over her sternum, and then along the tops of her breasts with reverence.

Hermione finally managed to get his belt undone. Sirius helped her undo his trousers and shrug them down before reaching under her skirt, grabbing her knickers and pulling them down ever so slowly. He made eye contact with her while he did this, and the heat in his gaze sent a shock of electricity through her entire body. She reached out and tangled her fingers in the hair on the back of his head, pulling his face closer. "I want you so badly," she found herself whispering, before pressing her lips to his and trying to convey the depth of her desire.

He pulled her knickers all the way off and she kicked them aside. He broke the kiss and moved to stand between her legs and she felt him shrugging off his briefs. He gripped her hips and pulled her closer to him, so that she sat on the edge of the table.

Hermione moaned at the feeling of his cock pressed against her center, but still not inside of her. She wanted to scream at him to just get the bloody hell on with it.

"Say it again," he said, pressing his face to the side of her neck, then brushing his lips over the shell of her ear.

"Say what again?"

"How much you want me," he whispered, punctuating the words by pressing into her again, stirring a delicious friction against her clit.

"I want you so badly," she choked out, "I need you, Sirius. I need to feel you inside of me. Now."

He grunted and reached a hand down to line himself up. Suddenly he was inside of her, and she wanted to weep with relief.

He set a fast, relentless pace, arms pulling her body as close as possible, lips mouthing indecipherable things against her neck. She couldn't focus on anything but him, all around her, inside of her, pressing against her. Her hands gripped his shoulders, fisting the button-down shirt he still wore.

She needed more. She wanted to feel him closer, farther inside of her, she never wanted to forget how this felt. "More," she moaned, and Sirius obliged. His hands lifted her legs to wrap around his waist and he tipped her body back.

She rested her elbows on the table beneath her and tipped her head back. Sirius bent over her, pounding into her. It took only moments before she was flying over the edge of some undetectable line. She cried out, muttering his name over and over again. Sirius followed suit, pressing into her with three or four more hard strokes before he stilled, face pressed to her neck, whispering her name.

They both sat frozen for several long seconds, breathing heavily, bodies still pressed together. At last, Sirius pulled out of her, removing his wand and kissing her before casting a wordless Scourgify on them. She sat up on the tabletop, taking her knickers with a slight blush when Sirius handed them to her and then slipping them on and straightening her skirt and blouse. When she looked back at Sirius, he had replaced his trousers and belt, looking like the picture of propriety once again.

"We just had sex in a conference room," Hermione whispered, a horrified look on her face.

Sirius chuckled, stepping towards her and placing his hands on her waist. "I know," he murmured, "just imagine how pissed Kingsley would be if he found out that we defiled his conference room."

Her eyes widened even more. Would Kingsley find out about this? It would certainly be the most humiliating thing to ever happen to her if he did. Not to mention the trouble they would both be in.

Sirius was chuckling. "Don't worry," he said, "I cast the wards, and no one is supposed to use this room for the rest of the day. It's fine." He kissed her with certainty and it was somehow reassuring. She let out a breath and allowed herself to laugh as well. She found that a content smile had formed on her lips, and she couldn't quite get it to go away.

Hermione remembered the feeling of dread and regret after the first time she'd slept with Sirius. She remembered the awfulness of running out of his apartment in the morning and frantically Apparating home. She remembered every awful look he'd given her when she passed him at work in the days that followed. She had thought that she'd be avoiding him and his awkwardness for the rest of her life.

Somehow, though, it had all ended up okay. She knew now how she felt about him. She knew not to run away this time. Perhaps sleeping with him was never a mistake, because it led her here, to this moment of extreme bliss.

Author's Note: For anyone who has followed my writing in the past, you'll notice that I'm back from being completely M.I.A. for a few months. This is primarily because I started college, and the first semester consumed my life. If anyone is wondering: I love college. It's an incredible amount of work, but I love it so much. My only regret is that I've written barely anything since September. But I'm back at last, and just in time to publish my last work of 2015!

I hope you enjoyed this story. I wrote about two thirds of it in August but only revisited it a few days ago to finish it up. Leave me a review with some thoughts?