DISCLAIMER: As much as I wish I could claim ownership for the beautiful work of fiction that inspired this, I cannot in good conscience or under any legal rights. The characters and general brilliance are all from the creative mind of J.K. Rowling. Any originality in plotline or alternative universe, however, I claim completely as my own.
Chapter One: Welcome Back, Professor
"Guess who's coming back to Hogwarts?"
Hermione Granger sighed wearily as she closed her book and turned to her two best friends, who were bouncing on the balls of their feet. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley were easily two of the most talented and popular boys at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but they were also a handful. For example, it was two weeks before the start of their seventh year, and they knew she was in the library at 12 Grimmauld Place reading her textbooks so she was ready for her classes. They still insisted, however, on bursting into her quiet sanctuary every few minutes with pieces of beginning-of-term gossip they heard from the various Order members who came in and out of the house. She had tried to explain to them that she really didn't care about any of the gossip if it had nothing to do with the actual lessons being taught, but like everything else in their friendships, Harry and Ron had selective hearing.
"I have absolutely no clue, so why don't you two fill me in quickly so I can get back to studying?" she said as coolly as she could, hoping they got the picture.
Ron looked scandalized.
"Studying? Is that what you're doing in here? Blimey, 'Mione, I knew you were a bit sharper than the rest of us, but you do realize term hasn't started yet, right? I mean…what are you studying then, eh?"
He tried to grab her book, but, exasperated by the constant stream of interruption, she slapped it away. She had a twinge of regret at the amount of force she had used, but the effect was what she had intended.
Looking wounded and nursing his hand, Ron shot Hermione a glare and pushed Harry, who was chuckling.
"C'mon, Harry. If she doesn't wanna know, we don't have to tell her." And without another word, the two left the library.
Hermione was slightly glad that she had inflicted the correct amount of pain upon her friend to ensure that he left her alone. Even though she wasn't at Hogwarts, where Madame Pince more than adequately replaced a well-deserved smack when it came to disturbing the peace of her library, the library at Grimmauld Place had been a sanctuary for her, and she hated it when her privacy was invaded by her two friends. She knew their intentions were honorable, for the most part, but she did wish that they would understand when she needed her privacy and her space.
Half-way through reading about a complex memory potion that she was certain Snape would gleefully spring upon them the first day back, Hermione heard footsteps coming up behind her. Frustrated by Ron and Harry's continuous attempts to drag her out of her warm, old-leather-smelling cocoon, she waved her wand without looking and said "Silencio!", hoping that they would take the hint. It wasn't until she felt a hand on her shoulder did she look up and, to her horror, she realized she had hexed neither Ron nor Harry.
Remus Lupin, member of the Order of the Phoenix, former Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, creator of the Marauder's Map, and singular star of every erotic fantasy Hermione had ever entertained was standing over her. He had an amused look on his face, but he was pointing quite adamantly at his vocal chords.
"Oh! Sorry, Remus…" she said. "Parlare!"
He coughed slightly.
"Well, I don't really see how that sort of welcome cannot be taken as an insult," he said dryly, but smiling kindly at her. "I would be infinitely less affronted if you were to assure me that I was not your intended target."
She managed a small smile.
"Ron…and Harry…been bothering me…" she mumbled.
He laughed knowingly before walking silently over to the bookcase farthest from the fireplace. From many summers of combing the library, Hermione knew that that section was specifically for books on the dark arts. She had discovered it, rather painfully, when her curiosity had overridden her better judgment and she had pulled out a book entitled Through the Orb Darkly: Omens and Curses. Opening to a random page, a blood-curdling scream resounded from the pages, and echoed in the house after she closed the book. Harry and Sirius had come running, and Sirius had expressed his apologies for not warning Hermione about that section of the library before running off to deal with the portrait of his mother, which had started screaming her usual torrent of curses.
"They have a book like that at Hogwarts," Harry had said soberly as they quickly walked out of the library together. "In the restricted section. I opened it accidentally our first year. Nearly got pinched by Filch and Mrs. Norris."
Needless to say, Hermione never ventured too closely to that section again.
Now, Lupin was perusing the section as if he were deciding which type of cereal to pick from a Muggle supermarket aisle. Hermione stared at him, wondering what he was up to. He must have felt her eyes on him, because he turned to her, saying:
"Most of my dark arts books were lost when the Death Eaters torched my house last summer," he explained. "I'm gonna need some of these back at Hogwarts if I actually want to teach anything."
Hermione blinked, wondering what he meant by 'back at Hogwarts' before realizing that Harry and Ron had been trying to tell her that Lupin was coming back to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts again. That had been the reason why they were so keen on her participation in their guessing game. They knew, better than anyone, about the not-so-innocent torch she carried for the seemingly-quiet, unassuming professor.
He seemed to register her surprise.
"I thought the boys would have told you. I told them when I got here an hour ago and they scampered up here, so I assumed they had filled you in," he said.
"I…er…was a little short with them," she said. "And I ended up smacking Ron on the hand before they told me."
The corners of Remus's lips went up, and he turned back to the shelves of books. If the truth be told, Hermione was one of the reasons he was excited to be going back to teach. She had always been exceptionally bright, but as he had gotten to know her better outside the 'realm of academic achievement,' as the Weasley twins put it, he also found her to be exceptionally kind and generous too. She reminded him a lot of Harry's mother, Lily, and that endeared Hermione to him. It also didn't hurt that in the four years since he had met her, she had developed from a big-toothed, bushy-haired little know-it-all to a curved, long-legged vixen of a witch. Sirius had cruder ways of putting it, (As in, "a tasty little crumpet" who he'd like to "butter her nooks and crannys") but Remus had to admit that Hermione, now seventeen, was most bewitching. Or, as Sirius put it the night before when Hermione had unknowingly interrupted them when she came into the kitchen to get a glass of water wearing very short pajama shorts and a camisole, she had turned into a "very shaggable little minx."
