A/N: Hey y'all! Here is the first chapter of my new story. It's a biker modern AU, and I hope you will like it. Huge thanks to kristeristerin, who's tumblr question prompted this idea, and to Hollowg1rl for conceiving of the idea and alpha/beta reading for me! The title comes from the Led Zeppelin song of the same name.
Please let me know what you thought of chapter one and be on the lookout for chapter two soon!
Hermione shielded her eyes from the setting sun, dusky pink sunlight stretching along the horizon, to get a better look at the dusty sign, feeling nerves settle into her stomach. Howl was a bar on a crumbling stretch of lonely highway, across the two-lane from a cattle farm that had clearly seen better days, judging from the lack of vegetation. It was in the middle of nowhere, not far down from an empty gas station which seemed to service mainly long-haul semis, and she sensed that there was much more to the story of "Howl" than she'd known. Honestly, who calls their bar Howl? This wasn't the kind of place that she would have expected Remus to own.
Sirius, when he'd been dragged away in handcuffs just the week before, told Hermione to go to Remus, that he would be able to help her, but now she was having second thoughts. Feeling tears form in her eyes, she steeled herself, knowing that she had to go in. There were no other options.
Her life had been more tumultuous in the past year than it had been in the previous seventeen combined. It started off when her parents had been killed in a fiery car crash, coming home from a dentistry conference in Northern California. It had been devastating losing them both at once, but it was even worse when she'd been told that she was being sent to live with her nearest relative. She'd tried to argue that she was old enough to take care of herself, seeing as she was very nearly eighteen and she'd gotten very good grades at school. The courts begged to differ. In came Sirius Black. Apparently, he was her mother's grandfather's great nephew, or some convoluted relation, but it didn't change the fact that he was her only surviving relative.
Sirius hadn't been ready to take in a teenage girl, especially one so headstrong and willful as she was, and it had lead to more than one screaming match in his tiny house in the middle-of-nowhere Arizona. She'd gone from living in the city, to living in a town of just over two thousand, and it had been a difficult transition.
When she'd first arrived, her new guardian had been a lush, who liked getting in bar fights for fun. But, over the year, as they slowly learned to live together, Sirius also realized that he'd needed to change some of his ways. He needed to be there for Hermione, and she would be there for him too. He'd helped her get settled into her new high school, and get her life back on track.
So, it had been completely shocking when police had busted into their cottage, and took her new guardian to jail, claiming that he was some kind of drug king pin! He'd promised Hermione that he was innocent, though she privately wondered if he just thought that they couldn't prove anything. Because it was a drug case, they had frozen all of his assets, meaning that Hermione had no way to help pay for the fancy lawyer he was bound to need. Really, she was just lucky that they let her stay in the house instead of just seizing that too.
He'd told her to go to Remus for assistance, so here she was. If she thought Sirius lived in the middle of nowhere, Howl was even further off the grid, and judging from the state of it's empty parking lot, an apparently limited clientele. Biting her lower lip, she tilted her head to the side and looked at the faded sign. Really? This place made money? Enough to help her pay for a lawyer? Somethings just weren't adding up and she was beginning to wonder if this was just as shady as it seemed.
Pressing her hand against the door, she walked in slowly. The jukebox was playing some classic country song - Johnny Cash or Johnny Mathis, she wasn't sure - and Remus was standing behind the bar drying glasses with a rag, looking exceedingly shabby, as he always did.
He looked surprised to see her standing there in his bar, and honestly, Hermione felt just as surprised to actually be inside it. Clearing her throat, she smoothed down the front of her shirt. "I am here for a job." She said, concern evident on her face. She just didn't understand how this place could sustain itself when it was this empty. "Sirius said...you could help me."
Remus gave her a fond smile, and for a moment, she felt a bit reassured. This was the Remus she knew. Remus and Sirius were best friends, forged through fire, though she wasn't sure what troubled their past. Sirius never talked to her about it. Remus was just a kind man, who wore plain t-shirts and had interesting scars across his face, but couldn't possibly be involved in anything nefarious, right? But, looking around the equally shabby bar, she couldn't help but wonder if he was possibly mixed up in some shady business. "Of course I will help you, Hermione. But I can just lend you the money. You don't need to work here."
"With all due respect, Remus, I can't do that. It wouldn't be right to take your money without anything in return, especially when I am not sure that I can pay you back." Hermione said. She hated feeling like a charity case, and since her parents had died, she'd felt like that more often than not.
"You know that Sirius has more than enough money to cover it." Remus told her, his face a bit concerned. "This isn't his first time in jail. He can handle himself."
"But what if he can't?" Hermione asked, feeling a bit hysterical. "He is all that I have left in the world, Remus, and I can't bare the thought of him tucked away in some cell for the rest of his life. Now, I've got him the best lawyer I could find, but now I need to pay that lawyer. Please give me a job. I am a fast learner. You know I can do it."
"And school, Hermione? What are you going to do about homework, if you are here working?" Remus asked, knowing that Hermione had always been an extremely studious girl, something that Sirius was simultaneously proud about and thought was rather swotty.
"Fuck school." Hermione pronounced, feeling all of her nerves about Sirius bubbling up. How was she meant to worry about school when her guardian was locked up in prison? "No offense intended Remus...it's just...like I said, Sirius is all I have left. Let me worry about homework, okay?"
Remus sighed, looking at her. She'd wore a twin set, hoping that it would make her seem more professional, but now she thought it just made her stand out even more in the roadside bar. "This bar...it's a little rough and the clientele can be rude. I don't want you getting hurt. Sirius would never forgive me if I let something happen to you while he was inside."
