A/N: For ShayaLonnie. A Voldemort-didn't-die, Horcrux-Free, Postwar AU with a Wolfmate Remione pairing. FLUFF! Lots of FLUFF!
Just a one-shot I dashed off today. Okay, 5/6 of it today. Happy birthday, Shaya!
30 August 2001, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
"It looks better than I expected," Remus Lupin remarked, eyeing the Great Hall of his alma mater. "Sirius, do you think they've got the same picture to get into the kitchens?" He grinned, a shadow in his green eyes even though they smiled.
"A picture?" Harry inquired, pacing the length of the Hall and obviously taking note of all avenues of ingress and egress.
"A small still life featuring fruit. You tickle the pear and it opens a hidden door that leads to the kitchens."
Harry regarded him incredulously. "Tickling a pear." He shifted his focus to Sirius. "What kind of school is this, Dad?"
"The best," Sirius said, his voice soft and reflective in tone. "So sorry you couldn't attend here, son."
The young man with the pale lightning flare on his forehead snorted as he stared at the ceiling. "I dunno. I think we did all right, the three of us. Didn't you say the ceiling was enchanted?"
Remus sighed, studying the high beams overhead. Burn marks marred the wood, but the stone in between appeared sound. "It was, Prongslet. It was."
The young man sighed as well. "C'mon, Remus. Quit calling me that. The students won't take me seriously if they hear you or Dad use that nickname."
Sirius, silver making dramatic streaks at his temples, twirled his ebony cane. Despite the very best that the Healers could do, the final confrontation with Voldemort only months before had left the Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black with lingering injuries. But his pale gray eyes were still sharp with humor and his body was in no other way less for the stress of the past twenty years. Remus often amused himself by assessing all the women that put themselves in Lord Black's way.
"You're only going to be here for, what, a week? Maybe two?"
"Unless I find a pretty girl, maybe," Harry allowed. He hopped up on the end of what was the Ravenclaw table, traditionally. "I'm ready to just, you know, be normal, right?"
"Right," Remus and Sirius said together. Normal would be good.
Normal would be great, in fact.
Normal, though, would always be just out of reach for a werewolf.
Normal hadn't been a part of Remus's life since he was four years old, but he had managed to do all right, between his parents and his friends at Hogwarts. Indeed, until Peter had been killed by Voldemort himself, the four Marauders had been friends and had lived together in Godric's Hollow once the prophecy had been given in 1980. Potter Manor had been warded to a fare-thee-well, with the most robust blood wards the Blacks had developed over the years and with all the active runes that the Potters had set into their land. The Potters and the Longbottoms had "houseguests" round the clock, as had three other families, but to no avail.
Voldemort chose the Potters as his nemeses, perhaps because Harry had been born on the final day of July or perhaps because Snape had wanted to claim Lily Potter out from under James's own nose, thereby paying the Marauders back in a horrible way for schoolboy trials. Remus had been there the night Voldemort attacked the Potters in the company of Snape and a handful of other Death Eaters. Remus had seen Snape arrive. Saw him leave, too, with Lily bound and petrified in front of him. Remus had seen James fall to no fewer than three Death Eaters.
And Remus had heard Harry cry for his mum.
Abandoning the Order of the Phoenix, Remus and Sirius had taken Harry and as much of his life as they could shrink into a rucksack on their way out of Britain. Voldemort had gradually grown confident enough to take over Wizarding Britain and the Wizengamot, killing Muggleborn magicals as soon as they'd been identified.
"I heard there was a nursery school here?" Harry inquired as Headmistress McGonagall gave them a tour before the staff dinner that evening. "We saw a Magical school in Kyoto that had one when I was small. It was great. I learnt a lot."
McGonagall smiled thinly, but Remus could see that her eyes were pained. "We had one, yes. Established in 1984, I believe." The older witch turned to Remus. "You, Mister Lupin, know how hard it can be being a cast-out minority in our society."
No sting accompanied the headmistress's pronouncement; it was a truth Remus had spent a lifetime working around. "I do indeed, ma'am. What happened with the Muggleborn?"
"I heard they Obliviated the families?" Sirius asked, wincing.
"Sadly, yes. But we raised the children in safety here, with sponsorship and a full knowledge of their heritage. Wand rights at age eight, if you can believe that. Many powerful wizards and witches were identified thereby. Ah, here is the Defense room, Mister Lupin. Mister Potter, you will be speaking mostly in this room, if that is acceptable. This will allow you to, well—" She broke off, looking rather awkward, which made Remus smile a little behind one hand.
