Disclaimer: For fun, not profit.

Story Notes: M rating. Remus Lupin/Hermione Granger. Hermione is 17 and this story takes place during Easter holidays of 1997. Sirius is alive. The gang is at Grimmauld Place. This may be part 1 of a series.


24 March, 1997

They were alone.

Lupin wasn't looking at her. Leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, he was staring at the flickering fire. His entire body was tight with tension.

"So, um," Hermione began awkwardly. The initial mortification had passed, or at least, she'd contained it with her usual ability to compartmentalize. The embarrassment and shock still lingered in the flush of her face, but it was manageable. She could manage. "Can I ask some questions?"

The corner of his mouth quirked up, but the sign of levity disappeared quickly. He nodded his head, still refusing to look in her direction, and then cleared his throat. "Of course. I'll‒I'll answer any questions you have. Truthfully."

"When did you find out that I was‒‒um..." Hermione trailed off uncomfortably. Mate. The word was so strange, so animalistic. She thought she might die of embarrassment if she tried to say it out loud. "When did you realize?"

He expelled a heavy breath. "Immediately. On the Express."

That was not the answer she was expecting. She could feel the hot flush rising up her chest and face and she had to swallow before she could speak. "In my‒during third year?"

She watched his shoulders slump a little and could see the signs of his own humiliation in the angle of his body. "Yes. I never‒it manifested as, um, protective instincts only," he continued, stumbling over his words uncharacteristically.

Hermione cringed for him. How awful, to be a thirty‒five year old man and realize that a thirteen‒year old girl was his destined...partner. Mate.

"But they're not‒you don't feel just protective now?" Hermione asked before she could stop herself.

He immediately stiffened and Hermione tried to backtrack. "Oh god‒I'm sorry‒I didn't mean to‒"

He shook his head, silencing her immediately. "It's, ah, it's fine." While it was hard to tell against the orange light of the fire, Hermione thought she saw his face flush. "No, it's not just protective instincts now," he continued quietly, and she could tell he was attempting to sound as clinical and detached as possible. "I feel extremely territorial. There is extreme‒ah‒extreme emotional and physical attraction. As you've no doubt already guessed, even with Wolfsbane, my... ah, the transformations are particularly violent and distressing, especially if you're nearby, but not close to me‒to the wolf."

A mixture of renewed embarrassment‒god, he'd just admitted to "extreme physical attraction" to her!‒and guilt and sadness welled up in her breast before she could tamp it down. "What do you mean, even with Wolfsbane? Has it stopped working?"

He leaned back in response to her questions, raised his hand to his face and rubbed his eyes tiredly, his legs splayed out. "Not exactly. It's just that‒my instincts are increased, heightened, in my wolf form, and even under the influence of Wolfsbane it's very difficult to ignore them. Hence, ah, what happened last night."

"You mean you‒you were aware...while you were...?"

"Throwing myself against the door and howling like mad?" He finished for her, and she was not surprised to hear some self‒loathing mixed with his attempt at a wry retort. "Yes. It can be‒last night was challenging."

"Professor, I'm‒"

"God, please don't call me that," he interrupted her sharply, sounding miserable.

Hermione clamped her mouth shut. Of course. No wonder he'd been so insistent on her and Ron and Harry calling him by his given name since seeing him again.

"Sorry," she managed in a small voice.

He waved a hand at her, still massaging his temple with the other one. "No, it's fine. You have nothing to be sorry for. I was your professor, after all," he said somewhat bitterly.

"There's nothing‒you can't control this," Hermione began slowly. "It's not your fault. I'm not‒I'm not upset, or anything, it's just‒"

She broke off when she realized that he was staring at her, mouth hanging open in something like astonishment.

"What do you mean, you're not upset? You've just learned‒I'm twice your age, Hermione, and a bleeding werewolf that can't control himself‒"

Hermione felt a sudden need to defend him, even against himself. "You're controlling yourself right now," she pointed out rationally. "And this isn't your fault. It's hormonal, right?"

"Yes, it's hormonal, and instinctual, like every bloody thing about my bloody life," he growled angrily, and she could tell he was speaking mostly to himself. She'd never even imagined him swearing, much less three times in two sentences.

The sound of his anger, the crack in his usually calm facade, was strangely pleasing. It seemed like he really was being honest, and the frustration he clearly felt made Hermione terribly sad.

"Technically, we're all just products of our hormones and instincts," she said, trying to be helpful. "It's just that yours are a little different."

He scoffed at her. "I'm an animal, is what you're saying."

"What? No!"

"Yes, I am," he spat angrily, rising from his chair in a sudden burst of movement and striding towards the fire, reaching for the poker and stoking the burning logs with sharp, uncontrolled jabs. "It's all I've ever been. Dress me up like a man, give me a wand, give me shoes and a robe and a bloody Gryffindor tie and the whole charade falls to fucking pieces the moment I get the chance to fight, feed, or fuck. Do you understand that?" he spat out, whirling around to face her.

His eyes glinted strangely yellow in the darkened room. "All I want to‒all I can bloody think about is getting inside you and making you mine, permanently, completely. I'd do it right now if I could, push you down on your hands and knees and fuck you raw."

The brutal language shocked her silent. His harsh breathing was louder than the crackling flames.

That's what he wants. He wants to scare you.

Hermione swallowed, keeping her gaze on his chest, which was rising and falling rapidly. "Why haven't you, then?"


"Why haven't you pushed me down and‒"

He cut her off with a strangled, choked cry, whipping away from the fire to face the bookshelf, both hands gripping a shelf as he leaned his weight against his. Was it her imagination, or were his arms trembling?

I'd do it right now if I could, push you down on your hands and knees and fuck you raw.

It felt wrong‒forbidden‒but somehow honest heat had found its way to her through the mire of mortification and violent words that he had spewed at her. The crush she'd nursed on him since her third year, since spending time with him again the summer before fifth year‒it expanded in her chest.


Was it more than a crush? More than simple respect for his intelligence and bravery, for his stoicism in the face of an awful curse? Was it something in her that responded to the instinctual knowledge he'd had since encountering her for the first time, that they were somehow meant for each other?

"I would never‒I would never force you. Ever," he said in a low, hard rasp. "I swear it." Every word seemed to claw its way out of his throat, and the misery and loathing and tension in him was palpable in the air.

"That's not very like an animal," said Hermione quietly. "That sounds like you have more self‒discipline and self‒ mastery than anyone I know."

There was a heartbeat of silence before Lupin sagged against the bookshelf, pressing his forehead against the leather‒ bound tomes. His eyes were shut tight. "God‒you don't know‒you don't understand‒"

The intensity of his reaction to her reassurance grew her confidence. Hermione leaned forward, her hands in her lap. "Explain it, then. What does being a mate mean?"

The word fell easily, naturally from her lips. She shivered a bit at the implication.

He stilled. "Not just‒not just a mate, Hermione," he said, still not facing her. "My mate. Mine."

All I can bloody think about is getting inside you and making you mine.

"Okay. How does it work, exactly?"

He sighed heavily, and his agitation seemed to dissipate slightly, though the room was still thick with some unnamed, roiling tension. He turned toward her again, sat himself on his chair. This time, he looked at her when he spoke.