Hermione couldn't stop herself from huffing, blowing some of her wild brown hair away from her face. "Remus, you know me. I am not some kind of Miss Priss. I can get things done and I can help you out. Please just give me a chance."
He rubbed a hand across his face, before looking her over once more, his green eyes amused. "Alright, Hermione, but the moment you feel like it's too much, you just let me know. No judgement." She got the sense that he thought she was going to quit that same day.
Still, she was so glad that Remus agreed, she gave him the brightest smile. "Thank you Remus, you won't regret it! Just you wait, I am going to get Sirius out, and then everything can get back to normal." Internally, she wondered when Sirius became part of "normal" in her life. But, it was true, she supposed, that he really was all she had left and she wasn't ready to let go of him so soon after realizing what a great guardian he was. She hoped that if she just kept thinking positive thoughts that they might actually come true.
Remus decided to throw her into the thick of it right away. He brought her around the bar, and showed her how to pour a beer and how to pour shots. She'd asked him about mixed drinks, and he gave her a funny little smile. "My patrons aren't the type to drink mixed drinks." He told her. She wondered just what kind of patrons he had, but for the first two hours she was there, he didn't have a single person come in.
There were some other odd rules like, never call the police. Apparently, Howl had seen it's share of bar fights, but that if something were to happen, she was just supposed to "admonish" the guilty party and then tell them to take it outside if they wanted to fight. She was then to clean up anything that ended up broken, and let him know what happened when she got the chance. But, Remus had reassured her, he wouldn't let her work alone until she got the hang of it.
The safe was in the backroom, and as soon as she had more than five hundred dollars in the till, she was to zip it in a bag and drop it into the safe. Remus had chuckled, seeing her eyebrows raise in surprise at the notion that this place ever did more than five hundred dollars. "I know it doesn't seem like much now, but it will pick up, once it gets a bit later." He promised. He'd also told her that some of the clientele might pay way more than the cost of the drink...she was not to ask questions about that, and just drop it right into the safe.
Hermione was realizing that there was really much more than meets the eye about kindly, shy Remus Lupin. She didn't know exactly what was going on here, but it was more than just a bar. Maybe the police hadn't been so far off about the drugs that they said Sirius was trafficking. After all, he and Remus were very close friends. And, maybe he wasn't so much innocent, as he proclaimed, but he thought that they wouldn't be able to prove anything.
By the time the sun had gone down, the desert air cooling considerably, a trickle of customers was suddenly a flood and the bar was full, and raucous. Hermione and Remus were quite busy behind the bar, and she could suddenly understand how this was profitable, pouring beer after beer and whiskey after whiskey. Hermione was a bit glad to know that at least a portion of the bar was legitimate.
A loud rumble caught the attention of Hermione as soon as she heard it in the distance, getting closer and closer. She wondered what it was for a while, but it didn't take long for her to recognize the sound of a motorcycle engine. Cocking her head to the side, she wondered who it was that was going to come in, the lonesome noise reminding her of Sirius, who had a little Triumph motorcycle.
She felt anticipation build in her body, until the door was wrenched open and the largest man Hermione had ever seen walked into the bar. He had black hair and a full beard to match the black leather of his jacket, covered in patches. He wore a big grin that showed off his perfectly white teeth, and he seemed to delight in making all the other patrons flinch when he walked by. Everyone tried to give him a wide berth, as he made his way to the bar, sitting a few seats down from where Hermione was standing.
Hermione tried desperately not to make eye contact with the man, but when she looked up, he was staring at her, bright blue eyes making her feel like she did not belong here, and he was trying to decide what to do with her. She swallowed thickly, deciding to ask what he would like to drink, but she was saved by Remus.
"Fenrir." He greeted, before pulling down a glass and giving the man a generous portion of whiskey.
The man, Fenrir, pointed a finger in her direction, not taking his discerning eyes from her form, making Hermione want to curl up and hide. "Who is this?" He asked Remus. It made Hermione rankle a bit to have him talk about her like she wasn't standing right there. As if she wasn't able to hear him.
Remus ran his hand through his sandy-brown hair, seeming a bit on edge. "Ah, this is Hermione. She is going to be helping me out for a while, with her guardian in jail." Hermione stiffened, not really wanting all of her business out in the open like that, but she supposed that their whole tiny town already knew about it.
"Sirius?" She heard the man ask, giving her pause, wondering just how Sirius knew this man. "Alright." Fenrir finally agreed on her being there, though she still got the impression that he did not want her to be. "Just...instruct her on the dress code. I never want to see a fucking cardigan in this bar in the future." He told Remus, though his eyes still hadn't left her body.
Before she could say anything to the man - which surely would have been a terrible idea - Remus pulled her over to the side. "Hermione, that's Fenrir. He's a very...special guest here. Don't worry if he comes in. I will take care of him."
Hermione nodded, though she did look over Remus's shoulder, unable to keep her eyes off of Fenrir. He was impossibly tall and muscular to boot. She thought he'd probably be able to snap her in half if he wanted to. Catching her staring, he knocked back his whiskey in one swallow, smirking at her, before standing up and heading off in the direction of the pool tables they kept in the back of the bar.
Remus got her attention again. "Hermione. Seriously, leave him alone. You don't want the kind of trouble he can bring." She wanted to argue with Remus, knowing that Fenrir somehow knew Sirius, too. She had all sorts of questions about the man she lived with and the man at the bar, but she would try to listen to Remus.
He'd never lead her astray before.