Harry didn't hide his own rueful smile. "Allow me to tailor the details in an age-appropriate manner. I have done this before, though only the once."
Minerva touched Harry's shoulder briefly. "Exactly. Thank you. And you, Mister Lupin, will, I hope, find this to be an amicable environment for your instruction. Would you two like to continue the tour?"
Sirius barked a laugh. "I'm not letting them leave me alone with you, Minerva!"
"Mister Black. Really."
Remus enjoyed seeing the fresh paint on many wooden doors, as well as the framed photographs interspersed amongst the paintings. Many of the subjects of the paintings waved silently as they passed, but all of them looked duly respectful of Minerva and her tall, pointed hat.
Remus saw an open door that they bypassed utterly. "What was in there?" he asked. "It smells . . . like the infirmary?"
Sirius nodded. "Did Pomfrey's domain . . . is she . . .?"
Remus's heart clenched to think that Madam Pomfrey, who had been so kind to him for his Hogwarts years with all of his transformations and injuries, might not have survived the deadly attack of the Death Eaters on the venerable school.
Harry wasn't waiting for an answer and Remus supposed he could understand that. He didn't have any memories associated with this school, after all. He'd never been here. "Hello," he said into the open room. Remus exchanged a look with Sirius.
Harry was an unrelentingly curious fellow.
"Hello?" The voice was inquisitive, pitched to hit Remus's sensitive ear pleasantly, and he couldn't help the peaceful relaxation that seemed to ease his facial muscles as he and Sirius made as if to pull Harry out of the infirmary-scented room. "Wait, I think I know you," the woman's voice said again.
"Hermione, dear. Please be introduced to Harry Potter, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin."
Remus was all about watching Harry chat the young woman up—she looked to be perhaps a year or so older than Harry but Remus doubted the lad would mind—when Harry shook Hermione's hand.
"Hello, Mister Potter, Mister Black, Mister Lupin." She only shook Harry's hand at that juncture, but she smiled at each of them before looking to Minerva expectantly.
"This is Hermione Granger, one of our own here at Hogwarts, and she's teaching a class for our advanced students in the Healing Arts, as well as introductory Transfiguration for first and second years, and Magical Britain from the—what was it, dear?"
"Magical Britain from the Outside In. It's for the Muggle-born and Muggle-raised amongst our students." The young woman smiled in a very careful manner, Remus decided. "It was something I felt could be beneficial when I was a student and I persuaded the Board of Governors to let me teach it this year." Her cheeks warmed with a blush in what was, Remus decided, a rather beguiling way. She was quite fetching and he thought that Harry might have found the "pretty girl" he'd mentioned earlier.
"Granger," Sirius said, pursing his lips. "Related to Dagworth-Granger, the potioneer?"
The young woman sighed and flicked imaginary lint from her severely cut robes. "No. Muggleborn, Mister Black." Her cinnamon-brown gaze swept the three of them. "And please, please accept my thanks for all you did for, for all of us. You're heroes."
She moved past Harry to take Sirius's free hand in both of her own and then came to Remus and took his hand, looking into his eyes with a fierce sort of emotion. Shock bolted through Remus's entire body, but the awareness that settled into his mind and heart sent his inner wolf, poor Moony, off into a wild howl of delight.
Mate! Mate! She's our Mate!
Nothing in Remus's varied experiences had prepared him to be caught in such surprise, shock, awe, glee, trepidation, and wonder. Heart pounding, nostrils flaring, he felt that his irises had gone from green to gold as Sirius made some excuses while hustling him from the corridor,.
"Is he quite all right?" Hermione Granger called behind them.
"I, I think so, Miss Granger," Harry said, sounding perturbed. "I'll go find out, yeah? Will you be at the staff dinner?"
"Yes, of course. If I can be of any help—"
"What, by Merlin's bloody broom, was that, Moony?" They had made it to the Hospital Wing using Sirius's sense of smell, of all things, because it was no longer where it had been thirty years before. "You came all over, like, pre-moon, you know?"
"She's, she's Moony's mate, Padfoot," Remus whispered, leaning his head against the cool stone wall. Even in late summer, the interior castle walls were cool and dry.