"I don't know very much firsthand," he told her, having mastered himself. "What I do I know, I learned from traveling with two different packs on the Continent and in America." His voice still somewhat tight, it was at least void of the attempt at cool detachment from earlier.

"It obviously comes from the wolf," he began. "Wolves‒and werewolves‒mate for life. As a magical creature, a werewolf recognizing its mate refers to an unprecedented level of compatibility between the man, the wolf, and the prospective partner‒emotional, physical, and magical attunement . It's a very definite magical bond that transcends the one a wolf‒a real, normal wolf‒might have for its mate."

Hermione leaned back, frowning slightly as she processed that information. "So we're compatible."

He actually smiled at her, though it was brief. "Apparently."

She let out a heavy breath. "Okay. That makes a lot of sense, actually."


She shrugged. "We've very similar personalities, haven't we? Both academic‒ minded, devoted to our close friends to the exclusion of all else, and so on."

He stared at her. "Well, yes. I suppose."

"You haven't thought about it?"

He snorted. "Of course I have," he admitted uncomfortably. "It would have been impossible not to have done. But you're‒you're taking this rather well, Hermione."

She bit her lip. "It's unexpected, of course," she said slowly. "And while I've had a bit of a crush on you‒" at this Lupin started violently‒"I never imagined something like this. But I have thought about it, you know. We are well‒ suited."

He didn't say anything for several long moments, just looked at her with something surprised, considering in his gaze.

"What else?" she asked.

"What else, what?"

"We're compatible‒magically, emotionally, and phy‒physically," Hermione quoted diligently, cursing her own bashfulness. "What else should I know?"


"What else should you‒Hermione, this is not‒we are not going any further than this," he said firmly. His eyes had gone wide, the dark pupils expanded.

Her face got hot again. "Well, we can talk about that. But there has to be more to it, right? Is there a ceremony, or something?"

"Uh‒not exactly," he answered, and it was clear that only his surprise had let the words fall out.

"What do you mean?"

A beat.

"Sex, Hermione. Mating." He spat the word out like something ugly, and again the anger and frustration that oozed from his pores filled the room like the bright light from the fire.

It took a second for Hermione to collect herself from the sudden shock of his words, and the throb of heat in her groin, and she opened her mouth to respond, when‒ ‒

Lupin inhaled deeply, and went very still.

"What? What is it?"

He took another deep breath through his nose and slowly, very slowly, turned his head to meet her gaze. His amber eyes seemed bright in the darkness, his pupils blown.

Another rush of desire swept its way through her body, emanating from the pit of her stomach, where it contracted into a sharp ache.

"You're‒I can‒" Lupin's raspy voice seemed weaker than usual, thinner, like he was short of breath.

Unbidden, the image of her so‒ long‒ ago essay for Professor Snape swam into her mind.

...While in its human form, the common werewolf, or Homo Lupus, is relatively indistinguishable from an un‒ afflicted person but for the following traits: uncommonly sensitive sight, hearing, and smell; typically pale brown, green, or yellow irises; physical evidence such as excessive scarring (either from the initial attack or from self‒ inflicted injuries while restrained during the full moon)...

Uncommonly sensitive sense of smell. Oh god. He could smell her. Hermione cringed and allowed herself a few unbearable seconds of unmitigated humiliation before she savagely forced herself to box it up into a corner of her mind.

"Well," she said with a faux sense of cheer, "it wouldn't have been fair for you to be the only one a little embarrassed."

Lupin exhaled in a rush, and met her eyes almost tentatively, a smile playing across his lips. "Fair enough, I suppose." The fondness in his voice nearly stopped her heart.

And Hermione made the decision that she hadn't even realized she was contemplating.


"'Okay,' what?" His genuine confusion made her smile.

Hermione gathered her courage and met his gaze. "I'll be your mate."

For a long moment, he stared at her uncomprehendingly, floored. "You'll... what?"

Hermione squared her shoulders and plowed through the discomfort of this entire unbelievably surreal conversation. "I accept."

He was actually speechless, but Hermione found herself curiously attuned to his body language. The apprehension was obvious, but it was tempered with something slow and dark and tangible. His black pupils rimmed with gold, his normally tired mien infused with energy‒he looked alive.

Hermione realized somewhat belatedly that she wanted him very much. She hadn't lied before; they were well‒ suited. They had actual magical proof of that. She was seventeen, sure, and pretty much everyone she knew would be horrified, but in the face of this wonderful, strong person‒this man who'd been forced to reveal his actual magical bond to her despite his intention to mask it forever, for her benefit and to his detriment‒she found herself slightly in awe.

The rush of affection she felt for him must have been obvious somehow because he suddenly seemed to come back to himself, swallowing tightly. "Hermione, you can't‒you don't know what you're saying. You're still‒god, you're still a student‒and me‒I'm‒"

Hermione raised her hand. "I'm of age, first of all," she said quietly, drawing upon a reserve of confidence that she hadn't known she even possessed. "Second, we both agree that we're compatible. Me, based on what I know of you, and you, based on an actual metaphysical connection that you have with me."

He watched her, mouth slightly open, and didn't protest.

"Third," Hermione continued nervously, "My being here‒my being near you‒is causing problems for you," she said uncomfortably. "You hurt yourself and you could have hurt someone else last night."

He winced and made as if to respond, but just waved a hand at her as if to tell her to continue.

"I'm guessing that you'll try to leave," Hermione went on. "You'll leave the Order, and the fight against Vol‒Voldemort, which is where I know you want to be. You'll also leave a source of Wolfsbane. This is‒that is not okay, with me. Or with anyone, but not with me, Harry, and Sirius especially."

"You'll isolate yourself because you probably feel guilty, and you have for a while," she continued doggedly. "But you shouldn't do that," she said quietly. "I couldn't bear it if you did. Your friends and‒and your family‒" she swallowed‒"your pack‒we're all here. So I accept."

He was silent for a several long moments, still appearing dumbstruck but obviously processing her words, and Hermione felt a sudden, terrible fear that he might ignore her‒that he might leave anyway‒ ‒

"You... Hermione, you're sure?"

Wild, unrestrained joy and relief burst in her chest at the sound of his hoarse question.

Hermione cleared her throat. "Ah, yes. I'm sure."

The wonder on his face didn't go away, but something dark and predatory was added to it. His body language changed again; the anger faded away and was replaced by intent.

Hermione suppressed a shiver.

He stood up quite suddenly, stalked from his chair to her place on the small settee and sat beside her, thigh pressed against hers, his biceps touching her shoulder.

"Please‒please don't‒" he began tightly, and stopped. "Hermione, you need to be sure‒to be absolutely certain. Please."

Hermione supposed that this should have felt like a dream, but it didn't. Last night, awful howling and screaming‒it had been called the Shrieking Shack, after all‒had startled the entire household. Sirius had tried his best to calm the werewolf down, and they'd called in Snape, who'd reacted about as well as expected when accused of bollixing up the Wolfsbane, until finally Sirius apparated into the sitting room and made straight for Hermione.

"Hermione, I need you to come with me, please."

