A/N: Commemorating my 100th post since my birthday, I give you a fun little Remione One Shot I've been planning for this special occasion. I hope you like it and I can't wait to see what you all make of it.
The fireplace roared to life, flames of jade green dancing within, preluding the arrival of a witch into the empty cottage. The sound seemed loud amid the silence that prevailed over the small and seemingly unoccupied dwelling, but the witch knew that soon enough the silence would be rent with agonized screams and she didn't much mind intruding to break some of the tension. When she stepped out of the fireplace, the curly-haired young woman peered about the gloomy and rather dusty living room before sighing softly.
She should've known it would be like this. Every week, without fail, she came to call and every week despite her best efforts, she'd find the cottage in desperate need of some fresh air, some opened windows, and a damn decent Dusting Charm. Hermione Granger clucked her tongue to herself, even knowing that though he wasn't visible and probably wasn't even in the house, the resident of Number Seventeen, Bilberry Lane would hear her disapproval. Not that guilt-tripping him seemed to help keep the house clean, these days.
Sighing, Hermione set the bag of groceries she carried down on the battered dining table – if it could really be called that, strewn with dated versions of the Daily Prophet and rickety, at best, as it happened to be. She set the bag down and used her wand to open the windows that looked out over the forest that surrounded the house completely on all sides. There was no drive to reach this house. Not anymore. She imagined there had been, once, long ago when the cottage had been built. But it was gone now. With only magical residents living in it for many generations the forest had reclaimed the land where the road once had lain. The forest had been attempting to reclaim the house too, before Hermione had arrived and come to the rescue of her favourite werewolf.
Reclusive as he was, and wild as he had grown, Remus Lupin had seemed content to let the forest swallow up the last remaining link he had to the rest of the world and to some form of civilisation or humanity. He was much changed from the man who'd once taught her Defence Against the Dark Arts, that was certain. A lifetime of grief had robbed him of what little happiness he might've found in life and Hermione knew with every passing week that she came to call that he was slipping further and further away.
She might usually bring Harry and Ron with her, but even they could do little to lure Remus from the forest where he roamed wild. He'd been losing the battle with his inner wolf since before the war, she knew. Sirius's death had hit him hard – harder than anyone had realised. It had seemed when he finally accepted Tonks for a wife that he was moving on as best he could, but they'd been foolish. Hermione had been foolish, anyway. She'd known his true feelings for the Metamorphmagus, and they hadn't been those of affection or even really friendship. They'd been begrudging tolerance, perhaps mingled with a little flattery. He'd never loved Tonks, despite marrying the witch, but her loss, too, had taken its toll on Remus.
Hermione sighed as the fresh air of the forest rushed into the little cottage, cold and chilling her lungs enough to make her cough. The dust within the house budged under her wand and Hermione set to work on her seemingly endless battle to ensure this little house didn't crumble to rubble and the dust bunnies didn't breed too effectively in her absence. She'd spend more time there if she could, not that it would do much good. Even when she came to call, Remus kept his distance.
It ought to have been a sign of his losing battle with the wolf when he'd married Tonks, but none of them had spotted it for what it was – a last, desperate effort to cling to some semblance of humanity. A life spent finding people to accept him for what he was before having them prematurely ripped away from him had jaded the man and infuriated the wolf. Hermione knew one of the biggest reasons he lived alone and spent most of his time lurking in the woods was fear of connecting with anyone again only to end up hurt and lonely once more.
She was hard-pressed to even convince him to sleep indoors anymore. She knew that it made him uncomfortable when she came to call. Harry could usually lure some semblance of humanity from him – so much resembling James that Remus occasionally slipped and called him by the wrong name these days. Hermione knew that Harry took it as a compliment and that he adored the werewolf to pieces, but even he recognised that Remus had a problem and that nothing they were trying seemed to be saving him.
He'd given up, Hermione suspected. He'd given up trying to hide his lycanthropy from the world, and from himself. He'd given up the fight to keep the wolf at bay. He no longer hid the fact that when he was in a mood, he growled like the grumpy old wolf he was. He no longer cared about things like manners or personal space barriers or whether or not he made others uncomfortable. On the increasingly brief occasions when Molly Weasley roused herself enough to come calling on him with Harry, Ron and Hermione, he tended to make the woman very nervous indeed. He was prone to lurking, as Harry called it. Like a wolf hiding in the underbrush and watching his prey, Remus tended to maintain a certain distance between himself and his guests.
He very rarely entered the house while anyone was there and if not for the fact that the sheets were rumpled between her visits, Hermione would be convinced that he didn't even come inside to sleep. He kept his distance, he was territorial about certain things and he had a knack for eyeing all visitors like he was seriously considering taking a bite out of them. Hermione might've teased him about it if not for the fact that she knew he fought the very real urge to leap upon his guests, hold them hostage until the full moon, and infect them.
With the wolf increasingly in charge, or increasingly awake at the very least, the pack mentality of his nature surfaced and Hermione knew it was only self-disgust and fear of becoming a monster in the eyes of the few who still cared for him that stopped him from attacking. He craved company, but he loathed it, too. Hermione knew. He'd told her once several months ago after the full moon when she arrived to patch him up and make sure he was well cared for after his harrowing monthly transformation.
"Remus, love?" Hermione called softly, knowing that for all that he wasn't in the house and hadn't come out to say hello, he would surely be somewhere nearby.
Listening hard, Hermione focused on the repetitive clicking she could hear and she trailed through the house to stop by the window that looked out over the falling-down woodshed across the overgrown garden. She nearly swallowed her tongue at the sight that met her eyes through the dusty glass. Remus was splitting wood the muggle way – wielding an axe and chopping the chunks of timber into smaller and smaller bits. More importantly he was shirtless, and had obviously been at the task awhile because he was sweating.
A flush crawled across her cheeks as she watched him through the window, unable to tear her gaze away. He was glorious to behold. His skin gleamed with scars, some pink and fresh, some white and faded with age. He was long and lean, strong from the amount of time he spent engaging in physical labour and generally overexerting himself in the hopes of maintaining some tiny sliver of humanity. The lean, lithe strength of him was certainly a sight and Hermione hoped the wind was blowing away from him lest he catch the scent of desire that rushed through her as she watched him.
Clearing her throat, Hermione squared her shoulders and looked away, noting the way the rhythm of his chopping was broken just barely by the sound. He peered over his shoulder in the direction of the cottage and Hermione fought the urge to gulp when his gold-threaded green eyes fixed upon her through the glass. Smiling tentatively, Hermione offered him a little wave of greeting.
He didn't respond and Hermione wondered suddenly how long it had been since he'd actually used human greetings when she came to call. He rarely waved and he usually didn't say much when she visited. His eyes held hers for a long moment before looking past her, obviously searching for the sight of her usual companions. They weren't with her today and she could tell when his brow wrinkled that he was intrigued and perhaps worried to know she'd come alone.
When he went back to chopping wood, Hermione realised he was in no mood for company – or perhaps that he simply didn't trust himself to come inside right then. Not that she blamed him. If he could smell her desire from across the yard he probably didn't appreciate it and he probably didn't trust the wolf inside his skin not to try and act upon it. Not on a full moon day.
She'd come baring the gift of food and company in the prelude of his looming transformation. He no longer accepted the Wolfsbane potion when she made it for him. He said he didn't see the point. It didn't help with the pain, and it tasted terrible. Out here all alone with no neighbours for miles and with strong Repelling charms to keep nosy muggles or lost travellers from his door there was no chance that he would happen upon anyone unless he managed to break the wards and leave the property.
Hermione suspected there was more to it than that, but she didn't dare ask him. She'd begun to think he rather liked the nights when he lost his mind to the rage of the wolf because it meant he could escape the pain of missing his friends and his family and his wife for a little while. He might not have loved Tonks, but he'd grown fond of her as a substitute pack-mate in the wake of Sirius's death and Hermione knew it had hit him hard. She knew too that he craved the feeling of having a pack again and that the urge to infect her, Ron, and especially Harry, was strong. She didn't bother trying to push the potion on him anymore, and it was so expensive to buy the ingredients that she'd stopped bothering to make it after the sixth month in a row when he hadn't touched a single goblet-full.
Turning her attention from the alluring sight he made as he split wood, Hermione set about cleaning the house for human habitation. With the oncoming full moon, it would be unwise for her to stay, but she didn't like to think of him out here all alone all the time. He'd stopped bothering searching for work, too. He might've been awarded the Order of Merlin, First Class along with the other surviving members of the Order of the Phoenix, but he hadn't had much more luck securing and keeping employment. He'd given up trying that too, and Hermione was more than a little worried. He lived out here on the bare essentials that he either grew for himself – the vegetable patch the only portion of the yard that he bothered to maintain or care for with any frequency – or whatever he could run down in the forest. She knew that most of the meat he consumed came from deer, rabbits or other creatures he hunted in the forest.
The freezer was always full of meat whenever she came to call, but Hermione always brought him some other things, just in case. He didn't keep chickens – claiming he'd feared for their lives every full moon during the brief stint when Harry and Ron had insisted he get some early last year – and he wasn't big on fishing despite there being a loch nearby filled with fish. She liked to make sure that his diet was well balanced and consisted of more than venison so she tended to bring some of everything whenever she came to call.
She also made sure to keep the pantry and the fridge stocked on the odd chance that he might wander inside to fix himself a snack. Molly always sent over a basketful of goodies ranging from cakes and biscuits to pot-roasts, dumplings, and stir-fries. Hermione tended to try to fatten the man up, too, no matter how she liked to perve on him when she thought he wasn't looking. Putting away the basket of treats that Molly had sent and unpacking the groceries, Hermione smiled when she noticed that this week, at least, he seemed to have eaten everything she'd dropped off. He almost always did in the lead up to the full moon, but it was heartening just the same. He'd even washed up all the containers and the plates he'd used, Hermione noticed.
