Disclaimer: Harry Potter is not mine. *sigh*
A/N – Because ShayaLonnie isn't feeling well and she writes amazing and magical stories, and because I needed an excuse to write Remione, lol. This is utterly AU in the fact that Hermione grows up and attends Hogwarts in the 70's with the Marauders. That's it. No time travel here, people, just a character timeline switch, so to speak. All right now, read, enjoy, and do let me know what you think! :)
Chapter One: Like a Friend
Remus Lupin loves Hermione Granger.
She makes a lasting impression from the moment he first meets her, at eleven years old. A muggle-born witch with long, bushy brown hair and front teeth too big for her small, delicate face, he encounters her on the Hogwarts Express during his quest to find an empty compartment where he can hide away from the noise, and the people, and the excitement. Because Remus isn't excited to be going to Hogwarts. He's terrified. Terrified people can tell what he is just by looking at him; terrified Dumbledore's security measures won't to be enough and he'll hurt someone. Terrified he'll kill someone, or worse; infect them. So he's looking for a quiet corner to curl up in and calm down, to get lost in his head and ignore the outside world, the looks and the unfamiliar friendly smiles. Ignore the normalness he's just not used to.
And then he meets her.
It's an accident, really. He's doesn't mean for it to happen. There's a crush of students in the corridor he's trying to make his way through, more so than when he first got on the train, due to a quickly turning physical fight between three newly first-year boys holding up the works and blocking the way, and Remus's panic is escalating. He needs to get in a compartment. He needs to. He doesn't want to be there, he wants to be at home with his parents and the magically locked and warded basement, and he's having trouble breathing because there are bodies everywhere. The full moon is still three weeks away but that doesn't matter, the agitation and anxiety is bringing the wolf to the surface, and when a body brushes up against his, pushing against him, a growl rumbles in his chest and out of his mouth and his hands latch onto the threat and grip hard.
The threat squeaks. It's this unexpected sound that brings Remus to his senses, and he blinks rapidly and finds himself looking into curious and nervous that borders on frightened brown eyes. Horror roars through him and he lets his prey go so hurriedly, she stumbles back into the wall.
He's scared her. He shouldn't be there, he's a monster. His chest tightens, and there's a buzzing in his ears, and he feels dizzy, and he tries to babble out an apology but there's an obstruction in his throat that he can't force words around. And then a hand wraps around his arm and pulls him to the side, and a door slides open and closes with an unknown word and a flash of light, and all the noise and the heat and the people disappear. He's sitting with the gentle guidance of the hand on his arm, and Remus instinctively curls up in the seat and closes his eyes, dragging in long draws of air through his nose, filling his lungs and allowing the silence to ground him and slow his racing heart. It takes a while, a long while, but eventually he cracks his eyes open to regard the girl he's attacked and frightened sitting on the opposite bench with her nose buried in a book.
To Kill a Mockingbird. He'd enjoyed that one.
"I'm sorry," he croaks, and the girl looks up and cocks her head, brown eyes now only curious. She's studying him like a bug under a microscope. Even curled up tightly, Remus still fidgets under her stare.
"Do you usually have panic attacks?" she asks, voice not exactly friendly, and Remus gets the impression that she's only asking because she likes to know. She's nosy. He frowns, but the girl speaks again because he has a chance to reply. "Never mind, it doesn't matter. If you're better now, you should put your robes on. We're nearly there."
With that, she turns back to her book, dismissing him. Remus stares with his mouth open, shocked at how blasé she's acting, as if being attacked by a boy who's growling at her is a common, everyday thing. She doesn't shriek and scream and draw attention to him. Instead, she pulls him into an empty compartment and… did she magically lock the door?
He turns and looks, and yes, he can smell the familiar magic, even if it isn't as strong as what he's used to. His head swivels back around and he gapes, stunned. She's given him someplace to pull himself together without the chance of anyone walking in to see him falling apart. All after he's attacked her.
There's suddenly an unusual warmth in his chest, and at that moment, he's never been more grateful for someone in his life.
"Th-thank you," he whispers, and the girls looks up again and sends him a small smile.
"Don't worry about it, this place is overwhelming. You going to put your robes on?"
Remus nods and does just that, and though they don't speak for the rest of the ride, the young werewolf watches the witch from the corner of his eye, reluctantly curious himself. A question circles in his head, and since he has no experience with the subject, he doesn't know the answer, or even how to find it out.
Has he just made a friend?
