XVIII. December 25, 1996

Remus Lupin watched as Hermione Granger wandered out to the gardens outside the Burrow. She sat down on a bench and put her head in her hands. He could tell she was thinking of something and he was almost sure that that something was him. He walked up behind her and stared at her for a few moments. Her brown wavy hair fell gracefully around her shoulders. Her figure was slim underneath her thick overcoat. Finally, he decided to break the silence.

"Hello," he said and she turned around to look at him. She smiled when she saw him.

"Hello," she replied.

"May I join you?" he asked politely. She nodded and moved over for him to sit down. He took a seat next to her maintaining a fair amount of distance. "So, what are you doing out here?" he asked her.

She sighed. "Couldn't sleep," she said simply. "What are you doing out here?"

He gave her a sly smile. "I couldn't either."

"Then why did you come here?" she asked.

He turned to look her in the eye. "I love these gardens. They are captivating."

She looked out at the flowers growing around them. "It is a beautiful sight," she agreed.

"Beautiful," he repeated looking at her. She glanced at him and blushed.

She cleared her throat then said, "So, how have you been Remus?"

He sighed, then stopped and smiled at her. "Just cut to the chase, Hermione. Ask me what you want to ask me," he said. He knew the question lingering on her lips was, "Do you love me?" but he knew she wouldn't ask that.

She looked stunned that he had just said that, but he was tired of the small talk. She cleared her throat. "I – er – don't know what you're talking about," she said carefully.

He smiled again at her. "Its all right, Hermione. Its only us."

She looked into her eyes, and Remus could see all the confusion that lingered in them. "It is you, isn't it?" she said quietly.

"The one and only," he said with a wink.

She gave a small laugh then her face turned serious again. "You knew the whole time, didn't you?"

"Ah, now we are dawning on the subject I'd like to discuss," he said.

"Well, did you?" she repeated.

"Yes, of course I did. How could I not?"

"So, this happened to you twenty years ago?" she asked.

"Yes. I've waited twenty years to have this conversation with you, Hermione. It has been quite a long wait."

"How come you never brought it up before?"

"Well, first of all, how what would you think if I told you at 13 that you and I would somehow meet and fall in love with each other. But actually you fell in love with the me from 1975? I couldn't do that to you at the age of 13. As clever as you are, Hermione, I don't think you'd believe it. And also, you told me not to bring it up, don't you remember?"

"So, you got that letter I wrote?" she asked.

"Yes, on the day before I left Hogwarts in my seventh year. I found it and did exactly as you said. I never brought it up to you. Wasn't that what you wanted?"

"Well, yes, but you could have warned me more about Rayne! Watch your owl is not very descriptive," she said.

"I know. But you have to realize that things happen for a reason. And all the words we're saying right now have been planned out. This has all happened before." She nodded taking in what he had just said. He continued, "Plus, if Rayne hadn't died and we had continued, where would it have led? Hermione, you have to realize how unpractical it is to have a relationship with someone who is twenty years behind or ahead of you. You fell in love with me at 16, not me at 36. And I fell in love with you when I was 16, not 36."

She stayed quiet for some time, just thinking. Remus didn't disturb her thoughts. He didn't speak again until she did. "It could have been worth the shot." Her voice was quiet and she looked at her feet when she said it.

He smiled and moved a bit closer to her. "That's just the thing, isn't it, Hermione? It could have been, but its not. And do you not realize how much we would be looked down upon? I'm old enough to practically be your father."

Hermione nodded. "Yes," she said, her voice still small, "I guess I understand."

"I'm not denying it, Hermione. I'm not denying that I loved you, because I did. I loved you more than anything I had known. I still do." She looked up at him. Tears were in her eyes. As one strolled down her cheek Remus raised a hand to wipe it away. He kept his hand on her cheek feeling her delicate skin. "I love you, Hermione," he said. His voice was soft and tender. She gave a small smile.

"You do?" she asked.

He turned to completely face her and put his other hand on her other cheek. "I love you Hermione Granger, and I always will."

"I love you too, Remus," she replied, her voice quivering a little. He wanted to kiss her right there, but he knew he shouldn't. So he moved in close to her and put his mouth on her forehead giving her a soft kiss. As she closed her eyes more tears streamed down her cheek.

"I know," he told her, "but we can't. I'm sorry." He turned away from her.