That was a good sign. It meant he'd been into the house more than once for the week while she'd been away and it meant he was still thinking in the context of needing to keep some semblance of hygiene by human standards. When everything was put away, Hermione used her magic to begin preparing lunch, suspecting the wood-cutting werewolf was going to be hungry and knowing she'd be able to lure him inside to talk to her if she filled the house with the scent of a tasty meal.
Knowing it was a favourite of his, Hermione began preparing stuffed chicken breast filled with camembert and quince paste. She also used her wand to clean other parts of the house as the chicken was cooking. She stripped the sheets from the bed, smiling to see it'd been slept in at all, and she dusted everywhere she went. The bathroom was clean, despite the small pile of unwashed laundry waiting to be done and Hermione made sure to put the load into the tub to be washed. Part of her knew that Remus would protest when he saw all she'd done – inviting herself to his possessions and his life to better care for him – and that he'd protest his ability to do the chores himself.
She didn't really mind doing them. It was better to have things to do while she waited for his curiosity to get the best of him, luring him inside. More than once it was only the sight of her doing his chores that had lured him into the house to stop her or to remind her that he was forty, not four, and as such, could tidy his own bedroom. And so she tidied and she cooked and she waited for the grumpy werewolf to give up his attempts to stay away. She knew he'd be curious about Harry's absence. She knew the food would make him hungry. She knew he'd need his strength to get through the night when the moon rose, too, so she made sure to dig out the biscuit tin full of her home-made triple-choc biscuits, setting some on a plate on the dining table when she'd cleared away the old copies of the Prophet, having noticed that even those were the ones she and Harry brought by during their visits to better lure him back toward the wizarding word with scraps of news.
She was serving up lunch before the clicking of the splitting wood in the yard ceased and Hermione smiled to herself as she watched through the window when Remus wiped his sweaty brow before glancing toward the house once more. She watched him draw a deep breath into his lungs, taking in the scent of the meal she'd prepared before he took a hesitant step toward the house. Setting lunch upon the table, Hermione stoked up the fireplace, cold despite being busy cooking and cleaning. Having the windows open in the middle of the Scottish winter had that effect.
Like the wolf he was, Remus skulked into the house on silent bare feet. She was aware of his every move as he came slowly closer and she almost laughed when she watched him snatch up one of the biscuits from the tin, his eyes fixed upon her as he scampered backward to the doorway with his prize. She'd have laughed if not for fear of startling him and if not for the fact that it was just another sign of his canine nature winning out over his humanity.
"You shouldn't be here," his voice was low and rough with misuse when she didn't speak before picking up a biscuit for herself, finished stoking the fire as she sat down to lunch.
"And hello to you too, Remus," Hermione smiled gently, lifting her eyes to meet his gaze even though she knew it would wrankle the wolf. "Won't you join me for lunch?"
He looked wary, never seeming to entirely like the way she was so perky when she came to see him. Hermione knew he preferred it when she didn't try to force cheerfulness she didn't feel. Oh, she was happy to see him, certainly. But there was so much that weighed on her mind as she worried about him that it tended to make her cheerfulness sound feigned. He looked like he might decline lunch until his stomach rumbled, giving away how hungry he was.
"Why are you here, gealai?" he asked in a low murmur when he crossed the kitchen once more to slip into the seat opposite hers. Hermione did her best not to admire how graceful and predatory he was when he moved, knowing that pointing either out would simply make him uncomfortable.
"I've missed you," Hermione shrugged. "Harry sends his apologies. He and Ron caught a case."
She watched his left eye twitch when she smiled brightly, his wolf registering the expression not as one of happiness, but as a grimace of challenge – a baring of teeth at a potential rival. A soft growl hummed inside his throat but he pressed his lips closed, trying to prevent the sound from escaping.
"Anything interesting?" he asked, obviously trying to play at human today, knowing the full moon and his oncoming transformation were looming ominously.
"Actually, yes," Hermione said carefully. "I'm told that they've caught Greyback's trail again."
"And they're going after him?" Remus asked, his head jerking up before he could fork his bite of chicken into his mouth. "It's a full moon today."
He looked stricken, and Hermione understood his concern.
"I don't imagine they'll catch up with him tonight," Hermione said softly. "A boy was snatched from his backyard yesterday and there were claw-marks on the fence at the scene."
"He's leaving calling cards, now?" Remus asked, his top lip curling back to reveal his teeth. Hermione eyed him, wondering if maybe she shouldn't have told him.
"He has been for years. It's a game to him. He knows Harry is personally hunting him. He's toying with him, leading him on and goading him, daring him to catch him. The last time Harry caught up to him, he almost had him, too. Greyback went to ground after that and hasn't been seen or heard from in almost eight months."
Remus looked a bit like he wanted to charge off to London and track Harry down in his office inside the MLE to remind the boy that he was only human and that Greyback would eat him alive if he ever caught him.
"He'll be alright, Remus," Hermione assured him. "Harry's clever. He knows that this close to the full moon, a calling card like that is a dare to come after him and get himself eaten. He won't hunt him tonight – he'll just be on the lookout for anything suspicious."
"Has he infected anyone new?" Remus asked, obviously still furious as he bit into the meal she'd prepared.
Hermione shook her head. "Not that we know of. There haven't been any reports of attacks or even sightings. One woman went missing a few weeks ago, but she turned back up a week later claiming she'd run off with a lover to Spain and demanding a divorce from her husband."
Remus growled again, looking like he wanted to point out that someone trying to hide having contracted lycanthropy might say just such a thing. Hermione had said the same thing to Harry when it'd happened but they'd investigated and found it to be true. Watching Remus across the table while he growled and bared his teeth, Hermione wondered if maybe she shouldn't have told him. She didn't like upsetting him, especially not so close to the full moon.
He bit into each mouthful of his lunch hungrily, obviously ravenous despite his anger at the mention of Greyback. He was still shirtless, she noticed idly, and Hermione had to look down at her plate when she felt her cheeks flush at the sight he made. Up close she could admire the ropes of sinew that shifted restlessly beneath his skin as he moved and she loathed herself for how badly she wanted to trace her fingers over each long line of his body. The last thing she needed on a full moon day was for Remus to realise she was attracted to him and Hermione bit her lip, trying to think about something else.
"If Harry and Ron are off hunting, why did you still bother to come, Hermione?" Remus asked a few mouthful of tense silence later.
Hermione looked up at him, frowning.
"You know why, Remus," she said. "I happen to enjoy your company and it's a full moon tonight. If I don't make sure you're taken care of, who will? We both know you won't look after yourself."
He made a face at her and Hermione bit her lip on a laugh, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of thinking she wasn't being serious.
"It wasn't very wise of you to come alone, gealai," he murmured, his eyes fixed on her as she took her next bite.
Hermione paused momentarily, her fork in her mouth, before sliding the tines clear of her lips, her expression carefully blank.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Remus," Hermione answered when she had chewed her mouthful and swallowed – almost choking thanks to her suddenly dry throat.
His grin could be called nothing other than wolfish. Hermione quivered in her chair, her heart skipping a beat at the expression that crawled across his face. He looked very much like the big bad wolf who'd just stumbled upon a lost lamb. She didn't know if she should be fearful or excited when he licked his lips carefully, eyeing her in a way she was certain he'd never eyed her before.
"You've never come to see me alone, you know," he commented quietly, leaning back a little in his chair as he regarded her, his eyes assessing as though looking for the point of weakness most likely to be her undoing.
"I'm sure I have," Hermione disagreed. "Last year sometime when Harry was out of town with Ginny and the Harpies team, and Ron had the flu."
Remus shook his head.
"Neville came with you. You attempted to lure me into conversation by foisting him at me and having him quiz me on plants considered dark enough to warrant lessons on combating the Dark Arts."
Hermione frowned, recalling that she actually had brought Neville with her that day.
"I'm sure there have been times when I've come alone," Hermione frowned.
"You haven't," he assured her. "I'd begun to think that maybe you didn't feel safe being alone with me, actually."
Hermione made a face at him.
"As though there's anything you could do to me that might scare me?" she teased. "Please, I'm more concerned when forced to be alone with Ron."
Remus smirked at her, still eyeing her like she were a tasty morsel he couldn't wait to sink his teeth into.
"Makes you nervous, does he?" he asked.
"Ron?" Hermione lifted one eyebrow. "Not nervous, no. Not in the sense I think you mean it, anyway. No, being alone with Ron is unnerving at times because he has a nasty habit of bringing up the past and rehashing for the millionth time just why it was that we didn't make it as a couple."
"Why was that, again?" Remus asked, looking both amused and curious, as though she were a cornered lamb who knew her demise was imminent and had begun side-stepping, looking for a way to freedom. This, despite her not having moved in her seat.
"Because he's a sod who couldn't keep it in his pants at Auror training while I went back to Hogwarts to finish my education," Hermione sighed. "And because we were all wrong for each other. Excuse me for preferring men with whom I can enjoy heated intellectual debate, rather than being bored to tears about Quidditch statistics and whether or not chewing with one's mouth closed actually constitutes manners."
Remus looked all the more amused when she flicked her hair off one shoulder and crossed her legs, trying desperately to ignore the way his eyes upon her were making her feel very much like prey in a most carnal way.
"Oh, and just who might you engage in intellectual debates with, gealai?" Remus practically purred, leaning forward a little in his chair to rest his elbows on the table before interlocking his fingers and watching her intently.
"Certainly not Ronald," Hermione answered evasively, unwilling to admit that one of the only people she'd ever been able to engage in such enthralling discussion was Remus himself.
"Certainly not," he agreed.
"Are you ever going to tell me what that name you call me actually means, Remus?" she asked, casting around for a way to change the subject when she felt blush begin to climb her cheeks at the knowing glint in his green eyes. "How do you even say it? Gyal-lie? I used to think you were calling me 'girly' with a strange accent, but now I'm not so sure."
He tipped his head to one side, continuing to eye her with a knowing little smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.
"It means moonlight," he told her. "It's Irish."