Gryffindor. He's in Gryffindor. Remus is expecting Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw at best, but not Gryffindor. Never Gryffindor. He's bewildered and is sure the hat has made a mistake. He can't possibly be a Gryffindor. His maybe friend, "Hermione Granger," Professor McGonagall calls out during the Sorting, is in Gryffindor as well, as are two of the boys who'd been fighting on the train. They're his dorm-mates, those two boys, and Remus doesn't know what to make of James Potter and Sirius Black.
They're always there. They're loud and boisterous and messy, and always asking questions. His other dorm-mate, Peter Pettigrew, keeps to the shadows and follows the other two boys' leads, and Remus doesn't mind him. They're similar in some respects. But James and Sirius are demanding and overly friendly and they get on his nerves, especially as the month progresses. He often retreats to the library and holes himself up in the back corner, just to escape James and Sirius, and all the other students with their continuous voices and their choking scents. It's too much, and Remus is hiding there one evening, two weeks before the full moon, when he next interacts with his maybe friend again.
She smells like marigolds. Pungent, musky and sharp, and the scent brings his head up from his transfiguration essay to find her standing at the other end of the table.
"Can I sit here?" she asks with a frown, sitting down without waiting for an affirmative. "Everywhere else is full of people not studying. This is a library, not a place to gossip!"
She sounds huffy and exasperated, and Remus looks back down at his essay as she spreads her books out, not knowing what to say. They work silently for fifteen or so minutes and then a redheaded girl named Lily Evans who smells like ginger and raspberries joins them, and the two girls begin discussing their Potions homework. After an initial smile and a hello, Lily doesn't try to draw Remus into the conversation, and it's strangely comforting, to sit there and work while they speak of potion ingredients, not expecting anything from him. The smell of books and parchment, the silent acceptance of the library, the unassuming and steady whispers of the two girls, it relaxes him, and Remus all of a sudden doesn't miss home quite as much. He smiles down at his books and picks up his quill, idly wondering if they'd let him join the conversation.
Eventually, they do. Or maybe Remus just feels comfortable enough to add a comment himself. They don't act like he's intruding when he suggests which book to look in for History of Magic, and somehow it becomes a regular thing, to meet the two girls at the table in the back corner of the library after dinner. Remus is relatively happy, and even finds himself laughing quietly a time or two.
And then the first full moon just sneaks up on him.
It's horrendous. Horrible and painful and lonely, so much lonelier than usual, and Remus can't make it to the library for a couple of evenings after because he hurts too much. So he's utterly flabbergasted when Lily and Hermione come to him instead.
"Oi, Lupin, Granger and Evans are downstairs asking for you," Peter says, and Remus's head swings up in surprise, eyes wide. James and Sirius are sitting on Sirius's bed snickering over something, and they go silent at the announcement, looking over at Remus curiously. James's eyes are narrowed.
"You're friends with Evans?" he scowls, and Remus shakes his head and gets off his bed, tongue-tied. Is he friends with Lily? And Hermione? It still isn't a question he knows how to answer.
"We study together," he says quietly, but it has to be more than that, doesn't it, if they've come to seek him out? Sirius snorts and elbows James, who is still scowling at Remus. The sandy-haired wizard swallows and turns away from the dark look, heading for the door.
He doesn't know if his bespectacled dorm-mate's glare is serious or not.
"Remus!" Lily calls when she sees him on the stairs, worry in her bright green eyes. "What happened? Where have you been?"
"Are you all right?" Hermione asks, head cocked in a way that's becoming increasingly familiar, and there's something under the question and in her eyes that reminds Remus that she'd seen him on the train, curled up in a ball during a panic attack. He swallows again.
Hermione Granger is a determined individual. He doesn't know her well, but he's figured out that much. She's smart, and she can research with the best of them. If she gets it in her head to find out what he is…
His hands clench at his sides. He needs to be more careful.
"I'm fine," he says calmly, looking from one girl to the other, "I just haven't been feeling well. It isn't anything to worry about."
Lily's shoulders fall in relief and Hermione's eyes sharpen. He can see that curiosity, that nosiness, swimming in their depths. But all she does is smile.
"All right," she says, nodding, her hair falling over her eyes. She pushes it back with an annoyed grimace, mock glaring at Lily when the redhead laughs at her. "Have you started your Charms assignment yet? I don't think I've added enough detail. It's only ten inches long."
"Which is three inches longer than required," Lily grins, and Hermione rolls her eyes at her dorm-mate, and then they turn and head for the portrait hole, hands flying as they talk and laugh. Remus shifts on the spot, unsure whether to follow.
