A/N: This chapter is going to annoy some people. I recognize that and if you have read up through this chapter and you still think this is going to be a fucking fairy tale, then clearly you haven't read a lot of my writing.
This chapter IS beta'd (I know...quelle suprise!) and I just want to thank the extraordinarily talented GrandeVanillaSkimLatte (aka Amy) for looking it over. If you find any issues whilst reading this, feel free to be pedantic about it. Just don't expect me to respect you for it. :0)
Chapter Ten – It Ended Today
"We need to talk."
Clichéd though it was, Hermione could think of nothing better to say when—looking slightly haggard and adorably rumpled—Remus appeared at the front door of her rented cottage.
Her ex-fiancé arched an eyebrow. "Hello, Hermione. Why yes, I would like to come in from this predictably cold, wet Welsh winter. Tea? Well, I wouldn't want to impose," he responded sarcastically, arms crossed and eyes narrowed.
Hermione blushed. In spite of the fact that she had been frantically pacing for almost an hour in anticipation of this confrontation, her manners kicked in and she was suddenly mortified by her behaviour. Stepping aside, she mumbled a quick, "Sorry," before adding, "I'll put the kettle on."
As he shrugged out of his travelling cloak, Hermione scampered into her kitchen, heaving a deep breath and willing herself to get it together. It had taken her nearly a week to put pen to paper, struggling over the precise words to say to her former lover, and then another fortnight before she could draw up the nerve to send it. Not that she had poured her heart out in prose. Still struggling from her self-inflicted writer's block, she had only managed a brief, slightly impersonal invitation to tea.
In hindsight, it shouldn't have been all that surprised that he had asked for tea.
"So," he suddenly said from behind her, causing her to jump and almost spill the milk she had been holding. "This is where you've been hiding, is it?"
She put the milk back in the refrigerator and turned to him, "Yes."
"It's not much but…it's been home for the past few months. Hasn't been much good in providing inspiration for writing, but I've been trying."
"Sirius not up to making house calls in the middle of Wales? Is it out of his territory?"
Hermione flinched at the bitterness in his voice. "I deserve that."
"I know you do. That's why I said it."
Hermione looked up at him and for the first time noticed the hardness of his eyes. He was still the same ruggedly-handsome man he had always been, but there was a flintiness to him now that saddened her. Of all the consequences she was prepared to face, his coldness was not one of them.
She should have expected it, though.
"I suppose it's a bit late to be apologizing, isn't it?"
"Apologizing for what? For fucking my best friend or for disappearing to the arse-end of the country without so much as a by-your-leave?"
Before she could stop herself, she felt her temper flare. "Firstly, I don't require a by-your-leave of anyone, least of all my ex -fiancé," she snapped, knowing the 'ex' was unnecessarily harsh yet finding herself unable to hold it back. "Secondly, as I said to you the last time we fought about this, I did not sleep with Sirius."
"You'll have to pardon my incredulity, Miss Granger," he said with overwrought cordiality, and she knew he had used her title on purpose. "I've had some experience with your lack of forthrightness where he's concerned."
She sighed, shaking her head. "Believe what you want, Remus. Sirius hasn't been here. Sniff around if you'd like."
She hadn't meant the statement to be a dig at his wolfish tendencies, but she knew the second it left her lips that he would take it that way. He tensed, and she briefly wondered if she hadn't subconsciously wanted to put him on edge. Once more, however, her manners reminded her that her lack of tact would get them nowhere, though from his body language she was certain they would have to have it out eventually.
She just hadn't expected it to be within the first five minutes of his arrival.
"Why don't you speak your piece so I can leave?" he said tersely, jaw set defiantly. "After all, I wouldn't want you worrying about me gnawing on your furniture."
Once more, her temper won out over her common sense and she bit out, "The furniture is rented. Gnaw away, if it makes you happy."
There was a moment of heavy tension between them as they glared at each other. He broke the silence first, saying, "I don't have to stay, you know. I came here out of courtesy. And respect, for the five years we were together."
"Then act like it," she replied firmly, grabbing the kettle angrily when it whistled.
The gesture splashed some water over her hand and she cursed, dropping the kettle back on the stove as she hurried to the tap. Remus was by her side instantly, his calloused hand catching hers worriedly. The gesture was caring and for a brief moment it was like nothing had happened between them. The pad of his thumb brushed over the reddening patch of skin on the back of her hand and in spite of their anger and pain, all the love came rushing back in one blinding, consuming flash.
