Completed: 01/01/04 2:19 AM

Posted: 01/01/04 2:22 AM

Author's Note: Poofers! Just a little Hermione x Remus fluff for New Years and to quench my romance desire. And since it's two in the morning, I'm going to bed now, lol.

Disclaimer: I own not nothing that JK does own.

Originally titled: Stored Mistletoe

--

"HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

Crash!

"Oh dear."

Hermione looked up from her conversation with Minerva to watch in amuse as Remus moved to help her friend Harry, who was now dragging a quite clearly sloshed Sirius into the spacious teacher's lounge. She glanced at her old Transfiguration Professor and smiled to see the strict lines recede, and a starkly younger face than most ever got to see begin to laugh at the antics of her former students.

Harry had, for understandable reasons, never come to terms with his cherished godfather's death. After two years of watching her best friend deteriorate into depression and grief-ridden near madness, Hermione had seen no other choice for her life after Hogwarts. The day after graduation, she had begun her job at the Department of Mysteries.

The Veil was her prime focus. She worked on nothing else for four years, using every piece, every scrap of her vast, accumulated knowledge to solve the mystery no one else could. Whenever the funds slacked on her project, a member of the Order was there to fatten it again. Harry, himself, donated more galleons than could fill the room.

And then, on the third of February, Sirius Black and a half dozen others were recovered from the netherworld beyond the veil. Every long night spent pouring over books, every knut given – it had all paid off.

Sipping at her tea, Hermione let the memory parade in front of her with naught more than a shadowy smile to recognize it. Harry was depositing a babbling Sirius on a chair by the fire, when Hermione looked back to the threesome. Her friend's glasses were slightly askew, now a good match to his unerringly disheveled hair, and he had a childish grin on his face as he listened to Sirius explain why a house elf was like a banana.

Hermione couldn't remember a time, since Sirius had returned, that Harry had stopped smiling. And for that, she was glad.

But she herself had grown tired of the Ministry and, though she'd never made mention of it, she was still haunted by the Department of Mysteries and the battle that had taken place there. Too often would she step out into the sunshine and breathe in like she'd never tasted air so sweet. There was something so undeniable sinister about those catacombs that they could become a Dementor's worse nightmare. There were no happy thoughts in the Department of Mysteries.

And so, Hermione had given her two weeks notice to the Minister – now, one Mr. Arthur Weasley – and had resigned in favor of working for the place she loved most, the one place that had utterly survived the war: Hogwarts.

Professor Flitwick had recently retired, to spend more time with his great-grandchildren and when Dumbledore, with his powers of 'ever-knowing', heard that she was unemployed once more, he'd offered her the position instantly. She, though flattered, had, in turn, suggested Sirius for the job.

He had, after all, been cleared posthumously of all his charges and they both agreed that it would do a great deal of good for him, both mentally and emotionally, to have a purpose and to feel helpful and needed once more. Besides, Hermione had reasoned, being one of the infamous Marauders he was apt to be more comfortable than she in the art of Charms. She would take over for Professor Binns; after all, Dumbledore'd be hard pressed to find another witch or wizard so devout to books and facts than she.

Remus had then been cajoled by the three of them to take up the DADA position for a second time – carrying on the tradition of rotating Professors every year. Snape had been less than pleased. But now, going into the new year, Hogwarts was sporting an almost entirely new staff. It was a rather refreshing thought after the turmoil of the war.

"Young Mr. Black seems to be enjoying his newfound freedom," Minerva commented dryly as she sipped at her own tea.

"You can't blame him, can you?" Poppy interjected, in the projective sort of voice she had. She gestured wildly with her own teacup.

"No, no," Minerva quickly tutted. "I commend anyone else who could go through what that man went through and still come out with the perspective of a child."

At this, Hermione gave her colleague a stern look that fell just short, with her lips quirking upwards. "Now really, Minerva. Sirius isn't that immature."

"See Harry, house elves..." Sirius' loud, drunken bellows caught the attention of the women who had just before entertained him as their topic of conversation. "House elves...they're rather green aren't they?"

"Yeah," Harry nodded indulgently beside him.

"And bananas...they start out green don't they?" Sirius waved his hand about, in what he must have thought was an intelligent way, and there was a look of such utterly serious pensiveness on his face that was so totally out of place in his drunken state. "Therefore," he decreed. "A banana...and a house elf must be...distant cousins."

