A/N: I'm back. Too many apologies to give. Shall re-iterate I'm not abandoning anything. Real Life and the healing process are just taking a little more time than expected.

This has been rolling around in my mind for awhile. It's raw, but then again, what isn't these day?

Hope you enjoy it.

Exes & Ohs



"If I ask you a question, do you promise to answer it honestly?"

"I suppose that would depend on the question."

"Why haven't we become lovers?"

Of all the questions the werewolf had expected from his brilliant friend-and with an appetite for knowledge as voracious as hers, he'd been on the receiving end of quite a few-the words that exited her mouth had not been among them. Wiping his chin to clear the tea he had been drinking, he felt his cheeks burn as she regarded him with serene patience, silently awaiting his response. He averted his gaze, trying to recapture his wits.

"I...er...well...erm...it...uh..." was all he could stutter, to which he received an amused arched eyebrow. He cleared his throat, taking another sip of tea as his mouth had become inexplicably dry. "Uh...the truth is, Hermione...um...I haven't...er...really thought about it."

She nodded. "I assumed as much," was all she replied with before once more disappearing behind the copy of the Daily Prophet she had been reading prior to her explosive non-sequitur.

She was so nonplussed, in fact, that Remus was suddenly worried his under-sexed, over-active imagination had created the entire conversation.

The very real possibility of a psychotic break aside, Remus knew he had been lying when he had answered her question. He had thought about becoming lovers with the exceedingly intelligent and breathlessly stunning Hermione Granger. He had put so much brain power into it, in fact, that he probably could have earned himself a doctoral degree. The thoughts, however, usually occurred at night...in the dark...and were wildly inappropriate for either casual conversation or a degree in higher learning.

The thoughts were also often accompanied by an intimate encounter with his own hand, followed by a few hours of guilty, shame-filled brooding. This, he knew, was also not something he would be willing to divulge without an insane amount of alcohol. And possibly inhalents. But definitively, conclusively, not sober.

His curiosity piqued, however, he asked, "Why do you ask?"

The paper shrugged. "Just a passing thought," it said.

"In my experience," he said drily, "Passing thoughts are more along the lines of 'I wonder what's for supper?' or 'Does this skirt make my arse look fat?' or 'What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen sparrow?'"

She lowered the paper with grave interest, though her lip had quirked in amusement. "Do you often worry about your arse looking fat in your skirts?"

"Don't presume to know all my secrets, Ms. Granger. I am a man of depth and mystery."

She laughed and raised a hand in mock surrender. "I withdrawl the question, Mata Hari," she teased before returning to her reading again.

He waited for another moment before softly batting her foot with his under the table to regain her attention. "Seriously, 'Mione. Even you have to admit, it is a rather out-of-the-blue question to ask," he pressed.

She sighed, laying the paper down. "I suppose the wedding has me thinking, that's all. Everyone's pairing up. Ginny and Harry are getting married; Ron and Luna have been dating for over a year; even Tonks and Sirius are enjoying...momentary...connections with a variety of people, no matter how...fleeting. And yet, we're both still single...though I'm sure for you it's more by choice than it is for me." She hesitated slightly as a faint bloom started to spread over her cheeks, and Remus was forced to-rather determinedly-stamp down several inappropriate thoughts that had converged all at once.

She inhaled deeply and continued, "Considering the fact that we've been friends for years and get on exceedingly well, I just...I wondered why we've never discussed the possibility. I guess...I was curious to see if the thought had occurred to you as well. Evidently, it didn't, so...I don't suppose there's much more to say on the subject." She gave him a small smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, the blush still evident over her freckled nose, and disappeared behind her paper once more.

Remus, however, quickly found that there was suddenly little else to think about. It was true that in the past few years the two had slowly gravitated toward each other. They shared a deep respect for the other's intellect and enjoyed the same sense of humour. When she had moved into Grimmauld Place the year before, it had become natural for the two to spend hours together, having more or less commandeered the Grimmauld Place library as their own. They would talk or sit in endless silence, as they were doing now, and not be the least bit uncomfortable.

Well, unless one had all but suggested aloud something the other refused to acknowledged without a stocked bar nearby.

So distracted by his thoughts was Remus that he hadn't noticed Hermione's quiet departure from the kitchen. It wasn't until Tonks found him, still embroiled in the workings of his own mind, that he realized he must have looked a bit mad.

"Wotcher, Remus," the metamorphmagus said good-naturedly to her ex on her way to the sideboard. "Why are you having a staring contest with the teapot?"

"The teapot challenged me to it," he deadpanned. "And how are you?"

"No complaints. Just got back from a date."

Remus glanced at his watch. "It is...ten o'clock in the morning."

"It was a very good date."

Remus chuckled. He and Tonks shared a very interesting friendship. While they had flirted around a mutual attraction during the war years, it wasn't until they had bit the bullet and actually dated that they realized how ill-suited they were to it. Remus liked to live a quiet, near-hermit-like existence, happy to write or read or simply be in silence for long periods of time. Tonks was nearly a textbook extravert, easily aggitated by long bouts of silence and restless when she didn't have anything of substance to do. Where Remus was a philosopher, Tonks was a woman of action. And where Remus was a true romantic-in spite of his sometimes-debauched imagination-Tonks was a cynical realist.

All in all, it soon became apparent that any relationship they were meant to have was destined to remain strictly platonic, if only for the sake of both their sanities.

"Is this date someone we'll be seeing at the wedding this weekend?" he asked, grateful for a change in subject.

Tonks shrugged as she poured herself some coffee. "Considering he's in the wedding party, I think it's likely."

Remus arched an eyebrow. "Which Weasley brother did you sleep with, then?"

She grinned. "Charlie."

"Ah. Of course. Naturally, I had hoped for Percy. For the comedy."

Tonks shuddered. "I've already asked Sirius to modify my memory should I ever have the misfortune of becoming that desperate." She slid into Hermione's empty seat across from him. "So...why were you really having a staring contest with the tea tray? Trying to conjur your way out of attending the wedding?"

"And miss you looking uncomfortable in a bright yellow bridesmaid's dress and heels? Never."

"Then what had that hamster wheel working overdrive in your head, eh? The poor thing rarely gets any exercise," she teased.


She grinned, taking another sip. "C'mon, Remus. Talk to me."

Though mutually happy remaining solely friends, the early years of quiet appreciation had given them both an uncanny intuition toward each other. Tonks, therefore, had become a rather welcome, if unexpected, sounding board for the problems Remus faced in his personal life. It was with little hesitation, therefore, that he said, "Hermione asked me why we haven't become lovers."

If his ex-girlfriend was surprised, she hid it well. "And?"

He frowned. "What do you mean, 'and'?"

"I mean, Remus, 'and what did you say in response?'"

"I said I hadn't thought about it."

"And did she buy that load of bollocks?"

"Yes," he replied, ignoring the look that had accompanied her sarcasm. "And with a...a serene sort of acceptance that was all the more off-putting. And then she went back to reading the paper."

Tonks arched an eyebrow at this. "And that was the end of the interaction?"

"Well...I did ask her why she asked."


"And she said it was just a passing thought."

Tonks actually rolled her eyes at this. "And did you buy that load of bollocks?"

"I was a little too shocked and uncomfortable to delve into it, if I'm honest."


He blushed, murmuring "Physically. Physically uncomfortable."

Tonks had the good grace not to smirk, though the werewolf could see the effort it was taking her as she said, "Well, now it makes sense why your attention was so...er...intently fixed upon an inanimate object. For future reference, a more effective deterent would be to imagine Dolores Umbridge naked on a cold day. I think you'll find it to be an...efficient thought in the moment."

The look of complete disgust on Remus's face broke through whatever resolve Tonks had mustered to avoid laughing. After a hearty chuckle-a little too long of one, Remus thought sourly-she steadied herself with another sip of coffee before saying, "Honestly, Remus, she just asked what the rest of us are thinking."

"Well...I was a bit thrown by the fact that she was thinking it."

"Why shouldn't she? You might as well just do it, considering how much time you spend together anyway. And since you've been lusting after her for the better part of a decade..." She gave a meaningful arch of her eyebrow as she let the sentence hang unfinished.