"Remus, are you coming?"
Lily says it, and Hermione's standing there with her arms crossed and one eyebrow raised, like he's being an silly prat for even thinking about not joining them. An exhale that almost hurts rushes from Remus's lungs, because he's sure, he's sure, that this means they're friends. His stomach twists and he nods jerkily, hurrying to catch up with the two witches.
He has friends.
He has friends.
He doesn't know if this is a good thing or not.
It's Hermione who changes his relationships with his dorm-mates for the better. Lily doesn't want anything to do with James, Sirius and Peter, mainly because James won't stop harassing her, which ends up colouring Remus's interactions with the three boys. He knows they think him weird and unfriendly, and he'll never admit how disappointed he is when they give up and stop badgering him a couple of months into the school year, but that's all right, because he doesn't like the way they treat Lily.
Maybe he's being overly defensive. Lily's one of his friends, one of his first friends, and he doesn't like seeing her upset. Hermione says she more angry and frustrated than upset when he mentions it to her, but isn't that the same thing?
Hermione's smile is secretive when she hears him grumbling about it, and no matter what he says, he can't get her to tell him what she's smiling about.
"Talk to them if you don't like it so much," she suggests one day after Christmas break. Remus looks at her like she's barmy, but after James charms his hair red and struts around the common room proclaiming himself Lily Evans, Queen of the stick-up-the-arses, and Sirius falls out of his chair, he's laughing so much, he realizes he doesn't have a choice. So he gathers his supposed Gryffindor courage and speaks up that very night.
"Y-you need to leave L-Lily alone."
The chatter between the three boys stops and Remus finds himself centre of attention.
"What's that?" James asks, voice loud in the silence. Remus presses his lips together.
"You need to leave Lily alone," he repeats, and James gets to his feet. Sirius's grey eyes switch eagerly between James and Remus and back again, and Peter looks nervous.
Remus knows the feeling.
"What makes you think you can tell me what to do?" the wild-haired boy demands, eyes hard behind his glasses. Remus's stomach jumps, but he somehow holds his ground.
"I don't know why you don't like her so much," he begins and then breaks off when Sirius starts to laugh, and James flushes a deep red and turns to punch his friend hard in the side. Sirius's laughter turns into gasping hiccups and he topples back onto the bed. James's face is still red. Remus can't tell if he's fuming or embarrassed.
He thinks that he might be missing something here.
"I'll treat Evans any way I want to," James states mulishly, bottom lip poking out. "You can't stop me just because you're bloody close with her."
Sirius somehow gets his breath back and starts laughing harder, and there's something in James's eyes as he glowers at both Sirius and Remus, and Peter just looks confused. And just like that, the light bulb comes on and Remus gets it. The 'O' his mouth forms is almost comical.
James doesn't dislike Lily. James really likes her.
James Potter fancies Lily Evans.
Remus blinks a couple of times, a bit bemused, because he honestly can't see the appeal. Lily's pretty and a nice girl; a good friend, but he doesn't like her that way. He can't imagine liking anyone that way. His nose crinkles up at the thought. And even if he does think of Lily, or Hermione, that way, he can't be with her anyway.
Not with what he is.
He shakes off the thought and turns back to his dorm-mates, unable to help the pitying look he throws James. He doesn't think James has a chance. At all. Lily hates him, but maybe if he starts treating the girl better, that might change.
James's black look fades and he looks sceptical when he tells him so. His eyes narrow in suspicion.
"I thought you wanted me to leave her alone?" he questions, and Remus shakes his head.
"I want you to stop taunting and mocking her," he says, licking his lips nervously, "it's not nice and it embarrasses her. She's my friend. Maybe you could try being her friend too?"
His Gryffindor courage abruptly drains with that suggestion, and Remus scrambles onto his bed and jerks the curtains closed. There's silence and then James mutters something that Remus pretends he doesn't hear, but leads him to believe the conversation was all for naught, and his heart sinks.
He's proved wrong the next evening when Lily sits down at their table in the library with a most peculiar look on her face.
"What's wrong?" Hermione asks, her head cocking as it does. Lily frowns.
"Potter was… Potter said something more or less nice to me earlier," she explains, sounding baffled, before shaking her head and turning to her homework. Hermione snorts softly and turns to smirk at Remus, a brow raised.
Remus grins quietly back.