"Moony's mate?" Sirius let go of the tight grip he'd been maintaining on Remus's arm. "Sorry 'bout that," he muttered. Remus shook it off. "Just got a bit worried, yeah?"
"Three days. I'm on edge a bit, but not to worry. I'll be all right. Effing bloody hell, Pads."
A laugh filled the first room of the Infirmary. "Lighten up, Moony! This is supposed to be a good thing!"
"What's a good thing?" Harry demanded, entering with a bewildered and frustrated air to him. "Hermione was about set to, I don't know, take your temperature and set monitoring charms on you!"
Harry. Remus was still wrapping his mind around the idea that the elusive dream of every werewolf he'd met—finding the mate to share their cursed life—was his after all this time when he had to take a dose of basic reality. Harry had seemed to fancy the girl. And Harry was a far better prospect for a young professor than an old and scarred werewolf. He swallowed and met Sirius's questioning look with a shake of his head. "Moon's up in three days," he said slowly.
It wasn't enough of an excuse. Harry crossed his arms and Remus was reminded that this young man with all of twenty-one years to his credit had defeated Voldemort only six months before. "Uncle Remus. Pull the other one."
Sirius made a harrumphing sound. "It's not like you can keep it a secret from him."
"No, it's not," Harry said. "What is it?"
"It's just that . . . Miss Granger . . ." Remus made himself meet the younger wizard's gaze. "Moony . . ."
"Blimey. Moony fancies her? She's your mate, Uncle Remus?" Delight and a sort of bright anticipation shone in Harry's brilliant green eyes. "That's amazing! All those books you've had me read said that hardly ever happened. Congratulations!" He gripped Remus's shoulders and shook him once, lightly.
Baffled and bemused and still off-kilter due to the momentous discovery, Remus blew out a breath. "But, wait. I thought you, well . . ."
"Uncle Remus," Harry said with a slanted smile. "If she's your mate, then she can't be mine, yeah?"
"Boy's got a point," Sirius stated, balancing his cane in his palm as if he were a third year showing off for some bird. "Smart kid, my son."
Harry grinned. "So, are you going to tell her?"
"No!" Remus's response was instinctive. "I, er, don't want to frighten her and I don't even know her and what if she's got a problem with werewolves?"
"Remus Lupin!" Sirius and Harry abandoned any lighthearted approach, both coming to stand directly in front of him as if to keep him from dashing off.
"Mate," his oldest friend said after a moment. Sirius dragged a hand through his hair and appeared to be thinking hard. "I get that you want to get to know her. You wouldn't be you if you didn't. Fine. But. You've always, all these years, refused to get involved with someone because of Moony. And now Moony wants someone himself. Don't let your worries make you turn away from something good."
"Besides," Harry added with a curl to his voice, "you'd be able to stop your pre-moon, er, stress-relief nights if you had a mate, Uncle Remus. Good for you both, yeah?"
Remus felt his cheeks catch fire. "You knew about those?"
Laughter filled the Hospital Wing, and Poppy Pomfrey put in an appearance. As she was introduced to the Savior of Wizarding Britain, Remus's mate issue was allowed to be set aside.
For the time being.
"So, I propose a round of introductions, as there are new faces with us this year," Minerva suggested, waving her arm to encompass all those sitting around the temporary round table that had been set up in the Great Hall for the evening meal. "Septima, if you would begin for us, please?"
A striking brunette with a strong, square jaw stood and nodded at everyone. She wore classic black professorial robes with green piping. "Septima Vector, Head of Slytherin. I have the Arithmancy lessons for those brave enough to take them on." She smiled sharply. "Though I hear gossip that keeps the faint-hearted away."
Remus was sitting only three seats from Professor Vector, so he knew he'd have to have something to say in short order. First, though, he was made aware of Draco Malfoy, the new Potions Professor, who had taken over from Horace Slughorn. A sense that this was a tentative arrangement struck Remus in the expressions on everyone's faces. Malfoy had been a pure-blood elitist of a fellow, back in his own school days. Had his son taken on this mantle? Perhaps? Then, there was Bathsheda Babbling, who taught Ancient Runes—one of Remus's favorite classes, back in the day. She was a Hufflepuff, apparently. And then, the woman who had had all the fine hairs standing up since she'd settled in next to him.