Remus bristled. "I have not been lusting..." He trailed off at the penetrating look Tonks fixed him with and deflated instantly, instead mumbling, "Well...it hasn't been a decade."

"Man up, Remus," Tonks said stoutly before draining the rest of her coffee. "You're not getting any younger, and beautiful, intelligent, vivacious, amazing women don't just drop out of the sky. And you've already had your chance with one of us." She winked at him with a grin and it was his turn to roll his eyes.

"Cheers, Dora," he said sarcastically.

"Look, we'll all be down by the seaside this weekend for Harry and Ginny's wedding. Stuck in a rented villa for three days with nothing but the ocean breeze and a truly impressive amount of alcohol. And I'm not joking about the alcohol...Sirius ordered the booze. If we drink it all and survive with our livers, I will be truly impressed."

"What's that got to do with anyth-"

"Raid the drinks cabinet, get yourselves pissed, then go up to your room and go at it. You may find yourself enjoying it."

"That's quite possibly the stupidest advice I've ever heard. You want me to get her drunk?"

Tonks rolled her eyes heavenward. "No, Remus. I'm saying both of you need to have a drink and calm the fuck down. Because you're both so highly strung with sexual tension that you practically vibrate when you're in the same room. So have a shot or two, relax, and make some sweet music together." Then she yawned, stretching before standing wearily. "In the meantime, I'm going to shower and then sleep."

"To be clear," Remus said. "You're endorsing drunk sex at a wedding?"

"I'm not saying to tackle her down the aisle, Remus, but before, after, whenever...yes."

"That hardly seems appropriate. Aren't weddings meant to be romantic?"

"The romance of a wedding is intended exclusively for the bride, and sometimes the groom. That's why they make sure there's enough to drink for the rest of us."

"Which you're suggesting we should take advantage of."

"'Course. What else are weddings for?" And with a brilliant smile, she turned and left the room.

Hermione found herself deep in thought as she wended her way from the kitchen up to the cozy drawing room. She couldn't get the look of Remus's slack-jawed shock out of her mind. She believed his surprise because Remus, for all his talents, was a very bad liar. And no man, no matter how well-trained a thespian, could fake such a thoroughly uncomfortable look.

He hadn't thought about it. Naturally. She felt slightly foolish hoping that he had.

For her part, Hermione had been lying when she said the question had merely been a passing thought. She was sure his discomfort with their interaction had been the only thing distracting him from seeing right through her. A year earlier, it had been a passing thought. A passing thought, that then seemed to linger. And linger. And linger. And linger.

Suffice to say, after a year, it was no longer a passing thought as much as a deep, curious hunger. Remus had always been an intriguing and attractive man, and she never could resist a puzzle-especially in such delightful packaging.

Once she moved into Grimmauld Place, however, the fantasy Remus her subconscious had created from years of quiet observation fused seamlessly with the real one. He was intelligent, kind, witty, and supportive. Throwing in a long, lean, muscular body and a pair of warm grey eyes occasionally shielded by soft locks of sandy-brown hair, and Hermione wondered why there wasn't a trail of swooning women everywhere Remus went. She knew she had recently found herself in danger of swooning when in his presence.

The fact that they ended up spending a lot of their free time together didn't help matters. They had built themselves a private sanctuary of sorts in the Black family library, and their friends knew better than to disturb them there. They would sit in overstuffed armchairs speaking on all manner of topics or reading for hours. On cold nights, they would light a fire and Hermione often had to wrench her gaze from Remus's face, seduced by how the firelight played on the angles of his nose.

And then, there were the dreams.

She blushed to think of how many nights she had bolted upright in a sweat, her heart pounding and her body quivering with unsatisfied need. In her dreams he was an audacious lover, manipulating her body to the point of desperation. There were mornings when she couldn't quite meet his eye, the momory of what his dream counterpart had done to her-and more importantly, what she had done to herself afterwards because of it-still fresh in her mind.

Oh, but how she craved a more practical experience.

"I'm not saying I'm not flattered by your sudden, undivided attention, kitten, but you've been staring at me for a full minute now and I regret to inform you that it has gone from adorable to unnerving. May I help you with something?"

Color bloomed over her face as she realized she had been standing at the doorway of the drawing room, lost in thought, unseeing stare fixed on the last living heir of the noble house of Black. Sirius, with his devilish good looks and timeless charm, was staring back at her with the lazy interest of a bored house cat as he lounged in his inimitable way upon a chaise, book in hand. This state of perpetual ennui did not make Sirius a likely candidate for confidante, but as Hermione felt herself shut the door behind her and walk over to the seat opposite his, she realized he was, strangely, the best candidate to help her make some sense of her tangled, troubled feelings.

"Have you ever thought about sleeping with me, Sirius?" she asked bluntly, looking up into his silver eyes.

To his credit, the man did not look shocked. "Yes," was all he said.

She blinked. "Yes?"

He smiled slightly, his gaze raking down her body with the slow appreciation of a true connosoir before meeting her now-blushing stare once more. "Yes, kitten. I have thought about sleeping with you."

"Are you being honest?"

He arched an intrigued eyebrow. "Would you like a detailed list of the fantasies I've filed about you? I do have a naughty little one involving your Gryffindor uniform, if you'd care to hear."

"Er...maybe later," she said, her colour ever higher at his slow smirk. "So...why haven't you ever...you know...tried anything?"

"Because as tantalizing as you are, princess," He leaned forward conspiratorially. "And you are quite the temptation," He winked as he sat back and lazily linked his fingers over his stomach. "I am-selfishly, I know, yet remorselessly-quite fond of my manly bits. Sentiment, you understand. And had I seduced you as completely as I have occasionally desired," A Cheshire cat grin spread over his handsome face as he regarded her and the heat that had spread from her face down her neck to her modest cleavage. "I regret that the queue of people with the express intention of separating me from my manly bits would triple and, as delicious as having you in my bed would be, my love, even you are not worth the inevitable castration."

Then his eyes clouded slightly with lust. "But what one would give for the opportunity to have one's cake and eat it too..." He trailed off deliberately, a full, arrogant smirk at the expense of her comfort giving him the look of sexy, dangerous fallen angel.

Oddly empowered by the idea that the most attractive man in the country had fleeting erotic thoughts about her, Hermione swallowed through her discomfort and self-consciousness and pressed on, determined. "I'm just...I may have done...I may have done a stupid thing."

Putting down his book, Sirius leaned forward as the arrogant playboy was immediately replaced by the concerned attentiveness of a friend. "What happened?"

"I...well, I...um..." She took a deep breath before blurting, "IaskedRemuswhyweweren'tlovers."

Sirius frowned in confusion. "Um...alright. Breathe, then repeat that, phonetically."

Hermione took a deep breath, and repeated, "I asked Remus why we weren't lovers."

Sirius visibly relaxed. "Oh. Is that it? You had me worried."

She looked at him in disbelief. "Is that it? Really?"

"Well, when you said you may have done a stupid thing, I thought you'd...you know...done a stupid thing. Like invest in the Potions market right now. Or invite Draco Malfoy to the wedding as your plus one." She recoiled in spite of herself at the thought, and he chuckled. "So what did my thick-headed friend say when you asked him such a charmingly innocent question?"

"He's not thick-headed," she defended.

He smirked. "Depends on which head you're talking about."

She flushed again and made to stand. "Sirius Black, if you're going to be crass about this-"

"Sit down, kitten, I was only teasing. What did Remus say?"

"He said he hadn't thought about it."

Sirius chuckled. "And you believed him?"

"He...I asked him to answer honestly."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Ah. Well. That settles that then."

"But why would he say he hadn't if...if he has?"

"I'd imagine, if you ask him, he'd say it was because he wasn't good enough for you to even consider taking as a lover. But personally, I think he just wasn't ready to own up to the fact that he, my little love, has been 'thinking' about being lovers with you for a very, very, very long time." He sat back against the chaise. "Your question is one we've all asked ourselves, if I'm honest. It would come as a shock to absolutely no one if it were to happen."

