All Harry Potter properties belong to J.K. Rowling. I'm just futzing around with her ideas.
I've been sitting on this for too long and decided to just bite the bullet and post this. It's a little different from my usual fare but I hope you'll like it. Also, this is not connected to my other story, 'Finding Time' in any way.
Just like every Thursday, someone has kidnapped Remus Lupin's son. The werewolf prowls steadily down the hallway of Grimmauld Place, his senses on the alert, picking up every noise coming from the library. It made sense that they would be in that room. This kidnapper at least is kind enough to be predictable.
He knocks on the door once, politely announcing his presence, and then shows himself in. The room smells like parchment and ink, like the glowing wood in the fireplace and most importantly-Remus takes a deep breath-it smells like his child and like her.
The father never really catches them doing the same thing twice. Sometimes, they will be playing, rowdy games of vaulting over furniture that tire the three-year-old out. Other times they will be playacting something from a children's book or even an adult work. Once, Remus saw her acting out Shakespeare and the werewolf had to leave to keep from falling over himself with laughter. Other times, she will be reading out loud. She does different voices very well and it is clear the toddler adores it.
They always manage to surprise Remus, this strange pair. Today is really no exception. The kidnapper and her captive are curled together in a loveseat. Teddy is fast asleep, his head on her collarbone and a fist buried in her wool sweater. She has her arms curled around the boy, reading a thick tome.
Remus does not care to read the cover. He is too busy looking at the woman who stole his son.
She finally glances up, her eyes glittering in the firelight.
"Hello," she speaks first. "How was work?"
Remus does not want to talk about it. It was long, mundane and nothing special. He would much rather talk about her day and what silly things his son got up to today.
She requires an answer, so the man shrugs. He walks over and runs his hand through his son's hair tenderly. It is the same shade as hers and Remus believes he maybe should be bothered by it. He is not. "How did he behave today?" He asks softly.
Hermione Granger smiles and tucks the now closed book in between the spot between the couch cushion and the armrest. "He was wonderful. I took him to the Burrow where he was doted on by everyone present." She gazes down at the boy's head with a look that should also pull a negative reaction out of his father.
None of this bothers Remus. Not the domesticity, not the obvious affection Hermione has for a boy that is not hers. Not even the kidnappings.
That is a term she decided to assign to these Thursday outings anyway. What anyone else would view as babysitting, she views it as overstepping her boundaries. In a way it kind of is. She has no claim over the boy. He is just the son of an old professor. They probably would have never seen each other again, if not for the Order and for Harry.
Remus collects his son, brushing against her in the process. Every time she does this, she feels guilty. It is a ridiculous sentiment, Remus thinks. For every minute she spends with his son, distracting Teddy from the absence of both parents, Remus is grateful. But he plays along, feeling like he owes her.
As Teddy's weight settles, Remus gives an amused smile. Teddy is getting big now and it is strange to see the boy's limbs growing more and more each day. Before, it was easy to hold his son. Now it is a battle with gravity.
He does not want to see his son grow up, but is awed by it all the same.
"He's getting so big," Hermione whispers.
Remus wonders how she does that; echoes his thoughts. He is sure that she would be surprised at how in tune they are.
She runs the backs of her fingers over Teddy's unblemished cheek. Remus shivers as if she was doing it to him.
"Thank you," she finally looks up at her professor. "Thanks for letting me spend time with him."
He returns the thanks with a slightly exasperated smile. "Thank you for watching him. It's very kind of you."
She waves off the thanks and takes a step back. Hermione is repeating the humble and self-depreciating words she always does about why she "kidnaps" Teddy, and Remus has to bite his tongue. One of these days he will tell her to stop. That kind of self-hatred never looks good on anyone. He would know.
"Hermione," he says firmly. She stops her frantic whispering and looks up at him. "I appreciate it. I appreciate you." He would say more, but Teddy is stirring. Not wanting to wake the boy, Remus says a soft goodbye. Still a little shell-shocked, she returns it and sees the father and son duo to the door before she leaves through the Floo.
Remus promises himself that they will have this conversation later.
Tonks picks up on it immediately. Every time his ex-wife comes to pick up for son, she glares hard at him. Before, Remus would frantically do anything to wipe that anger from her face. He would feel guilty and sorrowful no matter how noble he had tried to be about the whole thing. Now, he is done with fighting of any kind. It drains him.