"Moonlight?" Hermione frowned at him. "Remus, you hate the moon. I… I think I'm a little bit insulted."
Remus laughed, startling her.
"It's not an insult, Hermione," he said softly, his eyes soft as he watched her. "Or it's not meant to be. I don't hate the moon. I fear the full moon because of the pain it brings when it sparks my transformations, but I don't hate it. And I'm not calling you the moon, I'm calling you 'moonlight'. As in the soft, yet distant glow that lights the world when darkness abounds. As in something beautiful to be admired, but never fully enjoyed – not by me, anyway."
Hermione's eyes prickled at the tender way he described the meaning when applying it to her.
"I… Remus," Hermione breathed, her body tingling.
His smile was rueful when he met her confused gaze.
"But you've been calling me that since my fifth year," she whispered.
"But… why?" she asked. "I'm really not that interesting."
"Aren't you?" he raised one eyebrow.
"Not compared to vivacious creatures like… well, like Tonks," Hermione muttered, loathe to bring the woman up lest the thought upset him further.
"No, you're nothing like Tonks," he agreed.
Hermione wondered at his tone if it was meant as a good thing or a bad thing.
"She was nothing like moonlight," he went on. "Tonks was… more like candy-floss. Something fun to enjoy on occasion but bad for you in large quantities."
"You're saying that she gave you cavities."
"Probably," he laughed suddenly. "Though I wonder if you're being purposely dense to spare my feelings."
Hermione blinked at him.
"Have you ever known me to be?" she lifted one eyebrow.
"Numerous times. Most of them involving Molly and her not-so-subtle suggestions that marrying one of her sons really would be in your best interests."
"Molly is a special case," Hermione sniffed.
"Indeed," he agreed before suddenly pushing back from the table, picking up his now-empty plate and carrying it into the kitchen to wash. Hermione frowned, watching him as he moved across the small cottage and blushing when she realised her eyes had trailed over the expanse of his bare back to settle on the way his jeans hugged his bum just so.
"So, to be clear, I shouldn't be insulted that you refer to me as moonlight?" Hermione clarified, getting up to follow him after taking one last bite of her lunch.
Remus looked over his shoulder when she entered the kitchen behind him.
"Take it how you like, Hermione," he replied gruffly and Hermione frowned, noting the sudden shift in his mood.
She opened her mouth, intent on pushing the issue before recalling what day it was and the fact that this close to the full moon, the strangest things could set him off.
"Want to go for a walk?" she asked when he'd rinsed both dishes – insisting on doing hers because she'd made lunch.
He nodded and Hermione got the feeling when he crossed to the back door that he wasn't going to bother with a shirt, despite the frigid temperature outside. She made sure to rug herself up, even knowing they might walk briskly, not wanting to catch cold. Remus, running at a different temperature and hardly susceptible to something as menial as the flu, didn't have to worry about those things.
"So," Hermione began when they left the house, trailing across the backyard and along the deer-track that led toward the loch. "What have you been up to all week?"
Remus laughed darkly as though she'd said something amusing and Hermione glanced sideways at him only to find his eyes fixed upon her once more.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing," he replied. "I've done next to nothing. Went hunting a few times. Warded the property again in preparation for tonight. Felled a tree – the one you saw me splitting when you arrived. That's about it."
He shrugged his bare shoulders and Hermione bit her lip, frowning at him a little.
"Can I ask you something, Remus?"
Hermione blinked at the open invitation, having expected him to hedge at the idea like he usually did.
"Don't you get bored being out here all by yourself? I know you like the forest, but surely you crave… something. Some form of human contact."
He glanced at her sharply and Hermione's feet faltered on the trail at the heat in his eyes.
"Is that an invitation?" he asked in a low voice that made the hairs on the back of her neck prickle uncomfortably. It sounded almost like… Moony.
Hermione had learned from Sirius a long time ago that there were certain times when the wolf might wrestle control away from Remus just a bit too forcefully and just as he could be the man inside the wolf-form when he ingested Wolfsbane, if the wolf fought hard enough, he could be the wolf inside the human-form, too.
"I'm always available for human contact, Remus. I don't come to visit you every week just because you need supplies, you know? I happen to actually enjoy your company and would generally like to enjoy it more often, if you'd only let me," she informed him fervently, wanting to press the point, wanting him to know that he was more than a chore or an obligation or whatever other type of inconvenience he'd convinced himself he must be to her. "Actually, I've been wanting to ask you something. I've been keeping a secret, but I'm ready to share it, if you're receptive to hearing it?"
He stepped off the path, snagging his pinky-finger around hers and giving her a little tug in the direction of a large boulder beside the loch. The touch was so brief that she could've cried as she followed him, watching him dust the snow off the stone before nodding her ahead of him to climb up and sit upon it.
"Tell me," he said when they were both seated, looking out of the icy expanse of the loch.
Hermione took a deep breath.
"I quit my job," Hermione admitted.
Remus glanced over at her sharply. "What? Why? I thought you liked working for the Ministry?"
Hermione shook her head.
"It was awful, Remus," she admitted. "I didn't really like to mention it because for so long I'd gone on and on about how it would be my shoe into the political world to really make a difference, but it just… Gods, it was terrible. Every single thing I pushed for I was immediately blocked, shoe-boxed away into that dingy little office…. Oh, you never saw my office, did you? It was tiny. I've seen bigger prison cells. Merlin, I've seen bigger clothing boxes. It might as well have been the size of a public toilet stall. It smelled just as bad as one, too."
"Weren't you attempting to make a difference in the Magical Creature Regulations office?" he confirmed.
Hermione nodded, sighing heavily.
"I feel like such a failure, but I quit. There are effective and non-effective ways to achieve a goal and pushing papers no one cared about – that I was only given as a distraction whenever I started bleating about fair rights for all creatures – was not for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm good at dealing with and working around red-tape, but they might as well have spat on me, Remus. Every day I went in and every day I knew I was just wasting my time – and for a lousy pay-check, too. So I quit."
"When?" he asked, frowning a little now.
"Three weeks ago. I… haven't told anyone until now."
"And you picked me to be the first person to inform?" he asked. "Why?"
"I… well, as you know I'd been trying to get some of the nastier laws governing werewolf rights changed and… I suppose that I was a bit worried about telling you because I didn't want you to think I've given up."
"My lack of rights thanks to my lycanthropy aren't your problem, gealai," he told her gently, reaching over and taking her hand when she twisted her fingers together nervously in her lap. "I don't really need to worry about them up here. They can't take my land or my home and they can't regulate my health-care since I don't require any, nor can they try to keep me out of the workplace because I'm keeping out of it all on my own."
Hermione bit her lip.
"I just… I wanted to make a difference, you know?" she asked. "I wanted to make things better for you. For everyone who was bitten during the war, or before it. I… I tried so hard Remus, and they just…. They were sucking the life out of me. They'd obviously had up-starts like me try this type of thing before and they knew that drowning me in paperwork would keep me too busy to worry about writing analysis reports and legislation to take before the Wizengamot. Not to mention that a certain mangy cur who will remain nameless at this particular moment is giving werewolves everywhere a bad name, which was making my attempts that much harder."
Remus growled softly at the indirect mention of Greyback.
"One day I'll rip his throat out," Remus said quietly. "And then he won't be such a bother."
Hermione might've laughed at the idea of referring to a blood-thirsty, violent criminal as being a bother if it weren't for the promise that rung in his vow.
"Yes, well, until then he continues to pose a valid threat to the wizarding world at large and is a rather gory reminder of what can happen should the man lose the battle to the wolf," Hermione sighed. "And as such the governing councils refuse to hear a positive word about werewolves. Bloody wretch."
Remus squeezed her hand gently in comfort and Hermione smiled gently.
"You're not upset with me, are you?" she asked quietly when he didn't say anything for a long time after that.
"For quitting?" he asked, looking over, his brow wrinkling. "Why would I be upset with you for that, Hermione? I'd rather see you happy than know that every day you go to work, you're dying inside."
"Yes, but I don't want you to think I've given up the fight," she insisted.
Remus chuckled at that, squeezing her hand before absently lifting it to his lips and pressing a soft kiss to the back of it.
"Of that, gealai, I have no doubt. Like a wolf with a bone, you are," he murmured.
Hermione smiled, surprised at the affection is his tone.
"Anyway, my point of bringing it up," Hermione said, "Was that I had another idea I wanted to toy with and I've been organising it all, in secret. I needed a new line of work, obviously, and I think I've found the perfect position."
"Oh?" he asked.
"For you, that is," she clarified.
"Me?" he frowned. "Hermione do you know how difficult it is for any werewolf to hold a job? The number of sick-days required are more than most employers will tolerate. The only jobs I ever held with any consistency – before or after teaching at Hogwarts, anyway – were those where the employer didn't know of my condition and where the work was on a causal basis. But most casual positions are customer relations based and do you know how quickly customers run for the door when they realise their waiter is a werewolf?"
"That's changing, Remus," she said quietly. "Your actions during the war and your award of the Order of Merlin went a long way toward changing the opinions of a few. Not to mention that most of those students you taught are now in the workplace themselves – some even in positions of power. I might've been shoe-boxed in the DRCMC, but I managed to get a few bills of legislation signed off on before quitting, you know. One of which happened to be the overture of that nasty bill against legally employing werewolves."
"How does you quitting your job correlate with you finding me one?" he wanted to know.
"Well, see, I had to find something that would still further my vision of bettering the lives of werewolves, whilst also incorporating my other interests and what I envisioned myself doing with my life from here on out," Hermione smiled.
"How would you feel about working for me, Remus?"
He hesitated for a moment. "Doing what?"
Hermione's smile grew. "Something I'm certain you'll enjoy. I… well, I might've… um… you know, bought a shop. In Hogsmeade. You remember the old quill shop – Scrivenshaft's?"
"I didn't know it was for sale." Remus frowned, looking unconvinced that it would be a good job for him.
