Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. Just this plotline and some random OCs!

Note: THIS HAS TAKEN MANY YEARS TOO LONG TO FINISH! So here is the end of Still So Close to You, and I hope you enjoyed every moment of it as I did :)

Still So Close to You
by darkwing731
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((-Chapter Thirty Two-))
Atonement

She was engulfed in icy blackness, gasping at the sudden cold, before everything was normal, before she was back where she belonged.

Opening her eyes, she found herself in the Hogwarts library, surrounded by books and a pleasant silence. Just as she began to suspect she was entirely alone, she heard giggling on the other side of the shelf; it was not feminine at all, but it held the sort of immaturity that Hermione always associated with Pavarti and Lavender. There was another giggle, and then a snort, and she realized instantly who was laughing: James and Sirius.

Hermione rushed to her old friends in a matter of seconds; sitting before her at the table were James and Sirius, sniggering over a dirty joke book, while Peter sat looking down at a piece of paper, trying to sneak a glance at the book every now and then. Hermione, who had been beaming fondly down at them, realized with a start that Remus was nowhere to be seen. As her heart began to sank, the werewolf emerged from behind another book shelf, his nose in the spine of a charms book.

"Come on, Mooney, have a look with us!" Sirius said as Remus sat down.

"I just want to finish this first. . . ." Remus muttered, pulling out a piece of paper and starting to scribble on a piece of parchment. He sat down with his friends, pulling out his wand and muttering a few spells.

"Whatcha got there, Mooney?" James asked innocently in a singsong voice; Remus, knowing better than to trust James, snatched up the paper before the Potter could get his hands on it.

"Prongs look! Look at this!" Sirius said suddenly, guffawing, and James was promptly distracted. Hermione inched closer to Remus, her heart hammering as she drew close to her former lover, and curious about what he was working on.

Just as his scrawl came into their view, there was a loud crash very close to them, followed by a shriek, and all four of the boys became instantly still, as if a wary deer had heard a predator. Sirius was the first to move, while Remus, James, and Peter looked curiously down the aisle. Hermione rushed after Sirius and saw her former self, bleeding and delusion, pass out in Sirius' arms. Now in her twenties, Hermione gazed down on the young, innocent face that had not experienced the best—and worst—of life.

Sirius called for his friends over his shoulder, and Hermione moved just in time to avoid the fleet of boys that came running down the aisle. They all stared down at the unconscious girl silently, unsure of what to do.

"W-Who is that?" Remus at finally, and Hermione stared up into his face, her heart swelling at the sound of his voice, full of concern and suppressed curiosity. His friends glanced at him, noticing the intensity of his eyes, and Remus blushed and looked away.

"Dunno. We'd better bring her to the Infirmary, though. Madam Pomfrey'll have our heads if we don't," James said, and they all murmured in agreement. When nobody moved, Remus bent down and picked up the unconscious girl, and Hermione, observing, watched as Remus desperately tried to keep his eyes off of this strange girl's face, but could not help himself . . .

Then, the world was swirling black again, icy cold and rushing around her as if she were in a wind tunnel. When everything came to a stop, seconds later, Hermione found herself standing in the Gryffindor common room, which was filled with students. She Muggleborn saw Lily and Emma being aided by a bushy haired girl while they wrote their essays, and as Hermione spun around, she saw Remus sitting at a table, staring openly at the girl who was helping Lily and Emma.

Just then, as Hermione began to piece together the memory, James, Sirius, and Peter came flooding from upstairs, looking giddy and as if they were about to burst with laughter.

"Moony," James whispered as they approached their friend.

"What?" Remus asked cautiously. He recognized the mischievous grins on their faces and knew whatever suggestion was to come would not be a smart one.

"We just got the greatest idea," Sirius gushed, bouncing with excitement. "Let's pull something on Jane. She's the new girl. Let's give her a scare."

"No!" Remus said at once, instantly regretting his words. Hermione watched as the werewolf flushed.

"Ooh, I see how it is, Moony," James teased. He cleared his throat loudly, and Remus knew that he had to get out of the common room; he had managed to shove everything into his bag as James began to sing, "Remus and Jane, sittin' in a tree!"

While James continued on, Remus escaped just in time; the bushy haired girl, Hermione from long ago, noticed what James was singing and also made a dash for the staircase to avoid the situation. Hermione followed the memory of herself as she ran up the stairs, and she and Remus Lupin bumped into each other, both clearly mortified. . .

Then, just as suddenly as the last, the world began to dissolve around her, and Hermione fell into inky nothingness with a noiseless gasp—then the black melted to give way to a blinding light, which Hermione realized was now a snowy world. Thankful that she could not feel the environment in the memory, Hermione smiled fondly as she watched the backs of Remus Lupin and herself walk down the road to Hogsmeade together, their bodies closer than they probably realized.

The memory changed again— Hermione was thrown into a classroom, one very dark and dank and full of cauldrons. Students peered around as Professor Hull screamed at them, and Hermione, searching quickly, found Remus glaring at Lucius Malfoy, for the pureblood's hand had inched onto the leg of Hermione Granger . . . .

A change—it was as if they had stayed in the same memory, but Hermione was instantly confronted with the form of Rose Sanders. She was walking across the room with her head held high before she sat down next to Remus. The werewolf flushed, and began to chat amiably with her, casting hopeful glances back across the room as if he wanted someone to see him . . .

It changed again— observing, Hermione saw herself and Remus Lupin walking slowly down a corridor, talking quietly. Then, Hermione bade him a goodbye and entered the Potions room, and Remus, after watching her leave, released an aggravated sigh and cupped his face in his hands. . .

Again— Remus was talking to Rose Sanders, trying to act casual and calm, as she asked him out on a date to Hogsmeade. After he accepted and threw the Slytherin a small grin, he went back to the Gryffindor table, hoping that his happy façade would catch the attention of a certain girl . . .

Again— Remus was walking down the snowy lane, hand in hand with the Slytherin he told himself he had no feelings for, but had taken comfort in the welcome distraction. This Slytherin was drastically different than a certain Gryffindor girl, bushy haired and stubborn, and nothing about Rose Sanders reminded him of Hermione Granger. . .