She didn't know who made the first move, but suddenly they were kissing. They threw themselves at each other as their lips met in hard, heated, desperate kisses, hands flying to rip their clothing off. Hermione felt the familiar pull her body always had to him; the deep need and the burning want. She gave herself to it, pulling at his shirt to feel the scarred muscle beneath.
He lifted her into his arms before dropping her on the table, a harsh hand grasping her jaw and pulling away to look her squarely in the eyes. "Is this what you want, Miss Granger?"
Slightly dazed, she was thrown by the mixture of heat and venom in his amber eyes. For the first time since her third year, she saw the animal in him—so close to the surface she could see his canines extending. She didn't know how close it was to the full moon—she had stopped paying attention when she had moved to Wales—but now she worried that she had made a serious miscalculation in inviting him over. Who was in control now, the man or the beast?
She knew, logically, that since it was daylight there was no threat of transformation. But he was looking at her so fiercely that she couldn't stop the fear that trembled through her. His nostrils flared and she knew that he could smell her trepidation. His grip on her jaw tightened and a whimper escaped her lips.
"Hermione," he growled, his voice taking on a deeper, rougher sound. "Is this what you want?"
She knew that she shouldn't want it be taken hard and rough by a man who was only barely controlling his basest animal urges. Sex shouldn't be painful, or harsh, or filled with the oddly erotic mixture of anger and lust. But as heat pooled to her core, she couldn't help but feel that yes, yes, this was exactly what she wanted from him.
"Yes," she breathed.
His lips collided with hers with bruising force, his hand leaving her jaw to tear her clothes from her. She cried out as his fingers delved deep into her body, a wave of pure desire making her slick with wanting. His lips left hers once more, teeth nipping down her neck in a harsh, painful journey to her exposed breasts. She gasped when he found her nipple, throwing her head back as he bit down. She kept telling herself that she shouldn't like this, shouldn't want this, shouldn't crave it.
But Merlin help her, she did.
His fingers withdrew, leaving her feeling empty and exposed. He took a step back, eyes sliding over her with predatory possession. She shivered, willing herself not to cover her body from his leering gaze. This was not the man she had made love to thousands of times over the years. The man in front of her was a stranger. That thought should have made her wary. It should have made her want to stop. But it only made her want him more.
"Turn around," he demanded.
Without hesitation, she slid off the table and turned, barely having time to brace her hands on the edge before he was flush against her back, a hand gripping her hip with unforgiving force. The other pushed her down, forcing her hips higher into the air as her head hit solid wood. It wasn't enough to jar her; not even enough to hurt, really. But for a millisecond she felt helpless and vulnerable, doubting herself in spite of trusting the man behind her implicitly.
She heard him inhale deeply. "You smell of sex and fear," he growled. "You have no idea how much that turns me on."
Before she could process this new facet of the man she thought she knew better than anyone alive, he was inside her. His hard, long, thick length pushed deep into her body and she cried out at the new sensation of pleasure and pain hit her. It had been months since they had made love and her body had nearly forgotten the sensation of having him within her. Even then, she was used to taking it a bit slower. And even when they hadn't gone slow, Remus was still considerate of how his not-unimpressive length and girth affected her.
Not so in that moment.
He didn't give her any time as he started a brutal thrust and she let out a cracked cry, pleasure edged with sharp pain tearing through her. All logic left her mind as she gripped the edge of the table, holding on for dear life while he shoved her toward an unimaginably high cliff of ecstasy.
"Do you like this?" he groaned, the hand on her back sliding into her hair and yanking upward, causing her back to arch and forcing an involuntary moan from her lips. "Do you like being fucked like this? Like an animal? By an animal?"
She couldn't speak. She couldn't think. There was no space in her mind to tell her whether this was right or wrong; whether she should be feeling so unfathomably good. All she knew was that this stranger—this foreign being that was assaulting her senses with such great passion—was a man who, in spite of everything, would not hurt her.
So she said the only thing that made sense in the moment: "Yes."
The sound he made was almost inhuman as he thrust harder. She could feel every ridge; every throb. She bit her lip hard as her body sang, uncontrollable pleasure pooling to her core. Her orgasm hit her hard and fast and she let out a scream that would have brought the neighbours running if she had had any within earshot. One orgasm ran into another, and then another, roiling through her in waves. She couldn't see. She couldn't hear. She couldn't breath.