It's the beginning of a courtship that spans years, an overenthusiastic jester spouting flowery, ridiculous nonsense to his unwilling and exasperated, and a lot of the time furious, ladylove. And it begins Remus's friendship with his dorm-mates as well, because after having a tiny bit of non-lethal success the first time around, James decides that Remus must be some sort of magical love guru and continues to seek him out for advice. Sirius joins him, and the repetitiveness of it unfreezes the young werewolf, so that just like with Hermione and Lily, he suddenly realizes one day after the three boys wait for him before meandering down to the lake, that he's somehow saddled himself with more friends.
Again, he's baffled and more than a little uncomfortable. How the bloody hell did that happen?
His three friends turned best mates figure out what he is in second year, and when they confront him, Remus is petrified. He's scared stiff that they're going to scorn and abandon him, and tell the rest of the student body who'll come after him with pitchforks, and Dumbledore will expel him, and he'll be alone again. He can't stand to be alone again. Not after knowing people, and being involved, and living.
Hogwarts has become his home, and now he has to leave.
He's hyperventilating at the top of the Astronomy tower when Hermione finds him. Curled up at the edge, the wind ruffling his hair, he starts violently when she puts her hand on his arm. His head snaps around and he looks at her, fear and panic and misery riding him, and when an utterly humiliating whimper escapes through lips that tremble, Hermione wraps her arms around him without saying a word.
He's gotten used to the scent of marigold. It surrounds him and his cheeks are wet.
"They don't care," she whispers, hand gently rubbing his back. "It's a part of you, Remus, not who you are. They don't care about a part of you, they care about you. They're your friends, and they'd never abandon you over some trivial little thing like being a werewolf. It's not something you chose to happen to you, so why should you be punished for it?"
Her hand is still moving along his spine, and as her words filter through his raging emotions, it gradually registers to Remus that she knows. He jerks away and stares, and Hermione looks back at him calmly, and the thought of her knowing grows and expands into the knowledge of her not just knowing.
Mother of God, is anything sacred?
"How long?" he forces out. Hermione's expression doesn't change.
"Since the end of first year," she says, and Remus's heart is slamming so hard. What little air he's managing to drag in vanishes, and alarm replaces the calm in Hermione's eyes. Her hands grip the sides of his face.
"Remus, calm down," she orders, staring into his eyes with a frown on her face. "We do not care. Not one little bit. You're still you, still that sweet, kind, intelligent boy with a surprisingly dry wit and really bad taste in male friends. You're always going to be you, and we'll always like who you are. Changing into a wolf one night a month isn't going to make us hate you."
You're not grasping the severity of the situation! Remus's brain shouts, but when he opens his mouth to say it, Hermione's lips turn thin and white and she shushes him.
She shushes him. The absurdity of it startles Remus out of his panic, and Hermione nods decisively.
"That's better. We're your friends, Remus. Try and trust us a little more, yeah?"
She wraps her arm around his shoulder and the conversation's suddenly over, whether Remus likes it or not. The young werewolf lets out a weak huff of laughter at how Hermione that is, and they sit there for a long time, not speaking, Remus swallowing heavily and sucking in air through his nose.
It's his friend's shiver that reminds him exactly where they are.
"We should go," he mutters, the setting sun making the mild winter breeze turn cool and brisk. Hermione murmurs in agreement. They get to their feet and it's natural for the witch to take his hand and lead him out of the tower and down the stairs. They use one of the hidden passages he and his dorm-mates have found and make it back to the dorms just before curfew.
The common room is half-full, but all Remus sees is the three boys sitting in the chairs by the fire. James, Peter and Sirius look up. Remus stops breathing and everything pauses.
"All right, Moony?"
The werewolf's jaw drops and his eyes go wide, and something between a giggle and a snort escapes Hermione. Sirius shares an identical smirk with James at his reaction, and all the tension abruptly deflates, Remus sagging with it as his dorm-mates get up and lead him back over to the fire, asking if he's okay and laughing over his new nickname.
They're normal. They're acting normal. His throat is tight and his eyes are prickling again, and Remus sits and takes it in, feeling punch-drunk. His eyes shift over and Hermione's standing there wearing a smirk of her own, that one eyebrow crooked.
I told you so, didn't I?
She's gloating in his head, and Remus sighs and closes his eyes, a small smiling tugging at his lips.
He has friends. He has friends. He can hear Sirius mocking James, and when Peter nudges him to get his attention and he opens his eyes to see the boy offering him a chocolate frog with a casual grin, he's finally able to admit that maybe, just maybe, that might be a good thing.