The change of scenery was much different this time, and Hermione, who had been overwhelmed with the quick pace and change of memories, was suddenly very alert. It was very dark this time, and the air was still, but moving forward she realized that she was at the Astronomy Tower. Just as she crept towards the starlight, the quiet night exploded with fireworks, and as she started with shock, she read the words Happy Christmas! blaze through the night sky.

Suddenly Hermione knew what was going on, and her body began to flood with a joyous, giddy feeling that warmed her heart and her body, bringing back all the life that had been taken from her. Coming around the corner, Hermione smiled as she watched herself and Remus exchange small words, knowing what was about to come. When Remus withdrew the small box from within his jacket, both Hermione and her memory gasped at the simple beauty of his gift.

And then, and then . . . then they were one, suddenly, without warning, pressed up against each other in a union that they had both desperately wanted but had never confessed. To Hermione, this was worth every moment of suffering, every moment of torment and longer because it was here that revealed how perfect they were for each other, how much they could truly love. . . .

Much to Hermione's disappointment, the memory changed again; this time, she found herself in the boys' dormitory, where Remus was poring over the Marauder's Map, muttering, his fingers moving rapidly over the old parchment. Hermione noticed how pale Remus was, and how hard his hands were shaking as he searched for someone in particular. Then, Remus became stiff, his eyes racing back and forth—

"No!" Remus shouted suddenly, taking Hermione off guard. "Mischief managed!"

Remus was flying out of the room, and Hermione was alone for a few moments before she understood that she had to follow him; sprinting as fast as she could, she nearly collapsed from the stitch in her side. Remus was shoving people out of the way, running faster than she could've imagined, before—

"Remus, you maniac!" the memory of Hermione shouted as Remus snatched her up over his shoulder and began to run down the hallway.

"Quiet!" he hissed. He screeched to a stop and dropped her; she squeaked as she hit the floor, but started yelling again as he grabbed her hand and dragged her down the hallway.

"You have to move!" he shouted at her, his voice tight and frightened.

Then, they were sprinting again, and Hermione struggled to keep up with them as they fled to the Room of Requirement. Inside, Hermione cringed at their fight, and their painful epiphanies as they realized the damage Remus had caused by making a time charm. And then . . . and then . . .

"You just couldn't love me back, Remus, and I accepted that."

"Hermione… I was just scared to love you back… but I'm not. Not anymore."

He leaned forward and kissed her, and the fight that had been loud and rancorous just moments ago did not matter, for it dissolved with the sweet, tender kiss he had given her. Watching all of this, Hermione clutched at her heart and felt the swell of sadness and nostalgia rise up in her throat.

It changed again— this time, Hermione found herself standing in a dusty old house that seemed to be abandoned. She was confused for a moment before she heard a very guttural and familiar sound.

Whirling around, she saw the couple was heatedly kissing with their shirts undone and hair askew. They were engrossed in each other, interlocked in each other's hands and embrace. There was not a moment where either of them lay still; arching, caressing, gliding hands, the heat between them was fierce.

Pressed up against him, shuddering with pleasure, each time he shifted she did, each time he ran a hand down her back, or inched her fingers up her shirt, her movements were the same, causing them to appear as one. Their bodies moved in an undeniable rhythm, shifting up and to the side, down and forwards, until the movement was so perfect it seemed to be a movie on repeat. He cradled her in his arms, kissing her neck as she pulled him closer; fingers automatically running through his hair, grasping his neck to encourage the heat he was creating, and gliding her hands over his shoulders and chest, she angled her body to match his, like placing a puzzle piece with its partner.

Although she had partaken in this memory, even though she was watching herself, Hermione felt as if she was intruding on something very private, for this was a scene from something perfect and pure. Never before this memory had Hermione recognized something so natural and passionate, but she felt that everything outside of the memory, the pensieve, destroyed this. Her engagement to Ron slashed this memory, diseasing it and ruining its potential for happiness. The observer backed away, shutting her eyes to the perfection she once had, trying to hold back the tears that welled up in her eyes—

The scene changed— the Marauders were standing protectively around two girls, Lily and Hermione, as a regiment of Slytherins stared coldly at them. Pansy Parkinson was drawling something to Hermione, who looked terrified and guilty. Remus Lupin stood behind her, clutching her protectively, glaring daggers at the Slytherin who was predicting the terrible future of their relationship.

This message encased the words that destroyed the very essence of Hermione's heart, for it was an irrevocable and undeniable truth. It had shaped the foundations of her life and of her mind, touching the boundaries of her heart and testing her tolerance for tragedy, misery, and fate: that she could never truly be with Remus Lupin.

A change— Remus and Hermione were on his bed, clothes undone and bodies alight with fire and passion, desire and romance, as they touched and loved one another. Hermione, watching, cried out in protest as they made love for the first time. Before this very moment, Hermione thought there could be nothing worse than the death of Remus Lupin, but she was very wrong. Their untainted and enthusiastic, beautiful and faithful love was betrayed by her actions in reality.

Hermione, years ago, gave everything she had to Remus. Everything that completed her, everything that she loved and worshipped became part of him, just as he became her. They were meant for each other, perfectly and wholly. But she had ruined that, she had corrupted that by being with Ron, for settling for another human being, for pledging her love elsewhere, both in words and action.

It changed—the memory was one Hermione expected but had secretly hoped Remus had forgotten. The young couple was lying together on a roof in the dead of the night, admiring an iridescent, incomplete moon. Small talk and affections were exchanged, something that pained Hermione to watch even still. And then, he said it: those words which haunted her sleep.

"I love you, Hermione," Remus whispered in her ear. "I don't care how the future turns out, you will always be the only one I love."

How could Remus be reliving these things each and every day? These memories that tortured Hermione surely must have ripped the very fiber of Remus apart, making him utterly immobile and stony. And yet he had lived on after these memories, after she left, after she moved on . . . he had even found another partner. . .

