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Chapter 15 : Stand Ins Need Not Apply
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Chapter Fifteen: Stand Ins Need Not Apply
“Hermione,” Sirius’ deep voice cut into her, his strong arms tightening painfully around her arms. “Hermione!”
She glanced up, unsure of where she was or exactly what was happening. She could barely make out his face in the darkness and her surroundings were completely unfamiliar. Sweat dripped from her forehead, her hair plastered to her head.
“Just a nightmare,” he whispered consolingly, brushing her hair out of her face. “Go back to sleep.”
Unable to do anything else, she nodded silently, dropping heavily onto the pillows as she tried to get her breathing to return to normal. She squeezed her eyes shut as she felt him move away, trying to get the images to pass.
Ginny….Harry…Draco…Voldemort…Ron…they streaked across her mind like a summer storm. She took a deep breath to try and calm herself, her hand reaching instinctively to her stomach to check her own breathing pattern. She exhaled slowly, flushing the images away and replacing them with the darkened shadows crisscrossing the bedroom ceiling.
“Still having them, then?” Sirius asked from somewhere nearby…somewhere far enough to give her space but close enough to make her feel safe. She could vaguely make out his shape near the dresser, pouring what she assumed to be liquor.
“I don’t want a drink,” she protested.
“What makes you think its for you?” he asked with a chuckle. He moved to her side and sank down on the edge of the bed. “I think we’ve both had enough alcohol in each others presence,” he smiled. “It’s water. Take a drink.”
She nodded her thanks and struggled to sit up, leaning her back against the headboard for support. She sipped the water slowly, attempting to come up with a response to his question. “Still more frequently than I’d hoped,” she answered. “What about you? Do you ever sleep?”
He grinned. “On rare occasions.” He pushed her across the bed, giving himself enough room to stretch out next to her. “So, Draco is off again, hm? Bulgaria didn‘t appeal to his senses so Remus offered something more enticing?”
She could hear the forced casualness in his voice and immediately felt guilty. “You don’t have to do that. You don’t approve of him, I know and after what happened the other night, I can see how it might be uncomfortable.”
“It’s not my place to approve or disapprove,” he responded. “I leave that to Remus. Besides, who else are you going to talk to?”
He was right…and she knew it. Although she exchanged gossip with Tonks and intellectual banter with Remus, she really didn’t have some one to talk to. Draco would listen to her but it never failed he would judge her so she’d stopped sharing things with him ages ago. She longed for the time when she had Ron and Harry to talk with…even when they made fun of her she still knew they loved her. Her smile faltered as the memories rushed over her but Sirius was too quick and knew her moods well.
“Tonks?” he nudged her out of her reverie. “Miss happily ever after herself?”
Although she tried to withhold it, her soft laughter filled the room and her dark mood vanished. “He’ll be back and I refuse to worry about it until then,” she answered stoically. “Better?”
“Much,” he nodded approval.
She sank down next to him, resting her arms across his chest so that she could fondle the stubble growing on his chin. “And, as for the other night, what exactly did happen?”
“Got me,” he murmured, “I was drunk.”
Hermione leaned forward to kiss him but he pulled inches away. “Hermione,” his soft but firm voice caught her off-guard. “Use me for almost anything but don’t,” he touched her cheek to ease the bite he knew his words would have, “use me as a stand-in.” He waited for his words to sink in. “Deal?”
She bit the inside of her mouth has her stomach churned. He seemed neither offended or upset…he was just making a simple request for her to honor. He was offering her a boundary for wherever their relationship might be heading, she understood that, but the idea that she was able to treat some one like that made her nauseous. She didn’t want to admit she could ever do such a thing but knew, deep down, that it was not only possible but was a mistake she had already made many times in her life. Having to admit that weakness was hard enough but that Sirius knew her intentions so easily was unnerving. He wasn’t trying to demean her and for that she was thankful. She glanced at his darkened eyes as he awaited her response and realized his request did, in fact, have little to do with her but more where he stood on their being lovers ever again.
“Deal,” she whispered finally. She gave him a tentative smile, his warm chuckle putting her mind at ease.
“Sirius?” she asked, lowering her head to rest on his chest.
“I don’t feel guilty for what happened.”
“And you think you should?” he asked knowingly.
She sat up, tugging her shirt down tightly over her legs. She considered him for a moment then shrugged. “I think people that are committed wouldn’t treat each other the way Draco and I do. And if by some twist of fate they do hurt the other then they would feel sorry.”
“Stop saying ‘they’, Hermione,” he ordered gently.
“Me,” she corrected softly. “If I was committed to Draco I would feel guilty for seducing you.”
Sirius hesitated for a moment, realizing this was probably not the appropriate time to comment on her powers of seduction. “Which draws the reasonable conclusion…”
She exhaled heavily. “That I’ve no idea what I want.”
“And begs the assumption…”
She frowned. She could follow his reasoning so easily. Why had none of this occurred in her own mind? She was rational, responsible, thought things through…why was it that it had taken Sirius to open her eyes?
“That Draco would even remotely care who I share my bed with.” Her eyes narrowed. “You don’t think he does?”
He laughed. “I’ve no desire to look into the thought patterns of a Malfoy, my dear.”
She couldn’t help but send a playful punch to his ribs. He returned with laughter, tickling her until she could barely breath. When he finally stopped to allow her to catch her breath, she whispered a heavy “thank you” in his ear. She touched his face, gently brushing the strands of hair that had fallen loose in the tumbling back into place. “For listening but making me figure it out for myself.”
He nodded, moving away from her and the closeness he was having difficulty ignoring. “Any time.”
He slid off the bed, directing her to climb under the covers. He smiled mischievously. “I will say that no intelligent man would leave a woman with your sexual appetite alone for very long.”
Hermione’s face crinkled. “Funny how your compliments can always be taken as rather nasty insults as well.”
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