Hermione chuckled into her tea, the other women in her circle making similar sounds of amusement. Harry, perched in a very childlike manner on the arm of Sirius' chair, had, as whenever he was in his godfather's presence, regressed to an impish, innocent state of being. While Sirius was sprawled nearly upside down; limbs jutting out in all odd directions, Harry was crouched on the balls of his feet at the juncture of the arm and back to the chair looking as if he would spring at you if you crossed too close to his furniture piece.

"IT'S ALL COMING TOGETHER!"

Hermione shook her head. "They're ridiculous," she said to no one in particular.

"You should be silly too, Hermione," Dee Sprout insisted, patting her arm. "It's New Year's Eve and you shouldn't be hanging around us old biddies."

Hermione gave them a warm smile. "Nonsense, I'd like to be awake come midnight. I don't think I'll make it with Sirius."

"Oh, you'll have to excuse me, ladies," McGonagall said, distractedly. "I think Fred and George are trying to tamper with Albus' lemon drops."

Head moving along with Minerva as the serious witch walked briskly past, Hermione caught the gaze of one of the infamous Weasley twins – Fred, she thought – and waved away from the food table, alerting them to McGonagall's speedy approach. They grinned at her, cheekily waving in gratitude of her warning, and ran off to Minerva's angry shouts.

The gathering was small, but with enough bodies to make the excessively large lounge feel snug and cozy. All the current professors were there as well as old, the Weasleys were all in attendance – save for Percy –, and along with Harry were several past alumnae and friends, like Alastor Moody and Nymphadora Tonks. Hermione was glad for it. The thought of changing into a new year with anyone but or more than her friends was an entirely unpleasant thought.

Her attention drifted away from Minerva and the twins, away from Poppy's boisterous talks of her Hufflepuff protégée. Instead, her golden hazel eyes drifted onto the man sitting alone on the couch.

He seemed quite content to be there, elbow propped up on the couch's arm and fist supporting his head. He was wearing comfortable, if not a bit tattered, khaki colored trousers; leg bent, his foot on his knee. Like her, he favored the muggle clothing he'd grown up with and his cloak was slung over the back of the couch. A shirt as rich as red wine hung nicely on his slender shoulders, and she marveled at the newness of it – not a stray thread in sight, nor a single frayed edge. Just crisp, clean lines.

She sighed breathlessly and involuntarily, gusting a curl of steam from her lifted teacup across her flushed cheeks. She found herself unconsciously lowering her gaze to her favorite attribute, and was surprisingly upset to find that the opened cuffs of the shirt she'd only earlier admired hung down past his hands, showing only the tip tops of his fingers.

"Hermione? What's the matter dear?" Pomfrey inquired, setting down her cup.

Realizing she'd been frowning without thinking, she gave a brief smile and shook her head. "I'm fine."

"You know he could be more than eye candy, darling," Sprout winked knowingly and Hermione's face flushed red. Truly the worst sort of embarrassment was being caught ogling a man by a woman nearly three times her own age. Mortified by the stout Head of Hufflepuff's next words, Hermione splayed her fingers across her scarlet face. "Go on and talk to him – lord knows we could do with a good show. This school has been several years lacking a healthy staff romance."

Hermione nearly dropped her china saucer as she set the quaking teacup back upon it. Mumbling her excuses, she set her tea down on the nearby table – the two pieces shuddering against one another in her abashed haste. "I need some punch," she rambled, before seeking refuge at the long, adorned refreshment table.

Brushing back rampant curls from her face she twisted the entire bushy mess atop her head and secured it deftly with her wand while making her way to the large crystal bowl resting at the table's end. Peering into it her mouth felt suddenly drier at the sight of the cool, sparkling red confection. Sniffing delicately she caught the tell-tale scent of the liquor that had been used to spike the harmless appearing drink.

Taking up a glass from beside the crystal container, she ladled a goodly spoonful of punch into her cup and took a gratifying gulp before refilling it.

Feeling as if she'd sorely ignored Harry that evening, she grabbed him a cup as well – though slightly less full than her own – and headed over the grouping of furniture that half-circled the fireplace.

"Oi! Professor Hermione," the bespectacled Boy-Who-Defeated-The-Dark-Lord, called exuberantly as she neared his perch.

"Hermnee?" Sirius slurred. He tried to right himself to look at their visitor, but only succeeded in sliding completely off the wingback chair.