But no matter how much she wanted to pretend, Hermione knew that Tonks was just a façade to hide behind, an excuse for Remus to deny the past, to deny everything they had simply because their idyllic relationship stretched decades apart. It was uncommon, it was strange, and it was unconventional, yes, but could two people love so much as they did then? But she did not deserve these thoughts, she did not deserve these feelings. Remus was dead, he had died for her, and here she was betraying everything that had made her whole.

A change— Hermione stood, blinded, in the middle of a pitch black room. There was an eerie silence accompanied by a dank smell, must perhaps, and the feeling that eyes were watching her. Soon she became aware of a constant drip drop of water somewhere, which heightened her anxiety all the more. She struggled to remember what was going on, struggled to soothe her racing heart because this perpetual darkness frightened her. Just as she was about to moan in worry, she heard it: a groan.

Somewhere off to her left there were people stirring slowly and with difficulty, by the sounds of it. Then she heard Sirius' voice, and her heart jumped as Remus replied quietly. James croaked something back, and Lily's tender hush to his audible pains. Hermione heard her own voice, and they all quieted as the ominous shouted echoed from up above.

And then Hermione realized what was going on. These were her very last moments with her friends, with the people she loved more than her own life. A gasped escaped her lips before the inevitable commotion started; the angry shouts spilled down into the Malfoy dungeon, and the Marauder's began screaming in protest as Hermione was dragged from their clutches.

At first she went motionless, but then the fierce woman that Hermione used to be fought back against the clutches of the Death Eater, flinging herself unceremoniously down the stairs just to have a moment longer with them, to tell them each that she loved them dearly, that nothing would be the same.

Watching this was the only thing Hermione could do, as she was gripped with an icy horror that did not cease even as she cried. Tears streamed down her face, but they were no match against Remus' violent, terrified protests at losing his lover, his soul mate, his everything.

And then "Remus!" was the last sound to reverberate within them, followed by the slam of the door. Darkness flooded the room once again, and the only sound that could be heard was the shallow, erratic breathing of Remus Lupin, which quickly fell into a panicked moan. His voice cracked, and a gasp escaped him, and all in the same terrible moment Remus was sobbing, screaming in fury, in misery, as his friends hurried to hold him, to whisper words of comfort.

But she was gone. There was no peace left to be had. There was nothing left for him anymore.

It changed— Hermione had clamped her eyes shut and boxed her ears, trying desperately not to relive the next heartbreak Remus had in store for her. But no, she didn't deserve to escape the pain, she didn't deserve relief from her betrayal. Opening her tear stained eyes, she was surprised to see that her younger self was not in this memory.

Instead, she was in a room that she recognized as Remus' bedroom. At first it seemed as if the room was empty, but then she noticed that someone was standing in front of the open closet, and was very, very still. Hermione inched closer, feeling very nervous, before a voice caused her to jump.

"Remus!"

The person standing in front of the closet slowly looked over his shoulder, and Hermione was met with the worn, miserable sight of Remus Lupin, who was clutching something in his hands. Looking closer, Hermione realized it was one her robes.

Just then, the door opened, and Lily entered, looking worried. "Remus, we're going to be late."

"This was hers," Remus croaked, holding out the robe in his fisted hand. His knuckles were white, and his whole body had begun to shake.

Lily's face twisted into that of a concerned mother, and she went to him at once; as soon as Lily had embraced him, Remus began to openly weep, and Hermione felt the blood drained from her face, her body, her heart. Something within her shattered, and she stumbled backwards until she fell onto the bed.

Footsteps pounded up the hallway, and James and Sirius crept cautiously through the door. "Remus?" James asked quietly, tenderly, as he and Sirius came in. The werewolf did not acknowledge them, but clung tighter to Lily who was trying her best to console him.

"It's not for forever, Remus," Sirius said quietly. "She said twenty years, didn't she?"

"That's not the point!" choked Remus, breaking away from Lily and angrily wiping his face. "I-I have to go years and years seeing her, without her remembering me! And she'll be eighteen and I'll be what, forty? Don't you understand?"

"The age doesn't matter, because you love—" James started.

"Shut up," Remus hissed. "People can't stand werewolves, what's going to make them accept a relationship like ours? If there ever is one!"

"Remus," Lily said softly; "She's not likely to forget you."

"How do you know?" Remus croaked, tearing up again. "This was all just a bad dream. We all knew she had to leave, how could I get myself into this when I knew this was how it was going to end?"

"You can't think like that," Sirius said firmly. "Don't regret—"

"I can't be with her again, I know that," Remus muttered bitterly. "Imagine, just imagine for a moment, what it would be like for me. For her, for us."

"But you love her," Lily said quietly.

"Yes," Remus agreed. "Which is why I can't be with her. I won't. I can't put her through this mess again."

"That's not fair!" James cried. "You're not letting her decide! You're not giving her a chance! She'll be there, one day, in love and overjoyed to see you and you're just going to turn her away?"

"I'll just ruin everything," Remus snapped. "I'll be old and done, and I'm a werewolf, I certainly can't go into the workforce with that on my record. She'll be miserable with me, our life would be ruined. And imagine if we had children…"

"Stop it," Lily snarled. "How dare you just—just go and destroy this relationship without giving her a chance."

"We already had our chance," Remus growled, his face screwed up against the wave of new tears. "We can't happen again."

The scene which had held Hermione prisoner to its intensity suddenly dissolved around her—now she found herself back at Hogwarts. Remus Lupin was sitting in Dumbledore's office, looking pleased while Dumbledore ruffled through some papers.

"Now, Remus, I am more than overjoyed on your decision to join the staff this year," Dumbledore said with a smile. "Professor Lockhart. . . well, you know how that goes."

"And thank you for having me," Remus returned graciously.

"There is something you should know, however," Dumbledore said, his voice colored with dark tones; Remus was no longer at ease, but appeared quite stiff now. "There is a certain girl here. She is just thirteen, but certainly one of the best pupils in the school. She is very bright, very eager to learn, and still very naïve. I'm sure you have recognized—"

"Yes," Remus interrupted. "I realize she doesn't know. I realize she is just thirteen. I realize there can be nothing between us as student and teacher. I would never compromise the integrity of any student or this school, Albus. You know this is my home as well, I do not wish to tarnish its reputation."