Hermione sat back, distracted. She was aware of the whispers, tactless though they sometimes were, from their friends. She had heard the quiet speculations as to the exact nature of her friendship with Remus. She and the werewolf had ignored them, of course, enduring the good-natured ribbing that sometimes came their way. But until she had brought up her damn question, neither had addressed it directly, least of all with each other.

"I...am I stupid for hoping?"

His smile softened. "Of course not, kitten. I think you'd be good for each other. I mean...you already are, really. The only thing you two don't do together is have sex, which is a wicked waste and makes him the very king of fools, if you ask me."

"Maybe he doesn't want to."

Sirius laughed at that. "My dear girl, if there is a man on this planet who doesn't want to have sex with you, I haven't met him."

She felt slightly insulted. "You make me sound like some pin-up that men drool over."

"Ah. No, that was not my intention...though I'm sure no one would complain should you decide to do that type of photo shoot."


"Calm down, love. All I mean is, you're the whole package when it comes to what Remus both wants and needs. You're clever, you're caring, you're independent, and you're utterly beautiful. And if there were anyone in the world I thought remotely good enough for you, it would be Remus. And vice versa."

"I don't think Remus feels the same way," Hermione replied, feeling an odd sort of self-pity.

"Oh, he does, kitten. He's just a bit too preoccupied with the idea of you writhing rapturously beneath him. Or in front of him. Or next to him. Or on top of him. Or-"

"I get the picture, Sirius."

"Hmm...me too..." He smirked as he let his eyes travel over her once more, laughing when he reached her flushed, glowering face. "Perhaps you need something a bit more forceful than a question, sweet."

"What do you mean?"

"Well...he is a man, after all. A man who is rather intimately connected with his primitive side. So what I'm suggesting is, instead of simply posing the question as if you're asking him if he'd like a cup of tea, simply...tell him."

"Tell him what?"

"That he wants the cup of tea, dear."


He inhaled deeply, slightly frustrated by her obtuseness. "Instead of merely hinting at the idea of becoming lovers by speculating the ins and outs of why you haven't, you give him a bloody good reason why he very definitely should."

Comprehension finally dawning, she looked at him as if he had grown two extra heads, and neither of them were human. "Are you insane?"

He shrugged. "Judgement is still pending."

She ignored the joke. "You want me to simply tell him that...that...that I want to be lovers?"


"How, Sirius?"

"You mean, aside from opening your gob and saying those words precisely in that order in his general direction?" he snarked. When she gave him a look, he smirked. "If memory serves, 'Mione, you can be quite a devious little minx when motivated."

"So you're saying I should trick him?"

"If you like. I'd call it seduction, myself. And trust me, it won't take much. He's very tightly-wound when it comes to you. I should think a carefully-timed accidentally-on-purpose brush of your hand in the right location would set him off."

Her eyes narrowed. "Set him off to do what, exactly?"

Sirius grinned. "Whatever your heart desires, kitten."

"That sounds like...I don't know...like I'm playing dirty."

"Hmm...one can only hope."


He rolled his eyes again. "We're all going to be trapped at the seaside this weekend for the wedding, and only a third of that time is going to need your full attention on something other than your libido. So find yourself some stunning outfits, down a glass of firewhisky to bolster your nerve, and then plop yourself on his lap. The rest will take care of itself."

"You don't seem to have a high opinion of your friend's self-control."

"I am personally amazed he still possesses any, what with the way you've been teasing him over the past year."

"The way I've been...what?"

"Do you think it's easy living with someone you're desperately attracted to? Actually," He smiled. "I think you know exactly how difficult it is to live with someone you're desperately attracted to." He chuckled as she pursed her lips in blushing mortification. "So imagine Remus, with his furry little problem ever hanging around in the background, living in a house with the most sumptuous morsel of-"


He laughed. "All I'm saying, kitten, is that it's done a number on his resolve where you're concerned."

"But why should he be hesitant at all!" she asked grumpily.

Sirius seemed amused by this. "If you knew him at all, darling, you wouldn't ask that question."

He was right, of course. She knew the answer to her own, admittedly-petulant question. Remus could always find a reason not to do something he truly wanted to do, and hang himself up on the martyr's cross for it. He was a werewolf. He was too old. He was too poor. He was, he was, he was. It was one of the things Hermione liked least about the man, but it was also something she could handle. For all his self-loathing, Remus was logical. And she was nothing if not an exemplary presenter of logic.

"I've caught him standing outside your bedroom some nights, you know," Sirius said softly, regaining her attention. "I've seen him, staring at your door, inhaling your scent as if it's the only thing he can live on." Then he picked up his book and started to re-situate himself upon the chaise, murmuring, "And then you ask him such a ridiculous question-"

"Ridiculous?!" she squeaked.

"Well...yes. Or can you honestly say you didn't have the slightest suspicion that he desires you?"

She shook her head. "I...I didn't want to...I didn't want to hope."

Giving her a slightly more sympathetic look, Sirius finally settled into a comfortable position before saying, "If you do as I say and don't give him an exit this weekend, I guarantee you'll be in his bed. Or bent over it. Or-"


"Sorry, love. Can't help it. The mind reels with possibility." And with a final smirk, he shifted his attention from the contemplative witch back to his book.

"I feel ridiculous."

"You look incredible."

"This is a bad idea."

"Hush, this is a wonderful idea. Now...sashay your stunning behind over to him."

For the remainder of the week, Remus and Hermione had pretended the conversation in the kitchen hadn't occurred. Their routine had not altered, aside from perhaps keeping their conversations on decidedly un-romantic subject matter. At first, Hermione had worried that Sirius's assessment of Remus had been incorrect, and the ease with which Remus had conveniently forgotten was somewhat hard not to take personally. It wasn't until she had been cornered by Tonks-no doubt told about the initial conversation by either Remus or Sirius-that she had realized just how much effort she would have to put into the enterprise.

"Remus is never going to make the first move on his own," the older witch had lamented. "But with a little persuasion, he can be made to participate. With gusto."

The 'persuasion' in question, apparently, required Hermione in a perversely tight, incredibly revealing dress proffering some form of alcohol.

Hermione wanted-desperately-to blink and find herself in bed with only the vestiges of a bad dream, instead of the potential nightmare she was currently living. True, there were definitely worst places to be than in a sexy cocktail dress looking down the barrel of an evening that could promise drunk sex with the man of her dreams. But, heart pounding in relentless anxiety as she accepted two shots of firewhisky from an encouraging Tonks, she found herself fondly remembering the good old days, when she had to duel Death Eaters and lived in terror of imminent death.

Forcing herself to walk toward the handsomely-dressed werewolf, Hermione inhaled deeply to settle herself. This, she found, was a mistake. She could smell him. Warm and dark; crisp and clean. He smelled of rainy autumn mornings reading in leather armchairs by warm firelight, and spending hot summer nights sprawled in decadent nakedness on clean, cool sheets. Goosebumps formed on her arms as she was reminded of several dreams that had started just that way, and what they had led to.

The goosebumps reminded her of her purpose, and she reached Remus's side without tripping. First hurdle accomplished.

"You looked like you needed a drink," she said, pulling his gaze from the window. She willed herself to breathe when he smiled at her.

Second hurdle: accomplished.

"Thank you. I have to say, I never knew Molly or Ginny could ever be quite so...so..."

"Loud?" Hermione guessed with a smile, the memory of the two hard-headed Weasley women's shouting match at the wedding rehearsal earlier that day still fresh in everyone's minds.

"I've never seen flower arrangements treated with quite that level of gravity before."

"You should have been there when they were tasting the cake. It made Waterloo look like a playground skirmish."

"Which of them, exactly, was the Duke of Wellington and which was Napoleon in this scenario?"

"I'm sure the answer will be different from whomever you ask. If only for the sake of preserving whatever fragile peace was made."

"Was peace made? I must've missed that," he joked drily.

