There Came the Night

by Branwyn

He apologizes every day.

They have found a harmony over the years that almost manages to take them some place beyond episodic madness and into peace. The new laws help; they are allowed to assume the mask of normality during daylight hours, and the wizarding world is obliged to treat them as human beings. Harry helps as well, having made it plain years ago that he will never allow the two of them to suffer as Remus did, during his nomadic youth. But these are merely glosses on the reality that descends with the close of each inevitable day. The change is always just around the bend, lurking in the shadows of their brightest laughter.

Hermione treats all his apologies the same way; lightly, commanding him not to fuss. She is not naturally demonstrative, or at least he doesn't think she is, but when she feels any joy at all, whenever she delights in something that could only have happened because they are together, she makes a point of making him notice. She has learned to show emotion freely for his benefit. She wants him to trust her when she insists that she has no regrets. And in his heart, he knows that he is closer to happiness now than he has been since he was a schoolboy, before the first Voldemort war.

But he cannot tell Hermione, however much she needs to hear it. He is afraid that the moment he accepts happiness, he will destroy it.

"All happiness is an accident, Remus," she says, and he can hear her imploring silently, Don't turn your back on this. But the years he has stolen from her lie between them, and the debt he owes her will continue to grow in weight and magnitude until the end of her life.

"I called you to me," she reminds him, lying in his arms, the light of a three-quarter's moon spilling over their bed. "Something in me must have known, even then."

He does not tell her how in his dreams he can remember the taste of her flesh, the warmth of her blood as he licked and nuzzled the wound, understanding in his dim, hungry wolf's mind the import, the intent of what he had done. He does not tell her that when he heard her false cry he had known it was false, and had come for her anyway.

Hermione professes contentment with their life, and in his unguarded moments Remus must admit the same. They both have work that engages them, and if their friends pay their visits with one eye on the calendar, he cannot blame them. Hermione, after all, does not sigh when Ron Weasley announces his engagement to Lavender Brown, or when Harry and Ginny bring baby Lilian over a few weeks after she is born.

If only someone would blame him, Remus would know how to behave. He is, after all, experienced in the endless game of recrimination and atonement. But no one does. Not even Snape, who came to their cottage once a week for three years, teaching Hermione how to brew the Wolfsbane Potion. There are moments when Remus could see that he was tempted, but when their eyes meet, all the many things he would have been justified in saying become moot.

In seven years, Remus and Hermione have never been separated longer than a few hours, and the words of blame have never come yet.

"I know you didn't mean it, Professor," she had said at thirteen, her earnest white face haloed by dark hair against the white hospital bed pillow, Harry and Ron standing nearby in the paralysis of helpless horror. "I called you to me. It was my fault, I should have known better."

He hadn't been able to speak then, but she had offered him her small hand and he had taken it, gratefully, desperately, and clung to it, until Madam Pomfrey had driven them all from the hospital wing.

He holds Hermione now with the same gratitude, but over the years he has felt the slow wane of the desperation.

"Leave the curtains open," she insists every night as they are going to bed. "I like to look out the window as I'm going to sleep."

Because it is the least of what he owes her, Remus complies. "We've days yet before the next moon," she reminds him sleepily.

He lies awake after her breathing has become low and even. He is always tempted to go and draw the curtains, certain she will not notice them in the morning, but he never does.

She has been trying for years to teach him how to look at the moon with equanimity. And though he is nowhere near succeeding, he lies at her side every night, and never relaxes into sleep until he has bathed for hours in the beauty and curse of it.

-------------

Wherefore an angel? Oh, there came the night,

and turned the leaves of trees indifferently,

and the disciples stirred uneasily.

Rainer Maria Rilke, "The Olive Garden"