"I have complete faith in your words," Dumbledore agreed. "But there is something else. She is quite close to James' son. In fact, she and Harry and Arthur Weasley's son are inseparable." Remus said nothing, but there was a distinct tautness in his jaw. "I suspect the Order of the Phoenix will soon rise again, as Voldemort's power becomes stronger once again. And Harry—"

"Will grow up to be as determined as James," Remus finished quietly. "Meaning he'll be very active, very involved, even where he shouldn't be. Which means . . ."

"Hermione will be as well," Dumbledore said quietly; the old man was staring at Lupin, his face gazing sympathetically and worriedly at the werewolf who was staring at his lap. "I suspect, for many years to come, you will be around her. I would understand if you wanted to step down from teaching, just so you—"

"No," Remus cut across quickly. "I've gone more than ten years without her. She's just a child now, nothing can sprout with that image in mind. I'll be alright."

"And in the future, when she is no longer a child?" Dumbledore inquired quietly.

"She will have created a life by then, one that does not include me. I've gotten on without her these last few years, I can survive the rest."

"Are you sure?" This question seemed to be the only real thing Dumbledore has asked that night, for suddenly Remus looked torn and confused, upset and red-faced with the suppression of his emotions.

"Yes," he uttered, before closing his eyes and releasing a jagged sigh.

Another change—Remus, or rather, Professor Lupin, was striding about his classroom arranging things that did not need to be fixed. Hermione was under the impression that he was very anxious about something. A moment later, the door opened, and she knew why he was fidgeting so much—Ron, Harry, and Hermione, all thirteen, were among the flood of students that entered the classroom. Professor Lupin beamed at them all, trying hard to calm his beating heart, trying hard not to look at the adolescent and innocent form of Hermione Granger, just thirteen but as wonderful as he remembered.

But there was no avoiding it; every question he presented to the class, Hermione's hand shot in the air, and not only was he forced to look at her, he was drawn to her, her intelligence, and her sincere desire to learn. When the class finally left, Professor Lupin dropped into his chair and cupped his face in his hands with a groan.

It changed— this time, Professor Lupin happened to be walking through the flood of students in the main corridor when Harry, Ron and Hermione went by. Ron and Hermione were snapping at each other, but the pain on Hermione's face was clear. Something within Remus ached for her, wanting nothing more than to take her into his arms to calm her . . .

It changed— it was Christmastime at the Burrow, and all members of the Order were celebrating Christmas Eve. There was food and drink all around; Harry was talking to Mrs. Weasley while Fred and George bothered Ginny, and Mr. Weasley was discussing the werewolf laws with Lupin.

Looking around the room, Hermione recognized herself and Ron sitting on the sofa, talking. She remembered this instantly, for it had happened the Christmas of her sixth year. Not bothering to go over because she remembered Ron was openly defaming Viktor Krum, she made her way to Remus, who was quite distracted in his conversation with Mr. Weasley. Although the topic was very interesting, the werewolf was clearly watching the young couple, and Remus' face tensed as Ron and Hermione exchanged a long, significant look before turning away from each other, blushing.

Everything changed again— back at Hogwarts, Remus Lupin was clearly the professor again, and Hermione's heart jolted with fear as the memory invaded her mind. Lupin was grading papers silently, every now and then dipping his quill in ink. There was a knock on his door, and he stood and opened it.

Hermione, a student still in her seventh year, stood there, looking pale but jittery, clearly bothered by something. "Hermione!" Lupin said pleasantly, warmed at the sight of her. Having been around her for so many years now, it had become easier and easier for him to pretend, to separate his life into two parts: a life in which Hermione was his lover and a life in which she was nothing, just a student and insignificant to his life.

The girl entered, and started to speak rapidly, her eyes alight with warmth and relief. But the words fell on deaf ears, because Remus suddenly realized what season of year it was, what month, and just how many years had passed since he had last kissed her. . .

Lies started spouting out of his mouth, complex lies, well rehearsed lies, lies that would help her move on later in life. Lies that would ease the pain, lies that would make it easier for the both of them, lies that would make all these years worth it. Lies that he wanted to take back and forget about, because all these years, all these years being hardened against the memory of her simply shattered at the sight of her, devastated by his words but alight with passion nonetheless. He wanted nothing more than to stop talking, to seize her in his arms and kiss her. . . but he couldn't.

As Hermione proceeded to fall into an irreversible hysteria, the desire to hold her became stronger and stronger, and Remus was beginning to lose control of himself. He needed some way, any way, to get away from her or else he would grab her— "Sit. I will go fetch you some Calming Draught, I fortunately have some in my office."

Words that had fallen off his lips meant nothing, had no meaning, and only propelled him to fly into his office. With shaking hands and a hammering heart he pulled out parchment and a quill, scribbling: Albus, Hermione's memory has come back to her— under no circumstances should she be sent back to redeliver your letter. Please. If she catches the slightest hint of a lie, everything we've worked for, I've worked for, will be demolished. Remus. The message was hastily hooked onto the claws of an owl perched in his office before the bird took off into the sunset.

Knowing that he couldn't hide out in his office forever, Remus attempted to collect himself before going back out to her; the moment she was in his vision, his heart skipped a beat, and he had to bite his tongue to stop from crying out to her. Lies and misgivings etched his voice and he prayed for her to scrutinize him, to see how badly he needed her now that she remembered him—but half of him prayed that she didn't. If she bought this, if she took his cruel lies for truth, then this would be the worst experience of his life, but it would be one that he had endured. It would make him stronger.

What he did not expect, however, was the well crafted argument that was thrown against his weakened heart, and it took every fiber of his being to resist holding her, comforting her, loving her again. He was sure that if he took her into his arms, this horrible mess would be forgotten instantaneously, and they could be happy together—

"I can be your mentor, and your friend, but I can only be those things."