Hermione looked up at him, startled. He had nasty nicks and scratches on his face, on his visible arms‒his grey eyes pained and eyes shadowed. "...Sirius?"

"Please‒" Sirius began uncomfortably, cutting himself off. "He won't stop otherwise."

"Professor Lupin won't... but what can I do?"

An especially mournful, anguished cry rose up from the cellar and the group of tired people in the sitting room shuddered collectively.

"Sirius Black, what are you on about?" an exhausted Molly Weasley inquired, her tired voice still sharp.

"Not now, Molly," Sirius replied steady, sounding as serious as Hermione had ever seen him. "Hermione, please."

He didn't need to ask twice.

"Hermione‒Sirius, what on earth are you thinking?" Molly shouted, rousing the ire of the others in the room‒Arthur, Ron, Harry, and Ginny.

"Mate, she can't go down there," said Ron hotly. "The Wolfsbane didn't bloody work! Are you mental?"

"Language, Ronald, and Sirius, he's absolutely right," Molly blustered. "'Take Hermione downstairs' indeed!"

As if privy to the argument, Moony threw himself against his barricade again, sending an ominous quiver throughout the house.

"Good gracious," Molly said weakly.

"I'm gonna kill Snape," spat Harry savagely. "He messed with Lupin's potion, I know he did, just to get back at him‒"

"Harry, enough," Sirius said shortly.

Sirius Black, calling off Harry from snarling about Snape?

Hermione stared at him. "He won't hurt me?"

"He won't, and I wouldn't let him anyway," Sirius reassured her quietly.

"Sirius Black!"

"Molly, that's enough," said Arthur gently, looking at Hermione with sudden understanding in his eyes.

Confused, she turned her gaze back to Sirius. "What's going on?"

"I'll explain‒or Remus will, once he's himself again," Sirius said, and the conflict in him was apparent. He did not want to be having this conversation.

"All right," Hermione said evenly, in a tone much calmer than she really felt inside.

Hermione blinked and looked at the man next to her. The man who'd been trapped in the body of a wolf the night before, who'd been calmed by her presence after nothing else had worked.

"I'm certain," she said firmly. And to her surprise, she was.

Lupin's eyes went dark. He grabbed her hand and stood, pulling her up with him. The sudden contact‒had he ever so much as hugged her before?‒was a shock to Hermione's system, and the sudden thrum of energy and rightness and arousal that buzzed through her only affirmed her decision. She was certain.

"Come," said Lupin, and his voice was lower, rougher, like a growl, and he stalked toward the entrance of the library.

She was going to do this. She was going to let Lupin mate her.

It sounded so dirty, so animalistic‒and Hermione couldn't help that she found it more exciting than repulsive. She wondered if that was part of what being his mate meant.

The house was quiet. No doubt everyone but Sirius had cleared off to the Burrow in order to get some sleep after a long, exhausting night and probably, to give Hermione and Lupin time to talk.

Lupin. She probably needed to start thinking of him as Remus, all things considered. She knew that she certainly wouldn't want him to call her Granger‒or god forbid, Miss Granger‒while they were‒ ‒

Flashes of half‒formed images streaked across her mind's eye‒Lupin undressed, between her legs, silvery scars luminescent in the candlelight‒ ‒

She flushed with renewed self‒ consciousness.

Lupin shut the door to the library behind them and looked down at her seriously. Why had she never realized how tall he was? How broad his shoulders? He was big, too, having gained a little weight from steady meals and less stress. He had to be at least thirteen stone, despite the transformation last night.

Why hadn't it left him in his usual awful condition? Had it something to do with her presence?

Hermione swallowed. She'd made her decision, she was confident about her choice, but still‒ ‒

Uncomfortable nervousness and apprehension shot through her gut. She supposed he could hear her increased heart rate, too, which made it hard to pretend like she wasn't anxious.

He threaded his fingers through hers and squeezed tightly. His face shone with a bit of sweat, his eyes dark. "It's fine. I won't‒I will never hurt you."

"I know‒it's just..." Hermione trailed off. "Are we going to your room?"

"Ah, yes. Is that‒are you okay?"

The gentle concern was more reassuring than even he intended it to be, she thought. Hermione looked down at his hand in hers‒even his hands seemed huge‒and a fond smile spread across her face before she realized it.

"Yes. Can we‒let's go and then talk, a little?"

He nodded once, firmly, and walked toward the house's main staircase without hesitation. The shifts in his mood were obvious, now that she was observing him so closely. It explained a lot of his behavior that she now realized she had observed but not found odd enough to really consider.

She remembered now the way he would look on her with kind eyes in her third year, but had refused to allow her extra credit or to be her academic advisor on one of the extracurricular projects she'd planned for that year. Granted, she'd also been trying to confirm that he was a werewolf, and while his excuses‒"I suspect you have quite enough to be getting on with, Miss Granger"‒rang true, his reluctance to spend any amount of time with her alone also made sense.

And to think‒at the time, she'd been jealous of Harry for his Patronus lessons.

What man in his thirties‒a man who most certainly had a low enough opinion of himself already‒deserved to feel like he was immoral, or wrong, or disgusting, for having a connection that he couldn't control with an underage girl? And she knew enough about Remus Lupin to be sure that he had felt exactly that way. His awful realization that morning, when he'd shifted and woken up in her presence, his desperate humiliation and fear that he hadn't been able to disguise when faced with Molly, Arthur, and Harry‒god, it had broken her heart to see before she'd even learned the truth of it.

He'd certainly tried his best to remain distant from her after third year. She hadn't really seen him again until the summer before fifth year, and she remembered now how he'd been happy to talk to her about her studies, or her reading, but would usually find a reason to get up and leave if they found themselves alone together.

That Christmas, she remembered some appraising looks from Sirius that she'd attributed to his concerns for Harry, but now realized that they could just as easily have been Padfoot attempting to make sense of his best mate Moony's inexplicable bond with her.

Lupin suddenly paused, and his grip on her hand grew tighter. Hermione blinked, and stared at the door that they stood before, realizing that it was his. His bedroom.

She licked her lips, but this time he didn't stop to reassure her, simply flicked his wand at the doorknob and murmured a spell.

"You keep it locked?"

He glanced back at her. "The twins visit pretty frequently," he said by way of explanation, and of course it was explanation enough.

"Oh," Hermione replied awkwardly, after waiting a beat too long.

He swung the door open for her, and she stepped inside. Lupin followed her and lit the various candelabras that were bracketed to the walls with another wave of his wand, before holstering it and closing the door.

The click of the latch seemed uncommonly loud in the silent room.

Hermione ran her tongue over her teeth and drew her bottom lip between her incisors, worrying the corner of it nervously while she‒waited? stood there? Was she supposed to be saying something? Did he expect her to just drop trou and have at it?

"Can I get you some tea?"

Hermione started at the sound of his voice. His tone wasn't as mild as it normally was, but it was certainly light years away from the harsh, impassioned shouting he'd done in the library.

"Um, yes, thank you," she replied absently, mind still crawling over every word, every interaction that they'd shared since her third year. Was there some sign that she'd missed over all this time? Some special glance or gesture that she should have picked up on, that should have made her realize that she was his mate?

