Author's Note: This is an adult story written for adults to read. It is my personal choice not to include trigger or content warnings on each chapter. If this bothers you, I recommend not reading further. Basically, one can expect adult content, sexual situations, mild violence, and stalkerish behavior. While I don't anticipate this story being terribly dark, there's always a chance that there will be more than just those included. Read at your own risk.
She could always feel him out there, lurking in the shadows, watching her every move. Unsure exactly when it all started, Hermione Granger was certain that she at least became aware of his presence six weeks before Christmas. For all she knew, he could have been out there for months before then. No one knew much about the man, where he'd been, what had happened to him after the war ended. Most assumed he had been dead for years. She never gave him much thought at all.
It had been an ordinary day. Once she left her office in the Ministry of Magic long after most of her coworkers, she wandered down the quiet London street where the employee entrance was located. The city turned chilly when she wasn't paying attention. A cold drizzle fell on the pavement with a promise of a light dusting of snow as the city slept that night. If Hermione could pick the kind of weather she liked best, it would be the rain that came just before the snow. Each year she looked forward to the changing of the seasons. There was something about winter that always brought her peace.
Even years after returning to Hogwarts to finish her interrupted schooling, she thought back to the harsh weather in Scotland and found herself missing it. Hagrid would be chopping down the Christmas trees soon. Every nook and cranny of the castle were soon to be filled with twinkling lights and the reminders that her favorite holiday was soon to arrive. The students, enjoying a carefree existence thanks to the end of the war ten years earlier, would be waging massive snowball fights on the castle grounds. It sounded exactly like what she would prefer to be doing.
As most come to discover when the last vestiges of youth disappeared and they were fully entrenched in the less-than-glamourous adult world, Hermione learned being grown wasn't always what she dreamed it would be. She thought for certain that as soon as she left Hogwarts she would go straight to the Ministry to convince the powers that be to release all house-elves around the country from their servitude. Such a feat should only take about a week, maybe two on her naïve estimations. Then, once those innocent creatures were taken care of, she would move on to getting the horrendous werewolf laws corrected. It was entirely unfair to treat those poor souls as less-than-human simply because of their affliction. After all, it wasn't as if any of them asked to be bitten by a monster under the light of a Full Moon. She assumed changing the minds of so many Ministry officials would take some time. Maybe a year or two. After that, she could get some of the worst of the pro-Pureblood laws off the books too. Her goal was to become the youngest Minister for Magic by age forty.
Only a cold dose of reality taught her that her plans weren't going to be as easily completed as she hoped. It most certainly took her more than just a week to free the house-elves from their enslavement. She could hardly believe that it took her six years. Very few in the Ministry took her crusade seriously at all. Even Kingsley struggled to hide his own annoyance when he asked her repeatedly if she wouldn't rather be doing something more productive in a different department. She rebuffed all of his offers, determined she would never give up on her quest to do what was right by the helpless, exploited creatures. Part of her assumed that the only reason why Minister Shacklebolt finally signed the Freedom of House-Elves Act into law was because he was tired of her wasting her potential and wanted her elsewhere in the Ministry. Or, perhaps more likely, because he and the other senior officials had grown weary of her relentless campaign.
And changing the discriminatory werewolf laws hadn't been nearly as easy as she thought it would be either. Even having the Minister in her corner thanks to his close, personal friendship with the late Remus Lupin didn't help matters along like she hoped and assumed they would. There were a number of antiquated ideas and opinions about the poor, cursed beings held by members of their society. She had been working tirelessly for three years and she had only just begun to make any progress dismantling the atrocious regulations put into place by the wretched Dolores Umbridge. Even from her cell in Azkaban she was still causing Hermione daily misery.
It was close to nine o'clock before she left her office the night she first saw him. Bogged down all day with paperwork that needed to be filed properly in triplicate to the required departments to just simply ease the job restrictions for known werewolves, time had gotten away from her. Only one other person worked in her department. Robert, just a few years older than Hermione was an example of a werewolf who was perfectly capable of having a job and interacting with society at large. It had taken every single favor she could call on from Kingsley to be able to offer the kind man a job. They'd been fought at every turn, but she was proud to share an office with him once it became clear she would never give up her fight. Many within the walls of the Ministry had already learned the hard lesson that sometimes it was simply easier to just give in to the woman when she wasn't asking for that much.
Robert didn't like to leave her alone in their dingy office. Part of the agreement in allowing him to have the job as her assistant meant they were exiled to a tiny office all the way down on Level Ten, tucked back as far away from the other offices and the courtrooms as possible. Offended on his behalf, Hermione tried what she could to make the room less depressing. Her assistant would've stayed longer that night to help her finish up her tasks, but it was a Friday and she knew he had been planning to take one of the ladies from the Improper Use of Magic Office out for dinner. It had only taken the painfully shy werewolf two years to work up the courage to ask the patient witch out. There was simply no way Hermione would stand in the way of his plans. Nor would she allow him to use her as an excuse to cancel the date. As nervous as she knew he was, he was looking for reasons to avoid the social event.