"It wasn't, per se…. well, when I was working for the Ministry I was working with the daughter of the owner – little old fellow, he was – and anyway he passed away recently. Florence didn't want to go into the quill-selling business when she's doing rather well for herself in the department and so she mentioned being torn over the notion of selling it on and dudding the Hogwarts staff and students of writing supplies, or keeping it and quitting to run the shop. I offered her an alternative."
"Oh?" Remus said. "And you're going to be happy selling quills?"
Hermione shook her head. "Of course not. What I'd yet to mention was that in addition to the storefront, the old chap who owned it actually lived behind the store – it's essentially the front-room of a house and there's a whole lot more space out the back. I managed to convince Florence to sell me the building. I've been secretly renovating it and what was once a dingy and cramped little quill shop has grown into something rather more… substantial."
Remus looked curious now and Hermione smiled enticingly.
"I don't suppose you'd care to see it?" she offered.
"I…" Remus hesitated, looking up at the sky. It was only early afternoon, but the moon would rise soon.
"It won't take long," she smiled. "I promise to have you home by curfew, Remus."
She gave him puppy dog eyes and he made a face at her.
"Don't do that, gealai," he whispered, his eyes darting over her face before dropping to fix on her lips. "Not… not today."
"I'll stop if you'll come with me to see my new store," she bargained.
"I wasn't aware you were well enough off to purchase a building in Hogsmeade, Hermione," he said, changing the subject and sliding down off the rock where they sat.
He turned to face her when he'd landed.
"Yes, well." Hermione sighed. "Florence didn't really want that much for it, if I'm being honest, and it really wasn't much – the shop, I mean. It needed a lot of attention to even get it to where I've gotten it. I had a fair bit left over from the pay-out from the Ministry with the end of the war, and… um… you recall that brief… uh… fling that I had with… erm… Malfoy?"
Remus raised his eyebrows.
"You asked him for money?" he frowned at her.
Hermione shook her head.
"No, I didn't have to," Hermione sighed. "In an effort to… free up Draco's affections… Lucius Malfoy deposited an ungodly amount of galleons into my Gringott's vault. Not that I'd have broken things off for money, of course, but he seemed to think I could be persuaded after putting the money in there. And since he authorised the transfer there was no way to give it back without his demanding it of me. Which he did, when I refused to break up with Draco, I might add. And which Narcissa might've… you know… hexed him for when she found out. She was so appalled by what he'd done that she actually used a memory charm on him to make him forget he'd done it and when I tried to transfer it all back, the goblins refused to do it and Narcissa wouldn't even speak of it, let alone accept it. She told me to keep it and to use it for something important – at the time envisioning me as her future daughter-in-law.
"Anyway, long story short, Draco and I might've broken things off not long after this incident and Narcissa might still be refusing to speak to me. Since they weren't going to take it all back, I figured it was doing no one any good sitting there. So I spent it."
"Remind me again why you dated Draco Malfoy," Remus said, frowning deeply.
Hermione might've suspected he was jealous if not for knowing better. She needed to stop projecting her own affection for Remus onto him and imagining that he might fancy her back.
"Because I was young and reckless, fresh from a nasty break-up with Ron. And because he was young and reckless and a social pariah who just wanted someone to treat him like anything other than a Blood Traitor and a coward and a snitch after the three of them single-handedly jailed most of the living Death Eaters. It was an emotional time for both of us and it was… not a mistake, but certainly not well-matched," Hermione sighed. "The point is that I had the money and I've put it to use to buy a building and I want you to see it."
Hermione squeaked in surprise when Remus tugged on her ankles, pulling her off the boulder. She skidded down the face of it only to be trapped between the rock and Remus where he leaned one hand against it, peering at her curiously. Hermione fought the urge to gulp to find herself inside his personal space when he was shirtless and so utterly enticing.
"Why do you keep dating boys who've rarely done anything other than make you cry?" he asked nosily, invading her space and making her nervous with the sudden shift of topic.
Hermione did gulp audibly at that. She thought about lying and saying it was because she'd fallen for each of them at a certain point in her life. She thought about making up some excuse about needing to test her limits and discover her own interests in the aftermath of a childhood spent at war. She thought about telling him the truth, too.
Squaring her shoulders a little, Hermione looked him in the eye boldly before admitting, "Because the man I'd like to be with continues to insist that he's not worth loving."
Remus's lip twitched, though whether it was with the urge to smile or a more-canine based need to bare his fangs at the challenge of direct eye-contact, Hermione couldn't be sure.
"Now, are you going to put a shirt on to come to the shop? Or are you content to go like this?"
"Am I making you uncomfortable, gealai?" he grinned wolfishly.
"Not in the way you might think," Hermione muttered, looking at her feet as her cheeks turned pink.
She knew he'd heard her, though he didn't comment.
"I'll get a shirt," he said. "Meet me on the porch."
Before she could even nod in agreement he took off like a shot, pushing away from the rock and racing away through the woods faster than her eyes could track. Shaking her head to herself, Hermione pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes, taking a deep breath in and huffing it out in frustration. The things the man did to her ought to be criminal. The fact that he had little idea he was doing them made it all the worse and Hermione wondered how he might react if she were to simply tangle her fingers in his sandy hair and snog him senseless.
"Get a grip, Hermione," she muttered to herself. Shaking her whole body, Hermione pushed away from the rock and set off through the woods in the direction of the cottage. She barely got halfway there before Remus returned. He even looked like he'd rinsed off in the shower before changing into fresh jeans, an old band t-shirt that she suspected Sirius had given him, and one of the knitted jumpers from the collection he had that Molly gifted him every Christmas and birthday.
"Slow poke," he teased, grinning when Hermione put her hands on her hips, just knowing he'd used lycanthropic speed to get there, washed, and back in record time.
"We're not all gifted super-speed," Hermione replied.
"Count your blessings," he retorted, though it lacked his usual bitterness over his condition.
Hermione didn't bother trying to argue with him over how he perceived his lycanthropy. She didn't rightly know where he stood on the issue anymore. Instead, Hermione reached for his hand, slipping her small one into his large one and noting the number of callouses upon his palm as she did so. She did her level best to think about anything other than what those roughened palms might feel like smoothing sinfully over her flesh before twisting sharply and Disapparating them both with a crack.
Remus made a soft sound when they landed on the back step of her shop. It opened onto a little back alley than ran behind the main street of Hogsmeade but Hermione didn't let him linger on the doorstep, the door keyed to her magical signature and opening under her touch. She didn't let go of his hand as she led him inside, smiling a little as the scent of newly renovated timber and fresh paint filled her nose.
Remus paused in the back room – which she'd left set up as a kitchen with a dining table and chairs – looking around curiously.
"This is going to be the break room," she explained. "Come on, you need to see the rest."
"What exactly are you planning to sell, Hermione? You and I both know you'll be bored out of your mind with silly quills and rainbow ink…" Remus trailed off when she led him by the hand in to the next room. She'd opened up the rest of the rooms, leaving the supporting pillars be, but turning the rest into one large store. In one back corner she'd created a sitting area with some squashy couches and seat for people to sit and enjoy some of the stock. The quills and stationary supplies – much of which had needed updating into the twenty-first century - had been moved to the other back corner along with some tables that were set up to the quills and the shades of the ink. The rest of the store was dominated by bookshelves.
"I wanted to turn it into a little literature cave," Hermione told him, smiling fondly. "There isn't currently a bookshop here in Hogsmeade and the postage service from Flourish and Blotts is atrocious. I thought this could be a little one-stop shop for school needs regarding stationary and school books, in addition to supplying those students like me who are searching for extra references or additional reading for their free time. I broke it up so that the school based texts are by the stationary and the others books are over there," she pointed. "What do you think? Have I made a terrible mistake?"
Remus was staring around the room with wide eyes, noting the many nooks where a reader might tuck herself away to enjoy the wide variety of books she had on offer. Everything from cook-books and prescribed school readings to whacky novels on outlandish places.
"Are theses… muggle novels?" he asked, dropping her hand to move toward one of the shelves.
"Some of them," Hermione smiled. "There are only so many authors in the magical community who write novels, you know? I thought that the youth of today might enjoy something more exciting to read than the wanderings of Wanda Wilkes."
"This is much bigger inside than it looks from the street," he commented. "You've got a veritable library on your hands here."
"I know," Hermione grinned. "There's more through here, too."
She nodded her head at a doorway on the right. When Remus walked inside he raised his eyebrows.
"A tea shop?" he asked, surprised.
"Madame Puddifoots is the only one here and I remember listening to Lavender lamenting for hours on end about how dates to Hogsmeade were so boring when the only options were Puddifoot's, The Three Broomsticks, or the Hog's Head. The Shrieking Shack isn't all that romantic, you know?"
"Imagine that," Remus said dryly.
"Anyway, outside of our silly tiff over Ron during sixth year, Lavender and I always got on well enough, and… well, I thought it might be a nice way to honour her memory. So, a tea-shop. Obviously stocking a wide variety of tea leaves for the practice of Tea-Leaf Readers and tea-connoisseurs. Some snug little booths where hormonal teenagers can snog over jam and scones, and a little bakery for take-away treats, too."
Remus grinned. "It might be a bit quiet on non-Hogsmeade weekend days, Hermione."
"I thought that, too," Hermione admitted. "But the Ministry has just signed off on the construction of a new housing development at the northern end of town, in addition to agreeing to turn the land to the far north of here into a British sector of the Dragon Sanctuary program. The population is about to boom with its open; all the dragonologists needing homes and many of the parents of current students have expressed an interest in living in the village for the sake of being close by, to be closer to their kids. I'll have you know that this sleepy little village is destined to be a community-hub in the coming years. I've also got it on good authority that George is in the process of buying out Zonko's and opening a second branch of Wheezers here. He's asked Ron to help him run both stores."
"So you, George, Ron and Charlie will all soon be calling Hogsmeade home, eh?" Remus asked. "Maybe Molly will get her wish about having you for a daughter-in-law, after all."