But she fought back. Again and again she fought back against him, and with each of her vicious, accurate words he was diminished into nothing, empty space with no conviction, a heartless shell because everything within him was dissipating with the lies he weakly supplied to her.

And then she ran, away from him and his lies, leaving Remus to all but collapse in misery.

It changed— students were now filing out of the classroom that had just been occupied by a distressed professor. Remus Lupin had his back to the door of the classroom and was organizing something before he turned around at the sound of a cough.

Hermione was standing there; and Remus felt the blood drain from his face. It had taken him a week to fully get over the incident with Hermione's return to her proper time, and he feared that another blow to his poorly protected heart might ruin everything.

This time, Hermione was not furious, but appeared very to be forcedly calm and cool. Of course he had watched her over the last few weeks, of course he had seen the way she became drastically introverted, often not speaking for large spaces of time. Of course he knew what he was doing to her.

The collected Muggle-born offered him an apology that should have put him at ease, but made him all the more nervous and on edge. Their words were well rehearsed and controlled, and with a few moments time she began to relax a little, releasing her obviously contained emotions. She talked of Sirius, of James and Lily, of their friendship and love and how terribly she missed it—her recollecting made Remus ache for the past, not just for his lover but for his friends as well.

And then—then he was close to her, somehow, impossibly, he was touching her. It was an action he promised himself he would never do under any circumstances. But here he was with a hand on her shoulder, reveling in the warmth of her body, the small gap between them, and her sweet smell that encased him completely.

Then—then… she kissed him. It was glorious, it was wonderful, it was invigorating; the dam within him of quelled memories suddenly burst, demolished and happily destroyed as everything rushed into him, all at once, and he forgot the thing he had been repeating for years: we cannot be together.

Just as suddenly, his well rehearsed line seemed to pierce him, and his body rejected everything without warning, even the gentle and perfect lips that were on his. And he spoke the words he wished would disappear from reality, from the dictionary, from every nook and cranny of his twisted mind he wanted to get rid of: "You have to leave."

And when she was gone, and when he was safe, alone, Remus Lupin simply cried.

A change—

The flickering firelight threw the faces of Ron, Harry, and Remus into sharp relief. They were in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place, and it was clearly very, very late. Ron was pacing around the room while Harry sat at the table, Remus adjacent to him.

"It's just that I can never find a good time," Ron was saying, anxiously running a hand through his hair. "There are always people. And there's always something going on. And she's always so busy."

"That's Hermione," Harry said with a shrug. "Look, you just have to do it. You can't keep that ring in your pocket forever."

"I know, but—"

"It doesn't have to be perfect, Ron, you know Hermione's not that kind of girl," Harry reminded his friend. Ron looked concerned at this thought now, because Hermione was apparently not that kind of girl.

"What kind of girl is she? How do I propose to a kind of girl?" Ron spluttered, now tangled in the worry and nervousness of this idea.

"Stop worrying so much," Harry said as he stifled a laugh; "She's going to say yes regardless."

"How do you know?" Ron asked sharply, appearing very angry for a moment, before withering back to pure anxiety. "I can think of a million reasons why she'd say no—"

"There will be a million more if you keep putting it off," Remus offered quietly. The words from the venerable werewolf stopped Ron in his tracks, and he looked at Remus both hopefully and fretfully.

"But—"

"Do you love her, Ron?" Remus asked, his eyes locked on the blue ones of Ron. Inside, the werewolf was chanting no no no no but he knew Ron's answer was yes. It had always been yes. "And does she love you?"

"Yes," Harry answered for Ron as the Weasley gaped, unable to grasp anything. "They have for years. Ron, just ask the damn girl to marry you."

"You don't know what this pressure is like, Harry!" Ron exclaimed wildly, bulging.

"Considering Ginny and I—"

"Oh, shut up," Ron snapped flatly.

"You have nothing to lose, Ron," Remus reminded the red haired boy. Ron seemed to deflate in relief at this, but Remus seemed to wither away right in his seat, finally releasing the words he had kept hidden for years. They were words that would ruin his hidden desires, words that had been haunting him forever, words that would make Hermione happy again.

But no matter how wounded he was by each of his own syllables, he pressed on. "You have been in love for years. She has loved you even longer than that. Just ask her."

Ron grudgingly nodded, and a weak smile crawled onto his face before he released another nervous sigh. "Ugh, but when? Bloody hell…"

A change— Hermione spun around and tried to pinpoint exactly where she was, but she was unfamiliar with her surroundings. She was in a sitting room, certainly, but she happened to notice it was very clean . . . or rather, there was not much in it at all. All the furniture was pushed right up against the wall, and anything that would have adorned the floor was absent. Looking around, she also noticed that everything was mismatched and full of color, although they were not well coordinated. The couch was yellow, but the wallpaper green, and the stool purple, while the table was red . . .

Just as she was beginning to piece together the clues, she heard shouting from the next room. It was an angry voice, sharp and accusing, and Hermione recognized it instantly to be Tonks. There was only a moment's hesitation before Hermione dashed over the door and stepped through, stopping shortly as she caught sight of Remus Lupin sitting dejectedly in a chair and Tonks glaring at him.

"I've been around long enough. It's becoming more and more obvious that you have—"

"There's nothing going on between us," Remus said quietly, colorlessly, as he stared at the table.

"I know when you're lying!" Tonks cried, her face twisting up in pain. She looked as if she were on the verge of tears, baring keeping her composure. "And—And I know you're lying! My mother told me about when you were in school—" Remus looked sharply and suddenly at Tonks, his face etched with alarm; Tonks took this as an indication that she had discovered him.

"I didn't go to school with your mother," Remus murmured, slowly looking back down at the table.

"She was much younger than you. And she remembers all the escapades you had! She said she remembered some girl messing around with Lucius Malfoy and somehow . . . you were involved," Tonks said, her voice trembling slightly. Remus simply closed his eyes and released a weary sigh, and Hermione had the impression that these fights often happened, and he had been used to giving in. This fight was no different.

"This is so foolish," Remus said quietly again. "None of that happened."

"Yes it did," Tonks shot back at once, although weakly.

