Anything recognizable is the property of J.K. Rowling. I do not make any claim to ownership, nor do I make any money from this.
Please do not read if you are not of legal age in your country. There are adult scenes, however short and to the point.
Hermione Granger was a broken woman after the final battle. Everything seemed to catch up with her all at once and she withdrew into herself. The months on the run, Ron going home, being captured and tortured for hours, watching friends fall to Death Eater's curses, and then Ron bleeding to death in her arms. She hadn't even noticed when Voldemort was vanquished and dissipated in a forceful explosion, knocking everyone present to the ground. After the dead and injured had been taken care of, the only thing keeping her going was an unexpected friend.
Not really unexpected like Draco Malfoy would have been, but rather unlooked for. Remus Lupin had limped out of the battle, bloody and tired, but ignored his own needs to look after the young woman. No words were exchanged, just tears and understanding as he lead her to the prefect's bathroom and gave her the privacy to wash and change.
Harry insisted that everyone was welcome at Grimmauld place for as long as they needed and Hermione and Remus gladly took up the offer. The brunette had tried to stay with her parents but they simply could not understand how their daughter had changed in a war they hadn't known existed. Remus had nowhere else to go really, and no where else he would rather be. The bustle of life in the large house drowned out the silence that death brought all too often in the recent past. Hermione came to terms with everything that had happened in her short life and didn't allow it to destroy her. Though she was subject to depressed days and bouts of crying just like everyone else involved. Her saving grace was the quiet and constant companionship of her former professor.
Months after the battle, everyone was in the ballroom of Grimmauld Place congratulating Bill and Fleur Weasley on the birth of their daughter. Hermione had descended from her room to join the frivolity, but her heart wasn't in it. She was happy for the couple, that the war hadn't destroyed what they had, and that they were coping with Bill's new temperament. But she couldn't stand the press of people in the room. So once she had peeked at the tiny bundle in Fleur's arms and given Bill a tight hug, she slipped out of the door and up the stairs.
Remus had followed the young Gryffindor's progress around the room before speaking to the couple. When he had drifted back to the wall, he couldn't see her bushy hair anywhere. The werewolf waited to see if she had just stepped out for the loo, but Hermione never returned. Soon the mass of people became too much for his sensitive hearing and the heat of too many bodies in the room was oppressive. The nearness of the full moon made him slightly anxious and quicker to temper. He made his own way unnoticed to the door and slipped into delightfully cooler air.
He found Hermione on the top floor, standing in the doorway of a small library. Remus had been in the room before and suspected that it had once been Sirius's nursery. At the sound of his feet on the stairs, the young woman darted into the room and pushed the door mostly closed, trying to avoid everyone. The lycanthrope considered leaving her be, but when he heard quiet sobs and a sniffle, he pushed the door open and latched it behind himself.
Gently so as not to startle her, he placed his hand in her shoulder. "Hermione, do you want me to leave?"
There was a moment where the weeping female would have said yes, but she shook her head instead. Grateful that he hadn't been pushed away, Lupin sat next to her on a small love seat. She turned towards him and cried into his robes. The older man shifted slightly and pulled her legs over his lap so she was more comfortable and they both wept. They weren't tears of jealousy or anger, or really sadness, it was just a release, a step towards moving on.
Finally, their tears dried and they just sat together. Remus had his arm around her knees and back, holding her securely to him and Hermione kept her hands balled in his robes. Eventually, she broke the silence.
"I leaked on your robes."
He caught the hint of a joke in her words and tilted his head to feel the soft mass of her hair against his cheek. "They have hardly had a more worthy purpose."
"I'm sorry I made you sit here with me."
"Don't be. I wanted to get away from the crowd as well."
Her fist unfurled slightly and she ran her fingers over the well worn cloth of his robes. Truthfully, the brunette had no idea why she continued to speak. "I was just thinking that they were able to move on. Harry and Ginny have moved on, even Mr. and Mrs. Weasley are all right. But I'm supposed to be stuck on Ron and I'm not."
"Why are you expected to wait because of him?"
"Because we were supposed to get together. He wanted it so bad, and so did his family."
"Is that what you wanted?" He said the words as gently as he could, but still knew they were hash.
It was a long time before she spoke. "No, I never wanted more with Ron."
"It would have been unfair to force you to stay with him if that isn't what you wanted."
"But what else was I supposed to do?"
Lupin sighed and blinked when he blew a piece of her hair into his eye. "I was in the same situation with Tonks. She was in love with me, with the idea of me, and I just couldn't return that."
He sighed again and continued. "But she needed it so much. How could I have said no without being cruel?"
"I don't think you could have and neither could I." It was half said to reassure him, and half a realization on her part.
"I'm sad that she's gone, but not that I lost her. Maybe that makes me a bad person." Lupin shrugged and placed his chin on the younger woman's head, staring blankly at the books on the wall.
"Then I guess we both are, but I don't think that's true."
"We can't be forced to love someone we don't."
Hermione gave an unmirthful laugh into his chest and he could feel her breath against his throat. "Why do I get the feeling that they've found each other wherever they are now?"
"Wouldn't that just be perfect." Lupin agreed before falling silent.
Hermione just listened to the sounds around her, the heartbeat under her ear, and the easy breaths of her former professor. She let her mind roam and never once did she wonder why it didn't feel awkward to be sitting so closely with the older man. They were both startled when their stomachs rumbled in tandem. Hermione immediately removed herself from his lap and ran her hands through her hair.
"Do you think everyone else has gone?"
"I don't hear Molly puttering in the kitchen, so let's raid the pantry for something to eat."
She smiled warmly at the suggestion. "I could agree to that."
Remus held his hand out to her. "Help an old man up, I'm not as spry as I once was."
She pulled his easily to his feet and he straightened up, several joints popping. "You're hardly old, though that mustache and beard definitely adds some years." The brunette teased him, pulling gently on his beard.
"Alright, I know it does, it's just so much easier not having to shave all the time."
They shared playful banter down the several flights of stairs to the kitchen and peeked in, hoping it was empty. Blessedly, there wasn't a soul in sight. Hot chocolate and a sandwich each later and they ascended the stairs, parting on the second floor.