Disclaimer: Sadly, I own none of these characters. That honor goes to the fabulous J.K. Rowling. I'm just playing around a bit.
"You're an emotional jigsaw at the moment but you're gonna piece yourself back together. You know, start with the corners and look for the blue bits."
It was with a heavy heart that Hermione Granger leaned out of her bedroom window at 12 Grimmalud Place and stared out into the dark night. The summer air was warm and sweet with the scent of gardenias. The gentle night breeze swept her honey brown curls away from her face.
The inky, black sky was bereft of stars, save for the constellation, Orion.
The brave hunter.
His story had always been one of her favorites. The arrogant hunter, who dared defied the gods, was killed by a scorpion and cast into the heavens as his punishment. Hermione wondered how he felt amongst the constellations, alone for all eternity, with only his pain to keep him company.
Did he regret his arrogance? She was certain he did.
Before the war, she was proud to be known as Hogwarts' resident 'know-it-all'. She knew the sweet triumph of victory, her brilliance often lighting the way to success. She had made it through many a tough situation and had felt full unbridled pride in her own abilities. She had known true happiness from being able to protect those she loved the most. Being able to outwit the ministry, death eaters and even Professor Snape on a few occasions had given her a sense of invincibility, and for a long time she truly believed she could take on the world.
She now knew that such hubris is often dispensed with swiftly by a cruel, harsh world.
So much had happened in the past year: the defeat of Voldemort, the loss of her parents and numerous friends including Fred, Tonks, Dumbledore, and the list went on and on. Life had happened, in so many remarkable and ordinary ways.
The tragedy, the immense loss had changed her. Life no longer was carefree and full of joy, not like it had once been. Even with the threat of Voldemort gone, she still felt a sense of worry, of dread, of sadness that seemed to permeate every inch of her life. Would that lighthearted feeling of her youth ever return? Could people like her ever leave behind their tragic pasts?
After the war, she had spent many months helping with the reconstruction of Hogwarts and then joined Harry, Ron and Remus this summer at Grimmauld Place. She had hoped the comfort of this familiar home and friends would bring her some peace and rest. And while she did feel better just being in their company, she ultimately felt lost, still grieving the deaths of so many and the loss of a happy future that she might never even know.
She hadn't slept well in nearly a year. Unlike Harry and Ron, she tended to avoid sleeping potions, hating the notion of depending upon some external force to achieve something that should come naturally. So the end result was that she was quite exhausted most days. Yet in spite of the weariness that seeped into her very bones, the blissful weightlessness of sleep she so longed for eluded her since the final battle. Many nights brought vivid nightmares full of suffering so real she would cry out for them to cease. So lately she found it easiest to wait until she absolutely collapsed from exhaustion, usually in the wee hours, rather than lay awake, fruitlessly willing sleep to come.
Tonight was no different. She cast a Tempus charm to see the late hour and knew sadly that sleep would come no time soon. So she closed her window, left her wand on her bedside table and she softy padded down to the kitchen for a cup of tea.
She tip-toed past Harry & Ron's room, who were headed off to start auror training the next day. She gently eased down the creaky steps, careful not to rouse Remus as she past his room. Merlin, knew he had a horrible time sleeping, too, and she would hate to wake him should he actually be asleep.
As she reached the kitchen, she saw from the hallway the soft glow of the kitchen hearth and heard the gentle clink of a tea cup reaching its saucer and knew she needn't have been so quiet as she passed Remus' room.
Sure enough, there sat her former professor and dear friend, facing away from her, sipping tea in a thread-bare white t-shirt and checkered pajama pants.
She leaned against the door for a moment and smiled at the sight of him, happy to have his lovely company at this late hour.
Although if she had know he would be up, she would've put on something more appropriate than kitty cat pajama pants and an old tank top.
She softly walked up behind him and placed a hand lightly on his shoulder. He placed his hand atop hers and smiled as her warm hand rested there on his shoulder.
"Ah, my favorite midnight companion," he said softly, smiling as he turned to look up at her.
"You know I love your company but you should really try and get some sleep. We've got a big day tomorrow," he offered, but his chastisement was said with a sweet smile and she knew he, too, was happy to have her company for one last night.
For tomorrow morning Hermione began her seventh and final year at school, while Remus was once again returning to his post as DADA professor.
"Those are rich words coming from a night owl like yourself," she said as she sat down next to him and smiled, meeting his soft grey eyes.
Eyes that always seemed to bear such sadness now looked positively mournful as the light from the fire danced across them.