Covering her laughing mouth with a glass wielding hand, Hermione slipped into the small aisle between the chair and the couch, nearly brushing noses with Harry. A clearing of a throat made her own look up, and she glanced over her shoulder at Remus who had solicitously drawn his arm back from the couch's arm.

"Have a seat, Hermione."

She smiled and did as he suggested, settling for a half-sitting, half-leaning position on the cushy couch end, her feet still firmly on the ground. He, in turn, readjusted his position to throw his earlier propped arm over the back of the couch in a cavalier flourish.

Hermione held on to Harry's drink, while he finally descended from his odd position to stop his tipsy godfather from crawling under the coffee table. Bulking under the dead weight Sirius presented for him, and suffering from his own mild intoxication Harry struggled to heave the ex-con back into the chair. Hermione...chose to watch. After all, being the designated drink holder it would be a shame if she got into a scuffle and, heaven forbid, sloshed said drinks.

"HAPPY NEW YEARS!"

"Nope," Harry laughed, finally righting Sirius into the chair. "Not midnight yet."

"Oh," moped Sirius gloomily. With a pout on his face and his fingers playing despondently with the long strands of his hair, he looked just like a put-out school girl.

Hermione, of course, saw fit to tell him this, and thus inspired the man's loud demand for a skirt, some heels, and a "damn decent pair of tights".

"Now Paddy" – Remus' sudden interjection gave Hermione a startling reminder of his presence – "We don't want a repeat of Halloween '74, do we?"

Hermione scooted a bit to the side so he could be more a part of the conversation, and was caught off-guard to find that he hadn't moved from his corner position since she'd arrived, putting them in close proximity.

"Aww, come off it Moony," Sirius grinned. He reached over both Harry and Hermione's legs to pinch Remus' cheek. "You made the prettiest girl."

Remus swatted away the hand with a roll of his eyes. "That was the most degrading Halloween Ball ever."

"Pfft!" Sirius snorted loudly. "You had quite the admirer...if I recall," he added with drunken solemnity. "When Snivellus tried to dance with y-"

Harry had enough sense to clap a hand over his godfather's mouth, before his blaring voice caught the attention of the Potion's Master in question across the room. Sirius obviously couldn't contain his laughter because hysterical giggles kept eeking their way through Harry's fingers at the hilarity of this supposed memory. Harry started giggling as well, as only men could do when they were piss drunk, and in all likelihood because Sirius was laughing. Hermione was hard-pressed to control her own laughter at the image of a pimply, hormonal Snape propositioning a young Remus Lupin in drag.

Looking down at the man lounged beside her, Hermione couldn't fight the wicked grin that begged to be shown. She had to ask. "Did you really?" She asked in a laugh, scrunching up her nose.

Remus sighed and shook his head. "Unfortunately," he answered. Hermione's breath hitched in delight as slender fingers emerged from the crimson fabric to pinch the bridge of his nose.

Oh, how she loved those hands.

They moved in graceful ways that she couldn't begin to duplicate; no matter if it was in the simple gesture of picking up a teacup or the more exotic practice of wand-waving. She'd always entertained the fantasy of seeing those beautiful fingers set against ivory keys. They were the hands of a musician in her eyes; a grand pianist. For they were so slender – nearly effeminate, yet decidedly masculine – and their unique way of motion, like the rise and fall of a symphonic waltz, allured her with a silent music incapable of reproduction by any earthly instrument.

Still, she'd always wondered if he played...

Remus was speaking again, stirring her from her fantasies with his rich voice caught somewhere between baritone and tenor. "—don't know how you talked me into it."

"Held your chocolate hostage, we did," Sirius chortled gleefully, slapping his knees.

"Oh, yes. I believe I got you back for that?" Remus sounded amused.

With an accusing finger wavering uncoordinatedly in his mate's general direction, Sirius turned to his godson for sympathy. "He turned my blooming hair pink, he did!"

The youngest two of the group burst into hearty laughter at this, and, to Sirius growing consternation, were joined by the chuckles of his former best mate. It took only a minute of Hermione coaxing the sulking man, before he regained his dopey grin and delved into another hilarious tale.

Both Harry and Hermione enjoyed hearing stories of the Marauders' time, and had, until that hour, thought they'd heard them all. Apparently, all you had to do was get one Sirius Black completely tanked and out came out all the "good" stories to anyone who would listen.