Hermione had to bite her lip to keep from pointing out that the only way she would ever be Molly Weasley's daughter-in-law would be if the woman adopted Remus.
"That's highly unlikely," she said instead. "And I don't plan to make Hogsmeade my home."
"No?" Remus asked.
Hermione shook her head. "You know how I feel about heavily populated locales. And about keeping work and home too closely entwined. I'd never relax if I lived above the shop. I need to be able to leave the day's worries here and focus on being home when I'm home."
"So you'll keep living in… where is it you live again? Crieff?"
Hermione nodded. "Unless I get a better offer," she replied, eyeing him.
"Keep saying things like that, gealai, and I'll make you an offer you won't want to refuse," he muttered in what she suspected he'd intended to be too low a voice for her to hear.
"If only you would," Hermione muttered in response without thinking before biting her lip as her cheeks flushed crimson, knowing he would hear her and wondering if he would pretend he hadn't.
When his head turned sharply, his eyes lifting to fix upon her intently, Hermione froze beneath his gaze. He'd been in the process of reaching for a book on one of the shelves and Hermione watched the way his fingers twitched before he balled his fist, letting the appendage fall back to his side.
"What did you envision me doing here, Hermione?" he asked, his voice raspy once more as he seemed to scramble for a change of topic.
Hermione's heart fell into her shoes, thinking he must surely seek to change the subject because the idea of her hitting on him made him uncomfortable.
"Well, if I'm being honest, I've rather a lot of staff openings, though you wouldn't think so. I obviously haven't opened the store yet, but I'm anticipating a good bit of business. I wanted your input on who I ought to hire – obviously I'll need someone who can actually brew decent pots of tea, and I've been thinking that I'll make the treats for the bakery on site, so I'll need a baker, too. I need help running the shop since it's obviously huge and selling books and quills and all these other knickknacks is no easy task. I wanted to continue helping forward the Fair Rights for Werewolves plan by hiring a number of werewolves, actually, so I was hoping you have contacts with other lycans who know how to cook or make tea. Essentially that would kind of make you… I don't know… a Team Leader or something. I… well, I know it's not much and that you've the potential for bigger and better things, but I was hoping you'd help me run the store."
Remus cocked his head to one side.
"Hermione…." He murmured, a little from marring his brow. "I… I'm flattered, love, but… the fastest way to run yourself out of business is to employ someone like me. No one wants to come into a shop to be sold something by a werewolf. People will stay away out of fear."
Hermione shook her head.
"They won't," she assured him. "You don't seem to really understand how many people adore you, Remus. Everyone at school with us always says that you were the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher we ever had. Everyone from the DA gang still asks after you. The Order all still ask after you. They miss you, you know? And I know you could do a lot of good here. Maybe not in the sense of changing the world and shaping the minds of tomorrow's youth, but you could point them in the right direction for the best reading material to round out their education. And it puts you in a perfect place to maybe cover a shift or two up at the school. I… erm… well, I didn't want to spring it on you all at once, but I've been discussing certain things with Minerva and she agrees that we've surely let you flit about the forest on your own for too long, and she's been having terrible trouble keeping decent staff up at the school.
"And so she might've passingly mentioned to me over tea a few weeks ago that she wished she could find someone as dedicated and as gifted at teaching as you were. I might've suggested that you would downright refuse the job on a full time basis, but might be persuaded to make a few guest appearances in the classroom every now and then, if you could be lured back into the world of students and their books and their lessons."
Remus's brow furrowed further, though his lips twitched.
"You're…. determined to keep me human, aren't you, gealai?" he asked softly, his eyes darting over her face, searching for something, some sign of what she wanted.
"Yes," Hermione admitted, meeting his gaze. "I… I know I've spent years railing at you about how you shouldn't loathe the wolf as you did and how you should embrace both sides of your nature, but everything I've seen from you lately doesn't suggest an embrace of both sides so much as a lying down and exposing your belly to the wolf, letting him chew you up and spit you out and completely take you over. And I'm sorry, Remus, but I care entirely too much about the man you happen to be to just let you give up. And so if I can lure you into being human by giving you a job to turn up to every day, and by making it so that you have to use your words and your manners instead of snaps, snarls and all that lurking you do to try and scare us all off and let you go mad in peace, well, I will!"
She stomped her foot for emphasis and Remus moved so suddenly that Hermione blinked and found him very much in her personal space.
"What makes you think I'm still worth saving?" he asked, his voice the low rasp she'd come to know as belong not to Remus, but to Moony – the wolf trying to trick her.
Hermione didn't even think about it as she reached up and gripped his jaw tightly in both hands, forcing him to meet her gaze despite his superior height.
"You'll always be worth saving, Remus Lupin. Even if I have to drag you from the woods by the tail, I bloody will, so don't you dare try to scare me off or turn me down," Hermione growled, baring her teeth at the werewolf, no matter that doing so was perilous to her health.
He bared his fangs in return, the grimace much more menacing that her own. Hermione narrowed her eyes on him. He growled in response, obviously fighting hard between man and wolf below the surface.
"You're not safe, Hermione," he warned her, his eyes fixed upon her. "You're never safe in my presence."
Hermione thumped him.
"I'm the only person whose safe in your presence and you know it!" Hermione retorted, forcing a growl of her own between her teeth despite her very human disposition.
Remus's eyes blew wide in shock, his mouth opening slightly before he frowned once more.
He sounded suddenly bewildered and beyond the front window of the shop Hermione spied the sun sinking in the distance. Still gripping him tight, Hermione Disapparated the pair of them back to number seventeen, Bilberry Lane where he could transform safely, but she didn't leave.
"What do you know?" he asked, his voice low and husky as he searched her face when they landed in his living room.
"I know that hiding out here forever won't save you from me," Hermione replied evenly, dropping her grip on his jaw but refusing to back out of his personal space.
"I'm not hiding," he bit out.
"You are," Hermione said. "You hide and you brood and you curl your lip trying to scare us all away because you're terrified of getting hurt again. You hate what you are, but you hide inside your wolf every full moon because for a little while being mindless is better than being so achingly numb. Well guess what, Remus? You can hide and you can growl and you can try to scare me away, but it's not going to work. I know the man you really are and I know that there are things you wish you didn't have to live with. And I bloody well keep coming back just the same so you better just get used to me!"
Hermione wasn't expecting it when his hand shot to the back of her neck, gripping tight and pulling her close before he planted his lips on hers.
He didn't hesitate. He didn't brush lightly, fearful that she might pull away or that she might not want him. If it was because he knew she welcomed the kiss, or because he'd lost control, she didn't rightly know. All Hermione knew was that he was suddenly – finally – kissing her like she'd dreamed he would. His lips were hot and rough. He nipped her bottom lip, making her gasp, and his tongue surged out to tangle with hers when her lips parted.
He tasted of the lunch they'd enjoyed, and the sweet scent of him swept over her – chocolate, parchment, and the scent of the forest all combined with an underlying scent that was distinctly lycanthrope. Hermione moaned when his free hand smoothed over her hip and curled around her back, pressing her to his chest even as he began walking her backward until she collided with the nearest flat surface. Pinned to the wall, Hermione could only snog him back desperately.
She pushed him for more, pulling at the front of his jumper, at his hair and his shoulders, itching with the need to climb him and ravish him until the throb between her legs subsided. The low growl he emitted was both possessive and hungry, and Hermione shivered when the sensation made her tongue tingle. She'd never wanted anyone the way she wanted Remus, and she'd never confessed her feelings to him or to anyone else for fear of sounding pathetically optimistic before being spoon fed a dose of reality. But reality was proving glorious as Hermione slid her hands down his front, pulling at the fastening on his jeans until the button popped open. The rasp of the zipper as it descended made her tremble and Remus pulled back from her lips, breathing hard.
Hermione blinked up at him, a soft whine of protest leaving her when he pulled back, holding her at arm's length.
"You need to leave," he panted, his voice strained and his whole body twitching.
Hermione frowned, trying to understand. Was he rejecting her?
"But I don't want to leave," she replied thickly, her mind foggy with desire.
Remus groaned and Hermione practically purred at the sound of her buttons pinging off the walls when he tore open her shirt to get at the flesh beneath it, his mouth descending upon her neck. Tilting her head to give him better access, Hermione fisted the wool of his jumper and she moaned softly when he nipped her just hard enough to sting but not to break the skin. Of all the nights to have him nip her, tonight was the most dangerous but even as she had the thought, Hermione was overcome with need and a yearning so strong, she whined.
Remus's hands were hot, his palms calloused and rough as they smoothed under the fabric of her shirt and over her hips. Hermione pulled at his jumper and his shirt, tugging at the fabric and making him growl when he had to release her neck long enough for her to pull it all off over his head. Hermione huffed when he lunged back in the minute he was free, nipping her again and peppering her sensitive flesh with kisses and licks. She trailed her hands over the smooth expanse of his chest and his shoulders, marvelling at the contrast of silky-scarred flesh and the occasional patch of unblemished skin. He was hot to touch, his body seeming to tremble with his need and Hermione trailed a line of kisses against his shoulder when he smoothed his hands up her stomach to cup her breasts tenderly.
"Gods, Remus," Hermione whispered feverishly, pressing her chest forward into his touch, wanting more of him.
He made a soft sound of approval, nipping her neck again, a little harder this time, his teeth scraping against the fleshy part where her shoulder met her neck.
"I'm not in control, gealai," he warned her when Hermione trailed her hands back to his jeans, hanging open to reveal that he wore nothing under the denim.
"Good," Hermione replied, pushing at the tops of his jeans and quivering just a little when they budged, descending over his hips to halfway down his thighs.
He growled in warning when she trailed the tips of her fingers along the treasure trail of hair that led south from his navel and Hermione's body throbbed with need. Her knickers were damp with desire and she wondered idly if this was a dream – one she'd had many times before, but never enjoyed in reality.