There was enough fighting in the war, enough fighting during the divorce. He wants to live in peace and is determined to get it any way he can.
Surprisingly, Tonks never says anything. Months pass until one day, Hermione passes by on her way out the door. Remus lives with Harry at Grimmauld Place until either the werewolf can save up enough money for a cottage or Harry finally collects the courage to propose to Ginny. Hermione and Ron stop by quite frequently.
Apparently, Hermione's visit is done for the day. She slips past Remus and offers a polite greeting to Tonks, before bounding off into the afternoon. Tonks seethes, watching the younger woman leave. As soon as Hermione is out of view, Remus' ex-wife turns on him.
"How dare you?" She demands. She starts hissing in his face, not wanting to make a scene, but wanting to scream all the same. "How dare you tell me all that bullshite about being 'too old,' 'too poor' for me, but you look at her like that? Have you no shame at all?"
"Nymphadora!" Remus immediately regrets his tone. He had once said he was done with arguments and he will not fall into another one now. Pinching the bridge of his nose to fight an oncoming headache, he tries again. "How could you accuse me of being so disloyal to you? To us?"
She sniffs angrily. "I've seen the way you look at her! It's disgusting, Remus! You're about twenty years her senior-"
Remus leans on the doorway-she always refuses to come in the house-and simply observes his ex-wife. Her hair is bright blonde, her full lips done up in a shade of red she would have scoffed at before. Everything about her, from her jaw to her curves is different. She is holding herself straight, gone is the wisecracking, clumsy Tonks. Here instead is a façade of a woman trying to be a sensual being.
After the war, things seemed to click into place for Remus. He had almost lost his wife, his life and his son. He finally knew what he wanted his purpose to be. He wanted to be a figurehead that his son looked up to and a source of strength for his wife. For once in his life, Remus Lupin did not hate himself.
The same could not be said for Tonks. When the war passed, so did her sense of self. The war had held a mirror to the darkest parts of her soul and since then she had been running from her own reflection. Remus was facing himself head-on while Tonks was hiding.
The day Remus woke up and realized he did not remember what color his wife's eyes were, he decided that maybe the relationship was not as strong as he had thought. Yet every step he took to dedicating his time to becoming a better person, a better husband, she took a step back. How could he love a woman who changed her identity so often?
Remus had hoped the space away from him would help her.
But every time she comes to the door, she is different.
He does not remember what her real face looks like anymore.
"Nymphadora," he interrupts. "Our son is coming." He can hear Teddy and Harry coming down the stairs. "I have not told her and I do not plan on ever telling her. My reservations are still valid, and it would not be fair to her or to you."
Her jaw twitches. She tries to get one last parting shot off. "Teddy talks about her all the time."
"She babysits. She does me-and you and Andromeda, for that matter- a favor. I appreciate it." Jealousy does not become Tonks. Her soul is too beautiful to taint it with things like that, Remus thinks.
"I do not think she should be allowed around my son!" She tries again.
Remus shifts his weight and gazes sadly at the woman in front of him. "Don't take it out on her. This is my fault... Why are you allowed to move on and I am not even allowed to be fond of someone?"
Nymphadora looks murderous at him for even bringing her dates up. But thankfully, the best kind of distraction come barreling by.
"Mommy!" Teddy exclaims, toddling hurriedly to the door. He has been fitted with a tiny backpack full of toys and other goodies for the weekend. Remus turns and nods at Harry in thanks before the young man slips back up the stairs.
Nymphadora's face lights up in pure joy at the sight of her son. Her beaming smile triggers Remus' memory. That grin is pure Tonks.
She picks up Teddy and crushes him in her arms, kissing his cheek. "Hello, Teddy-bear! Didja miss me?"
The toddler giggles and throws his arms around his mother's neck, squeezing as hard as his little muscles allow. "Silly goose, Mommy! I a-ways miss you!"
She kisses her son's cheek once more. "Good, 'cause I missed you." Her warm eyes cool when she says goodbye to her ex-husband. "Remus."
He acknowledges it with a nod and smoothes back his son's hair in farewell. Nymphadora whirls as soon as Remus is finished, then stops and turns back.
"I don't think you've ever stood up to me like that before." Her gaze is suddenly searching, penetrating and it manages to make Remus a little uncomfortable. "I don't like it," she announces finally.