The hand in her hair tightened and she felt teeth sink into her shoulder as he thrust one last time, his body trembling as he came deep inside her. She felt dizzy. Her vision blurred. With a deep, tremulous breath, she felt her upper body collapse upon the table. Then her knees gave way and she slid to the floor, the cool linoleum the only thing to catch her heated body.
She lay there for a few quiet moments, catching her breath as she heard Remus step away from her. Peripherally she saw him leaning against the counter, his body also heaving as he tried to catch his own breath. She admired his glorious nakedness; his unblushing lack of modesty. In that moment, he was the big, bad wolf, resplendent in his remorseless satisfaction.
As reality started to sink in, however, Hermione watched all the emotions that ran over Remus's face. Pleasure faded to surprise, which moved rapidly to remorse and deep guilt before he slid on the unreadable mask he was so good at hiding behind. She watched and knew that this was the real reason why they would never be able to go back to the way things were. Not because of Sirius. Not because of her writing. But because, after baring to her his deepest, darkest desires, he was still unable accept them.
"I'm sorry," he said softly, offering her a hand to stand. His eyes had turned back to soft tawny, gentle and pleading as he helped her to her feet. "Please forgive—"
"Stop," she said, finding her voice a bit hoarse. She cleared her throat. "Remus, I can't do this anymore."
"I know," he said, his face full of shame and regret. "I understand and I'm willing to take whatever consequence—"
"No," she interrupted again. "You don't understand. You never did, Remus."
His brow furrowed. "What?"
"This…thing. Whatever just happened. I've waited five years for it. Every time we made love before the full moon…there was always a hint of it but it was never like that. Today, because of your anger or your hurt or whatever it was, you let your guard down. For the first time, I saw all of you. The man and the wolf. And I loved every second of it."
He recoiled visibly. "You…you like that?"
"Yes," she said, unapologetic. "I didn't realize fully what I wanted but now I know. And you can't accept that, Remus."
"No," he said, shaking his head. "No, I can't. How can you like being treated like that? I humiliated you. I hurt you. Fuck, Hermione, I pretty much rap—"
"Don't," she said. "I trusted you to know if you went too far."
"But I didn't know!" he shouted. "I wasn't in control enough to know!"
"You were," she countered calmly. "I know because you asked."
He frowned. "What?"
"You asked me. Twice."
His look was still uncomprehending and he shook his head. "I…I can't be what you want, can I?" he asked softly.
"You can," she replied. "You just don't want to be."
"You don't understand, Hermione. I am a monster. Plain and simple. No romance. I like to inflict pain. What I did to you…God, you're bleeding, for fuck sake!"
Hermione hadn't noticed the deep wound on her shoulder until he gestured toward it. She hadn't even felt it in the midst of her pleasure. Now it ached but she still would not have traded it for anything.
Remus, however, was not quite so accepting.
"What if I've infected you?" he asked, his eyes taking on a wild look of fear. "What if I've passed on this curse to you?"
"It's impossible for you to do that when you're not in your wolf form, Remus, and even when you are giving in to your primitive instincts, you didn't undergo a full transformation and therefore it is highly unlikely that you passed along anything," she replied primly. She knew she sounded like a textbook, but she had spent five years with the man. She had done her homework.
"You don't know that, Hermione. Things are different in the heat of sex. My teeth…I could have killed you."
"But you didn't, Remus, which is really the point we should be concentrating on."
Hermione sighed. Under normal circumstances, having a conversation with Remus did not make her feel like she was teaching a rather thick first year. At that moment, however, she felt like she should be spelling things out on a blackboard. Perhaps it was the maelstrom of emotions that he was trying to keep bottled inside, or perhaps his brain was still transitioning from his primitive instincts to his more evolved, Socratic thinking. Perhaps it was the fact that she was still standing naked in front of him.
Whatever it was, he wasn't grasping things as quickly as she thought he should be. So, deciding that she could only fix one of the three probable distractions, she grabbed the tattered remains of her clothing and covered herself up as best she could before continuing the conversation.
Remus, she noticed, was content to stay nude. Perhaps his primitive instincts were still in control after all.
"You are both a man and a werewolf, Remus," Hermione said, speaking a little slower to make sure he understood her every word. "I knew that going into this relationship and I never wavered in my acceptance of it. The problem, however, is that you don't accept it. And you can't accept that I accept it."