She smiled, feeling slightly giddy in spite of not having had anything to drink yet. That was the third hurdle: Remus's general ability to render her witless. When his guard was down, Remus could give Sirius a run for his money where charm was concerned. While Sirius manipulated his abilities to the fullest extent possible-with great, even impressive, effect-Remus was artless with his charm, which made it all the more attractive to Hermione. He had an easy, simple way of making her feel like she was the only person in the room worth speaking to. She wondered why it didn't affect others the same way it affected her.

"Have you been down to the beach yet?" she asked, trying to find a subject upon which she could speak intelligently. It always felt like his presence made it a limited collection.

"Not yet. The weather hasn't been very accommodating."

"It's supposed to clear up for the wedding tomorrow."

"Yes, I heard that too. Lucky for Harry and Ginny, eh?"

"Yes, I'm sure they're-"

But she was cut off as she was suddenly grasped around the waist and carried away from Remus, who watched with a confused then unreadable expression. It wasn't until she had been carefully placed in a far corner by one of the many standing tables that she got a look at who had absconded with her person.

"Sirius? Why on earth-"

"You're doing this wrong," the animagus interrupted flatly, taking the half-spilt shot from her hand and giving her a cloth napkin.

She frowned in confusion, wiping her fingers. "Doing...what?"

"Seducing Remus. You're doing it wrong."

Hermione arched an eyebrow. "Had much experience seducing Remus, have we?" she asked.

"Kitten, if he and I were both inclined toward that direction, and I wanted him, trust me, I'd have had him."

Hermione was torn between utter gall at the aristocrat's arrogant certainty, and curiosity. Her mind briefly danced with the dangerous fantasy of being the only filling in a Marauder sandwich, but she shook herself out of it. She could barely handle one of them. She wasn't about to bite off more than she could chew. She was rather practical in that respect.

"You didn't really give me much time to get going," she argued.

He rolled his eyes. "You were talking about the weather, Hermione."

"Well I find it difficult to talk to him about what I'm feeling...when I'm feeling...what I'm feeling," she admitted haltingly.

"You started out well! The banter about Ginger and Molly and the Battle of Waterloo...it had promise!"

"You were listening?!"

"Of course I was listening! I care about you and Remus! And I have too much invested in tonight's outcome!"

Warning bells went off in Hermione's head and, realizing he had been more indiscreet than he had intended, Sirius gave the younger witch what she was sure he meant as a dazzling smile as her eyes narrowed and she bit out, "Repeat that, please?"

"Of course I was listening. I care about you and Remus. As his oldest and dearest friend I'm truly, thoroughly invested in his happiness. And yours, too, kitten, because you know I've always considered you the very model of the ideal modern woman and-"

"You're rambling flatteries, Sirius. I know you, and I know when you're evading. Stop evading, look me in the eye, and repeat that, please?"

He sighed. "I have too much invested in tonight's outcome."

"Which means what, precisely?"

"Tonks and I may have made a...friendly wager, with the Weasley twins."

Shoulders sagging in long-suffering, though admittedly mild, frustration, Hermione lifted her face to the ceiling. Closing her eyes and willing whatever deity was listening to give her strength, or at least self-restraint, she forced herself to breathe deeply. She briefly considered strangling the man with the napkin, but felt it would draw too much attention. Reluctantly resolved to tolerate him, she opened her eyes and looked at the waiting-and satisfyingly nervous-animagus.

"You are lucky," she said evenly. "That this dress is too tight for me to easily access my wand."

"And have I mentioned how utterly ravishing you look in it?" he replied with a hopeful, dashing smile.

"Don't push your luck, Sirius." Glancing at Remus, she found his attention was once more on the window. His expression seemed more troubled than normal. Her mind immediately went to the calendar and she was reminded that it was only a few nights before the full moon. It was likely he was restless in the crowd of boisterous wedding guests. She knew how much he valued his solitude, especially right before his transformations.

Sighing, she turned her attention back to the Marauder in front of her. "I think we should postpone."

"What? Why?" he asked, and she was relieved to see genuine interest. A bet would not alter his attention to his duties as friend.

"We didn't think this through. The full moon is in a few days...this wedding is probably stressful enough for him."

"It's really not that close."

"Look at him! He seems...restless. And distracted."

"Trust me, love, that has nothing to do with the moon."

"Then what, Sirius?"

He sighed. "If I were to guess, I believe his mind is likely preoccupied with you in that dress, and all the ways he wants you out of it."

She huffed. "Look, he doesn't need to be...I don't know...seduced into bed with someone he isn't even sure he wants to sleep with."

"Hermione," Sirius said resolutely, taking her by the shoulders and looking her squarely in the eyes. She immediately steeled herself, as Sirius rarely used her name when an endearment would suffice. "I need you to understand something. The one thing Remus is absolutely, totally, obsessively sure of, is his physical attraction to you. So I need you to dispel your insecurity on that score, because he wants you so badly he can't think straight. Understood?"

His penetrating gaze demanded an answer so she nodded meekly.

Nodding back, he released her shoulders and continued. "Now, aside from the physical desire, I believe you are the single most important woman to that man since Lily Potter. He would marry you tomorrow if he knew what was good for him. But since he never does know what's good for him, it's up to the people who care about him-namely, us-to help him come to that conclusion himself. And if manipulating him by using his very real physical attraction toward you helps to make that decision for him, then I am willing to do it. Are you?"

"Yes, but...but I'm not you. I don't...flirt. I don't..." She trailed off, twisting the napkin with nervous fingers as she blushed in embarrassment. "I'm not good at...manipulating that sort of...of emotion."

Sirius regarded her for a moment, then smiled slightly. "Princess...you're almost worth me ignoring all those very reasonable voices of doubt and just taking you for myself." When she narrowed her eyes at him again in warning, he laughed with a shake of his head. "Almost, kitten. I'm not nearly good enough for you, and you're entirely too good for me."

Hermione watched silently as Sirius frowned, his demeanor contemplative as if trying to assess what to do next. Glancing over her head, he seemed to find some source of inspiration, as the Cheshire cat grin slid slowly over his face and his eyes-now bright with playful mischief-rested back on her.

"Do you know he's currently glaring at me as if he intends to set my hair on fire?" he said, sounding vaguely smug.

"Is he?" she asked, starting to turn.

Sirius, however, caught her elbows and stopped her. "For Merlin's sake, woman, don't look or you'll ruin my plan," he hissed.

"What is your plan?" she countered.

"Well, if you can't...or rather, feel unable...to seduce him with your own prolific powers of persuasion, then we're going to have to touch a different nerve."

"Wha...which nerve?"

"The possessive nerve."

"The what?"

Sirius smiled and leaned in slightly. "Jealousy, little one."

"Who is he supposed to be jealous of?"

"Well...me, of course."

"And why is he meant to be jealous of you?"

"Because we're going to make him believe that I have you."

"That you have me...how?"

The smirk appeared again. "That, my dear, depends entirely on your response."

Once more understanding the next budding scheme that seemed to perpetually emerge from Sirius's mind, the wheels in Hermione's own head started to turn with possibilities. While, logically, provoking a werewolf's possessive instincts close to a full moon was not the most inspired idea, it also wasn't the worst. If Remus was attracted to her to the extent Sirius and Tonks claimed, the wolf's possessive instincts would force Remus's guard down, which would lower his inhibitions. Similar to intoxication, but without the giddy feeling.

"What if he confronts you?" she asked, sliding into her know-it-all mode to ascertain just how practical the plan could be.

Sirius, noting that she wasn't directly arguing the point, grinningly replied, "I rather hope he will."

"To what purpose?"

"To egg him on."

"And how will that help?"

"Because once he realizes he won't get anywhere with me, he will try to talk you out of my company."

"But I told you, I'm a blubbering mess around Remus. And you know I'm not a good flirt. I'll stutter, or blush, or faint-"

"I have an inkling about how that particular conversation will go," Sirius interrupted, his smile knowing. "Trust me, you'll be perfect."

"And what is meant to happen when I miraculously get through a sentence?"

Sirius surveyed her with his liquid grin before asking mildly, "Have you heard about the type of sex you have with a werewolf a few days before a full moon?"