Standing, she smoothed one hand down her rich brown robes. "I'm Hermione Granger, Slytherin," she said, smiling generally around the table. "Class of Ninety-Four. It's a long story," she added, looking a bit put out as she held up a hand to forestall the uprising of questions. "I teach Introductory Transfiguration, and if you see an orange kneazle with a puffy brown tail wandering about the castle, it's probably me. I also took on Advanced Healing for the N.E.W.T. level students as an elective, and the required Wizarding Customs class for the younger Muggle-borns who are new to this world." She nodded toward Madam Pomfrey. "I am honored to be able to assist Poppy in the Infirmary on occasion as well, so please feel free to come to me if you need some first aid."
Remus was just staring at her. Moony howled happily, feeling to Remus as if his alter-ego were hunkering down for a playful hunt of the self-confessed kneazle Animagus who sat next to him. Them? Maybe.
Hermione looked at him expectantly. "Your turn," she whispered, lips quirked in humor.
He caught a whiff of something from her, though. Something intriguing that had his inner wolf all but rolling over just before it was set to pounce in dominance. Was it any wonder Remus himself felt dizzy?
"Right, er, sorry." He stood and pulled at his tie. "Remus Lupin, Defense Against the Dark Arts." He glanced down at Hermione. "Gryffindor, Class of Seventy-Eight."
She mouthed "Touché" at him and he felt as if he'd won a prize or something.
"I'll be taking on all levels of Defense, of course," he went on to say, "but my first week will be featuring a young man I'm proud to call a friend, Harry Potter."
The applause was thunderous and Remus was happy to sit down and take a deep swallow from his water goblet as Harry was pelted with gratitude and amazement from most of the staff around the table.
"You and your friend with the cane are heroes as well," Professor Granger murmured under the continuing acclamations. "You were there with him."
Later, he would remember that it was unusual that she had pitched her voice low and quiet enough that only someone with enhanced hearing—like himself or a predatory Animagus, perhaps—would be able to hear her words.
At the dinner, though, he merely blushed. "Well, we were, but Harry's the one who did the deed. And he is a fierce and powerful wizard."
Harry proceeded to quiet the table and he was able to make his introduction brief. "Harry Potter, not a professor anywhere, thank Merlin. Thank you, too, for your kind reception. I'm just wanting to find what 'normal' means these days, you know?"
The soft laughter than ringed the room was kind, Remus decided. Perhaps Harry could find out what "normal" might mean.
One of them should be able to do that, right?
2 September 2001
"So, here are my notes, Harry. Make sure to check on everyone's text books in all the classes. Call roll, all that." He shifted a pile of parchments. "And here, here is the syllabus for the year. Read the opening statement on the top, convey my apologies, and tell them I'll be in the next morning." He rubbed at the back of his neck. "Damned moon. Bloody inconvenient, to be happening the night before lessons begin."
Harry nodded with a sympathetic smile. "Don't worry about anything, Uncle Remus. I got this." With a wink, he added, "Fourth year Ravenclaws can't be any more terrifying than Tom Riddle."
Remus had to smile. "True enough. All right, so. Minerva said the Shack has been renovated and made ready. I've been taking my potions, and Sirius will be joining me shortly. Anything else I can do to help you prep for tomorrow?"
With a shake of his head, Harry came around the broad oak desk where Remus had his school things. "You've done, as always, a thorough job, Moony. Go on. I'll report in late tomorrow, yeah?"
"Right. Thank you, Harry."
3 September 2001
Even though the Wolfsbane potion kept Remus in his right mind during his transformation, it did nothing to alleviate the intense pain or physical distresses of becoming a werewolf and then returning to his human form. He ached in every conceivable way. Joints? All of them. Muscles? Screaming. Even his hair follicles were overtaxed and shouting.
"Oh, Professor Lupin. Budge over and lean on me, yeah?"
"What?" Remus stiffened, which made him hurt even more, but he wasn't going to—no. "What?" he demanded again. "What are you? Professor Granger, no, I—" Then, he internalized who she was, here in the misty light of the September morning. All the blood seemed to flood his face before falling back down to the earth again, leaving him even more weak and pale-feeling. "Bloody, fu—" He flushed. Again. "Sorry. I'm just— I didn't want you to—"
Heart pounding, practically hyperventilating, Remus held still as Hermione Granger took one of his hands in both of her own. He could smell her. Smell the faint hints of healing herbs that surrounded her. The aromas of ink, fresh parchment, and something lavender, which was soothing and relaxing. Moony, fresh from a night of play with Padfoot, seemed to luxuriate in the restful presence of the young woman.