Besides, it wasn't as if she had anyone waiting for her at home. No one but an aging half-kneazle who spent much of his time wandering the streets of London looking for excitement. Just like the witch who claimed to be his master, Crookshanks missed Scotland. It was a shame that the seat of power was in London. Hermione could've been quite happy living in a small cottage in Hogsmeade. Apparating back and forth for work each day would've been tedious, but something she would've been willing to consider if she didn't already feel isolated enough as it was in the city. She was the kind of person that could easily ignore everyone else in the world for long periods of time. It wasn't always the healthiest of choices.
A short-lived romance with Ron fizzled out shortly after the war ended and their emotions settled to a more manageable level. She had been glad to be there for him as he grieved the loss of his brother. Their friendship grew stronger even as it became evident that there wasn't anything romantic there. It had been a sad breakup, mostly because they had both put so much stock in their future together. Everyone assumed they would make it, but how often do people really stay together with their sweethearts from school? Eventually, they were able to repair their friendship to the point it was almost as if they never even dated.
There had been other men. Not very many, to her disappointment. A handsome Auror. They both worked so much that they never spent much time together except for Sundays spent entirely in bed. A wizard who owned the apothecary in Diagon Alley she liked best. She managed to bore him with her incessant prattle about the house-elves, in his own discouraging words. Viktor for the two months he was helping train the Falmouth Falcons to their first ever League Cup. His assignment was only ever going to be temporary so they tried to make the most of it that they could. Once she even managed to have an awkward dinner with Draco Malfoy that she still wasn't sure qualified as a date. If it did, it was without a doubt the most disastrous one she'd ever endured and neither one of them was in a hurry to repeat it.
She was content, for the moment, with her friendships. Though it bothered her slightly when she was around all of them with their significant others while she was alone, she had become an expert at pretending like she was perfectly all right. It was only when she returned to her small house on the outskirts of the city that she would snuggle Crookshanks to her and wish that she didn't have to be alone any longer. She had plenty in her life to keep her occupied and to keep her mind satisfied. Anything beyond that was better not thought about at all.
With her thoughts focused on the pile of work still laying on top of her desk, Hermione pulled her coat tighter around her body. Even if there were very few people out on the streets, she chose to enjoy the weather a little bit longer before she ducked into the nearest alley to Apparate home. There was no need to rush. No one was waiting for her. Most of her friends had stopped inviting her out to dinner or to see a movie because she had turned them down too many times. Her life revolved around working. They didn't always understand. Maybe they couldn't understand that filling her life with work kept her from being too aware of the fact that she had nothing else in her life.
"And that kind of thinking is just going to drive you mad, Granger."
She turned a corner without paying too much attention to where she was going. It was a well-known fact that the Ministry of Magic was built in a part of the city that had been rundown for decades. When the sun was shining and others filled the streets with their energy and presence, it didn't feel dangerous. At that moment, with no one else around and the lateness of the winter hour, it would have been best that she find the nearest dark corner to make her return home. Instead, she kept going, straight into the path of a man she hadn't seen step out from the shadows.
"Bit late for a stroll by yourself, ain't it?"
The unfamiliar voice tore Hermione out of her muddled thoughts. She wasn't sure what she was doing. It most definitely wasn't like her to be so wrapped in what she was thinking that she wasn't even aware of her surroundings. A quick glance around her proved that she'd walked further than she intended. Her surroundings weren't familiar and the man blocking her from going any further on the pavement was a complete stranger.
Living in the insulated world of Wizarding Britain post-war had given Hermione a false sense of security. When there was no longer a power mad Dark Lord running around the country killing everyone who dared to stop him from his goal of immortality and ultimate rule, it was easy for one to forget that there were other dangers lurking out there. Despite her Muggle heritage, she was just as guilty as so many others for assuming that only wizards and witches posed a serious threat to her well-being. Her arrogance since coming in to her full strength as a powerful witch was a detriment.
"No one ever tell you that you shouldn't walk around alone after dark?"
Hermione carefully slid her hand into her pocket to retrieve her wand. It might be illegal to use magic against a Muggle, but she would be damned if she let one hurt her without so much as defending herself. She could deal with the Obliviators later. Even Kingsley wouldn't fault her for attacking someone who was going to hurt her. Before she could grasp the weapon, the horrible man roughly grabbed her wrist to pull it out of her pocket.
"Nuh uh. Leave your hands where I can see them."
It seemed on the surface to just be a normal shakedown. Crime was a constant in a city as large as London. No matter how many times government officials would parade themselves in front a television camera to proclaim the city's crime rate was under control, she knew the truth. As long as human beings continued to congregate and live in concentrated areas, there would always be those who would prey on those they deemed weaker. Magic was a great equalizer. If allowed to use her wand, she had no doubt that she could take the robber down with little effort. A battle of physical strength, however, would end very differently. The man had several inches on her and more than a few stone. He appeared to be the type of man that had once been in great shape. Maybe a former rugby player who got injured or grew too fat to keep playing. And if sheer size wasn't enough to worry the witch, the glint of the knife he was holding in his hand was.