"Hermione," Remus said, turning toward her to see her looking through her book again. "What classes are you taking this year?"
She looked up.
"Oh. Um, Potions, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Transfiguration, Charms, Herbology, History of Magic, Astronomy, and Defense Against the Dark Arts," she said. "I was going to try Muggle Studies again, but I don't think I need it as much as other students, so I wouldn't want to deprive some other student of a seat in the class."
Remus held his tongue, wanting to gently inform her that Muggle Studies was never a very popular course, as most wizards had no real interest in learning about Muggles, the only exception in his mind being Arthur Weasley.
"I asked Ron and Harry that same question, but they aren't taking nearly as many classes as you," he said. "I was wondering how I should prepare my lessons for seventh years, since your education has been so uneven." He paused, looking at her pensively. "Do you want to help me come up with a few lesson plans? You can fill me in on what you've covered and what you haven't, and I can base my lessons off of that."
Hermione looked at him, wide-eyed and filled with excitement at the prospect of diving into more work. She had to admit that she was becoming bored with the summer holidays, and longed for intellectual stimulation. She knew she was an anomaly amongst her peers, but she did like the continuous flow of lessons and homework when she was at Hogwarts. It gave her something to do, and distracted her from the very obvious knowledge that she really wasn't talented in anything other than brains.
While Harry, Ron, and Ginny had Quidditch to distract them from the darkness of their own minds, Hermione had found it increasingly difficult to push her insecurities out of her head, like her growing fear that she would never be attractive to anyone. She had only had one significant romantic relationship in her six years at school and in terms of the scandal scale, Viktor Krum had barely been a blip. While Ron and Harry had snogged and debauched their way through most of their fifth and sixth years, Hermione had been studious and quiet. Even at the end of sixth year, when an ill-advised end-of-term party in the Forbidden Forest had led her to spend the night with Ron, (both of them had woken up the next day with massive hangovers, half-naked and cold on the cold forest ground, and had sworn each other to complete silence – a pact they had both broken by filling in a reluctant and irritated Harry) for the most part, Hermione was the nice, quiet little bookworm everyone thought she was.
She was sick of that perception, but knew that until she left school, the only people who would be interested in her were boys her own age but vastly below her maturity level. And as much as she loved her two best friends, she did not, under any circumstances, want to date them or anyone like them.
The man she did want to date was standing in front of her, smiling slightly at the look of joy on her face.
"When can we start?" she asked eagerly.
"As soon as I've unpacked. Sirius has insisted that I move in, as he feels he needs an adult to talk to considering you lot have been here since the beginning of summer. It's not that you need baby-sitting," he continued quickly, seeing the argument appear in her hazel eyes. "It's just that as much as he loves Harry and you all being around, he feels old and lonely and wants someone just as old and lonely to join him. Misery loves company, and all."
"Oh, Sirius can't be miserable! Considering his maturity level fluctuates dangerously down to Harry and Ron's level sometimes…" She couldn't help feeling slightly bitter at the idea of Sirius's complaint. Neither she nor Ron had asked to spend the summer at Grimmauld Place. Not that she was particularly complaining, but she knew her parents were spending the summer in Sweden, and she very much wanted to see the fjords.
"He just wants someone to drink with, I think. Anyway, after I'm settled, I'll come and get you. Probably after supper. Sound good?"
"Yeah. No problem."
"Good. I'm going to take these books upstairs, and try to convince Kreacher that I come in peace," he joked, throwing her a wink as he walked out.
Hermione smiled to herself. If she couldn't have a decent romantic relationship, she could at least spend time with the one man who could keep her wicked imagination running. Curling back in the chair, she looked back at her Potions book.
She became so engrossed that she didn't hear two tiny *pop* sounds behind her, and she nearly jumped a mile as two pairs of hands grasped her around the middle.
"Hey Hermione," George Weasley said with a grin.
She smiled slightly.
"Hello boys," she replied.
"A little bird told us that a certain professor is returning back to Hogwarts this year," Fred said, trying to keep his teasing tone subtle.
"And…we were just wondering if you were interested in purchasing one of our many love potions?"
"They're not strong, but they work for a few hours."
"Enough time for you to…erm…get what you need?"
The twins broke into identical grins, and Hermione chuckled. She always had a soft spot for them, and even though she sometimes found their antics a bit below her, she still knew that should she ever need anyone, they were always there.
"I don't know what you're insinuating, boys. Why would I need a love potion?" she said innocently.
Fred (or was it George?) smirked.
"We could give you something…er…stronger?" he said.
"Yeah. Something a bit more…animalistic."
"Appropriate, as it were."
Hermione sighed. She put her hands on their cheeks, patting them gently.
"Boys," she said. "As appreciative as I am that you are eager to help me with my sex life, I must inform you that should I ever find myself in need of it, you two will not be the people I call upon for help."
"Thought we could help," he said.
"Yeah. We don't want you ending up in the sack with some random wizard just to abate your burning sexual desires."
"Yeah. We wouldn't want you to end up with Ron again."
And before she could say anything, they had both disapparated with twin grins still on their faces.