--

When Sirius finally began nodding off in the middle retelling how he and James had betwitched the Slytherins to line-dance and Harry was blinking blearily from behind his glasses after he'd been banished to the floor, Hermione stood up and stretched. Tucking blankets around the both of them and smiling at their identical snores, she set about tidying up the glasses and dishes on the coffee table.

"Come, Hermione, sit down," Remus insisted. "Don't start off the new year cleaning dishes."

Sighing tiredly, she obligingly abandoned the party mess and fell back onto the couch beside him. "Is it midnight, already?" she asked, acting out the sudden urge to snuggle deeper into the plush couch.

He chuckled at her. "Way past. It's a quarter after one now."

"Oh my." She yawned, then feeling silly gave him a sheepish look. "Just hearing it makes me tired."

He rubbed his blue-gray eyes in a tired gesture of his own. "Yes, it does; though, I'm surprised this old man has managed to keep up with you."

"You're not old, Remus," she told him, stoutly. "Dumbledore is old. You are in your wizard's prime."

His arms slid off the back of the couch and he hunched forward slightly, turning his head to study her. "That's kind of you to say."

"Honestly, Remus." She thought of his hands and their graceful beauty. She tried to see them as wrinkled, spotted byproducts of age but couldn't. Her chinks pinkened a little. "I can't even imagine you being old."

He laughed at the humorous face she made at the thought and caught her with a piercing look. "Glad to know I've still got beautiful young women fantasizing about me."

Hermione hit him with a throw pillow, and continued to swat at the laughing man with it until she was sure the cherry flush had left her face. "You're as terrible as Sirius," she scolded, folding the pillow over in her lap with a pout.

"It's always the quiet ones," he replied, devilishly.

Hermione turned up her nose at him and looked away with stubborn dismissal and a pointed 'hmph!'. A warm silence descended on the pair, as Hermione's attention became caught by the glittering decorations that lined the mantel and Remus' attention was consumed elsewhere. The flamelight played across her features as she followed the silver tinsel, left over from Christmas, to the opposite end of the fireplace.

Remus was staring at her.

She blinked in surprise and he was immediately looking down at something in his hands, making her doubt that she'd seen him staring at her at all. Curiosity got the better of her, and as she curled her legs up onto the couch she slid closer to Remus and peered down at the object held in his hand.

"What's that?" She asked, head tipping to the side as she studied the dying piece of flora. The green leaves were dry and curling around the edges and the berries that looked to have once been bright red were now shriveled and dark as plums. "It's not mistletoe, is it?"

He nodded, and the fingers of her obsession turned the bundle over and over in what must have been an idle gesture.

Her nose scrunched up again. She placed a hand on his shoulder to steady herself as she looked closer at the plant and then up into his face. "Why do you still have it?" She wanted to know.

He lifted the mistletoe up into the air and studied it in the firelight as if he were seeing such a wonder for the first time. A ghost of a smile graced his lips. He seemed enthralled in thought by the image of the bundle and Hermione didn't dare speak. "I thought I might need it as an excuse." He chuckled as if the very idea were absurd.

Hermione was, understandably, confused and she brought it to his attention. "To do what?"

He turned his head and they were so close he had only to lean forward to close the distance between their lips. The hands of her obsession laid themselves along her face and she melted right then and there; all traces of sleep now gone. Seeking any sort of purchase she could find, she grasped tight fistfuls of his shirt and held on for dear life as he caressed her cheek.

She felt the distant pull on her wand and then her wild russet curls were falling down around her shoulders. Lips parting to deepen the kiss, she pressed their bodies close together if only to keep the long fingers running through her hair. She raised herself up onto her knees and wrapped on arm about his neck as they broke apart in gasping breaths, punctuated by desperate kisses – longing to keep the contact between their bruised mouths.

A hand left her hair to lift her up by her round bottom, and as they kissed again, Hermione tumbled into Remus' lap, pulling him down atop her by the arm around his neck.

"Hermione," he whispered against her lips and she sighed softly. He said her name as if it were holy.

She answered in kind, nuzzling his neck and murmuring his own name; lips against skin. She slid her hand beneath the one on her hip and intertwined their fingers before lifting it up for view; though she was loathe to leave the musky warmth of his neck to do so. With a smile, she curled her wrist and brought the back of his palm into contact with her lips.

"Have I ever told you...I love your hands?"