When her fingers tangled into the thickening curls at the end of that treasure trail, Remus whined softly, breaking from his torment upon her neck and instead capturing her lips once more. Her heart was racing in her chest, hammering out an uneven beat and she moaned into his mouth when his tongue swept against the length of hers. His scent filled her nose – warm, comforting, home. Hermione wanted to cry as she breathed him in, one of his hands leaving her breast to trail around her back, deft fingers tipped with claws unhooking her bra and letting her flesh spill free.
He peeled her shirt from her shoulders and tugged her bra down her arms, tossing both to the floor and making Hermione crazy. His lips were so soft, chapped from the time he spent outside, but so sweet against her own that Hermione was sure she might die a very happy girl just from his kiss, alone.
She'd waited years for that kiss. Years spent watching him from afar, watching him rail against his condition; watching him marry a girl who was all wrong for him; watching him lose everyone he loved until he convinced himself it was his punishment for daring to think he could have a normal life. She squeaked against his lips when his hands slid the length of her body once more, claws snarling into the waistband on her jeans and shredding the fabric in his haste and his yearning. Before they could slip to her ankles, he hooked both hands under her arse, hoisting her up his body with unnerving ease but Hermione was too preoccupied kissing him to notice the claws or the strength and power surging through him.
They were both a little too busy to notice the sun sinking over the edge of the horizon, or the full moon beginning to rise. He pressed her into every wall between the living room and his bedroom down the hall, grinding against her hungrily as he snogged her so hotly that she wanted to swoon. She was breathless with need, her pulse jumping in her veins, spreading her desire throughout her like a drug flooding her system. The breath huffed for her lungs when they reached the freshly made bed, Remus's knees hitting the edge of it and unbalancing him. He toppled down on top of her, pressing her into the mattress and Hermione groaned at the feel of him grinding down on the throbbing, aching place between her legs.
He broke from her lips to kiss his way down her neck and Hermione whined when he latched onto her left nipple, scrapping his teeth against it lightly until it pebbled before he made a soft sound of pleased amusement, tracing the shape with his tongue and making her crazy.
"Remus," Hermione moaned breathlessly, her fingers tangled in his sandy hair as she arched her back, craving more.
"Patience, gealai," he murmured around her nipple, his clawed fingers pinching the other and making her squirm.
Hermione whined again, using her toes to push his jeans further down his legs. He broke from torturing her to chuckle at her impatience and Hermione bucked under him, wanting so much more.
"You're going to kill me," he murmured, licking her other nipple before trailing further south, pressing hot little kisses over her taut stomach while his hands snagged in the waistline of her jeans and her knickers, tugging them down her legs when she lifted up enough.
"Only if you make me wait," Hermione promised.
Remus glanced toward the window where the glow of the full moon was beginning to illuminate the needles on the pines. He looked torn.
"I've got to go, gealai," he murmured. "You're not safe here."
"Remus, please," Hermione whispered when he pressed kisses over her stomach, trailing lower and lower until the rasp of his stubble tormented her slick sex.
She heard him growl softly, his hands gripping her hips tightly. She could see he was struggling to resist and she knew she could get him if he'd just stop worrying so much.
"I…" he began, obviously about to voice a protest. Hermione stopped him, catching one of his hands and pulling it to her mouth, suckling his index finger into her mouth and distracting him completely. He watched her with gold threaded eyes before groaning and lowering his mouth to her aching centre.
Hermione cried out with pleasure at the first hot swipe of his tongue.
"Fuck," Remus groaned against her skin, his tense form going slack for a moment as he surrendered. Hermione was lost to the pleasure as he lapped at her hungrily. "Bloody hell, Hermione. You're in… you smell so good."
Hermione was too delirious to register the comment and she cried out when he pulled his finger from her mouth to burrow it inside her aching well, his lips wrapped around her pleasure button and making her squirm. He beckoned with that single digit and Hermione was lost. She broke with a breathless scream, hoping against hope that this wasn't a dream.
Remus groaned as she orgasmed, lapping her up needily. Hermione squeaked when he waited until she was done before he suddenly pulled back, his hands gripping her hips and flipping her to her front. She realised what he wanted when clawed fingers dug into her hips, jerking her bum up until she was on her hands and knees at the edge of the bed.
Hermione's breath caught when his cock nudged at her still throbbing centre. He didn't pause; didn't give her a chance to change her mind – though she never would – and he didn't stop to warn her again that the moon was climbing and that she'd never been in more danger. Canting her hips to receive him, Hermione pushed back against him and Remus's breath grew ragged, ending on a faint whine when he sank into her hot sheath.
Hermione's eyes closed against the pleasure, feeling him tunnel into her until she was sure she was going to burst, she was so full of him.
"So much better than I imagined," she heard him mutter against her shoulder-blade when he was seated deep inside her – so deep Hermione could feel him nudging her womb.
Unable to stand the stillness even as he gave her the chance to adjust to his girth, Hermione rocked back against him and he cursed softly.
"I'm sorry, gealai," she heard him whisper just before he rocked back, almost all the way free of her before he pushed back in deep.
Hermione's head fell forward with a groan, her elbows locking and her body bracing as he did it again. And again. He rocked into her harder and harder, his fingers tightening on her hips, his claws beginning to cut into her as he lost control. Hermione herself was lost. Low whines of pleasure that began to mingle with pain tore from her lips with each thrust and she squealed when a second orgasm crashed over her suddenly, fizzing white-hot in her blood and making her see stars. Remus groaned then, bucking faster, riding her now, rutting her hard and making her ache.
When one of his hands left her hip, pulling her up a little harder before tangling into her hair Hermione could only ride each wave of pleasure he crashed over her. He tipped her head with his grip, his body curling around hers and Hermione moaned when he nipped at her shoulder, kissing the sensitive flesh repeatedly.
"You're mine, gealai," she heard him grunt, his mouth by her ear.
"Yours," she heard herself whisper in agreement. The word seemed to please him because he nuzzled her cheek for a moment, surprising her with a soft lick before beginning to pull back just a little.
Hermione screamed when he lunged, his fangs sinking into the fleshy part of her shoulder, biting down hard and breaking the skin. Remus was growling now and for a terrible moment fear paralysed her, cutting through the haze of pleasure. Her gaze darted to the window where the full moon peeked over the top of the trees, just inches from shining upon Remus's flesh and forcing the change upon him.
He fucked her then, driving in hard, jerking back quickly to drive in again and again. Hermione groaned, torn between terror and delight, feeling him thicken inside of her to the point where it almost stung, filling her to the brim, locking him deep inside her.
He pulled his teeth free of her flesh when the howl tore from his lips, entirely too lupine for her comfort and Hermione glanced at his hand upon her hip, eyeing his claws but relieved to see he still had hands rather than paws. The pleasure overcame her then, feeling the splash of heat deep inside her as he broke, dragging her over the edge along with him. Her mind went blank with it, stars behind her eyes, her heart racing, her body alive and overwrought with pleasure until she slipped away slumping toward the bed and pulling Remus down with her, right into the waiting puddle of moonlight.
When she woke, Hermione found herself on her back, sprawled in the dark upon a familiar bed. She wasn't alone. Holding very still as she blinked her eyes open, Hermione became aware of the looming monster that stood over her prone form. She'd never been more vulnerable. Holding in her squeak of terror, Hermione's eyes traced the shape of the werewolf she hadn't spotted since a terrifying night in her third year.
Back then, he'd hunted her through the forest, intent on doing her and Harry harm and she'd been sure her death was imminent. Now he stood over her naked body where she sprawled upon his bed. She supposed she must've lost consciousness to have missed the screams of agony that tore from Remus throughout the transformation.
And now she was faced with the wolf.
He was watching her, strangely calm for a werewolf in the presence of a human beneath the full moon. His huge paws – the size of dinner plates – splayed upon the mattress either side of her slim frame, his claws pricking the sheets and the bed groaning under the weight of the massive creature. He was sniffing her carefully, his eyes fixed on her face as though knowing she'd slept.
Hermione met his gaze steadily, once, before darting her eyes away lest he take it as a challenge. She was in very real danger and doubted she would be able to disapparate before he could lunge for her throat or get a good bite in, infecting her.
His nose was cold and wet when it bumped against the middle of her chest, sniffing loudly. Hermione held perfectly still, worried she might startle him into attacking if she breathed too deeply. He trailed his nose lower, across her exposed abdomen; she felt the scrape of his fangs against her, he sniffed so curiously, and she closed her eyes in fear, certain he was about to lunge, tearing her open to feast on her entrails.
He didn't. He sniffed lower still, his nose pausing at the spot just south of her bellybutton. The sniffing intensified and Hermione opened her eyes, watching him worriedly when he seemed to grow more excited as he drew in the scent there. She squirmed when he sniffed even lower, nosing her legs apart and drawing in the scent of her sex. She wondered if he could smell himself – smell Remus – mingled with her there. She could feel the slow trickle there that told tale of what they'd done before he'd been forced to transform.
Hermione squeaked in protest and surprise when the wolf's tongue darted out once, a hot swipe up the length of her sex before he stepped forward once more. Before she could recover from her shock and her squickiness at what he'd done, the wolf balanced himself on three paws, the fourth very gently pawing at her hip.
She should've been alarmed by the ease with which he moved her, the strength of the werewolf fare exceeding anything she'd ever experienced, but Hermione was too curious about what he wanted as he pawed her until she laid on her front, her back to the wolf.
She shuddered when he nosed her hair aside, drawing her attention to something stinging and sore upon her right shoulder. The bite Remus had given her. She realised with a sick feeling in her stomach that it'd broken the skin and there was blood. She was sure she was done for when a soft growl slipped between the werewolf's teeth before he sniffed at wound. When he licked her there, too, Hermione was certain she was going to be eaten and that Remus would never forgive himself, come dawn.
He lapped at the wound, licking up all the blood, and Hermione held perfectly still, worried he'd bite if she moved a muscle.
She needn't have bothered.
He bit her just the same.