Inexperienced though she may have been in comparison to Sirius-though she was certain there were very few who were even nearly as experienced as Sirius-Hermione wasn't the doe-eyed virgin, either. She hadn't slept with many men, but she had slept with enough. She was also remarkably well-read, and as she quickly skimmed her store of knowledge about werewolves, her eyes widened in understanding.

Sirius caught the look and continued mildly, "I learned first hand on an interesting caravan trip with a wondrously bosomy she-wolf," he said, a hint of nostalgia in his tone. "I came back to London with a newfound respect for Remus. And jealousy. The stamina it took to-"

"We're drifting, I think, Sirius," Hermione interrupted, though they both knew her own mind had briefly and gleefully skipped down a debauched path. "Let's set the...desired conclusion...of this hypothesis to the side for a moment. How do you know Remus won't just punch you in the eye?"

"I haven't ignored that possibility. I'm hoping he won't. I'm his best friend. That warrants at least a modicum of restraint, I should think."

"And if he does anyway?"

"Then I'll consider it a reminder."

"A reminder of what?"

"Of why I don't get involved with sexy, swotty little hellions like you in the first place."

She gave him a speaking glance, but his eyes still sparkled. Unamused, she asked, "What if someone else tries to punch you in the eye? Or worse, they go after your manly bits?"

"Ah. Yes. I did think of that. I was going to let Tonks in on our little ruse. She'll fend off or defuse any interference."

"And you're planning on keeping her busy, aren't you?" she said, begrudgingly accepting yet naturally wary.

He grinned. "I don't do things by half-measures, kitten." And with a little wink and a kiss on the hand, he walked away to find Tonks.

Remus was stewing.

Actually, he was steaming. Steaming, piping, glowing angry. Angry, desperate, confused. How dare he sweep her away so suddenly? He knew Mrs. Weasley would have his head for it; that they would all have his head for it. That he, Remus, would personally have his head for it the arrogant son of a-

"Uh-oh, George. He's catatonic."

"Actually, I think he's more...dog-atonic."

"That was horrific. Really. Should be ashamed of yourself. Obviously, it's canine-atonic."

"Hello, boys," Remus said, forcing his attention away from trying to set Sirius's trousers on fire with his mind. Knocking back the shot of firewhisky Hermione had given him, he inhaled deeply before turning to face the twinned, annoyingly-mischievous freckled faces of Fred and George Weasley.

"He moves!"

"He speaks!"

"He's leaving," Remus warned, moving for effect.

"Alright, alright. Keep your fur on."

"See, Remus? This is what wizarding world peace has come to: George, coming up with most ghastly puns."

"I swear to Morgana, boys..."

"Why so tetchy? It's a wedding! Enjoy!"

"Actually, it's a rehearsal dinner. But I see your point. Was there a reason you walked over here?"

The twin in the purple waistcoat-Fred, he deduced-leaned in conspiratorially. "We've just been having a little look see through the many cases of fine liquor purchased for this illustrious event."

His twin, in a waistcoat of bright yellow, gave a glance around and leaned in as well. "And the inventory took quite awhile. We've been at this since noon."

"Anyway, we stumbled upon a box specifically designated for Sirius's private stash."

"Must've shipped it down by accident, you see."

"And do you know what we found?"

Remus's interest reluctantly flickering, the werewolf felt an ember of mischief start to play inside him. Sirius's appetite for good alcohol was legendary, and the Grimmauld Place wine cellars were stocked with some of the rarest and most refined brands money could buy. If even one case of Sirius's personal stock was in the building, the contents would only be the best of quality.

"What did you find?" Remus asked.

"A bottle of Mexico's finest airetequila. Los Altos, top shelf," Fred replied, full grin.

"It isn't even legal in parts of Europe!" George whispered gleefully.

"Which is one of the reasons why it costs so much," Remus said with his own mischievous grin. "Airetequila is deadly, boys. Be very careful."

"We've had airetequila before."

"Now that was an interesting business trip."

"Not now, George."

Remus chuckled. "Los Altos is different. The blue agave is grown on a parcel of land steeped in old magic. You may feel like you're floating, but too much Los Altos and you're floating away for a long time." Suddenly, a loud crash in the corner caused Remus to jump. Ascertaining that it was only Neville and an upturned tray of glasses, Remus felt his blood pressure drop back to normal. Giving the twins a wry look, he added, "Though, if you wanted to float away, you'd have my deepest empathy."

"We could always share, Remus."

"After all, what are friends for?"

Slightly suspicious of the invitation, Remus automatically looked around for Hermione to get a second opinion. What he saw made his mind up.

"Sure, I'll take some," he said immediately, his gaze so focused that he missed the wide grins the twins were giving each other.

"Of course!"

"Coming right up!"

"Thanks, boys," Remus said, more to himself since the twins had quickly scampered away. His nostrils flared as the unexpected possessive rage from earlier started to rise once more.

He had found Hermione, smiling and laughing with Tonks and Sirius, back pressed against Sirius's body with the infuriating playboy's arms coiled around her.

Yes, he thought darkly, airetequila sounded like a very good idea indeed.

"The twins are up to something," Tonks said as she, Hermione, and Sirius stood doing their own plotting.

"When aren't they?" Hermione asked, trying not to squirm against Sirius's larger frame. While his embrace was loose, there was a knowingness to him that hinted an intimate understanding of female anatomy. It intrigued her, but also kept her tense.

"Fair point but in this particular instance I'm worried it may be an attempt to tip the odds in their favour in order to win our bet," Sirius replied.

"Ah, yes, about this bet-" Hermione started but Tonks spoke over her.

"What do you think they're planning?"

"My guess is that it has something to do with alcohol. Can't seal a deal with a dry envelope."

"Honestly, Sirius? You're just inventing bad double entendres now," Hermione said, slapping the animagus's playful hand as it started to roam a little too intimately.

"Sorry, kitten, habit," he said, his fingers stilling. "And your literary criticism aside, it will do you no good if the twins get Remus drunk, you know."

"Yeah. Unfortunate trick of biology, that," Tonks said ruefully. "Anyway, they've scarpered now, so any bright ideas? And quickly, because they'll be back."

"Before we go delving into yet another ludicrous con," Hermione interjected drily, puling away from Sirius's embrace to look coolly at the pair. "Why don't you two be a little more expansive about this bet."

The cousins looked at each other in a manner not unlike two children in imminent danger of a scolding, and Hermione was suddenly unsure she wouldn't have to scold them. While Fred and George were bad enough when it came to causing trouble, the Black cousins ran the gingered mischief-makers a very competitive second.

"We may have been...casually discussing...that you were considering taking your relationship with Remus to a different level," Sirius started with halting tactfulness. "And the twins seemed...interested...in the time frame within which said...ascension of level...might occur."

"Sirius walked up to them and said, 'Hermione and Remus: who's bets for this weekend?'" Tonks corrected, remorseless glee on her face at the look her cousin gave her at being so summarily hurled under the proverbial bus.

Hermione crossed her arms, mortified. "So not only did you make a bet regarding my love life, but you initiated the whole thing? I came to you in confidence, Sirius, and if this is just a bloody game-"

"No, it's not," he pleaded, his eyes genuinely sincere. "Look, was it a stupid thing to do? Yes, absolutely. But I didn't do it maliciously. We all know you two are going to end up together and so we just thought to have some fun with it. No harm done. But if you sincerely don't want to seduce Remus then I will call the whole thing off and pay the forfeit because you're more important than a bet."

"Though, we'd much prefer not to have to pay the forfeit," Tonks chimed in, resting her chin on Sirius's shoulder with a hopeful grin.

Hermione smiled in spite of herself at this. Mollified that her friends were helping her with good intentions, she acquiesced, "Alright, the bet was made. What's the forfeit?"

Tonks leaned in. "Well, apparently there was a mix-up with the alcohol shipment, and-"

"Er...Tonks...not now, I think," Sirius interrupted, motioning to where the twins were setting up a tray of three glasses and a bottle of alcohol. "Is that what I think it is?"

Tonks gave a low whistle. "If it is, I'm raiding your Gringotts vault."

Hermione watched Sirius's face darken as he grumbled low half-thoughts, staring daggers as he mumbled, "Those little-...where did they even-...I explicitly told catering-...oh no they don't...Tonks, go-"

"On it."