"No, it didn't," Remus reiterated, a little more forcefully.

"Yes!" Tonks cried, her body giving into the emotions she was struggling overcome.

"Stop this!" Remus growled, clenching his jaw and glaring at her. "You don't know what you're—"

"What is this, then?" Tonks shouted, finally allowing the tears to escape her as she thrust something into Remus' hands. The werewolf, which had been progressively getting angrier, became quite still. His face grew white as he stared down at the thing in his hand. Hermione went hastily to him, and stopped short at the sight of the picture.

It was something she knew well. It was a memory she hated reliving. But it was proof that she and Remus had been real, had been together, and had been perfect. There, in his hands, was the picture of Lucius Malfoy and Hermione Granger kissing heatedly. To both Remus and Hermione, this picture was loathsome and terrible, for they knew the true circumstances of the photo. Tonks did not, but it was still proof that Hermione Granger had existed.

"Well?" Tonks asked forcefully, wincing at the sharp demand in her voice. Remus said nothing, but put the picture on the table, face down. Without a word, he stood slowly, looking thin and raggedly, and began to leave the room.

"Just admit you still love her!" Tonks cried, her lip trembling.

Remus hesitated, before whispering, "I'm sorry." He stood for a moment, a heavy statue representing everything that he had become, or rather, everything that he had lost.

And then, he left. Tonks stared at the door as it closed, her eyes glassy, her chest heaving. There was a certain emptiness about the room, a certain heavy silence that pressed down on the memory. Although Remus had just left, Tonks seemed utterly alone. And it was a feeling that seemed to crawl under Hermione's skin and hiss a warning to her, that this was her future: loneliness.

Hermione barely had time to worry before the world changed around her, suddenly and almost thankfully. It was if this grief, this sadness that wrenched through Tonks' heart was because of Hermione's mere existence.

But it was a thought pondered no longer, because suddenly there was a collage of terror invading her senses; fire swarmed through her vision, forcing her to stumble backwards; a loud, shrieking sound echoed through the night, drawing her attention away from the screams that were rising up through the flames.

Shielding herself and soothing herself with the knowledge that the fire couldn't hurt her, she dashed through the hellish flames towards the sound of the screaming. As she stepped into the night, she tripped through the massive hole that had been gouged into the earth. She cried out in fear as she saw herself, Ron and Harry scrambling to get off the ground and flee from the regiment of Death Eaters that began to surround them.

In turn, the three of them desperately fought off the Death Eaters that were attacking them, each falling to the wielding of a curse, falling into the flames. Harry somehow outlasted his two friends, but his consciousness was futile, as his attempts to defend himself and his friends not only attracted more attention from the Death Eaters, but crushed any hopes to escape.

As soon as Harry fell victim to the final curse of the Death Eaters, there was a sudden bright light that erupted from the back of the alleyway, where the fire had not evaded the night. Hermione ripped her eyes from the horrifying scene before her to stare dumbly at the ethereal light before it soared over the Death Eaters. After a moment, the silver thing that was flying over them seemed to form into a definite shape, and Hermione realized that it was a Patronus. And that it could only belong to one person, because no one else that knew would care so much, would risk their lives just to make sure, to be safe.

Remus Lupin was here somewhere.

This sudden light caused a sudden uproar among the Death Eaters; it was quickly known that the Order of the Phoenix was approaching the scene, that there was hardly enough time to confiscate the bodies that the Dark Lord desired before—

"Now!" There was a sudden burst of sound, of light, and the powerful and ominous throng that was the Death Eaters was broken; the members of the Order had arrived, and soon, powerful jets of light followed by bellows of rage soared through the night.

Watching all of this, Hermione was only dumbfounded at their immediate arrival on the scene; perhaps Remus was not the only one that had been waiting, had been watching. But she knew, deep down in the bottom of her soul, that Remus had followed them there to protect her.

Almost as if hearing her thoughts, Remus Lupin appeared as a sharp silhouette, a solid mass against the ever changing flames. Taking advantage of the commotion, he went to the unconscious body of Hermione Granger, splayed across the ground with blood and dirt on her face. Tenderly, he pulled her into his arms, and staring at this, Hermione noticed he was trembling with fear, and that his face was wet with tears. Brushing the hair from the blood on her cheek, he touched her face with the gentlest of movements, a lover's true touch. His face was thrown in sharp relief as the ground exploded next to them, fire surging around them in the night. But nothing could take him away from her now, nothing would tear his hands from her.

For the past twenty years, he had gone without holding her, and now, this was his only chance. For the past twenty years, he had been incomplete, half of what he could be, alone and broken, and now, in the midst of war, he knew holding her would make sense. He knew he could die holding her, as long as he was with her. Because there was nothing else but her to live for. Slowly, meaningfully, he kissed her forehead before he pulled back and gazed longingly, sadly, into her unconscious face.

If there were not curses and spells flying around them, if they were not surrounded by flames and the shrapnel of war, Hermione could spend forever in this moment, for it proved all of her tears worthy. All of those years living an uncertain reality was made definite, was made true, just by the touch of his hand, the brief touch of his lips on her skin.

There was a constricting feeling in her chest that wouldn't allow her to focus on anything else; she was aware only of this heavy feeling that pressed down on her, that enclosed her from all sides, that strangled her breathing. Tears slipped from her eyes as she gasped, trying to catch her breath, trying to understand what was happening to her.

But she did not have to think; she knew. She knew that everything she had seen in his pensieve, everything she had experienced that was not hers to experience, was the same thing that brought tears to her eyes, that brought a smile to her face. These memories, these events, these things that Remus tortured himself with everyday was what made him tick, was what made him alive. Because if he could not have her in real life, he could not survive at all, then this was how he must survive.

Even though he had had years to strengthen himself, even though he had years to mend his broken heart, it was these memories that mattered most to him. These memories were something he could sink into, watching longingly, even if he could never reach out and touch the girl that he truly loved. Just to be near her, to revel in something that was real and true was enough. Was enough for him to breathe, was enough for him to wake up in the morning, to simply stay alive.