The faintest nip of his fangs against the wound stung like hell-fire and Hermione felt a tear escape her eyes to be soaked up in the sheets. If he didn't eat her, he was surely going to infect her. She'd studied lycanthropy extensively and she knew that any werewolf bite beneath the full moon rendered a human into a werewolf.
"That hurts, Moony," Hermione breathed, unable to keep silent when he nipped her again, a little harder.
He growled softly at the address and Hermione whined plaintively in response.
When he licked her again, almost lovingly this time, Hermione closed her eyes and simply waited for the inevitable bite that would end her life. She waited and she waited, feeling him still there, licking her gently, and standing over her. He was warm to touch and Hermione shivered in the cold of the house – all the windows still open from her earlier cleaning spree. When a tremor rushed through her, Moony paused, shifting his weight on the bed slightly. Unable to help herself, Hermione shifted slightly under him, squirming toward his legs, craving the heat pouring off him.
He crouched slightly when she pressed herself to his leg and Hermione whined without meaning to, feeling the warmth of his fur seeping into her chilled flesh. Without conscious thought to do so, she arched under him, lifting almost to her hands and knees until she was pressed against his belly and his chest, his thick fur warming her skin. He rose back to his full height and Hermione whined once more, cold again. Rising higher, Hermione almost forgot the danger she was in as she tucked her legs up underneath her, crawling forward slightly and burrowing her head into the thick fur around his neck and his chest. The brush of his muzzle against the top of her head gave her pause and Hermione wondered what was wrong with him that he wasn't attacking her.
Everything she'd read suggested he should be rabid with the urge to kill her. Maybe the nips he'd given her had already guaranteed she'd be a werewolf too and he didn't attack his own kind. Hermione shuffled around against him carefully as he slowly sank down once more, sitting on his hindquarters with her pressed to his chest between his front paws. He didn't growl as she moved, carefully squirming until she was curled almost into a ball for warmth, his fur warming her back. He simply sat, resting his muzzled on top of her head calmly and looking out the window.
Hermione got the sense that if she tried to leave, he would have a problem, and she suspected she was going to have to stay there the whole night, at the werewolf's mercy. Her shoulder ached with his bite, though not as much after he'd licked it repeatedly. That was odd, too. She'd read that those who'd been bitten itched and burned, suffering in agony until they either died from the bite – the poison of the lycanthrope curse spreading through their blood – or until they managed to apply a paste of powdered silver and dittany to the bites. Hermione had done neither, but beyond the pain of torn flesh, the wound didn't hurt.
"You're going to be so angry with me when the sun rises, Remus," she murmured, shifting slightly against him, trying to keep warm as she reached for the quilt to cover her knees.
Moony growled at her very softly and Hermione froze, her eyes widening when he scooped one huge paw into the fabric, dragging it closer until it bunched against her body, cocooning her between the blankets and his furry chest. Snug in the resulting warmth, Hermione leaned back a little more fully against him, resting her weight against him more firmly. He responded by turning his head and lowering his muzzle to her shoulder, gently licking her bite-mark once more and nuzzling his nose against her neck.
Without meaning to Hermione tipped her head, mistakenly giving him access to her throat should he choose to rip it out. She rested her head against his enormous shoulder, cuddled into him, and she held her breath for a long moment, wondering how he would react.
He sniffed her neck curiously for a moment, shifting and nudging her knees away from her chest slightly. Hermione might've thought he was trying to perve on her naked breasts if not for the way he hung his head further over her shoulder, burrowing his nose against her tummy before giving a strange little canine groan, drawing some scent she couldn't pick up on into himself and seeming content.
Shaking her head slightly to herself and supposing that she might as well get comfortable, Hermione let her eyes drift close. Her body was deliciously sore from her torrid love-making with Remus and she felt tired. Warm and snug against the werewolf's chest, Hermione snorted softly to herself, wondering what Harry and Ron would say if they could see her right now. Of course, they'd probably be screaming and being chased by a hungry werewolf, but Hermione knew they'd been terrified for her.
Harry would be confused by her nudity and wondering just what she was doing naked in Remus's bed, too. He didn't know about her crush. He didn't know she'd fancied Remus since the end of her fourth year. He didn't know she'd daydreamed many a time about what it would be like to snog the handsome werewolf until she couldn't see straight.
As she let her thoughts drift, Hermione absently trailed her fingers through Moony's fur, scratching softly and earning only one growl when she realised what she was doing and tried to stop. She fell asleep again before the sun rose, curled against her favourite werewolf with a soft smile on her face.
The sun was bright in her eyes when she next awoke, her body warm, tangled in a mess of blankets and limbs. Blinking blearily and squinting against the sunlight peeking over the tops of the trees, Hermione frowned, not recognising her surroundings. This was not the view from her bedroom.
She moved to stretch languidly, trying to make sense of the world. A groan of protest came from behind her and Hermione stopped arching her back and pushing her bum against something warm and firm. Glancing over her shoulder, Hermione gasped in surprise to find a very human looking Remus Lupin staring back at her.
He was sleep mussed and had obviously only just awoken. The previous night came flooding back to her with a skip of her heart, interrupting its steady beat. Remus blinked sleepily, a little smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. Hermione smiled back, used to this face when he woke the morning after the full moon to find her already tending his wounds.
"Gealai," he murmured softly, still seeming mostly asleep.
"Good morning, Remus," Hermione whispered, rolling in his arms until she was facing him, her cheeks turning pink as she recalled just what she'd been doing with him the last time she'd been looking into his eyes like this.
"Is it morning already?" he asked. "I… can't even remember transforming…."
His brow furrowed slowly, his nose crinkling.
"You don't remember anything from last night?" Hermione confirmed.
"I…." Remus frowned harder before he gasped suddenly, jerking back from her slightly as his eyes went wide. "I… we… and then I… fuck!"
He scrambled into a sitting position, pulling at her, moving her hair to one side to reveal her bitten shoulder. Hermione whimpered at the feel of the hair pulling slightly where it must've caught in the dry blood. Remus winced, his green eyes wide with terror and concern, before his brow furrowed. He glanced at her face.
"Did you… have you put something on this?" he asked, nodding at her shoulder.
Hermione shook her head. "I just woke up, Remus."
He frowned harder before licking the pad of his thumb and lifting it to the wound. He rubbed at it slightly and Hermione noticed that though she'd expected it to sting, it didn't hurt at all.
"It's…" Remus frowned. "Hermione, have you been here all night?"
Hermione nodded, frowning in return and sitting up slowly, pulling the covers to hide her bare breasts.
"Are you… naked?" he asked, his face paling slightly.
Hermione nodded again.
"Fuck!" Remus cursed, burying his face in his hands and beginning to hyperventilate. "I bit you. I fucking bit you, Hermione!"
Hermione frowned at him before glancing down at herself, peeking under the covers and noting that she had no wounds and no dirt or blood on her. She realised in a heartbeat that he thought he'd infected her and that she was naked and had made it through the night alongside him while he'd transformed by becoming a werewolf too.
"Remus… I'm not a werewolf," she told him, reaching for his wrists and prying his hands from his face. As she did so she noticed that though he was usually covered in blood and usually bore fresh bites and claw marks following the full moon, he was blood-free, too.
Remus made a choked sound, as though the very idea of her being a werewolf pained him.
"I didn't transform and you didn't bite me when you transformed, Remus," Hermione told him sternly. "You bit me before you transformed. And you nipped the same spot after you'd shifted and you licked it a lot…. But you didn't infect me."
Remus frowned at her, looking disbelieving and confused, as though he thought she was trying to trick him.
"I… Before I transformed?" he asked. "You mean… Oh, fuck!"
His eyes went wide and he stared at her, his hands dropping to his lap even as his eyes grew huge, with fear, wonder, and confusion all at once.
"We shagged," he said quietly, almost as though he were afraid to state it out loud. "And I… bit you… during the shagging."
"And then I shifted."
"I might've passed out at the end there, after the biting, but I'm relatively certain you didn't transform until after you'd stopped shagging me."
"Let's hope," Remus muttered, frowning again. "I… Hermione… did I… um… did I say anything? You know, during?"
Hermione raised her eyebrows at him.
"You don't remember?" she frowned.
"I'm having trouble distinguishing reality from imaginary right now."
"You…" Hermione frowned. "I assumed you're wanting to know if you said anything before or after biting me. And you did. You licked my cheek and you said 'You're mine, Gealai' and I… agreed… and then you lunged in a bit me."
"FUCK!" Remus shouted, scaring the life out of her.
He scooted across the bed and leaped to his feet, fisting his hair and staring at her worriedly, heedless of his nudity, and Hermione let her gaze trail over the long lines of his body, appreciating the view of him in all his glory and almost grinning before recalling that he was panicking.
"You're panicking," she told him, dropping the blankets and getting to her feet too, standing on the opposite side of the bed and putting her hands on her hips. Part of her quaked with the urge to dive for her clothing – shredded though it was – and the rest of her wanted to distract him from his panic by letting him see her naked.
Remus opened his mouth, looking a little like he planned to yell at her but right as he did so his nostrils flared and Hermione froze when he actually whined at the scent, his eyes fluttering closed.
"Fuck," he breathed, his eyes still closed and a strangely blissful expression crossing his face. "Gealai, tell me that scent is coming from you?"
"What scent?" Hermione frowned. "You… actually, Moony seemed interested in my scent last night, too….Uh…."
Remus moved so quickly that had she blinked, she'd have missed it. Hermione stared at him, wide eyed when he suddenly dropped to both knees in front of her, his hands upon her hips – which she idly noticed bore bruises in the shapes of his fingers – before pressing his nose to her abdomen and drawing in a deep breath.
"Remus?" she asked, frowning when he emitted another of those little whines, a strangely content sort of sound that made her lips twitch.
"Moony didn't attack you because of this," he murmured, nuzzling his face against her flat belly.
Hermione felt a sense of knowing trickle through her slowly and she lifted her hand to card it through his sandy hair.