Having seen Fred and George walking toward Remus with the tray of glasses and bottle, Tonks abruptly left the conversation and made a bee line to intercept them. Being Tonks, however, things didn't quite go as intended. Hermione cringed, watching as the over-enthused witch tripped on the rug and stumbled directly into the twins. While unquestioningly effective, it also had the unfortunate consequence of sending all three, the tray, the glasses, and-to Sirius's whimpering horror-the full bottle crashing to the ground.

"Well," Hermione said, looking back at Sirius and trying desperately not to laugh at the look of despair on his face. "I suppose that's one way to stop Remus from drinking too much."

"I may commit murder tonight," Sirius said darkly, glowering as he watched a harried group of catering staff rush in to clean up the debris while Tonks herded the twins away. "I've yet to decide on whom, but the list has narrowed to three people."

"Before you do that, though, you'll help me with Remus, right?" Hermione asked. "Because if you want to win this bet of yours, you're going to need to put effort in because I don't know how to do this on my own."

Looking down at her, Sirius smiled slightly. Taking one of her hands, he lifted the back of it to his lips and grazed her fingers with them. "What we're going to do," he said into her skin, softly so she had to lean in to hear. It gave them the appearance of being in a deeply intimate conversation. "Is we're going to make it look like you're absolutely enjoying the attention I'm giving you. To do so, you're going to need to play along a little, so take your free hand and rest it lightly on my chest."

Swallowing down her nerves, Hermione did what she was told.

"Good girl," he purred, hand still playing with hers as he leaned in toward her ear, arm encircling her waist gently. "Now pretend I'm saying something thoroughly inappropriate but vaguely intriguing."

Hermione blinked, turning her head slightly to catch his eye. "What?"

He glanced upwards in annoyance, then let his lips gently touch her ear as he said, "Suppose I tell you that little fantasy I have about you in your school uniform."

His large hand rested low on her back, just above the swell of her bottom. It was cheeky, but she also knew she couldn't push it away. Color flooded to her face as the intimate touch reminded her of their conversation in the drawing room, and his blunt admissions of his attraction.

"Inappropriate," she murmured with a slight chuckle. "But vaguely intriguing."

"Exactly." He pulled back, his face still intimately close to an outsider's view. They were starting to get more than a few looks, and she could feel Remus's gaze scorching them both.

"He's looking at us, isn't he?" she whispered.

"With avid attention, yes."

"What do I do next?"

"Flip your hair."


"Flip your hair. Just a little, to show me your neck."

"My neck?"

"Are you going to keep asking questions, or are you-"

"Alright, alright, I'm flipping," she muttered, flipping her hair lightly over her shoulder.

"Good. Now...don't hurt me."

"Why would I...oh." She trailed off as his fingers slid lightly over her exposed collarbone and up her neck, his palm gently cupping her cheek. She felt her eyes flutter closed for a moment before opening them. She tried not to let her annoyance show at his wide smirk.

"That should do it. Now, I'm going to go get a drink. He should be ready to confront me now."

Hermione was slightly stunned. "Wha...already? You barely did anything!"

His lip quirked higher. "Liked it, did you?"

She scowled. "That has nothing to do with it, Sirius. How are you so certain something that simple worked?"

"I told you, kitten, he's very tightly-wound where you're concerned. He's been ready to tear my head off since he saw me with my arms around you. Trust me, love, it won't take much longer." And with a quick kiss on her nose, Sirius quirked a knowing eyebrow and started to whistle as he sauntered over to the bar.

Remus didn't know how many seconds it took him to reach his smug best friend, but he was sure he could have won some sort of track and field event for it. Sirius had barely left Hermione's side when Remus was in front of him, trying very hard not to rip the arrogant pureblood's throat out. While intensely satisfying, it would also be rude and Remus was nothing if not the very definition of decorum.

Most of the time.

"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?" Remus asked darkly.

Sirius arched a lazy eyebrow. "I cannot help but have multiple answers to that question, Remus, so perhaps you should narrow down to a subject?"

"Hermione," Remus ground out.

A slow, aggravatingly-satisfied smirk spread across the animagus's face. "Ah, yes. She is quite the delightful little thing, isn't she? And in that dress...well...you can't fault me for being curious."

"Watch me," Remus snapped.

Sirius glanced back at the woman in question. "Hermione is a truly tempting creature, Moony, and you know me. I can't resist temptation."


Sirius laughed. "Whatever for?"

"Perhaps to avoid the line of people who would murder you for it?"

"I'd imagine, since it's murder, a line would be superfluous."

"This is hardly a joking matter, Sirius!"

"Who's joking? Hermione's an adult who is fully capable of making her own decisions. If succumbing to temptation were to happen tonight, my friend, it would be by mutual acceptance."

"And you're willing to risk certain death in order to do so?"

Sirius looked into his friend's eyes with a penetrating gaze. "Wouldn't you?"

When Remus didn't respond, Sirius gave his friend a knowing tilt of the head before continuing to the bar. Grinding his teeth, Remus considered his possibilities. Getting drunk in order to ignore Hermione and Sirius was still on the table, but no longer appealing. Confronting Sirius was obviously useless without resorting to violence. Remus considered simply exiting the situation and letting his friends do as they pleased, but something primal inside him fiercely opposed this option. This possessive jealousy within him distracted his logical mind, and without thinking he charged directly to where Hermione was standing, no doubt waiting for Sirius.

"What on earth do you think you're doing?" he hissed, causing her to jump at his sudden appearance.

She blinked, surprised at his tone. "I beg your pardon?"

"Since when are you interested in Sirius?" he asked.

He watched as she inhaled sharply, hesitating before seeming to settle herself into some decision. Then she lifted her chin and countered defiantly, "Who says I'm interested in Sirius?"

"You were flirting with him!"

She gave him a speaking look. "Since when do I flirt?"

Remus suddenly found his logical mind momentarily unshackled. Hermione was one of the most practical people he knew. She knew Sirius and she knew his reputation. Even if she enjoyed the attention, Hermione would never consider taking the flirting aristocrat seriously. Still...

"You...you were...he was...he kissed your nose," he stuttered, though they both knew he did not have the upper hand.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Well of course then. Conclusive proof."

He flushed. "I just...after the conversation we had in the kitchen...I thought..."

She stiffened. "You mean, the conversation where I asked you why we haven't become lovers?"


"And you replied you hadn't thought about it?"

"Yes, Hermione, that conversation."

"How, Remus, did you connect that particular conversation about you and I becoming lovers with me suddenly being interested in Sirius?"

"I..." But as his logical mind continued to mortify him with his hasty assumptions, it also became vaguely aware that Hermione was trying to make a point of some kind.

She sighed. "Why must you always make things so difficult?" she asked quietly, seemingly more to herself than him, colour blooming on her face.

It was Remus's turn to blink. "Pardon?"

She glared at him, annoyed. "I gave you an opening earlier this week. Admittedly, I didn't really stand by it, but I at least planted the thought. And now I'm standing in this ludicrous dress trying to get you to understand, but clearly I am not built for seduction..." She trailed off as she huffed in frustration. Then she crossed her arms and looked determinedly up at him. "I find you...unimaginably attractive. I think we should become lovers. Your move."

As Remus looked down into her upturned face, her hazel eyes glowing with fire, he suddenly thought about how freeing it would be to just give in to his attraction to her. Ignoring it, or at least hiding it, was becoming almost too exhausting to tolerate. He wanted, more than anything, to place his own lips upon the pouting fullness of hers and live the rest of his life that way.

Well, maybe he'd like to place his lips other places too...


His mind snapped back before it could entertain any further fantasies and he caught a glint of fear in her eyes that started to grow. Fear, he was quickly realizing, of his rejection. Fear that he would turn her down.

As if he ever could.

"I want you more than you can possibly understand," he said softly, his knees almost giving way at the light of hope that seemed to radiate from her at his words. "But..."

"But what?" she whispered, her body suddenly, inexplicably close.

Remus could almost feel the electricity sparking between them. It distracted him and he swallowed hard. "There are a lot of reasons why we shouldn't," he managed.