"I can understand why." Remus manages.
The corners of her lips quirk, like she can see the humor of the situation. She smothers it quickly, before turning to head off with their son. They walk away and Remus closes the door. If Tonks can see it, who else can?
Harry is fond of gatherings at his house. He invites a small collection of friends and they have dinner and talk into the night. Remus can see how Harry studies every person's face, gratefully drinking in the sight of the living.
Hermione is always there. Ginny forces Hermione to dress up a bit, maybe do something with her hair. The scholar always protests, always denying her inherent beauty.
She is standing with a glass of wine in her hand, laughing at something Ron said. Across the room, Remus wonders how someone so intelligent could be so willfully ignorant. Hermione wears her elegance well and it is obvious that Remus is not the only one who notices.
A man walks up to her-someone from the Ministry whose name Remus has already forgotten. Remus can read the man's body language easily. The stranger is flirting but Hermione does not seem to notice.
She never notices.
Remus looks up towards Heaven and is thankful. Only he does not know if he appreciates the fact that she does not notice his badly hidden affection or the fact that she is not flirting back with the interloper.
The werewolf's jealousy is overwhelming. He forces himself out of the room before he starts getting any stupid ideas.
Hermione, Harry and he are in the library. Remus is lounging on a chair, a book sitting open like a prop in his hands. Harry and Hermione are having a quiet conversation somewhere in the shelves. She is talking about what went wrong with Ron. Remus pretends he is not listening but he knows he is being a liar.
"The problem was that Ron never really saw me as a woman." She is whispering. "I loved him and he loved me, but he thought that treating me like he always did… like a friend was enough. I wanted to be wooed, Harry. As incredibly sappy and overly-romantic as that sounds."
Harry murmurs something and they both laugh.
Remus chastises himself for taking note of her words. He realizes that he was planning on how he could make her feel like a woman. The werewolf pushes the thought away angrily.
He may want her but he knew that she would never want him.
Remus comes to collect his son for bed. Today, his son is tired, but not asleep. Teddy insists on traversing the stairs by himself and suddenly, Remus and Hermione are alone together.
They are never alone together.
Remus' awareness of her rockets up to astronomical proportions. He even can hear her breathing, a steady rhythm of: one and two, one and two.
"Thank you," he says.
She tries to brush it off like always. "It was nothing; I shouldn't monopolize your son's time like that."
He does not understand why she does that. Before he can realize why the action would be dangerous, he captures her wrist in a light grip. She finally, finally looks him in the eye.
His question goes unasked but not unanswered. To his surprise, her eyes well up with tears.
"I'm so selfish," she declares.
Remus steps closer, wanting the anguish to disappear from her face. If he had his way, that look would never mar her features again.
"I just-it's when I see Teddy, I see life. I see someone who never knew war or hate or prejudice. I spent so much time thinking that I was tempting death, I spent so much time imagining how my friends were going to be taken that I forgot what it is like to live. And I-" Her voice breaks and she refuses to go on.
Remus does not even falter. He tugs her gently into his arms and holds her as she cries. The war has been over for years but the wounds from it are still fresh.
She cries into his shirt and he whispers that it is okay to be broken.
He would do anything for her but now she is avoiding him. The full moon is coming up and he would like to see her face before it happens. Focusing on her instead of the pain helps. It's a sentimental thought but he feels too old to be ashamed of it. He will embrace it. Honestly, he is tired of castigating himself for doing something as natural as feeling.
She does not show up to Harry's house for a week, and even Harry is concerned. It stings a bit but Remus supposes that he cannot do something foolish in front of her if she is never there.
Harry lets Remus use a part of the basement next to the kitchen. It used to be for storage, but they cleared it out and heavily warded it enough to keep Remus in under any circumstance.
The transformations seem to be getting worse. Without Snape to brew Wolfsbane, Remus does not even have that as a protection against himself. The pain is too immense to dull with even the strongest pain potions.
In the mornings, Remus would usually stumble to his room to be miserable in peace. Today, he cannot even get off of the floor. His whole body is numb and he lifts an unsteady hand to his face and realizes there is a lot more blood than normal. He is dizzy, woozy and suddenly just laying on the cool floor does not seem like such a bad idea.
On the edges of his consciousness, he can hear footsteps then shouting and wishes it would just go away. He is so very comfortable.