Mate. There it was again. The brief comfort she'd had with the word not ten minutes ago had faded now that they stood about four feet from a bed. His bed.

Sex, Hermione. Mating.

"I howled at you," she said suddenly, turning towards him as he fiddled with a kettle and tea set that sat on a sideboard next to a pleasantly stuffed bookshelf.

His hands fumbled a bit with the mug he was holding but he caught it using the unnaturally quick reflexes that Hermione had not included in what she might as well have titled her "Tips on Identifying Professor Lupin as a Werewolf" essay from so long ago.

"Ah, I beg your pardon?"

He sounded a little uncertain and faintly embarrassed, and the turnabout actually made her feel a little more sure of herself. Hermione cleared her throat. "That night, the night Harry and I saved Sirius," she began. "Harry and I were there, when you transformed. Sirius had changed into Padfoot, but I remembered hearing‒well, I howled at you, to get you to come for us instead of‒of our other selves," she finished somewhat stiltedly.

His shoulders tensed as he poured the boiling hot water into the two mugs, Lupin didn't say anything at first. "Well, not my finest moment," he said finally, a bit of his usual self‒ deprecating humor lacing the words. "But that would have done it, certainly, if my mate called to me."

She noticed that he didn't say "the wolf." If my mate called to me. His admission warmed her heart. My mate.

The arousal she'd felt earlier blossomed again in her abdomen, coiling upwards and outwards like one of the flowers in an O'Keeffe painting.

"Hermione," he said suddenly, handing her the mug of tea he'd prepared.

She accepted it automatically, lifting it to her nose to inhale deeply.

"Hermione," he said again. "You don't have to‒please don't feel like you are obligated to be‒to be intimate with me." He seemed deeply uncomfortable. "This is all rather sudden for you, and even if‒you're kind‒hearted enough to accept me, but I don't..." he trailed off, seeming frustrated with his uncharacteristic inability to articulate himself. "I do realize that I'm‒I'm quite a bit older than you, and no one‒least of all me‒expects you to have‒to have any kind of feelings for‒"

He sounded honestly miserable, a far cry from the dark confidence she'd seen as they left the library. Hermione slowly took a sip of her tea. One lump of sugar, a dash of cream. Why had she never realized that he knew how she took her tea?

"I do have feelings for you," she said quietly, feeling the tea bolstering her. "I have always had a bit of a crush, like I said," she continued, trying to seem nonchalant. "And I respect you. And I agree that we're compatible. And I have tangible proof of‒proof of‒well, I saw firsthand, last night, that there is something between us. Something that connects us. I believe you, and I won't‒I won't lose you, or let you lose yourself."

He stared at her, hanging on her every word, his tea ignored.

Hermione reached into her quailing vault of courage and pulled out the closest thing to a smirk that she could find. "Plus, I always have liked older men."

He choked out a terse laugh, and the stillness and seriousness in the room was broken. "Well, I am that," he said, running a hand through his greying, sandy hair. "Hermione, what about Ron?"

Hermione felt a pit of dread and discomfort build in her stomach. "What about him?" she asked coolly.

"It's plain‒well, it has been suggested that..."

"We've never been together," Hermione replied sharply. "I thought‒I thought for a long time that he would just ask me, but I've only ever been hanging around. I'm not interested in that."

"You're sure?"


And, Hermione realized, she was. How could Ron's youthful jealousy and paralyzing fear to act possibly attract her now, when she was faced with the real thing? A man who was devoted to her to the extent that he would rather torture himself then embarrass her? A man whose mind and magic were so attuned to hers that it she had become his biological imperative?

She thought again on the scene in the kitchen this morning, at Sirius's furious shout‒"God damn it, Molly, let him have his dignity!"‒when Mrs. Weasley had furiously cornered him upon reappearing from the cellar. He'd been wrapped only in a blanket that Sirius had brought to him, his abject misery and shame more obvious than even the bruises and gashes that decorated him.

Lupin let out a heavy breath. "Well, that's rather good to hear," he said quietly. "Could have done without being jealous over a spotty ginger brat."

After, Hermione would decide that the absurdity of the situation, the incongruity of docile Professor Lupin irritatedly calling Ron childish names, the sudden insight into what he must have been like as a young Marauder‒it had all combined into something so funny that the resulting fit of laughter was easily understood.

Giggling, she barely managed to set down her tea before the hilarity turned into real, deep, belly laughs, and soon enough, Lupin was joining her and they were side by side on his bed, laughing at themselves and this predicament and everything.

When they finally calmed down, Lupin held her hand in his and his index finger was rubbing the inside of her wrist in gentle circles. It felt more intimate than any of Viktor's fumbling kisses and certainly more romantic than Cormac's slobbering. Hermione swallowed.

"I'm a virgin."

The words came out so suddenly that Hermione didn't even process that she had decided to say them until they were already there.

His fingers tightened around hers. "That's‒uh‒probably not the best thing for me to hear right now, honestly," he said ruefully, and the honest near‒despair she hear in his tone was enough to ease the tension and make her smile again.

"I just‒wanted you to know," she said lamely.

"I'm glad you told me. But we don't have to do anything right now," he told her gently. "I won't‒I will not hurt you."

"I actually don't know if it'll hurt," Hermione remarked pensively. "I rode horses when I was younger. Did you know that's the reason I don't like to fly? My horse‒I was jumping him, and we landed wrong, and he threw me. And he broke both of his forelegs, and had to be put down."

Hermione had actually never told anyone that before.

"I'm sorry," Lupin murmured. "Were you hurt?" There was a protective edge in his voice, like if he were able to track down the elusive reason that her gelding had failed the jump that day, he would rend it limb from limb.

"Broke my arm and collarbone," she admitted, lifting her unoccupied hand to touch the divot on her left collarbone that was the remnant of the injury she'd had at ten years of age. "Here."

His finger followed hers, and traced the spot. She repressed a shudder at the touch of his fingertips on her skin.

"Anyway," she said somewhat breathlessly, "Pretty sure my hymen was ruptured, so, I don't think it'll really hurt. Sex, I mean."

God, how embarrassing. Why couldn't she stop talking?

"I'll make sure it doesn't," he said in a low rasp, his tone full of dark intent.

The rush of heat to her groin at his words did not go unnoticed by him. She could feel it in the sound of his deliberate exhale, the way the finger on her wrist faltered.

"Did, um‒did Sirius already know?" Hermione croaked out in the sudden silence.

"Beg pardon?"

"About me. Us."

"Ah, yes. He forced it out of me the summer before your fifth year," Lupin said. "Not one of our more pleasant conversations."

"How did he know?"

"Not exactly sure. It might have been a Padfoot thing, you know, him being a fellow canine, or he might have been in one of his irritatingly insightful moods. I never asked."

"What did he say?"

"You probably don't want to know. He was very protective of you, let's just say."

Hermione felt a rush of affection toward her friend's godfather. His near‒ death experience at the end of her O.W.L. year had made them realize yet again how dear he was to all of them. Harry had yet to forgive himself for falling for the trap that had resulted in his friends getting hurt and his godfather nearly being taken from them.

"Was he mad at you?"