Mate. Our Mate. She's ours!
"I didn't want you to know. About me," he admitted after a few awkward moments.
She only shook her head so that the honey-brown curls that rested lightly about her shoulders brushed against his bare arm. "I knew. I'm a Healer. Poppy and I are both in the know about all our staff and students." With a gentle tug, she began walking him from the shack. "So come on, why don't you tell me how this happened to you and I'll reciprocate with any questions you might have, hm?" She angled a smile up to him—it wasn't like he could look away from her—that made hope dance in his chest. "Fair?"
He swallowed. "That would be . . . perfect, actually." He took a quick breath, feeling Moony press him and add his own brand of courage. "I'd, er, like to get to know you better, you know." When her face flushed a light pink shade, he smiled a bit. "You must have an interesting story behind you, as well."
A flash of pain in her eyes made him regret he'd said anything, but she nodded even so. "Most of us do, don't they?"
"So, this has never happened," he muttered as if to himself. Sirius—who had left the shack earlier to get them both a bite to eat—offered him a muffin and wordlessly indicated he should elaborate. He did, glancing down at the tent that had sprung up under the stupid hospital gown he wore. "This, Pads. This!"
His best mate choked on his tea. "Oh, Moony. Here, have a pillow."
Embarrassed not to have summoned one himself, Remus thanked Sirius and ate the muffin, willing the heat in his groin to cool the hell off. "Can't believe it. I mean, it's the morning after and I shouldn't have the energy to even think—"
"Feeling, though? So, where's the future Missus Moony?"
"Sirius! Stop it!" He felt like a sixteen-year-old virgin, for Merlin's own sake.
"Professor Black, are you agitating my patient?"
Sirius sat down in a straight-backed chair next to Remus's cot. "No, ma'am, on my honor as a Professor. Just wanted to make sure he got a good breakfast."
"He should have more protein, post-transformation." With an arched brow, she added, "I have done my reading, you know. So. If you'd be so kind . . .?"
Sirius winked at her and made to leave the partitioned area, with a suggestive leer on his way out that only Remus could see.
"All right, Remus. It is all right if I call you that, isn't it?" She strolled around the cot to get behind him.
He followed her by scent alone, drawing in lungfuls of her warm aromas as if they could keep him alive all by themselves. "Of course, if I may call you Hermione."
"Of course. I intend," she said quietly as she performed some sort of charm over him, "to be your Healer this year, so that we can keep things on the quiet. Poppy said that was your preference." Her fingers were warm and easy as they parted the ridiculous gown at his back. There was no hesitation in her touch as her fingers skimmed his spine and brushed against the many, many scars there. "Not too bad. I have seen worse, you know. Now, here, ah, how's that?" she asked as a cooling sensation spread under his skin.
He sighed. "Wonderful." Then, he blushed. "Er, thank you, Hermione."
As she treated him, she asked about how he had been afflicted with lycanthropy. He told her about Fenrir Greyback—
"I've heard of him. He was here, you know, at that final battle."
Remus tensed up. "You saw him?"
She leaned over his shoulder and he could feel the warmth of her body through her robes. Her proximity soothed him and he relaxed a bit. "Not up close, no. But one of the Weasley brothers killed him. I believe there was a personal vendetta involved."
"I'd heard that Greyback got to young William Weasley," Remus said, eyes half-lidded in pleasure as Hermione spread a salve along the wounds on his ribs. He hadn't even noticed he was now bare from the waist up. But once he did, he didn't dare to move to interrupt her ministrations; her touch was everything he hadn't known he'd been missing his entire life.
"Is it your turn yet?" he asked, his voice sounding sleepy and fuzzy even to his own ears.
"To tell me your story. I'd like to know a bit about the Healer who gets stuck with me this year."
He took the pain potions she offered and settled down on the cot after she'd bandaged him up. "Well, I was discovered to be a witch and in danger in 1984, when the Ministry began their horrible genocidal program . . ."
Refusing to take the sleeping draught she'd given him until she was done with her story, Remus was treated to a very interesting tale.
The Muggleborn Recovery Team had found Hermione due to a special feature in the Hogwarts vaults that somehow sensed early acts of magic amongst children in Britain. She had performed her first bouts of accidental magic just before her fifth birthday and the team, led by Albus Dumbledore and Arthur Weasley, had basically kidnapped her from her mother and father before Obliviating the Doctors Granger.