"I don't understand how you can accept it, Hermione. Especially now."
"Your duality is controlled by the same brain, Remus. The mind of the man is also the mind of the beast. The desires of the beast are also the desires of the man. They cannot be separated, as much as you wish they could."
He gave her a very level look. "Don't psycho-babble me, Hermione. I get enough of that already."
"I know. From Amanda McKinnon. Your surrogate sister."
He blanched and Hermione took the opportunity to collect his clothing and hand it to him. He took it wordlessly so she turned and decided to go back to preparing the tea they had temporarily abandoned.
"I went to see her. Professionally, I mean. I needed advice and she's the best psychologist in the country. It took me weeks to get the appointment and even then I had to get the twins to help me because, for reasons unbeknownst to me at the time, she refused to see me." She turned back to him with a small smile. "I'm sure you can appreciate the irony of having to employ subterfuge and glamours to engage a therapist. Anyway," She turned back to the tea, setting out mugs. "I went to see her and that's when she told me about your relationship."
"Hermione, I know how this looks, but Mandy and I aren't—"
"Remus," she said, turning back once more to face him. "Why didn't you just tell me about her?"
"I…I wanted to. I just…I didn't know how."
"Did you think I'd think you were still attached to her sister? Or did you think I'd suspect you of having an affair?"
His gaze narrowed. "You're one to talk."
She arched an eyebrow. "Really? You want to do that now?"
He sighed. "You didn't know the history with Marlene, 'Mione. I didn't want to bring it up because…well…I just didn't. But then you started digging and your…thing…with Sirius happened and it all just spiralled. I wasn't keeping her from you because I was worried about how you'd react. She just…she knows a side of me that no one knows. Not even…Sirius."
Hermione remained quiet as she let his own words sink in. Then he sighed. "I know what you're thinking, Hermione, but it's a different duality. It's the duality of my past and my present, not the monster and the man."
"It's the duality in general that is the issue, Remus," she said beseechingly. "We have come to the point where we should know everything about each other. Five years is a long time, Remus, and yet I feel like I only know a very small part of you."
"But I know you, 'Mione."
She tilted her head, bemused. "How, Remus, when I don't even know who I am anymore?"
He looked at her for a long moment before exhaling slowly. "So…this is really over, isn't it?"
She took a deep breath. "Yes."
He nodded. "Right. Well…right." They stood in silence for a long moment. "So what now?"
She frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I mean...well…I guess I mean…are you coming back to Grimmauld Place?"
The question brought into stark realization that she hadn't actually brought up the topic for which she had brought him out to the cottage. She could feel her nerves starting to build once more, but she swallowed them as best she could and said, "That's going to depend on you."
His brow furrowed again. "Depend on me? How?"
"Well…it's going to depend on how you react to…that is to say, if I decide to…" She trailed off, and then took a deep breath. "On how you react to the idea of Sirius and I being…intimate."
She knew that it was absolutely the wrong time and the wrong place to introduce the idea. The problem was, she could not think of any better time or place to do it. Judging from the look on his face, however, she seriously doubted there would ever be a proper time or place to bring up the idea. She had just poured salt onto a very deep, very painful wound. A wound that was not likely to heal, even for a werewolf.
"You…I…how can you be so heartless, Hermione?" he said softly, and Hermione felt her heart break as a tear ran down his face. "Do I mean so little to you?"
"You know you don't, Remus," she replied. "You and I have shared a love that—"
"Then how can you ask this of me?"
"Remus," she said. "I'm not asking."
He looked like she had just slapped him.
They stood in silence for another long moment before he started wordlessly for the door. Hermione followed, unable to conjure anything to say that would make things easier to bear. She knew she was being unbelievably selfish. She knew she was breaking his heart. She knew that their relationship would never, ever be the same. But in all the times she had spent thinking about this moment, this confrontation, this final ending, she could not think of a single way where it would end well.
So she didn't force it.
He stepped out of the door without a word, but then paused and turned back to her. She waited patiently for the question she knew he would ask.
"Why him, Hermione?"
She smiled sadly. "Because he let me in, Remus."
He looked at her for a long moment, then nodded. "I hope, for your sake, that you like what you find in there, 'Mione," was all he said before turning and walking away.
Thank you for reading.
Hope you enjoyed it.