"No," Lupin responded after a moment. "He's known me since we were eleven. He's probably more fine with my‒my animal side than I am."

She could tell that he was trying not to sound bitter. "Probably. You don't seem very fine with it."

He stared up at the ceiling. "All I ever wanted was to be normal. Most of the time I can pretend, but... this..." He sighed and seemed to sink into the mattress.

"I'm sorry about this morning," Hermione said quietly.

He shook his head. "Not your fault. I expected that confrontation to happen at some point, but obviously, the circumstances were not... Ah, ideal, as it were."

"You mean the part where Mrs. Weasley screamed at you for a full five minutes before Sirius dressed her down, right after you'd transformed back into yourself?"

"I was thinking about Harry, actually," he confessed. "I just‒I never wanted‒" he broke off. "I didn't want to see that look on his face."

Hermione knew what look he was talking about. The shock and concern, the traces of betrayal, revulsion, doubt. Sirius was going to sort him out, explain, but still...

"Do you resent me?"

He jerked his face toward her. "What? No! No, I could never‒that's not at all what I want you to think," he said, sounding so stricken that Hermione immediately wished she hadn't asked.

"It's okay," she said quickly. "I'm sorry, I‒"

"Hermione, I love you," he said very firmly, and the words fell so easily from his mouth, so matter‒ of‒ factly, that she was shocked into silence. "I don't resent you for that, or the werewolf, for making me realize it. I just wish‒I wish I could be what you deserve. Your own age, for one, and not some‒tired, weary old man."

Hermione's breath caught in her throat, and she turned toward him, meeting his gaze for what seemed like the first time. The light from the torches brought out the yellow in his eyes, but it was the sincerity, the earnestness that she could read in his expression that floored her.

He truly meant it. He loved her.

"I don't think you're that old," she whispered to him, feeling rather foolish.

He smiled at her, and his teeth glinted. "You know, I think I actually believe that you believe that."

Hermione smiled and nudged him with her elbow, and it felt so lovely, so natural‒it hit her: she fit with him. He‒or his wolf‒was right. Mate.

The realization made her breath catch in her throat, and she saw the moment that he registered the change in her. His gaze grew dark with intent, his brow furrowed.

"Remus," she began slowly, not missing the way his eyes widened slightly at the use of his given name, "May I kiss you?"

He looked at her very seriously for a moment, and licked his lips somewhat unconsciously. "I'm yours," he said finally, his voice more hoarse than ever, and the truth hit her so suddenly and violently that she felt her heart thud its surprise in her chest.

My mate. Mine.

She was his mate, which meant that he was hers.

She leaned over and pressed her lips very lightly to the corner of his mouth. Her lips, she knew, were a little dry and rough from her incessant biting. His were soft, wet from the quick swipe of his tongue moments before, and even though her kiss was as chaste as could be, a spark of rightness and heat flooded her at the simple contact

She breathed out against his lips, and he was motionless for only a split second. His hand shot out to her jaw, tilting her face up to meet his head on, and he kissed her. His mouth was hot against hers, lips moving reverently against hers, and it took her only a split‒ second before she kissed him back.

A tiny sound escaped his throat and suddenly all traces of the unsure, uncomfortable, self‒ hating Remus Lupin disappeared, replaced entirely with someone that she'd seen flashes of all evening.

Certainty. Calm. Firm hands, hot mouth, intent.

Before she realized it, her mouth was open against his and she had never been kissed like this. There was heat building between them, a fiery burn that began at the places they were touching and wound its way to where he broke his lips from hers to kiss down her jaw, to her neck, nipping at the sensitive skin there.

She gasped at the feel of his teeth on her and he took advantage of her momentary distraction, wrapping a big hand around her hip and pulling himself on top of her, running his palm down her side. He sucked hard at the place where her jaw met her neck, and the suddenness of it shot desire straight down to her toes.

His thigh slid between hers, pressed into her through her jeans, and the contact set her heart racing faster even as his lips returned to hers, tongue wrangling hers.

She could feel him then through his trousers, the hot, hard length of him pressing against her lower abdomen. She thought it should make her nervous, or bashful, but instead only a bubble of excitement burst in her chest and she arched upwards at him, pressing herself against him.

He grunted and rocked his hips against her in return, his hand sliding up under her shirt to run over her ribs, her sternum. When the pad of his thumb brushed over her nipple through her brassiere, Hermione's entire body jolted and she gasped into his mouth.

He broke their kiss then, breathing harshly against her lips, resting his forehead against hers as he held her to him. "Hermione," he whispered. "If you don't‒we have to stop now."

He ground himself against her hip involuntarily, and Hermione knew what he meant. If they went any further, he wouldn't stop himself.

Her heart fluttering madly in her breast, she drew her hands back from where they'd found themselves under his shirt and rested them against his chest. She could feel his heart pounding like hers was.

"Can you, um...?"

He jumped off of her like he'd been struck and Hermione instantly felt awful, immediately resolving to backtrack as he fairly leapt off of the bed to stand in the middle of the floor. "No, Remus, I didn't mean‒"

He shook his head, still breathing hard. "Don't be ridiculous, you have‒"

He cut himself off abruptly, because she'd just pulled her shirt over her head, followed by her brassiere, and her hands were on the button of her jeans.

He stared at her in stunned disbelief for a few seconds, and Hermione's hands fumbled.


His voice was low and gravelly, sounding more like a growl than anything human. It was a command, and it would not be ignored.

Hermione's hands froze immediately and she met his gaze.

His face was transformed. Amber eyes half‒ lidded, nostrils flaring as he inhaled, his entire self was focused on her completely. The intensity of it nearly took her breath away.

This, Hermione thought somewhat giddily, must be Moony.

The person he allowed himself to be when he embraced his instincts, or when they embraced him.

He suddenly moved, beginning to undress quickly and economically. He drew his shirt over his head in one smooth motion, and unbuttoned and unzipped his trousers in the next second, letting them fall to the ground. He stepped out of them gracefully and stalked toward her, clad only in his briefs.

She was still, silent, captivated as he approached her, and she couldn't help but stare at him.

He had the frame of a much bigger man: broad shoulders, long arms and legs, and a narrow waist. His unnaturally high metabolism and the forced transformations each month meant that he struggled to maintain even an ounce of extra weight, which left him very lean. His skin was marred extensively by a latticework of pale‒ as‒ moonlight scar tissue, which cast odd shadows across what would have been uninterrupted definition. He was muscular in a rangy, functional way, his chest covered in brown hair that faded into a dark trail below his belly button.

The surge of desire that thrummed through her was frankly not altogether unexpected and Hermione unconsciously licked her lips at his approach. He noticed, and grinned darkly as he reached the edge of the bed he had fairly sprinted from only moments before.

He climbed on and knelt beside her, wrapping his hands around her ribcage. The boldness of him kept her silent as he bodily moved her further to the center of the mattress and pressed her down, making it clear that he wanted her to lay back. That she would lay back.

The dominance he was displaying now was a heady aphrodisiac. The brief, functional striptease she had performed, and his reaction to it, had left her wanting; his total lack of self‒ consciousness or hesitation while he had disrobed left her aching. Now, he dragged his hands down her sides and across her belly, the muscles of her stomach actually quivering at his touch as though he were plucking the strings of a harp.