"I know they did it to save us all," she told Remus. "But it was quite some time before I forgave either of the men. Only later as I read the Prophet and saw the wreckage left behind by the Ministry did I understand that they were only seeking to protect me and my parents. I sometimes go to see them, pretending to be a neighbor, but not too often." Her eyes welled with tears and she wiped at them awkwardly. "It's . . . hard, not to be remembered."
He reached for her hand though it stretched at healing wounds to do so. "I'm sorry," he murmured. Her fingers tightened around his and she actually shifted to sit on the cot with him as she continued her story.
At Hogwarts, there was a nursery school for the youngest Muggleborns and she learnt everything quickly, reading texts she'd found by sneaking into the Library and from different offices. "I was rather desperate for new things to read," she confided with a warm smile. He nodded and she went on to share how she'd started sitting in different classes with first years when she was six and seven, and by the time she got her wand at age eight, she insisted on being allowed to try to perform with the first year students.
"You did well, I take it?" he said, relishing the feel of her hand still in his. Moony was content as well, hearing about their Mate.
She used her free hand to cast another monitoring charm over his body. "Well enough." Flashing a smile at him, she elaborated. "I was allowed to begin first year studies just before I was eight. It was . . . irregular, but you know, with all the Muggleborn students here, it actually worked out well." With a smirk, she added, "You know, since the pure-blood students came when they were eleven and many of those who had been, ah, rescued as I was were already a year or so into their classes."
"Ha! So much for pure-blood magical superiority!"
"Well, to be fair, we had been granted wand rights early, so . . ."
"So you finished in seven years and then . . .?"
"I apprenticed with Masters from Hogwarts. Many of them were half-blood and the like, and when I was eighteen, I was qualified in Transfiguration and had, um, proposed a Wizarding Culture seminar to the Board." Remus laughed at her proud-but-embarrassed expression. "And then I was taken on as official Apprentice Healer as well, because Poppy trusted me. And then last year, I joined the staff here at Hogwarts. Now, take that draught, Professor Lupin."
"Remus. You said you'd call me Remus, Hermione."
"Remus. Get some rest, I'll see you at lunch. I'll have a room of second years waiting for me soon."
He downed the sleeping draught but didn't let go of her hand. He thought he might have felt a pair of soft lips on his forehead before he succumbed to sleep.
After he recuperated from the first full moon of the school year, Remus took time to become fully immersed in his new position. He'd spent so many years traveling, keeping Harry Potter's identity a secret—James Lupin or James Black were names easily overlooked—educating one young man whilst attaining masteries himself in a bid for a stable future, well it took some getting used to.
He might have been jealous, what with Sirius teaching the Transfiguration courses that Hermione wasn't covering, but for Sirius's entire dedication to getting Remus to tell Hermione that she was a werewolf's mate.
By Merlin's bloody broom!
Remus refused to do so, choosing instead to take his time—insofar as an impatient inner wolf allowed, anyway—to get to know the young woman who haunted his days and evenings.
She made her place to be next to his at every meal they shared at the head table. First Hogsmeade weekend at the end of September? She found her way to joining him and Sirius as they pulled duty in the small town. Sirius regaled her with Marauder tales, teasing Remus and reminiscing about their friends James and Peter, who had been essential to plotting and executing pranks for years.
Soon the full moon came around again and, that day, she appeared at his classroom door as the sixth year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs were filing out.
"Professor Lupin, may I have a moment of your time?"
"Oi, Lupin! Silencing Charms!" one young lion called.
"Five points from Gryffindor for inappropriate remarks," Remus retorted.
Hermione blushed. "Sorry about that, Remus."
"I'm sorry. Rowdy gits. I mean scholars," he amended, amused. "Come in."
She did, moving past him slowly, inhaling a bit as if she were finding comfort in his proximity. Inwardly, he preened at the mere notion.
Until she spoke. "So, I was wondering if I might join you and Sirius Tuesday night."
All the ease he had developed with her evaporated in a heartbeat. "What?"
She just looked at him before shrugging her shoulders and transforming into a golden kneazle with a puffy brown tail. The little magical feline leapt to the top of Remus's desk and glared at him with a sense of So there! in its, her?, eyes.