"Like what?" she asked, ever the curious academic.

"M-my...my age, my lycanthropy, my-"

"It's not always about you, you know," she said softly.

He frowned. "What?"

"You're not the only one with baggage. Mine may not be the same but it doesn't mean you may not find it difficult to carry."

"You know it's more complicated than that, 'Mione, it's-"

"I'm willing to risk it," she interrupted, placing a finger on his lips. "This, us. I believe that's rather the point of relationships, actually, mutually agreeing to risk things for another person. You could get sick of me, for example. You could wake up and no longer find me attractive. You could find s-someone else..." She trailed off, then swallowed hard and squared her shoulders.

"Now," she continued. "I could go point-by-point on why your age and your lycanthropy are irrelevant factors to me, but you already know I can do that, because you know me. But I know you too, Remus, and I know you could come up with a lot of reasons why we shouldn't, why you can't, what we'll risk. The question now is, how many reasons can you come up with before you understand I have an argument for all of them?"

She had him there, and he knew it. So he gave in.

"My room, or yours?" he simply asked.

She immediately blushed but held his eye as she replied, "Yours is closer."

"Let's go."

Logically, Hermione knew the villa wasn't as cavernous as it felt. But as Remus took her hand and led her up the stairs and through the hallway, it felt almost the size of Hogwarts.

She could hardly believe what was happening. Her stomach was doing the types of gymnastics even Olympians balked at, and she was sure sheer force of will was keeping her hands from shaking. His grip was tense, as if he was also unsure of the reality they had entered. Neither said a word until they were outside of Remus's room.

"Are you sure?" he asked her, hand on the doorknob.

"Are you?" she replied with a challenging arched eyebrow.

With a slow, wicked grin, he turned the knob and pushed open the door. She walked in and paused, waiting for him to follow.

Goosebumps formed on her skin as she heard the lock click and his murmured silencing charms. Then she felt him walk up behind her, her breath hitching as a finger traced its way down her arm.

"So soft," he whispered, his lips grazing her shoulder. "Your skin is always so soft."

She turned around to face him and he lowered his lips to hers, hands sliding up her neck to gently cup her jaw with strong, sure hands. She inhaled sharply when they made contact, her senses heightened in the semi-darkness. The kisses were soft, probing and tender, and his speed unhurried as he seemed content to simply breathe with her.

She was immediately intoxicated.

Finding her knees in danger of imminent buckling, Hermione wrapped her arms around Remus's shoulders, trying to anchor herself to something as he teased and tasted her. Her fingers slid into the soft hair at the nape of his neck, trying to coax more from him. She felt him chuckle, one hand sliding slowly down the front of her body before wrapping around her, drawing her closer. Her lips parted in a small gasp as he pressed himself against her, and he took advantage by claiming her mouth fully.

Hermione's knees actually did buckle.

Any dream or fantasy she had entertained about kissing him paled in comparison to the reality. He consumed her completely, transitioning seamlessly from playful dueling to passionate and breath-taking. He tasted like firewhisky, chocolate, honey, and cinnamon, and she knew instantly that it would be so easy to become addicted to the taste of him.

In the few seconds they came up for air, his lips floated over the bridge of her nose, her eyelids, her chin. It was as if his lips were memorizing her, making a secret map for himself. Then he claimed her mouth again, as if he couldn't stay away for long. It made her light-headed, slightly drunk, and deeply achy. She wanted those lips everywhere.

She was so distracted that she nearly jumped out of her skin at the feeling of his warm palm against her bare back. Somehow, he had managed to unzip her dress without her realizing it, which was impressive given how tight it was. His fingers danced down her spine and he groaned deeply against her lips.

"This dress," he breathed gruffly. "It needs to come off."

The words shot straight to her core and she was only too eager to comply. The dress, what little of it there was of it in the first place, felt oppressive against her skin now that she was so close to getting what she wanted. Managing to pull away from his kiss, she pushed the dress to the floor before focusing all her energy on removing his clothes.

"You're overdressed," she said as she loosened his tie, her fingers shaking slightly. He softly took her hands in his, stilling her movements.

"Slowly," he said. "Or this will be over far too soon."

Kissing her again, he backed them to the bed, smiling slightly when Hermione broke the kiss to eagerly scramble up. He watched her settle back against the pillows while he finished loosening his tie. Their eyes met as he pulled it off, dropping it to the floor. Neither spoke as they silently assessed each other.

Unbuttoning his shirt, Remus let his eyes feast upon the woman in front of him. The unruly halo of chestnut curls hung heavily down her back as she watched him undress, leaning comfortably on her elbow. Her beautiful long neck tapered to smooth shoulders and a pair of breasts that made his mouth water. Her body was elegantly curved, and he looked forward to running his hands and lips over every inch. A scrap of satin obstructed the view of what lay between her lovely rounded thighs, and his anticipation made his body throb with desire.

Hermione watched all this, fascinated by the play of lust and hunger in his eyes. She was sure she looked the same way, waiting impatiently as slow inches of his skin were revealed. His torso was long and lithe, musculature evident just below the surface of patchwork scars. It reminded her of the depths of strength he possessed as well as the dark, dangerous side of him. It made her shiver, eyes lingering on the trail of hair that led from his navel below his briefs, the cloth doing nothing to conceal the bulge that strained against it.

Leaving his briefs on, Remus moved with an almost predatory grace toward the bed, crawling onto it and drawing his body parallel to hers. Their eyes locked again and he brought his knuckles to her collarbone, his fingers playing across her chest to cup her breast. He softly tested its weight before letting his thumb slowly circle her nipple. The sensation drew a gasp from her parted lips, and he watched as she closed her eyes and let her head tilt back.

"So responsive," he breathed, watching her for a moment as he did nothing but circle her nipple with his thumb. The contact was light, but he watched the goosebumps raise on her skin and the quiver of her stomach. The small reactions imprinted themselves on him, his soul yearning to learn all the secrets of her body.

He leaned in slowly, nipping softly at her earlobe before placing open-mouth kisses down her neck. She moaned, running her hands through his hair and down his back, enjoying the play of muscle and scar tissue beneath her fingers. He was claiming her, lips touching every piece of flesh he could find with undistracting focus, and with every feather-light sensation she could feel herself losing her grip on reality. It was just him and her and nothing else in the world mattered.

"These," he murmured when he reached her breasts. "These are quite possibly the most perfect things I've ever seen."

She gave a cracked cry as he took a nipple in his mouth, head dropping back against the pillows while a line of electricity shot from her breast to her core. He was relentless, suckling and gently tugging and generally driving her mad. Her hips writhed helplessly beneath him, wanting more than anything to have him just take her, and as soon as humanly possible.

Noticing her restlessness, Remus chuckled and slid a knee between her legs to press intimately against her warmth. She whimpered, her hips grinding against the hard flesh of his thigh. He pulled back a little to watch her, his smile one she had never seen him wear before, but made her wet with wanting. It was purely wicked, purely male, and purely sin.

"Impatient?" he teased, a hand starting to make a lazy sojourn down her stomach. "Can't have that, can we?"

He leaned down and kissed her deeply again as his hand slid into her underwear to cup her heat. She moaned against him as he settled a single finger against the throbbing nub at the top of her sex. After so much time and longing, the contact was enough. She shuddered, her orgasm swallowed by Remus's demanding lips.

His finger didn't move as he let her come down from her high, softly kissing her lips and neck as she willed her breathing to slow. She was flushed and slightly embarrassed to have been brought over her edge so quickly. He, however, seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed it.

"So soft, so warm, so wet...God I want you," he groaned in her ear as he let her hands caress his back.

"Then take me," she replied.

"Soon," he promised before kissing her deeply once more.

He slid down her body, dropping occasional kisses along her sweat-slicked stomach. Reaching her underwear, he smirked and rolled it down her legs. She lifted her hips to help, mindlessly following his movements with barely-restrained impatience. He winked at her before lowering himself between her thighs.