She knew that he and Tonks had only dated a few months but her death had left him bereft. He rarely talked about her and seldom seemed to share his thoughts and feelings but Hermione knew he was hurting. He always tried to be the strong one, the one everyone could count on to be level-headed and in-charge. The price of that steadfastness was many a sleepless night, quietly carrying a burden that few could imagine. She knew these rare moments at night were the only time and space he allowed himself to mourn the loss of all those dearest to him. Looking at him now, she silently berated herself for stealing this private time from him.
He smiled back at her and simply nodded.
"Well, since I can't guilt you into getting some sleep, could I perhaps interest you in a cup of tea?", he kindly asked.
"Yes, please," she said smiling warmly.
He carefully poured her a cup, adding two sugars and a splash of cream, just the way she liked it, as always.
"Thank you, Remus," she offered as he slid it before her. "You always remember how I like my tea. Harry always forgets the cream and Ron always adds to much sugar. But you never forget. Thank you for that...for remembering," she said softly, her face framed by the flickering glow of the hearth.
"Oh, you're easy to remember, love," he said smiling at her.
She took her first sip and sighed at the warmth that slowly suffused her chest, her shoulders relaxing and fingers wrapping around her small cup, enjoying the way it warmed her hands.
He smiled at the sight, secretly glad he had her delightful company for one last night.
"If I had known you'd be joining me this evening I would've picked up biscuits today," he said, looking genuinely contrite.
"Oh, I do think I have some chocolate left. Would you care for some?", he kindly asked. For he knew Hermione shared his same weakness for Honey Duke's finest.
"Oh, no, no. I'm fine, Remus. Really, you've done enough. I'm happy with my tea," she offered demurely, but he knew better.
He smiled knowingly at her, stood and padded softly across the kitchen to the large pantry. After a moment of rooting through tins and baskets, he finally found the last chocolate bar, hidden on the top shelf, away from the ravenous teenage boys who shared their house. He carefully peeled the golden wrapper and broke off a small chunk for himself and set the rest of the large bar before her, tempting her.
He watched her with delight in his eyes as she hesitated for only a moment before reaching forward and guiltily breaking off a small piece.
"I knew you couldn't resist," he said with a slight chuckle, watching as she savored the delectable treat with apparent pleasure.
"Ah, sadly, you know me too well," she said, licking the melted chocolate from her delicate fingers, his eyes never straying from hers.
"Thank you for the treat, it's delicious," she said softly, smiling at him.
He nodded as he finally pulled his eyes from hers, pleased that he could bring her some small, simple pleasure.
They ate and drank in companionable silence for quite sometime, sharing the chocolate, staring into the fire and simply enjoying the soothing company of each other.
These late night teas had been happening more frequently as of late and Hermione secretly relished them. She never told the boys about these visits, she didn't want to share them with anyone. For having Remus all to herself felt like such a luxury.
Since he had taught her back in her third year, she had admired his intellect and sharp sense of humor, his dedication and kindness. And lately, set by the glow of the fireplace, here in this drafty old kitchen, in the dead of night, she saw something new in him.
She had begun to see just how handsome he was, how beautiful his strong arms were, how full his lips, how deep and welcoming his slate-colored eyes. Taking in his elegant silhouette was like tasting her first sip of water after years in the parched desert, so was the effect he had on her. It stirred something inside of her, something sweet she had never felt before.
She bit her bottom lip and stared at him with such an intensity, such a raw heat, she had to force herself to look away. She felt flushed and dazed from the thoughts and shook her head to try and clear it from her mind.
Goose bumps suddenly prickled her skin as she sat next to him, suddenly aware of the effect his physical closeness was having on her. Embarrassed at how her body was responding, Hermione pulled her knees up to her chest to try and quiet her racing heart and to cover her breasts as her nipples were suddenly hardened and straining against her thin tank top.
She stared at the stone floor and absentmindedly rubbed her cold feet together. Even in the dead of summer, this old home was so drafty and she silently cursed herself for neglecting to put on socks and a bra for that matter.
Pulling his eyes away from the fire and noticing her clutching her feet, he smiled and reached over and pulled her feet free from her chair and placed them gently on his lap. His warm, soft hands touching her cold feet sent shivers up her spine as he began to slowly and tenderly rub them. This sudden, intimate gesture left her too stunned for words. She simply leaned back and watched him.
"Your feet are like ice, are they always this cold at night?", he inquired with a sweet smile.
But she couldn't answer, for her brain and mouth and body all seemed to have disconnected from each other as he warmed each foot by rubbing them thoroughly. As each foot relaxed, he gently and slowly pushed up the legs of her loose pajama pants and gradually slid his strong hands up each calf and rubbed them too, going just past the knee, gently caressing the tender flesh of her inner thighs.