"You were supposed to just be my moonlight," he murmured. "Something I could admire from afar and never rejoice in. Something to yearn for but never obtain. And now…."
"Now?" Hermione asked, holding her breath, her eyes fixed on him.
He opened his eyes slowly, their brilliant shade of green seeming to sparkle in the morning sun.
"Now you're mine, gealai," he declared. "I didn't infect you. I marked you. I claimed you as my mate, as Moony's been pushing me to do since the moment I met you."
Hermione blinked at him.
She fancied him for a long time, but to hear him say such things startled her.
"You knew," he went on. "I tried to hide it from you, but you knew. You said so last night. You knew you were the only person safe in my presence. It's always been you, Hermione."
Hermione blinked at him.
"You're saying… I'm your… mate?" Hermione stammered, frowning slightly in surprise, not because she was unhappy but because for all that she might've hoped and for all that she'd noticed a number of signs that pointed to such a thing over the years, she'd never expected it to be her reality.
Remus nodded slowly, his chin pressed to her stomach as he watched her, his expression guarded, but hopeful. Hermione could see that he expected her rejection and her denial. That he expected her to pull away. To tell him he was mad. To run away in fear.
She had no intention of doing any of those things.
"Would being your mate be what kept Moony from attacking me last night?" Hermione asked him quietly, her fingers still tangled in his hair.
"In part," he nodded. "What did he do to you?"
"Licked me a lot," Hermione said. "I passed out after we… and I woke up much later, after you'd transformed. Moony was standing over me. I thought you was going to bite me but you didn't. You just sniffed me a lot and licked me, before using your paw to roll me to my front before licking my bite mark. I… well, actually I ended up curled in a ball against your chest while you sat there all furry and protective."
"Licked you where?" he asked. "Just the bite?"
Hermione bit her lip, shaking her head. "My tummy too, and… lower… just once. My shoulder lots of times, and my neck and my cheek a bit."
"You let me near your throat?" he asked, stricken. "Hermione, I could've killed you."
Hermione shook her head, eyeing him closely. "I think we both know that's not true," she said quietly.
"Are you… angry with me?" he asked. "I understand if you don't want to be mated to me for the rest of your life. I'm hardly a catch."
"I will thump you again if you keep saying things like that," Hermione warned him narrowing her eyes. "Of course I'm not angry. I'm a little surprised because while I might've noticed a few things and might've hoped that you would one day consider me as a romantic partner, I certainly never expected…."
"You fancied me?" he interrupted, pulling back a little and raising his eyebrows.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Don't play the sweetheart and tell me that you couldn't smell how I felt about you, Remus."
He shook his head.
"I might've got a whiff or two of desire from you, over the years, but that was all. My condition what is it, and animal magnetism working as it does, I thought you were just falling victim to it occasionally, gealai. I… hoped it might be more but you always squashed down the desire and I figured you didn't want me that way."
"Idiot," Hermione accused.
Remus blinked at her, shocked at the insult.
"You're not angry?" he confirmed, rising slowly to his feet, still naked.
"I'm thrilled," Hermione confessed, smiling gently. "Does my being your mate have anything to do with why both you and Moony seem so interested in sniffing my stomach?"
Remus blushed, though at the idea of her happiness or something else, she wasn't entirely certain.
"Er…" he said. He looked sheepish for a moment before meeting her gaze. "Well, actually, you uh… the reason I was telling you yesterday that you weren't safe in my presence had little to do with my wanting to hurt you so much as my wanting to…. Erm… well, honestly, to bend you over the dining room table and shag you until the legs gave out, if I'm honest."
Hermione's cheeks flushed crimson and Remus begun to chuckle wickedly, lifting his fingers to stroke her face adoringly.
"You're in heat," he went on very softly. "Or you were, anyway. Last night."
Hermione frowned for a moment, confused before her eyes suddenly went wide, lifting to meet Remus's.
He nodded, smiling gently, looking just the faintest bit worried that she might be displeased.
"But I…" Hermione gulped, trying to process the information. "You can tell… so soon?"
He nodded. "Moony could tell last night. It's not uncommon for lycans to infect their mates when they find them, if they're human. But doing so would render you incapable of… and so already smelling as you do meant he held off, protecting you instead."
Hermione blinked, watching him watch her, waiting for her reaction while she waited for his.
"I'm pregnant," she whispered. "And it's… yours?"
Remus smirked, the Marauder inside of him coming out to play at the question. "Trust me, gealai, you weren't pregnant when you arrived yesterday."
Hermione giggled just a little bit.
"Are you alright?" he asked, sensing that the giggle held more hysteria than amusement.
"Are you?" she asked. "You obviously didn't want this… me… or you'd have done something before now."
Remus frowned at her.
"I didn't want to saddle you with me, Hermione," he told her truthfully. "I'm twice your age. You're young and bright and bloody brilliant, and you were looking toward a career where having a werewolf for a boyfriend or a husband would've been detrimental. I didn't want to bollocks that up by wandering out of the woods without a shirt and informing you that you were the key to my happiness. I'd seen the effects my being a werewolf had on everyone else I cared about before they died, love. James and Lily were gone too young to have to worry too much about their careers when my secret was still a secret. But Sirius's arrest went unchallenged because, as a registered werewolf, I wasn't allowed to post bail or hire him an attorney. My father's career was stunted and effected because of what I am. Even Tonks lost the respect of a lot of her fellow Aurors when she married me."
He shook his head.
"And as much as I loved my friends, and even as much as I cared for Tonks, I selfishly let them befriend me and marry me and let my taint poison their lives. I couldn't do that to you – the one witch fated for me – when you were doing so well for yourself."
"And now?" Hermione frowned.
"Now you're stuck with me, love," he said, actually laughing. "You've got the bite and the baby to prove it. Even if you decide you don't want me – and I wouldn't blame you – you're the only one for me, Hermione. That's how it works. I've marked you. I'm as much yours as any old mutt you might take in off the street out of a storm."
"You're a little less scruffy than any old mutt, Remus," Hermione teased and Remus laughed again, his hands sliding around her to rest on the small of her back.
"Just barely," he said.
"If you spent a little more time bothering with things like regular hair-cuts and a shaving routine, I'm sure that could improve," she told him.
"Not a fan of the wolf-man look, then?"
"Not when I've seen you truly wolf and it's much more impressive that this bum fluff," Hermione told him, reaching to smooth her thumb along his stubbly jaw.
"Bum fluff!" he exclaimed, feigning offence. "Woman, I've been growing this for weeks."
"Aw, poor baby," she cooed.
Remus laughed along with her, shaking his head.
"You realise Harry's going to have a cow when he finds out about this?" he asked quietly, his laughter dying as he continued watching her, smiling sadly.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Forget Harry, its Molly we've got to watch out for. Snatching me out from under her nose? It'll be quiet the twist when the grandmother eats the Big Bad Wolf, love."
Remus's face went slack with shock and his mouth hung open.
"You did not just make a Red Riding Hood joke," he choked, eyeing her like she'd gone mad.
"I did," Hermione assured him. "I've wanted to for years, but you were too touchy."
"Oh, and now I'm not?" he asked, lifting one eyebrow in challenge.
"Now I can distract you from your hurt feelings," Hermione smirked before reaching up on her toes and claiming his lips for herself.
He melted against her, his arms tightening around her as he kissed her back hungrily. Hermione smiled against his lips as she climbed him, wrapping her legs around his waist and letting him hold her up before he turned and carried her the short distance back to the bed. When he lowered her down onto it, gently this time, Hermione twisted slightly, burrowing her hand between them in search of the hot, hard appendage he kept bumping her with.
He groaned when she gripped him tight, stroking surely, the Gryffindor in her not afraid when he growled quietly.
"Keep doing that and I'll gobble you up, gealai," he muttered against her ear, nibbling her earlobe and making her tremble.
"I thought you'd never offer," she teased in response, guiding him inside of her before he could prove his willingness to do just that.
They groaned together as he sunk deep, her body gripping his as he slowly impaled her.
"Bloody hell," Remus muttered, pulling back far enough to meet her gaze, his eyes threaded with gold once more. "If James and Sirius could see me now, those tossers would never let up with the cradle-robber jokes and old-dog jokes, you know that, don't you?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Please, as if they're not making them and hooting with glee in the afterlife as we speak, perving on the pair of us."
"Probably are, too, the tosspots," he chuckled, glancing around for a moment as though expecting them to appear.
"Remus?" Hermione asked when he slowly withdrew before sliding himself deep inside her once more.
"Hmmm?" he hummed, looking content as he made slow love to her.
"I'm in love with you," Hermione confessed quietly, trailing a hand through his hair.
He sighed noisily, a sound of relief. "Oh, thank Merlin!" he exclaimed, surprising her. "I didn't want to say it first and scare the life out of you."
Hermione began to giggle, shaking her head adoringly. He thrust faster, grinning at her and making her insides melt, and Hermione realised she really had been nursing her crush on him so long that she'd fallen head over heels for him.
"Promise me something?" Remus asked just as he pushed her over the edge and into orgasm for the first time.
"Anything," Hermione swore, stars sparkling behind her eyes.
"Don't ever leave me, gealai," he whispered into her hair. "I won't survive if I lose you, too."
Hermione's smile when she met his gaze was full of love and promise and empathy.
"I'll never leave you, Remus," she promised solemnly, clamping down upon him tightly and making his breath hitch, watching him lose control. He groaned softly as he came, and Hermione grinned. "A million angry woodcutters couldn't tear me away."
Remus slumped on top of her, out of breath from his orgasm and wheezing out a laugh at her promise.
"Blimey, Hermione," he wheezed. "I love you, gealai. And wherever he is right now, you should know that Sirius is offering you a high-five for turning a declaration of love into a werewolf joke."
Hermione giggled and untangled her hand from his hair, holding her hand up as though expecting the high-five he spoke of. Remus laughed even more, shaking his head and kissing her lips as he slipped his hand inside hers, interlocking their fingers and claiming her heart forever.