But Hermione had betrayed this. They were the same, they were one, they were everything, and she betrayed him; betrayed his love and his loyalty, his faith, even in the denial of their relationship. It did not matter that he denied her before, had lied about their previous love, because she understood now that he had no other option. Who would believe their bizarre story? Who would allow them to be together, unhindered and unbothered? How could they lead a life peaceful and wonderful?

But was wasting away better than loving one another against the masses? Was it worth it to deny their love for convenience when being apart was slowly killing them?

No matter how hard he tried, he could not go on without her. With the knowledge that they could be together but they were not, Remus Lupin simply withered away. He wanted the best for Hermione: he wanted her to be happy, to be successful, to have everything she wanted. But under what circumstance could he possibly accept that he was the answer to all of her needs?

She didn't push him, she didn't demand it out of him. Only a moment's worth of tears before she had given up, had pushed everything aside and had moved on with her life. She had let their strained relationship exist with the suppressed knowledge that what they had was real, what they had was still there, aching to emerge once more, but had denied the chance. Because Ron was a distraction, a lovely and easy distraction.

And because Remus lived and breathed and moved while she was still with Ron, she felt that there was no need to push. If he had cared enough, he would have begged her, pleaded, and only after a moment she would have given in to him, would have thrown herself into his arms.

But he had not begged her, or pleaded her; instead he hid behind the façade of Tonks, trying to resurrect those feelings for Hermione in another woman. But just as foolish as it was apparent, his plan failed, and he was trapped within the mistakes that he had made while he watched Hermione flourish on. Trapped while he watched her, convinced that her life was filled with utter happiness without him.

And was it?

The world dissolved around Hermione, giving way to the bleak reality that she was truly living in. But she did not notice, for she was weeping weakly. Weeping for that which she had given up, for that which she had denied. If only she had tried harder, had pushed Remus into giving into her, then perhaps he would be alive right now, holding her as she wept . . .

But he was not. And it was her fault.

After a moment, a day, or an eternity, Hermione became aware that she was sobbing weakly on the floor in Remus' room. In here he had caged himself, in here had had tortured himself, in here he had lived a hell in which he could not escape. She did the only thing that made sense; feebly, sniffing, Hermione crawled into Remus' bed, basking in the smell of him, trying to pretend that he was there beside her, holding her, telling her it was alright, it didn't matter, everything was beautiful and perfect again.

But she could not pretend any longer. Forcing herself to stay awake, to be acutely aware of her pain and her loss, Hermione poured over the memories she had just relived, trying to make sense of the only thing that inhabited her mind.

All night, she lied awake in his bed, hoping and praying that the moment would come where he would crawl into bed next to her. There was not a single moment that her mind remained free of Remus' memories; every second of the night was filled with thoughts of Remus, of the memories that haunted her, both consciousness and troubled sleep. And she felt that she was becoming the empty shell that he had become, because she had experienced this terrible loss, this crash course in tragedy, and Remus was without her at the end.

She had nothing left to live for.

Hermione could no longer think. She could no longer eat, no longer sleep, no longer survive. There was a single thought that possessed her mind at any given point, a thought that she struggled with and mourned over: he died for me, and I have done nothing for him.

There was nothing she could do that was worthy atonement. Of course her wedding could not happen, of course Ron would have to be disregarded. But what then? Still, Hermione was consumed by the thought of what she could to make up for her grave sin, her fatal mistake. She noticed nothing else but the thought of redemption, not even the way her skin sagged at her eyes, or the chilling sight of her wrists that had been reduced to skin clinging to bone.

All night she thought, pondered, dissected, and scrutinize. And all night, there was only one thing that could occupy her mind, a thought that heightened the most wonderful moments of her life; a thought that bombarded her with the most terrible of past events.

And it was Remus Lupin. Remus Lupin, Remus Lupin, Remus Remus Remusremusremusremus…

Curled as tightly as possibly, as if to deny her existence, as if to render herself null and void, Hermione cradled herself, squeezing her limbs together to expel any extra room that would invite misery in, that would beckon this grief and tragedy that was eating away at her moment by moment.

I would give anything to have you back, Hermione thought to herself, acutely aware of her weak whimpering. I would give anything to fix my mistakes.

"Then come with me," said a voice.

Was she dreaming? Was this a hallucination, a lovely delirium, or was it a nightmare, some manifestation come back to torment her?

Slowly, Hermione uncurled herself from her infantile position and sat up in bed, her muscles screaming in protest. But she could pay them no attention, for there, in the room, the impossible was happening. Beautiful, perfect, terrible, impossible, wonderful; but how?

"Come with me," Remus repeated to Hermione, beaming into her face.

It seemed as if God himself had graced her with his presence. Hermione, whose mere existence was heavy and dull, bleak and worthless, paled even more in comparison. His presence lit up the room, a beacon that broke the endlessness that was her life. His face was not lined with age or weariness, but was clean and smooth, fresh, glowing. His skin was the only light she could see, his eyes the only light that could penetrate the darkness she had sunken into.

"Remus?" Hermione whispered, eyes round with brimming tears.

This isn't real

He's back

Not

Back

Real

I love you

"Come on," Remus urged again, smiling; he held out his hand, his movement slow but fluid, and something unlike anything she had ever seen. The room that encaged them, that had been dreary and small and a mournful reminder of what was dead and gone, seemed to dissolve away before her eyes as she stared at him, captivated. There were no more walls. There was no ceiling, no door, no bed, nothing; the only thing that was real, that was alive, was Remus.

Hermione simply stared at him; he was beautiful. Remus Lupin was no longer marked by gray hair and healed scars, nor shabby clothes or dark circles beneath his eyes. His skin gleamed, rich and warm and inviting, and his eyes were like the first ray of dawn, banishing all the darkness on the earth. He stood before her, full of life, beaming with all the emotion she once had, with everything she had lost, with everything she had been praying to recover.

He was here. A lighthouse in a terrible storm. Tall and thin, simple and plain and lovely, and all that she could ask for.