The first contact of his tongue to her clit made her jump, as it wasn't a particularly familiar feeling. She had some experience, but never with anyone who was so enthusiastic about the act. Remus approached it with groaning reverence, his clever tongue searching deep within her before going exactly where she needed it at the exact right moment.

Sliding a finger within her body, Remus nearly came. She was incredibly tight. Curling his finger experimentally, he had to pause and collect himself at the responding clench her body made. To feel that wet, warm, soft tightness around his aching cock was going to be the absolute best form of torture he could possibly imagine.

Hermione felt the familiar pressure building and her hands flew to Remus's head, burying her fingers into his soft hair. The sight of him between her thighs was enough to send her flying into nirvana again and she couldn't stop his name from escaping her lips as her back arched and her body shook for the second time that night.

He took his time kissing back up her body, but she was done with going slow. She wanted, desperately, to be one with this man. Summoning as much strength as she could muster, she pushed his shoulder and flipped them, landing gracelessly on top of his body.

Slightly stunned, Remus then grinned up at her. "Still impatient?"

"You have no idea," she growled before kissing him deeply, her hands raking through his hair as she settled her aching core on the large bulge still confined by his briefs. Moving her hands between them, she slid into the briefs and nearly whimpered as she felt just what lay beneath. In her fantasies, he was longer and thicker than any man she had ever been with. In reality, he was much longer and much thicker than any man she had ever been with. It made her heart skip slightly with a mixture of anxiety and deep longing.

But there was no more time for foreplay. She was too far gone to worry about how sore she was going to be later, though even if she had in the frame of mind to think about it, she still probably wouldn't have thought twice. With eager anticipation, she lowered the cotton enough to release him before unceremoniously impaling herself upon him.

"Oh Jesus fuck," Remus cried, his eyes clamping shut as he slid deeply into the witch above him. There were no words to describe how incredible it felt. He was rigid, demanding his body to control itself as she squirmed, trying to get used to his size. Torture was not an appropriate enough word.

"Oh dear God..." Hermione mumbled, wincing slightly as she was stretched and pinched almost beyond endurance. She felt an incredible fullness she hadn't experienced before, the head of his cock resting against the bundle of nerves deep within her, the pressure already causing a delicious jolt of pleasure. She wriggled slightly, trying to ease some of the pressure as her body acclimated, but his iron grip on her hips stopped any movement.

"Don't move, for Merlin's sake," he groaned, half-lidded eyes pleading up at her as he struggled for breath. "You feel too good and it's been too fucking long."

Hermione immediately went slick at his words. He was uncensored in his pleasure, the veins in his neck standing out as he battled for control. The fact that she was causing such intense reactions within him empowered her like nothing else ever had. Whatever inhibitions she still retained flew out the window as her desire to take this man to whatever limits he possessed overwhelmed her. She wanted to watch him come undone, and she wanted to do so knowing it was her-and only her-who was doing it.

Leaning down, she brushed her lips over his before nipping her way to his ear. "Don't wait for me," she murmured before starting to roll her hips.

Remus was half-tempted to do just that. Her body fit around him like an exquisitely tailored glove, drawing him deep into her warmth as she started to ride him. He watched, spellbound, as her hips rocked and she arched her back with a moan. His hands ran up her stomach, cupping her breasts and teasing her nipples. She gave a cracked cry, her hips starting to work faster. He had never seen a woman give herself so completely, and that one thought was almost enough for him to completely lose his cool.

But even though it had been too long, and even though he had already given her two orgasms, he wasn't about to leave her behind.

He pulled her down to meet his lips, feeling the soft pillows of flesh crash against his in a fiery, passionate dance for dominance. The wolf within him reared, and he took advantage of the position to roll her to her back, falling heavily between her legs and groaning as he slid deeper. She gasped as the head of his cock hit the bundle of nerves directly, and her eyes flew open to reveal a glazed, hungry hazel.

Inhaling deeply, Remus surged within her and almost came as she cried his name, back arching while her nails dug into his flesh. His thrusts were hard, deep, and he gripped her hair as he bowed over her body. He breathed in the unique scent of her, focusing on her pleasure, memorizing every gasp and moan and cry until he was too close to be able control anything anymore. In desperation, he reached between them and ran his finger over her nub, praying it would propel her over the edge with him.

He was not disappointed.

"Remus!" Hermione screamed, her body exploding in a whirlwind of violent pleasure. Nothing had ever felt as good as that moment, when her senses were dialed to their maximum. She was shaking. She was crying. She had completely and utterly lost any concept of time or space or even her own name. She gave herself up to it, shuddering uncontrollably as wave upon wave of demanding pleasure ripped her open until she melted, fully satisfied, against the rumbled bedsheets.

"Hermione..." Remus breathed as he watched her come apart, her core rippling around him before contracting hard and throwing him into his own nirvana.

"Oh God!" he cried, eyes closing as the pressure shot from his balls and up his shaft into his witch. His hips thrust once more to bury himself deep within her. His limbs tingled and his muscles spasmed with uncontrolled relief. He had never come that long or that hard before, and he knew instinctively it was solely due to the woman beneath him whose breath was as shallow as his.

They lay panting in silence, every few seconds twitching in the aftermath of their orgasms. When Remus finally found coherent thought, he worried he was too heavy to lay collapsed on her smaller frame and went to move. Her grip around his back tightened, pausing him.

"Please don't," she said softly. "Not yet."

"I'm not hurting you?" he asked.

"No. I love the feeling of you inside me."

He swallowed hard at her words, feeling his body already starting to react to her. She seemed to notice too, if her sharp intake of breath was any indication.

Looking up into his eyes, she seemed torn between desire and amusement as she said, "Already? Well...damn. I think I'm going to thoroughly enjoy this relationship."

A slow, sinful smile crossed his lips. "Well, you did say you didn't mind my lycanthropy," he teased.

"I can definitely see the advantages of it, yes," she responded with a cheeky smile of her own.

He gazed into her eyes and brushed a strand of her hair away from her face, revelling in the softness of her curls and the smoothness of her skin. "I don't think I could let you go, you know," he whispered softly. "Not now. Not ever."

She grinned a huge, toothy grin that he had always secretly loved. "I'm not going anywhere. Not now. Not ever."

Confident that she was now his, Remus caught her lips and proceeded to do everything in his power to convince her that she would never have cause to regret those words.

"So...a job well done?" Tonks said to Sirius as they watched Hermione and Remus disappear toward the stairs.

"Were you expecting a different outcome?" Sirius replied, clinking his glass to his cousin's with a grin.

"Nah. I always knew Remus would get there eventually."

"Well, he did need a little help."

Tonks rolled her eyes. "You're just lucky Hermione didn't kill you once she found out about the bet."

"Yeah, I admit I appreciate dodging that particular bullet." Then his eyes darkened and started sweeping the crowd. "Speaking of the bet, I have a pair of twins to kill."

"I think they went to find another bottle from that case you..." But Tonks wasn't able to finish as Sirius made a beeline for the nearest door.

Seconds later, the twins sidled up to Tonks, flanking her.

"Thanks for that," Fred said with a nod to the older witch.

"Yeah. Don't really want to be on the wrong end of Sirius's wand," George agreed.

Tonks shot them both a look. "Did you have to go for the most expensive bottle to tempt Remus? You knew he wasn't going to end up drinking it."

Fred arched an eyebrow. "You were the one that told us where the case was in the first place. What did you expect us to do?"

"I expected you to be subtle, but I suppose that was expecting a bit too much from you two."

"Pot calling the kettle Black, I think, considering we're not the ones who have trouble staying upright while walking," George snarked.

Tonks shrugged. "Fair point. What did you do with the rest of the case?"

"It's in your room, as requested. Though, we did take a bottle or two of the cognac."

"Finder's fee. You understand."

"And you'll make sure Sirius doesn't kill us, right?"

"We're rather partial to our lives, you see."

Tonks arched an eyebrow. "Oh no, boys. I kept my end. You're on your own from here. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a different ginger fellow. Good luck!"

And with a final grin at the stunned twins, Tonks chuckled to herself and made her way through the crowd to find Charlie.

Hope you enjoyed it, and if you didn't, please be constructive about it.