"I don't want to hurt you."
He slid the flat side of his knife down Hermione's right cheek to further his point. The bite of the cold metal against her flushed flesh was startling. His grip was still tight on her wrist preventing her from reaching her wand. She knew even without trying that if she tried to rip her hand out of his grasp, she would only make the situation even worse. Whatever he was going to demand, she would have to comply.
"Pretty thing like you shouldn't be out wandering these streets alone. You could get hurt."
Removing the threat of the knife from her face, the Muggle ripped her handbag off of her shoulder. Seemingly satisfied by the weight of the bag, a sly grin crossed his features. She hoped that that was all he wanted. Most of her money was kept locked up safe in Gringotts. What little Muggle money she still had left over from her parents' estate was also safe in a Muggle bank. He might get away with less than fifty pounds and maybe a galleon or two. She could live with the loss. Very little else in her handbag was of any value. Everything could be replaced with minimal effort.
Before the man would let her walk away, handbag-less, he wanted to make sure she wasn't concealing anything else that he could steal. The manner in which his free hand not grasping her wrist roamed over her body made her sick to her stomach. He checked the pockets of her coat, his hand lingering over her breasts. Next, he rubbed her back pockets on her arse to see if they were empty. Just as he was gleefully preparing to run his hand down the front of her body between her covered thighs, a deep growl ripped through the still night.
A flash of motion crossed in front of Hermione's line of sight as she witnessed a body soar through the air to crush the robber to the pavement. Everything happened so quickly that she wasn't even sure what to do. Loud, animalistic sounds emanated from her rescuer. As the Muggle who was so intent to violate her in more ways than one screamed and kicked out at his attacker, all she could do was stand there and watch. Her handbag went flying out of the man's hands, spilling some of its contents. Careful not to get too close to the two men brawling on the ground, she reached a handle on the bag. A discreet summoning spell brought what had fallen out to her waiting hands.
She wasn't sure what the protocol was for being saved in such a manner. The robber was begging for mercy that the other refused to give. Was she expected to remain long enough to thank him? Or was it bad manners to run off into the night with nothing more than a shouted 'thank you'?
"Mikey, that you?"
The sound of another voice coming from the shadows of the alley rooted Hermione to the spot. She wasn't sure what to do. It didn't take long for the third man to realize what was happening. As he shouted out for others to join him, she knew they were in trouble. Her rescuer might be able to take one down, but she feared that he would soon be outnumbered.
For the first time since he flew to her literal rescue, the witch was able to get a good look at the man holding her attacker down. He wore his long, thick, dark hair loose and down around his shoulders. It covered much of his face and his heavy beard covered the rest. Only his blue eyes were remarkable. They stared into hers, an intensity present that threatened to take her breath away. She knew she had seen them before, but couldn't think of where.
"Go home. Now."
His order came out in a deep, raspy voice that she had heard in her nightmares since she was held down on the floor of the drawing room in Malfoy Manor. Even if Bellatrix Lestrange was the one torturing her, she would never forget how her accomplice stalked around Hermione in a circle, watching every move, waiting for the second it would all stop and he would be allowed to drag her away. It was impossible. He had been killed during the final battle. Everyone said so. His body might not have been found, but that didn't mean anything. Between the explosions and the acromantulas swarming the grounds, it wasn't inconceivable that a body would be missed.
"Did you hear me, girl? Go!"
She didn't need to be told again. Others were rushing out into the night to come to the aid of their comrade. Little did they know what kind of monster they were about to be faced against. If she didn't leave quickly, she would be caught up in the violence again. It didn't seem right for her to make his efforts worth nothing. Trying to ignore the sounds behind her, Hermione ran until she found another dark corner to Disapparate home.
As soon as she was inside the safety of her small home, she struggled to catch her breath. From being stopped by the man until she was pushing her front door open, no more than ten minutes could have passed. Several minutes ticked by before she was able to convince herself that she wasn't completely mad. Thanks to her carelessness, that night could have ended in tragedy. To think that she was not only saved at the last moment, but saved by him was enough to make her head spin. How could she explain his presence? After ten years of being a practical ghost, she couldn't believe he would just show up right when she needed him.
Deciding that she had had enough excitement for one night, she checked that all of her doors and windows were locked. Once up the narrow staircase to the first floor she stepped into the safety of her bedroom. Her curtains were open allowing a glimpse of the first snowflakes that were beginning to fall. Taking another deep breath, she willed herself to calm down. She was safe. She hadn't been hurt.
A dark flash of movement just outside caught her attention. Next to her house was a small garden that her neighbor took a great deal of pride in when the weather was pleasant. Standing in the shadows up against the trunk of a tree, her rescuer made his presence known. Hermione paused for a couple of beats in her window to allow him to see that she'd made it home safely before pulling the curtains closed.
When she slipped under the covers of her bed a short time later, she fell asleep thinking about the man outside her house. A rational mind would be frightened to know that Fenrir Greyback was just a short distance away. For a reason she couldn't explain and certainly one that made very little sense, Hermione felt comforted knowing he was out there.