"You're beautiful, mate," he rumbled in that low, dark voice. Hermione shuddered at the sound of it, and she believed him. He thought her beautiful, desirable; well, of course he did, as his mate, but still‒to hear it, and see the tangible evidence of it‒ ‒

"You too," she returned a moment later, sounding more breathy and girlish than she'd ever heard herself. She just couldn't concentrate while his fingers played with the zipper of her jeans, dragging it down in short, rough jerks that sent vibrations over her mound.

She could feel it now. She was aching and wet; all from a few dark looks in the library, some suggestive words, his kisses, his disrobing, him. She'd never been in a state like this in her entire life. She'd read her mother's romance novels, listened to Lavender and Parvati and even Ginny giggle about this, about what a talented boy could do to a girl, but god‒Remus was a man. And he made her feel like a woman.

The thought sent another hot coil of arousal twanging through her body. The muscles deep inside her tightened in something almost like pain, and she couldn't help the low moan that escaped her throat. This was right; this was perfect. The animal inside him had known that they were made for each other, meant for each other, and Hermione wondered nonsensically how it was that she hadn't realized it immediately herself.

Lupin reached under her, grabbed her arse in both hands and squeezed so roughly that another moan turned into a breathy squeak. When she looked at him, overwhelmed, she saw that he was grinning at her, and he squeezed again.

She could help the smile she gave him in return, feeling light headed and giddy with what they were doing. A second later, he had curled his fingers under her waistband and roughly pulled the jeans down, taking her knickers with them. He lifted her legs over one of his forearms and used his other hand to yank the offending cotton down her thighs and over her knees.

She hadn't realized she wore such tight jeans, for him to be having so much trouble. She giggled a little once he finally ripped them from her ankles, but her giggle disappeared quickly when he dropped her legs, gripped her thighs, spread them apart, and leaned down.

The first touch of his mouth on her was so sudden, so unexpected, that she couldn't help but cry out. His fingers dug into her thighs, spread her wide, and he was scraping his teeth against her, dragging them over her clit‒his tongue‒ ‒

Hermione found her hands clenched in his hair, her back arched‒and a second ago, she'd been laughing! Her entire world was reduced to the feel of his mouth on her, his tongue circling and flicking, the violent rush of pleasure she felt when he'd graze his teeth over her clit.

He was groaning against her, and the feel of the sound escaping his lips to touch her made her clench her legs around him, shuddering in a pre‒ orgasmic shock.

She jerked sharply when one of his hands left her hip and joined his mouth. He pressed a long finger into her, finding no resistance, and curled it against the pad of flesh just inside, and it sent a sharp flare of pleasure so intense through her stomach that she whimpered and moaned.

Another finger joined the first, and he was building a rhythm now, stroking her inside and sucking her clit, tracing its hood to flick over the exposed, erect bit of flesh while he pulled it hard into his mouth.

She didn't last long. Her orgasm was building in a sudden, massive wave, her legs shaking and quivering, her perception reduced to the place between her legs and what he was doing to her there. Something hot and dark and heavy was expanding at her center, and she was gasping, climbing‒climbing‒ ‒

She screamed when she came. It was a violent release, and she shook under him, her body clamping down on the fingers that he'd crooked inside her. He kept his mouth on her, riding out the contractions of her climax with gentle suction, tracing the perimeter of her clit because god knows, she wouldn't survive if he touched her there right now.

Her hands dropped from his hair, she sank back into the mattress, utterly boneless as the last remaining aftershocks ebbed through her.

He pulled back from her and kissed her lower abdomen, and her belly button, and he traced his tongue around her. She watched him through heavy‒ lidded eyes, still trying to recover, and wanted to be embarrassed at the wet shine of herself on his face, but she could only be enthralled.

He kissed his way up her body, paying special attention to the silver line that stretched from her ribcage, across her sternum, up to her collarbone. Dolohov's legacy from the Department of Mysteries.

Normally, Hermione might have cringed at the memory. At the moment, all she could think of was the feel of him on her, his lips tracing the scar and his hands caressing her breasts, his reverence and love obvious in every touch.

He pulled a nipple into his mouth, sucking hard on it like he had her clit moments before.

Renewed arousal tingled through her, spreading into the warm glow left by his earlier attention.

He sensed it, because his mouth left her breast and reconnected with her own. She could taste herself there, but also him, and there was something ragged and desperate in his kiss, and she knew that he needed her badly, had wanted her so long, and that he was still trying to deny himself even through the haze of his lust and his wolf and her.

Moving languidly, she twisted in his embrace, letting him turn his attention to her shoulder, and then her arm‒he pressed gentle butterfly kisses to the sensitive skin of her inner arm and she shivered.

With her free arm, she reached out for the pillow at the head of the bed and dragged it towards her as he broke away from her arm to watch.

She leaned up on her elbow, kissed his neck for a long minute, nipped and bit at him a little to mark him like he had marked her before, and then twisted onto her stomach, positioning the pillow beneath her.

The moment she pushed herself up on her knees and elbows, he was on her. The violence of his reaction shocked her; he licked and bit and kissed every inch of her back, running his hands over her, and pulled back for only a moment to shuck off his own briefs.

Then he was behind her, between her legs, and she wished that she could see him because she was still wobbly and exhausted after her own orgasm, and she didn't really know what she was doing‒ ‒

"Oh, god, Hermione," he rasped, and the lust and love and gratitude in his voice sent a new rush of desire through her veins. She wanted him. She wanted him badly. She wanted him inside her and behind her and gasping.

One of his hands gripped her hipbone and then she felt him at her entrance. He felt blunt and big and hot against her, and she didn't see how this was going to work, hymen or not.

He started to press in, and it was tight. He inhaled sharply, his breath hissing through what sounded like clenched teeth, and she heard a rumble that sounded like a growl as he fought to control himself.

"Oh, fuck‒oh god‒"

He pushed all the way in and stilled, and she felt incredibly, hugely full; she didn't feel pain, exactly, but stretched, unfamiliar discomfort. His strangled exclamation had stroked her fire for him again, had filled her with a wave of feminine pride that she had made him feel this way. The minor pain was worth that.

She breathed out slowly, her biceps already trembling from the strain despite the fact that she was on her elbows instead of hands like she'd originally thought to do. The discomfort was lessening now, and she could feel him against her backside, his thighs trembling, the grip on her hip no doubt bruising.

He pulled back and pushed in again. The suddenness of it made her expel her breath sharply, and the bloom of pleasure that erupted in her belly sent her forehead to the mattress. He kept moving, withdrawing almost completely before thrusting in again in slow, deliberate strokes. Push and pull. In and out.

"Fuck," he suddenly choked out, and he began to set a much faster pace. His angle changed slightly and his cock stroked against her g‒ spot, and the pleasure that she'd begun to feel as he moved inside her burst. Hermione cried out into the coverlet and pushed back against him unselfconsciously, seeking that sensation again.