He is miserable even as something cool rests on his forehead, combating the heat threatening to consume him. Wrenching his eyes open, he attempts to inspect his surroundings. He is sidetracked, because all he can see is Hermione's face. Her concerned visage fills his vision as she lightly touches two fingers to his cheek.
Hermione has played a role in Remus' dreams before. But she has always been an aloof observer. He cannot touch her, cannot speak to her and cannot even get her to look at him. Never did he imagine that she would deign to touch him.
Was this even a dream? Confused, he forces himself to stop staring at Hermione's amber eyes. Looking around, it is clear he is on his bed, tucked underneath the covers. The shades are drawn and no light peeks out from behind them.
He returns to Hermione, hoping she will enlighten him. What happened?
She seems tired but relieved.
Remus tries to sit up but convulses in agony. Hermione slips a hand behind his head and lowers him back down.
"Please don't move," she pleads quietly. "You're very hurt."
The emotion in her voice is surprising. If he did not feel so awful, he would ask what is wrong with her.
She explains before he has to gather up the energy to ask. "I'm afraid the wolf was particularly vicious last night. You hurt yourself very badly and have been asleep all day."
Remus' eyes widen. All day? What about-
"Teddy is still with Tonks. Harry told her what happened and she agreed to keep him."
He has never been more grateful that Hermione is practically a mind reader. With only a bit of mischievousness, he wonders if he will have to even ask for a glass of water.
"I brought you some water," she states, grabbing something from his nightstand.
If chuckling did not feel like he was stabbing himself, he would do so. She gently aids him in drinking and he lies back, exhausted. She is sitting on his bed. He can feel her heat through his blankets. That combined with the soothing motion of her dainty fingers tracing the scars on his cheeks sends him right to sleep.
He tries to thank her and Harry for taking care of him, but they refuse to accept it. In fact, Hermione seems almost angry. He cannot imagine what he has done, and spends three weeks trying to figure out how he offended her. Did he say something in his sleep? Or had she tired of the old man taking advantage of Harry's generosity?
Remus winces and runs a hand through his hair. He tries not to be so hateful about his flaws, but years of self-hate have built habits that are hard not to slip back into.
He is in the kitchen, staring morosely at a small lunch of bread and cheese. His appetite left when Hermione started ignoring him. He cannot stomach the thought of her being mad at him. She has been avoiding the house but this time Harry is not worried.
The Floo activates and out steps the object of Remus' ruminations. She jumps when she sees him at the table, but nods curtly in greeting.
"Good, you're here."
Should he be nervous at her business-like tone?
Hermione brushes herself off then heads over to sit next to him. He shifts at her proximity. Digging in her bag, she refuses to look at him. Finding what she was looking for with a triumphant "Ha!" she places a large vial in front of him. He looks at her but she is looking at the vial expectantly.
Remus looks at it and his eyes widen. Did she really…?
"Wolfsbane," she announces. Her whole manner is triumphant from her grin to the tilt of the jaw. "It took me a couple of tries to get it exactly right, but this way you'll never have a repeat performance of last time."
He is extremely grateful but very confused at the same time. "Why, why would…" He cannot finish his sentence.
She seemed surprised that he would ask that. "Why would I not? You are clearly in need."
He does not want to owe her. Not if she is angry at him. "You did not have to-"
"I wanted to." She takes his hand in both of hers and Remus is stunned into silence. Her skin is soft and warm and he is having trouble keeping himself from being overwhelmed. Those eyes of hers are trying to communicate something that he does not know how to decode. They are tender and kind and Remus really needs some air.
"I don't ever want to see you hurt," she whispers. "You let Teddy teach me how to live and brewing this for you taught me purpose. You always were there for me, even back at Hogwarts and… Oh bugger, I'm really hashing this up."
Then she tugs at his hand and he careens forward only to have her lips slam up to his. He forgets everything. He honestly cannot think. The disapproval of Tonks disappears. The arguments about his age and affliction mysteriously do not matter.
All that matters is the feeling of her lips on his and the texture of her hair.
Will they have problems? Most likely so. But if the war taught him anything, it taught him the importance of savoring life. As long as he has breath he is going to live with purpose.
And if that purpose is making Hermione happy every single day of his life, then so be it. There are worse things to commit to.
Loved it? Hated it? I'd love to know what you thought.
Thanks for reading!