He couldn't help it, he had to pet her. So he did, relishing the way the kneazle arched into his hand. "Right. So you want to join us."
He picked her up, possessed by he knew not what, and brought her to eye level with himself. "I've not had a feline with me when I changed," he whispered seriously. "So if you come, a wolf and a canine might take issue with your being there and Apparition is not an option in the Shack. Can you promise me to leave if my canine friend says it's not safe for you?"
All at once, he had his arms full of brave, spunky, brilliant, brunette witch. She transformed back whilst he held her and he couldn't make himself put her down, though he kept her head on level with his own.
"I promise," she whispered. Then, with an impish smile she added, "And oooh, what strong arms you have, Mister Wolf."
"I do know Muggle fairy tales," he said, blushing as he finally set her to her feet.
She made a show out of straightening her professorial robes. "So may I join you?"
2 October 2001
"Kneazle, Pads," Remus said. Again. "And she'll be here soon. Be nice."
"She showed you her form?" Sirius asked, his tone implying that the woman had stripped and given him a lap dance, for Merlin's sake. He winked, though, as he tugged off the white undershirt he wore. Barechested, he flexed his arms. "So, what do you think. Will she be impressed?"
"With you?" Remus nodded. "Possibly. So you should go upstairs and I'll join you once she's here so she can have privacy."
"Take away a man's fun!" He laughed and snagged his shirt from the chair where he'd tossed it. "I'll wait for you, Wolfman. Go on, you should follow my excellent example. It's not like she hasn't seen you mostly naked before, yeah?"
"What? No!" Remus felt his throat and cheeks heat up with his embarrassed denial. "We never, I mean—"
Sirius was laughing fit to rattle the walls. "In the Infirmary, you berk. Oh look, I think I hear her now. Hello, Professor Granger!" he called as he disappeared from view.
"Hello, Professor Black!" Hermione entered the refurbished drawing room and Remus suddenly didn't know what to do with himself. He shoved his hands in his pockets as she looked about. "Nice place you have here, Remus."
He snorted, instantly more at ease. She knows! She knows us! Moony said with a happy sort of anticipation. We'll get to play with her tonight!
"Minerva had it fixed up for me. Er, Sirius and I will change upstairs to give you some privacy, all right?" He waved a hand to indicate her still-clothed body, slender and perfect in front of him. Clearing his throat, he added, "Sirius sometimes puts his things in the cupboard, there, behind you. We try not to break it."
Hermione smiled, her eyes warm in the candlelit parlour. "Thank you." Then, she crossed the small room to him and, after hesitating, she gently cupped his jaw in an intimate manner she hadn't used before with him. "Remus, I'm honored to be here and I hope that everything will work out fine. But if it doesn't, if things get, er, messy, I won't blame you, all right? I'm doing this with my eyes open." The tips of her fingers left warm, tingling trails as she slowly let her hand fall away. "Thank you for letting me join you."
He caught her hand in his, hating to lose the contact. "Thank you for volunteering. Moony'll behave himself. What is, what is your form's name?"
Hermione blushed a bit and dropped back a pace or so. "Well, Professor McGonagall was my mentor during my Animagus training and she got to name my form. I'm Feronia."
"Feronia . . ." Remus shook his head. "Is that Latin? A Roman deity, as Minerva? They sound of the same ilk."
"Feronia, yes. She was known for granting freedom to lower echelons of society, and since I had this thing for freeing house-elves when I was twelve, she thought it would be . . . amusing. And before you say anything, yes, I know that freeing them isn't the answer. I'll find one, though. Eventually."
"I have no doubt of it," he assured her, stepping back to the stairs. His skin was itching and he could feel the twinges, deep within himself. "I need to go. Don't come up until you're entirely Feronia, all right? Moony . . . well, he will need to get used to you."
"I look forward to meeting him, as well. And Padfoot." She grinned broadly. "And, I brought potions with me, so I can take care of some of your morning-after concerns right here, all right?"
Overwhelmed, Remus could only nod. She really is our Mate, he whispered to his alter-ego.
Mate! We get to play with her tonight!
Moony howled when he saw the large kneazle enter the room where he and Padfoot were wrestling. Padfoot was his friend. Padfoot was Pack. Padfoot was trusted above all others. But then Feronia entered. A feline but still, she stirred Moony so much that he leapt away from Padfoot and landed in front of the bright-eyed kneazle, wagging his tail.