"Yes, we can," she said nodding moving close to him. "Remus, let's run away, you and me. We can be together, just the two of us."

He smiled and shook his head. She was still young, she didn't know consequences like he did. She still had many life lessons to learn, ones that he had already had years of experience with. "I'm sorry, Hermione. But I can't. You will continue your relationship with Ron and I will marry Tonks. It's the only thing."

"No, no," she said shaking her head. "I want to be with you. I want to marry you," she said.

"I'm sorry, but we can't, Hermione. We just can't."

"Don't you love me, Remus? Don't you love me the way I love you?"

He looked at her. "More than you'll ever know," he said before he stood up taking a few steps away from her. She stood up as well following him. The sun was rising now casting its early morning rays across the gardens.

"Remus, wait," she called after him. He stopped and turned to face her. He felt his throat welling up and tears swarming in his eyes. She looked so beautiful standing there, in her overcoat and nightgown. She was young and radiant, full of life. He couldn't be with her. It wasn't right. She stood close to him taking his hands in hers.

He smiled at her and shook his head. He put his head close to hers and closed his eyes taking in all of her soothing presence. "Please don't make this harder than it already is, Hermione," he said.

She gave a small laugh. "I'm trying not to," she admitted. "Remus," she began. She was looking up above her head. "Look," she said nudging him. He raised his head and looked at what she was staring at. Dancing above him was a bouquet of mistletoe shimmering and growing in the sunlight. "Its mistletoe," she said.

He smiled at her. Her lips looked irresistible. He couldn't help himself. He leaned in toward her and pressed his lips on hers, softly at first, then a little harder. The kiss lasted a few wonderful moments, before Remus pulled away. The stood together in silence, holding each other, with their faces close.

"I have to go," he whispered to her. She bit her lip and nodded.

"Ok," she replied. Tears began their trail back down her face.

"Please, don't cry," he said wiping another away. "Don't cry."

"I can't help it," she said. "I love you. I want to be with you."

He smiled at her naivety. "You may feel that way now, but you are young. You don't realize the things I do but you will, when you're older."

"No, I won't," she said shaking her head. "I'll feel the way I feel now."

"Don't. Move on. Continue; be happy with someone who can provide for you. Live a happy life, have wonderful babies, fall in love. And I'll do the same."

"I can't," she pleaded. "Not without you."

"You will," he told her. "You will." She looked away from him. "Hermione," he said bringing her attention back. "I must go, but before I do, I want to tell you one last thing. There's one thing I've learned from all this. There's one thing you've taught me, I think, without realizing it. You've taught me that love can be found, wherever you look. I've denied it for the past several years, waiting for you to grow up, hoping that when you do you'd want an old man like me. And although you think you do now, you must realize that it's for the best this way.

"But know that I did love you. You were my first love, and hardly forgettable. You will always dwell in my mind as the perfect angel that got as many OWLs as I did. And the girl that can beat me in translating Runes. You will always be the girl that I grew to love and don't forget that. Always remember that you are my first and only love. And I'm thankful for you. I'm thankful for all those conversations we had. I'm thankful for all those late nights we spent talking. I'm thankful for that large, tawny owl that will never be a strange creature that travels through time. I'm thankful for that large, tawny owl that is a symbol of our love. Our everlasting love."

The End.

A/n: Well, it's the end. Hopefully it wasn't too corny for you guys? I'm sorry if some of you are mad that I didn't end it with Remus and Hermione together, but I hope this way will do! I just wrote this AU-themed story so canon-ish that I couldn't end them together. It was just too impractical, I felt. But I hope you will forgive me and I hope you all enjoyed reading this.

I just want to say a final thank you to all you readers and an extra thank you to all you reviewers! I really loved reading all your "OMG PLZ UPDATE SOON!" Heh, they were quite amusing actually. This story has been, by far, the most successful story I've written, even though it just started out as just a tiny idea in my head that I figured I'd delete eventually. And I have all you guys to thank for it! You guys all helped me keep going and I'm very glad that I finished it! It feels like quite an accomplishment to have a completed, well-liked, story that isn't just a L/J 1st year to 7th year cliché story. So thank you!

Also, I'm going to do some shameless plugging (sorry!) but I'm writing another HG/RL that's kind of a play off Bridges of Madison County. Its called Shoot the Moon. Please read and review it, if you have time.

Thanks again, everyone!