Hermione carefully reached out and warily took his hand; there was such a rush, such a flood of emotion that she began to cry harder, out of joy and disbelief. The sheer capacity that was overwhelming her was tremendous but like liquid gold, a feeling to be had of utter perfection, the quintessential substance.

"I love you," Hermione murmured, trembling as she stood. Her legs shook beneath her, both from neglect and shock, and she struggled to remain on her feet. But touching him, holding the lively and perfect thing that was Remus Lupin's hand, kept her up, kept her strong and determined and powerful. She clutched onto his fingers tighter, gasping at the energy that flowed into her, reveling in this newfound life that was suddenly granted upon her.

Remus, handsome and young and perfect, gazed down into her brown eyes, grinning.

"And I love you. I've told you once before, Hermione," Remus reminded her, smiling. "I don't care how the future turns out, you will always be the only one I love."

"Say it again," Hermione urged him fiercely, suddenly, without warning, holding onto his lovely hands as if they were a lifesaver, for she had been shipwrecked and had finally been saved.

"I love you," Remus reiterated quietly, but passionately, staring into her eyes.

Hermione gazed hungrily into his endless eyes, losing everything she had ever believed in except for him. For weeks on end, there was nothing but bleak desolation, hopelessness, emptiness; there was a constant, stinging hole that she was acutely aware of, that she welcomed as it ate away at the very fiber of her being. At first it was terrifying, but as time went on, and she could no longer pretend Remus was alright, she invited the deathly and terrible pain as a means of distraction.

But Remus was here now, protecting her, healing her, loving her. And that horrible, perpetual hole was gone; the void was filled, overflowing, in only moments, comprised of loveliness and perfection. And her desperate and lonely past did not matter; nothing mattered anymore.

"Now, come on!" Remus said again, tugging on her hands. "They're waiting for us!"

"Who?" Hermione asked curiously, lacing her fingers with his and stepping closer, basking in the wonderful heat of his body, the wonderful smell. A jagged breath escaped her lips as his godly presence soothed her, crawled into the gaping wound that was her broken heart.

"James and Lily and Sirius!" Remus laughed, looking at her as if she had lost her mind. "They've been waiting all along!"

"But . . . they're dead," Hermione said, the loveliness coming to an abrupt stop. A terrible sickening feeling rising up in her stomach, a churning bile that could not be ignored.

"What are you talking about?" Remus asked, his smile fading slightly in confusion.

"And you're dead," Hermione said with a horrible conviction; she clamped her eyes shut and began muttering to herself, trying to shut up the perfection that was Remus Lupin.

"Open your eyes!" Remus instructed, amusement clearly present in his voice. However much she wanted to anchor herself in the reality, she did as she was told, feeling that disobeying him was a crime she could never make.

Around her were cavernous walls, students bustling to and fro as food began to disappear from the House tables. The pleasant echo of voices drew her attention to the throng of Gryffindors that were exiting the Great Hall to the Quidditch pitch. The bewitched ceiling revealed a perpetual blue sky, freckled with clouds, and the banners hung from the ceiling that indicated that Ravenclaw had won the House Cup this year.

And there, in the midst of it all, stood she and Remus, holding hands and looking quite foolish as the Great Hall emptied. Hermione gaped as she blinked, first dumbly and then furiously, as if attempting to wake herself.

"This. . . this isn't real," Hermione uttered, releasing his hands and taking in Remus, and his school clothes, and her Gryffindor tie and cloak. "This . . . what is this?"

"Hermione," Remus repeated, this time with a more serious tone. "Are you alright?"

Was she alright?

Was she alright?

Around her were not thin, miserable walls that encased an equally miserable girl, but the stone walls of Hogwarts that had held her just as closely as Remus himself. Around her were not the memories of mistakes, of lost love, of broken hearts or the irrevocable death of Remus Lupin, but an endless world of possibilities that did not judge or limit her.

But was it real?

Was this a hallucination, another dream as wonderful as the seven months she had spent with Remus before?

Did she care?

She had Remus. She had Lily and James and Sirius. She had Hogwarts, and her studies, and a youth that could be spent with the person she truly loved.

She had everything she had been asking for, had been praying for; it did not matter that this was a matter of life and death, for everything had been reversed. Every moment she drew a breath she wished she had not, for it was a breath that Remus Lupin could never have in his death.

But now, standing before the man she would have died for if he had simply asked her, she drew a breath that he could share, for they were finally together again. They were finally one.

Her mistakes had been forgiven, her past had been erased, and her future was spotless and promising, full of nothing but love and perfection, of happiness and satisfaction.

"I'm sorry," Hermione whispered, an amazed smile breaking onto her face. "I must've dozed or something."

"It's alright," Remus chortled, leaning in to kiss her forehead; she breathed deeply and felt energized, young, infallible. "Now, come on!"

Taking her hand, Remus pulled her towards the exit of the Great Hall. There, before her, was a light so powerful and warm that she could do nothing but move towards it. It was colossal and seemed to pull her in from her very core as if it were a portkey, or a black hole, a portal, that led to paradise. The only thing that was keeping her grounded, that was keeping her from sprinting into this perfection, was the piece of happiness that she was holding onto. And it was something she would never let go of for the rest of eternity.

Together, with laced hands and untouchable smiles, Remus Lupin and Hermione Granger exited the Great Hall, disappearing into the light that beckoned them.

They were complete, they were happy, and they were in love.

And she couldn't have asked for anything more.

-x- FIN -x-

Author's Note: UM SO YEAH. If you're unclear about what happened, Hermione died. In her sleep, of a broken heart. But this is what I tried to do to make up for killing Remus. In the end, they got to be together. Kind of? And I intentionally am leaving the other character's out of her death, and will not elaborate on their reactions, because I think they're sort of predictable and it's not something I think I need to explain.

Anyway, a huge thank you for all those readers that have stuck around to the end of this story. I've only finished on other story before, and it is no longer posted because someone filed a complaint or some shit and it was taken down. But this is a huge source of pride.

So thank you. Thank you everyone.

It was nice writing for you =)

Sincerely, Minnie.