The feline arched her back and whipped her tail about with some authority as she walked about Moony and then to Padfoot, smacking the Grim on the muzzle with the fluffy brown end of her tail. Moony barked his amusement, and the Grim swiped lazily at the feline with one careful paw.
Moony was not to be outdone, though. He settled low on his belly and sniffed as Feronia came back to him. Mine! he thought happily.
The kneazle didn't look as if she belonged to anyone, but she did consent, at length, to trailing her tail over Moony's flank and gathering her scent about herself.
For Moony, it was pure delight. Which he had, of course, had to express by a thorough bout of more wrestling!
3 October 2001
"Hermione," Remus murmured, his voice hoarse and rasping as he regained his humanity after a long night spent with Padfoot and Feronia. "You still here?" He inhaled as deeply as his sore chest would allow. "Smells like it," he remarked to himself, but since she had been there the night before, it might be a lingering trace of her, not Hermione herself.
But then, he felt soothing hands, warm and kind, pulling up a light blanket over his naked form. "I'm here, Remus. It's good to see you again." Careful fingers threaded through his hair, and the sensation was intensely amazing on his stressed skin. "I had a lovely evening, by the way. And I enjoyed spending time with Moony."
Apprehension grew in him and he made himself open an eye to find her. The face that went with her soothing voice. "Everything is all right, today?"
"Moony was . . . wonderful. Very welcoming."
Relaxation made him a bit careless. "Well, yeah, you're his mate. Of course he was welcoming." Then, her fingers still and he recollected what he'd just said and swore softly.
"Hush," Hermione murmured, Summoning a tray with phials of potions and such, she then peeled back the blanket. "I'm not a bit frightened, you know. Nor surprised. I have felt, Remus, an affinity with you from the very first moment I shook your hand."
Doubt warred with amazement. "You, you have?"
She whispered charms and applied her medications and he felt comforted and cared for under her hands. "I have. That's why I asked Poppy for the honor of being here for you after the moons."
"You did? Listen to me, I sound like an idiot. I'm sorry, Hermione. I don't think I'm up for this conversation just yet."
She laughed lightly and, to his delight and pleasure, placed a gentle kiss on the back of his neck. He would have grown hard in that moment if he'd had the energy, he knew. "Well, then, how about we find some time this weekend, perhaps? I can ask the elves to make us your favorite dinner and we can eat in my quarters."
Remus rolled over to sit up, barely remembering to bring the blanket over his lap as he did so. Hermione was indeed there, dressed in a woolen jumper and pair of trousers, though her feet were bare. Her honeyed curls were tamed into a braid and she was indeed smiling. For him. "You're serious?" he asked softly.
"No, Padfoot is Sirius. I'm Hermione. I'm the kneazle," she said, teasing with a lilt to her voice he responded to immediately. "For the record, Feronia is also the goddess associated with wildlife and fertility."
Remus was speechless for a full minute, then he grew bold and slowly brought one sore arm to wrap around Hermione's pliant form. "I think you must be perfect," he whispered before brushing his lips over hers.
She carefully, so carefully, caressed his shoulder with one hand and he relished the subdued excitement she brought to him, depleted as he was. "I'll try very hard to be a good Mate," she whispered.
He caught his breath and pressed his forehead to hers. "You're already the best thing that's happened to me in twenty years. And that includes the defeat of Voldemort."
She laughed and drew a bit away from him to rise to her feet and help him do likewise. "Careful, all this praise will go to my head."
Remus was grateful for the clothes she must have gathered from the cupboard before she came to him that morning, and he put them on without shame. She was his Mate. His other half. The woman he was meant to be with.
As they left the Shack just as the sun was pinking up the sky, she took a slow breath. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Of course." He was glad for her arm around him, relieved that her potions were already taking effect.
"Without Moony, would we be here right now?"
It was an astute query. Remus, though, knew exactly how to answer it. "Eventually, yes. Because, Miss Hermione Granger, I think you're practically perfect in every way."
"I am not Mary Poppins."
"I'm not a chimney sweep."
"Do you really think . . .?"
They were still discussing the merits of Disney romances as they passed through the Great Hall to get some breakfast.
Moony won the day! Now, we have to find your other half. Are you busy this weekend?
Love, your Dad,
A/N: A not-so-nice account of the Snape and Lily matter will be forthcoming eventually. Just not today. Lily will have her vengeance.