A/N: This story is completed in full and will be updated daily until complete. Please read and review- and hopefully, enjoy.
Disclaimer: All JKR's.
A DOUBLE image imposes itself as the years pass; a sweet bitterness overtakes him when he dives deep into his memories and sees her there, a blurry overlapping of child and girl, teenager and woman. Dimorphous, she is still only a face, barely freckled cheeks and forever cautious eyes. More clever than most, far too hesitant in her confidence- he loathes the moment when he begins to see more than just school robes and a waving hand.
Even beyond the classroom, on nights huddled in a darkened kitchen surrounded by the frenzied murmurs of the Order, he grows aware of her waiting on the stair. She is the woman-child then, an ugly thing for a man who already knows the depth of his self-disgust. Others would blame the beast in him, the monthly curse, but that creature has no conscious thought beyond hunger and hunt. It doesn't know beauty or despair. It doesn't suffer guilt or pangs of conscience.
Remus Lupin knows that it's the man, the human in him that first notices that Hermione Granger is no longer the bodiless figure of a former student.
"The potatoes please, Professor," Hermione asks of him, all too quietly, hands ready to receive.
He thinks to correct her; his teaching days were as short-lived as any other job before, and now he no longer feels like passing along his learned wisdom. It seems false to believe anything might save them. Chance and luck are better tools, and he has none of that.
Instead, he smiles, feeling the dullness of it, an aching white-washed plainness that saturates all his attempts at the day-to-day. She smiles in return, and when he hands her the plate, the steam climbing above it, his fingers meet the smooth expanse of her wrist. A half throb of her pulse traces its way through his arm and past his heart, and the twist he feels there digs deeply, stabs wretchedly.
He is undone so very easily. It's the most unconscious of touches, the most mundane of circumstances, this dining ritual of passing and receiving. But that she does not grimace, that she does not recoil- The brief flash of life that flits its way into his consciousness unwinds him completely, and the sinking that crushes him is the realization she gives him:
He is not an island, and she promises such better shores.