The sensation was so tantalizing, so deliciously pleasing, so completely overwhelming, that Hermione couldn't help but tilt her head back and let out a small moan at the pleasure it brought her. And he couldn't help but continue.
Seeing the creamy, soft skin of her neck, her head tilted, eyes closed, lost in pure pleasure, Remus felt that familiar ache begin to build deep inside of him. One that he had been feeling more and more as of late when he was in the company of this bright, beautiful, amazing, young witch.
A yearning, stronger than anything he had ever felt before, to reach out and kiss her delicate, soft lips, to taste the chocolate and tea on her mouth and devour every inch of her, raged through him.
He barely stifled a groan as he took in the sight of her supple, beautiful body, relaxing yet writhing under his tender touch. Her eyes closed, he could openly delight in the sight of her perfect body; her pink lips parted in pleasure, her long, smooth legs nestled in his lap, her full breasts rising with each breath, her pert nipples rubbing against her thin shirt.
Merlin, how he hated himself for noticing, but he simply couldn't tear his eyes from her exquisite form. His hungry eyes swept over her with a dangerous want churning and stirring within him.
His mouth was suddenly dry and he felt woozy and lightheaded. As she let out a contented sigh and stretched her long legs in his lap, she inadvertently brushed the tops of his thighs with her toes causing his whole body to become aflame with raw passion. At this touch, a wanton urge tore through him and it took every ounce of self-control not to pull her into his lap and taste her, claim her as his own.
His breath hitched at the pleasure rippling through him and he could feel his self-control slipping through his tenuous grasp. He had to close his eyes and look away from her just to keep himself together.
His eyes averted, his mind slowly cleared of the lust-filled haze and it suddenly dawned on him that he still had his hands wrapped around her beautiful legs, rubbing far further up her thighs than he had ever intended. And he knew if he didn't stop now, he might not he able to later.
He slowly stopped rubbing her legs as her head slowly tilted forward and eyes opened to reveal such a relaxed, playful smile on her sweet, pink lips. He had brought forth that smile and it made his heart sing.
As he stared fixedly at the floor, he forced himself to fully regain control of himself. His breathing slowed and his pounding heart quieted.
He was being inappropriate and downright ridiculous, he knew it. He felt shameful and lecherous for touching her so intimately, leering at her half-dressed body. They had lived together for months, had become dear friends, she trusted him and he hated himself for abusing that trust. He was twice her age and about to become her professor, once more. The very last thing he needed to be doing was rubbing her legs and thinking about her smooth, supple skin. She could never feel anything more than friendly affection towards him, he was sure of it.
They had both been lonely these past few months and he was taking advantage of her by being so forward. He had been foolish and impulsive to even touch her. He had wanted to touch her for weeks and thus far he had been successful in controlling himself, but something about tonight felt different.
Maybe it was the fact that they would be leaving to start school the next day, and would once again slip into the more formal role of teacher and student, thus stunting their easy, comfortable friendship.
Maybe it was the way her pink, pouted lips curled around her soft, delicate fingers as she slowly licked the chocolate from them. Or perhaps it was the way the thin tank top she wore showed off her luscious body that usually was hidden beneath jumpers and robes.
Maybe it was how sexy she looked with her legs tucked to her chin, her curls cascading down her bare shoulders.
Whatever it was, it made his reserve crumble and that frightened him.
That he could so easily give into such desires and wants, even momentarily, terrified him. Having lycanthrope his whole life, he had prided himself on becoming a master of self-control, easily hiding his true feelings and yearnings throughout his long, lonely life for fear of hurting someone he cared about.
But something about being with Hermione made him feel safe and wanted, and that feeling of acceptance made him drop his guard, much to his chagrin. He deeply respected Hermione, her brilliant mind, her brave heart, her beautiful face, every single thing about her inspired him, enticed him. He would never willingly hurt her or take advantage of her, she meant too much to him. He would never be anything less than a perfect gentleman because that was what she deserved.
To touch her, to let his eyes linger on her beautiful body, full of delicious curves, had been an error in judgement. An error he wasn't entirely sure he wouldn't make again.
So rather than reaching for her lips, he reached down instead and pulled off his own warm and thoroughly tattered socks and tenderly placed them on Hermione's feet.
The loss of his hands on her thighs and his abrupt change in demeanor had left her wanting more, aching for his soft touch. She had been so thoroughly engrossed in his ministrations that she had momentarily lost herself in the pure pleasure of the contact.