"Fuck‒you‒you feel so good‒"

His hand left her hip and reached forward to grip her shoulder instead, pulling her even closer to him as he pumped in and out of her. She felt him heavy on her back for a moment before some of the weight eased; he'd planted his other hand on the mattress beneath her stomach. She still felt him above her, his chest hair rubbing against her back, his hot breath puffing against her skin as he groaned and gasped, but she wasn't going to collapse.

The extra stability and new angle seemed to make something snap in him. He grunted with nearly every thrust, angling himself to hit that spot in her again, and she shuddered with the power of him behind her. The thrum of pleasure was growing with each forceful push of his body inside hers. She couldn't seem to get enough air, gasping at the repeated collision of their bodies in this perfect, primal dance. How could it be this good? How could they fit together so well?

His bollocks slapped against her with each thrust, adding to their harsh breathing and wordless moans the wanton sound of flesh on flesh. It was that extra stimulation that made her shake and tremble against him. She cried out inarticulately as she felt the heat rising again from her toes, this time in a different way, but burning and expanding nonetheless. He was pounding into her now, guttural, animalistic growls rumbling through her from his chest against her back. Being the object of his unreserved ardor drove a spike of pleasure through her so intense that she groaned loudly into the mattress. It was instinctual. Hormonal. She could hardly think.

Her toes curled, her shoulders trembled‒she could feel him almost getting bigger at the base, his thrusts rough and uncontrolled as though it was a fight to get inside her, and then‒oh god‒he hauled her back, one hand groping for her clit, hips driving into her‒he felt impossibly large‒ ‒

He pressed down inelegantly against her clit with the heel of his palm and she shrieked. She felt a hot stab of pleasure‒ pain at her neck and that was it; she was lost. She careened over the precipice, her body clenching and quivering around him as her vision burst from the strength of her orgasm. Through the haze, she felt something click deep inside her; like everything she'd ever done had led to this moment where her magic buzzed with his, his body was one with hers, and it felt like coming home after the longest possible journey.

Dimly, she felt his embrace turn into a violent, hard clench as his entire body tensed and he groaned incoherently. She felt a burst of wet heat inside her, his hips shallowly jerked into her three, four more times, and then they collapsed together.

His chest heaved against hers. He was heavy on top of her. She tried to blink once, twice, but her face was pressed into the bedspread. She felt as though time had stopped and all that mattered was Remus at her back, pressed so tightly against her that she couldn't imagine ever separating from him again.

As the last trembling ripples of her orgasm passed, perception trickled back to Hermione and she felt Remus's arms around her, moving her gingerly from resting on her stomach to her side, their bodies still intimately connected. She took a deep breath, her heart still thudding at a rapid, stuttering clip.

He felt massive inside her, and Hermione's vaguely puzzled mind cast around for an explanation. It didn't hurt, really, no more than what she supposed was natural soreness, but he'd obviously finished‒weren't men supposed to, well, shrink a little?

She must have voiced some incoherent version of her thought aloud, because she felt him laugh silently against her shoulder.

"Werewolf thing, I'm afraid," he murmured into her skin, rubbing his nose on her arm. "Happens around the full moon, before and after. I should have told you..."

She half‒heartedly raised a still‒ quivering arm to wave him off, feeling too exhausted, too completely sated to let allow him any guilt.

He drew her more tightly against his chest and pulled her thigh up over his own, easing some of the pressure of his cock‒and knot, Hermione realized‒that was still inside her.

She felt incredibly full and sensitive still, and couldn't quite catch her breath, but she felt his palm sliding over the curve of her ribs and stomach and hips, over and over again, and his mouth rested at the crook of her neck, where he was mouthing the place that he'd bitten her.

He'd bitten her!

She'd hardly realized it at the time‒she'd been absolutely floating‒but she could feel the sting of what had to be broken skin at the join of her neck and trapezius. The feel of his mark‒that was what it was, after all, a mark of his claim‒made warmth rise in her chest.

She was his mate, which meant that he was hers.

The tenderness and closeness of him made her drowsy, and she relished the something between them‒something sweet and unshakable and intimate, a tie‒quite literally, her tired mind remarked wryly‒that made this all feel so right.

He shifted behind her again, and the knot pressed deep into that sensitive spot on her inner walls and even in her exhausted state, Hermione could not help be let out a low moan, tensing as the pressure increased, sending frissons of pleasure‒ pain through her abdomen.

"Is it hurting you?" he asked quietly in her ear.

He moved again, just barely, and Hermione couldn't help another groan. She exhaled shallowly, panting a little as the pressure inside her persisted.

"No," she managed to get out, still short of breath. "It just‒it takes, ah, getting used to..."

She could feel his smile against her shoulder and he trailed his hand down to her mons, spreading his fingers and pressing down lightly. Hermione couldn't help but inhale sharply as one of his fingers trailed lightly around the edge of her labia, gently skimming over the place that they were locked together. He rocked his hips a little, rubbing the knot against that sensitized spot inside her in tiny strokes. "R‒Remus," she sighed. His delight at her use of his name was practically tangible in the air.

He dragged a nail up from her stretched, tight entrance up over her clit, still twitching his hips in the smallest of arcs, and it only took that single touch for a tiny orgasm to sweep over her. The muscles of her vagina fluttered tiredly against him and for the moment, some of the pressure abated.

She sighed with the release, the aftershocks sending tremors through her exhausted thighs and buttocks, and he pulled her, if possible, closer to him, his nose buried in the crook of her shoulder.

They slept.

Hermione woke first.

He'd finally softened and slipped out of her sometime in the night, and his come had trickled out of her to dry stickily on her inner thighs. She cringed a little at the sensation, shifting her hips and wincing at the unfamiliar soreness that characterized how most of her body felt, but the place between her legs in particular.

One of his legs was thrown over hers, one arm under her neck and the other wrapped securely around her belly. She could feel the heat and hardness of him stiff against her lower back, and she felt a little embarrassed when she realized what it was, but she mentally shrugged it off. She was warm, safe, protected; his even, deep breathing told her he was still asleep and Hermione had a moment to think.

The connection she'd sensed after he'd bitten her, that hum of magic and rightness and fitting with him had not dissipated. She felt him like an extension of herself; a pulsing presence beside her that promised calm, love, strength. She sensed his contentment, his relief, even in his sleep. It felt right.

She had technically known him nearly four years, but never truly until now. Now, she felt that she knew him intimately. Not simply because of what they had done physically, but because he felt like a puzzle piece that interlocked with her so perfectly that she could not help but know him and love him herself.

"Hi," he whispered against the shell of her ear. His voice was hoarse with sleep, and no doubt, all of the wild vocalizations from the day before.

She smiled, and tightened her grip on the forearm that was wrapped around her waist. "Hi."

His mouth kissed the intersection of her neck and shoulder gently, swiping his tongue over the place he'd bitten her. "Are you okay?"

She knew what he was asking: had he hurt her? Was she second‒guessing her decision? Was she afraid of him? Embarrassed?

She twisted in his grasp and met his eyes, hooded and uncertain though they were, and could not help the brilliant smile that spread across her face. She did not know quite how to put into words what she was feeling.

The night before, they'd been woken by Remus's wolf self‒for lack of a better term‒going berserk in the cellar. By the time he'd shifted form again‒later than usual, since the moon had only actually waxed completely full sometime that early morning‒the entire household had congregated downstairs, waiting for an explanation as to why Hermione had somehow been able to calm him where even his oldest friend had failed.

It had been an ugly confrontation. She'd been humiliated for herself and for Remus, sure, but now she viewed it through the eyes of someone who understood what he felt, and loved him desperately, and she wanted nothing more than to protect him from the disgust and shock and fear that his closest friends‒their closest friends, all but Sirius and Arthur‒had heaped on him so unfairly.

She burrowed her face into his chest, his hair tickling her nose. She tried out saying the words against his skin, mouthing them:

I love you.

"Hermione?" He spoke quietly, his soothing voice reaching her through the miasma of her racing thoughts.

She looked up at him, then, and met his gaze evenly. "I love you, too."

It was easier than expected to say the words, considering. She'd thought of him as a friend, as the type of man she might one day marry herself. She'd had a crush, an infatuation, a flutter of excitement in her stomach whenever he was near. But the bond they'd forged last night transcended all of that. And Hermione knew without a doubt that he was hers, and she his.

His mouth had fallen open slightly at her declaration, his eyes wide as he searched her face for hesitation, and his face split into a grin when found only calm certainty. He buried his face into the mass of hair at her nape. "Thank you," he whispered, lips against the back of her neck.

She shivered a little, and winced again at the twinges of discomfort she felt in her abdomen. True, her hymen had been gone after all, but it had still been her first time. And he hadn't been gentle, although she wouldn't take it back for one minute.

He picked up on her distress immediately, and easily divined the cause. He slid away from her to the side of the bed and sat up, stretching for a moment before standing up, stark naked.

She watched him unabashedly. The dittany and other potions stores that Sirius kept on hand for him had taken care of most of his self‒ inflicted injuries the previous night, leaving him only with some heavy bruising on his shoulder and side, and some half‒ healed gashes on his forearms. She hadn't noticed the wounds last night, and neither had he, but unhappiness at the harm he'd done to himself roiled through her unpleasantly.

"I'm fine," he told her softly, guessing at the reason for her frown. "Lived through much worse, clearly," he continued, gesturing at the cobweb of uneven scarring that covered him.

Hermione nodded absently, still reviewing his body for damage. Her eyes caught the part of him that had been pressed against her moments before, and she colored a little.

His erection was straight, proud, and uncircumcised; he seemed big‒he'd certainly felt it‒but she really had no basis for comparison. The trail of hair that began at his belly button became a dark, relatively untamed mass at the base of his cock. Dried bodily fluids covered most of him, which reminded her of own predicament. The skin was red and flushed. It was, Hermione decided, a very nice penis.

He started laughing at her a moment later, eyes crinkled with amusement, and she realized that she'd quite blatantly been staring and he'd stood there, allowing it. "Look all you like, love," he said. "It's yours to do with what you will."

Her blush deepened along with his smile as he made his way around the bed to her side. Before she had a chance to object, he reached under her and grabbed her in his arms, lifting her easily out of bed and turning to face an open door that she hadn't noticed the night before. Her arms wrapped around his neck automatically and she tried not to stiffen as the ache of her muscles protested the movement.

"Hold tight, love."

He must have grabbed his wand at some point, because suddenly the candles flickered to life. They stood in a large, opulent bathroom with a massive, sunken bathtub and a shower large enough for a tiled bench on the interior. Mounds of towels sat on a stand against the wall and the entire space held a muted glow, as if the walls themselves emitted some kind of natural light.

Hermione was surprised at the luxury. Remus had never struck her as the type.

"Sirius remembered that I spent about as much time as I could get away with in the prefect's bath," he explained, setting her down on a cushioned ottoman against the wall and crouching down to fiddle with some of the knobs on the bath. "Both before and after actually becoming a prefect. It helped after full moons, even when they became easier once I wasn't going through them alone. When I moved in here, he installed this for me. Wouldn't take no for an answer, of course."

Hermione felt a rush of affection for Sirius. He frustrated her sometimes, but his heart was as loyal as his Animagus form and he would do anything for those he cared about. He'd proven it time and time again, even so recently as the day before.

She'd seen Sirius angry before, sure. He'd been angry at his house arrest, at Professor Dumbledore for telling Harry the prophecy while Sirius had been recovering from the Department of Mysteries, and furious when Minister Scrimgeour had gate‒crashed Christmas at the Burrow.

She'd never quite seen him like he'd been yesterday, snarling and protective over Remus, refusing to back down as Mrs. Weasley shrieked shrilly that his friend was a deviant of the highest order, a beast, a predator of young girls. It had only been Arthur's intervention and Sirius's unhesitating refusal to back down that had stopped the conflict from escalating.

God, what were they going to do? Hermione had made her decision and was happy‒beyond happy‒with it, but she strongly doubted that anyone she knew would even make an attempt to understand.

She yawned deeply. She hadn't yet cast a tempus charm, but it felt early. They'd only even begun talking after dinner yesterday, after Sirius had hustled him off to his room to sleep off what had been one of his worst transformations in years.

The scent of lavender and orange blossom filled the warm, humid air. The bathtub had filled quickly. Remus stood from his crouch beside the tub and padded over to her, reaching out a hand for her to grab.

She took it and he pulled her to her feet. His brow furrowed as he looked over her, and she glanced down at herself to see what he was looking at.

Ah. Faint bruises stood out in the pale, milky white skin of her thighs and hips, remnants of his tight grip the night before.

Hermione reached out and pressed her other palm over his hand, cradling his big palm and long fingers in her own. "I'm completely fine, Remus."

"I was too rough," he said in a low voice. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you‒"

"You weren't and you didn't," Hermione cut him off promptly. She stepped closer to him, pulled his hand to rest between her breasts. "Last night was..." she closed her lips, shook her head briefly. "I don't really have words. It was wonderful."

He swallowed and she watched his adam's apple work. He was heavily stubbled this morning, obviously not having shaved the day before. She found him rather fetching, and told him so.

The darkness in his eyes fled temporarily, and he quirked his mouth at her. "Oh?"

She nodded, and stepped around him towards the tub, suddenly conscious of her nakedness as she felt his eyes on her. "It's very rugged and manly," she explained primly, and was pleased hear a snort of laughter.

"Well, if you like hairy, then I expect you'll really like me, oh, this time next month."

"The 22nd of April," Hermione confirmed instantly, looking over her shoulder with a teasing smile. "Looking forward to it."

He shook his head at her, smiling, and took hold of her elbow as she stepped into the hot bath. "You know the date of the next full moon?"

The bath felt glorious. Hot and fragrant, the water immediately began to soothe her sore and tired body. It took her a minute to respond. "Mm. Memorized the dates up through 2005 during third year," she mumbled, her eyes closed.

She felt the water shift as he joined her, and smiled absently at the touch of his finger on her cheek. "Darling woman," she heard him say quietly. "Only you."

And only him, she wanted to say in return. Instead, she fell asleep. All would be well.

End Notes: Contemplating turning this into a series. I am intrigued by the possibilities of a HBP and DH with Sirius and a Tonks‒ less Remus in the mix. Thoughts?