She thought she might have offended him by being so relaxed, even moaning in pleasure but as he sweetly gave her the socks from his own feet, she was touched by his tenderness, his sweet, kind way of taking care of her.
"You don't have to give me your socks," she kindly admonished, "you've already done too much."
As she reached forward to remove them, his hands clasped hers and she stopped.
"Please keep them. It's the least I can do," he said as he leaned forward and spoke next to her ear, his lips brushing her hair. "Besides they're not much to look at. They will, however, keep you warm."
"Thank you, Remus," she whispered as she locked eyes with him, his face mere inches from her. His lips so dearly close to her own.
He knew if he stared any longer into those honey brown orbs, he would fall in and be lost forever. So he smiled and gently clasped the back of her ankles and placed her feet back in her chair.
In urgent need to break the hypnotic contact with her, he abruptly stood up and took their cups to the sink.
After several calming minutes had passed and the tea cups had been thoroughly washed, and in an effort to restore the previous equilibrium, he turned from his spot at the sink and asked, "Are you nervous about returning to school tomorrow?"
She looked over to him and nodded.
"Don't be," he said softly.
"Everything is going to be fine. After six years, you finally get to just be a student, without any worries. For once you will not be required to save the world. You're NEWTs will be a breeze, I hardly think you'll even need to study. Ginny will be there, as will I. I promise not to be too hard on you in class," he said with a smile that made her softly chuckle.
"I guess I'm just...I'm not entirely sure I'm doing the right thing. I feel like maybe I've made a mistake by turning down all the job offers in order to finish my schooling. I mean, I've fought against the Dark Lord, worrying about NEWTs seems a bit silly by comparison. Harry and Ron will be aurors soon, doing real good. All I'll be doing is studying and catching kids snogging after curfew. I just want to find what I'm meant to be doing, what my purpose is now and it seems impossible to find. Maybe I'm just being selfish by hiding at school to avoid facing the real world. I just don't know. Nothing seems to fit at the moment, not very much brings me happiness. What if I never figure all of this out. I've seen such horror and sadness, maybe that's all that life has to offer."
His heart broke for the young woman sitting before him. The bravest woman he had ever known was all but admitting defeat. Seeing her brought so low was crushing. He thought she had been doing so well this summer, but obviously her pain ran deeper than she let on.
"Not knowing what the future holds, being unsure of yourself, that's just all a part of growing up, becoming an adult. Everyone faces it, even those who seem like they have it all together. You will find your way, Hermione. I promise. You will find your purpose and your place, just give yourself time," he said.
"You have seen the very worst of humanity and all before the age of eighteen. There is so much more to life than pain and tragedy. There's so much joy in life, it's all around you in fact. I promise you, you'll have happiness again."
He closed the distance between them and took her small warm hand in his own and held it, his touch tender and soothing. She couldn't bear to pull her hand away.
She gave him a small smile and said, "You can't promise that. No one can. I appreciate you trying to make me feel better, but I'm not your responsibility. I'll be 20 in a few weeks and you have enough to worry about without having to coddle me."
Remus squeezed her hand and held her gaze as he spoke, "I know you don't need me to worry, but I worry all the same, Hermione. You're my friend and I ...", he paused a moment to choose his words carefully. "I care for you and I can't in good conscious let you go on believing that the world is a horrid place. I have to know that you believe things will get better. Healing just takes time. We'll get past all this and one day we'll know peace. That much I can promise."
As he spoke, her beautiful brown eyes filled with tears that spilled over. She lowered her head and let them fall, not being able to look at him as he spoke such kind words to her. He gently lifted her chin and wiped away her tears with his thumb. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead, relishing the touch of her soft skin and the subtle, sweet scent of her golden brown hair.
As he pulled away he saw her smiling faintly and he softly said, "Now come on, tomorrow is going to go swimmingly for the both of us, but first we must get some sleep. Come on now, off bed with you."
He stood, gently grasped her hands and pulled her to her feet. As he did, she wrapped her arms tightly around him and held him there. He felt so warm and strong, his body, his kind words, even his old comfy socks, were a reassurance against all the darkness. She looked up at him with wet eyes and said "Thank you, for everything.'
He smiled down at her sweet face and tightened his hold around her delicate shoulders. Much to his chagrin, he don't want to let go.
"You're welcome. Just remember what I said, everything is going to turn out. You'll see. We're going to be just fine."
She breathed in his sweet scent and felt the steady rise and fall of his chest against her cheek and hoped that her dear friend was right.